Jun 17, 2014

The McDougall Mystery

This is a long post - settle in!!

Background:  My 3d great grandfather, William McDougall, born 1815 in Delaware County, NY married Sarah Tucker, born 1810 in Delaware County, NY.  Their only daughter was named Persis.  Persis was my 2d great grandmother who married Anson Phelps.

Once again history has a way of laughing at us.  We have taken the writings of Colin McDougall in approximately 1929 as family gospel and assumed that the Wisconsin McDougalls began with William McDougall, Persis’ father, who was the son of Lachlan and Sarah (Ruthven) McDougall.

While there has been no DNA that we are aware of, it has been noted that a few genealogy trees and grave information indicate that William’s parents were Lachlan McDougall and Belinda Beals, not Sarah Ruthven.  Cousin Eileen and I have worked on this information quite a bit without much success to date.  The facts are as follows:

Census reports in Canada show the Ruthvens immigrating from Scotland to Elgin, Ontario, Canada in 1819.  Some records show that Lachlan McDougall and Sarah Ruthven were married abt 1820 and had two children, Neil (born 1822, who died at age 14) and Colin McDougall, born 1834.  An 1842 Canadian census shows William McDugale[sic] and his wife Sarah and states they have been married 23 years - putting a marriage date at 1819.  It really could be no earlier if Sarah was still in Scotland prior to 1819.

This gives Eileen and myself a genealogy puzzle.  If William was born in 1815, then who was his mother? It can’t be Sarah if she was in Scotland until 1819.  Most of the trees showing William and Sarah state (and indeed he reports on the 1860 census) that he was born in New York - not Canada like Neil and Colin. 

We know that William's grandfather father, Neil McDougall, died early and his son, Lachlan, went to New York to live with an uncle, Neil McKinnon, a prosperous wine merchant.  Lachlan received a good education and it is stated in Colin’s family history write-up that he left his uncle to make his own way and migrated to the Mohawk Valley in New York.  This could very well be the Delaware County area of New York, where it is said William worked as a school teacher and in the lumber business.  Several records show that Lachlan's son, William, was born in Masonville, Delaware County, New York.  While Colin reports that Lachlan then migrated into Canada in 1814, married Sarah Ruthven and had William in 1815, the facts do not support this scenario, especially since Sarah was not in the Americas prior to 1819, and never in New York.

Because other genealogy sources report that William McDougall’s mother was Belinda Beals, we have done quite a bit of research on this person.  There were indeed several Beals in Masonville, Delaware, New York where Lachlan was supposedly working in the 1815 timeframe, lending some credibility to the Belinda Beals information (since it cannot be Sarah Ruthven). One Beals gentleman had daughters, Lucinda and Linda, the older probably being too old to be a mother to William.  We can place no marriage to either of these ladies, nor any birth record for William in that area, no divorce or death of a Belinda Beals McDougall in that timeframe.  That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen - we just can’t find the records.  There is a tree that indicates that a Belinda Beals, born 1798 died in 1882 in Masonville, Delaware, New York, apparently unmarried.

Another curious thing about the William McDougall situation is that William was born in 1815 and the Colin who was supposed to be his brother was born in 1834.  That’s quite a time gap.  Another factor that would indicate that William and Colin were not full brothers is a cemetery transcription on Neil McDougall’s grave.  Neil is the boy born to Lachlan and Sarah in 1822 (7 years after William’s birth) and who died in 1837 at age 14.  We have found an entry in the New Glasgow Cemetery located in Alborough Township, Elgin County, Ontario, Canada which reads:

Sacred / to the memory of / Neil McDOUGALL / who died / Apr. 25, 1837 / aged 14 yrs 5 ms / ; 14 ds / Erected by his only brother / C. McDOUGALL/ [Emphasis added.]

Given the fact that Sarah Ruthven did not arrive in Canada from Scotland until 1819 and the 1842 census states they had been married 23 years, we believe Lachlan and Sarah married late 1819 or early 1820 in Canada, five or six years after William's birth.

A further curious situation are the names of the children of William and Sarah Tucker McDougall.  In nearly all cases for those early years, children were named after grandparents and after those names are used, then parents’ names are used, then uncles and aunts, etc.  William and Sarah named their children Justin, Edwin, Edward, Edgar, Persis, Levi and George.  None of these names are consistent with Lachlan and his ancestors.  Lachlan’s ancestors had names like Margaret, Colin, Robert and Neil.  In only one instance, William’s son George named a son Colin.  It seems quite evident that William was a stepson of Sarah Ruthven McDougall and half brother to Neil and Colin.

As for Persis’ name, a FamilySearch extracted record turns up the name of Rachel Cannon as Sarah Tucker’s mother.  In researching the name Rachel Cannon we have come up with a website exploring the Cannon family in and around the area of Cannonsville, Delaware County, New York - same county where William was born.  What is interesting is that one of the Cannons married a Persis of about the same age as Sarah Tucker’s mother.  This is possibly where William and Sarah got the name Persis for their only daughter - a trusted friend and/or neighbor.

The story goes from Colin's writings that when William McDougall (sometimes seen as McDougald) and Sarah Tucker were married in Canada in 1838, they took a honeymoon trip into Wisconsin, fell in love with the area and ended up settling there later.  However, the marriage occurred in Wisconsin and the History of Walworth County, Wisconsin, written by Albert Clayton Beckwith, published in 1912, states:

William McDougald, farmer, Sec. 29; P. O. Heart Prairie; has 175 acres of land; settled in Walworth Co. in the spring of 1837; he was born in Masonville, Delaware Co., N.Y., Nov. 20, 1815; is the son of Lochlin[sic] and Belinda (Beals) McDougald was brought up a farmer, and came to Wisconsin in 1837, arriving in Milwaukee March 31 of that year; he proceeded to Walworth Co. and made a claim in what is now Sugar Creek, at the land sales of February, 1839; he bought 240 acres in the town of LaGrange.  The following year he made his home on this land, Sec. 29, where he has continued to reside until this date; he was married in Muskego, Waukesha Co., Wis., May 10, 1838, to Miss Sarah Tucker, having to go to Milwaukee for the marriage license.  Mrs. McDougald was born in Tompkins, Delaware Co., N.Y., [and] went to Wisconsin with her aunt in August, 1836.

Since the paternal lineage is still in tact as far as we can tell, it is included in our family history as the family that married into the Phelps line when William and Sarah Tucker McDougall’s daughter, Persis, married Anson D. Phelps.

William and Sarah are buried in the Heart Prairie Cemetery in Walworth County, Wisconsin.  We find that several Beals also migrated to the same location in Wisconsin and records show they were from Delaware County, New York.  We're working on tying the Beals family to the McDougalls and hope to learn just who William's mother was.

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