Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

Sadly, it seems that newspapers are going the way of the dinosaur. But throughout history, they were the most important means to share information.

In researching family history, there are often gaps in information. Prior to 1850, the Census only listed the head of household, then head counts of others. Since the 1890 US Census was mostly destroyed, that 20 year period between 1880 and 1900 Census is a problem. Vital records were not kept on a county or state level until the very late 1800's in most areas. Church records can be iffy. And don't get me started on cemeteries....grrrr. I love them, but the record keepers can be hell to deal with. (Mount Moriah - I'm talking to you!)

1786 article in Royal Gazette

Fortunately, modern technology and newspaper archives have become an awesome way to find out more! Searchable by keywords, state, time period, etc. these archives have filled in a lot of blanks for me. Here are a few examples:

Going back to the Canadian McMonagles of my last post, not only did I find the soap opera drama of Ruth and her crazy second husband, but learned of much more about the first McMonagles who came to Canada from Ireland in the 1780's. Thanks to one dedicated man who indexed a bunch of births, marriages and deaths from early New Brunswick papers, then donated this project to the archives there, I found a gold mine!

In the last post, I had found our Joseph living with his parents, Hugh & Alice, in 1851 & 1861 along with  widow Phebe, Hugh's mother. Phebe is gone by 1871, not surprisingly. But who was her husband, father of Hugh? When did they die? And there was no census before 1851 to check, so newspapers it is!

Here is what I found: May 2, 1866 - St. John Morning NewsSalisbury (West. Co.) 17th inst., Phebe relict of Hugh McMONAGLE, Esq., Westmorland parish, age 91. She was born in New York and came to this Province with the Loyalists in 1782.

WOW! So much info in those 2 sentences - her date of death, her age,  her late husband's name, her birthplace and when she came to Canada. Genealogical gold!

(A couple of terms you don't see anymore - inst.= instant, current month; ult = ultimo, previous month; relict = widow who never remarried)

So then I looked for him, and was really surprised to find this: February 12, 1803 - NB Royal Gazettedrowned Hugh McMONAGLE, Esq., Westmorland, Benjamin LESTER of this city, broke through ice on Kennebecasis.

With a little more digging, I found the whole story in a local history book: Hugh McMonagle was an immigrant from the North of Ireland.  He did business as a trader at Mount Whatley, he was elected member for Westmorland and was drowned in the Saint John River while on his way to Fredericton to attend the session.  His widow sold his property to the late John Trueman. 

And this: Hugh McMonagle, Esq. drowned 7 Feb 1803 Being on his way to attend the General Assembly of NB to represent the Co. of Westmorland, with five others on the river Canabacis, the ice broke when he and one other person was lost., age 42 years.
Kennebecasis River

It is interesting to note that his son Hugh (Joseph's father), was born in 1804, after his father's death. Phebe was pregnant with our ancestor, their only son. This is confirmed by a petition written by Phebe in 1808 to the legislature asking for financial aid, which they granted her. You can see the petition HERE, bearing her signature.

So my 4X Great Grandfather was the first man elected to represent his county at the first New Brunswick House of Assembly session, and drowned falling through the ice on his way there. Pretty cool, huh?

Other great facts I found in that collection, death notice of Hugh Jr.'s wife Alice: Dec. 27, 1893, St John Visitor & Messenger -  d. Butternut Ridge (Kings Co.) Dec. 13th, at the residence of her son-in-law, Mrs. Alice McMONAGLE, age 79 years, w/o late Hugh McMONAGLE. Sister McMonagle was born at Pollet River, N.B. in 1814, professed religion in the early part of her life, was baptized by Rev. Joseph Crandall and received into the fellowship of the Salisbury Baptist church. In after years she united with Hugh McMonagle, Esq. and resided a number of years at North River near Petitcodiac. After the death of her husband she moved to Butternut Ridge where she spent the latter part of her life with her son-in-law. She then united with the Baptist church here and remained a member until separated by death. She leaves two daughters. The funeral services took place Saturday, Dec. 16th, conducted by the pastor, Rev. A.F. Brown.
And a neat story about Hugh Sr. and one of his brothers that came from Ireland with him, printed in 1894 in the Kings County Record: James DOUGLAS of Petitcodiac (West. Co.) called at the 'Record' office and showed us a letter which he had found among the old papers left by the late Hugh McMONAGLE of North River, from whom Mr. Douglas had purchased a farm several years ago. The latter in question is dated from Windsor, N.S. April 12th, 1785 and written by John McMONAGLE to his brother, Hugh McMonagle of Cumberland.

St. John in 1855

I'll do another post soon on how newspapers helped me flesh out our family tree with some other very cool stories - good, bad and ugly!

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