Friday, October 24, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- James Brown

James Brown (1920-1992) was an American film and TV actor best known for his role as Lieutenant Ripley "Rip" Masters in "The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" TV Series (1954-1959) on ABC.

James Brown's supporting and starring roles at Santa Susana filming locations include: 

The Fabulous Texan (1947) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Gallant Legion (1948) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Joseph Schildkraut (Garden of the Gods) Republic

The Younger Brothers (1949) - Wayne Morris, Janis Paige, Bruce Bennett - Warner Bros.

"Sky King" TV Series (1952) 

"The Lone Ranger" TV Series (1952)

The Man Behind the Gun (1953) - Randolph Scott, Patrice Wymore, Dick Wesson (Bell Ranch)(Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros.

"The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin" TV Series (1954-1959) as Lt. Rip Masters

Five Guns to Tombstone (1961) - James Brown, John Wilder, Walter Coy (Iverson Ranch) Kent Prod.

Gun Street (1961) - James Brown, Jean Willes, John Clarke (Corriganville)(Iverson Ranch) United Artists

"Have Gun - Will Travel" TV Series (1962)

"Gunsmoke" TV Series (1963)

"Daniel Boone" TV Series (1964)

Black Spurs (1965) - Rory Calhoun, Linda Darnell, Terry Moore (Corriganville) Paramount

"The Virginian" TV Series (1962-1966)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Great Granddad Was A Great Lakes Sailor

William Allan MCNEIL, my great grandfather, was born 31 July 1865 in Goderich, Huron Co., Ontario, Canada.  He was the son of Duncan McNeil who emigrated from Scotland and Margaret McDonald who was born on Prince Edward Island to Scottish parents.

He married Adaline PROCTOR, daughter of William Proctor and Ellen Sturdy (Irish emigrants), on 31 Oct 1887 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada.

In the mid 1890s Allan (the name he went by) became a sailor working on the Great Lakes between Canada and the United States.

His wife Adaline died 25 Nov 1908 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA.

The children of Allan and Adaline Proctor are:

i. Alan W.  MCNEIL born 12 Apr 1891 in Sarnia, Lambton Co., Ontario, Canada
ii Hugh Sturdy MCNEIL born 7 Sep 1894 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA
iii Annie Margaret MCNEIL born 8 Nov 1892 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA.

Alan died young and does not appear after the 1901 census (Sarnia, Lambton).

Hugh Sturdy McNeil turns up in an orphanage (Good Will Home) in Fairfield, Somerset, Maine, USA in 1910.

Annie was living in Port Huron, Wayne Co., Michigan in 1910, with Anthony Beale and his wife Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin).  Mabel Colwell (Annie's cousin) was the daughter of John Colwell and Anna McNeil.   This Anna McNeil, born 1863 in Ontario, was the daughter of Duncan McNeil and Margaret McDonald and sister of William Allan McNeil.  

The life of the Great Lakes sailor was difficult.

In 1900, working conditions for a sailor were arduous and hazardous with poor compensation.  Seasonal unemployment complicated their already difficult personal finances and living conditions aboard vessels were deficient, lacking any comfort for common seamen.

These poor working conditions coupled with the loneliness during long sailing stood in stark contrast to most working class men during the early part of the 20th century.

1913 Great Lakes Storm Shipwrecks

Weather related shipping disasters were commonplace in the late 19th and early 20th centuries on inland seas.  The height of shipping on the Great Lakes occurred in the late 1800’s into the first half of the 1900’s.   

Ships that sailed on the Great Lakes carried a wide variety of cargo and people.  They carried everything from grains, livestock, iron, coal, lumber, cement, stone and even Christmas trees. 

After Adaline's death in 1908, Allan McNeil spent the rest of his life working as a sailor, and died 07 Mar 1927 in Detroit, Wayne Co., Michigan, USA at age 62.

Allan's life was one of great sadness… his parents and several siblings perished from consumption during the 1880s, he lost his eldest son before he reached adulthood, and his young wife died in her 40s.  While I cannot be sure -- it appears that he may have sailed the world spending long periods away from home.  My father, his grandson, only remembered meeting him one time.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Andy Devine

Andy Devine (1905–1977) was an American born actor and comic cowboy sidekick best known for his distinctive raspy voice.

He is best-remembered for his role as "Jingles", Guy Madison's sidekick in "The Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" TV series.

Andy's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

Noah's Ark (1928) - Dolores Costello, George O'Brien, Noah Beery (Iverson Ranch)  Vitaphone Corp

Stagecoach (1939) - John Wayne, Claire Trevor, Andy Devine (Iverson Ranch) United Artists

Geronimo (1939) - Preston Foster, Ellen Drew, Andy Devine (Iverson Ranch) Paramount

When the Daltons Rode (1940) - Randolph Scott, Kay Francis, Brian Donlevy - Universal

Trail of the Vigilantes (1940) - Franchot Tone, Warren William, Broderick Crawford (Iverson Ranch)(Corriganville) Universal

The Vigilantes Return (1947) - Jon Hall, Margaret Lindsay, Andy Devine, Paula Drew (Iverson Ranch) Universal

Slave Girl (1947) - Yvonne De Carlo, George Brent, Broderick Crawford (Iverson Ranch) Universal

On the Old Spanish Trail (1947) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Tito Guízar (Corriganville) Republic

The Fabulous Texan (1947) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll and Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Old Los Angeles (1948) - Bill Elliott, John Carroll, Catherine McLeod (Iverson Ranch) Republic

Under California Stars (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee (Chatsworth) - Republic

The Gallant Legion (1948) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Joseph Schildkraut (Garden of the Gods) Republic

Grand Canyon Trail (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Jane Frazee (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Far Frontier (1948) - Roy Rogers, Trigger, Gail Davis (Iverson Ranch) Republic

The Last Bandit (1949) - Bill Elliott, Lorna Gray, Forrest Tucker (Brandeis Ranch) Republic

The Traveling Saleswoman (1950) - Joan Davis, Andy Devine, Adele Jergens (Iverson) Columbia

New Mexico (1951) - Lew Ayres, Marilyn Maxwell, Robert Hutton (Corriganville) Irving Allen Prod.

Around the World In 80 Days (1956) - David Niven, Cantinflas and Finlay Currie (Iverson Ranch) UA

"Adventures of Wild Bill Hickok" TV Series (1951-1958) 

"Wagon Train" TV Series (1959) 

"How the West Was Won" (1962) - John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart (Corriganville) MGM

"The Virginian" TV Series (1967)

"Bonanza" TV Series (1968)

"Gunsmoke" TV Series (1969)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

DNA Links Grandma To Scotland

In recent years genealogy -- the study of your family history -- has become a popular multi-billion dollar business..  Ancestry (dot com) has more than 2 million paid subscribers, and some hobby experts claim genealogy ranks second only to gardening as American's favorite pastime.

I have been interested in tracing my family history since the 1970s, but it wasn't until the late 1990s that I made much progress.  The internet -- more specifically the world wide web -- created new opportunities for genealogists, and today one can subscribe to any of several genealogy websites and sift through millions of records, stories, and even photographs.

I have been a long time subscriber to Ancestry (dot com) so when they offered DNA testing in 2011, I jumped at the chance to learn more about my ancient family history.  Honestly, I wasn't sure exactly what I'd learn, but I ordered both Y-46 (paternal) and mtDNA (maternal) test kits.

In a few short weeks I obtained the results.  I learned that dad's family probably arrived in Great Britain after once living in Scandinavia, and mom's family arrived in Great Britain after once living in present day Basque Country, Scandinavia and other parts of Europe.  

Frankly, I was disappointed in the results because I really didn't learn anything new.  However, I was told my DNA would be part of a huge database that would be compared with others.  In time it might be possible to identify distant cousins and share family history with them.

Then a year later in 2012, Ancestry (dot com) offered an updated DNA test that promised to yield new facts about my ancestors, so I ordered the new test.  This time I got more specific information about the ethnicity of my ancestors.

The 2012 test identified me as 100% European, broken down as follows:

Europe West 53% (Primarily located in: Belgium, France, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Liechtenstein; also found in: England, Denmark, Italy, Slovenia, Czech Republic)

Ireland 21% (Primarily located in: Ireland, Wales, Scotland; also found in: France, England)

Great Britain 20% (Primarily located in: England, Scotland, Wales; also located in: Ireland, France, Germany)

Iberian Peninsula 4% (Trace Region -- Primarily found in: Spain, Portugal; also be found in: France, Morocco, Algeria, Italy)

Scandinavia 2% (Trace Region -- Primarily found in: Sweden, Norway, Denmark; also found in: Great Britain, Scotland, Germany, Netherlands, Belgium)

Meanwhile the DNA database was being improved and is growing daily.  And, most importantly it is yielding some useful family links and new information.

DNA testing can't tell you who your ancestors are or provide you with a family tree, but it can determine if two people descend from the same ancestor, and it can prove or disprove family tree research.

How DNA proved where grandma's Scottish family came from

One of my favorite childhood memories was having afternoon tea with my grandmother (dad's branch of the tree).  Her full name was Annie Margaret McNeil (maiden).  She had been born and raised in Ontario, Canada and having descended from Scots-Irish ancestors she spoke with a charming brogue.

I once asked grandma about her brogue and she told me her family was Scots-Irish.  I asked her where in Ireland or Scotland they came from, but she didn't know.  She said she knew they came to Ontario from Nova Scotia.

Using Canadian census records in the 1990s I quickly learned grandma's grandfather was Duncan McNeil born 1821 in Scotland, and his wife's name was Margaret born 1832 in Prince Edward Island, Canada.

During the next 15 years I pieced together one fact at a time 

Margaret McNeil's death record gave me her maiden name.  I learned she was Margaret McDonald born 1832 on Prince Edward Island.  The death certificate stated she was a Baptist, but all the census records stated she was a Presbyterian, so I went with that as her religion.  

In time I discovered a Prince Edward Island Baptismal Index for St. John’s Presbyterian Church Belfast with baptism dates ranging from 1823 to present day.  In its Record Book Number 2; Page: 83 (Officiating Clergy: John McLennan), I found Margaret McDonald's birth and baptism dates and the names of her parents:

Child's Full Name: Margaret McDonald 
Birth Date:  25 September 1832
Place of Birth: Cape Bear
Father's Name: Angus McDonald
Mother's Name: Catharine Munn
Baptismal Date: 27 September 1834
Place of Baptism: Belfast

I also learned she had three brothers John, James and Angus, and a sister Catharine all born before 1841 at Cape Bear, Prince Edward Island.  Next I found a really obscure 1841 census for Angus McDonald living at Cape Bear.  From the census I confirmed that he and Catharine Munn were both born in Scotland, and all five of their children were born at Cape Bear.

Leaping forward to just a few months ago I found an essay -- that I had previously missed -- on Islandregister (dot com).  It's titled "The Americans, The Earl of Selkirk, and Colonsay's 1806 Emigrants to Prince Edward Island," by John W Sheets, Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Archives and Museum, Central Missouri State University written June/July 2001.

ABSTRACT: In September 1806 the ship "Spencer" landed at Prince Edward Island with over one hundred people from the island of Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland. Traveling in large, extended families, they had responded to a local laird, John McNeill, "Improving" their lives and to the Earl of Selkirk offering land across the Atlantic. Selkirk wanted Gaelic-speaking emigrants to block colonial America on the verge of expansion.  Success of the Colonsay settlers started a "chain of migration" into Canada that depopulated the isolated, tiny island. Early 19th century emigrations from Gaelic Scotland often involved planning and sponsors reacting to the politics, personalities and changing spaces in the era of Jefferson and Napoleon.

Within Sheets' essay I found reference to Catherine Munn (an infant born 1806), her father Angus Munn (1774-1837), her mother Margaret McNeill (1785-1871), and her grandparents Duncan Munn (1746-1821) and his wife Flora Brown (1748- ); and Malcolm McNeill (1755 - ) and his wife Mary Livingston (1755 - ) all from Colonsay.  

I also found extended family members including Catherine's grand aunt Grisael (Grace) MacNeill (1766 – 1833) and her husband Malcolm McMillan.  Finding Malcolm McNeill's sister Grace would eventually prove to be a bit of crucial information to confirm my family tree.

Remember earlier when I said DNA testing can't tell you who your ancestors are or provide you with a family tree, but it can determine if two people descend from the same ancestor, and it can prove or disprove family tree research.

I have faithfully searched Ancestry's DNA results each week trying to find matches that will prove my family tree work.  One can search the DNA results for either a surname or a location, so if you believe you have an ancestor from Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland you can search for that.

Two weeks ago searching "Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland" yielded a match, and that match turned out to be a 4th cousin (95% confidence range) who is a direct descendant of Grace McNeil born about 1759, Colonsay, Argyll, Scotland and died 07 Jan 1833, Wood Islands, Prince Edward Island, Canada. 

So our DNA match proves we are distant cousins who are both descended from the McNeils of Colonsay.  Better yet the DNA match cements my family tree work in place, and proves grandma's Scots ancestry was from the tiny Hebrides Island of Colosay, Scotland.

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I Think We'll Go Too : a Highland Homestead : the Story of Flora McNeill, a Pioneer Woman
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2002
ISBN: 0973208031


Lauchlan's Legacy
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2000
ISBN 0973208007


We Must All Stay Together
by Mary I. MacKay
Published Paisley, Ontario, Canada 2000
ISBN 0973208015

I would be happy to pay any reasonable price for a new or used copy of these books.  Leave a comment with your email information.

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For anyone that has followed my French Canadian connection on mom's branch of the tree.

You'll be happy to learn DNA results have identified a 4th cousin (95% confidence) that shares my 7th Great Grandfather Andre Mignier dit Lagace the French Sharpshooter assigned to the Carignan-Salières Regiment…

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Great Granddad Was A Prince Edward Island Fisherman

In 1806, the "Spencer" a ship full of Scottish immigrants from Colonsay, Scotland, was bound for Prince Edward Island where the Earl of Selkirk offered them shelter, provisions and land. 

With heavy hearts and high expectations, these Colonsay pioneers crossed the Atlantic with their extended families, and on 22 September 1806, the "Spencer" landed in Pinette Harbour, Prince Edward Island.

The Colonsay settlers spent the winter at Pinette, with provisions and quarters provided by Selkirk. The following spring, 1807, they moved to the Wood Islands area of Lot 62 to begin their new lives in a New World.

My ancestors aboard the "Spencer" were

Duncan Munn -- my 5x great grandfather -- who was born 1746 in Colonsay and died 1821 in Wood Islands, PEI; and his wife Flora Brown who was born 1748 in Colonsay.

Angus Munn -- my 4x great grandfather -- (Duncan's son) born about 1774 in Colonsay, and died 27 JUL 1837 in Woods Island, PEI; his wife Margaret McNeill born about 1784 in Colonsay, and died 21 Feb 1871 in Little Sands, PEI; and their infant daughter Catherine Munn born 1806 in Colonsay.  

Catherine Munn -- my 3x great grandmother -- eventually married Angus McDonald who was born about 1810 in Colonsay, but was not a passenger on the "Spencer."

Also on the "Spencer" were Malcolm McNeill -- my 5x great grandfather -- (Margaret McNeill Munn's father) born about 1755 in Colonsay; and his wife Mary Livingston born about 1755 in Colonsay.

Other extended kin -- in my family tree -- arriving on the "Spencer" included McMillans, McDuffs, and additional McNeills

Angus McDonald settled on Lot 64 -- Cape Bear -- PEI and became a fisherman

While living at Cape Bear Angus McDonald -- my 3x great grandfather -- was engaged in both farming and fishing.  Angus and his family lived between Cape Bear and Murray River, and no doubt kept their boats at Murray Harbour.  

Being located at Cape Bear -- on the east end of the island -- gave them the ability to travel north to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, or go to the south side -- literally their backyard -- to the Northumberland Strait depending on the weather and fishing conditions.

Fishing was a "Island way of life" for many on PEI

Angus McDonald and other island fishermen worked mainly "inshore" and relied on small boats -- often built themselves -- such as a 12' to 18' dory,  A dory is usually rowed by one or two fishermen -- but sometimes a mast was attached so it could be sailed.
While hundreds of species of fish thrived in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Northumberland Strait only a few dozen had of any commercial value.  Primary species harvested included herring, mackerel, tuna, trout, salmon, and smelt.  

Island rivers were abundant with excellent trout, flounders, sturgeons, mackerel and salmon.

Groundfish found near the coast included cod, hake, ocean perch (redfish), and flounder.  Shellfish and crustaceans that abound include oysters, mussels, clams, crab, and lobster.

Irish moss (a seaweed) was harvested by pulling a special horse-drawn rake along the rocks or on the sea floor.

Occasionally walrus would to frequent the shores in large numbers, and were a source of considerable profit.  Harbor seals and harp seals floated on the ice towards the north shore in large numbers.  

Wild geese, wild pigeons, wild ducks, and Brant were also very plentiful in their seasons.

The McDonald children born at Cape Bear

Angus and Catherine (Munn) McDonald had the following children: Margaret McDonald born 1832, John McDonald born 1834, James McDonald born 1836, Angus McDonald born 1838 and Catharine McDonald born 1840.

Sometime before 1871, Angus removed to Stanley, Huron South, Ontario where he was still occupied as a fisherman.  Angus died sometime around 1876 in Ontario, Canada, and Catherine after 1881 in Goderich, Huron, Ontario, Canada.

The McNeils in Ontario

Angus and Catherine's eldest daughter Margaret McDonald -- my 2x great grandmother -- who was born 25 Sep 1832 in Cape Bear (lot 64) Prince Edward Island, married about 1850 to Duncan McNeil born 1821 in Scotland, and they had nine children.

The McNeil children -- all born in Ontario -- were Duncan McNeil born about 1855, Angus McNeil born about 1857, Mary McNeil born about 1859, Catherine McNeil born about 1860 in Paisley, Allen McNeil born about 1865 in Goderich, Annie McNeil born about 1866 in Goderich, Ellen McNeil born about 1868 in Goderich, John McNeil born about 1870 in Goderich, and Neil McNeil born about 1877 in Goderich.

Margaret died in 1881 from consumption (Pulmonary tuberculosis) which also killed many of her children.  No record for Duncan is found after 1882, so it is likely he also succumbed to TB.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Reb Russell

Reb Russell (1905-1978) was a star football player for the University of Nebraska and later at Northwestern University, where he was named an All-American in 1930.

Because of his athletic fame he was courted by Hollywood, and eventually became a B-Western cowboy star during the mid 1930s.

Russell's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

Fighting Through (1934) - Reb Russell, his horse Rebel, Lucille Lund and Yakima Canutt (Chatsworth) Willis Kent

Range Warfare (1934) - Reb Russell, his horse Rebel, Lucille Lund (Brandeis Ranch) States Rights  

Blazing Guns (1935) - Reb Russell, Marion Shilling, Lafe McKee (Brandeis Ranch) States Rights

Monday, August 4, 2014

Reel Cowboys of the Santa Susanas -- Charles Bronson

Charles Bronson (1921–2003) was an American born film and television actor  He was best known for his roles in Westerns and action films.  

During the 1950s he performed mostly in B-Western supporting roles, but by the 1960s he was starring in films such as Once Upon a Time in the West, The Magnificent Seven, and The Great Escape.

Bronson's Santa Susana locations filmography includes:

"Roy Rogers Show, The" (1951) TV Series

Riding Shotgun (1954) - Randolph Scott, Wayne Morris, Joan Weldon (Bell Ranch) Warner Bros.

Apache (1954) - Burt Lancaster, Jean Peters, John McIntire (Corriganville)(Burro Flats) United Artists

Drum Beat (1954) - Alan Ladd, Audrey Dalton, Marisa Pavan (Iverson Ranch) Warner Bros. 

"Wire Service" (1956) TV Series

"Tales of Wells Fargo" (1957) TV Series

"Gunsmoke" (1955) TV Series

"U.S. Marshal" (1958) TV Series

"Have Gun - Will Travel" (1957) TV Series

"Bonanza" (1959) TV Series

"Big Valley, The" (1965) TV Series

"Legend of Jesse James, The" (1965) TV Series

"Fugitive, The" (1963) TV Series

"Virginian, The" (1962) TV Series