None of the descendants knew anything except that John and Elizabeth were born in Ireland. No county, no town, no parish, no townland... nothing had been found on any records other than "Ireland". I knew from census records and death registrations that John was born circa 1791 and Elizabeth circa 1783-1787.
Census records for early Ontario (Upper Canada and Canada West) are often missing. Many have not survived. The earliest census which records all persons in the household is 1851 although there is an 1841 which shows heads of household and numbers of family members. John died in 1868 and Elizabeth in 1872 so there are not many records to be found for them. The surviving 1851 census records do not exist for their location and thus the earliest record found is the 1861 census.
I knew from the approximate years and places of birth of their children that they arrived in what is now the province of Ontario circa 1820. But ships passenger lists to Canada before 1865 did not have to be archived and thus they are few and far between. No record of John and Elizabeth's passage has been found.
Searching for death records and obituaries of both John and Elizabeth and their children proved fruitless in providing a more exact location for their origins in Ireland. I even have a copy of a letter written in 1841 by their son-in-law (my 2nd great grandfather) which mentioned that his wife Jane (their daughter) was "Irish to the bone" but sadly gave no indication of her place of birth. The search has been frustrating over the years.
Then Bill found the following church record online:
From the parish register of Galloon in the diocese of Clogher, County Fermanagh: John Greenlees of the parish of Aghalurcher and Elizabeth Johnston of Drumy were married 1st September 1814.This was pretty exciting and I spent a few hours learning more about Co. Fermanagh, Aghalurcher and Drumy (which I could not find). I also looked for other Greenlees names in the vicinity and found a few which I copied down in case they later prove to be part of John Greenlees' family.
My John Greenlees and Elizabeth Johnston had the following children, the first 3 born in Ireland, the last 4 in Upper Canada (Ontario):
George b 1815
Thomas b ca 1815-1816 (there has been some speculation that George & Thomas were twins)
Jane b ca 1819 (my ancestor)
Margaret b ca 1821
Catherine b 1825
John b ca 1825 (John and Catherine might also be twins)
James b ca 1827
I found a Sally (aka Sarah) Greenlees married to Thomas Liddle of Kilturk baptising children in the Galloon church records. Notice the naming pattern and the twin births:
Thomas b 1807
Margaret b 1809
Elinor b 1813
Elizabeth b 1815
John & Robert (twins) b 1817
If naming patterns were followed that honoured parents, we can see that there's a possibility that Sally and John were siblings and that Thomas and Margaret were their Greenlees parents. Sally gives her first son and first daughter those names, while John gives his second son and second daughter those names.
IF my speculation proves eventually to be correct then it's also a good possibility that Elizabeth Johnston's parents were George and Jane (the names given to her first son and first daughter).
At this stage it's only speculation but it's a working theory and I'll try to prove or disprove it as I continue researching my elusive Greenlees ancestors. Thanks to Bill, I have a wonderful new lead to follow!