Migration

Ireland-to-Canada emigration: from which port?

According to historian Timothy J. Meagher (The Columbia Guide to Irish American History), Liverpool was the point of departure for the vast majority of Irish emigrants to both Canada and the United States, at least during the Famine period:

Even most of the Irish bound for North America, however, first went through Britain, more specifically Liverpool. By the mid-1840s, over 90 percent of the Irish going to Canada or the United States went through Liverpool and over one million Irish passed through the city between 1847 and 1853.1

And how did these Irish emigrants get from Ireland to Liverpool, before embarking on their journey to the New World? By steam ferry, before crossing the Atlantic by sail. “It was not an easy trip,” writes Meagher. Indeed.

Was Liverpool the main point of departure to North America for pre-Famine Irish emgrants to Canada? This I do not know (but I suspect Liverpool was also an important port for Ireland-to-Canada emigrants from the 1820s to the early 1840s).

  1.  Timothy J. Meagher, The Columbia Guide to Irish American History (New York: Columbia University Press, 2005), 75.

Formerly of the father’s Irish county

(Or formerly of [the father’s native] England, as the case may be.)

This is bordering on fussy pedantry, perhaps. Or maybe it crosses that border?

But genealogical research is all about paying attention to the small details. And Irish genealogy, especially, requires close attention to the small details. Given the paucity of Irish records, and with so few, so very few, records to work with: you need to work those records to the ground, and then turn them inside out and work them over again. Let no detail escape! no matter how small, no matter how seemingly insignificant.

So, pedantry or not, it’s going to bother me if I don’t correct the following misleading statement:

In Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records, 1852-1856, I wrote that the Rev. Bernard McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers to at least the parents of the bride or groom, but in some (probably quite a few) cases, will also refer to the bride or groom as well. 

And in the majority of cases for these Fitzroy Harbour Mission marriages, the father’s and the mother’s county of origin will be one and the same (so: the parents’ county of origin). But not always. And, having read through a run of about twelve years of these marriage records, it seems clear to me that Father McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers first and foremost to the father’s county of origin (which, again, will usually also be the mother’s county of origin, but not always).

Here, for example, is a marriage record where the bridegroom’s mother’s Irish county of origin is not recorded at all, and where her origins are misleadingly subsumed under those of her husband:

finner william breslin catherine 26jun1861

St. Michael (Fitzroy Harbour, Carleton), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1852-1863, 26 June 1861, image 65 of 80, M. 5, William Finner-Catherine Breslin marriage, database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

Father McFeely here identifies William Finner as the son of Benjamin Finner and Mary Mantle, “formerly of England.” However, while Benjamin Finner was born in England (about 1796), his wife Mary Mantle certainly was not. Mary Mantle was born about 1808 in Rathcormac, Co. Cork, the daughter of Peter Robinson settlers John Mantle and Ellen Hourigan.

This is, by the way, the only “formerly of England” reference that I’ve yet to come across in the early marriage records for Fitzroy Harbour Mission. There are at least a couple of “formerly of Scotland” references, and also a few references to Quebec birthplaces. But the vast majority of recorded origins for these early marriage records refer back to counties in Ireland.

Irish Counties in Fitzroy Harbour Mission Marriage Records, 1852-1856

From 1852, there was a Catholic Mission at Fitzroy Harbour (Carleton Co., Ontario). A stone church (St. Michael’s) was built in 1861;1 but the mission did not become the independent parish of St. Michael until 1917.2 The Fitzroy Harbour Mission served Catholics in the Fitzroy Harbour area, of course, but also, in its early years, Catholics from across the river in the Quyon, Onslow area of Québec.

Marriage of Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan.

St. Michael (Fitzroy Harbour, Carleton), Register of Baptisms and Marriages, 1852-1863, 28 February 1859, image 49 of 80, M. 9, Patrick Killeen-Bridget Gallagan marriage, database: FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

From 1852 to 1865, the Fitzroy Harbour Mission was served by the Rev. Bernard McFeely. His handwriting was the opposite of neat; his spelling was idiosyncratic at best; and his practice of recording the Irish counties of origin of the parties to a marriage was a gift to future genealogists. It is thanks to Father McFeely that many of the descendants of these Irish Catholic emigrants can begin their family history research with a specific Irish county, rather than just “Ireland,” as the starting point.

To the right is the marriage record for my 2x-great-grandparents Patrick Killeen and Bridget Galligan. Patrick is given as “son of age of Denis Killeen and Mary Hearn formerly of the County Galway Ireland;” and Bridget as “daughter of age of Patrick Gallagan and Mary Quilean [Cullen] formerly of the County Cavin [Cavan] Ireland.” Patrick Killeen was almost certainly born in Upper Canada, whereas Bridget Galligan was certainly born in Ireland (parish of Kilmore, County Cavan). But this distinction is not made clear in the marriage record (I have this information from other records). Father McFeely’s “formerly of the County [Irish county] Ireland” refers to at least the parents of the bride or groom, but in some (probably quite a few) cases, will also refer to the bride or groom as well.

Below is a list of some marriages recorded in the parish register of Fitzroy Harbour Mission, from 1852 to 1856. I have only included marriages where one or both parties are identified with an Irish county (the vast majority of marriages recorded in the early register for Fitzroy Harbour). These Irish counties include: Kerry, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary, Clare, Galway, Mayo, Sligo, Leitrim, Cavan, and Tyrone.  

Please note that the Rev. Bernard McFeely continued his practice of recording Irish counties well into the 1860s; I only stopped at the end of November 1856 because my tabular data was getting a bit unwieldy for a blog-based table. I may do 1857 to 1861 or so in a future entry. 

As usual, I have resisted the urge to “correct” the spellings. In more than a few cases, I could not “correct” the spelling even if I tried: at least a few of the surnames transcribed below do not really make sense to me even as variant spellings of a surname. I have attempted to transcribe what I read, but in a few cases, Fr. McFeely’s text is all but unreadable.

  1. This stone church replaced a wooden church that had burned to the ground in 1854. The suspected cause of the fire was anti-Catholic vandalism. See Marion G. Rogers, “St. Michael’s Church Fitzroy Harbour,” The Ottawa Journal, 29 July 1972.
  2. “St. Michael’s Fitzroy Celebrates 150 Years,” Catholic Ottawa Newsletter, Spring and Summer 2010, p. 11.

Heritage Passages: Rideau Canal history

A new online exhibit

If you have Irish ancestors who were in the Bytown (Ottawa) area by the late 1820s, you should certainly check the McCabe List (which I wrote about in this entry).

And if you’re lucky enough to discover an ancestor on the McCabe List,1 you may want to learn more about the Rideau Canal and its construction.

Heritage Passages: Bytown and the Rideau Canal is an online interactive exhibit which presents the history of Bytown “from the arrival of Colonel John By in 1826 to the incorporation of the City of Ottawa in 1855.” The site makes use of extensive archival materials to explore the social, cultural, economic and political dimensions of the construction of the Bytown Locks, organizing its material under such headings as Military, Disease, Labour, and Community.

The section on Disease includes some fascinating material on malaria (which was known as ague, swamp fever, and lake fever). Malaria is now extremely rare in Canada and the United States, and most people now see it as an exclusively tropical disease. But during the construction of the Rideau Canal, malarial outbreaks were common, and the disease killed hundreds of men, women, and children. Even Colonel By himself contracted malaria! The malaria section includes “A Personal Account of Malaria” from John McTaggart’s
Three years in Canada (1829).

The section on Community explores some of the tensions between different groups (French, English, Scottish, and Irish), whose political, economic, and religious rivalries could sometimes erupt into violent clashes. See, for example, the subsections on Brawling Bytown, Lawlessness, and Conflict and Struggle — early Bytown was a very different place from the staid and peaceful Ottawa that it would become. Not surprisingly, “it was the impoverished working-class Irish who were generally held responsible for the disruption of the peace, though it is uncertain whether such accusations were based on fact or on negative cultural stereotypes.” It should be noted that the worst period of violence (1835 to 1845) came after the construction of the Rideau Canal, when unemployed Irish vied with French Canadians for jobs in the timber trade.

Heritage Passages: Bytown and the Rideau Canal is a great example of how the internet can be used to offer a deeply sourced and multilayered form of public history.  

  1. I say “lucky” because to discover an ancestor on the McCabe List is, in most cases, to find the Holy Grail of Irish genealogy, at least for that ancestor and his family: you will get the name of a county and a parish, and perhaps also the name of a town or townland within that parish.

Fitzgerald, from Ireland to Hastings Co., Ontario

A reader is looking for information on William Fitzgerald (born in Ireland about 1816) and his wife Ellen (born in Ireland about 1813). The couple emigrated from Ireland, and came to Hastings Co., Ontario in 1843. One of their sons, John Fitzgerald, married Mary Ann Hickey in 1864. Many of the family are buried at St. Ignatius R.C. Cemetery in Maynooth, McClure Township, Hastings Co., Ontario.

Any information would be greatly appreciated.

Currie/Curry or Corry, from Fermanagh to the Ottawa Valley

A reader is looking for information on a family who emigrated from Co. Fermanagh, Ireland to the Ottawa Valley in the early- to mid-19th century. The family name was Currie/Curry or Corry, and the forenames were Patrick, Frank, Thomas, and Christopher. They apparently left Ireland with the Lunney family who settled at Pakenham (Lanark Co., Ontario).

The Lunneys were in Canada by the mid-1830s: on 24 January 1836 (Notre Dame, Bytown/Ottawa), Edward Joseph Lunney (son of Patrick Lunney and Rose Reilly) married Johanna Mantle (daughter of John Mantle and Ellen Hourigan).

Any information on this Currie/Curry/Corry family of Fermanagh would be much appreciated.

A 9-year-old boy who died “of the disease of Irish emigrants”

This was posted on Facebook, by the Institut généalogique Drouin (but the screencap below is from ancestry.ca: Quebec, Vital and Church Records [Drouin Collection], 1621-1967). It is the burial record for a nine-year-old boy named Henry Gill, “décédé de la maladie des émigrés irlandais” ([who] died of the disease of Irish emigrants):

Burial record for Henry, 17 September 1847, St-Louis de Lotbinière, Québec.

Burial record for Henry Gill, 17 September 1847, St-Louis de Lotbinière, Québec.

“La maladie des émigrés irlandais” (the malady, or disease, of Irish emigrants) was, of course, the dreaded typhus. For a brief account of the typhus epidemic of 1847, see History – 1847: A tragic year at Grosse Île (Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site of Canada).

The priest did not have the names of the boy’s parents (“fils legitime d’un père et d’une mère d’ont nous n’avons pas avoir les noms”/”legitimate son of a father and a mother for whom we have not acquired the names”), but he noted that Henry Gill was the brother of Patrick and of Catherine Gill. A commenter at Facebook notes that Henry Gill and his siblings Patrick and Catherine were the children of John Gill and Mary Lynch, and links to a database of Les orphelins irlandais arrivés à Grosse-Île en 1847-48 (Irish orphans who arrived at Grosse Île in 1847-48), where the Gill children can be found at Reg. Nos. 176, 178, and 177.

Kind of amazing to see these records online, and to see people commenting, and cross-referencing, and cross-linking to other records and databases.

Parents of James Edward Sullivan?

James Edward Sullivan was born about 1866, apparently at or near Potsdam, St. Lawrence County, New York. He died in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada on 7 February 1931.

His Ontario civil death record records his birthplace as Potsdam, NY, and lists his parents as Jeremiah Sullivan, birthplace Ireland, and Ellen Sullivan, birthplace Ireland.1

At some point in his early life (childhood? adolescence? early adulthood?) James Edward Sullivan migrated west, to East Grand Forks, Polk Co., Minnesota. Here he met Anna (“Annie”) Moran, a daughter of Alexander Michael Moran and Mary Ann Leavy, and one of the six of their twelve children who moved from Huntley township, Carleton Co., Ontario to the Grand Forks area (Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota) in the late 1870s to early 1890s. James Edward Sullivan and Annie Moran married in Polk County, Minnesota on 26 June 1894; and the first two of their five children (Henry Joseph Sullivan [1895-1952] and Charles Alexander Sullivan [1896-1949]) were born in Minnesota.

  1. Was Sullivan both her maiden name and her married name? or was it, as I suspect, only her married name?