This is the story of how a census entry helped me discover the parents of my 2nd great grandmother, Ellen (or Helen) Easton. It all started when I was researching my great grandmother, Wilhelmina (Minnie) Kirkland. I first found Minnie as a 2 year old on the 1861 New Brunswick Census:
From this census, I had Minnie’s mother’s name as Helen, born about 1836 in PEI of Scottish origin. I discovered her maiden name easily enough – I found the marriage record for John W. Kirkland and Ellen Easton, who married in Chatham, NB on November 2, 1854.
And on the 1891 census, she’s listed as Hellen Easton Kirkland, born about 1828 in PEI, with a father was born in Scotland and a mother born in Ireland.
So this is what I had…
Not a lot to go on. I was unable to find anything giving Ellen’s parents’ names. But I did find this:
Exciting as it was to know that my ancestor was a ventriloquist, I was even more interested in the last line “Mrs. Kirkland, who survives him, is a sister of Surveyor General Tweedie.” Huh? Everything else I had found said that Mrs. Kirkland was an Easton.
I had seen this Tweedie name before….
- 1871 Census – Next door to John & Ellen Kirkland were some Tweedies
- 1881 – Marriage of my great grandparents Minnie Kirkland and Albert Prowse – witness L.J. Tweedie
- 1891 – Marriage of Minnie’s youngest sister – newspaper announcement mentions that “Among friends present were Hon. L.J. Tweedie, M.P.P and Miss Tweedie of Chatham.
So who was this L. J. Tweedie?
- Lemuel John Tweedie practiced law in Chatham, NB. He was admitted to the Bar in 1871, at the age of 22. His Law partner was R.B. Bennett, who would later become the Prime Minister of Canada
- Tweedie was first elected to the NB Legislature at age 25. At 51 he became Premier of NB, for 7 years. Then Lieutenant Governor for 5.
- He was the son of Irish immigrants, Joseph Tweedie Jr & Catherine McGary
Interesting, but none of this answered the question of whether he was the brother of my Ellen Easton, who was some 20 years older than him and born in PEI. Obviously there was a long-standing connection between the families, but what? Could she have been his aunt perhaps, and not his sister? Or maybe she was a Tweedie and Easton was her married name from a first marriage?
I had no luck finding anything that would lead me to Ellen’s parents. But then one day, while searching the PEI newspapers for information on my my great grandfather, Albert P. Prowse, I came upon her obituary.
“The late Mrs. Kirkland was born in Rexton, NB and was a half-sister of Lt. Governor Tweedie of New Brunswick.” Well, her birth place was wrong, but could her being a half-sister to Lt. Gov. Tweedie be a clue? Perhaps researching Tweedie’s family would uncover something that researching Ellen Easton’s family had not.
Since Lemuel Tweedie was born 1849, the obvious place to start was the 1851 NB census. There he was, age 2, with his parents Joseph & Catherine Tweedie, as expected, along with two older sisters, ages 5 and 9. But look who else was in the household….
Ellen, age 25. I may have said “Gotchya” so loud I startled the cat. And this explains why I could never find her on the 1851 census – she was not listed as an “Easton”, she was listed as a “Tweedie”
As there were only 13 years between Ellen and Joseph Tweedie, could Ellen have been Catherine’s daughter from a 1st marriage? I started looking for more on Joseph and Catherine, and found a newspaper notice for the marriage in 1841 between Joseph Tweedy and Mrs. Catherine Easton.
And BINGO. A marriage between Catherine McGeary and William Easton in 1825.
Finally, the puzzle was coming together…
Ellen Easton was the only daughter of William Easton & Catherine McGary (or McGeary or McGarry). Catherine later married Joseph Tweedie, Jr. and had 3 more children, the youngest being Lemuel J. Tweedie.
I still have some unanswered questions:
- Who were Catherine McGary’s parents? Where in County Down was she born? As per the 1851 census, she was born in 1805 and came to Canada in 1817 at age 12. Did she come alone or with her parents?
- What happened to William Easton? There was a William Easton who died in PEI of excessive drinking in 1833. Was this him?
- Where and when was William Easton born, and who were his parents. An autosomnal DNA match has shed some light on this, but that’s a story for another day.
And speaking of the census, Ellen (or Helen) is one of those miraculous women we hear about who did not age at a steady rate. Here’s her age in each of the 7 years I found her in the census:
Since the first and the last are consistent (born in 1826), I’ve gone with that as her year of birth, but who knows for sure. Not even her or her family, by the looks of it. And was her name Ellen or Helen? Hard to say. But at least I’ve figured out who her parents were, so I’m counting that as a win!