Friday, 22 September 2017


First Published in the Halton-Peel  Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society Newsletter - Special Edition Halton-Peel KINections - Canada 150 Project - July 2017

The Halton-Peel Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society invited members to share stories about ancestors who lived in Canada at the time of confederation in 1867.  George McKnight and Mary Smith are my paternal 3x great grandparents

George McKnight and Mary Smith Family

George McKnight (abt 1817-1884) was born in Fermanagh Ireland and came to Canada about 1836.  According to his wife Mary Smith McKnight’s (abt 1821-1909) obituary, George McKnight married Mary Smith in 1835 in Enniskillen, Fermanagh Ireland and they emigrated to Toronto, Ontario. The obituary is probably from the Listowel Standard, Perth County, dated May 28, 1909.  The obituary states:   "...and settled in Toronto, where Mr. Mcknight engaged in the mercantile business for two years.  From there they moved to Albion Township and followed farming until 1854.   In that year they moved into Minto Township, Wellington County......"

Other researchers have quoted an autobiography by a Fermanagh Patterson Rutherford that claims the business that George McKnight operated was a Dry Goods Store near the Eaton's store on Yonge Street in Toronto.  There was a listing for a McKnight and Saxon listed as Wholesale Merchants in the 1837 Toronto & Home District Directory.  The address is simply Yonge Street, Toronto.  This was a business listing and I have not found a home address for the McKnight family, so possibly they lived above the store.  There was no listing for Mr. Saxon either.  Certainly looking at other businesses in the area, in this time frame, the dry goods stores seemed to be on Yonge Street north from King Street. 

If Mary Smith McKnight’s obituary is correct, the family moved to Peel County by 1839.  Certainly the family was listed in Albion on the 1851 Census.  According to the book The Way it was:  a History of Minto, George McKnight was one of the original landowners of Minto Township, Wellington County and purchased Lots 41 and 42 on Concession 1.  The land sale is recorded as September 10 and 11, 1854. 

George’s parents James and Ann/Hannah Colwell Mcknight and George’s siblings also came to Albion around the same time.  The 1846-1847 Brown’s Toronto City and Home Directory shows a James McKnight living at Concession 3, Lot 29 in Albion, Peel County.  It is possible George and his family lived with his parents until he moved to Wellington County.

George and Mary had at least ten children: Isabella (1839-1913), Anne Jane (1841-1894), Margaret (1843-1920), Sarah (1847-1929), John (1847-1911), James (1850-1931) born in Albion, Peel County.  George (1857-1936), Mary (1861-1938), Elizabeth (1862-1867) and Samuel (1865-1957) were born in Wellington County.  

Sarah McKnight was baptized August 19, 1849 in Albion and she was born in Albion on January 6, 1847 according to the Wesleyan Baptism Register.  This is the first documented proof that the family lived in Albion.

Mary Smith and George McKnight - unknown source

George and Mary and their children Isabella, Anne Jane, Margaret, Sarah, John and James are all listed on the 1852 Census living in Albion.  As their daughter Isabella was born in 1839, it is possible the family was living in Albion as early as 1839; however there is no documentation to support this information.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


First Published in the Halton-Peel  Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society Newsletter - Special Edition Halton-Peel KINections - Canada 150 Project - July 2017

The Halton-Peel Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society invited members to share stories about ancestors who lived in Canada at the time of confederation in 1867.  Henry Newton and Mary Bryan/Bryant are my paternal 3x great-grandparents

Henry Newton and Mary Bryan family

Henry Newton and his wife Mary Bryan/Bryant were born in Ireland, possibly Kings County and came to Canada in the 1830’s.  Not much is known about them, but according to family history they both died in the late 1840’s or early 1850’s and have not been found on any census record.

According to the St. Lawrence Steamboat Company Passenger list there was a Henry Newton and wife and children listed as arriving from Quebec City to Montreal on 2nd June 1831.

Certainly by 1837 Henry Newton was shown in the City of Toronto and Home District Directory as living on Concession 1, Lot 27, Albion Township, Peel County.  Their children have been identified as Robert (1821-1895), Henry (1824-1905), William (1826-1923), Maria (1828-1918) and possibly George Newton (1823-?).  There is also an entry in the 1847 Brown’s Directory for the same address for Henry Newton.

Maria Newton, aged 16 and Henry Newton aged 21 were confirmed in the church on October 28, 1844 in Albion.  Their address was listed as Lot 20, Concession 2, Albion, per the Index for Baptismal Register for the Mission of Chinguacousy, Gore of Toronto and Parts adjacent.

Robert Newton (1821-1895), farmer married Margaret Fallis before 1848 and they lived in Albion.  They had 5 children: Ester Ann (1848-1933), Mary (1849-1937), William Henry (1851-1921), Susan (1853-1864) and Margaret (1855-1912).  Margaret Fallis, a native of Enniskillen, Fermanagh Ireland died in 1855 in Wallace Perth County.  Her parents James Falls(1802-1882) and Ester Spence (1803-1869) also of Fermanagh died in Albion and are buried in Crawford Cemetery. Robert married Isabella McKnight in 1857 Wallace, Perth County.  They had 11 children together and lived in Perth County and in Howick, Huron County, before moving to Manitoba.  When Robert Newton died in Elton Manitoba in 1895, his death Certificate stated he was from Queen’s County, Ireland.  More information about  Robert Newton part 1

Henry Newton (1824-1905), Storekeeper was living in Albion according to the 1851 Census, but by 1861 he had moved to Howick Huron.  He married Lydia Hill Bloomily, a widow in 1862.  Lydia died in a fire in Howick in 1864 and Henry married Susan Ghent Sutherland in 1865 in Wellington County.  By the 1901 Census Henry had moved to Kootenay East, B.C.  Henry died in 1905 in Athalmer B.C.  His place of birth was listed as Kings County, Ireland.

William Newton (1826-1923), farmer must have lived in Albion when his family first emigrated, but by the 1851 census he is living in Waterloo.  He is living with his presumed brother George Newton and his wife Letitia McFadyen Newton.  William married Eleanor Holt in 1855 in Waterloo.  Eleanor Holt is the sister of Thomas Holt.  Thomas Holt married Maria Newton.  According to the 1901 Census William emigrated to Canada in 1834.  On the 1911 Census his emigrated to Canada in 1837.

Maria Newton (1823-1918)  married Thomas Holt in 1846 in Albion and according to her obituary in 1918; Maria was born in Kings County Ireland. The Newton family including her parents and 4 brothers left Ireland on April 18, 1835 and landed in Toronto on July 11, 1835.  They moved to Albion, Peel County and she lived there until she married and moved to Wellington County.  The 1901 Census state Maria emigrated to Canada in 1843, but the 1911 Census states 1835.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017


First Published in the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society Newsletter - Toronto Tree - July/August 2017

The Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society invited members to share stories about ancestors who lived in Canada at the time of confederation in 1867.  John Busby is my maternal great-grandfather. 


Little is known of John Busby (1819-1899) before he came to Canada.  The census records indicate he was born in Scotland about 1819 and his death certificate gives Edinboro (Edinburgh) as his place of birth.   He married Ellen Fitzgerald (1840-1907) about 1862 as their first son John was born in November 1862 in York, Ontario.   I have not found him on the 1861 Census nor have I found a marriage record for John and Ellen.  His occupation varied from Labourer to Shoemaker to Railway Employee.  He was listed as a Protestant but his children were raised as Roman Catholics.

The first recorded entry mentioning John Busby is his son’s baptism at St. Paul’s Basilica, Power Street on 7 June 1865.  John and Ellen Busby had at least ten children that I have located and possibly they had 13 children as family history indicates.  The children included: John born 1862, Catherine & Mary (twins) born 1865, Ellen born 1866, Agnes born1870, Martha Ann born 1872, Matilda (Elizabeth) born 1875, Bertha born 1878, William born 1881, and Gerald Fitzgerald born 1884.  Seven of the children were baptised at St. Paul's Basilica in Toronto and only 2 of the children’s births were registered.

On the 1871 Census the family was listed as living in Toronto East, St. Lawrence Ward., bounded by Queen, Yonge, lakefront and McGee Street (east of Broadview Avenue)..  When the 1881 census was taken in April, the family was living in York East, York East.  Some of the 1891 census records are missing for York East, but the Toronto directories indicate that from 1884- 1891 the family lived in Norway Village and John Busby was a tenant of Concession 1, Lot 6.  This land was owned by his father-in-law Maurice Fitzgerald.  The 1892-1899 directories show the family living in Little York at Coleman Corners where John and his wife Ellen ran a boarding house for railway employees.

John Busby died 30 September 1899 after being struck by a train.  The Globe & Mail Newspaper of 2 October 1899, carried the following headline:  KILLED BY AN ENGINE - JOHN BUSBY, AN AGED RESIDENT OF COLEMAN, STRUCK BY A TRAIN AND DIED IN A FEW HOURS.   The following is a partial transcription:   “The Grand Trunk express from the west struck John Busby, an aged resident of Coleman, who was walking on the tracks near York station on Saturday morning and six hours later Mr. Busby died in the General Hospital....The train was immediately stopped and Busby was taken from under the engine and carried to the station....and Busby was then placed on the first train for the city.....He was 79 years of age and was a well-known resident of Coleman.....”

John is buried in St. John Norway Cemetery alongside his wife Ellen Fitzgerald Busby who died on 8 February 1907.  They are buried in the Old Plan of the cemetery at Plot 68 along with other Busby family members.

St. John Norway Church, Toronto - cica 1919 (Photo -Courtesy of Toronto Public Library)

In 1936, when his daughter Mary Busby Bell (1865-1936) died an article appeared in the Toronto Star about her death.  The headline of the article was DAUGHTER OF PIONEER MRS. A. BELL PASSES.  The article indicates that John Busby was born in Edinburgh, Scotland the same day as Queen Victoria was born in 1819 (May 24, 1819 - Queen Victoria's Birthday).  It also states that John Busby was "a veteran of the gold rush of '49 and a sheriff in California.  He knew Buffalo Bill, Kit Carson, General Sherman and General Grant of civil war fame and President Lincoln."  

Whether any of this information is true is still an unanswered question and he remains John Busby, man of mystery.    

Tuesday, 13 June 2017


First Published in the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society Newsletter - Toronto Tree - May/June 2017.

The Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society invited members to share stories about ancestors who lived in Canada at the time of confederation in 1867.  Richard Down is my maternal great-great-grandfather. 


Richard Down was born in 1833 in Devon, England.  He was christened on 22 September 1833, at The Abbey Chapel - Presbyterian in Tavistock, Devon.  He married Mary Hooper Doidge on 22 December 1855, at Stoke Damerel, Devon.   Mary H. Doidge was also born in Devon and christened at the Tavistock Parish Church on 17 July 1835.

According to family history Richard and Mary emigrated to Canada on their honeymoon on the Empress of Ireland ship.  Their first child, Thomas was born in Bowmanville, Ontario in 1858.  They might have settled there initially as there were other Down and Doidge families living in the area.  As yet, there has been no link made to these families.  Richard Down’s mother was Patience Walters from Devon and there were also some Walters families living in the Ontario County area at the same time which might have been relatives as well. 

Between 1858 and 1860 the family moved to Toronto.  Richard Down is listed in the 1860 Toronto City Directory as a carpenter, living at 80 Victoria Street.  The family has now grown and the children include Thomas Walter born 1858, Fanny born 1860, Charles Walter born 1861, Edith May Maude Mary born 1863, William Henry Walter born 1865 and John Hooper born 1866 .  All the children were born in Toronto with the exception of Thomas.  The family attended the St. James Cathedral in Toronto and several of the children were baptised there. There is a family burial plot at St. James Cemetery which is affiliated with the church.
Richard Down 1833-1897

Between 1860 and 1871 the family is listed living on Victoria Street in downtown Toronto.  By the 1881 Census the family has moved to York East, in Norway Village to part of Lot 6 Concession 1. 

Richard Down died 12 October 1897.  He did not leave a will and Letters of Administration were granted on 3 May 1899.  He is listed as living in the Village of Norway and his occupation is carpenter.  His real estate is listed as:  Part of Lot 6, Concession 1, Township of York - 2 acres on Woodbine Avenue with buildings value - $1200.00.  The street address is 290 Woodbine Avenue, Toronto.

Mary Hooper Doidge Down 1835-1899

His wife Mary Hooper Doidge Down died 17 October 1899.  They are both buried at St. James Cemetery in Toronto.

Sunday, 5 February 2017


First Published in the Toronto Branch of the Ontario Genealogy Society Newsletter - Toronto Tree - January/February 2017.

Joseph Henry Down (1889 – 1915) – The Poppy Trail

My grandfather Joseph Henry Down died at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, Belgium on April 24, 1915.   His body was not recovered, and there is no grave, but he is listed on the Menin Gate Memorial, along with over 55,000 other soldiers who lost their lives in the battle.

In order to commemorate Joseph’s death my husband John and I decided to plan a trip to Ypres in April 2015.  As part of the planning, we researched Joseph from cradle to grave.  The family had always lived in the east end of Toronto and I didn’t realize how many places they had lived in while still maintaining to be “East-Enders”.

Our plan was to find as much information about Joseph as possible analysing all the data I had collected in my genealogy research, plus additional information from any military records.  My husband also contacted the Legion and received a bag of poppies.  Our intent was to leave a poppy at every location where Joseph lived and we visited.  So before we made the journey to Ypres, we started in Toronto.

I haven’t located Joseph’s birth certificate, but the family attended St. John’s the Baptist Norway Church.  I made an appointment at the Diocese of Toronto Anglican Archives on Adelaide Street in Toronto.  The Archives are open 2 days a week and while you don’t need an appointment, it’s recommended to call ahead to ensure the records you need are available.  It was my first time at the archives and I was surprised when I was given the actual parish records to research.   So I donned my cotton gloves and very carefully turned the pages and I was rewarded.

 Joseph Henry Down was born on September 23, 1889, in the village of Norway, now a part of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, the son of Charles Walter Down and Alice Maude Crew.   He was baptized at St. John’s Norway Church on September 5, 1890 and his parents are listed as living in Norway, and his father is listed as a Milk Dealer.

The Toronto Directories were invaluable in our research.  Joseph’s family lived mostly in the east end of Toronto.  Jane McNamara has listed all the directories on her blog which was very handy for this research.     These directories can also be accessed through the Toronto Public Library website, but I found Jane’s list more convenient as all the directories are listed on one page.

In 1893, the family is listed as living on Woodbine Avenue, Norway and his father also lists a business under Grocer and Fruit and Fishes etc. on 692 Queen Street East, near Broadview Avenue.  By 1899 the Grocery store was 668 Queen Street East, whether a new location or simply a re-numbering of the street is not known.

The 1912 Directory lists Joseph’s father Charles with an additional Cartage Business , listed as C. W. Down & Son at 81 Hamilton Street, around the corner from the Grocery store.   
Joseph attended Queen Alexandra Public School on Hamilton Street, near Broadview and Dundas Streets.   A search on the Toronto branch King and County page lists 4 Down surnames.  All belong to my grandfather’s line.  Joseph and his brothers William, Charles and R.E. (Richard Edward) Down are listed on the plaque.  Of the 4 brothers only Richard survived and returned to Toronto.   The King and Country page also a wonderful sidebar on the main page with links to military websites.

 Sometime between 1908 and 1913 the Joseph’s family also acquired property where they built a house on Bellefair Avenue in the east end of Toronto.  In 1911 Joseph married Bertha Snider (nee Busby).  Bertha was 10 years older and she was a widow with 2 daughters, Mildred Agnes Ellen and Marjory Maxine Snider.  Bertha and Joe had 3 children, Charles William “Charlie”, Geraldine Dorothy “Dolly” and Joseph Henry Kitchener “Joe”.
20 Bellefair Avenue, Toronto, Joseph Down on the steps at the back.  Picture taken circa 1913

20 Bellefair Avenue, Toronto, circa 2015

Using the birth registrations for Joseph and Bertha’s children together with the directories gave us more address to check out.  Thankfully the addresses still remained in the east end of Toronto:    50 Enderby Road, 290 Woodbine Avenue, 210 Hamilton Street, 534 Kingston Road and 582 Woodbine Avenue.

So off we went, armed with a list of locations, a bag of poppies and a camera.  We found all the locations on our list.  I was familiar with some of the addresses as my grandmother and my great grandmother lived in the same houses until their deaths.  Some of the street numbers changed on the streets, but using the street directory, was an enormous help.  The street directory portion of the directory lists all the streets in alphabetical order and by house number. It also lists the intersections, so you can get an idea of the vicinity of the house you are researching.   I was able to pinpoint the general area of the house number by using the cross streets as reference.  For instance in 1914 , 290 Woodbine Avenue  is located  at the crossroad of Kingston Road and Woodbine Avenue.  That is not the case today.  290 Woodbine is a long block south of Kingston Road and I imagine the new 290 is a much more substantial house.  Some of the houses had disappeared completely replaced by an apartment block in one instance.  We did our best and photographed the houses we found and left a poppy as near to the location as possible.

My great grandfather’s Grocery store on Queen Street East is still there and is now a Hemp Store.  Around the corner on Munroe Street, the stables are gone and there are apartments.  My great grandmother’s house on Bellfair Avenue looks almost unchanged, except for a few cosmetic enhancements.  At “582” (as it was known in my family, no need to add Woodbine Avenue), it too appeared much the same as I remembered and I was left to wonder how my grandmother raised 5 children in the house.

Our last stop was St. John’s Norway Cemetery on Woodbine Avenue.  While Joseph isn’t buried there his name along with his brothers is inscribed on the Down family gravestone and we left our last poppy on the grave.

The Toronto part of our journey was complete.  Poppies were left at every location and now we were ready for our European excursion to continue our poppy trail through England, France and Belgium.  I wonder what the homeowners thought when they found a poppy fastened unobtrusively to their shrubbery?

Thursday, 26 January 2017


My husband and I were recently in Ottawa, Ontario from January 18 - 22, 2017 to watch the Canadian Figure Skating Championships.  We had some free time before the event and planned to see Rideau Hall and an Art Gallery.

I'm not sure why I chose to visit the Veterans Affairs Canada website at this particular time.  I think there was a posting in the Ontario Genealogical Society Facebook page about Military Records and I followed the link.   Veterans Affairs Canada

There are 7 Books of Remembrance at the Memorial Chamber at Parliament Hill.  Each day a page on each book is turned to commemorate the soldiers who were killed in action.  The books can be searched by name and/or year of death.  I searched the database for my grandfather Joseph Henry Down, who died at the 2nd Battle of Ypres on April 24, 1915.

His page was to be displayed on January 19, 2017.  This was incredible luck.  We toured the Parliament Buildings early January 19, 2017 and were in the Memorial Chamber of the Peace Tower before 11:0 am.  There is a small ceremony when the pages are turned at 11:00 am.
Joseph Henry Down, Sapper 2nd Field Company

This is the second time that my research on Joseph Down and Figure Skating have coincided.  In 2015 we were on our way from Toronto to Kingston, Ontario to watch the 2015 Canadian Figure Skating Championships and discovered there was an exhibit at the War Museum in Ottawa to commemorate the 100th Anniversary of the 2nd Battle of Ypres.  We included a trip to Ottawa prior to going to Kingston.

I'm starting to think maybe Joseph is a skating fan.

Saturday, 14 January 2017


Over 4 years ago I wrote about the O'Leary sisters country and western group and the very tentative connection to my Meehan family see Meehan-O'Leary Connection.

Since that time I have been in contact with a descendant of Teresa Meehan and Norman Dunne O'Leary.    Susan also introduced me to another relative Rosemary.  Rosemary is a descendant of Mary Ann Meehan and Lorne Sheridan.  Susan, Rosemary and I share the same great grandparents George Thomas Meehan (1851) and Emma Howson.(1851)

Both Susan and Rosemary have been very generous and shared family pictures.  My grandfather George Meehan (1882) and my grandmother Isabel Faulkner were separated and I didn't know my grandfather.  So when Susan shared the Meehan family photo I was thrilled.

The picture was taken circa 1907 and appears to be taken for a formal gathering, possibly a wedding.

Back Row L to R: George Meehan (1882),Margaret Meehan (1876), James Meehan (1880), Mary Ann Meehan (1878),   Seated  George T. Meehan (1851) Teresa Meehan (1886) Emma Howson  Meehan (1851)