Revisiting: Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson

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!

About BJ MacDonald

Interested in travel, really into genealogy and researching my family history, classic novels and movies, fantasy and science fiction, photography, history and more... Here is a tip. Make sure you are commenting on the blog you were visiting and the post you were interested in. My blogs are listed by hovering over my pictures and clicking. Clicking one of them will take you back to the correct blog. You can try me here:
This entry was posted in Alexander John McDonell and wife Ellen McPherson - Mary's family, ARCHIE & MARY MCDONELL's FAMILY, CANADA, Chapeau, Chichester, FAMILY & SURNAMES, Jennette Catherine & Angus John McDonald, MCDONALD/MACDONALD etc., Pontiac County, Quebec, Scotland, St. Alphonsus Catholic Church and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Revisiting: Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson

  1. Linda says:

    According to the St. Alphonsus of Ligouri Church Cemetery Records published in 2000 by Elaine Brown the parents of Ronald/Ranald MdDonnell are indeed a mystery to find where they were buried. Their first church on Allumette Island burned down in 1853 and the records were lost. Even so, keeping in mind what you said about all the possible misspellings or variants for any given name, I scoured the records again and found a Helene McPherson born in circa 1805 and who died in 1850 at the age of 45 years. This explains why she was not found in the Canadian census of 1861. I think it is quite plausible that Ellen and Helene McPherson are one and the same. It is interesting to note that no relations were provided for her in the records. Her husband Alex John McDonnell was born about 1795-97 so the dates fit.


    • BJ MacDonald says:

      Linda: I will take a look at Helene McPherson born 1805 and see what I find. I am not sure who you mean regarding Ronald/Ranald MdDonnell, do you have a page number. I also have a copy of Elaine’s book. I am aware of the first graveyard that was destroyed, sad business. When I visited the area in 2012 I was all over the cemeteries in the area and on the island as well (Allumette). I wrote about my visits on the blog. I also visited the St. Alphonsus Church twice even tho the bugs tried to eat me. I photographed as much as I could and put it on Find A Grave and fixed the cemetery lists which had been messed up.


      • Linda says:

        I was speaking about Ranald, son of Alexander John McDonnell and Ellen McPherson who was the first husband of Janet / Jeanette McDonnell Of Lundie. He died at 37 years of age leaving her a young widow. They had lost three sons in one week in the fall of 1862 before he died a short few days later.

        As for your comments about the 1871 census and the mysterious”A.H. W Donell,” chances are he was Alexander John McDonnell, husband of the late Catherine McDonnell who had died ten years earlier in 1861. (She is listed as #1334 in the burial records of St. Alphonsus Cemetery on Allumette Island.) At the time of her death she was sixty two. Janet Catherine McDonnell, also included in the census, was the widow of Angus John McDonald who had died at thirty-seven years of age in 1866. As Janet/Jennette was the daughter of Alexander John McDonnell and Ellen (McPherson) maybe she was the niece of Alexander Hugh. After all, the former was born in 1795 and the latter in 1797. What do you think about this theory? I recognized the name, Alexander Hugh because he is the grandfather of Daniel James Kennedy. Alex Hugh died in 1880 in his 84th. year. (In the same burial record #1321) Hope this wasn’t too confusing.


      • BJ MacDonald says:

        Linda: I found quite a few individuals dying between 1860 and 1865 in the area. There must have been something going around at that time. Ranalad and Janet are a breakthru. Neil McGillis found me and directed me to the correct chart 13 Part IV book by Duncan Darby MacDonald that showed the lineage of my family, of course, he had Mary a daughter of Angus and not of Alexander John McDonell. However in his book at the beginning he does say that he is open to corrections. All of Janet as I have her name spelled, is part of what is called the Lundie Family. This was Alex Fraser’s label for them. I have his CD Rom. Are you familiar with him? I have mentioned him I believe on this blog. I have yet to go through it thoroughly. Neil was very helpful and pointed the way to me.

        Yeah that 1871 Census for Pontiac is a puzzle. I am going to have to study all that you have said but life got in the way here the last several days so I have been trying to stay focused, HA! Let me ponder this all and your other comments and get back to you off line, not here on the comments. I am getting back into all of this because I am planning to go to Scotland this Spring and I need to get up to speed on it all again. It may be a couple of days but I will and I do have more stuff for you. HA!


  2. Mike McCammon says:

    I have a Ranald McDONALD b.c. 1825 married to Mary LEMON b. May 4, 1827 Lancaster, Glengarry, ON

    I found a Ranald McDONALD christened on May 27, 1825 at St. Raphael’s (Drouin Collection)
    Parents are listed as Alexander McDONALD & Nelle McPHERSON.
    Sponsors are Alexander McDonell & Mary McLellan.

    As you mention, there is a marriage record for a Alexander McDONELL & Nelly McPHERSON at St. Andrews West, Stormont, ON on Jul 9, 1822. Witnesses are Alexander McDonell and Duncan McDonnell and others.

    Parents of Alexander McDONELL are listed as John McDONELL and Mary CAMERON, of the Parish of St. Raphael.

    Parents of Nelly McPHERSON are listed as the late John McPHERSON and Rachael McDONELL, also of the Parish of St. Raphael.

    I post this in the hope that someone can make a connection.

    I like your website. Very informative.

    Mike McCammon (I am connected to the Millar family in the Prescott area).


    • bonmac says:

      Mike: Welcome and thanks for stopping by. This is very interesting. I do have a Ronald McDonald born about 1825 but he is married to Janet. They married 28 June 1852 in Chapeau, Pontiac Co., Quebec. Now he would be about 27 and she was about 19 years old. So he is old enough to have been married before of course that means his first wife would have died but at this point it is not clear.

      The source: Baptisms, Marrriages & Burial Registers of the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church FHL#1029797, 1846-1858 with an additional index 1846-1876.#M17, FHL#1029797, Ronald McDonald married Janet (Janelle) McDonald on June 28, 1852. His parents were Alexander John McDonell and Ellen McPherson. Her parents are John McDonald and Flora W. McLellan. The witnesses were John B. Poupore, Alexander McGilles, Catherine McDonell, Mary Dod.

      I have posted about this particular family before on this blog:

      I have not done anything further with this marriage of Alexander to a Nelly but I think it is my 2nd great grandfather and mother and I thank you for commenting because it does need to be presented again. I do believe they moved around a lot more than we sometimes think. I am not familiar with the Millar family but did drive through Prescott very quickly when I was visiting there in the Spring of 2011.

      You never know when or where the link or that small piece of information will click and open a lot of doors. Thanks for the compliments.


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