Appendix D

Marital and Other Family Arrangements in Ferryland District, ca. 1800

Under instructions of Governor Pole, a nominal census of Ferryland district (extending from Lamanche southward to Renews) was compiled by local magistrate Robert Carter in 1799–1800. The census provides a listing of all fishing employers and servants in the area during the winter of 1799–1800 and another for the fishing season of 1800. The census also includes a "Register of Families" residing in the district in August 1800; this register identifies family groupings in each harbor and lists the names of fathers, mothers, and children, together with the sex and age of each child. Of the total 166 families identified, the following patterns emerge.

Note: The typography of this table reflects my effort to render as faithfully as possible the idiosyncracies of the original document.

A. Nuclear family or couple with shared surname       Total 122

E.g., Cape Broyle
Richard Welsh Elenor Welsh Michl. Welsh (15)
Thomas (11)
John (9)
James (7)
Mary (3)
James doyle Ann doyle [no children]

These appear in the census as recognized formal marriages with legitimate children (if any). A cautionary note must be sounded, however. Given the lack of recording of vital statistics and the scarcity of clergy on the southern Avalon until the 1790s, some of these couples may not have been formally married, even though they presented themselves as such to Carter at the time. Unless he was personally aware of their circumstances, he would have had little cause to question their claims.


B. Widows with legitimate children       Total 7

E.g., Ferryland
Margret Whelan John Whelan (27)
Widdow James (25)
Michael (17)
Thomas (14)
Alice (20)

In all seven cases, Carter specifically noted that these women were widows.

C. Widows who had remarried and were living with children by former and/or
    current husbands       Total 3

E.g., Fermuse
James Ready Mary Ready { Thomas Clancy (23)
by her first husband James Clancy (22)
Edmund Clancy (12)
Martin Ready (9)
James Ready (3½)
Mary Ready (7)
Margret Ready (5)


In all three cases, Carter specifically noted that the children with surnames different from that of the current husband/partner were by a former husband of the mother.

D. Women living with children with different surname than
    current partner       Total 7

E.g., Ferryland
James Neill Margret Neill Ann Murphy (18)
Mary Furlong (10½)
Joan Furlong (8)
Bridget Neill (4½)
Catharine Neill (1½)

The women in this category were living with children, some or all of whom had different surnames from that of the woman's current husband/partner. These cases differed from those discussed in section C in that Carter had not noted that such children were "by her first husband." Was this lack of such qualification merely an oversight on Carter's part, or did it indicate some ambiguity in relation to the legitimacy of the children or to the formality of the mother's previous relationship(s)?


E. Women without partners living with children with mixed surnames       Total 1

E.g., Renewse
Bridget doyle William drinkwater (35)
Bridget doyle (11)

Again, this suggests the possibility of illegitimate births or informal marriages and common-law relationships.

F. Women without partners living with children with same surname       Total 13

E.g., Cape Broyle
Sarah drohan Catharine drohan (19)
Elenor drohan (16)


By contrast to those women discussed in section A, Carter had not made any notation that these women were widows. Again, this may have been an oversight on his part. But again, the possibility exists that the children were illegitimate, or that the mother had been in some informal marriage or common-law relationship that no longer existed due to breakdown of the relationship or death. This category may also have included women who had been in a formal marriage but who had been separated or informally divorced from their husbands.

G. Men with no partners living with children with same surnames       Total 5

E.g., Ferryland
William Mcdaniel James Mcdaniel (23)
Matthew (20)
John (19)
William (16)
Catharine (14)

In none of these cases had Carter noted that the father was a widower, and so again the possibility exists that we are looking at the remnants of informal marriages or common-law relationships. We know this was actually true in the case of the Mcdaniels, as some of their family history appears in the court records. William Mcdaniel and his partner, Hannah, were involved in a lengthy legal battle with the Westons and Carters in Ferryland in the 1780s and 1790s. In the course of the proceedings, they revealed to the court that they had never been properly married but had been living common-law (see PANL, GN 5/4/C/1, Ferryland, box 1, 25-26, Catharine Weston v. William and Hannah Mcdaniel, 8 March 1787). Hannah's actual surname was Carney, and she was the daughter of Mary Shea (which raises interesting questions about her mother's marital arrangements as well). At any rate, William and Hannah's relationship was obviously quite stable, as it spanned at least two decades and resulted in the birth of seven children, five of whom were still living with their father by 1800. Hannah, however, was no longer in the picture at that point; but whether this was due to her death or the breakdown of the relationship is undetermined. ^top

H. Definite illegitimacies, informal marriages,
    common-law relationships       Total 7

E.g., Ferryland
William Hennecy Mary McCue Martin Dunn (13)
John Hennecy (11)
Thomas Hennecy (8)
Margret Hennecy (9½)
Sarah Hennecy (5½)

We know from a 1791 court case that Mary had been married to Timothy Dunn and successfully sued him for support of their child (Martin, born 1786/87). The court acknowledged the separation, although it had no jurisdiction to grant a divorce (see PANL, GN 5/4/C/1, Ferryland, box 1, Mary Dunn v. Timothy Dunn, 14 March 1791). From Carter's listing, we can see that she had since either gone back to her maiden name or had had another partner between Dunn and Hennecy. Regardless, her 1800 relationship with Hennecy was one at common law.

E.g., Ferryland
Mary Blake John Whelan (17)

The different surnames of mother and son suggest either illegitimacy or a former informal marriage/common-law relationship.

E.g., Ferryland
John Ellis Margret Ellis Michl. Hanrahan (13)
Mary Hanrahan (11)

In 1791, "Margarett Hanahan" had taken her former husband, Thomas, to court on charges of violent domestic abuse. She had two young children at the time. The court acknowledged their separation and awarded her support and the family home; ultimately, the magistrates ordered Thomas out of the district (see PANL, GN 5/4/C/1, Ferryland, box 1, Margarett Hanahan v. Thomas Hanahan, 31 January, 1 February, and 11 April, 1791). While this was effectively a divorce for the Hanahans, Newfoundland courts did not have jurisdiction to grant divorces at that time. So Margret's new relationship with John Ellis was an informal marital arrangement or common-law relationship.

E.g., Ferryland
Ann Power James Hearn (14)
Edmund Power (3)
Catharine Sullivan (11)
Cathne Fling John dwyer (14)
Matthew dwyer (11)
William doyle (4)
Mary Orchard (1)
Ann dobbin William Carroll (10)
John Mullins (6)

Carter was not ambiguous about his opinion on the marital status of these women, although their children may still have been the result of informal marriages or (more likely) common-law relationships.

E.g., Ferryland
John Sullivan Eliza. McCarthy [no children]
John Sloan Anstice dwyer [no children]

Carter was equally unambiguous about these couples, although they may possibly have been in stable common-law relationships. ^top