I have shared previously, and most recently in July 2011, about the uncertainty of information about one of my maternal great grandfathers, John Foley. This past week, fellow Canadian genealogy blogger, John Reid of Anglo-Celtic Connections, posted a note on Google Plus that Family Search had added 126,534 Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records to their online databases.
I immediately thought of my Foley ancestors and the puzzlement about verifying John’s birth. Census records have provided conflicting information ranging from locations in the United States to Barrie, Simcoe County, Canada West (now Ontario) and birth years ranging from 1860 to 1865.
Fortunately, the Ontario civil registration for John Foley’s marriage to Mary Jane Fitzgerald on April 25, 1894 provides the name of the church in Toronto in which they married. My first stop then was the church records for marriages at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in 1894. Unfortunately, the images added by Family Search are not yet indexed so finding the church marriage registration meant ‘surfing’ through numerous images. The church registrations are in chronological order so using the marriage date, I was able to find the marriage registration information fairly quickly. All of the information contained in the church record was identical to the civil registration record.
When he married in April 1894, John gave his age as 29 years, meaning he was likely born around 1865. John’s gravestone in Toronto’s Mount Hope Cemetery lists his date of birth as February 16, 1864 but due to the various pieces of conflicting information, I have always been suspicious of the date.
I then proceeded to viewing the church baptismal records for Barrie, Ontario, the location John had maintained was his place of birth. The church record images available through Family Search for Barrie consist of one Roman Catholic church – Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary including two mission, or satellite, locations. The baptismal records cover the period 1858 – 1875 and consist of 218 images in the main church register.
Like scrolling through microfilm images, I went through the baptismal records one image at a time, hunting for the Foley name. Fortunately, this was made easier as the family surnames were printed, not written, in the left hand column of the register book. On image #86, line #706, I found it! The baptismal record for John Foley, although the surname was misspelled as ‘Froley.’
The parish priest, Father P. Rey, listed: Froley, John; Date of Birth – 16 Feb. 1863 in Essa (a small town near Barrie); Date of baptism – 21 March 1863; Parents – William Foley, Ireland and Bridget McTigue (misspelling of McTague); Sponsors – Joseph Cain and Elizabeth Hussey.
So, at long last, I know that my great grandfather was born in Essa, part of the Barrie, Ontario area, on February 16, 1863, exactly 125 years before his great great granddaughter, my daughter, Jenna was born! Finally, a puzzle solved.