I recently sent away for a DNA kit from Ancestry.com. I was curious, although I figured I was 75% Scottish, with a smattering of English, Irish, German, Dutch, and French. Imagine my surprise when my results came back 39% Irish. That got me wondering where all that Irish DNA came from, so I started researching one of my known links back to Ireland, the Rowan family. Through a lot of painstaking searching, this is what I’ve come up with. If anyone out there knows more about the Rowan family, or has photographs, I would appreciate your input.
My great-great-grandparents were Patrick Rowan and Bridget McInulty (spellings differ depending on which record you look at), both born in Ireland, possibly County Mayo. Patrick was the son of John Rowan and Catherine Violent (Giolent? — the handwriting on the old records is a bear.) Bridget was the daughter of John Joyce and Bridget McAnulty. Their first daughter (that we know of), Bridget Rowan, was born in 1845 in County Mayo, Ireland. I don’t know for sure why they moved to Scotland, but I am assuming it had to do with the Great Famine (1845-1852) when potato blight destroyed Ireland’s main food staple. A million people died of starvation and disease, and another million people fled their homeland. I can only imagine how hard life was for them. They may have lost other children during this time too.
The Rowan family emigrated to Dumfriesshire, Scotland, where their daughter Mary Rowan (1849) and son John Rowan (1851) were born in Closeburn. Sometime after that, they moved to Dumfries, where my great grandfather, Patrick Rowan Jr. was born on April 3, 1856. Later, the family moved to Maxwelltown, Troqueer parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, and their youngest daughter Catherine Rowan was born on November 13, 1858. They lived on Broatsch’s Close for the rest of their lives, where Patrick and Bridget ran a lodgings house, and Patrick was a general laborer (or labourer if you’re Canadian or British). Maxwelltown was a small town on the west bank of the river Nith, which was the boundary between Dumfriesshire and Kirkcudbrightshire. Just across the river was Dumfries. (Maxwelltown merged with Dumfries in 1929.)
The 1861 census gives a glimpse into their lives: Patrick was 40, Bridget 34, daughter Bridget is 16 and working in the fields as an agricultural labourer, Mary is 12, attending school, John is 10, also going to school, Patrick is 5, and Catherine is 2 years old. (Keep in mind that census ages can be off a few years, especially with adults.)
On October 10, 1865, their oldest daughter, Bridget was married (Catholic church) to David Nicholson, the son of Alexander Nicholson and Sarah Cummings, who lived at Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire and then Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. David was a farm worker residing at Chapel Hill, Carlarverah, Dumfriesshire. He and Bridget went on to have 11 children (John, Margaret, Alexander, Mary Jane, Sarah Jane, David, Janet, Mary, James, Catherine, and Francis, all born in Troqueer parish except for the last child, Francis, a son born in Galashiels, on the Scottish Borders. Bridget died in Selkirk, Selkirkshire at age 73.
On October 28, 1869, their second daughter, Mary, was married (Church of Scotland) to Robert Welsh, a mill worker from Dumfries (son of James Welsh and Jane McQueen), at Dumfries, Dumfriesshire. They had 11 children (Jane Robson, William Kirkpatrick (died young), Robert (died age 4), John, Robert, Douglas (died age 4), Mary, William, Catherine, Francis, and Douglas.) The Welsh family lived in Dumfries until 1881 when they moved to Kilmarnock, Ayrshire. Robert became a railway traffic inspector. Mary died at age 70 from diabetes at Glasgow.
The 1871 census shows us that Patrick is 53, Bridget is 50, John is 19, working as a plasterer, Patrick is 15, a piecer in a factory, and Catharine is 12, going to school. Sometime in this year, Patrick Sr. went blind, and had to deal with this struggle.
The 1881 census shows Patrick Rowan 60, unemployed and blind, Bridget is 56, Patrick Jr. is 24, working in a woolen mill, and Catherine is 22, a sewer in a woolen mill. They have 6 lodgers staying with them at this time. John Rowan, their son is in Ayr, Ayrshire, age 30, a plasterer, boarding with the Conton family.
On March 16, 1885, John Rowan (age 33) now a mason’s labourer, is married to Janet McCulloch (age 35), a cotton winder, both living in Glasgow. She is the daughter of William McCulloch (a stone quarrier, deceased) and Elizabeth Weir, both from Ireland, who settled in Maybole, Ayrshire and had 8 children. (I couldn’t find any children for John and Janet, except for the 1891 census in Glasgow, Goven parish, Lanarkshire, where it lists a son William age 17, born 1874 in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, a plasterer’s apprentice (Perhaps step-son to John?). In 1901, John (50) and Janet (56) are living at Glasgow, Goven parish, Lanarkshire. And an E. McCulloch, daughter, was the informant on Janet’s death record.)
There are different nefarious stories for John Rowan, but I think he is mistaken for another John Rowan, for when Janet died on September 24, 1920 (age 82) at Glasgow, she was married to John Rowan, plasterer. When John died on four months later on January 15, 1921 (heart) at Glasgow (at the same address), he is listed as the widower of Janet McCulloch. More research is needed here.
On October 9, 1888, Catherine Rowan died from gangrene in the foot, complications of diabetes. She was single, working as a darner in a tweed factory, living in Kilmarnock, Ayrshire near or with her sister Mary. Her family must have mourned her deeply.
On January 30, 1891, at the Troqueer church, Patrick Rowan Jr. (age 33, general labourer) married Alice Heron/Simpson, age 22, a field worker living at Broatch’s close, Maxwelltown, the daughter of Henry Heron and Alice Simpson. I’ll tell more about them later.
In the 1891 Census, Patrick Rowan is 75 and Bridget is 65, lodgings housekeepers with many people lodging with them.
On June 8, 1892, Patrick Rowan Sr. died at Maxwelltown, at age 72 of heart disease, bronchitis, and dropsy. His daughter in law, Alice, was present at his death. On September 24, 1892, Bridget followed her husband, at age 65. Her son Patrick Rowan was present.
Patrick Rowan Jr.
My great-grandfather, Patrick Rowan Jr., was a general labourer and a Corporation Employments lamplighter. The marriage certificate says Alice was a spinster, but further research showed she wasn’t.
Alice Simpson/Heron has a great deal of mystery surrounding her. When she married, she was a field worker age staying at Broatch’s Close, but I haven’t been able to find her birth record or birthplace. In the 1891 census, she is 21, but there is no birthplace recorded. Her father was Henry Heron, and her mother Alice Simpson. None of the census records prior to 1891 match the few details I have for them. On the birth records for the children, when Patrick was the informant, he said her maiden name was Heron, but when Alice gave the information, she said her maiden name was Simpson. I concluded that her parents weren’t married.
Alice Simpson was born in 1869. At age 16 she married Baptiste Alfonso Caroen in 1885 at Berwick-on-Tweed, a town on the Scottish/English border of Northumberland. As she was underage, I am guessing that they eloped. Baptiste was a French polisher, or a person who prepares and finishes fine furniture.
(Baptiste was born in France about 1860, and emigrated to England and eventually to Scotland. He shows up at age 12 on January 1, 1872 in Herefordshire, England before a judge for stealing 2 cloth leggings from a Theodosia Delahey living at Staunton-on-Wye on Dec 26, 1871. (He was probably hungry and cold.) He is sentenced to one month hard labour and 4 years in reformatory school. (Just the sound of it makes me shudder.) In the 1881 census, a Baptist-Allfounsi Curon age 24, born France Paris, confectioner, is in Whitehaven parish, Cumberland Co, England, with Ann McGowin or Curon, age 23, peddler, born at Montrose, Scotland.
After marrying Alice in 1885 at Berwick-on-Tweed, Baptiste and Alice went to Dumfries, Dumfriesshire, where two daughters were born.
Josephine Caroen was born October 20, 1887 in Dumfries to Baptiste Alfonso Caroen and Alice Simpson. She married 1st Edward Graham, milliner, in 1908, and 2nd, in 1910 married James McGuire, labourer, of Dundee. She died June 10, 1929 at the Royal Infirmary, Dundee, Scotland age 42, and her parents are listed as John Caroen, French polisher, deceased, and Alice Caroen MS Simpson, deceased. Informant was her husband James.
Isabella Caroen was born September 22, 1889 at Dumfries to Baptiste Alfonso Caroen, French Polisher, and Alice Simpson. She married Albert Rivers in 1912 in Wantage, Berkshire, England, and then Frederick Rivers. They had a son Thomas Rivers born in 1921 and a daughter Winnifred Ann Rivers, born in 1925. Isabella died in 1973 in East Hendred, Berkshire, England.
Shortly after 1889, Baptiste and Isabella split up, and Josephine disappears from the census.
On January 30, 1891, at the Troqueer church, Patrick Rowan Jr. (age 33, general labourer) married Alice Heron/Simpson, age 22, a field worker living at Broatch’s close, Maxwelltown, the daughter of Henry Heron and Alice Simpson.
In 1891 census, Patrick Rowan Jr, is 33, married, a lamplighter working for Corporation Employments, with Alice his wife, age 21, and Isabella Rowan, daughter, age 1. Patrick might have adopted Isabella. But where is Josephine?
In 1891 census, Alphonso Caroen is a lodger, age 26, French polisher, living at New Wynd house, Hamilton, Lanarkshire, Scotland. No birthplace given. (Jean Baptist Caroen, labourer, died 14 July 1922 at New Buildings, Springfield, at age 63. (Not sure if this is the right man, but on Josephine’s death record, she lists her father as John Caroen, French polisher.)
Patrick and Alice Rowan had three children, all born at Maxwelltown:
Patrick Rowan III was born March 17,1892. John Rowan was born September 22, 1893, and died on February 5, 1895 at Maxwelltown. Alice Rowan was born July 21, 1895.
Sometime in the next five years, Alice Simpson Caroen Rowan died. I have not been able to find a record of her death. With all the deaths in the family in these few years, it must have been a very hard time for them, especially the children.
In the 1901 Census, Patrick Rowan Jr. is 41, living at Old Bridge Road, a lamplighter and labourer, widower, and has Bella C. daughter age 10, and Patrick, a son age 8. The big question is, where is his daughter, Alice, who would have been only 6 years old, and his step daughter Josephine, who would have been 14?
In 1911 Census, Patrick Rowan is an inmate (of where it doesn’t say), age 57, widower, lamplighter, born Dumfries, listed as having 3 children.
Patrick’s son, Patrick Rowan III married Mary Ann McKeen (b. 1895 in Belfast, Ireland) on 13 February 1920 at Blythswood, Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland. She was the daughter of John McKeen and Catherine Gough, both from Ireland. They had 7 children – Alice, Patrick J., Samuel, Frederick, Catherine, Joyce, and Patrick. (Patrick J, Samuel and Frederick died as children.) They lived in Lochwinnoch and Paisley, Renfrewshire, Scotland, and Oxford, Oxfordshire, and East Hanney, Berkshire, in England. Patrick III died in 1953 in Carlisle, Cumberland, England, and Mary Ann died in 1972 in Nr. Stroud, Gloustershire, England.
On December 7, 1923, Patrick Rowan Jr. died at Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, age 67 yrs. He was a general labourer, the widower of Isabel Heron. Patrick Rowan, his son was present. (We are left to wonder if Patrick married a second time, or if he meant Alice Heron, and Alice’s middle name was Isabel.)
Alice Rowan, my grandmother, was born July 21, 1895 to Patrick Rowan Jr. and Alice Heron/Simpson. She is missing from the census until 1911, when she shows up in Colvend, Kirkcudbrightshire, age 18, a general domestic servant to Joseph and Margaret Bigham and their three children.
In 1912, at age 20, Alice Rowan emigrated to Canada. Why did she leave? Perhaps she felt as if she had no one left. She sailed aboard the Pretorian, departing from Glasgow, Scotland, and arrived in Montreal, Quebec on 27 June 1912. She was single, intended to live permanently in Canada, could read and write, and intended to go to Seaforth, Ontario. (Now Huron East, Huron County, Ontario) She was a confectioner in Scotland, and intended to be a Domestic servant. She lists her religion as Catholic.
The photo at the top was sent from Alice to her half-sister Isabel.
On 11 October 1913, Alice May Rowan (age 21, residing in Saskatoon) married Arthur Mayne Rafuse (Rayfuse) age 20, chauffeur residing in Saskatoon (born 10 December 1892 in Liverpool, Nova Scotia to Ephraim Rafuse and Charity Pentz) in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. She lists her mother’s maiden name as Alice Simpson. They are married at Mrs. Ovenden’s residence, 334 Ave, D Smith (South), Saskatoon, by Rev. John G. Gurchy of the Church of England. Witnesses were Mrs. L. Ovenden, and C. Robilland of Saskatoon. We are left to wonder how Alice and Arthur met. Was she a “mail order bride” or did she come to the Saskatoon area to meet relatives? What brought them together?
They moved to a homestead near Alsask (near Morengo) Saskatchewan, (NW ¼ of 17-28-17 West 3rd) where Arthur farmed for a time. They might have lived in a sod house, for this was flat prairie land. On the land next to them was Arthur’s brother, Joseph Parker Rayfuse.
Their children were all born at the homestead, and JP Rafuse was the informant on the birth records:
Gladys May Rayfuse, born 19 October 1915, Parker Joseph Rayfuse (my father), born 24 October 1916, (A Miss Rayfuse was in attendance, possibly Arthur’s sister Florence?), Alice Isabella Rayfuse (later named Mary Esther), born in 26 April 1918.
In the 1916 Census, at 28-27-W3, near Milton P.O., Saskatchewan, Arthur Rayfuse is 23, farmer, b. NS, Alice wife is 21, b. Scotland, Gladys, daughter is 8 months old, born Sask, and Joseph P. Rayfuse, brother to Arthur, is 30, b. NS., farmer.
Alice and Arthur divorced, 9 July 1920. Arthur was 27 and she was 24. We may never know what happened, but I can imagine that life in a sod house in the middle of the prairie, with poor land, little water, no other women to talk to, and three small children, must have been very difficult. I don’t know why she didn’t take her children with her when she ran, but the tragedy affected them all. For some reason Arthur didn’t keep the children.
Alice went to Calgary, Alberta, and the children were fostered or adopted to various families in the area. They grew up not knowing about each other or their family, and it was only as adults that some of them were able to reconnect with each other. Joseph Parker (age 4) was adopted by the Kidd family and known as Richard Kidd. When the Kidd family went back to Scotland, they left him behind and sent him back to his father, who put him on a train to British Columbia to live with his uncle, Thomas Rayfuse. He changed his name back to Parker Joseph Rayfuse. He served in the army as a mechanic during WWII, married Margaret Maclean in Winnipeg in 1956, and had 4 girls, all born in Red Deer, Alberta. He later divorced, remarried Olga Workun, and lived in Camrose, Alberta. He died August 11, 2004 and is buried in Calmar, Alberta. Gladys May (age 4) became Gladys Phyllis, and ended up in Los Angeles, where she married Dan Mendez and had 6 children. She died on July 8, 1979. Alice Isabella (age 2) became Mary Esther. She lived with the O’Connor family for a time, and then was in foster homes until age 21. She joined the navy, and eventually ended up in Vernon, British Columbia, where she married Ray Neilsen. She had 4 sons and 1 daughter, and they lived at Silver River, Chilliwack, Harrison, and Langley. Mary Rayfuse Neilson died on 25 November 1957 at Langley, BC age 39.
Arthur Rayfuse had one other child that I know of. Walter Gordon Rayfuse was born December 9, 1922 to Nellie Dorothea Lutz, who later married James Charles Wilson. James adopted Walter, who was an adult when he learned about his birth father. Walter married Ethel Beatrice Digby in Vancouver, BC, had 4 children, and died in 2001 in Reno, Nevada.
In Calgary, Alice changed her last name to Rowan. She lived at 1614 – 20 Ave NW Calgary. In 1927, Arthur’s brother, Joseph P. Rafuse, also lived in Calgary at 117 – 11 Ave. W., and I wonder if he made contact with her. Alice died on 30 January 1934 in Calgary, Alberta, age 38. She was buried by the welfare at Burnsland Cemetery, Calgary, as no relatives were known at the time. My father said once that at one point he was in Calgary. If he’d known she was there, he would have gone to see her and got to know her.
Arthur Rayfuse later married Margaret Berndston (b. 1903) on 14 Feb. 1927 at Los Angeles, California. Arthur was a carpenter/building contractor and travelled frequently between Los Angeles, California and Saskatoon. I have found 11 records of his border crossings while traveling to California, from 1926 to 1956. Arthur Rayfuse died September 1, 1966 (stomach cancer) in Monterey Park, Los Angeles, California. His will states that he was a widower, with three living children: Gladys Rafuse, Joseph Parker Rafuse and Walter Gordon Rafuse, and one deceased child, Mary Isabelle Rafuse. He gave his estate to his friends, Florence Odell Hyndman and Mary E. Shafer. He is buried in Rose Hills Memorial Park, Whittier, California.
This is what I know about the Rowan family. If anyone has any other information about them, please contact me.