The Baptism of Nellie Walsh

Every spring, right around St. Patrick’s Day, I have an urge to research my Irish Canadian ancestors. Although my research time has been rather limited lately, this past weekend I decided I would treat myself. I had a very specific goal in mind: I wanted to find the baptismal record for Ellen M. “Nellie” Walsh, sister to my great-great-grandfather, Henry Walsh. I’ve written about my Walsh family in St. Catharines, Ontario, previously. Nellie was among the younger children of Robert Walsh, an Irish-born tailor, and his Canadian-born wife, Elizabeth Hodgkinson, who was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of Loyalists. Although Elizabeth was Protestant, three of the youngest four Walsh children were baptized in the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria in St. Catharines, and it seems likely that Robert and Elizabeth were married there as well. The parish was certainly in existence circa 1840 when the Walshes were married, but unfortunately, early records were destroyed when an arsonist burned down the original wooden church in 1842.1 No one seems to know what became of the records created after the fire, between 1842 and 1851. The earliest records that have survived date back to 1852 (baptisms and marriages only). Apparently, duplicate copies of the parish registers were never made, and neither the parish itself, nor the archives for the dioceses of Toronto (to which the parish belonged before 1958) or St. Catharines (to which the parish belonged after 1958) is in possession of any records from before 1852.2,3,4

The oldest Walsh children — B. Maria, James George, Henry, Mary Ann, and Robert — were all born prior to 1852, so if they were baptized at the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria, their baptismal records would unfortunately be included in that missing batch of records dated between 1842 and 1851. However, the younger Walsh children — Elizabeth, Ellen (Nellie), Thomas, and Joseph — were all born between 1854 and 1861, within the range of dates for which baptismal records still exist for the Cathedral. There was plenty of evidence based on census records and other documents for the dates of birth of each of them, and in fact, baptismal records for Elizabeth, Thomas and Joseph, were quickly discovered in a previous round of research. Nellie, however, remained elusive. Why might that be?

Quite simply, I wasn’t sufficiently broad in my search the first time I looked for her. The province of Ontario did not begin civil birth registration until 1869,5 prior to Nellie’s birth, so the most precise evidence I had for her date of birth came from the 1900 U.S. census (Figure 1).6

Figure 1: Extract from 1900 U.S. census for Buffalo, New York, showing Nellie Devere in the household of Charles Devere.6Nellie Devere 1900 census

Like many members of the Walsh family, Nellie M. Devere and her husband, Charles Devere, had a habit of migrating back and forth between St. Catharines and Buffalo, New York. In 1900, they were found living in Buffalo, and in the census that year they reported that they immigrated to the U.S. in 1883. Nellie was reported to be 42 years old and married to her husband for 17 years, which suggests that they married just prior to their move to the U.S. Nellie was reported to have no living children, nor any children who had died prior to the census. She was born in Canada, of an Irish-born father and Canadian-born mother, consistent with established facts. Her mother, Elizabeth Welsh (sic) appears in the next line, recorded as mother-in-law to head-of-household Charles Devere. Most germane to the current question is Nellie’s date of birth, which was recorded as December 1857.

When I discovered baptismal records for Nellie’s siblings, I had employed a targeted approach, starting my search a month or so before the individual’s date of birth as established from existing evidence. In the case of Nellie’s siblings, this strategy worked very well, and I was able to locate their birth records quickly, since they were accurate reporters of their own dates of birth in later years. However, Nellie was not born in December of 1857, as was stated in the 1900 census. In my first pass through the baptismal records, I searched for Nellie from December 1857 all the way up through December 1858, but did not find her. At the time, I didn’t worry too much about it, but instead skipped ahead to find baptismal records for her brothers in February 1859 and February 1861.

At that point, life moved on, as it usually does, and Nellie was put on the back burner until this past weekend, when I decided to take a fresh look at those records from the Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria. I wanted to find Nellie’s baptism, but this time, I also wanted to cast a wider net, making note of all the Walsh baptisms and marriages that took place in this parish. (In this earliest parish register, records of marriages and baptisms were mixed in together in chronological order.) Ultimately, I want to see if there are any obvious connections between Walsh family groups in this parish, and I’d like to obtain information about their places of origin in Ireland, with an eye toward determining where in Ireland my own ancestors were from. While that part of my research is ongoing, my short-term goal was realized as I discovered Nellie’s baptism in the records from August 1857 (Figure 2).7

Figure 2: Baptismal record from St. Catharines, Ontario for Ellenor (sic) Margaret Walsh, born 24 December 1856.7Baptism Eleanor Walsh

Ellenor Margaret was born on Christmas Eve in 1856 but not baptized until August of the following year. Her date of birth was exactly one year earlier than what was reported in the 1900 census. All it took was a more thorough review of the records to find it.

What a nice way to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day!

Sources:

Roman Catholic Diocese of Saint Catharines,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org, accessed 19 March 2018.

Price, Rev. Brian, Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Kingston, e-mail message to the author, July 7, 2016.

Sweetapple, Lori, Archives of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto, e-mail message to the author, July 11, 2016.

Wilson-Zorzetto, Liz, Archives of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Catharines, e-mail message to the author, July 14, 2016.

5 “Ontario Civil Registration (National Institute),” FamilySearch, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 20 March 2018.

“United States Census, 1900,” database with images, Nellie M. Devere, line 42, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HT-DTL8-36?cc=1325221&wc=9BQG-JW1%3A1030551901%2C1033310401%2C1034132801 : 5 August 2014), New York > Erie > ED 212 Election District 7 Buffalo city Ward 24 > image 5 of 8; citing NARA microfilm publication T623 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

7 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1857, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, “Baptism Ellenor Walsh,” accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: 17 March 2018), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines, > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria, > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 . image 72 of 104.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2018

Where Were Your Ancestors in 1857?

Genealogists often think in terms of family timelines, tracing one particular family line through many generations. However, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to examine my family tree in cross section. That is, what was happening in each of my family lines in the year 1857? I chose that year because I wrote recently about my 3x-great-grandparents’s marriage in Roding, Bavaria in 1857, and that got me wondering what my other ancestors were doing in that same year, and where they were living around the world. It turns out this is a pretty useful (and fun!) exercise. I gained new insights into each family group, and it also served to point out deficiencies in my research, and families that I’ve neglected, that I should perhaps plan to spend more time on in 2018. Here, then, is a summary of my ancestral couples who were alive at that time. Although the map in the featured image is not “clickable,” you can use this link to explore that map in greater depth, if you’d like.

Maternal grandfather’s line

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents, Michał Zieliński and Antonia (née Ciećwierz) Zielińska, were living in the village of Mistrzewice in Sochaczew County in what was at that time the Królestwo Polskie or Kingdom of Poland, which officially had some autonomy, but was in reality a puppet state of the Russian Empire. They’d been married about four years, although I don’t know the precise date of their marriage because 19th century records for Mistrzewice prior to 1859 were largely destroyed. Michał and Antonina had one daughter, Zofia, who was about 2, and Michał supported his family as a gospodarz, a farmer who owned his own land.1

Meanwhile, in the nearby village of Budy Stare, Sochaczew County, my 3x-great-grandparents Roch Kalota and Agata (née Kurowska) Kalota welcomed their (probably) oldest daughter, my great-great-grandmother, Marianna Kalota, who was born circa 1857. Again, the destruction of records has been a problem for researching this line, but available records tell us that Roch Kalota, too, was a farmer.2

In the south of Poland in 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents on my Klaus line had not yet married. Jakub Klaus was the son of Wawrzyniec (Lawrence) Klaus and Anna Żala or Żola. He was a young man already 27 years of age, but he did not marry his wife, Franciszka, until 1860.Franciszka Liguz was the daughter of Wawrzyniec Liguz and Małgorzata Warzecha, age 21 in 1857. Both Franciszka and her husband-to-be, Jakub, lived in the village of Maniów in Dąbrowa County in the Galicia region of the Austrian Empire, and Jakub was described as a famulus, or servant.

Still further south in what is now Poland, my 3x-great-grandparents Jakub Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz were 4 years away from their eventual wedding date.4 In 1857, Jakub was a 22-year-old shoemaker from the village of Kołaczyce in Jasło County in the Austrian Empire, and Anna was the 23-year-old daughter of a shoemaker from the same village.

Maternal grandmother’s line

Heading further north again in Poland, back into Sochaczew County in Russian Poland, my 2x-great-grandparents Ignacy and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycki were about 8 years into their marriage, raising their family in the village of Bronisławy. By 1857, they had three children for whom birth records have been discovered, Marianna,5 Paulina,and Tomasz.7 Ignacy was a land-owning farmer who was born in the nearby village of Szwarocin,8 but his wife Antonina’s place of birth remains a mystery.

Moving west now, in 1857 my 3x-great-grandparents Stanisław and Jadwiga (née Dąbrowska) Grzesiak were living in Kowalewo Opactwo, a village that was located in Słupca County at the far western edge of the Russian Empire, within walking distance of the border with Prussia. Ages 51 and 41, respectively, they were already parents to 12 of their 13 children. Stanisław was usually described as a shepherd or a tenant farmer.9

In the nearby town of Zagórów, my 3x-great-grandmother, Wiktoria (née Dębowska) Krawczyńska was living as a 53-year-old widow, having lost her husband Antoni Krawczyński 10 years earlier.10 Antoni had been a shoemaker, and he and Wiktoria were the parents of 8 children, of whom 4 died in infancy. By 1857, the surviving children ranged in age from 27 to 14 — the youngest being my great-great-grandmother, Marianna Krawczyńska.

Paternal grandfather’s line

Meanwhile, in Detroit, Michigan, my 3x-great-grandparents Michael Ruppert and Maria Magdalena Causin were newlyweds in 1857, having married on 12 May of that year.11 Michael had immigrated to the U.S. just four years earlier, at the age of 19, with his parents and siblings.12 The Rupperts were from the village of Heßloch in the Grand Duchy of Hesse-Darmstadt, or what is now Alzey-Worms district in Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.13 Michael was a carpenter, and he and his family had already begun to use the surname Roberts.14 His wife Maria Magdalena Causin/Casin/Curzon is a bit of a mystery, and will likely be the subject of future blog post, because she doesn’t show up in the records until her marriage in 1857, and her parents’ names are not on her marriage or death records.

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Henry and Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner and were also living in Detroit, had been married for 2 years and were parents to their first child, John Wagner.15 Henry was a teamster who had arrived in Detroit about 3 years previously along with his parents and siblings, all immigrants from the village of Roßdorf in the Electorate of Hesse, a state within the German Confederation.16  This was a first marriage for Henry, but a second marriage for Catherine, since she was a young widow after the death of her first husband, Victor Dellinger or Dalmgher.17 In addition to burying her husband some time between 1850-1855, it appears that both of Catherine’s children from that first marriage 18 also died young, since they were not mentioned in the 1860 census in the household of Henry and Catherine Wagner. Catherine herself was an immigrant from Steinsoultz, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, who came to Detroit with her parents and siblings some time between 1830 and 1834.

Across the border and some 225 miles to the east, my 3x-great-grandparents Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh made their home in St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada. In 1857, Elizabeth Walsh was a 39-year-old mother of 5, pregnant with her 6th child, Ellen, who was born in December of that year.19 Elizabeth was the granddaughter and great-granddaughter of United Empire Loyalists, so her family were among the first settlers in St. Catharines. Her husband, Robert Walsh, was a 49-year-old tailor from Ireland whose family origins have proven to be more elusive than his wife’s.

Also living in St. Catharines were my 3x-great-grandparents, Robert and Catherine Dodds. In 1857, Robert was a 40-year-old immigrant from England, usually described as a laborer or farm laborer. Nothing is known about Robert’s family of origin. He married his wife, Catherine, circa 1840, and by 1857 they were the parents of three daughters and three sons.20 Catherine’s origins, and even her maiden name, are unclear. There is evidence that she was born circa 1818 in Martintown, Glengarry, Ontario to parents who were Scottish immigrants or of Scottish extraction, but no birth record or marriage record has yet been discovered for her.

Paternal grandmother’s line

Jacob and Catherine (née Rogg or Rock) Böhringer, my 3x-great-grandparents, were German immigrants from the Black Forest, having lived in the village of Gündelwangen in the Grand Duchy of Baden21 prior to their migration to Buffalo, New York in 1848.22 By 1857, Catherine and Jacob had already buried three of their seven children, including oldest daughter Maria Bertha, who was born in Germany and apparently died on the voyage to America. Jacob was a joiner or a cabinet maker.23

In 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Joseph Murre and Walburga Maurer were still about 5 years away from their eventual wedding date. They were born and married in Bavaria, Germany, although I have yet to discover their specific place of origin. I don’t know the names of the parents of either Joseph or Walburga. Joseph was a woodworker who was employed in a planing mill in Buffalo, New York in 1870 24 and was later listed as a carpenter in the Buffalo city directory in 1890. He and Walburga arrived in New York on 3 April 1869 with their children Maria, Anna and Johann.25

In October 1857, my 3x-great-grandparents Johann Meier and Anna Maria Urban were married in the parish church in Roding, Bavaria.26 Their first child, Johann Evangelista Meier, was born out of wedlock two years previously although the father was named on the baptismal record with a note that the child was subsequently legitimized. Johann and Anna Maria would go on to have a total of 10 children, 3 of whom migrated to Buffalo, New York.

In 1857, my 4x-great-grandparents, Ulrich Götz or Goetz and Josephine Zinger, were living somewhere in Bavaria and raising their 4-year-old son, Carl Götz, who was my 3x-great-grandfather. Almost nothing is known of this family, including where they lived in Bavaria or the names of Carl’s siblings. Carl grew up to be the second husband of a much older wife, Julia Anna Bäumler, who was already 19 in 1857. Julia had at least one child from a previous relationship, a son, John George Bäumler, who was born in 1858. Julia and Carl married in Bavaria circa 1875, a development which may or may not have influenced John Bäumler’s decision to emigrate from Bavaria to Buffalo, New York in 1876.28 Julia gave birth to her only child with Carl, Anna Götz (my great-great-grandmother), in 1877, and the Götz family eventually followed John Bäumler to Buffalo in 1883. Julia Götz’s death record states that she was born in “Schlattine, Bavaria,” which suggests the village of Schlattein in Neustadt an der Waldnaab, Bavaria, but further research is needed to confirm this location.

So there you have it: a summary of where my ancestors were in the world, and in their lives, in the year 1857. But what about your ancestors? Where were they living, and what were they doing? Is there a more interesting year for your family than 1857? Choose a different year, and tell me your ancestors’ stories!

Selected Sources:

Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mistrzewicach, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl, 1875, Małżeństwa, #2, record for Zofia Zielińska and Piotr Malinowski, accessed on 10 November 2017.

2 Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Mlodzieszynie, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.genealodzy.pl, Księga zgonów 1889-1901, 1895, #59, death record for Wojciech Kalota, accessed on 10 November 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary Magdalene parish (Szczucin, Dąbrowa, Małopolskie, Poland), Księgi metrykalne, 1786-1988, Akta małżeństw 1786-1988, Maniów, 1860, 16 September, marriage record for Jacobus Klaus and Francisca Liguz, Family History Library film # 1958428 Items 7-8.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Anne’s Parish (Kołaczyce, Jasło, Podkarpackie, Poland), Śluby, 1826-1889, Stare Kopie, 1861, #11, marriage record for Jacobus Łącki and Anna Ptaszkiewicz.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1845-1854, 1850, #48, baptismal record for Maryanna Zarzycka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1845-1854, 1853, #60, baptismal record for Paulina Zarzycka.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń, 1855-1862, 1856, #48, baptismal record for Tomasz Zarzecki.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1828, #34, baptismal record for Ignacy Zarzycki.

Akta stanu cywilnego Parafii Rzymskokatolickiej Kowalewo-Opactwo (pow. słupecki), 1832, marriages, #14, record for Stanisław Grzesiak and Jadwiga Dąbrowska, Szukajwarchiwach, http://www.szukajwarchiwach.pl/, accessed 17 November 2017.

10 Roman Catholic Church, Zagórów parish (Zagórów (Słupca), Poznań, Poland), Kopie księg metrykalnych, 1808-1947, 1843, #137, death record for Antoni Krawczyński.; FHL film #2162134, Item 1, Akta zgonów 1844-1849.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s parish (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA), “Marriages”, 1857, #15, marriage record for Michael Ruppert and Magdalena Causin.

12 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (index and image), record for Franz, Catherine, Michael, Arnold, and Catherine Rupard, S.S. William Tell, arrived 4 March 1853, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 123; Line: 51; List Number: 146, accessed 17 November 2017.

13 Roman Catholic Church (Heßloch (Kr. Worms), Hesse, Germany), Kirchenbuch, 1715-1876, 1834, baptismal record for Michael Ruppert, FHL film #948719.

14 1860 U.S. Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, p. 142, Michael Roberts and Frank Roberts households, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

15 Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940, database, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, FamilySearch, (https://familysearch.org), database with images, 1855, #11, record for Henry Wagner and Catherine Dellinger, accessed 17 November 2017.

16 New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry, Cath., August, Johnny, Gertrude, and Marianne WagnerS.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, arrived 29 September 1853 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 12; List Number: 1010,  http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

17 Michigan, County Marriages, 1820-1940,  (images and transcriptions), Wayne County, marriage certificates, 1842-1848, v. B, #1733, marriage record for Victor Dellinger and Catherine Grenzinger, 3 February 1846,  FamilySearch, https://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

18 1850 U.S. Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, page 156B and 157, Victor Dalmgher household, http://ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.  

19 Census of 1861, database, Library and Archives Canada, St. Catharines, Lincoln, Canada West (Ontario), Robert Walsh household, item number 2721097, accessed 17 November 2017.

 20 Census of 1861, database, Library and Archives Canada, Grantham, Lincoln, Canada West (Ontario), Library and Archives Canada, Robert Dodds household, Item number 1884852, accessed 17 November 2017.

21 Roman Catholic Church, Gündelwangen parish (Gündelwangen, Waldshut, Freiburg, Baden-Württemberg, Germany), Kirchenbuchduplikat, 1810-1869, 1847, baptisms, #4, record for Maria Bertha Rogg, p. 165, with addendum on page 171, Family History Library film #1055226.

22 Passenger and Immigration Lists, 1820-1850,  record for Jacob Behringer, Catherine, and Marie Behringer, S.S. Admiral, arrived 4 November 1848 in New York, http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

23 1860 United States Federal Census (population schedule), 7th Ward Buffalo, Erie, New York, p. 77, Jacob Barringer household, http://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

24 1860 United States Federal Census (population schedule), 7th Ward Buffalo, Erie, New York, p. 73, Joseph Murri household, http://familysearch.org, accessed 17 November 2017.

25 Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Joseph, Walburga, Anna, Marie, and Johann Muri, S.S. Hansa, arrived 3 April 1869 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 308; Line: 38; List Number: 292. http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

26 BZAR, Roman Catholic Church, St. Pancrus parish (Roding, Cham, Oberpfalz, Germany), Marriage record for Johann Maier and Anna M. Urban, 27 October 1857, Vol. 27, page 3 MF 573.

271900 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Buffalo, Erie, New York, E.D. 107, Sheet 16B, Charles Goetz household, https://.ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

28 1900 United States Federal Census (population schedule), Gainesville, Wyoming, New York, E.D. 122, Sheet 9A, John Baumler household, https://.ancestry.com, subscription database, accessed 17 November 2017.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017

On Research Distractions and Why a Good Archivist Can Be Your Best Friend

I’ve never been one of those family historians who likes to stick to researching just one family line until it’s “complete” and then start another line.  For one thing, in our hobby, each answer (i.e. a person’s name) leads to two more questions (his or her parents’ names).  Sometimes a new bit of data can turn up unexpectedly, which prompts me to drop the research I’d been working on and follow the new trail for a while to see where it leads.  This tendency toward distraction is sometimes referred to as “genealogical ADD,” and there are plenty of internet memes which suggest that this is a good way to waste a lot of time with little to show for it in the end.  However, I often find that taking a break from a line and coming back to it later helps me to see the research with fresh eyes, allowing me to make new connections in the data that I’d missed previously.

I’ve discovered that the secret to making progress while jumping around in my research is to keep good research notes.  I use Family Tree Maker, which currently offers options for both “person notes” and “research notes.”  I use this section to keep a research journal, where I analyze my data, brainstorm hypotheses, plan my next steps, and keep track of phone calls and correspondence with archives, collaborators, churches, cemetery offices, etc.  Sometimes it takes time before a reply is received, so rather than sitting by the phone with bated breath, I move on to other research tasks.

The other day, something prompted me to take a look at where I’d left things with my Dodds line from St. Catharines, Ontario.  Robert Dodds was one of my great-great-great-grandfathers on my Dad’s side of the family, born in England on 28 January 1817, according to the 1901 Census of Canada.  He died on 16 August 1906, according to his civil death certificate, and is buried in St. Catharines in Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Section G.  Unfortunately, this civil death certificate does not reveal Robert’s parents’ names, which I need to know in order to further my research.  His marriage record might also mention his parents’ names, but unfortunately, that’s been difficult to locate as well.

Robert married Catherine, whose maiden name has been variously reported as Irving1 or Grant.2  Most sources agree that Catherine was born in Ontario of Scottish parents, rather than having herself been born in Scotland, as suggested by the death record of her daughter (my great-great-grandmother), Martha Agnes (née Dodds) Walsh.1  Robert and Catherine probably married circa 1839-1840, since their oldest daughter, Hannah Dodds, was born 20 January 1841. However, early records for Upper Canada/Canada West are very spotty, as many did not survive, and it’s not clear exactly where Robert and Catherine married, or even in what faith.

Robert Dodds reported his faith as Methodist in 1861, Church of England in 1871,  Methodist in 1881, and Church of England again in 1891 and 1901.  Catherine Dodds reported her faith as Methodist in 1861, Presbyterian in 1871, and she died in 1872.  Rather conveniently, the Methodist and most of the Presbyterian churches in Canada merged with some other Protestant faiths in 1925 to become the United Church of Canada, so their archive is an obvious place to check for the marriage record.  About 30% of the Presbyterian churches in Canada chose not to participate in this merger, and these non-concurring or continuing Presbyterian churches became the Presbyterian Church in Canada.  Again, their archive is another obvious place to check.  However, many congregations have retained their own records instead of sending them to the archives, so it’s important to know where the marriage took place.

This brings me to the second problem, determining where they married.  It’s common to use census records to track the movement of families and individuals, but unfortunately, the first time we see Robert and Catherine in the census is in 1861, when they are living in Grantham and are already the parents of seven children.  As mentioned previously, it’s likely that Robert and Catherine were married circa 1840, so the 1842 Census for Canada West would be an obvious place to search for the young family to see if they were already in Grantham at that point, or if they were elsewhere in the province.  Unfortunately, most of the returns for this census did not survive, including those for Lincoln, Elgin, and Glengarry Counties, which are the three counties associated with this family based on other records. The situation is not much better with the 1851 Census. As luck would have it, and despite the fact that many returns for the Lincoln District did survive, the returns for the Township of Grantham and the City of St. Catharines did not.

By 1871, the family had moved to Yarmouth Township in Elgin County, where Catherine died in 1872 and is buried in Union Cemetery.  Her grave transcription reads, “DODDS /  In Memory of /  Catharine /  wife of /  Robert DODDS /  died /  June 12, 1872 /  aged 54 yrs. 1 month & 22 days.  /  My children dear assemble here  /  A mother’s grave to see  /  Not long age I dwell with you  /  But soon you’l dwell with me.”  (I find that transcription especially compelling in a morbid sort of way.)  Catherine’s death certificate states that she was born in “Martin Town,” that she was Presbyterian, and that she died at the age of 53, which would suggest a birth year of 1819.  Her grave marker suggests a birth date of 20 April 1818.  “Martin Town” points clearly to Martintown, Glengarry County, Ontario, a place settled by immigrants from the Scottish Highlands, which is consistent with what we know of Catherine’s Scottish parentage.

The original Presbyterian Church that served Martintown was St. Andrew’s in Williamstown.  Marriage records for this church are indexed here for the time period from 1779 to 1914 “with a couple of gaps.”3  However, closer inspection reveals that there are no marriage records past 1815.  In fact, this index seems to correspond to the collection of St. Andrew’s church records available on microfilm from the LDS, which exhibits the same gap from 1818 until 1855.  And as luck would have it, that gap neatly encompasses both Catherine’s birth record, circa 1818, as well as the record of her marriage, if it took place in this parish, circa 1840.  So at this point, we can’t say whether the negative result is because the record no longer exists, or because Robert and Catherine Dodds did not marry in this parish.  For kicks, I checked all the indexed births, marriages and deaths for the surnames Grant and Irving, even though the particular range of years I need is not available.   Interestingly, I discovered that the surname Irving does not exist anywhere in these indexed records, although the surname Grant is quite common in the parish.

So where does that leave us?  Well, at this point, I still don’t know where Catherine and Robert might have met and married.  It might have been at St. Andrew’s in Williamstown, but if that’s the case, then the record may no longer exist.  I still don’t know Catherine’s parents’ names, although the data seem to point toward Grant as a more likely candidate for her maiden name than Irving.  But even in the absence of birth and marriage records, it occurred to me that I could still try to find church burial records for both Catherine and Robert, and perhaps by some miracle, these might contain their parents’ names, even though the civil death records did not.

I struck out fast with Catherine’s death record.  I contacted Union United Church, which is the descendant of the original Union Wesleyan Methodist Church which operates the cemetery in which Catherine was buried, to inquire about burial records.  Unfortunately, I was told that they, “have no records that date that far back any longer either.”4  Robert’s church death record seemed a bit more promising, as there were a number of Anglican churches in St. Catherines by the time of his death in 1906.  To help me determine which one might have his death record, I telephoned Victoria Lawn Cemetery, where he is buried.  The secretary was very helpful.  She informed me that Robert Dodds’ interment was handled by MacIntyre Funeral Home, and “Rev. R. Kerr” was the pastor who performed the services.  A quick Google search shows that Rev. Robert Kerr (or Ker) was the rector of St. George Anglican Church in St. Catharines.  A bit more digging revealed that burial records from St. George have been microfilmed and are available from the archive at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.  I contacted them immediately to inquire about obtaining a look-up.

And that was when “real life” and other research pulled me away, and I put my Dodds line on the back burner again.  I wrote that e-mail to the archivists at McMaster University back on 4 September 2014, almost two years ago.  Almost immediately, I received one of those standard, “thank you for your inquiry, one of our archivists will be in touch with you shortly,” e-mails, and then nothing further.  I didn’t think about it again (obviously!) until just recently.  Flash forward to earlier this week, when something made me look back at my Dodds research.  In reviewing my notes, I realized that I’d never received a reply from the archivist at McMaster.  So I wrote to them again, mentioning my previous e-mail from September of 2014.

Lo, and behold!  I received a reply from a library assistant, informing me that one of the archivists, Bridget Whittle, had replied to me back in 2014, but the e-mail was sent accidentally to the Research Help department. She forwarded Bridget’s old e-mail to me:

“Your email was forwarded to us here in the Archives. Thank you for your inquiry. I’ve had a look at St. George’s Church in St. Catharine’s and there was no burial record for Robert Dodds in 1905 or the surrounding years. Is it possible it was a different church in St. Catharine’s?”5

How about that?  She’d actually taken the time to review the microfilm for me, no charge!

I wrote back to her to explain the conversation with the cemetery office at Victoria Lawn, and wondered if perhaps Rev. Robert Kerr ministered at more than one parish in St. Catharines, which might account for the lack of burial record at St. George.  Bridget replied,

“Given the information you received from Victoria Lawn Cemetery, it really does sound like it should be St. George’s to me. I checked again, just to be certain that I hadn’t missed it somehow, but he’s definitely not there.

I checked all the other churches in St. Catharines that had burial records for that time and didn’t see Robert Dodds in any of them (or records suggesting that Robert Kerr was performing services there). I’m not certain whether this means that for some reason the entry was never made or if there is some other place it might be. I have checked the vestry records for the time as well as a miscellaneous file in the hopes that there would be something, but again, came up short.

While all this is unfortunate, I’m afraid that for the names of his parents, you wouldn’t be likely to get it from the burial record anyway. I know you said you were having a hard time tracking down his marriage record, but that would be more likely to have the information.

Do you know if he was married in St. Catharines? Around 1840 is pretty sparse record wise, but I would be happy to have a look if you know the city he was married in.5

Wow!  It just makes my day to encounter someone so wonderfully helpful.  Of course I replied with more information regarding my search for their marriage record.  Bridget’s response was both thoughtful and on-point:

Thanks for going through all of those details. I can see why you’re running out of options. Based on your information I checked a few of the other churches (namely the one in Grantham and a few that are now part of St. Catharines, but were not at the time). Frustratingly, I’ve still come up with nothing new. I was hoping I might catch a baptismal record for Hannah, at least so that we knew we were on the right track, but still nothing.

I have put a call into the Archivist for the Niagara Diocese, Archdeacon Rathbone, to see if we can figure out how it is that all of that information about Robert Dodds can be recorded at the cemetery and then not show up in the burial register. He’s away today, but I’ll let you know what I come up with.

The records we have here don’t go as far east as Yarmouth, East Elgin. That falls under the Diocese of Huron. If you haven’t been in touch with them already, you can reach them here:  http://diohuron.org/what/HR/archives.php

You probably know this already, but the Methodist church in Canada merged with a few others to become the United Church. If you go hunting for the Dodds’ under the Methodist connections, you’ll want to get in touch with them:  http://www.united-church.ca/leadership/church-administration/united-church-canada-archives

And good grief! I see what you mean about that 1901 census. I’m inclined to agree that it’s Jany [the month of Robert Dodds’ birth], but it’s a shame that it is so difficult to read (and that the UK census doesn’t go back that far).  I will let you know what the Archdeacon has to say. Hopefully he’ll have some other lead.5

 

So what are the take-home messages in all of this?

 1. Keep good research notes.

You never know when life is going to intervene and you might have to put down your research for a while.  As long as you have good notes, it should be easy to pick up again when you’re ready.

2. Follow up with all your leads (even if it’s two years later).

E-mails do get lost sometimes.  If you don’t hear from someone for a while, don’t assume he or she was ignoring you.

3.  Be sure to reach out to the librarians and archivists in the geographic areas in which you’re searching.

They are a fantastic resource — typically knowledgeable about the history of the area in addition to knowing what records, maps, finding aids, and reference works are available, and where to look for them.  Nothing beats local knowledge.  The search may continue for my elusive Robert and Catherine Dodds, but at least it’s nice to know that I’ve got some allies in my quest.

Sources:

  1.  New York, Department of Health, Division of Vital Statistics, County of Erie, City of Buffalo, Death Certificates, 1935, #4549, Death Certificate for Martha Dodds Walsh.
  2. Death record for Hannah Dodds Carty, eldest daughter of Robert and Catherine Dodds (click link for details and image).
  3. Per information at the parent website (http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~onglenga/), this index was created from, “‘St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church,’ (aka the Rev. John Bethune records); Williamstown, Charlottenburgh Twp., Glengarry, Ontario. Transcript by Dr. K. A. Taylor Registers of births, marriages and burials: 1779-1914 (original and typescript versions). MS 107 Reel 1.  File contains transcriptions from 1779 up to 1839 with a couple of gaps.”
  4. Whitehead, Karen.  “RE:  [Cemetery] Availability of Church Records.” Message to the author from unioncemetery.uucc@gmail.com.  4 Sept. 2014.  Email.
  5.  Whittle, Bridget.  “RE:  Question submitted through Ask a Librarian chat.”  Message to the author from archives@mcmaster.ca. 3 Aug. 2016.  Email.
  6.  Featured image:  Gordon, Bruce. Photo of St. Andrews United Church Cemetery. Digital image.Find A Grave. Find A Grave, Inc., 1 Sept. 2014. Web. 4 Aug. 2016.

 

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2016