22 September 2012

No Surnames

How many identifiers for an individual do we take for granted in our compulsive search for ancestors? It seems to me Numero Uno is Name. The surname, a family name, is paramount. When we can combine it with a forename, we are on track for seeking the next person in our ancestral chain. We may complain about mild or wild variations in surname spellings, transliterations from an unfamiliar language, or wholesale name changes, but what if there were no surnames at all?   

Well, you may run into this if you can trace your families to the Middle Ages in the British Isles; but in many European countries—what we now call countries—the common people have had surnames only recently, considering the length of human recorded history. In the case of Latvia, much less than two hundred years! Also, many European countries, especially in the east, only acquired more-or-less fixed boundaries within the last century or two. Many of those underwent drastic alterations again in our recent lifetime, according to political or cultural imperatives ... thus the added complications of determining who the record-keepers were. If they kept records. If they still exist.

The land that would eventually become independent Latvia fluctuated as a province under “foreign” powers—authorities of Swedish, Polish or Russian rule, but mainly German—from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. Its various geographic parts were often under different or even warring jurisdictions. So that was bad enough in terms of hoping for genealogical records, without the notion of seeking a rural Janis who had no other identifying cognomen.

Basically I am talking agrarian ancestors here. It was well on into the nineteenth century when serfdom finally ended for Latvian peasants and surnames were being adopted. Before that time, tracing your average peasant seems to fade to a hopeless shade of pale.

But no, wait. A technique and resources can be applied in many cases to take the researcher farther back another generation or two. Church registers for nineteenth-twentieth century vital events—when surnames are in use—will normally show a place name for the parents of a child, or for a bride and groom. That place name is your clue to residence, and residence means the estate where they lived. An estate name is an identifier.

The Baltendeutsche nobility had great landed estates across an area that included both Latvia and Estonia. Each estate had numerous farms worked by the peasants. Estate owners learned to keep track of their farms and workers, enumerated on irregularly compiled lists of inhabitants called revision lists. Revision lists date from 1795. We are fortunate that the lists have survived because the first ones pre-date the general use of surnames. By and large, serf families were “tied” to one estate and seldom moved outside it. In fact, many surnames evolved from farm names.  

Yes, learning the residence of an individual from a religious baptism or marriage, you can probably connect him or her to a family in the latest revision list of 1858. The lists were updated from time to time with later information; for instance, movement from one farm to another was added if it occurred. In lists prior to about 1826, it’s possible to identify specific family groups by a cluster of forenames and their relationships. Although as expected, the earlier the list, the less information is recorded. Generally, all individuals in a household are (fore)named, including children and extended family. Ages are usually given and sometimes other identifying information, such as a notation of father’s name for the head of household. You could even learn the name of the farm on that estate. 

Surri, Estonia, Revision Lists 1834-1851; EAA 1279.1.142, frame 258
Religious registers of Latvia, all faiths, are freely available as digital images at the Raduraksti databases—a gift of the Latvian State Historical Archives. It has English translation, to a degree. Record books for the prevailing Lutheran denomination may exist from the early 1700s but may only chronicle the landowning gentry until the nineteenth century. So the clues you need for a residence will be in the later church books. First you must pinpoint a religious parish or jurisdiction (sometimes they correspond approximately with the old estate boundaries; the name of a town or village will help) in order to pursue a baptism or marriage. That’s where you do your homework on this side of the world.

Estonia’s people shared much of the same historical patterns and a fluid boundary. Their Estonian State Historical Archives has also developed the Saaga site of multiple databases for digital browsing. Technologically, this site is easier to use. In the German of the period, the above illustration indicates that one of my families on the Surri estate had come from the Torgel estate and later moved to Alt-Salis (contemporary German names*). The two former are presently in Estonia and the latter in Latvia.
Furthermore, a family might have switched to the Russian Orthodox Church in the 1840s or so, for political reasons not discussed here. If so, an added bonus is the Russian patronymic usage (as in marriages) that demonstrates the paternal relationship, such as Ekaterina Feodorova (Katrina or Katherine, daughter of Feodor).

My post does not address map usage or language issues once you access the documentation. Hey, no-one said it would be painless. 

For expert information, see Antra Celmins, Discovering Latvian Roots especially "Working with Revision Lists” (, 24 October 2010) and “M is for Manorial Estate” (, 11 August 2012).

* Surri = Surju (Estonian); Torgel = Tori (Estonian); Alt-Salis = Vecsalaca (Latvian).

05 September 2012

McIntyre + Cameron + Graham

Exhaustive searches have a way of shrinking thanks to a small pool of sources. Therefore the FAN principle expands. Let's not say I'm desperate (I am) in pushing Friends, Associates, and Neighbours to the max for Margery McIntyre, one of those ancestors who dropped in from outer space. First the Camerons; now, this.

Some Cameron researchers say Preacher John Cameron had a Graham son-in-law, an unresolved side issue, but still of potential benefit for a Scottish place of origin. John Cameron, likely the Preacher, named his wife Catherine McIntyre in his will, and eight children. None of those daughters married a Graham. He probably had some older children by a first marriage. It's known that a John Graham, married to a Mary Cameron (born ca.1799 in Scotland), lived in Roxborough Township, Upper Canada.[1] I want to leave that aside because of the different migration history to that area: not exactly FAN club candidates in my mind.

Nevertheless, a person of interest is a man called Walter Graham who settled at Cote du Midi in the St. Andrews East area of Argenteuil, Quebec. Men, actually. I've counted at least three. The name was also closely associated with my John Fraser. And probably the phantom McIntyres, object of my angst. There's far too much math calculation for my liking in what follows.

Walter Graham of Montreal, gentleman, married Jane McIntyre of the same place on 26 September 1818 by licence.[2] ... another McIntyre connection. Both were of the age of majority. Hugh McMillan and Allan Cameron were the witnesses. I have no idea who Jane is or where she came from.

Good questions: What does gentleman imply? A man of “means”? ... he became a farmer. What does licence imply? ... one or both were not members of that congregation. Who the heck is Allan Cameron? ... not Preacher John's son who was born in 1807.

In the 1842 census Walter Graham appears a few lines above Hugh Cameron (another dangling thread in himself). Walter had been in the province for twenty-five years.[3]  An emigration date of about 1817 means he arrived in Quebec only shortly before his 1818 marriage. Walter Graham and Jane McIntyre are both shown as age 50 in the 1851 census.[4] They have a son Walter aged 25.

Four months after the 1818 marriage, the couple had a daughter Joan born; her baptism was witnessed by John Fraser and Hugh Cameron.[5] This girl could be “Joanne” Graham who married a John Cameron in September 1836 at Chatham, Quebec, both “residing at Cote du Midi.”[6] Witnesses were Archibald McCallum and Alexander Cameron. The groom is thought to be the son (1803-1893) of John Cameron and Catherine McIntyre;[7] the bride would have been 17 and the groom 33. The witness Alexander could possibly be her brother born in 1809.

On the other hand, a Joanna Graham married a John Cameron in 1845, recorded in the same church register.[8] On this occasion the witnesses were A. Cameron and H____ Nor[ton?]. Residence/s were not noted, but the clergyman’s reference to duly published banns suggests the couple lived in or near Chatham.

Which Graham-Cameron marriage involves Walter’s daughter and the Preacher’s son, if either? The 1851 census shows John Cameron age 30 and wife “Jane” Graham age 31 in a Graham-Cameron cluster.[9] (Most nineteenth-century Quebec censuses show a wife's birth surname.) If the census ages are fairly reliable, this man is not John and Catherine's son born in 1803; he was born more or less about the same time as his wife. The age of their oldest child–14–infers a marriage at least by 1838, fitting with the known 1836 marriage and Jane’s young age at the time.

A third marriage entry is that of Jane Graham to Duncan McCallum in 1847, which took place at Cote du Midi but recorded in the same register as the first two mentioned.[10] Zachariah McCallum and Donald McSorly were witnesses.

John Cameron, son of John and Catherine, likely found his bride elsewhere. Walter Graham and Jane McIntyre of Cote du Midi may have had two daughters with similar names (Jane, Jean, Joan, Joanna, etc. were variables of one name) but it’s equally likely that several women with the same name and different fathers (oh yes, no lack of candidates) lived at the same time ... illustrating common same-name problems in Highland family research.

So John Fraser (born ca.1776) and John Cameron (ca.1764) and Walter Graham ((ca.1801) all married McIntyre women of unknown origin. Where am I going with this? To Scotland, I hope, somewhere, somehow.

Just to prove I am having fun (?) ... another Walter Graham perhaps worth mentioning was the man buried 8 January 1852 in the Berthier County parish of Lanoraie.[11] He was described as “formerly servant to the seigneur of this parish.” Lanoraie is located on the north shore of the St. Lawrence between Montreal and Trois-Rivières, quite distant from Argenteuil but still in the District of Montreal. The seigniory was the domain of one Ross Cuthbert during the period. Walter was aged about 80 at the time of his death, making his year of birth ca.1772. Thus he was old enough to have fathered a son called Walter who could have been in Montreal in 1818 to marry a McIntyre.

Could have, would have, possibly. It's difficult to decide how far to extend the searches without a few small rewards. Depends how exhausted or desperate you are.

[1] “1851 Census Canada West,” digital image, Automated Genealogy ( : accessed 31 August 2012), Stormont County, Roxborough Township, district 4, sheet 20, stamped p. 39 and sheet 21, stamped p. 41, John Cameron household; citing Library and Archives Canada (LAC) microfilm C-11752.
[2] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection) 1621-1967,” digital image, ( : accessed 25 August 2012), Graham-McIntyre marriage, 26 September 1818; citing St. Gabriel Street Presbyterian Church (Montreal, Quebec).
[3] Walter Graham, 1842 Census Lower Canada, Deux-Montagnes, Argenteuil seigneurie, Cote du Midi, p.1225, line 6; LAC microfilm C-728.
[4] “1851 Census Canada East,” digital image, ( : accessed 12 August 2012), Deux-Montagnes, ED 11, Argenteuil, Parish of St. Andrews, sheet 2, stamped p. 3, Walter Graham household; citing LAC microfilm C-1147.
[5] St. Andrews Presbyterian Church (St. Andrews East, Quebec) register 1818-1827, p. 13, baptism Joan, 24 February 1819 (born 29 January 1819), daughter of Walter Graham, farmer Cote du Midi, and wife “Jean”; LAC microfilm C-2904.
[6] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967,” digital image, ( : accessed 26 August 2012), St. Phillipe d’Argenteuil Presbyterian Church (Grenville-Chatham), Cameron-Graham marriage, 28 September 1836.
[7] Cameron researchers often refer to her as “Johanna.”
[8] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967,” digital image, ( : accessed 26 August 2012), St. Phillipe d’Argenteuil Presbyterian Church (Grenville-Chatham), Cameron-Graham marriage, 29 December 1845.
[9] “1851 Census Canada East,” digital image, ( : accessed 12 August 2012), Deux-Montagnes, ED 11, Argenteuil, Parish of St. Andrews, sheet 2, stamped p. 3, John Cameron household; citing LAC microfilm C-1147.
[10] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967,” digital image, ( : accessed 26 August 2012), St. Phillipe d’Argenteuil Presbyterian Church (Grenville-Chatham), McCallum-Graham marriage, 19 January 1847.
[11] “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967,” digital image, ( : accessed 25 August 2012), St. Joseph parish (Lanoraie, Berthier County), 8 January 1852, enterrement Walter Graham.

labels: Graham, Fraser, Cameron, McIntyre, Argenteuil

01 September 2012

September Ancestors

For the sake of brief entries, I am not footnoting the facts in this ongoing memorial. Sources have been noted either in other blog posts or in my family history books.

1 September 1993 Peter McAdam Dougall died in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He was the second child and only son of Peter Robinson Dougall (1872-1962) and Elizabeth M. McAdam. One of many Peters in the Dougall family branches, he lived to the age of 92. He and his bride, Gertrude Kienzle, had celebrated sixty-nine years of marriage. For over fifty years he headed a construction firm in the twin cities of Minnesota, erecting some landmark buildings. Peter was a devoted family man with an impish sense of humour. Every year as children we excitedly anticipated the cross-border trip to visit “Uncle” Peter and marvel at his unfamiliar mid-western drawl; he was a special person in our lives. He in turn would come to us for an annual fishing or hunting trip. In later life he conceded the winters and found Arizona comfortable. Peter was the first cousin of my father. 
15 September 1927 Jessie Isabelle “Belle” McFadyen Dougall died in Vancouver at the age of 56. Her life spanned the width of the continent: born in Provincetown, Massachusetts to Cape Breton parents, she came with them as a small child to the fertile farming fields of Oakbank, Manitoba. Married in 1894 at the McFadyen family farm, she and her husband William C. Dougall spent most of their years in Winnipeg, at 251 Bell Avenue, as he built up a business. Upon his retirement, they moved west where their daughter was living and took a small farm in Whonnock, British Columbia. She predeceased William by seven years. The couple are buried in Ocean View Burial Park, Burnaby. Belle was the grandmother I never knew.

19 September 1834 (A different) Peter Dougall was born in the village or farm of Netherlongford, Edinburghshire [aka Midlothian], Scotland, the fifth and youngest son of John Dougall and Marion Hastie. Peter was just under ten years old when his parents made the decision to emigrate to Canada, where they settled as farmers at Beech Ridge, a community close to St. Andrews East, Quebec. Farming was not for Peter; he apparently apprenticed as a blacksmith—possibly with, or by the influence of his father-in-law to-be, John Fraser. He found his true livelihood as a wagon- and carriage-maker. Peter and his wife Catherine Fraser settled in Renfrew, Ontario, raising nine children, finally retiring to Winnipeg where he died in 1914. Peter was my great-grandfather.