John Alexander Moran, 6 September 1934 – 14 March 2013. My wonderful father:
They broke the mold.
A couple of family connections have told me that James Hourigan, son of Thomas Hourigan and Julia Moran, died in the Great Fire of 1870. Their source of information was apparently Alec Lunney’s “My Maternal Ancestors,” which I posted here.1
But looking closely at Alec Lunney’s “My Maternal Ancestors,” I can’t help but notice that he doesn’t actually say that James Hourigan died in the Great Fire of 1870. Rather, he refers to James Hourigan as “James who died as a youth of 18 in the year of the Great Fire of 1870.” Well, details, details…but so much of genealogical research has to do with the details; and there is a difference, after all, between dying as a direct result of a catastrophe, and dying of some other cause altogether around about the time that the catastrophe occurred.I have not (yet) found a church burial record for James Hourigan, though I do have his baptismal record (see above). Nor have I discovered an Ontario civil death registration, and this document I do not really expect to find: for the province of Ontario, the registration of deaths only began on 1 July 1869, and for the first decade or so after its inception, the record-keeping was quite spotty.
Not that I’m complaining, because online access (and free of charge, at that) is obviously quite wonderful, but: I suspect the indexing of names1 for this database has some glitches.2 For example, my search of this database for “James Moran” turned up nothing. And when I then tried “James Morin,” I also got nothing. Well, then, how about “Jas. Moran”? Nope, nothing. And “Jas. Morin”? Er, sorry, no, but still nothing.
I knew that James Moran could be found in this census, because I have the published transcription (published by the Ottawa Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society: 2000) of the 1842 census, Canada West, Carleton County (ed. J. M. Robinson).
As I’ve mentioned before (e.g., in Spelling Doesn’t Count! [in Genealogy]), it’s extremely unlikely that an ancestor had a strong attachment to a certain spelling of his surname, if that ancestor never had occasion to personally spell his own name.
If my ancestor James Moran, for example, was not literate (and I’m pretty sure he was not), then he didn’t always spell his name Moran (rather than Moren, Morin, Murran, Murrin, or some other variation that I’ve yet to come across), because, well, he didn’t spell his name at all. His name was written and recorded by the parish priest; by the county clerk; by the census enumerator … and he would have been in no position to correct the spelling of the recorder, of course, if he could neither read nor write. That’s what it meant to be illiterate.
So surname spelling variations are par for the course in genealogy (for a number of reasons, and not just because of the illiteracy of those named in various records), and the sooner we let go of the notion of a “proper” spelling (which can be surprisingly difficult to do, admittedly), the sooner we arrive at a properly historical understanding of the production of the records on which we rely.1
But while surname spelling variations are only to be expected, are, indeed, the historical norm for pre-20th-century populations, the particular, not to say the peculiar, French-Irish character of the Catholic records of the Ottawa Valley could produce some especially noteworthy oddities in surname spelling.
And as Goad’s Insurance Plan of the City of Ottawa makes clear (click thumbnail preview, left, to see larger image), she grew up almost in the backyard of St. Patrick’s (then a church, now a basilica), at the corner of Kent and Nepean Streets.
Now, in this particular instance, I didn’t need a map to tell me that my grandmother had lived near St. Pat’s: having grown up in Ottawa, and having attended Mass at St. Patrick’s many times as a kid,2 I already knew that Gloucester between Kent and Lyon was very close to the corner of Kent and Nepean. But the fire insurance map provides a striking visual representation of the proximity of her wooden frame house at 308 Gloucester to the stone church at 281 Nepean.
Miss Annie Benton, dressmaker, lodger at 103 Cambridge St.
(The year before I was married, which was thirteen years ago, I lived in Scotland.)
One day, about fourteen years ago now, while perusing the wares at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, I felt a curious and unexpected wave of nostalgia. This place in Edinburgh, Scotland was so strikingly similar to a place my mother used to take us to in Ontario, Canada (now, what was the name of that place that Mum used to take us to? … it was in Lanark, and there was something Scottish about it … and something to do with a kitten … ), so uncannily reminiscent of the Glenayr Kitten Mill of my childhood. The piles of jumpers (but we called them ‘sweaters,’ of course) all laid out on wooden tables; the firm but friendly salesladies; the general air of solid but unpretentious quality … all of a sudden, I was back in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, Canada, that is).
I have to admit, I bought a cardigan that day, just on the strength of that memory.
The Glenayr Kitten Mill outlet in Lanark (Lanark Co., Ontario, that is) was the kind of place that we (my sisters and I, that is, though certainly not our mother) loved to hate. So fusty and old-fashioned, and please, mum, don’t make us wear those sweaters! that’s not what the popular girls are wearing, and the mothers of the popular girls only shop at the Bay. But our pleas fell on deaf ears: our mother has always known a bargain when and where she finds it, and bargains are what she found at the Glenayr Kitten Mill.
As I now recall it, the Kitten Mill had an impressively no-nonsense integrity: no frills; no fuss; just good, sturdy value at a fair price. But it wasn’t until years later, while looking at jumpers at a knitwear outlet in Edinburgh, that I began to appreciate the Kitten Mill for what it had been: a little piece of the Scotland-to-Canada knitwear tradition that had already, alas, all but died out when our mother took us to the Glenayr for new sweaters.
(And it wasn’t until I lived in Scotland for a year that I began to truly appreciate the fundamentally Scottish character of so much of “English” Canada, or of “English” Ontario, at any rate. I recall going to the Waterstone’s on Princes St. in Edinburgh to look for an Alice Munro book [which I found, btw] because there was this story that I just had to reread: I had heard something earlier that day that had so uncannily reminded me of this Munro story, and something had finally just clicked about Scotland and Canada…).
A couple of photos of the Glenayr Kitten Mill, now sadly abandoned, at John’s Ghost Town.
Here is the household of Francis (“Frank”) Charlebois in the 1901 Canadian census for Torbolton Township (Carleton Co., Ontario):
The members of the above household, with their “Racial or Tribal Origin” (as recorded under column 14), are as follows:
|3. Name||4. Sex||5. Colour||6. Relationship to Head of Family or Household||7. Single, Married, Widowed or Divorced||8. Month and Date of Birth||9. Year of Birth||10. Age at Last Birthday||11. Country or Place of Birth||14. Racial or Tribal Origin|
|Charlebois, Francis||M [Male]||W [White]||Head||M [Married]||Mar 9||1862||39||Ont r [Ontario rural]||French|
|Charlebois, Mary A||f [Female]||W||Wife||M||Aug 15||1875||26||Ont r||Irish|
|Charlebois, Erson A||M||W||Son||S [Single]||Feb 17||1897||4||Ont r||French|
|Charlebois, John B||M||W||Son||S||Nov 20||1900||4/12 [4 months]||Ont r||French|
|Charlebois, Margret||f||W||Mother||W [Widowed]||May 7||1833||68||Ont r||Irish|
Btw, all of the above are listed as Canadian in Nationality (Column 15) and as R. Cath (Roman Catholic) in Religion (Column 16).
Note that while the three males here are all listed as French, and the two females as Irish, the difference is not a simple function of gender (though it is gender-based: more on this below). If Francis Charlebois and his wife Mary Ann Kennedy had had a daughter in 1901 (and they later had at least three daughters: Mary Rita; Mary Elizabeth Josephine; and Sarah Monica), that daughter would have been listed in the 1901 census not as Irish but as French.