The Cyril Morris Binder

I write for my local genealogical society’s blog (edit while reinstalling after a site crash: not presently writing for the society). Tomorrow’s post is intended to encourage genealogists to not be simply collectors, but to also become narrators of what it is that they discover. Piles of documents are great, to be sure, but for those who come along behind, it will be much more interesting (not to mention easier to pick up where you leave off) when there is a narrative that makes all of that data much more accessible.

I am the beneficiary of one of these storytelling genealogists, the late Cyril Morris. He put together a binder of narrative and data that amounts to 171 pages of old family history. It has never been widely shared since it contains a lot of information about living relatives, and is not yet in an easily-edited format. It’s my intention to transcribe Cyril’s writings so that they can be passed on to other branches of the family so that they may be useful for their research.

When that eventually happens, I’ll certainly be making it available from this website. In the meantime, I can begin to share some of the wealth of information that Cyril collected of years past.

Here, then, are the first three pages of this tome. While I will make some corrections for punctuation and some formatting, I am transcribing the information exactly as it was presented by Cyril Morris. I don’t believe all the information to be unmitigated fact, but we can deal with those corrections in time. I have added a couple of comments on some necessary corrections, however.

The Harrison Family by Cyril Morris

The first home of the Harrison family in Canada was on Lot 25, Concession 5 of Lanark Township, north of the present village of Middleville, Ontario. The 100 acre property on the west half of this lot as well as a 100 acre property on the east half of Lot 15, Concession 4, were granted to John Harrison by the British Military Settlement Department in 1821 in consideration, in part at least, for his years of service in the British Army. In the tabulation of grants to former military men at the time, it is recorded that John was a Sergeant in the 41st Regiment and that he was given a loan of £53 6s. 8d. to assist in the first years in developing a homestead. (Source: Ontario Archives: Crown Lands, RG 1, c-1-3, Vol. 126. Report 7, p. 27 and Report 9 Rankin.)

John was born in England in 1784. He married Ann (Nancy) McIntosh who was born in Scotland in 1792. [I think it likely that she was born in Canada, possibly to United Empire Loyalists, but have no proof of that. Yet. ~John] It is likely that John joined the British Army at an early age. While specific information about his military service is not available, some probable assignments may be determined in knowledge of the general military activities at that time. It is helpful to recall some of the history.

Britain was on a war footing in the 1790s and the early part of the 1800s. The French were on a rampage of conquest under the leadership of Napoleon. In 1807 Napoleon conquered Portugal, which had long friendship ties with Britain, and in the next year he conquered Spain. Britain sent armies under the leadership of Wellington to assist Portugal in 1808 and then to Spain to oust the French. The Peninsular War took five years to complete successfully. The British army then moved into France with much heavier manpower. Aided by the Prussians under Blutcher they defeated Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 and exiled him to St. Helena. During this period also, Britain had to protect its sovereignty in Canada and repulse the invasion of the American forces in the War of 1812, as well as fulfill its military obligations in the West Indies, the Mediterranean, Asia and elsewhere.

Besides having a large navy at the time, Britain had over one half million men in its land forces, organized in 109 Regiments of Foot Soldiers and 25 Regiments of Dragoons (cavalry). Throughout the period the economy was depressed. With disbandment of many military units when hostilities slackened, there was a great increase in unemployment, poverty and misery. Much social unrest existed throughout the British Isles, particularly in Ireland where by the Act of Union passed in 1800 the country was stripped of its parliament and the right of Catholics to vote for representatives to the Parliament of London was prohibited. These were some of the conditions of the times when John and Ann were young.

John joined the 41st Regiment, perhaps in 1802 [the correct enlistment year is 1799, now known from his separation papers -John], when he was 18 years old. It was known as the Welch Regiment and had its origin in 1719. It tended to be used in territorial assignments, that is, in the protection of British colonies and, at intervals, for policing duties in Ireland and Scotland.

While general information can be gleaned from military records about the activities of regiments, seldom is there mention of the individual members of a regiment except for its senior officers. The British Army List, which at the time was updated annually, states the name, rank, military unit, date of promotion, and the like, for all officers above the level of sergeant. For sergeants and privates, one has to fall back on speculation about their activities based on general knowledge of the actions required to sustain a regiment and, then, to modify the account as necessary if and when specific and authentic information about them is subsequently learned. In the case of John Harrison an early bit of specific information is the list of the dates and places of birth of his children which has been handed down through successive generations of the family and which appears to be authentic.

In 1790 the 41st Regiment which had been performing policing duties in Ireland was dispatched to the West Indies. For the next six years its task was to prevent colonial expansion by the Spanish, Dutch and French forces onto territory which Britain regarded as its own. The Regiment had a strength of about 800 officers and men, but its losses during the six years were 70 officers and 1,500 men killed in battle or permanently wounded. These numbers make obvious the nature of the work of its back-home staff who continually had to recruit new men, provide them with basic military training, transport and escort them to the Regiment in action, as well as provide food, clothing, munitions and other supplies for the Regiment.

In 1797 the 41st Regiment was brought back home and assigned to policing duties in Ireland. Two years later, because it was feared that the American colonies were planning to take over Canadian territory, the 41st was sent to Canada. Its strength at the time was about 600 officers and men made up as follows:

1 Colonel
2 Lieutenant Colonels
2 Majors
11 Captains
1 Captain Lieutenant

21 Lieutenants
7 Ensigns
1 Adjutant
1 Quartermaster

54 Sergeants
51 Corporals
22 Drummers
426 Privates

The responsibility of the Regiment was to prevent American encroachment along the 1000 miles of border extending from the Richelieu River, east of Montreal, to the southern end of Lake Huron. In this work they were supported when possible by local Canadian militia units whose military training was quite limited and who had chores to do at home particularly during the seeding and harvesting season. The success of the harvest was essential because it formed the principal source of food for the Regiment and for the bands of local Indians grouped under Tecumseh whose help was of great importance to the Regiment.

In 1803 when hit-and-run skirmishes and destruction of property by troops from the American colonies became more frequent, the 49th Regiment came from Britain to assist in the defence. In 1812 when the Americans formally declared war, parts of the 8th, 100th and 103rd Regiments came to Canada to provide support. In 1815 considerably more military assistance arrived and the war terminated. Late in 1814 the exhausted troops of the 41st Regiment were moved to Three Rivers, returned to England the next spring and, following the defeat of Napoleon in June of 1815, moved to Paris to form part of the army of occupation, a control force needed while national order was being restored there.

The 41st returned to England and in 1816 went to Ireland to take up policing duties again. This assignment continued for the next five years. Late in the period plans became known that the Regiment was to be sent to India. It was then that John Harrison decided to take retirement from the military.

Indications are strong that John was part of the backhome military staff of the 41st. He and Ann were in England when their first child, John, was born in 1810. Early the next year he sailed to Canada no doubt with a body of newly recruited soldiers for his Regiment. [It is very unlikely that John and Ann were in England in 1810. Their first child was likely born in Canada. There is no reliable evidence to suggest that they traveled back and forth across the Atlantic. -John] Ann accompanied him and visited with relatives, perhaps some members of her own family, who were already settled on farms in the Cornwall area. Here, in 1811, she gave birth to their second son, who was the first Angus in their family. The Parish Register of St. Andrews Catholic Church near Cornwall records on page 145 his baptism as follows:

On the fourteenth day of April one thousand eight hundred and eleven I the undersigned priest have baptized Angus Harrison lawful son of John H. & Anne McIntosh, aged twenty days

Sponsors Alexr McDonald & Mary McIntosh

Alexr McDonell M.Ap

(In this record as well as in others taken from Parish Registers or other original documents, no change has been made in spelling, capitalization or punctuation.)

So as you can see, there’s a lot of very well compiled evidence and some great stories to be told. I’ll continue to publish excerpts of the Harrison genealogy binder from Cyril Morris going forward as well.