On the Needles

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Thursday, July 06, 2017

Irish Babe-in-Arms

The family story is that my great-great-grandfather James ROBINSON came to Canada in 1834 as a babe-in-arms. His family came from Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Ireland and settled in Grey County, Ontario, Canada.

There is very little information to prove or disprove this story. The only thing I can say for sure is that James did live with his wife and children in Grey County. The first confirmed record of James that I have been able to find is the 1881 Census of Canada. Thanks to my grandfather I know the names of all of his children so I know that this is him.

I have not been able to find a marriage record for James and his wife Sarah Ann STEWART. I think I may have found them in the 1871 Census of Canada but am not 100% certain because the name of the wife in that record is Anne. I know Ann is Sarah’s middle name from other records so it is possible that she was going by Ann at the time of that Census.

Another reason I believe it is the right James is that my grandfather told me that James had a sister named Margaret. And their is a woman living with them name Margaret ROBINSON. The 1871 Census does not show relationship to head of household so there is no way to know for certain that this woman is James’s sister but I believe that it is highly probable.

I can take James and Sarah from 1881 to their deaths in 1923(Sarah) and 1928(James). I haven’t been able to find all the records for their family but I have a good idea of what happened to them all on what I do have.

I’m interested in James life before marriage. The following is an overview of my process and research on trying to find James pre-wife and kids.

James’ sister, Margaret, is said to have married a MADILL. With this in mind I did a search for Margaret ROBINSONs that married a MADILL, circa 1870. One seemed to be a likely candidate.

John MADILL, 25, farmer, Ireland, Osprey, s/o William & Jane MADILL married Margaret ROBINSON, 23, Ontario, Osprey, d/o Arthur & Margaret ROBINSON, wtn; John & Elizabeth HETHERINGTON, both of Toronto on January 24, 1872, Osprey.1

This looked promising. Right time, right place. But subsequent searches for a Arthur and Margaret in the 1871 Canadian Census turned up nothing. Ditto for the 1861 Census. Knowing that one or both of them could have died prior to these Census dates and the remaining spouse could have remarried I put a pin in researching the line.

I knew I had to prove or disprove a connection between this Margaret and my James. Evidence of this connection came through James’ wife Sarah. After researching her parents and siblings I discovered her older brother Andrew’s second wife was a Catherine MADILL, daughter of William and Jane MADILL. Could John and Catherine be brother and sister?

Census records show a William and Jane MADILL living in Osprey, Grey County. They have eight children, David, John, Mary, Harriett, Jane, Catherine, Nancy Ann, and William. By researching some of them I was able to determine they are the correct family for Catherine.

Harriett’s records were the most useful. The informant on her death record is a Mrs. Stewart, her sister of Maxwell. One of the witnesses for her first marriage is David Madill of Osprey. And a witness for her second marriage is John Madill. And her second marriage and death records list her mother as Jane Ray. Catherine’s death record states that her mother’s maiden name was Jane RAE.

Unfortunately this does not prove that John and Catherine were siblings. Records for John seemed to be sparse. I haven’t been able to find a death record for him. I do have a BillionGraves entry that I think is him. William and Jane MADILL are both buried in the same cemetery. As is their daughter Nancy Ann.  It gives me confidence that I am on the right track.

If I am right then I can say that the ROBINSONs, STEWARTs, and MADILLs all new each other. This isn’t proof positive that Margaret is James’ sister but it is enough to that I want to continue my research of her and John.

From there I decided to see if I could find marriage records for possible siblings to Margaret and James. I did a search for people with the last name ROBINSON, who’s parents were listed as Arthur and Margaret.

Narrowing the search down even further to marriages that occur in Ontario in the 1870s. And what do you think I should find but this one;

John HEHTERINGTON, 28, Ontario, Fullerton, s/o John HETHERINGTON & Janet EASTON married Elizabeth ROBINSON, 25, Ontario, Brampton, d/o Arthur ROBINSON and Margaret McDONALD, wtn; John MADILL, Osprey and Margaret ROBINSON, Brampton on January 3, 1872, Brampton.

That answered the questions I had about John and Elizabeth HETHERINGTON. Mainly, who were they and why did they travel 135km to witness a marriage. I think it is safe to say Elizabeth and Margaret were sisters.

There weren’t any other marriages that met my criteria so I decided to change the parameters a little. James is roughly 15 years older then Elizabeth and Margaret so it is likely that there are siblings that were born between them. And would have been of marrying age in the 1860s.

That search revealed this marriage record;

James FOLLIS, 29, Brampton, Ireland, s/o Edward and Jane FOLLIS married Rachel ROBINSON, 22, Brampton, Canada, d/o Arthur and Margaret ROBINSON, wtn; John STEWART, Brampton on June 10, 1863, Brampton.

There isn’t enough information here to decide if Rachel is a sister. Her death record has even less information.

I did a Google search and found the Waugh Family website, the search directed me to this page. The first thing I noticed was the map of Enniskillen, Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. The page is talking about the ACHESON family and their connection to the FALLIS family. Reading through the page tells me it is the same family that I am looking at. A family that happens to hail from the same area of Ireland that my ROBINSON line does and that settled in the same area of Ontario. I have to think this is more then a coincidence. Unfortunately it isn’t clear if there is a closer connection between the ROBINSONs and the owners of the site. I have contacted them and hopefully we will know soon.

Clearly, more research is needed before I can definitively say that any, or all, of these women are my 3rd great-aunt. I will continue to gather information on them until I can be sure.

What do you think? Have I overlooked anything that would help me solve this genealogy mystery? What other avenues of research would you go down? I’d love to hear what you think.

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