52 Ancestors: Lewis Fitzgerald (1837-1910)

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’m sticking with my maternal ancestral line and turning the focus on my great-great grandfather Lewis Fitzgerald (Lewis’ daughter Mary Jane was my great grandmother – Mary Jane’s daughter Gertrude Ellen Foley was my grandmother – and; Gertrude’s daughter Anne Margaret O’Neill was my mother).

Lewis was born on 9 July 1837, the son of Daniel Fitzgerald and Rebecca Noble. Lewis’ father, Daniel hailed from County Waterford in Ireland, a land he left in 1825 likely for the opportunities presented in the United States, settling in Cape Vincent, Jefferson County, New York just across a strait of the St. Lawrence River from Wolfe Island and Canada. The reasons are not known but around 1843, Daniel and Rebecca moved their family to a one hundred acre parcel of land that Daniel purchased in York Township, just east of the then border of the city of Toronto.

Lewis married Ellen Daley (also seen as Daily in some records) on 11 Sept 1856 in St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Basilica, located at Queen Street East and Power Street in Toronto. The church which was located about four miles from their home became a central point in their lives and the church’s records reveal not just their marriage but the baptisms of their nine children. According to the History of Toronto and County of York, Ontario, Vol. 2 by Adam and Mulvany (published in 1885), Lewis and Ellen raised their children on a fifteen acre, eventually twenty-five acre, garden and fruit farm located on Lot 8, Concession 2 in York Township. (For those familiar with the city of Toronto, these lands are located within a boundary of Danforth Ave to the south, Woodbine Avenue to the east, Cosburn Avenue to the north, and Coxwell Avenue to the west.)

Above is a snippet view from an 1880 map of the “South East Part of York”, showing the Lewis Fitzgerald farm towards the lower left, across from the Clergy Reserve, and ‘just down the street’ from his brother Joseph Fitzgerald’s land, originally owned by Daniel Fitzgerald homestead.

 Life seemed good for Lewis but in 1894, his wife Ellen was diagnosed with cancer and died at the young age of 53. Sometime following her death, Lewis gave up farming, moved into a house at 48 Brooklyn Avenue in Toronto’s east end and found employment as a Utilities Worker.

It was in this house that gas from an unlit lamp silently filled his living space, accidentally causing asphyxia and a premature death for Lewis Fitzgerald on 7 Jan 1910. Lewis was buried in the Fitzgerald family plot in St, Michael’s Cemetery, Toronto.

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