Thursday, 1 June 2017

Dungiven connections in 19th century Toronto

Have I mentioned how very pleased I am to have found ancestors who lived in Toronto? Honestly, I feel more legitimate now, participating in Ontario-centric genealogy Facebook or Twitter discussions.

Toronto was a small town in the 1800s. Spending just a couple of hours going through old Toronto city directories is revealing. In 1855--the clearest map I could find online--the core of Toronto looked like this:

1855 map,
Three Dungiven area natives had settled in Toronto, starting in about 1833 with John Doherty. After marrying Margaret Esmonde in 1837, John lived with their growing family and worked as a tinsmith on King Street near George Street, as early as 1843.

St Paul's Catholic Church baptismal records tell us that Edward and Susanna McCloskey McFeely and their own growing family were already in Toronto as early as 1838. The McFeely name doesn't appear in the 1833 or 1837 city directories--these are the only two earlier directories available. We know that the McFeelys had left Dungiven between the 1829 baptism there of their son John, and the 1932 baptism in Ste-Foy, Quebec of their son Edward, who would marry my ancestor Sarah Doherty in 1859.

But Edward McFeely does appear in the 1843 city directory living and working as a stone mason on Market Lane, a portion of which still exists today as a pedestrian thoroughfare  The McFeely family last appears in the 1850-51 city directory, living on Teraulay Street, which ran north-south between Queen and Gerrard Streets, east of Bay Street, quite near Toronto City Hall's present day location. Teraulay Street no longer exists.

Patrick and Sarah Doherty McCorkell were in Toronto when the 1850-51 city directory was published, joining Sarah's brother John, after spending perhaps four years at most in Saint John, New Brunswick. Patrick's occupation is given as labourer.

I've learned that Patrick and Sarah left their first-born, Augustine (1845-1903) behind in Ireland when they came to Canada in about 1846. I've also learned that Augustine was then brought to Quebec by his aunt, Elleanor Doherty (another new ancestor) in 1850. I'm guessing that Elleanor brought Augustine to Toronto to reunite with his parents. What happened to Elleanor remains a mystery...for now.

The McCorkells seem to have spent almost ten years in Toronto, last appearing in the 1859 city directory, living at 67 Richmond Street East, just east of Yonge Street. This makes sense, as they next appear in the 1861 Canada census .

As was noted by a newly-discovered McFeely cousin this week, these addresses are all near where I live in the oldest part of Toronto.

And so, by 1861 only John Doherty and his family remain in Toronto. The McFeelys had left for Buffalo with their large family by the early 1850s, while the McCorkells had left to farm land near present day Orillia, Ontario, north east of Toronto.

For a look at the present-day area of Toronto shown in the 1855 map, see Google Maps here.

Toronto in those years seems to have been full of people from the north of Ireland, based in small part by the St Paul's Catholic Church parish records. No doubt the Doherty, McFeelys and McCorkells had many familiar faces, or, at the least family names, several from the Dungiven area, around them in their daily lives. I can't imagine that happening in the 21st century, with populations so much bigger than they were in the 19th century.

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved


  1. Hi Margaret, I guess I'm one of your cousins. I'm a direct descendant of Patrick McCorkell and Sarah Doherty. They are my great-great grandparents. I have made many pilgrimages up to their graves in St. Andrew's parish cemetery in Brechin and even to the homesteads of their sons John (the Reeve of Mara Township in 1900) and his brother Patrick Joseph (1854-1933). In fact, I'll be in Brechin all day tomorrow (Sept. 30) at the Scarecrow Fest. I live in Toronto, so I have always wondered where on Richmond Street Patrick and Sarah moved to - now I know - although 67 Richmond St. East doesn't seem to be the site of the Bay's flagship store.
    You've turned up some great information on Augustine and I didn't know about Dungiven - I've always thought they came from CastleFinn, Donegal, or Strabane, right on the border. I'd love to hear more about the Dungiven connection. Do you know Jim McCorkell in Winnipeg? He's also a McCorkell Ancestor Afficionado, he may be able to solve some of your "mysteries". You make me want to get my DNA tested now - I've always had a feeling about our Danish ancestors because of McTorvail, the last Viking King of Ireland (just a theory). Hope to be in touch with you soon. John McCorkell. My performing name is Johnny Toronto.

    1. Great to hear from you, John! Yes, I realized after the fact that 67 Richmond E can't possibly be the site of The Bay flagship. Going to correct that. Could you please contact me by email? I have so many questions. Click the email icon on the right nav bar on this page. Look forward to hearing from you! Slainte.

  2. John, contact me please at familyhistoryneverendsATgmailDOTcom