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McMurtry History  

















The MacMurtries, McMurtries, McMurtrys and other variations have a long history in Canada and can now be found in almost every Canadian province. There are families in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia.

The earliest arrivals in Canada came from New Jersey to York (present day Toronto, Ontario), around 1799. Other Irish families came from Co. Carlow to areas near Lake Erie and from Co Derry (or perhaps Tyrone) to areas west of Ottawa in the 1820s and others came to New Brunswick in the 1840s, 1850s and 1860s. A Scottish family settled in York Co., New Brunswick prior to 1839. A Glasgow family came and settled in Huron Co, Ontario around 1840. An Irish family came to Ontario around 1840, then moved to the plains and eventually settled in British Columbia. Several branches of a Kirkoswald, Ayrshire family came to Canada - one branch settling in Ontario prior to 1858, then moving to Montreal and Vancouver; another coming directly to Ladysmith, B.C. around the turn of the century. A Girvan family came to Ontario in 1876. An Irish family came to Saskatchewan in 1905. That gives a general overview.

McMurtries/McMurtrys of Ontario

Joseph, Simon and James McMurtrie came to York, Upper Canada (now Toronto, Ontario) in 1799 from Sussex County, New Jersey. Joseph and Simon appear repeatedly in the Sussex Co court records between 1793 and 1799 as being in trouble because of debt - a common problem of the rural population in this era. Simon is associated with a Robert McMurtrie in one of these debt cases in 1798, which supports the idea that these brothers may have been sons or grandsons of Robert McMurtrie of Hardwick Twp. Joseph married Lydia Hopkins, daughter of Silas Hopkins, who migrated to Canada as a Loyalist during the American Revolution. Joseph and Simon appear to have successfully obtained land grants on Yonge Street, but James' petition for land was denied. Joseph and Simon joined the Union Village Shaker religious community near Dayton, Ohio in the 1820s; then Joseph left and settled in Attica, Indiana. Simon's and James' fate is unknown.

Possibly related to this branch was a James S. McMurtrie, on Yonge Street, grocery and provision store, listed in the 1837 Toronto City Directory. An 1834 census shows him with a town lot, a frame house under two storeis, located on the west side of Yonge Street. Also, a Methodist newspaper mentioned the death of "James S. McMurtrie, for many years a resident of Toronto, died in Youngstown, NY age 27, Sept 6, 1837."

Another family appears to have come from NY. Courtland McMurtrie b 1812 NY married Zella Klink in 1833 in Toronto and a Susan McMurtrie married a Nelson Little in 1835. Courtland moved to Illinois by 1840. A group of Irish McMurtrys settled in Ontario beginning in the 1820s. In 1822, William McMurtry received a letter of recommendation from one John Alexander, of Milford, Co. Carlow, testifying that William "has served me in the capacity of Miller for Twenty years during which time He has conducted himself to my satisfaction. He understands the business of grinding and dressing corn in all its branches. I now discharge him at this own request being determined to go to America where He hopes to be able to provide for a large Family better than in this country." William, born 1778, came with his wife and 9 children, possibly as early as 1823 or 1824, and settled at Port Hope, on Lake Ontario. He soon moved 13 miles west to Bowmanville where his family grew up. William's descendants live mainly in Ontario and Quebec.

Another Co Carlow family settled in Cobourg 21 miles east of Bowmanville. According to one of Williams' descendants, three sisters, nieces of William - Lizzie, Ellen, and Martha - came to Cobourg and Lizzie married Thomas McMurtry, son of William. The gravestone of Martha who married a Thomas Harper says she was born in 1815 in Milford, Co Carlow. The gravestone of Lizzie McMurtry (1810-1892) includes her sister Ellen (1825-1890), and a John McMurtry (1822-1850), presumably a brother. These four were probably all children of a brother of William. A Thomas McMurtry appears in Percy Twp, 15-20 miles from Cobourg, though there is no evidence of his being related to the Cobourg or the Bowmanville families. Family tradition is that he was from Coleraine, Co Derry (which lies near the border with Co Antrim). Thomas was born in 1818 and married shortly before 1850. He later went to Saskatchewan where he died. Descendants of this Thomas live in British Columbia.

Another Irish family came to March Township near Ottawa in the late 1820s. James (b 1794), John (b 1810), Sarah (md 1835), and Mary (b ca 1820) McMurtry settled in March Township. John's death certificate says he was born in Co Tyrone. James' wife, Nancy Wilson, was from Co Derry. John later moved to McGillivray Twp, Middlesex Co, but the male line died out. James has descendants in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Some claim that the Ottawa and Bowmanville families are related but no documentary evidence has been found to support this.

Other Ontario families include: Matthew McMurtrie who was the first train station master at Oakville, a few miles west of Toronto, in 1855; John McMurtrie, son of a Glasgow cabinet maker, who came to Canada about 1840 and settled in Tuckersmith, Huron Co; Alexander Boyd McMurtrie born in Girvan, Ayrshire who came to Ontario in 1876 and to Sarnia in 1891. His son Alexander David McMurtrie (b 1895) of Sarnia began a massive effort to collect family history information from McM. all over the world; a branch of a Kirkoswald, Ayrshire, Scotland family came to Ontario before 1858 (John and Catherine McDonald McMurtrie) and has descendants in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Minnesota.

McMurtrys/McMurtries of New Brunswick

The earliest mention of the family is in 1841 when Thomas McMurtry married Martha Ritchie in St. John. Thomas and Martha later returned to Ireland, had most of their children and then settled in Illinois about 1859.

John McMurtry, his wife Ann Diensmore, and 7 children came from the port of Derry in 1847 and settled in St. John. John was reportedly born about 1805 and his son Hugh was reportedly born in Kilrea, Co Tyrone (though Kilrea appears to be in Co Derry.) Family tradition says that he and his brother Robert came to St John and engaged in a mercantile business and that Robert went back to Ireland for a short time and then returned, settling probably in Ontario. No record of this Robert has been found, but it has a striking parallel to the story of Thomas, mentioned above. John's descendants settled in Margaretteville, Nova Scotia and Massachusettes. John left a will in St John in 1875 which mentioned his wife Ann.

James McMurtery/McMurtrie married Eliz McMulkin in 1859 in Portland, St John County and died there in 1868 leaving children, including his eldest son John and reference to 100 acres in Gagetown, Queens County. This James may be the eldest son of John referred to one of John's descendants.

Mary McMurtry, widow of Henry, appears in the 1864 city directory for St. John and in the 1871 census. She had 3 children - Hannah (b 1860 in Ireland), John (b 1862 in Ireland) and Mary J. (b 1865 New Brunswick). She is undoubtedly the Mary Taylor who married Henry McMurtry in Castleroe, Co Derry in 1858. This Henry was son of a Henry McMurtry, coachman and was brother of an Ellen McMurtry who married a Ross.

In Fredericton, York Co, John McMurtrie married Margaret Nicholson in 1839 and died prior to 1861, probably in New Maryland. Children included: Andrew Stephens McMurtrie (1844-1929) and Robert McMurtrie (b 1842). Descendants still live in Fredericton area.

McMurtrys of Saskatchewan

Rev. James McMurtry, born in Belfast in 1880, came to Saskatchewan in 1905. James' grandfather was a James McMurtry, a sea captain from Carrickfergus. James' descendants live in Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia. Cousins live in England and Dublin, Ireland.

McMurtries/trys of British Columbia

There were 5 Scottish families who settled in British Columbia:

Thomas Leitch McMurtrie, born 1874 in Partick, Glasgow and descendant of the New Kilpatrick family, married Marion Lang in 1900 and came to Vancouver after 1907. Son Walter.

James Cunningham McM born 1883 in Govan, Glasgow, descended from a Kirkmichael family, settled in Vancouver prior to 1926. Sons John Charles Stark and James Andrew McM.

James McMurtrie b 1877, son of the Ayr postmaster, lived Vancouver in 1939.

John McMurtrie b 1863 Dailly, Ayrshire, settled in Ladysmith. Descendants live there, in Vancouver and in Southern California.

William Drennan McM b 1892 and George C. McM b 1880 of the Dreghorn, Ayrshire family came to B.C. in the early 1900s.

The McMurtrys who settled in British Columbia were descendants of the Saskatchewan and Ontario families mentioned above.