A trip through my Swiss roots

According to my DNA, I have a small portion of ancestry that is from Switzerland. I like the idea of having some Swiss blood coursing through my veins. When I think of Switzerland, I see beautiful mountain vistas, tables laden with cheeses and chocolate, Swiss misses walking belled dairy cows through the rolling hills and clocks that run with timely precision. Although this seems a simple stereotype, I found this to be the case when I visited Switzerland in 1993 whilst backpacking around Europe after I graduated.

Certainly when I began looking into my ancestry, I was excited to see some ties to this beautiful and peaceful country. My third great grandfather, Charles Louis VonGunten was born in Switzerland and emigrated with his family to Canada in about 1851. Carl Ludwig VonGunten was baptized on the 9th of June, 1833 by parents Johan and his wife Maria Elizabetha (Nee Bettschen) in Lake Thun, Canton Bern, Switzerland. There is a small town on the shores of Lake Thun called Gunten – it is after this place that the family is named.

Gunten Switzerland

Map showing Gunten, Lake Thun, Canton Bern, Switzerland

In May of 1850, Charles would arrive in the Port of New York, with his father and three of his siblings. They sailed from Le Havre in France on the ship Lebanon.

passenger list

Passenger List from the Lebanon that arrived in New York on May 13, 1850

They would not stay long in the United States, moving North into Waterloo County in Ontario. They can be found listed on the 1852 census in the area of Preston (currently an area within Cambridge). It is on this census that we see Charles’ father Johan (John) is a watchmaker.

1851 census

1852 Census for the Village of Preston, Waterloo County, Canada West

By 1861, Charles has been married and has struck out on his own and is found living in Belleville, Ontario. He is now listed as a watchmaker himself and aside from his wife Mary, he has two young sons in the home as well as a woman named Margaret VonGunten, aged 18 years, who was also born in Switzerland. Perhaps she is a sister or maybe a cousin. No marriage record was found for Charles and Mary and while a baptismal record was found for their second son, Charles, May’s maiden name is not identified.

1861 Census Belleville

1861 Census for Belleville, Hastings County, Canada West

By 1871, the family has moved again and are residing in the town of St. Mary’s, Perth County. Charles is listed now as a Jeweller. He and Mary now have three sons: James John, Charles Louis and Henry Alexander. A couple of newspaper ads were found for the C.L. VonGunten jewelry store located on Queen Street.

1871 census St Marys

1871 Census for St. Mary’s, Perth County, Ontario

VonGunten advertise Nov 26 1869 PG 2 #2 A

Advertisement printed in the St. Mary’s newspaper in November 1869

The family would move again by 1875, where the Hamilton City Directory lists Charles VonGunten’s jewelry store on James Street North.  In both the 1881 and 1891 census’, we find CL VonGunten listed as a Jeweller in the Town of Chatham, Kent County. Using the directories to track the timing of his move, I believe he moved to Chatham in 1880. His second son and namesake, Charles, was married in 1883. It is on this marriage document that we find that Mary’s maiden name was Garrick.


Photo of the CL VonGunten Jewelry shop in Chatham

Charles and Mary did not move again, choosing to stay in Chatham for the remainder of their days. With their Jewelry shop in town, they became immersed in their community. Charles would serve in public office and both would be known for their involvement and charity. I have read both of their obituaries but did not keep records. The “family” business was passed down from Johan to his sons and grandsons, each taking their knowledge of Swiss watchmaking and opening their own shops around Ontario and into the United States. They were intelligent, well educated and kind people, just as you would imagine from the Swiss stereotypes.

Charles passed away on June 14th, 1894 from complications after an operation. His wife Mary Stuart Garrick passed away five years later in May of 1899. The couple is buried in the Maple Leaf Cemetery in Chatham.

Death 1894

Ontario Death Registration for CL VonGunten in 1894

A few years ago, one of my cousins led me to a book entitled “Bettschen Genealogy” which she had found online through the University of Toronto at archive.org. In it, I found a wealth of information not only on the VonGunten family but also on Charles Louis’ mother Maria Elisabetha Bettschen. Maria’s father was named David Bettschen and he was a Mountaineer. In 1850, Johan VonGunten wished to emigrate but his wife Maria refused to leave Switzerland. So Johan went with a few of their children, leaving several of the younger daughters behind with their mother. After their mother’s passing, they also emigrated to Canada ending up in Hamilton, Ontario. The book also talk about Charles Louis’ proficiency with languages and music – he could speak four languages (French, German, Italian and English) and secured a highly sought after position as a soloist in the Galt Band. In 1856, Charles was playing with the band at the Rockton World’s Fair when he met Mary Stuart Garrick, the daughter of a prominent local farmer. They would marry soon after they met. It is written also that several members of the Bettschen family also emigrated to Ontario – David Bettschen is buried in the Rosebank Cemetery in Wilmost Township, Waterloo County close to one of Charles’ sisters – Rosina VonGunten.



Pages taken from the Bettschen Genealogy book – found on http://www.archive.org

The story of Billy Mac

I lost my first grand-parent when I was six years old. My Dad’s father died after he suffered his third heart attack, one month past his 65th birthday and a few months shy of his retirement. I don’t remember him although he is familiar in pictures. In many of those, he had a wide smile and a mischievous twinkle in his eyes. Both my Dad and my Aunt describe him as a devoted family man, a hard worker who was at times both quiet and gregarious. I have a strong recollection from about the time that he passed away, of sensing a benevolent presence in my room as I slept and I believe that it was him. I have held on to this as my only real memory of my grandfather, a warm figure watching from the sidelines, a shimmering link to my past.

Of course, I heard many a story of Bill McTavish as I was growing up. He was apparently very musical – he could play a few instruments including a magnificent silver-plated saxophone that sat in my parent’s basement for many years. He could also play the piano and would play any tune just by listening to it. He was also apparently a “Minstrel” – performing for others with a blackened face. Sadly, this was considered acceptable in the 1930’s but is for me, a deplorable act of racism. For a time, he was a professional musician, leading his band “Billy Mac and the Rhythym Kings”.

and the RK

Billy Mac and the Rhythym Kings @ 1935 – Bill McTavish third from left

He was always a hard-working man, eventually landing a job at Dofasco in Hamilton, where he stayed for over 30 years. He worked in logistics, planning materials and production, leading up to his retirement. The fatal heart attack was apparently his third, he had two previously and each one had led to a modification of his work. He apparently felt unhappy with the desk job that he was given and was looking forward to his retirement in a few months, when the final heart attack claimed his life. Prior to his work at Dofasco, he played with his band and he started out running bets and selling newspaper ads for the horse races. I am told that he was not just gifted musically, but mathematically as well.

William James McTavish (r) ca 1922

A young Bill McTavish on the right in Hamilton, dressed for success @ 1923

William James “Bill” McTavish was born in the small town of Ripley in Huron Township in Bruce County, Ontario. He was the second child for his parents Edward James “Ted” McTavish and Ellen Emma Sanderson. His older sister was named Irene Beatrice. His parents had a tailoring shop and owned a coal yard in Ripley but sold them and moved the family to Hamilton, Ontario in about 1918. There, Ted would operate as a landlord on a few properties and open a small tailoring shop on Barton Street.

and Willie

Irene Beatrice and William James McTavish @ 1913 in Ripley, Ontario

I believe that Bill met my grandmother Kathaleen “Kay” Lendzioszek around that tailoring shop. Kathaleen was the eldest daughter of a Polish couple who lived in the Barton neighbourhood of Hamilton, right behind St. Stanislaus Catholic church on Barton Street. The tailoring shop would have been a little further down from the Church but within the same block. Bill and Kay were married on July 30th, 1938 in Hamilton. On the marriage registration, I was surprised to see that Bill’s marital status was listed as “divorced”. This had caused a bit of an issue since Kay was a devout Catholic and Bill was a divorcee. That meant that she had to leave the Catholic Church but luckily, it didn’t mean that her parents would not support the marriage.

marriage two

Ontario Marriage Registration – 30 July 1938

wedding photo

Wedding photo for Bill and Kay (middle) with both sets of parents

l-r Sophie and Stanley Lendzioszek, Kay, Bill, Ellen and Ted McTavish

While divorce was not un-heard of in the 1930’s, it certainly was not very common. There were very specific grounds for obtaining a divorce including cruelty, adultery or neglect. Bill’s first marriage was to a woman named Lavinia Thomas, they were married June 1st, 1929 in Hamilton. Divorce papers were filed in 1935 and were finalized on February 1st, 1937. The petition was based on claims of infidelity on Bill’s part. There was a private investigator hired and allegedly, Bill was living with another woman named Mary Cameron. My Aunt defiantly tells another story! That is while Bill was away on tour with his band, that Lavinia took up with another man. Bill returned home to find them in bed together – what a scandal! In the end, it does not matter who was at fault or even if the adultery ever did actually happen, but the divorce was granted. Reviewing the divorce record at the Archives of Ontario was enlightening and managing the sensitivity of the information was a new challenge, but it helps paint a picture.

A young Bill McTavish was seemingly full of energy, very personable, a born entertainer and salesman. He was unafraid of running in some interesting circles during his youth. Upon his first marriage at the age of 21, he was a news agent. He led a band, he toured, he performed. Divorced six years later, he became a clerk, married a young Polish girl. He started work at Dofasco and over 20 years, fathered three children. He went to Church, attended all of his son’s baseball and hockey games, ate dinner with the family, entertained friends in his home, worked hard. He was the penultimate family man according to my Aunt. Somewhat quiet and unassuming, happy and certainly well-liked and respected by friends and colleagues.

Bill and Kay 1938

Bill and Kay McTavish @ 1938

As I said, I didn’t know him but I do wish I had. It seems that this is almost a tale of two Bills – one young, wild and free and the other mature, stable and loyal. Both sound like a great man, my grandpa, quite a character.

Sorting out all the Thomson’s in Erin Township by utilizing naming patterns

What do you get when a Thomson marries a Thomson, and their son Thomson marries a Mary McTavish and then a Mary Thomson? Confusion! It has been difficult trying to find my McTavish ancestors who emigrated from Scotland to Canada in the 1800’s. You would think that with a surname that isn’t that common, I might be able to trace them with a little more ease. But there is a shocking number of Duncan McTavish’s all born within a 10 year period, sometimes in the same townships and often in neighbouring areas. With the Anglicization of the name of McTavish to Thomson in a few cases, my research possibilities have expanded exponentially.

When the Scottish traditions of the Highlands became outlawed by the English government, many McTavishes changed their name to Thomson. I have found that this practice became more prevalent, the farther South the families lived in Argyll. Some families used both inter-changeably with McTavish being used on a baptism for one child and Thomson on another. Some changed their name when they went into the cities for work, some changed it when the emigrated to Canada, some changed it back. I have had to be very careful in trying to track each family to keep them separate as it is so easy to get them mixed up.

As I was tracing my direct McTavish ancestors, I came across a marriage for a Mary McTavish to Archibald Thomson in 1868. Mary was the daughter of Dugald McTavish and Catherine Buchanan – she would be my first cousin, 4 times removed. According to the marriage record, Archibald was born in Argyll, Scotland to parents Edward and Elizabeth Thomson around 1823, and was a current resident in Erin. At the time of my research, I hadn’t clued into the whole Thomson connection so I didn’t dig any deeper on Archibald. Unfortunately, after having only one child, Mary died in February of 1870. She is buried in the Acton Pioneer Cemetery.

MCT - Mary w:o Arch Thompson

Acton Pioneer Cemetery, Acton, Ontario – photo courtesy of author

Ten years later, Archibald Thomson would marry a second time on February 11, 1880 in Erin Township. This time, he married Mary Thomson. Mary was twenty-one years junior to Archibald, having been born in 1845 in Erin, to parents Dugald and Margaret Thomson. One of the witnesses to the marriage was Donald McTavish of Nassagaweya.

Marriage Arch Thomson to Mary Thomson

Ontario Marriages – Erin Township, Wellington County

Now my interest was peaked and my knowledge of the McTavish-Thomson connection was known.

I had already sorted out the family of Mary McTavish and deduced that the witness to Archibald’s second marriage was in fact, Mary’s brother. There were no other Donald McTavish’s in Nassagaweya at that time. I penciled a chart together of the Thomson’s in Erin.

We have Archibald (b. 1823 in Argyll), son of Edward and Elizabeth Thomson of Erin. And, we have Mary Thomson (b. 1845 in Erin), daughter of Dugald and Margaret Thomson of Erin.

As mentioned, Archibald and Mary McTavish had a son Edward in 1870, before she died. The use of the name Edward for a first born son, when Archibald’s father was named Edward, suggested right away that they may have been following the naming pattern customs of Scotland. Knowing this, would prove helpful in separating the Thomson families.

I found Archibald and son Edward in the 1871 census for Erin Township. He is recorded as being 42y of age, born in Scotland, a Baptist, widower and a shoemaker. Below him, Elizabeth is listed, aged 70y, born in Scotland and a widower. Then Eliza, aged 20y, born in Ontario and finally Edward age one, born in Ontario. My hypothesis is that the elder Elizabeth is his mother – she having been born in Scotland about 1800.

1871 census Arch

1871 Census of Canada – Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario

Looking back to 1861, I found Archibald again in Erin age 34y, born in Scotland, a farmer. Also in the household are Elizabeth, age 60y, born in Scotland, a widow and Betsy, aged 28y, born in Scotland. The family follows directly after another family of Thomson’s – that of Archibald and Mary Thomson.

1861 census Erin

1861 Census of Canada West – Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario

Jumping forward to the 1881 and 1891 census’, I can find Archibald with his wife Mary and their growing family. Daughter Elizabeth was born in 1881 (died 1884), daughter Margaret Flora in 1884, son Archibald Spurgeon in 1885 and daughter Mary Ann in 1887. His first daughter was named after his mother, his second daughter after her mother, his second son after himself and his third daughter after her mother. The naming pattern was partially followed but with no son named Dugald, it seems off a bit.

Archibald died in 1897, at the age of 73 years, in the Village of Erin. Unfortunately, his parents names are not included on the registration so we don’t know his mother’s maiden name.

Arch death 1897

Ontario Deaths – Village of Erin, ErinTownship, Wellington County, Ontario 

Find a Grave indicates that he is buried in the Coningsby Cemetery, just outside of the Village of Erin in Erin Township. A trip up to the cemetery led me to his gravestone which indicates that upon his death on August 1st, 1897 he was 73 years, 9 months and 24 days old. This calculates to a birth day of October 7th, 1823. The information contained on the headstone for his wife Mary, says that she died in June of 1929, in her 86th year.

Archibald and mary Thomson copy

Coningsby Cemetery, Erin Township, Wellington County – Photo courtesy of author

Walking through the cemetery, I found many Thomson’s buried there. There is a headstone for Elizabeth Thomson born in 1798, who died June 13th, 1878. This is likely the Elizabeth Thomson who was listed with Archibald in both the 1861 and 1871 census’. And the headstone also indicates that she was the wife of Edward Thomson who died in Scotland in 1849. It also notes their children Dugald, Mary and Elizabeth and that they were all natives of Argyleshire, Scotland.

Elizabeth Thomson d 1878 copyConingsby Cemetery, Erin Township, Wellington County – Photo courtesy of author

Edward and Elizabeth ThomsonConingsby Cemetery, Erin Township, Wellington County – Photo courtesy of author

Armed with the information gleaned from the census’ and cemetery, I turned to Scotland’s People to see if I could find out more. I found his baptism dated October 7th, 1823 to parents Iver Thomson and Betsy Thomson in the village of South Colfin in the parish of Saddell and Skipness. I know both Iver and Betsy to be nicknames for Edward and Elizabeth and the date is correct. Elizabeth’s maiden name appears to be Thomson.

Arch baptism 7 Oct 1823

Old Parish Register – Baptisms – Parish of Saddell and Skipness, Argyll, Scotland

A search for a marriage yields one for 1818 in Achmenach, Skipness for Iver Thomson and Elespie Thomson. And baptisms for their children in order: Mary 1819, Iver 1821, Iver 1822, Archibald 1823, Dugald 1825, Flora 1828, Betsy 1831, Ann 1834 and Iver 1836. If the naming patterns were followed, his parents (first son, second daughter) would be Iver (Edward) and Flora. Her parents would be (first daughter and second son) Archibald and Mary. Iver is obviously a very important name for this couple as they named three sons with it. The two younger sons must have died.

Iver and Elespie marriage 1818Old Parish Register – Marriages – Parish of Saddell and Skipness, Argyll, Scotland

A search for a female Thomson born between 1795 and 1800 in Saddell and Skipness, gives me two options for Elizabeth/Besty/Elespie. The first is in Feb 1796 when William Thomson and Mary Taylor baptized daughter Elespie. The second is a baptism on March 9th, 1798 for Elspey to parents Archibald Thomson and Mary Taylor. Ding ding ding!

A similar search for a male Thomson born in that same parish between 1785 and 1800 (not sure of his birth year) showed me two possibles for Iver: one to Donald and Mary Thomson in 1788 and one to Dugald Thomson and Catherine Campbell in 1796. Neither of these struck a cord and so I looked though my records from when I travelled to Scotland in both 2013 and 2018. I visited the Kilbrannon graveyard at Skipness and found tombstones not only for Archibald Thomson and Mary Taylor but also one for Edward McTavish and his wife Flora Currie. Based on naming patterns, this couple makes sense and if true, that makes him the brother of Dugald Thomson who was married to Catherine Campbell. Interesting to note that the headstones use the name McTavish and not Thomson.

Dugald Thomson and Catherine Campbell

Photo taken in 2018 by the author at Kilbrannon Cemetery in Skipness, Argyll, Scotland

Flora Currie tribute to Edward MctavishPhoto taken in 2018 by the author at Kilbrannon Cemetery in Skipness, Argyll, Scotland  Transcription reads:  1801 – Erected by Flory Currie in memory of her dutiful husband Edward McTavish, Smith at Skipness who died August 1801 aged 75 years

Now, turning to the other half of the original couple, Archibald Thomson’s second wife, Mary Thomson. The marriage record says that she was born about 1845 in Erin and that her parents were Dugald and Margaret Thomson. I first search for a death record to see if it would identify her mother’s maiden name. Although I found a record, it is only the index and the actual record seems to be missing. So no luck there. Since she was buried in Coningsby, I looked through my pictures and found a headstone for a Dugald Thomson and wife Margaret McLellan.

Dugald Thomson and Margaret Mclellan

Digging back into the census’, we find Mary living with her parents Dugald and Margaret in the 1861 and 1871 census, prior to her marriage. She is the eldest of what looks like twelve children borne to the couple in Erin. Throughout the census’ in Erin, there are many families with the surname McLellan as well as those named Thomson (among others!). In 1861, Dugald and his family are listed beside Peter Thomson aged 70, Mary his wife aged 68 and Angus aged 33. In 1871, the family is beside Angus Thomson and his wife.

1861 census Dugald

1861 Census of Canada West – Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario

1871 census Dugald

1871 Census of Canada – Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario

I can find no marriage for Dugald and Margaret and neither of their death records states their parents. Dugald’s death registration does include details of his land (lot 23 in the 5th concession) but it looks like he purchased this land rather than having it passed down to him or through his wife somehow.

Dugald Death 1903

Ontario Deaths – Erin Township, Wellington County, Ontario

Based on the census information Dugald and Margaret’s children were in order: Mary, Donald, Peter, Neil, Margaret, Julia Ann, Catherine, Elizabeth, Archibald, Sarah Bell, Dugald and John. If we used the naming patterns, it would suggest that Dugald parents were Donald and Margaret Thomson while hers would be Peter and Mary (McLellan)?

Dugald’s birth occurred about 1819 in Argyleshire, Scotland according to the records. There were four Dugald Thomson’s born in Argyll between 1815 and 1820. One to Archibald Thomson and Mary Livingstone baptized on November 23rd, 1817 in Saddell and Skipness. One to Peter Thomson and Catherine McKinven on May 18th, 1819 in Saddell and Skipness. One to Peter and Mary Thomson on September 9th, 1818 in Saddell and Skipness. And lastly, one to John Thomson and Christian Johnson on February 2, 1820 in Kilcalmonell. Given the proximity of Dugald and his family to Peter and Mary Thomson in the 1861 census, I pursued this couple as possible parents.

Baptism of Dugald to peter and mary

Old Parish Register – Baptisms – Parish of Saddell and Skipness, Argyll, Scotland

Peter Thomson married Mary Thomson on January 19th, 1816 in Saddell and Skipness, they were both from that parish. Children born to them in Scotland were Archibald (1816), Dugald (1818), John (1820), Catherine (1822), Peter (1824), Mary (1826), and Donald (1829). The family appears to have emigrated to Erin Township in about the year 1830, Peter purchasing lot 21 on the 5th concession in 1839. Peter and Mary are found in the 1861 census and then they died in 1864 and 1865 respectively, according to their headstones in the Coningsby Cemetery.

Peter and Mary Thomson marriage

Old Parish Register – Marriages – Parish of Saddell and Skipness, Argyll, Scotland

Another Thomson marrying a Thomson! Using the naming patterns again to try and determine each of their parents. His would be Archibald and Mary while hers would be Dugald and Catherine. Do these names sound familiar? Archibald Thomson and Mary Taylor and Dugald Thomson and Catherine Campbell…anything is possible. But, no baptismal records were found for either, that made any kind of sense.

Turning back to Mary’s mother Margaret, potentially McLellan. I looked through the records for each of her children to see if any of their marriages or deaths, gave her maiden name. Sure enough, son John’s death in 1924 states her name as Margaret Mclellan. Daughter Catherine’s death in 1929, says her mother’s name is Margaret Mclellan. Son Peter’s death in 1909 also states his mother’s name is Margaret McClelland. So, this seems confirmed.

John thomson death 1924

Michigan Deaths – John Thompson, 1924

But who were her parents? Since the naming patterns were opposite for her husband – I started looking for parents named Donald and Margaret McLellan. In the 1861 census I did find a Donald McLellan that is in the right age range – he is listed as 73y, born in Scotland and a widow. There is a headstone at Coningsby for a Donald McLellan who died in 1868, his wife Ann is also buried there. Looking back at a tax assessment for 1834 in Erin Township, Donald McLellan is listed on lot 20 in the 4th concession, right above Peter Thomson who is listed on lot 21 in the 5th concession. Land records indicate that there is a will for Donald McLellan from 1868 and that there were sales of his property to Peter Thomson, Archibald Thomson and Hector McLellan.

Erin township census 1824 and beyond copy

Assessment for the Township of Erin, Wellington County, 1834

I did notice on the 1861 census that there appears to be a Charles McLellan and his wife Julia living with Donald McLellan. Charles is 50 years old and was born in Scotland. Charles and Julia have a son named Donald. I did a search for a baptism for Charles in Scotland, with father Donald and there was only one – baptized by parents Donald McLellan and Peggy Watson in Killean on October 19th, 1813. Peggy is a nickname for Margaret so I searched to see if they had baptized any other children. Their children were Charles (1813), Isabella (1815), Jean (1818), Mary (1821) and Peggy (1823). It is possible that the younger Peggy is actually the Margaret that we are looking for, but this is very circumstantial. Once the archives are open again, I will look at the wills to see if they can shed more light on this.

Peggy Mclellan baptism

Old Parish Records – Baptisms – Parish of Kilcalmonell and Kilberry, Argyll, Scotland

The McLellan’s are a tough bunch to try and sort through and they seem to be intertwined with the Thomsons, McMillans and McKinnons. It becomes extra difficult to un-tangle the various lines when they inter-marry. I have found that using the naming patterns as a reference, I can often find clues to help me un-tangle the thicket. I wish our ancestors knew the future challenges and had followed the patterns more consistently, it would make ancestry a little easier for us modern genealogists!



Hey William Napper, I think we are related!

A few months ago, I was contacted by a reader who told me that she had seen a marriage record for my fourth great-grandmother Alicia Colden Napier. I, along with others, have written about her before, trying to detail out her life without a lot of source information. I was kindly instructed to use Family Search with her name of Alicia Napier and a birth between 1790 and 1800. I did so and up popped a marriage index for Ireland in 1818. Listed in the Lismore parish of County Waterford, John Husband married Alice Napper.

NAP - Alice Napper and John Husband marriage 1818

FamilySearch – Marriage Index – Waterford and Lismore, Ireland.  Accessed via search of Ireland records for Alicia Napier born between 1790 and 1800.

What I found is just an index, but the timing, location and names are all within the realm of correctness. And, I am hoping that with this index, I can source out the actual document, which may have more information. If course, I will need to patiently wait for things to open up again during these pandemic times. But, this hasn’t stopped me from un-ravelling this lead to see if there are any other clues that can be gained.

The index is listed alphabetically, so on the same page, I can see three other marriages for the surname Napper and one marriage for the surname Napier. These five marriages are between the years of 1796 and 1830, in the parish of Lismore. I then searched for John Husband in Family Search using his information and found not only the H page for Lismore but a bunch more Husband marriages in Cashel & Emly in County Tipperary. So, an interesting new find that illustrates how refining your search parameters and using multiple tools, can often yield better results.

After sharing this find with others who are interested in this family, I was struck by a niggly feeling that I had seen the Napper name somewhere else in my research.

This Husband family had emigrated to Nassagaweya Township in Halton County Ontario the year 1822. John had petitioned the government for a land grant owing to him from his service in the British Navy from 1812-1816. His letter of petition stated that they had come from Tipperary, Ireland. In 1833, he was granted the patent for 100 acres on the South-west half of lot 25 in the 4th concession of Nassagaweya Township. In the 1842 census for Nassagaweya, John Husband is listed with his family on the West half of lot 25 in the 4th concession, he is listed as the 31st person in the census. I had recently been researching to see if I could find John’s cousin, John Simpson, who had been an executor of John’s will and also a resident of Nassagaweya. I was looking at the 1842 census and low and behold, there is a William Napper listed and, he is on the lot directly beside John Husband’s lot. William is on the 1842 census residing on the West half of lot 26 in the fourth concession. Of course, I was intrigued to say the least. Coincidence, maybe but more research on William Napper was needed to figure that out.

Nassagaweya census 1842

1842 Canada West Census – Nassagaweya Township, Halton County, Ontario.  

In the 1842 census, William Napper is listed as a shoemaker. He is married and between the aged of 30 and 60 years. His wife is between the age of 14 and 45, he has a boy and girl under the age of five, and a boy and two girls between the ages of five and 14. One member of the household was born in Ireland, one in Continental Europe and five in Canada. The family has been in Canada for 19 years (meaning arrival about 1823).

1861 census

1861 Canada West Census  – Nassagaweya Township, Halton County, Ontario

Since the 1851 census is missing for Nassagaweya, the next census to review is the 1861 census. William and his family are listed again in Nassagaweya Township. In this census, he is listed as 50 years of age, born in Ireland, a farmer and married in 1831. His wife is named Isabela, she is 46 years old and was also born in Ireland. There are six children listed, all born in Upper Canada including William (21y), James (18y), Arthur (16y), Charley (13y), Harriet (10y) and Robert (7y). Since 20 years has passed between census’ and five of these six children are younger than 20, we know that there are four older children no longer living with the family.

1871 census1871 Canada Census  – Nassagaweya Township, Halton County, Ontario

On the 1871 census, William is 61 years of age, wife Isabela is 59 years, and three children are still living with the couple including William (30y), Robert (17y) and Harriet (19y).

By 1881, William Napper is no longer residing in Nassagaweya as he is not listed in the Township. Isabella Napper (aged 67y) is a widow listed in Eramosa Township, Wellington County (adjacent to Nassagaweya) living with her son William, aged 45y.

1881 census

1881 Canada Census – Eramosa Township, Wellington County, Ontario

William died on the 16th of April in 1873. His death registration is signed by his wife Issabelle and states that he was born in Tipperary, Ireland about 1811.

William Napper death 1873

Ontario Canada Deaths – William Napper – 16 Apr 1873

Obit William Napper

Canadian Champion – dated 1 May 1873 – printed on Page 3, column 1

His headstone is in the Ebenezer Church Cemetery, in Nassagaweya.

Gravestone Ebenezer

Ebenezer Cemetery, Nassagaweya, Halton, Ontario – photo taken 25 Oct 2019

So, now we have another connection to John Husband and Alicia Napier, his wife. There are two “coincidences” that suggest a potential tie between the Husband’s and the Napper’s, although nothing to connect them solidly. John married Alice Napper in 1818 in County Waterford, Ireland. They emigrated to Canada in about 1823, were residing in Nassagaweya by 1833 when he received his land grant. They came from Tipperary, Ireland. William Napper also came to Canada in about 1823, was in Nassagaweya on the lot directly beside John Husband by 1842. He was also from Tipperary, Ireland.

In the land records, I have found that William Napper received the patent for part of lot 25 in the third concession, Nassagaweya in 1856. No corresponding request was found online when I searched the Library and Archives Canada site. In the land records, I have noted that William had a will that was probated (instrument # 706E) in 1873. As soon as the Archives open again, I will go and get a copy. I am interested to who his executors were for his will. Patience!

I also followed many of his children to see what information I might get from each of them. I have not found and reference to the Husband family as of yet.

I turned then to look at DNA, to see if I could find anything new there. I have many documented cousins on the Husband side. Some matches go as far back as John Husband’s parents George Husband and Elizabeth White. I have not yet been able to find and matches to any Napier descendants, other than the ones who share the Husband line. This has always seemed strange to me – when I can find no matches, I know that something is off. So, on a lark, I searched out anyone in my DNA matches that had “Napper” in their trees. Surprisingly there were quite a few. Some used the name Napper and Napier inter-changeably but there were others that did not have Husband or Napier but had Napper and they matched my father’s DNA. I found quite a few matches to Nappers from Tipperary who had emigrated to Quebec. Several of the trees go back to a John Napper (b. 1776 Cahir, Tipperary – d. 1858 Hemmingford, Quebec) who was married to Mary Bowles (1784-1877). Some trees have William Napper listed as their son, but no documentation to prove it). The John Napper listed had several siblings who also emigrated to Quebec including Jane Napper (b. 1785 and married to Richard Williams) and Margaret Napper (b. 1789 and married to Simon Spearman). In terms of the size of the matches, they range from 7cM up to 30cM so fourth cousins at least. But this makes sense – Alicia Napier/Alice Napper is my father’s third great-grandmother. I have matches through William Napper’s daughter Mary Jane (m. Robert Reed) and son Robert, as well as John Napper’s sons Robert and John. And, when I look at our shared matches, I find many known Husband cousins.

So, my conclusion is that I may in fact be a Napper and not a Napier. It appears that William Napper of Tipperary, Ireland is related somehow to Alicia Napier Husband. Just what that relationship is, remains to be seen. More genetic genealogy detective work is required, and I have the time to do it!




Untangling a branch of my McTavish family tree – McAlpines and McNairs

It is often difficult to navigate a family tree with ease. Between lost records, naming patterns and movement to new locations, it can be a challenge to decipher each of the lines. It can become an even more difficult task when families inter-marry, sometimes even cousins married each other. I have found this to be both frustrating and rewarding as I try to untangle the various branches of my tree.

One of these tricky research challenges was found close to home – in Halton County. As I have mentioned before, a few members of my McTavish family emigrated to Nassagaweya Township in Halton County in 1830. One of these was Catherine McTavish (1807-1861) who had been married to John McAlpine (1801-1889) in the Glassary parish of Argyll on the 26th of December 1829, just a few months prior to leaving for Canada.

Cath McT marriage to John McAlpine 1829

Old Parish Register Marriages – Glassary parish, Argyll – 1829

Catherine has been proven through DNA to have been a sister to my 3x great grandfather Duncan McTavish as well as to Archibald, Dugald and Margaret McTavish Gillies.

After having researched many of my Highland Scots ancestors, I have learned that most did not come to a new land alone. There was simply too much work to be done, and in very primitive areas with limited resources. So, they tended to move in groups of family and friends and as a collective, could support each other through the tough early days. Often too, these groups were encouraged to join other family members who would have emigrated earlier. I can only surmise that my McTavish’s, were encouraged by others to join them in Nassagaweya. I do know that Dugald McNair was one such provoceur, and believe also that Andrew McAlpine was another.

Research has shown that Andrew McAlpine was the brother of John McAlpine. In the Early History of Nassagaweya, Joshua Norrish wrote “Andrew McAlpine came from Ballamore, Argyleshire, Scotland, in 1828, and settled on the west-half of lot 22, in the 6th concession. In 1831 his father Donald McAlpine, and two brothers, John and Alexander, and two sisters came, and a few days after coming Andrew took sick with a sort of typhoid or ship fever…the man died leaving a wife and three sons.”

Records at Scotland’s People show that Andrew was baptized on 5 Jun 1803 in Ballimore, Argyll to parents Donald McAlpine and Elisabeth Brown. He would marry Euphem McGilp on 9 Mar 1824 in Glassary, Argyll, Scotland. The couple would baptize two children (Donald in 1825 and Mary in 1826) there before departing for Canada.

andrew mcalpine baptism

Old Parish Registers Baptisms – Glassary Parish, Argyll, Scotland

Andrew mcalpine and effy mckillop marriageOld Parish Register Marriages – Glassary parish, Argyll – 1824

Joshua Norrish also mentions that John McAlpine took up the west-half of lot 28 in the 4th concession. He and his wife Catherine would have seven children before Catherine would pass away in 1861. The family is buried in the Ebenezer Church yard in Nassagaweya, not far from the family farm. John would serve as an elder in the Church for many years.

Upon Andrew’s death, his widow Effy would marry Angus McKenzie. Angus was reputed to have been involved with William Lyon McKenzie and the rebellion in 1837. He may have fled the country as a result of his actions. Other than a record of their marriage, I cannot find him again. Euphemia died in Marlette, Michigan in 1875 – at that time, she was a widow.

BLA - Reved James Black marriages 1833-34

Registers of Marriage performed by the Reverend James Black – 1834

Euphemia death in 1875 Michigan

Deaths – State of Michigan – 1875

It is with the next generation that we start to see how tangled the branches can become…

Two sons of Andrew and Effy McAlpine would marry two McTavish daughters; one daughter of Effy and Angus McKenzie would marry a McTavish, and a McTavish daughter would marry a McNair son which looks to be a marriage between first cousins but is not!

John McAlpine (1828-1893), a son of Andrew and Effy, would marry Ann McTavish (1825-1900), a daughter of John McTavish and Mary Darling of Esquesing Township. I do not know how this McTavish line may or may not tie into the others but certainly, several McTavish families in the same area, at the same time, is likely more than coincidence. John and Ann would marry some time around 1850, they would have four children before moving the family down to Marlette, Michigan. The family is found there in the 1860 and 1870 census. Between 1860 and 1870, they would have four more children. In the 1880 census, the family has moved further South, presumably for new land opportunities and can be found in Jewell, Kansas.

1860 census

US Federal Census – Lapeer, Michigan – 1860

1880 census Kansas

US Federal Census – Jewell, Kansas – 1880

His brother, Andrew McAlpine (1831-1889) would marry Catherine McTavish (1837-1906) in November 1855. She was the daughter of Archibald McTavish (1783-1863) and Catherine McNair (1791-?); Catherine McNair being the sister of Dugald McNair. Andrew and Catherine also moved to Michigan, settling in Lapeer about 1858. They are found in the 1860 census, with their first two children and then in the 1870, 1880 and 1900 census’ around the same areas of Lapeer and Sanilac Michigan. They would have six children and many are buried together at the Siple Cemetery in Tuscola County, Michigan.

1870 census goodland lapeer

US Federal Census – Lapeer, Michigan – 1870


Catherine McTavish’s brother, Angus (1832-1888) married Mary Jane McKenzie (1835-1912), the eldest daughter of Angus McKenzie and Effy McGilp McAlpine, the half sister of Andrew and John McAlpine. They married one day before Andrew and Catherine in November 1855. They too would move into the US, residing in Sanilac, Michigan and raising nine children together. Interesting on this census too, Angus’ brother William is listed as single and living with the family. Mary Jane McKenzie McTavish died in Saginaw, Michigan in 1912 and on her death registration, we see her parents named.

MCT - Marriage of Catherine to Andrew McAlpine and Angus to MJ McKenzie 1855

Ontario Marriage Registers – Reverend Young

Angus civil war

US Civil War – Register

Mary Jane McKenzie McTavish death

Deaths – State of Michigan – 1912

Angus’ brother William, who is listed in the 1880 census as single and a carpenter, was born in Scotland. His full name was William Sharp McTavish and some additional sleuthing was required to find him. I found a death for him in Marlette, Michigan dated January 20th, 1904. It lists his birthdate as January 12th, 1814 in Scotland and his parents are listed as Archibald McTavish and Mary Henderson. On the 1860 census, he claims to be 30 years old and on the 1880 census, his birth year is noted at 1825. So, there was a range to check at Scotland’s People. I found a Baptism for William Sharp McTavish on the 6th of January 1824 in Glasgow to parents Archibald McTavish, a taylor and Christian Henderson. All clues point to this being the right one, just a mistake in the registration of his death, overstating his age by 10 years. The informant was his sister-in-law Mary Jane.

william sharp mctavish birth 1824

Old Parish Register Baptisms – Glasgow, Lanark – 1824

WS McTavish death 1904Deaths – State of Michigan – 1904

William’s information links him to his father Archibald McTavish, whom we know was a tailor and who had married Catherine McNair in Kilmartin, Scotland in 1827. So William’s mother Mary or Christian Henderson must have died at some point between 1824 and 1827 and Archibald must have travelled back to Argyll during that same time. I could find no marriage for Archibald McTavish or Thomson to any Henderson or McKendrick (gaelic verson). I did however, find a baptism for Mary Thomson, born to Archibald Thomson, a taylor) and Christian Henderson, in Glasgow on May 18th 1822.

Mary Thomson birth 1822, GlasgowOld Parish Register Baptisms – Glasgow, Lanark – 1824

Mary (1822-1887) would emigrate with the family in 1830 and settle in Nassagaweya. She is listed on the Canada Steamboat lists as well as the 1842 census. She married Hugh McNair ((1822-1890) some time in the mid 1840’s, no marriage record has been found but their first child was born in 1847. The family lived in Erin Township in 1861 and removed to Kincardine before 1871 where they lived out their days. Hugh was the son of Dugald McNair and Kitty Black who emigrated from Kilmartin in 1819, settling first in Elgin County before moving to Nassagaweya in about 1825. Dugald was the brother of Catherine McNair McTavish. While it seems that Hugh McNair and Mary McTavish were cousin, they were actually not blood related as her mother was Archibald McTavish’s first wife, Christian Henderson.

Mary McTavish McNair death

Ontario Deaths – Kincardine, Bruce – 1887

And to bring it full circle and to lock in the family ties, Hugh and Mary’s son James (1860-1940) would marry his first half cousin Mary McTavish (1874-1938), the daughter of Archibald Mctavish Jr. (1828-1908) and his wife Mary McMillan. Archibald Jr. and Mary McTavish were half siblings.

James McNair and Mary Mctavish marriage 1919

Ontario Marriages – Nassagaweya, Halton – 1919

While untangling any knot is a challenge, it is also very rewarding when you do it. It’s important that when you do untangle a branch, that you keep it separate so you can see where it all ties together, in order to keep it on its own.



Part I of the McTavish-Thomson connection and Wellington County.

By the mid 18th century, many Highlanders were hindered in continuing in their way of life. English rule had banned Highland dress, the use of the Gaelic language and even the playing of the bagpipes. After the Battle of Culloden in 1746, many Scots felt the need to change their ways, or face harsh consequences. As a result, Highlanders were often treated like second class citizens and sought ways to overcome these biases, including Anglicizing their names in order to gain employment or even respect. I have found a few McTavish’s who elected to change their name to Thomson. In Gaelic, “Mac/Mc” , denotes “son of” whereas Tavish is translated to Thomas. So, McTavish means “son of Thomas” and in English has been translated to Tom’s son – or Thomson.

In the early 19th century, many Highlanders decided to leave their homeland in search of lands where they would not be persecuted and emigration became very popular, whether it be to Australia, the United States, Canada or elsewhere. All were seeking a new life, free from constraints. Sometimes the Highlanders, kept their Gaelic “Mc/Mac” names, sometime they used the Anglicized version, sometimes they had already changed their names and were given the Anglicized version upon their baptism and sometimes, they used their emigration as a new land to use a new name. I am not sure the reasons why but, I have some McTavish relatives who emigrated to Puslinch Township, Wellington County in the early 1830’s and used Thomson as their name.

Anyone familiar with the geography of Ontario knows that any township that borders another, despite the County, is often home to close relatives and friends. Puslinch Township borders Nassagaweya Township, although they are in different counties – Wellington and Halton respectively. A genealogist will always look at the layout of the different counties to understand who may live across the street in a different county. Not understanding the geography could lead to not seeing a close relative or family member because they live in “different Counties” and cannot possibly be related.

As my family settled in Nassagaweya Township, I wondered if any relatives or friends from Scotland may have settled nearby and hence, my investigation into Puslinch. I discovered there a family of Thomson’s…could they be related?

As I traced these Thomson families, I came to realize that they were also from Argyll, Scotland but a little further South than where I suspected my McTavish ancestors had come from – these were from the Kintyre Peninsula from the parish of Killean and Kilchenzie.

I found on the 1851 census for Puslinch, a Neil Thompson, aged 75y, living with his wife Mary (aged 73y) and children Jane (31 y) and Archibald (aged 29y), all born in Scotland, amongst a few McPhater’s. In the 1861 census for the same area, Neil is now 84 years, Mary is 82y and daughter Jane is 46 years. They are residing with presumed son Archibald (aged 43 years) and his wife Janet (aged 41y) and children Neil (age 6), Mary (age 4) and Mary (age 2). Neil apparently died in November 1862 and was buried in the Killean Cemetery in Puslinch.

1851 census Puslinch

1851 Census of Canada – Puslinch Township, Wellington County

Looking into the records at Scotland’s People, I found a baptismal record for an Archibald Thomson on 14 Feb 1817, in Beachmenach, Killean, Argyll, Scotland to parents Neil Thomson and his wife, last named McLean.

Arch Thomson birth Neil and Mary

Old Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – 14 February 1817

Reviewing the index of baptisms for a Niel Thomson and his wife McLean, showed a number of baptisms all in Killean including John (1803), Ann (1804), Isabella (1807), Mary (1809), Peggy (1811), Jean (1813) and Sarah (1819). On several of these baptisms, the wife “McLean” had a forename of Mary. Digging back a little further, I found a marriage for Niel Thomson from Beachmenach to Mary McLean of Killean on 23 Jun 1802.

Neil Thomson marriage to Mary McleanOld Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – 23 June 1802

A search for a baptism for Niel Thomson between 1762 and 1782 in Killean did not yield any results.

Going sideways in Beachmenach, I found a marriage for James Thomson to Betsy McPhater on 22 Jun 1803 and for Mary Thomson to Alexander Curry on 23 Dec 1805.

James Thomson marriage to Betsy McPhatterOld Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – 22 June 1803

A search for a baptismal record for James or Mary Thomson between the years of 1763 and 1790 in Killean, yielded one for James Thomson. He was baptized on 29 April 1774 in Glencardoch, Killean to parents John Thomson and Janet McPhaiter. Other children baptized to this couple included Donald Thomson in August1788 and Dugald McTavish in August 1788. Both were baptized in Crubisdale.

James baptism 1774Old Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – 29 April 1774

Dougald baptism 1788 McTavishOld Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – August 1788

Switching again back to Puslinch – a widowed James Thomson, aged 78 is found in the 1852 census, making his birth about 1774 in Scotland. He is living beside (or with) John Thomson (age 43, born in Scotland) and his wife Janet (age 33y) as well as children Jane, Elizabeth, Janet, Catherine, Isabella, Barbara and Christina (ages 11 through 1 year respectively, all born in Canada.).

John and Janet Thomson census 1852

1851 Census of Canada – Puslinch Township, Wellington County

The logs of Duff’s Presbyterian Church’s baptisms say that their mother’s maiden name was McCormick.

1845 page 2

Baptismal Records – Duff’s Presbyterian Church in Puslinch – 1845

From Scotland’s People, a baptismal record for John Thomson, son of James and McFaiter, dated 11 Jul 1808 in Beachmenach, Killean.

John Thomson so James and BetsyOld Parish Register – Killean and Kilchenzie Parish – 11 July 1808

Visiting the Killean Cemetery, I saw several headstones for Thomson’s, including James Thomson who died in 1852, his wife Betsy McPhatter who died in 1858 and a number of their sons who all died in the 1840’s. I believe his brother Neil Thomson is buried next to him, with his wife Mary McLean.

James and betsy headstone

Headstone for James Thomson and wife Betsy McPhatter – Killean Cemetery 

Neil Thomson headstoneHeadstone for James Thomson and wife Betsy McPhatter – Killean Cemetery 

Furthermore, I believe that there were other siblings that came to Puslinch with them. Betsy’s McPhatter’s brother Neil as well as Neil and James’ sister Barbara who was married to Archibald McCarmaig/McCormick in Killean in 1794 and died in Puslinch in 1845; sister Peggy’s husband Angus McStockair/Stalker who married Margaret Gardiner after Peggy died, and then emigrated to Clarke, Durham, Ontario; sister Catherine’s husband Alexander McQuilkan/Wilkenson who is also buried at the Killean Cemetery in Puslinch.

The County of Wellington Atlas page for Puslinch Township states that in 1832, lots in Concession 1 of Puslinch Township came up for sale and all lots were sold to Kintyre men. This referred to where they had come from in Scotland. Archibald Thomson chose lot 10 for his brother “Little John”, William Blue, the step son of Neil McPhatter chose lots 9 and 13, “Big John” Thomson grabbed lot 11 for himself and lots 20 & 21 for his father Neil Thomson, Neil McPhatter got lot 15 for himself and lot 14 for his son Matthew.

While we cannot conclude that they were brothers nor that the Thomson’s may have originally been McTavish, we do know that they emigrated from Killean, Argyll, Scotland and settled together in Puslinch Township, Wellington County. We also know that the Highland way of life, of creating communities of family living together, was prevalent in Puslinch. If we look deeper into the connections within Puslinch, we can see a close-knit community of friends and relatives alike, who shared a vision for their new life in Canada. I also cannot conclude if these Thomson’s are related in any way to the McTavish’s who lived a stone’s throw away. But, in my research I uncovered other ties to my family – through Clarke, Durham (where my Reavie’s and McConnachie’s settled) and also all the way to Ripley in Huron Township, Bruce County where my McTavish’s finally settled in Ontario. There, the Currie’s also settled after a stop in Durham. Even then, it was a small world!

Going sideways – looking at siblings for clues

I have posted many times about my biggest genealogy brick wall – identifying my fourth great grandparents on my McTavish side.  One of the ways that I have been trying to break this down is through DNA.  I have my DNA posted on many sites and I review matches regularly to see if there is anyone new that might have the one clue that will help me.  I have been trying to triangulate the DNA information that I find and look specifically at those shared matches that my matches have – trying to create a cluster.  And if my matches share a match with another McTavish, I tend to get quite excited.  Late in 2019, I found one such match and luckily, she had a small tree posted on Ancestry.  Her tree went back to a Hugh R. McTavish who died in Edmonton in 1958.  I jumped right in to try and understand who this Hugh was – he was not in my vast tree, nor on any of my spreadsheets.

The first thing that I found was an obituary for Hugh Robert McTavish printed in the Edmonton Journal on June 13, 1958.  First thing to note, was that he was 83 years old, meaning that he was born about 1875.  He had moved to Namao, Alberta with his parents in 1895 and he farmed with them until 1901 when he joined the Railway.  He was a stationary Engineer who resided in Edmonton since 1905 and was married to Margaret Johanna Connell.  Together, they were parents to six children, three daughters and three sons, one of whom had pre-deceased his father.  Great information to start!

Obit Hugh Robert McTavish 1958 Edmonton

Edmonton Journal – 13 Jun 1858

Searching further on Ancestry, I was able to find the Alberta marriage index, which gave a date for his nuptials as December 23, 1903 and place – Calgary.  I found the young family in the 1911 census for Edmonton where they were residing with Hugh’s uncles and Aunt – Neil, Hector and Catherine McLean.  In addition to this, there are several other clues – Hugh was born in Ontario, there is a Mary Newton listed as a sister to the head of household, there are two cousins living there – William McLellan (75y) and James McLean (45y) as well as another nephew – George Sharp (27y), all born in Ontario and, the McLean’s were all born in Scotland in the 1850’s.

1911 census

1911 Census of Canada – Edmonton

I looked then for a birth registration for Hugh McTavish born in Ontario between 1870-1880 and found a registration for the 20th of June 1874 to Hugh McTavish and Mary McLean in Erin, Wellington, Ontario.  Bingo – I found his parents!

Birth registration 1874

Birth Registration – Erin, Wellington, Ontario

And, I already had more information on Mary McLean’s siblings and tapped into my private tree for more information.  The siblings were all children of James McLean and Mary McEachern – born in Barr, in the Bowmore parish of Islay, in Argyll Scotland.  The family is found there in the 1851 and 1861 census’.  They apparently emigrated to Erin, Wellington some time over the decade and are then enumerated in Ontario on the 1871 census.  Also listed on the same page of this census are other McLean’s – the family of Archibald and Margaret, a widowed Hugh McLean and an very old Hector McLean who is listed as being 104 years old at the time the census was taken.

1871 census - McLean

1871 – Census of Canada – Erin, Wellington, Ontario

It is quite difficult to believe that Hector McLean could have been that old but it seems it may have been (close to) true.  He died in December of 1872 in Erin, Wellington at the age of 106 years old.

Hector Mclean death 1872

Death Registration for Hector McLean – 1872, Erin, Wellington, Ontario

I found baptisms for James, Hugh and Archibald McLean who are listed on the 1871 census, that match their ages fairly closely.  James was baptized on July 12, 1813 in Kellpolsmore, Kilmeny parish, Islay to parents Hector McLean and Bell Gillies.  Brother Hugh was baptized on September 27, 1823 and then Archibald on August 27, 1826, amongst other siblings.

James McLean baptism 12 Jul 1813

Scotland’s People – Old Parish Registers – Kilmeny, Argyll, Scotland

Based on the information gleaned from these documents, I was able to trace Mary McLean from Scotland to Erin to Edmonton.  She was found on the 1906 census for Edmonton, married to a George Newton.  Son Hugh and wife are residing with them at this time.  She passed away in 1926 in Edmonton and was buried in the Beechmont Cemetery in Edmonton.

But, who is Hugh McTavish Senior?  I cannot find him anywhere, he is like a ghost!

I went online at the Alberta Archives and I looked up Hugh Robert’s death and ordered the registration.  The registration confirmed his parent’s names and also added a birthdate and birth location of Ospring in Erin Township.  That puts him in the same area as Mary McLean at their marriage and should allow for a thorough search of the census’ there from 1852 through 1871.  I am also aware of two McTavish families in that village at that time – those of Dugald McTavish and his wife Catherine Buchanan (of which the DNA match’s match is descended) and also John McTavish and wife Catherine McArthur’s children.  Now, both of those families did have son’s named Hugh but they both have been accounted for so, there is another Hugh somewhere!


Death Registration for Hugh Robert McTavish – Alberta Archives

My searches have not yielded anything helpful to date.  No marriage registration has been found, no baptism for Hugh Sr. and no death record for Hugh Sr. (he must have died between their arrival in Namao in 1895 and Mary’s re-marriage some time before 1906).  I have combed the death indexes in Alberta for a Hugh McTavish who died between 1895 and 1906 to no avail, he just isn’t listed as having died there.  And, more perplexing is the lack of any census record for him – even searching the Anglicized Thomson name, a given name of William, which is sometimes used in place of Hugh or a broadened age range.  I reviewed the 1871 census page by page, looking for a Hugh or William McTavish or Thomson and there were none of any age.

One interesting item that I did find was a marriage registration for Peter McTavish (son of John and Catherine McArthur) and Sarah McLean (daughter of Neil McLean) dated September 19, 1854.  Both are residents of Erin and witnesses included Archibald McLean and a William McTavish.  One assumes with the same last name, that a witness is a relative of some sort.  I have no record of a William being a part of this family  – perhaps he is the elusive Hugh Sr.?  Also, I have been able to place nephew George Sharp from the 1911 census – he is the son of a McLean sister – Elizabeth who was married to John Sharp and who stayed in the Erin area.  The reference to “cousin” William McLellan could prove interesting – there were a few McLellan’s in the Erin area during the late 1800’s but I haven’t (yet) been able to attach him to a family and establish the connection.  My plan is to keep moving sideways within families to potentially illuminate the proper parents, if only by a process of elimination!

This sideways process is now taking me into Grey County and the village of Priceville.  Stay tuned!

An American who emigrated to Canada via Scotland…

I was very lucky as a child, that my Mother kept a baby book that documented my early years. I know that because I was the eldest, she paid close attention to it, my younger sisters were not so lucky. I think that she was interested in her family history and wanted to make sure that she passed on some of the information to me, through the book. As I became interested in genealogy myself, this book helped me get back into a time where I could find source documents for my ancestors. By naming my eight great-grandparents with each of their birth years and locations, she gifted me with those tools, and I am so grateful.

One great grandparents stood out to me – that was George Everett Scroggie who was born on August 30th, 1888 in St. Louis, Missouri according to her notes. Now, I had heard that George was Scottish and he had lived in Hamilton, Ontario so what is the story behind his birth in Missouri?

In talking with one of my cousins who so luckily is the keeper of the family’s old photos, she mentioned a couple of stories to me about George and his upbringing. She said that George and his siblings were placed in an orphanage after their mother’s death, by their father and his new wife, a “school marm”. The family in Scotland was not happy and sent for the children, bringing them back to Scotland, where they were split up to be raised.  Was there any truth to this story…I intended to find out!

Working backwards, I found a passenger list from March 1899 for the Ship Dominion, that sailed from Boston to Liverpool, carrying passengers Alice (age 14), William (age 11), George (age 9) and Bessie (age 7) Scroggie.

Passenger list 1899

I subsequently found each of the children living with different family members and friends. A death registration for Bessie was then found for August 1900, when she died from acute meningitis at the age of 8 years. Her parents are listed as George Scroggie (Settmaker, deceased) and Alice Marie Cunningham. These parents were also listed on George Everett Scroggie marriage registration from 1920 in Kent County, Ontario and his birth location was specifically Syenite, Farmington County, Missouri.

Bessie Scroggie death 1900 Aberdeen

So, armed with a more specific location as well as parents names, I turned to the US records to do more digging. In the Missouri birth records, I was able to find a registration for Alice Scroggie and William Scroggie but not for George or Bessie. Alice’s registration, dated August 1885, claims that her father Geo. C. Scroggie is 21 years old, born in Scotland and is a paving maker. Her mother is Myra Alice Cunningham, aged 24 years, is an American who was born in St. Francois County, Missouri. The registration was made in Knob Lick, Missouri. So, Alice was born in 1885, William’s registration was for 1886, George’s birth was reportedly 1888 and young Bessie died in 1900 at the age of 8, making her birth year about 1892.

Alice Scroggie register of birth

Moving backwards, a marriage record was found for the marriage license between George C. Scroggie of Syenite, St. Francois, Missouri and Miss Myra Cunningham of the same place.


Other records show that George Catto Scroggie was a stone dresser in Aberdeen, Scotland at the time of the 1881 Census of Scotland. The area of Knob Lick in Missouri was known for its Granite Mountains, and there was a quarry there during the 1880’s. It was run by a Scotsman who reputedly brought many masons from Scotland to work in the quarries. At some point between the 1881 census and his marriage in 1885, George emigrated to the area.


The children left the US in 1899, Bessie died in 1900 and on her registration, it says her father is deceased. So, my hypothesis was that the children left after their father passed away. Deduction says that he must have died between 1892 and 1899. A search of the Missouri death records did not turn up anything. When I opened the search up for a George Scroggie (using soundex), death between 1892 and 1899, I found it. He died on January 4th, 1899 in Douglas, Worcester, Massachusetts at the age of 34 years, 2 months and 10 days. He was a stone cutter, born in Scotland with parents listed as William and Chistina Catto (incorrectly transcribed as Cotter). How and when did he go to Massachusetts? A departure from Boston later that year for the children, does make logistical sense. So, he died and they left.

George C Scroggie death 1899

But my lack of knowledge of Myra Alice Cunningham and her death still plagued me. What had happened to her? A broad search for her across all US records, turned up and 1870 and 1880 census record for her, both in Liberty, St. Francois, Missouri. In 1870, she is 9 years old, is the second of four children to parents Frank (age 35, carpenter, born in Missouri) and Frances (age 30, born in Tennessee). By the 1880 census, her mother Frances (age 40, born in Tennessee) is a widow and there are six children listed (Augustus age 21, Mira age 19, Charles age 15, Frances and Laura both age 10, and Earnest age 6).

1870 census

1870 Census

1880 census

1880 Census

Nothing else was found for her – no birth and no death. And, going sideways in my search and looking for records for her siblings, did not yield a single birth or death registration that might confirm the parents. But a search for Frank Cunningham did produce a couple of key pieces of information – a marriage record from 1858 in St. Francois, Missouri between what is transcribed as Charles B Cummingham and Miss Frances Cantrill. Unfortunately, the scan of the document makes it very difficult to read. Also, several Civil War draft documents and a Civil War pension document for Charles F. Cunningham. According to his Civil War file, he died on December 20, 1875 in Knob Lick. The 1860 census for Liberty, St. Francois, Missouri lists a CF Cunningham (age 25, a carpenter, born in Missouri) with wife Frances (age 21, born in Tennessee) and son A.E. (age 1, born in Missouri) places the family together.

Charles F Cunningham Civil War death

Unable to find anything more about Myra Alice Cunningham on Ancestry, I turned to the Newspaper archives to see if I could find anything. And this is where I hit the jackpot. I was able to find an obituary for her dated August 3, 1893 printed in the Iron County Register in the news section from Graniteville. The notice tells of her death on July 29th, calls her Mrs. Geo Scroggie, aged 33 years, mentions four little children aged from one to nine years and that her brother Everet Cunningham came up for the funeral. It also mentions a lingering illness for two years and a burial in the Middlebrook Cemetery.

Death of Myra Alice Cunnigham Scroggie

A search back in time on Newspapers.com, yielded several articles about her illness, starting in February 1892. Also interesting were several articles published about her husband George in 1892. In one, he is serving on a jury, in another he is leaving for a few months to work and in another he is returning home to visit his family. All during the time that his wife is sick, indicating the working conditions in the quarries at the time.

Now, I know that Myra died in August 1893 and George died in January 1899, where were the kids during this time and is there any record of an orphanage? I contacted the Missouri Historical Society at this point an inquired about an orphanage. For a small fee, they checked the records from “Asylum” – a children’s home at the time. They were able to find several records – the first of which is the admittance of the three older children on August 5th, 1893, only one week after their mother’s death. Interesting how in her obituary, she pleads for her children to be taken care of, and within a week they are admitted to an orphanage. It’s hard not to judge, even though I understand how difficult it would have been for George to care for four little children while working in the quarries. Youngest sister Bessie, would be admitted in October of that same year.

Scroggies admitted to orphanage Aug 5 1893

It also seems that Bessie was “stolen” from the Asylum in November 1893 by her grandmother (suspect Frances Cantrell Cunnigham) and then returned in October 1894. Finally, all the children are sent to their teacher in New York in 1897. No clue as to who the teacher is and if their father George is involved or not.

By looking at various sources, I was able to piece together the timeline and confirm the events that were part of my great grandfather’s early life. He was born in Missouri, his mother died when he was 5 years old, he was placed in a Children’s Asylum, he was released four years later and sent to a teacher in New York, his father died eighteen months later, he was sent back to his father’s native Aberdeen, Scotland where he was raised by an Aunt and Uncle. Within ten years, he had emigrated to Ontario, Canada where he would marry and raise his children. What a circle of life, I am glad to have doggedly continued with the research to learn all of these details!

George Catto Scroggie and Myra Alice Cunnigham family 1892

Scroggie family circa 1892 – l to r – Willie, George Catto, George, Alice, Myra Alice Cunningham and Bessie on her lap.



Exploring the Reavie connection

Margaret Reavie was my great great grandmother and another of my Scottish ancestral lines. I am told by my Aunt, that Margaret’s surname was pronounced “Ray-vee”, the family was very specific about it. My Aunt also recalls spending time in the summer months visiting many of her Reavie cousins in Southwestern Ontario and in Michigan.   Indeed, it was her grandfather Edward James McTavish who was the eldest son of Margaret and her husband James McTavish. It seems that he was close to his siblings and the extended families would find time to get together. In a box of pictures that was given to me a few years ago, there are many of family gatherings from years gone by – unlabeled and therefore, unknown to me. They could be pictures of various Reavie cousins but I fear, I will never know.

James McTavish and Margaret Reavie cropped

James and Margaret Reavie McTavish circa 1875

In my McTavish family history book, written by a distant cousin in 1952, there is a whole section dedicated to the Reavie family. They were inter-twined with the McTavish’s apparently but I have been curious as to where that began and how deep those relations do go. The details in the book are about Archibald McNair who met his future wife Jane Reavie while immigrating from Scotland to Ontario in 1855. The story tells of the two meeting on the ship, falling in love and then marrying after their arrival. After settling first in Hastings County, they made their way West and settled in Ripley, Huron Township in Bruce County. Two of their daughters would marry McTavish men – Mary McNair married George McTavish, son of John McTavish and Margaret Murray, and Sarah McNair married Peter Alexander McTavish , son of Duncan McTavish and Elizabeth Husband. Alexander and Jane are buried in the McKenzie-Lochalsh cemetery right across from Duncan and Elizabeth.

Alexander McNair 1831-1880

And, several Reavie’s would marry McTavish’s too! Of course, Margaret Reavie married James McTavish and her nephew Edward James Reavie would marry James’ niece Libby McTavish – he the son of her brother Edward Reavie and his wife Susan McNeil and she the daughter of his brother John McTavish and his wife Sarah Lofft. There were quite a few Reavie’s and McTavish’s in the census’ for Huron Township in Bruce County! But how were they all related, or were they?

And so my research commenced! A couple of research tips saved me from the very beginning…Reavie was originally McIllreavie back in Scotland and Reavie, pronounced Ray-vee is spelled in so many different ways. I had to use many an asterick to yield the proper search results. I first found a headstone for Margaret, she died in 1877 at the age of 38 years, putting her birth at about 1839. A marriage registration from 1868 in Kincardine, transcribed her name as Margaret Davey. Her parents are listed as Edward and Jane and her age given in 25 years (making her birth year about 1843) and she says she was born in Canada. In the 1871 census, she is found in Bruce County South, is listed with her husband James and newborn Edward James. In this document, she is listed as 30 years old (1841) and born in Ontario. No death registration has been found for her but her name is inscribed on a tombstone in the Ripley cemetery with a death year of 1877 and, that is the last we hear about her.

James McTavish, Margaret Reavie and Ann Jane Reid

So, if Jane Reavie McNair came to Canada in 1852, and Margaret was born sometime around 1840 in Ontario, can these two Reavie women be related? Not sisters, but maybe cousins?

Looking at Canadian records for Jane Reavie did not yield any information on her parents. No ship information (in which she reportedly came with her parents), no marriage registration and although a death registration was found for 1901, her parents are not listed. In the 1861 census, she and Alexander can be found in Elzevir, Hastings with their first three children. Alex McNair (farmer, born Scotland, 38y), Jane (wife of above, born Scotland, age 34y), Neil (born Canada age 4y), Mary (born Canada, age 2y) and Jane (born Canada, age 1y). In that census and surrounding the young McNair family, are numerous Reavie’s. There is a family headed by Archibald Reavie (farmer, born Scotland, age 38y), Margaret (wife of above, born Scotland, age 34y), Margaret (born Canada, age 8y), Elizabeth (born Canada, age 4y), Mary J. (born Canada, age 2y). Also, a family headed by Neil Reavie (farmer, born Scotland, age 25y, single), Mary (born Scotland, age 60y, widow), Betsy (spinster but also a widow, born Scotland, age 35y), Margaret Barber (born Canada, age 6y), Elizabeth Barber (born Canada, age 4y), Mary A. Barber (born Canada, age 2y), Jane Reavie (born Scotland, age 65y), Angus Reavie (labourer, born Scotland, age 20y), Archibald Reavie (farmer, born Scotland, age 65y), Margaret Reavie (wife of above, born Scotland, age 65y) and Neil Reavie (labourer, born Canada, age 20y). What a find and yet, what does it tell me? Sometimes, looking at who is living close by our ancestors can yield the best clues! There are numerous potential parents for Jane listed – Archibald and Margaret? Widow Mary? But, the clues about where and when the children were born would help me narrow things down when looking at records in Scotland.

Hastings 1861 census - Reavie and McNair

Before turning to research in Scotland, I needed to narrow down the location. I did search for deaths for anyone with the last name Reavie in Ripley, Huron, Bruce, Ontario. I came across a death registration for Edward Reavie, born in Durham County, about 1842 who had died in Ripley in 1928. His father is listed as Edward Reavie and mother Mary McConnachie – both parents were born in Argyll, Scotland. Edward Jr., was born in September 1841 in Durham County. His burial was also in the Ripley Cemetery, and it is he who was married to Susan McNeil. From his marriage registration, I learned his parents were Edward and Jane. From this record, I had a location in Ontario of Durham County and I had a county in Scotland of Argyll. I also had a last name of McConnachie for their mother. I then opened up a search for a death in Michigan (based on the summer holidays described by my Aunt) for anyone whose parents were Edward Reavie and Mary Jane McConnachie. I then turned up a death for Jane Rutherford, who died August 26th, 1899 in St. Ignace, Michigan. Her parents were listed as Edward Reavie and Jane McConnachie. When she died, she was 69 years, 2 months and 12 days of age and she was born in Argyll, Scotland. The record also says that she had been married for 26 years and had delivered 8 children, 5 of which were still living. Find a Grave told me that Jane was buried in the Lakeside Cemetery and that she was born June 14th, 1830 and that her husband was Robert Rutherford. All great information that linked my Margaret to brother Edward and sister Jane. Their parents were Edward Reavie and Mary/Jane McConnachie who were from Argyll, Scotland. This gave me plenty of information to do a search on Scotland’s People.

RUT - Jane Reavie Rutherford death 1899 Michigan

A search on that site for a marriage record for Edward McIlreavie (including spelling variations) in Argyll, yielded two results – one for Edward marrying Jean McGeachy on December 14, 1826 in the parish of Killean (he from Killmory, she from Beachmore) and the other, for Edward marrying Jean McConnachie on May 1, 1828 in Killmory, Killean parish. The second one matches the names on the death records from Canada. Insert marriage.

REA - Edward McIlreavy and Jean McCoannchy marriage 1828

Baptisms for this couple were also searched and four were found including Mary in 1829, Jean on June 14, 1831, Peggy in 1833 and Peter in 1834. Other Reavie families having children in Killean at the same time included John and Jean Watson, Neil and Mary McEachin and Archibald and Lizzy McNaught, among others. Interesting, some of the baptisms to Edward and Jean, use a nickname for him of Iver. This, I have found to be a common nickname for Edward over time. Jean’s baptism date of June 14, 1831 matches up with the date of birth claimed on her tombstone and could have been a calculation error or a baptism a year after her birth. The location within Killean for Jean’s birth was Killmory. Interesting to note on the baptismal listing for Jean, the entry just before is for Archibald McIllreavy – lawful son of John and his wife Jean Watson. INSERT There were no other baptisms for Edward “Iver” and Jean after 1834. And, if Margaret and Edward were born in Ontario, Durham specifically in 1839 and 1841 respectively, they must have emigrated around 1835.

REA - Jean Reavie baptism 1831

While on Scotland’s People, I also searched for any baptism for a Jean/Jane Reavie in Argyll between 1825 and 1835. There were four – Janet to Archibald and Lizzy McNaught in 1831 in Killean, Jean to Iver and Jean McConnachie also in the same place and year, Jean to Neil and Mary McEachin in Killean in 1832 and finally, Jean to Donald and Margaret McKellar in 1831 but in Campbeltown. Flashing back to the 1861 census in Hastings County, Alexander and Jane McNair are residing beside Mary Reavie, age 60, a widow. Could Jane Reavie McNair be the daughter of Neil and Mary McEachin?

Since Jane did not come to Canada until 1855, I searched on FindmyPast for census records for the Reavie’s in Killean parish.  In 1841, I found a Mary McEacher (age 40y), Jean McIllravie (age 9y), Nile (age 7y), Catherine (age 5y), Agnes (age 5y), Angus (age 3y) and Betty (age 15y) residing at Beach, Killean, Argyll, Scotland. No Neil is listed and the village of Beach is also known as Bechmore, which is the location for Jean’s birth in 1832, according to the parish records. In the 1851 census, Jean is listed as a house servant in Mid-Muasdale, Killean. A search for other baptisms for Neil and Mary shows that they had Peggy in 1826, Neil in 1833, Kate in 1835 and Angus in 1838. These names are familiar based on the 1861 census. These pieces of information can logically be compiled into a theory – that Edward Reavie and Jean McConnachie are the parents of Jean Reavie Rutherford, Margaret Reavie McTavish and Edward Reavie. This family emigrated to Durham County in about 1835 and these three children made their way to Ripley, Huron, Bruce at some point. And, the Jean Reavie who married Alexander McNair was the daughter of Neil Reavie and Mary McEachin. Neil died some time before 1841 and the family emigrated to Hastings County, Ontario around 1855. Between 1861 and 1871, Alexander and Jane McNair moved to Ripley, Huron, Bruce for unknown reasons.

A search in the Durham County census in 1852 for a Reavie family, gave me two results. One for a John Reive born age 60y (1789) in Scotland, with a wife (Mrs.) also age 60y and born in Scotland and three children – John (age 35y), Janet (age 23y) and James (age 17y) all born in Scotland. The other is for Jean Reive, a widow aged 54y, born in Scotland. Children listed with her are Jane age 18y, born in Scotland, Peter age 16y, born in Scotland, Archibald age 14y, born in Ontario, Margaret age 12y, born in Ontario and Edward age 10y, born in Ontario. This family is three entries away from the family of Duncan and Christian McConnachie.

Durham 1851 census Reive

Looking further back, the 1842 census for Durham County, has a listing (improperly transcribed) for Job Reavie – this is for Ed Reavie. Location, number of children and arrival dates all line up with what is known. Further research on this family finds that eldest daughter Mary, married Duncan Cardis in 1850 and the family also moved to the Ripley area. She is buried in the Pine River Cemetery. Middle son Peter, remained single but is found living with his brother Archibald in St. Ignace, Michigan. Archibald married Elizabeth Currie in 1867, was residing in Ripley in 1871 and then moved to St. Ignace, Michigan where he died in 1915.

I then turned back to Scotland’s People and did a search for Edward Reavie parents. Given a marriage date of 1828, I searched for a baptism in Killean between 1780 and 1810. There was only one Edward or Iver baptized in this time, on August 21, 1798, in Muasdale, Killean. His parents are listed as Archibald McIllreavy and Margaret McNiven.

REA - Edward McIlreavie baptism Muasdale 1798

They were also parents to several other children, including a John born in 1792 but I could find no baptismal record for a Neil Reavie. And, as a result, I cannot prove that my great great grandmother Margaret Reavie McTavish was the cousin of Jean Reavie McNair. In fact, none of this Jane’s family moved to the Huron, Bruce area – only Jane. But, the area was clearly a draw for the McNair’s and I can only conclude that there was a familial tie between the Alexander McNair and the McTavish’s. I know his mother was Mary McTavish, perhaps she was a sister to my 3x great grandfather Duncan McTavish? I will keep searching to find the connection, as I know there is one just waiting to be found.

Cholera Epidemic in Galt 1834

As I sit at my desk on a beautiful, sunny April 2nd, the news is flooded with details of the Coronavirus pandemic of 2020. People around the world are urged to isolate themselves to help slow down the spread of Covid-19. As a genealogist, I cannot help but think about how viruses affected our ancestors. Certainly this is not new, the world has experienced pandemics in the past, but the world in 2020 offers its own challenges.

I was reviewing my family tree, looking for any of my ancestors that were affected by the Spanish Flu in 1918. The Canadian Encyclopedia reports that this epidemic “killed between 20 and 100 million people, including 50,000 Canadians”. There are certainly parallels that can be drawn between these two pandemics that were 102 years apart. In my research, I have yet to find an ancestor that died from the Spanish Flu although there must be stories about how my family was affected.

Digging deeper into my tree, I remembered one of my ancestors dying at a fairly young age due to cholera. This was my fourth great grandfather John Christian Snyder. There is a lovely memorial stone in the Wanner Mennonite Cemetery in Galt that gives some detail on his life and that he died in 1834 of cholera.

John C Snyder and Catherine Shantz memorial stone

Now, to my non-medical knowledge, cholera is not something that one isolated person gets, certainly not in rural Ontario. With a quick Google search for cholera+1834+waterloo, I was introduced to the cholera epidemic of 1834 that swept Ontario and hit the village of Galt, particularly hard. As it turns out, about 20% of the inhabitants of the village, would perish within one week, due to cholera. And, a number of neighbouring villages were also affected. So what happened?

In 1832, cholera was found in Britain. At that time, emigration was increasing to various points around the World. There were many ships that sailed to Canada and made their way down the St. Lawrence as far as York and even Hamilton. Unfortunately, many ships were affected by all kinds of disease, including cholera. Emigrants would disembark and many would make their way up the Brock Road into Wentworth, Waterloo and Wellington counties to reach their final destinations. Of course, they would not only be bringing their families, their belongings, but also sickness.

In the Village of Galt, there was another occurrence that happened in the summer of 1834. That being a stop for a Travelling Menagerie, a pre-cursor to what we know today as a Circus. The Gregory, Crane & Company’s travelling menagerie was to do a show in Galt on July 28th, 1834. As this was a new type of event for citizens, it was an unknown, and it drew interest from people from miles around, bringing them into the Village to see it.



From the History of Galt, by the Hon. James Young, it was described as follows:
“Amusements in the nature of travelling companies were then almost unknown in the new settlement of upper Canada, and the announcement that a menagerie of wild beasts would exhibit in Galt on the 28th of July caused universal interest far and near. For nearly twenty miles around, the coming exhibition was talked about until it became a topic of absorbing interest.” My ancestor was surely one of those drawn in from neighbouring Kossuth to see the show.

On the days leading up to the show, the wagons of animals and performers arrived into the village. The day and the show were further described by Mr. Young to be “intensely warm, in fact a regular scorcher and, from all accounts the collection of wild animals was meagre and the dens and their occupants were extremely filthy. The odour was so marked as to detract seriously from the comfort of the audience, and the entertainment was hardly over when rumours began to prevail that the company had brought the much dreaded disease of cholera with them to the village.”

An article was posted on March 27th, 2020 at www.therecord.com called “Flash from the past: Cholera makes a call in 1834 Galt”. In it, it tells of more than 200 deaths occurring within the one week between July 28th and August 3rd 1834. The show happened on Monday, by Wednesday the two local doctors were so over-wrought with patients that another doctor was called in, and by Thursday, the village was essentially shut down.

In the History of Galt, Young described “the harrowing scenes, which occurred, can never be erased from the memories of those who passed through them. The agony of the stricken, the swiftness of death, the crude board coffins and the hasty burials, in some cases within a few minutes after the last breath was drawn, turned the recently hopeful village into a charnel-house from which many fled in despair, whilst all but a few were paralysed with fear…Such widespread mortality in so small a community and in so brief a space of time recalled the ravages of the plague in London and is almost unprecedented on this continent.”

I am not sure why he was, but I am thankful that John Snyder seems to have been the only victim of this pandemic within his family. On the Waterloo Region Generations website, I can find John C. Snyder listed as one of the victims of this epidemic. He is said to have died on Thursday, July 31st, 1834 – just four days after the show, and at the age of 42 years. Along with this information and a book by Ezra E. Eby called “A Biographical History of Waterloo Township and other Townships of the County: being a history of early settlers and their descendants mostly of Pennsylvania Dutch origin”, I have been able to learn a great deal about my ancestors. John Christian Snyder was born on the 1st of February 1792 in Franklin County, Pennsylvania to parents Christian Schneider (1758-1850) and Elizabeth Erb (1770-1818). He married Catharine Shantz (1792-1854) on September 10,1814 in Waterloo, she the daughter of Christian Shantz (1769-1857) and Hannah Paul (1772-1845). A number of families had emigrated from Pennsylvania to the Waterloo area in the early 1800’s. They were considered to be Pennsylvania Dutch (Deutsch) who had purchased land in the Waterloo Tract and were early pioneers and founders of the area.

John and Catharine would have 9 children during their 20 year union, including by third great grandmother Elizabeth Snyder (1827-1910) who would in 1846, marry Moses Clemens (1825-1892), son of Abraham Clemens and Elizabeth Strohm. The Clemens family was also one of the early pioneer arrivals from Pennsylvania.