Of all the five Blaney siblings who emigrated to the New World from Ireland, Bridget Blaney's life took the most interesting turns. Married at about age 16, Biddy had given birth to four children and lost a husband by the age of twenty-one. While this was not out of the ordinary in rural New Brunswick in the 1830's, the next step in her life was more unusual: she entered into a common-law marriage with her late husband's brother, Hamilton McDonald. The two lived together as man and wife for 45 years, produced seven children, and let it be understood that they had married in New Brunswick after James McDonald's death. The parish records in St-Basile, however, contain no record of their marriage, and in fact the baptismal records for their children make it clear that they were not married. Their failure to marry was probably a result of the difficulty or impossibility of marriage for brother and sister-in-law under Catholic canon law.
The McDonalds were a restless family, leaving New Brunswick for Ohio in 1853, and removing to Missouri again in 1866, with a brief sojourn in Illinois. Their descendants have continued that tradition of restlessness, moving on to Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, California, and even Panama.
The McDonalds were fickle in their nomenclature, as well. While records in New Brunswick and Ohio routinely spell the name as "McDonald," in Missouri the name began just as routinely appearing as "McDonnell." This may have reflected orthographically the pronunciation to which they had become accustomed in French-speaking Madawaska, New Brunswick.
The McDonald family was also the first branch of the Blaney family to stray from the intense Irish devotion to the Catholic Church. Although Hamilton McDonald's obituary stated that he and his wife "remained devout members of that church through all their lives," they did chose to settle in an area in Missouri with no convenient Catholic church. As a result, their children felt only a loose allegiance to the church and most married Protestants.
Although Biddy followed a very different path from those of her siblings, her connection--and that of her family--to her Blaney connections remained strong. Her family sent photographs from Missouri to her brother James' family in Buffalo, and his daughter Agnes in her later years made the long trip out West to visit the cousins. The fascination with family seems to be one trait Blaney descendants have all retained.
Begin tracing the descendants of Bridget Blaney and the brothers James and Hamilton McDonald.
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