In the 1880 US States Federal Census there is a married couple, Henry and Jennie M'Elhaga whose home is 'Tilghmanton, Washington, Maryland'. Henry worked on a Coal Boat and Jennie 'keeps house'. Henry's parents were born in Virginia and Jennie's in Maryland. I have not come across them before. Henry was 24 and Jennie 19, so would have been born about 1856 and 1861 respectively. Can we hazard a guess about Henry's father? He could have been born about 1830 and if Henry was right that his father was born in Virginia we have to go back to his grandfather (at least) to find a generation which emigrated probably from Scotland or Ireland. That takes us back to 1800-1810, and of course Henry could have been named after his grandfather. If Henry was wrong and we are looking for someone who was just in the USA at the time of Henry's birth, then we are looking at 1855.
There is no known Henry McElhaga from the beginning of the 19th Century who emigrated to the USA and the only known Henry from that time was in Maxwell's Walls, County Antrim and as far as I know farmed there all his life. Of course the name may not be important but the date may be. We know of a Richard McElhago (also at least once spelled McElhaga) born 1832 in Ayrshire, Scotland, who was on ships' crews around the world in the mid-19th Century. In 1855 he was in Australia and in 1878 in the USA. In 1855 he was on a ship from Quebec, so had he fathered a child before he left, namely Henry? Did he return in 1878, when he was a passenger, not crew, to try to meet up with him? I'm afraid this is stuff of fiction, not fact, but I'm afraid I have no other lead! I have put Henry and Jennie in my chart of Censuses and who knows? Another reference to them may appear at some stage.
We might remind ourselves of when Virginia has cropped up before in this blog. in 1859 Edward McHago was born there. In 1856 John McHago (son of James and Margaret) married Ann Rieley there. In 1874 Frances A. McHagg (probably daughter of Thomas) married Thomas Bishop there. None of these references seem to relate to Henry and Jennie M'Elhaga. Nor do they seem to relate to Paule MacHago whom I also found in the Ancestry records. He was 20 when the 1880 Census was taken, so was born about 1860 in California. In 1880 he was living in 'Kaweah and Mineral King, Tulare, California'. He was a Sheep Herder. His father was from California and his mother from Mexico.
Now there is a further Virginia reference in the 1880 US Census. There is a family of four in Missouri, headed by 55 year old widow Mary MacHagan (so born 1825). She was born in Missouri. She married an Englishman but her parents were both from Virginia. I do not know her maiden surname though the first name of her third son may give us a clue. Their home was in St. Louis, St. Louis (Independent City), Missouri. Mary's occupation was Housekeeping. Her three sons (all single) were Charles 24 (b. 1856, Missouri), Stone (?Mason); William 22 (b. 1856, Illinois), Clerk; and Clinton 16 (b. 1864, Missouri).