Land Records

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown (Part I)

The following petition is found amongst the Upper Canada Land Petitions, though it concerns a property in Lower Canada (on Calumet Island/L’Île-du-Grand-Calumet, in Pontiac County, Quebec).

Letter of Anne Cahill, 13 September 1848

Honourable Sir,
I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island, on a lot of land which I considered would contain about 200 acres, considering that, as I had a large family, no less than about 200 acres would be of any Service to me. I got lines ran which afterwards chanced to correspond exactly with the lines ran by the Government Surveyor — But at the time that I Squatted thereon I expected that when the lots would be surveyed they would each contain 200 acres as was customary. However, when the district was surveyed, it was in lots of but 100 acres each; consequently the tract of land I occupied became two lots as it contained 200 acres, which lots are Nos. 13 and 14. on the 6th Range — And compliance with the rules of Lord Durham’s proclamation, I got my name inserted as Squatter in his registry for said 200 acres — …

– Widow Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department, 13 Sept 18481

(Click on the thumbnail of the above letter of Anne Cahill to the Crown Lands Department to view it full-size.)

Who was the Widow Anne Cahill?

in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter on the Calumet Island

The Widow Anne Cahill was Anne Shirley (ca. 1786-1869), widow of Michael Cahill (died before 1840), and mother of nine known children, including George Cahill who married Mary Moran.

She was born about 1786 in Ireland, presumably in the Castlecomer area of Co. Kilkenny. She had at least two brothers, Paul Shirley (married Catherine McNamara) and William Shirley (married Mary Oughnahan), who were amongst the early settlers of the Bytown area. Her brother William Shirley signed the McCabe List, where he gave his place of origin as Castlecomer, parish of Mowhill, County Kilkenny, and made reference to “his brother Paul Shirley (who) with a family reside at Castlecomer in the County of Kilkenny and are known to the Revd Mr Roberts of Said place.” I believe the Shirley family were Anglican;2 however, Anne, Paul and William Shirley all married Irish Catholics, and many (if not most or all) of their children were baptized Roman Catholic. Anne Shirley Cahill (the Widow Cahill of the above petition) certainly had a Catholic burial (20 Aug 1869); she was buried at Ste. Anne, Calumet Island, Pontiac Co., Quebec.

Anne Shirley Cahill was almost certainly also related to the Thomas Shirley for whom she pleaded in one of her two letters to the Crown Lands Department, but whether as sibling, cousin, or aunt, I do not know. This Thomas Shirley was born about 1813 in Co. Kilkenny, the son of James Shirley and Catherine Butler (as per his marriage record), and he also settled at Calumet Island. In addition to the Widow Cahill’s plea on behalf of Thomas Shirley in one of her two letters to the Crown, various records in the Catholic parish registers suggest a familial relationship. For example, Thomas Shirley served as sponsor (or godfather) to Catherine Brennan, daughter of Patrick Brennan and Matilda Shirley and granddaughter of Anne Shirley’s brother William Shirley. And when Thomas Shirley married Honora McGuire (22 Jan 1855, Ste. Anne, Calumet Island), the witnesses to the marriage were two of Anne Shirley’s sons: John Cahill and George Cahill. Moreover, and what’s even more strongly suggestive of a blood relation, when George William Cahill, son of George Cahill and Mary Moran (and grandson of Michael Cahill and Anne Shirley), married Anne Shirley, daughter of Thomas Shirley and Honora McGuire, the couple had to obtain a dispensation from the impediment of a third degree of consanguinity.

I don’t know anything more about the Widow Anne (Shirley) Cahill, but her land petition is among the most interesting that I’ve yet to come across. Her opening line, “Honourable Sir, I humbly beg leave to state that in the year 1835 I settled as Squatter…” basically wins the petition-the-Crown sweepstakes, in my opinion, and then I’d have to give her bonus points for citing Lord Durham’s proclamation.

“I did not wish to trouble your honour about these matters if I could avoid it,” wrote the Widow Cahill, “but as I now find that I have no alternative, I humbly beg leave to Submit the matter to your most Serious consideration, hoping that your Honour will condescend to exercise your authority and See me (a poor widow with a large family) Justified.” Does it seem a little odd that someone would petition the Crown to assert her rightful claim as a Squatter?

Well, there’s a reason why the Widow Cahill had a recognizable claim to the land that she and her sons had been squatting upon, and that reason has to do with Lord Durham’s proclamation, which she references in her letter.

And before moving on to Lord Durham’s Proclamation (this blog entry to be continued….), here’s a fun little item (I google the Right Honourable John George Lambton, Earl of Durham, so that you don’t have to):

If you want to see Barry Morse (the actor who played Lt. Philip Gerard on “The Fugitive”) in one of his earlier roles, he played Durham’s advisor Gibbon Wakefield in the 1961 NFB film “Lord Durham.”

Lord Durham by John Howe, National Film Board of Canada

Squatter’s rights: the Widow Cahill petitions the Crown to be continued…

  1. Anne Cahill petition, 1848, Upper Canada Land Petitions, RG 1, L 3, vol. 137, C Bundle 5, petition 28: microfilm C-1736, Library and Archives Canada.
  2. Or Church of Ireland, which, as I’ve noted before, was/is basically the Church of England in Ireland

John Lahey the Elder’s Will

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837

Bytown Gazette, 29 November 1837. The “Lachie” named here was Daniel Lahey, husband of Catherine Lahey, and “the person who struck the blow” was his brother-in-law, James Lahey.

John Lahey the Elder was the eldest of six known Lahey siblings who emigrated from Ballymacegan, Lorrha, Co. Tipperary to March Township, Carleton Co., Ontario in the 1820s and early 1830s.

John Lahey the Elder never married; and, having no children of his own to inherit his land (100 acres at Concession 3, Lot 14, March Township), he left his farm to his youngest brother, my “black sheep” ancestor James Lahey. My 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey earned his “black sheep ancestor” status by killing his own brother-in-law Daniel Lahey in a drunken altercation, apparently by hitting him on the back of the head with the handle of a spade.

But John Lahey the Elder did not leave all 100 acres of his land to his younger brother James. He bequeathed to James Lahey 98 acres, reserving 2 acres to the Roman Catholic Church. As I wrote in ‘Wilful Murder’ and Black Sheep Ancestors, my dad used to joke that the reason why John Lahey left that land to the Church was that the family had so many sins to atone for. But my father was also known to say, more seriously, of James Lahey’s killing of his brother-in-law: “that’s a godawful thing to have in your family.”

And it is a godawful thing, no doubt. But, eh, there is too much ancestor worship in genealogical circles, in my humble opinion. Let’s face it, some of our ancestors were scoundrels, scofflaws, and rogues. Or hotheaded young men who lacked impulse control, and then one night they got into the poitín … (which I suspect was the case with James Lahey).

In any case, James Lahey’s murder (or manslaughter) of his sister Catherine Lahey’s husband Daniel Lahey was an act of infamy, and a horrible deed; and, by all accounts, it tore the Lahey family apart. Ultimately, John Lahey the Elder stood behind his younger brother James, and then he left him his land:

Memorial of John Lahey the Elder’s Last Will and Testament

(Written 21 December 1853; registered 17 January 1859.)

A memorial to be registered of a will made in the words and figures following that is today. In the name of God Amen.

I John Lahey the Elder of the township of March, County of Carleton, and the Province of Canada, Yeoman, being of sound mind, memory and understanding but sick and weak of body, do hereby publish and declare this to be my last will and testament hereby revoking and making void all former will or wills, that I may have hereto have made.

In the first place I nominate, constitute, and appoint George Morgan the Elder and Thomas Horrigan, both of the aforesaid Township of March Yeoman Executors of this my will. I direct that all my past debts funeral and testamentary expenses be fully paid with all convenient speed after my decease, and I subject, in the first place, my personal estate, and if the same should be insufficient, my real estate for the payment.

Therefore I give and bequeath unto my brother James and after his decease to his heirs all that parcel or track of land and premises, being composed of South East half of lot number fourteen on the third concession of the aforesaid Township of March, containing one hundred acres of land more or less, reserving to the Roman Catholic Church the two acres of land of said lot upon which the chapel now stands, together with all houses outhouses, barns stables, that are now erected and built or that may be hereafter erected and built by my said brother James, his heirs or any of them. He shall at no time sell or mortgage the said land hereby so devised. And I give unto him all stock, farming utensils that I may stand possessed of at the time of my decease and all my chattles and personal property.

In witness whereof I have to this my last will and testament written on two sides of a paper to the first side at the bottom therefore affixed my name and to the last my name and seal this twenty first day of December Eighteen Hundred and Fifty Three.

From the Carleton County Land Registry, March. Citation forthcoming.

“she & her infant family are left totally destitute”: the Widow Hourigan petitions the Crown (part I)

LAC’s Upper Canada Land Petitions (1763-1865) database is an index to the petitions, with the actual (that is to say, the digitized microforms of the actual) petitions found elsewhere at the LAC site. Somewhat annoyingly, there is no direct link from the index to the digitized microforms of the actual petitions.

In order to locate a petition, you will need to first consult the index. From the index listing, you will want to note the microform number, the bundle number, and the petition number.

Here is how I found the petition of Mary Lahey, widow of Timothy Hourigan.

Who was the Widow Hourigan?

Mary Lahey was born about 1790 in Ballymacegan, parish of Lorrha, Tipperary, and was one of seven known Lahey siblings who emigrated from Ireland to Upper Canada in the 1820s and early 1830s. She married (in Ireland) Timothy Hourigan about 1815, and the couple came to Canada (to March township) in the summer of 1824, with their children Michael, Mary, and Patrick (a fourth child, Thomas, was born in Canada about six months after the death of his father).1

On or about 26 August 1825 (26 August 1825 is the date given in her petition), Mary Lahey’s husband Timothy Hourigan was “killed by the falling of a tree whilst working for the support of his large family,” which family “have been left,” her petition adds, “destitute by his death.” Elsewhere in the paperwork that made up her petition: “her husband having been killed by the falling of a tree, she & her infant family are left totally destitute.”

Well, perhaps not totally destitute. As her brother Patrick Lahey explained in a letter to Peter Robinson (see “The Queen vs. Kelly [Part I]”), when “me brother in law [Timothy Hourigan] was killed by the fall of a tree,” the “widow and three children fell in charge to us.” She was not without some family support, in other words. But her case was dire enough: she and her brothers had only recently arrived in Upper Canada; and her brothers had not yet acquired lots of land, and were still trying to get established. If her brothers would not see their sister and her children starve, they were scarcely in a position to offer generous assistance to a widow with three young children (and with a fourth child on the way). Hence her need to acquire a lot of land “for the support of herself and fatherless Children.”

Finding the Widow Hourigan’s Petition

Searching the Index: Given the many spelling variations for Hourigan (Horahan, Horgan, Horhan, Houroghan, to name just a few), I decided to begin with a search for Name: Ho* in Place: March:

finding_uppercanland_hourigan_6

 

I figured Ho plus the wildcard character (*) would call up most, if not all, possible surname variations (Hourigan, Horgan, Horhan, Houroghan, and so on).

This brought up a listing for HORHAN, Mary in March [township] in 1827. Bingo! Clicking on the listing brought up this Item Display:

finding_uppercanland_hourigan3

I now had the information I needed — Microform no. (C-2050), Bundle no. (H 15) and petition no. (15) — to find the actual petition (the digitized copy of the actual petition, that is).

Finding the Petition: To find the petition, I went to ARCHIVED – Microform Digitization, and found Upper Canada Land Petitions as Title no. 21. Again, the petitions are at:

Clicking on that title brought me to the hyperlinked display of all 327 available digitized microforms (from c-1609 to c-2985). I knew that I was looking for c-2050 (see the Item Display for HORHAN, Mary, above).

This is a hefty file, containing 1075 pages (or images). I  knew (again, from the Item Display above) that I was looking for Bundle H 15, and then for petition no. 15 of that bundle. Scrolling through the file (not page by page! with a thousand-page file, I search by 100s — page 100, page 200, page 300, and so on — to narrow things down), I found it at pages/images 789-795:

finding_uppercanland_hourigan4

finding_uppercanland_hourigan5

It probably took me less than 15 minutes to find the Widow Hourigan’s petition (online, digitized sources: they are amazing!).

To be continued…

  1.  Thomas Hourigan married Julia Moran, daughter of James Moran and Margaret Jamieson.

Link

Now online at PRONI (Public Record Office of Northern Ireland), a searchable placename index to the Valuation Revision Books, covering the counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone between the years 1864 to 1933.

Quebec land grants information online

In addition to Library and Archives Canada’s Lower Canada Land Petitions (1764-1841), archive.org has the List of lands granted by the Crown in the Province of Quebec, from 1763 to 31st December 1890 [Liste des terrains concédés par la Couronne dans la province de Québec, de 1763 au 31 décembre 1890] (Quebec: Charles-François Langlois, Printer to the Queen, 1891) available online in several formats (including Full Text,  PDF, and DjVu).

This online, digitized version of a microfilm is admittedly a bit cumbersome to read (there are 1927 [one thousand nine hundred and twenty-seven] pages, after all!, and some of the text is quite faint/faded), but definitely worth the effort if you’re looking for ancestors who settled in Lower Canada/Quebec.

‘I am a Poor man with a helpless family': Peter Finnerty petitions the Crown

Marriage of Peter Finnerty and Anne Havey, 11 July 1843, Notre Dame Basilica, Québec.

Peter Finnerty was born about 1810 in Co. Kerry, Ireland, the son of John Finnerty and Catherine Dunleavy. He emigrated to Canada probably in the early 1840s, initially working as a labourer (journalier) in Quebec City. Here  he married another recent Irish emigrant, Anne Havey of Co. Sligo, daughter of John Havey and Mary McGee. The couple were married on 11 July 1843, at Notre Dame Basilica, Québec (click preview, left, to see larger image). 1 A year later, they could be found in McNab township, Renfrew County, Ontario, where they raised a family of seven known children.

Two of the sons of Peter Finnerty and Anne Havey — John and James Finnerty, respectively — married two of the daughters — Catherine and Bridget Benton, respectively — of Thomas Benton and Honora Ryan, which two Finnerty-Benton unions produced an impressive number of Finnerty children (nine by John and Catherine; eleven by James and Bridget) who were double first cousins.

  1. Basilique Notre-Dame (Québec City, Québec), Register of Births, Marriages and Burials, 1843, p. 123, M. 69, Peter Finnerty-Anne Havy marriage: database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 23 March 2012), Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

Peter Robinson Settlers in Huntley township

Peter Robinson settlers in Huntley township, Carleton County, Ontario [Upper Canada], 1834. The names below can be found on the passenger lists for the Hebe and the Stakesby (from Cork to Quebec, 1823).

Transcribed from:

Return of a portion of the Irish Emigrants located in the Bathurst District in 1823 and 1825, by Peter Robinson Esqr, and who are now entitled to receive their Deeds, the lots having been inspected by Francis K. Jessup in 1834.1.

Township of Huntley:

NameHalfLotCon
NameHalfLotCon
James FORRESTWest2011
William WELCHEast2011
Timothy FORRESTWest2111
Timothy KENNEDYEast2111
Charles SULLIVANWest2311
Jeffery DONOGHUEEast1510
James WHITEEast1710
Michael CRONINWest1810
James ALLANEast1910
John KENNEDYWest1910
John KEEFEWest1910
William GREGGWest169
William WHITEWest209
James MANTLE2710
Thomas BOYLEN.W. 4 [quarter] 24 10
S.W. 4 [quarter]2510
Thomas BRISTNAHAN Senr.West219
Thomas BRISTNAHAN Jnr.East2010
  1. Upper Canada Land Petitions 1835, RG 1, L 3, vol. 435, R Bundle 19, petition 23c: microfilm C-2746

Upper Canada Land Petitions Online

I can’t believe these documents are now online (and have been online for a couple of months, apparently — John Reid posted about this on 14 January 2012). Not just the index to the petitions (which index was put online around September 2010, I believe), but now the digitized images of the petitions themselves. 327 microfilms (over 82,000 entries, and thousands upon thousands of pages of text), now readily available to anyone with an internet connection.

Two of my direct ancestors (both 3x-great-grandfathers) can be found on the same page, three lines from the top and five lines from the top, respectively (click image below to see larger version):

  1. Denis Killeen, Irish Emt [Emigrant], Township of March, Concession 3rd, S.E. [Southeast] 1/2 of Lot 11, 100 acres.
  2. James Morin [Moran], Irish Emt [Emigrant], Township of Huntley, Concession 1st, N.W. [Northwest] 1/2 of Lot 11, 100 acres.

Upper Canada Land Petitions, Perth Military Settlement (RG 1, L 3, Vol. 421), Microfilm C-2739, Petition 70, p. 70h.

Actually, perhaps my above “readily available” was a tad hyperbolic.