Tag Archive for Jamieson

Obituary for Thomas and Alexander Moran

While it may seem a glaringly obvious point, it’s a point worth keeping in mind when you discover an ancestor’s obituary.

That obituary or death notice1 that you discovered for your ancestor didn’t just write itself. Somebody had to write it; and was that somebody a staff writer for the newspaper, or a family member who paid for the announcement? And even if written by a staff writer, somebody (probably not a staff writer, unless your ancestor was famous or infamous, or at least, in the case of more local or regional papers, unless your ancestor was a highly prominent citizen of the locality) had to supply the relevant details.The thing didn’t just write itself, in other words: it had to be written by someone, based on information supplied by somebody.

A Double Obituary

Irish World, 13 February 1892, p. 5. Death and burial of Thomas and Alexander Moran.

Irish World, 13 February 1892, p. 5 (www.genealogybank.com). Death and burial of Thomas and Alexander Moran.

From the Irish World and American Industrial Liberator, 13 February 1892, here is an obituary (see image, right) for the Messrs. Thomas and Alexander Moran: a double obituary notice with details of a “double bereavement.”

And I certainly wasn’t expecting to find an obituary notice for my 2x-great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran — of Huntley Township, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada — in an Irish-American newspaper that was published in New York City. Nor was I expecting to find one for his eldest brother Thomas. But that’s the wonderful thing about online, digital newspaper repositories such as GenealogyBank and Newspapers.com: they can help you turn up little gems that you never would have discovered otherwise.

Two brothers, Thomas Moran and Alexander Michael Moran, both of Huntley Township, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada died five days apart in late January 1892, of la grippe (influenza) with pneumonia. Thomas, a lifelong bachelor farmer known as “Uncle Tom” to “a legion of nephews and nieces,”  was the eldest son of James Moran and Margaret Jamieson. His younger brother Alexander (“Sandy”) Michael was the husband of Mary Ann Leavy,2 with whom he raised a family of twelve children, one of whom, Margaret Jane, died young; six of whom married and remained in the Ottawa area; and five of whom emigrated to Grand Forks, North Dakota and East Grand Forks, Minnesota.

Though you won’t find any specific details of parental or spousal relations in this obituary notice from the Irish World: no, not even the names of the brothers’ parents, never mind the name of Alexander Moran’s wife, nor of his eleven surviving children. No mention, either, of Thomas and Alexander’s four surviving sisters, all of whom were alive and well and living in, or next-door-to, Carleton County at the time.3

Instead, the obituary focuses on the brothers’ standing in “the farming community of Carleton County”; on the respect paid to the men at their funerals, when the church was “appropriately draped in mourning;” and, in the case of the elder brother, on Thomas Moran’s status as an “exemplary Catholic.”

Who Wrote this Obituary?

So: who wrote this obituary?

Well, of course I do not, and cannot, know who authored this obituary. But if I had to hazard a guess, I’d place my money on the Rev. Patrick Corkery, who is mentioned in the obituary as the “Father Corkery” who “performed the burial ceremony” for Thomas Moran.4

And here are the three reasons why I would guess Father Corkery (but I emphasize that this is only a guess, and perhaps a wrong one):


  1.  There’s no bright line, no hard and fast rule for distinguishing, between a death (or mortuary) notice and an obituary. In general, a death notice was very brief, perhaps only one or two lines of vital information, whereas an obituary offered at least a bit (or perhaps more than a bit) of narrative: a life story, or a biographical sketch, with some key names, dates, and details.
  2.  Daughter of John Leavy and Jane Byrne, originally of Co. Longford, Ireland.
  3.  Elizabeth Moran, wife of Peter Doyle, was in Montague township, Lanark County, Ontario; the other three sisters — Marcella Moran, wife of John Hogan; Margaret Moran, wife of Arsène Charlebois; and Henrietta Moran, a lifelong spinster — were in Carleton County. It was after the death of her brothers that Henrietta, moved to Ottawa.
  4. Thomas Moran’s funeral and burial took place on 23 January 1892, with the Rev. P. Corkery officiating. Five days later, on 28 January 1892, the Rev. P. Corkery performed the funeral rites for Alexander Michael Moran.

Marriage of Edmund Conroy and Margo Jemmison

book cover areyoumymotherIf, as promised in December 2014, the National Library of Ireland launches a website with digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish register microfilms, this will be a game changer for Irish genealogy and family history research.1 As John Grenham puts it:

These records are – by a long way – the single most important source of historical Irish family information, one of the greatest legacies of the Catholic Church to Ireland.

The idea that someone in Ottawa or Boston (or anywhere in the world, really) will now have free, online access to a set of records (the single most important set of records for Irish genealogy, given the loss of the 19th-century census records) that, until recently, had seemed to lie hidden inside an Irish family history mysterium … well, this is a great idea, is it not?

To be sure, there will be challenges. Some of the records are in Latin, with seemingly bizarre latinized renderings of Irish forenames (Diarmuid [anglicized as Dermot] becomes Jeremiah; Sheila becomes Cecilia; and so on). Pages torn or ripped out just at the point where you think your great-great-grandmother’s marriage record might be. Cramped, spidery writing, with ink splotches all over the page. These records will not present themselves to Irish family history researchers as something warm and friendly, easy-going and easy to use.

They will not be “user-friendly,” I suspect (they will not be indexed by name, for example).

And yet. And yet. Make no mistake: this is a game changer. For anyone who cares to slog through page after page of sometimes poorly-photographed images of sometimes indecipherable handwriting, this is it: this is the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

And the records will no doubt be crowd-sourced: before too long after their release (not overnight, but sooner than you might expect), we will see local genealogy societies coming out with indexes; we will see random people on the Internet offering their own transcriptions of the records for this parish or that. (And caveat emptor, needless to say.)

Transcriptions are Good, but …

… they’re not as good as the originals.

The thing is, I just don’t entirely trust somebody else’s transcription of an original record. I want to see the original (or a photograph of the original) for myself, and make my own interpretation, and draw my own conclusions. And just as importantly, I want to view the record in context, which means I want see the surrounding records. I want access to la vraie chose, in other words.

Do I sound too demanding (I want this, and I’d also like that)? I guess online access to the digitized Drouin records (Catholic parish registers for the province of Québec and for parts of the province of Ontario) has spoiled me, has raised my expectations for online access to (photographs of) the original records. By the way, the Drouin records are available at FamilySearch, and also at Ancestry.ca.

I used to complain about RootsIreland.ie (Irish Family History Foundation) because their former pay-per-view system was simply too expensive. In fact, there was a period a few years ago when I actually banned myself from visiting their site, because the temptation to spend more money on more views was too overwhelming. I mean, it was a bit ridiculous: how much money are you willing to spend in pursuit of a Patrick Ryan, a man with one of the ten most common surnames in Ireland, and with one of the most common male forenames too? Well, too much money, in my case, whenever I visited that site. And so I banned myself.

I no longer complain about RootsIreland, now that they have 1). replaced the pay-per-view system with a subscription service; and 2). added RC parish records from the Catholic Archdiocese of Cashel and Emly (and hello, Patrick Ryan: no, not those other Patrick Ryans, but the Patrick Ryan that I was actually looking for). I now find RootsIreland to be an incredibly useful site.

So this isn’t a complaint, exactly. It’s just that what you get at Rootsireland are somebody else’s transcriptions, and transcriptions are not as good as the originals.

Are You my 3x-Great-Grandmother?

conroy edmond jameson marg 1may1815 mountmellick queensAs I’ve mentioned before, the family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson strikes me as so romantic, so improbable, that I often refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “the Ballad of James and Margaret.”

And it’s a great story: a young lady of quality (of “the Quality,” as they called it at the time) falls in love with the coachman, a handsome young rogue of a fellow, who is working for her family. And because her family would never agree to the match, the two star-crossed young lovers determine to elope to Upper Canada.

Well, of course I am sceptical. As I have also already mentioned before, if you grew up as the descendant of Irish emigrants, you will no doubt have grown up hearing all sorts of stories about how we were once the Kings and Queens of Ireland. And then you look into the records, and discover that we were once the agrarian underclass of County Tipperary!

But for all my scepticism, I have never been inclined to dismiss outright the oral family history claim that, before she married James Moran, the young Margaret Jamieson had married a man by the name of Conroy, in the Queen’s County (Co. Laois).

Which is why the record above (a transcription of an actual record) is of interest to me. The county fits; the date fits; and the names (more or less) also fit (“Margo”? I’d like to know how many “Margos” were running about Queen’s County ca. 1815: I suspect not too many, though there must have been a lot of “Margarets”).

Is this Margo Jemisson my Margaret Jamieson? Well, she might be, but then again, she might not be, I just don’t know. The only way to possibly crack this nut is to dig deep into the parish registers, and to view all relevant surrounding records in context.

Which is why I am so looking forward to the NLI’s release of the digitized images of its Roman Catholic parish registers. I want the key that unlocks the door to the Irish family history mysterium.

  1.  And I shouldn’t say if, I should say when (the NLI’s Parish Registers Digitisation Project is currently scheduled to launch “by summer 2015”): it’s just that this project is so monumentally awesome that I still can’t quite believe they will pull it off.

The Ballad of James and Margaret

The family lore surrounding my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson is so romantic (and I have to say, so seemingly improbable) that I sometimes refer to the story of their elopement to Canada as “The Ballad of James and Margaret.”

The story goes something like this:

Margaret Jamieson came from a family of quality, and was the daughter of a doctor, and the granddaughter of a landed gentleman, even; whereas James Moran, of much humbler origin, worked for her family as a coachman. Margaret suffered a tragic loss at an early age with the untimely death of her first husband, a Mr. Conroy. The young widow and her family’s coachman then fell in love; and, her family being opposed to the match, James and Margaret eloped to Canada.

Doesn’t the above story make my 3x-great-grandfather sound like “The Gypsy Rover”? (He whistled and he sang til the green woods rang/And he won the heart of a lady…). Except that James Moran didn’t end up as “lord of these lands all over.” Instead, he ended up as a yeoman of Huntley Township, Carleton County, with 200 acres of land to divide between his two surviving sons Thomas and Alexander Michael.1 Not exactly “lordly,” but not bad for an Irish Catholic emigrant who was likely the landless son of a landless tenant farmer back in Ireland.

But back in Ireland where?

  1. Another son, James, born about 1824 in Huntley township, died in 1851. There is a notation of his death in the 1851 census, with the cause of death listed as “collara” (cholera).

“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:



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:


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:



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.

Family ties: how far back do they go?

When my paternal grandparents married in 1932, each was marrying into a familiar family. As I’ve mentioned before, my Moran ancestors and my Lahey ancestors have been linked by intermarriage since the middle of the 19th century. Not that my paternal grandparents were first, second, or even third cousins, as best I make out. But each had collateral ancestors who had married the other’s collateral ancestors, if that makes sense (and with collateral ancestry, things can stop making sense very quickly, which is one reason why I love my TNG database).

The first Lahey-Moran connection that I’ve discovered is not a marriage but a sponsorship. On 4 March 1832, my 3x-great-grandparents James Moran and Margaret Jamieson served as godparents to Elizabeth Lahey, born 16 August 1831, the daughter of Patrick Lahey and Elizabeth Wharton. Elizabeth Lahey was probably baptized at March township; the baptism was recorded in the register for Notre Dame, Bytown [Ottawa]. Her father Patrick was the brother of my 3x-great-grandfather James Lahey.

My paternal grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey married at Ottawa on 25 May 1932, one hundred years after James Moran and Margaret Jamieson stood sponsor for Elizabeth Lahey. By Canadian standards, those family ties go back very far indeed!

NOTE: A note on baptismal sponsorship and familial relations.

If I’m looking at an Ottawa Valley area RC baptismal record from about the 1850s until about the day before yesterday, I’m going to assume that I should be looking for a blood connection between the baptized child and his or her godparents. And if I don’t readily find one, I’m going to assume that I should be looking harder. Not that I’ll always uncover one, of course, and not that such a blood connection will always exist. But for me, the presumption is always in favour of at least one of the two godparents as blood relation (aunt; uncle; cousin; etc.).

For the 1820s and 1830s, however, things look a little bit different.

In some of the early townships of Carleton County (e.g., Huntley township, where my Moran ancestors very peacefully settled; and March township, where my Lahey ancestors somewhat less than peacefully settled), Irish Catholics were very much in the minority (the same cannot be said of some of the later settlements of, say, Renfrew County, where Irish Catholics, if they did not actually form a numerical majority, certainly managed to achieve critical mass). For early Irish Catholics of the Bytown area, my sense is that strangers from very different parishes and counties of Ireland forged friendships and close ties (it helped to belong to the same New World parish, or perhaps mission, of course) which then led to marriages, and then intermarriages, which then led to close family connections. Well, that’s the story of my dad’s family, at any rate. Someone from Galway marries someone from Cavan in Upper Canada; and then someone’s sister from Tipperary marries (in Upper Canada) someone whose parents came from Galway and Cavan; and by the end of the 19th century, they’re all one big (if confusingly connected) family. Had these folks stayed in Ireland, they never would have married one another, because they never even would have met (originating from such very different Irish counties, after all). In Canada, they become close (if confusingly connected) family members.

Were there any blood ties between the Morans or the Jamiesons and the Laheys or the Whartons? I’ve yet to discover any. Both the Morans and the Laheys were Bytown area pioneers, and amongst the early Irish in the Ottawa Valley.



Death and Burial Records: c. 1857-1861 versus 1882

Or: What a Difference Twenty-Some Years Can Make

Death and Burial of Margaret Jamieson

When Margaret Jamieson, widow of James Moran, died on 12 July 1882, her death generated two records: a Roman Catholic church burial record; 1 and an Ontario civil death registration, based on the RC burial record.2

Burial of Margaret Jamieson, widow of James Moran.

Burial of Margaret Jamieson, widow of James Moran. St. Michael’s, Corkery.

Death of Margret Morin (Margaret Jamieson, widow of James Moran)

Ontario civil death registration of the death of Margret Morin (Margaret Jamieson, widow of James Moran)

Note the spelling variations for both forename and surnames. In the church record we have Margarette, and in the civil record we have Margret, for the first name that I’ve decided to standardize as Margaret.3

And in the Ontario civil death registration, we have Morin for Moran; while in the church burial record, we have Jameson (and perhaps also Jemeson?) for a surname that her descendants most frequently spell as Jamieson.

And btw, and as noted before, that “Jameson alias Moran” does not mean that my 3x-great-grandmother had been travelling under a false identity, nor that she had been caught up in the cloak-and-dagger world of international espionage. By “alias,” the priest (Fr. O’Malley) just meant “otherwise known as.” So: Jameson (or Jamieson, to her descendants), her maiden or family name, but otherwise known as Moran, her married name.

  1. St. Michael (Corkery, Carleton), Baptisms, marriages, burials 1864-1884, Vol. 4, S. Margarette Jameson alias Moran, p. 147: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/: accessed 28 March 2013), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.
  2. Margret Morin, Ontario death registration 1882: microfilm MS 935, reel 30, Archives of Ontario; database, ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 28 March 2013), Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas, 1939-1947.
  3. I doubt very much that she herself adhered to a standardized spelling, that she would have insisted on Margaret or Margarette or perhaps Marguerite (this last a spelling which some of her descendants favour).

Irish (also English and Scottish) Origins, Canadian Sources: William Pigott’s enumeration of Fitzroy township (1851)

Here are my Moran ancestors in the 1851 census of Huntley township, Carleton County, Ontario (Canada West):

James Morin household, 1851 census of Canada West (Ontario), Carleton County, Huntley, p. 85, lines 44-50.

James Moran (here Morin), Farmer, born Ireland, religion R. [Roman] Catholic, age 54 at next birthday; with wife Margaret [Jamieson], also born Ireland; and children Thos [Thomas], James,1 Mary, Margaret and Alexander (my 2x great-grandfather, who married Mary Ann Leavy), all born Upper Canada.

Place of birth “Ireland” (no Irish county specified) for Irish emigrants to Canada is pretty much the standard for the 1851 (and 1861, 1871, and so on) Canadian census enumeration.

  1. James Moran, son of James and Margaret Jamieson, had recently died, at the age of 27. His death is listed under column 30 (Deaths during year 1851), with cause of death recorded as “collara” (cholera).

The Queen vs Kelly: Part IV

Continued from The Queen vs. Kelly: Part III.

Hard Times, Hard Labour

As reported in Part III, John Kelly entered the Dominion Penitentiary at Kingston on 15 May 1841, to serve a one-year sentence for the manslaughter of his brother-in-law Michael Hourigan.

Dickens described the penitentiary as ‘well and wisely governed’…

While we don’t have any details specific to Kelly’s one-year confinement in the penitentiary, we can assume it was a harsh, if not hellish experience. Though touted as a model of the new, and more humane approach to punishment and rehabilitation — when Charles Dickens visited the Dominion Penitentiary in the 1840s, he described it as “an admirable jail,…well and wisely governed, and excellently regulated, in every respect” 1 — the new prison at Kingston was in fact “a place of violence and oppression.” From an online history at Correctional Service Canada:

At the root of its problems in the early years was its first warden, Henry Smith. Smith’s use of flogging, even in an age when it was an accepted form of discipline, was flagrant. In 1847, inmates were given 6,063 floggings, an average of 12 per inmate. Women, and children as young as eight were flogged. As well, Smith punished inmates with shackling, solitary confinement, bread-and-water diets, darkened cells, submersion in water, 35-pound yokes, and imprisonment in the “box,” an upright coffin. His son ran the kitchen, profiteering by diverting food and serving rotten meat. In his spare time, he tortured inmates, once putting out a prisoner’s eye at archery practice.

Even by the severe standards of the day, Smith’s treatment of the prisoners was considered outrageous, and he was removed from his post as warden after an investigation into his abuses in 1848.

  1. Charles Dickens, American Notes (London: Chapman and Hall: 1874), etext edition, University of Virginia Library Electronic Text Center 1996, pp. 240-241.

Translating French Records: Catholic Burial Records

As with baptismal and marriage records, RC burial records adhered to the same formula, whether written in English or French. If you know the English-language formula, you can easily figure out the French. (And often the hardest part, as I’ve mentioned before, is to decipher the priest’s handwriting).

The formula, more or less:

The [day of month of year], we the undersigned priest buried in the [name of cemetery] the body of [name of deceased] who died on [date of death] at the age of [age of deceased]. Were present [names of two witnesses].

Le [day of month of year], par nous prêtre soussigné a été inhumé[e] dans le [name of cemetery/cimitière] le corps de [name of deceased], décédé[e] [date of death] à l’age de [age of deceased]. Furent présents [names of two witnesses].