I’m very intrigued and excited about Crestleaf.com’s 12 Months of Fascinating Family Finds Challenge. During my family research journey, I’ve discovered lots of great stories and uncovered interesting personas that I want to share with other genealogy enthusiasts. The problem is that I don’t always get my stories together in a timely fashion due to a full-time workload, mommy to 2 busy boys and being an active community member. This just might be the right challenge to motivate me to get these tales posted.
Norfolk County “Cowan’s”
For my first month challenge, I dug into my paternal grandmother’s lineage to discover The Cowans were amongst the first settlers to Norfolk County in Ontario. I hadn’t spent much time on my father’s side of the genealogy tree because he had cousins who had done quite a bit of research. Why reinvent the wheel and redo something that had already been done? When I finally joined Ancestry.ca and had my eyes opened to the wealth of information available, I soon realized that my dad’s cousins had only revealed the tip of the ancestral ice berg. In fact, I only had detailed information about my dad’s father’s line and nothing about my dad’s mother. She was Marjory Cowan. I grew up with several Cowan’s around where I am from. Some of them related, some of them not, but not really knowing the Cowan connection.
Through my membership, I was able to go back through my father’s mother, Marjory (Cowan) Noels (1926 – 1993) her father, William Burton Cowan (1900 – 1962), to his father, William Henry Cowan (1873 – 1948) to his father, David Cowan (1843 – 1923) to his father John Cowan (1813 – 1894) and it ended there. I was content with that for a time and jumped over to other branches for a while. I came back to John Cowan and explored deeper. Where was he from besides Norfolk County, Ontario? The census records indicated he was “born in Scotland”. I wanted to know where in Scotland. I spent months searching Cowan records trying to find the right connection but nothing added up. I was able to find a cemetery through the Ontario Cemetery Finding Aid that had a David Cowan buried in it. There were John Cowan’s listed also, but they didn’t meet the criteria I needed for “my John”. So, I loaded the van up one Sunday afternoon with my parents and my sons (who were 5 and 9 – not too enthused to be “cemetery-hopping” – ice cream helped) and sought to find the cemetery of this “David Cowan” that was buried there. I was hopeful of finding clues to other Cowan’s that might make the connection over the sea. I did, in fact, find David’s grave and it was indeed my 3X great-grandfather. Buried beside him was his wife Anna Eliza Garnet. The stone was barely legible but he was buried in the North Middleton Baptist / Acacia Cemetery. Their daughter, Mary Catherine Cowan, was buried with them also. She died at 42 years of age of Typhoid fever according to her death certificate (Ancestry.ca). Although the trip made for an adventurous afternoon, I did not learn anything new about David Cowan or his lineage.
Back to the research I went. I searched the internet again and again. I found reference to a John C. Cowan on “The Long Point Settlers” site. His life dates, however, 1747 – 1826, didn’t match the dates of my John Cowan. The short description, however, on this site did indicate that he had 4 sons, James, John,William and Alexander. This could possibly mean that the John listed here was who I was searching to connect but I couldn’t prove it without further cross referencing. I did finally find a missing piece to this whole puzzle. John, the son of John was not the John I was looking for. There was a piece in between. A 1841 document found on Ancestry.ca indicated a James Cowan from Scotland (John C. Cowan’s son) settled in Charlotteville Township in Norfolk County. This James came from Scotland with a family. His wife, Elizabeth and 3 children, Elizabeth, James and John. Other children followed upon arrival to Canada, but this information was enough for me to see my John’s place in this family line. James Cowan came to Canada in 1817 with his father, John C. Cowan (of the “The Long Point Settlers“),and family from Scotland, England. His son, John, my John, was 4 years old, born in 1813. This was the piece I needed. Further exploration allowed me to cross-reference this information with that of John’s wives, Catherine Pettit and Charlotte Gibbons. My mystery was solved. My John Cowan, according to research, came from Glasgow, Scotland.
Another Scottish branch on my family tree. Cowan’s belonged to the Colquhoun clan. And a new search begins…