Sunday, 20 December 2009

William Neil Duncan


On 30th November and 14th December I wrote about Thomas Norris McIlhagga who emigrated from Scotland to Montreal and I mentioned his son - his only son who lived. He was William (Bill) Neil Duncan, born 21st December 1920 in Montreal. Thomas and Annie (nee Campbell) had had two previous children. A baby was born 23rd July 1917 who lived only a week (d. 1st August), then they had a son who was stillborn on 12th August 1918. Bill's son, Neil, gave us an insight when he wrote about his father in the first Clan Newsletter in May 2001:

"Bill contracted rheumatic fever and this damaged his heart. The damage was so severe that his physician recommended that he leave Canada for a warmer climate, as he would have difficulty coping with the cold winters in Montreal. At this point Bill was engaged to Helen Merle Norton, my mother. After discussing the situation with their parents Bill and Helen made the decision to move to Florida. Bill left Montreal on May 16th, 1948 and moved to Jacksonville. After establishing himself in Florida, Helen followed him down on November 22nd, 1948, and they were married on November 27th, 1948.

"When Helen was in the process of moving to Florida she was required to provide a number of affidavits to the U.S. Authorities. These documents were required to assure U.S. officials that she would not become a 'Ward of the State'. Among the affidavits that were provided was one from my dad, Bill McIlhagga. In this letter he relayed how he was sponsored into the United States - by his cousin and her husband. Now he didn't specify his cousin's name other than to call her by her married name, Mrs. J. Strathearn. As I didn't have a first name I wasn't sure if this was a cousin from his father's or his mother's side of the family. I thought perhaps I had reached a dead end.

"In the course of an internet search.. I located a brother and sister in the United States... who kindly provided some information.. including a reference to.. Ina McIlhagga who married James Strathearn and moved to Kenmore, New York... [This] was the same person who was my dad's cousin - my first link with a live blood relative!"

I referred to Ina in my blog of 12th December. We have good documentation concerning William Neil Duncan McIlhagga, about his baptism at Knox Church, Crescent Street, Montreal, his Church Roll Certificate (giving his dates of birth, Dec 21st 1920 and baptism, Mar 6th 1921), his Marriage Certificate (27th Nov 1948) as McIlhagga in Jacksonville, Florida, a letter from him about his intentions in moving to Florida and his Death Certificate as McIlhagga, when he was an Office Clerk with Setzer Gr. Co. at the age of 33, on August 7th 1954. He was buried at Greenlawn Cemetery 4300 Beach Boulevard, Jacksonville. We also have a photograph of him serving in the RAF Ferry Command in the Second World War, before he moved to the USA. Helen, his widow, returned to Montreal and died in Canada on 3rd May 1997 in Ottawa, Ontario and is buried at Pinecrest Cemetery there. William and Helen had one son, who also has one son and three grandchildren, all in North America today.

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