Saturday, May 14, 2016

William Bennett (1806-1890) Revisited, Part Two: Weighing Direct Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Scientific Evidence, and Historical Context in Consideration of a Hypothesis.

Climbing My Family Tree: Is This Connection Correct?
Is This Connection Correct?

I am not a genealogist. I am a genealogy hobbyist who works in state agency law in my regular job. I am used to working with evidence, analyzing it, coming to conclusions about its credibility, and determining whether it adds up to anything in particular. Working in agency law I’m used to working with the “substantial evidence” standard, which is “such relevant evidence as a reasonable mind might accept is adequate to support a conclusion” (more than a “mere scintilla” of evidence).  In making a decision on a case, it is required that there be evidence in support of the conclusion, that I can cite the source of that evidence and  that I explain how the evidence supports my decision. Since this is what I’m used to, this is how I approach my family history hobby.

Another thing that I am used to in my job is bouncing difficult cases off my coworkers or supervisors to see if they can poke holes in my thinking, or whether simply “thinking out loud” can help me get un-stuck on an issue. So in this post, I am “thinking out loud” and seeking feedback from anyone who reads this. 

Before I start talking about my hypothesis want to give a brief definition of the sort of evidence I talk about in the title of this post. I’m largely using the categories I named in a broad sense:

·        “Direct evidence” provides proof about a fact in question or answers a specific, stated question, without requiring us to make any assumptions or draw any inferences. Classic examples of direct evidence are eyewitness testimony, photographs or video of the perpetrator “in the act” or incriminating statements made by a person involved in the matter. In terms of genealogy, wherein most the people I’m looking at are dead, direct evidence would be eyewitness written statements/notations of events or the portion of the death certificate filled out by the doctor as to cause of death and date of death, or basically, anything which relies on the personal knowledge or observation of the writer and gives a definite conclusion.

·        “Circumstantial evidence” or “indirect evidence” relies on inference to connect it to a conclusion of fact. It indirectly proves the fact supports the theory. The more circumstantial evidence there is that tends to support X, the stronger your case. While the media tends to say things like “they only have circumstantial evidence” rather dismissively, circumstantial evidence is not a lesser form of evidence. Eyewitness testimonials are not necessarily always credible or correct, and circumstantial evidence can build a better case, with the caveat that interpretation is key – a misinterpretation can color the whole case and lead to an incorrect conclusion.

·        “Scientific evidence” is actually circumstantial evidence. I separated it out in the title because it occupies a separate stage of thinking for me in this case and I will treat the DNA evidence in a separate section of this post.

·        “Historical context” and/or “cultural context” can inform one’s interpretation of evidence, and it can also help determine whether the evidence is credible or not. Failure to try to understand the context in which events occurred makes coming to a fair or correct conclusion much harder.


Hypothesis: The parents of William Bennett (1806 Ireland-1890 Michigan, USA) are Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston (daughter of Edward Hingston and Lucretia Sewell) of Schull, County Cork, Ireland.

Background: In most of the family trees I have seen which lead up to my second great-grandfather William Bennett (1806 Ireland-1890 Michigan, USA) as a common ancestor, William’s parents are listed as Thomas and Laura Bennett, and born in Northern Ireland or Ulster County, Ireland. I believe that is based on William’s obituary and his death certificate.

His obituary appeared in the Imlay City Times on January 8, 1891, as follows (underlining mine):
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.

His death record lists his mother as Laura Bennett.

Climbing My Family Tree: Michigan Death Record of William Bennett, 27 Dec 1890
Michigan Death Record of William Bennett, 27 Dec 1890
Click to make bigger

However, in most of the trees that I have seen where they are coming down to William as a sibling or child of their direct ancestor, having gone up another branch of the tree, William’s parents are listed as Thomas Bennett and Laura Hingston of County Cork, Ireland.

Originally, I had no reason to doubt the obituary or the death certificate notations, even though I know them to be hearsay or speculative evidence, at best, depending on the knowledge of the person who gave the information included in the obituary and the death certificate. That is generally the deceased person’s child, although not always, and I have seen often enough in the course of my family history explorations that the children don’t necessarily know that much about their parents origins and fill out the death certificate or the obituary with incorrect information (sometimes close but not quite right – Heck, until I started doing the family history and asking questions, I probably would’ve placed my mother’s birthplace in a different town than that in which she was actually born. It would have been the one in which she grew up, but she wasn’t born there).

Neither the obituary, nor the death certificate – for the particular fact of who is William’s mother – is direct evidence. I haven’t got any direct evidence tending to support my hypothesis. But I haven’t got any direct evidence refuting it either.

The first inkling I had that basing the facts in my entry on the  William Bennett in my family tree on the obituary and the death certificate might be part of the reason I hadn’t been able to find out anything more about him and might be leading to the dissemination of incorrect information, came when I was contacted by Beverly Jones through my Ancestrydotcom tree, when she said, “If your red puzzle piece with the caption "is this connection correct" is an invitation to weigh in, I'd like to respond I think it is correct that William Bennett's parents were Thomas Bennett and "Laura." Perhaps she was called "Laura", but I think her full name was Lucretia Hingston, and if so, she was the sister of my second great-grandmother Dorothy "Dorah" Hingston Abbott, who lived in the same area of Quebec. I believe William Bennett's brother was Andrew Bennett, who married Dorah's daughter, Ann Abbott (first cousins). Perhaps you know all of this, but I'm willing to share if you don't. I found you through a DNA connection of [my Dad’s test*] with [LK*] & [P2*], who are also DNA matches to me.” (I have permission to use Beverly’s name in this post but have not asked whether I could use the name or identifier of the persons in the brackets, so I’ve made them less identifiable.)

Among the things Beverly shared with me was an AncestryDNA-style DNA circle made up of Hingston-Sewell DNA connections [Lucretia Hingston's parents]  -- it is too far out from both of us for Ancestry to have made one. The below illustration shows a modified copy of the one she sent me (again, I don’t have permission from everyone included to use their name/identifier in this blog post so I have made them less identifiable). The changes I have made are basically cosmetic; this is her work. [Note: this is based on Pre-Change AncestryDNA information. I’ve checked to the extent I can and the connections are still there.]

Beverly Jones' Hingston-Sewell DNA Circle
Used with permission
Click to Make Bigger

This pretty much convinced me that I do descend from Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston. But, this is only one piece of evidence and it is not direct definitive evidence, as we could be connected at a further level up. I’ve since checked my uncle’s and my aunts’ DNA for shared matches with any of the above-listed people and the graphic representation of the circle turned into quite the spider web with so many lines it is difficult to read in a hand-drawn picture, so while the connections are even stronger, particularly as to the Andrew Bennett (1796-1895) group, I decided to post only the original of the line drawing Beverly sent me (edited version) as the illustration here.

So far I have not found a single direct record connecting my William with Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston Bennett of Cork. But circumstantial evidence is good evidence, too, and it is starting to pile up.

For me, one of the most convincing pieces of circumstantial evidence is the listing of Thomas and Lucretia’s children versus the listing of William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane Bennett’s children. (I’ve found baptism or marriage records of many of William’s purported siblings, connecting them with Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston.)

The children of Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston are (not necessarily in the right order) as follows:

Eliza, and 
(Please also keep in mind that Lucretia’s parents are Edward and Lucretia.)

The children of my William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane are:

Mary Jane McFarlane, 
Charlotte Margaret, 
Janet (“Jenny”), 
John Edward, 
Lucretia Anne, and 
James R. 
(Notably, not a single “Laura” among them.)

The two lists are remarkably similar, with the addition of Lucretia (William’s mother and maternal grandmother, if my hypothesis is correct) and Edward as part of John Edward  (Edward would be William’s maternal grandfather under this theory). When I ran preliminary incarnation [mentioning only one DNA connection] of my attempts to work out this hypothesis by a genea-blogger friend who lives in Ireland (Dara, of the Black Raven Genealogy blog ), she told me, “Along with everything else, the strongest evidence in support of the theory, in my opinion, are the two daughters Lucretia and Dorothy. In Ireland, there was little variety in given names, most especially for girls. e.g. one in five girls was called Mary, and one in six boys, John. Very few people were named outside the top ten common names of each sex.  Lucretia and even Dorothy were rare names (probably gentry) in Ireland. It's a huge coincidence if the two families shared these names by chance, as well as all the more common ones.  Naming conventions, eldest son after paternal grandfather, etc) provide clues but in reality were not always followed.”

She also told me that Bennett is an Anglo-Irish name from before the Cromwell conquest, and so originally Catholic. She said it was originally common around Kilkenny from the 14th century, according to MacLysaght (upon looking up that name I discovered that MacLysaght is the absolute expert on Irish surnames and that his books cost a fortune so I’m going to see whether his stuff is available through interlibrary loan at my local library). Dara said Hingston is probably English and is not common in Ireland. (Beverly has found a lot of information on the Hingston family which she has been sending me links to – fascinating stuff, which confirms English roots.)

Beverly had told me that her research, and a letter from a neighbor of the parents mentioning the sons, showed the three sons of Thomas Bennett (Sr.) left Ireland to move to North America (to what became Canada). So I started trying to see if I could find Andrew Bennett or Thomas Bennett Jr, or the three of them traveling from Ireland to the British colonies in North America. I have been so far unsuccessful in finding any ships manifests or other such records showing the three of them traveling together, or separately, to the British colonies in America. I will keep looking for ships records.

I have been able to find Andrew Bennett in Lower Canada. Andrew Bennett lived in the same area as my William Bennett in Lower Canada. In fact, on page 335 of the History of Huntingdon and the Seigniories of Beauharnois and Chateauguay by Robert Sellar. in its end of the chapter list of first occupants of lots in North Georgetown, 1st concession, it shows Andrew Bennett as part tenant (with Neil McNaughton) of the same lot number as I later found William owned according to the English transcription of the Cadastre Abrege for 1854 for North Georgetown (see William Bennett, Revisited, Part One). The history book also shows that lot (#22) is two lots away from that owned by the man who became William’s father-in-law, Andrew McFarlane. Lot #22 was first occupied around 1830. (Prior to the Rebellions of 1837 and 1838, the Seigniories operated as a feudal-style land system, as described in Part One, and it was not possible to own the lot free and clear. I understand that that was changed by the British government after the rebellions, and it became possible to purchase the land.) At the time William owned lot #22 in the first concession, Andrew owned lot 1 in the 3rd concession of the same town.
Battle of St. Denis, Contemporary Watercolor, In the Public Domain.

I discovered that Andrew Bennett served in the same local militia that William Bennett did during the uprising of 1838, in the Beauharnois Loyal Volunteers, the Beauharnois Battalion, 1st company, Georgetown). They were both privates. 

I also found a mention of Andrew Bennett and his wife, Ann Abbott, “of County Cork,” in A History of Northwest Missouri as the parents of Charles Bennett. The history indicated that Andrew (born in 1797) and Ann (born in 1817) were both from County Cork, Ireland, were married in Canada in 1833, and that Andrew Bennett had emigrated to North America at the age of 34. Andrew Bennett would’ve been 34 in approximately 1831. In 1831, my William would’ve been approximately 25 years old if he came to North America with Andrew Bennett. Age 25, this would probably comport with the line in William's obituary stating that he “emigrated to Montreal, Canada, while quite young.” It is worth noting that Ann Abbott is listed as the godmother of William Bennett and Margaret McFarlane’s son Thomas. (I also note that, as described above, Beverly Jones is descended from John Abbott and Dorah Hingston. As noted, Dorah is Lucretia’s sister, so it would appear that the Abbotts intertwine with the family on more than one generation.)

Andrew Bennett died in 1865. It is shortly after this time that William Bennett and his family moved to Michigan, USA.

I haven’t been able to find record of anyone I can definitively say is William’s brother, Thomas Bennett (hereinafter TBj) in the British colonies in North America although I did find his baptism record showing him to have been born to Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston (– the index says Houghton but the document itself clearly says Hingston – and baptized on 21 July 1810 in Schull, County Cork, Ireland). I have found a few possibilities and have a favorite, but I’m not sure enough to add the information to his entry on my tree yet. My possibilities include: 1) There is a Tom Bennett in the 1851 New Brunswick census who is Irish and born in the same year TBj was baptized living with a Graham family, but why would he be in New Brunswick as a laborer when the rest of his family is southwest of Montreal? 2) There are two Thomas Bennetts in several censuses and death records in Canada West/Ontario, born within two years either side of TBj’s baptism date, but both list their place of birth as England throughout the censuses [in the death records one in listed as English and the other Irish] and belong to the Church of England, so I’m thinking possible but not necessarily probable. 3) [Admittedly, my favorite] is an 1832 burial record for a Thomas Bennett, age 24, who died in the Emigrant’s Hospital on 18th and was buried on the 20th day of January 1832.  In the 1830s, all who emigrated to Lower Canada (now Quebec) from the British isles were quarantined on Gross Isle in the Quebec Harbor in the St. Lawrence River, one ship at a time (other ships had to wait their turn), until the ship, its passengers, crew and all their bedding and clothing had been scrubbed and approved by government inspectors. Any who showed signs of disease were detained in the Emigrant’s Hospital on the Island.  This Thomas Bennett’s listed age in the index would have him born within 2 years of TBj’s baptism. I like this one because he is at least in the same province as his putative brothers, and because it explains not being able to find him in the same area as William in the years to come. It’s tragic, but plausible.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Ireland, 1830
Map of Ireland, 1830
Click to make bigger

One of the main problems with my hypothesis versus William Bennett’s obituary is that County Cork is not in northern Ireland. This is where a little consideration of historical context may supply some reasons for the difference in the obituary. First, Northern Ireland as a separate political entity did not exist until 1921, thirty-one years after William died. Prior to that, saying someone was from northern Ireland was a common reference point indicating that the person was likely from County Ulster and not Catholic. I have been unable to find a Thomas and Laura Bennett from County Ulster, in the correct time frame, or anywhere in that timeframe, for that matter. Under my hypothesis, William came to British North America when he was approximately 21, based on the information on Andrew in his son's, Charles’ write-up, in the History of Northwest Missouri, about a decade before the Famine, in the early 1830’s when Irish immigration to Canada was substantially Catholic. In the first census in which I found William in Canada East, the 1851 census, he and his family were listed as Catholic. It is unlikely to be a census taker’s mistake as others on the same page were listed as Presbyterian. True, on later U.S, censuses, William, and his family were listed as Protestant/Church of Scotland. When I wrote to Dara, of Black Raven Genealogy, she reminded me that there were strong anti-Irish sentiments in the post-Famine era both in Canada and the USA, so that it was not abnormal for an Irishman to claim northern roots in order to avoid being tarred with the poor Famine-immigrant brush. Some of her own ancestors who emigrated to the US did so, claiming to be Scots-Irish (which means northern Irish, and Protestant). Moreover, I note that in the mid-to-late 19th century there was also a strong Anti-Catholic bias in the U.S.A. It is possible that William changed his religion to that of his wife in order to avoid discrimination, and that the obituary writer simply presumed he was from northern Ireland because he was Protestant during the time the composer of the obituary knew him. Being originally Catholic when he emigrated could also explain the delayed marriage indicated in his son Thomas’ baptism record (see Part One) since the Catholic Church in British Canada did not like marriages between Catholics and non-Catholics, and the priest may have refused to marry them. The Church of Scotland was less stringent as to mixed marriages in that time. It is possible that they married in the Protestant church after giving up on being able to be married in the Catholic Church – after the birth of three kids (two daughters, Mary Jane and Charlotte Margaret, and his son, Thomas).

Taken together, these are my reasons for believing that my second-great-grandfather's parents are Thomas Bennett and Lucretia Hingston of Schull, County Cork, Ireland instead of Thomas Bennett and Laura [?] of somewhere in northern Ireland. Does this make sense to you? I’d truly appreciate it if you would leave your thoughts in the comments below, whether you agree with me or not. In fact, particularly if you do not, and especially if you can state reasons. I’d also appreciate it if anyone can give me ideas of where to look next. And if anyone is descended from William’s putative brother Thomas and knows where he went to, or from any of the girls, I would love to hear from you. If you think we might share DNA, I administer my Dad’s and his sibling’s DNA kits as well, and they are all up on AncestryDNA and GEDmatch. Please feel free to contact me by leaving a comment or emailing me at the address at the “Contact Me” tab above.


The History of Huntingdon and the Seigniories of Beauharnois and Chateauguay, From Their First Settlement to the Year 1838 and Revised to the 1900s by Robert Sellar, p.335 (150th anniversary edition, the Gleaner, Huntingdon, Québec, June 1975; originally published by Huntingdon, Québec, the Huntingdon Gleaner Incorporated. 1888.); transcription of the Cadastre Abrege for 1854,; Transcribed militia pay lists for companies in the Beauharnois Battalion during the Rebellion of 1838, ; A History of Northwest Missouri, Vol. 3, pp. 1889-1890, ed. by Walter Williams (The Lewis Publishing Company of Chicago & New York, 1915); The church record index at IrishGenealogy.i.e. for Tom Bennett,; “Life and Death on Gross Isle, 1832-1937”,; Les Ecossais, The Pioneer Scots of Lower Canada, 1763-1855, by Lucille H Campey (Natural Heritage, 2006); Courtship, Love, and Marriage in 19th Century English Canada, by Peter Wald (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1993); Adventures and Exiles: The Great Scottish Exodus (Profile Books, 2003); 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; U.S. Federal Census for 1870, and 1880; Imlay City Times, January 8, 1891;;;; Ontario, Canada, Deaths, 1869-1938, Archives of Ontario; Series: MS935; Reel: 61,;  Ontario, Canada Census for 1871 and 1891.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

William Bennett (about 1806-1890), Revisited, Part One: Ireland to Lower Canada to Michigan, USA.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Ireland, 1830
Map of Ireland, 1830
Click to make bigger.

William Bennett is one of my second great-grandfathers on my father's side. In this post, I will tell you about his life, and the historical context in which he lives, to the extent that I currently know it. I’m hoping that someone who reads this who might know more about him than I do can help me fill in the blanks, fix the mistakes, and/or point me in the direction of how to find out more. I’m also writing this post as a partial replacement of a prior post on both William and his wife (this time I’m going to write about his wife in a separate post) in order to add in some more details that I’ve found, and to correct some things I got wrong in the last post on him.

Before I start, I ask any Canadian readers for their forgiveness of any errors I commit in Canadian history. I found out that my ancestor was involved (in a minor way) in a part of pre-Canadian history of which I knew nothing about – which likely means the rest of my family-readers don’t know much about it either. So I knew I had to explain it in the post, succinctly, if possible. That’s when I discovered that there are entire books, multiple academic articles, and various magazine articles and blog posts, written on the Rebellions of 1837 and 1838, some of which contradict each other. This is where my attack of perfectionism kicked in (perfectionism is a leading cause of getting nothing done), and I finally had to decide to just stop reading the articles and books because this is only going to take up a few paragraphs in my post on William’s life. So if I screw anything up, I’m sorry. (I’m open to correction on the historical bits too, since I like to learn and it will probably help me in further research on  William and other ancestors living in that area and timeframe.)


Climbing My Family tree: Map of Ireland with provinces and counties named
Map of Ireland with provinces and counties named
Click to make bigger.

William Bennett was born in about 1806 in Ireland, according to several censuses in Canada and the United States. I don’t know where he is from in Ireland, for certain. His obituary states that he was born in the northern part of Ireland about 1808. I’m not entirely sure that is correct. I have a theory about that I will discuss in my second post this month on William Bennett (William Bennett, Revisited, Part Two: Weighing Direct Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Scientific Evidence, and Historical Context in Consideration of a Hypothesis.). His obituary also states that he came to Canada as a young man. I now think that he moved there in 1830 (this will also be discussed in Part Two), although I haven’t been able to find him on any ships lists yet.

While William left Ireland well before the Great Famine, he would have been leaving behind an Ireland that was in the midst of an almost two-decade depression following the end of the Napoleonic wars. This economic depression was exacerbated by a series of natural catastrophes. In 1816-1818, bad weather destroyed grain and potato crops, and smallpox and typhus killed over 50,000 people in Ireland. The potato failed again in the province of Munster (a southern province) in 1821, and people starved to death in counties Cork and Claire. After further crop failures in 1825-1830, famine was averted only by the importation of large amounts of Indian corn meal from America. Emigration out of the country was on the rise.

Climbing My Family Tree:Illustration of Travel in Steerage, 1851
 Illustration of travel in steerage
from the Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851; in the public domain
Click to make bigger.

Initially, many of those moving to North America went to British North America, rather than the United States, because the cost of passage to the States was prohibitively high. The initial wave those emigrating from Ireland to the British colonies in North America was largely constituted of artisans, shopkeepers, professionals, and better off farmers from Ulster (a province in the north of Ireland) who were people who could better afford the passage fares; but by the 1830s, this had begun to change. Despite the continuing high fares, more and more of those leaving were from the laboring classes, the poorest, who somehow managed to scrape up the money for the passage. Similarly, the religious make-up of those leaving was changing and more and more Catholics were now leaving, some assisted by such programs as that briefly implemented by the British government in 1823-25, which provided free passage and land grants to over 2,500 Catholic smallholders, primarily from north Cork. The biggest single spur to such emigration came in 1827 when the government repealed all restrictions on emigration; between 1828 and 1837, almost 400,000 Irish people left for North America. Up to 1832, about half of the emigrants still came from Ulster (the north), but after that date the three southern provinces contributed the majority. 

William would have left Ireland in search of a better life for himself than he could have look forward to there. William’s family would likely have encouraged him to leave, both because it would mean one less mouth to feed at home, and, in the hope that he would be able to send money back to help support the home folk.  He would have traveled to Montréal in steerage in the returning ships that brought Canadian timber to Ireland; steerage was below decks, crowded, dark and uncomfortable, and he would have been required to provide all his own food for the 6-to-8 week voyage. William emigrated Lower Canada, eventually settling in the Seigniory of Beauharnois in the southwestern portion of Lower Canada (now Quebec), below Montréal. [The seigneurial system was left over from when that area belonged to New France. A seigneur was granted, or bought, large tracts of land from the King along the St. Lawrence River, and recruited settlers, or habitants, to come and live on the land, clear their lots, and upkeep the road that crossed it. They paid the seigneur rent as a portion of their income and in the form of food and produce, worked three days a year without pay, paid a tithe to support the local church and priest, and paid a tax if they sold their lots. They were considered co-owners of the land with the seigneur even if they bought their lot. The seigneur built roads, a milk, and oven, and periodically held the court to settle disputes. The system was supported by the Catholic Church because it received land grants from the seigneur which gave the church the right to collect rents from their tenants.] Many of the Irish immigrants who arrived  in this timeframe were poor and unhealthy, and accommodating them until they became well enough to work placed severe short-term strains on the Seigniory’s resources.

In moving to the Seigniory of Beauharnois, William probably would have first found work as a farm laborer helping on someone else’s farm for pay or perhaps joined with family in working the land on their own farm. In British North America, those who went inland to Montréal and beyond at that time 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 forest land. The farmer had to cut down the trees and pull up 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 ships back to the home countries.

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Beauharnois Twp, Huntingdon County, Canada East, 1861
Map of Beauharnois Twp, Huntingdon County, Canada East, 1861
Click to make bigger.

In moving to the Beauharnois area, William moved into an area that was largely populated by Scots who had emigrated there over the course of the past 20 years; a settlement of Irish was started in 1830. The influx of Scots and Irish from the British Isles had made the original settlers of French origin a minority in what they considered their homeland. This fed into the growing tensions between the British province government and a reform/revolutionary movement in Upper Canada (now Ontario) and Lower Canada (now Québec) called the Patriotes who, encouraged by the American Revolution, were seeking concessions towards a more representative government from the British.  The reform movement was supported by the local French-speaking populace, while largely, the English-speaking Scots and Irish supported the home country, or the British government (in spite of the concurrent reform movement in Ireland at the time).

Life was hard in Lower Canada in the 1830s. For approximately four years in a row, there were bad crop failures and ongoing outbreaks of cholera. This added stress was exploited by the reformers in their speeches and written tracts. In 1837 and 1838 there were uprisings in Upper and Lower Canada, which were quashed by the British militia augmented by the Scots and local militia. Nearly all men between 18 and 60 were in the local militia. William Bennett served as a private in the Beauharnois Loyal Volunteers, during the uprising of 1838 in the Beauharnois Battalion, first company, Georgetown (as did the father of his future wife).  He was paid one shilling a day (or about $.20 a day). This means that he fought on the side of the British, not that the local militia did a lot of fighting during this time but they did aid the British forces and the Glengarry Scots unit which was brought in from Upper Canada for the fight on the British side. He served under Capt. Henry Wright.

The next time I find William in any records, he and Margaret McFarlane, his wife, and my second great-grandmother, are a couple; she is of Scots origin, not Irish. As William was approximately 12 years older than Margaret it is possible that he was married before (the reported age gap between the two varies a bit in the censuses). I don’t know. I do know that they were together at least as of 1844, as their oldest daughter, Mary Jane, was born in the unified province of Canada, on December 20, 1844. 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: Baptismal Record of Thomas Bennett, 21 January 1849
Baptismal Record of Thomas Bennett, 21 January 1849
found at, 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.

It is possible that they had to wait years for a traveling pastor or priest to come through the area, or for a pastor to start a church in their 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 or priest came through the area. [There is another possibility as well, which I will discuss in my next post on William Bennett  (Part Two.)]

William and Margaret had 13 children. 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 the two patterns are not quite the same. What I wonder now is, with an Irish father and a Scottish mother, whose naming pattern prevails?   If I knew which naming pattern applied I could learn a lot of ancestors’ names – although, an Irish genea-blogger friend warned me that the naming patterns were not always followed.

William and Margaret’s children were as follows:  Mary Jane (20 December 1844 in North Georgetown in the County of Beauharnois, Canada East, married John Young on 12 July 1870, and died 15 July 1923 in Brown City MI); Charlotte Marguerite (born June 1846 in 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 (abt 1849 in or near Ormstown, Canada East, married Margaret Cody, and died on 24 June 1934 in Reed City MI); Elizabeth (born about February 1852 in Canada East, married William Henry Lewis in Osceola, MI, and died 23 September 1914); Janet “Jennie” (born 9 July 1854 in Beauharnois County, Canada East, married James S. Richardson in Imlay City, MI, and died 28 March 1832 in Flint MI);  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 1856 - died 30 January 1920 in Brown City MI; he 
married Anna Gregor on 10 April 1885; Sarah (born 24 March 1859 - death date unknown), William (born 6 July 1861 in Canada, married Teresa Tracy on 6 July 1884 in Osceola MI and died after 1940), John Edward (born 1 September 1865, married Emma Masters on 28 October 1889 in Mt. Clemons MI and died in Maple Valley MI on 2 March 1935); Lucretia (2 April 1868 in Canada, married William H. Baker on 27 September 1885 in Burnside MI, and died 14 June 1942 possibly in WI as she was buried there); and James (born in April 1871 in MI, married Martha Wengert on 27 January 1892, and died in 1958.)

In the early years of their marriage, the couple continued to live in the Beauharnois Seigniory. I found William and Margaret and his first four children in the 1851 Canada East census, for Beauharnois, in the French version, which indicates that he was living in an area that was considered French-speaking. It indicates that William was Irish, a farmer, Catholic, lived outside of the city limits, would be 38 on his next birthday, and that the family lived in a one-story brick house. It shows him living with his wife, Margaret McFarlane, and his first four children: Mary Jane, Margaret, Thomas, and Elizabeth. By 1854, William owned 20 arpents of land (somewhat less than 20 acres by our measurement) in North Georgetown in the Seigniory of Beauharnois, in the Third Concession, old lot #p22, according to an English transcription of the Cadastre Abrege for 1854 for North Georgetown. He had been sufficiently successful since emigrating to be able to buy his own land; that had to feel good.

Climbing My Family Tree: Lapeer County, Michigan map
Lapeer County, Michigan
Click to make bigger

In or about 1869, after the births of all of their children except James, the family immigrated the United States, moving to Lapeer County in Michigan. They may have been attracted by the excellent farming in the land that had already been logged by the Michigan timber companies, and may have been enticed to move there by entreaties from extended family already there as both the Scots and the Irish tended to move in family groups – although I’m not yet sure who may have already been in the area, I do know that they lived down the street from Margaret’s brother’s family (Andrew) at the time of the 1870 census, in Burnside Township, Lapeer County, Michigan. The 1870 census indicated William (50) and Margaret (44) lived with seven of their children at that time. William and 22-year-old son Thomas showed their employment as "farm laborer" while the youngest six children were at home: Andrew (14), Sarah (12), William (10), Janet (8), John (6) and Lucretia (2). The 1880 census showed that William (64) and Margaret (53) lived with five of their children. William was listed as a farmer and Margaret is keeping house. Their son William (18) was at home, as was their daughter Janet (16). The youngest children attended school: John (14), Lucretia (10), and James (7 – born after they arrived in the United States).

They lived in Burnside Township of Lapeer County Michigan, until William’s death at 84, on 27 December 1890. William was buried in the Dean Hill 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.

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.” He sounds like such a nice man. That is a great way to be remembered!

Please also  read William Bennett (1806-1890) Revisited, Part Two: Weighing Direct Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Scientific Evidence, and Historical Context in Consideration of a Hypothesis.

Climbing My Family Tree: Gravestone William Bennett, Deanville Cemetery MI
Gravestone William Bennett, Deanville Cemetery MI
found at Memorial #14863074, taken by Jack Vander-Schrier.
Used with permission.
Click to make bigger

I’d really like to find out more about William’s early years: where he was born, is family of origin, how they got to Canada and when, when he and Margaret 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. (There’s a reference in their grandson’s book about his ancestors arriving in Michigan in a sleigh.)

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.

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

If you have any information about William Bennett or his family that you would like to share with me, or any corrections to make to anything I have written herein, please feel free to either leave a comment below, or contact me at the email address listed under the “contact me” tab above.


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; U.S. Federal Census for 1870, and 1880; Imlay City Times, January 8, 1891;; ;;  "From Ireland and Québec 1822-1839" by Mary Haslam (from The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 33, No. 1, Ireland and Québec/L’Irlande et le Quebec (Spring 2007), pp. 75-81;  “Irish Radicalism and the Roman Catholic Church in Québec and Ireland, 1833-1834: O’Callaghan and O’Connell Compared” by Maureen Slattery (in the CCHA, Historical Studies, 63 (1997), pp. 29-58; The Patriots and the People – the Rebellion of 1837 in Rural Lower Canada by Allan Greer (University of Toronto press, 1993); The History of Huntingdon and the Seigniories of Beauharnois and Chateauguay, From Their First Settlement to the Year 1838 and Revised to the 1900s by Robert Sellar, (150th anniversary edition, the Gleaner, Huntingdon, Québec, June 1975; originally published by Huntingdon, Québec, the Huntingdon Gleaner Incorporated. 1888.);  Transcribed militia pay lists for companies in the Beauharnois Battalion during the Rebellion of 1838, ; transcription of the Cadastre Abrege for 1854, ; 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, May 2, 2016

William Bennett (1806-1890) and Margaret MacFarlane Bennett Brown (1826-1909), Revisited. Preface.

In addition to being serially ill this winter/spring, and generally exhausted after work, I think part of the problem I have had in generating new posts is that I had found some new bits of information about one of my sets of second great grandparents, William Bennett, and Margaret MacFarlane, on my father’s side that I knew I wanted to write up, but I wasn’t sure how I wanted to do that, and then  I had an attack of perfectionism, which prevented me from writing anything at all since I was afraid it wouldn’t be perfect. So, I kept researching. In the end, I’ve decided to simply rewrite their entry as three separate entries and put a link at the top of what had been the old joint post [which I will delete], directing the reader to these three posts that on William and his wife. This is partially because I’ve discovered in the course of doing “more research” that I got some things wrong in the last post, including a whole extra kid (and consequently line of descendants), who doesn’t belong to this family, and I don’t want to leave the old post containing the misinformation up at all. (This exacerbated the attack of perfectionism).

The three new posts will be (the links to the new posts will go live as they are posted):

1 - William Bennett (1806-1890), Revisited, Part One, will address William’s life to the extent that I currently know it, including newly discovered information leading to more explanation of  the historical context of his early life in Canada (and removing the inaccurate information).

2 - William Bennett (1806-1890) Revisited, Part Two: Weighing Direct Evidence, Circumstantial Evidence, Scientific Evidence, and Historical Context in Consideration of a Hypothesis, will address why my tree on ancestry is different than anyone else’s following this particular Bennett line up, and address my current hypothesis as to who are his parents, and why I think so. This particular post may constitute “thinking out loud” or, at least, “thinking in print, publicly,” but I want to put it out here so that I can get feedback on my hypothesis (whether you may be related or not).

3- Margaret MacFarlane Bennett Brown (1926-1909), Revisited, will address Margaret’s life to the extent I currently know it. As such, there will be some crossover information, but the post was getting way too long when I tried to write about them in one post as I did before since I have some new bits of information about her as well (and removing the inaccurate information).

The first post, William Bennett (1806-1890), Revisited, Part One, should go up in the next two days (it was supposed to go up last week but life intervened again and it didn’t get written. I have, at least, now begun writing it.)  The second should go up by the end of the weekend, and the third will be delayed to the second half of May as I have to get caught up on some continuing education credits for my day job  by mid-May instead of writing blog posts.