31 October 2012

November 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.

To my surprise, I have no entries for November. It may be just as well, because I hope to be far, far away chasing camels this month. One could not say I have combed my family histories for all dates. They have been chosen rather capriciously. But sheesh, I did provide an extra long one last month. However ... here's one I missed for two months ago:

13 September 1885 Janis Jurikas (Ivan Georgiev in the Russian Orthodox register) of Krūmiņi farm, Lāde estate, Livonia, Latvia, died at the age of forty-two. His cause of death is still up in the air. The family story is he was cutting firewood and a log felled him with mortal injuries. The original researcher/translator I employed found the church record of death (as shown). From that, I'm told the priest who administered last rites stated he died of cancer. Wouldn't you agree that's a bit of a disconnect? Even though we family historians have a healthy suspicion of family stories?
Limbažu Orthodox Church 1883-1888; LSHA 232.2.155 p. 108
Apart from the numeral 13, my untrained eye cannot spot anything familiar enough in the Cyrillic script to even guess this is the correct entry. With regard to Orthodox church entries in general, a Russian-speaker told me the nineteenth century language has many archaic terms of uncertain meaning today. Obviously I have been too lazy to scout out second and third opinions on the translation.

I would be ever so pleased upon returning from the desert to find any comments and opinions about cause of death. Over and out for a while.

20 October 2012

This Time It's Forenames

... Scottish, that is. Highland/Gaelic practice, to be specific.

It didn't escape my notice that my ancestor Margery McIntyre was also referred to in some Quebec records as Mary, Marion or Margaret.
▪ Margery: marriage 1808; baptisms of sons Samuel, John, and Hugh 1819; son Daniel 1824.
▪ Mary: baptisms of daughter Elizabeth in 1821; daughter Mary in 1822.
▪ Margaret: baptism of daughter Ann 1812.
▪ Marion: burial of son Charles 1845.
I won't even mention that she was strangely identified as "C." McIntyre in the 1851 census with her husband and many children.

That Margery/Marjorie derives from Margaret seems quite straightforward. Marion is a version of Mary. Marion is also a form of Sheila, I'm told, and could be a diminutive or substitute for Morag and Sarah. Googling can be dangerously hypnotic and I got as far as Marsaili and Marcail as versions of Margaret/Marjorie/Marjory, both meaning "a pearl," before I snapped out of the trance.

In the wildly optimistic hope that after "Margery's" birth a minister was in the vicinity with a sessional clerk somewhere in his wake to record it, I searched ScotlandsPeople for baptisms 1782-1788. Her Quebec records of marriage, one census, and death indicated 1785-1786 as her year of birth.

Ever tried searching for a Mary Anybody in a large database? Yes, I see sympathetic heads bobbing. How to narrow the results when you don't know who her parents are--the very item you seek? Creative fallback, it might be called. Since Margery had five sons, I persuaded myself that one of them bore the name of her father. Each variation of her name had to be used with each of the five male names. "Refine your search" over and over again sure used up the SP credits faster than you can say where's my credit card.

The results from all this switching, examining, saving, printing, and too much coffee took at least a day. Not to forget that most Highland parish registers have erratic, dismaying gaps. The names Margery and Marjory were hopelessly unproductive. I confess, I didn't get to Marion yet. Lowland parishes and unlikely mothers' names were eliminated. Down to my selected winnows:
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Sarah Graham, Kilninver & Kilmelfort, Argyll, baptized 27 June 1785
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, Kilmallie, Argyll, baptized 14 September 1779
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, no location given but RD 525, baptized 1 October 1777
▪ d/o John McIntyre (mother unnamed), Cornaigbeg, Isle of Tyree, Argyll, baptized 9 February 1785
▪ d/o John McIntyre & Elizabeth Cameron, town, Kilmallie, Argyll, baptized 29 December 1784

John and Sarah are dark horses; Sarah is quite an alien forename in my families but the surname Graham caught my eye because of previously-discussed potential connections. Tyree (Isle of Tiree) got my attention too, only because (irrationally) I have a weakness for its sister Isle of Coll.

But John and Elizabeth! Cameron AND Kilmallie! even though Camerons are a dime a dozen in Argyll. I'm very partial to these entries. John was the name of Margery's first son, Elizabeth was her second daughter. Here we have daughters Margaret and Mary possibly born to the same couple. Examination of the actual parish pages showed the 1779 Margaret baptized in Maryburgh (the town settlement at Fort William) according to the page. When I checked the full entry for 1777, the parents of that Margaret were from Achnacroish, a tiny place on the Isle of Lismore (which corresponds to Registration District 525) about twenty miles southwest of Fort William. 

A screen shot of Mary's baptismal entry would go nicely here and as soon as I get the hang of it, who knows what might appear.

So it seems that we have two separate couples in different locations. Of course there is no marriage available <SIGH> for either couple. Only the daughter Mary's baptism in "town" at the end of 1784 is close to the target year of birth. Some other nickname might have been preempted for Margaret of 1779, leaving "Margery" for her younger sister Mary ... then again, all that googling may have messed with my head. Searching for other children 1770-1800 of a couple called John and Elizabeth did not yield any further baptisms. In other words, no evidence of a child Catherine, potential sister of my Margery and future wife of John Cameron.

Cameron collaborator Nancy has pointed out that close inspection of the parish register in that period reveals the likelihood of post-facto recording. Year after year of entries are made in the same hand, as if copied from a prior source, and are not signed by the officiating clergyman. Nancy has found two conflicting items in her own family, with one entry appearing in the wrong year and a mother's name misplaced in another.

It's known that some parishes began recording baptisms and marriages in their Kirk Sessions minutes, so I can understand the transition to keeping a separate register and perhaps copying what went before (the Isle of Coll is an example). Moreover, Don Steele said, "As the maintenance of Parish Registers depended on the Session clerk, they vary considerably over the years as one clerk succeeded another. As in England, the entries in Scottish registers were often no doubt written up from some rough notebook kept by the clerk, and in some cases this is all that has survived."[1]

The ifs, maybes, and howevers continue to multiply.

[1] D.J. Steele, Sources for Scottish Genealogy and Family History, Vol. XII of the Society of Genealogists' National Index of Parish Registers (London and Chichester: Phillimore, 1970), 72.

© 2012 Brenda Dougall Merriman

11 October 2012

Sir John Johnson's Bell(s)

A rather simple enquiry, sent out in all directions, spiralled into a saga. If you have any interest at all, grab a cuppa and put your feet up to read.

Sir John Johnson was an outstanding Loyalist of the American Revolution, forming and leading the King's Royal Regiment of New York during the entire conflict. After the War he acquired extensive lands in Canada, the seigniories of Argenteuil and Monnoir among them.[1] The home he built before 1800 at Williamstown, Glengarry--where he settled so many of his fellow Loyalists--is a National Historic Site of Canada.

Sir John had a number of other homes as time went on. Having purchased the Seigniory of Argenteuil in 1808, he had built a manor house there too—not long after it was destroyed by fire.[2] He donated the land for the construction of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church in St. Andrews East (now officially Saint-André d’Argenteuil), Quebec. The Scottish church was completed in 1821 under the ministry of Mr. Archibald Henderson. 
St Andrews Presbyterian Church; photo Pierre Langlois

I quote from Rev. Harold Reid's church history, written after his own retirement as Presbyterian minister of St. Andrews East:
Subscriptions for the Presbyterian building amounted to £142.12.6, and as well as giving the land the Seignior also contributed 25 pounds and a little later a bell for the church. Sir John Johnson had brought up from his former home in the Mohawk Valley this bell which at first was used at his new Manor House, but later he presented it to Mr. Henderson. It was used for some time as a church bell, then was taken down, and for many years has stood on a table in the vestibule of the church. The inscription on the bell reads: ME FECIT PIETER SEEST AMSTELODAMI AD 1764. [3]

Wow, was I impressed. A bell with a Loyalist history! Right there in the church of my non-UE ancestors. At last, a family connection--however faint and remote--to Loyalists. I'm on it.

My burning question was: Does St. Andrews Presbyterian Church still have and display this fabulous bell?

A little more research showed that master founder Pieter Seest was the foreman of Amsterdam’s bell and cannon factory, eventually becoming a director of the firm in 1770. The date on St. Andrew’s bell makes it a year older (this bell is becoming personal for me) than the bell housed in the famed U.S.S. Constitution Museum in Boston.[4] The American ship won an 1812 sea battle with the British H.M.S. Guerriere and took the bell as a war trophy; the victory earned it the nickname of Old Ironsides. There's even more here in a news story.
USS Constitution in Boston Harbour

Apparently other bell and cannon artifacts have been occasionally located with Pieter Seest’s foundry signature. With only superficial research, I wondered if many of them would be older than 1764. I want MY bell to be the oldest.

Then I discovered that in 1822 Sir John had donated a bell to St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Chambly, Quebec. The church is not far from his final home at Mont St-Grégoire. The St. Stephen's bell was "imported from England by Sir John Johnson" and bears an inscription reading "Isaac Tod 1812."[5] Sounds like the creator's name and date, n'est-ce pas? No competition here; MY bell is definitely older.
Isaac Tod bell; photo by St Stephen's Church

Feedback for my enquiry began to arrive. Genealogical kindnesses are legendary and no exception in this case. The information Ray provided was highly interesting and educational.[6] My assumption--n'est-ce pas--about "Isaac Tod 1812" was just that, an assumption based on the one source. For all I know, the church itself is under this impression too; time restraints meant I was merely scratching the surface. But my simple query threatened to take on an active life of its own.

Ray has seen the St. Stephen's bell, and it has no type of foundry mark on it. Turns out the Northwest Fur Company had a ship called Isaac Todd constructed in 1811. Todd was a retired fur trader with the Company. The ship was outfitted in England to take part in the War of 1812. After the War it continued in the fur trade until September 1821 when it foundered in Baie des Chaleurs. Salvaged rigging, fittings, and other materials from the ship were at public auction a month later. The bell could well have been among them, so it's plausible that Sir John could have purchased it then with St. Stephen's in mind. Whether the bell was made at the time the ship was constructed, or earlier, MY bell is still winning.

It gets better. Ray is a brilliant bell source. Apparently Sir John, or his wife, depending on sources, made the gift of a bell in 1801 or 1802 to the (then new) chapel Sainte-Marie-de-Monnoir--Monnoir being one of the Johnson-owned seigniories. Ray has no more details other than it was apparently manufactured in England. You see we are reaching a stage of secondary information and hypothetical probables regarding bell manufacture. But that's three Johnson-donated bells so far

Christ Church, St Andrews; photo Matthew Faran
It gets even better. Or worse. Gail responded and introduced me to Isabel who grew up in the St. Andrews area. Isabel reminded me of one book I had not reviewed recently. Reviewed, as in: writing from old notes and current research my family history that instigated this entire craziness--a history of Christ Church at St. Andrews. The author says Sir John gave his bell to the Anglican church.[7] How crushed am I?!  As well, he gave land for that church's site too.
Who exactly has the Mohawk Valley bell? ... very worrisome. Both churches at St. Andrews are not in regular use now.

But on reading E.G. May's text, some clarification: "Cast somewhere in Europe in 1759, and brought out to this country in the early days of its settlement, the old wide mouthed bell was presented to the Church by the Seignior."[8] From that, I will concede that the Christ Church bell is older, but that it came directly from Europe to "this country," meaning Quebec, after the time of the American Revolution. Hopefully my tenuous Loyalist connection is intact.

Isabel's on-site investigation now assures me that MY bell is still safely lodged in the Presbyterian church.

Who knew the Johnson family was in the habit of donating bells? Ecumenically, at that. I do love tangents. Loyalist Trails, York Courant, Ray, Gail, and Isabel, thank you all!!

[1] Earle Thomas, "Johnson, Sir John," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online ( : accessed 1 October 2012).
[2] Lucille Campey in Les Ecossais: The Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 1763-1855 (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books, 2006, p. 55) says Sir John purchased Argenteuil in 1814. Alain Chebroux, "The Seigniory and County of Argenteuil [in New France]," Comte d'Argenteuil ( : accessed 1 October 2012 and numerous times previously) has original documentation that says the Murray-Johnson transaction took place 26 December 1808.
[3] W. Harold Reid, The Presbyterian Church, St. Andrews and Lachute, Quebec, 1818-1932 (Hamilton, ON: Eagle Press, 1979), 10-11.
[4] USS Constitution Museum ( : accessed 1 October 2012); the path is Collections, Art and Artifacts, Spoils of War, Ship's Bell from HMS Guerriere.
[5] St. Stephen's Anglican Church of Chambly ( : accessed 15 September 2012).
[6] I am not identifying full names of my informants for their own privacy .. unless they wish to comment.
[7] E.G. May, A Hundred Years of Christ Church, St. Andrews, P.Q: An Historical Sketch of the Pioneer Church of the Ottawa Valley (St. Johns, QC: E.R. Smith, 1919), 67. The text of the book is available on Internet Archive (
[8] Loc. cit. 

© 2012 Brenda Dougall Merriman

05 October 2012


Sorry to say, the dread captcha is back on my comments form. Removing it caused way more spam than I can handle, creating strong urges to go forth and kill or at least trash my computer. Curse the Interweebs and all their robotic spider children.   

02 October 2012

October 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 October 1721 Jean Weir was baptized in West Calder parish, Midlothian, Scotland, her father named as James Weir. Her mother's name was not recorded, as was the custom of some clerks in some parish registers of the era. This is the earliest date I have for an ancestor and it's very tentative at that. The likely ancestral connection seems to be that a Jean Weir was later recorded as the mother of Thomas Dougall baptized in 1755 in the same place, wife of a John Dougall (their marriage not located). Thomas can be more confidently placed as the father of my Canadian emigrant ancestor John Dougall (1781-1867). The shadowy, elusive Jean is probably my paternal 4th great-grandmother.

4 October 1960 Hector Fraser Dougall died near Kenora, Ontario, on a drive from Port Arthur (Thunder Bay) to Winnipeg. He was 64 years old. He left a family he started later in life and I regret never knowing him as a younger man. I wrote about some of his prior life here. Much more detail about his POW experience will be featured in an upcoming book, Faces of Holzminden ( HFD was my father.

5 October 1884 [Old Style] Victor Carl Freiberg was born on Koneni farm, Kastrane, Marzingshof estate, Riga District, Latvia. His name was recorded in the Mālpils Lutheran parish register as Victor Karls Freibergs at his baptism two months later. Although the Russian Empire (including Latvia at the time) followed the Julian calendar until well after his birth and also after his emigration to Canada, I believe his birthday was celebrated or remembered as 17 October 1884. Victor was my maternal grandfather.

9 October 1920 Latvia-born Victor Freibergs officially became a Canadian citizen according to documents in Library and Archives Canada's Russian Consular files. After emigrating in 1906, he spent time in northern Ontario towns, Blind River and Port Arthur. He was settled permanently in Port Arthur when he became naturalized. In those days it seems his wife would also have become a citizen, by default of marriage.

19 October 1908 Marija Jurikas, single woman, arrived at Quebec from Liverpool on the ship SS Dominion. The ship's manifest recorded her as age 32, a domestic, born in Switzerland. Clearly there was inadvertent confusion between her place of birth and her previous country of residence. Not so inadvertent was the slicing of four years off her age! Latvian ex-pats, including her brothers in Canada, were keen to see her stop flitting around and be properly married off, which happened four years later. There's more about her here. Marija was my grandmother.

27 October 1868 [Old Style] Ivan Georgiyev Jurikas of Krumin on the Ladenhof estate married Jekaterina Feodorova Tukkum of Jurin on the Roperbeck estate—in Livland, Latvia. Because the service was in the Russian Orthodox church at Lemsal, the entry conforms to that style. So, the Latvian equivalents of the Russian/German mixture (with excuses for my spelling, tense and diacritical failures) are Janis son of Juris Jurikas, Krūmini, Lade; Katrina daughter of Feodor Tukums, Jurin, Roperbecki; Livland is Livonija; Lemsal is Limbaži. This couple were my maternal great-grandparents.