09 February 2008

Mary or Margaret or Annie?

At a recent Gloucester Historical Society meeting there was mention of a tornado that struck Ottawa on 6 June 1888 killing three people. The storm demolished a Catholic church and set fire to the Protestant hospital ... a non-denominational event.

A comment at the meeting was that it was a cyclone, but that's not a term that would be used today in North America. A deadly tornado in Ottawa is pretty rare. As a former meteorologist I was curious about it, and interested to see what online historical research might reveal, especially about the fatalities.

An article on page 1 of the 8 June 1888 issue of the (Toronto) Globe, available online to Ottawa Public Library cardholders, stated there were three fatalities.

The 15 June 1888 issue of the weekly Perth Courier, accessible free with registration from Paper of Record, gave the names of the fatalities as Mary McVeigh, age 12; Wm Grey; and John Mulligan, age 55.

Checking the names in the Ontario civil registrations for 6 June 1888 showed no death registration for a Mary McVeigh, but there are two separate McVeigh registrations, for a Margaret McVeigh, age 12, registered on 16 July 1888 with cause of death " accidentally and instantaneously killed by the falling down of the Roman Catholic Church in a hurricane." Much later, on 22 April 1889 the 6 June 1888 death of Annie McVeigh age 12 was registered with no cause given.

W Grey, age 23, had his 6 June 1888 death registered on 22 April 1889 with the cause given as fever.

John Mulligan, age 51, a farm labourer, had his death registered on 14 July 1888 with cause given as "accidental, death was instantaneous."

The damage from this event was widespread along the Ottawa valley. The listings of barns blown down and other structural damage in local newspapers would make from an interesting postmortum on the unusual event.

For the genealogist its another example, if any is needed, reminder us to always check the full range of available resources for any event.

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