Even before the Potato Famine forced the exodus of millions from Ireland, many Irish Catholics willingly left their country because of the Penal Laws. The Penal Laws were laws (enacted by the English) that prevented the Irish Catholics from voting, holding public office, getting an education, owning land, and worshipping in their own churches.
In the early 1830’s, my great-great grandparents, James ROGERS (County Donegal) and Margaret McGUIRE (County Fermanagh), both Catholics, sought the freedoms the Penal Laws denied. They decided to immigrate to Canada and leave Ireland.
Sometime between 1833 and 1836, the ROGERS and their young family--Mary (b.1830), Jane (b. 1831), Rosanna (b.1832) and Ann (b. 1833) made the journey that would forever change their lives. Typically, the journey to Canada was made on a ship that delivered timber to England. Instead of sending an empty ship back to pick up another load of timber, the ships were filled with another profitable European commodity for the return trip—immigrants. The Ireland-to-Canada trip took approximately 6 to 10 weeks depending on both the season and weather.
Once in Canada, James purchased land on Wolfe Island and began to farm. The family was able to practice their religion and the children could attend school. In 1851, the Wolfe Island census recorded the ROGERS family as living on Concession 8-3 SBL living on 100 acres in a one-story log home.
Son Thomas was the first ROGERS born on Canadian soil in November of 1836. Once the family was established on the island, other children followed—sons James (January 7, 1839), Anthony (January 24, 1841), John (December 25, 1842), Michael (January 21, 1845), daughter Margaret (February 24, 1847) and twins Elizabeth and Sarah (October 15, 1849). In all, there were twelve ROGERS children who grew up on Wolfe Island.
In addition to their own large family, the ROGERS clan also had a network of other relatives in the area. James ROGERS’ sister Nancy Ann (Ann) married Wolfe Islander, Patrick McCAFFERTY. His brother, Patrick, lived nearby in Kingston, marrying Nancy DONNELLY. Margaret’s McGUIRE siblings/cousins married into the CONNELLY/CONLEY, CURRAN, HAGERTY, and O’NEIL families living on Amherst, Garden, and Wolfe Islands and in Kingston.
James and Margaret farmed and lived out their lives on Wolfe Island. James ROGERS died July 9, 1865 at the age of 64. His tombstone in the Old Sacred Heart cemetery is inscribed---
“In memory of James Rogers, died July 9, 1865. Aged 64 years. The winter of trouble is past, the storms of affliction are o'er, his struggles are ended at last, and sorrow and death are no more.”
Margaret McGUIRE ROGERS died twenty-two years later on December 17, 1887 at the age of 81. She is also buried in Old Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church on Wolfe Island has a stained-glass window dedicated to the memory of James ROGERS. On Wolfe, the ROGERS family found the freedoms they had been seeking.
After the death of their father, many of the sons eventually chose occupations connected with the sea and left the island. Although the ROGERS name is not widespread on the island today, the ROGERS daughters married into many island families and their descendants continue to populate the island even today (2003). When all of the families descended from the ROGERS family are listed, the list is practically a Wolfe Island Who’s Who.
The oldest daughter, Mary, married Patrick HENNESSY at St. Mary’s in Kingston in 1848. They had 7 children. Through their children, the ROGERS bloodlines are connected to twelve other island families. The connected families include the ALARIES, the CONLEYs, the FINNs, the GREENWOODs, the HAWKINs, the KANEs, the LAUGHLINs, the LARUSHs, the LESAGEs, the McALLISTERs, the MURPHYs, and the STALEYs. Patrick HENNESSY was a sailor. Mary ROGERS and Patrick HENNESSY must have left the island, as there is no record of their deaths or burial.
The next ROGERS daughter, Jane, married Robert PAYNE on August 15, 1852. They had eight children. Through the PAYNE descendants, the ROGERS bloodline was joined with that of twenty-eight other island families—the BAKERs, the BARRYs, the BOLTONs, the CASEYs, the CRAWFORDs, the DAWSONs, the DIGNEMs, the DOCTEURS, the FARGOs, the FITZGERALDs, the HOGANS, the HORNEs, the HULTONs, the KANEs, the KELLYs, the McALLISTERs, the McDONALDs, the McDONNELLs, the McKENNAs, the McLARENs, the MURPHYs, the O’SHEAs, the RYANs, the SMITHs, the TODDs, the WATTs, the WHITEs, and the YOTTs. Jane died on April 3, 1890 and Robert followed on Oct 6, 1907. They are both buried in the Old Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Daughter Rosanna ROGERS never married. She died August 15, 1861 at the age of 29 and is buried in the Old Sacred Heart Cemetery. Her tombstone in the Old Sacred Heart cemetery states---
“Dearest sister thou hast left us here, thy loss we dearly feel, but tis God who hast bereft us he can all our sorrows feel.”
Daughter Ann ROGERS married John McCORMICK on February 2, 1856 at Sacred Heart Church. They had nine children. John was a sailor and many of their sons were also sailors. Through marriage, however, there are still connections with four island families--the HOGANs, the CATTANACHs, the GREENWOODs, and the HENDERSONs. Ann ROGERS and John McCORMICK are not buried on the island.
Thomas ROGERS never married. He died on the island on Jan 18, 1887. He is also buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery..
Son James ROGERS married Jane YOTT on February 28, 1870 at Sacred Heart Church. Through marriage, this ROGERS’ branch is connected to the BUCKLEY, O’SHEA and YOTT families. James died on March 28, 1912. Jane followed in 1931. They are buried at the New Sacred Heart Cemetery.
Son Anthony ROGERS married Jane O’DONNELL on January 24, 1864 at Sacred Heart Church. Jane died as from complications of childbirth in 1872 and their three children did not reach maturity. It is believed Anthony was involved in the shipping industry and left the island at sometime. He is not recorded as living with his son, Thomas M. on the 1881 census. Thomas instead was living with his grandmother, Elizabeth McGUIRE ROGERS.
Son John ROGERS married Mary DOWD. While they lived on the island long enough to have one child, they also left the area.
Son Michael ROGERS married Catherine LACEY. It is not known if Catherine was related to the WOLFE ISLAND LACEY family, however. Michael and Catherine left the area for Detroit, Michigan before they started their family.
Daughter, Margaret ROGERS married islander Charles CROWLEY and so is connected to both the CROWLEY and HAGARTY families. It is believed the CROWLEYs were involved in the shipping industry and they eventually ended up living in Chicago, IL.
The twins, Elizabeth and Sarah ROGERS, also married islanders involved in the shipping industry. Sarah married Captain Maurice LANGAN on January 13, 1879 while Elizabeth married Captain John MCAVOY on April 6, 1880. Through Elizabeth’s marriage to John McAvoy, the ROGERS bloodline was connected to the islands’ MCAVOYs and DAWSONs. The LANGANs had no children. The twins left the island a few years after they were married and are buried side-by-side at Mount Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, IL (just outside Chicago) along with their husbands.
Sources for this article(and thanks to):• 1851 Census of Wolfe Island.
• 1881 Census of Wolfe Island.
• Canadian County Digital Atlas Project, McGill University
• Index to Baptisms 1833-1910, Sacred Heart of Mary Roman Catholic Church, Wolfe Island, transcribed courtesy of Chris Morrell.
• Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church Wolfe Island Marriage Transcriptions 1824 to 1954—Courtesy Pat McAvoy-Costin.
• St. Mary’s Church Records, Kingston, Ontario, Canada LDS films 1298763, 1298764, 1298765 & 1298766.
• Wolfe, Garden and Simcoe Island 19th Century Families by Russ Waller (UE).
• Wolfe Island Family Tree—http://www.gencircles.com/users/islandfamilies/2 Courtesy of Chris Morrell and others.