Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Thomas Joseph and Joseph Thomas

A recent note on the Internet told me that the Quinte Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society had recently put a Names Index on line. I checked the surname McIlhagga and got seven results for Edith C (Lynch), Mrs. Edith Christine, Evelyn Vera, Joseph Thomas (Smith), Thomas J. and Thomas Joseph (two). These names reminded me that when I was staying in Canada with a cousin we retrieved a document from Quinte which contained an interesting story. It told me that a Thomas Joseph McIlhagga died in 1970 and was buried in Mount Calvary Roman Catholic Cemetery, Trenton (now the city of Quinte West), Murray, Northumberland, Ontario (Burial Reference LSGS 0 087). This record gives us a birth year of 1897.

I am also reminded that on 24th January last I wrote a blog entry called 'Home Children' which traced my first cousin (once removed), Thomas, born 6th November 1895, to Quebec, Canada where he went after the death of his mother. He had been 'adopted' by a farmer in Argenteuil. However, after a reference to Thomas serving in the First World War the trail goes cold. I said that as his name was not on a War Memorial he probably survived. But what happened to him? I am now asking the question, could my cousin Thomas be Thomas Joseph buried in 'Mount Calvary'? The birth year is two years out, but such errors are common. The additional name of Joseph raises questions. Apparently he married an Edith Christine Lynch. May be she was a Roman Catholic and Thomas 'converted' and adopted the extra name of Joseph either at his (conditional) baptism or his confirmation.

The next part of the story is in some family papers entitled 'Smith Family History' which are lodged with the Seventh Town Historical Society, Ameliasburg in Ontario, and which are available to the public. They tell us that in 1947 Thomas Joseph and Edith Christine McIlhagga adopted a Joseph Thomas, the fourth child of George Joseph and Doris Lillian (nee Ellis) Smith of Peterborough, Ontario. He was born on 18th July 1944 at Peterborough. There seems to be some doubt about 'Joe's' parentage as Gayle (wife of Michael Arthur, George and Doris' fifth child) calls him her (though in reality her husband's) half-brother and confusingly implies some relationship to Edith McIlhagga's sister Madeline. In any case we know his father was not a McIlhagga. It is Gayle who has lodge the Smith papers.

Gayle records that Joseph 'attended public school Queen Alexander in the north part of the town, at 8 Victoria Avenue. After his father [presumably his adoptive father] came home in the war overseas Thomas McIlhagga [ie his adoptive father] worked as orderly at St. Joseph's Hospital... Joe.. spent time in correction school. Worked at the Churchill restaurant as a dishwasher. His [adoptive] parents moved to Trenton in the early 60s. After Joseph's father died [1970] Joseph... lived down in Nova Scotia for about three months. Then he moved to Toronto and lived in a rooming place at 171 Seaton Street near Dundas. He then moved up the street to 200 Seaton Street. This was in 1972. In Feb. 1974 Joseph was at my sister's wedding in Goodrich, Ontario. After that Joseph just vanished out of our lives. Some say he was murder (sic) in the States. But I'm going to keep searching for him'.

We may not know where his adoptive son is, but I think we now know what happened to Thomas who was born in Liverpool, England. At the age of 13 he found himself aboard a ship bound for Quebec. After returning from the First World War he decided not to continue in farming and got himself a job in St. Joseph's Hospital. May be it was the dedication of the hospital which suggested a name to be added when he became a Roman Catholic and married Edith. We may assume they didn't have children of their own, but - perhaps expressing gratitude for Thomas' own 'adoption' - they adopted young Joseph Smith. Thomas died in 1970 and was buried in Trenton, Ontario. It looks as if he lost contact completely with his family in the United Kingdom and it is unlikely that he ever returned to his homeland. So a branch of the McIlhagga clan came to an end.

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