23 August 2012

Brain Fog

Photograph 17 August 2012, BDM
And this. Waiting for them both to end.

08 August 2012

McFadyens Part 15: Coll to Cape Breton?

Following on Part 14:
In the newly translated/published “Account of Donald Mackinnon,” the scribe said:
Part of the [Crossopol McLean] family spent part of the year living in Totamore House ... There were cottars – [one being] the family of Lachlan son of John son of Charles who were servants to the farmer. [Of Lachlan’s sons] Donald was a shoemaker, Alexander a tailor, John a labourer. They had no sister; their mother was Catherine daughter of Donald son of Alexander.”[1]

Paraphrasing the attached Note 25 by Nicholas Maclean-Bristol (NMB):
In the 1776 List of Coll Inhabitants, Lachlan was the underage son of John McPhaiden & Catherine Macdonald of Totamore. To which NMB added that Lachlan himself married a Catherine McDonald on 29 October 1789 and had the following children (specific baptismal dates were given; I merely cite the years here):
John 1791; Alexander 1795; John 1802; Roderick 1804, “died Inverness, Cape Breton 1877”; unnamed 1807; Neil 1810; Ann 1812; Donald 1814; Donald 1819.

Mackinnon continues:
Donald and Alexander, the sons of Lachlan [McPhaiden] son of John son of Charles, went to America along with that Lachlan Macphee and his family and many others from Coll, Rum and Muck in the year 1822. I believe they arrived safely.”
NMB adds in Note 33: Colin S. MacDonald thinks they sailed on Commerce of Greenock from Tobermory to Plaster Rock Nova Scotia with settlers from Muck (“Early Highland Emigration to Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island,” Nova Scotia Historical Society Vol. 28, 45). My colleague Terry Punch has corrected the reference to MacDonald's article in Collections of the NSHS, Vol. 23 (1936).
Photograph CDM, July 2010
The emigration information was new to me, and relevant to my erstwhile reconstruction of early McFadyen families in Cape Breton. I'm particularly interested in attempting to uncover their places of origin. But I find some of the statements bothersome, asking:
Did Commerce of Greenock sail to Cape Breton in 1822?
Were Lachlan McPhaiden's two sons on it?
Are the two men in evidence as Cape Breton settlers?

Point One. There are no “complete” lists of ship crossings from the Scottish Highlands to Cape Breton for the 18th and 19th centuries; but Lucille Campey's Appendix II in After the Hector and Punch's own Some Early Scots in Maritime Canada, Vol. III, make headway at cataloguing them from a variety of sources. Commerce of Greenock, like many ships, made a number of crossings. MacDonald seems to have been the first to assert its arrival in 1822, and repeated by historians since, but his source is unclear.

Point Two. With few well-documented exceptions, extant lists of passenger names in that time period are simply not available. In 1822, Lachlan's oldest son Alexander would have been about age twenty-seven, a reasonable age to emigrate. His brother Donald (whether both Donalds survived or not) would have been about eight, or a baby. The two names as brothers do not synchronize with Mackinnon's emigration scenario. 

Points Two and Three. We know that two men had arrived in Cape Breton at least a year sooner. An Alexander McPhaden age twenty-two was in Cape Breton in 1821.[2] He is described as a tailor early on.[3] MacDougall says Alexander was the brother of Donald McFaden[4] age twenty-eight in 1825.[5] Clearly their ages do not match with the baptismal years of Lachlan McPhaiden's sons, Alexander being younger and Donald being considerably older. Nevertheless, when this Donald died at Malagawatch, his parents were said to be Lachlan and Catherine (specific place of birth in Scotland not recorded).[6] Scotland's People is no help in this regard for a baptism!

Donald married Mary Ann Calder and settled at Militia Point near Malagawatch; Alexander married Margaret McQuarrie and settled at Lexington near Port Hastings. Both men named their eldest sons Lachlan; both had daughters Catherine. I can follow at least the first generation of their descendants.

Of the putative companion Lachlan Macphee, there is no sign in Nova Scotia land petitions.

A Lachlan McPhaden also applied for Cape Breton Crown land in 1821, having arrived that year, age twenty-four and married.[7] Further records show that this Lachlan and his wife Mary McLean had a son Archibald baptized in 1829 by a visiting cleric at Malagawatch.[8] It's unknown if this was their first son. A marriage has not been found in Scottish parish registers 1795-1822 and I have no later information about him.

Finally, a Roderick MacFadyen settled, date unknown, in the River Denys area. His death record in 1877 shows him as a native of Coll and his parents as Lauchlan and Catherine.[9] His age at death and the 1871 census infer a birth year of 1804-05. In that census, his occupation was farmer. Roderick/Rory also married a Mary McLean and did not apply for Crown land. Describing him as a tailor, MacDougall says, “So far as we know, he had no relatives in this country.”[10] And yet, his location was a mere two lots away from my own ancestor Donald “the soldier,” a generation older.

However, while Roderick seems to be the son overlooked by Mackinnon, it was mandatory to consult my photocopies of the original Coll kirk sessions containing baptisms and marriages.[11] The parents of the child Roderick baptized on Coll on 15 August 1804 were Lachlan McPhaiden and Catherine McKinnon (not Macdonald) at Cnocleathan. Lachlan McPhaiden at Grimsary had married Catherine McKinnon in 1801.The same couple had another son Roderick baptized on 25 May 1807. No further children were recorded after 1795 for mother Catherine Macdonald. The timing might suggest a second marriage for Lachlan McPhaiden although I can't say whether a switch in locale from Totamore to Grimsary between 1795 and 1801 is plausible. We may have two different Lachlans.
Photograph BDM, July 2010
Initially I set out to ask if Mackinnon was simply out by one year in his recall of the emigration date. And to compare Lachlan McPhaiden's sons with the known early Cape Breton men. But Alexander and Donald as brothers don't match either Lachlan-and-Catherine couple from what we know of their children. Roderick might. All the analysis must allow for variables:
baptisms potentially missing from the parish register;
the fact that not all Cape Breton arrivals petitioned for Crown land;
perhaps a loose attitude about one's age;
the accuracy of secondary information in a local history;
the possibility that “the sons” landed in Cape Breton at whatever date and shortly went elsewhere;
the possibility that Alexander, Donald, and/or Lachlan originated in Rum, Muck, or even Mull.

I want so much to believe that the oral tradition is a fairly reliable source in the absence of original documentation. But I may be sinking my own ship.

[1] Nicholas Maclean-Bristol, “Donald Mackinnon, 'An Account of the Island of Coll and Its People' (2),” West Highland Notes and Queries, Series 3, No. 19 (May 2012).
[2] “Land Petitions - Cape Breton Island Petitions 1787-1843,” database, Nova Scotia Archives ( : accessed May 2008), Alexander McPhaden, no. 2754; citing NSA microfilm 15798.
[3] Nova Scotia census 1838, Inverness County, Canso Township, unpaginated; Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm M-5220.
[4] J.L. MacDougall, History of Inverness County, Nova Scotia (1922; reprint Belleville, ON: Mika Publishing, 1972), 177.
[5] “Land ... Cape Breton Island Petitions,” database, Nova Scotia Archives, Donald McFaden, no. 3053; citing NSA microfilm 15799.
[6] “Nova Scotia Historical Vital Statistics, Deaths 1864-1877,” digital image, Nova Scotia Archives ( : accessed May 2008); Donald McFadyen, 10 June 1869, Inverness County, register no. 1810, p. 36, no. 132.
[7] “Land ... Cape Breton Island Petitions,” database, Nova Scotia Archives, Laughlin McPhaden, no. 2755; citing NSA microfilm 15798.
[8] St. John's Presbyterian (Belfast, Prince Edward Island) baptisms, 1823-1849, Archibald, son of Laughlan McFadden and Mary McLean “basin of River Denny,” born 13 February 1829, baptized 3 September 1829; LAC microfilm C-3028.
[9] “Nova Scotia ... Deaths 1864-1877,” digital image, Nova Scotia Archives ( : accessed May 2008); Roderick McFadyen, 28 February 1877, Inverness County, register no. 1810, p. 142, no. 44
[10] MacDougall, History of Inverness County, 496.
[11] Coll Kirk Sessions, National Archives of Scotland, CH2/70/1/.

© Brenda Dougall Merriman


06 August 2012


Not that many horses around any more.
St. James Park; photograph BDM May 2011