Friday, January 3, 2014

Finding William Harrison - 2013 attempt - now proved incorrect by Y DNA

Research done by previous researchers, including the late Harrison brothers (Father Basil, Oswald, Francis and Edwin); and the huge contribution of Hearts of Oak by the late Leslie O'Connor; had pegged the William Harrison who married Mary Hutchinson in Egton in 1804 (my great great great grandparents) as the son of William Harrison and Elizabeth Allen.   

However, in 2012 a transcript of the prayer book of Elizabeth Underwood (nee Harrison), daughter of William Harrison and Elizabeth Allen came to light which listed her brother William Harrison as dying in England in 1848.  This provided convincing proof that my William Harrison was not the son of William Harrison and Elizabeth Allen as my William Harrison had died in Toronto Gore Township, Peel County, Upper Canada in May 1836.  I thus began the search for my William Harrison in the extended family tree of Catholic Harrisons from the Egton area of North Yorkshire.  As it turned out the key was the connection between my William Harrison and the Readman family.  

It began with the fact that a Joseph Readman was the best man at William Harrison's wedding to Mary Hutchinson in Egton in 1804 instead of a brother.   Further work on the Readman family determined that this Joseph Readman (there were three around at the same time) was the son of Joseph Readman (1740-? ) and Mary Wedgewood (1744-?).  

William Harrison and Joseph Readman obviously had a close relationship and were best friends.  Therefore there had to be a close link between the Readman and Harrison families.  

Reviewing the marriages in the Anglican Parish Records of the area indicated that there was really only one possible marriage - that of Joseph Harrison to Mary Readman in Egton in 1770.  
It then all began to fall into place.

Hearts of Oak provided the information on the family of Joseph Harrison and Mary Readman (in the chapter on the Ward Papers), including the fact that William Harrison had no brothers that lived past infancy and only two sisters that survived childhood.  

That this was the right family was further confirmed by the marriage of Hannah Harrison and Isaac Linton in Egton in 1829. Both William Harrison and Joseph Readman were witnesses (though I believe this Joseph Readman was the son of John Readman and Sarah Dowson - this Joseph Readman marked his signature with an X - the Joseph Readman who married Elizabeth Smallwood could write.).  This was therefore William's sister Ann (Hannah) as outlined in Hearts of Oak. 

Mary Readman was, I believe, the daughter of William Readman (1713 - ) and Ann White (1716 - 1777). (William is a descendant of John Readman and Alice Walker married in Whitby in 1630 - an online tree focuses on the Egton branch of the family).     

There were other Mary Readmans around at the same time but this Mary Readman is the closest in relationship to the Joseph Readman that was the best man at William Harrison's wedding and she would have been an aunt of Joseph Readman making William Harrison and Joseph Readman first cousins.  I see proof of this relationship due to the fact that Joseph Harrison (William's father) was the best man at the wedding of Joseph Readman (1740-? ) and Mary Wedgewood (1744-?) in Egton in 1778 (8 years after his wedding to Mary Readman).  The Joseph Readman who would be the best man at William Harrison's wedding in 1804 was their son.  The online Readman family tree has this Mary Readman married to Thomas Rhea but having looked at this marriage I don't see any proof of what Mary Readman this is (none of the witnesses are Readmans) and the Rhea family appears to have been Anglican and not Catholic. 

Thus, William Harrison was the son of Joseph Harrison and Mary Readman and the first cousin of the Joseph Readman who was the best man at his wedding (as the son of Mary Readman's brother Joseph Readman and his wife Mary Wedgewood).

As such, Leslie O'Connor was pretty close in his analysis of the parentage of William Harrison in his work Hearts of Oak.  William was just the son of Joseph Harrison and not Joseph's brother William.  

This was an understandable mistake as with so few siblings (no brothers), and an obviously close relationship with the family of William Harrison and Elizabeth Allen - since he grew up in a cottage on the same farm with them -  William's first cousins were often the sponsors at the baptisms of his children at the Roman Catholic Chapel in Egton Bridge.  

Leslie O'Connor naturally took the sponsors of William Harrison's children to be his brothers and sisters.  All in all, pretty good research, and an indication of how valuable this work remains today for those researching their Catholic roots in the Esk River valley communities.

The Mystery of the Two Matthew Harrisons

As part of my family history research I have been dealing with the mystery of two Matthew Harrisons buried at St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Wildfield for over 20 years.  

One is my great great grandfather Matthew Harrison born in 1821 in Egton Township, North Yorkshire and baptized at the Roman Catholic Chapel in Egton Bridge.  He died on his farm at Castlemore, Toronto Gore Township, Peel County on January 6, 1887 and was buried in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery in Wildfield, Peel County.  Mysteriously there is no death registration for him even though his nephew Nicholas Harrison was the township clerk and the local registrar.  Nor has an obituary been found in any local Brampton papers.


Death entry for Matthew Harrison - Jan 6, 1887
Death Register St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church, Wildfield, 

There is however another Matthew Harrison, a mysterious fellow who also appears in the spotty burial records for St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Church listed as dying in September 1884 at the age of 89 years.  He most likely signed a petition in Toronto Gore in 1834.  The other Matthew Harrison would only have been a teenager and it seems unlikely that he would have signed.  The signature on the 1834 petition is different than the one on the will of Matthew Harrison who died in 1887 as well indicating that they are two different people.  I do think that he was the Matthew Harrison living on Lot 11, Con 9, Toronto Gore township in the 1850 directory.  

This Matthew Harrison purchased a 50 acre lot composed of the SE ¼ of Lot 11, Con 9, Gore of Toronto on Feb 19, 1845 for £200. One of the witnesses on the indenture was William Harrison (Jr who died in 1849). The other Matthew Harrison would only have been about 24 years of age at the time.  Was this him?  I don't think so.  He later lived on Lot 9, Concession 10 but didn't purchase the lot until March 1, 1854.  This must be the older Matthew as why would Matthew Harrison and Ann Hewgill be living on a rented farm as detailed by her father in a letter in 1856 if he already owned Lot 11, Con 9 Toronto Gore?   Also, this lot appears to have been purchased with ready cash with no mortgage. When Matthew Harrison bought Lot 9, Con 10 he took out a mortgage on the property.  All of this suggests it was the older Matthew Harrison on this lot.   It is therefore a mystery why he does not appear in any census returns from 1852 to 1881; nor is there a death registration for him.  No obituary has been found in any of the local papers either.  If he was indeed 89 years old when he died in 1884 he would be born circa 1795.  


Death entry for Matthew Harrison September 1884
St Patrick's Roman Catholic Church Parish Records

Could this Matthew Harrison have been an uncle of the Matthew Harrison who died in 1887, and a younger brother to William Harrison (1773-1836).  The existing Catholic Records from the Roman Catholic Chapel in Egton Bridge only begin in 1813 so there is a possibility that this Matthew Harrison could be a brother of William Harrison.   Or could he have been from one of the other related Harrison families from Egton Township, North Yorkshire and area?  A check of the local census returns for Egton and area does not find a Matthew Harrison born in the late 1700s in any of the census returns from 1841-1881.

One of the obvious answers would be to check the tombstones in St. Patrick's Roman Catholic Cemetery for any other details. Unfortunately the cemetery was essentially cleared (vandalized in my opinion) in the late 1960s by the parish priest and while some of the early tombstones were placed in a cairn on the site (including many of my family), many of the later ones were simply moved to the bottom of the hill and covered in soil where they remain today.

Does the answer to this mystery lie buried beneath the ground on a tombstone?

Any help solving this mystery would be greatly appreciated.  You can contact me at kikoamoki [at] yahoo [dot] ca.