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.”

We Remember


Most were just boys, really. They enlisted with the enthusiasm of youth, proud and invincible in their new uniforms. Their parents likely were frightened enough for them but proud of the young men they had raised. They were off to conquer a faceless enemy and save the world.


The training was tough and the discipline sometimes a difficult adjustment. Both were hopefully thorough in the manufacturing of these young soldiers. For the most part, none had chosen this profession, rather they were farmers, students, apprentices at a trade who would soon enough experience the terror of war.

On May 17, 1916 young Jimmy Gammie left his farm to enlist in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. Maybe he had seen the posters stating, “Your Chums are Fighting, Why Aren’t You?” All of 5 feet, 8 inches in height, Jimmy, who joined with his brother Peter, would fight in France with the 46th Battalion. He would know what it was like to hear bullets whistle as they closely passed, he would know the sound and vibrations of bombs exploding, he would know the pain of being wounded, and after recovering, he would know the fear of returning to the front lines. He would know what it feels like to die for his country. 

Jimmy never returned to his farm, there was no repatriation ceremony for him. Jimmy is buried in France, with too many of his comrades, not far from the bridge he was fighting to gain. His grave, pictured above right, marked for all to remember him.

James Little Triggs was even younger, only 15 years of age and just under 5 feet in height, when he and his twin brother Phillip, followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy as cabin boys. On May 31, 1916, James toiled away below deck so likely would not have seen the shells coming that would sink his mighty battleship and end his young life.

Today at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them, along with those who did survive but who have had lives filled with memories of the terrors of war. And we remember those still fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.

The Hadden family motto is ‘n’oublie’ – never forget. I, for one, will not.

Remembrance Day – Fallen Family Heroes



Lt. Col. John McRae was born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada in 1872. On May 3rd, 1915, he penned one of the most famous of World War I poems, ‘In Flanders Field,’ commemorating forever the bravery of those who fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice. Sadly, McRae, a physician, died of pneumonia in France in 1918.

Since 1922, the poppy has been worn by thousands of Canadians in tribute to our fallen heroes. Initially the poppy campaign provided a source of employment and income for those who had fought in the Great War. Today, the annual campaign funds programs for veterans through the Royal Canadian Legion.

On May 17, 1916, young Jimmy Gammie, my great granduncle, left his farm to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force. Maybe he had seen the posters stating, “Your Chums are Fighting, Why Aren’t You?” All of 5 feet, 8 inches in height, Jimmy, who joined with his brother Peter, would fight in France with the 46th Battalion. He would know what it was like to hear bullets whistle as they closely passed, he would know the sound and vibrations of bombs exploding, he would know the pain of being wounded, and after recovering, he would know the fear of returning to the front lines. He would know dieing for his country. Jimmy never returned to his farm, there was no repatriation ceremony for him.

Jimmy’s grave, pictured below, marked for all to remember him.

Jimmy is buried in France, not in Flanders Field but in the Bucquoy Road Cemetery, near Arras, with too many of his comrades, not far from the bridge he was fighting to gain.


James Little Triggs was even younger, only 15 years of age and just under 5 feet in height, when he and his twin brother Phillip, followed in their father’s footsteps and joined the Royal Navy as cabin boys. On May 31, 1916, James didn’t see the shells coming, as he toiled away below deck, that would sink his mighty battleship and end his young life.

Today at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them along with those who did survive but who have had lives filled with memories of the terrors of war. And we remember those still fighting and sacrificing their lives in the name of freedom.