David Stewart in the 1880 US Census

It’s been a busy genealogy week this week. MyHeritage has made changes to the DNA and as a result, I have uncovered more cousins on my Jeffery and Norton lines.

Returning the focus to my Stewart family and Amy Johnson Crow’s #52Ancestors challenge, I will look at a census record from Minnesota.

In the 1880 census David and his brother William were ‘batching’ it in Manannah, Meeker Co., Minnesota, also known as Eden Valley. Next door to them was their sister Margaret and her husband Michael Cody. The Stewart men state their occupation as farm laborers and I imagine them dreaming of owning their own farms.

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Year: 1880; Census Place: Manannah, Meeker, Minnesota; Roll: T9_626; Family History Film: 1254626; Page: 221.3000; Enumeration District: 50; Image: 0168.

The census information always needs to be taken with some skepticism. This census has a column for the birth locations of parents and although their mother is listed correctly as having been born in Ireland, their father, is given the same birth location but he was actually born in Scotland.

The Stewarts weren’t the only ones who left Grey County, Ontario for the States there is a large number of names on this and subsequent censuses that I recognize.

A brief mention by MaryJane McIntee mentions that the Stewart men had settled in the States to work on the Northern Pacific Railroad.

David and William Stewart did eventually purchase land in Manannah, so a success for them and their families.

The Stewart family after spending roughly 30 years farming next to each other, all went their separate ways. David took his family and with his half-brother, John McGowan moved to Saskatchewan. William Stewart and his family went to Jefferson County, Montana and ran the County Poor Farm. The Cody family moved to Helena, Montana and the McIntees also moved to Montana.

Challenge met, and now back to looking at DNA matches, waiting for replies, working on the Stewart book and anything else that keeps me from my regular duties!


Did Your Ancestor Leave You A Clue at the Cemetery?

Did your ancestor leave you a clue at the cemetery? Mine did.

Sites like Find-A-Grave and Canadian Headstones are great tools to use in helping us research our family but a trip to your ancestors grave could lead to more discoveries. What you don’t see in the pictures posted on those sites is the headstones surrounding an ancestor. I found the clues my ancestor left on a visit to a cemetery which I wouldn’t have found without being there.

The trip took place in 1998 when my mother and I drove to Saskatchewan to discover more about her grandparents whom she had never met. They were all deceased so the trip would be to the cemeteries to pay our respects.

Up until that point, I had done most of my research on my mother’s family by making phone calls, sending emails, applying for b/m/d certificates and visiting my local library & LDS Centre looking at census records. I was on a limited budget and working with next to no information (my mother knew very little about her family history).

My husband agreed to watch our kids and my mother and I set off, loaded with maps and hope in our hearts. On our list was Indian Head, Saskatchewan (where her mother was from) and Yorkton, Saskatchewan for her paternal side. We hit up numerous antique shops along the way and enjoyed our mother-daughter time.

In Yorkton, we visited King Cemetery armed with the knowledge that this was the final resting place of David Stewart & his wife Bridget McMahon, her grandparents. After locating her grandparent’s headstone and getting a photo, I noticed that beside was a matching headstone but the names were unfamiliar. It read –

In Memory of Margaret McGowan
Beloved wife of John McGowan
Born Nov. 27, 1848 Died Dec. 27. 1916.
Also the above named
John McGowan
Born April 1842 Died March 28, 1920

This was puzzling, further investigation around the stones showed that there was a cement border enveloping the stones and a third stone that was David & Bridget Stewart’s daughter Violet. But who were these McGowans?

Finding The Connection

Once we returned from our trip, I checked the Rootsweb mailing list for a surname mailing list for the McGowan name. These mailing lists were a great way for genealogists to be in touch before the advent of Facebook and more modern communications. So I joined the list and sent a query asking if anyone knew why the McGowan stone was close to the Stewart’s and if anyone knew of the connection. About an hour later I zipped back down to the basement to check and see if I had received a response, after waiting for the dial-up of our internet I saw that there was a reply from Dani Lee McGowan. Dani Lee had been to the same cemetery two years previous and took nearly identical photographs.

David Stewart stone King Cemetery

The Stewart stone, photo by Patricia Greber

McGowan stone, King Cemetery

McGowan stone, photo by Dani Lee

Stewart, Violet stone, King Cemetery

My mother Mary (Stewart) Dever is holding back the bush so we can read the inscription on Violet Stewart’s stone. This is the third stone enclosed in the cement border which you can see on the right.

Dani Lee knew the families were connected, but she also questioned how. This began the start of a friendship and collaboration that continues to this day. I started researching the McGowan family and eventually found that we share a common relative, Mary Loftus.

Mary Loftus McGowan Stewart

Mary was born about 1822 in Sligo, Ireland (not proven) and married Felix McGowan, either in Ireland or in New York. In 1839 their first child Bridget was born, and two sons John (1842) and Thomas (1844) arrived after the family moved to West Flamboro, Wentworth Co., Ontario. In about 1845 Felix passed away, the following year Mary who was a devout Catholic marries a Scotch Presbyterian in 1846. Enter my ancestor William Stewart who becomes a father to Mary’s children and together they have six more, James, Margaret, Alexander, David, William all born in West Flamboro. Mary Ann, their last child, was born in 1857 after the family moved to Ayton, Normanby Twp., Grey Co., Ontario.

The flurry of emails between Dani Lee and I during this research period and discovery was almost daily. Every new discovery was celebrated, we were thrilled to have found our connection.

Evidently, our great-grandfathers David Stewart and John McGowan were close. They traveled from Normanby, Ontario settling in Manannah, Meeker Co., Minnesota for about 30 years, and later they both moved back to Canada and finally chose to rest side by side in death.

The Trip was Worth It

Would I have ever discovered this without a visit to the cemetery? I may have, but I think it would have taken me a lot longer to figure out the connection and I would have missed out on years of collaboration with my cousin!

Seeing the stones side by side was a big clue that these families were connected. The cement border indicating the shared plot drove home that I needed to spend time researching this family.

My advice to you, take the time to visit your ancestors final resting spot and keep your eyes open for any clues the left you.

Meet Up?

Dani Lee and I have never met face-to-face but she has plans to travel to Canada this summer and I hope that we will be able to have a reunion that is 20 years in the making!

Still to Discover 

We still have yet to find when our common ancestress Mary Loftus died. We know she was in Minnesota in 1888 according to “Illustrated Album of Biography of Meeker and McLeod Counties Minnesota” where she is mentioned in the write up for John McIntee, her son-in-law.

Her next and last appearance is in the 1891 Canadian census where she is living with her oldest son James Stewart in Ayton, Ontario. That is the last record we have been able to find for her, someday we hope to find where she is buried so we can journey to her resting place and pay our respects.


It’s Not All Unicorns and Rainbows in Newspapers

A new favorite site of mine is Chronicling America a historic newspaper site. I may be a little late to the party on this but wow, I am impressed. The site offers a huge collection of newspapers covering most of the states in the US from 1789-1924.

I do not have a lot of USA research, but there is the odd family I keep my eyes out for. A branch of my mother’s family the Stewarts left Grey Co., Ontario and moved to Manannah, Meeker Co., Minnesota. They were not the only ones to make this move, other surnames that were in both Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario and then neighbours in Manannah were the Garvey, Ryan, Gibney, Cody, McIntee families and a few others.

Margaret Stewart with her husband Michael Cody joined the exodus and you can find them on the 1897 map of Manannah in Eden Valley. The map on the Historic Map Works site also shows the land owners names right on their plot of land, you can easily see all the other families close by. And one of the reasons I was fooled about when Michael Cody died, his name is on the map in 1897, I soon discovered he was not actually living there.

Margaret and Michael Cody (so I thought) left Manannah and make another move, this time to Montana. I lost track of them for a few years but find Margaret, a widow running a boarding house aptly called Cody House in Helena, Montana. A story surfaced from a relative that Michael her husband, died in a railway accident in the early 1900s and Margaret never remarried.



Margaret (Stewart) Cody with her nieces who helped her run the boarding house Cody House in Helena, Montana.


I have always kept an eye out for Michael’s death to back up this tale, I was sure it would be in the newspapers if it was true. Yesterday, within five minutes of searching on Chronicling America, I found the proof. It seems Michael wasn’t actually working when he died but traveling to find work and according to the report was under the influence of liquor when he fell off of the train! The date of the newspaper is 1892, which means that on the Meeker Co.map he actually was not the landowner, he had been dead for five years.

The Livingston Enterprise March 19, 1892

Cody, Michael - The Livingston Enterprise Mar 19 1892  copy 2.jpg

Now I know what the truth of the incident, I am not surprised that it wasn’t completely accurate, it has been over 100 years! The article also mentions that they held an inquest in Bozeman, something  I will be investigating further.

As more and more newspapers are added on-line we will truly be able to discover the day-to-day lives of our ancestors. The good times, the maybe not so good, but life isn’t always unicorns and rainbows.


52 Ancestors – #5 James Raymond Stewart

James or Ray as he was known was born 1900 in Manannah Twp., Meeker Co., Minnesota. His father David first settled in the area as a young man and travelled north to Canada to marry Bridget McMahon who lived in the same community he had before leaving Ontario.


James had quite a journey in store. He was the 7th child born to David and Mary and a few short months after his birth he travelled with his family to their new home in Yorkton, Saskatchewan. This journey today is 662 miles and takes about 10 hours, travel in 1900 would have taken quite a bit longer. Ray’s dad David was a farmer and his boys grew up knowing farm life.

At the Stewart farm in Yorkton, SK.

At the Stewart farm in Yorkton, SK.

Ray lost his mother when he was 12 which left his older sisters to care for him. Ray knew that having two older brothers he would have to make his own way, he adventured off to the Peace Country in Alberta and liked what he saw. This prompted him to file for a homestead, then travel back to Saskatchewan to gather up his meagre supplies. His goods arrived by train in 1927 and Beaverlodge was now home.

James Stewart  abt. 1920

James Stewart
abt. 1920

Same photo with some photo editing.

Same photo with editing.

Ray spent the rest of his life in the Beaverlodge area, where he raised a family and worked hard to provide for them. It wasn’t always easy, they lost their home to a fire and finances were always  struggle. He had a positive attitude and a generous heart. James died in 1990 surrounded by his family.

My children standing on the location of Ray Stewart's homestead.

My children standing on the location of Ray Stewart’s homestead.