I am reseaching a William Hanley. According to his obituary:Some queries grab my interest and make me want to dig in and do some sleuthing. This one did. My hunt online was challenging so I thought I'd share with my readers the step by step of what I did and what I found.
" Mr. Hanley was born on May 4th 1857 at Buffalo Wellington County Ontario son of the late Richard and Elizabeth Hanley."
The only village I can scare up is Buffalo Heights but that is in Peel Co. Any assistance is greatly appreciated.
As Rory discovered, it looks like there's some kind of error or mixup in William Hanley's obit. That's often the case with an obituary. You can't trust it 100% unless the deceased wrote it personally before death! Otherwise it is simply someone else's recollections.
But since Wellington County is mentioned specifically, my intuition was that William did indeed live or was born in Wellington County. Ontario Vital Records did not begin until 1869 so we won't find William's birth registered. Rory could look in church records once William's religious affiliation is known. Luckily that is found on Ontario Census records so that's where I'm going to look first.
USE WILDCARDS WHEN SEARCHING
As many of my readers know, I like to begin with Ancestry.com. A search there for William Hanley did provide some results. Once on Ancestry I used wildcards and typed Will* H*n*l*y into the search engine. The wildcard * in his first name will find variations such as Will, Willie, Willy, and Wiliam. The wildcards in his surname will find Henley, Henlay, Hanlay, Hanley, Hanly, Henly, and variations with a "d" such as Handley.
I also added an approximate birth year of 1857 +/-2 That will allow for any discrepancy in his age in census or other records. I could have chosen +/- 5 but I like to start with a narrower search and then expand it if I don't get results.
I then added the keyword "Wellington". I don't put this in the location field as I find that very unforgiving and it will not return as many results as putting the location in the keyword field instead.
The search terms yielded 3 results - 2 were duplicates so what I had was an 1871 census for a William Hanlay in Peel Twp, Wellington Co. and a 1901 census for a William Hanley with the wrong birth day/month and year, and living in Ottawa with a wife Alice. I liked the look of that 1871 census so I went to view the image. It showed 15 year old William, a Catholic of Irish origin, born Ontario and living with the Conolly family.
Interestingly, only a few names away on the image was a Michael Hanley, age 12, also Catholic of Irish origin and born Ontario living with another Conolly family.
DEVELOP A WORKING THEORY
This is where I develop a working theory. My genealogy brain, experience and intuition immediately think "Hmmmm.... two Hanley boys living with two families who are almost certainly related... and both boys are Irish Catholic... it's possible that they are brothers and their parents are dead" This is what I call a working theory. It's a "guess" based on clues and I'm going to now try to prove or disprove my theory.
PROVE OR DISPROVE YOUR THEORY
But first I had a look for a Richard Hanley in Wellington County. There was a Richard and Elizabeth Handley living in Wellington in 1871 census but not in Peel Twp and they were aged 80 and 78, far too old to be the parents of William. As well both were from England, not Ireland and were Methodist not Catholic. I can rule them out.
But what did come up in the Ancestry.com search results was the marriage of a 19 year old woman named Ellen Hanley. Ellen gave her parents names as Richard Hanley and Elizabeth Tracy. Her birth place was noted as Stratford which is in Perth County but she was marrying in Peel Twp., Wellington County. I wondered where Ellen Hanley was in 1871. I search found her as a 10 year old girl living with the O'Grady family in Peel Twp, Wellington Co. Ellen was born in Ontario and was a Roman Catholic of Irish origin.
EXPAND YOUR THEORY AND YOUR SEARCH
A 10 year old girl would not normally be found living with another family unless her parents were deceased. And thus my working theory expanded to suggest that Ellen was a sibling of Michael and of William.
I liked that Ellen's parents were Richard and Elizabeth and that she was the same religion and ethnicity as William. My search now expanded to records other than census. I checked births, marriages and deaths and other online records.
Eventually I found a marriage record on FamilySearch dated 1893 in Aurelius Michigan for Michael J. Hanley, age 29, born Canada, son of Richard Hanley & Lizzie Tracy. It was a second marriage for Michael.
NOTE YOUR PROVEN FACTS
So now I have proof that Michael Hanley and Ellen Hanley were siblings and were living with other families in Peel Twp, Wellington County in 1871. I still believe that William is their brother. The circumstantial evidence for this is the proximity of William to Michael in 1871, the fact that they were both living with families with the same surname (probably related), and that both had parents named Richard and Elizabeth.
Further research showed that Ellen settled in North Dakota circa 1880 which explains why she is not found on the 1881 census for Canada. In census records in USA she states her father was born Ireland and her mother in Ontario. Her grave is found on FindAGrave.
Michael can be found in Michigan records and the 1920 Census for Lansing Michigan indicates he immigrated circa 1881. He notes his father being born Ireland and his mother in Canada
William is found in Boissevain Village, Manitoba in 1901 although in this census he is listed as Presbyterian. He appears to have gone to Manitoba circa 1882 but I have not found him in 1881. By 1892 he had moved to Saskatchewan.
DON'T OVERLOOK CLUES
There's one clue I hadn't followed up on - the birth location Ellen gave when she married. She said she was born in Stratford which is in Perth County. Since she was born circa 1859 I might find her with her parents in the 1861 census for Perth County.
BINGO! Here's what I found on Ancestry.com in Ellice Twp, Perth Co. Ontario in 1861
* Richard Henley [sic], farmer, born Ireland, age 31
* Elizabeth, born UC (Upper Canada now Ontario) age 20
* Wm (William), born UC, 3
* Michel [sic], born UC, 2
* Elin [sic], born UC, 1
They are Roman Catholic. And there we have the family as I suggested. Father born Ireland, mother Canada - agrees with census records I found. My working theory is, I believe, proven correct to a point. We can see that William, Michael and Ellen are siblings and children of Richard and Elizabeth. But we don't have proof that Richard and Elizabeth died. The siblings were living elsewhere in 1871 but their parents may have been impoverished and unable to care for them.
WHAT TO DO NEXT
1. Look for a marriage record for William Hanley. He married in Saskatchewan and finding his marriage record will be proof positive if his parents are listed as Richard Hanley and Elizabeth (Lizzie) Tracey
2. Now there are more clues now to try to find the parents Richard and Elizabeth. We know her surname (Tracey) and we know she was born in what is now Ontario circa 1841. And we have the witness William Tracy at Ellen Hanley's marriage in 1878. He may be an uncle or a cousin. I would research the Tracey family in Perth and in Wellington Counties.
3. Look for the closest Catholic Church in Ellice Township to hunt for a possible marriage record for Richard and Elizabeth, also for baptisms of their children. Since the children are 1 year apart in age, it's very likely that Richard and Elizabeth married shortly before William's birth. So that narrows your timeline for a search.
4. Since Richard is listed as a farmer in the 1861 census, you may be able to find him in land records. Try the CLRI (Ontario Land Record Index) for his name. Often men bought or sold their land to family members so with luck you may learn more about the Hanley family if you can find Richard. At the very least it will give you a precise location for land and the dates he bought and sold it. You could also try a search of the UCLP (Upper Canada Land Petitions) to see if Richard filed a petition.
5. I would also continue researching the siblings of William. Searching the siblings - their spouses and families can often result in an invaluable clue being found. For example the obituary for either Michael or Ellen might provide many genealogical tidbits about their parents.
You have a fun search ahead of you - enjoy!