Saturday, April 6, 2013

A Discovery

Lizzie McVicar McCluskey
Lizzie McVicar was my maternal great great grandmother.  Lizzie was married to John McCluskey and mother of Jessie, Maudie and 4 other children- Maggie, Lenny, Archie and Willie. Although she died in 1933, long before my mother was born, Lizzie was always part of the family history I grew up hearing about so I felt that I knew all about her. The house in Brownsburg I grew up visiting had belong to her and John,  their portrait hung on the wall of our dining room when I was young, even the family bible I like to leaf through was hers. When I became interested in genealogy and began to look for records I expected this branch of my tree to fall into place rather easily. Best laid plans and all that...

Finding the McCluskey/McVicar family in the census was simple enough. They popped up in 1911exactly where I expected them in Brownsburg QC. Jessie, 21 and Lennie, 24 were still at home. And again in 1901, 1891, and 1881 in Lachute(with Maudie). The family bible listed John and Lizzie's marriage date as March 15 1875 so I searched the Lachute Presbyterian records and found it quite readily. But here was the first record that didn't quite fit what I thought I knew.

The record listed Elizabeth McVicar as the daughter of Archibald McVicar and his wife Mary Ann. But according to everything I knew, Archie was married to Elizabeth Fraser - they were buried together in a Lachute cemetery grave I had seen many times.  I was certain I'd found the right marriage for Lizzie and John, everything else was correct as I knew it, but who was Mary Ann? I was tempted to write it off as a mistake on the part of the minister who performed the wedding!

I looked to the census again and found Lizzie in 1871 with her parents Archie and Elizabeth, as well as her  younger siblings Mary, Ellen, Christina and John. No discrepancy there; my mother know her "Uncle Johnny" well and was close to his children- the youngest of which I knew as my "Aunt " Beryl. Christina my mother knew of as well- Great Aunt Christie was buried with her parents in Lachute.

1861 however told a different story; Lizzie, Mary, Ellen and Christie were listed with parents Archie and Elizabeth, but oddly there were 2 other children listed as well- a daughter Katherine, 18 and son George 16. No one had ever mentioned that Lizzie had older siblings!

In the 1852 census, I found Lizzie in St Andrew's (later St André) in the county of Deux Montagnes, Canada East. With her were Archibald and Elizabeth, a John McVicar (Archie's father) and Katherine and George. Also listed is an unnamed baby brother not yet a year old who must have died before the next census. So just when things are starting to make sense again I located a marriage record for Archibald and Elizabeth dated August 11, 1850. Lizzie's birth date from her bible was June 11 1847! And Katherine and George were born about 1843 and 1845 respectively. The most logical explanation is that Archibald had remarried and Elizabeth was their step mother, but who was their mother?

With nothing to go on but a possible first name, it took some time and the assistance of another researcher to eventually uncovered a marriage between Archibald McVicar and Marie Anna Lemay dit Delorme in May of 1838. Another piece of the puzzle slipped into to place: Lizzie's daughter, my great grandmother Jessie had often spoken of having Delorme cousins but no one was ever quite sure how they were related. Since Marie Anna was French Canadian and of course Catholic, the marriage was performed in the Catholic church in St AndrĂ© and recorded in French.  Searching those same church records, I also found a baptism for a son John born around April 1839. A few years later, the 1842 census lists the family as 1 m 30- 60 yrs, b Scotland, church of Scotland- [Archibald],  1 f 15- 45 yrs b Canada, French, Church of Rome -  [Marie Anna], 1 m <5 b Canada, English , Church of Rome- [likely John]. The next known child was Katherine, born around 1843 according to later census, but with no baptism found, the exact date is uncertain. George Washington McVicar was born January 22 1845 according to his baptism record, found in the records of Anglican church in St Andrews. So it seems likely that John died sometime after George was born, but before the census of 1852 but no record of burial has been located to date.  Lizzie's baptism in Aug of 1847 reads  "McVicar Elizabeth: Baptized Elizabeth, daughter of Archibald McVicar, and of Mary Ann Delorme his wife, born about two months ago, (the parties having not the exact date) was baptized this Twenty Ninth day of August Eighteen Hundred and Forty Seven. " Sadly Marie Anna also passed away in that time frame. Her death  in January of 1850 is recorded in the same parish as her marriage. 

Lizzie was not yet 3 when her mother died and just five when her father remarried so it's not surprising that  Elizabeth Fraser was the only mother she really knew. And if it weren't for a name on a marriage record, I might never have known either!