Category Archives: Kerr

The ancestry of Ethel Reen Kerr and her father George. Ethel Reen Kerr would marry Olin Lyle Banghart.

Private Isaac Woolner – British Army

Isaac Woolner (1792 – 1860)  was born at Beckles, St Andrews, Suffolk, England, UK on 1 August 1792.  His parents were John Woolner and Ann (Salter) Woolner.   Isaac would in 1832 move to British Canada with his family and begin a new life.  But long before that emigration, Isaac would go to war.

Enlistment.   Bristol, England – 4th of May 1812 (date of attestation) (a recruit described a 20-years old laborer with brown hair and hazel eyes standing 5’9″ from Suffolk, BecclesIssac Woolner entered military service with the British Army.  Corporal Thomas enlisted young Isaac for seven years of service.

Isaac’s life intertwined with British military history once he entered the service.   While his life’s events are largely lost to time, his military unit’s history is well documented.  British archives have payroll records and unit reports but absent those documents we can look to the regiment as a whole.

Issac Woolner British Army
British Army – Private Woolner was assigned to the 43rd “Monmouthshire” Light Infantry Regiment.  Also see featured picture.

The 43rd Regiment of Foot, as it was called before 1803, was stationed in the 13 colonies for almost the entire American Revolution (1774 – 1781).  It fought in the Battle of Bunker Hill and Lexington and was at the British Yorktown surrender. It is a popular unit for reenactments because of this service history. Pennsylvania reenactments.  But all this was before Isaac’s birth in 1792.

Renamed in 1803, Recruit Isaac Woolner was assigned to the 43rd “Monmouthshire” Light Infantry Regiment which was combined with the 52nd Foot and 95th Rifles to become the First Corps of Light Infantry which formed the Light Brigade at Shorncliffe, Kent commanded by Sir John Moore.  They were very active in the war against Napoleon.

Death of Sir John Moore 1809
Death of Sir John Moore 1809

The 95th Rifle* wore a new dark green uniform.  The 43rd and 52nd wore the traditional red. In 1808, France advance toward Lisbon, Portugal and the Light Brigade was crucial in the Battle of Vimiera and to driving the French back to Spain.  The army withdrew after the French rallied and counterattacked.  Sir John Moore was killed in battle.  

The 43rd had two battalions in 1812.  I have not determined which one Pvt. Woolner was attached to, however, he was in all likelihood deployed with the 1st Battalion.  Attention to battalion history makes this a fair assumption.

In the war against Napoleon. the two battalions fought together through 1808.  Military command later deployed the 1st Battalion back to the Iberian Peninsula, but they redeployed the 2nd Battalion (raised for this escalating war in 1804) to the Netherlands as part of the Walcheren Expedition (1809).  This expedition failed horribly as many thousands of soldiers perished of disease, the 2nd Battalion soon withdrew and remained in England until disbandment in 1817.   When Pvt. Woolner enlisted by 1812, 1st Battalion was the principal active unit.

As a general matter, a British battalion should have about 1,000 men in 10 companies but that was an ideal only.  The 1st Battalion was usually primary and received reinforcements from the 2nd.  Most of the army still always suffered for men and supplies.  Battalions were named after areas where troops were raised, but once mustered, battalions often fought in different conflict areas.  A healthy recruit would not sit in England during war but would fortify the combat unit.

As noted, the 1st Battalion returned to the Iberian Peninsula and fought in Portugal and Spain during Pvt. Woolner’s enlistment period.  The 43rd fought in many battles during that time.  Here are the key battles the new recruit might have seen:

  • Battle of Salamanca (July 1812)
  • Siege of Burgos (Sep/Oct 1812)
  • Battle of Vitoria (June 1813)
  • Battles of Bidassoa and Nivelle (1813)

In 1814, the 43rd Light Infantry Regiment returned to England from the Iberian Peninsula and the Light Brigade was disbanded.  (An aside, pay lists and muster records for the 1st Battalion would confirm Pvt. Woolner’s location during these events but I still need to obtain them from The National Archives in Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU.)

In 1814, the military redeployed the 43rd “Monmouthshire” Foot Regiment back to America.  The unit fought against General Andrew Jackson in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. While the 43rd was generally held in reserve, British forces took heavy losses. The irony being, The Treat of Ghent was already signed December 24, 1814, but the news had not yet traveled to the Gulf Coast.  Any British gains would be irrelevant and reversed.

Issac Woolner petitions for 100 acres land.

In 1815, after the Battle of New Orleans, the 43rd Regiment quickly redeployed to fight a resurgent Napoleon at Waterloo, but the regiment arrived too late to take part in the battle of June 18, 1815. They remained to occupy France until November 1818.  The regiment was sent to Ireland from 1819 to 1823.  It was in Belfast, Ireland in 1819 that the British discharged Pvt. Woolner after seven years of service.

On December 3, 1819, Isaac Woolner married Sarah Hembling born 11 Jul 1797 in Ilketshall St Andrew, Suffolk, England and they soon started a family.

In 1832, Private Isaac Woolner would move his family to Canada and begin a new life.   Because the Crown awarded land to discharged military veterans, Isaac Woolner would later petition the Governor of Upper Canada for land in this manner.  But this was not then end of Isaac’s struggles.

*(The 95th Rifle is also Richard Sharpe’s regiment, a very popular fictional character created by author Bernard Cornwell.  Sean Bean played Sharpe.  Picture is as seen on the TV adaptation.)

Richard Sharpe - 95th Rifle Greens
Richard Sharpe – 95th Rifle Greens

Joseph Kerr – Census of Canada – 1871

On July 1, 1867 Canada became a country and started to celebrate Independence Day.  Originally called Dominion Day.  This is when the single Province of Ontario (called Canada) was divided into two provinces – Ontario and Quebec.  This new political division was then combined into a new federal system of government with the British colonies of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.   The Constitution Act of 1867 (modern reference) thereby united these colonies/provinces into one country called Canada. Though the British Government kept some political control for more than a century.

Joseph Kerr and Canada Census - 1871
Joseph Kerr and Canada Census – 1871

The 1871 Census of Canada is the first for the new country.   In District 34: Province of Ontario, Sub-District Division 2 – Garafraxa East Dwelling 33 dwelt Joseph Kerr (Age 28, Irish Origin) and Mary Jane (Woolner) Kerr (Age 25, English Origin).   Joseph is identified as a Presbyterian and Mary Jane as Church of England.

Joseph Kerr Family - Canada Census 1871
Joseph Kerr Family – Canada Census 1871

The Joseph Kerr Family 1871 census enumeration detail crosses to a second page.    On this second page are the Kerr children James and George.  Also in the house is Mary Jane Woolner’s older brother George Woolner.  Is this perhaps the old Woolner property?

At this point in time Mary Jane and George should have been the last children to leave their parents home (unless it was Mary Jane’s mother who left.)  It is unclear where Ann/Bridget Woolner, a widow of 10 years, is now living.  The 1871 Canadian Census (Sub-H, Div-2) has an Ann Woolner living in East Garafraxa, Wellington Centre, Ontario. It states Ann Woolner is 64 which is about 4 years younger than we might expect.

On the bottom of this second census image is a James Connor, age 66, widower, Irish, Church of England.  Ann Woolner’s previous husband was a Connor.  Even though Bridget’s 1st husband died, James Connor may still have a relationship with him.  We have so few leads about Bridget Connor that every possible lead needs consideration.

Ethel Reen Kerr – 1910 U.S. Census – Childhood

Widow, adult child, adoptive child and spinster sister.  A somewhat unusual arrangement.  A fragmented family come together to form a farmer’s household.  As of April 15, 1910 the U.S. Census showed a family in transition.  The four members at dwelling #159 were Ethel Reen Kerr (Age 9), Ellen (Weston) Tenniswood (44), Ralph Tenniswood(19), and Dinah Weston (46).

Ethel Reen Kerr - 1910 U.S. Census
Ethel Reen Kerr – 1910 U.S. Census

Ellen Amelia(Weston) Tenniswood (1865 – 1916) is the head of household.  Her husband John Tenniswood (1835 – 1907) having died in previous years.   Ellen has an unusual distinction, she married her older sister’s husband.   Her older sister Elizabeth Weston (1849 – 1885) was married to John but Elizabeth died young, about age 36.  The widower found a new wife in a younger sister.  And Ralph Lee Tenniswood (1891-1965) is a son from that latter marriage of Ellen and John Tenniswood.

Dinah Weston (1863 – 1910) is yet another sister of Elizabeth and Ellen but she never married and is about the same age as Ellen.

Ethel Kerr and her great-aunt Ellen Tenniswood
Ethel Kerr and her great-aunt Ellen Tenniswood

Lastly, Ethel Reen Kerr (1900- 1996) is identified as an adoptive daughter but that is not official.  Ethel’s mother, Mary Ann “Mae” Tenniswood (1872 – 1900) died at about age 28 soon after giving birth to Ethel.  Ethel’s father George Kerr took the older children to a new household and soon remarried.  Whereas newborn Ethel Reen went to the household of Ellen Tenniswood (her great-aunt/step-grandmother).  

Ralph Lee Tenniswood is her half-uncle. Because while John Tenniswood was the father of both Mary Ann and Ralph, Mary Ann and Ralph had different mothers.

Ethel had a tumultuous life.  Her mother Mary Ann died in 1900.  Her grandfather John Tenniswood died in 1907.  In August 1910, Dinah Weston passed away, soon after the census was collected.  In 1916, Ellen Amelia (Weston) Tenniswood died.  But by 1920, Ethel was married and starting her own family.

Jack Daniels shot kills Charles Weston

Widower Charles Weston was a farmer and husband to Mary Ann Ransom (1829 – 1871).  A Middlesex Englishman married to a Yorkshire woman.  A son of William Weston and Ann Windsor of England, Charles came to America and settled in Sanilac County, Speaker Township, Michigan.   He is the father of Elizabeth Weston (1849 – 1885) and Ellen Amelia Weston (1865 – 1916), among others. He would be the Great Grandfather of Ethel Reen Kerr (1900 – 1996).

On 2 Feb 1899 Charles was drinking Jack Daniels, Tennessee sour mash whiskey.  The doctor would later report “He had a Jack shot produced shock [t]o system resulting in heart-failure the immediate cause of death.”   Michigan Medical Certificate for Cause of Death. Medical care being what it was, perhaps, it was either alcohol, vinegar, or leaches for what ailed you.  Alcohol sales were brisk.

Joseph Kerr Biography

LINEAGE CONNECTION:  Joseph Kerr (b.1843, Ontario- d.1912, Sanilac Co, MI) was orphaned at age 4, and according to his biography, he was raised by an uncle.  Joseph would marry Mary Jane Woolner and father George Kerr (1869- 1942) and many other children.

His son George would have many children including daughter Ethel Reen Kerr (1900 – 1996).   Ethel would later marry Olin Lyle Banghart (1898 – 1954) and they would have seven children, five boys and two girls. Three sons and one daughter are now deceased: Erskane (1920-2007), Orlin Verne(1928-2003), Joel Dale(1934-2013), and Verna Jean(1924-2002). (Representing the author’s connection)  

Around the end of the 19th century, communities would support the publication of local histories.  These histories were typically focused around the male land owners in the area.   The link is to Joseph’s 1884 profile.

Joseph Kerr Biography 1884

The biography says Joseph’s wife is Mary Jane Woolner and that her parents are Isaac Woolner and Ann.   My other research suggested Mary Jane’s mother’s name was Bridget Connor of Ireland.  Bridget and Isaac married after they were both widowed.   Ann could be a her middle name and Connor may, or may not, be her maiden name.  This requires further research in Canada.

Joseph Kerr Death Certificate

The State Of Michigan has made all death certificates from 1897 – 1920 available on a public website.

Seeking Michigan

In genealogical research, when you hit a spot where you are unable to extend your research, it is said you’ve “hit a brick wall.”

Joseph’s parents are a wall. Joseph’s death certificate says his parents were Robert Kerr and Mary Robison from Ireland.  Joseph was born in April 1843 but he didn’t know the day.  If data is accurate, we can deduce both died about 1847 in Canada (Joseph was 4 yrs. old.) Since the parents were born in Ireland, they must have an immigration.  Joseph was born in Canada so he might have been christened.  A Kerr or Robison uncle was involved for many years, importantly, this uncle could have been a head of household during the 1851 Canada Census.  But more history is needed to trace his roots back to the Old World.  No suggestion Joseph Kerr’s line was ever Irish Catholic.

HISTORICAL NOTE:  In 1843, when Joseph was born, Canada was not yet independent from Great Britain.    His 1867 arrival from the Dominion reflects Canada’s rise to a self-governing colony of Great Britain.

Origin of Scottish Clan name Kerr:  From the Old Norse kjrr meaning marsh dweller, in western Scotland, from Gaelic ciar meaning dusky. Sometimes spelled as Kerr, Carr, Kere, Carre, Keer.   A clan from the 96 miles “Border” region between England and Scotland.  Scottish moving to Ireland brought the name with them,  but the Irish also Anglicized O’Carra to Kerr.