The Search for Records of Mary Lake, wife of Mr. Ward and then of Robert Harrison
(c 1801, probably at Ernestown, Upper Canada - 1861-1871 Canada West/Ontario)


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Last updated: April 14, 2013
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What I Know about Mary
by Wesley Johnston

Mary was my 4th Great Grandmother. She was the mother of Sarah Harrison, mother of Emma Butson, who was the mother of George Henry Johnston. She lived her entire life in Canada, in the early and mid 1800's. She was from the known Loyalist area of Ernestown Township of what is now Addington and Lennox County, Ontario. So I had suspected a Loyalist connection. Then in January 2013, Ancestry notified me of a 96% confidence autosomal DNA match with a known descendant of Mormon pioneer James Lake, Jr. We have done enough research to determine that my Mary was not a descendant of James Lake, Jr. But it seems likely that she was the daughter of one of James' brothers or cousins.

There were several Mary Lakes born about the same time, so that it is important to note who she is NOT. Most specifically, she is NOT the Mary Margaret Lake who married Nathan Fellows and died in 1863.

There is also an extraordinary amount of erroneous published information on the various Lake families, both in print and on web sites and on Ancestry trees. The main source of the errors was a book published about 1951. James Lake, Jr., descendant Janet Jeffery has published a well-documented history of her branch that includes some of the earlier generations and some about the brothers. It is the only source that I consider accurate, since it is documented. I mostly ignore the various web sites, since they are so dramatically in conflict not only with each other but also with the facts. Even a site that cites Janet's book still relies on faulty information that Janet has refuted with solid documentation.

Mary herself appears in only one document: the 1861 census of Ops Township in Victoria County. Since the family lived in Reach Township of Ontario County at the time of the 1851/2 census and that population census has been lost, the only record of the family in that census is her husband Robert in the agricultural census of Reach. Thus the 1861 census page is the closest there is to a single document with most of her family on one page. Only her daughters Mary Jane and amarilla are missing from that page, although daughters Harriet (Nugent) and Sarah (Butson) are married and in separate households. The fact that Sarah died within a few years after the census, while the others survived to old age, has led to no documented connection of Sarah to Mary and Robert. But if it were not for the known family connection, there would be no documentation for most of Mary and Robert's children. There is very strong circumstantial evidence tieing Sarah to the family both in Reach Township and in Ops Township. And the autosomal DNA match between one of the Lake family descendants and me finally confirms that Sarah was indeed the daughter of Mary.

When Age Where What How Known
c 1801 0 Upper Canada (Ontario) - probably Ernestown Township, Addington and Lennox County Mary is born.
Her surname Lake is from family tradition that she always insisted that she be known by her Harrison children as having been Mary Lake and not Mary Ward, so that Ward was the name of her first husband and Lake was her maiden name. The DNA match seems to support this.
Ops 1861 census: age 60, born Canada; birthplace based on family information and family tradition of birthplace of daughter Mary Jane Harrison
before 1828 <27 probably Ernestown marriage to Mr. Ward known only through family information - both her daughter Mary Jane (Harrison) Lamb's death record (informant was Mary Lake's grandson Charles Edwin Lamb born 1870, probably after Mary Lake had died, so that he never heard her identify herself) that gives her name as Mary Ward and also the family story of her insistence that she be known as Mary Lake and not Mary Ward
about 1828 about 27 probably Ernestown marriage to Robert Harrison Year 1828 given explicitly in 1861 census.
about 1829 about 28 probably Ernestown birth of daughter Harriet Harrison birth year known only through later census records; probable birthplace at Ernestown based on family tradition of second child Mary Jane Harrison being born at Ernestown
7 Jul 1832 (note conflict) about 31 Frontenac County or Ernestown birth of daughter Mary Jane Harrison Mary Jane's death record informant son Edwin Charles Lamb) gives birth 7 Jul 1832 at Frontenac County. However this date conflicts with sister Amarilla's 1901 census birthdate 15 Jan 1833. and family tradition places Mary Jane's birth at Ernestown.
15 Jan 1833 (note conflict) about 32 Kingston birth of daughter Amarilla Harrison Birth date 15 Jan 1833 from 1901 census conflicts with sister Mary Jane death certificate birth date 7 Jul 1832. Birthplace in Kingston is from family information.
about 1835 about 34 Ontario birth of daughter Sarah Harrison Birth year based on 1852 and 1861 censuses. Since she died 1862-1867, long before the other children, nothing else is known about her birth.
22 Nov 1838 about 37 Camden birth of son James Harrison Birth date 22 Nov 1838 from death record. Birth place at Camden from his 1871 marriage record. (Death record says Kingston.)
about 1847 about 46 Ontario birth of daughter Caroline Harrison Caroline is known only via her 1861 census entry. (Since the family lived in Reach Township in 1852, their 1852 census is lost, except for the mention of Robert in the agricultural census.) No family records or traditions exist for her either.
1852 about 51 Reach Township, Ontario County census The Reach Township 1851/2 population census is lost. But Robert Harrison does appear there in the 1851/2 agricultural census, which is supported by land records.
1861 about 60 Ops Township, Victoria County census Recorded in the 1861 census of Ops Township. This is the last document I have for her. Her husband died in 1865 in Ops Township, and she had apparently died before the 1871 census - most likely either in Ops Township or in the Reach Township home of daughter Mary Jane (Harrison) Lamb. But no death record nor burial location has been found for her.

What I Know about the Lake Family
by Wesley Johnston

What I know of the family is from Janet Jeffrey's book. There were several brothers, sons of James Lake and Margaret Hagerman/Hegeman, who received land in New York. Janet is descended from James Lake, Jr., Mormon pioneer, who was definitely not the father of my Mary Lake. I do not have access to Janet's book right now, since I am away from home. But I think that this much of one web site - knowwn to have other errors and thus not at all credible without careful verification - MIGHT be correct for a listing of the children of James (1760-1839 New Jersey/Canada) and Margaret (1756-1833 New York/Canada):

  • John LAKE (1783-1810) mar. Elizabeth Parrott
  • Benjamin LAKE (1784-1797)
  • Jane LAKE (1785- ) mar. Benjamin LAKE (cousin)
  • James LAKE, Jr. (1788-1874 New York/Idaho) mar. 1st Mary LAKE (cousin) (1790-1816 Canada); mar. 2nd Elizabeth Stover (1788-1823 Canada); mar. 3rd Philomela Smith (1794-1873 Vermont/Idaho); mar. 4th (plural wife) Esther Ann Pierce Gheen; mar. 5th (plural wife) Mary Hutton McMurray
  • Margaret LAKE (1791-1871) mar. William Madsen/Madden
  • Mary (Polly) LAKE (1794-1863 Canada) mar. Nathan Fellows
  • Elizabeth LAKE (1799-1868 Canada) mar. Calvin Wooster Miller
  • Sarah LAKE (1801- Canada) mar. 1st Thomas Cotton; mar. 2nd Mr. Althouse

What is clear from this list is that only the eldest son John would be a possible candidate for being the father of my Mary in 1801 or 1802. So it seems more likely that my Mary was the daughter of one of the cousins of the above children. That is, my Mary's father was more likely the son of one of the brothers of James Sr. Here is what the same undocumented web site has for the children of John Lake (1728-1835 New Jersey/Canada) and Margrietje/Margaret Snyder (1728-1835 New Jersey/Canada):

  • Maria LAKE (1749-1819 New Jersey/Canada) mar. James Parrott
  • Nicholas LAKE (1751- New Jersey) mar. Mary (Lake)
  • Thomas LAKE (1753- New Jersey)
  • Christopher LAKE (1755- New Jersey)
  • John LAKE, Jr. (1757-1828 New Jersey/Canada) mar. 1st VanVoorhies; mar. 2nd Leah Doran
  • James LAKE (Sr.) (1760-1839 New Jersey/Canada) mar. Margaret Hegerman/Hagerman Lucas (1756-1833 New York/Canada)
  • Elizabeth LAKE (1765- New Jersey) mar. Jonathan (John) Hogle/Hogal

It is even possible that my Mary was a very late child of one of these sons. But it is more likely that she was the child of a son of one of these sons (Nicholas, Thomas, Christopher, or John Jr.).

The hard fact is that I do have an autosomal DNA match, with very high confidence, with a known Lake family descendant. So there is a relationship there, but finding it and documenting it is a real challenge.



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