This is where tales of castles and Mary Queen of Scots and royalty got dangled in front of me. Yeah, right, and I was a princess in a past life. But, as always, I start with the family story that’s been told to me and launch from there to find whatever documentation I can find that will help me unravel things. I'll be surprised if anyone other than a family member will be able to read this whole post.
To be honest, I’m not sure I can explain the history clearly. Starting simply enough with Frances Elizabeth, my grandmother, whose maiden name I use on this blog, we know she was the daughter of Elizabeth Stewart and granddaughter of Edmund Spencer Stewart and they lived in Cameron County, PA. At some point between 1900 and 1910, some of the family, including Edmund, changed the spelling to Stuart. I always heard the change was the result of a family feud, but another family member heard that someone just thought there were too many Stewarts in town (if you think about it, if that’s said with the right intonation, it could very well be an indication of a feud). Edmund’s obituary used the spelling Stewart. But that’s just a distraction at this point.
The Stewarts came to Pennsylvania from Canada, perhaps by way of Maine, and were of Scottish heritage, with rumors of a relationship to Mary, Queen of Scots. A very extended family member (if you’re reading this, thanks!) I connected with provided the background that the family “floated by raft in the 1850's bringing everything they owned from a short stay in Maine to Cameron County in 1869 before its formation and settled in what is now known as Village of Cameron” (Pennsylvania). But in reality, exactly when isn’t clear, because Edmund’s naturalization record has an immigration date of 1851, the 1900 census looks like it has an immigration date of 1856, the 1910 census looks like it has a date of 1869, and his obituary implies it was 1866. Based on Canadian directory information I uncovered, it was no earlier than 1865. Two siblings, or half-siblings, have immigration dates of 1865 in the 1920 census. So, tentatively, it looks like a stay in Maine from about 1865-1869 with Ashland being a possible location since it was mentioned in funeral documents.
Edmund was the son of Jane McDougall (other sources indicate it's possibly Shirk) and Hirman or Hiram Stewart, although because of other inaccuracies, I’m not certain that’s really his father’s first name. After all, according to family history, after his father’s death, his mother Jane married Edmund’s uncle, Charles Hiram Stewart. Maybe the inaccuracy is Jane being widowed and maybe Charles is really his father. (And I thought soap operas were too extreme to be plausible.) At any rate, supposedly Edmund's father died of diphtheria, along with several of Edmund's siblings, in Perth, New Brunswick.
Edmund was born in 1845 in Maine, New Brunswick, or Nova Scotia. US census records over the years cite both Canada and Maine. The 1861 Canadian census lists him as a native of New Brunswick. His naturalization record cites New Brunswick (being naturalized at least rules out Maine!). His obituary has Nova Scotia as his birthplace. My search for a birth record on Edmund, so far unsuccessful, has focused on New Brunswick, but hasn’t excluded Nova Scotia. Edmund died in 1919 in Cameron County and prior to his death, a house fire in 1913 destroyed the family Bible and many family records, supposedly including a letter from England regarding an inheritance and a castle. See what I mean, soap opera.
Edmund’s father, “Hiram”, and his uncle, Charles, were born on Prince Edward Island, no date for Hiram, but using the information from Charles’ funeral records, his birth date can be determined to be September 13,1814. Unfortunately, because of Prince Charles Stuart, “Bonnie Prince Charlie “ (31 December 1720 – 31 January 1788), Charles Stewart was quite a popular name at the time. I’ve scoured the PEI records and have not uncovered a record of a Charles Stewart that matches up with mine.
I did find the family in the 1861 Canadian census, living in Perth, New Brunswick, Canada. Charles and Jane were married by then, but I can’t determine if some of the children are step-children or if they are all his. I found a Charles Stewart in the 1865-1866 Hutchinson’s New Brunswick Directory living in Arthurette, New Brunswick, and by comparing other head of household names from the 1861 census to the directory, I feel confident this is my Charles Stewart. Several of the neighboring names were McDougall and because I had been told Jane (widow of Hirman, wife of Charles) was a McDougall, I wondered if these might be relatives. I wondered if tracking the McDougall’s might provide some clues on the Stewarts and I’ve pursued it a little bit. I haven’t had any breakthroughs, but, “I'm giving her all she's got, Captain!”