Friday, February 13, 2015

My Tocher Family

The word tocher, of Scottish Gaelic origin, means dowry. Tocher magazine features old Scottish tales, songs and traditions. The tiny place named Tocher in Aberdeenshire consists of a few houses set among farmers’ fields. Uncommonly, Tocher is also a family name.

My Tocher family can be traced to Alexander Tocher, (c1733-c1798) of Grange parish, Banffshire, who married Jean Shepherd in nearby Cullen parish church, Banffshire on February 12, 1752.

Cullen Parish Church

Family history notes passed down to me by a cousin said Alexander was a “Miln of Pathnic and Proprietor of Garmouth”. Miln is a Scottish word for miller, and there was a mill on the Burn of Paithnick, I have not yet confirmed whether Alexander owned property in Garmouth. The same source says Alexander died in May 1798, age 65, and Jean died in September of the same year.

The couple had two children: Alexander, baptized July 28, 1754 and Margaret, baptized September 21, 1756. When Alexander grew up he attended university in nearby Aberdeen. “Mr. Alexander Tocher, Banffiensis” is listed among the recipients of arts degrees from the University of Aberdeen and Kings College in 1779. He then found a position as a schoolmaster in MacDuff, a fishing town on the Banffshire coast, overlooking the Firth of Moray.

On November 17, 1798, Alex'r Tocher married Elizabeth Stephen at Gamrie parish church in MacDuff. He and Elizabeth had three daughters: Margaret (1799-c1870), who married MacDuff rope manufacturer Alexander Carney (or Carny) in 1821 and had 10 children; Elizabeth (1801-1885), who did not marry, and Jean (also known as Jane), my direct ancestor, born March 17, 1803.

Two years later, on June 19, 1805, Elizabeth died, leaving Alexander with a young family to raise. He remarried in 1808. He and his second wife, Ann Haslopp, had no children.

In 1823, daughter Jane developed an interest in MacDuff school’s assistant schoolmaster, a young man named James Avon Smith. In fact, Jane became pregnant. She and James were married in Gamrie and Macduff parish on July 5, 1823, and she gave birth to son Alexander in October.

Jane died at age 35 on February 28, 1838, a month after giving birth for the ninth time. This baby, John Murray Smith, was my future great-grandfather. Jane is buried in Doune cemetery, MacDuff, along with two daughters who died very young, and with her father, who died February 10, 1844, aged 89 years. Ann Haslopp who died on January 3, 1850, aged 83, is also buried with them. 

Reading the Tocher monument, Doune Cemetery, MacDuff

The inscription on the monument that marks their grave notes that Alexander Tocher was schoolmaster at MacDuff for 67 years. Maybe he had to continue working to support the family, or maybe he really loved his job, but after so many years in the classroom, he must have been set in his ways. Hopefully the community celebrated his long service with a big thank-you.

The 1841 census of Scotland found Alexander Tocher, schoolmaster, living on Duff Street in MacDuff with his wife Ann, unmarried daughter Elizabeth and teenaged grandson Alex Smith, while son-in-law James Avon Smith lived around the corner on Gellymill Street with the six other children.

By the mid-1840s, the Smith family had started the move to North America, with Jane's unmarried sister Elizabeth Tocher accompanying them to help look after the children. “Aunt Tocher” died in Toronto in 1885, aged 84, and is buried in the Smith family plot in Toronto's Necropolis Cemetery. With her passing, the name Tocher died out in my family.


I used a website called to research the Tocher family. Similar to the volunteer-run and, this site allows the researcher to quickly survey the old parish records. A search for Tocher baptisms in a ten-year period in Banffshire brought up all the baptisms of children with Tocher as the mother's last name and all the babies with Tocher as the father's name. Clicking on the number beside the entry brings up the names of the witnesses. Once I had identified the people I thought were my Tochers, I paid the Scotland's People website to see the actual images of the parish records.

The website of the Scottish Genealogy Society has many useful resources, including links related to education. The page links to a book that lists officers and graduates of the University of Aberdeen, with Alexander Tocher’s name on page 254.

The campus of the University of Aberdeen
Places are as important as historic events when it comes to researching our ancestors’ lives, and Scotland has some excellent online resources for exploring them. See to check out the fascinating collection of old maps on the National Library of Scotland’s website, and to learn more about the old buildings with which our ancestors might have been familiar. The website of the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland includes maps, photographs and descriptions of hundreds of structures around the country. A search for Paithnick on this site shows the location of the mill:

There has been a church at Cullen since the 13th century. See

The information about Elizabeth Tocher was given to me by the staff at the Necropolis cemetery in Toronto. There is no gravestone to mark the Smith plot.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Marguerite Virginie Globensky

The Seigneurie of Milles-Îles, part two

With the sudden deaths of both her parents in 1841, Marguerite Virginie Lambert Dumont was a three-year old orphan who stood to inherit a vast tract of land, the seigneury of Milles-Îles. 

Her father, Louis Charles Lambert Dumont, co-seigneur of Milles-Îles, had named Virginie’s adoptive grandfather, Gabriel Roy, as the child’s legal guardian in case something happened to him. Roy was a wealthy landowner in Saint-Laurent, on the island of Montreal and an appointed member of the Legislative Council for Canada East. He and his wife, Sophia Bagg, had brought up Virginie’s mother, Mary Sophia Roy Bush. 

Virginie was sent to live with the Roy family in Saint-Laurent, but Roy, now 71 years old, realized he was unable to raise the child. She returned to Saint-Eustache where notary Frédéric-Eugène Globensky became her new guardian. He and his wife, who had no children of their own, brought her up, and she attended school at the convent in the village. 

Everyone expected that when Virginie became an adult, she would marry her cousin Charles Auguste Maximilien (C.A.M.) Globensky (1830-1906). But in 1854, the government announced that the seigneurial system was to be abolished. Virginie’s marriage to Charles was fast-tracked, with special permission from the church, and on July 21, 1854 she married C.A.M. She was just 15 years old.
Virginie and C.A.M. are portrayed in the painting to the right of the altar.
 C.A.M. was a tall and imposing man, not always liked in the community but respected for his honesty and known for his intellect and his many interests, especially agriculture and railways. He is still remembered for the book he wrote about the causes of the Rebellion of 1837 in Saint-Eustache. His father, Maximilien Globensky, a lieutenant-colonel in the British Army, had led a company of volunteer militia at the Battle of Saint-Eustache. In the book, C.A.M. explained his father’s actions.   

The bitter fallout from the rebellion hung over Saint-Eustache for many years. But the aftermath of the battle was not the only shadow over Virginie’s life. There were disputes over the shared inheritance of the seigneury and its deep debts. Virginie was in court several times, fighting family members over various property disputes. 

Although the seigneurial system had been abolished, it took decades to dismantle. A committee evaluated property values and the habitants had the right to buy their farms from the seigneurs or continue to pay rent. As co-seigneurs of Milles-Îles, a territory so vast that it included the sites of the city of Saint-Jerome and the town of Saint-Sauveur, Virginie and C.A.M. were very wealthy. 

C.A.M. built a new seigneurial manor house in Saint-Eustache and the family moved into it in 1865. And every Sunday, Virginie and her growing family sat in the front pew of the church, a privilege reserved for seigneurs. 

Virginie's plaque is on the right-hand side of the columbarium in Saint-Eustache cemetery.
 Virginie and C.A.M. had eight children, and many of their descendants are still living today. When Virginie’s health declined, she made out her will, leaving C.A.M. as her sole beneficiary. She died August 19, 1874, age 36. 

That same year, C.A.M. visited Rome and brought home a painting of the Adoration of Saint Anne in which Virginie, C.A.M. and the village priest were portrayed sitting at the saint’s feet. This huge painting hangs behind the altar of the parish church in Saint-Eustache to this day.

Saint-Eustache is primarily a bedroom suburb of Montreal, about 40 minutes from the city, but the old section of the town is well worth a visit. The parish church is still pock-marked by the cannon fired at it during the 1837 Battle of Saint-Eustache. Flour is still made in the old mill, built by Virginie’s grandfather and modernized by her husband, and there are many mementoes of the Rebellion of 1837 in the town museum, located in the mansion that C.A.M. built many years after Virginie’s death.

The two main sources for this article are in French: a book by Yvon Globensky, Histoire de la Famille Globensky, Montreal: Les Éditions du Fleuve, 1991; and an online article by André Giroux, Les héritiers d’Eustache-Nicolas,

In Quebec, birth records used the mother’s maiden name, and death records for women were also under the maiden name. But that does not mean women had any more rights than women elsewhere. A married woman’s property belonged to her husband unless she had signed a marriage contract making her separate as to property. In Virginie’s case, the seigneury was the dowry she gave to C.A.M..