Road Trip Progress

Yesterday traveled Toronto to Delhi 149 km

Met mom’s third cousin for the first time and stayed in the McMahon home that is 118 years old. The famous Irish welcome we were granted was followed by quick-witted conversation, offers of food and a warm place to sit by the crackling fire. We were quickly at ease with our newly met family; the conversation and stories flowed, soon followed by bursts of laughter. A sense of ease and comfort that can only be identified as the familiarity of family.

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McMahon family home built in 1900

 

Followed by hours spent happily scanning their enormous family collection of pictures/documents

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One of the 3 bins of family pictures and documents they have preserved + a very long evening of scanning = genealogy heaven

 

Today began with a visit to La Salette Cemetery to pay our respects to my mother’s great-great uncle Michael McMahon and many of his descendants buried there

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Mary Stewart with her cousin John McMahon at Michael McMahon’s headstone in La Sallete Cemetery, Norfolk

 

Followed by a 166 km drive to our next stop at Saint Mary’s Cemetery in Ayton, Ontario. This is where my mother’s paternal great-grandfathers are both buried, William Stewart (1804-1883) and Cornelius McMahon (1824-1893). As well her paternal great-grandmother Sarah McCue/McHugh (1825-1915) and her great aunt Sarah Culliton (1866-1925).

Words cannot convey how amazing it has been the last couple of days. Connecting my mother with her McMahon family and seeing her standing beside the final resting place of people that she did not know the names of before I began my genealogy journey.

*featured image is the interior of the La Salette Catholic Church in Norfolk County, Ontario

 

Ethnicity Reports in Your DNA Do Offer Genealogy Clues

I have already done DNA testing on my mother and her brother. Both tested at Family Tree DNA and I really have been one to ignore the Ethnicity reports. But read on as there are clues given in those reports that can be very telling.

I recently asked my mother’s sister to also take a DNA test. Overkill? Well, maybe but I did hear from DNA experts that to get a better picture of the parents it is worthwhile to get three siblings to test if you are able. My mother has four siblings that are still with us so I was very pleased that her sister agreed to take the test.

I decided to test with Ancestry, and not because of the amazing analysis features offered, but because of the number of testers they have, 7 million! My aunt’s results arrived and nothing jumped out at me at first but yesterday I was looking at her matches and there was a group that wasn’t matching her siblings. I looked at each match individually to see if they had trees and sure enough there were two trees that caught my attention. The surname Stickle/Stickles appeared in their trees. STICKLE – are you really kidding me?

Anna Eliza Stickle was my mother’s great-grandmother, we know very little about her before she was in Canada. Anna and her husband Lewis had three children in the USA before settling in Etobicoke, Ontario. The family first appears in the 1852 Canadian census, further information was gleaned on the family from the 1861 census which asked married during the year and the enumerator actually put the year of marriage! 1836.

Anna married Lewis Harrop from Manchester, England, the couple moved to Canada between 1843-1849, as their son John was born in N.Y. in ’43 and daughter Mary in Canada in ’49. William Lewis was their last child and my ancestor.

Lewis died in 1861 and is buried at St. George’s-On-The-Hill Cemetery in Islington with no headstone to mark his grave. Anna remained a widow the rest of her life. Anna Eliza lived with her family until her passing in 1907 in Orangeville, Dufferin Co., Ontario.

For years descendants of Anna have been on a search for her family. Now DNA is pointing us in a direction. The Stickle DNA matches that have trees show the family lived in Dutchess, New York and the origins of the Stickles before coming to the USA is Amsterdam!!

How exciting, after years and I mean years of researching Irish records I now have a new place to explore and learn about.

A peek at my Aunts ethnicity report also seems to support her inheriting more of Anna Stickle’s DNA  –Screen_Shot_2018-03-16_at_7_52_53_PM_1

 

The New York Settlers ethnicity breakdown is NOT found in either her sister or brother’s DNA results!

Next, I will be researching the locations that the DNA matches have for their Stickle/s family in New York. I hope they have good Methodist records for B/M/D. Seriously though, how cool – Amsterdam!

A new place to add to my list of locations for a ‘family holiday’, good thing my kids don’t read my blog!

And I will be paying a little closer attention to the Ethnicity reports in the future! And test your Aunts and Uncles they may have the clue you need.

My McMahon DNA Breakthrough

A DNA whirlwind of discoveries

I am researching two very common names on my maternal side, McMahon and McNamara, the place, Clare, Ireland. After searching through wills, land records, civil war records, death, baptism, cemetery records, tombstones in Canada. I was no closer to where in Clare they were from.

Once the Catholic records went on-line I searched through them but was still lost, the index, once it was finished, gave me my suspicions. My McMahon family had a total of eight children, three shortly before journeying to Canada in 1851, Matilda (1844), John (1846) and Mary Ann (1849). Matilda not being the most common of names was the focus, and once I found a possible baptism I started searching for siblings. I was able to find potential records, but that’s all they are potential. The location was O’Callaghan’s Mills in Clare.

I was stumped and so I set it aside, focusing on other lines.

A little later I searched through matches my mother had at Ancestry for people with the surname McMahon. I started looking to see if there were on-line trees and sure enough there was a tree with the McMahon surname and the location for this family was, you got it, O’Callaghan’s Mills. Ok, time to make contact and I received a reply, which is almost a success in itself! After messaging on Ancestry back and forth, I asked the question, Would you upload to Gedmatch? At Gedmatch I have uploaded the DNA of seven people who descend from three sons of Michael McMahon. Gedmatch is my go-to place for matching. The reply, Not at this time. Although disappointed I set it aside, but was left wondering.

Another relative tested at Ancestry, another match to this person, another message sent to inform her of this match.

Yesterday, it all began. She messaged me to let me know she has uploaded to Gedmatch. All day I kept checking, I stayed up until midnight….her DNA was still processing.

I hurried out of bed this morning and checked Gedmatch and it was all there. This person matches a descendant of all THREE of the McMahon brothers. Did you hear that…? She is a match to all of the third cousins that have tested!

 

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The new match the top row, my McMahon the rest

 

Edward McMahon descendant – one tested – a match
Cornelius McMahon – five tested – all match
Michael McMahon – two tested – all match

This match is a first-generation American, her father was born in O’Callaghan’s Mills!

Twenty-years for me, (longer for some of the other people in our family) to find a location in Ireland and one Gedmatch upload is all it took.

Without a doubt, there is a connection between our families. Now, the digging begins as she has both the surname McMahon and McNamara in her tree too!

I end this with GEDMATCH – GEDMATCH – GEDMATCH – upload, upload, upload!

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.
RIP
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.

 

A Death by Drink or Not?

Today marks the 124th anniversary of the death of Cornelius McMahon my mother’s great-grandfather. Cornelius left Ireland with his parents and siblings when he was in his 20s, the family had lived through most of the famine but decided to leave. He settled in Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario, married and had seven children. I was surprised to find that he was ‘accidentally killed’ when reading his death record.

Naturally, I wanted to explore this more and I contacted the Wellington Archives which houses newspapers that cover Grey Co., Ontario.

Initially, when reading through the newspaper account I was impressed to read when he was attending an event in nearby Durham he…

was given a place of honour on the platform with all notable men present.

But this quickly turned to dismay when I read…

Before leaving for home he became intoxicated, being addicted to drink.

The newspaper goes on to report that Cornelius and his companion John McIntee both had imbibed too much at the event and on the journey home…

…the colt became unmanageable and on the the road leading through the swamp on this side of Varney ; that both were thrown out and when he [McIntee] went to McMahon’s assistance he found him dead.

The cause of death was declared a broken neck, Cornelius was 69 years old.

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Mount Forest Representative Sept 21, 1893 pg.8

Another search to see if the coroner’s report had made its way into the newspaper and I found a retraction of the previous story.

…there was nothing in the evidence to show that the unfortunate man was the worse of liquor at the time of his death, and as it is alleged he was not, we cheerfully state these facts and regret the report got abroad and found its way in these columns that he was not sober.

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Mount Forest Representative 5 Oct 1893 pg.8

So was Cornelius a drinker or not? Did the newspaper have to retract because it was an error? Or maybe the family just didn’t want it said? I am sure I will never know, and no matter what he is remembered.

Cornelius McMahon.

St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Cemetery, Ayton, Grey Co., Ontario 

Cornelius McMahon 1824-1893; His Beloved Wife Sara McCue 1825-1915; May Their Souls Rest In Peace; Sarah McMahon Wife of Michael Culliton 1886-1925 Rest In Peace. 

 

Connecting at Conference

I was lucky enough to attend the Ontario Genealogy Conference that was recently held in Ottawa. A few of the reasons I LOVE attending:

  1. Deals. The vendors are there in spades and they offer great deals, DNA kits at unheard of prices, renewing your subscription to sites again at reduced rates, books, scanners, and more.
  2. Networking. Talk to societies, archives or other organizations face-to-face. They are there to help and answer your questions.
  3. Learning. The speakers, oh the speakers, their informative talks help to give you focus and direction in your research.
  4. Volunteering. You can put your own knowledge to work by volunteering at these events or by helping out. I was a part of the Social Media Team and they were a truly fun group to work with.
  5. Access. Did I mention the research room? FREE access to many great genealogy sites. The access given allowed me to research and locate many records that I didn’t even know were out there. Genealogy Quebec is the site where I found many new discoveries. The room also had free access to Find My Past, My Heritage, Ancestry, and others. This is a great way to ‘try them out’ and see if they would be a worthwhile purchase for you.
  6. Excursions. I had never been to Library and Archives Canada and felt a little intimidated about visiting. I shouldn’t have been, the tour was quite informative and I was able to ask questions when I wasn’t sure about something. It was a day well spent.

One thing I did this year was showcase my own surnames. I had a T-shirt printed and I was a walking billboard. My t-shirt received a lot of comments and because it was tweeted so many times I was contacted by people who matched my Gedmatch number! Goal achieved.

 

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Photo creds to LDC

 

I think we may see more of these shirts at future conferences.

You may wonder why I would travel so far (Alberta) to attend and there is really one over-riding reason, the people. The new-found friendships, renewed and strengthened are really the reason I keep coming back.

 

 

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.

 

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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.