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:

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