A family history researcher needs to remember that not all is as it seems. Often multiple people can have the same name and distinguishing between them can be a mystery as exciting as the crime shows one watches on TV.
With great anticipation I opened the envelope eagerly looking to see what it contained. Recently I had phoned a name I had found on a note to a great aunt who had passed away several years ago. The person was Donna O’Dean and she was a very knowledgeable family historian with roots in the McNabb family that was my current interest. She had promised to send me some information that would be of interest and I was very excited to see what she was sharing.
To my astonishment Donna provided me with a long line of relatives that carried her family tree into the middle of the 18th Century, as well as a history of her travels in Scotland searching for the story of the McNabb Clan in general. The envelope was a gold mine of interesting material.
I was thrilled to see that she had a spot on her family tree for a man named Thomas McNabb who was born in 1840 in Melancthon Township. She did not have much information about him, but the similarity in birth year and location was enough for me to make the leap that he was the same person as my great great grandfather and in one package I had extended my family research back 100 years!
As I dug further into the envelope I uncovered a picture of Thomas along with his brother, nephew and great nephew. That was a fantastic find. It was a very good picture and even as a copy something that I would treasure in my collection.
Soon after that I received an email with an attachment from a distant cousin who was the granddaughter of the same great aunt whose correspondence had caused me to contact Donna. She sent me a picture of her grandmother`s that showed Thomas, my great great grandfather, with his daughter, Violet Jane, and his granddaughter, Millie. Again it was an excellent photo that I was glad to receive.
The two pictures, however, were troubling. It was clear that the two people were not the same Thomases and our family trees did not connect at Thomas. So much for extending my family tree so easily!
Upon more investigation I was able to learn a little about each of these men whom I named the Larmour Thomas and the O’Dean Thomas after the two ladies who brought the men to my attention.
The Larmour Thomas was my great great grandfather and the husband of Charlotte Robbins. Numerous references to the family in various censuses clearly show the family develop in Simcoe County, Ontario, mostly in Rama Township. It became useful to see that in the 1901 census Thomas and Charlotte had a young boy named Jack McPhee living in their home. That information would become useful later as I identified the correct death record.
Thomas and Charlotte lived at Cooper’s Falls, Rama Township, for many years. They raised their family there and many of their grandchildren were born there. This is the place of the stories which I had heard from my grandmother. The McNabb farm was located at Concession N, Lot 13 and this address was found on Charlotte’s death record. On Thomas death record his residence was listed as Concession N, Lot 2. This was the address of Jack McPhee, the same name as the young boy who had been raised in the McNabb household. Further reading of the death record indicated that Jack McPhee was the informant of the death and that he recorded himself as the “adopted son” of Thomas. Such an interesting find! One more piece of evidence on this record is that Thomas birth place was recorded as being “the USA”. That was in contradiction to family lore which had him born in Orangeville, Ontario. Troubling, but I guess it is always good to have one more clue to search for.
From this I deduce the Larmour Thomas is the person for whom I have been looking and that he was the person married to Charlotte Robbins.
The O’Dean Thomas has been more difficult to learn about. In 1837 he was born in Rosemont, Melancthon Township, Dufferin County, to Robert McNabb and Ann Campbell. During the 1870’s he apparently moved to Michigan with his family, but soon afterward returned to Canada to work in the woods. Likely this would have caused him to move to northern Simcoe County or Muskoka district where the timber industry was established. In 1907.08.12 he married Anne Hummerson in the Township of Perry, Parry Sound District. The two people were living in Novar at the time. On the wedding record Thomas says that he was married before, but I have not yet located a marriage record for that marriage. Charlotte Robbins had passed away earlier in 1907, but she had been living in Cooper’s Falls at the time and the O’Dean Thomas lists Novar as his residence at the time of marriage. It is very unlikely that he can be the person who was married to Charlotte.
While I have much to learn about these two men I am certain they are different people. The Larmour Thomas was married to Charlotte Robbins and the O’Dean Thomas was the son of Robert McNabb (1818) and Anne Campbell (1824).
Note: In searching for clues about one`s ancestors a person has to be careful not to jump to conclusions. Like a detective in a great novel, a family historian has to stick to “the facts, ma`am, just the facts.”