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September 2, 2014

More Questions Than Answers: The Fun of Genealogy Research

Yesterday I posted about my re-evaluation of an old record I obtained several years ago.  It can be read at In-depth Review of a Record Leads to a Genealogy Solution!
Carrying on with my new theory that my  ancestor Joseph McGinnis with wife Fanny, their baby daughter Bridget and Fanny's sister Margaret Downey, arrived in Quebec from Ireland sometime in late June or early July 1846.

My good friend Sue Swiggum of TheShipsList website, explained that the trip took on average 42 days then  new emigrants were encouraged to move out of Quebec city, and out of Montreal pretty quickly. Since Joseph was sent on from Montreal to Hamilton on July 9, 1846 I might expect him to have arrived by ship end of June or 1st of July.

Since I know the family came from Belfast and area, I decided to check British newspapers for notices of ship departures from that port to Quebec. I found several arriving on July 3rd but that would almost certainly be too late. Then I found a notice which looked like a possibility.

Friday 05 June 1846
Armagh Union. Monday 22 paupers left this place for Belfast to embark on the Belinda for Quebec  sent by the board of guardians by this Union. The emigrants were very comfortably clad, and otherwise equipped for their journey, and were accompanied by the efficient clerk to the Baord, Mr. M. McNeal Johnston and Mr. McCall, master of the house 

However Sue informed me that the Belinda didn't arrive in Quebec until July 20th so that ship is out of the running. She found two ships sailing from Belfast that seemed like good possibilities:

Arrival 24th June, ship MILTIADES left Belfast 14th May, with 391 passengers. Sue checked the Quebec papers and there were no more Belfast arrivals in later June issues. Checking the  9th July issue there were  no more ships arriving from Belfast.

There was an earlier arrival, on June 18th of the bark CHIEFTAIN, McEwine, from Belfast on May 1st with 182 passengers. 

The Miltiades looked like the best bet given it's arrival date just 15 days before Joseph and family were sent on at the expense of the government. I also checked Marj Kohl's Immigrants to Canada and found this reference to the Militiades:

Miltiades  from   Belfast     arrived 24 June.  21 people were sent on with assistance 

Since Joseph's name is on the list of those who could not afford to continue their journey and were transported out of Montreal to other settlement areas, things are looking pretty good for my Joseph McGinnis to be one of those 21 people sent on with assistance. 

There's a very nice transcribed ad for this sailing on the Irish Emigration Database

          THE Splendid First-class Coppered Ship,
             MILTIADES, of Belfast,

             674 Tons Register, 1,000 Tons Burthen,
                  WM. [William ?] GROOM, Commander,

To Sail, direct from Belfast, on TUESDAY, the 12th day
of May, on which day Passengers will require to be on board.
   This Ship's well-known superior accommodations, and
Captain Groom's kindess and attention to Passengers,
together with his great experience as a navigator, render
this conveyance most desirable for persons about to
   As the "Miltiades" is filling up fast, to prevent
disappointment, immediate application is recommended to
                    DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.
   Belfast, 20th April, 1846.
A search of British and Irish newspapers provided me with the advertisement for the Militades in the Belfast Newsletter

The Irish Emigration Database also had this transcript for the Miltiades just prior to her sailing



          ALL persons who have engaged
      Passages in the Ship "MILTIADES,"
     are requested to be in Belfast, to go
     on board on TUESDAY, the 12th May, as
     she goes to sea the first fair [wind]
              DAVID GRAINGER, Dunbar's-Dock.

  Belfast, 4th May, 1846.

 The Miltiades will be succeeded by the splendid
new Ship "BELINDA," WM. [William?] KELLY, MASTER,
1,200 Tons Burthen, to sail for QUEBEC about the
25th of May; due Notice will be given of the exact
day of sailing.
 June 1846 saw the arrival of the Miltiades in this notice. No day was given.

 Arrived out at Quebec, the ship Miltiades, of
Belfast, Groom, master, after a quick passage
of 35 days-all well.

My search in British and Irish newspapers also brought up some interesting details of the Miltiades and her journey. The Belfast Newsletter of June 19, 1846 had a notice that the ship, having left Belfast on the 25th of May had been spotted by the Ruby Castle at Latitude 48 and Longitude 23

A check reveals its position was about 1/3 of the way on its voyage. It was about 630 miles from the coast of Ireland and about 1400 miles from Newfoundland. Interestingly, another notice in the May 16th edition of the London Standard indicates that the Miltiades left Belfast for Quebec on May 14. This sail date seems more in line with the advertised date of May 12th. Ships often left later than they hoped but a sail date of the 25th is almost 2 weeks late.

From Montreal, Joseph and family would have been given passage (paid for by the Government for indigent immigrants) on a steamer to Hamilton. According to Marj Khol's website:

The actual cost to the Department of an adult passage, with an allowance of 1 cwt. [Lorine's note: 1 cwt.=100 pounds] of luggage, from Quebec to Hamilton, a distance of 571 miles, is 20s. 9d., = 16s. 4½d. sterling. The time required is 72 to 80 hours.
I can imagine Joseph, Fanny, Margaret and the baby struggling on board a steamer with their trunks packed full of belongings - no doubt that included bedding, cookware, china, utensils, candles if they had any, perhaps pillows, items for the baby, and as much clothing as they could fit in to their trunks. They were very poor so may have had even less than I have listed here.

Once they reached Hamilton, Joseph and his family would have found life even more difficult. It was not until the summer of 1847 that the city discussed erecting a platform or gangway running into the water of Burlington Bay with a shed over it for use of immigrants. The Council also contemplated procuring a building to be used as a hospital and the erecting of sheds in case of sick immigrants arriving.  But I find no evidence that any kind of sheltering or assistance was in place in 1846.

The population of Hamilton in 1846 was under 10,000 and the large influx of impoverished Irish immigrants must have been overwhelming. Luckily Joseph had family members in Puslinch Township near Guelph so he had a few options for finishing the journey.

He might have had enough money, or been able to earn enough, to hire a cart or wagon to head up to the Guelph area. It is far more likely though that he and his family either hitched a ride with a returning farmer or sent for one of their McGinnis relatives to come down and get them.  It was another 30 miles to Guelph and Joseph's relatives lived in Puslinch which was on the way to Guelph. The road was rough and July is prime time for mosquitoes, so the journey must have been horrendous. It might have taken the family another 3 or 4 days to reach their final destination, depending how long they had to spend in Hamilton before continuing on.

In summary, I don't have proof of these suppositions. But they are my working theory based on what evidence and clues I have been able to find.  Thhe details, based on certain facts and best possibilities, help me to bring my ancestors to life. My great-great-grandparents are more alive for me today than ever before.

I will keep searching in hopes of finding facts to support my theory or disprove it. Meantime I treat my story above with caution, and advise any descendants to remember - it is just a story based on what few facts are available.

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