Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Death or Canada film update

An Update on the Canadian Death or Canada film...

The film will be airing on Canadian television starting on 16 March from 8 to 10 pm on History Television, it is an excellent production.

More information about this interesting and important film is available at:

The official website for the film is located here:

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Death or Canada

The announcement below from the Ontario Genealogically Society:

February 23 1009

The new film Death or Canada screens at the Bloor Cinema in Toronto on Thursday March 5, 2009 at 7 p.m. It is the story of the Irish Famine of 1847. A call had gone out through Ontario Genealogical Society for people who were linked to the 1847 famine.

The show has already been seen on TV in Ireland, and was well received.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Ulster Heritage Newsletter Launched

Jim McKane, of Ontario, Canada, has launched a newsletter to help everyone interested in Ulster family research and genealogy. The Newsletter will be used to announce new additions to the website and highlight items of interest to the users of and its associated websites.

Jim has also given the Ulster Heritage forum a new look and this is already turning into a very good place for all of us with Ulster roots to post questions and compare notes with other researchers.

The Ulster Heritage newsletter can be subscribed to by going to the opening page of the Ulster Heritage main website:

The Ulster Heritage Forum can be accessed by going to the homepage of the Ulster Heritage website and then clicking on the Ulster Heritage DNA page located on the menu on the left side of the page.

Jim McKane lives near Wiarton, Ontario. His keen interest in genealogy and family history began about 30 years ago when his father convinced him to become the pedigree keeper for his Lyons Clan Reunion. His family left Ulster circa 1832 to settle near Brampton, Ontario, where Jim was born.

Jim has built a linked database of nearly 250,000 people, over the years, which has been of great assistance to him in tracking his family tree. His keen interest in computers has led him to currently being the webmaster for the McCain DNA Project, the Ulster DNA Project and the Ulster McKane website, as well as his own personal websites. He has a great deal of public speaking experience, has taught many training classes and has always been very involved in community services. As a member of the Waterloo-Wellington Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society, he organized and taught a number of classes on using computers for genealogy. Jim and his newsletter and forum are great assets for both Canadian and American researchers.

Many thanks to Jim McKane for providing these very useful research tools to the Ulster community.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

The Bonnie Blue Flag

It may be news to some outside of Dixie, but there is a flag that has long been associated with people of Ulster ancestry in the New World. This flag is of course the lone star flag, which dates to 11 September, 1810. After the American Revolutionary War, Spain regained control of the territory of West Florida, which is located today in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and the panhandle of Florida.

American and British settlers flooded into this area and most of these families were of Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, with the majority being of Ulster ancestry. These people are described as Anglo-Celts by some historians, but usually they are just called Scots-Irish. They resented rule from Spain, I suspect knowing these people as I do, and being one of them myself, they resent rule from anyone or thing, anyroad, a rebellion was short in coming.

the Bonnie Blue Flag

On 11 September, 1810 a troop of West Florida dragoons set out for Baton Rouge (Red Stick) to join republican militia to launch an attack on the Spanish fort there. The Scots-Irish forces overcame the Spanish garrison in Baton Rouge and unfurled the flag of the Republic of West Florida. Alas, politics being what they are, the Republic was only to exist for 90 days before the growing United States gobbled it up.

The flag was a single white star on a blue field. The flag unfurled in 1810 was made by Melissa Johnson, wife of Major Isaac Johnson, the commander of the West Florida Dragoons. The flag is called by two names commonly, the Bonnie Blue Flag and the Lone Star Flag. It saw use in the 1820s and 1830s as the Scots-Irish pushed into Texas and beyond. The state of Texas incorporates the Lone Star into its state flag of course.

On January 9, 1861 the convention of the People of Mississippi adopted an Ordinance of Secession. With this announcement the Bonnie Blue flag was raised over the capitol building in Jackson, Mississippi. Harry Macarthy was so inspired that he wrote a song entitled "The Bonnie Blue Flag" which became the second most popular patriotic song of the Ole Confederacy.

The Lone Star/Bonnie Blue flag has been in constant use from 1810. You will frequently see it today on license plates on cars and trucks and families fly the flag across the US South and beyond. The Bonnie Blue flag today is as popular as ever and still conveys the same spirit as the original lone star flag and it is part of our Ulster Heritage.

Barry R McCain

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Moses McKane Mystery

James McKane of Wiarton, Ontario, ask our readership assistance in solving the case of Moses McKane of Ontario. James is one of the leading genealogical experts in Canada and is well known as the webmaster of the Ulster Heritage website, which is a joint Canadian and American project. Jim asks our help in solving the curious case of Moses McKane.

Moses McKane – The Mystery Man!

By James A. McKane –

After many years of hard work on my family tree, I could not get past James McKane (1799-1877), my great-great-grandfather, in my ancestry.

At a Christmas family dinner about 1990, I cornered my Uncle Arthur McKane, by saying, “Uncle Art, I cannot find anything beyond old James – his parents, siblings, nothing! Do you know any little tidbits that might help me?” He responded with, “Well, you know, there was a brother, don’t you?” Uncle Art’s story claimed that on the voyage to Ontario, the family had to change ships in Montreal, Quebec. Old James’ brother, Moses McKane, supposedly became frustrated at the delay waiting on the second ship. He went to find work and was “never heard from again!”

Hmmmmmmm! Interesting! Well, I searched every record I could think of on the internet unsuccessfully. Hoping to obtain a response from someone, I, even, posted Moses, as a brother to James McKane, on my family tree websites, as well as, notices on various email lists and forums.

As for when they migrated to Ontario, I can only assume that the Census records are correct as being 1843. From 1832 to 1937, all migrants were quarantined at Gross Île, Quebec to prevent disease from entering Canada. Therefore, my McKanes should have been quarantined there, as well. However, I can find no record of any McKane, by various spellings, in the Gross Île archives. Therefore, I wonder if they came via the Hudson River and the Erie Canal through the United States?

Finally, in 1997, I found a Moses McKane in a family tree by Steve Nelson from Ontario! Success? Maybe? Steve’s information referred me to Bruce County, Ontario with a large descendancy from Moses McKane’s three daughters. However, there was nothing to indicate any connection to my James McKane.

In December 1998, we were at our cottage (now our home), near Wiarton, Ontario for a few days. My wife, Suzanne, wanted to go to Owen Sound shopping, but, I had no interest in shopping. So, I asked her to drop me at the Owen Sound Library until she was finished. There, I met a fellow-genealogist familiar with the library who asked what I was researching. Immediately, she began pulling books of the shelf saying, “You’ll want to check these ones first!” What a wonderful helper!

I, immediately, began devouring the pile. After three hours of frustration, I came to a volume Green Meadows and Golden Sands: The History of Amabel Township [Bruce County, Ontario] 1851-1982. The index showed a reference to Moses McKane where I found; "James Davidson Jr. was married to Jane McKane, who had come from Ireland in 1843. With her had come her unmarried sister and her mother, Mrs. Moses McKane.” In the chapter before this quote was stated; “near Cheltenham in a stone house” which is in Peel County.

I just about jumped out of my skin!! Cheltenham, Peel County! That is where all my McKanes lived, and some still do!

From there, I began my search for Moses McKane, in Chinguacousy Township, Peel County, Ontario. Over the course of the next many months and years, I found assessment and census records showing Moses McKane and family living on Lot 25, Concession 5, West of Hurontario Street, Chinguacousy Township from 1848 until at least 12 January 1852, when the 1851 Ontario Census was recorded. Yet, in the assessment rolls for 1843, 1845, 1846 and 1847 for Chinguacousy Twp., the property at Lot 25, Concession 5 West is not listed. This would indicate that it was not occupied yet.

The 1851 Census, Canada West (now known as the Province of Ontario), Chinguacousy Township, Peel County, shows - Moses McCain, farmer, Ireland, Pres. Free [Presbyterian Free], age 56, male, married, one-storey log house, one person attending school; Ann McCain, Ireland, Pres. Free, 46, female, married; Jain McCain, Ireland, Pres. Free, 15, female; Ann McCain, Ireland, Pres. Free, 13, female; Mary McCain, Ireland, Pres. Free, 6, female.

A land record film shows the Patent [document of ownership issued to the first legal owner of the property] on this property was issued in 1852 to John Henderson. This means that the Canada Company still had control of the land when Moses and his family lived there. Therefore, it is safe to assume that he was attempting to homestead the land but failed to complete the necessary improvements. Otherwise, he would have had the Patent in his name. So, somewhere between when the Census was taken on 12 January 1852 and the Patent being issued to John Henderson, the McKane family vacated the property.

The 1861 Census, Chinguacousy Twp., Peel Co. shows Ann [Nancy] McKane, labourer, born Ireland, religion 'U-F', age next birthday 50, female, widow, living in a one-storey log house, one cow, one pig, value of livestock 30, 1 acre of property. The section of census film showing the location is of very poor quality. Therefore, I was unable to determine the exact location. However, she lived somewhere near Cheltenham at that time.
The Mystery

From 1848 to 1852, Moses McKane lived less than a mile from his brother, James (my gggrandfather)! James McKane lived on Lot 22, Concession 4 WHS, which is only three lots south on the same road!

Yet, according to my Uncle Art, “He [Moses] was never heard from again???”

Where was Moses McKane between 1843, when they emigrated and 1848, when he lived near his brother, James.

Did Moses McKane, in fact, die in 1852? If so, where is he buried? OR, did he simply abandon the family?
Many times in those days, a woman would call herself a widow if her husband left her?
Who were the parents of Moses and James McKane?
Equally as interesting would be…..Why did my side of the family deny any knowledge of Moses when they lived so close to him?

I would appreciate any assistance on this brick wall!
Please contact: -
James McKane
528 Mallory Beach Rd., R.R.5
Wiarton, Ontario N0H 2T0

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

A Personal Journey

Four years ago, my search for the 1718 emigrants began in earnest. After seeing the success of the 'Migration Project' begun by the New England Historical Genealogical Society, I began to dream of such a project focused on the 1718 Scotch-Irish emigrants. Along the way I have learned some valuable lessons about this ethnic group that makes this project much more difficult.

The Scotch-Irish did NOT stay in their little towns for generations. Considering the times, I find their movement amazing. One man, Moses White, is found in the records of the Dutch Reformed church in Abington, Pennsylvania as an 'early arrival of Ireland' with many others in 1719. Moses is then listed in 1722 as an Elder in the new Presbyterian church in Neshaminy, Bucks County, Pennsylvania just a few miles away from Abington. By 1750, Moses and his sons have moved more then 700 miles away to the highlands of South Carolina in York County. It was in an old school building, on the shelves of the York County Historical Society, that I found the life of this man recorded by his descendants some 250 years later. Imagine searching 700 miles of country filled with towns and counties for one man and his family. Seemingly impossible, but not to his family, whose traditions preserved the knowledge of where to start looking.

The Scotch-Irish began as Presbyterians, but within one or two generations became Methodist, Congregational, Reformed Presbyterian, Baptist, or any other of the numerous denominations that have served our country’s religious needs. There is some valid speculation that many of the second generation of Quakers to Pennsylvania from 1705-1725 were originally Scotch-Irish Presbyterians. That may explain the numbers of Quakers who willingly fought in the Indian and revolutionary wars of the 18th century, despite Quaker traditions. Researchers should not exclude researching in a particular denomination because it mightn’t look Presbyterian enough for a Scotch-Irishman.

The local and national historical and genealogical societies are great resources for 1718 research. By contrast, universities and colleges in America have little or no interest in genealogical research; for them, it simply does not pay the bills. The academic world often does not grasp the fundamental premises of genealogy research, and since conjecture and surmise play a large part in our work, there is little room for genealogy in modern day classrooms. Fortunately, societies which have been in existence since the mid-1800’s have undertaken the preservation and documentation of our nation’s genealogical past. Societies also were first to realize the vast wealth of information and tremendous value of the Internet to genealogical research. Most societies focus on a geographical location. Finding such a society in an area in which a large group of Scotch-Irish lived can be invaluable. The Lancaster County Historical Society in Pennsylvania is such an example:

There is no such thing as a Scotch-Irish surname. Our names may have originated, and may still be found, in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, even sometimes in France. I still laugh when I enter a genealogical library and the first question is 'What surname are you looking for'? My answer of 'Yes' usually gives me an opening to explain my research. If you have a particular clearly identified surname of interest, count your blessings, but don’t be blind to the inability of American writers to discern the true spelling of that name. Imagine the old English harbourmaster talking to the young Gaelic shipmaster and you can imagine the difficulty both felt in understanding each other. Reverend Parker mentions many times that Gaelic was still used in Londonderry, New Hampshire by the second or third generation of the 1718 emigrants, and we know that the Scots language also survived for several generations.

My generation is largely ignorant of its past. In fact, not until I had completed research on my Boyd family did my 70-something mother discover her Presbyterian roots. She had always thought she was the 'first' in the family to be Presbyterian. Seeing her cry while reading about her ancestors in Londonderry, New Hampshire and Ireland opened an amazing window to my family’s true heritage. Unfortunately, the passage of so many generations and the daily grind of life in America has shut that window for many descendants of the Scotch-Irish. However, the explosion of interest in the Scotch-Irish heritage can be seen all over the genealogical landscape. Over 800 members actively discuss Scotch-Irish research at the Rootsweb site monitored by Linda Merle. This e-mailing group is largely responsible for my involvement with Scotch-Irish research.

No one has yet written a definitive book about the methodology for Scotch-Irish research in America, though William Roulston’s book, Researching Scots-Irish Ancestors.. (2005) is an essential introduction to the Irish background. The pioneer lives of these families, their ability to melt leaving few traces, into widely varying religious and political parties, their distinct distrust of political or religious authority, and their 'wanderlust' make them a hard people to document. I research a family, a town, a church between the time period of 1715 to 1800; given the networks of kinship and neighbourhood within which these people lived their lives, chances are I’ll strike gold, and find information about the families I’m particularly interested in.

Colin Brooks is a genealogist specializing in Scotch-Irish research in the 18th century. Project developer of the 1718 Migration research. Co-author of the Northern Ireland website: Featured speaker for the East Donegal (NIR) Summer school 2007. Guest speaker at the NJ Genealogical Societies annual conference; Scotch-Irish Society annual meetings; and LDS genealogy conference in Swarthmore, PA. Paramedic with Easton Emergency Squad. Father of two and living in Quakertown, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, USA.

Monday, 2 February 2009

The Knox Families of Raphoe

Information on the genealogy and history of the Knox families of Raphoe has gone on-line and can be found at this address:

The Knox families have long been an integral part of Irish society with a long list of very distinguished men and women. In the course of Ulster history they have have also sent many sons and daughters into the world in the Diaspora and their story continues. Ivan Knox, poet and historian, from Corcam, Donegal, has been collecting Knox family history for over half a century and some of his records are in the link above.

Irish Lesson in Ulster

A beginners Irish language classes will start again on Tuesday nights in Dunloy from 3th February. Classes start at 7.30pm for 11/2 hours each night and will run for 8 weeks until Easter.

This friendly, informal course is an introduction to the language and culture of Ireland. It covers the vocabulary and phrases needed to have a social conversation, including how to greet people and discuss the weather.

Whether you are a complete beginner or already have some knowledge of Irish, this course will enable you to speak, read and write the language.

Classes are held in Teach an Cheoil- The Comhaltas Centre at the Dunloy GAA pitch.

Fees will be £30.00 (£20 concession) and for further information contact Máirín Gaston on 077 8050 8366.