Saturday, 30 July 2016

Our immigrant ancestors -- Governor Thomas Mayhew

A few years ago, a wonderful fellow Mayflower descendant clued me into an incredible little book originally published in 1942 that lists alphabetically, with very brief biographical sketches, the names of 2,500 of the earliest immigrants to America. I periodically go through Immigrant Ancestors: a list of 2500 immigrants to America before 1750 when on one of my all too often research binges, and at last count, I have 26 direct ancestors listed in it.

Yes, these are immigrants to America, but as I've noted, I have many ancestral links to New England, including Cape Cod, Martha's Vineyard, Connecticut and New Hampshire. In fact, at one point very early on, one of my ancestors, Governor Thomas Mayhew (1593-1682), held the land titles to Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket. He received the original land grants in the 1640s.

Thomas is my 9th great grandfather. He arrived at Plymouth Colony as part of the Great Migration of Puritans in 1631/32 from the Southampton area, where he was a merchant. He was born in Wiltshire. Read what is said about him in Immigrant Ancestors (l). Yes, there's a discrepancy in the dates given in that 1942 publication, but as more and more confirmed, sourced documentation has come to light, this is common.

The never ending story continues....

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Unwrapping a puzzle 4: More about those Cincinnati Doughertys

Exciting finds last night in my often random genealogy research. I have trouble staying on topic, I admit it, but there are so many bright shiny objects that catch my eye. Just writing this post, I'm having to force myself to stay on topic. True!

Like last night. The 1842 Census of Lower Canada indicates that nine people lived in my 2nd great grandfather, Marcus Dougherty's household in Granby. That number now makes perfect sense since I discovered Thomas and Isabella, the two new children. All seven children and parents accounted for in February 1842. Yes, that's when the census was done. Can you imagine doing a census in the middle of a Quebec winter? That summer, my 2nd great grandmother Mary Ann died. I concluded that at some point after that is when first Thomas and James made their way to Cincinnati. Still not sure why, but did you know that Cincinnati had a population of 115,435 in 1850, including a sizable Irish population? I didn't either.

I went back to the Cincinnati city directories with fresh eyes and joined the Hamilton County Genealogical Society for access to records they have on their website.

The earliest I find a Thomas in Cincinnati is in 1849/50, James in 1850/51. There are only one of each, by the way.

1855 Cincinnati directory 
In this post I wondered if the 1853 directory showing Dougherty & Brother wines & liquor at 7 Water were James and Thomas. Last night I found the 1855 directory listing -- and look! Joseph M., brother of James and Thomas is a clerk at Dougherty & Bro and living with James. Yes, these are all my great great uncles. And yes, these were the earliest North American entrepreneurs of my line of Doughertys. Entrepreneurship has been a constant in my family history.

I also found a 13 Feb 1854 marriage between James and Mary McGough in Cincinnati listed on a Hamilton County Genealogical Society database. Previously, I had Gough as her maiden name, based on James' burial record (below) as completed by a French Canadian priest. Joseph was living with James and his sister in law according to the 1855 Cincinnati directory.

By 1857, Catharine has joined her brothers, as confirmed in that year's city directory, but the business is no more, as the occupations of James and Thomas show here:
1857 Cincinnati directory

Their sister Isabella Dougherty McHugh is living across the river in Kentucky with her young family at that point.

And yet the 1861 census of Canada lists James (posthumously), Catharine, Joseph and Louisa as living in Granby, when the previous year and following years they appear in Cincinnati records. Did they all go back, or did their father list them as living there for whatever reason?

The Granby burial record of James on 21 Mar 1860 says he died on the 18th. Did he die in Cincinnati and was his casket transferred by train to Granby? Or did he die in Granby? And what happened to his wife, Mary? Did they have any children in their six years together?

Notre Dame Parish, Granby, Quebec register
The never ending story continues ....



Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Rev James Dougherty, D.D. of Vermont

It's not clear when my second great grandfather Marcus' younger brother James (1796-1878) travelled to Vermont from Donegal, or whether he travelled with Marcus and Mary Ann and their young family, but arrive in Vermont he did. They were all first in South Hero, on Grand Isle, an island in Lake Champlain.

Luckily, there are many records about my 2nd great uncle, starting with this first fantastic find. In his 2002 book, Pre-famine Irish in Vermont, 1815-1844, Vermont historian Vincent Edward Feeney writes about James:
"Without priests, too many Catholics were being married by justices of the peace, and many drifted away from the Church. One had even became a prominent Protestant clergyman. This was James Daugherty. 50  From County Derry, Daugherty had been raised “a conscientous Catholic,” and emigrated with his two brothers at about age 20 in 1819 to South Hero, Vermont. There, under the instruction of a Congregational minister, the Reverend Asa Lyon, he prepared to enter college. Lyon must have been a profound influence on young Daugherty, for when the Irishman eventually graduated from the University of Vermont in 1830 he entered the ministry. He spent the next thirty-five years first as the Congregational pastor in Milton, and later in Johnson."
That's right, he left the Catholic Church, became a Congregational minister, married (twice) and had children. One biographical sketch includes this passage about his decision to leave the Catholic faith:
'His parents were devoted Catholics and he was reared in a conscientious regard of that faith, but as he grew to years he felt a want un-supplied. Having heard from the Scotch Presbyterians the doctrine of salvation by faith, "That", said he is what I want that; I can do, I can believe. He was converted while yet in connection with the church of his parents, and did not change his relation till after removing to this country at the age of twenty three.'
Another reference to his faith appears in one of the eulogies given after his death:
'Reared in the Roman Catholic church, he very early became dissatisfied with that faith and at length deliberately and utterly repudiated it."
That's pretty definite. James' parents were both deceased in Donegal by 1830, so they didn't know about his change in faith. Imagine disclosing that in a letter home that would have taken months to arrive at its destination! James graduated from the University of Vermont in 1830, before then studying theology, during which time he also taught at the well-respected in its time Shefford Academy in Frost Village, now part of St-Hyancinthe in Shefford, Quebec. He ultimately received his doctorate in divinity, and was known around the towns of Johnson and Milton and beyond as Dr D.

James was a man of strong conviction. As the University of Vermont notes in its obituary, his home was a station on the underground railway as former slaves made their way to Canada. Incredible! I'm very proud to be related to such a very fine man. There are several items about James, searchable on Google Books.

James married twice, first to Celia Hall (1800-1836) a daughter of the longtime South Hero town clerk in 1832. James and Celia had two daughters, Sarah Curran (1834-1861) and Isabella Celia (1836-1894). Sadly, Celia died five days after Isabella's birth. Sarah was named after the great love of the Irish patriot, Robert Emmet. James married again, a year later, to a widow, Mary Hoxie Drake (1795-1881), and together they had one daughter, Mary Louisa (1838-1894). None of his daughters married or had children, so James left no descendants after their deaths.

At this point, I'll say that yes, the names James, Isabella and Mary Louisa appear over and over again among my Dougherty ancestors. Some readers may recognize these names from an earlier post. And you'll see these names crop up again, as my stories continue. In fact, the parents of Marcus and James and their siblings are--wait for it--James Dougherty and Isabella McLaughlin.  And yes, it does get confusing.

The border between Vermont and Quebec was transparent in the late 18th to mid 19th centuries. People crossed back and forth often and easily. One reason was that there were few Catholic priests in Vermont early on. There were many Irish Catholics who settled in Vermont.  So while we know that James taught at the Shefford Academy, it seems that he was also a travelling preacher at one point. A few years ago in Granby, my brother came across a plaque outside what had been a congregationalist church and is now a United Church on Main Street. Here is part of that plaque noting that James had preached at that church. James no doubt visited with brother Marcus and his family in Granby, as well as their nephew Marcus Doherty, who lived in Granby for a time.

Plaque, Granby United Church
At his funeral following his death from consumption on 10 Jun 1878, James was eulogized at length. Both his death and his funeral were reported in the local media. In its June 21, 1878 edition, The Burlington Weekly Free Press published a lengthy item. See the fourth column here. This mentions that James was born in Fairmount, County Down, Ireland. This is up for debate. Other sources report that he was born in Park, Banagher, Donegal, near which there is the town of Learmount. Then, in its June 28, 1878 edition, a second eulogy was published in the same newspaper. See the third column here. Aside from the many references to his life as a clergyman, there are also fascinating insights into who he was as a man.

Side of family grave marker
James was buried at the Whitting Hill Cemetery in Johnson, Lamoille, Vermont, with his daughters and both his wives.

The never ending story continues....

Sunday, 24 July 2016

You say Doherty or Daugherty or O'Doherty, I say Dougherty

What's in a name? Or how you spell a name? An ongoing brick wall in my family history research was the many spelling variations of my family name. Until I started to think outside the box. But even now, it is still hard to find records and link to distant ancestors.

Until the 20th century, most spelling was phonetic and based on how the listener heard or thought a word sounded, In my own family, close relatives and closest ancestors, we use the Dougherty spelling. But I've found confirmed ancestors who either themselves used, or are recorded by others in church or other records using any of the following spellings:
  • Doherty
  • Daugherty
  • Dogherty
  • O'Doherty
  • Docherty
O'Dochartaigh crest
Perhaps there are other spelling variations that I've missed, but you get the idea. This made my research very headache-inducing at the least over the years.

Added to this was my father's explanation, okay, insistence, when I was growing up that Doughertys were Catholic and Dohertys were protestant. Now, while this can be true, in our case it turned out not to be the case, making my earliest research with those narrow parameters a hair-pulling exercise. Because, as it turned out, my 2nd great grandfather had a nephew, also a Marcus, but a Doherty (1815-1903), who also came to Vermont and then Quebec, was very Catholic, and eventually daughters, granddaughters and a grandson who became nuns and a priest respectively.

Someone, in my first experience of a random act of genealogical kindness, had to point out to me that for there to be both a Marcus Dougherty and a Marcus Doherty in Granby (population of a couple of thousand in the mid 1800s) and not be related was highly unlikely. Marcus is not that common an Irish name. That's when I started to cast an open-minded and wider net in my internet research,

So, what's the origin of my family name? It is one of up to 140 variations of the original Gaelic, O'Dochartaigh. The name has an illustrious history. Dochartaigh means the destroyer or obstructive or people of the oaks. Its many variations are the 15th most common surname in Ireland today. Here's a scholarly read of the name and its history.

The never ending story continues...

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Our Immigrant Ancestors -- Stephen Hopkins

With thanks to Lorine McGuinnes Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy for the idea, this post kicks off a weekly feature focusing on one of my many immigrant ancestors to North America. And who better to start with, than my first immigrant ancestor? I'm speaking of course of Mayflower passenger Stephen Hopkins (1581-1644), my 10th great grandfather.

It's true that the Mayflower reached what is now Plymouth on Cape Cod in 1620, but Stephen actually came earlier -- to Jamestown, the first and ill-fated settlement of the Virginia colony in 1610.

To say that Stephen led an interesting life is an understatement. Sailing to Jamestown aboard the Sea Venture in 1609 from England to Virginia, he was shipwrecked in a bad storm in Bermuda. You can more read about the Sea Venture here. Some say that Shakespeare's The Tempest is based on this event, but that may be a tall tale. He and his companions managed to make their way from Bermuda to Virginia almost a year later, finding the colony decimated by starvation. Some time after the 1613 death in England of his first wife, Stephen returned there, only to return in 1620 with his new wife and his blended family, including his son Giles, from whom I descend.

Noted Mayflower historian Caleb Johnson wrote a biography about my ancestor that's a fascinating read. Here's a bit of a synopsis of Here I Shall Die Ashore.

Stephen wasn't fleeing religious persecution when he signed on to the Mayflower. He was not a Puritan or a Separatist. He was on the Mayflower as a "stranger", someone interested in the potential economic opportunities that the New World might present. In other words, he was the first entrepreneur in my far-flung family. He was one of 41 men who signed the Mayflower Compact very soon after they reached shore. This was the first governing document in the New World. Read more.

Immigrant Ancestors, 1942 entry
Once settled in Plymouth, Stephen operated a tavern, but ran into problems with the authorities. Plymouth records indicate that he let "men drink in his house upon the Lords day".. "for suffering servants and others to sit drinking in his house" (contrary to Court orders) Also to play games "& such like misdemeanors, is therefore fined fourty shillings." And unscrupulous, with the Court having several charges against him "for selling wine, beere, strong waters, and nutmeggs at excessiue rates, is fyned." (source: Mayflower Quarterly, November 2011)

Last September, at the annual two-day meeting of the Nova Scotia Colony of Mayflower Descendants, I met "Stephen Hopkins", very convincingly interpreted in character, language and costume by professional colonial interpreter Chris Messier of Plimoth Plantation. It was a really wonderful experience.

The Nova Scotia Colony is a branch of the Canadian Society of Mayflower Descendants, which is a partner society of the General Society of Mayflower Descendants. It is thanks to yet another internet cousin that I learned of my descent from Stephen Hopkins, a discovery that opened the doors to many other finds over the years. And yes, I'm a member of the Society.

I was so excited last year when the National Geographic Channel produced Saints and Strangers, that aired the week of American Thanksgiving. It chronicled the Mayflower passengers' earliest days. But the National Geographic Channel we get in Canada is licensed to another broadcaster who isn't bound to broadcast all of the American channel's programming. The things you learn when you ask why. Instead, they air mindless looped pseudo reality programming with titles like Airport Security: Colombia, Science of Stupid, and Border Security. I'm still waiting to see Saints and Strangers. I'm sure that one day I will.

This is a very abbreviated history of my 10th great grandfather, Stephen Hopkins. Much has been written about my ancestor. 

The never ending story continues....

Friday, 22 July 2016

Isabella Smith Ross McLeod

My maternal 2nd great grandmother Isabella was born on 7 Sep 1817 in Abernethy & Kincardine, Moray, Scotland to Donald Smith and Margaret Davidson (Family Search has her baptismal record confirming this) and seems to have been their eldest and only surviving daughter.

Isabella had two brothers, Peter and Donald. I can find nothing on Donald after his 1823 baptism, but have researched Peter (1821-bef 1871) and his family through the 1851 and 1861 censuses.

I can't find anything confirming my third great grandparents' (Donald and Margaret) births, marriage or deaths -- discoveries yet to be made -- but Margaret appears in her son Peter's household in the 1861 census, in Edinburgh. Her occupation is listed as a retired midwife. Margaret was born in Kingussie & Insch in Inverness-shire about 1779. Kingussie is on the same rail line as Nethy Bridge, where my ancestors lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Nethy Bridge, Inverness-shire, Scotland,
c 21st century
As noted in my last post, I don't have the date that Isabella married Alexander Ross, but the births of their children are chronicled. You'll see in my last post that their last child, Alexandrina. was born on 13 Apr 1856.

But Alexander had died by this point. I know this because on 10 Jan 1856, Isabella married Angus McLeod (b abt 1813), a sawyer. This was four months before the birth of her daughter, Alexandrina Ross.

Isabella and Angus soon started a family, but again, Isabella lost a husband when Angus died on 18 Mar 1857, eight months before the posthumous birth of their son, John (1857-1880). What are the chances of such back-to-back life altering tragedies to strike in under two years?

It must have been extremely difficult for a woman with no husband and three daughters under ten years old and a baby on the way.

So there Isabella was at the end of 1856, with five children under ten, including two babies, to support and care for, without a husband. She never married again. Did Isabella have family nearby in Nethy Bridge?
  • The 1861 census shows her living with her two youngest children. Her three older daughters were most likely all in service at young ages.  
  • The 1871 census shows her living alone at Seafield Place, which appears in many Matheson records, in Nethy Bridge
  • The 1881 census shows her living with a Ross sister in law and her grandson, and working as a general servant.
  • The 1891 census shows her heading a household that included her daughter Margaret Ross Gillies (1847-1932) and four of her children
When Isabella died at Seafield Place on 23 Jan 1915, she was 97 years old. I think that Isabella was made of very strong stuff to have lived the life she lived. I'm proud be her descendant.

The never ending story continues...

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Brick Wall: Alexander Ross

According to the 1851 Scotland census my maternal great grandfather, Alexander Ross was born Abernethy, Elgin in Scotland. The problem in narrowing this down is that there are eight different Alexander Rosses recorded as being born in Moray between 1812 and 1817, all to different parents, of course. It's a big brick that I've yet to smash.

Not that I haven't tried. By the mid-1840s (another record that remains missing), he and Isabella Smith were married. They had at least four daughters:
  1. Marjory b 26 Jun 1846, Abernethy & Kincardine d aft 1874
  2. Margaret Grace Darling b 15 Dec 1847, Nethy Bridge, Abernethy  & Kincardine d 20 Jan 1932, Nethy Bridge, Abernethy & Kincardine
  3. Annie b 28 Nov 1849, Forres, Morayshire, d 24 Dec 1922, Nethy Bridge, Abernethy & Kincardine (my grandmother)
  4. Alexandrina b 13 Apr 1856, Edderton, Ross and Cromarty, d 7 Jul 1872, Nethy Bridge, Abernethy & Kincardine
Alexandrina was a popular name at that time, as Queen Victoria's given names were Alexandrina Victoria. It was only after her 1837 accession to the British throne that she announced that she would be known as Victoria. The above Alexandrina, my great great aunt, was named after her father, but perhaps also Victoria. She was clearly born posthumously though, as Isabella married for a second time on 10 Jan 1856 to Angus McLeod in Cromdale, Inverallan and Advie in Inverness-shire.

I've never been able to locate a death record for Alexander. That's right. I can't find his birth or death records.

Alexander was a farmer, living at the address of Rydnack in Abernethy and Kincardine, Inverness-shire when the 1851 census was done, listing him, Isabella and their three eldest daughters.

Naming traditions in Scotland and Ireland typically, but not always, followed a pattern. The names of Alexander's daughters (isn't Margaret Grace Darling a grand moniker!) offer no clues in narrowing down his own parents from the eight possible Alexander Rosses. 

Scottish records are very difficult to find. One reason is that parish names changed through the years. As just one example, read about the former civil parish of Abernethy and Kincardine, which is mentioned above, and is where several of my ancestors lived, here

The never ending story (and hunt!) continues....

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Vikings: more than warriors

When I discovered last fall that I had 24% Scandinavian DNA, I was thrilled. As I've said here, I'm a Celtic Viking. Among the other sites I uploaded my DNA raw data to is a relatively new kid on the block, DNA.Land. Their database is small but growing. Each company has different analysis techniques, which I don't dwell on (science makes my head hurt), aside from noting that DNA.Land reports that I have 3% Sardinian DNA. Oh my. But DNA.Land's map of my DNA origins differed a little from AncestryDNA's. It shows that some of my Scandinavian DNA comes from what is today Iceland. 
My DNA.Land ancestor map


Which brings me to the topic of today's post. In last weekend's Toronto Star is an interview with Anders Winroth, author of a 2014 book, The Age of the Vikings. 

The headline grabbed me: Discovering the softer side of Vikings. It turns out the Icelandic spoken today isn't far off from Ancient Norse. And for their time, they were actually less violent than, for instance, Charlemagne, Winroth says. He asserts that, "There is a need for us to see the Norsemen in their historical context, not just as warriors but as cultural influencers."

Read the interview here. Vikings. My ancestors.

The never ending story continues...

Tuesday, 19 July 2016

Death Calls Charlotte Butler Nelson and Elias Nelson

Yesterday, I wrote about my great grandparents. Thanks to one of my found, distant, far flung cousins (well, she does live in Nova Scotia), I have their newspaper obituaries which, written in 1942 and 1946, hark back to an obsolete era of writing and are full of tidbits that shine a light on their lives.
Reports of Charlotte Nelson's death and funeral 

The report of Charlotte's death does have a couple of errors. Moore was not her middle or maiden name. In fact Moore is not a Butler family name, but a Nelson family name. And her mother's name was Olive, not Alice, but reading handwritten notes, I imagine it would be easy enough to mistake Olive for Alice. There are other mistakes in the report of Charlotte's death, mixing up her daughters' names.
Report of Elias Nelson's death

Charlotte was a Baptist, while Elias was Anglican and a Mason. Their children were raised as Baptist. I'm fortunate to have my great grandparents' marriage and death certificates. But I do wonder what happened to their family bible, photos and other records.

The never ending story continues....

Tall Tale Tuesday: Bringing Electricity to Montreal

Welcome to Tall Tale Tuesdays. Not every Tuesday, but when I have a tall tale to tell, I'll write about it on a Tuesday.

My father was one of six siblings, who between them, produced 29 children. Only two siblings remained in Montreal. The rest put down roots in Ontario and New Jersey, So we cousins didn't all know each other, let alone know of each other, and collectively, we never met growing up. Geography, expensive long distance charges and not a lot of extra cash for visiting all factored into why this didn't happen. That has changed in the last 20 years when most of us became connected, thanks to the internet making research easier.

One of the stories my siblings and I heard growing up was that our grandfather, John James Dougherty, was responsible for introducing electricity in Montreal. My father made it sound like Grandpa single-handedly was responsible for this herculean feat. Or maybe that's how my younger self imagined it.

A few years ago, two cousins and I went to a gathering of most of the children and some grandchildren of my father's older brother a couple of hours outside Toronto. We met first and second cousins we'd never met before. It was great. Over the afternoon, many stories were told and notes were compared. Good times. Then, one of my cousins said that our grandfather was responsible for the introduction of electricity in Montreal. I burst out laughing. It's incredible that although we were completely disconnected, we heard the same stories growing up.

So, about that. Let's do some fact checking. My grandfather attended McGill University from 1905 to 1908, studying electrical engineering in the Faculty of Science. But for whatever reason, did not graduate. Maybe it was that appendicitis that sent him up the street to the Royal Victoria Hospital, where he met my grandmother.
My grandfather in 1906 at McGill University

City directories tell us that he did work as a manager at Hill Electric the first few years out of McGill. In fact for many years, he worked in the electrical field in Montreal. But surely electricity had already arrived in a major city like Montreal earlier than the 1910s.

In a history of electricity in Canada, I found this. Check the third bullet from the bottom. Montreal received electricity in 1903. Aha!

So, what is far more likely is that he worked--with many others--to make electricity more widely available across Montreal. But what a great story for easily impressed children.

The never ending story continues ....

Monday, 18 July 2016

Charlotte Butler & Elias Nelson of Colchester, Nova Scotia

My paternal great grandparents, the parents of Alice Nelson Dougherty, were Charlotte Butler (1853-1942) and Elias Nelson (1854-1946). Elias was a farmer, and the son of Charles Nelson (1812-1892) and Sarah Ann Moore (1819-1889). It's not clear if Elias farmed the land granted to Alexander Nelson. There were after all, many descendants of Alexander still in Colchester County, Nova Scotia in the late 19th century.

Charlotte was born in Upper Stewiake to Samuel Butler (1816-1887), who was a blacksmith, and Mary Olive Fisher (abt 1819-1865), as one of ten children, most of whom survived childhood. After her mother died in 1865, Samuel married again, to Esther Taylor Lawson the following year, and had seven more children.

Samuel Butler was born in Halifax to parents who had migrated to Nova Scotia from Cape Cod. He was one of three sons. It isn't clear when his parents Captain John Butler and Mary Southwick died. At some point, Samuel found himself living in Upper Stewiake, where he met Mary Olive.

Mary Olive Fisher was the daughter of John Waddell Fisher and Margaret White Godfrey, who was a cousin of Noah Webster who created Webster's Dictionary.

Elias had one brother, Horatio--yes, really--who was born about 1848. Horatio appears in the 1871 census, but then he disappears.

Charlotte and Elias married on February 15, 1877, in Truro, Colchester. In addition to my grandmother Alice, they had five other children. Their eldest daughter, also Charlotte, died young, making my grandmother the eldest surviving child. The others were Letitia, Emma, Robert and Lophemia, called Loie. Below is the 1901 census of the household. Note the liberty taken with the spelling of Charlotte: Sharlot. In another census, she is identified as Charlet, and in yet another, Sharlott. Finally, in the 1921 census, the last one available right now, she is identified as Charles. Oh, the indignity.


Sadly, I have no photographs of my great grandparents Charlotte and Elias or of my grandmother's siblings.

Charlotte, Elias and their daughter Emma are buried in one plot at Watson Cemetery in Truro. Loie, Letitia and Robert are buried in the same cemetery, separately. My grandparents Alice and John are buried in Sherbrooke, Quebec. But that's a whole other blog post yet to come.

The never ending story continues...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

The Nelson side -- Nova Scotia

Elizabeth Alice Nelson (1879-1953) -- always called Alice -- was my paternal grandmother.

Alice Nelson
She was born in Salmon River, Colchester, Nova Scotia, near Truro and Great Village. It is through Alice that I descend from ordinary people, heroes and villains, nobility, royals, Magna Carta sureties and barons, a Mayflower passenger and some of the oldest families of North America.

Alice trained as a teacher at the Truro Normal College, but teaching was not for her it seemed. So in 1908, aged 28, she went off to Montreal to become part of what became the first graduating class of registered nurses at the Royal Victoria Hospital. In her final months as a student, she was assigned to care for a young man who was recovering from an appendectomy. That man was my grandfather, John James Dougherty (1879-1953). Alice graduated, but never worked as a nurse, instead marrying John on 20 Sep 1909 in Montreal, after converting to Roman Catholicism, having been raised a Baptist.

Marriage record, St Michael the Archangel Parish register
The first Nelson to come to the Truro area was my fourth great grandfather, Alexander Nelson (abt 1737-1803), who may or may not have fought with General Wolfe at the Plains of Abraham -- that's one of the stories or perhaps a tall tale. He was probably born in Glasgow, Scotland. Alexander was a New England Planter who arrived in Nova Scotia, newly married, in 1760 and received a Crown land grant.

Alexander Nelson land grant
These land grants were of seized lands during the Acadian Expulsion, a fact not to be proud about. I believe a part of the land Alexander received remains in Nelson hands to this day. My father and his brothers spent many boyhood summers working on the farm in Great Village.

Alexander was followed to Nova Scotia over the next 25 years by many other of my New England ancestors. And yet, I still can't prove any link to United Empire Loyalists -- yet -- which some friends will find very funny indeed.

Alexander and his wife Margaret had at least 13 children, some of whom died young, but many more of whom married and had their own large families. Some of those stayed in Nova Scotia, others went to the United States. Besides me, some of Alexander's better known descendants are Wild Bill Hickok and Ozzie Nelson (the Ozzie and Harriet Show).

The never ending story continues.

Saturday, 16 July 2016

On my Scots side .....

Continuing to introduce the cast of characters from my ancestry, my grandfather John Matheson was born to Frank Matheson and Annie Ross in 1884 at Clash Dhu, Rafford, Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland. This was Frank's second marriage. He lost his first wife, Isabella McKenzie, in 1871 following the birth of their third daughter. Frank maintained the family's births, marriages and deaths in his three volume (!) Church of Scotland bible, which was one of my initial sources for my Scotland ancestors.

My Scots ancestors were Highlanders.

Annie (1849-1922) was the third daughter of Alexander Ross (abt 1817- abt 1855) and Isabella Smith (1817-1915) and was born at Forres in Morayshire. Growing up, my mother told us, usually every time we passed Strathcona Avenue in Westmount (a town within Montreal), that we were related to Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal. But honestly, with a name like Smith (!) how on earth will I ever lend credence to that family story? Still, I've learned from experience to never ignore stories passed down.

Scottish records, I have to say, are very difficult to find. I've done searches for both my ancestors and those of extended family and friends. Those that do exist are housed by Scotland's People and available for a fee. But a few years ago, I hit a goldmine of information, discovering the names of Frank's parents and his many siblings, about whom we knew nothing, thanks to Family Search, where I found all their baptismal records. Lots of people shy away from this site, because of it being part of the Church of the Latter Day Saints, but it is so excellent. I've found many solid sources, discoveries and leads on Family Search.

My recent Matheson ancestors were crofters before the industrial age, when the railways became a main source of employment in the late 19th century. My direct ancestors beyond my great grandfather Frank and his parents remain unknown. Were Mathesons at Culloden in 1746? I visited there in 2011. One of the most moving places on this earth. How were my ancestors affected by the Highland Clearances?

The motto of Clan Matheson in English is do and hope. My mother Isobel Matheson Dougherty was very proud of her Scottish ancestry and helped to establish and create awareness of Clan Matheson in North America in the 1970s. One of my brothers carries Ross as a middle name, the other has Andrew as a middle name, both in honour of their Scots ancestors.

The never ending story continues ...

Matheson ancient dress tartan

Matheson crest and motto

Thursday, 14 July 2016

Rose Caroline and her family

My paternal great grandmother, Rose Caroline, was born in Granby, in what is now Shefford, Quebec on 23 Dec 1839 to Hugh Caroline (abt 1798-1879) and Mary Donovan (abt 1807-1892). Hugh and Mary were from County Longford and County Cavan respectively, and were married at Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal on 2 Jun 1834.

Hugh Donovan & Mary Donovan Marriage 1834
Hugh came to Canada with his brother Michael or Mick (abt 1810-1898). I've not found any siblings of Mary Donovan who came to Canada...yet. I haven't found any records of their arrival here or departure from Ireland. Did Hugh and Mary meet on board ship when they came to Canada? Or did they meet in Montreal or Shefford?

Rose was Hugh and Mary's fourth born, and one of nine surviving children. Of course I'll be writing more about them. Hugh and Mick started farming in Shefford. The Hugh's property remains in the Caroline family to this day. In Ireland, Caroline is Carlan or Carlin. (Are we related to the comedian George Carlin? Hmmm.)
Caroline farm, Granby, Shefford County, c 20th century

Marcus Dougherty farmed the adjacent property. In the 1842 census of Lower Canada, Marcus and Hugh are the two last entries appearing there, and an exciting recent find for me. Of interest is that the census reveals that in 1842, all of the settlers in that community were Irish, English or Scots.

1842 Canada East Census, Shefford Township
The people of Quebec today are the descendants of Irish, Scots, English and French. But it has been estimated that perhaps as many as one-third have Irish ancestry.

While my own Irish roots are all pre-famine Irish, many more came later, especially during and after the Irish Famine and many of them seeking a better life died from 'ship's fever' (typhus) during the crossing or soon after at Grosse Île. Orphaned Irish children were adopted by French Canadian families. This bit of Quebec's history was memorialized in one of the best known of many Heritage Minutes that aired in Canada.

The never ending story continues....

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

I am the sum of many ancestors

I used a word cloud to capture the family names of just some of my many ancestors, who include crofters, farmers, fishers, soldiers, servants, clergy, community leaders, nobles, royalty and the earliest settlers of New England and Nova Scotia. Each has a story to be told. Aside from DNA, my roots go back to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, England, France, Spain, Belgium and more.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Unwrapping a Puzzle 3: Why Cincinnati?

Getting places in the mid 19th century was not an easy or straightforward task. Horse and buggy or coach, steamboat, or maybe--if you were lucky--trains were how people got from point A to point B.

What took so many of my great grandfather's siblings from Granby in Quebec's Eastern Townships to Cincinnati? How long would such a journey had lasted? If work was the reason, there were places much closer to Granby for them, aside from Montreal, which today is about an hour's drive from Granby. After years of research, I now know that my great grandfather and his large family had many close relatives: in Granby, nearby in Sherbrooke, in Vermont (less than an hour away from Granby today), and in Ulster (!) County about an hour north of New York City. They also likely had other Dougherty cousins in Quebec, but that's a mystery I'm still nowhere near to unravelling.

My great aunt Isabella Dougherty married James H. McHugh in Cincinnati on November 17, 1853. But what family was there with her? She may then have been as young as 18. It's hard to imagine a young woman being allowed to make her way alone on a journey that was then such a great distance. Her father Marcus remained in Granby and so too at that point, Isabella's siblings. As far as I know. But, here again is where those lovely city directories may shed some light. The 1853 Cincinnati city directory lists the following:

"Dougherty & Brother (Thomas and James)
Wines, liquors & c 7 Water
residence: 67 Richmond"

Were these my great uncles Thomas and James? I think so. My cousins will be bemused or possibly amused to see that the Dougherty entrepreneurial spirit may go way back. Did Isabella travel with them to Cincinnati? Their other siblings followed permanently after 1861, based on census and city directory records. But James did return to Granby by 1859, and died there in 1860 from consumption. How do I know this? This fact is recorded in the 1861 census. 


And check out that 1861 census for the Township of Granby. Amazing. It shows that Isabella and her husband James McHugh went to Granby from Cincinnati. I've found the baptismal records for two of their children, who were born there and not in Ireland. And they lived right next to her father and siblings. More to come about the McHugh family, who did return to Cincinnati by the late 1860s. Also, note the several spellings of Dougherty in one nuclear family. Census takers in the 19th century weren't hired based on their spelling ability or their attention to detail. I think they surmised. Lots. Just saying.

And the never ending story continues ....

Unwrapping a Puzzle 2: Marcus, Mary Ann and all their children

Going from "a lost soul" to a brother to several siblings, here is what I've discovered about my paternal great grandfather's immediate family. This has been patched together over several years, finding clues in the oddest places.

Marcus and Mary Ann married in Donegal, as early now as 1817. That part of Donegal is now in Ulster. They likely married in a small town called Dungiven. Records at the local Catholic church, St Patrick's, go back only to 1825. All before that has been lost. And the central records in Dublin were of course mostly destroyed during the Four Courts conflagration in Dublin in 1922

By 1830 in Vermont, Marcus and Mary Ann had at least three children:
  • Thomas b between 1818 and 1821, Dungiven, d 15 Dec 1886, Ohio
  • Catharine b about 1824, Dungiven, d May 1896, Cincinnati
  • James b 12 Nov 1826 (I have his baptismal record) Dungiven, d 18 Mar 1860, Granby, Quebec
They subsequently had at least the following additional children:
  • Isabella b about 1832, Vermont d 26 Feb 1890, Cincinnati
  • John James b 17 Jun 1833, South Hero, Grand Isle, Vermont, d 26 Apr 1893, Sherbrooke, Quebec (my great grandfather)
  • Joseph M. b 15 Nov 1835, Granby, Shefford, Canada East, d 6 Mar 1886, Longview, Ohio
  • Mary Louisa b 25 Dec 1838, Granby, Shefford, Canada East, d 15 Mar 1913, Norwood, Ohio
Thomas and Isabella are the latest discoveries, pointed out to me last week by kind souls in the Hamilton County Ohio Genealogy Facebook group. Isabella married and had a family. Watch for another post about them. And guess what? At various times, Thomas and Isabella lived at the same addresses in Cincinnati as Catherine, Joseph and Mary Louisa (who went by Louise or Louisa). City directories are beautiful genealogy resources.

But wait there's more. Because isn't there always? 

I had found Joseph in Cincinnati awhile ago, and suspected he was one of my Doughertys for a few years. Then, about five years ago, I came across an affidavit attached to the wills of the daughters of Rev James Dougherty D.D. (1796-1878), who was the younger brother of my great grandfather. The affidavit was signed by Judge Marcus Doherty QC (1815-1903), the nephew of my great grandfather and Reverend James. This nephew Marcus had come from Ireland as a young man in about 1833, taught, then went to the University of Vermont and became a lawyer. More about him to come. The affidavit, sworn on July 27, 1899, reads in part:
"that the late Isabella C. Dougherty (and Mary Louisa Dougherty) ...was my cousin on her father's side and that she was also the cousin of Paul Dougherty, my brother, of the County Derry, in Ireland and of Catharine and Louisa, spinsters, of Cincinnati in the state of Ohio, and of  Isabella and Bridget Dougherty, both of the City of New York in the state of New York, all on her father's side also, and that all of these cousins survived the said Isabella C. Dougherty (and Mary Louisa Dougherty)..."
This was an amazing and fantastic wow moment. Read the complete will and affidavit here. The affidavit is on pages 8 and 9. A fascinating snapshot of life in the late 19th century. I'll be writing all about the ancestors mentioned here as time goes on.

Back to all of my great grandfather's Cincinnati siblings for a moment before I finish this post. Again, thanks to the kindness of social media folk, last week, I discovered that the brothers and sisters, Thomas, Isabella, Catharine and Joseph are all buried in the same cemetery section (scroll down) In all cases, their parents' names are given. Louise is buried in the same section as two nieces (daughters of Isabella).

And yet there's more. The 1877 Cincinnati city directory lists another Marcus Dougherty and a Mary Ann Dougherty living at the same address as Joseph M. Dougherty. (update: I write about Mary Ann further here)

Who are these newest Doughertys? More children of Marcus and Mary Ann? The never ending story continues....

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Unwrapping a Puzzle 1

I grew up being told, and as it turns out, so too were all of my first cousins, that my great grandfather John James Dougherty (1833-1879) was a lost soul when he married my great grandmother Rose Caroline in 1876. When we pressed, we were told that he was all alone in Granby, and had no family. 

We knew from oral tradition that he was born in South Hero, Grand Isle, Vermont, to an Irish immigrant, my second great grandfather, Marcus Dougherty. But that's all we knew. 

Many years later, I found the name of his wife, my second great grandmother, Mary Ann Diamond in the always amazing Drouin Collection, which houses Quebec church and notarial records dating back to the 1600s. Those priests took good notes, although their handwriting was often almost illegible, and occasionally they took liberties with the spelling of names. Especially Irish names.

About 20 years ago, the first of many kind internet strangers (as I call those who have helped along the way) sent me the 1830 census covering South Hero, Grand Isle, Vermont. 


1830 Vermont Census
Granted, this was three years before my great grandfather was born, but still, it shows two adults, two males under 5, and one female aged between 5 and 9. And so the puzzles began. 

Who were these other children? 

It took many years, but about five years ago, some elusive pieces began to emerge. When I first saw the 1861 Census covering Granby, Shefford County, Quebec, it was eye-popping to see that my great grandfather had two sisters and two brothers: James, Catharine, Joseph M. and Mary Louisa. Those names sent me on yet another new quest, and their stories will be told here in due course. But I will say that these were not his only siblings. 


1842 Canada East Census
And as I went to insert that record here, I've now just made another discovery in it, which I will write about in another post. More family. 

Only very recently have I found the 1842 Lower Canada Census of Canada East (also known at that time as Lower Canada) for Marcus Dougherty and his family. This document reveals four more family members, for a total of nine -- two parents and seven children. 

The never ending story continues.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

It's all down to DNA

Last September, I went with AncestryDNA to test my DNA. This test is an autosomal test, which takes DNA from both your paternal and maternal lines. To find out more about autosomal DNA, read this, which explains much better than I could. Moving on, I was thrilled with my results.

In short, I'm a Celtic Viking (55 per cent Ireland, 24 per cent Scandinavian DNA). When first launched, AncestryDNA grouped all of Ireland and the UK DNA under Great Britain. But my test was done against AncestryDNA 2.0, which breaks things out a bit more. As Ancestry's testing is further refined, existing test results will be updated against any new parameters, for example breaking out Scotland, Wales and England separately.

Aside from being a Celtic Viking, my results were still interesting, Only six per cent Great Britain. What? My mother considered herself pure Scot. But you learn that Celts went back and forth between Ireland and modern-day Great Britain a thousand or more years ago. And 11 per cent Europe West, which might have been a surprise to me say about ten years ago, but now having researched my direct ancestry clear back to William the Conqueror (yes, really), it's all...but of course.

And using DNA in my genealogy research is also helping me to connect with distant cousins, not to mention a previously unknown of second cousin. It also confirms relationships. DNA testing has confirmed that I'm indeed related to people found through Ancestry who have become friends.

I've uploaded my AncestryDNA raw data results to other DNA sites. It's both fascinating and fun to compare the results from each. Posting to other sites also helps to discover yet more new distant family.

If you haven't had a DNA test done yet, just do it. It's so much fun. The never ending story continues.....

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

An intrepid and brave young woman

My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Young (1889-1967), set out from Berwick-upon-Tweed in Northumberland, England on her own, bound for Canada as an 19-year old girl looking for adventure in September 1908.
Dorothy aged about 30

Dorothy was the second eldest daughter of Robert Alexander Young (1854-1915) and Isabella Knox (1862-1937). The Youngs and Knoxes go back generations in Berwick. She originally went to Canada for a nanny position in Brockville, Ontario, but quickly grew bored with that and for a time worked as a cook in an Ontario lumber camp (!!) where she was the only woman, before settling in Montreal by 1911,where she found work as a servant. In Montreal, Dorothy became part of a circle of other Berwick immigrants, as I’ve found in news items in old issues of the Berwick Advertiser. She attended socials with her circle of friends and attended weddings and other events as far away as Toronto with her friends. At some point in Montreal, she and my grandfather John Matheson met. 

Dorothy returned to England in August 1915 to marry John in London, while he was on a short leave from the Canadian Expeditionary Force. She remained in Berwick throughout the First World War, seeing John when he had leave. My mother, Isobel Young Matheson, was born in Berwick in May 1919. 

In August of that year, Dorothy and my infant mother sailed for Montreal. Dorothy never returned to Berwick, but exchanged many letters with her mother and sisters. Two of her sisters visited Montreal through the years, and one also joined her there, marrying and having a family. The never ending story continues....

Monday, 4 July 2016

John Matheson, locomotive engineer

My grandfather, John Matheson, was born on July 4, 1884 in Clash Dhu, Rafford, Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland to Frank Matheson and Annie Ross. He was their second son to be named John. Their firstborn John was born in May 1879, but died in August of that year. 

John left school at 14 to work on the Scottish Highland Railway, and by 1901 was a locomotive engineer. But he decided to go to Canada, and so he sailed from Glasgow bound for Montreal on Jun 8, 1907 aboard the Cassandra, reaching Montreal on June 17. He carried with him a letter of introduction from the local Presbyterian kirk minister, who noted in his letter that while John was a regular in the congregation, his father Frank was a respected deacon there. 

In the 1911 census, he is listed in Montreal as a railway labourer. In March 1915, six months after the First World War broke out, John was recruited into the Canadian Railway Construction Corps of the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a sapper. In his attestment paper, he describes himself as a locomotive engineer. He was one of many Canadian Pacific Railway engineers and others with specific railway experience recruited. He was 5'9.5" tall, with grey eyes, brown hair and a medium complexion.

On 21 Aug 1915, on a short leave, he married my grandmother, Dorothy Young in Upper Tooting, London. They had met in Montreal. I'll write about Dorothy separately.

John did not return to Canada until April 1919. He served in France and Belgium, and never spoke of his war time experiences. 

The never ending story continues.....

Sunday, 3 July 2016

And so it begins .....

Welcome to my family history blog. After much procrastination and thought, I've decided to start to record some of my family history finds and share my own excitement and enthusiasm for family history. Am I a family historian or a genealogist? I go back and forth between the two. 

For as long as I can remember, I've been intrigued by genealogy. This is a love I inherited from my parents, along with another passion: anyone royal and their biography. As a young girl, I thought it was so fancy to actually have a family pedigree chart, and would spend many hours poring over these in the backs of biographies borrowed from the library.

This was of course in the days before the internet. The dark ages. Research was much more difficult then, with little opportunity to experience the thrill of instant gratification that the internet gives me multiple times when in the midst of a new research project.

Bear with me as I get this off the ground. There are so many stories to tell.