Wednesday, November 26, 2014

52 Ancestors: #45 William Bennett (about 1806 in Ireland – 1890 in Burnside, Michigan, USA), and #46 Margaret McFarlane Bennett Brown (1926 in Scotland – 1909 in North Branch, Michigan)

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of the United Kingdom by Matt Lewis through CC License
Map of United Kingdom (William - North Irish & Margaret - Scotland)
Matt Lewis [CC-BY-SA-3.0 ( or GFDL (], via Wikimedia Commons
Click to Make Bigger

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane Bennett Brown are my 2nd great grandparents, my paternal grandmother’s paternal grandparents. I found about their lives sort of from the middle forward, and I tried to take that back to their beginnings but I wasn't so successful with that. But, even so, I’m going to tell you about them from their beginnings to the extent I can (and about the confusions and the simply missing) in the hope that somebody reading can help me fill in the blanks, fix the mistakes, and/or point me in the direction of how to find out more – because with these two we “cross the pond” and I don’t know how to find anything in the British Isles yet (unless it’s in or in - although I hate their a single index entries, absent context, because then I still can't tell).

William Bennett was born in about 1806 in Ireland to Thomas and Laura Bennett, according to the Michigan Deaths and Burials index on (from FamilySearch’s files) and several censuses in Canada and the U.S. I don’t know exactly where he is from in Ireland, but his obituary said he was born in the northern part of Ireland about 1808.

Margaret McFarlane was born on March 10, 1825 in Scotland, according to her death certificate and several censuses in Canada and the U.S.  I have some discrepancies though, on who her parents may be. Her death certificate (information supplied by her youngest son, James) states that her parents are James McFarland and Jeanette Braiden, both also born in Scotland. But the marriage record for her second marriage (which, frankly, has one significant error that I know of – which I will get to later when it is relevant) states that her father is Andrew McFarland and her mother is unknown. I know nothing of when and how Margaret and her family, whoever they may be, came to Canada.

I next find both William and Margaret in Canada, and a couple. I was initially misled into believing I also found their transit (leaving from Dublin & arriving at Nantucket) -- one of those shaky leaves on, and I also saw it included in others’ trees there, but upon further analysis, in conjunction with other evidence I found, I don’t believe that it refers to my 2nd great grandparents as the birth date for William Bennett is too late by 8 years and the birth date given for Margaret  is too early by 7 years, and the couple on the boat (William and Margaret Bennett) were already married, and originated from the same port. As we will see they were not married when they came to North America. I think they must have met in Canada, which, frankly, would have been easier than a Scottish girl and Irish boy meeting and marrying in the early 1800’s in the home countries.

Climbing My Family Tree: Steerage Travel in mid-19th Century
Steerage Travel in mid-19th Century
from The Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851,
found at
Click to Make Bigger

According to William’s obituary he immigrated to Montreal, Canada, when he was quite young.  This would mean that William’s family (or William himself) left Ireland before the Great Famine. In fact, we know he and Margaret were in Canada by 1845 (the start of the Potato Famine) because their oldest child was born in Lower Canada in 1845. It is possible that they came with the flood of immigrants that were driven out of Ireland and Europe to North America after 1820 at the end of the Napoleonic Wars when the economy took a dramatic turn for the worse, and stayed in a Depression for nearly two decades. They traveled in steerage in the returning ships that brought Canadian timber to Ireland and Scotland. In British North America, those who went inland to Montreal were amongst the early pioneers in the country.  Farmers were on the front lines of clearing and civilizing the country. When a farmer obtained land, it was not what we think of as a farm but rather uncleared forestland. The farmer had to cut down the trees and pull the stumps before being able to plow up the land and plant; but the logging brought in extra income because the trees, once cut down, could be sold to the timber companies and shipped back to the home countries

As William was 20 years older than Margaret it is possible that he was married before. I don’t know.  I do know that they were together at least as of early 1845, as their oldest daughter, Mary Jane, was born in the Unified Province of Canada on October 28, 1845. However, they did not or were unable to marry until ten months after their third child and first son, Thomas, was baptized on January 21, 1849.

Climbing My Family Tree: Thomas Bennett Baptismal Record 21 January 1849,
Thomas Bennett Baptismal Record 21 January 1849,
Found at Ancestry,com, from the
Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Click to Make Bigger

[Transcription of birth/baptismal record Thomas Bennett:

On the Twenty-first day of January, one thousand eight hundred and forty nine we the undersigned first baptized Thomas born ten months before the lawful marriage of William Bennett farmer and Margaret McFarlane of this parish: the sponsors were James McAndrews and Anne Abbott, the former of whom as well as the father signed with us. (Signed) William Bennett.]

They probably had to wait years for a traveling pastor to come through the area, as there were not enough clergy to go around on the frontier. While people could gather to worship God without an official from the church, things like marriages and baptisms were usually delayed, without disgrace, until an ordained pastor came through the area.

I know about the existence of Irish naming patterns and Scottish naming patterns (patterns of naming the children by gender and birth order after particular ancestors), and I know that they aren’t the same. What I wonder now is, with an Irish father and a Scottish mother, whose naming pattern prevails?  William and Margaret had 13 children, 12 of which survived Margaret (according to her death certificate). If I knew which naming pattern applied I could learn a lot of ancestors’ names!

William and Margaret’s children were as follows:  Mary Jane (28 October 1845 in Canada East, married John Young on 12 July 1870, and died 15 July 1923 in Brown City MI); Charlotte Marguerite (1846 in Saint Martine, Canada East, married Charles Gray on 19 October 1873, married Joseph Bone on 20 November 1897 in Clark, Washington, and died 16 February 1916 in Portland OR); Thomas (born about 1858 in or near Ormstown, Canada East, married Margaret Cody, and died on 24 June 1934 in Reed City MI); Elizabeth (born about 1850 in Canada East - ?); Nancy Ellen (born about 1855 in Canada, married Adam Gleasure on 16 September 1876,  and died in Burnside MI on 7 November 1927); Dorothy (born about 1855, married Robert Watson on 25 December 1875 in Saginaw MI and died in Battle Ground WA  on 31 December 1927); Andrew (born 26 November 1858, married Anna Gregoron 10 April 1885, and died 30 January 1920 in Brown City MI); Sarah (born about 1858 - death date unknown), William (born about 1862 in Canada, married Teresa Tracy on 6 July 1884 and died after 1940), Janet (born 15 July 1863, married on 13 October 1886, and died 28 March 1932 in Flint MI); John Edward (born in September 1865, married Emma Masters on 28 October 1889 and died in Maple Valley MI on 2 March 1935); Lucretia (born in or about 1868, married William H. Baker, and died after 1905); and James (born in April 1871 in Michigan, married Martha Wengert on 27 January 1892, and died in 1958).

This means Margaret gave birth for 26 years (she had to love that man)! She had children born in each of four decades! So in addition to cooking, canning, cleaning, doing laundry, gardening, sewing, quilting, etc., --all without electricity or running water, or central heat or air conditioning – she always had kids around to raise, care for, and love. That’s a strong woman.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Beauharnois Township in Canada East
Map of Beauharnois Township in Canada East
Huntingdon County Quebec, 1861, on website Huntingdon County GenWeb,,
 found at
Click to make bigger
In the early years of their marriage the couple lived in the southwest corner of what became Quebec in Beauharnois township. In or about 1869, the family immigrated to Lapeer County in Michigan, USA. They may have been attracted by the excellent farming in land that had already been logged by the Michigan timber companies, and may have been enticed to move there by entreaties of family already there as both the Scots and the Irish tended to move in family groups (I’ve not yet sorted out who might already have been there, but there was a large Scots settlement in neighboring Sanilac county and my own family tree shows several generations of mixed Irish and Scot stock living in Lapeer and Sanilac counties in Michigan). They lived in Burnside Township of Lapeer County, Michigan, until William’s death at age 84, on 27 December 1890.  He was buried in the Deanville Cemetery, in Lapeer County, Michigan. His obituary appeared in The Imlay City Times on January 8, 1891:

Died at his home south-west of Deanville, Mr. William Bennett, Sr., on Dec. 29, 1890. Mr. Bennett was born in the northern part of Ireland about 1808. He emigrated to Montreal, Canada, while quite young, where he remained until 1869, when he moved to his farm near Deanville. He has raised a family of 12 children, all of whom have left and established homes of their own except the youngest, who still remains with his mother on the homestead. He was respected by his neighbors as an honest upright man and will be missed, for he always had a pleasant word for everybody.
[Appeared in the Imlay City Times, Jan 8, 1891 edition.]

I love that they said “He was respected by his neighbors as an honest upright man and will be missed, for he always had a pleasant word for everybody” about him. He sounds like such a nice man. That is a great way to be remembered!

Climbing My Family Tree: Grave of William Bennett, Deanville Cemetery, taken by Jack Vander-Schrier
Grave of William Bennett, Deanville Cemetery
found at Findagrave Memorial #14863074, taken by Jack Vander-Schrier,
used with permission
Click to make bigger
After her husband’s death, Margaret initially lived with her youngest son James, who was 18 at his father’s death, on the family farm. Two years later, on 27 January 1892, James married Martha Wengert in Brown City MI (per marriage record, daughter of Mike Wingart and Jennie Hagener [Mike Wengert and Janet Hagner]). According to the 1894 Michigan Census, taken on June 18, Margaret still lived her son’s family (they also had a boarder, David Bear – who over the course of many decades, boards with many different families of William and Margaret’s line & so may be related somehow). But six months later on 19 December 1894, Margaret married John Y. Brown, who was also born in Scotland. He had never been married before and was a peddler at the time of the marriage (thereafter he became a farmer). The registrar made a significant error in the ages of the couple, saying they were both 54. A comparison with later documentation assures me that the marriage record is for my Margaret but that the age listed for her should have been approximately 68 (Margaret may have shaved 4 years off her age for the event but I strongly doubt she shaved 14 years off!).

Climbing My Family Tree: Marriage record: Margaret McFarlane Bennett & John Y Brown, 19 December 1894 (3rd entry)
Marriage record: Margaret McFarlane Bennett & John Y Brown, 19 December 1894 (3rd entry)
Found at Family
Click to Make Bigger 

The 1900 Census shows Margaret (74) & John (60) Brown living and farming next door to Margaret’s son James’ family (James and Martha now have 3 sons and 2 daughters, ranging from 7 years to 8 months old), and seven doors from her daughter Nancy Bennett Gleasure's family (also two doors down from son Andrew’s brother-in-law, Anson J. Bentley, which confused me for a while since I knew I knew the name but couldn’t find a daughter married into that name – I finally went back to my actual tree and traced it to son Andrew’s wife’s sister Grace's husband. This genealogy stuff is starting to make me think in webs, lol!)

Margaret was widowed again when John Y Brown died on 6 February 1909 of Oedema of Organic Heart Lesion (which appears to mean a swelling caused by a buildup of fluid in the tissues of a narrowing of the arteries going into the heart, or, essentially, heart failure). The more personal information was supplied by Margaret’s son, James, who didn’t know his birth date but said he was 67 when first married, and that he was a cabinet maker. He reported that John Brown’s parents’ were John Brown and Jeannie Young. John was buried two days later in the West Burlington Cemetery in Clifford, Michigan.

Margaret died eight months later on 15 October 1909 at age 87, 7 months, and 6 days. Her cause of death was listed as Old Age. James supplied the information for her death certificate too. She was buried four days later in the Deanville Cemetery, in Lapeer County, Michigan, which is the cemetery in which William Bennett was buried.

Climbing My Family Tree: Death Certificate for Margaret McFarlane Bennett Brown 15 October 1909
Death Certificate for Margaret McFarlane Bennett Brown 15 October 1909
Found at
Click to Make Bigger

If anyone reading this is related to William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane or their parents/siblings or children, and would be willing to share any information or stories or pictures they have with me, I would love to see it. (I’m also interested in John Y. Brown.) Please leave me a comment below or email me at the address on my Contact Me page.

I’d really like to find out more about William and Margaret’s early years: where they were born, their family of origin, how they got to Canada and when, when they met, how they lived, etc.

I’d also like to find out more of how they lived in Canada and when and why they decided to move on to Michigan. I’d love to know how they made the trip.

I’d also like to find out more of how they lived after they got to Michigan, where the farm homestead was, what it looked like, etc.

I’d like to know if Nancy and Dorothy, and Andrew and Sarah, were twins.

And I’d really love to see pictures of any or all of them!

Much thanks to Judy Wilcox for her help with information regarding Martha Wengert, James Bennett, and the Wengert family and James and Martha's family, and the links for William Bennett and Martha Wengert, and her encouraging emails. (I’m related to her husband twice!) Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc., 200 - Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin; 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; 1894 Michigan Census; U.S. Federal Census for 1870, 1880, and 1900; Imlay City Times, Jan 8, 1891; ;;  The Scottish Pioneers of Upper Canada, 1784-1855, by Lucille H. Campey; Canada in 1849 – Pictures of Canadian Life; or. The Emigrant Churchman, by a Pioneer of the Wilderness, edited by the Rev. H. Christmas, M.A., F.R.S., F.S.A. (Richard Bentley, London, publisher in ordinary to Her Majesty, 1850);;;;; ;

Monday, November 17, 2014

52 Ancestors: #44 Anna Gregor Bennett (1858 – 1929), my great grandmother

Climbing My Family Tree: Location of Puslinch Township in what is now Ontario Canada, courtesy of Google maps
Location of Puslinch Township in what is now Ontario Canada
 Courtesy of Google maps
Click to make bigger

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

I had been intending to write about someone else, and had found some fascinating things. But, I hit a snag, and figuring out how to untangle it is taking too much time right now. So I’ve decided instead to write up my great-grandmother, Andrew Bennett’s wife, for this week, especially since she leads to the person I have been researching (who I will post about in the future – so you now know you have something fascinating to look forward to). Finding and tracking Anna before her marriage to my great-grandfather was interesting to me as well --- and again proves the helpfulness of researching more than just my direct line into to find my people. I’m not going to repeat the historical information I put in Andrew’s post as it would be too repetitive; please read his post as well.

Anna Gregor is my great-grandmother:  my father’s maternal grandmother. Anna was born on October 7, 1858 or 1859 to Benjamin Gregor (1824 – before 1880) and Elizabeth Taylor (about 1832 – before 1880). She was probably born in Puslinch Township in Wellington County, in the British colony of the United Province of Canada (in what today would be Ontario, Canada today), as her mother grew up there and her father moved there sometime in the six years prior to Anna’s birth. Puslinch Township is  just south of the town of Guelph, which is  61 miles (99 km) west of where Toronto is now and in the peninsula east of Lake Huron, west of Lake Ontario and north of Lake Erie. (See map at the head of the post.) I’ll discuss its history more when I do posts on Anna’s parents and grandparents as some of them were among the early pioneers in the area.

In the 1861 Census of Canada, Anna was 2 years old and living with her parents and older brother James (he was 4) in Puslinch Township. Her father was a farmer. The census recorder spelled their last name as Grigor. By 1871, the family had expanded to include younger brothers George (9) & Benjamin (3) and younger sister Gracie (7). And, again the census taker spelled their last name as Grigor. I think Anna’s parent’s died in or before 1879, even though I’ve been unable to find a record of their death, as I cannot find them in any census in Canada or the United States after that date, and the children left Puslinch Township by or shortly after 1880 -- four of the five moving to Michigan. James moved to Michigan first, in or about 1878 and the others joined him in 1879.

Climbing my Family Tree: 1884 Michigan State Census (Goodland twp. Lapeer County, MI), found at
1884 Michigan State Census (Goodland twp. Lapeer County, MI)
Found at
Click to make bigger

I found Anna in the U.S. Census, in 1880, when searching for her brother James; she was living with him in Burnside Township in Lapeer County Michigan; she kept house for him as he farmed. Searching the surname “Gregor” at, I found James, Anna, and Benjamin in the 1884 Michigan Census (see above picture), living in the township of Goodland, in Lapeer County. James (27) worked in “lumber manufacturing”, Anna (24) was his housekeeper and Benjamin (17) attended school.  The census also indicated that a female of 18, who had previously lived in the household, had married Anson Bentley on August 18, 1884. I also found a marriage record for Grace’s marriage to Anson Bentley on that date. Between these three documents I felt I had enough information to confirm that this was indeed where my great-grandmother and her siblings had gone after the probable death of their parents, and to confirm this was my Anna (Anna Bennett is a very common name). The census form also asked the time of residence within the state, which is how I found out that that James moved to Michigan first. He reported he had been there 6 years and Anna and Benjamin reported they had been there 5 years.

I think Anna’s younger brother, George, remained in Canada when the others moved to Michigan, although I’m not certain of that.  The first record I found him in was a marriage record for 1888, in which he married Emily Janette Lamont in Puslinch; the record indicated that his residence was in Hespeler, Ontario which is 9 miles (15 km) west of Guelph. [George,and his wife subsequently moved to Manitoba Canada and lived out their lives there. Anna's sister, Grace, and her husband, Anson Bentley, moved to Kansas, then Wyoming, and then to Idaho where they were buried. Anna's youngest brother, Benjamin, married Maude Amelia Thompson, and they lived most of their life in Indiana. After Maude died, he moved to Illinois; he was buried in Newago, MI with Maude. Unfortunately, I lost James after 1884.]

I feel a bit sad for Anna, with her family scattered at long distances from her. My brothers are all at long distances from me, but I have telephones, the internet, cars, and airplanes, and Anna likely didn’t have any of them. While telephones had been invented by the late 1870’s, their use in homes wasn’t common in rural areas until into the mid-1900’s because it was so expensive to string the wires out to the farmhomes. Brown City itself received telephone service in 1898, but long distance calls were expensive and not private, as many families in separate households would share a “party” line and could hear whoever was speaking if they picked up their receiver. The rural areas of Sanilac County were slow to receive telephone service, until Federal Funds were approved to help run electricity and telephone wires to rural areas in the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 – seven years after Anna died.

I wonder if her brothers and sisters ever visited her, or she them? With railroad travel it would have been possible and a lot easier and less time than horse and wagons had taken—one could travel across the country in a week instead of the several months it had taken just a few decades before.

I bet letters from Grace, George, James, and Benjamin were like gold the rest of her life. I hope they were good correspondents.

Climbing My Family Tree: Postcard of Brown City MI  Main Street East in 1906
Postcard of Brown City MI  Main Street East in 1906
Off copyright and in the public domain, but
found at (where there are more postcards)
Click to make bigger
Sometime after moving to Michigan, Anna must have met and gotten to know Andrew Bennett when he came home to visit family in Lapeer County (adjacent to Sanilac County – Brown City straddles both counties), from where he was working in Evart MI, as she married him on April 16, 1885. Anna and Andrew lived in Brown City, MI, on the Sanilac county side at least through their last child’s birth; the children’s birth records show a Brown City address. Their children were: Benjamin Gregor (born 15 February 1886, married Florence Short, and died 31 January 1970); William John (born 15 April 1889, married Mary Kalbfleisch, death date not discovered for certain yet); Elizabeth Grace (born 8 May 1891, married Arthur Bernard Martin, died 7 February 1920),  Blanche Maud (born in January 1894, married & divorced William John Huston, died 8 February 1948), Andrew Russell (born 26 January 1896, married Olive Gertrude Glover, died 23 July 1969), Anna Mae - my grandmother (born 16 May 1898, married Owen Carl Henn, died 12 September 1977), Margaret McFarland (born in August 1900, died 6 April 1935) and Thomas Edison Bennett (born 19 February 1906, married Lenore M. Griffen, died 1969). 

Climbing My Family Tree: 1900 Federal Census - Andrew and Anna Bennett Family
1900 Federal Census - Andrew and Anna Bennett Family,
found at
Click to make bigger

By the time their youngest child was four years old, the family moved out to Maple Valley township, in Sanilac county and farmed until they retired. Then they moved back to a house in town in Brown City, leaving the running of the farm to their son William and his bride. Andrew died in 1925 and Anna followed three years later on April 18, 1928.

This is when I truly regret that I cannot find any Sanilac or Lapeer county newspaper archives online. When I can find historical newspapers online for where my ancestors lived, I can find out all sorts of things that help me build a fuller picture of them as a person as besides real news stories, the old time newspapers printed stories about who is going to visit who, who had someone over for dinner, church activities, school activities, legal notices, anniversary and reunion celebrations, as well as obituaries. But, try as I might, I can’t find any for any newspaper in Sanilac or Lapeer counties at any of the major (or minor) newspaper archive sites.

If you know anything about Anna Gregor Bennett and/or her family, and are willing to share, please contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at the address provided in my Contact Me page.


I truly wish I knew more about my great-grandparents. I wish I had pictures of them. I’ve seen pictures of one of Anna’s brothers and of her sister on other people’s trees on, and that just makes me want to see her more (I can’t post the pictures of her siblings here for you to see as I haven’t reached out to the tree owners to ask for permission to do so yet).

I’d also like to know when, where and why her parents died. And where did her brother James go after 1884; did he have a family of his own? And more of what her life was like.

By the way, did you know that there are petroglyphs in Sanilac County that are 300-1000 years old?! Too cool! I'd also like to go see them! But until I do, here’s a link to a blog by a guy who did go see them, who has lots of pictures at the bottom of his post about his trip to the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park

Canadian census of 1861; U.S. Federal Censuses for 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930; Michigan State Census for 1884;;; ;;

Sunday, November 9, 2014

52 Ancestors: #42 Andrew Bennett (1858 – 1925), my great grandfather, Canada East to Michigan, USA

Climbing My Family Tree: Flag of the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada (which existed 1840-1867)
Flag of the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada (which existed 1840-1867), in the public domain
This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Andrew Bennett was born on November 26, 1858, in the British colony of the Unified Province of Canada in an area that would now be in the province of Quebec, Canada (see post on George Butler Wilcox and Mary Jane (Currier) Wilcox for explanation of the history of the making of Canada as we know it today).  He was the 7th child (of 13!) of William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane/McFarland. His siblings were: Mary Jane (1845-1923), Charlotte M. (1848-1916), Thomas (1849-1934), Elizabeth (1850 - ?), Nancy Ellen (1855-1927), Dorothy (1855-1927), [Andrew], Sara 1858-1877), William (1862 - ?), Janet (1863-1932), John Edward (1865-1935), Lucretia (1868 - ?) and James (1873 - ?).  [I’ll go into more detail about his siblings when I write about his parents.]

Climbing My Family Tree: Baptism record of Andrew Bennett (son of William) 1862
Baptism record of Andrew Bennett (son of William) 1862, found at
Click to make bigger

I don’t know exactly where he was born in the Unified Province of Canada, but he was baptized, in 1862, in Valleyfield. It is in what is now the southwest corner of Quebec, about 20 miles from today’s Ontario-Quebec Province line. The delayed baptism likely came about because his parents had to wait for a traveling pastor to come through the area. While people could gather to worship God without an official from the church, things like marriages and baptisms tended to wait until an ordained pastor came through the area.

While Valleyfield was first incorporated as a manufacturing town years later in 1874, it existed as a frontier settlement before that. In 1858, it was a small hamlet about 40 miles west of the island of Montreal, on the eastern edge of Lake St. Francis, and at the head of the Beauharnois Canal (part of the St. Lawrence Seaway Canal system) on the south side of the St. Lawrence River. The hamlet is now a city named Salaberry-de-Valleyfield. This area was largely settled by Scottish immigrants; even the name Valleyfield came from a paper mill, Valleyfield Mills, in Scotland. Andrew’s mother was born in Scotland, according to most of the censuses (and his father was born in Ireland).

Climbing My Family Tree: Map showing the site of Valleyfield, east of Lake St. Francis, south of the St. Lawrence River and at the head of the old Beauharnois Canal
Map showing the site of Valleyfield,, Quebec, east of Lake St. Francis, south of the St. Lawrence River
and at the head of the old Beauharnois Canal, off copyright
Click to make bigger

From 1830 through about 1870 was a period of immigration from Canada to Michigan in the United States called “Michigan Fever”, wherein large numbers of Canadian immigrants came to Michigan, including those newly arrived in the province of Canada. They were tempted by reports of the decline of the Indian population in Michigan, good climate and resources, including good farm land, iron and copper deposits, and a growing lumber industry.

Andrew’s father, William, moved his family to Lapeer County, Michigan towards the tail end of Michigan Fever, in or by 1870. From the 1830’s to 1870 Lapeer County’s main industry had been lumber, but after the trees were gone, the county began attracting farmers like Andrew’s father and became primarily agricultural. According to the 1870 U.S. Census, William and Margaret were living in Burnside in Lapeer County, Michigan in 1870 with William and their oldest son Thomas working as farm labor. Also in the household were the youngest six children Andrew (14) through Lucretia (either 4 or 2 - the census form is hard to read --’s indexer says she is 4, but I think it says she is 2). His oldest daughter Mary Jane was married to John Young and living next door. The youngest son, James, wasn’t born yet.

By 1880, Andrew was 22, and had moved away from home, and was living with his sister Dorothy (called “Dolley”) and her husband, Robert Watson, in the relatively new town of Evart, Michigan in Osceola County on the Muskegon River in the northwest portion of the Lower Peninsula. Both men worked in a saw mill. These would have been good jobs. The 1870’s through 1890’s was a time of remarkable growth for the railroads in the United States and as the first transcontinental railroads were being built, the companies building them relied heavily on Michigan for the wood ties used in constructing the railroads as they crossed the plains states where no trees grew. I don’t know that Andrew and Robert were involved in this industry but as it was a booming trade in Michigan at that time, they may well have been a cog in the trade. [Here is an interesting article on the “timber rush” in Michigan during those years]  

Climbing My Family Tree: Saw Mill on Budd Lake Michigan in the late 1880, about 35 miles north of Evart Michigan
Saw Mills on Budd Lake Michigan in the late 1880, about 35 miles north of Evart Michigan. Found at,
click to make bigger

Andrew was apparently also making visits home to Lapeer County, because at some point he met and wooed Anna Gregor (daughter of James Peter Gregor and Elizabeth Taylor), whom he married on April 16, 1885. I know that he and Anna continued to live in Brown City, on the Sanilac county side (the city straddles the Lapeer County and Sanilac County line), at least through their last child’s birth. Their children were: Benjamin Gregor (born 15 February 1886, married Florence Short, and died 31 January 1970); William John (born 15 April 1889, married Mary Kalbfleisch, death date not discovered for certain yet); Elizabeth Grace (born 8 May 1891, married Arthur Bernard Martin, died 7 February 1920),  Blanche Maud (born in January 1894, married & divorced William John Huston, died 8 February 1948), Russell Andrew (born 26 January 1896, married Olive Gertrude Glover, died 23 July 1969), Anna Mae - my grandmother (born 16 May 1898, married Owen Carl Henn, died 12 September 1977), Margaret McFarland (born in August 1900, died 6 April 1935) and Thomas Edison Bennett (born 19 February 1906, married Lenore M. Griffen, died 1969).  I see the potential for a whole bunch of new-to-me cousins here! If we’re related I’d love to hear from you!

While I don’t know for certain what Andrew was doing to support his family during those years since the 1890 census was burnt in a fire in Washington, DC, and there seems to be a dearth of Michigan records for the same time period (courthouse fires, I’m told), family stories tell me he was a farmer, and I have a map showing the land he owned & likely farmed in 1894 (see below). This makes sense because agriculture was the main industry for Sanilac County after the logging period, like it was in next door Lapeer County, and because he listed himself as a farmer in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 censuses. It would have been a tough time to be a farmer as farm produce prices went down as the transcontinental railroads were completed and as the Great Plains states were settled towards the last quarter of the 19th Century, leading to an abundance of product making it to the stores, and in the Panic of 1893 which began when the Reading Railroad company declared bankruptcy, causing a severe economic depression. Stock prices declined, and over $1 billion worth of bonds were defaulted. Hundreds of banks closed, 15,000 businesses failed, and numerous farms went under. The unemployment rate in Michigan was at 43%. The U.S. economy began to recover in 1897, after the election of President McKinley and the discovery of gold in Alaska.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1894 Land Ownership Map of Maple Valley Township in Sanilac County Michigan, showing Andrew Bennett's farm
1894 Land Ownership Map of Maple Valley Township in Sanilac County Michigan, showing Andrew Bennett's farm,
 found at
Click to make bigger
In the 1900 census, Andrew reported he had been married 15 years, was 46 years old, and he was a farmer.  Also in the household were  his wife Anna, 41; Benjamin, 14; William, 12; Elizabeth, 9; Blanch, 5; Andrew, 4; and Anna, 2. They lived in Maple Valley Township in Sanilac, County, Michigan. He also stated that he owned his farm but that it was mortgaged – likely as a result of trying to live through the bad times.

By 1910 Andrew had paid off the farm and owned it free and clear, and was farming with the help of his oldest son still at home – William (15). Benjamin had gotten married and started his own household the year before. Both Andrew and Anna reported their age as 51, Also at home were Elizabeth (18), Blanch (16), “Russle” A (14), Anna (11), Maggie (9), and Thomas (7).  

In the 1920 census, Andrew and Annie reported that they were 61, and that they became naturalized citizens in 1899. Andrew and William (31) are farming the property together and the farm is described as a general farm. Elizabeth had married and was working as a servant in a boarding housing at which she, her husband, and her infant daughter also boarded, in Muskegon, Michigan. Sadly, she died of pneumonia, complicated by influenza, a month after the census was taken. Andrew’s daughter Blanche (25) lived at home and worked as a public school teacher. Also at home were: Annie (21), Margaret (19), and Thomas (17).

Andrew died on January 30, 1925, at the age of 66. I don’t know of what or how he died. He was survived by his wife Ann, and seven of their eight children (his oldest daughter Elizabeth having died 5 years earlier).


I’d like to find out more about the missing years in the late 19th Century, and about how he died. I’d also like to know more about the farm. I must remember to check the land and probate records (if they still exist). I’d love to find a photograph of him and Anna (I would love to see my great-grandparents!). There’s a lot more I’d like to know, but it runs to the details that make a personality or a life, and would take too much time to explain. If you are related to any of these people and would like to connect and/or share your stories, suggest corrections to my information, or pictures, I’d love it if you would contact me by leaving a comment below or by sending me an email at the address in my “Contact Me” page.

------------------------------------------- Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. ( Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.); U.S. Federal Censuses for 1870, 1880, 1900, 1910, and 1920; Genealogical Research Library, Ontario, Canada. Canadian Genealogy Index, 1600s-1900s [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2005. (original source: Cadastres abreges des Seigneuries du District de Montreal (Vol 1) No 2, Beauharnois, Quebec, 1863.); U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. (Collection Number: G&M_64; Roll Number: 64); Michigan, Death Certificates, 1921-1952," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 05 Nov 2014), Andrew Bennett, 30 Jan 1925; citing Brown City, Sanilac, Michigan, United States; 00552; Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing; FHL microfilm 001973091.; Encyclopedic Canada, or, The Canadian album: Men of Canada; or, Success by example, in religion, patriotism, business, law, medicine, education and agriculture; containing portraits of some of Canada's chief business men, statesmen, farmers, men of the learned professions, and others., Vol. 5, William Cochrane, John Castell, Hopkins, W.J. Hunter (The Bradley-Garretson Co., LTD, Brantford and Ontario Canada, 1896.) [found as an e-book on Google Books];Quebec History, Valleyfield:;;; “Michigan Fever”, part 1:; Michigan Fever, part 2:; Lapeer County Condensed history:;;

Also I’m currently listening to the History of the United State, 2nd edition, by The Great Courses, (which I’m getting in 6 CD installments from my local library), in the car on my way to work. This is where I learned about Michigan supplying the railroad ties for the building of the transcontinental railroads, and the Panic of 1893.

I also have the sources of my information on the kids; if you want it, please contact me,. Otherwise, I will include it whenever one of them gets their own post.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Post Delayed

I'm sorry for the delay in getting up a 52 Ancestors post this week. I expect it will go up Saturday - after I have a chance to write it.

This past weekend and this week I've just felt exhausted and therefore have been going to bed at morning person hours -- and getting up at my normal night person hours (although there was nothing normal about last Saturday when I slept until 1:35 PM!). All this sleep is cutting into my research and writing time (let alone my chores)! Accordingly, I'm behind again.

I've come to the obvious conclusion that I'm not likely to truly get 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks as the challenge goes - I still intend to try, so it's possible, albeit not probable as I've never caught up from my break for moving this summer. I'm still perennially 2-3 ancestors  behind everyone else, and the calendar.

I've decided to spill over into January if necessary but I will finish 52 Ancestor posts (49 will be Grandma Anna Mae Bennett and 50 will be Grandpa Owen Carl Henn), before moving on to whatever this blog turns out to be. I've also decided on a future research/blogging strategy. I read a lot of Genea-blogs (at lunch at work, through Feedly), which is how I've learned how and where to conduct family history research. Therefore I know that one is supposed to pick a branch and proceed until you can't go anymore, but that seems to leave out family/cousin readers. One blog I follow (wish I could remember the name right now, I'd link to it, but...*blank* ...sigh) divides her research into quarters of the year, and spends one quarter of each year on one branch, defining "branch" as rooted from each grandparent. I think I will follow her example and spend three months on each branch [Bennett, Henn, Erwin, Snyder & up from each grandparent to all the other names in that branch] from January on out (including the spillover, if any), for the foreseeable future. If there turns out to be no spillover then the order will change to Erwin, Snyder, Henn, Bennett as I am doing it this year.

Since I know so much more about how to do this than when I started much of this next year will be spent on organization and clean up, before things get out of hand -- much easier to do it one year out than several years later as I see some doing. So I'll go over all I've done so far, making sure that the connections I've made seem sound and getting all my cites to the accepted standard (I bought a book on evidence citation standards for genealogy) -- at least I know that will be somewhat easier for me than some as I DO have cites for every single piece of evidence I found (I'm somewhat fanatical about being able to document and/or cite sources on my work), they just probably aren't to accepted form since I didn't know there was an accepted form until recently. 

I figure about a month to a month and a half on clean up before trying to push forward on each branch. I will also take the time to read some of the history books I've picked up about where my ancestors lived so as to better understand their context. 

I do intend to do more Ancestor Highlights (what I called the bios before the 52 Ancestor challenge), and other posts -- the blog won't go dead. For those relatives concerned I won't have anyone more to write about, 1) I'm just starting grandma Henn (Bennett)'s family (by the way, we come from, or through, a different part of Canada than I was told we did) and 2) says I have 1405 people in my family tree at the moment --true, that's not all straight up as I find it helps my direct line upward research to research each sibling of each person and their kids for about two generations down -- but they're all relatives and fair game for blogging about, especially the ones who lived through interesting times!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

52 Ancestors: #41 James O’Brian (1823-1904), Carpenter, Farmer, Husband, Father...But Whose Son?

Climbing My Family Tree: Huron County, Ontario, Canada
Huron County, Ontario, Canada

Climbing My Family Tree: Sanilac County Michigan USA
Sanilac County Michigan USA

Edit to title (darn, that was embarrassing! Sigh.)

James O’Brian is my third great grandfather, and Ann McClean O’Brian’s husband. I have a transcription of an obituary for him, too, in the family papers. Again, I have no indication what paper it came from (I will provide cite when I find out but it probably came from the Brown City or Imlay City, Michigan newspaper). The original transcription is in a compilation of family documents done by George J. Lutz, in May 30, 1972. The compilation was given to my father by his sister for Christmas a few years ago.

James O'Brian Passes Away at the Age of 82 Years

Another of the old pioneers has been called hence by the grim reaper death and now lies at rest in the "silent city of the dead." while a large concourse of friends pay tribute to him in attending the funeral which was held from the M.E. Church at 1 p.m. today, Rev. E. Yeger officiating, and his remains laid to rest in the village cemetery, by the side of those of his companion, who preceded him in death June 23, 1902.

James O'Brian, one of the oldest pioneers of this section of the state, passed away at his home on North Second Street, this village at 9:30 p.m., Tuesday, December 13, 1904. His work was done, and well done. To him and such as he, was committed the task of subduing the wilderness and making it habitable for the thousands that should come after them, and we bow in humble submission to the will of him who doeth all things well, and pay our tribute of respect to this departed one, let us not forget that there still remains our midst, still walk our streets with tottering steps, a few of that sturdy band, but, like ripened grain, their heads are bent and white unto the harvest. The sickle of the great reaper is ready and soon they will fall beneath its keen edge. Let us honor them and speak to them kindly words of solace in the dark hours of loneliness caused by the loss perhaps of a companion. Let us not wait to strew flowers upon the casket and grave above their lifeless clay, but plant them now in their pathway while yet they may behold their beauty, and that their hearts and lives may be cheered and brightened.

Among the early settlers in this part of the state came James O'Brian, born in Belville, Ontario, 82 years ago. He lived there til 18 years of age, when he located in London, where 55 years ago he was married to Miss Ann McClean. They came to Michigan 42 years ago, settling in Maple Valley, three and one-half miles south of Brown City, on the farm now owned by Joseph Morris, where they lived until 1882, when they moved to Brown City. Mr. O'Brian was a carpenter by trade, which avocation he principally followed during his residency in Michigan.

Mr. O'Brian is survived by seven children, as follows: Mrs. Kate Clink, of Capac, Mrs. Jennie Dean of Akron, Ohio, Mrs. Elizabeth Henn of Burnside, Mrs. Margaret Hether of Maple Valley, John and Anna single at home and Mrs. George E. Harris of Yonkers, N.Y.

He was brought up in the Presbyterian faith which he held during his entire life.”

A very florid piece, isn't it? My first thought when reading it before beginning any family research, was that the writer didn't know him and was padding the piece to make it look longer. After I looked into Ann & James, realized the writer did know him – maybe the writing style of those first two paragraphs was in fashion in the early 1900’s? Did you notice that, again, I have an obituary that doesn't mention who his parents are? But, unlike last week, I don’t have a clue who James’ parents are.


In the course of my research, I found James under several spellings of his last name, starting with Obrien, moving to O’Brien, and ending up with O’Bryan. We know from the obituary that he was born on July 12, 1823, in Belville, in Upper Canada (now Belleville, Hastings County, Ontario, Canada). He always indicated, whether in Canada or the United States, that he was born in Canada (Canada English). In one U.S. census that it states that both his parents were of foreign birth (1870 – the first after his immigration), but in the next two censuses (1880 & 1890) James stated his father was born in New York and his mother in Canada (Canada English).  

In his 19th year, James moved to London, Canada West (Upper and Lower Canada unified into one province called Canada; what became Ontario was then called Canada West in official documents). James would have turned 18 in July 1841, so that means he was in London for the 1842 Canadian Census. doesn’t have that one but does; however, it is really hard to read and the only name listed is the head of household and all others in the household are denoted by counts in categories. I haven’t yet sorted out which Obrien is my James (there is a James but I’m not certain it’s my James because of the difficulty in reading the form). I’ll continue to work on figuring it out, but I don’t have it now.

The first record I found James in was the record of his marriage to Ann McLean, in London, Middlesex, Canada on 31 August 1848, by James Skinner, minister of the United Presbyterian Church in Canada. The witnesses were Hector McLean and John Collie.
Climbing My Family Tree: McLean-O'Brien Marriage Record (1848 London, Upper Canada)
McLean-O'Brien Marriage Record (1848 London, Upper Canada)
Click to make bigger

After the marriage, I first found the couple in the McGillivray township of Huron County, Canada province with their first daughter, Catharine Priscilla (1 yr old), in the 1851 Census. James and Ann were 28 years old. James was a laborer, and, oddly, the couple was listed as belonging to the Church of Rome (Catholic) – I would put that down to the census taker, as otherwise, the family always self-identified as either Presbyterian or Church of Scotland (pretty much the same thing).  In 1861, James and the family were still in McGillivray, living in a log home. James was now a carpenter, and James and Ann had four more kids (so, five total):  Catharine (9), Jane (8), Elizabeth (6), Margaret (3), and John (1). The oldest three girls were in school. Another daughter, Ann, was born later that year after the census as taken.

Two years later, James and Ann moved the family to the U.S.A, to Sanilac County, Michigan. Two more daughters were born in Michigan, Christy Jane in 1864 and Ellen in 1867. Christy died at 3 years, 3 months old; on her tombstone are the words, “sleep on sweet babe and take thy rest God called you home he thought best.” The family must have been broken-hearted.

The U.S. Census data differs a bit from the narrative given in the obituary, albeit not in major ways. By 1870, James, 48, owned and worked a farm valued at $2700 (it would be about $49,090 in today’s dollars) and had personal property valued at $600 (about $10, 909 now) in Maple Valley, Sanilac County, Michigan. Only son John was in school at that time. At the time of the 1880 census, James (57), Ann (50), two of their daughters (Anna, 18, and Ellen, 13) and son John (21) lived in Burnside Township in Lapeer county MI. James was a famer and Ann kept house. Their son John was a carpenter and daughter Anna was a domestic servant. The 1890 census forms were burned in a fire so we have no data for that year. In 1900, James (76), Ann (69) and the youngest three kids – no longer kids --  lived in Maple Valley Michigan. James listed himself as a house carpenter. John (41) was a carpenter, Anna (38), a dressmaker, and Ellen (33) was a school teacher.

When he was 79, in 1902, James lost Ann, his wife  and companion of 53 years; he lived only two years longer, before dying of pneumonia and old age at his North Second Street home in Brown City Michigan.

If you know anything about where James came from, who his parents were, and the rest of his life, and are willing to share that with me, please contact me by leaving a comment, or by emailing me at the address listed in my Contact Me page.

Climbing My Family Tree: Death Certificate: James O'Brian (December 12, 1904)
Death Certificate: James O'Brian (December 12, 1904)
Click to make bigger


I really want to learn who his parents are, and what his early life was like, and whether he had siblings (and about his parents’ lives too!), and more about the rest of his and Ann’s life.

 ---------------------; Archives of Ontario Series: MS248; Reel: 3, and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA; Canadian Census of 1851 & 1861; U.S. Census 1870, 1880, and 1900;, Michigan, Death Certificate: The Library of Michigan, Michigan Death Records, 1897-1920; Rolls: 1-302; Archive Barcode/Item Number: 30000008530705; Roll Number: 74; Certificate Number: 4.

Friday, October 24, 2014

52 Ancestors: #40 Ann McLean O’Brian (1830-1902) Born in Strathdearn, Inverness-shire, Scotland, Immigrated to Canada, then USA (Michigan)

Flag of Scotland
Flag of Scotland

For various reasons, including inability to get into for several days, a busy schedule, and a strong need for sleep, I didn’t get a lot of research done last week. Or not a lot that went anywhere, anyway. I kept running into twists, turns, confusions, and way-too-common names. So in creating a 40th Ancestor post, I decided to pull back and post about my third great-grandmother Ann McLean because I have a copy of a transcription of a delightful obituary for her in my family papers. So I’ll post my transcription of that, followed by a brief listing of what I’ve found about her.

 I am aware that obituaries are only as accurate as the extent of the knowledge of the person supplying the information (see post on Simon Wilcox and Lydia Sharp), and I haven’t had the chance to check out everything in Ann McLean O’Brian’s obituary yet, but it does provide a lot of lovely clues for any researcher (and one glaring lack!).

The below is a transcription of clipping owned by Lucille Robson, no indication what paper it came from (I will provide cite when I find out but probably the Brown City or Imlay City, Michigan newspaper ). Original transcription in compilation of family documents done by George J. Lutz, May 30, 1972. Said compilation was gifted to my father, by his sister [both living so names not provided in public].

Obituary – Ann McLean O’Brian


An exemplary Christian mother, having rounded out her full three score and ten years has laid down life’s labors and cares, and has gone home to reap the reward of a long life well spent, full of kindly deeds and Christian acts, which have wrought in the hearts and minds of those she has left behind, impressions of kindly remembrances that can only be effected (sic) by the passing of their own lives and by the passing of this soul through the pearly gates that stand ajar. Another one has been added to that spotless throng who have washed their garments and made them white in the blood of the lamb. By her death, a husband that has been her life companion, through prosperity and adversity, and who has shared with her the joys and sorrows for fifty-three years, is bereft of the one that was far more to him that all the world beside, a large family of grown children are left to mourn the loss of one of the grandest and best mothers who ever lived.

Mrs. James O’Brian was stricken with apoplexy of the brain at six o’clock a.m. on Monday, June 23. Dr. J.E. Campbell was quickly summoned and all that could be done for the sufferer was done, but she sank rapidly and passed peacefully away four hours later.

The old lady had been in her usual health up to the time she received the stroke. Only the day before, Sunday, she attended church in the morning as was her usual custom, and had done her usual shopping down town on Saturday. One year ago she had suffered a slight stroke of paralysis, which is given for the cause of the second and one proving so fatal in so short a time. The funeral was held from the M.E. Church Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. Rev. Adair of Marlette officiating. The internment took place in the village cemetery.

Deceased was born at Strathdairn, Scotland, September 16, 1830, her maiden name being Ann McLean. When still an infant she came from the old country with her parents who located near London Ontario, where she was raised. She was united in marriage to Mr. James O’Brian fifty-three years ago. They moved to Michigan about forty years ago, settling on a farm near Sharpsville, where they resided until twenty years ago when they moved to Brown City, being among the first settlers of the Village. Besides a husband, six children are left to mourn: Mrs. John Clink of Capac, Mrs. Jeanie Dean of Toledo, Ohio, Mrs. John Henn, of Burnside, Mrs. Noah Hether of near Deanville, John and Anna, single at home, and Mrs. George Harris of Marshall, Michigan. Two sisters and one brother also survive her: Mrs. Margaret Leach of Strathroy, Ontario, Mrs. C. Sullivan of Napier Ontario, and Alex McClean of Manitoba.

Mrs. O’Brian embraced the Christian faith in early life and continued to live a consistent Christian life till the end of her life, acting out in her everyday life, those principals which characterize the true Christian. She was not only a self-sacrificing and devoted mother to her children, but to the whole community in which she lived. It is safe to say that within her entire circle of acquaintances, Grandma O’Brian, as she was familiarly called, had not a single enemy. On the contrary everybody who knew her loved her as she had a kind word for everyone.

She joined the Presbyterian Church in Canada but since moving to Michigan had not united with any particular denomination, but lived a humble devoted Christian life.

The floral offerings were numerous and very pretty. One floral gift was especially appropriate and was much appreciated by the family, and that was a golden sheath of wheat.

 The family desires to hereby express their gratitude to the neighbors and friends for deeds of kindness and words of sympathy in this their hour of sore affliction.

Isn’t that a delightful tribute? She must have been a lovely person!

Did you note the glaringly missing facts? It doesn’t name her parents! Through my research so far, I’m pretty sure her father’s name is Hector McLean (which complies with family stories). Did you know that McLean was the 28th most common surname in Scotland in the 19th Century? And I will tell you, based on what I’ve been seeing, that Hector seems a very popular name amongst the McLean’s n Scotland, and in Canada, so I’m not comfortable yet saying which one is her father.  And as I’m not certain about him, it makes it even harder to be certain about her mother. It is looking to be either Janet MacGregor (which concurs with our family trees)  or Jane Frazer (which other family trees have married to the man who appears to be our Hector [because of the story about London, Ontario, which I’m going to hold back until I write about him]). Per the records I‘ve seen both women married a Hector McLean and there were kids in the household with similar names. Therefore I’m going to leave the question as to who her parents are and any more research as to their generation to a later day after this challenge is over and I have more time to spend worrying at the bones of one branch at a time. [Addendum: I just found Ann’s death certificate when I did a last minute check of as I was typing the end of this post(!) – actually was looking for a death certificate for one of the kids. I know that a death certificate is only as good as the knowledge of the person who filled it out, but it does help tilt the scales towards Janet….also a popular name. Sigh. I saw several couples names Hector & Janet MacGregor in records for several countries and states. Still holding this generation’s research of until after this project.]

Climbing My Family Tree: Map showing location of Strathdearn, Inverness, Scotland
Map showing location of Strathdearn, Inverness, Scotland
Found via Google Maps

According to the obituary she was born in Strathdairn, Scotland on September 16, 1830 (this appears to be a misspelling of Strathdearn as Strathdairn doesn’t exist and seems never to have existed).  Strathdearn is a valley situated by the River Findhorn 15 miles south of Inverness, in the Highlands of Scotland.  It is a very fertile land, and is currently known for its world famous malt whiskey distillery, hill farms and very good sporting opportunities for salmon fishing, deer stalking and grouse shooting, The current village of Strathdearn has a population of 550. I wonder how big it was when Ann’s family left it?

Climbing my Family Tree: Strathdearn Valley, Inverness-shire, Scotland (by Dave Connor, CC license via
Strathdearn Valley, Inverness-shire, Scotland (by Dave Connor, Creative Commons license via

I don’t have anything on Ann until she, at age 17, married James O’Brien, in London, Canada West (which became London, Ontario, Canada after Canada became a country),  on  August 31, 1848, by Rev. James Skinner in the United Presbyterian Church in Canada. The witnesses were Hector McLean and John Collie. (I'll put a picture of the marriage record on my post on James O'Brian, which will go up in a few days.)

Three years later (1851) the young couple and their first child, Catherine Priscilla (aka “Kate”), age 2,  were living in the McGillivray district of Huron County in Canada West. Huron County was a mainly agricultural area then. Kate (1850-1938) later married John Livinstone Clink. 

In the next five years, Ann and James had five children: Janet “Jennie” (1852 – 1934, married Hiram Dean; Elizabeth (1853-1927, married John Henn – they were my 2nd great grandparents); Margaret (1857-1927, married Noah Hether); John (1859-1935), and Annie L. (1861-1908).

The family immigrated to the United States, moving to Sanilac County, Michigan, in 1863, but shortly they faced tragedy. The first child born in the United States was Christy Jane. She was born on December 23, 1864 but only lived just over three years, dying on March 29, 1868. She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Burnside Township in Lapeer County, Michigan. Their last child was Ellen L. (1867-1947, married George Harris).

Ann and James’ family moved back and forth between the adjoining Lapeer and Sanilac counties over the next thirty years (I’ll put more details in James O’Brian’s post. He will be # 41).

She died on June 23, 1902 of a cerebral hemorrhage, and was buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Burnside Township in Lapeer County, Michigan, where they had buried Christy Jane.

Climbing My Family Tree: Death Certificate for Ann McLean O'Brian

If you have any information on on Ann McLean O'Brian, her life, and/or her family, and are willing to share it, I'd love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below or contact me through the email address in my Contact Me page.  (If the email address doesn't work --one person recently had problems, although it works fine for most people - leave me a note in the comments to go look for the email. I get notified of the comments.)
I’d like to find records for Ann’s birth and early years (her entire life until she married James!), which also means I’d like to figure out for sure which Hector McLean and Janet MacGregor are her parents and their lives.

When and on what ship did she travel from Scotland to Canada? More about her life in each country.

And I’d like to know what newspaper that obituary was printed in.

I'd love to find more newspaper mentions/articles of her.

 ------------------------;;;  Archives of Ontario Series: MS248; Reel: 3, and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada).Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: