The Other Brother

I remember listening to a genealogy speaker who said there are always three brothers…I have found three such brothers – Cornelius, Edward and Michael McMahon. But I found an unknown fourth brother and I have discovered why none of us knew about #4.

Researching my McMahon family has been amazing, I have connected with family members who have shared pictures, family stories, and information. The McMahon’s knew there were three brothers that immigrated to Canada until I came along and found out more. 

Brother number four, John McMahon,  appears in the 1861 census living with his oldest Cornelius, his wife and children. This census does not include family relationships which meant it took a little more research to figure out the family connections. John next shows up living with brother Edward’s family in the three subsequent census’s for Normanby, Grey Co., Ontario. And if you scroll all the way over on the 1871 census for Canada you will find a heading, Deaf & Dumb, and a tick mark on the box for John. And no, that is not the reason the family forgot about John. What we have learned is that John was born in 1846 in Ireland and the McMahon family left a few years later. John’s mother died on the journey over, or once the family arrived in Canada according to accounts passed down through the family.

Life must not have been easy to be a deaf mute in that time. John was considered quite intelligent and used sign to communicate. It was probably a big help to his brother Edward having another grown man and an extra set of hands to help out on the farm. 

Records from the Archives of Ontario have uncovered more about John’s story. A search on their website for “John McMahon” did not bring in any answers but when I did a search for “McMahon, John” I was led to a page that had a record for a John McMahon being charged with wounding with intent in Grey Co.

In 1894 things turned ugly in the McMahon house. A later account tells of how things had been escalating the last few years. John had started attacking his brother Edward and some of Edward’s children for no apparent reason. It all came to a head when John grabbed a block of wood from the wood pile and hit his brother Edward over the head when his back was turned. Edward’s wife Bridget intervened when she heard Edward call out. Edward survived the attack but had had enough with the erratic behavior and was concerned for the well-being for his family and called the local police. John was placed under arrest and was assessed by a doctor. He was declared not insane. I know John was sent to jail but I was unsure what happened to him.

More information on John was discovered through Michael Stephenson’s Ontario and Upper Canada Genealogy and History site. Michael has created numerous indexes to not-so-common Ontario resources. If you find a name in the index, Michael will look up the record and mail it to you for a fee.

When I searched through the  Hamilton Asylum index, a John McMahon appeared. I emailed Michael a request for the full record and I sent off the cheque to cover his look up fee, yesterday the record arrived in the mail. 

The record included a history of John’s behavior, a Doctors assessment, a second Doctors assessment, an entry from his date of admission, and entries explaining his behavior for the years 1895-1902, 1904 & 1907. Honestly, this is more information than I have on other family members during this time. The history explained the change in John’s behavior, it started in 1889 when he was struck on the head by a limb falling from a tree. This injury prompted a shift in his behavior, he started to become violent and easily agitated. He made threats and even attacked members of the family.

He is found on the 1901, 1911 and 1921 censuses as a patient in this institution. He spent 31 years living out his life at the Asylum, where the fairly detailed records indicate he helped out in the bakery. It is also noted that he was tidy, healthy, quiet, cheerful, and a good worker. 

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entry in John McMahon’s records made by Dr. Manley, unknown date

I found a photograph of the Asylum on the McMaster’s University website along with a wonderful explanation about the facility.

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Hamilton Psychiatric Asylum via the McMaster’s University web page

John was involved in one incident that was noted in the records, in 1899 he wandered off (escaped?) but this was the month of December and he made it as far as Clappison’s Corner where he was found by a farmer and returned to the Asylum. He suffered severe frostbite and had to have his toe amputated and had facial paralysis for a time due to exposure.

John died in the Asylum in 1925 at the age of 80, and likely none of the McMahon family knew of his passing. He is buried at the Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in East Flamborough, Wentworth Co., Ontario.

So this time there were four brothers.

If you think you have a relative that may have stayed at one of the institutions in Ontario the Ontario Archives gives a good description of the records they have on their website.

Update: The Elusive Potters of Goulbourne

A quick update. I am not sure if it is because I blogged about it (just this week – The Elusive Potters of Goulbourn) but I seem to have made a breakthrough in Potter family.

I logged into my mother’s DNA at Ancestry today and using the search feature, typed in the name Potter. I quickly scanned for matches that had their trees unlocked, after clicking into one a name caught my eye. And no, it wasn’t Mary Potter, but Rachel Allen. I had traced Rachel Potter who was a witness to Mary Potter’s marriage in 1834 to George Mordy, and guessed she was the person who married Clark Allen. This was all conjecture and until I could prove it I had left alone.

Further looking through the tree that was posted I saw Margaret Potter. I clicked and low and behold Margaret was listed as living in Renfrew. Intrigued I clicked into the tree for more information.

And I have been lost ever since. I found Margaret Potter and Spencer Allen lived in Ross, Renfrew Co., and a wonderfully done Allen tree with pictures. They even had a William Potter who appears to have lived with his sister Margaret.

A Google search brought up this marriage record between Margaret & Spencer located on a Rootsweb message board –

“On the thirty-first day of December one thousand eight hundred and thirty three Spencer Allen of the Township of Ross in U. Canada, farmer and Margaret (Potter?) – looks like “Patten” of the Township of Huntley in U. Canada spinster were married together under the authority of a Special Licence from under the hand and seal of the Governor in Chief of (illegible) Canada by me A.H. Burwell Clerk.”
Witnesses John Fraser and (illegible) Burnham.

Huntley!!! Another key piece of information.

The best part is they have Rachel Potter who married Clark Allen and later John Dennison. Oh and if that wasn’t quite enough – the Hon. Lorna Milne descends from Rachel Dennison. It just doesn’t stop.

Spencer Allen and Margaret Potter are buried in the Spencer Allen Cemetery in Cobden, Renfrew Co.

There are paper trails to follow-up with but a lot of things point to my now Not So Elusive Potters!

 

 

 

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

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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.

 

The Elusive Potters of Goulbourne

March is Women’s History month and I am plan to spend the month focused on finding the family of Mary Potter.

Mary is my direct female ancestor and I know very little about her. The census records tell me she was born about 1805 in either Ireland or England. In 1834 at the Parish of March Mary walked down the aisle, John Potter gave her away and Rachel Potter served as her attendant. The Potter’s, according to the church records, were from Goulbourne.

Mary and her new husband George Mordy settled to life in Huntley, Carleton Co., Ontario where their six children Elizabeth, Rachel, Mary, Joseph, Thomas and Margaret were born. The family farmed on Concession 10 Lot 7, the farm stayed in the family until the death of son Joseph. Mary died at the age of 66 years in June 1871 and is buried in St. Paul’s Anglican Cemetery in Almonte, Lanark Co. Her death, to my disappointment, was not registered.

Mary is my 3x great grandmother and what I have written here is the limited amount of information I know about the Potter family. The clues in the marriage register provided to me by the Ottawa Anglican Diocese of John & Rachel Potter being in attendance at Mary’s wedding has not given me the leads one would expect. In frustration, not once but twice I have hired researchers to uncover something about the family, both times we have come up empty-handed.

One clue is a Rachel Potter who married Allan Clark and later a John Dennison, but nothing that connects her back to Mary. If you have Potter’s in your tree drop me a line, maybe you can help me break down this brick wall.

 

 

How Far Can DNA Take You?

Can DNA break down my long-standing brick wall? Good question, and one of the reasons I started doing DNA testing. Last night I found new information that may yet hammer down another wall and it was uncovered due to DNA.

I have been on the hunt for information on a maternal great, great, grandmother for ages. Here is a brief summary of what I know –

  • Name: Anna Eliza Stickle
  • Born: 1814 in USA
  • Married: 1835ish to Lewis Harrop
  • Lived: Pennsylvania, New York and Etobicoke, Ontario, Canada. She had children in all these locations.

I have census records, land, and death records but as this is the main details I will not list all the information here. I don’t know a lot when you think about how long I have been researching this family. Maybe DNA will help me to find some of the missing information.

Ancestry DNA Tools

The tools that Ancestry offers are the most useful I have found in comparison to other testing companies. Why? The trees! Many people have connected their trees to their DNA results which is the key to unlocking many puzzles. Couple that with the search feature and discoveries are within reach.

If you haven’t used the search feature on Ancestry here is a quick walk-through. On your DNA page click on View All DNA Matches.

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The following page, you want to click on Search Matches.

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I entered the Stickle surname and left the birth location blank.

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I received 5 matches to people and each person has a tree that I am able to access! screen_shot_2017-02-23_at_9_37_36_am

The matches were not close matches (5th-8th cousin) so instead of getting in touch with them I wanted to investigate their trees to see what I could glean from them. I proceeded to look at each tree, my Anna did not show up in any of them, but there were clues.

Locations

What the trees offered were locations which I did not have before. Most of the Stickle matches have the location of Rhineland, Dutchess County, New York. This information is not conclusive but it contains clues to where I can look for information on Anna.

Try doing a surname search and see if you can find clues to follow. I also recommend connecting your DNA results to a tree so you and your DNA matches can do what I have done. If you would rather keep your tree private create a DNA tree, this is what I have done, it will help you to get the most out of your matches. If you haven’t yet taken a DNA test, what are you waiting for?

And to answer the question how far can DNA take you? I think pretty far and farther all the time.

Charting Religion in Your Tree

After learning about the focus by Find My Past on Catholic records while watching the live-stream at RootsTech, I started to mentally calculate who in my family I may find in these new records. One by one I was eliminating people that this new record set won’t include, but quickly felt I needed to have a tool so I could visually my ancestor’s religion.

How To Make Your Own Chart

And aha! I remembered the genealogy sensation that was caused when J. Paul Hawthorne created and shared his birthplace chart. It was a great visual tool people quickly started using to see birth locations of people in their pedigree chart. I also recalled a blog post by Miriam J. Robbins at AnceStories: The Stories of My Ancestors which walked us through the process of creating our own chart.

My Chart

After following her how to guide I filled out my chart in with the different religions of each ancestor in my pedigree chart.

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Now I can easily see which family line I need to focus on for these Catholic records, or for other records sets as well.