28 December, 2017

Mystery Man Unmasked! (90% certain)

free photo from pxhere
With many genealogical discoveries from more than 100 years ago, records can only give us the bare bones of what was once a real person, a full life, a vibrant family. Such is the case with my mystery man, and it is likely that I will never have more than those bare bones as evidence of his paternity to my great-grandfather, John Reid. However, what I have discovered since my last entry on this topic brings me to about 90% certainty that my conclusions are accurate, and that I know who John Reid's father was.

In my last entry, I had pretty much settled on Daniel McLaughlin as the probable father of John. In the meantime, a new Irish census record appeared on ancestry that had not been available when I had begun my search. When I came upon this record, it piqued my interest because it had a Daniel McLaughlin the likely age of "my" Daniel, and it also listed other children in the family with first names that were also used by Daniel for his own children, such as Rebecca, Dominick and Jane. I wondered if this family, from an 1851 census report, could be Daniel's family of origin.

Another match to my Dad's dna with Daniel McLaughlin as an ancestor also appeared on ancestry, a woman who turned out to be a niece of one of the other matches. I calculated her match, using the amount of dna she held in common with Dad, and she too fell within range to be a half cousin of Dad's in the generation she was from. In other words, Daniel McLaughlin could be the ancestor of both she and Dad, according to amount of dna shared between those two.

However, as with the other dna matches who have Daniel as an ancestor, the amount shared wasn't near the median amount expected for the given relationship. For most, the amount shared was less than the "average" amount expected for that relationship. This hadn't bothered me before, because the amount shared can vary so much that you can't really expect that they'll be "average", particularly several generations removed from the common ancestor. Still, I decided to take another look.

photo by jimmyharris/flickr
What if the real father of John Reid wasn't Daniel after all, but a brother of his? With the new census record, which I suspected was Daniel's family, I had a few names to run with. According to this record, Daniel had two brothers, Dominick and James. To make a long story short, I spent a few hours on rootsireland, and found that the parents of this family, named only as John McLaughlin and Jane in the record, were in fact John McLaughlin and Jane Quigley. The baptism records of several of their children confirmed that they were the family in the census report (though Daniel's baptism record wasn't one of them).

Following the records, it became apparent that brother James married and had several children. He was a successful blacksmith, and he and his children remained in Ireland, as far as I could tell. Dominick, however, popped up in Neilston, Renfrewshire, Scotland!! The very town where Caroline is recorded as living prior to her 1871 admission to the poorhouse where John was born! 

from WikimediaCommons/Rosser1954
Dominick was a railway worker, apparently coming to Scotland for the job. He married Bridget Kerr in Neilston in August of 1871, four months after Caroline Reid had conceived her son. He remained in Neilston and fathered two daughters. Both daughters died young and childless. So Dominick had no descendants, except for John whom he likely never knew existed! No wonder I was getting matches to Daniel and not the "real" father!

The main problem that remains is that I cannot find Dominick in the 1871 census, which was taken the very month of John Reid's conception, in April of that year. I have not been able to find Caroline either, but figured she may have been homeless and drifting from place to place at the time and the census missed her and her one-year-old son. Why Dominick isn't present in the 1871 census I don't know. Maybe he was newly arrived and staying at a boarding house or someplace else that wasn't properly counted. To find him in that census in Neilston would clinch it for me, but the fact that he married there 4 months later is good enough for me to assume that he is my mystery man.

I concluded that the Daniel in the census report was indeed "my" Daniel, even though I didn't have the baptismal record connecting him to the same parents as Dominick. I found that his wife's brother turns up lodging with Dominick in the 1881 census. So Daniel's family and Dominick's were connected. Not 100% certain evidence, but pretty darn solid.

The dna estimates match more closely with Dominick as father, though still, in most cases, not the "average". I am fortunate that two of Daniel's children emigrated to USA, because it was his descendants testing with ancestry that gave me the match to the right family. Though testing is available in Britain (and Northern Ireland, I think), it is apparently more expensive there, so not many have done it. However, I've also tested with livingdna, which is a British based company. They don't have dna matches yet, but intend to add that next year, so hopefully I'll get some Irish matches to Dominick's siblings' descendants then.

geograph.org.uk/free photo
As for now, I'm naming Dominick McLaughlin as my great-great-grandfather. As I've said before, I believe that Caroline Reid was making a bit of money on the side when she conceived her two sons. Analysis of dna data with the great-great-granddaughter of her other son, William, indicates that the two boys had different fathers, and her life circumstances and clues on records point in that direction. So Dominick died never knowing he had a son. Never dreaming that his son emigrated to USA and had a family. And in his wildest imagination, he could never have imagined that his great-great-granddaughter would spend three years chasing him down and finally name him, using his own dna that floats in his great-grandson's blood.

Dominick, you are on my family tree now. Rest in peace.





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