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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Not All Genealogy Research Can be Done Online

Lynden asked about births and marriages in Ontario.

I feel like I've hit the "brick wall" looking for information on my spouse's great grandfather, Eugene Herley (Herlihey). I am hoping you can help.  I've scrolled through 100's of marriage and birth files including and Ontariogenealogy  and not finding the marriage (abt 1861-62) of Eugene Herlihey to Mary McNamara. Nor, do I find the birth of their first two children James P (abt 1863) and George Francis (abt 1865).  I've seen marriages and baptisms for other members of his family, but not Eugene.  I'm open to suggestions on where to look next.
Lynden - Ontario did not begin Vital Registrations (of births, marriages and deaths) until 1869. That is why you have not found the ca 1861 marriage and the two births ca 1863 and 1865.

You will have to search alternate sources, which includes church records. I see that you found the family in two early Ontario census records (1851 and 1861). Go back and see what religion they were.

Then check the location where they lived and find out what churches existed for that area in the time period you need. I would then look at Ontario Archives website to determine what, if any, have been microfilmed. You will have to obtain the relevant microfilm(s) and start looking. With any luck you'll find your family!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

A Canadian Case Study Finding Ancestors in 3 Parts

A Canadian Case Study

Michelle (Stephens) Hutchinson sent Olive Tree Genealogy a great puzzler from her family tree. Here is Michelle's email which I've edited slightly for length.
I've hit a bit of a brick wall in my search for my 2nd Great Grandfather William James Stephens, and I was hoping you'd be able to provide some direction. 
 I've told that he may have immigrated from England to Canada due to a scandal with a scullery maid, or that he was hanged as a horse thief.

Over the years, I've been able track down some information about him, but have never been able to get any details about his life before Canada.

William James Stephens, at 28 years old, first shows up in the 1871 census in Essex County Ontario, along with a woman who is most likely his first wife, Elmira at 23 years old.  William's age here is most likely a miscopy, and should have been 26 years instead, as all further records point to a birthday in 1839 or 1840.  I have not been able to track down the marriage certificate for this.

Next, he appears in a marriage record as a Widower in 1875, marrying my 2nd Great Grandmother Annie McLean.  They spent the rest of their lives together in Essex county.  In this marriage record, his parents are listed as John and Bridget Stephens, and his birthplace was England.

I've been able to prove that he was not, in fact, hanged as a horse-thief through his death certificate from 1906 in Essex county.

I haven't been able to find any details about his first wife (Elmira) other than her appearance on the 1871 census... and can't confirm if she came over with him or if she met him in Canada

So the questions I'm trying to answer are:

1) Who was Elmira?

2) Where was William James Stephens living in England before his immigration to Canada?

3) Was there in fact any controversy in his life?

Could you offer any suggestions on how to answer these three questions?
Michelle - 

Thank you for outlining what you have found and what you want to know. That's a great help when posting a query. I can answer question #1 as I've found the marriage record of Elmira and your great grandfather William James Stephens and several other records concerning her. I believe I may also have found William's parents but that find needs to be verified.
Please see Part1, Part 2 and Part 3 to follow along as I researched  this fascinating and challenging query. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Relationship Calculator

Many genealogists find figuring out relationships of one person to another or to themeselves, very challenging. Understanding generations removed and degrees of cousinship can also prove a challenge. Harold asked a question that illlustrates the difficulty

I'am trying to figure out a relationship.
My grandmothers, has a sister , she had a daughter who has a child what is the relationship to me.

There are many websites online that explain relationships and degrees of cousinship and so on. But I simply went to Steve Morse's One-Step Relationship Calculator and punched in, one at a time, exactly the relationships Harold outlined above.

You simply press the buttons one at a time to indicate the relationship of one person to the next. So it is Harold's mother, then his mother's mother (his grandma), then his mother's mother's sister and so on like this:

Mother \ Mother (his mother's mother) \ sister (sister to his grandmother) \ daughter \ child

And the answer popped up as

2nd cousin

There you go Harold. That child is your second cousin.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Finding an Ancestor in Canadian Records

Carole asked Olive Tree Genealogy some questions about her Johnson ancestors who settled in Ontario Canada from England. I've edited Carol's email slightly:

William Johnson, born 1821 in Lancashire, England; died 1908 in Varna, Ontario.  Occupation, carpenter. [He married] Mary McQuarrie Johnson, born 1825 in Ireland; died 1912, in Varna.
William Johnson's parents were Thomas Johnson and Jane Martin Johnson Mary McQuarrie's parents were Andrew McQuarrie and Mary (maiden name unknown)
I have no further information concerning my Johnson and McQuarrie forebears.  Any help you might be able to provide will be greatly appreciated, including dates of migration to Canada and the ships on which they migrated. 
AskOliveTree response: Carole,  I hope you have gathered all the census records available for your family. Since Ontario and England took their census every 10 years in the same year starting with 1841, you should be able to find William in 1841 England, then 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891 and 1901 in Ontario.

I use but you can also find some Canadian  census records on Automated Genealogy, FamilySearch and National Archives of Canada

I've suggested these years and locations based on the 1861 census for Stanley Township in Huron County where I found the family with their oldest child age 13 born in Canada. We know from this record that William and Mary were married and living in Ontario by circa 1848.
Questions Asked on Census Records
Each of those records will provide you with clues to further research such as occupation, religion and so on.  The 1901 census for example asks for a year of immigration to the country and this will narrow your timeline for William's arrival.

For a list of what questions were asked on each of those census years, see

Agricultural Census Records - Don't Overlook These!
An important and often over-looked resource of the 1851, 1861 and 1871 census in Ontario is the Agricultural Census. This shows the exact land location of an individual, how many acres he had, how many were cultivated, what he grew on the land and so on.

For help with the Agricultural census you may want to refer to my blog posts on Finding Ancestors on 1851 Agricultural Census Canada and Ancestry Goof with 1861 Canadian Census

 I suggest searching the Agricultural Census for three reasons - first you will learn more details about your ancestor if you find him, and that means you're getting a better sense of the person other than names and dates. Secondly finding his exact land location (Lot and Concession Number) means you can branch out to searching the Abstract Indexes to Deeds, the Township Papers and more.

Land Records Are Useful

Each of these records has different information. The Abstract Indexes for example will give you dates for when your ancestor first purchased his land and when he was last living on it (sold or transferred it to another individual) Sometimes you will find references to other family members, or even a will.

The last reason is that your William is listed as a farmer in 1861, 1881, and 1891. I'm not sure why you gave his occupation as "carpenter" in your email to me but perhaps he showed that occupation on a census I didn't check? It is a pretty big occupation discrepancy though so I'm a bit puzzled by it.

Farmers usually owned their own land so he is almost certain to be found on the Agricultural Census records.

Ships Passenger Lists & Immigration Records

From the 1901 census we are told that William immigrated in 1845 while Mary says she immigrated in 1843. Since Canada did not require that ships passenger lists be kept before 1865, this will be a challenge for you to find records of their passage. Surviving lists are few and far between. What has survived are other records such as immigration agent records, shipping company records, steamship records of travel down the St. Lawrence River from Ports of Arrival in Canada - and those records are what you will need to search in.

Some of these alternate ship records are online and links to all known substitute records, offline and online, can be found at Filling in the Gaps on Olive Tree Genealogy website. This is where your search for their immigration should start.