Saturday, 13 August 2016

Our immigrant ancestors -- Judge Marcus Doherty QC

Judge Marcus Doherty
My 1st cousin 3x removed, Marcus Doherty (1815-1903) emigrated from Camnish, Dunvigen in what is now County Derry at the age of 18, arriving in Quebec City in 1833, and then travelling down to South Hero, Vermont, to join his uncles (my 2nd great grandfather) Marcus and (my 2nd great great uncle) James Dougherty.

Marcus was born in a house in Camnish, Dungiven, that was later occupied by the family of Irish nationalist John Mitchel.

The story is that Marcus was sent to Vermont by his mother after his father Thomas Dougherty died in Dungiven. He wasn't their eldest, but I think he was the brightest, and had attended grammar school in Dungiven, something one of my internet cousins tells me was quite rare for an Irish person to do in the early 19th century. One story has it that he was destined for the priesthood. Marcus attended college and also  taught at the Shefford Academy, where his uncle James was the principal. In 1838, he enrolled at  the University of Vermont where he received his BA and MA, and in 1848 was called to the Bar of Lower Canada in Montreal. He was appointed to the Quebec Superior Court in 1873. I've found many references in which Judge Marcus is mentioned. He first practised law as a newly minted lawyer in Granby, then moved on to Montreal. He was then posted in Sherbrooke for several years, before returning to Montreal.

Judge Marcus' eldest children were born and baptized in Granby. In my very early web research days, and before the Drouin Collection had indexed the Notre Dame de Granby parish records, another researcher, in an act of random genealogical kindness, pointed out to me that having a Marcus Dougherty and Marcus Doherty in the same small community at the same time was, well, no coincidence. My great grandfather John James and Judge Marcus were cousins.

In my family papers, we have for reasons still unknown to me, a copy the certificate attesting Judge Marcus' entry into the Bar of Lower Canada. The seal has been cut out. How did this come to be in my grandfather's possession?

Marcus was the first of six siblings to leave their Camnish, Dungiven home for America. Those siblings who came all used the Dougherty spelling. More about those siblings and their families will come. No, I don't know why Judge Marcus used the Doherty spelling. His siblings who remained in Ireland used both Dougherty and Doherty. Yes, all these same names do get confusing in the telling of stories.

Full disclosure: In 1998 and 1999, a woman posted on several genealogy message boards seeking relatives of Judge Marcus, and saying he was the brother of her late husband's great great grandfather. She even contacted me, saying we were related. But this was in my dark age of the genealogy research, and I brushed her off. Of course, it turned out she was absolutely right, but by then several years had passed, and I was unable to locate her. It was an early lesson to never make assumptions.

Montreal - Biographical Sketches
An early biography of Judge Marcus appeared during his lifetime in something called Montreal - Biographical Sketches. Note the inconsistencies about his year of birth and John Mitchel.

Here's another profile (in two images), from the Canadian Biographical Dictionary:


Note the inconsistencies in both with respect to Judge Marcus' year of birth and John Mitchel. It wasn't always easy in the mid 19th century to fact check, I guess. No Google, for one thing.

Judge Marcus died in Montreal on 4 Jul 1903. The Montreal Gazette carried a lengthy obituary about him and his remarkable career, which offers yet more conflicting information on his year of birth and other facts.

I will be writing more about Judge Marcus, his marriage and family. Note: For identification purposes in this blog, this Marcus will be called Judge Marcus, while my 2nd great grandfather will be referred to as Farmer Marcus. My small contribution to ending the confusion over the use of the same names even within the same generations.

The never ending story continues...

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