Tuesday, 2 April 2013


This is a picture of George McKnight (1817 - 1884) and Mary Smith (1817 - 1909)

George and Mary McKnight

George is my 3x great grandfather and came from Enniskillen, Fermanagh County Ireland.  He emigrated to Canada before 1839 as his first known daughter Isabella McKnight was born in Upper Canada in 1839.  There are quite a few researchers working on this family and the general consensus seems to be that George and Mary were married in Ireland before they came to Canada.

I met a new researcher on the Internet last month, who is a  Mcknight.  He asked me if I had a tree on the Mcknights.  The George Mcknight family was one of the first families I researched.  As their daughter Isabella married Robert Newton and that started me on my genealogical research, I thought I had done quite a bit of work on this family, but now I see there is a lot more to do.  So while I have put together a family tree, it is sadly lacking in information, backed up by sources.

I think there are several reasons for this.  The first reason of course is that I've learnt more about how to document properly.  The second reason is that because there are so many trees out there already, I left this tree on the back burner to pursue another day.   But I think the most compelling reason that this family has been left is because I find Irish genealogy hard to get a handle on.  I never know whether a place name is a Civil Parish, a Townland,  a county, a post-town. etc.  And as  I have found it can be all of those things.

So for now I think I'll just concentrate on the Canada side of my research.  I need to fully explore George McKnight's family since he came to Ontario and tidy up the information I have.  Maybe then I'll feel brave enough to tackle those Irish sources, if I can find them.

I've just realised another reason I've been procrastinating about the McKnights:  they had very large families.  When there are 10 children in a family, the documentation piles up.  There is also the added complications when the families inter-marry.

George McKnight's parents were James McKnight and Hanna/Ann/Sarah Colwell (1796 - 1870).  They were born in Ireland and while there is no documentation, it is thought that they both came to Ontario.  Ann McKnight is found on the 1851 Census as a widow.  The thinking is that the family came in the late 1830's - 1840's and settled in Ontario, but James died around 1845.  I'm not sure there is any proof of this, but it seems to be a possibility.

The 1837 Toronto & Home District Directory lists a Mcknight & Saxon on Yonge Street Toronto as Wholesale Merchants and Wholesale dry goods store.  I wasn't sure if this was my George McKnight as I first found him in Albion, Peel County, Ontario with his family.  However several other trees have indicated that he was a shop owner and perhaps that it was a family run business.  Recently, another researcher Laurence kindly sent me an obituary for Mary Smith McKnight who died in 1909.

I think the obituary was from the Listowel Standard Newspaper, May 28, 1909, and it states that Mary Smith was born in 1815 in Fermanagh Ireland; she married George McKnight in 1835, in Fermanagh and they came to Canada in 1836.  They settled in Toronto where George McKnight was "engaged in mercantile business for two years".  After Toronto they moved to Albion, Peel County where they farmed.  In 1854 they were some of the first families to acquire land in Minto Township, Wellington county.  According to the obituary, their land was a dense forest and they had to clear the land to make a home for themselves.

So this confirms the story that George and Mary first settled in Toronto.  Unfortunately I couldn't find George Mcknight's address in the directory, perhaps he lived above the store.  Also Mr. Saxon is missing as well.  It also confirms that George and Mary married in Ireland.

It appears that George McKnight's siblings also came to Ontario and settled in the same area.  I've found 7 children listed as James and Ann Colwell Mcknight's family in Peel and Wellington counties.  But I think I shall leave that for another day.

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