Monday, October 29, 2018

Cain history page 7 - Dennis has a family

We're getting close to the end of the Cain family history here. In this installment, we look at the beginnings of Dennis's family.



Starting off, the history says Catherine Mulhearn's (unnamed) father was a minor government clerk, and apparently a poorly paid one at that. So much so, that Catherine's (unnamed) mother had to take in boarders to make ends meet. The cause for the insufficient pay was apparently the Mulhearn's choice of religion - Anglicans got all the "plums" when it came to finding work. I know the Irish in general got a bad rap in the US for a long time, I've seen the pictures of signs and newspaper ads from back in the day that said "Irish need not apply" and such. But this seems to be more religious discrimination than national or ethnic discrimination. I don't know much about how New Brunswick society treated Catholics in the 1840s, I'd have to look into that. Knowing how members of my own church were treated in the US in that time period, it's not hard to see that such ill treatment was very much possible. 

The income brought in by Catherine's mother bringing in boarders was apparently enough to send Catherine and her brother Anthony to school and receive an education, something Dennis was denied. I've never heard of Catherine having a brother, and the name Anthony is interesting, given that was the name of the first son Catherine and Dennis had. As Dennis was apparently both an orphan and an only child, the only family names he could pass on would possibly be his parents or extended family, and as far as I know extended family weren't in the traditional Irish naming patterns. It's interesting too that there's a specific name for the Catholic school Catherine attended, the Sacred Heart convent (again with the convents - I thought those were for nuns only?). Like the name of her brother, that's something concrete I can look for in New Brunswick records.

The only part that really confuses me about this page is where Dennis and Catherine got married - it says "it was a little difficult for a common mill hand to aspire for the hand of the talented Miss Mulhern but before he did they were married." It sounds like they were married before he even tried to woo her? I think something got left out. The history says Dennis and Catherine were married in 1844 and had six boys and one girl. This I know is a little off because I have a copy of Dennis and Catherine's marriage record, showing they were married on 26 January 1840 in Saint John, New Brunswick. I have records for six children total, 2 girls and 4 boys. The boys, Anthony, John, Thomas, and David, all lived to adulthood, though David died at age 27 in Montana. The girls were Eliza and Catherine, with Catherine being my ancestor. Eliza I have no record of after her baptism record as an infant, though since I can't find the family in any census records before 1881 she could very well have lived and married, and I just don't know where she ended up. There's also a seven year gap between Anthony and Eliza, so the two kids mentioned on this page of the history, Arthur and Dennis, could have been born in between and just weren't recorded in the baptism records where I found the other kids. My New Brunswick research is still a little rusty, so I'd really have to jump back in and try to find them. 

I like that the history gives me some concrete people and places to search for. Just wish I had the time to go looking for them. But then, that's part of why I keep this blog - to remind me of leads I need to follow. I will get around to it at some point!!

Monday, October 22, 2018

Cain history page 6 - a new start and new love

We get some interesting developments in Dennis's life from page 6 of the Cain history.


Dennis is now all on his own, but as he grew up on a farm, he has no marketable skills, and takes work at a saw mill. The history says he worked on the farm for six years, implying he came to live with the Darrahs as soon as possible after his parents died.

The history then talks about how the church was the center of social life, and that there was a revival of sorts in presenting Irish plays. Acting in these plays is apparently how Dennis met his wife, Catherine Mulhearn. It says he had a minor role in one of the plays, while Catherine had a leading role. Catherine was apparently very popular, and had a nice soprano voice and sang in the choir (guessing that it was a Catholic church choir). This little detail interested me greatly. If I could find some kind of searchable database of New Brunswick newspapers, I would search for corroboration of these play productions to see if there is any mention of Catherine, or perhaps even Dennis.

There is an interesting parallel between Dennis and Catherine's story, and that of his reported parents, John O'Kane and Mary O'Neill. John and Mary met while John was working or campaigning for some kind of civil rights group, and ended up marrying a schoolteacher who was held in high esteem. Dennis, a poor orphaned farm boy, fell for a popular, talented soprano. Both marriages seem to have been cases where the man married above his social standing. Makes me wonder how often that sort of thing actually happened.

It's also interesting that Dennis supposedly turned down a farm, and by extension a secure livelihood and family, and instead left his relatives to be a common laborer in the local saw mills. An event like that won't make it into the papers, so there's no real way to verify it. But I did have a somewhat similar experience earlier this year. While I was still working my way towards a full-time genealogy career, there was a point where it got pretty tough. One of the supervisors at the office where I worked suggested I could always go back to working full-time at the office. I realized then that I had a choice to make - I could pursue my dreams, and continue stepping out into the unknown, or I could fall back on my nice, cushy office job where I had steady work, good work with great people, but not where my heart wanted to be. I chose to keep stepping out into the dark, trusting that it would work out eventually. And it did! So if Dennis did step out on his own like that, not knowing how or if things would work out in the end, I'm glad he did. For one thing, he found a wife, which led to descendants like me getting a chance at life. But it also gives me a sense of pride in knowing that I followed in my ancestor's (hypothetical) footsteps.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Cain history page 5 - burning bridges

This page of the Cain history covers some very interesting ground.



It continues the story of Dennis living with his aunt and uncle Darrah in New Brunswick, saying that the faith and conviction instilled in him by his mom helped him "withstand all their arguments," suggesting they tried to convince him to convert, but he wouldn't. Religious discussions with family can be difficult, but arguments to convince someone to convert are just painful, especially when neither side is willing to budge or agree to disagree. It's interesting that the Darrahs were supposedly willing to force him to walk several miles to his own Catholic while giving everyone else a ride in the family buggy to their Episcopal church, and all to show their disapproval of his mother. It honestly makes me think of Harry Potter - an orphan, living with an aunt and uncle who mistreat him because of the lifestyle choices of his mother. I have to say I love the description of a "spanking team of horses."

Then comes the turning point in the family relationship. When Dennis was 20 (so about 6 years after the deaths of his parents), the Darrahs offered him a farm of his own, but on the condition that he marry a woman of their choosing. And of course, that woman was "Protestant to the core." This was apparently the last straw, so he turned down the offer and severed all connections to his aunt and uncle's family. He then set off on his own down the St. John River to the city of St. John, New Brunswick.

When I first got into the genealogy, the first discovery I made was finding my great-great-grandfather John Gibson, his wife Catherine Gibson, and their little daughter Annie, living in the home of Dennis Cain, his wife Catherine Cain, and their children in Saint John, New Brunswick. What's interesting is that Catherine Gibson (Dennis's daughter) married an Anglican, and Dennis was apparently fine with that. Not only that, when the Gibsons later moved to Montana, Dennis followed after them after the death of his wife Catherine. If the farm and wife story is true, it puts a very interesting spin on his relationship with his daughter and son-in-law. Almost like he was determined not to do to them what had been done to him, even if he may have disapproved of her choice of spouse.

My grandpa Fred Gibson told me a story he heard from his cousin Jack Condon (one of Annie (Gibson) Condon's sons) that Catherine was a faithful Catholic and went to church every Sunday, while her husband John waited for her outside the church. John never went in, but he never opposed her worshiping the way she wanted to. It doesn't seem like the religion was passed on to Catherine's kids, as Papa Fred's dad bounced around from religion to religion throughout his life (even spending a few years as a member of my own church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints).. Really makes me think how easily my family could have turned out differently. What if Catherine had decided to marry a Catholic? Or what if John had converted and raised his children Catholic? My uncle Randy is a Catholic, but he wasn't raised as one, and no one else in my family is, on either side so Catholicism feels distant to me. Catherine (Cain) Gibson, and my great-grandma Rosie (Zitzmann) Wagner on my grandma's side are the closest ancestors in terms of generations away from me that were Catholic, but I think grandma Rosie stopped practicing later in life (I'll have to ask my dad or his siblings about that though, I don't know for sure). I attended a Catholic wedding earlier this year, and it felt so completely foreign to me. There were some familiar elements, but a lot of the ceremony and procedure were so different from what I was used to. It's kind of fascinating that something that played such a big part of my ancestors' lives is as foreign to me as Japanese would have been to them.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Cain history page 4 - and now for something completely different

Page four of the Cain history features a number of changes. First and foremost, the copy quality is SO MUCH BETTER. It was a struggle to read some of the earlier pages, but this one is clear and clean and so easy to read. My eyes just went "aaaaaahhhhhhhh."


The epidemic mentioned on the previous page was apparently sweeping the country, and claimed the lives of both of Dennis's parents. I can't imagine the impact of losing both parents at such a young age. The history never mentioned what kind of work John O'Kane did, but it doesn't seem like the family was wealthy. An orphaned teenager in pre-famine Ireland probably didn't have a lot of options available to him - no one to pay for schooling, no one to provide for him. Being in that situation, the history says Dennis's paternal aunt "sent for him," and his uncle paid for his passage to New Brunswick. It makes me wonder - how did a relative an ocean away become aware of Dennis's situation? Steamships or steam-sail hybrids started crossing the Atlantic around 1815 (per Wikipedia at least), but getting word to the aunt of John and Mary's passing, then sending a response back to Ireland would have taken weeks, if not months. When was he sent for? What did Dennis do in the meantime? Was put in a poor house, an orphanage, something else? The history doesn't answer these questions.

So Dennis crosses the ocean to live with his Protestant (and unnamed) aunt and her husband, John Darrah, on a farm on the Saint John river in New Brunswick. Apparently his relatives tried to win him over to his father's former religion, but Dennis was no "turncoat" (a word he his reported to have used) and stuck with Catholicism. In describing his desire to stay Catholic, Virginia leaves off of retelling history and begins adding commentary - "the fine Irish faith instilled in him by his wonderful mother, the prayers she taught him and his love for Our Blessed [Mother]" reveal Virginia's Catholicism (or pro-Catholic leanings at least). That's not bad, it's just interesting to see how her perspective influenced the way she told the story.

There's not a lot of information to go on to find Dennis's relatives that supposedly took him in. Census records don't really begin for all of Canada until 1851, 11 years after Dennis married Catherine Mulhearn. If the aunt and uncle were about the same age as Dennis's parents, they would have been born around 1780. If they lived to be enumerated in the 1851 census, they would have been at least in their 70s. Records that early in New Brunswick are kind of spotty, or were the last time I really tried looking. It would help if I had more to go on. But at least there's a name and a place, that's something specific that can be checked for and verified.

Cain family history page 3 - love changes everything

Today we're looking at page three of the Cain family history.





So John O'Kane's wife was revealed to be Mary O'Neill. She was apparently a school teacher, which Virginia says was a highly esteemed and enviable position. Maybe it's my upbringing and societal conditioning speaking, but teachers never seem to get the respect they deserve for all the work they do. Maybe 1800s Ireland was different?

The history also says Mary was educated at an unnamed convent in Dublin. Again, that's across the island from County Mayo, on the eastern coast of Ireland. Were there convents for young single girls? It just seems like Virginia is naming big cities - Dublin, Belfast - for the locations of these events. Granted, there were people who lived in those big cities, but now John and Mary are both said to have crossed the continent for their education and occupation, and it has me wondering if that was really a common thing to do? If Mary was a school teacher and was trained in a convent, was it a religious school? The history doesn't say.

John and Mary's marriage was opposed by her parents due to John's Protestant faith, so he apparently converted, if not for the wedding then sometime after. Dennis's daughter Catherine married an Anglican, so religious differences in that time weren't always a bar to marriage, but I can see how it would be. Catherine had to get a special dispensation from the local authority in New Brunswick to marry John Gibson, but she did it. It's strange to think her grandfather may have left the faith she married into.

Dennis Cain was apparently the only child of John and Mary, born in 1811 according to the history. That's a few years earlier than what I found in census records, but censuses have a way of being wrong about a lot of things, so I'm not bothered by that. He was supposedly taught Catholicism by his mother, and was apparently an altar boy and loved his religion. His continuing association with the Catholic Church in Canada and Montana certainly bespeaks a deep level of commitment to it.

The bottom of the page mentions an epidemic of black lung fever when Dennis was about 14, so about 1825. I couldn't find any explanation online of what disease "black lung fever" was referring to. Black lung was a disease caused by chronic inhalation of coal dust, but fever wasn't a symptom of that. There were outbreaks of cholera and typhus around that time, maybe one of those are what she meant? Dennis did live through at least a couple epidemics, though depending on where he was, he may or may not have been directly affected by them.

I think to corroborate the stories thus far, I'd have to locate the marriage of John O'Kane and Mary O'Neill sometime around 1810, and probably somewhere in Northern Ireland. If that much checks out, then I can look into the political movement and religious conversion parts of the story.

Cain history page 2


Today we're taking a look at page 2 of the Cain history from my cousin.


This paged focused on John O'Kane's life prior to his marriage. Surprisingly, the history says John was not born a Catholic. I know from my research that Dennis and his family were active Catholics. All his children were baptized in New Brunswick, and his daughter Catherine, my ancestor, had most of her kids baptized (couldn't find the baptism of her son John Frederick, but all four of the other kids were baptized). When Dennis moved to Montana following his wife Catherine (Mulhearn) Cain's passing, he remained active in his faith until his death at age 94. So the idea that his father may have come from a Protestant background is really interesting.

The page also talks about John's involvement in some kind of political movement aimed at restoring Irish rights of land ownership. This involvement is attributed to his growing up in Belfast, and being exposed to different people and ideas. He also traveled "for the cause" to County Mayo, where he apparently fell in love and forgot all about "the cause." The exact movement he was part of isn't named, but Virginia (the author) seems to think it was the predecessor of the "Fremen Movement."

It's been a few years (cough 16 cough) since my last class on Irish history, so I had to look through my Short History of Ireland to see what she could have been referring to. The closest thing I found was the Society of United Irishmen, which grew in the 1790s and culminated in a violent uprising in 1798. If John O'Kane was born in 1785, he would have been 6-13 years old while the United Irishmen thing was going on. There was another United Irishmen uprising five years later, though that seems to have been localized to the city of Dublin. Daniel O'Connell led a group with a more constitutional approach to independence, but that seems to have taken off in the 1810s, after John had already gotten married and become a father. So I'm not sure what "movement" he could have been campaigning for. It might have just been for Irish independence in general? I'll have to look into that a little more.



One other thing that stands out is that John started out in County Antrim, where Belfast is, and travels to County Mayo, where he falls in love. County Antrim is part of Northern Ireland now, and as I understand it, was pretty heavily Protestant back then. So the idea of John being born a Protestant if he's from up north makes sense. My Gibson ancestors were Anglicans from County Fermanagh, also part of Northern Ireland, so I have evidence of that kind of thing in my family already. Dennis Cain's obituary said he was from Strabane in County Tyrone, not too far from County Antrim. So how does County Mayo come into the mix? Would Dennis's parents have settled so far from both their points of origin? I'm sure it's not unheard of, but it just sounds odd. Then again, my knowledge of Irish history and culture is really limited, so any apparent oddity may just be my ignorance talking. There's also the fact that all of this information is third-hand at best, the recollections of the recollections of what was told to someone decades earlier. So details could have been lost, muddled, or even invented. 

So far, this history has generated more questions than it's answered for me. But it at least gives me something concrete to look into, and that's exciting. Next time, we'll look at page three and see just who won the heart of John O'Kane and changed the course of his life.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Cain, Kane, O'Kane - which is it?

I know I haven't posted on here for a few months, but it's for a very good reason - I switched careers! I am now employed by Legacy Tree Genealogists as a researcher on their DNA team! I could not be happier with the change in jobs, getting to do something I love and being able to support my family with it is literally a dream come true for me. Making that dream come true took some doing, and in all the hubbub, blogging had to go to the back burner for a few months. Things are still a little crazy, but I wanted to take just a few minutes tonight because it's Family History Month again.

A little over a month ago, I received an email from a cousin of mine on my Cain side, the Irish great-grandparents of my grandpa Fred Gibson. The email contained the scans of a handwritten history, written by a descendant of Dennis Cain, which detailed Dennis's origins in Northern Ireland, named his parents, told how he met his wife in Canada, and other juicy tidbits. It also said his last name was originally O'Kane, not Cain as it was written in Canadian records, or Kane as it was spelled in the US. It makes me wonder which was the real name? If I could find original records in Ireland to corroborate the O'Kane name, that would be really cool.



One interesting thing I noticed on the first page, is there is an Arthur Kane listed as one of Dennis and Catherine's children. I have records for Anthony, Eliza Jane, John, Catherine, David, and Thomas, but no Arthur. I wonder where that name came from? For Eliza, I only have her birth record, so I think she may have died as an infant or toddler.

Last bit of analysis of this first page. First off, it's written by the granddaughter of Dennis Cain (I'm sticking with that spelling until I see different in other records), Catherine Irene (Cain) Taraldson, who also went by Veronica (because you can never have too many names, right?). It's Catherine's recollection of her father's recollection of his father's story. At best, we're two tellings removed, and who knows how many years. Not to cast doubt on her story, but some things stand out right off - John O'Kane, the alleged father of Dennis, was born in Belfast in 1785. Belfast (according to Wikipedia) boomed a few decades after John's birth, but it was still a big town then. From what I've learned about Irish genealogy, you have to go beyond big town names, and drill down to the teeny tiny townlands to find out where folks are really from. Belfast is so big, it makes me suspect that it's too general to be entirely accurate. Who know, I could be wrong though. Bears looking into at least.

Next time, we'll look at page two!

Thursday, June 14, 2018

William Harris - The Heroic Dead

In pursuing the descendants of Henry and Ann (Stephenson) Gibson, I found that Henry and Ann's daughter, Sarah J. Gibson, married James Harris, who was several years older than she was. Together, they had at least 6 children. Their youngest son, William Harris, was born on 15 March 1891 in New Brunswick, Canada. Sometime between 1911 and 1917, the Harrises moved from New Brunswick to Massachusetts. When World War I broke out, William did something I found unusual - he enlisted in the Canadian military, rather than the US military. Maybe he wasn't officially a US citizen yet, or felt his allegiance still belonged to Canada. He was single, about 26 years old, 5'7" tall, medium complexion, dark brown hair, and blue eyes, and worked as a painter. He enlisted on 27 June 1917, almost exactly 101 years ago.

William left from Montreal, Ontario, on 30 October 1917, and arrived in England on 19 November. Once there, he was first transferred to the Canadian Machine Gun Brigade, then to the 1st Canadian Reserve Battalion. He was sent to France and began his service in the 72nd Battalion Canadian Infantry on 8 March 1918.

He wasn't in France long before he saw action. 10 days after being assigned to the 72nd, his battalion was sent to relieve the 38th battalion on the front line, suffering heavy attacks and even a gas attack, which required some of the soldiers to wear gas masks for three hours straight. They stayed on the front line for five days, until they were in turn relieved and sent to support other unites in Cite St. Pierre and Cite Calonne. On the 27th of March, they were moved to Sains-en-Gohelle.

The next day, the unit was marched through mud, rain and sleet to Verdrel, then took a train to Cubit Camp Neuville St. Vaast, where they stayed the night. The following day, the 72nd again took the front line, this time in the Gavrelle sector. During the fighting, William took a shrapnel wound to the face, and was evacuated, eventually landing at the 7th General Hospital (one of almost 20 such hospitals) in √Čtaples, France. √Čtaples was a major hub for the Canadian, British, Scottish, and Australian military during the war, and housed multiple hospitals, a training base, a detention center, and a supply depot, in addition to the hospitals. Because of the constant presence of soldiers coming and going, and the thousands of wounded being transferred and cared for, it was seen by many as a dark place. One visitor described it this way:

A vast, dreadful encampment. It seemed neither France nor England, but a kind of paddock where the beasts are kept a few days before the shambles … Chiefly I thought of the very strange look on all the faces in that camp; an incomprehensible look, which a man will never see in England; nor can it be seen in any battle, but only in √Čtaples. It was not despair, or terror, it was more terrible than terror, for it was a blindfold look, and without expression, like a dead rabbit’s.

William remained there recovering from his wounds for four months, before rejoining the 72nd Battalion on 12 August 1918. He saw several other engagements over the next several weeks, until the bitterest fight they participated in began on 27 September. His battalion was assigned the job of attacking a 1250-yard front, penetrating 3000 yards into enemy territory, and capture Sancourt and Blecourt. They fought against heavy machine gun fire and bombardment, and took Sancourt, and eventually Blecourt. The offensive lasted until 2 October, and cost the 72nd 11 officers and 376 other men, one of which was William Harris.

For his service, William's widowed mother Sarah received a memorial plaque and scroll. The plaque had William's name written on it, as did the scroll, which also had a message commemorating his sacrifice in the name of freedom. You can see them below.

 


But to me, the greatest tribute to William was in the pages of the history of the 72nd Battalion, where I got many of the details of his service and experience. Each soldier in the battalion was listed with info on when they entered the battalion, and important dates of their service. For William, that included the date he was wounded, returned to service, and the date he was killed in action.