Finding Father Boland

Father Frank Boland. Legend or myth?

Growing up, my mother frequently implored me to follow the wisdom of Frank Boland and his tips on effective academic study habits. I, of course, did my part and nodded unconvincingly and ignored the said study habits.

But I always wondered about this Frank Boland person whose wisdom was being force fed to me. Somehow he was connected to my family, specifically my mother’s O’Neill-Foley relations. To my recollection, his connection was not explained to me and the few older relatives that I have spoken to about him were unable to provide details on my relationship to him.

It took some sleuthing but finally I have come to know my first cousin, twice removed Father Francis John ‘Frank’ Boland, CSB, Ph.D.

boland-frank-john-st-mikes-grad-photo-1938

Fr. Frank Boland – 1938 University of Toronto (St. Michael’s College) graduation photo

Francis John Boland was born 30 June 1916, the second son of John Boland and Alice Caroline Fitzgerald. The couple’s first son, whom they named John Lewis Boland, had been stillborn four years earlier. No doubt, the birth a healthy baby was a delight for John and Alice. They had married when both were in their mid-30s and finally with both of them in their early-40s, they were a family.

John Boland, a printer, had been born in Ireland and immigrated with his parents when he was in his early teens. Alice however had been born into an Irish Catholic family in Toronto, the youngest of nine children born to Lewis Fitzgerald and his wife Ellen Daley. One of Alice’s older sisters was Mary Jane Fitzgerald who had married John Foley and was the mother of my maternal grandmother Gertrude Ellen Foley. Finally, the family connection was making some sense. Even though my maternal grandmother was about eighteen years older than him, Frank Boland was her first cousin.

But why I wondered was Frank Boland presented to me as some sort of ‘study guru’?

While my mother knew that I seemed to have an easy aptitude for math and sciences, I really loved history. Although she never said so, she called on the name of Father Boland, our cousin, because he was an historian.

Frank Boland graduated from St. Michael’s College School (a Toronto high school under the direction of the Basilian order) and then in 1938 from St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto. Following university graduation, Frank entered St. Basil’s Seminary for theological studies and was ordained to the priesthood on 15 August 1942 as a Basilian.

In 1941, Frank received a specialist’s certificate in history from the Ontario College of Education. He was subsequently assigned to teach high school history in Houston, Texas, Calgary, Alberta and at his high school alma mater St. Mike’s in Toronto. In 1948, Frank received his Master of Arts degree in history from the University of Detroit before heading back home to St. Mike’s high school where the 1949 yearbook records that he was Head of the History department.

Eventually, Frank Boland presented a dissertation on the ‘Early Basilian Fathers in America 1850-1860’ and was granted a doctorate in history from the University of Ottawa. Frank then joined the faculty of Assumption University in Windsor, Ontario where he founded the renowned Seminar on Canadian American Relations in 1959. Father Frank Boland held the rank of professor from 1967, just around the time my mother began urging that I follow his study tips.

In 1969, Father Boland was on sabbatical, working on his next project, a monograph of former Governor-General for Canada, Lord Stanley, and conducting research in The Netherlands. On 6 April 1969, Father Frank Boland suffered a stroke and died in Utrecht, The Netherlands at the young age of 52. His body was returned to Windsor, Ontario where a funeral mass was held on the 12th of April at Assumption Roman Catholic Church followed by internment in Assumption Cemetery.

Following his death, the December 1969 edition of the Canadian Historical Review published an obituary about Father Boland that stated “Though his contributions were many and on several levels, he always remained what he fundamentally was, an excellent teacher” who “… had a talent for making history live.”

I can only hope that I got some of those family genes.

Given Names (or A Mini-Case Study Of Where I Got My ‘Ian Gerald’)

Given names, or if you prefer, first names. We all have them.

You know, the names that our parents ‘gave’ to us either at birth or some time shortly afterwards. These ‘given’ names appear on our birth records and are attached to us for life.

If you are like me, we want to know just how our parents chose our names. Were our names chosen by means of a heritage-based naming convention or as the result of a family tradition? Were we named after a celebrity or, as it might be today, were we named after compass directions?

My ‘given’ names are Ian Gerald.

My mother provided me many years ago with the explanation of how she and my father chose my names.

Ian was an easy choice. My father, a first generation Canadian, is incredibly proud of his Scottish ancestry so a Scottish name was preferred. Second, my father wanted a name that could not, in his estimation, be shortened or altered in the way for example James becomes Jim or Donald becomes Don. The name ‘Ian’ met his criteria. That is, until he noticed that my friends had shortened my name and began to call me “E.” Eventually, my father conceded to the shortened first name and joined my friends and other family members in calling me ‘E.’

My ‘middle’ or second name of Gerald was easily explained, but as you will see difficult to verify.

The easy part is that I was given the name Gerald in honour of my mother’s favourite uncle Gerald Foley, a brother of my mother’s mother Gertrude Ellen Foley. My mother thought the world of her Uncle Gerald and so naming her first child after him was an obvious decision. Just as easy as asking a favourite cousin, one of Uncle Gerald’s daughters, Mary Foley to be my godmother.

In the early days of researching my genealogy, locating the birth registrations of my maternal grandmother and her siblings, including Uncle Gerald, was one of my first goals.

Gertrude Ellen Foley was born on 16 April 1898 in Toronto, York County, Ontario, Canada according to her birth and baptismal records. Less than a year after her birth, on 9 April, 1899, her mother Mary Jane Fitzgerald died in Toronto leaving my great grandfather John Foley with an infant daughter and two young sons, known to me through often repeated family stories as Uncle Gerald and Uncle Clarence.

A search for the birth registrations of Gerald and Clarence provided a nil result. There was no Gerald Foley and no Clarence Foley born in Ontario in the 1890’s, nor the 1880’s for that matter.

I decided to search for all children born to Mary Jane Fitzgerald in Ontario in the 1890’s. As it turns out, there were in fact two sons born to Mary Jane Fitzgerald and her husband John Foley. Their birth registrations record that Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was born 17 February 1895; and, William Dorsey Foley was born 28 September 1896. A very puzzled expression on my face was the best I could muster.

FOLEY Gerald birth 1895

Birth registration for Lewis Fitzgerald ‘Gerald’ Foley, 1895

FOLEY William Dorsey  birth registration 1896

Birth registration for William Dorsey ‘Clarence’ Foley, 1896

The family story that I had heard was that my great grandfather John Foley was a brilliant, successful businessman. And the multitude of records about his life that I have found verify this to be true. However, John Foley was also illiterate, at least according to family story. He was a man who had been taught how to sign his name for business reasons but who was unable to read the documents he signed. Perhaps the baptismal records for these two boys would clear up the name dilemma. After all, their baptisms were events at which John’s wife, and the boy’s mother, Mary Jane Fitzgerald was present at and, there is no indication that Mary was unable to read and write.

Both of the boys were baptized at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto. The records show that Lewis (spelled as Louis in the church register) Fitzgerald Foley was baptized on 3 March 1895. William Clarence Foley was baptized on 4 Oct 1896.

FOLEY Louis Fitzgerald baptismal record 1895

Lewis Fitzgerald ‘Gerald’ Foley, baptismal registration, St. Joseph Roman Catholic Church, Toronto, 1895

It was becoming clear that the family commonly referred to the boys by their ‘middle’ names. Lewis was called or referred to as Gerald and William was referred to as Clarence.

In the 1901 Census of Canada, Gerald was recorded as “Jerald,” the 5-year old son of a widowed John Foley. Clarence was recorded as “William C.” The 1911 Census of Canada records them as Gerald and Clarence. The 1921 Census of Canada makes things a bit interesting again by recording, in an apparent error, Gerald as Clarence in the John Foley household. Clarence by the time of the 1921 census was married and was living with his wife Elizabeth (Blunt) Foley and 3-year old daughter Margaret in another house on the same street.

When Uncle Gerald enlisted for service in World War I, he did so as Gerald Foley, giving his date of birth as 16 February 1895. He was described as a five foot, five-inch tall teamster with dark brown hair and blue eyes.

On 12 November 1917, Gerald Foley of 96 Pickering Street in Toronto served as best man to his brother Clarence when the latter married Elizabeth Blunt.

When he passed away on 6 February 1968, his obituary in the Toronto Star newspaper listed his name as Gerald Lewis Foley. Similarly, the burial record card from Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto, the final resting place for most members of the Foley family, recorded his name as Gerald Lewis.

So, in the end, I am named after a man who was known as Gerald but whom, ironically, had the same first name as my father, Lewis. Uncle Gerald as it turns out was named after his maternal grandfather Lewis Fitzgerald.

I could have been named Ian Lewis Hadden or perhaps Ian Fitzgerald Hadden. But no, I proudly can say I was named after Uncle Gerald, and the records provide me with a slightly twisted tale to tell about the name.

52 Ancestors: Gertrude Ellen (or Ellen Gertrude) O’Neill (nee Foley) 1898-1962

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.

‘Gertie’ is my maternal grandmother. Gertie is the name my grandfather, her husband, J. Graham O’Neill called her. I just don’t really know if Gertie, short for Gertrude, was her first name or her middle name.

She was born on April 16, 1898 in Toronto, York County, Ontario, Canada. She was the third child and first daughter of John Foley, who listed his occupation as teamster on her birth registration and his wife Mary Jane Fitzgerald. 

Although he became a very successful businessman, John Foley could not read nor write but he did register the births of his children – and signed each birth registration (as he had been taught how to sign his name for business purposes). Because he couldn’t read, John Foley signed the registrations even when they had his children’s names recorded incorrectly. The family also had the habit of calling their children by their middle names. Eldest son Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was called Gerald, next son William Clarence was called Clarence but his birth was registered under the name William Dorsey!

So was my grandmother Gertrude Ellen or Ellen Gertrude? I don’t really know for certain and perhaps, it doesn’t really matter. Her birth registration states Gertrude Ellen and her baptismal record states Ellen Gertrude. Her death registration states Gertrude Ellen but my grandfather was the informant for the registration so he was likely stating what he commonly believed to be true. To add some confusion, the 1901 Census of Canada lists her as Ellen G. Foley. Most records including her marriage registration and newspaper announcements about the wedding say her name was Gertrude Ellen so I guess that is what I will go with.


Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill with her husband J. Graham O’Neill and their first grandchild, Ian Hadden



Gertrude was born at 25 Blong Avenue in an area of the city now referred to as Leslieville. Soon after her birth, she was baptized in St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church, the same church in which her parents had married four years earlier. One week before her first birthday however, the family was turned upside down when her mother Mary Foley died of “septic poisoning.” 

For the next four years, Gertrude and her older brothers were cared for by housekeepers that her father hired. For example, in 1901, it was Mrs. O’Sullivan, an Irish widow who, along with her two teenage children, came to live with the Foleys and kept house. The family circumstance changed in October 1903 when John Foley married Annie McElroy. Life seems to have not only stabilized a bit but also got more comfortable for Gertrude as her father’s business became more and more successful and the family’s wealth grew.

On June 23, 1926, wearing a peach coloured georgette gown with matching peach coloured hat, Gertrude Foley married John Graham O’Neill at St. Brigid’s Roman Catholic Church, both signing the church marriage register as a soloist sang Ave Maria. At the wedding reception, held at her parent’s home on Queensdale Avenue, Gertrude was presented with a white gold wristwatch by the groom. Her father gave the newlyweds a house at 189 Pickering Street as a wedding gift.

They would not live in that house however until sometime in 1937 when they returned to Toronto following the death of Graham’s mother. It had been a tough economic time, the Depression era had set in and they had moved with their eldest child to Detroit in 1929 where Graham had been offered a job. Over the eight years they lived in Detroit, Gertrude had given birth to two additional children, a daughter (my mother) and then a second son.

Back in Toronto, Gertrude and Graham settled into life raising their children, seeing each of them marry, and then welcoming grandchildren.

I spent a lot of time with my grandmother Gertrude O’Neill or ‘Nanna’ as I called her because we lived just two houses away from her. I was her first grandchild and I admit that she put a lot of effort into spoiling me. I can still feel the devastation of July 13th, 1962 when I heard my mother calling across the street to a neighbour and telling the neighbour about my grandmother’s death that afternoon. My mother didn’t know at the time that I was in that neighbour’s kitchen, building model airplanes with the neighbour’s son.



Following a funeral at St. John’s Roman Catholic Church, Gertrude Ellen Foley O’Neill was interred in the O’Neill family plot at Mount Hope Cemetery where she would be joined years later, to forever rest in peace, by her husband Graham.

52 Ancestors: Daniel Fitzgerald (abt. 1806-abt. 1885)

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.

Daniel Fitzgerald was my 3X great grandfather. He was the grandfather of Mary Jane Fitzgerald whom I profiled in this space last week. There are some things that I know about Daniel and many things that I still have not determined or proved.

I know that Daniel was born in Ireland. All records concerning Daniel are consistent is stating Ireland as his place of birth. Precisely when he was born however is still a bit of a mystery.

According to the 1840 U.S. Federal Census he was born between 1800 – 1810 as that census records Daniel as the male head of his household, aged between 30 and 40 years. The 1851 Census of Canada (taken in January of 1852) records his age as 45 thus placing his year of birth about 1806. In 1861, the census states he was 54 years old, so born about 1807. But in 1871, the census records his age as 68 years so born about 1803, and finally, the 1881 Census of Canada, the last census record in which Daniel appears, states he was 72 years old, so born about 1809. 

While a precise date of birth for Daniel eludes me, at least I know approximately when he was born and that he immigrated from Ireland to the United States. According to “The History of Toronto and County of York, Volume 2,” written by Graeme Mercer Adam and Charles Pelham Mulvany and published in 1885, Daniel, of whom the authors provided a biographical sketch, moved to Cape Vincent in New York State in 1825 where he settled into a farming life with his wife Rebecca Noble. Adam and Mulvany state that Rebecca was a native of New York State although there is some evidence, especially in census records that indicates Rebecca was also born in Ireland.

The  motivation is not known but Daniel and Rebecca moved moved their family from Cape Vincent to York Township, the area just outside the then eastern border of the city of Toronto. Adam and Mulvany state that this move took place in 1843 and that Daniel acquired 100 acres of land at Lot 5 on Concession 2. Early maps of Toronto and the surrounding area show Daniel Fitzgerald living just where Adam and Mulvany said he was, that is, on Lot 5, Concession 2.

Daniel farmed his land with his sons, most notably Lewis and Joseph. When Lewis ‘came of age,’ he purchased his own lot of land down the road on Concession 2 at Lot 8. Joseph however left York Township and spent a few years in Lambton County before returning home and purchasing the family homestead.

There should be a record of Daniel’s death as Daniel was alive in 1881, evidenced by his appearance in the census of that year, and this was well after compulsory civil registration of all births, marriages, and deaths commenced in the Province of Ontario in 1869. But no record can be found. 

The family clearly knew of the civil registration requirement for when Daniel’s wife, Rebecca, died in 1879, her death was registered (the cause of death being listed as “old age sudden”, precisely the way I want to go). Roman Catholic church records have offered no clues. The likely cemetery of his burial, St. Michael’s Cemetery in Toronto, has his name on no monument designating his final resting place although the family plots of his children and grandchildren are easily evident in the cemetery. 

The only clue as to Daniel’s death is offered by authors Adam and Mulvany whose 1885 work states that Daniel was already deceased. His story is told but not yet fully. I am certain there is more to discover.

52 Ancestors: Mary Jane Fitzgerald (1864-1899)

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. 

25 Blong Avenue, Toronto, Ontario (from Google Streetview)


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.

52 Ancestors: Uncle Gerald Foley (1895-1968)

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.

Uncle Gerald Foley was my mother’s favourite uncle, so favoured that my middle name of Gerald was given to me as a tribute to her uncle. Unfortunately, I never really knew Uncle Gerald and have no memories of time spent with him, although Uncle Gerald’s funeral was the first funeral that I attended and I do remember much of that occasion.

Uncle Gerald is also the subject of some of the most important lessons I learned about researching my family history. I began my genealogical pursuits in the ‘dark ages’ before computers, databases, and digital images had been heard of. There were no television commercials extolling me to just type in a name and open a whole world of family connections. No, I had to go to libraries and archives to search through file cards that directed me to other file cards and eventually snippets of information.

One of the first ancestors I wanted to research was Uncle Gerald because of my name connection to him. The problem – no Gerald Foley was born in Ontario, Canada when Uncle Gerald should have been born!

Gerald’s parents, my great grandparents, John Foley and his wife Mary Jane Fitzgerald were married at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church on 25 April 1894 in Toronto, Ontario. I have the family oral tradition, a copy of their civil marriage registration, a copy of their church marriage registration and a newspaper article about the wedding as evidence of that marriage. Their three children were born likely between the date of the marriage and 1899 when my grandmother, the youngest of their three children was said to have been born. Even with that narrow search window, I could find no Gerald Foley.

Eventually, computers, databases and digital images became available. I searched for Gerald Foley. Nothing. I tried his brother Clarence Foley. Nothing. Surely I would find my grandmother Gertrude Foley. Again, nothing. How could three children, born within about a five year period, in a time of compulsory civil registration not be found in the civil birth registrations for the Province of Ontario?

This is where I learned my lesson. The names the family used for them were not their first given names. Each of the three children’s births had, in fact been registered by their father John Foley, a man who was an astoundingly successful businessman but who was, according to family oral tradition, illiterate. John Foley had been taught to sign his name and he had, in fact, registered the births of his children, signing all three birth registrations.

Uncle Gerald was registered as Louis Fitzgerald Foley. I later found his baptismal registration showing that he was baptized as Lewis Fitzgerald Foley but the family called him Gerald, a name he used and answered to his whole life. Clarence Foley was registered as William Dorsey Foley but his baptismal registration entry clearly shows him to be William Clarence Foley. My grandmother, Gertrude Foley was Ellen Gertrude Foley. Assuming the names the family used were the names to be researched kept me frustrated for a very long time. It is clear that the children of John and Mary Foley were called by and throughout their lives used their middle names.


The Foley family plot gravestone, 
Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario, Canada 
(photo taken by Ian Hadden)



On a very recent visit to Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto, I stopped in at the cemetery’s administration office as obituaries for my Foley uncles informed me that they were both buried there. Uncle Gerald’s obituary was published as “Gerald Lewis Foley” and Uncle Clarence’s obituary was published as “Clarence W. Foley.” I was provided with copies of their internment records (a huge bonus as a genealogist!) and learned that they were buried along with their father John Foley and his second wife, their step-mother Annie McElroy. John Foley’s grave was very familiar to me. I have visited and paid my respects many times. The names of my uncles also buried in that Foley plot however do not appear on the gravestone nor elsewhere on the family plot. But now I know where to find and pay respect to my ‘sort-of namesake.’

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.

52 Ancestors Sunday: John Foley (1863-1927)

Amy Johnson Crow of the Nor 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, on a weekly basis and usually one of my direct ancestors, sharing what I know about the person and perhaps more importantly, what I don’t know.

I am going to start with my favourite ancestor, one of my maternal great grandfathers, John Foley.

One of the catalysts to my family research research was the death of my maternal grandfather. He was unfortunately for me the last possible link to someone who knew John Foley and might have been able to tell me about him. As a result, all I know about John Foley comes from family stories and the many records I have found that document his life and death.



According to his gravestone, John Foley was born February 16, 1864 and died January 13, 1927. He died before my mother or any of her siblings were born. His gravestone also records that he was the husband of Annie McElroy (born May 5, 1864; died March 5, 1950). The gravestone is located in Mount Hope Cemetery in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

My mother told me that John Foley was a wealthy and successful businessman – a teamster and developer who built homes. According to the family story, John Foley was from Barrie, Ontario and that he had been orphaned at a young age. According to the family story, John died suddenly in Florida having gone there to sell some land he owned. The family story also holds that John could neither read nor write but that he had learned to sign his name, a necessity for business purposes.

John Foley’s birth pre-dates civil registration in the Province of Ontario, Canada (civil registration commenced in 1869). As a result, it took some time and a fair amount of tedious digging to find his baptism registration. The family story was correct in that John Foley was from the Barrie, Ontario area. According to his baptism registration, he was born on February 16, 1863 (note that this is one year earlier than the date on his gravestone) and he was baptized at Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church in Barrie on February 21, 1863. In the church baptismal register his surname is misspelled as ‘Froley.’ (Source: Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary Roman Catholic Church (Barrie, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada), Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, Page 71, No. 706, Birth and Baptismal Record for John Foley (misspelled as ‘Froley’ in register); digital image, Family Search (www.familysearch.org : digital image 21 January 2012).

In the 1871 Census of Canada, John can be found living with his parents and siblings in Barrie, Ontario. However, in the 1881 Census of Canada, John is found living in Vespra, near Barrie, with three of his siblings. His parents cannot be found in the census records lending credence to the story of John having been orphaned at a ‘young’ age. Further research found that John’s father, William Foley had died in 1880. I have been unable to find John Foley in the 1891 Census of Canada.

By 1894, things were going much better for John. The banns were read so that on April 25, 1894 John married Mary Jane Fitzgerald at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto. The marriage was recorded both in the church’s marriage register and with the province. The local newspaper, the Toronto Evening Star (as it was then called, now the Toronto Daily Star) even contained a small story in the next day’s edition about the wedding stating, “Mr. John Foley and Miss Fitzgerald were quietly married yesterday evening in St. Joseph’s church, Leslie street, by Father Fagan [it was actually Father William Bergin who officiated at the marriage]. After the ceremony an adjournment was made to the residence of the bride’s parents, Brooklin avenue, where supper was served and the happy couple received the congratulations of their friends.”

By 1899, things were going well for John and Mary. They had a home at 25 Blong Avenue where they were raising their three children, two boys and a girl. However, that all came crashing to a halt when on April 9, 1899, following a three week illness, Mary Jane died at the age of only 31 of septic poisoning. John’s youngest child, my grandmother Gertrude, had turned one year of age only a couple of weeks earlier.

Eventually John Foley was able to once again bounce back from his tragic loss and on October 14, 1903, John married Annie Teresa McElroy, a native of Thornhill, Ontario. John became a father for the fourth time in 1905 when his third son, and only child with his wife Annie, John Joseph ‘Jack’ Foley was born.

John and Annie settled with the four children into the biggest house on their street in Toronto’s east end and remained there until John was in his 60’s. John retired and he and Annie then did what we would call ‘downsize’ when they moved to 249 Queensdale Avenue in Toronto. It was at this residence that a ‘bon voyage’ party, complete with a small orchestra, was held prior to the start of John and Annie’s 1927 trip that commenced on January 4th. 

John Foley died on January 13, 1927 in Los Angeles, California. His remains were returned to Toronto where his funeral mass and internment took place on January 18, 1927.

John Foley left an estate valued, at current values, of more than $1 million.

I have no photos of John but would love to receive one. I have an image in my mind of my great grandfather and I am certain that there were likely many photos taken of John and his family members. I just don’t know where they might be and those family members I have asked, don’t seem to know either.



The Importance of Being Lewis

There are some names in families that are carried on generation after generation. Following some of my more recent posts about Lewis Fitzgerald, one of my maternal second great grandfathers, I was reminded by my cousin, and author, Pamela Gaull, that Lewis is also an important name in my paternal family.


So I decided to check my genealogy database on the number of individuals named Lewis and their relation to me. Currently, I have 12,660 individuals in my database covering both my ancestral family and that of my wife. Using the custom report feature in RootsMagic 5, I found 36 men who were named Lewis. Interestingly enough, I found that there is an even split of the Lewis name between my wife’s family and mine; eighteen men named Lewis in my Hadden family tree and eighteen men named Lewis in Ellen’s Wagner family tree.

There are different versions of the origin of the name Lewis offered on the Internet. Two of the more popular origin versions indicate that the name derives from a Scandinavian word meaning ‘famous warrior’ or ‘glorious ruler.’ I suspect my father, who is a Lewis, would be happy enough with that, particularly as the alternate origin suggested is that the name is from a Norwegian word, Ljodhhus, apparently meaning ‘sounding house,’ a place where men who took the depth of the sea were housed.

As stated previously, Lewis was an important name in my ancestral family. My father is a Lewis, named after an uncle named Lewis. I was named after a Lewis in my mother’s family, Lewis Fitzgerald Foley, although you won’t find Lewis in my name. Lewis Fitzgerald Foley was commonly known as Gerald Foley, so I was given the Gerald name.

My third great grandfather was Lewis McKenzie, a crofter in 19th century Cluny, Aberdeen, Scotland. His father, my fourth great grandfather, was also named Lewis McKenzie, an inn keeper and farmer at Old Mill, Coull, Aberdeen, Scotland. In fact, my family tree contains six men named Lewis McKenzie. I am directly descended from three men named Lewis while the remaining fifteen men are uncles or cousins.

It seems that until you really look at the popularity of a name in your family, it can easily go unnoticed, possibly due to the spread of time and generations.

The URL for this post is: http://ianhaddenfamilyhistory.blogspot.ca/2012/08/the-importance-of-being-lewis.html

Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill


Exactly 50 years ago today, on Friday, July 13, 1962, Gertrude Ellen O’Neill (nee Foley), my grandmother, passed away in Toronto, Ontario.


‘Gertie’, as her husband J. Graham O’Neill always called her, was born in 1898. The exact date of her birth is somewhat of a mystery. The baptismal register for St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic Church in Toronto, signed by a Father McEntee, does not list a date of birth but rather lists her date of baptism as March 16th. The civil registration (available through Ancestry.ca), signed by her father John Foley , lists the date of birth as April 16th but the genealogical extract, prepared by the Office of the Registrar-General in Ontario for me in 1985, again lists March 16th. Her marriage registration, death registration, obituary and gravestone do not list a date of birth at all. John Foley was reputed to be illiterate, but had been taught to sign his name for business purposes, and may not have fully recognized the error in the information he was attesting.

Gertrude’s mother, Mary Jane (nee Fitzgerald) Foley, died a few days after Gertrude, or “Nana” as I knew her, turned one year of age. Four years later, John Foley re-married, this time to Annie McElroy. It appears that life was good for Gertrude and her brothers Gerald and Clarence as their father’s contracting business flourished. They lived in the largest house on their street and when Gertrude married my grandfather in 1926, the wedding gift from her father was a house that she actually turned down, convincing her father to provide the house instead to her new in-laws, William and Margaret O’Neill. Later, after the deaths of both William and Margaret, the house came back to Gertrude and her husband Graham. It then became my parent’s home and thus the house in which I was raised.

Gertrude had numerous medical problems including diabetes, a heart condition, and near the end, likely cancer. Conveniently, my mother was a registered nurse and we lived two doors away, which in Toronto’s east end meant our front door was about forty feet away from Gertrude and Graham’s front door so my mother made at least daily visits to administer her mother’s insulin injections. It was very convenient as well for me as Gertrude’s first and eldest grandchild and therefore the ‘one who could do no wrong.’

On Friday, July 13, 1962, I was in the kitchen of my best friend Bob Dobson’s house, directly across the street from my house, when my mother returned from the hospital. My friend Bob heard the news first. He stopped, looked at me and asked if I had heard. I hadn’t heard anything but then immediately heard my mother calling across the street, explaining to Bob’s parents, Eunice and Jack Dobson who sat on their front porch, that ‘Nana’ had died.

Some family memories are indelible.

The URL for this post is: http://ianhaddenfamilyhistory.blogspot.ca/2012/07/gertrude-ellen-foley-oneill.html