The Crafter in the Rafters

A collection of crafting ideas, projects, and how tos.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Touching the Past

As many of you know, my Irish heritage is a great source of pride for me. In part it connects me to the larger international Irish community, in part to my father's heritage, and in part to my biological parents, wherever they may be. It gives me a place to belong where I am unique, but not alone, and I embrace it wholeheartedly. When I started my graduate program, I had in the back of my mind a hope of finding my father's family, of completing his family history. Then, my mother's. Though not Irish (German, in fact), no less important. My dad was and is so proud of his fmily tree. He used to spend hours when I was a kid looking at the flimsy fax paper copies with me, having me read the names and dates, trying to figure out if he recognized anyone, and telling me stories about the ones he did remember. It was bonding time for the two of us, and those times were what originally sparked my interest in history. Well that, and my great grandmother telling me about coming from Kansas to Onekama, MI in a covered wagon. Pretty cool stf.

I guess I thought it would take a miracle for me to find them. Although we had information dating back to Ireland in the 1830s from my great uncle William's research, we had nothing really concrete, just family rememberances mostly. That was until I took a class in Irish history. Because I was a grad student taking an undergrad class, I had extra work to do...a 10-page paper on some aspect of Irish history. It was the perfect opportunity for me to use my father's to illustrate emigration patterns prior to the Great Potato Famine. Unfortunately, being the very private individual that my father is, he didn't want me to use it. I'm used to hitting roadblocks at libraries and historical societies, but not with my own family. It took some convincing, but he finally relented, and I was allowed to use it. I would have done it anyway--it was too good of a source not to use--but he didn't need to know that.

From William's research, I found that the family didn't actually come through the United States until much later. They actually settled in Canada first, Amherst Island to be exact. Apparently, this was not uncommon, given that Canada was still British territory then and travelling within the empire would be much cheaper than travelling out of it. In researching the island, I found a book, A New Lease on Life, written by Catharine Wilson. On a lark, a looked through the index and found "McGrattan." Convinced these couldn't be the same McGrattan's, my father's ancestors, I went to the pages and read. I went to the appendix and looked at the immigration records listed there. Unbelievably, these were the same people. Thrilled and in shock, I bought two copies of the book and gave one to my father with the pages marked where his family was, along with a copy of the paper I wrote. More fun bonding with my dad.

Yesterday, a new thrill occurred. A while ago, I had managed to track down a few of the people who provided source material to Wilson while she was writing her book, relatives of my dad's. And yesterday, one of his relatives came through. I received poetry written by my great grandmother's grandfather and photographs of him and his wife and some of their children. I can hardly believe that I can see them...they really exist. I can't wait to show my father what I've found. It will be a very special treat to present him with a binder containing the photos and emails I've collected since I started this. And I feel excited and honored to be a part of it. This is why I do history and why I will always do history, even if nobody pays me for it.


At 3/16/2005 7:33 PM , Anonymous Rhonda Imran said...


I ran across your website and I am researching the same McGrattan's that you are related to. I was wondering if you would mind sharing some of your information. I am researching for Bonnie Jones and her gggrandfather was Alexander McGrattan.

Here is some of her info:
Written by Mary Grattan Powell with additions by Bonnie L. Jones

Click on photo for larger version
(left)This is Alexander Girvin McGratton/Grattan the first school teacher on Amherst Island.
(right)Mary Wilson Grattan the wife of Alexander Grattan.
Photo and Info Submitted by Bonnie L. Jones & Ann Grattan Panlener

Alexander Girvin McGrattan and his wife, Mary Wilson, immigrated from Ardkeen, County Down, Ireland to Amherst Island in 1841 and stayed for 30 years.

We do not know the name of Alex's father, nor of Mary's, but his Mother was Eliza Jane (Girvin) McGrattan who is buried in the Pentland Cemetary on Amherst Island. Mary's mother was a widow - Margaret (maiden name unknown) Wilson who married a shoemaker by the name of Hugh McAtee when Mary was small. Alex and Mary are said to have used money given to them by Mary's stepfather as a wedding gift to pay for their passage to Canada the year they were married (1841). They brought Alex's Mother, Eliza Jane Girvin McGrattan, with them, and Hugh and Margaret McAtee followed within a few years. They settled on a farm on Amherst Island, among other immigrant families from the Ards Penninsula.

In addition to farming, Alexander plied his trade as a shoemaker and served as the first teacher of the first school on Amherst Island. Alexander was also the librarian for the British Government. Alexander and Mary raised a large family on Amherst consisting of 4 sons and 5 daughters. Alexander was a writer and a poet, writing touching collaborations for his family. His poems have been published in Catherine Wilson’s book "A New Lease on Life".

In the early 1870s, Alexander traveled to Kansas, where he staked a homestead claim in Marion County between Goessel and Canton townships. The following year, he sent for Mary and the unmarried children. Three of the daughters were married and had established homes in Canada, though two of them later did move to Kansas.

Alexander and Mary Grattan both died in Kansas in the early 1900’s. Most of their children married into other island families.
Margaret married James McCabe.
Mary married Caleb Tugwell.
Minerva married Samuel McGinn.
Eliza married Thomas Elberson.
Rachel married Thomas Fife.
Peter married Mary Fleming.
Patrick married Maria Hennessy.
John married Mary Norman.
William married Emma Rambo.

Please go to the Written Word Section to see poetry by Alexander!!

Also be Submitted by Mary Grattan Powell
WEEKLEY KANSAN-REPUBLICAN (Newton, KS), 5 Oct., 1900; p. 6:
ALEXANDER GRATTAN died Saturday at his home fourteen miles northeast of the city. He was born in Down County, Ireland, eighty-eight years ago and has lived in Marion County (Kansas) thiry years, being one of its oldest settlers. He is survived by his wife, three sons, and four daughters.sure to see the Amherst Island photos pages for photos of the family.
Submitted by Mary Grattan Powell
EVENING KANSAN-REPUBLICAN (Newton, KS), 20 Feb., 1914; p. 4:
Mrs. Mary Grattan received her summons to her eternal home this morning and had she lived until April 20, she would have been 91 years of age. She has been a widow for many years and made her home with her children who reside near Sedgwick, but spent most of her time with her daughter, Mrs. T. W. Elberson. During the past six weeks, she had been with another daughter, Mrs. Sam McGinn, and it was here that death occurred after an illness of less than a week.
Mrs. Grattan or Grandma Grattan as she was familiarly known, was a woman of remarkable vitality and activity for one of her age, and her mental faculties were keen even to the latter day of her recent illness. She loved work and aside from assisting in the light tasks of household duties, she continued to use her needle and had taken much pleasure in piecing quilts for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She had been the mother of a large family, seven of whom survive her. Always of a sweet, cheerful disposition, she loved to mingle with young folks and they were happy in visiting with her.
Beside her seven children, she is survived by fifty-three grandchildren and sixty-three great-grandchildren. Her children are: Mrs. James McCabe, Mrs. Sam McGinn, Mrs. T.W. Elberson, and William Grattan of Sedgwick; Mrs. T.L. Fife of Denver; Mr. J.A. Grattan of El Dorado; and Mrs. (Caleb) Tugwell of Stella, (Ont.) Canada. All of whom were with her except Mrs. Tugwell. Mrs. Elberson who had been spending the winter in Texas, arrived yesterday, and Mrs. Fife had been visiting here.
The funeral will be held at St. Mary's church Monday morning at 10 o'clock and interment will be made in the Catholic cemetery.

Thank you in advance for any help that you can give us.

Best Wishes,

Rhonda Imran

At 2/11/2014 9:33 AM , Blogger Genevieve edwards said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At 2/11/2014 9:33 AM , Blogger Genevieve edwards said...

Alexander Girvin Mcgrattan is my great,great grandfather also. I live in the New Orleans area. I would love additional information on he and his wife, Mary Wilson, if you have any further information. Thanks so much!

At 4/11/2014 11:37 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Alexander was also my great great grandfather. John Alexander and Mary Norman Grattan were my great grandparents. Their daughter Elisabeth Hazel Grattan Frohne was my grandmother.
About to go hunting. You just made it easier with the news clippings which gave the location of the homestead.
I found the headstones in St. Mary's cemetery.
Thank you for this information.

At 4/12/2014 7:09 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Was the Great Uncle William you mentioned living in Eldorado, Kansas?

At 5/14/2014 7:07 PM , Anonymous Mary Rita Harris Hammond said...

I've done quite a bit of leg work checking this material out. Land Parcels with the names of the owners have shown me where Alexander Girvin Grattan actually settled in Kansas. Where his son, Patrick Hugh Grattan settled not far from him. And where Samuel Horace McGinn settled.
Now, I am trying to find Mary Grattan Powell, who was my mother's first cousin. I would love for her to meet some people, unless she already has. If she has, I would love to meet those she knows.
This is an awesome journey!
Earlier I asked it the information came from William Grattan of El Dorado, but now I'm thinking that it came from William J. Grattan.
Signing in with my name this time instead of anonymous.
Kansas has taken on a whole new life of its own for me.

At 8/03/2014 9:38 PM , Anonymous Bonnie Jones said...

I know where to find Mary Grattan Powell! I am her 2nd cousin and I am the one mentioned in the article above - Alexander McGrattan was my g,g,g grandfather and I am the one who submitted the info for the Amherst Island web site. Please contact me at my regular e-mail address: and we can discuss Mary Powell! Sincerely, Bonnie Jones


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home