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October 29, 2018

Finding an Ancestor in Upper Canada (Ontario) pre 1871 - Part 3 of 3

Rory wrote to Olive Tree Genealogy with this intriguing question:

I am reseaching a William Hanley. According to his obituary:

 " 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.
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.


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 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.


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.

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