Thursday, 7 December 2017

Solving origin mysteries: Robert James Cherry

The genealogy community helps out other genealogists. Often and a lot. The other evening, I received a message from an Irish genealogist who was burning the midnight oil in her time zone researching newspaper archives. As genealogists do, she recognized a name from my family tree (yes, we look at so many other family trees, we remember names), and let me know that she had found his death notice. Robert James Cherry (1849-1884) was the 2nd great grandfather of some of my first cousins, on their mother's side. From censuses, I knew he was born about 1849, but didn't know exactly where in Ireland. I had narrowed his death to around 1885, because his name doesn't appear in Montreal city directories after that time, and no more children were born in his marriage to Catherine Delahunty (1852-1915) after that year. But I had never found any record of his death. My new-found Irish genealogist friend solved that mystery, and as a bonus, we now know where in Ireland Robert was born: Lurgan, County Armagh.

Montreal Witness 7 Jan 1885
Dead at just 35 from heart disease, leaving behind a pregnant wife and five children. Robert and Catherine married at St Stephen's Anglican Church in Montreal on 6 May 1873. He had arrived in Quebec City on 11 Apr 1871 on the SS Andrew at the age of 22. I found the Andrew's passenger list indicates that he was travelling without any other family. The Andrew's ports of departure were Dublin, Glasgow, Kingstown and Londonderry. Catherine Delahunty arrived in Quebec City from England in July 1866 on the SS Hibernian, also travelling without family, but aged just 14 and described as a spinster (!).

Robert was a blacksmith by trade. I wonder if his earnings were enough to support a family of seven. They lived in St Ann's Ward, just southwest of Montreal's downtown core, an area known as a working class Irish neighbourhood. There were several other Cherry families in the area, but my cousins tell me they're no relation, as far as they know.

After Robert died in 1884, Catherine's home became a boarding house. She did remarry in May 1893 to a widower who was one of her boarding house residents, but her second husband, a plumber, died in September 1894, leaving her with an infant son, the youngest of the seven children she raised alone. I think that her second husband was in a business partnership with one of her sons, as I see a city directory listing as such.

And the Montreal Witness? As BaNQ, Quebec's fantastic national library and archives, describes it, "This Montreal daily was marked by the personality of its founder, John Dougall, convinced that the Anglo-Saxon peoples are invested with a divine mission". Oh my. Wasn't John Dougall a character! He was also anti-Catholic. Robert identified as Church of England, which explains why he and Catherine married in an Anglican church.

Catherine reports herself as Roman Catholic in censuses and all of her children (six sons and one daughter from the two marriages) were baptized Catholic.
Notre Dame des Neiges Cemetery, Montreal
I've never found a burial record for Robert, which suggests that he may have been in an unmarked pauper's grave. But I did find a record of Catherine's burial, and a photo of that marker.

At least two of her sons inherited the heart disease that claimed their father. One died at the age of 31, while another died at 60.

There were several other Cherry families in Montreal in the late 19th century. It's not clear if any of those families were related to Robert James Cherry. Certainly, none of his children's baptismal godparents carried the Cherry name.

More research about Robert's origins in Lurgan, County Armagh, Ireland will definitely happen.

Robert and Catherine are the grandparents of my aunt Hilda Cherry (1911-1996), who married my uncle Marcus Dougherty (1910-1962).

Random acts of genealogical kindness are gifts that are always welcome and keep on giving. Here's to you, Maria in Dublin!

The never ending story continues....

© Margaret Dougherty 2016-2017 All rights reserved

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