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Saturday, October 31, 2009

Searching male relatives to find a female ancestor

Ti'ms Question:
My 3rd great grandmother, Eliza Ann Leeson came to Canada from Ireland to settle in Wolford/Kitley Township, Leeds/Grenville County, Ontario. Family trees indicate she was born abt 1816. She married John Kinch.

Samuel Leeson signed a marriage bond on behalf of his sister Elizabeth. The bond was for 200 pounds, a very sizeable sum, not what most farmers would be able to afford. Samuel’s signature shows that he had excellent penmanship, an indication that Samuel had been well educated.

The Leesons first appeared in 1832 of Wolford Township, Grenville County, Ontario. Samuel, Joseph and Richard were listed as heads of households living on the same lot. The census also indicated that their households contained a total of 2 males under 16, 7 males over 16 and 4 females over 16. It seems safe to assume that only Joseph and Samuel were married at this time. This appears to indicate that the Leeson family was composed of seven brothers, two sisters, two wives and two young sons. Or alternatively, six brothers, two sisters, two wives, one husband and two young sons.

Richard indicated in the 1842 census that he had come to Canada in 1832. Joseph’s son Woodman was born in 1831 in Ireland , also indicating that Joseph Leeson did not come to Canada until 1832.

On the 7 Jun 1832, Samuel Leeson petitioned the Rev. Corporation for Superintending and Managing the Clergy Reserves in Upper Canada for the right to purchase W1/2 of Lot 29 Con 3 in Wolford. His petition indicated the property was currently vacant and that it was a clergy reserve. In 1840, Samuel was given the right to purchase the property.

In 1842, Joseph, Samuel, Brice and Winfield were still living as neighbours in Wolford on Lot 29, Con 3. Richard had married and was now living in Kitley, just down the road. By 1849, Brice had moved to Seymour and then later onto Cardiff . By 1851, Winfield had moved to Wisconsin. Joseph and Samuel remained in Wolford until their deaths

One of the stories that other descendants have is that 8 children made the trip with their parents. The father died on ship, the mother died shortly after landing in Quebec. My question is how do I find out (If I can) who Eliza's parents were. I'm at a roadblock which I have no idea where to go from here.

Olive Tree Answer:
Dear Tim - What a lot of information you have on Eliza's family! You have proven one brother - Samuel. You don't say how you know that Richard and Joseph are also brothers, but if you are correct (i.e., if you have proof they are all siblings of Eliza) then you are in luck. Often it is quite difficult to trace a female ancestor and when we have such a stumbling block, we should turn to the males. In this case you have 3 brothers to trace.

I would look for the brother's obituaries, their death registrations and marriage records for clues as to their parents' names. It would be wonderful if you found a ships passenger list for the whole family but your time period is a challenging one, for Canadian ships manifests did not have to be archived until 1865. However, many lists did survive, and as well, there are other substitute records one can use, such as passage for immigrants down the St. Lawrence to their final destination, or Emigrant Agents' Records and even Shipping Company Records.

It looks like you need early 1830s records and these online projects may be of help. You can check the St. Lawrence Steamboat Co. Passenger Records 1819-1836 at

The Hawke Papers, letterbooks of Chief Emigrant Agent Anthony B. Hawke are available at the Archives of Ontario. They cover the years 1831 to 1892. See the searchable database for years 1865 - 1883 at For the earlier years you must consult the microfilm. There are also Alms House Admission Foreigners & Nativity Records with Ships Names 1819 - 1840 online. It includes individuals who had sailed into Canada first then ended up in New York

If you are looking for Irish ancestors, you may want to search the online database Immigrants at Grosse-Île at You can also request a lookup in Index of Passengers Who Emigrated to Canada between 1817 and 1849.

There is also Irish Canadian Emigration Records, 1823-1849 available on This database contains various records and reports of Canadian emigration agents James Allison and A.J. Buchanan.

You may also want to consult the list of online projects (and links to them) at Filling in the Gaps in Ships Passenger Lists to Canada Look for the 2 column chart near the top of the page, and read carefully to find what is available before 1865 (on the left side of the chart)

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