Christmas 1967?

multigenerationalpicIn honour of the Christmas season I’m posting this picture from Christmas past.  I think it’s from 1967.

Back row, my Mom and my brother’s mother-in-law

Seated, Mémère and my other grandmother (Grandma Vaillancourt)

The three gorgeous, well-dressed children are two nieces and a nephew!

Merry Christmas to all my “cousins” and blog readers!

The Johnson Connection

I have been writing about the ancestors of Pépère’s mother, Philomene McMillan. I have already written about Anne Warren’s family including her brother Sir Peter Warren, and also the Aylmer and Plunkett families of Ireland.

Anne Warren was married to Christopher Johnson, who was, as my husband says,  “real” Irish not the Anglo-Irish variety! Christopher and Anne had a daughter, Ann Johnson, from whom we descend. Ann never crossed the pond to North America, but it turns out she is a “gateway ancestor”, i.e. one whose ancestry has already been thoroughly documented. In Ann’s case the gateway ancestor is her brother, Sir William Johnson.


Sir William Johnson Library and Archives Canada MIKAN no. 2837207

Sir William Johnson
Library and Archives Canada MIKAN no. 2837207


Sir William came to America in 1738, in charge of families from County Meath that were going to settle on his uncle’s estate in the Mohawk Valley of New York. His uncle was Sir Peter Warren.  (How nice to have family connections!) Sir William’s business career, which included buying properties and trading in goods imported from England, would make him a very large fortune. From this beginning, Sir William went on to become a very wealthy and influential leader in colonial America. He was, I have to acknowledge, a slave owner. However he also developed an exceptional bond with native Americans. He learned a bit of the Mohawk language, was made a sachem, and often wore native dress and warpaint. From 1745 to 1751 he was colonel of the Six Nations Indians and in 1748 he became colonel of the 14 militia companies on the New York frontier.

The Seven Year’s War saw France and Britain battle for dominance in North America . In 1755 Sir William Johnson was part of the victory over the French at the Battle of Lake George. In 1756 he was appointed Superintendent of Indian Affairs north of the Ohio River. In 1759 he was the commander of the British force that, with the help of their Iroquois allies, took Fort Niagara from the French.

Once the British had defeated the French, Sir William continued to have a very influential position regarding the Indians. He lived with Molly Brant, an influential Mohawk clan matron, and sister of Joseph Brant, a Mohawk war chief.  Though they were never legally married, they had several children together, and Molly served as mistress of Sir William’s homes. Sir William built a magnificent home called Johnson Hall in Johnstown, New York, where he lived from 1763 ‘til his death.


It was the site of many Six Nations conferences and is now a New York State Historic Site. Sir William fell ill in the middle of a conference with the Six Nations at his home in July 1774, and died, two years before the American Revolution.

So who exactly are the ancestors of Ann and William Johnson? In the book White Savage: William Johnson and the Invention of America by Fintan O’Toole, we read:

“Their name sounds English, but Christopher Johnson seems to have been the first to style himself exclusively in this fashion. His father, William, seems originally to have called himself MacShane—a Gaelic name that translates simply as John’s son—hence ‘Johnson’. His father in turn was Thomas MacShane, whose father was Sean or John O’Neill (hence ‘son of John’) from Dungannon in County Tyrone-heartland of the greatest of all the Gaelic aristocratic families of Ireland.

Johnson’s ancestors were not from the main line of the O’Neill family, but from an intriguing branch. The O’Neills of the Fews, from whom he was directly descended, were, as far back as the sixteenth century, a frontier tribe.”

“The Fews” refers to the area of southern Armagh in Ulster. In Shadow soldiers of the American Revolution: loyalist tales from New York to Canada, Mark Jodoin writes that the Johnsons trace back to:

‘”Sir Turlough mac Henry O Neill,” an Irish chieftain who tried but failed to straddle both sides of the Irish rebellion at the end of the 16th century and was forced to seek pardons for his family from Elizabeth I.’

A series of articles from 1973/74/77 published by noted Irish historian Tomás Ó Fiaich in Seanchas Ardmhacha: Journal of the Armagh Diocesan Historical Society, gives the following descent:

Henry O’Neill who was chieftain of the Fews in the 1560s married Sioban Maguire (her second marriage)
They had Turlough MacHenry who married Sara Luineach. He died in 1640.
They had Sir Henry O’Neill who married Mary O’Reilly
who had Shane/Sean O’Neill who married Letitia Blayney
they had Thomas McShane who married Frances Fay
they had William Johnson who married Anna Fitzsimmons
they had Christopher Johnson who married Anne Warren

And the line from Christopher Johnson to Pépère is as follows:

1-Christopher JOHNSON (1687-1764)
+Richard DEASE
3-Dr. John DEASE (1745-1801)
+Jane FRENCH (ca 1754-1802)
4-John Warren DEASE Sr. (1783-1830)
+Genevieve BEIGNET (1796-1860)
5-Margaret DEASE (1818-1905)
+William MCMILLAN (1806-1903)
6-Philomene MCMILLAN (1848-1923)
+Thomas HOGUE (1840-1924)
7-Thomas Joseph HOGUE (1879-1955)

The O’Neill line is of particular interest to me, as my husband’s Mother was an O’Neill! Plus there is a Fay connection with a dear friend!