Selected Excerpts from the McCabe List, 1829
Irish Workers on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

McCabe List

Painting by Ruth McMillan in 1976
Shows the Head of the Rideau Canal Locks in Ottawa, Canada in 1893

October 11, 2002:
Rideau Canal Workers, 1826-1832

A great many of the people of Ottawa and the Valley are descended from the original men who 
came to this area to build the Rideau Canal. "Is there a list of the Rideau Canal workers?" 
is a frequently asked question. The short answer is "no" but there are some resources 
available to check on individual names.

The most important document is a book by Dr. Bruce Elliott called "The McCabe List" 
(see link at top of this page). Published by the Ontario Genealogical Society, ISBN 1-55075-048-8, 
it lists 673 mostly Irish men who were in Bytown in 1829. 

It was discovered in the Archives in London, England around 1985, 153 years after the 
work on the canal was finished. For each man, it gives his County and parish of origin 
in Ireland, the number in his family, and names of some relatives back home in Ireland. 
It contains the names of both Catholic and Protestant men.

McCabe List - Early Irish in the Ottawa Valley, by Dr. Bruce Elliott
The book is available from the Ontario Genealogical Society (see and is also available in the Library of the Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society. What percentage of Irishmen in Bytown, working on the Canal, are represented on the McCabe List? Here's an example from my own family, which may be representative: The canal work covered the period from 1826 to 1832. The McCabe List petition was signed in February of 1829. Therefore, the men who came (new to Bytown) during the period March 1829 to 1832 are not included. My McGEE ancestors who came from County Armagh to South Gloucester are on the list, including several relatives who later came to Canada via chain migration. The spelling on the McCabe List is creative. McGee (as it is spelled now) is spelled McKee and Magee on the petition. Lawrence Burns, my GGGrandfather, can be Burn, Byrne or Byrnes. Terrence McGee came with a mini-migration from County Armagh. His relatives, the family of Patrick Hughes, ML#491) and several other families came together to Canada from Ireland. My CHRISTOPHER ancestors who came in 1830 from County Waterford are not on the List (too late). Patrick CHRISTOPHER worked on the canal, squatted on Canal ordnance land (1842 Nepean Census), and then bought land in Osgoode Township around 1845. Lawrence BURNS, also came around 1828 and is not on the McCabe List although he is on the 1828 Militia List (as Laurence O'Brien). He married Margaret DOYLE, my GGGrandmother, in 1831 at Notre Dame Church in Bytown and later settled in Osgoode Township. So, 1 out of 3 of my Irish Catholic ancestors who worked on the canal did not sign. Also, how many of the workers who were here in early 1829 did not sign? Other main sources for individual canal workers are church records, especially those close to the canal system, in early Bytown - Notre Dame Cathedral, Our Lady of the Visitation at South Gloucester, Fallowfield, Manotick, Kemptville and at least as far south as Smiths Falls. Also, there are early census records for most of the townships where canal workers settled. I'm presently (as time permits) trying to cross reference the names on the McCabe List to the early Irish pioneers listed on my web site at For example, Denis Shanahan from County Cork, is shown as #8 on the McCabe List petition. This man was also an 1823 "Peter Robinson" settler, an organized settlement process which brought hundreds of Irish immigrants to Huntley Township and some neighbouring townships in Carleton County. If you know that Paul Shanahan's number on the McCabe List is number 8, then you can enter the phrase "ML# 8" (including the quotation marks). Similarly, if you enter the surname Shanahan, you will find all Shanahan's listed on the bytown web site, and the fact that Denis Shanahan is on the McCabe List. One thing to remember - there are often multiple spellings for these Irish surnames, and Shanahan may also turn up as Shannon, Burns may be Byrnes, O'Byrne, etc. To get a listing (not complete yet) of most of the men on the McCabe List, enter the following three characters into the search engine: ML# This is a work in progress. ... Al The original complete list of petitioners is also available on microfilm at Library and Archives, Canada; The book by Professor Bruce Elliott is available in our Ottawa Branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society library at 100 Tallwood Drive, Call Number 971.38 ELL .

Extracts from "The McCabe List", a list of early (1829) Irish in the Ottawa Valley. The following couple of BURNS / BYRNES names have been extracted from the McCabe List. These were names which were signed on a petition to Colonel John By (Chief Engineer for the construction of the Rideau Canal, 1826-1832) to recommend potential Irish immigrants as being potential good settlers in the Ottawa area of Canada. County ... Parish ... Townland: A townland is the smallest administrative subdivision and can be a few acres to thousands of acres. A parish is made up of a certain number of townlands. It has nothing to do with the word 'town'. That comes from the 'Baile' part of the Irish of townland which is 'Baile fearainn'. The word 'baile' means home or homestead or village or town. Hence the misleading Anglicisation of the word to townland.
Here is another good resource for researching the Rideau Canal. The book Labourers on the Rideau Canal, 1826-1832: From Work Site to World Heritage Site, edited by Katherine M.J. McKenna, Borealis Press, Ottawa, 2008, ISBN 978-0-88887-355-2. It contains a chapter by Professor Bruce Elliott called Tracing Your Rideau Canal Ancestors: Records of Labourers, Squatters and Tenants on the Rideau Canal.
Here are a few excerpts: 5. SALTRY, William (X) ML# 85 Sligo Kilmacshargon Drummore 4 1 5 A brother-in-law Thomas Burns with a family resides in County Sligo, Town of Drummore, Parish of Kilmacshargon 111. BARRETT Thomas (X) ML# 111 Sligo Drommard Near Ballisadare 1 - 1 His father-in-law, named John Byrne, lives near Ballisadare in County Sligo. April 17, 2007: 142. BYRNES, John ML# 142 Wicklow Ballinulta Ballinulta 4 2 6 His father Matthew, with a very large family residing in Nakerumkal near Tinahaley County Wicklow, known to Abraham Jones Esq. 275. O'Byrne, Oliver - ML# 275 Queens Co. Ballyadam Athy The brother of this applicant resides at Athy in Queen's County. His name is Edward. He has a family and is known to Revd Mr. Wells. Probable brother to next named applicant. 316. Byrne, Edward ML #275 Queens Balladam Stradbally - 2 2 2 cousins to Edward Byrne reside at Stradbally in the Queen's County; their names are Michael and Patrick Brennan; they have families and are known to Mr. Welden. (this Edward Byrne died 1875, buried St. Mary's (now Our Lady of the Visitation) in South Gloucester - no marker. He was married to a TIERNEY) 461. BURNS, Michael (X) Wexford Temple Shambee Ballydaggan 2 3 5 This applicant has a brother, Patrick, having a family, also two brothers-in-law, Daniel Freeman and Thomas Freeman, they reside at Ballydaggan in the County Wexford. They are known to Thomas James Esq, of Bally Castle 573. BURN, Martin (X) Wexford Limerick Connyhill - - - His Brother-in-law with family reside at No. 7, Lough Lane, Dublin is in a distressed situation and prays the government will send them to Canada. Martin BURNS married Ellen GRAHAM (Notre Dame, Ottawa, records, in the Drouin collection at 612. BURNS, William (X) Kilkenny Castlecomer Tirody Colliery 5 2 7 His brother Patrick, and 3 brothers-in-law, Daniel, Patrick and William DOYLE all with families, all reside in Tirody Colliery. According to records at Notre Dame in Bytown, William Burns' wife was Judith DOYLE. Also, Lawrence BURNS (my family) married Margaret DOYLE in 1831 at Notre Dame, Bytown.
615. BURNS William Tipperary Durrough Clongown - - - His father, John Burns, has a family - he resides at Clongown in the County Tipperary and is known to Thomas Dovoy Esq of said place. Question: Did the descendants of this William Burns settle in the Fallowfield area of Nepean? Or was it William BURNS from Kilkenny (#612 above), who settled at Fallowfield ? April 17, 2007: 634. BYRNES, James ML# 634 Wicklow Rathdrum Tinahaley 1 2 3 His brother, Lorenzo, a man having a family, is known to Captain Morton of that place. "Captain Morton" was Captain James MORETON of the Rathdrum Infantry - see book by Professor Ruan O'Donnell on the 1798 rebellion in Wicklow. I believe that this James BYRNES (BURNS) lived and died in Hull, Quebec.
October 28, 2007: Here is a copy of an original part of the McCabe List petition. This is a very old document, written in Bytown in 1829, and this excerpt contains the entry for the above James Byrnes from County Wicklow: Other names on this partial list are James Hamilton, James Ryan, and William Kiernan.
January 23, 2008:
Miscellaneous McCabe List Signors
(This list will be updated intermittently during bad weather)
ML# 522 Patrick Battle and his brother John, both from County Mayo, were in Bytown in 1829. Little is known of them although both John and Patrick are mentioned in the church records of Notre Dame Cathedral, Patrick as late as 1844. ML# 528 Michael Cuddy / Cuddihy from Tipperary, and his wife, Margaret Kenny / Kenney, had a daughter baptized in 1830 at Notre Dame: Baptism of Ally, aged 1 day, lawful son of Michael Cuddy (ML# 528) and Margaret Kenney Sponsors were Edward Doherty (ML# 541, Tipperary) and Judith Coughlin ML# 567 Patrick Griffin. A large Griffin family came from County Cork in the 1820's, the matriarch being Judith, born c. 1790. Patrick married Mary Foley and Michael from next-door County Kerry married Mary Lyons. Some of the Griffins stayed in Bytown but Patrick moved to Osgoode Township with some other Cork families. They were related to the Stackpole family from Glanworth, County Cork who were also early settlers in Osgoode Township on the StageCoach Road. ML# 584 -- Francis Campbell (Cambell) from Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, died aged 36 in 1831. He died in Pontiac County (Clarendon Township) and is buried in Bytown. I believe that his wife was Catherine Neill / O'Neil and she gave birth to a daughter, Catherine, shortly after the death of her husband.

February 29, 2008:
Immigrants from County Waterford, Ireland, to South Gloucester, Ontario, before 1829
Hi Al and Mike - hope everything is well with you. Al you previously made a comment regarding all the Waterford immigrants in the McCabe list making mention of them knowing George O'Flynn and perhaps they all knew each other back in Ireland. I was searching the web recently looking for additional information on my Powers ancestors. I found the following making reference to a will in Ireland. " Will of Mary POWER of Dunhill Lodge, dated 11.7.1821 mentions sister Kate POWER of Granny, brothers Matthew and William, niece Anne POWER of Granny, cousins Catherine WALSH and George O'FLYNN, relatives Nano POWER and Mary POWER of Croan. 16.11.1821 Proved 19.10.1821" So this George O'Flynn had some ancestry into the Powers family. Interesting eh? Mary
May 3, 2008: James Bradley, ML# 13, from County Kilkenny, settled in Goulbourn Township. His wife was Ann Phillips.
April 18, 2011:
CULLEN, LYNCH and McGUIRE on the McCabe List Buckingham, Quebec area
Mark Cullen has done a lot of research regarding his Cullen ancestros(including John Cullen and Anthony Cullen). He's also researching the family of Patrick McClements and Sarah Lynch. He has sorted out some of the Lynch men who are on the McCabe List: Owen Lynch (ML# 359) was from Killinkere, the same Cavan parish as my John Cullen and Elizabeth Carolan. Peter McGuire (ML# 222) and his brother or cousin Francis (ML# 587) were from Knockbride, Cavan, about 10 kms north of Killinkere. I believe all these people knew each other well. And Owen Lynch's wife Mary McGuire may have been related to the other McGuires. All four were granted land in Templeton Township, Gatineau Valley, on December 10-12, 1827 through the efforts of Colonel By. See the location ticket register on page 196 of my book. In Owen's case, on December 12, 1827, he was issued a ticket for a grant of 100 acres on the south half of Lot 10, Range 6 in Templeton Township. The 1836 map of Templeton Township shows Lynch's land ownership. Two of his children were baptized at Notre Dame: : 13 Dec 1829, Catharine, at age 5 days; and 28 Feb 1835,James, at age 2 weeks. Four other children were baptized at St. Francois de Sales, Gatineau: John, born 14 Dec 1837; baptized 26 Feb 1838; godparents Thomas McClerone (sp?) and Catherine Cullen; Mary, born 10 January 1841; baptized 21 Feb 1841; godparents John Smith and Catherine Cullen. (The latter is likely my great great aunt) Francis Michael, baptized 6 July 1848 at age 3 months; godparents John Cullen and Ann McGovern (John is likely my ggg grandfather); and Melanie (I think this is Ellen), baptized 12 March 1851 at age 4 days; godparents Phillip Brady and Catherine Lynch In the 1842 census for Templeton, there is a listing for Owen. He is a farmer; he was living in Canada for 15 years (this would tie in with the Rideau Canal construction above); there were 6 inhabitants in his house, 2 born in Ireland and 4 in Canada; he had 10 acres of his land improved; the previous year he had produced 20 bushels of oats and 100 bu. potatoes; he had 1 cow and 2 hogs, but no horses - usually a sign of struggle. He's also listed in the 1851 census; by this time he had 200 acres and more land cleared. But he still had no horses. I believe Owen may have moved to the USA c. 1852. In Templeton at the time, there were several other Lynch families. (1) Peter Lynch (probably the same one as you mentioned) and Julia Corcoran family. Michael Lynch and Mary Smith; their son Thomas and his wife Mary McGovern; and Bernard and his wife Mary Karnenir (sp) I can find no listings in the 1861 census for any of these Lynches nor in any of my parish records after 1851. They may all have moved to the USA. Regards Mark Cullen
December 19, 2011: Here is a fascinating article by Deirdre McEvoy of County Down, Ireland, who has connected some of the families from Kilbroney Parish, County Down, who are listed on the McCabe List in 1829, to descendants here in Canada. Thanks very much for this material! Hi Everybody I only recently came across 'The McCabe List' and was fascinated to find amongst the list a Peter Sloan and a Bernard Magee, both from my home parish of Kilbroney (Rostrevor), County Down, Northern Ireland. I am an amateur genealgist and have a lot of one name databases on families who lived in this parish. I saw Bernard's name on the List and in my Magee database I have a Bernard Magee and Bridget Flanagan who had 3 children and then no more, which usually means that that couple emigrated. I was really pleased to see your posting on which confirmed my theory that the Bernard mentioned in the List is the same Bernard married to Bridget Flanagan. The reason why I had a Magee database is that many of the Magee descendents emigrated to America and they contacted me to see if I could find their ancestors. I also have a Sloan database for Kilbroney and I have the marriage of Peter Sloan and Mary Flanagan as well as the baptisms of some of their children. Mary and Bridget were most likely sisters families and it is more than likely that the 2 families emigrated together. Kilbroney parish had 2 Roman Catholic churches, one in Rostrevor and one in the sub parish of Killowen which is an area 2 – 3 miles north of Rostrevor village, right on Carlingford Lough. The Magee, Sloan and Flanagan families all lived in Killowen sub parish and they would have worshipped in the small church in Killowen but the baptismal, marriage and burial records are all in one amalgamated register for Kilbroney which are held in the church in Rostrevor. On 22 Jul 1824 Bernard Magee married Bridget Flanagan in Kilbroney parish. Witnesses : Owen Flanagan and Michael Killen Baptismal Date Child Parents Sponsors 28 Jan 1825 Ann Bernard Magee, Bridget Flanagan James Flanagan, Elizabeth Magee 7 Oct 1825 Patrick Bernard Magee, Bridget Flanagan Thomas Feran, Catherine Sheeky 5 Dec 1827 Mary Bernard Magee, Bridget Flanagan Bernard Cull, Mary Sloan Please note that the dates for the children are baptismal dates, not birth dates but according to Irish custom, they would have been baptised within 2 to 3 days of their birth. Also, Ann and Patrick would have been known as 'Irish Twins', i.e. both born in the same year but not at the same time!! This was a common enough occurrence. Elizabeth Magee, sponsor to Ann and a sponsor to Mary Magee (daughter of John) is most likely a sister of Bernard's. As Bernard is listed in the McCabe's list in January 1829, he must have left Ireland very soon after Mary's birth. The McCabe list also mentions brothers, a mother and 2 sisters for Bernard : Bernard MAGEE Down Kilbrony Postrover -/2/=2 Has 4 brothers, John, Michael, William and James, with their mother and 2 sisters; they live near Postrover; [Rostrevor?] known to Joseph Small Esquire of Kilowen [Killowen] There weren't too many Magees living in Kilbroney parish at that time and I believe that the following are Bernard's brothers (his brother John married 3 times, all wives called Catherine. He was supposed to have had 14 children but I can only account for 13. Not all children baptised were noted in the registers, due to clerical error). 9 Nov 1824 Wedding John Magee, Catherine Murphy Patrick Norris, Catherine Farrell John Magee married 3 times, all his wives were called Catherine. 17 Nov 1825 Mary John Magee, Catherine Murphy Peter Murphy, Elizabeth Magee 7 Dec 1827 Patrick John Magee, Catherine Murphy James Morgan, Mary Colgan Catherine Murphy Magee was buried in Kilbroney on 14 Mar 1829 John Magee, Catherine Mooney Catherine Mooney was buried in Kilbroney on 27 Jan 1841 24 Apr 1831 Peter* John Magee, Catherine Mooney Terence Mooney, Bridget Doran *Peter was buried in Kilbroney on 15 Nov 1839 17 Sep 1832 Michael John Magee, Catherine Mooney Daniel O'Hare, Alice Sloan 18 Jan 1835 Anne John Magee, Catherine Mooney James Reynolds, Mary Sloan 28 Dec 1836 Ellen John Magee, Catherine Mooney Michael Rorke / Rourke, Ellen McConville 20 Jun 1838 Thomas John Magee, Catherine Mooney Thomas Mooney, Rose Grant 13 Jan 1841 Peter John Magee, Catherine Mooney David Sloan, Bridget McGivern / McGovern 13 Apr 1841 Wedding John Magee, Catherine Kelly Patrick Kelly, Polly Sloan 17 Mar 1842 John John Magee, Catherine Kelly Patrick Kelly, Bridget Sloan 8 Jun 1843 Richard John Magee, Catherine Kelly John Sloan, Polly Sloan 27 Nov 1845 Bernard John Magee, Catherine Kelly Arthur Grant, Ann Sloan 16 Apr 1846 Ann John Magee, Catherine Kelly Edward Rorke / O'Rourke, Elizabeth Mulholland 16 Oct 1847 Catherine John Magee, Catherine Kelly John Sloan, Ann Magee 2 Apr 1827 Wedding William Magee, Alice Woods James Cull, John McCarthy 21 Apr 1828 Patrick William Magee, Alice Woods Michael McParlan, Alice Woods May 1830 ? William Magee, Alice Woods John Magee, Mary ? 16 Mar 1833 Ann William Magee, Alice Woods William Rorke, Mary Sloan 7 May 1838 Margaret William Magee, Alice Woods Edward Hughes, Margaret Reynolds 6 Sep 1841 Bernard William Magee, Alice Woods Edward Feran, Alice Sloan 27 Mar 1843 Mary William Magee, Alice Woods David Sloan, Mary Reynolds 7 Jul 1844 William William Magee, Alice Woods Henry Sloan, Ann Sloan 16 Nov 1846 Mary William Magee, Alice Woods Charles Sloan, Mary Hughes 16 Nov 1832 Wedding James Magee,Ann Morgan Thomas Sands, Henry Hill 7 Nov 1833 Jane Ann James Magee, Ann Morgan James Magee, Rose Morgan 21 Dec 1835 Margaret James Magee, Ann Morgan James Reynolds, Mary Magee 2 Nov 1838 Patrick James Magee, Ann Morgan David Sloan, Tom Magee 7 May 1839 Rose James Magee, Ann Morgan Bernard Sloan, Bridget Sloan 30 May 1841 Thomas James Magee, Ann Morgan John Rorke / Rourke, Alice Sloan 17 Jan 1843 John James Magee, Ann Morgan Patrick Kelly, Polly Sloan 15 Aug 1847 Mary James Magee, Ann Morgan Daniel Morgan, Rose Sloan Sep 1849 James James Magee, Ann Morgan Peter Magee, Mary Sands Sep 1851 William James Magee, Ann Morgan Michael Magee, Margaret Sands
8 Jul 1853 Ann James Magee, Ann Morgan William Sloan, Ann Reynolds The Kilbroney records only started in 1808 and the early records are very patchy but unusually there are burial records (not many Irish Catholic parish priests recorded burials). So, looking at the names of the first children of James, William, Bernard and John and going by the Irish traditional pattern of naming the eldest son after the paternal grandfather and the eldest daughter after the paternal grandmother, I would say that it was highly likely that Bernard's parents were named Patrick and Ann and here are the burial records for a Patrick Magee and his wife Ann (Nancy) Sloan. 18 Oct 1820 Patrick Magee (63) Husband to Nancy Sloan 18 Jul 1838 Nancy Magee (68) (Nee Sloan) Widow of Patrick Magee This would fit with Bernard's father not being alive in 1829 but his mother still quoted as being alive then. Both of these people were buried in Kilbroney cemetery, which is in the townland of Kilbroney and about a mile north of Rostrevor on the Hilltown Road. With regard to Peter Sloan and his wife Mary Flanagan, here is what I have on them : On 3 Feb 1811, Peter Sloan married Mary Flanagan in the parish of Kilbroney. Witnesses : Daniel Sloan, Bryan Flanagan (Note: Bryan / Brian in those days was a nickname for Bernard). Baptismal Date Child Parents Sponsors 12 May 1812 Margret Peter Sloan, Mary Flanagan James Cull, Mary Flanagan 7 Mar 1814 Elenor Peter Sloan, Mary Flanagan John Roarke, Mary Roarke / Rourke 7 Apr 1816 Patt Peter Sloan, Mary Flanagan Peter Connel, Mary Sloan 24 Nov 1819 Mary Peter Sloan, Mary Flanigan Peter? Sloan, Bridget Flanigan 31 May 1825 Bernard Peter Sloan, Mary Flanagan James Cull, Mary Brennan There is a large gap between 1819 and 1825, so there may have been at least 2 children born to this couple who are not in the baptismal register. As I mentioned earlier, there are many children missing from these registers due to reasons unknown. It is more than likely that Peter and his family emigrated with Bernard and his family c. 1827 / 1828. Unlike the Magees, Kilbroney was and still is full of Sloans so it would be very hard to link them up. The List does mention a nephew Peter Sloan living in Kilbroney but there were quite a lot of Peter Sloans living there at the time so it would be hard to know who was the right one. I hope the above is of some help to you and if you have any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me. Kind regards Deirdre McEvoy
July 3, 2016: Free access to the 1829 McCabe List, early Irish in the Ottawa area, is available for free today, July 3, 2016 at Thanks to Malcolm Moody from Archive CD Books Canada for letting us know about this! Here is the URL to go directly to the original McCabe List: ... Al
New June 13, 2019: Below is a useful diagram / graphic showing the distribution of Irish men, by county of origin in Ireland, at the Rideau Canal in 1829. This drawing is before page one on the book "The McCabe List": Early Irish in the Ottawa Valley.

E-mail Allan Lewis

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