Friday, November 29, 2013

Mary Ann (Clark) Bagg


We are not supposed to make value judgments about our ancestors, but it is hard not to like some more than others. One of my favourites is my three-times great-grandmother, Mary Ann Clark Bagg. What swayed me is the epitaph on her grave in Montreal’s Mount Royal Cemetery, which says, “To the poor a kind and sympathizing friend.”  

Her portrait is also appealing. Probably painted in honour of her wedding, it shows a slim young woman in a low-cut, filmy white dress. Fashionable curls frame her face, her eyes are deep brown and there’s a hint of a smile on her lips.  

Mary Ann, the daughter of John Clark and Mary Mitcheson, was baptized in July 1795, at the parish church in Lanchester, County Durham, England. A few years later, the family left England and settled in Montreal. When Mary Ann was 10, a baby brother arrived, but he died six months later, so she grew up an only child.

Her father, a butcher and meat inspector, purchased a farm on Saint Lawrence Street, at that time the only road leading north from the city gates. Later, he bought several other farms nearby. This is now a densely populated area known as the Plateau, but when Mary Ann was a child, there were few neighbours. I sometimes wonder whether she was lonely. Did she have to do chores for the cows and pigs, or did she have a governess to supervise her lessons and needlework?

Although he was to live another 17 years, Clark wrote his will in 1810. In it, he mentioned that Mary Ann was then in England. Perhaps she was visiting her grandparents in Durham, or staying with an uncle’s family in London.  

In 1819, Mary Ann married merchant Stanley Bagg. Seven years her senior, Stanley had been a tenant of John Clark (he and his father leased the Mile End Tavern from him for eight years) and they were business partners, supplying beef to the British army.

The marriage contract between Mary Ann and Stanley also reads like a business contract between her father and her husband-to-be. Clark wanted to ensure that his daughter could own outright the properties she would eventually inherit from him, so the contract made Mary Ann and Stanley separate as to property. Also in the marriage contract, Clark gave Mary Ann and Stanley a cosy home of their own. Named Durham House, it was just down the road from the Clarks’ home, Mile End Lodge. Mary Ann gave birth to her only child, Stanley Clark Bagg, at Durham House the following year. 



In November 1834, Mary Ann must have realized she was very ill. A notary prepared her will in which she left her property to her son, with her husband as executor until Stanley Clark Bagg reached 21. She died on 10 February, 1835, aged 39 years, leaving behind her husband, her teenaged son and her mother. Although he lived another 18 years, Stanley did not remarry.   


Research Remarks:  The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is an invaluable source of documents concerning ancestors in Quebec. All the wills, marriage contracts, land purchases and business contracts mentioned in this story were found in the notarial documents there.

The BAnQ also has a collection of documents called tutelles et curatelles, or guardianships and curatorships. A tutelle is a court document in which a judge appoints a tutor and a sub-tutor to be responsible for the well-being of a minor, or someone under the age of 21.  A tutor would be required if the parents are living elsewhere, for example, or if a parent dies. The tutor’s permission is necessary if the minor wishes to marry, and the tutor is also responsible for the minor’s property and money.

In this case, after Mary Ann died, Stanley and a group of male relatives and close friends met with a judge. The judge appointed Stanley as Stanley Clark’s tutor, and the boy’s uncle, Gabriel Roy, as sub-tutor.

The tutelles et curatelles are interesting because they can reveal family relationships, the names and occupations of family friends and the names of notaries. That same notary may also have done an inventory of the deceased’s estate, or looked after other family business.

If one of your Quebec ancestors died leaving minor children, you should search the index to tutelles et curatelles at the BAnQ. The archivist on duty can help you find the index and the actual court documents. You will need to have with you the family name and the date of death of the parent. If your ancestors were in the Quebec Judicial District (around Quebec City) the guardianship index and documents 1639-1900 are online at https://familysearch.org/search/collection/1399459. Other guardianship documents will come online eventually.


Friday, November 22, 2013

Philadelphia and the Mitcheson Family



If St. James the Less Episcopal Church looks like a little piece of England transplanted across the Atlantic, it is supposed to give that impression. This U.S. National Historic Landmark, with gray stone walls and arched red doors, was patterned after an English parish church and was built in 1846 to serve the families who lived in what was then a rural area near Philadelphia.

Robert Mitcheson, my great-great-great grandfather, helped found St. James the Less. Perhaps it reminded him of the church near Durham, England, where he was baptized. Eventually many members of his family were buried in St. James the Less Cemetery.

The Mitchesons purchased two plots, each of which includes a tall monument and several other gravestones. One plot was for merchant Robert Mitcheson (1779-1859) and his wife, Mary Frances (Fanny) McGregor (1792-1862) and several of their children and grandchildren. The other was for their son Reverend Robert McGregor Mitcheson and his family.

This monument is in memory of Robert and Fanny Mitcheson and several family members including grandson Joseph M. Mitcheson, a U.S. naval officer during World War I.
When my husband and I visited Philadelphia last spring, that cemetery visit was one of two priorities. I also wanted to do some research at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania (HSP), a four-storey red brick building on downtown Locust Street that houses a vast collection of historical and genealogical documents.

I had been unable to find a record of Robert’s and Fanny’s marriage, or of their children’s baptisms, online. I still haven’t found the marriage, but I did find the baptismal records in the HSP archives. The couple’s seven children were baptized at St. John’s Protestant Episcopal Church, in the Northern Liberties area north of the city. As far as I know, these records have not been digitized.

But the most interesting discovery I made was that Robert and Fanny may have living descendants in the United States. I am descended from their daughter Catharine, who married Stanley Clark Bagg and moved to his home, Montreal. Most of her descendants are Canadians.

I knew that two of the Mitcheson children died as babies and two others lived to adulthood but had no children. Younger son McGregor J. Mitcheson‘s line died out in 1959. That left oldest son Robert McGregor Mitcheson (1818-1877) and his wife, Sarah Johnson. Their son, Dr. Robert S. J. Mitcheson, was married but childless. Of their two daughters, Helen Patience died young, while Fanny Mary married someone named Smith, so finding her was going to be a challenge.

A search for Mitcheson in the HSP catalogue brought up one hit: records from the Family Bible of Lloyd Jones and his wife, Eliza Loxley. When I opened the document, I had to smile. Fanny Mary Mitcheson (1851-1937) married Uselma Clarke Smith Jr. (1841-1902), and their descendants appear to have spread across the United States, from Long Island to Chicago and California.

The large cross in the rear row is the grave of Rev. Robert M. Mitcheson. Daughter Helen is next to him, while Robert's wife, Sarah Johnson, son Robert and his wife, Lucie Washington, are in the front row.
Research notes: When I first started researching several years ago, very few Philadelphia records had been digitized. That situation has improved, and I eventually found Frances Mitcheson’s 1862 death certificate at www.FamilySearch.org. That certificate revealed that Fanny was buried in St. James the Less Cemetery.

The statement that Robert Mitcheson helped to found the church comes from an article about his son, lawyer McGregor J. Mitcheson, in Historical Catalogue of the St. Andrews Society of Philadelphia, With Biographical Sketches of Deceased Members. I accessed this text through books.google.com, but could not find it through books.google.ca.

If you had any ancestors in the mid-Atlantic United States, you should try to visit the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, but be well prepared. The library is huge and it can be overwhelming if you don’t have a good idea what you are looking for. The society’s website is www.hsp.org.

As for St. James the Less Church, it is now associated with St. James School, a small middle school serving students from the surrounding disadvantaged neighbourhood. When the head of the school showed us around the cemetery, he told us there was a dispute between the congregation and the diocese several years ago. Had we come then, we would have found the church abandoned and the graveyard overgrown. Now the former parish hall has been converted to classrooms and the cemetery is well maintained. The school’s website, www.stjamesphila.org, has more information about this historic building and the political figures, businessmen and Civil War Union Army officers buried there.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Timothy Stanley Jr., Revolutionary Martyr



The 150-foot column known as the Prison Ship Martyrs Monument in Brooklyn, New York was built in memory of the 11,500 men, women and children who died aboard British prison ships during the American Revolutionary War. My five times great-grandfather, Timothy Stanley Jr., was one of them.

Timothy Stanley Jr. was born in 1730 in Hartford, Connecticut, a member of the fourth generation of the extended Stanley family in America. The original immigrants were three brothers, John, Thomas and Timothy Stanley, who came from Tenterden, Kent, England in 1634. The Timothy who is the subject of this article descended from the youngest of the immigrants, also named Timothy.  

Timothy’s parents, Timothy Stanley and Mary Mygatt, moved from Hartford to Harwinton, CT, where the future soldier married Mary Hopkins in 1754. The young couple then settled in nearby Litchfield. An ad that appeared in the Connecticut Courant in 1776 suggested he had his own small business. It read, “Clothier and oil-mill screws cut in the neatest manner, by a machine by the subscribers at Litchfield, Abel Darling, Timothy Stanley.” 

Timothy and Mary had nine children. I’m descended from their fourth child, Pamela, who was born in 1760. Timothy’s wife, Mary, died around 1770.

When the Revolutionary War broke out, Timothy signed up with Captain Bezaleel Beebe’s Company in Litchfield.  In November 1776, thirty-six men from Beebe’s company were sent to Fort Washington, at the north end of Manhattan Island, to help defend the fort. The British captured it and took the soldiers prisoner. Timothy was put aboard a prison ship anchored in the East River, near Brooklyn. He died on board on Dec. 26, 1776.

The story of the prison ships is not well known. During the revolution, the British took many prisoners, including foreign sailors, soldiers captured in battle and private citizens accused of supporting the revolution. By the end of 1776, they had imprisoned some 5000 individuals. They did not have enough jails to cope with all these prisoners, so they converted several former transport vessels into prison ships.

The conditions on board were terrible: the vessels were overcrowded, there wasn’t enough food, the water was contaminated and many of the prisoners had infectious diseases. More than twice as many people died aboard these prison ships than in battle. The bodies of the dead were buried in shallow graves along the marshy shoreline. After the revolution, the British commander who had been in charge of the prison ships was hanged.

In 1808, some of the prisoners’ remains were buried in a tomb near the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Seventy years later, they were moved to a large brick vault in Washington Park, later renamed Fort Greene Park. President Taft inaugurated the classic column built as a memorial to the prison ship victims in 1908, but over the following century, the monument suffered from neglect and vandalism. It was restored in a $5-million project that was unveiled in 2008.

Research Remarks.  I first read of Timothy Stanley’s fate in Israel P. Warren’s classic 1887 publication The Stanley Families of America as Descended from John, Timothy and Thomas Stanley of Hartford, CT 1636 (https://openlibrary.org/books/OL23666712M/The_Stanley_families_of_America). I found corroboration on the genealogical database of the Daughters of the American Revolution website. (http://services.dar.org/public/dar_research/search/?Tab_ID=0). I am not a member of the DAR, but several other descendants are, or were, so I was able to access a summary of Timothy’s service record on the DAR’s database for a $10 fee. I don’t know how accurately the British identified the prisoners and recorded their deaths, but that date, December 26, 1776, sounds pretty final to me.

Also in the course of researching this piece, I came across an article that described how an unscrupulous paid researcher invented information about the births of the immigrant Stanley brothers in England.  (Mahler, Leslie. "Re-Examining the English Origin of the Stanley Brothers of Hartford, Connecticut. A Case of Invented Records." The American Genealogist 80 (2005): 218. http://www.americanancestors.org/PageDetail.aspx?recordId=235863582 [accessed July 29, 2013]). The original flawed publication appeared in 1926 and the error was not noticed until The American Genealogist article appeared in 2005. Considering the size of the Stanley family tree today, I suspect a great many family histories still have to be corrected.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Isabella Hamilton and the North-West Rebellion



When Isabella Hamilton died in 1912, her obituary in the Winnipeg Tribune was headlined, “Sheltered the Wounded: Woman Who Befriended Soldiers During the Riel Rebellion Passes Peacefully Away.” So how did my great-grandmother become a witness to one of the most riveting events in Canadian history?

Isabella’s father, John Glendinning, came from Dumfriesshire, Scotland, and her mother, Margaret Whiteside, was from Belfast. They met and married in Upper Canada. Isabella Watson Glendinning, born in Scarborough in 1834, was the eldest of their six children. When Isabella was 26, she married a young man from a nearby farm, James Hamilton. Between 1860 and 1875, they had five sons and one daughter, all of whom were baptized at St. Andrews Presbyterian Church.

St Andrews Presbyterian Church, Scarborough, ON



In 1881, a group of Toronto men set up the Temperance Colonization Society and applied to the Dominion Government for a tract of land in the North-West Territories. James Hamilton was one of them. They wanted to establish a community in which they could prohibit the sale “of intoxicating liquors.” 

James and his eldest son set out in June 1882 with the society’s advance party. The following year, Isabella and the rest of the family made the long trek west by train to Moose Jaw, then by horse-drawn cart to the settlement that became known as Saskatoon.

The settlers faced hardships from drought to extreme cold, and they never achieved their temperance goals because the society was not granted the expected single block of land. Moreover, there was political unrest in the region. Louis Riel, leader of the Métis people, who were of mixed First Nations and European descent, formed a provisional government in Batoche, north of Saskatoon. Canadian government troops defeated Riel’s supporters at the Battle of Batoche in May 1885.

Many of the wounded soldiers were brought to Saskatoon for treatment. The Winnipeg Tribune obituary reported that Isabella “was a most hospitable woman and never missed an opportunity in giving solace and comfort to the needy and distressed.” Isabella’s impressions of these events were not recorded, but in a letter to relatives in Ontario, her daughter, Maggie, described baking bread and buns for the visitors. “I sometimes baked about eighty weight a day in a little no. 8 stove,” she wrote. The settlers threw a party for the soldiers before they left and, according to Maggie, the dancing lasted until morning.

When the troops returned east, James Hamilton travelled with them. He never returned: he died of a heart attack in Ontario. The following year, Maggie died of typhoid.

Isabella remained in Saskatoon for several more years, but farming was difficult and she wanted her sons to continue their education. In 1890, the Hamiltons moved to Winnipeg. There, her sons worked to support themselves through medical school and law school. Twenty years later, a frail Isabella moved in with her son Thomas Glendenning Hamilton and his wife, Lilian (my future grandparents). They cared for her until her death.

Research notes: A Scottish genealogist has put together an extensive family tree of the descendants of James Glendinning and Agnes Little, married in 1701 in Westerkirk, Dumfriesshire (www.glendinning.name). Isabella Watson Glendinning is in the sixth generation of the Glendinning family on this tree. If you had ancestors in early Scarborough, you might find their names on that tree, or in St. Andrews Presbyterian Church Cemetery, Thomson Memorial Park, Scarborough, Ontario.

For the history of the Temperance Colonization Society, see Narratives of Saskatoon, 1882-1912, http://rootsweb.ancestry.com/~sksaskat/NarrativesOfSaskatoon/. This page brings together several first-person accounts of Saskatoon’s founding years.

Another excellent source for the history of Western Canada is Peel’s Prairie Provinces, http://peel.library.ualberta.ca/. You might come across a reference to your Prairie ancestor in the digitized pages of old books, documents, newspapers, postcards and directories on this site.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Correcting the Record



We recently attended the opening of a year-long exhibit focusing on Montreal’s Plateau district at the Pointe-à-Callière Montreal Museum of Archaeology and History. We were there because the portraits of several of my ancestors feature in the exhibit. The fact that the museum even knew of the existence of these paintings was mainly a result of good timing.

Some of the genealogists I met at the Quebec Family History Society helped get me started researching my family a few years ago. According to family stories, and to an article in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography (DCB), my great-great grandfather Stanley Clark Bagg was a large landowner in the area that eventually became known as the Plateau. The Plateau is on a geographical plateau, north of Old Montreal and east of Mount Royal. 

The DCB article was confusing because it mixed up Stanley Clark Bagg’s mother’s father, who was English, with his father’s father, who was of American origin. What I discovered when I found the relevant leases, land transactions and wills at the Quebec archives was that John Clark, a butcher from Durham, England, bought several adjoining farms along St. Laurent Blvd. in the early 1800s, and his grandson, Stanley Clark Bagg, inherited them. 

My husband and I started attending historic walking tours of St. Laurent Blvd. and the Mile End neighbourhood in the Plateau. We met people who are passionate about history and we began to share information with them. They were able to provide me with the historical and geographical context of my ancestors’ story, and I provided them with my knowledge of the family tree and copies of the documents I had found. 

On a snowy afternoon, two weeks before Christmas, 2012, Justin Bur, president of the Mile End Memories local history group, presented a lecture about Stanley Bagg's lost horse and the origins of Mile End. The room was packed. Someone from Pointe-à-Callière attended and was intrigued. The museum was already aware of the Bagg family because Stanley Bagg had owned a commercial building in Old Montreal. The ruins of that building lie under the museum and are incorporated into an archaeological exhibit.

Portraits of Stanley Bagg, his wife, Mary Ann, and her father, John Clark.
Eventually, members of my extended family agreed to lend the museum the portraits of John Clark, Stanley Bagg and Mary Ann Clark Bagg. These portraits have never been publicly displayed before, and this is probably the first time they’ve been hung together for at least 70 years. Also on display are several documents from the archives, including the Mile End Tavern lease, mentioned in my last blog post, between John Clark and his future son-in-law, Stanley Bagg.  

It is gratifying that John Clark’s role in the history of Mile End is finally being recognized. The DCB now has a page on its website where people can submit corrections, and I am in the process of doing that. Meanwhile, I continue to learn from my new friends in Mile End and share any new discoveries I make with them. 

For more information: see http://mile-end.qc.ca/documents/ (in French only) and http://www.pacmusee.qc.ca/en/news/new-exhibition-lives-and-times-of-the-plateau.
If you had ancestors in Quebec, be sure to check out the website of the Quebec Family History Society, www.qfhs.ca for background information on doing research in Quebec and a listing of the society's extensive library holdings and publications for sale. The members-only section includes exclusive databases and articles. Also take a look at www.genealogyensemble.com, a collaborative blog in which I participate.