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Wednesday, 6 November 2013

More Clues than I Imagined

You will recall in my post of August 31, 2013, I shared a letter written by John McDougall to his brother Hugh.  That letter has since led me to things I never imagined.

I had the good fortune of visiting Scotland during the month of October.  A trip I could not take without visiting the ScotlandsPeople Centre in Edinburgh.  To my regret, I had the equivalent of only one day there, but it provided many new pieces of information, only one that I will elaborate today.

ScotlandsPeople Centre – Photo by DenaP
The two areas you can head to when you arrive at the Centre include either the Search Rooms or you can go upstairs to the archives Research Room.  I knew my time was limited, and I had spent time searching ScotlandsPeople on-line, so I was heading upstairs.  First things first, you need to stow your gear in the locker room.  I was shown the way by a very busy Security guard, saying she would come back later to get me.

While in the locker room, I began a conversation with a clearly practiced researcher.  I asked him how often he came and what he was researching.  His name was Bruce Bishop and he was a regular.  He offered to take me upstairs and show me the way.  I explained a bit about my search for Angus McInnis and said correspondence and family lore suggested Angus might have been a piper.  My search for Angus born in 1746 was "modern history" for Bruce, his wife's area of expertise.  Nevertheless, he said "there is fellow who comes everyday, don't know his name, but he studies pipers".  I thanked him and went in pursuit of my Researcher's Ticket.  Bruce went off to his studies, or so I thought.

I must have been settled into my searching a good half hour, quite immersed and who should interrupt me, but Bruce.  He had in tow the Piping Historian, Keith Sanger.  Keith very attentively listened to my story of Angus and his family and how we had reached a dead end.  He asked probing questions and suggested some areas to look and that I send him some additional information including the transcript of the letter from John McDougal.

Over the next few days, Keith and I exchanged information.  He kindly researched his records and could not find reference to an Angus McInnis, piper.  He found a Paul McInnis, piper a little younger who came from the same area.  He provided me with a great deal of contextual history and many leads to pursue.  His help was invaluable.

Most interesting was,  that Keith immediately observed there must be an error in the transcription of the letter. 

This is how the end of the letter read:

“I am so
Your most affectionate Brother
John McDougald

Mr Hugh McDougald Arive
To the care of Mr Rob Maxwell
Island of Mull
Argyleshire - No Britain”

Keith said:
"The Selkirk letter is interesting, did you transcribe it yourself? The Maxwell’s were the Duke of Argyles factors on Mull and I notice that the last part of the address uses the description that was pushed during the Napoleonic Wars of calling Scotland ‘North Britain’, (the expansion of No Britain). ‘Arive’ does not ring any bells as a place name and I wonder if it was a miss reading for Aros which sits on the Sound of Mull facing across to Morvern? "[ii]

I had not paid attention to the address at the bottom.  Could it be, we found a specific location?  I went back and found my copy of the letter I had transcribed from the archives.  I did transcribe it absolutely correctly.  

I queried the history of the Selkirk papers and confirmed that what is in Library and Archives Canada is not microfiche of the original papers, rather of a transcription.  The originals were destroyed in a fire in at St. Mary’s Isle in Kirkcudbright were destroyed in a fire in 1940. Fortunately, some of the papers had been transcribed Public Archives of Canada in about 1900.[iii]  These copies are what I viewed at Library and Archives Canada. 

The transcription was incorrect!

Out came the maps and I found Aros - directly across from Morvern.   The reputed birthplace of our Angus.  Only a few miles as the crow flies!

 By GoogleMaps 2013

Keith’s observation unlocked a wonderful clue, one that we were able to explore further when we visited the Isle of Mull a week later...but that is for another post.


[i] Copy of the Letter sent by John MacDougald of Baldoon to his brother Hugh MacDougald in Mull, dated April 29, 1806, LAC microfilm C-14 14739-40, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa
[ii] Email sent by Keith Sanger to DenaP October 9, 2013

[iii] "Lady Selkirk and the Fur Trade" "Manitoba History" Number 38, Autumn/Winter 1999-2000 ( 6 November 2013)

Saturday, 7 September 2013

Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery: Where might they be?

 One of the ways of finding our ancestors is finding their resting place.  Sometimes the only record left is the tombstone monument with their name and date of death. If one is lucky, the exact date of birth and death are engraved on the stone, with the spouse and children on the same stone, or in the adjacent plot.  

In Prince Edward Island, simple red Island sandstone markers, engraved with initials, mark many of the early settlers graves.  The sandstone is soft, time and the elements wearing away clues as to who lies beneath.

Prior heading out on our family history trip, I had ordered all the cemetery transcripts for the Protestant cemeteries located on the Lots where I knew we had family.  Amazingly, the Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery was right on the property that used to belong to old Angus.

We knew that the cemetery was overgrown, without any family stones, but decided to venture out there, anyway.

When the Scottish settlers first arrived, they did not waste their energy building large, fine homes.  They learned from others, that the original selection of site and direction was not useful in the long run. So the original houses they built were "about 12 feet square" and "roofs should be covered with boards since, shingles are expensive for the first beginning, requiring many nails." The first house was probably built close to the shore, because the land was covered in forest and travel was by boat.[i]

This would also explain why the cemetery is close to the shore.  Access to the cemetery is now on private property, where the old farm was located.  The existing farmhouse on the property also originally belonged to the McInnis family and then the Robinsons.  Built about 1860, it was likely the second or third family home.  

We walked through a path in the bush and trudged through high grain fields, perhaps juncea canola, mosquitos buzzing all around our heads. If you did not know the cemetery was there, you would not be able to find it.  It is overgrown, with only a few stones left.

We know Angus' son Donald and his family are buried in the St John's Presbyterian Church cemetery in Belfast, but we cannot find where the rest our ancestors who came on The Rambler are buried.  It's very likely that Angus and his family are buried here at the Portage Shore Old Pioneer Cemetery

While there are a number of stones with initials, there are only four stones left where the names are legible. None of those included our family names.

In spite of the lack of clear proof, it was special to walk were our ancestors first walked and where they were likely buried.  To imagine what the land must have been like, covered in forest and that it was our folks’ hard work that cleared those fields.  What it must have been like, in moments of peace, standing by the water, missing the home they had left across the ocean.  Or, perhaps, they were just too busy from dawn to dusk, surviving, to take in the stars on a clear night.

A few days after our visit to the cemetery, we were to learn more, when we met a cousin who grew up on the property. When he was young, he recalled, there were about 15 -20 markers in the cemetery.

He believed the last people buried there were people from Wheatly River.  He remembered an older gentleman and his son would come every fall to clean it up.  There were many trees and the Blue Herons would roost in the trees.  Eventually the Blue Heron’s roosting killed off the trees.

He also remembered when he was a child, with his father; they would work the field around the cemetery.  When they came across fieldstones, they piled the stones up against the edge of the cemetery.  

He recalled that his great-uncle, Cleve Robinson had told him a story of when he was a teenager.  (Per the 1901 census, Cleveland Robinson was born in 1892 and lived on Lot 33 with his parents. Following this post, I learned that he was actually born February 16, 1882.)  Cleve said that a fellow from Charlottetown, who was to go to Boston to medical school, was obliged to take a skeleton for his studies.  Presented with this challenge, he took a skeleton from the cemetery, cleaning the bones on the train as he travelled.

He also shared rumours that some of the lost souls of the 1851 Yankee Gale are buried in the cemetery.  This was a terrible storm where many boats floundered against the north shore of Prince Edward Island.  The Island Register has a compendium of information on ships and lives lost in that storm. [ii]

Stan recalled that his father told him lives were lost at sea, with many buried at Stanhope.  The bodies were found along the beach after the storm. They had collected them, taking them to Collin McClure’s barn where they laid them out for identification.   This is not improbable as the cemetery is only 158 feet from the shore. Meacham's shows the McClure's right at the point, with the unmarked cemetery not far away.
Screen shot close up of Meacham's 1880 Map of Prince Edward Island, Lot 33 from Island Imagined

Sometime in the 1960's, the local Women’s Institute, looking for a useful project, decided they would clean up the cemetery.  They hired two men to clean it up.  The men came in with bulldozers and cut out the stumps.  They moved all the sandstone markers and fieldstones, cleared the cemetery clean, seeded grass.  Once it was nice and clean, they returned the markers and the sand stones, and likely the field stones that had been along the fence.  They lined up the stones, in a nice neat east-west, north-south, square and diagonal arrangement. 

Our cousin was certain one of the Ross stones was not put back in its original place.  That Sadie was reset with the “S” backwards and the “9” is a “P."   It is such a shame that we can no longer see the exact place where they lie.

After hearing these stories, I revisited the cemetery transcripts, together with my list of "missing ancestors".  The list of those ancestors for whom  I have yet to find a grave.

As my cousin Fred says, "old Angus is probably the first one buried there".  This is because Angus was 60 years old when he immigrated from Scotland.

We are missing:

McInnis, Angus (b 1746 -?)

Wife Margaret (b 1754)

McInnis, Hector (b. 1776 -?)

Wife McDougall, Mary (b. 1778 -?)

McInnis, Allan (b. 1781 –?)

Wife Catherine McKinaly

Charles McInnis (b. between 1806 -184)

Wife Ann McEwen (b. about 1820)

Wife Elizabeth Clark (b.?)

Flora McInnis (b. 1781)

Isabella McInnis (b 1790)

Mary McInnis (b. 1794)

Sarah McInnis (b. 1798)  - could this be Sadie McInnis?

Janet McInnis (b. 1800)

John McInnis (b. 1805)

Catherine (b.?  - d. 1848)

James McInnis  (son of Allan) (b. 1822)

Looking at the protestant family names adjacent to the area, one can see there were many with the name Ross, Robinson, McKenzie and Matheson.  None had the last name beginning with an "I".  So, I suspect that the initials "M-I" stand for McInnis.   

With this in mind, I matched up the following stones with our names:

Row 1.                         A-M-I (Angus or Allan McInnis?)

                                    F.M-I D.G. – 70 (Flora McInnis & D.G.?)

                                    J-M-M-I  (Janet or John or James McInnis?)


Row 2.                        J-H-M-I (Janet or John or James McInnis?)

                                    ZADI – M-C-I-J (Sadie aka Sarah McInnis?)

Row 6.                         J-M-I (Janet or John or James McInnis?)[iii]

In the end, it does not matter, because the stones are not placed on their graves.  What counts is we saw and felt the place.

[i] Campey, Lucille H., The Silver Chief : Lord Selkirk and the Scottish Pioneers of Belfast, Baldoon and Red River (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2003) p. 36
[ii] The Island Register. « The Yankee Gale of 1851 » ( 7 September 2013)
[iii] P.E.I. Genealogical Society, Cemetery Transcript, Ch. Of Scotland Portage Road Old Pioneer Cemetery Lot 33-6 (Charlottetown: The P.E.I. Genealogical Society, Updated 2000)

Saturday, 31 August 2013

Rethinking - Following the Trail of Donald McInnes

In my previous post on Donald McInnes, I theorized that he had come to Prince Edward Island twice, first with Lord Selkirk in 1803 and then again in 1806 with his family.
What led me to that, were indicators that he was a Selkirk pioneer.  He was included in the list of pioneers in 1811 [i]and that in 1807 land was 'sold or granted to him as a reward for services) by the desire of the Right Honourable Earl of Selkirk"[ii].  I had understood at the time of writing, that those who settled at Belfast did so primarily in 1803.

After, pressing "post", I began to rethink my theory....

We have looked in all sorts of places.  We started searching on line, using census records, births, marriages, deaths, , ,  and many other search aids.  Our efforts provided few clues.  We read history on Prince Edward Island and it’s immigrants.  Then we turned to cemetery transcripts, obituaries and family histories, without any luck.

While, our trip to the Public Archives of Prince Edward Island, resulted in several clear links to our Angus - Hector - James ancestor line, through land transfers and wills.  None have provided us with a clear link to their home in Scotland.

We know our McInnis ancestors arrived on the ship The Rambler.  The last, possibly only port before leaving for Canada in 1806, was Tobermory on the Isle of Mull.

It cannot be that everyone who left Tobermory on that ship came from the Isle of Mull. At least a few of those on The Rambler may have left a record of who they were and from where they came.   So, using the FAN principle, I looked around our ancestors, their siblings and neighbours I have found a few little tidbits.

There are many transcriptions of The Rambler’s ship’s list, none provided more than the names and ages of the passengers.  When we were in Charlottetown, we pulled the original document[iii] in the Provincial Archives of Prince Edward Island in the hopes that there would be more little clues on the original document.  While it was reassuring that the list had been faithfully transcribed in “A Very Fine Class of Immigrants”[iv], on the Island Register[v] and in The Island Magazine, Number 2 Spring/Summer 1977[vi] I did not find one iota of additional information.

All the while, crossing my fingers, I compared all the names on the ship with newspaper and obituary notices[vii].  This was done in the hope that the obituary notices would provide clues as to the origins of the other passengers. I could find information on a few passengers on the ship.  It appeared that if your name was Alexander, Catherine or Mary, your descendants were more likely to write up an informative obituary.

Passenger No.
Native of
Found on Page No. of Index[viii]
Miles from Tobermory
M – 1
James McLean
M – 8
Alexr Cameron
M – 15
Alex Livingston
M – 21
Alexr Cameron
M – 33
Alexr McDonald
Regional Name
M – 46
Alexr McLauchlin
F  – 11
Cathe Livingston
F  – 19
Cathr Cameron
F – 26
Mary Henderson
F – 31
Mary Cameron
Isle of Skye
F  – 32
Cathe Cameron
Isle of Skye
F  – 60
Sarah McMillian

I found obituaries for12 out of 129 passengers.  Except for the one family group from the Isle of Skye, the rest of the passengers came from parishes across the water from the Isle of Mull. 

Most interesting was, the obituary[ix] for Angus McDonald’s son, Alexander McDonald.  It indicated that Alexander came from Argyllshire.  Now if I were a purist, I would go and find the microfiche with the original newspaper notice in the Islander, dated April 8, 1864, so that I would reduce the risk of transcription error.  For the moment, I’ll take this information on faith, as I am using it to triangulate the probable place of origin.

Things are starting to get interesting.  In addition to this clue, we have a hint through DNA testing, that we are connected with families from Morvern.  That does not mean our folks came directly from Morvern.  Rather, those to whom we are related genetically can trace their roots to Morvern. Argyllshire also known as Argyll, is the Region of Scotland in which we find both the Isle of Mull and Morvern.  

I really needed to know more. 

So, I did something I have been meaning to do for a year.  I registered as a Researcher at Library and Archives Canada and went in search of the source documents.

I discovered that the research room where the microfiche are located is open until 23:00!!  The view from the research room is spectacular, especially at sunset, as it overlooks the Ottawa River.  I no longer have any excuses; I can go anytime I want after work.  It is just a ten-minute walk from my office.

There, I discovered a few little juicy tidbits.

Library and Archives Canada
Ottawa, Ontario
Photo ©DenaP

James Williams, Lord Selkirk's Agent in Prince Edward Island produced a list[x] of sales he made on Lord Selkirk's behalf. The list identifies when the purchasers settled on the island.    It clearly identifies Donald McInnis and Angus McDonald as purchasing 330 acres together on Lot 58, as though they were partners.  James Williams indicates they settled in 1806. 

Donald and Angus paid Selkirk 14.10.0 pounds as their down payment, owing him 183.6.8 pounds.  I wonder when they paid the balance to Lord Selkirk and if a record remains?  Why does James Williams show the sale to Angus and Donald as 330 acres?

It was also interesting to compare this sale to the other 125 sales recorded to settlers.  Most of the sales were in lot sizes of 100 acres or 50 acres. There were only three sales out of the 126 records which were larger than the sale to Angus and Donald (560 acres, 380 acres, and 466 acres) and those sales were to family groups of two or four people.

Donald and Angus paid in pounds Sterling, currency that was more valuable than the Halifax money the others used to make their payments.  Only two other sales were made in pounds Sterling.  At 183.6.8 pounds owing, Angus and Donald's outstanding debt was much larger than the average of 50.77 pounds.

I learned an awful lot from this simple table listing Selkirk's sales.  That Donald came in 1806.  He had a very close relationship with an Angus McDonald and he had more hard currency than the other settlers.  Together Angus and Donald were also willing to assume more risk with the debt of 183.6 pounds.  Or perhaps, there was something in their character or relationship with Selkirk, which made him willing to extend these two more credit?

Pine Forest in Prince Edward Island
Photo ©DenaP

This had me going back and rechecking my sources.  I found that Angus McDonald and his family travelled with the McInnis’s on The Rambler[xi].  The McInnis’s followed the McDonald's on the list of passengers.  

It means, I have to re-examine the hypothesis that Donald arrived in 1803 and returned to get his family 1806. 

There is evidence that he came in 1806, purchasing with Angus McDonald, who was on the same ship.  From the records of Selkirk's agent James Williams, there was a relationship between Angus MacDonald and Donald McInnes. Angus and Donald, at 38 and 35 were close to the same age.  It's possible that Angus is Donald's wife Margaret's brother, although I have to find solid evidence to that effect. 

Other than his implied connection with Lord Selkirk who arrived in 1803, there is no evidence that Donald arrived in other than 1806.   
Where does this get me?  Hopefully closer to where Angus McInnis and his family came from.  It had me looking more closely at Lord Selkirk's papers and I found more clues.

I found that on May 2, 1808, James Williams wrote to Lord Selkirk:

"about one third, or rather more are from Mull, who will not leave the shore, but many will settle lot 31 or perhaps on the coast, east of Woods Islands"[xii]   

So, we have at least one third chance our folks are from Mull.  Our Angus and Donald both purchased property right on the shore, probably because like the Mull settlers, they wanted to be near the water. 

Prince Edward Island Shore
Five Kilometers from Angus' Property 

Photo ©DenaP

But that was not all I found! 

A copy of a letter[xiii] transcribed in the Selkirk Papers:

Baldoon April 29th 1806

Dear Brother:

I gladly embrace this opportunity of letting you know that we are all well
at present wishing you the same, and we would wish that you would all come
over rather than to be bound in that place. All that is able to pay there
passage let them do it and if they are notable let them do as we have done.
that is to engage with Lord Selkirk as he is going to bring more Settlers
of this year to this Settlement Uper Canada. There is good encouragement
from tradesmen in this country, every Carpenters Blacksmiths & Shoemakers.
They have two dolars per day & there victuals - labouring men has from 1
dolar & 12 Shillings per day. We have got a good spell of sickness since
we came to this place as no doubt, but you have heard, but thank God we
getting the better of it now. There is not a place under the Sun better
than this place. Any person that intend to come to this country and that
can take £10 Sterling to this place, he may make a living of it with very
little trouble. Whatever money you take over, mind to take it in Gold, for
every guinea you take to Montreal you have 5 Shillings profit. You need not
trouble yourself about taking any cloathing or goods to this place, excepting
woolen cloth:  You shall by them as cheap at Montreal. And I would advise
you buy all Montreal before you would come on here. We came about 10
hundred mile up the Country. In that distance, I could not see a poor man.
The farder we came up the Country, the better. There is all sort of fish
in this place. I have better enguagements to give you now that what at
Montreal. You may tell Ronald, your brother, for as much as he thinks
of Moriness, he would get more land than what was in all Mull for about 10£
sterling. You shall be at the trouble as to let them know at Morven all
about us, and especially to Angus McInnes piper and tell him that he would
do a great deal better hear than where he is and if he does not come let do
his best for to send my daughters.
You may tell Dougald Cochoon that he would make as good as 3 dolars of it per day. You may let Hugh
McPhie no if he was to come here, he would make in one year what would
maintain them fore ever, and kep them in good way. You may let Allan my son
father-in-law no that he and his wife are doing well, and they expect
that have the spirit of coming to thus country. Beef is at 2 1/2 per pound.
Pork 6 (?) per pound - everything according to that when you write direct
to John McDougald, Baldoon, to the care of Mr Innes & Grant mercht
Sandwich so no more at present. But my compliments to all that enquirs
for me

I am so
Your most affectionate Brother
John McDougald

Mr Hugh McDougald Aros (originally transcribed as Arive)
To the care of Mr Rob Maxwell
Island of Mull
Argyleshire - No Britain

I was thrilled to find this letter.  The first reference I have found to an Angus McInnes, in the general region of the Isle of Mull and Morvern.  Add to this, a piece of family lore, my uncle remembered his father telling him, our ancestor McInnis, was the Piper to the Duke of Argyle.

Could this Angus McInnes piper, be our ancestor?  What was his relationship to John McDougald?  Did he end up bringing John’s daughters to Canada?  There are no young McDougald women on The Rambler’s Ship’s List.  Is it possible that John McDougald’s daughters were married to Angus McInnes’s sons?

If I take this piece of information, I have to admit to my cousin Fred, that I now agree with him.  The copy of the marriage certificate that he has for Hector McInnis to Mary McDougal on August 10, 1804 in Greenock Parish[xiv] is very likely that of our great-great-great grandparents. 

Greenock Scotland Portside Warehouses from Hector's Era

 Photo ©DenaP
Greenock Harbour 2009 Photo ©DenaP

I was not originally convinced they were “ours” because of two things: the marriage occurred 130 miles from Mull and Morvern; and that I believed that Finlay born in 1804 was the son of Hector.  While Fred believes Finlay belongs to Donald because he was conceived before the marriage of Hector and Mary.  I inclined think Finlay belongs to Hector, because he lived his life adjacent to the original Lot 33 property in PEI.  Perhaps Hector and Mary took awhile to make it official?

Nevertheless, I think I may have stumbled upon my other 4x Great-Grandfather.  Could it be John McDougald?  I’ll have to do some more research.  Also, who is his other daughter?  Could she be Flora McInnis aged 25, possibly a first wife to Allan? Perhaps that makes Finlay, a child to Allan and Flora?   More questions to unravel……..

The needle on the compass continues to point toward Morvern and the Isle of Mull as the most likely places our Angus came from.

[i] The Island Register. Passenger List Reconstruction for the «Polly » 1803 : Selkirk Settlers Identified from Past and present of P.E.I., Skye, and Hebridean Pioneers, and Other Sources ( 30 August 2013)   

[ii] State of the Sale of Lands upon The Earl of Selkirk’s Estate Prince Edward Island North America Novr 1807, LAC microfilm C-14 14863-14869, 15138-15143,  Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa

[iii] Ship’s List, The Rambler, 1806, PACO ACC #27021883, Public Archives of Prince Edward Island (PAPEI), Charlottetown

[iv] Campey, Lucille H., « A Very Fine Class of Immigrants » : Prince Edward Island’s Scottish Pioneers 1770-1850 (Toronto : Natural Heritage Books, 2001)
[v] The Island Register. Passenger List of « The Rambler » Sailed 1806 ( 30 August 2013)
[vi] "The Rambler" 1806 "The Island Magazine" Number 2 Spring/Summer 1977 ( 31 August 2013)
[vii] Complied by Peter Gallant, An Index of Scottish Immigrants, Based on Death Notices in Prince Edward Island Newspapers 1835 – 1910 (Charlottetown: The P.E.I. Genealogical Society, Revised and Reprinted January 2001)

[viii] Ibid.

[ix]  Ibid. p. 21

[x] State of the Sale of Lands upon The Earl of Selkirk’s Estate , C-14 14863-14869, 15138-15143

[xi] Ship’s List, The Rambler, PAPEI ACC #27021883,

[xii] Letter from Lord Selkirk to James Williams May 2, 1808, LAC microfilm, C-14 15103 Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa

[xiii] Copy of the Letter sent by John MacDougald of Baldoon to his brother Hugh MacDougald in Mull, dated April 29, 1806, LAC microfilm C-14 14739-40, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa

[xiv] Scotland, « Search Old Parish Registers (OPR) Banns & Marriages (1553 - 1854). » Database. ScotlandsPeople.     13 April 2013