James CREGAN and Mary MURPHY
County Meath to Bytown to Rigaud, Quebec
July 7, 2005:
I have just come across your very interesting web site and piece on
old cemeteries in the Ottawa area. If I might, I would like to add a
bit of anecdotal information. I've been researching an Irish branch
of my family for a number of years. The surname that I am
researching is spelled CREGAN today, however, it was spelled a number
of different ways in the past. I mention this because for a good
part of the time that I have been researching this family, I was
convinced that this was a family that migrated directly from Ireland
to southwestern Quebec (more specifically to Rigaud, which is some
sixty miles east of Ottawa, just across the Quebec-Ontario border in
the county of Vaudreuil). However, after establishing contact with a
relative that I never knew I had, living in the Los Angeles area of
California), I discover that my CREGAN ancestor (James CREGAN)--who
is also my Los Angeles cousin's ancestor--came to Canada in or around
1828, or possibly a little earlier, but obviously not before 1826, to
work on the Rideau Canal. It seems, in fact, that he and his wife
Mary MURPHY (wouldn't you know that there would be a MURPHY
involved in this) had a child while in the Ottawa area. This child,
by the name of James, it appears, died before 1929, and again,
according to my Los Angeles cousin, who bases this on a story told
him by his grandfather, one Thomas CREGAN, was buried where the
Parliament Buildings now stand. When first I heard the story of the
burial place, I thought it was nonsense. It sounded too much like
the proverbial story to the effect that John A. MacDonald or George
Washington slept in this house and in this bed. Now, I discover from
your web site that there was indeed a cemetery on Parliament hill.
I should perhaps doubt less, but doubting is a function of my pro-
I could go on to mention that James Cregan and Mary Murphy resolved
around 1829 to return to Ireland, so fed-up were they with the
malaria in the Ottawa area, and the general exhaustion and dirt
associated with work on the canal. However, on their way down the
Ottawa river, James met his brother Thomas, who was coming to join
him. Thomas convinced his brother James that there was no future for
them in Ireland, and both resolved to settle in a rapidly forming
Irish settlement on the southern slopes of Rigaud mountain. And the
rest is history.
I have a few questions for you:
1. Are there any chances of finding the names of the buried in the
Parliament Hill cemetery? It would be nice to discover the burial
record of James, jr.
2. My CREGAN ancestor is mentioned in the McCabe list under the name
CREEGAN, which is phonetically correct. The entry in the McCabe list
reads: "Applicant #438 CREEGAN James (X) of Meath, Garlands Town,
Slane. This applicant has an uncle James Creegan, with a very large
family [and] resides at Slane[, ] County Meath, he is known & can be
recommended by Lord Cunningham." Date: February 5th, 1829. NOTE:
"Garlands Town" should perhaps read "Carlanstown."
3. Is it possible to find out more on people mentioned on the McCabe
list in government archives? I would not mind making a trip up there,
provided I know where to look and what to look for.
In any case, many thanks for you very interesting web site and
especially the piece on the cemeteries.
Hello Mr. Poirier:
Thanks for your e-mail. It's very interesting.
Here is a birth record from Notre Dame Church in downtown Ottawa:
26 Oct 1829
Baptism of Elizabeth, aged 15 days, lawful daughter of James Craigan / Creegan
and of Mary Murphy
Godparents: Patrick Garvey and Bridget Slaven / Slavin
Angus McDonell, P.P. (Parish Priest)
Source: Ellen Paul.
No doubt the death of James Jr. would be recorded at this church. Unfortunately,
the early records are not in good shape -- there are lots of entries not recorded
prior to about 1831. After that time the clergy seems to have been more careful
about their record-keeping.
I believe that most of the Roman Catholics who are on the McCabe List of 1829
knew each other, lived and worked together, and their families intermarried to
a remarkable degree.
Here's an example: One of the Godparents mentioned above was Bridget Slavin.
I believe (would have to check the records) that she married William Downey who
is also on the McCabe List. My GreatGreatGrandfather's family was connected
to the Downeys, as after the canal construction in 1832, these men scrambled
to acquire farms and begin family lives. They were all looking to get away
from the canal labourer scene in Bytown -- not just the dirt and disease, but
also they wanted to escape unemployment and the everyday violence.
The Downey and Burns families pioneered, with many other McCabe List men, on farms
in the Ottawa area.
Going back to Bridget Slavin. If you go to my Slavin page, you will find
some correspondence about this early family, including an e-mail from a person
named Cregan who may be related to you. It was a very small community in the
canal days of Bytown.
I'm wondering if there was also a mini-migration of these men to the from Bytown
to the Rigaud area. Your Cregans may have part of it. Many people left Bytown
and Montreal to get away from the cholera epidemic of 1832. They fled to the
countryside and more than one family ended up on farms on the north shore of
the Ottawa River in Lower Canada.
This is very interesting stuff. If you go to my main web page at www.bytown.net,
near the top you will find a search engine. Early on I thought that it would be
useful to be able to trace these McCabe List men -- if you do a search for ML
using the search engine, you will find some of the names on the McCabe List.
I have since stopped using this designation (on the web site) but am still
collecting info on these pioneers - just not adding it to the web site.
Most of the McCabe List folks, both Catholic and Protestant, are recorded
in the early church records of which I have some. They mainly settled
in very specific communities and show up in later Census records. Many of these
men were still alive even at the time of the 1881 census.
Would you mind if I set up a new web page on my site for James Cregan and
include your e-mail as a contact for other Cregan / McCabe List researchers?
James Cregan was part of our pioneer community and we may hear from other
researchers. Please let me know.
While you are at the search engine, you might try also finding the surname
Garvey (another Godparent from above). He is no doubt further connected.
Patrick Garvey (ML# 437) from County Longford is next to James Cregan on the
I have a hunch there are Garveys along the north shore of the Ottawa River,
possibly in the Buckingham area.
Thanks again for this.
... Al Lewis
reply from Mr. Poirier:
"If you think that it can be of help, yes, you can
mention my name as a Cregan researcher, and associate it
the James CREEGAN from the McCabe list. What is missing
is their ancestors in Ireland. My goal is to trace the
the family in Ireland. By the way, it seems that the two
Murphy girls were sisters to "the giant Murphy," i.e., a
very tall Murphy who made the news in Ireland and Europe
in the early years of the 19th Century owing to his height.
Best wishes, and I may be back to you with questions.
Feel free to contact me for information."
... M.W. Poirier
E-mail M. W. Poirier and Al Lewis
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