City of Toronto Honours Ann O’Reilly

Ann O’Reilly was a great woman.

The need to achieve greatness and strength and perseverance was thrust upon her. She did not seek it out.

Records show that Ann was a native of Ireland who immigrated to the then wilderness of Upper Canada in 1827 when she was only two or three years old.

Not much is yet known about Ann’s early and formative years growing up in Upper Canada other than knowing her father had a farm, located some distance north-east of the town of York (now Toronto).

No marriage record has yet been found but likely sometime in the early 1850’s Ann married another Irish immigrant named Patrick O’Sullivan. Around 1860, the two opened a two bedroom hotel and eatery on a piece of the farm owned by Ann’s father. The location of the hotel was the north-west corner of what is known today as the intersection of Victoria Park Avenue and Sheppard Avenue East.

The records also show that Patrick and Ann had three children: Ellen, born about 1854; Thomas, born about 1856; and, finally Michael, born in 1858.

Just one year after opening their hotel, Patrick died. Ann was faced with grieving the loss of her husband, the operation of the hotel, and three young children to raise, the eldest of whom was only about 6 years of age.

Ann demonstrated a fortitude, resolution and strength of character we would all hope is within us. She kept the business of the hotel going and she raised her children through those tough times. A single mother and business owner in the second half of the nineteenth century was not common.

Eventually, Ann would turn over the running of the hotel to her youngest son Michael, the husband of my great grandmother’s sister Ellen Fitzgerald. But not without staying on, no doubt to continue to work and provide guidance.

The hotel became of fixture in its part of York Township, eventually part of the borough, then city of North York and, finally city of Toronto. Michael opened a post office in the hotel and the area became known as O’Sullivan’s Corners, a moniker that remained at least well into the 1950’s.

On June 19, 2015, the City of Toronto recognized the pioneering contributions of Ann O’Reilly by naming a street after her.

 

Ann O'Reilly Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Ann O’Reilly Road, Toronto, Ontario, Canada

A new street named Ann O’Reilly Road was unveiled. City of Toronto Councillor Shelley Carroll was on hand to do the honours along with Ann O’Reilly’s descendants. Ann’s great-great grandchildren Margaret O’Sullivan, Dennis O’Sullivan, and Darlene Hall, my previously unknown third cousins, all helped unveil the new street sign.

Descendants of Ann O'Reilly unveil the new Ann O'Reilly Road street sign, June 19, 2015

City Councillor Shelley Carroll and Descendants of Ann O’Reilly unveil the new Ann O’Reilly Road street sign, June 19, 2015

As a footnote, I was invited to this special occasion due to the diligent work of Mary Ann Cross, a member of the North York Community Preservation Panel and champion for the naming of streets and parks in North York to honour its early settlers. Community preservation panels act as advocates for on heritage issues in their community. Members of these panels are appointed by the Toronto City Council.

Mary Ann saw my connection to the O’Sullivan family and Ann O’Reilly while reviewing my online Ancestry family tree. Without that online tree, I might never have known about the street naming, let alone have been invited to attend and participate in the street sign unveiling. Oh, and I probably might never have had the chance to meet my O’Sullivan cousins.

Another good reason to have an online family tree!

Sentimental Saturday (A Day Late) – Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill

I’m posting photos from my collection of family photographs on Saturdays with a brief explanation of what I know about each picture. Today’s ‘edition’ is a day late because yesterday I was travelling back home from Ireland.

Gertrude Ellen (Foley) O’Neill was my maternal grandmother and I admit that as her first grandchild, who also lived just two houses away from her, she worked hard to try to spoil me rotten! In this photo, likely taken around June 1955 by my father, ‘Nana” as I called her is holding a very young ‘yours truly.’  The photo was taken in front of my maternal O’Neill grandparents’ home at 185 Pickering Street in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. My grandmother was 57 years old at the time and seemed happy to be a grandmother!

Gertrude Ellen Foley O'Neill with Ian June 1955

The Tragedy Of Not Beating The Train – John Eades

Life was good. Especially on that Wednesday.

John Eades was getting married on that Wednesday.

It was also not just any Wednesday for in addition to being his wedding day, that Wednesday was Christmas Eve.

John and his bride Sarah Latimer exchanged vows in the quiet, little village of Seaforth, Ontario that day. John gave his age as 25, his bride Sarah stated that she was 22 years old, although records suggest that she was likely younger. A lifetime of adventure awaited. They then spent their first Christmas together as husband and wife in 1873.

Over the years that followed that Wednesday, Sarah would give birth to at least five children while John worked first as a barber, then as a grocer and salesman to sustain the family.

They moved around a bit. They started off in London, Ontario then moved to the little village of Wingham. From there, it was off to the big city of Toronto where they lived in a small house at 138 Henderson Avenue.

They saw the arrival of the 20th century and probably sensed that renewal of excitement and hope that newness brings with it.

But that was the end for Sarah. On February 9, 1900, Sarah died of what the attending physicians called “cardiac and rural diseases.” Her age was given as just 45 years.

John carried on as best he could. His youngest son Edward John Latimer Eades was just nine years old when Sarah died so John worked in grocery sales and deliveries to keep them going.

Until that Monday when everything went wrong.

EADES John newspaper article death after hit by train 3 Mar 1913 - Copy

It was snowing lightly on that March 3rd, 1913. Adding a softness to snow-covered ground.

John was summoning his horse to pull the carriage of pork for delivery along Dovercourt Road in Toronto. Up ahead was a railway crossing. Just more than one hundred years ago, there were no flashing lights and certainly no barriers in place when the trains came through.

But there was a signalman. On that Monday, Thomas Eversfield was that signalman.

Thomas would state that he waved his flag. He yelled for the driver to stop but the horse and sleigh were going too fast. Others reported that the driver seemed to have every confidence that he could make it across the tracks before the train came through. The train engineer saw the horse and sleigh and applied the brakes but was unable to stop the westbound freight train.

And so it was on that Monday that John Eades died, as did his horse, when he collided with the train. A tragic death that put John’s name on the front page of that afternoon’s local newspaper.

 

52 Ancestors: Jack Hangs Up The Blades For A Life Of Service

This is the fourth and final part in a series of posts that primarily set out to capture the professional hockey career of John Osborne ‘Jack’ Filkin, or, ‘Uncle Johnny’ to my wife.

The previous three posts about Jack Filkin’s hockey career can be read here:


Jack Filkin learned to play hockey, likely on the frozen ponds and rivers of his native Ontario, Canada. It is clear from all of the records that Jack loved hockey and would do whatever was needed to find a place on a good team. He was scouted a signed by the New York Rangers. He didn’t make the NHL team following the 1929 training camp but rather was assigned to the Rangers’ pro farm team, the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians. 

His second pro hockey season was spent in the California Hockey League playing for the Los Angeles Millionaires. Unfortunately, no cumulative statistics for the team or the league could be found for the 1930-31 season. However, various newspaper articles and family-held press clippings tell of Jack impressing with his speed, his goal scoring touch and his ability to play both a finesse and physical style of hockey. Whatever it took to succeed. 

Jack Filkin as a Los Angeles Millionaire (original photo privately held)


Jack’s Los Angeles Millionaires finished second in the league that year to the Oakland Shieks. Jack was near the top of the list of goal scorers, probably in the top ten players, possibly as high as the top five in the league.

It is not surprising then that Jack’s pro hockey contract was purchased by the Philadelphia Arrows of the Canadian-American Hockey League for the 1931-32 season.

Jack was off to the ‘City of Brotherly Love’ to join an Arrows hockey team being coached and managed by Hockey Hall of Famer Herb Gardiner. The team played all of it’s home games in the Philadelphia Arena on Market Street in the city’s west end. Statistics for the 1931-32 season show that Jack played in 31 games, assisted on three goals, and accumulated twelve minutes in penalties. 

What that record does not show is that jack sustained a career ending injury towards the end of the season. Jack’s hockey season was ended early when he severely broke one of his legs.

The following hockey season, Jack attempted a comeback with the 1932-33 Edmonton Eskimos of the Western Hockey League. Leading up to the Eskimos’ opening game, an Edmonton sports reporter introduced the new member of the local team in this way:

Over on the left wing, McKenzie [Edmonton Eskimos coach] has a big, robust speed merchant in the person of Jack Filkin, 25-year old sniper who has had his share of pro competition…Filkin had a bad break with the Arrows, suffering a badly fractured leg, and he never did regain the form expected of him.

Although his hockey career came to a disappointing end, Jack had lived the dream. But it was now on to other and perhaps even greater things John Osborne Filkin.

With his hockey career over, John returned to Toronto with his wife Hazel (Latimer). They settled into a pleasant home on Vaughn Road in the Toronto borough of York. John and Hazel welcomed into their family two daughters. John went off to work each day according to voters lists as a salesman. Eventually John took up the profession of tree surgeon as recorded in numerous subsequent voters lists. Eventually this profession would be described as Landscape Architecture.

John Filkin in 1965 (from Lions Club International newsletter)


In 1950, John became a member of the Lions Club service organization. According to a variety of club archived records, in 1958, John became the President of his local Lions Club branch. The following year he became the Zone Chairman for the Lions Club. He then spent 1961 and 1962 as the Lions Club’s Deputy District Chairman, followed by two years in the role of 100% Deputy District Governor. From 1965 through 1967, John was a Director of the Lions Club International, representing Canada.

John’s dedication to service through the Lions Club is well documented, both in Lions Club archived records and in the many newspaper articles from across Canada and the United States reporting on John’s message to fellow Lions Club members at the many conventions at which he was invited to be the keynote speaker.

When not inspiring and encouraging Lions Club members, John found time to serve as the Commissioner of the Parking Authority for the Borough of York (Toronto, Ontario) or 16 years. In the 1971 photo below, John Filkin is seen helping Borough of York Mayor Philip White cover a parking meter, an act that offered free parking in the borough for the busy shopping season the week prior to Christmas.

John ‘Jack’ Filkin (left) with York Mayor Philip White, December 1971 (Toronto Star newspaper archive)


Following a life of giving joy to hockey fans and serving his community, at home and abroad, John Osborne Filkin passed away on April 28, 1977 having followed his dream, served his community well, and teaching all of us how to live life well.

52 Ancestors: Jack Becomes A Los Angeles Millionaire

I have, admittedly, been delinquent in continuing the story about John Osborne (Jack) Filkin, my wife’s uncle through marriage and, in his younger days, a professional hockey player. This is Part 3 in a four part series about Jack Filkin. You can read the previous two parts of this story here:


Jack grew up in small town Ontario, Canada. Here he learned to play hockey, and play it at a high level. In an era before the blades of hockey sticks were curved, Jack played with a standard straight-bladed hockey stick. With that straight blade, Jack developed the unique skill of being able to shoot the puck either left handed or right handed.

At five feet, eleven inches in height and one hundred seventy-five pounds, Jack would have been considered a big winger, even a force to be reckoned with.

In 1929, the general managers of the professional hockey teams had no farm systems from which to draw for the big league team. They needed to scour hockey leagues looking for young talent. 

When the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League (NHL) were looking for new talent, according to press reports, they were “told of” Jack who was “known in the Maple Leaf country as Goal-a-Game Filkin, this because he has averaged a goal every game since he began donning the steel blades in league competition.”

The 1929-30 season didn’t work out as hoped for. Jack attended the New York Rangers training camp and was sent to the New York Rangers’ Canadian-American Hockey League affiliate team the Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians. Although Jack was a fan favourite, his goal scoring touch was missing. He recorded just one goal and one assist while spending 30 minutes in the penalty box.

Following the hockey season, Jack returned to his Ontario home. In Toronto, he was known as Police Constable Filkin, Badge Number 788. In that first ‘off-season’ of 1930, Jack managed to take time off of his ‘beat’ to marry Hazel Latimer.


John Osborne ‘Jack’ Filkin, 1929-30 Springfield (Massachusetts) Indians 
newspaper photo clipping 
(Newspaper source and date of publication unknown)


On November 10, 1930, it was back to hockey for Jack. But this time, Jack was on his way to play hockey in California where his professional contract had been purchased. Jack was going to be a Los Angeles Millionaire.

There does not appear to be a compiled listing of the statistics from the California Hockey League available for the year that Jack played there (1930-31). However, a review of the press clippings available to me strongly suggests that Jack’s scoring touch had definitely returned, with numerous multiple goal games reported.

Hazel joined Jack in Los Angeles and, together, they were able to connect with Hazel’s aunts, uncles, and cousins in the Knox and Squires families. Hazel’s mother, Mattie Diona (Knox) Latimer was from California and had left the state the day after she married her Canadian husband, Edward Latimer, in 1906.


Hazel (Latimer) Filkin
(Original privately held)


The year of 1931 brought about more change for Jack. Maybe it was because of his goal scoring success in California, maybe it was because of team requirements, or maybe it was a combination of both but, whatever the reason, Jack’s professional hockey contract was purchased again by another team. 

Jack was gong to spend his third season as a Philadelphia Arrow. He did not know it when he crossed the U.S.-Canada border in the Fall of 1931 that the 1931-32 hockey season would be his last.

52 Ancestors: Living The Dream – John Osborne ‘Jack’ Filkin (Part 1)

Sure, I’m retired and could say “I’m living the dream” but this isn’t about me. No, this is about Uncle Johnny, or more accurately Ellen’s uncle John Osborne Filkin.

When I was growing up, I had only one season of sports, serious sports – hockey season. It lasted twelve months each year. I played in organized leagues during the Fall, Winter, and Spring. I played ‘road hockey’ using a tennis ball in place of a puck before school, during recesses, at lunch time and, after school until the street lights came on and I was begrudgingly required to call it a day.  Sure, I played some baseball in the summer and some football in the Fall but life really revolved around hockey, hockey, and more hockey.

I knew every player in the National Hockey League (NHL), as for most of the years when I was young, there were only six teams. More than anything else, I dreamed of developing my skills and being good enough to one day play hockey professionally, especially to be in the NHL.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com
Recently, I took a second, closer look at a border crossing card from 1930 for Ellen’s Uncle Johnny. The card stated that his reason for entering the United States (he crossed the border from Sarnia, Ontario to Port Huron, Michigan) was to play hockey in Los Angeles, California. Playing hockey in California? Many, many decades ago? That, to say the least, piqued my curiosity!

It turns out there are many records, some of which are found in obscure non-genealogically oriented databases, that provide evidence of Uncle Johnny’s hockey career. And then the ‘honey hole’ was presented to me by Ellen’s cousin and Uncle Johnny’s daughter, Jule. An old family scrapbook collection, assembled by one of Uncle Johnny’s brothers, containing all the press clippings they were able to gather eighty years ago pertaining to Uncle Johnny’s hockey career.

So this is the story of John Osborne Filkin. He was known widely by the name ‘Jack’ but my wife knew him only as ‘Uncle Johnny.’

John Osborne Filkin was born April 25, 1905 in the tiny hamlet of Irondale, Ontario, Canada. Irondale is located on Salerno Lake in a rural, heavily-wooded part of Ontario, far from, well, almost everything. John’s father was William Mark Filkin, a chemical engineer who about twenty years earlier had immigrated to Canada from his native Birmingham, England. John’s mother was Alma Maud Armstrong who had been born in the small town of Minden, Ontario.

Summers during Jack’s childhood would offer, as they do today, opportunities for water sports – swimming, fishing, and canoeing. The Fall, Winter, and Spring seasons meant attending school and no doubt for Jack, a chance to skate and play hockey on the frozen ponds and rivers that were plentiful in his part of the province. Jack’s teen years meant chances to work in a local sawmill but he always found time for hockey. Jack probably played hockey whenever and wherever he could, just like I did years later. But he was different. He was truly dedicated to the game and very talented.

In 1927, Jack climbed the joined the amateur hockey ranks eventually joining team of the York Bible Class, a young men’s organization established a few years earlier by Denton Massey, a member of one of Canada’s more famous families. That year his hockey team won the championship of the city of Toronto.

In Part 2, a look at the Road to the NHL.

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: Margaret O’Neill (nee Graham) (1854-1937)

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.

Margaret Graham was born on 8 September 1854, according to the records that I have been able to locate about her. Just over 100 years later, I would make her a great grandmother. I know that Margaret was born in the province of Ontario but I have been unable so far to find a record that provides a more precise location, although it is likely that Margaret’s family was living south of Barrie, Ontario at the time of her birth.

By 1861, Margaret can be found in the census records living in Holland Landing with her parents. Her father was Patrick Graham, a tailor from Ireland and her mother Catherine McRae, the Canadian born daughter of Scottish immigrants who were part of the Glengarry settlement. By the time Margaret was a teenager, her father had decided to take up farming and so the family moved to Sunnidale, Ontario, just west of the town of Barrie.

There is no record that I have found nor no family story that I have heard about how my great grandparents met, but on 4 June 1894, a 39-year old Margaret Graham married 45-year old William Emmett O’Neill in St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church on Bathurst Street in Toronto. In spite of their ages at the time, it appears that this was the first marriage for both of them and they set about quickly to have three children in the next four years: first a son, John Graham O’Neill (my grandfather) in 1895, then a daughter Kathleen Marie O’Neill (who became a nun) in 1896, and finally another daughter Avila O’Neill (who never married) in 1898.

Margaret and her husband settled into what was from all appearances a quiet life in Toronto. While her husband William worked in the insurance business, Margaret tended to raising their three children and keeping house. When their son Graham, as he was called, was engaged to marry Gertrude Foley, Gertrude’s father John Foley informed the engaged couple that he was going to give them a house on Pickering Street in Toronto’s east end as a wedding gift. Graham and Gertrude convinced John Foley to instead sell the house to Graham’s parents. Margaret and William were residing in that house in 1924 when William died according to his death registration.


The O’Neill Family gravestone, Mount Hope Cemetery, Toronto, Ontario (photo by Ian Hadden)



Margaret continued to live in the house for a short time until she moved into a house with her daughter Avila at 1739 Dundas Street West in Toronto. She then lived with Avila until her own death at St. Joseph’s Hospital from chronic myocarditis on 2 March 1937. On 5 March 1937, Margaret was laid to rest to rest beside her husband William in Mount Hope Cemetery following a 9:00 a.m. requiem mass at St. Helen’s Roman Catholic Church.

52 Ancestors: William Emmett O’Neill (1849-1924)

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.

William Emmett O’Neill, one of my great grandfathers, entered this world on 26 February 1849 in Barrie, Ontario, Canada – or as it was known at the time of his birth, Canada West. He was the son of Irish immigrants, John O’Neill and his wife, Mary Murphy. They were a Roman Catholic family who lived in a one-storey log house on land that John farmed.

When William was a young man of twenty-two, he found work as a labourer in Tay Township, close to Georgian Bay. By the time he was thirty years of age, he was caring for his widowed mother in Barrie, Ontario while working as a store clerk. William continued working for others in the Barrie, Ontario store into the early 1890’s and then decided, through an unknown inspiration, perhaps the death of his mother, that it was time to strike out on his own.

He moved to Toronto, found work again as a store clerk, but also found love. He met and married Margaret Graham on 4 June 1894 in St. Mary’s Church. Neither William nor Margaret were ‘spring chickens.’ William was 45 years old when he married, although he claimed to be only 42 perhaps in an effort to be closer in age to his bride Margaret who was 39 when she married. William and Margaret didn’t let age deny them the opportunity to have a family and so in 1895, just more than a year after their wedding, they welcomed their first child, and my grandfather, John Graham O’Neill into the world.

Two daughters would subsequently join the family. First, Kathleen Marie O’Neill, who would later join the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph and be known by her religious name as Sister St. Edwin, in 1896, and then Avila in 1898.

Early in his married and family life, William would change careers. No longer content working as a store clerk, he became an insurance agent, the source of employment for the remainder of his life. He moved his family into a house on Claremont Street in Toronto from where my grandfather told me, they would push their children in a baby carriage through muddy roads to attend the annual Canadian National Exhibition, a little over a mile away. Later, William and Margaret moved to a house further west in the city on Golden Avenue.




On 24 July 1924, at the age of 75, William Emmett O’Neill died in St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto. His cause of death was listed as “uremia” or kidney failure. At the time of his death, William and Margaret were living at 189 Pickering Street in Toronto, a home they had purchased from their son’s father-in-law John Foley. This was the same house that I would live in for the first nine plus years of my life. On 26 July 1924, William Emmett O’Neill was laid to rest in Toronto’s Mount Hope Cemetery where he would eventually be joined in the family plot by his wife, youngest daughter, son and daughter-in-law, and their infant son.

As a tribute to his father, my grandfather named his youngest son, one of my uncles, William Emmett O’Neill. Uncle ‘Bill’ as he is known to me, has told me often how creepy it is to visit the cemetery and see the headstone at the family plot bearing his name.


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.