Taughers in Montreal

I was really hoping to do one of my 2016 write-ups on the Taughers, but here it is, the end of November and I don’t have much to say. I’ve looked at this family a lot, and really don’t know anything that I didn’t last year.

I’ll start with Patrick Taugher. Born in 1853 in Montreal, he was my great-grandfather’s father. He and his wife Hanna Askwith had 9 children, but only 5 of them lived beyond the age of 3. Their first son survived into adulthood, the next 3 died as toddlers, the next lived, the next died, followed (finally!) by 4 who all lived. There was a 15 year gap between their first son, William, and the next child to survive. There was a 25 year spread between the 9 children.

Patrick himself was also from a family of 9 children (6 or 7 lived). He was a finisher (of what?) and later a machinist. He grew up and lived in various places in and around Griffintown in Montreal. Griffintown was Canada’s first industrial slum, and Montreal had the highest mortality rate of all North American cities in the 1800s. This was one of the first stops off the famine boats, and many of Ireland’s poorest settled there (assuming the survived the journey and subsequent quarantine). It’s an area of canals, factories, and the people who worked in them. The conditions during these years in Montreal were appalling for the poor. Families were large and lived in very close quarters, where germs spread fast and mortality was high. Below is Griffintown in 1896.


There’s a little anecdote in The Shamrock and the Shield: An Oral History of the Irish in Montreal (by Patricia Burns), about Paddy Taugher and his wife Hanna Askwith and a little song children would sing: “She asked him and then he took her”, which was a play on their surnames. He was quite a bit older than she was. He was 26 when they married, although she was still a minor, probably about 17 years old.

Patrick was the 2nd child of a blacksmith, John Taugher, and his wife Mary Mulhall. John had immigrated from Ireland, probably in the late 1840s, and was likely a famine immigrant. I don’t know who he came with, and I can’t really find other Taughers in Montreal at the time. There was one who was baptized in 1831 (but had been born in Boston and was protestant) and likely not from our family. The rest I find are all John’s descendants. So did he immigrate alone? Did other family members continue somewhere else (there seems to be some Taughers who went to Wisconsin around the same time)? Some other Taughers also cropped up in Ontario – I’d like to look into both of these families a bit more since I’ve hit dead ends with my own confirmed branch.


John was presumably from Galway and born around 1824, but there are also Taughers (of a variety of spellings) from the Mayo area, along the border between the two counties. I’ve looked through parish records in those regions and found very little (a handful of Tohers). When he got married in Montreal, John reported that his parents were Patrick and Margaret, who lived in Galway. Galway is in the west of Ireland, and was still largely Gaelic speaking at the time. It’s famous for its shawls (fibre arts!).


John was a blacksmith – I have no idea if he learned his trade in Ireland or in Montreal. I know he had at least some education, having been able to sign his name at his wedding in 1848, which is more than I can say for most of my ancestors at that time!

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John was also involved in legal proceedings a lot. He owed money in Montreal and there was a fairly large precedent-setting case about whether or not his wife’s inheritance could be sold to pay his debts. There are a lot of mentions of him in notarial reports, but it’s not clear what the notes are about – certainly a number are related to the property case, but others seem to be leases and business negotiations.

I’d love to connect our Taughers with other Taughers, or at least get a better idea of where they came from. There was family lore that the Taughers were originally German, but I haven’t been able to find anything to support that. I do know that my grandmother’s DNA connected her with a small group of people who were connected to the Palantines, Germans living in Ireland (but not Galway), but I haven’t found a paper trail to support this at all. I also wonder if the spelling of Taugher could be an issue – it was always spelled wrong by census takers, and there are quite a few variations. Perhaps one of these days a magical record will fall from the sky or I’ll make a great DNA connection, since I feel a  bit like I’ve exhausted the paper trail.


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