Sunday, May 25, 2014

52 Ancestors: Daniel Fitzgerald (abt. 1806-abt. 1885)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

Daniel Fitzgerald was my 3X great grandfather. He was the grandfather of Mary Jane Fitzgerald whom I profiled in this space last week. There are some things that I know about Daniel and many things that I still have not determined or proved.

I know that Daniel was born in Ireland. All records concerning Daniel are consistent is stating Ireland as his place of birth. Precisely when he was born however is still a bit of a mystery.

According to the 1840 U.S. Federal Census he was born between 1800 - 1810 as that census records Daniel as the male head of his household, aged between 30 and 40 years. The 1851 Census of Canada (taken in January of 1852) records his age as 45 thus placing his year of birth about 1806. In 1861, the census states he was 54 years old, so born about 1807. But in 1871, the census records his age as 68 years so born about 1803, and finally, the 1881 Census of Canada, the last census record in which Daniel appears, states he was 72 years old, so born about 1809. 

While a precise date of birth for Daniel eludes me, at least I know approximately when he was born and that he immigrated from Ireland to the United States. According to "The History of Toronto and County of York, Volume 2," written by Graeme Mercer Adam and Charles Pelham Mulvany and published in 1885, Daniel, of whom the authors provided a biographical sketch, moved to Cape Vincent in New York State in 1825 where he settled into a farming life with his wife Rebecca Noble. Adam and Mulvany state that Rebecca was a native of New York State although there is some evidence, especially in census records that indicates Rebecca was also born in Ireland.

The  motivation is not known but Daniel and Rebecca moved moved their family from Cape Vincent to York Township, the area just outside the then eastern border of the city of Toronto. Adam and Mulvany state that this move took place in 1843 and that Daniel acquired 100 acres of land at Lot 5 on Concession 2. Early maps of Toronto and the surrounding area show Daniel Fitzgerald living just where Adam and Mulvany said he was, that is, on Lot 5, Concession 2.

Daniel farmed his land with his sons, most notably Lewis and Joseph. When Lewis 'came of age,' he purchased his own lot of land down the road on Concession 2 at Lot 8. Joseph however left York Township and spent a few years in Lambton County before returning home and purchasing the family homestead.

There should be a record of Daniel's death as Daniel was alive in 1881, evidenced by his appearance in the census of that year, and this was well after compulsory civil registration of all births, marriages, and deaths commenced in the Province of Ontario in 1869. But no record can be found. 

The family clearly knew of the civil registration requirement for when Daniel's wife, Rebecca, died in 1879, her death was registered (the cause of death being listed as "old age sudden", precisely the way I want to go). Roman Catholic church records have offered no clues. The likely cemetery of his burial, St. Michael's Cemetery in Toronto, has his name on no monument designating his final resting place although the family plots of his children and grandchildren are easily evident in the cemetery. 

The only clue as to Daniel's death is offered by authors Adam and Mulvany whose 1885 work states that Daniel was already deceased. His story is told but not yet fully. I am certain there is more to discover.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

52 Ancestors: Mary Jane Fitzgerald (1864-1899)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

I have always felt a closeness to my great grandmother Mary Jane Fitzgerald even though I have no idea as to what she looked like or, what she liked or disliked. My mother often mentioned the name of Mary Jane Fitzgerald when talking about her own family history and told me that my great grandmother had died young.

Mary Jane Fitzgerald was born into the family of Lewis Fitzgerald and his wife Ellen Daley on 22 May 1864, the fifth of nine known children. Mary Jane's father, Lewis, was a gardener, one of many who famously farmed the lands east of the Don River in what was then referred to as York Township, now part of the city of Toronto. 

The Fitzgeralds were an Irish Catholic family who attended mass each Sunday at St. Paul's Basilica, Toronto's oldest Roman Catholic church. Their church was about four and a half miles away from their home, not very far using today's means of transportation but I suspect it was not an easy journey in the mid-nineteenth century probably in a horse-drawn wagon over muddy, dusty, or snow-filled rough roads. But the church records from St. Paul's Basilica show that they were there often as evidenced in Mary Jane's entry in the church's baptismal register.

Of Mary Jane's eight siblings, seven were sisters and it appears that they all remained on the family farm until they married. This was certainly the case for Mary Jane. I am unaware as to how they met but on 25 April 1894 Mary Jane Fitzgerald married John Foley in St. Joseph's Roman Catholic Church on Leslie Street in Toronto, confirmed by a civil registration, the entry of the marriage in the St. Joseph's church marriage register and an article in the local Toronto newspaper. The newspaper story provides the further detail that the wedding party and guests went to the home of the bride's parents for supper and congratulations following the wedding ceremony.

John and Mary Jane Foley lived in this house at 25 Blong Avenue in Toronto. 

25 Blong Avenue, Toronto, Ontario (from Google Streetview)

It was here that they welcomed into their family first Lewis Fitzgerald Foley (or Gerald as he was always known) on 17 February 1895, William Clarence Foley on 28 September 1896, and finally, my grandmother Ellen Gertrude Foley on 16 April 1898. 

It was also in this house that Mary Jane's story came to an abrupt and premature end when she died on 9 April 1899, just a week before her daughter's first birthday. The cause of death listed on her death registration was septic poisoning. Mary Jane was only 34 years old.

Mary Jane (Fitzgerald) Foley was buried at St. Michael's Cemetery in Toronto in the same grave as her mother who predeceased her five years earlier. Ten years later, Mary Jane's father Lewis would join them in the same burial plot to eternally rest in peace.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

52 Ancestors: Anne Margaret (O'Neill) Hadden (1930-1994)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

It is Mother's Day! A day on which for years we have paid tribute to the women who have worked, sweated and sacrificed to make certain our lives were better than their own. Our mothers. I could see no better way to celebrate today than to honour my own mother by re-posting the following the tribute I wrote that marked the 20th anniversary of her leaving us earlier this year. 

I can offer an update to the post however, as I was recently startled while researching through archived pages of the Toronto Star newspaper, to find a small wedding announcement for my parents that appeared in the 16 September 1953 edition. The 'article' was essentially two or three rows of small photos of Fall brides and there among the lot was my mother wearing her nurse's cap. It is likely that her nursing school graduation photo was used.

Anne Margaret Hadden (nee O'Neill), 'Mom' to me, left us 20 years ago today, on January 8, 1994, a victim of cancer. She left behind a husband, her children, and perhaps most important to her, her beloved grandchildren.

Anne (also known as 'Anna', 'Mom', and 'Granny') was born in Detroit, Michigan, USA. Her parents had moved to Detroit from their home in Toronto, Ontario because work was available for my grandfather - and finding work in the Depression era of the 1930's was important. My mother's older brother, Edwin ('Ed') had been born in Toronto a couple of years prior to the family move and a couple of years after my mother's birth, the family expanded again in Detroit with the birth of William ('Bill') O'Neill.

Following the 1937 death of my mother's paternal grandmother in Toronto, the family moved back to the Toronto east end house my grandfather had inherited. The same house became my parent's home after they married in 1953 and was the house that I was raised in through my early childhood years.

My mother graduated from Notre Dame High School in 1948 and entered nursing school as it was referred to then at St. Michael's Hospital in downtown Toronto. She graduated as a Registered Nurse in 1952. My mother loved nursing but took a hiatus from her work from the mid-1950's through the early 1960's during which time she gave birth to five children in six years, only three of whom survived to adulthood. It wasn't until I became a parent that I could even fathom the anguish my parents must have experienced at the deaths of my brothers Brian (1956-1957) and Stephen (1957-1959).

My mother often displayed an off-beat, quirky sense of humour. While in high school, she and a friend would pass a local funeral parlour while walking home from school. They started making it a habit to stop in and visit the funeral parlour each day - just to see who was there! The anecdotes from her professional life working in a hospital ranged from technical medical procedures to the bizarre. Her favourite however was always 'The Chocolate Cake' story.

St. Michael's Hospital, or St. Mike's as it is locally known, operated in an older part of the city not known for glitz and glamour. As such my mother's patients were often those that suffered from alcoholism and mental illnesses. My mother worked on "1D", a first floor unit that was close to the street and all that the rundown neighbourhood had to offer. She worked with a close-knit team of nurses and they used any occasion to brighten otherwise tough days.

One such occasion was the birthday of a colleague unit nurse. Mom's best fiend, Marie (known in our house as 'the tall blonde') baked the birthday cake and spread far more chocolate icing on it than was required. As Marie was carrying the cake into work for the birthday celebration, the cake fell out of it's box, landing on the floor of the hospital's first floor lobby. My mother and Marie quickly assessed that with the excess icing, the cake could easily be salvaged by re-spreading the icing that remained.

A short time later as my mother was walking through the lobby, she encountered two nuns dressed in their full black habits (the hospital was run by the Sisters of St. Joseph religious order). The nuns, thinking that someone had defecated on the floor, called to my mother and pointed out the brown lump. Without missing a beat, my mother told the nuns not to worry and promptly put her finger into the 'lump' then put her finger bearing the brown goo into her mouth, proclaiming "Ummmm, it's wonderful!" The shocked nuns hastily left to report that a nurse was having some kind of breakdown.

In her retirement years, my mother shopped, a lot. She explained to me that she was simply exercising her "God given right to spoil" her grandchildren.

My mother died at home, just as she wished. My father arranged for a hospital bed to be installed in her room, affectionately referred to as 'The Nest.' As an experienced and knowledgeable nurse, she knew that her body was failing. So, a few weeks before her death, she asked me, as I was a church musician, if I would sing at her funeral. When I agreed to her request, she asked if I thought I would be able to given the emotion of the time. I told her that I didn't know how I would do as I had never sang at her funeral before. She smiled and asked me what song I would sing. I quickly replied that the first thing to come to mind was Ding, Dong, The Witch Is Dead from the Wizard of Oz. Our laughter at that moment is still a precious memory and I won't repeat the name she called me.

Her death came quietly, as it is said, 'like a thief in the night.' Our whole family had been gathered around Mom throughout the day on January 7th. We all left the house late at night to put our own children to bed in their respective homes. Within two hours of leaving, my father called to summon us back to our parental home. I drove my sister to our parents' home that night through a raging blizzard and when we entered the house, our father looked at me and with the slightest shake of his head, I knew we were too late. Hours later, my father and I stood in the doorway to the house as Mom left her house for the final time, now in the care of the funeral directors.

                                         Anne (O'Neill) Hadden with 5-month old Ian Hadden

Our rather large church was filled to capacity for her funeral on January 11, 1994. A fitting tribute to a wonderful woman who gave so much of herself to those she loved and cared for. And, I sang!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

myOrigins - Mapping My Ethnicity

I posted previously about having my DNA tested and some of the results that I received from those tests. I tested with Family Tree DNA (FTDNA) and yesterday I received an email notification from FTDNA that they were launching a new tool called "myOrigins," a feature that maps my ethnicity based on my autosomal DNA test results. 

The mapping also shows, with dropped pins, the location of individuals who are close DNA matches. Close matches in this case appears to mean either 2nd-4th cousin or 3rd-5th cousin. As far as know, no one else in my known family circle has tested with FTDNA but presumably, if they had been tested, they would be mapped and seen based on their relationship to me.

Below is the map of my ethnicity. No real surprises. My ethnicity is 100% European - 67% UK and Ireland (dark blue colour), 30% European Coastal Plain (light blue colour on France, Germany, Belgium, etc.), and 3% European Northlands (pale green colour on Norway and the Scandinavian countries).

I am admittedly no DNA expert so I cannot expertly interpret these results but they do make some sense to me. I have a lot of evidence of my ancestors coming from Scotland and Ireland. The influence of the European mainland is not surprising as that represents typical migration patterns to the UK and Ireland. Similarly, from an historic perspective, Norwegians, a.k.a. Vikings, used the north-east of Scotland as a base from which to launch further forays into the world.

The dropped pins feature is something that I found interesting even though it is certainly not conclusive evidence because it is based on the locations of living persons (I think I'm safe stating that). What I found interesting is that the map allows me to pin the closest paternal side matches or the closest maternal side matches from the FTDNA database. In my case, the database generated 17 paternal matches and 16 maternal matches.

These matches can be seen in clusters on the map. Of the 33 potential cousin matches, 11 are located in Ireland, 6 are located in Scotland, and 9 matches are located in the United States. Matches in Scotland and Ireland do not come as a surprise but I'm curious about the matches in the United States as there is a cluster in the Carolinas and Tenessee. Who knows this may well be a good clue for further investigation on where ancestral family members may have migrated at some point in history.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

52 Ancestors: James 'Jimmy' Little (1889-1944)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of '52 Ancestors' in her blog post "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks." I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don't know.

Greenock, or in the Scottish Gaelic Grianaig, is located on the south shore of the River Clyde. Historically, shipbuilding has been one of the primary industries in Greenock, taking advantage of the town's location close to the Firth of Clyde and the ocean beyond. 

And so, it was to Greenock that James and Dorothea Little moved in order to allow James to find work in the shipyards , first as a labourer but eventually as an iron driller, when his work as a forester had come to an end. It was also here, in Greenock that most of their six children were born, including their second son and my great grandfather James.

James, or Jimmy as he was commonly known, was born on 3 January 1899 at 51 Crawford Street. The row house at this location now has an address of 51 East Crawford Street, something I find unusual as I can find no West Crawford Street so for now the street name change is a mystery. 

James was the fifth child and second son for James (Sr.) and Dorothea. With the exception of their first child, a daughter named Margaret, they followed the traditional Scottish naming convention as each of their children were born. Their first son was named John after, in this case, both grandfathers so when their second son was born, he received his father's name.

My great Grandfather, Jimmy Little, appears to have lived a stable life. Records show that he went to school as a child, and then followed in his father's footsteps and found employment in the shipyards as an iron caulker, apprenticing in that trade as a teenager.

It was also in his teens that Jimmy found love with a young lady named Margaret 'Maggie' Mitchell. Maggie also lived in Greenock, about a mile away from Jimmy's Sir Michael Street home. When Jimmy was just 17-years old and Maggie only 16-years old, they discovered they were going to be parents. They married on the 22nd of March 1906. Their first child, a son they named Edward Sweeney Little was born four months later in July. 

Despite life's early introduction to marriage and parenthood, they persevered and enjoyed what appears to be a good and stable life together, Jimmy working in the shipyards, Maggie rearing their five children.

The block of houses on Sir Michael Street in Greenock, Scotland where James and Margaret Little resided with their children (from Google street view screen capture)

On the morning of 9th of June 1944 in Larkfield Hospital, Jimmy died as a result of chronic nephritis and myocarditis. He was only 55 years of age at the time of his death.