Tag Archive for O’Hanlon

Strange Surname Spellings: Hohanlan for O’Hanlon

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.

  1. Most of the records upon which we rely for genealogical information were not produced with future genealogists in mind. A family tree or a series of family events recorded in a family bible can certainly be said to have been written with future family historians in mind. An inscription on a headstone is also oriented toward future generations of the deceased’s family. But a census record? a civil marriage record? a sacramental record (e.g., a church record of a baptism, a Confirmation, a marriage, or a burial)? a register of a deed? a ship’s passenger list? Most “genealogical records” were not originally produced to serve as genealogical records at all. It is we, the genealogists, who now use the records as such, retroactively, and after the fact, so to speak. To approach these records historically means asking a series of “W” questions: Who wrote or produced this record? When was it written? Where was it written? Why was it written (to what purpose, or for what end)? Who was its originally intended audience? What assumptions and presuppositions are embedded in the document? and so on and so forth.

George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon

in Canada by 1832

This is not the first time that I’ve found an early recordin the register for Notre Dame Basilica, Montreal for a family who emigrated from Ireland and settled in the Ottawa Valley.

Until I came across the following record of the burial of daughter Catherine Vallely in 1832, the baptismal record for son John Vallely (born 14 September 1835; baptized 10 December 1835) was the earliest document I had for the presence of George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon in Canada. Click thumbnail preview to see larger image:
vallely_catherine_burial_1832_notredamemontreal.jpg
Montréal (Basilique Notre Dame), Régistre, 1832, p. 253 , S. 2474, Catherine Valely, database, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca/: accessed 25 July 2011, Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.

The record reads (with illegible words in brackets, and with my translation in italics):

Le vingt un Septembre mil huit cents trente deux je prêtre soussigné à inhumé Catherine décédée avant hier âgée de dix huits mois fille de George Valely [tisseur?] et de Ann Hanlan de cette paroisse. Temoins Joseph [Boudre?] et Jean Baptiste [Brean?] qui n’ont pu signer. The twenty first of September one thousand eight hundred and thirty two I the undersigned priest buried Catherine who died the day before yesterday aged eighteenth months daughter of George Valely [weaver?] and of Ann Hanlan of this parish. Witnesses were Joseph [Boudre?] and Jean Baptiste [Brean?] who could not sign.

Was Catherine born in Canada or in Ireland? I have not yet found a baptismal record for her (and if she was born in Ireland in 1831, it’s likely I never will). Nor have I found a marriage record for George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon (who may have been married in Ireland).

In any case, this places George Vallely and Anne O’Hanlon in Canada at least a couple of years earlier than I had previously assumed. By 1835, they can be found in Grenville, Deux Montagnes, Québec, and by 1851 in Bristol township, Pontiac Co., where they farmed at Concession 3, Lot 4.

Details, Details (Cause of Death Uncovered, or at least Strongly Inferred)

Like most people who get hooked on genealogy, I’m attracted to the detective work aspect of the enterprise. A clue here; a detail there; another hint here, which, combined with a few previously discovered clues and details, finally provides a solid lead; and then: bingo! a nice little nugget of documented and verifiable information, which may then serve as a clue for some other discovery; and on (and on!) it goes.

It’s very easy to overlook a relevant detail, though.

Bridget O’Hanlon = Sister of Ann O’Hanlon Vallely?

On 15 November 1841, in the parish of Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours at Montebello, Papineau Co., Québec, Thomas McTeague married Bridget O’Hanlon. The names of the couple and of their parents were written as follows (with my translation/interpretation in italics):


Thomas McTeague, fils majeur de Joseph McTeague et de Brigitte Scerloc, du Township de Grenville, d’une part; et Brigitte O’honlon domiciliée en Grenville, fille majeure de Pierre O’honlon et de Marie Thooner, domiciliés en Irlande, d’autre part…[Thomas McTeague, son of age of Joseph McTeague and of Bridget Sherlock, of the Township of Grenville, on the one part; and Bridget O'Hanlon, residing at Grenville, daughter of age of Peter O'Hanlon and of Mary (Toner?) who reside in Ireland, on the other part]*

The witnesses to this marriage were Charles Major (who signed the register), George Vallillee (who did not sign), and Owen McTeague (who signed).

The reason why the above-cited record interests me is that George Vallillee/Vallely is my 3x great-grandfather, and his first wife Anne O’Hanlon my 3x great-grandmother. Did he witness this marriage as a brother-in-law of Bridget O’Hanlon?

And where did Thomas McTeague and Bridget O’Hanlon eventually settle? A quick search of the 1851 Canadian census turns up a number of McTeagues in Grenville (Deux Montagnes County, Canada East), but no sign of Thomas and wife Bridget O’Hanlon.

*Montebello (Co. Papineau, Québec), Register of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials, 1840-1851, M. 5 (1841), McTeague et O’honlon, p. 23, Ancestry.ca (http://ancestry.ca/: accessed 12 Dec 2010), Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967.