Uncovering Irish Canadian family genealogy from archipelago Thousand Islands – Wolfe Island and Kingston, Ontario Canada

1915 Wedding, Murdock, Minnesota

Wedding 1915 – Irish, Canadian and American – A formal wedding photograph of Mary Jannet “Jennie” Foley Walsh, left seated, with husband Martin J. Walsh Sr., Murdock, Minnesota, standing left. They are joined by Mary Ann “Maime” Foley Walsh, sister of the bride, and Henry L. Walsh, brother of the bride. The wedding was Nov, 4, 1915, Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Murdock, Minnesota. Mary Ann and Henry married Jan. 8, 1919. The children of the two couples became double first cousins, meaning the cousins share two sets of grandparents, Foley and Walsh, instead of one set of grandparents.

Missing details appear 163 years after wedding at St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, baptisms at Wolfe Island Parish Church

Genealogy Resources for searching for Irish Canadian ancestors are located at the bottom of this blog post.

Jannet L. Walsh
August 16, 2022
Dublin Township, Swift County
Murdock, Minnesota

The game is afoot to uncover my Irish and Canadian family’s unknown and lost 35 years of history on the largest island part of the Thousand Islands in Canada. I’m digging up documents my ancestors left from their lives in Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, before homesteading in rural Minnesota. Perseverance and Irish wit were certainly perfected en route to the United States. It’s a gift that’s certainly been passed to me, and other family members.

1950s in Murdock, Minnesota – Mary Jannet “Jennie” Foley Walsh with husband Martin J. Walsh Sr., Murdock, Minnesota, both are from Irish backgrounds. Their Irish families emigrated to New Brunswick and Ontario, Canada, before homesteading in rural Minnesota. Photo was taken in the 1950s by their son Martin J. Walsh Jr., an amateur photographer. Read more about Martin’s vintage Kodachromes and trip to Ireland, 1953.

One of my Irish ancestors made his journey as a widower from Ireland before the Great Famine, 1845-1852, stopping off first with his oldest son in Canada for an extended stay of 35 years, long enough to get married a second time, work as a farmer, raise a generation of eight Canadian born children with his second wife. That’s exactly what my Great Great-Grandfather Michael J. Walsh Sr. did (1812, County Kilkenny, Ireland -1901, Murdock, Dublin Township, Swift County, Minnesota).

1901 Obituary – This is the obituary of Michael John Walsh Sr., published in the Murdock Voice, December 12, 1901, Murdock, Minnesota. Sourced is the Swift County Historical Society, Benson, Minnesota.

Obituaries and church documents
With a copy of my Great Great-Grandfather Michael John Walsh Sr.’s obituary from the Murdock Voice, December 12, 1901, Murdock, Minnesota, and help from the Swift County Historical Society in Benson, Minnesota, I’m understanding more about my Canadian and Irish family. Michael Sr. was 89 years when he died in Murdock, and was a world and continent away from his native County Kilkenny in Ireland. It was in 1842 he travelled across the North Atlantic Ocean by ship, likely a timber ship as Canada was exporting lumber to Europe, and brought back passengers as human ballast. Weight helped to give stability to ocean going vessels, keeping ships trimmed, and riding lower in water. Ship owners also needed to make a profit when they returned with their ships to Canada from Europe, and took immigrants as their new trade and cargo, according to the Library and Archives of Canada education series, A Scattering of Seed, The Creation of Canada.

Lured to Canada from Ireland
Exactly why did my ancestors travel from Ireland to Canada? There’s several reasons, but it’s possible they read advertisements or posters pasted just about anywhere in County Kilkenny about ships departing for Canada. Online publication with Library and Archives Canada, cites from Flight from Famine, The coming of the Irish to Canada by Donald MacKay, a few very interesting reasons on how many of the Irish decided to head to Canada.

Emigrants were lured by agents, sent into the countryside to recruit as many emigrants as possible to fill space. These agents were paid by the number of passengers they could attract. They often gave exaggerated descriptions of shipboard facilities, with assurances that the voyage would be short and provisions abundant.”
Library and Archives Canada, Flight from Famine, The coming of the Irish to Canada by Donald MacKay

Many Irish people, including my family, were seeking new lives beyond the island of Ireland related to food shortages, religious discrimination, political and economic unrest, and wanted brighter futures for themselves, their children, and future generations. The Irish traveled to Canada, then called British North American until 1867 when it became a country, the Dominion of Canada, 1867, according to the Parliament of Canada.

Great Great-Grandfather Michael married his first wife Mary Moran in 1829 in Ireland, and she died in 1831, leaving one son named Patrick Walsh, according to the Murdock Voice obituary. It could be his first wife’s name was actually Bridget Moran as recorded in the marriage record, November 2, 1857, to second wife Catherine Summers, at St. Mary’s Cathedral in Kingston, Ontario Canada. View marriage record at FamilySearch, or see document posted below, or view document as PDF. [Note: You need to register a free account to view documents at FamilySearch.]

It look me 10 years to find the graves in Minnesota of my Great Great- Grandparents Michael John Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers Walsh, enlisting help, always coming up short, although the cemetery is three miles from my home.  The very same day I found their digital records online at FamilySearch, at no cost.

Marriage record of Michael Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers
St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario Canada, November 2, 1857
On this second day of November one thousand eight hundred and fifty seven, after one publication of marriage bans at the Parochial Mass the second and third having been dispensed with, the undersigned Administrator have married Michael Walsh, widower of deceased Bridget Moran of Long Island to Catherine Summers, daughter of Martin Summers and of Teresa Keough of this City. Witnesses were John Hawkins and Jane Rathwell. Patrick Dollard, Administrator [Roman Catholic Priest]”

Marriage record of Michael Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, ONtario, Canada, VIew document at original Source FamilySearch.
Record of marriage 1857 – Marriage record of Michael Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario. View document at original Source FamilySearch.
Handwritten record book – Marriage record of Michael Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers, St. Mary’s Cathedral, Kingston, Ontario. V document at original Source FamilySearch.

There were 26 years between the death of his first wife Mary or Bridget. Michael Sr., about age 46, was likely informing the Catholic priest, Rev. Dollard of his marriage history personally. Of course details are only as good as they are recorded and delivered for recording.

In the case of the obituary stating Mary Moran as Michael Sr.’s first wife, this was information supplied by the family for the newspaper to the best of their memory, and information might not have been written, or simply forgotten. In any case, Mary or Bridget, or even Mary Bridget or Bridget Mary was my Great Great-Grandfather first wife, and they had one son named Patrick. It’s also very likely Patrick was born the same day his dear mother died related to giving birth, maternal death. These are details that are just lost.

I can remember my father’s surprise on his face when he learned of the previous marriage of Michael Sr., and of the first son named Patrick. If Patrick was born the same year his mother died, 1831, or even as early as 1829, he was likely age 8 to 10 when he arrived with his father in Canada. At the time of his father’s second marriage, Patrick was a young man, 24 to 26. He is mentioned twice in his father’s obituary with the statement, “Patrick is now residing in Philadelphia.” He is also listed first in the series of nine children mourning for his father. It’s unknown if Patrick traveled to Minnesota with his family, or when he went to Philadelphia.

Typical Irish naming order steps back a generation
At this time, the details stop on Patrick, except for details related to traditional naming of Irish boys. During the 1700s and 1800s the Irish liked to use a precise way of naming their children giving a suggestions to their previous generations, according to Irish Reaching Out. The naming tradition for the first born Irish son of a family is to be named after the paternal grandfather, his father’s father.

There is no name known of the father of my Great Great-Grandfather Michael. His first born son is Patrick. If the naming pattern was used, Michael’s father was named Patrick Walsh. Learn more about the full details for Irish boys and girls at Irish Reaching Out and FamilySearch.

Long Island
The location of Long Island is mentioned as the place of residence of my Great Great-Grandfather Michael in the marriage record of 1857. Long Island is a name given to many islands, including the famous Long Island in New York state. The book title Ganounkouesnot, The Long Island Standing Up! by the late author Renie Marshall certainly gives a hint to uncover the location of Long Island. Wolfe Island has gone by many names through history, including Long Island. It’s most likely the Long Island mentioned in his marriage record with Catherine Summers in 1857 is Wolfe Island.

Authentic First Nation nameKawehnóhkwes tsi kawè, Long Island Standing
Ganounkouesnot is often the given native name for Wolfe island, but has no meaning in the Tyendinaga Mohawk language, view related details.

Wolfe Island is part of the traditional hunting lands of the Tyendinaga Mohawk people and the original name in Mohawk is Kawehnóhkwes tsi kawè, meaning Long Island Standing. In 2021, the Township of Frontenac Islands voted officially to accept the name of Kawehnóhkwes tsi kawè, and added it to the signs welcoming visitors to Wolfe Island, according to Wolfe Island Network Facebook page, with translations below.

Mohawk Spelling – te’kwanonwerá:ton tsi (Welcome to)
Phonetically spoken – watt-wa-noon-wear-adon ge

Mohawk Spelling – kawehnóhkwes tsi kawè:note (Long Island Standing)
Phonetically spoken – ga-way-no-gwess ge ga-way-no-day

French and English Rule names, Wolfe Island
Grand Island was the name given during French regime. Wolfe Island is named in honor of General James Wolfe under British Rule, according to History of Wolfe Island by Mrs. James Hawkins, 1967, published at the Wolfe Island Community website. General Wolfe was the commander of the British during the capture of Quebec from the French, 1759, starting British authority in Canada, according to Britannia.

Long Island
The French referred to the island as Grande Ile, however
the name Long Island was used until relatively recent

Wolf Island: Frontenac County, Early History, The Islands: Wolfe Islands

Other possible Long Islands
I have included three islands named Long Island, 41 to 122 miles away from Kingston below. The Long Island located near Ottawa is 122 miles from Kingston, but there was a canal being built and a village on the island, and might have been a place of employment before getting married.

Grosse Isle, Immigration
Ireland at the time of my family’s emigration from Ireland in the 1800s was ruled by the British, and continued until 1922. Canada was also ruled by the British, and the Irish needed a place of refuge to escape oppression and poverty. Many of the new immigrants arriving in Canada went to Grosse Isle, or La Grosse-Île in French, an island located in the St. Lawrence River, down river from Quebec City, according to CBC Learning. Grosse Isle is where tens of thousands of immigrants landed, serving as a quarantine station for the Port of Quebec, 1832 to 1937, states Parks Canada. It’s likely my family passed through this island, but it’s something to research. Kingston to Quebec City is about 340 miles away on the St. Lawrence River.

Research difficulties, Walsh family
My Foley and Brennan family lines through my late grandmother, my namesake, Mary Jannet “Jennie” Foley Walsh (1886 -1985) is associated with St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Canada, location her grandparents Ellen Brennan Foley and William Foley married, both from County Kerry, Ireland. My grandmother’s father Stephen Foley was born in Calais, Maine, just the other side of St. Stephen on the Canadian and US borders, separated by the St. Croix River. Her family ties directly back to a point of origin at Dromkerry Townland in rural County Kerry, Ireland.

My research on my Walsh family line related to my late grandfather Martin J. Walsh Sr., (1887 -1988), husband of Jennie, has missing details to a specific location in Ireland, only the entire County Kilkenny. Grandfather Martin was of the first generation of his family born in the United States, with his father Michael John Walsh Jr. born in Kingston, Ontario, and his grandfather Michael John Walsh Sr. born in Ireland.

A townland, a small geographic division of land in Ireland, is vital for pinpointing the exact origins of my Walsh ancestors. Not knowing a townland of origin, combined with the last name of Walsh, a very common name in County Kilkenny with about 1,420 Walsh households between 1849-50, according to John Grenham’s website . I’ve tried in the past, more than one to enlist help of professional generalists, but no person would help because of the common name of Walsh and no specific location or townland. It’s likely I will never pinpoint a place of origin in County Kilkenny, but I have other ideas about my Walsh family in Canada.

I am now slowly starting to uncover documents of my Irish and Canadian ancestors on Wolfe Island, Ontario, the largest island part of Thousand Islands archipelago between Canada and the US border along the St. Lawrence River where Lake Ontario meets. Wolfe Island is known for farming, an important location for shipping in the Great Lakes, and has been home to many groups of refugees, including the Irish. This island was part of the Underground Railroad for black fleeing slavery from the United States finding freedom for the first time, according to Wolfe Island, A Legacy in Stone by Barbara Wall La Rocque.

Included in the new discovery is the city of Kingston, Ontario, located a few miles by ferry boat from Wolfe Island, and the city my Great Great-Grandparents Michael John Walsh Sr. and Catherine Summers married in 1857.

I’ve known since childhood about my father’s family and connections to Kingston and Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada. I recall my late father Martin J. Walsh Jr. of Murdock, Minnesota, telling stories in the living room at the home of grandparents in the 1970s, the same place I call home today. I’m sure my father wanted to visit Wolfe Island, but never did.
Journey from Kingston, Ontario to Swift County, Minnesota
My family left Wolfe Island in 1877, 145 years ago as of 2022. One of my second cousins heard the story of our Walsh ancestors traveling from Kingston, then setting out west across Canada, and then south, down to Minnesota. It’s likely they traveled with an oxen team and cart as did my Foley family from Maine to Minnesota, but details are lost for now.

Baptism Record of Michael John Walsh Jr., 1858
I know of no family member that has returned to Wolfe Island as this would be an event to share, and stories to be told, and told again. Wolfe Island is a very specific location, and I have Roman Catholic church documents dating back to 1857 in Kingston, Ontario, and now the baptism record of my Great Grandfather Michael John Walsh Jr. at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Wolfe Island, to 1858. Baptism records of this period area similar to day’s birth certificates, often revealing unknown or forgotten details. I found an index for baptisms at Sacred Heart Church on Wolfe Island, 1833 to 1910, at The Island: Sacred Heart baptisms, Wolfe Island website, listing eight children baptized of my Great Great-Grandparents. There is also an online catalogues for searching for records found at FamilySearch specific to Wolfe Island and Kingston, with digitized record books revealing handwritten documents.

Searching Canadian Provinces
You can also search Canadian Provinces or locations at FamilySearch to find records across Canada. I’ve found it’s good to know a city, county and province for locating church related documents, especially in the 1800s Canada. It is also vital to know the date or year, and names of ancestors you are searching for as many documents need to be viewed page by page, reading handwritten documents can take some time, with upwards of 100 or more pages in each digitized record book.

First generation born in United States – The late Martin J. Walsh Sr. reads his newspapers in the 1940s or early 1950s at home in Murdock, Minnesota. He is from the first generation of his family to be born in the United States. His father was born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, and his grandfather originated from County Kilkenny, Ireland. This black and white slide image was taken by his son Martin J. Walsh Jr., an amateur photographer. Read more about Martin’s vintage Kodachromes and trip to Ireland, 1953.

Listed below is what I’ve been able to make out of the handwritten baptism record of my Great-Grandfather Michael Walsh Jr., born in Kingston, Ontario, Canada. His baptism record lists him as being born on October 14, 1858, while his obituary list October 15, 1858, according to the Murdock Leader, March 14, 1929. He died March 11, 1929, age 70, at home at in Murdock. His home was next door to where I live today. Here is a direct link to his baptism record at FamilySearch, can be viewed below, or download as PDF.

It’s my hope, and quest, to one day board the ferry from Kingston, Ontario and head out to Wolfe Island, Canada, connecting 143 years, since 1877, when my family departed for yet another new life as pioneering settlers in Minnesota.

Baptism Record of Michael John Walsh Jr., Oct. 18, 1858
Scared Heart Catholic Church, Wolfe Island, Ontario Canada
Michael Walsh – On this 18th day of Oct 1858 this undersigned priest baptized Michael born on the 14th Inst and of the lawful marriage of Michael Walsh “farmer” & Catherine Summers of this Parrish Sponsors Daniel Baker & Mary Walsh.
John Foley Priest

VIew document at original Source FamilySearch.
Baptism Record of Michael John Walsh Sr., Oct. 18, 1858 – View at original source at FamilySearch, can be viewed below, or download as PDF.
Baptism Record of Michael John Walsh Sr., Oct. 18, 1858 – View at original source at FamilySearch, can be viewed below, or download as PDF.

Resources to search for Irish and Canadian ancestors

Victoria, British Columbia, Canada – Author Jannet L. Walsh, in front of the Empress Hotel, near Victoria Harbour, Aug. 11, 2019.

* Irish Immigration to Canada, learn more at The Canadian Encyclopedia online

* Google Search – Simply do a Google search, or use another search engine, to locate Canadian genealogy documents, and see what you find. Try to be specific, with names, dates, location and other details. Here is the search for the Wolfe Island documents I found using key terms of Wolfe Island, Ontario, Canada, and Baptism Records.

* FamilySearch – Start searching at FamilySearch.org for genealogy records. This is the site I found marriage records to my Great Great-Grandparents in at the Cathedral in Kingston dating back to 1857, and baptism records on Wolfe Island, Ontario. You might be able to search, but will need a free account to view and download documents.

* Free resources – You will find numerous non-subscription databases at the National Archives, Washington, DC. Look at listing for state archives offering free access to paid resources. You might already have access in your city, county or state as part of public services and resources.

* Irish Genealogy Toolkit by Clair Santry, has impressive and comprehensive resources of Canadian immigration resources, view her website.

* Ancestry is a very helpful resource for searching for genealogy, and requires a paid membership. Check with your local libraries, historical societies and museums offering free access in your local area.

Archives, Canadian immigration

Canadian Wilderness, Francis King Regional Park – Western Red Cedars at the Francis King Regional Park near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. This park features old growth Douglas Firs, 650 years old. John Fraser, a nature enthusiast, gives guided nature hikes in the forest.

Canadian Provinces, search by locations – See FamilySearch, select Places within Canada, and see listing by topics. Searching by location is to find detail to a specific location, see search at FamilySearch website, sign in to search.

Library and Archives Canada – Learn how to begin genealogy search, research by topic and place, research tools, links, and how to get help. Read details at Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

National Archives Ireland – Genealogy services free in person in Dublin and online, census records, resources, glossary, digitized collections and more. Read details at website of National Archives Ireland.

Nova Scotia Immigrants to 1867, Volume 2 – Available for download at Google Books, and other resources. View details at FamilySearch.com.

Ontario, Canada Roman Catholic Records – Search records by counties at FamilySearch for church records from 1760 to 1923, view search.

Grosse Isle Quarantine Station, Quebec, Canada, 1832-1837, search records at Library and Archives Canada.

The New Brunswick Irish Portal, listing of databases from the Provincial Archives of New Brunswick, Canada, search website

Victoria Harbour – Author Jannet L. Walsh, standing on upper level of city parking building with Victoria Harbour in background, Victoria, BC, Canada, Aug. 17, 2019. | Photo by Bethany Schmidt, used with permission.

Census Records, Canadian

Canadian Census records at FamilySearch, 1881 to 1901, search collection.

Canadian Census records, 1825 to 1926, search records at Library and Archives Canada.

Canadian Births and Baptism, 1661-1959, search at FamilySearch

Canadian Marriages 1661-1949, search at FamilySearch

Canadian Deaths and Burials, 1664-1955, search at FamilySearch

Passenger Lists

The Ships List, Irish passenger lists from Ireland to Canada, 1823 – 1825, see Peter Robinson Setters from Cork to Canada.

Passenger lists for Port Quebec City and other Canadian Ports, 1865-1922, search records at Library and Archies Canada.

Canadian Passenger Lists, 1881-1922, search at FamilySearch

Immigrant Ships Transcriber Guild, listing of ships dating be the 1700s, search listing

Wolfe Island and Kingston

History of Wolfe Island, Wolfe Island’s roots date back to 1675 by Floyd Patterson, The Kingston Whig Standard.

Sacred Heart Catholic Church, Wolfe Island, Ontario Canada – Index to baptisms, 1833 to 1910, see The Island: Sacred Heart baptisms, Wolfe Island website.

Wolfe Island, Frontenac County, Ontario index cemeteries, census records, church records, genealogy, history, land and property, see FamilySearch Catalog, keywords Canada, Ontario, Frontenac.

Church records, Ontario and including Kingston, see Frontenac County, at FamilySearch

About the writer – Jannet L. Walsh, of Murdock, Minnesota, is a photographer, writer, and educator. She is the author of the forthcoming creative nonfiction quest narrative “Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota,” scheduled for publication in 2023 by Shanti Arts Publishing. You can follow Walsh on Facebook and Twitter, and her other social media channels, with hashtag #IrishFamilyHistoryDetective.

Canadian Wilderness – Jannet L. Walsh stands next to a 650 year old Douglas Fir at the Francis King Regional Park near Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, a regional park, and a hidden gem. | Photo by John Fraser, Aug. 9, 2019. John Fraser, a nature enthusiast, gives guided nature hikes in the forest.

Subscribe to blog – Get blog and website updates on latest news from Jannet L. Walsh and her forthcoming book Higgledy-Piggledy Stones: Family Stories from Ireland and Minnesota, scheduled publication 2023, Shanti Arts Publishing.

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