Monday, January 30, 2012

Introducing Christopher McNally

It's been a busy week, genealogically speaking. The RootsWeb Blair County mailing list had its annual "Roll Call" and listing of surnames and I spent a few hours corresponding with distant cousins I didn't know existed about ancestors we share.  The folks on the Blair County list are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet and its a real pleasure making connections with them.  And, as an added bonus, for the first time ever, someone actually responded about my McNally surname. 

Of all my ancestors, I've invested the most time and effort in researching Christopher McNally and his descendants. He is my McNally immigrant ancestor, my great x 3 grandfather and the patriarch of the initial line I started researching all those many years ago.  Over the years, I have corresponded with a few other researchers about Christopher, most of whom I met as the result of queries placed on various genealogical message boards. Every once in a while, I get an e-mail from someone who is just seeing the posts for the first time, asking me what I know about Christopher.

First a picture:

Deb Pfeiffer provided me with this photograph (actually a group photo that I cropped this from), and a few others.  She's one of the nice people I've shared information with as a result of the message board queries. 

Christoper McNally's obituary in the 26 September 1902 Bedford Gazette lists his date of birth as 25 December 1819 and his place of birth as Dublin, Ireland.  The place of birth is consistent with his Delcaration from his naturalization papers.  His date of birth, however, varies between 1818 and 1822 depending on which document you look at (census records and the naturaliztion records, as well as his obituary).  The 25 December 1819 date was also repeated in the article "McNally Family Active In Cove Iron Industry", the details of which seemed to be repeated from his obituary.  Absent finding a birth record from Ireland, at best I think the 1818-1822 range is best that can be said about his date of birth. (The Cove mentioned in the article is Morrison's Cove, a region of south-central Pennsylvania that straddles the Blair County/Bedford County border)

What is not in question, however, is when Christopher arrived in the United States.  His Declaration and Petition for Naturalization both state that he arrived in the United States on 23 September 1844 at the port of New York. Neither document lists the name of the ship on which he sailed, only that it originated in Liverpool.  I have personally reviewed the microfilm avaialable at the National Archives for the entire month of September of 1844 for ships arriving at the port of New York and could not locate any entry that might remotly correspond to Christopher. I do know that prior to 1850, there is not a complete record of arrivals and some passenger lists have been lost, so it is likely that the ship he arrived on might never be known.   His obituary states that he arrived in the United States in 1848, but I believ that to be an error, as his Declaration for naturalization was filed on 28 August 1849 and gives the 1844 arrival date.

He became an American citizen with the completion of the naturalization process on 29 September 1851.   His father and brother-in-law Edward and William Pearson both signed the petition as his character witnesses.  Also of interest from his naturalization documents is that Christopher McNally, as least in 1851, could not write as he signed with a mark.

He married Rosanna Pearson (1831-1896), daugther of Edward Perason, on 6 February 1851, at St. Patrick's Catholic Church in Newry, Blair County, Pennsylvania.  Rosanna converted to the Catholic Church and was baptised on that same day.  The Blair County Genealogical Society  has transcribed the records of St. Patrick's Church for the time period 1828-1907 and has made those records available in two volumes.  I have not seen the original church records, only the BCGS transcriptions.

Christopher and Rosanna had six children -
  1. Thomas Christopher McNally (1852-1912) m. Anna Martha Myers
  2. Edward McNally (1853-1932) m. Atalanda Martha Hainsey
  3. Margaret McNally (1859 - ?) m. Herman Goettleman
  4. Mary Lavina McNally (1860-1942) m. John Kennedy
  5. Richard McNally (1860 - 1934) m. Emma Hengst
  6. James McNally (1866 - ?) m. Alice Sullivan
Details about various of Christopher and Rosanna's children will likely be the subjects of future blog posts.
Rosanna Pearson died on 25 March 1896 after being struck by an ore train operated by the Duncan Mines in Bedford County, Pennsylvania.  She was hard of hearing and likely did not hear the train coming from around a bend in the line.  She was buried at the Catholic cemetery at St. Patrick's Church in Newry.
Christopher's daughter Mary Lavina and her familiy came to live with Christopher after Rosanna's death, and lived with him until his death on 17 September 1902.  It is said in his obituary that he left work at the mines on 11 September 1902, complaining of not feeling well and passed a few days later.

His obituary states "He was every man's friend and had a kind word for all he met, no matter when or where.  He was always cheerful, generous and obliging."  Admirable traits, and I hope that people speak that nicely of me.

There are a few open issues with regard to Christopher-

First - I know nothing about his parents.  I've ran across no documents that name or even hint at his parents, and all I know about his origin is that he was born in Dublin County, Ireland.  From what I understand about Irish research, you really need to know the parish to make reasonable progress.  The wholesale destruction of the Irish censuses prior to 1900 don't make finding this information any easier.

Second - In a document I received from the above-mentioned Deb Pfeiffer (that was compiled by an unnamed great-grandchild of Christopher McNally through Edward McNally), it states that Christopher has a known sister by the name of Mary with some kind of tie to California.  It also states she immigrated with him.  This document is the only place I have ever seen this sister mentioned.  I would love to see additional documentation of this sister.

Third - The St. Patrick's baptismal records show a baptism for a "Georgius Guielmus McAnally" with no listed date of birth and a baptism date of 28 July 1875, with Cristopher and Rosanna listed as the parents and Thomas as the sponsor.   Is this a seventh child, one who perhaps died young and did not live long enough to be reflected in a census, or a delayed baptism for one of Edward or James?  My belief is that this is likely James's baptism and not a seventh child, as there is no burial record for an additional child and Christopher's obituary states that Rosanna bore him six children, all still alive at the time of Christopher's death.

Note - a less narrative version of this account, along with additional citations and such will show up in the near future as a separate page. 

Anyone have anything to add or can shed any light on the open issues?


  1. Christopher McNally is my Great Great Great Great Great Grandfather. I've been working on my family tree for about a year, and just recently started my moms mom side. You have helped me so much. I hope you don't mind, but I shared the photo with all of my family who would find some enjoyment it. Interesting side not, my mom told me that she had heard through the years that he was a very tall man. Some say that he was close to 7 feet tall. That photo makes it seem like he has very tall features.

    1. Welcome to the blog, and welcome to the community of McNally researchers. I'm glad I could help and would gladly share whatever other information I might have that could help you on your search.

  2. If you are wondering, I should come from Edward McNally's side. I'm a little confused however. I have found records for Edward having a daughter, Elizabeth, but my great grandfather, would be William McNally. As I mentioned above, I just started finally researching this side. I have a ton of cousins on this side, and I know the family is very large. Any info would be very helpful.

    1. I decscend through Thomas Christopher, but I have quite a bit of information about Edward's line, complements of Deb Pfeiffer, another Edward descendant. Edward and Atalanda Hinzey had ten childrens, so that would lead to a lot of cousins. If you send me an e-mail, we can work out how to share what Deb gave me.

  3. My email addy is: The funny thing about Atalanda is I believe she went by Martha. Also, on my great grandfathers death certificate, her maiden last name is listed as Hausey. I've also read that it was Hainsey. Thank you so very much for all of your help.