March 6, 2012

Develop a Working Theory: A Canadian Case Study Part 3

Continued from Parts 1 and Part 2 of A Canadian Case Study

Looking for John & Bridget in 1851

After I said that there was always the chance that William came to Canada with his parents I decided to search Essex County for John and Bridget Stephens in the 1861 and 1851 census. I believe I may have found them in Malden Township in 1851. That makes good sense as William probably met his first wife Elmira close to her home. She's two pages away from the Stevens family that year.

They are listed as John Stevens [sic] born England, aged either 54 or 34, a Pensioner and his wife Bridget, born England, age 52 or 32. She is Roman Catholic, he is Episcopalian. This clue about their religion might help you to locate church records for the family.

There is a John Stevens age 7 or 1, as well as a William Stevens age 12 on the same page. Just to throw a twist, they are both listed as being born in "Canada". Both boys are listed as Roman Catholic which does make sense if their mother is Bridget. It is very difficult to know if they are living in the same house as John and Bridget because the census page entries are a bit different.

Usually on the second sheet of 1851 you see how many are in each family by checking for an entry for type of house - log, brick, shanty..... whenever there is a new type of house listed, that's a new family unit. On this particular sheet, there is no entry for type of home until the 25th person. So I am not sure who the two boys are living with.

I did find a William Stevens in Malden in 1861. He is age 17, labourer born England living with a family that is not his. He was probably a farm labourer living with a local farmer. He is listed as Roman Catholic. The change in religion from 1861 to 1871 doesn't concern me greatly as that was not uncommon. Perhaps his mother raised him as Catholic but once he married he switched. My own Irish McGinnis ancestor did the same thing.

It may be quite challenging to prove that the John and Bridget I found in 1851 are your William's parents but I would use my find as a working theory. A working genealogy theory simply means you must set about to find evidence that will prove or disprove your  theory.

I suggest you continue researching this John and Bridget and see what you can discover about them. There may be a piece of the puzzle hiding in the records that will link your William to them or put them out of the picture entirely. 

You might also consider hunting for the birth of William in English records. You can use FreeBMD to search the indexes for a birth for the period 1837-1983. 

This has been a fun and challenging query to work on and I hope you can continue to research and find new information. 


2 comments:

www.HungarianFamilyRecord.org said...

It's interesting to read the Canadian case studies . I have Irish that married in Hamilton in 1853. What's the best place to read the 1851 & 1861 ?

Magda

Lorine McGinnis Schulze said...

You can view the 1851 and 1861 census on Ancestry.com which is indexed and links to images, or Automated Genealogy which is a transcription or Collections Canada which images only and is not searchable by name