My Woolley & Neil Ancestors

Caroline Woolley ca.1865 In the archives of the Anglican Diocese of Montreal, there are records of the baptism in St. George's, Granby, for two children of my 2-greats-grandparents Randall Woolley & Marianne Neil: my great-grandmother Caroline Amelia 15 June 1842, and Charles 23 July 1845. There are marriage records for four: Mary Anne to John Coupland 7 December 1850, Randall to Anna Latimer 14 September 1860, Rosanna to George J Cameron 11 June 1863, and Caroline Amelia to Henry Baker 14 March 1865. Randall & Marianne are buried in St. George's graveyard.

The elder Randall appears in the 1831 census of Granby Township, with wife, two children under 5 and three between 5 and 14; his brother Frederick, who married Marianne Neil's sister Sarah, appears only in the 1871 census, and on the Walling map of 1864. In censii, Mary Anne (Woolley) Coupland stated that she was born in Ireland in 1825, while Randall Jr said he was born in Quebec in 1829. So, the family must have arrived during the intervening four years, with at least three children. Family records note that their parents were James Neil and Mary Bull and that Marianne had a younger brother Samuel. I am grateful to Mylene English-Edwards for the information that this Neil family originated from Co Monaghan and that Marianne had an elder brother John (her direct ancestor).

No matter what their station in life, they were lucky to leave Ireland when they did. The famine and disease following the failure of the Irish potato crop in 1821 steadily worsened. By the 1830's, evictions by absentee landlords left thousands of starving families confined to the roads or crammed into abandoned structures; by the 1840's it was millions. They were also lucky to survive the trip to Canada - the death rate then from disease for emigrants from Ireland to Quebec City averaged 10% (by 1847, it peaked at 17%). And, these are the official figures. A typical difference between official books and reality was a ship built to carry lumber from Canada to England, then to be broken up for the lumber with which it was built. It was bought instead by a broker, to return to North America with 32 berths crammed into the lumber hold which, on surprise inspection at departure, were found to contain 276 emigrants, almost none of whose names appeared on any record anywhere. Obviously, such ships were more likely to lose a battle with a storm enroute than were well managed ones, hence to not appear in Canadian records at all. It was also common for ships to pass the rudimentary port inspection at departure, call at a remote spot to load many more passengers, then dump the excess who had not died during the voyage, especially the sickest, on some unoccupied coast of the St.Lawrence before arrival at Quebec City.

Two of Randall & Anna Woolley's sons married Neil girls, as did my Uncle Fred Wallace, and one of the Watson girls married a Neil as well. Most in the Granby area belonged to one of two families; I am related to all of them in one way or another. And, through Mary Anne Woolley, sister of my great grandmother Caroline, I am related to all the Couplands there as well.

Sankey of Ottawa
Ancestral Names
other notes on family history