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September 25, 2015

No. 8 of My Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries: Joseph McGinnis

A Facebook friend posted her top 10 Genealogy Mysteries.  They aren't brick walls because there is probably an answer somewhere, just waiting to be found.

I thought this was a great idea and I am following suit with my Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries. Of course any help or suggestions for further research are welcome. You can read my other Genealogy Mysteries at Top 10 Genealogy Mysteries

Here is my Number 8 of 10 Genealogy Mysteries:

My 2nd Great-Grandfather Joseph McGinnis was born in Ireland circa 1829. Some time before 1846 he married Frances (Fanny) Downey. They had a daughter Bridget (aka Delia) born in 1845. In July 1846 they arrived in what is now present day Ontario. 

In September 1847 they baptised their daughter Fanny in Church of Our Lady in Guelph Ontario. 

They are not found in the 1851 census but many pages are missing. They are found in 1861 living in Puslinch Township, Wellington County Ontario, beside a very large McGinnis family. They are found again in 1871 in the same location. That is the last entry found for Joseph.

Joseph & Fanny (Downey) McGinnis 1871 Census Puslinch Township Wellington County Ontario

The entire family disappears after 1871 and does not reappear until 1881 or 1891. (That's part of the challenge!) 

What happened to Joseph? Did the family leave Canada for the USA (as many of the other McGinnis families who were Joseph's neighbours did)? Did Joseph die somewhere in the USA and Fanny returned to Ontario to be with her grown children? 

To add to the challenge there is a second Joseph McGinnis married to a woman named Fanny living in Guelph in the same time period. This Joseph died in Guelph in March 1877 but Church records prove that his wife was Fanny Foster (she died in Guelph in 1890 whereas my Fanny Downey did not die until 1904.) Most online trees have erroneously attached the second Joseph and Fanny's death dates to *my* Joseph and Fanny. So there are no clues to be found in other descendants' trees. 

The exact relationship of my Joseph to the other McGinnis men who were his neighbours is unknown but there  was almost certainly a relationship of some sort - brother? cousin? nephew? They were sponsors at baptisms of children. They lived on the same land. They named their children with each other's names. 

But my Joseph did not arrived until 1846 whereas the other McGinnis family arrived ca 1831.


July 1846: arrived Puslinch township Ontario and settled on Conc. 3 Lot 10 on land owned by James McGinnis, a son of John McGinnis who owned Conc. 3 Lot 11 Puslinch Tp. Some time after arriving in Puslinch, Joseph rented a tavern called "Speed The Plow" at Conc 4 Lot 6 Puslinch Tp. on the River Speed.

Sept. 1847: daughter Fanny baptised in Catholic Church in Guelph

1851: not found in the census for Puslinch (some pages are missing)

1861: Joseph and Fanny, both age 30, with children living in Puslinch Twp.

Jan 1863 to March 1871: 4 of their children are on a list of pupils at SS # 12, Puslinch. 

1871: living with 8 children in Puslinch Twp. McGINNIS, Joseph, 46, b. Ireland, RC, Labourer and Fanny, 44, b. Ireland RC

1871-1872 Directory: Jos. McGrunnis [sic] farmer Conc 3 Lot 11

1873 Guelph City Directory shows a Joseph McGINNESS [sic], labourer, Norfolk & Cork St.. This is at the back of Church of Our Lady, below the hill. *But which Joseph is this??

1875-1877 Guelph City Directory we see a Joseph McGINNIS, living 77 Norfolk St. east side, near Cork St. *But which Joseph is this??

March 1877: Joseph McGinnis, age 38 or 48 (Death certificate says 38 but church burial record says 48), husband of Fanny Foster, dies in Guelph

1877 Directory for Guelph shows Fanny McGuiness (sic), widow, on 64 Cork St. This seems to be Fanny Foster McGinnis

1881: A widow Francis McGinnis age 49 with son Joseph age 15 is living in Guelph. My Fanny also had a younger son Robert who should have been with the family so where is he? At the same time there is another Fanny McGinnis, age 40, living in Guelph. She is a servant in a household. It is likely that one of these is my Fanny Downey McGinnis and one is Fanny Foster McGinnis

1882-83 Guelph City Directory: Fanny MAGINNIS, Mrs. widow of Joseph living 64 Cork St. near Norfolk St. Is this Fanny Foster McGinnis?

July 1890: Fanny Foster McGinnis, age 65, dies

1891: My Fanny, a widow age 60, is living with her married daughter Bridget (aka Delia) Johnston in Guelph

1901: My Fanny, a widow age 66 is living in Morriston (not far from Guelph) with her married daughter Fanny and my 2nd great-grandfather Alex McGinnis

Dec. 1904: My Fanny, 84 years old, dies


I am no further ahead with this challenging missing ancestor than I was 15 year ago. Any ideas from my readers? Many of the McGinnis men left Ontario for MIchigan and I have searched Michigan for my Joseph with no luck.


Leah said...

You've probably already looked into this, but have you checked for Joseph in the Western provinces? I've had a few people in my family tree "disappear" from Ontario and Michigan only to turn up in Western Canada.

Rita Kern said...

Have you checked Ohio? McGinnis is a pretty common name here in Ross County, Ohio (Chillicothe - City)and I'm sure I've seen it in other Ohio phone books.

Olive Tree Genealogy said...

Thanks Rita - yes, in fact one of Joseph's cousins/brothers/uncles ended up in Ohio. But I find no trace of him there. The time period is so small - sometime between 1871 and 1891 (or even earlier). I should have added in my post that I checked all of N. America census for him in 1880/1881 and 1890. I keep hoping he'll show up in a death index somewhere!

Olive Tree Genealogy said...


Western provinces wasn't high on my list but I did check all of N. America for death indexes and census records. The time period is so small - sometime between 1871 and 1891 (or even earlier). I keep hoping he'll show up in a death index somewhere!

Unknown said...

Have you tried looking under just Ginnis or Guinnes. My husband's family has McPartlands but for some reason in the some of directories the Mc is dropped and then it pops up again.