Friday, 20 October 2017

A bit of a brickwall smash: Frank Gillanders Matheson 1833-1909

As genealogists do from time to time, I was reviewing some old research for my great grandfather and some of his children last week. This is how breakthroughs or other discoveries are often made through the endless task of connecting the dots.

While looking at the 1946 death registration of his son Alex, I noticed that Frank is listed as Frank Gillanders Matheson, as reported by Frank's daughter, Catherine Matheson Graham. I've looked at that document many times, but until last week there had been no ah ha! moment for me. I was then reminded that Frank is recorded in the 1860 Scotland census as Frank G. Mathieson (yes, of course the name Matheson has several spelling variations).

Keeping in mind Scots naming patterns, it seems likely that Gillanders was the maiden name of one of Frank's grandmothers. A check of my 200+ AncestryDNA matches shows that I have three with the name Gillanders as direct ancestors. My brother has more. That doesn't make my task any less than finding a needle in a haystack though.

Still, Gillanders is a new clue. On top of others.

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Not for the faint of heart: Looking for ancestors in cemeteries and city directories

On Canada's Labour Day (it's the same date as the US one, but spelled, as we would say, properly), I visited St. Michael's Cemetery here in Toronto, after finding records saying that my 1st cousin 3x removed John Doherty (1807-1872) is buried there. That was almost a month ago, but this tale has taken time for me to sort out.

I'd carefully noted the plot's location from an old index when I was at the Archdiocese of Toronto Archives this summer: plot 122, N. Elizabeth Street, in the eastern third of the cemetery, between paths 12 and 13, south of St. Michael's Road. Yes, the Church had named the rows of the cemetery after saints.

Unfortunately, no signage with row names exist within the cemetery. I knew this from many years ago when I lived nearby and would walk through it when it was still open to the public. Of course, I found no surviving markers, as John was a tinsmith whose family could ill afford a more sturdy marker. But I had hoped I'd find something more than indented grass where markers have sunk.

There's an administrative error though in the Cemetery's burial records. Or else another mystery, but I think it's simply an error. I'll follow up with the Archdiocese, but I'm sure their Archives staff will find this as muddled as I have. The occupants of plot 122 N Elizabeth Street are listed as John Doherty, his wife Margaret Esmonde, and their daughter Fanny, who died in New York on 15 Nov 1886 aged 43. But the details for the John Doherty listed as buried in the plot are for another John Doherty.  I found records saying that this John Doherty was born in Co Tyrone, Ireland and was 68 years old when he died at 65 George Street. While my cousin ancestor is listed as dying on Stanley St and is buried in plot 82 N Elizabeth Street. My cousin ancestor lived on George Street when he died.

I still went looking for this other John Doherty, and looked through censuses and city directories. Starting in 1856, when he first arrived in Toronto he lived most his years at different addresses on Stanley Street, which has disappeared, but ran from Victoria Street east to Nelson Street, another street that is gone, except for his final five or six years, when he lived at 15 Mutual Street. Stanley and Mutual streets are both east of Yonge Street. He had a family of at least seven children.  Interestingly, cemetery records use Stanley Street as his residence when he died in 1879, when the city directory has him at Mutual Street.

According to city directories, after arriving from Ireland, my cousin ancestor John lived at several addresses in his 30+ years. But he was at two addresses longer than others, first at 117 King St E at Church Street, and later at 65 George St, just south of King St East. Both these addresses are also east of Yonge.

But wait. Although my 1st cousin 3x removed John Doherty died in 1872, his name continued to appear in city directories at 65 George Street until 1879. I think his adult sons, whom I've yet to find, continued to live at the address until 1879.

What I know for certain is that these are absolutely two different John Dohertys, who appeared for successive years in the same city directories living at their respective addresses. Why though would cemetery records for two men with the same name who died seven years apart be mixed up?

Now standing at 115 King St E is the Toronto Sculpture Garden. It's directly opposite the Cathedral Church of St. James. I'm fairly certain that this land also includes the municipal lot known as 117 King St E.

115 King St E

65 George St present day
John lived his later years with his family at 65 George Street, south of King Street E.

What stands on this property now is an art dealer, but a Heritage Toronto plaque notes that on that site stood the Little York Hotel, stables and coach house, built in 1880, eight years after John died. A development application for the property is now under City of Toronto review to erect--wait for it--more condos, but the facade, I think, will be protected.

Read more about my cousin ancestor John Doherty and his family here.

Heritage plaque at 65 George St

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved