Nov 092014
Richard Burke

I’m still chipping away at one of my most interesting genealogical problems: Where did my third great grandfather David Burk (abt 1824-1891) come from in Ireland? When did he come to Canada? And who did he come to Canada with?

What do we know already?

We do know some important things about David:

  • We know that by the early 1850s, he was settled on a farm in Mariposa Township, Victoria County, Ontario. There are several tax assessment rolls which place David Burk in Mariposa at this time. (See my earlier post on this).
  • We likely know as much as there is to know about his children and their descendants.  (A lot of this work was done by our Burk cousins here).
  • We know that David was Protestant, an important detail in Ireland.
  • We know that David and his son Benjamin took up land in Minden near Haliburton around 1870.  This is where David and his wife Elizabeth die.

In other words, we have solid information about David’s life after he came to Canada and after 1850.  Before David appears on the tax assessment rolls in Mariposa, everything is murky.  There was some oral family history that suggested that David came with several siblings–one person posted on this blog that they believe 12 siblings came together.  Not surprisingly, finding these siblings has been the most successful way to piece together this puzzle so far. That said, there is a lot of conflicting information about David’s siblings: some of which I’m going to try to sort out here.

*Just a reminder that the surname is spelled Burk or Burke.  It seems to have been a random choice. I try to use the one that each individual preferred.

Almost-confirmed siblings

There are two almost-confirmed, as-good-as-we-can-tell siblings of David Burk: Richard Burke and Esther Burk Graham. Although there is no birth information that absolutely confirms Richard and Esther as David’s siblings, there is strong circumstantial evidence.

Richard Burke

Richard Burke

Richard Burke (1836-1907).  Richard Burke and his children moved from Mariposa Township to Carievale, Saskatchewan in the 1880s.  Several of David Burk’s children joined Richard and his family there, which, I believe, suggests that Richard and David were brothers.  I’ve written about these connections here. Richard’s descendants knew that Richard had been born in County Monaghan, an important breakthrough!

Esther Burk Graham (1839-1916).  Richard’s descendants also wrote down their family history!  One of Richard Burke’s sons wrote a family history, in which he recounts how his siblings stayed at an aunt’s farm in Manitoba on the way to Saskatchewan.  The aunt was married to David Graham.  A little digging and I was able to find a marriage certificate for Esther Burk and David Graham, a marriage certificate which listed Esther’s parents as Benjamin and Jane! Another breakthrough.

Because the family likely came from County Monaghan and the father of David, Richard, and Esther was Benjamin, another researcher on quickly pointed out to me that this family could be the Burk family from Aghabog parish in County Monaghan, listed in the Church of Ireland Survey of 1821.  Here, a Benjamin Burk is living in Drumacreeve and has one son and two daughters. If this is David’s father, we can deduce that he had three older siblings in addition to the younger siblings Richard and Esther.  Note also that there is a big age gap between David and Richard (about 12 years), which makes it quite likely that there are additional siblings to fill this gap.

Other possible siblings or relatives

There have been clues to the identities of the other siblings.
Joseph and Richard.  Oral family history that was passed down in one branch of the Burk family suggested that there were brothers Richard and David. This is a quote from a previous version of our Burk cousins’ web site.

Family history indicates that David did have brothers in Canada. An older brother, Joseph Burk was married also to a Roman Catholic and was  not to be recognized by David, or associated with. There is a possibility that Joseph went west with the opening of the New Territory.

There was also a younger brother, Richard, who had a lot of children and went off to Australia.

Obviously, the details in this oral history might be a bit wrong.  However, there still might be some clues here to follow.  Richard was the one who went west, however, perhaps there was a brother Joseph who married a Catholic.  And perhaps Joseph or another brother went to Australia. I have tried to trace Joseph but haven’t had much luck.

William and Bridget. The Burk cousins’ web site suggests that there were two siblings named William and Bridget.  I’m not sure where this information came from, but it could be an interesting clue.  Bridget is the name of an Irish Catholic saint, so I’m not sure that the Protestant Burks would name their daughter Bridget.  Nevertheless, it is good to keep this information in mind.  Perhaps Bridget was the Catholic wife of William, and William was the brother who was ostracized?
Mary Jane Burke Puley obituary from the Lindsay Post, 1906

Mary Jane Burke Puley’s obituary from the Lindsay Post, 1906

Mary Jane Burke Puley (1837-1906).  Now Mary Jane is an interesting one.  I came across Mary Jane when I was researching the Puley family.  Benjamin Burk, son of David Burk, married Mariah Puley, the daughter of another Bible Christian named Philip Puley. Mariah had an older brother named Thomas who was married to Mary Jane Burk.  According to Mary Jane’s obituary, she was born in Ireland in 1833 to David and Mary Burk.  She came to Canada in 1843 with her brothers who settled in Mariposa. Mary Jane and Thomas Puley did not have any children, but they raised Mary Jane’s niece, the daughter of Ellen Burke and Robert Casey.

Of course, we know that David’s father was Benjamin and not David, but there are some facts that suggest that these two Burk families were closely related:
  1. Two Puleys married two Burkes.  Thomas Puley married Mary Jane Burke.  Benjamin Burk married Mariah Puley.
  2. Both families were Bible Christians, and this community was a small one in Mariposa and in Victoria County.
  3. OK, this one’s the kicker.  Mary Jane’s sister Ellen Burk Casey is buried directly next to David Burk’s infant daughter Violet in the Little Britain Bible Christian Cemetery, perhaps even in the same plot (it’s hard to tell the plot divisions from the cemetery transcripts). In addition, Ellen Casey is buried next to Jane Graham, possibly the grandmother of Esther Burk’s husband David Graham.

So what does this mean?  It is possible that the obituary lists the wrong names for Mary Jane and Ellen’s parents.  I’ve certainly seen that before.  By 1906, there would have been few Burkes left in Victoria County to help with the obituary and the names could be wrong.  It is also possible that David and Mary were Mary Jane and Ellen’s parents, and David, father of Mary Jane and Ellen, was a cousin of Benjamin.  Regardless, I think that it fair to conclude that the two families are related in some way.

Ellen Burke Casey (1826-1860), sister of Mary Jane, is therefore another possible sibling of David Burk.  There is some additional evidence of a relationship between the Casey family and David Burk.  David Burk bought property with John Casey who is likely the father of Robert Casey.
Catherine Burk Pogue (1812- 1887). Catherine and her husband Alexander Pogue have a farm on Con A, Lot 18 in Mariposa, which is very close to David Burk’s farm. We know that Catherine and Alexander came to Canada in 1839 because their eldest daughter Margaret was born at sea. David Burk is married to Elizabeth Pogue, a potential relative of Alexander Pogue.  Born in 1812, Catherine would have to be the eldest sibling in the Burk family if she is indeed David’s sister.

Here’s what we are left with

If we assume (and this is a BIG, ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE assumption) that all of the above people are David Burk’s siblings, we would have a family tree that looks like this.  Note: please don’t copy this without all of these qualifiers.  I’m really not sure that this is right–it is just a guess at this time.

  1. Catherine Burk Pogue (1812-1887)
  2. Unknown daughter (per the Church of Ireland 1821 survey)
  3. Unknown son, possibly Joseph.  Oral family history has it that David had an older brother Joseph.  Church of Ireland 1821 survey lists a son to Benjamin.
  4. David Burk (1824-1891)
  5. Ellen Burk Casey (1826-1860)
  6. Gap – possibly other siblings like William
  7. Richard Burke (1836-1907)
  8. Mary Jane Burke Puley (1837-1906).  There are 10 months and six days between Richard and Mary Jane, making it possible that they are siblings.
  9. Esther Burk Graham (1839-1916).  There are 27 years between Catherine and Esther.  If there were twelve siblings, this is not impossible.  Usually, I calculate two years between siblings which would be a total of 24 years in this case.  Add in an unfortunate miscarriage or a bit longer between some children, and you easily reach 27 years.

Where to go from here

I have been whittling away at this problem for quite some time.  Here’s what else I’m doing:

  • I have list of all of the Burk(e)s in Victoria County.  So far, no luck matching them up or connecting them.
  • There are two other David Burk(e)s from Aghabog who live in Ontario.  Definitely relatives, but I’m not sure how.  I’ll write another post on these Davids at one point.
  • I’m looking at all of the connections between the Burk, Shouldice, Pogue and Casey families in Mariposa. This makes my head spin, but it could be a useful line of inquiry.

Please do let me know if you are interested in this family and/or if you have any relevant info!

Jul 192013
Mary Ann Shouldice

As I was researching the connection between the families of David and Richard Burk(e)  something stood out for me.  Richard Burke’s wife Mary Ann Shouldice died in 1873 after the birth of her son Frederick Whitlock.  Richard Burke was left to raise 10 children by himself.  Normally, a widower with children would remarry.  Richard never did, and there is a grave marker for Mary Ann in Saskatchewan where Richard buried.  A drawing of Mary Ann (likely based on a photograph) has been passed down to descendants.  This gives me the sense that this was a woman who was well-loved and desperately missed.  But who was Mary Ann?  Who were her parents?

In a previous post, I speculated that Mary Ann was the daughter of Jacob Shouldice and Elizabeth Bradley.  I now have some additional evidence that this is the case.

1) David Burk and Jacob Shouldice were neighbours. 

As I mentioned in my previous post, Jacob Shouldice and David Burk (Mary Ann’s brother-in-law) were neighbours in Mariposa Township, Victoria County.  The 1851(2) census records for Mariposa Township have not survived, but the Archives of Ontario hold the Assessment Rolls and Tax Collectors rolls for the early 1850s.  The 1853 Assessment Roll is particularly useful because it contains the ages and occupations of the inhabitants of the township.

In the early 1850s, there are four Shouldice households, one Burk household and one Laidley household on Lots 20 and 21 of Concession 2 in Mariposa Township as follows:

  • Lot 20, Con 2:  David Burk (West 1/2); John Shouldice (South, 2 acres); Abraham Laidley (East 1/2)
  • Lot 21, Con 2: Samuel Shouldice (NW ¼); William Shouldice (S ½) Jacob Shouldice (NE ¼)

Mariposa Township Map

View Mariposa Township in a larger map

2) Mary Ann’s eldest son is named Jacob George

The name of her eldest son is Jacob George, likely after Jacob Shouldice. Another researcher pointed out to me that John Shouldice might be her father.  He is living with Richard and Mary Ann Burke in the 1861 census.  He is the right age to be Mary Ann’s father.  However, I think that this John is actually Mary Ann’s cousin.  He is listed as crippled in the 1861 and this information makes me believe that he is likely the handicapped son of Adam Shouldice who settled in Harvey Township in 1825 as part of the Peter Robinson immigration scheme.  None of Mary Ann and Richard’s children are named John which would be likely if he were her father.

3) Aunt Elizabeth Reekie

Mary Ann’s youngest son Fred W. Burke is living with Elizabeth Shouldice Reekie in Duluth, Minnesota in 1895 and later with his own family in 1920.  Elizabeth’s marriage certificate to James D Reekie lists her parents as Jacob Shouldice and Elizabeth Bradley, and there is a copy of her baptismal record in the Valentia Bible Christian Church in Mariposa Township.  A written Burke family history recounts that Fred Burke stayed with an aunt in the US after his mother’s death.

4) Mary Ann’s sister Catherine Forest

I think that Jacob and Elizabeth had a daughter Catherine who married Thomas Forest. In 1861, there is a M.A. Forest living with Richard Burk and Mary Ann Shouldice, born around 1854,  who is listed as a niece.  This is Mary Ann Forest, who, on her marriage certificate, lists her parents as Thomas Forest and Catherine Shouldice.

Also in 1861, there is a C. Forest, age 1,  living with Jacob and Elizabeth Shouldice.  This census also lists a C. Shouldice and an E. Shouldice living with Jacob and Elizabeth.  I believe that this is a census taker’s error and that this is C. Forest (née Shouldice), and her daughter Elizabeth Forest.  The ages of Catherine and Elizabeth align with 1871 census results for the Forest family. There is a baptismal record for a Catherine Forest at the Valentia Bible Christian Church born 15 Nov 1860 to Catherine and Thomas Forest.

Catherine Forest’s family and Elizabeth Reekie’s family are also linked.  Catherine’s grandson Herbert is living with Elizabeth in 1900 US census.  Catherine’s daughter Elizabeth Forest Maunder was also living with Elizabeth in 1930 US census.

I believe that this is good evidence that Elizabeth Shouldice Reekie and Catherine Shouldice Forest are Mary Ann’s sisters.  Elizabeth Shouldice Reekie’s parents are clearly listed on her marriage certificate as Jacob Shouldice and Elizabeth Bradley.

5) Cousins Abe, Bill and David Shouldice

Abe, Bill and David Shouldice, sons of William Shouldice (1831-1908) and Elizabeth Irwin (1838-1918), are identified as cousins by the family of Richard Burke in a written history of Gainsborough, SK.  This would make William Shouldice Mary Ann’s brother.

There is further evidence that this is the case. William Shouldice (1831-1908) lists his year of immigration as 1834 in the 1901 census.  Mary Ann Shouldice lists her place of birth around 1834 as “at sea” on the 1871 census. This William also has a son named Jacob who dies as an infant.

Of course, none of this is conclusive evidence.  Much like my attempt to prove the relationship between Richard and David Burke, proving Mary Ann Shouldice’s parentage is slippery and uncertain…

Coming soon…

In my next post, I’ll add some additional information about the Shouldice family.


Jan 162013
Richard Burke Family

Recent comments and inquiries about my Burke family research have reminded me that I do have a couple of additional pieces of information to add to the Burke family story.

Richard Burke Family

Richard Burke Family

In a previous post, I mentioned that I believed that I had found the brother of my g-g-g-grandfather David Burk.  I believe that David and his siblings came to Canada during the late 1840s at the time of the Irish potato famine.  David Burk settled in Mariposa Township in Victoria County, Ontario.  Oral family history has it that David had a brother Richard and a brother Joseph.  I believe that David’s brother Richard moved to Carievale, Saskatchewan.  I outline my reasons for making this connection in my previous post. I have yet to locate David’s brother Joseph.

In the meantime, however, I have some additional information about David Burk.  This new information adds more circumstantial evidence that David Burk and Richard Burke are brothers.

While in Ontario this summer, I made a trip to the Ontario Archives (love).  I pulled the tax assessment rolls for Mariposa Township (Fonds F 1761).  These aren’t on microfilm, so I had the pleasure of dealing with the beautiful old folders.  Unfortunately, I didn’t take any photos of them.  I found the following entries for David Burk:


David Burk; Con: 2 W 1/2; Lot: 20; Acres: 100; Value of each parcel or lot: 75; Value of horses: 30; No of neat cattle, 3 years or upwards: 2; Number of neat cattle: 6; Total value of taxable personal property: 36; Statute labour: 6.


Records weren’t available as they discovered mold on the folders.


David Burk; Age 28; Farmer; Householder; Con 2, Lot 20 W 1/2; Value of lot: 300. No other info.


Occupant: David Burke; Occupation: Yeoman; Householder; Age: 28; Concession 2; Lot 22 1/2 N; No. of Acres: 100; Value of each lot: 40; Total value of property: 40; Statute Labour, No of days: 2.

I also checked if David Burk was perhaps the original patent holder for the land on Con 2 Lot 20.  He wasn’t.  The original patent for Con 2 Lot 20 1/2 W for Mariposa Township, Victoria County went to John Ray in 1843, George Ray in 1844, and to John Naylor 1853 and 1854. This suggests that David Burk was renting this land — a fact which is confirmed by the fact that he has moved to Con 2, Lot 22 by 1854.  The 1861 census has him living on Con 2, Lot 21.



1873 Mary Ann Shouldice Burke Death Record

  1. If there were other Burk siblings living on this land and helping (and I suspect that there were), they were younger than David because he is listed as the head of the household.
  2. It gives us some pretty interesting information about the farm: 6 neat cattle!
  3. It gives us some additional information about David’s age.  The 1861 census puts his date of birth at 1824, but according to this new information, it could have been a couple years later in 1826.

Of course, none of this ties David Burk to Richard Burke.  What I also discovered, however, was that David Burk was living next to several Shouldice families in 1851-4: those of Jacob, William, John and Samuel.  Richard Burke’s wife was Mary Ann Shouldice.

Moreover, Mary Ann Shouldice is buried in North Valentia United Cemetery which is only one concession over from David Burk’s farm in Mariposa Township.  (Mary Ann died of puerperal peritonitis (infection after childbirth) three days after the birth of her son Frederick Whitlock Burke in 1873 – see the death record to the left).

It is seems probable that Mary Ann Shouldice was related to the Shouldice family who lived next to David Burk and that Richard had met Mary Ann through this connection. (I suspect that Richard was living on David’s farm).  Perhaps Mary Ann was the daughter of Jacob Shouldice who was born 1796 in Ireland and who died in 1882 in Lindsay in Victoria County.  This would fit as Jacob is the name of Richard and Mary Ann’s first son. Interestingly, Jacob Shouldice is listed as Bible Christian in his death record.  David Burk’s son Benjamin (my great-great grandfather) married into the Puley family who were also Bible Christians.

So again, this isn’t definite proof that Richard and David were brothers, but at this point I would be very surprised if they weren’t.

P.S. Someone named Frances left a comment on my previous post that she was a descendant of Richard Burke and knew that he had 12 siblings.  Frances — I tried to contact you at the e-mail you left, however, my e-mail bounced.  I’d love to hear more about what you know.  You can write me directly at!

Mar 112012
Richard Burke

I was recently facing a painful deadline for a paper that I was writing. It was killing me, and in my desperation, I decided to distract myself (read: procrastinate) by trying to make some headway on one of my most difficult brickwalls: tracing the Burke family back to Ireland. My paternal grandmother was a Burke, and although she knew her ancestors were Protestant Irish (and Orangemen), she had little information about where the family had come from in Ireland. It had been easy to trace the family back to the Canadian patriarch: one David Burk (the ‘e’ in Burke got added in Canada) who had settled in Mariposa Township in Victoria County, Ontario about 1850. (The exact date of his settlement is difficult to determine and made harder by the fact that the 1852 census returns for this township have not survived.)

Finding David Burk also meant finding another branch of this family who had also done extensive research and had perserved some oral family history. These cousins added some important information to the search, information which they pulled together in this biography of David Burk. The key information in this piece was that David Burk had (at least) two brothers–Richard and Joseph–and that one of these brothers had married a Catholic woman, was estranged from the family and moved west; and the other had had lots of children and had moved to Australia. I thought that my best chance of finding out more about David Burk was to find his siblings.

The Burkes who moved west

Richard Burke

Richard Burke

First I had to do some grunt work. I wanted to make sure that I knew all I could about what happened to David Burk and Elizabeth Pogue’s children. I started tracing their lives through the Canadian censuses. In 1901, I found the three younger Burk siblings (Margaret, Cordelia and Joseph) all living close to each other in Carivale, Saskatchewan. They had clearly moved west when land on the Prairies became available. When I pulled up the original images of the census returns, I noticed something. Living close to David Burk’s children and their families were some other families named Burke, including one Richard Burke, born in 1836 in Ireland. Richard’s descendants had done a lot of work tracing their side of the familyand I very quickly learned that Richard and his family had also settled in Mariposa Township, Victoria County, Ontario before they moved west in 1885. Even though the details don’t quite match the oral family history in my side of the family, they are close enough. I was certain that this Richard Burke was David’s brother.

I was very quickly able to find descendants of Richard online (I love meeting new cousins), and I was very happy to hear that this branch of the family had been quite fastidious about keeping their family history. They knew, for instance, that Richard came from County Monaghan in Ireland. Richard’s grandson Delmer Smith Burke even wrote a lengthy year-by-year account of his life in Carievale. In this family history, he mentions that on the way west in 1881, his father Jacob George Burke stayed with his uncle David Graham and that David’s wife was his aunt, a sister to his father Richard Burke. This is music to a genealogist’s ear. Sure enough, I was able to find a marriage record for an Esther Burke and a David Graham. Esther was a resident of Mariposa Township when she married David Graham in Cobourg, Ontario in 1859. But the best news was that their marriage record named Esther’s parents: Benjamin and Jane Burk(e). I had not had these names before, but they do fit perfectly as both David and Richard had a son named Benjamin–not a common Irish name.

Evidence that this is the same family

Although I do not have birth records for David or Richard Burke, there is some powerful evidence that these families are related:

  1. Both families settled about the same time in Mariposa Township, Victoria County, Ontario. (In the absence of the 1852 census returns, I’ll have to check land records for the township, but I’m guessing that these families also lived close to each other in Mariposa).
  2. David’s descendants remembered a brother Richard and Richard’s descendants remembered a brother David.
  3. There were seven families living next to each other in Carievale in 1901: three children of David Burke, Richard Burke and four of his children. It is highly unlikely that this is a coincidence. (See the list below).
  4. The names Benjamin and Jane (the parents listed on Esther’s marriage certificate) are repeated in both families.

Burkes living in Carievale, Saskatchewan in 1901:

David Burk descendants

Richard Burke family and descendants
Richard Burke Family

Richard Burke Family

Remaining questions

There are still some things that I would like to figure out.

  • It seems likely that the Burke siblings came to Canada during the Irish potato famine between 1845 and 1852. About 100,000 immigrants came to Canada in 1847 alone; 60,000 of them were Irish.
  • Did the siblings come together or at different times?
  • Did the parents also perhaps come to Canada and die before 1867 when deaths were recorded regularly in Ontario?
  • There is a large age gap between David (b. 1824) and Richard (b. 1836) and Esther (b. 1839). This would suggest to me more than just one additional sibling. Did these siblings also come to Canada? Where are they? Were they also in Mariposa Township?
  • If Richard wasn’t the brother to move to Australia, was Joseph?

Tracing this family back to Ireland seems daunting, but I’d love to try….