BYRNES / BURNS in 1800's Ottawa
also, Other Emigrants from County Wicklow, Ireland
November 18, 2007:
When I first began research on my Burns ancestors (Ireland to Bytown in the 1820's),
it quickly became apparent that there were more Burns in our region in the 1800's than any
other Irish surname. More than the Murphys and Kellys. Murphy and Kelly are the
two most common surnames in Ireland. How come there are so many Burns in the Ottawa area?
An old family story was that my first Burns to come to Canada settled first in the
hinterland townships of the north shore of the St. Lawrence River, inland from Prescott
and Brockville. A great number of Burns came to that area from County Wicklow. County
Wicklow was the home of the O'Byrne Clan in Ireland. By the early 1800's, they were a
mixture of Catholics and Protestants and began emigrating to eastern Ontario.
From Prescott and Brockville, it was an easy jump to settle along the Rideau Canal
as far north as Bytown, drawn by work opportunities on building the Canal, starting
Recent research by Anne Burgess has shown that many of these Byrnes came to spell
their surname as BURNS in succeeding generations. Most of the Burns in the Ottawa
area came here from southern County Wicklow and the north of County Wexford, NOT from
Scotland or Tipperary.
Also, between 1847 and 1855, many Byrnes / Burns families came from the Fitzwilliam
Estate of County Wicklow to join earlier Wicklow arrivals to the Ottawa area.
See below, for example, two families from County Wicklow, where the spelling was changed
from Byrne or Byrnes in Wicklow to Burns in Canada:
1. Jeremiah Byrne, Catholic, 1818 Military Settler in Goulbourn Township and
2. John Byrnes, Protestant, McCabe List (ML# 142) .
If your ancestors were in the Ottawa area, or in Eastern Ontario, and came from County
Wicklow in the 1800's, we'd like to hear from you.
E-mail Anne Burgess and Al Lewis
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