Tag Archive for Lavelle

Surname Confusion: Lavallee, Lavelle, Vallely

Returning to the French-Irish theme (see Strange Surname Spellings: Hohanlan for O’Hanlon) with respect to surname spellings, here are three surnames which sound somewhat similar, and which are often misspelled in the 19th-century records in ways that make them look even more alike:

  • LAVALLEE is a French, and French-Canadian, surname. And just to complicate matters, it is sometimes (but not always!) a “dit” name: Paquet dit Lavallee, for example.1
  • LAVELLE is an Irish surname. According to Irish Ancestors, in mid-19th century Ireland, it was most numerous in Co. Mayo, but was also found in Co. Sligo, as well as in such Ulster counties as Armagh and Fermanagh.
  • VALLELY is an Irish surname. More specifically, it is an Ulster surname, predominantly found in Co. Armagh, but also found in the nearby counties of Tyrone, Monaghan, Antrim, Down, and Fermanagh.

In nineteenth-century Canadian records, Lavallee (French) and Lavelle (Irish) are of course easily confused, and I have seen many instances of such confusion.

For Vallely, I have seen numerous spellings, including Vallilee, Valaly, Valely,  Vallile, and Valley. At a certain point, the spelling for Vallely starts to bleed into something that approximates Lavelle (Irish), or perhaps Lavallee (French).

And then, not only is the Irish Vallely sometimes written out in the records as Valley, but the French Lavallee is sometimes rendered in the English records as Valley, too. Which makes sense, actually, given that la vallée means the valley.

If you have a “Valley” ancestor, and you’re not sure whether he or she was French or Irish, your best first step is probably to consult the 1851 census, and look for Birthplace. Born in Ireland? You can eliminate Lavallee from consideration, but be aware that both Lavelle and Vallely are still in the running. Born in Lower Canada (or LC), later Quebec? Lavallee is now the strongest possible contender, though of course it’s still possible you’re looking at a Canadian-born ancestor of Irish (Lavelle or Vallely) origin.

  1. On French “dit” names, see French “dit” names and Understanding Dit names.

Cause of death: puerperal (childbed) fever?

On 7 April 1885, Bridget Adeline Lavelle,1 wife of James McCann, gave birth to her second child, a daughter named Margaret Adeline McCann. Ten days later, Bridget Adeline Lavelle was buried at “the new Catholic Cemetery of Perth” (i.e., St. John the Baptist RC Cemetery, on the outskirts of Perth).

Not surprisingly, her Catholic burial record supplies no information about the cause of death:2

Burial of Bridget Adeline Lavelle

Burial of Bridget Adeline Lavelle

Or, at least, there is nothing in the above record itself that would indicate a cause of death. On the previous page of the register, however, is the record of the baptism of Margaret Adeline McCann, born 7 April and baptized 14 April 1885 (with Michael John Hartney and Maggie Finnall serving as godparents). This is obviously a significant clue: when a woman dies nine days after having given birth, it is reasonable to suspect a childbirth-related mortality.

  1. Daughter of James Lavelle and Margaret Boyle, and baptized (30 June 1861, Pembroke Mission, Renfrew Co.) Bridget Adelaide Lavelle.
  2. St. John the Baptist (Perth, Lanark), Baptisms, marriages, burials 1880-1899, Intmt 14, Mrs. James McCann burial, p. 173: database, FamilySearch.org (http://www.familysearch.org/:
    accessed 4 January 2013), Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923.

William Charles Burton: Home Child

[Note: I’m having trouble combining MT blog software with numbered footnote citations. For the moment, I’m inclined to take the easy way out: if there are more than one or two citations per blog entry, no numbered footnotes, just astericks, and references minimized, out of laziness and/or frustration. The census data, both English and Canadian, via Ancestry.ca].

William Charles Burton was born in England about 1882 and came to Canada in the 1890s (possibly 1898) as a Home Child. Several records describe him as a “Barnardo Boy.”

In the 1891 English census, there is a William C. Burton found in the village of Cheddar, Somerset, in the household of George Wall (occupation: Market Gardener) and his wife Susan (occupation: Caretaker of Children), along with another orphan, Fred W.G. Owen. Fred Owen’s age is given as 10, and William C. Burton’s age as 8; both boys are listed as Boarders and Scholars (i.e., they are said to be attending school), and both are said to be “From Dr. Barnardo’s Home, Birthplace unknown.” I’d say there’s a very good chance that this is the William Charles Burton who ended up in Renfrew Co., Ontario, Canada.

Frances Lavelle: Home Child

Frances Lavelle was born in England about 1900. Lavelle was her adopted surname, I do not know her original. She is one of many Home Children I have come across in census records and church records while researching my Ottawa Valley ancestors.

In the 1911 census for Hagarty township, Renfrew South, Ontario, she is found in the household of Austin Lavelle and his wife Bridget O’Hara, where she is listed as Francis [sic] Lavelle, female, adopted, single, month of birth July, year of birth 189[8?], age 10, birthplace England, year of immigration 1907, racial or tribal origin English, nationality Canadian, religion Roman Catholic.