The Real McCoys

Why am I searching for McCoys? Well, my youngest daughter’s fiance is a McCoy with a keen interest in tracing his Canadian roots. And, despite much being written about ways and means to encourage younger people to take the art of genealogy, I must admit watching my future son-in-law’s frustrations and struggles has demonstrated to me just how tough it can be for young people to get off to a good start.

Without the ‘luxury’ of yet having a sufficient disposable income, membership in a society may not seem affordable for the benefits provided and attendance at a conference may be completely out of the question. Attending a course is unfortunately not usually free so again some key potential resources can feel like they are out of reach. Subscription sites like Ancestry are expensive if you are a student or just starting out in your ‘professional’ career so these end up falling into the ‘some day’ category of financial plans.

I’ve taken the McCoy research on as a project that combines sharing tips and techniques with my future son-in-law as well as helps me learn a bit more about Canadian jurisdictions, for unlike my ancestors who settled in Ontario, the McCoys were long time residents in the province of New Brunswick, on Canada’s east coast. This meant that I could not happily rely on fully indexed civil registration images through Ancestry.

I focused my research on Thomas McCoy, the 3rd great grandfather of my future son-in-law, Mark. This allowed me to track the family more easily through the decennial Canadian Census records. The starting information that I had allowed me to quickly find the family in 1891 living in Canning Parish, Sunbury and Queens County, New Brunswick. Thomas was a farmer who was born around 1845 in New Brunswick. He married Silena Clark, also a native of New Brunswick, probably around 1867. From about 1868 to 1892, Thomas and Silena had 11 children: 8 boys and 3 girls.

Interestingly, in 1891, Thomas was listed as being of Irish descendant. In 1881, he was of Scottish descent, and just to confuse us, in 1871, he was listed as being of English descent. While I suspect the Irish descent is likely correct, this is an example of how census information can sometimes be unreliable.

Fortunately, the New Brunswick Provincial Archives provides a search engine to more than 800,000 vital records, some with digitized images and all with source and ordering information. While finding family members with common names like John and Thomas isn’t easy, other family names like Seymour and Horace provide an opportunity to obtain valuable information and clues to keep moving deeper into the family history.

Having fully ‘mined’ the vital records database (I think), it’s time to move on to other sources like land records, again many fully indexed and available free on-line. I’ll keep you posted on my progress.

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