By Bill O’Reilly
The moral of this small world story is… never assume! It was my great-great-grandparents, Andrew O’Reilly and Bridget Reding, who left Ireland and County Cork. They left with their son James, my great-grandfather. I knew from my father that Andrew and Bridget ended up in Faribault, Minnesota and that James moved on to Virginia City, Nevada where my grandfather, Thomas O’Reilly, was born. The first record I had on Andrew and Bridget was the 1870 U.S. census – in Faribault. It was also known that Andrew had a younger brother Michael and I was able to find records of Michael and his wife in Faribault as well. Andrew, Bridget, Michael and his wife all passed away and are buried in Minnesota.
So the biggest assumption I (wrongly) made was that these ancestors arrived first at an Eastern United States port and migrated west. Imagine my surprise when, almost by accident, I found this family on the 1861 Canadian census in Ontario! And living nearby was brother Michael and his family. But wait, it gets better. The fact that they were in Ontario was surprising, where in Ontario was an unbelievably good small world story. They were in the beautiful small town of Picton. The reason this location was such a surprise is that I already knew I had other ancestors just a few miles away from Picton at that same time – my McCauley ancestors who had also settled there after moving from County Antrim.
Here’s where the small world story unfolds… As I mentioned above, my grandfather, Thomas O’Reilly, was born in Nevada. He too traveled extensively “out west” in the first decade of the 1900s and eventually ended up in Vancouver, British Columbia. In about 1908 he traveled to the small town of Merrill, Michigan where his parents, James and Alice, had settled after moving from Nevada, then living in Nebraska and Minnesota before finally settling in Merrill. He was just there for a visit but during that visit he happened to meet the one room school teacher who was then teaching the youngest of his siblings. They quickly fell in love and married and she traveled to Vancouver with him and that is where my father was born. My grandfather’s bride’s name – Mary McCauley – the granddaughter of the ancestors I had near Picton, Ontario – in the small town of Marysville. Mary McCauley was born and raised in Marysville but after receiving her teaching certificate moved to Merrill, Michigan to live with an aunt & uncle who had moved there from Marysville.
So while their grandparents had lived just a few miles from each other in the early 1860s, it took thousands of miles of travels and another 50+ years before these two would meet by chance and fall in love. No, my O’Reilly and McCauley great-great-grandparents almost certainly did not know each other and never would but I cannot help but wonder if they may have once passed each other on the street. And I wonder too if my grandfather was ever aware, when visiting his in-laws in Marysville, that his young father and grandparents lived there as well 60 years previously. A quick p.s. – my grandfather and his children, including my father, eventually settled in Detroit which happened to be where my mother was born and raised – where had her father moved from? Minnesota!
My great-great-grandfathers and somewhat neighbors –
Andrew O’Reilly (1820-1888) Bernard McCauley (1816-1883)