Tag Archive for Moran

1836 petition of inhabitants of Bathurst and Ottawa districts

As I mentioned in my previous post, there is now a huge amount of LAC (Library and Archives Canada) material at Canadiana.org’s Héritage website. This material includes 94 digitized microfilm reels of LAC’s Upper Canada Sundries (RG 5 A1), 1766-1841 series. Héritage describes the series as follows:

This series is part of the Civil Secretary’s Correspondence for Upper Canada and Canada West. It consists of letters, petitions, reports, returns and schedules, certificates, accounts, warrants, legal opinions, instructions and regulations, proclamations and other documents received by the Civil Secretary of Upper Canada, 1791-1841, together with copies of some documents of 1766-1809, made for reference purposes.

As every aspect of Ontario life was covered in the correspondence, there is much to offer for those interested in Ontario’s early history. There is also much material of genealogical interest: character references, land and settler petitions, family histories, licenses, pardons, requests for war losses compensation, etc.

– About the Records, Upper Canada Sundries, 1766-1841, Héritage (http://heritage.canadiana.ca/support/sundries)

The Upper Canada Sundries collection does include some finding aids, on microfilms C-9822, C-9823, C-9824, and C-9825. See the above-linked Canadiana.org page for more information on how to search the series.

And for some really good advice on how and why to search the Upper Canada Sundries, also see The Olive Tree Genealogy Blog (here, here, and here).

Did your Bytown area ancestor sign this petition?

That the cost of transmitting a Prisoner from Bytown to the Gaol at Perth is at least Five Pounds Currency, and that of 17 Prisoners confined in that Prison during the Quarter ending in September 1835, 13 were sent from Bytown.

— Petition of inhabitants of certain districts of Bathurst and Ottawa for division of their district, with Bytown as the capital of the new one, 18361

On microfilm C-6892 (images 1239-1252), there is a petition, dated [December?] 1836, of some (male) inhabitants of certain townships in the Bathurst and Ottawa districts. The petitioners were asking for the formation of a new administrative district, with Bytown as its capital, so that they would no longer have to travel to Perth, L’Original, and Cornwall to attend the King’s Bench and Quarter Sessions; and so that, as the above quote explains, they would no longer have to pay the costs of transporting prisoners from Bytown to the Perth Gaol. The Ottawa district townships are given as: Gloucester, Osgood [Osgoode], Cumberland and Russell. The Bathurst district townships are given as: Nepean, Goulburn, March, Huntly [Huntley], Torbolton, Fitzroy, Packenham [Pakenham], McNab, Horton, Ross, Westmeath and Pembroke (these last four would later become part of Renfrew County).

1836 petition inhabitants bathurst lahy

From image 1247 of C-6892. See footnote 1 for full citation.

There are hundreds of names on the 1836 petition. If you think your ancestors might have been in the Bytown area by 1836, you might want to check this document.

Here is a page with many March Township names (see image at right, and click on image to view a larger version). I have highlighted the names that are especially of interest to me: John Lahy; James Lahy; Mathew [Matthew] Daly (husband of Ellen Killeen and son-in-law of Denis Killeen); Pat Quinn (son of Catherine Lahey and her first husband Patrick Quinn); Patrick Lahy; Michal [Michael] Quin (son of Catherine Lahey and her first husband Patrick Quinn); Michael Hourigan (son of Mary Lahey and Timothy Hourigan); Daniel Lahy (second husband of Catherine Lahey); and D. [Denis] Killeen. The name at the top of this page is that of Hamnett Pinhey, a large landowner and politician, and a leading member of the local elite.

And speaking of prisoners being transported from the Bytown area to the Gaol at Perth: It’s a bit odd to see the name Michael Hourigan followed immediately by that of Daniel Lahy, knowing the similar fate that awaited these two men. In November 1837, Daniel Lahey would be killed by his brother-in-law James Lahey; in April 1841, Michael Hourigan would be killed by his brother-in-law John Kelly (see The Queen vs. Kelly). And yes, both James Lahey and John Kelly were sent from March Township to the Perth Gaol (James Lahey ended up back in March, apparently having been acquitted of the crime; John Kelly served a sentence of one year’s hard labour at the Dominion Penitentiary in Kingston).

From image 1245 of C-6892. See footnote 1 for full citation.

From image 1245 of C-6892. See footnote 1 for full citation.

What percentage of adult male inhabitants of the above-named townships can be found on this petition? I have no idea. But I’m not sure that every name is that of an adult male. At image 1245, a page with many Huntley Township names (see image at left, and click on the image to view a larger version), I see the name James Morin (James Moran), but I also see a James Mourin, a Thomas Morne and an Alexander Morne. Could these two Mornes be James’s sons Thomas Moran and Alexander Michael Moran, who were about 14 and 6 years old, respectively, in 1836? and might one of the two James Morins/Mourins refer to James’s son James Moran, who was about 12 years old at the time? I am reasonably confident that the family of James Moran and Margaret Jamieson was the only Moran family in Huntley Township at the time. I am also somewhat confident that James Moran could not sign his name: my question “Did your ancestor sign this petition?” should really be “Is your ancestor listed on this petition?”

The petition can be found at images 1239 to 1252 of microfilm C-6892; the first page of names is at image 1242. A typewritten list of these names can be found in the finding aid, Upper Canada Sundries Finding Aid C-9824, images 388-395.

On Ontario’s early districts and counties, see the online exhibit The Changing Shape of Ontario at the Archives of Ontario website. Here is Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1826; and here is Upper Canada (Ontario) in 1838.

  1.  Petition of inhabitants of certain districts of Bathurst and Ottawa for division of their district, with Bytown as the capital of the new one, December 1836, Upper Canada Sundries, RG 5 A1, vol. 173, pp. 94966-94967, LAC microfilm C-6892; database, Canadiana.org, (http://heritage.canadiana.ca/view/oocihm.lac_reel_c6892: accessed 11 July 2014), images 1239-1252 of C-6892.

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

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).

Occupation: Married Woman (Canada Voters Lists, 1935-1980)

During the 1930s Alex and Annie operated a small grocery shop in their home on Armstrong St. In the depths of the depression my father, who was a railroader, got very little work and we were often short of cash. At those times our credit was good and we could always get the essentials at the Morans. There were lots of card games and visits to and fro. Uncle Alex was also a fiddle player and he and Aunt Em Delaney played for dancing and entertainment.

— Emmett Patrick Sloan, Memories of the Morans (2007)

Ancestry.ca has an extremely useful database of voters lists: “Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980.” These lists can be used as a census substitute of sorts, although of course they only include adult citizens (age 21 and over until 1970, at which point the voting age was lowered to 18). They can help to discover and/or verify addresses, and they may also provide some useful information on occupations.

But as with the Canadian census (and the US federal census, for that matter, and the UK census too), these voters lists tend to erase evidence of occupation for married women. Well, perhaps “erase” is too strong a term? it suggests an act of commission, when what we are dealing with, arguably, is an act of omission.

My great-grandparents Alex (Alexander Michael) and Annie (Anna Maria Benton) Moran had a grocery store, a small “mom-and-pop” operation at the front of their  house on Armstrong St. Here they are in the 1935 List of Electors (Victoria Ward, City of Ottawa), with my grandparents Allan Jerome Moran and Mary Catherine Lahey (here listed as Mrs Allan [W] [= Wife], married woman) listed just below:

Alexander Moran, Carleton, Ontario, 1935. Ancestry.ca: database online. Original: Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935-1980; Reel: M-4739.

Notice how Alex and Annie’s “mom-and-pop” operation has become a “pop” operation in this document: Moran, Alexander is listed as a “grocery store proprietor,” while his wife Annie (Mrs Alexander, [W] [= Wife]) is given the occupational designation of “married woman.”

Death of Alexander Michael Moran

The Ottawa Journal, 1 February 1939.

The Ottawa Journal, 1 February 1939.

Newspaper obituaries often supply loads of genealogically useful information, along with interesting forename and surname spellings.

Here, for example, is the obituary for my paternal great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran (1871-1939). A fairly standard obituary, which informs readers of the death of A.M. Moran, and supplies practical information about the arrangements for his funeral and burial. But from the perspective of a genealogical researcher, this obituary offers a good deal more.

In addition to listing his birthplace (Huntley, Ontario) and his place of death (231 Armstrong St., Ottawa), it also supplies information about his former employment. (He worked for the Grand Trunk Railway, and then for the Canadian Pacific. My father always told me he was a machinist for the GTR.)

And it names 12 other people:

There is also a reference to seven grandchildren, but these grandchildren are not named. My father was one of these seven.

There is one obvious typo-type error in the list of names: “Annie N. Benton” should be “Annie M. Benton” (for Anna Maria Benton). And there is also a surname spelling variation (I hesitate to call it an error, since I’m always insisting that spelling doesn’t count in genealogy, and that you mustn’t cling to the notion of a “correct” surname spelling if you want to find your ancestors’ records) which might prove misleading, if I didn’t already know the name. The obituary names the mother of my great-grandfather as “Mary Levoy, of Pakenham.” If I didn’t already know that she was the Irish-born Mary Leavy [Levi/Levy], originally of Co. Longford, Ireland, I might go looking for a French/French-Canadian Marie Levoy.

For me, it is somewhat poignant to read that “the death of Alexander Michael Moran occurred at his residence, 231 Armstrong street, suddenly on Tuesday” (31 January 1939). Poignant because it makes me think of my now-deceased father (who died 14 March 2013), who once told me about the death of his grandfather, some of the details of which he could still recall so many years after the event.

231 Armstrong Street was also the home of my father at the time of his grandfather’s death: my dad, with his parents and his older sister Rosemary, lived upstairs at 231 Armstrong St., while his grandparents, Alec and Annie (Alexander Michael Moran and Anna Maria Benton), lived downstairs and ran a small grocery store out of the front of the house. My father recollected that he used to love to go for car rides with his grandfather, to go with him to deliver groceries from the shop or to make deliveries for the St. Vincent de Paul Society. He also recalled that his grandfather played the fiddle, and that he loved to drink buttermilk. “He was a quiet man,” said my father, “and very kind.”

My father (born September 1934) was four years and four months old in January 1939, and was at home when his grandfather died. Some seventy-odd years after the death, he still had a vivid memory of seeing his beloved grandfather lying dead. Apparently my great-grandfather had been outside shovelling snow, and, feeling unwell, had gone inside, where he suffered a massive, and fatal, heart attack.

How much of my father’s memory of his grandfather’s death can be attributed to a direct recollection of a dramatic and traumatic event? and how much of it had been mediated by later retellings of the story over the years? This I do not, and cannot, know. But I’m pretty sure that my dad did remember something of the awful drama surrounding his grandfather’s death, even though my father was only about four and half years old at the time. In the world of my father’s childhood (and it really was a different world, in so many respects), adults didn’t try to hide the reality of death from even very young children, the way we now do.

Anyway, to return to the main idea of this post:

Newspaper obituaries can be extremely useful genealogical sources, but are often riddled with errors and inaccuracies. Follow up on all possible clues (and a close and careful reading of an obituary will often yield important clues), but never, ever assume that because it was printed in the papers, it must therefore be officially, and incontrovertibly, true.

  1. Two other brothers had predeceased him. John Moran, born 1854, died at Rochester, Minnesota in 1921. James Moran, born about 1858, died at Nepean Township in 1899.
  2. One other sister had predeceased him. Margaret Jane Moran, born about 1856, died at Huntley in May 1873, at about sixteen years of age.

John Alexander Moran, 1934-2013

John Alexander, Sir John A, John, Johnny, Dad, Da, Daddy. The Big Guy, Ye Big Hoser.

My father, John Alexander Moran (6 September 1934-14 March 2013), in an early-1960s, “Mad Men”-era photograph. He’s the tall, dark, and handsome young rogue at the far left: 

John Alexander Moran, far left, early 1960s.

John Alexander Moran, far left, early 1960s.

Lahey cousin in the background. As always, and of course.

Newsworthy

Nowadays, you pretty much have to be famous (or perhaps infamous) to have a notice of your travel or holiday plans published in the newspaper.

Not so in 1913!

The Ottawa Journal, 9 August 1913.

The Ottawa Journal, 9 August 1913.

My great-grandparents Alexander Michael Moran and Anna (“Annie”) Maria Benton certainly had no claims to local, much less national, celebrity: they were neither famous nor infamous. But here is a notice of their trip to Swift Current, Saskatchewan, published in The Ottawa Journal on 9 August 1913. They presumably made this trip with their two sons Allan Jerome Moran (my grandfather) and Orville Alexander Moran. And they must have gone out west to visit my great-grandmother’s sister Margaret (“Maggie”) Anne Benton (my grandfather’s maternal aunt, who was also his godmother).

Maggie Benton had married the widowed Con Hazelton (originally of Eganville, Renfrew Co., whose first wife was a Mary McCourt) in Ottawa on 16 April 1912, and had then gone out to Swift Current, Saskatchewan with her husband, where, according to my father, Con Hazelton had a lumber store (this bit of oral history can be verified through written records, by the way).

Obituary/death notice for Margaret Anne Benton, The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952

Obituary/death notice for Margaret Anne Benton, The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952

I don’t know when exactly Margaret (Benton) Hazelton returned from Swift Current, Saskatchewan to Ottawa. On this point, her obituary/death notice (The Ottawa Journal, 9 July 1952) is not much help: apparently she had lived in Saskatchewan for “several years” before returning to Ottawa. Did she return to Ottawa with her husband Con Hazelton? or did she return to Ottawa as a widow? From her obituary, this is not made clear: we only learn that, as of July 1952, Constantine Hazelton had “died some time ago” (in Ottawa? in Swift Current? this information is not supplied). But note the genealogically useful information about Maggie (Benton) Hazelton’s stepdaughters (the children of Con Hazelton and his first wife Mary McCourt): as of July 1952, Cora (Elizabeth Cora Irene) Hazleton is now a Mrs. Cora Beauchamp of Vancouver, B.C., while Nellie (Ellen Mary) Hazelton is now a Mrs. Johnston of Cannuck, Saskatchewan. One individual’s newspaper obituary can supply so many hints and leads about siblings, children, stepchildren, and other extended family.

In any case, certainly Margaret (“Maggie”) Anne (Benton) Hazelton died in Ottawa (at an Ottawa nursing home) on 8 July 1952 at the age of 83, and is buried at Notre Dame Cemtery/Cimetière Notre Dame, Ottawa.

To return to the theme of travel:

My great-grandfather Alexander Michael Moran worked as a machinist for the GTR (Grand Trunk Railway). And according to my father, as an employee of the railway, my great-grandfather was entitled to free (or perhaps vastly discounted?) rail passes that would take he and his family to points all across Canada and the US. Of which perk he seldom took advantage; though apparently my grandfather, with his parents, did take a trip by rail to North Dakota to visit some Moran relations there. This would have been about 1910 to 1915, and perhaps this trip, too, was mentioned in the newspaper? I should try and look it up.

The Perth Courier (Canada’s second-oldest weekly newspaper) is great for notices of local travel. I’ve seen notices where So-and-So of Perth is visiting a sister in Almonte for a few days, or perhaps a cousin in Renfrew. And yes, this merits column space. Newsworthy.

 

 

Scarlet fever deaths in March Township, 1870-1871

You know you’re a census geek when you find yourself reading the “Nominal Return(s) of Deaths” from the Canadian census returns.

The “Nominal Return of the Deaths within the last twelve months” (1871 Census of Canada, Ontario, Carleton County, Township of March) for the Township of March records twenty deaths in the township for the period roughly covering April 1870 to April 1871 (census enumeration officially began on 2 April, 1871, and the schedule of deaths was to cover the past twelve months).

Of these twenty recorded deaths, I count three adults, and seventeen children.

I am counting James “Houricane” [= James Hourigan, son of Thomas Hourigan and Mary Moran] as an adult, though he was only eighteen years of age when he died, in October 1870, apparently of “Inflammation on the Lungs.” In oral family history, as recorded, for example, by Peter Alexander (“Alec”) Lunney (see “‘My Maternal Ancestors,’ by Alec Lunney”), James Hourigan’s death has been attributed to the Great Fire of 1870. While his death did not occur on the night (the night of August 17, 1870, that is) of the Great Fire, perhaps his “Inflammation on the Lungs” was a result of injuries sustained through exposure to the fire? Or did James Hourigan’s untimely death, coming so soon after the dramatic event of the Great Fire, get mixed in with accounts of the fire, so that it was (mistakenly or confusedly) handed down as a result of that fire, when it was the result of some other cause entirely?

Three of the deaths (one adult, with two of his children) were undoubtedly the tragic result of the Great Fire of 1870. John Hogan, aged 35, and his sons John (aged 9) and Richard (aged two months) were “Burnt to death on the night of the great fire of the 17 of August.” A ghastly incident. I’m sure I have come across an account of John Hogan’s desperate, and unsuccessful, attempt to save his two young sons — in a local history, perhaps? At the moment, I cannot remember where.

In addition to James Hourigan and John Hogan, the other adult death was that of Mary Williams, who died of “Dropsy” in June 1870, at the age of 33. 1

Nominal return of deaths in March township

Nominal return of deaths in March township

So: three adult deaths, at least one of them the result of Great Fire of 1870 (but possibly two, if James Hourigan’s “Inflammation on the Lungs” was fire-related), and two childhood deaths also the horrible outcome of that fire. The remaining fifteen deaths were those of children, several of them infants, and most of them very young.

A Michael (here given as “Michel”) Moran died of “infantile debility” at the age of one month (no connection to my Morans of Huntley Township that I know of, by the way).

At least eight of the children died of scarlet fever (or “Scarlet Feaver,” as written above). And some of the deaths are not attributed to any recorded cause: for “Disease, or other cause of Death,” there is just a blank, with no information supplied. But some of these blanks immediately follow upon ditto marks for the cause of “Scarlet Feaver” — perhaps more ditto marks were implied, so that even more of the deaths were the result of scarlet fever? In any case, of the fifteen childhood deaths that can presumably be attributed to childhood illness (and not to the dreadful calamity of the Great Fire), over half (at least eight) were reportedly the result of scarlet fever.

Scarlet fever (a highly contagious bacterial infection) was once a horrible scourge, but thankfully is no longer: “once a very serious childhood disease,” it is now “easily treatable” by antibiotics.

So many childhood illnesses that used to run rampant, unchallenged and unchecked, through villages and towns and communities, and carry off too many infants and children in their wake: now readily treated, or easily prevented through vaccination.

  1. On “dropsy” (= excess fluid buildup) as a “symptom rather than a cause of a disease,” see “Dropsy, and Researching Other Archaic Medical Terms” at Kim Smith’s Dead and Gone.

Boxing Day Wedding, 1963

I should have posted these photos on 26 December 2013: fifty years later.

My parents were married (at Our Lady of Fatima, Ottawa) on Boxing Day, 1963.

Wedding recessional, Our Lady of Fatima, 26 December 1963.

Wedding recessional, Our Lady of Fatima, 26 December 1963.

Signing the register at Our Lady of Fatima, Ottawa. 26 December 1963.

Signing the register at Our Lady of Fatima, Ottawa. 26 December 1963.

December 26, 1963: John Alexander Moran and Catherine Frances McGlade

December 26, 1963: John Alexander Moran and Catherine Frances McGlade

Well, I am biased, of course (I mean, obviously), but these photos, taken before I was born, seem to lend support to my recollections that my mother had a smile that could light up a room, and that my father was a bit of a handsome young rogue in his day.

John Alexander Moran, 6 September 1934-14 March 2013
Catherine Frances McGlade, 10 October 1939-22 December 1912

Death by Fire (Two Moran Children, Ages 4 and 2)

While Catholic burial records can supply a wealth of genealogically significant information, the cause of death was not something that the priest was required or expected to record. And as I’ve mentioned before, 19th- and early 20th-century Catholic burial records did not generally record the cause of death of the deceased.

In some instances, however, the priest might have included the cause of death in the church burial record — most typically, in cases where the death was considered especially dramatic, horrific, unusual, or violent. So, for example, an elderly parishioner who died of pneumonia? That cause of death is unlikely to have been recorded in a 19th- to early 20th-century Catholic burial record.1 A young child who was burned to death in a horrible accident? There’s a chance the priest might have recorded this awful detail in the child’s burial record.

By way of illustration, here are the Catholic church burial records for James Moran (son of Alexander “Sandy” Michael Moran and Mary Ann Leavy, and husband of Sarah Jane Dooley); and for his two youngest children Julia Gertrude Moran and James Joseph Moran (daughter and son of James Moran and Sarah Jane Dooley). James Moran died in March 1899 at about 40 years of age; and his two youngest children, Julia Gertrude and James Joseph, died a year and a half later, at the ages of about 4 years and 2 years, respectively. All three records (the one for James Moran dated 21 March 1899; and the two for his children Julia Gertrude and James Joseph dated 30 September 1900) were written and signed by the Reverend Father John Andrew Sloan, parish priest at St. Patrick’s, Fallowfield (and also at St. Isidore, March township):2

Burial of James Moran, 21 March 1899, St. Patrick's, Fallowfield.

Burial of James Moran, 21 March 1899, St. Patrick’s, Fallowfield.

Burial of James Joseph Moran and Julia Gertrude Moran, 30 September 1900, St. Patrick's, Fallowfield.

Burial of James Joseph Moran and Julia Gertrude Moran, 30 September 1900, St. Patrick’s, Fallowfield.

Note that Father Sloan inserted “by fire” in parentheses after “died” in the burial records for the two young Moran children. Father Sloan only very rarely recorded the cause of death in his parish registers; his departure from the norm here surely speaks to the sense of communal grief over the awful deaths of these two very young children. Their Ontario civil death registrations record the cause of death as “Accidental Burning,” by the way.

But while the father of Julie Gertrude Moran and James Joseph Moran had died at an age (about 40 years) that nowadays would be considered quite unusual and highly tragic, James Moran’s untimely and unhappy death apparently did not meet the bar (unusually dramatic, horrific, or violent) for a reference to the cause of his death in his RC church burial record. Father Sloan makes no mention of it. (And the cause of death for James Moran is the subject of conflicting accounts, by the way, as discussed here: was he kicked by a horse? or was he fatally injured in a threshing accident? or did James Moran die, as per his Ontario civil death registration, of emphysema?). But note, also, that Father Sloan was not actually present at the burial of James Moran: the parish priest’s after-the-fact record of the burial of James Moran relies on the eyewitness testimony of Thomas Troy, David Villeneuve, and Elizabeth Casey.

My guess is that the young Moran children were the victims of a terrible kitchen accident, but this detail we may never know.

 

  1. For Ottawa Valley-area Roman Catholic burial records, the cause of death, whether horrific or not, is increasingly likely to have been recorded from about the 1920s or 1930s. The more recent the record, the more information (including, again from the 1920s or 1930s, whether the deceased had received last rites, or the Sacrament of the Anointing of the Sick).
  2. St. Patrick (Fallowfield, Co. Carleton, Ontario), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1851-1968, p. 89, S. 4, James Moran; p. 115, S. 14, James Joseph Moran; p. 115, S. 15, Julia Gertrude Moran; digital images, ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 Nov. 2013), Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967.