Revisiting: Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson

April 12, 2012

Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson are my 2nd great grandparents and the parents of Mary McDonald my great-grandmother and Keith, my dad’s, grandparents.

I have tended to be focused on Archibald and Mary McDonell, their siblings and descendants.

My trip to Ontario and Quebec is in full planning stages and that means it is time to focus on great-grandmother Mary’s side of the family, specifically her parents.

In the post dated December 3, 2010 “McDonell and McDonell Marriage!” you will find the marriage record of Archibald and Mary McDonell as written in the records of the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Chapeau.  In that record Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson are given as the parents of Mary.   In this marriage record the Bishop of Bytown Msgr. Guignes gave his approval.  Were Archibald and Mary cousins at some level?  I have seen these records with mention of consanguinity but this marriage record just states in general terms that it is all okay?  I believe approval is sought when the couple are above the level of 3rd cousins?  What kind of documentation is submitted?  Who keeps these types of records and do they survive?

Alexander John McDonell appears in the 1861 census with some of  his children but his wife Ellen is missing.   Let’s review that census:  1861 Canadian Census for Chichester Township, Pontiac Co., Quebec pg. 2.

Line 36 Chichester Twp. Rachel McDonell, born LC, Catholic, age 23, female. Line 37 Alex Jno McDonell, Farmer, born U.C., Catholic, age 66 male; line 38 Mary McDonell born U.C., Catholic, age 25, female; Line 39, Duncan McDonald, Laborer, born L.C., Catholic, age 19, male; Line 40, Finlay McDonell born L.C., Catholic, age 16, male.

If we subtract 66 years from 1861 we get back to 1795 for the birth of Alexander John and the census has U.C. for his birthplace.  Mary, my great-grandmother is 25 years old in this census so that means she was born about 1836.  Her death record from Minnesota states that she was born 13 Mar 1840.  Hmmm…?  This census also states that she was born in U.C.

If you study the census further you see that Rachel is born in LC, Duncan in LC and Finlay in LC.  Does this suggest that Alexander came to the area sometime after Mary’s birth

Unfortunately, I cannot find Alexander John McDonell in the 1851 census for Pontiac nor pin him down in any other location. Of course the 1851 Pontiac census has a lot of missing sections including Allumette and other parts of Canada.

I have studied the cemetery records in Pontiac and cannot find his burial nor Ellen’s burial location.  I can understand why Ellen’s stone might be missing if she died elsewhere or earlier than 1860 but the loss of Alexander Johns to me is a little puzzling?

My great Aunt Nellie was the informant on her mother Mary’s death certificate from Minnesota and she has Alex McDonald and Mary McPherson both born in Scotland as the parents, yet her charts indicate Alexander John and Ellen as the names?  I refer you to the post dated July 21, 2011 “Nellie’s Charts – Her Mother Mary McDonell’s Family!”

I did find a curious marriage record in the Drouin collection for St. Andrew’s West in Stormont. It has an Alexander McDonell marrying a Nellie McPherson in 1822.  My great Aunt Nellie was really Ellen Elizabeth formally.   I still need to do some more work on this find in order to confirm it is the couple I seek.

An Alexander John McDonell appears right under Archibald in the agricultural part of the 1861 census for Pontiac Co., Quebec.  I don’t believe it is online at Ancestry?  This part of the census was at the back of the film at the Family History Library (FHL).

Line 37 Alex. John McDonell

  • Concession or Range: 6
  • Lot or Part of Lot:  40, 41
  • Number of Acres – 150
  • Number of acres under cultivation:  36
  • Number of acres of land under crops in 1860: 36
  • Number of acres of land under wood or wild:  114
  • Column 10:  Cash Value of Farm:  320
  • Column 11:  Cash Value of Furnishings: 38
  • Column 12:  Fall wheat in acres:  2
  • Column 13: Fall wheat – produce in bushels: 40
  • Column 14.  Spring wheat produce in bushels: 3
  • Column 15. Spring Wheat bushels: 30
  • Column 18:  Rye acres 1
  • Column 19:  Rye in produce in bushels 18
  • Column 20: Peas – acre:  6
  • Column 21:  Peas in produce in bushels 100
  • Column 26: Indian corn in acres 3/4
  • Column 27:  Indian corn produce in bushels 110

The above list is done to the best of my ability.  My copy of the agricultural census is very dark and out of focus.

I move ahead to the 1871 Canadian Census and find no Alexander John McDonell living but I do find a A. H. W Donell on Allumette Island age 74 (born in 1797) in Ontario, widowed and living with descendants of my Alexander John McDonell specifically Jennette Catherine McDonald whose first husband was Angus John McDonald?  I featured her family in the post dated:   October 20, 2011 “Jennette Catherine McDonell & Her Two Marriages!”

My dad, Keith’s, great grandparents are definitely a puzzle yet to be unravelled.  Let’s hope I am successful in figuring this all out on my trip that is coming up soon!


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