After all, in the years before the Internet, I'd sent for and received a transcript of the 1877 death registration of Joseph, which gave this information: Joseph McGinnis age 38, a labourer born Ireland died of consumption. Informant his wife Frances McGinnis who signed with her mark (X)
That agreed (pretty much) with my ancestor who I knew as Joseph McGinnis born circa 1825-1830 in Ireland, married to Frances (Fanny) Downey, and a labourer. He should have been at least 47 in 1877 but I thought perhaps the census taker misunderstood Fanny's Irish accent.
The 1881 Census Adds to the Confusion
In the 1881 census for Guelph I found the widow Frances McGinnis age 49, a charwoman and her son Joseph age 15, a moulder. It all fit as Joseph and Fanny did have a son Joseph born in 1864. We all know that census records are not always 100% accurate so I wasn't worried about the slight difference in the age of Joseph in 1881.
One small problem was another Frances McGinnis in Guelph, also a widow, age 51, born Ireland and no children with her. She was a washerwoman.
The only census records I had been able to find for the family were the 1861 census for Puslinch (near Guelph) where Joseph's age was given as 30 and 1871 for Guelph where he was listed as 46 years old. So there was already a huge discrepancy in ages! His wife Fanny was listed in 1861 as age 30 and in 1871 as 44.
Fanny's Death Registration
Discrepancies aside it seemed pretty clear to me that I'd found great-great-grandpa's death. Next I found Fanny McGinnis dying in 1890. Again this was before the Internet and online genealogy records so I sent for and received her registration which stated:
Frances McGinnis, age 60 born Ireland died in St. Joseph's Hospital in Guelph. No family member had given information. I also found a death notice for her in the Guelph newspapers which gave no further information.
Have I Really Found Their Deaths?
So there I had it. The deaths of both my great-great-grandparents. Or did I? When the 1891 census was released, I was quite surprised to find my 2nd great grandmother on it! There she was living with her daughter Delia in Guelph. How could this be? I puzzled over this but simply could not explain it. She and her husband Joseph were buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery. I had her death registration dated 1890. I had his from 1877. I finally decided that perhaps her daughter Delia had given her mother's name even though she was not living. I wasn't happy with that and knew I would pursue the discrepancy further, but at that time I had no other census records or death records to search as they were being released slowly to the public.
The 1901 Census is Released and Answers are Found
|Fanny McGinnis Death Registration 1904|
It was very challenging to figure out how to solve this confusion. There was no other Joseph and Fanny McGinnis in the census records for Guelph and area. There was only my family - and that was verified. There was only one Joseph McGinnis death (in 1877) yet there were two Fanny McGinnis' deaths (one in 1890 and one in 1904). There was only one couple named Joseph and Fanny McGinnis in the census for 1861 and 1871 and they were definitely mine. My Joseph did not appear in any census after 1871 and my Fanny was listed as a widow in 1881. I began to wonder if it was possible my 2nd great grandfather was a bigamist.
Church of Our Lady Holds the Clues
I immediately wrote to request the burial records for Joseph who died in 1877 and Fanny who died in 1890. The Church secretary found and photocopied the deaths. And there it was - the burial record of Joseph stated in part :
"... Joseph McGinnis, husband of Frances Foster, deceased the 25th inst. in the town of Guelph, aged 48 years."
Frances Foster? My ancestor was Frances Downey. So this Joseph who died in 1877 didn't appear to be my 2nd great-grandfather. But where was my Joseph in 1881? My Fanny was listed as a widow. If he died in Guelph between 1871 and 1881 why was there no death registration? Why no burial record at the Catholic Church (I did request a 10 year search of the records for him but nothing was found)
The burial record for Frances who died in 1890 stated that she was the widow of Joseph McGinnis and that she was born in Gilbraltor.
Questions and More Questions
And so the puzzle remains - what happened to my Joseph McGinnis? The last record of him is the 1871 census. Was he a bigamist? Did he die in 1877? Did he leave Ontario for the USA, as many of his cousins and brothers did? Did he die there and his widow Fanny returned to Guelph by 1881?
And which widow in that 1881 census is my Fanny?
And why is there no second couple named Joseph and Fanny McGinnis in the Guelph area in any census record, other than my 2nd great-grandparents?
I'm leaning towards Fanny and Joseph leaving Guelph for the USA, Joseph dying there and Fanny returning. My reasoning is not only that I can't find a death record in Ontario for Joseph but also because I am unable to find their unmarried children Mary Jane aka Mae and Robert in the 1881 census for Ontario or the 1880 census for USA. Of course since I'm not sure that the Robert age 15 in 1881 is the son of my Fanny or the Fanny who died in 1890, I might also be missing Robert in 1880 and 1881.
I've not found Fanny's grave or her burial record from the Catholic Church.
What are your thoughts?
1847 my Joseph and Fanny baptise daughter Fanny in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1849 my Joseph and Fanny baptise son Alexander in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1851 my Joseph and Fanny baptise son Daniel in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1851 Census Puslinch - they are not found but the first page of this census is missing
1856 my Joseph and Fanny baptise daughters Ann and Margaret in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1861 Census my Joseph and Fanny are found in Puslinch Twp, Wellington Co.
ca 1860-1862 my Joseph and Fanny have a daughter Mary Jane (Mae)
1864 my Joseph and Fanny baptise son Joseph in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1865 my Joseph and Fanny baptise son Robert in Church of Our Lady Guelph
1871 Census my Joseph and Fanny are found Guelph, Wellington Co
1877 Joseph McGinnis, husband of Fanny Foster, dies
1877 a widow Fanny McGinnis found in City directory for Guelph
1882/1883 a widow Fanny McGinnis found in City directory for Guelph. Noted as widow of Joseph. Living 64 Cork St. at corner of Cork and Norfolk
1881 Census - two widowed Fanny McGinnis' found in Guelph
1890 Frances/Fanny Foster widow of Joseph McGinnis dies
1891 Census - my widowed Fanny in Guelph with her daughter Delia
1901 Census - my widowed Fanny in Morriston with son Alex and daughter Fanny Vogt
1904 - my Fanny Downey, widow of Joseph McGinnis, dies.