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

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