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.
I have always felt a closeness to my great grandmother Mary Jane Fitzgerald even though I have no idea as to what she looked like or, what she liked or disliked. My mother often mentioned the name of Mary Jane Fitzgerald when talking about her own family history and told me that my great grandmother had died young.
Mary Jane Fitzgerald was born into the family of Lewis Fitzgerald and his wife Ellen Daley on 22 May 1864, the fifth of nine known children. Mary Jane’s father, Lewis, was a gardener, one of many who famously farmed the lands east of the Don River in what was then referred to as York Township, now part of the city of Toronto.
The Fitzgeralds were an Irish Catholic family who attended mass each Sunday at St. Paul’s Basilica, Toronto’s oldest Roman Catholic church. Their church was about four and a half miles away from their home, not very far using today’s means of transportation but I suspect it was not an easy journey in the mid-nineteenth century probably in a horse-drawn wagon over muddy, dusty, or snow-filled rough roads. But the church records from St. Paul’s Basilica show that they were there often as evidenced in Mary Jane’s entry in the church’s baptismal register.
Of Mary Jane’s eight siblings, seven were sisters and it appears that they all remained on the family farm until they married. This was certainly the case for Mary Jane. I am unaware as to how they met but on 25 April 1894 Mary Jane Fitzgerald married John Foley in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on Leslie Street in Toronto, confirmed by a civil registration, the entry of the marriage in the St. Joseph’s church marriage register and an article in the local Toronto newspaper. The newspaper story provides the further detail that the wedding party and guests went to the home of the bride’s parents for supper and congratulations following the wedding ceremony.
John and Mary Jane Foley lived in this house at 25 Blong Avenue in Toronto.
It was here that they welcomed into their family first Lewis Fitzgerald Foley (or Gerald as he was always known) on 17 February 1895, William Clarence Foley on 28 September 1896, and finally, my grandmother Ellen Gertrude Foley on 16 April 1898.
It was also in this house that Mary Jane’s story came to an abrupt and premature end when she died on 9 April 1899, just a week before her daughter’s first birthday. The cause of death listed on her death registration was septic poisoning. Mary Jane was only 34 years old.
Mary Jane (Fitzgerald) Foley was buried at St. Michael’s Cemetery in Toronto in the same grave as her mother who predeceased her five years earlier. Ten years later, Mary Jane’s father Lewis would join them in the same burial plot to eternally rest in peace.