Ryan Taylor Roots in Renfrew County
Renfrew County


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By Ryan Taylor

Renfrew County on the Ontario side of the Ottawa River is sparsely populated and off the beaten path, but genealogically it is one of the luckiest places in the province.

Carol Bennett McCuaig runs Juniper Books, a local publisher which specializes in family history resources. Her many publications include genealogies of pioneer families in individual townships in Renfrew, and studies of Welsh and Irish immigrants.

Her new book, The Kerry Chain, the Limerick Link ($25) traces families from these two Irish counties who settled in Renfrew. Many had earlier lived in Lanark and Carleton, counties to the south which were heavily Irish in origin.

As McCuaig points out, this is a good example of 'chain migration', where one immigrant from an area leads the way for others. Even more follow. Experienced researchers looking for the place of origin of their ancestors in North America often look to their neighbours' birthplace for a hint.

The earliest settlers came in 1825, with large groups during the 1840's famine and even later. McCuaig lists the families, with places of origin, settlement farms in Renfrew, dates of birth and marriage. One of her purposes in starting this project was to see if their were blood or marriage relationships among the families, so she explores these interesting connections as well.

She takes many of the families even farther afield, to the United States and Australia, documenting many of her facts using published resources from many places. The result is that she has found long-lost cousins from the same families. In one case, she says, "It was delightful to be able to correspond with other [family members] in Australia and Ireland, quite amazing when you consider that their ancestors parted company more than 150 years ago."

Not all the Irish settlers were Roman Catholics. There were a number of Protestants who were part of this chain. They were mostly Palatines, Irish Germans who had fled religious persecution in the 18th century and been offered land by the English king.

As usual with tales of pioneer settlers in any region, there are stories of horrific poverty, illness and hard work, but also those showing the establishment of roots which have led to branches throughout North America.

McCuaig had earlier published a similar book on Peter Robinson's Settlers (1987), Irish assisted immigrants, many of whom settled in Peterborough County, but some in Renfrew. Some of the families listed in The Kerry Chain, the Limerick Link will also appear in The McCabe List (Ontario Genealogical Society, 1991, revised edition 2002), which contains places of origin in Ireland also.

Juniper Books publications can be obtained from them at RR#2, Renfrew ON K7V 3Z5.

Posted September 18, 2003
Column copyright © 2003 Ryan Taylor

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