In the recent quest for deeper meaning in life a growing number of people are literally “digging for roots” searching out their genealogical origins. Last week Mary Tonklin and her husband Bill of California made a whirlwind tour of Lanark and Leeds Counties leaving tombstones straightened, searching through old records books and microfilm libraries meeting many new friends and old relatives and taking home quite a number of adventures to boot.
Their story in these parts begins in 1812 when Mary’s great-great-grandfather James Morrow (1791-?) a Scotsman fled from Ireland as a stowaway – in the hold of a cattle boat believing he had killed a man in a quarrel. En route he met and later married Mary McKinnon. (1790-1889) He entered the lumber business in the Ottawa Valley and they had many children. The sequel to the story was provided by Mary’s fourth cousin Gerald Morrow director of Morrow’s Funeral Home in Perth. He says that years later whileworking in the bush old James met up with the man he thought he had killed.
“How did you get here?” he asked in amazement. “Why I thought I had killed you and left the country” the man replied.
Mary Tonkin’s genealogical passion began in her mother’s house a dozen years ago and is now a briefcase full of charts and anecdotes she plans to publish with a cousin in Washington some day. She recently discovered that both her grandmother Martha Ann Knapp (b 1852) and her grandfather Joseph E Thorpe (b 1847) were bom in Perth Road Village although they never met until they emigrated to Colorado .
Mary found undeveloped photos of them both in an old camera of her father’s. The film had been in the camera more than 70 years when she had it developed. Years later Joseph and Mary’s son Walter W Thorpe (b 1880) married another Lanark County woman Jeannette Morrow, great-granddaughter of the original James Morrow.
Excited that so many family lines originated from this same seedbed Mary addressed a letter six weeks ago to “The Bureau of Vital Statistics Maberly (Perth?) Ontario”. In a brilliant stroke of quest for deeper meaning in life a growing number of people are literally “digging for roots” searching out their genealogical origins.
With great efficiency the post office delivered the letter to Maberly historian Duncan Miekle who immediately replied and began investigations for families named Morrow Knapp Thorne as well as Geddes and Mathieson. With these preparations Mary and Bill Tonkin came to Maberly .They had dinner with Duncan and Allison Miekle. They visited fourth cousin Gerald Morrow and his 91 -year-old grandfather Howard in Perth. They visited Howard’s 83-year-old sister Margaret Duffy and her daughter Marie Buchanan in Maberly.
Second cousin Margaret had “a striking resemblance to (Mary’s) mother” Jeannette Morrow both in her features and in her gestures. The Tonkins were both visibly moved by the warmth of this meeting. They also visited the Laidley Cemetery near Maberly where the tombstones of seven Morrows are still legible. In fact one of them in the oldest part of the cemetery at the top of the hill is that of great-great-grandmother Mary McKinnon wife of the original James Morrow. The top is broken off but the weathered inscription is still legible.
From there they went to the Township Archives in the Maberly Town Hall. Township secretary June Warwick hastily found a babysitter, opened up the hall especially for them and helped sort through stacks of ancient certificates of births marriages and deaths “What a goldmine of information!” mused ‘Mary as she jotted notes and made connections.
A number of mysteries were solved but what’s this? Another great mystery is found! The death certificate of “Elizabeth McKee Morrow died June 24 1915 age 83 years and seven months”. Her father was William McKee and her mother Margaret Woods. She must have been married to an unknown son of the original James Morrow. Who was she? Who was he? A whole new avenue for investigation search continues.
Unfortunately the Tonkins had not budgeted enough time to solve this and other mysteries at this time They had to press on to the National Archives in Ottawa before a reunion of the Thome family near Boston and thence to Tennessee. So the search continues. They still don’t know where when how (or if) old James Morrow died. Or how many children he had. Or where their descendants are today.
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