Ancestral Notes

My Family History blog

My Grandfather, Orville Neil

My grandfather, Orvile Neil, was born on September 30, 1910 in Sandwich, Ontario and grew up in Paquette’s Corners, a village just south of Windsor, Ontario. He married Ruby Fairbairn in 1930 and they had eight children, four surviving to adulthood. He passed away on September 7, 1975 in Windsor, Ontario of a heart attack.

I didn’t know much about my grandfather, he and my grandmother divorced and she remarried before I was born. He was a slight man, about 5’6″ and balding. He always wore a suit, or at least that’s what he always wore when I saw him. He retired from Ford Motor Co. of Windsor and lived in a storefront duplex a couple of blocks from the factory. In the 1960’s, the area he lived in was a bad part of town and when my family would visit my aunt, who also lived in the back of the duplex for a time, we couldn’t go out of the house. My grandfather lived in the storefront part.

He wasn’t home much when we visited, except for in the mornings. He would have a shot of brandy before his morning coffee “to get his ticker going”. When my grandfather wasn’t home, he was at one of the bars on “the strip”. I guess he was a stereotypical Irishman, he liked his liquor. My parents would go to the bar to get him for a visit and we were instructed to lock all the doors and keep the windows up until they returned.

My grandfather always called my mom “Babe” and his favourtie flower was Baby’s Breath. My mother made sure there was a lot of the flower in his casket spray. My mom said that he was a gambler and his favourite numbers were 7 & 11. He died on Sept. 7th and his funeral was on the 11th. One thing that my grandfather and I will always share is our birthday.

Filed under: Fairbairn, Family Files, Genealogy, O'Neil/Neil, , , ,

13th Ed. Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture – Irish Names – O’Neil

The surname of O’Neil is perhaps the earliest Patronym. It has been around since Niall Mor reigned almost 1600 years ago. He was perhaps one of the first Christians in Ireland, being converted from paganism by St. Patrick, who had been one of his hostages.

The surname Niáll means champion. The surname O’Neill is derived from two Gaelic words, Uá Niáll, which means grandson of Niáll. It is also the surname of one of the three most important Gaelic families, the other two being, O’Brien and O’Conor.

The nickname creagh, derived from the Gaelic word craobh, meaning branch, was one by which earlier O’Neills were known. This nickname was given to them because they camouflaged themselves with greenery when battling against the Norsemen near Limerick.

The O’Neill family was quite prevalent in Irish history for almost 700 years, until the end of the 17th century. By the 14th century, it is thought that Ulster O’Neills numbered 29,000.
They are descendants of Niall of the Nine Hostages. After the death of King Niall Glúin Dubh (BlackKnee) in 919 AD, his grandson Domnall became the first to use and adopt the surname O’Neill.

Ulster O’Neills divided into two main branches . The senior branch was known as the Tyrone O’Neills and the newly formed branch was known as Clan Aedh Buidhe (Clan of the Yellow haired Hugh) or Clanaboy. Each branch had it’s own chieftain. “The O’Neill Mor” was head of the Tyrone Clan and the Clanaboy Clan chieftain was known as “The O’Neill Buidhe”.

Other lesser clans of O’Neills were also formed. They were the O’Neills of the Fews, the O’Neills of Feevah, the O’Neills of Mayo (who were actually descended from the Fews) , the O’Neills of Leinster, the Cor O’Neills, the Leitrum O’Neills, the Meath O’Neills and the Ivowen O’Neills.

from Electric Scotland

Filed under: Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, Carnivals, Genealogy, O'Neil/Neil, , ,

The Last of a Generation

Last night my mother’s sister, Doris Jean Neil Rupert Noland passed away. She was born on September 20, 1929 in Essex County, Ontario, Canada. She was the oldest of eight children, four of whom reached adulthood. She lived in the Essex-Kent area all of her life. She was the mother of six children, four daughters and two sons.

Doris’ family
(one son is absent)

A recent picure of Doris and her daughter.

Filed under: Family Files, Genealogy, O'Neil/Neil, Obituaries, ,

“Why are we here and not living in a palace?”

My mom told me that when she was a child, her grandmother, Mary Queen O’Neil claimed to be descended from the Royals of Scotland. My mother doubted her and said “if we are, why are we here and not living in a palace?”

Well, I’m trying to see whether she was right, so I’ve been researching my great-grandmother’s ancestry. I know that the Kings of Ireland up until the 1600’s were O’Neils, but that was her husband, my great-grandfather’s side.

Mary Queen’s grandfather, Andrew McDowell Queen was born in 1832 in Port Patrick, Wigtown, Scotland in 1832, son of Robert (Mc)Queen and Janett Milroy. He was married to Mercy Stuart in 1850 in Scotland, who was born in 1834. Was she descended from the House of Stuart? I wonder…

Filed under: Family Files, Genealogy, O'Neil/Neil, , , ,

Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture 12th Edition – A Letter from Ireland

I found this letter on-line a few years ago and was quite surprised that it was from a family member. Walter Shuel was married to Jane O’Neil. James O’Neil, who married Eliza Shuel in Detroit in 1848, was my 3rd great-grandfather. It is an example of the state of affairs in post-famine Ireland and the communications difficulty at the time in the 19th century. My mom mentioned that her sister was best friends with a Huggard girl who lived in Essex, Ontario.

After Walter died, Jane immigrated to Canada. She first went to New Brunswick and stayed with or near a Huggard family there. The Huggard’s were landlords in Co. Kerry before and probably during the famine.
Jane and family eventually moved to Detroit for a short while, and then back to Canada, settling in Essex Co.
Following is a transcript of a letter Jane received from her sister Millie in Caherciveen.

My Dear Sister
Caherciveen, April 2, 1854

I take this opportunity of writing these few lines to you hoping they may find you and family and Brothers in as good state of health as this leaves us at present thanks be to God for all his mercy to us. I received your letter a few days since which gave us great pleasure that ye were all well and doing well. May the Lord be thanked for all his blessings to us. I received a letter from you in October last and wrote_____answer to it the day after I received it. Seems you did not get it wherein you mentioned that you received no answer since last August from me. I mentioned to James if he did not like that country the same way was for doing at home as when he left me it seems he has not notion of coming here wherein he would not write affirms to his uncle or William or me. William is getting a very good sturdy boy and growing very big and stout. he will make a very stout handsome man. I hope the Lord will direct him. James Shuel, John Suels (sic) son went to America last month. He was living with us here since last August. We gave him money to take him to America. It was better send him where he could do something that to stop here.
James Shuel was very well since he was in Tralee until this fortnight past. He was not very well. He is something better today thanks be to God. The seton that was in his neck wore out and I am afraid he must get one on his neck again. We are doing all the Business that is supporting us. Every thing _____ very high here. flour 3-6 per stone, beef__per lb., Mutton 6 per lb., pork 8 per lb, butter 10 per lb., Indian meal 1-9 to 1-10 per stone. It is very well for you to leave this country, there is so much taxes here especially on the poor that it is very hard for them to survive. My dear Jane you will not neglect writing to me once in three months for it is great comfort to us to hear from you and family. Brothers and sisters and Catherine and her family was well the last time I heard from them and was doing well. The land they have now is better for them than [?Killlunafinan]. Jane is doing well all friends are in good health thanks be to God. My Aunt Catherine is here with us yet I thought to write to sister Mary and brother Richard to know how they were. Would wish to know how they are getting on if I knew their address. If you mentioned to me in the next letter you would send to me I would feel obliged to you and if you have heard any account of Sandy Neal-Brother Johns son. I was speaking to Peggy Giles the time I was in Tralee and she had no account of him. She desired me to write to you to know had you any account of him. James Shuel, William, My Aunt joins with me to send their best love to you and family and Brother William, Jane and her husband. Brother Alexander and wife and family and all enquiring friends and I remain your sister
[signed] Milly Shuel

Dear Jane
I hope you will not neglect writing to me once in three months
I won’t post this pay this thinking it may go the sooner.
Let me know how __eddy is or does he _____yet.
Addressed to
Wm Alexander O’Neil
Canada West
British America
To be forwarded to Mrs Jane Shuel

March 16 – New Movie about Irish Famine on History TV
The movie, “Death or Canada”, will air on Monday, March 16, at 8 p.m. on History TV.
Nominated for an Irish Film and Television Academy Award for Best Documentary Series, this powerful docudrama reveals a forgotten chapter of the great Irish Famine, and how the fledging City of Toronto was brought to its knees by the greatest humanitarian crisis of the 19th. century. For more information, visit
View the website!

Filed under: Carnival of Irish Heritage and Culture, Carnivals, Family Files, Genealogy, O'Neil/Neil, , , ,

June 2020