The theme of this blog is "what’s in a name?" I have finally found some time to write and post this blog. I moved my father into an assisted living facility in January and I have spent the last eight weeks going through his things, emptying his house, conducting an estate sale, and making improvements to his house to prepare it to be put up for sale. It has been so time consuming that I have suspended much of my research work. Going through all of his things brought back many memories of his and my families immediate (the past 50 years or so) history. I even found a brass plate with Japanese writing on it, that my dad said he had removed from a Japanese artillery piece that his Army unit in the Philippines had captured. He served as a machine gunner during WW II and was part of the U.S. forces that occupied Japan after the surrender. He is indeed part of America’s "greatest generation." The brass plate that he collected will be a small treasure that will stay in the family.
My dad, James P. McLane is my ancestral connection to the Frampton Irish. When he introduced himself at the assisted living facility, he told the other residents that he was an "Irishman." He said this despite the fact that he was born in North Dakota and his mother had been born in Minnesota to Danish parents. But in my family, it has been the names and the "Irishness" that stuck to the family story without any other genealogical information. My dad, James P. McLane may have been named after his great grandfather who lived in Concession St. Alexander of Ste. Marguerite, just north of the Frampton Township boundary. I have found in a notary record, that his great grandfather signed his name as "James P. McLean." My dad’s father was Miles McLane who was born in Ste. Marguerite in July of 1880, although for most of his life he thought he was born in September of 1881. Miles’ parents were John McLane and Elizabeth Murphy. In their marriage record, they signed their names as "John McLane" and "Elizabeth McLane." It appears that this generation were the ones that altered the spelling of the name from "McLean" to "McLane." This was lesson to me that the spelling of a surname may have some importance, but it should not be assumed to carry through the many generations and a researcher should always check under alternative spellings. (The name McLean has at least 14 different spelling variations)
My family was always intrigued by the given name of "Miles," but other than knowing that it was Irish we didn’t know where it came from. It turns out that my great grandparents, John McLane and Elizabeth Murphy, followed the "Irish naming tradition" in their family very precisely. That pattern goes like this: the first male child is named after the paternal grandfather; the first female child is named after the paternal grandmother; the second male child is named after the maternal grandfather; and the second female child is named after the maternal grandmother. The first child was a daughter and she was named Anastasia McLane after her paternal grandmother, Anastasia O’Connor. This Anastasia would be known as "Stacy" all of her life. The second child was a daughter and she was named Bridget McLane after her maternal grandmother Bridget O’Farrell. Although she would be known as Sarah all her life. For quite some time, I thought that they had a child named Bridget and a child named Sarah. I had found the birth record of a Bridget, but in all the U.S. Census I could only find a Sarah and the birth years didn’t match. It wasn’t until I obtained a death certificate for her where the name was listed as "Bridget Sarah" that I discovered that this was the same person. Apparently she didn’t care for the name "Bridget." The third child was James McLane who was named after his paternal grandfather James P. McLean. The fourth child was my grandfather Miles McLane who was named for his maternal grandfather Miles Murphy. This Miles Murphy was the son of Andrew Murphy, Frampton first settler, and Andrew’s father was Miles Murphy who had been imprisoned for participating in the Rebellion of 1798 and came as one of the early Irish emigrants to Quebec in 1806. So it turns out that the given name of "Miles" is perhaps the greatest piece of heritage to pass down to my family. I knew very little about my grandfather’s heritage before I started my research. He died in Los Angeles, California in 1957 when I only six years old. He had left his family home in the Neillsville, Wisconsin "Frampton Irish colony" in 1901 to homestead in Western North Dakota. Then he moved his family to Los Angeles in 1938. By the time I was born, our family was geographically far removed from our "Frampton Irish" connections. But the names and the Irishness lived on.
Some of you may have only these tenuous connections to the Frampton Irish community. My word of caution is always, don’t be too sensitive about the spelling of your name. Most Irish names are Anglicized versions of ancient Gaelic names. My own surname originates from Scots Gaelic as "Mac Gille Eoin" or in English, "son of the servant of St. John" known as "Gillean of the Battle Axe." The Anglicized version uses only "Mac" (son of) and "Lean" from "Gillean." All of its spelling variations are pronounced as "Mac" "Lane" not "Mac" "Clean." This may be why my great grandparents began to spell it just like it sounds. Unfortunately, I have never found where the descendants of my great grandfather John’s brother James ended up. It leaves me wondering if that family spells the name differently. But as I search for them I remain open to different spelling variations.
Over years of research, I have become quite familiar with the surnames of the Frampton Irish and their various spelling variations. One example I often give is the Irish name of Meagher. This surname can also be frequently found as Magher or Maher. I am told that it is pronounced as "May her." The way Irish surnames are pronounced originates with their Gaelic pronunciations. The Frampton Irish people would most likely be very familiar with how their name was properly pronounced. If they told the priest who was baptizing their child what their name was, they would use the pronunciation they were used to. If the priest was an Irish priest, he most likely was familiar with the pronunciation and its common spelling. But if the priest was French, he might spell the name the way he heard it with the additional interpretation of French vowels and the name was in many cases mis-spelled. The same can occur with a French census taker who had entered my family as "Macklin" in the 1861 census. So when you are using the Drouin collection on-line or on-line census records, etc. you may not immediately find your ancestors under the spelling of the name you are used to. With on-line indexes, you not only have mis-spelled surnames in the original record, but you also have the chance that the index transcriber mis-read the handwriting, etc. I have also found examples where the Drouin collection index does not turn up a record because it was missing from that collection, but the original parish register did have the record. Many of the original parish registers for Quebec can be found on the FamilySearch pilot record search webpage.
Any person researching Irish surname must also know about the prefixes of "Mac" (also found as "Mc" and "M’ " and "O’." Both of these mean "son of." While the "Mac" prefix is seldom omitted from the spelling of the surname, the "O’ " can often be missing or not used. Such is the case with the surname "O’Connor" which can also be found as "Connor, Conner, or Connors."
Then there is the problem of given names and their equivalents. For example, the name Johanna can be found as Johannah, Hannah, Judith, or Julie and Ellen can be found as Helen, Helena, Eleanor, etc. Then nick names come in to play, like Margaret can be "Maggie" or "Peggy." Some persons can be found under the Anglicized "Jeremiah" rather than the Gaelic "Darby." In other examples (just to name a few), "Thaddeaus" can be found as "Thimothy or Thimothy, " "Dennis" can be found as "Denis," and "Matthew" as "Mathias or Mathew." Then there is the problem of French priests using the French version of a given name like: "Jean" for "John," "Pierre" for "Peter," "Jacques" for "James," "Brigette" for "Bridget," "Guillame" for "William," "Marguerite" for "Margaret," "Marie or Maria" for "Mary," "Michel" for "Michael," and "Patrice" for "Patrick." One of the few given names I have not seen a French equivalent for is "Miles." But I have seen it entered in a record in its "Latin" form of "Milesius."
In compiling my databases and publications, my goal is to spell the surname the way that the living descendants spell it today. But for many Frampton Irish families, I have not had contact with living descendants. So in those cases I prefer to use spelling actually found on existing gravestones and absent that I have to adopt the spelling that I find to be most frequent in the records or the common spelling I find in the surname reference books that I own. So when I first make contact with living descendants, I have occasionally been using a spelling that they are not accustomed to.
So if all you have is that you are "Irish" and your surname is spelled a certain way, you might not be very successful in finding your Irish ancestors in Frampton or other parts of Quebec. I have even had some clients that believed that their "Irish" ancestors came from "England." This is because they found a U.S. census record for their ancestral families that listed the birth place or country of origin as "England" or "Great Britain." This mis-interpretation can be often made when it is not realized that "Ireland" really did not become independent from "England or Great Britain" until 1923. So cling to your name and Irishness, but don’t be surprised when the "family story" takes a few unanticipated turns during your research.
I have shared the names of my ancestors. I will now share the name of one of my descendants. My youngest grandson’s given name is "Kyan." This name originates from the Gaelic "Cian" which means ancient. Although, my daughter found this name independently from my research, I like to imagine that his name memorializes that of "Esmond Kyan" a famous leader of the Rebellion of 1798 in County Wexford that my great great great great grandfather Miles Murphy and several other Frampton Irish ancestors participated in.
Here are some of the surname reference books I have in my library that I consult:
The Book of Scots-Irish Family Names, Robert Bell, The Blackstaff Press, Belfast, 1988.
Book of Irish Names, First, Family & Place Names, Ronan Coghlan, Ida Gehan, P.W. Joyce, Sterling Publishing Co., Inc., New York, 1989. This source has a section on Irish given names with their origins and equivalents.
The Dictionary of Irish Family Names, Ida Grehan, Roberts Rinehart Publishers, Boulder, CO, 1997.