52 Ancestors: Flora McRae (abt 1776-1876)

Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small genealogy blog suggested a weekly blog theme of ’52 Ancestors’ in her blog post “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.” I decided to take up the challenge of the 52 Ancestors blog theme as a means to prompt me into regularly sharing the stories of my ancestors. So over the course of 2014 I will highlight an ancestor, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

This week I am turning the spotlight onto an ancestor in my maternal family lineage. Flora McRae (or MacRae) is my 3X great grandmother, the great grandmother of my maternal grandfather, John Graham O’Neill. 

As I was growing up, my mother’s side of the family was the Irish side. You can therefore imagine my surprise when I found Flora McRae, and her husband Finlay, and they were not Irish. No, they were Scottish!

I don’t know who Flora’s parents were but it doesn’t appear that she had to change her name when she married Finlay. According to an Old Parish Register record from the parish of Lochalsh in Ross and Cromarty county, Finlay MacRae married Flora MacRae on 19 July 1800, after their banns had been read, that is their marriage contract announced, on 2 July 1800.

Finlay and Flora set up house in Invernesshire, Scotland where the first five of their nine known children were born. Events, however, that pre-dated their marriage and thousands of miles away from them would eventually have a tremendous impact on the life of their family.

Scotsmen who had years earlier left Scotland for opportunities in New York State were uprooted by the American Revolutionary War, seeking refuge as Loyalists in Glengarry County, Upper Canada (now part of Ontario). The establishment of the Glengarry settlement set off an emigration of Highlanders, most notably from Inverness. It seems that Finlay and Flora caught the tail end of this large emigration, likely leaving Scotland around 1815. 

I don’t know much about Flora’s life in Canada during the 19th century but I do know she was widowed and a small story in the Oriliia Times newspaper, dated 5 May 1876, captured the peaceful, but with a pinch of the dramatic, way she left this world. “Mrs. Flora McRae, of the great age of 100 years, who lived in a house by herself, a few rods from that of her son, Colin McRae, Kirkfield, was last Thursday found dead sitting by the fireside, with her clothes almost completely burnt off her body. She was not severely burnt, but when found life was extinct.”

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