A Genealogy Happy Dance

Video by Cyndi Ingle.

I spent the past two weeks in Salt Lake City on my annual research trip in search of my ever-elusive ancestors. This year’s target was my mom’s Finlay line. My mother was born Phyllis Adele Finlay on 10 January 1928 in Long Branch, NJ. Here’s a snippet from her pedigree:

I have previously written about my great-grandfather Richard Finlay. On this trip, I was looking for more information about Richard’s father Richard Finlay. I had previously found his probate record in Toronto, Ontario, Canada, where he died in 1854. But before this trip little else had come to light. And I’ve been searching for these people since the 1980s. Early on in my search, I found the biography of Richard, the son, in the Memorial and Biographical Record of Turner, Union, Lincoln, and Clay Counties, South Dakota.

Memorial and Biographical Record of Turner, Union, Lincoln, and Clay Counties, South Dakota (Chicago: Geo. A. Ogle & Co, 1897).

 

The bio was most likely provided by Richard, himself, as there are too many details for someone else in South Dakota to have provided. It says his father died in Toronto in 1854, while his mother (Mary Stewart Finlay) died in 1880 (but I have yet to discover any more about her than what is included in the probate file).

So on this trip, I focused on trying to find the burial place of Richard Finlay (Sr.). After unsuccessfully checking myriad cemetery transcription books from Markham Township, York County, Ontario, I decided to try Toronto burial locations. I had searched first in Markham because Richard and his family had lived there for at least a decade before they moved into Toronto. Searching on FamilySearch.org, I found a number of references to Toronto burial grounds, which were searchable and available to view online. What a magnificent service the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is providing to family historians by posting indexed online images on its website! I’ve had many wonderful discoveries because of these online images.

Searching for Richard Finlay, I quickly found what I was looking for in the burial records of Toronto Necropolis Cemetery:

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989, Necropolis Cemetery, Volume 1, 1849-1857, FamilySearch.org.

 

This is the point where the Genealogy Happy Dance above (see video) occurred. I was sitting in the Family History Library across from my friend Cyndi Ingle and she captured my glee at this discovery. It was exciting because the record gives his age, 60 (born ca. 1794), and birthplace as Ireland! Certainly not proof, but more than I had before. He is buried in the plot of his son-in-law Andrew Robinson.

A little further digging in the search engine for the Toronto Trust Cemeteries revealed that Richard’s daughter Sarah was buried in Toronto Necropolis Cemetery in May 1854, only 3 months before her father died. She was the wife of Andrew Robinson; the couple had only been married 14 months.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989, Necropolis Cemetery, Volume 1, 1849-1857, FamilySearch.org.

 

In addition, one of Richard’s sons-in-law, John Stuart (husband of Susanna Finlay), is buried in the same plot.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989, Necropolis Cemetery, Volume 1, 1849-1857, FamilySearch.org.

 

One more enlightening discovery was found in the Toronto Trust Cemeteries search engine, but at the Potter’s Field Burial Ground (also called York General Burying Ground) in Toronto. This discovery is possibly Richard’s other son (in the bio above, it is stated that Richard Jr. was the youngest of two sons and four daughters). I am hopeful that William is the other son because if that’s the case, then Richard Jr. most likely named his only son (my grandfather) for his brother who died at age 12.

Ontario, Toronto Trust Cemeteries, 1826-1989, Potter’s Field Cemetery 1826-1855, FamilySearch.org.

 

These discoveries allowed me to flush out the Finlay family tree, bringing collateral lines forward well into the twentieth century. Where I had previously only known the possible names of three of Richard Finlay’s six children, I am now hopeful I know five of the six. I’m still missing the name of one daughter, but she may yet be found.

My next step is to try to figure out where in Ireland Richard Finlay came from.  At least two of his children were born in Ireland, so most likely Richard and Mary were married there, probably in Northern Ireland.

The moral of this story is to check and recheck and then check again all possible sources–online, print, and manuscript–when your ancestors continue to stump you. As more and more records are digitized and indexed in online databases, you may be able to break down that brick wall.

 

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© 2017, Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens, CG. All rights reserved.

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