Born around 1833 in Lotbiniere, Quebec, Canada to Irish immigrants, he was the first generation born in North America. He was baptized at the parish in St. Sylvestre, Quebec, to Patrick McGee and Ann McCauley. The records are in French, as they had immigrated to a French-Canadian area.
Here is a nice history of the area and the Irish. In particular, a hint as to why Patrick and Ann made the voyage overseas in the early 1800s:
The earlier and more important migration was spread over three decades, from about 1814 to 1844, with peak years in the mid 1820’s and the early 1830’s. The Irish immigrants in those decades were frequently tenant farmers who had operated small farms in Ireland. They were ambitious individuals, anxious to escape the constraints of tenant farming and improve opportunities for their children. These were the Irish immigrants who fanned out and settled in pioneer communities along the fringes of the St. Lawrence Valley in the 1820’s and 1830’s
St. Sylvestre was a new parish in 1828, and the church was built in 1831.
One awesome thing that happened in 1855 while William still lived in St. Sylvestre is called the Corrigan affair. Hugh Corrigan, a Protestant, was being a basic dick to the Irish Catholics in the area, and one day he was attacked with a stick. He reported the men the next day – he knew who they were – but, alas, he perished the day after (from his wounds? from further attack? Not sure). What happened next? The Irish Catholics in the area hid the accused men and buttoned their lips. Their homes were raided, a reward was promised, the reward money was raised – but, nothing. On Christmas Eve, when the police finally withdrew in defeat, they found their rail car had been deliberately derailed.
In another instance, the Irish Catholics of the area cast 2700 votes for one of their own for a legislative seat – this, from a parish of 300. God bless em.
Back to William. 1854-1856 were not good, as he lost his mother, then a sister and then a brother in each year. He married Bridget Martin in 1857, with his brothers James and Michael there. They had 11 children together, and he was a farmer.
In 1878, they made the move to America, settling in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Why? Don’t know. In 1880, they were all there, with William listed simply as a laborer. In the 1882 Eau Claire Directory, they lived at 112 Bellinger. Henrietta (Etta), my ancestor, was born in 1883. The next year, he lost his daughter Ann, and his wife passed in 1899. Her cause of death wasn’t listed on the death certificate. On the 1900 census, he is listed as “married”, with the number of years married, but with an X through the number – sad. He is listed as a laborer, but he had not worked for 12 months. In the 1905 state census, it appears that his home is paid off – yay!
His daughter Teresa passed away in 1905, and William passed away in 1907