#52Ancestors: William Jewett McNamara Immigrates from Canada with Younger Siblings in 1852

William Jewett McNamara
Courtesy of the Jewett Family of America.

My 52nd and final entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 52nd ancestor is my husband Jeff’s 3rd great grandfather William Jewett McNamara (1834-1911).

William Jewett immigrated to the U.S. at the age of 18 with his five younger siblings in tow. They set sail on the Sch. Albatros [sic] from Horton (now Hortonville), Nova Scotia, Canada, and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts on 27 August 1852.

On the ship’s list, it looks like William identified his occupation as a seaman.

Traveling with William Jewett are: Elizabeth (age 12), Mary (age 10), James (age 8), and Margaret (age 6). Older brother Thomas (20 at this time) is absent from the passenger list, meaning he did not travel with his siblings.

McNamara William Jewitt - Ship List - Albatros - web
Courtesy of Ancestry.com. Click image for larger view.

When I first encountered this record, I dismissed it, because I couldn’t figure out why William would be immigrating with his younger siblings. But it kept showing up in Ancestry as a hint for all five siblings. So I took at closer look at the family, and noticed that their parents were dead by this time. Mother Lucy Perkins Jewett (1812-1850) died in 1850, and father William McNamara (1795-1851) followed suit in 1851. It appears that 18 year old William Jewett has assumed the role of head of the family and was now parent to 4 younger siblings.

This analysis prompts even more questions. Had older brother Thomas already immigrated to the U.S.? And why? If he was still in Nova Scotia, why wasn’t he — as the oldest son — functioning as head of the family after their parents died? Why did this role fall on his younger brother William?

By the time of the 1860 U.S. Census, William Jewett McNamara (age 26) had emigrated all the way across the country, settling in newly formed (1853) Humboldt County, California, where he would spend the rest of his life.

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#52Ancestors: My Great Grandmother Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara Died 43 Years Ago Today

My 48th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 48th ancestor is my great grandmother Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971), who went by the name Viola. I have mentioned Viola in posts about her father, mother, brother, and mystery half-brother, but I have never actually profiled my great grandmother. Since today marks the 43rd anniversary of her death, I thought it appropriate to introduce Great Grandmother Viola.

Viola Mara
My mom has had this photo on display in her home.

I am named after my great grandmother; my parents gave me Viola’s middle name Elizabeth as my own middle name. Thankfully, Mom did not name me after any of her grandmother’s other names — Viola, Agnes, or Maud. Viola Elizabeth is the only name by which Mom knew her grandmother. She was surprised when I uncovered that long list of legal names when I found Viola’s birth certificate a number of years ago.

Birth & Childhood

Viola was born 21 February 1893 in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were Thomas Mara (b. 1858) and Anna Sophia Allen (b. 1871). She and her younger brother William James Mara (1894-1952) immigrated with their mother to the United States (Michigan) sometime around 1898. I have not yet found a border crossing record or a naturalization record for Viola, her mother, or her brother. I do not think her father Thomas came with the family.

From what I can tell about her mother’s shady past, Viola and William must have had a difficult upbringing and unstable home. I have not found the family on the 1900 or 1910 U.S. Census; it is like their mother Anna Sophia was living off the radar. Viola does not surface until the 1920 U.S. Census, when she was 27, married, and a mother.

Viola Mara's birth certificate
Viola’s birth certificate, courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Marriage & Children

Viola married my great grandfather James Bruce Hayes (1888-1970) on 02 January 1912 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. She was 18, he was 23. Viola and Bruce had nine children together, eight of whom reached adulthood. My grandmother Elsie Charlotte Hayes (1926-1992) was the seventh child. Bruce and Viola spent their marriage living in Royal Oak and Southfield, Michigan (both in Oakland County).

After Bruce divorced Viola, she moved out to Santa Fe Springs (Los Angeles County), California to live with her oldest son Bill and care for his children, and to be near my grandmother and Grandma’s older sister Cassie. I am told that I met Viola as a baby (I was not quite 2 years old when she died), but I do not have any memory of her or any photos with her.

Viola Mara, late in life
Viola, much later in life.

Death & Burial

My great grandmother Viola died on 06 December 1971, in Los Angeles County, California. It may have been in Santa Fe Springs, where she lived with her oldest son Bill (near my grandmother Elsie), but none of the records I have specify more than the county.

She is buried at Rose Hills Memorial Park in Whittier (Los Angeles County), California.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandmother Annie Sophia Allen Charged with Fraud and Deception in Divorce

My 47th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I am almost caught up after being quite ill for much of this year.

Annie Sophia Allen birht register
Birth register from Ancestry.com.

My 47th ancestor is my 2nd great grandmother Anna “Annie” Sophia Allen (b. 1871).

My mother knew Annie when Mom was a very young girl in Michigan, and she and her siblings refer to their great grandmother as “Mamie Grandma”. She was the mother of my great grandmother, Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971) and my great grand uncle William James Mara (1894-1951). Annie also gave birth to an older son out-of-wedlock, Herbert Gerald Allen (b. 1889), who does not appear to have been raised by Annie.


Annie was born 17 September 1871 in Rockwood, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Her parents were William Barnabas Allen (1845-1916), a blacksmith from Rockwood, and his wife Lucy Jane Allen (1846-1931). The  birth was registered 5 October 1871, in Eramosa District, by the doctor.

I have identified six siblings for Annie; I think she was the second oldest.

First Marriage & Divorce

In my last post, I wrote about Annie’s marriage to and divorce from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (b. 1858), as well as a possible explanation (extreme cruelty) for why she immigrated to Michigan with their two young children Viola and William (without husband Thomas) around 1900.

Second Marriage & Divorce

I also mentioned that Annie remarried on 03 December 1902 to a John Carr, the day before her divorce to Mara was issued (if it was even ever finalized).

Annie and John Carr divorced almost exactly 11 years later, on 08 December 1913 in Wayne (Wayne County), Michigan. They do not appear to have had any children together. Seeing the claim of extreme cruelty as the reason for her divorce from Thomas Mara made me curious about the reason for divorce from John Carr. It turns out that Annie is not the one who filed for divorce. Carr filed for divorce from Annie, on the grounds of “fraud and deception”!, which went uncontested by Annie! Unlike the ambiguous register entry for Annie’s divorce from Thomas Mara, this one clearly indicates that Carr’s divorce from Annie was granted.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Divorce - Ancestry
Divorce register entry for Allen and Carr. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Fraud and deception??? Remember… I have not yet found any proof that a divorce from Thomas Mara was ever finalized. The only record I found for that first divorce showed the divorce stats as “pending”.

I decided to take a closer look at the marriage entry again for Annie and John Carr. The register entry shows one previous marriage noted by Annie (I had assumed that was to Thomas Mara). Interestingly, her father’s name is noted, but her mother’s name is recorded as “unknown”. But even more interesting are the surnames given by Annie. She identified herself as “Annie S. Allen” (her maiden name), but also as “Annie S. James”. James??? What is this James surname? Mara was her first married name.

Did she marry someone with the last name of James in between Mara and Carr? Which would be really odd since she (I think) divorced Mara one day after marrying Carr. And even if another intermediary marriage did take place, that would make two previous marriages instead of just the one she noted on the record.

Was Annie lying about her first married name, claiming it was James instead of Mara? Perhaps knowing that she was not legally divorced yet from Mara, so she didn’t want anything linking her to last name Mara at this time? Although, I assume her kids went by Mara.

Allen Annie Sophia - Carr John - Marriage - Web - FamilySearch
Marriage register entry for Annie and Carr. Courtesy of FamilySearch.org.

Whatever the reason is behind this claim by Annie of James as her first married name, it definitely looks like she was trying to deceive her new husband John Carr and/or legal authorities. This has suddenly turned into a priority family line for me to research further! My hope is that Annie was not intentionally deceiving new husband John Carr or the authorities…that her cause for filing for divorce from John Mara (extreme cruelty) had Annie scared and trying to hide from Mara…a battered woman on the run, hiding her real identity.

Shady Lady

Mom has often told me that Mamie Grandma had a lot of gentlemen callers and friends (I think her own mom told her that). We were never quite sure what exactly to make of that remark. But Mom and I would joke about it, commenting that perhaps her Mamie Grandma was a prostitute or madame. When I started digging up the family history and pestering my grandmother’s one remaining living sibling with questions, Mom told me not to bring this up with my great aunt…it might be a sensitive subject with that generation.

And this was before we knew about the child she gave birth to at seventeen.

Accidents and tough times have and will always happen to women. Annie may have been desperately in love with illegitimate son Herbert’s father, then left abandoned and heartbroken when he found out she was pregnant. She may have suffered abuse from my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara . Both incidents may have left her vulnerable, emotionally scarred, and desperate. Or my 2nd great grandmother might simply have been lacking in any moral character….a floozy and a fraud. I am not judging her. I just think these findings are amusing and make for great storytelling.

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#52Ancestors: 2nd Great Grandfather Thomas Mara Charged with Extreme Cruelty in Divorce

My 46th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

I am almost caught up after being way behind most of this year due to illness.

Mara Coat of ArmsMy 46th ancestor is my 2nd great grandfather Thomas Mara (1858-1916). Thomas Mara was married to my 2nd great grandmother Anna Sophia Allen (b. 1871), with whom he had two children: William James Mara (1894-1952) and my great grandmother Agnes Viola “Viola” Elizabeth Maud Mara (1893-1971).

In doing a bit of research recently on Anna Sophia Allen, I took a closer look at the marriage and divorce records for my 2nd great grandparents.

Thomas and Anna Sophia married on 6 June 1892 in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. Thomas, a widow, was 34 years of age, worked as a machinist, and was a member of the Church of England. Anna Sophia, single (labeled spinster!), was 20 years of age, and was a member of the Methodist church. Anna had already given birth to illegitimate son Herbert Gerald Allen in 1889.

Not surprisingly, there isn’t even any place for a profession to be listed for the bride in this 1890s marriage register.

Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record
Thomas Mara & Anna Sophia Allen Marriage Record. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

Anna Sophia and Thomas divorced on 4 December 1902. The divorce decree was issued in Michigan, where Anna lived at the time with her children William (age 8) and Viola (age 9). I don’t think Thomas ever immigrated with them to the United States; I find no record of him living here. And I always wondered why Thomas did not immigrate with his wife and children.

It was a closer look at this divorce record (the divorce register, not the actual certificate or court case) that caught me off guard, and perhaps provided an answer to my own question about why Thomas did not immigrate to the U.S. with his family. Sophia was the claimant in the divorce, and filed for it 12 August 1902 under the grounds of “extreme cruelty”. Thomas did not contest the divorce. Sophia’s allegations can lead one to assume that she and the children fled from a violent Thomas.

The register entry is a bit confusing. It indicates that the divorce was still “Pending” at the end of the year. Note how records above and below show a “Granted” status and are not crossed out like the pending ones. This is the only divorce record I find for them. Perhaps there is another corrected entry or follow-up entry somewhere, but I have not found it yet.

Mara Thomas Allen Sophia Allen - Divorce Register - 1902
Divorce register entry for Thomas Mara and Anna Sophia Allen. They are listed on line 222. Courtesy of Ancestry.com

The Pending status made me wonder if maybe the divorce never went through.

Except that Anna Sophia remarried, to John Carr, so she had to have been divorced from Thomas Mara first, right?

Oddly…Anna Sophia Allen married John Carr on 3 December 1902. The day BEFORE her divorce from Mara. So at the very least, my 2nd great grandmother was a bigamist for one day. Or perhaps she was never legally divorced from my 2nd great grandfather, and spent the rest of her marriage to Carr as a bigamist. I will have to keep looking for proof that her divorce from Mara was finalized.

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#52Ancestors: WWI And PFC William James Mara

My 24th entry in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

My 24th ancestor is my great grand uncle, William James MARA (1894-1952).  William was the brother of my great grandmother, Viola Elizabeth Maud MARA (1893-1971) and half brother of my great grand uncle Herbert Gerald ALLEN (1889-?). His parents were Anna Sophia ALLEN (1871-?) and Thomas MARA (1858-1916).

Today marks the 100th anniversary of the event that sparked the First World War, the Great War…the War To End All Wars. The war did not officially start until 28 July 1914, and the U.S. did not declare war until 6 April 1917, but I thought I would take advantage of today’s 100th anniversary to talk about my great grand uncle’s service during WWI.

William registered for the draft in Detroit, Michigan. I can’t tell if he registered in 1917 or early 1918 since the date is cut off on the microfilmed record. At the time, William was 22 years old, and employed as a civil engineer for the United Fuel and Supply Company in Detroit. He was single, listed his mother as his nearest living relative, and lived at 75 Herbert in Detroit, Michigan. William was described as Caucasian, of medium height, with light blue eyes and light hair, and no disfigurements.

He registered for the draft despite not being a U.S. citizen. Mara had been born in Guelph, Ontario, Canada, and indicates that he had already filed a declaration of intention to become a citizen.

WWI Draft Registration for William James Mara. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

An application for a veteran’s headstone filed after his 1952 death by his wife Irene provides information about William Mara’s service in the First World War. He enlisted in the National Army on 5 March 1918, and was assigned serial number 806 804. PFC Mara served in the Medical Department of the Army, at the Base Hospital on Camp Mills, New YorkMara was given an honorable discharge 1 July 1919 as a Private First Class.

Applications for Headstones for U.S. military veterans, 1925-1941. Courtesy Ancestry.com.

Camp Mills, located on Long Island, New York, was established in September 1917 to prepare Army units for deployment to Europe. After the war, it served as a demobilization center before becoming part of Mitchell Field in 1919.

Encampment of National Guard soldiers at Camp Mills, New York training for service in World War I. Public domain photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Unfortunately, I don’t have any further information about PFC William James Mara’s activities during the First World War, but it does not sound like he was deployed overseas. I wish I knew what kind of work he did at Camp Mills. He did not have a medical background, but had worked as an engineer. So he most likely was involved in facilities operations, perhaps helping to build some of the permanent structures.

William did receive that veteran’s headstone. He died 24 November 1952, and is buried in Oakview Cemetery in Royal Oak, Michigan.

#52Ancestors: Scandal! My 2nd Great Grandmother’s Illegitimate Son, Herbert Gerald Allen

Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.

My 6th week in Amy Johnson Crow’s “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” family history blogging challenge.

The challenge: have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

This week’s ancestor relation is my great grand uncle, Herbert Gerald ALLEN (1889 – ?), born in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. 

Herbert first landed on my radar back in 2012, when I came across the Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913 database on Ancestry while searching for information about his mother Anna Sophia ALLEN (1871 – ?), my 2nd great grandmother (called “Mamie Grandma” by my mother and her siblings). But since I had never heard his name before, I ignored the record as a possible mistake. I have only ever heard of Mamie Grandma’s two other children Agnes Viola Elizabeth Maud MARA (aka “Viola”, 1893 – 1971), my great grandmother, and Viola’s younger brother William James MARA (1894 – 1952)

While reviewing past found documents a few weeks ago in preparation for my trip these past 8 days to the Family History Library in conjunction with RootsTech, I pulled up this Ontario, Canada Births record again for further review. The record clearly lists my 2nd great grandmother Anna Sophia as the mother (at 3 months shy of her 18th birthday) and lists her mother as the informant. But no father is listed, and the baby is branded as illegitimate on the record. Mamie Grandma had a child out of wedlock as a teenager, and either did not know the name of the father or just would not list the name of the father. 

I asked my mom about Herbert, and Mom confirmed she had never heard her mother, grandmother, or Mamie Grandma talk about Anna Sophia having another son. Yet her grandmother, Viola, talked often of her younger brother William.

To complicate matters further, Herbert shows up on the 1891 Canadian census, at 1 year old, in Guelph, Wellington County, Ontario, Canada. He lives with his birth mother Anna Sophia. But he is listed as the “son” of Anna’s parents William Barnabas Allen (1845 – 1916) and Lucy Jane Allen (1846 – 1931), with William being the head of the household. Was this a mistake on the part of the census taker and the person in the household who talked to the census taker? Or were Anna Sophia’s parents attempting to raise Herbert as their own?

Herbert drops off the face of the map (at least, my family history map) after this census. He does not show up on the next census in the household of William and Lucy Jane (his grandparents). His mother Anna Sophia married a year later, gave birth to Viola the year following, and then gave birth to William the year after. She too disappears for a while. So I have no idea what happened to Herbert. Since Viola never talked about him, to her descendants, either a) she never knew her older brother Herbert, or b) she knew but did not have a relationship with him and was ashamed of his illegitimate status. So, was he put up in an orphanage? Adopted out? Did he continue to live with his mother and younger siblings?

Regardless of what happened to Herbert, it had to be very difficult to grow up in the late 1800s and early 1900s under the label of “illegitimate”, and it had to be even more difficult for his mother Anna Sophia to go through a teenage pregnancy at this period in history.

Allen family on the 1891 Canadian Census. Courtesy of Ancestry.com.