James Ling & Catherine McDonald

James LING is my direct ancestor and the first of the Lings to settle in this part of Cape Breton Island. All that is known of his early life is what the census records tell us – that he was born in Ireland in either 1797 or 1803 (conflicting DOBs on different years of the census). How he came to Cape Breton remains a mystery. There are stories told in the family that he was pressed into service by the British Navy and jumped ship to start a new life in Nova Scotia, but this remains as speculation.

Early Irish Settlers in Cape Breton

James would have arrived in Cape Breton sometime before 1835, the date of his marriage. Irish settlers had been coming to Nova Scotia since the 1750s to escape economic hardship or lured by the prospect of owning land, and more would follow these early immigrants, with a second wave arriving between 1815 and 1845. This time overpopulated cities and religious persecution would also play a role. Shipwrecked sailors and deserters from the British Navy, tired of squalid conditions and dangers aboard ship, were also among those who sought a new life in Cape Breton. Many Irish immigrants also settled in Newfoundland first, as the boat fare was cheaper, and eventually made their way to Cape Breton or were driven out by famine and harsh conditions. The main areas of Irish settlement in Cape Breton were Lingan, Low Point, Glace Bay, and Sydney, areas rich in coal.

Marriage and Family

According to the records of the Catholic Diocese, James Ling married Catherine MCDONALD on 10 Nov 1835 at Sacred Heart in Sydney. The witnesses are listed as Patrick RYAN, Michael MAHON, and Flora MCDONALD [though the script is somewhat difficult to decipher].

According to census records, Catherine was born on Prince Edward Island in about 1821, but her early life and how she came to Cape Breton also remain a mystery. I have seen some genealogies listing her parents as Donald McDonald and Euphemia Bell, but I have yet to find any evidence to prove this claim. The Flora McDonald listed as a witness to her wedding could potentially be a sister, but that clue has so far yielded no results.

Catherine’s DoB as listed on the 1871 census means that she would have been only 14 when she married James Ling, so it may be more of a rough estimate (or clerical error).

On the 1838 Census return for the area stretching “From Flagstaff at Low Point to north head of Lingan” James and Catherine Ling are listed with two children, one male and one female, under the age of six. It is possible that they had a daughter who died young. James is listed as a farmer.

James Ling appears on the Census of 1861 (for Canada East, Canada West, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) as a resident of the Lingan Ferry district. His household consisted of six males and three females.

In 1856 the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, passed a series of resolutions granting money for various public services, including the maintenance of a ferry at Lingan. In 1859, John Young of Lingan was granted five pounds to “enable him to keep a ferry across the passage or strait between Lingan and Bridgeport.” In 1860, a further 20 pounds were granted to John Young for the same purpose. I imagine the Lingan Ferry district gets its name from this enterprise.

Catherine died in October of 1877 and was buried in Low Point. In the Low Point death registry, her name is listed directly after that of her son Alex LING, who died the same year at the age of 24. It is possible they died of the same illness or that her grief pushed her into decline. James appears as a widower on the 1881 census, but there is no record of him on the 1891 census, so it is presumed that he died sometime between 1881 and 1891.

James and Catherine had seven children:

  1. Thomas Norbert LING (1838-1914) married firstly Mary Ann LAFFIN and secondly Catherine ROACH.
  2. Lawrence LING (1844-1918) married Harriet MCGILLIVRAY.
  3. William Dan LING (1847-1940) married Catherine CARROLL.
  4. Flora LING (c. 1848- ) married Patrick KILDAY.
  5. Alex LING (1853-1877) worked as a coal miner until his early death at the age of 24. He was buried in Low Point in the presence of John MURPHY and James LING. The exact date/month of his death is not listed, but his mother is listed directly under him in the death registry, so it is possible they died of the same illness.
  6. Catherine LING (1855- ) was still alive and living with her family on the 1871 census.
  7. John LING (1859- ) married firstly Isabella MACDONALD and secondly Mary MCISAAC. 
(1) THOMAS NORBERT LING (1838-1914)

Thomas Norbert LING was born in Lingan on 10 Oct 1838. Census records consistently put his date of birth on or around this time, though the record of his second marriage puts his date of birth as 1843. His parents were James LING and Catherine MCDONALD.

On 22 Aug 1861, he married Mary Ann LAFFIN, the daughter of John LAFFIN and Mary MULLINS. Mary Ann seems to have died sometime before 1867 (perhaps giving birth to their son John in 1864), as Thomas remarried in 1867.

Thomas and Mary Ann had two children:

1. Agnes LING, born 9 Jun 1862 and baptised 22 Jun 1862 at St. Joseph’s in New Waterford. She appears on the 1881 census living in the household of her maternal grandmother, Mary (MULLINS) LAFFIN.

2. John LING, born 21 Feb 1864 and baptised 23 Feb 1864 at St. Joseph’s in New Waterford. On 12 Jul 1881, a John Ling joined the crew of the barque Edina in Port Caledonia, Cape Breton. The date of birth matches, and John’s occupation is listed as seaman on the 1891 census. At age 16 he signed on to his first voyage as ship’s boy, or rather made his mark (X) as it appears he could not write. The Edina departed Newry, Ireland, on 214 May 1881 and arrived in London, England 28 Sep 1881. John was discharged from the crew at the end of the voyage.

In March-May 1866, Thomas served in the Seventh Regiment of the Cape Breton County Militia when the Fenians were threatening Eastern Canada. He applied in 1913 for a grant under the Fenian Raid Volunteer Bounty Act. His brother William Dan also served.

On 8 Sep 1867, Thomas married Catherine ROACH in Glace Bay. At the time of his marriage, he was working as a merchant. By 1891, he was employed as a pilot, and in 1901 he is listed on the census as a farmer. Thomas died on 2 Dec 1914.

Thomas and Catherine had three children:

1. James Henry LING was born on 18 Jun 1870. He married Sarah (Sadie) MCDONALD sometime between 1891 and 1894. The lived in Glace Bay and James worked as a carpenter. By 1911, James appears to be working as a teacher at a public school. He died on 22 Oct 1936 at the age of 66. James and Sadie had eight children:

  • Mary LING (1894- ) married Roderick MCNEIL on 7 Feb 1921 in New Waterford. Had issue.
  • John Thomas LING (1896-1956) married Christina MCLEOD in 1921 in Sydney and had issue. John served in WWI and was described on his attestation papers as having light hair, grey eyes, a medium complexion and as being 5’7.
  • Dorothy LING (1898- )
  • Daniel LING (1899- )
  • James Patrick LING (1901- )
  • Charles LING (1903- )
  • Catherine LING (1905- ) married Thomas MARSH.
  • Olive LING (1908-1926)

2. Margaret LING (1878- ) was born in about 1878 and was living with her family in Glace Bay in 1891.

3. Katie LING was born on 20 Oct 1878 and was baptized on 27 Oct 1878 at St. Anne’s in Glace Bay. Katie married John Alexander MURPHY on 10 Feb 1904 at St. Anne’s in Glace Bay. Katie and John had three children:

  • Thomas Alexander MURPHY (1905- )
  • Myrtle Margaret MURPHY (1907-1938) married Duncan MCDONALD.
  • Mary V. MURPHY (1918-1924). Died young.

(3) WILLIAM DAN LING (1847-1940)

William Edward “Dan” LING was born in April 1847 and was baptized on 6 Jun 1847 at St. Joseph’s in North Sydney. His parents were James LING and Catherine MCDONALD.

In March-May 1866, William served in the Seventh Regiment of the Cape Breton County Militia when the Fenians were threatening Eastern Canada. He applied in 1913 for a grant under the Fenian Raid Volunteer Bounty Act. His brother Thomas also served.

William was a coal miner. He married Catherine CARROLL on 13 Feb 1873, and they lived in Lingan (1881), Bridgeport (1901) and Reserve Mines (1911). William died on 21 Aug 1940 in Glace Bay. He and Catherine had seventeen children:

1. James LING was born in 1873 in Low Point. He died on 6 May 1875 of whooping cough.

2. Mary LING was born in 1873 in Low Point. She died on 26 Feb 1875 of croup.

3. Bridget Loretta LING was born 2 Apr 1875 in Low Point. She married Alexander CURRIE, a coal miner, on 22 Nov 1896 at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines. Bridget died 1 Nov 1966 in Sydney, and she and Alexander had ten children:

  • James Hebert CURRIE was born on 1 Aug 1898 and was baptized on 17 Aug at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines.
  • Alexander CURRIE was born 16 Sep 1899 in Low Point.
  • Minerva CURRIE was born 1 May 1901 and baptized at St. Joseph’s in Reserve Mines. She immigrated to the United States and married Thomas TEDESCO. They lived in Massachusetts and had issue.
  • Annie Helen Mildred CURRIE born 25 Jan 1902, baptized 3 Feb at St. Joseph’s in Reserve Mines.
  • Joseph Russell CURRIE born 14 Jan 1904, baptized at St. Joseph’s in Reserve Mines.
  • Ambrose Bernard CURRIE born 24 Apr 1906 in Reserve Mines. He married Catherine MCLEAN and had issue.
  • Catherine Isabel CURRIE born 28 Nov 1906 in Reserve Mines.  Married Edward BATE on 4 Oct 1932 at St. Agnes Church in New Waterford.
  • William CURRIE born 1907.
  • Evelyn Bridget CURRIE born May 1909. Was a nun, and took the name Sister Louis-Rene. Died in Halifax in 2003.
  • Maurice Raphael CURRIE born 25 Oct 1910 in New Waterford. He was a coal miner. Maurice married Helena GOUTHRO in 1932.
  • Thomas CURRIE born 24 Feb 1912 in New Waterford. He was a coal miner. Thomas married Elizabeth MACMULLIN on 21 Oct 1941 at St. Stephen’s Church in Florence.
  • Duncan CURRIE born about 1916

4. Mary LING born 15 Aug 1876. She married Peter CAMPBELL, a boiler maker, in Nov 1902 at St. Joseph’s in Reserve Mines. They lived in Glace Bay (1911) and eventually moved to Vancouver (1921). They had two children:

  • Mary Blanche CAMPBELL born 19 Aug 1903 in Glace Bay. She married William Wallace WALKER, a machinist, on 3 Jun 1924 in Glace Bay. They moved to Massachusetts and had issue. She died on 23 Mar 1993 in Brockton.
  • John Edmund CAMPBELL born 29 Apr 1905. He immigrated to the United States, living in Boston and later Illinois.

5. Angelina H. LING born 1 Oct 1878. She immigrated to the United States, where she married Alonzo NICKERSON on 18 May 1907 in Boston.

6. John LING born 18 Jan 1881. He married Joanna MCPHEE on 13 Oct 1914 in Reserve Mines. John was a coal miner and died 14 Aug 1953 in Reserve Mines.

7. Thomas LING born about 1882. Was alive on the 1901 census.

8. William Leo LING born 15 Jul 1884 in New Victoria. In Jun 1915, he enlisted to fight in the First World War as part of 40th Battalion’s machine gun regiment. He was discharged in 1919 after being buried in a shell blast.

9. Margaret (Maggie) LING born 1885 in Glace Bay. Married William CHIASSON, a miner, in Reserve Mines in 1908.

10. Maud LING born about 1887.  She married John NICHOLSON and died in childbirth on 18 Jun 1909. Maud and John had two children:

  •  William NICHOLSON born 4 Aug 1907. He died in a mining accident in Glace Bay in 1927.
  • Mary Catherine NICHOLSON born Jun 1909. She died of cholera when she was twelve weeks old.

11. Catherine (Kate) LING born 22 Apr 1888 in Low Point. Baptized at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines.

12. Leo Francis LING born 30 Sep 1889. Baptized at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines. Was as miner.

13. Blanche LING born about 1892. Married Raymond MCPHERSON on 25 Sep 1912 in Reserve Mines. They had six children:

  • Leo MCPHERSON born 1912 in Reserve Mines. Died 11 Aug 1947 in Glace Bay.
  • Mary A. MCPHERSON born 1913. She married Joseph Freeman DOUCETTE on 12 Nov 1935.
  • Catherine MCPHERSON born 1915. Died 15 Oct 1927 at the age of twelve.
  • Moses MCPHERSON born 1920
  • May Rose Ella MCPHERSON born 1921, died 24 Sep 1921 of cholera.
  • Natheia MCPHERSON born 19 Jul 1928, died 19 Mar 1930 of pneumonia.

14. Beatrice LING born 5 Nov 1894, baptized at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines. Married Wilfred MCPHERSON, lived in Reserve Mines and had issue. Died 12 Dec 1945 in Glace Bay. Beatrice and Wilfred had four children:

  • Joseph R. MCPHERSON born 1914 in Reserve Mines. He married Faustina LIVINGSTONE on 21 Jul 1936 in Dominion. He was a coal miner.
  • Margaret Catherine MCPHERSON born 1916 in Reserve Mines. She married Alfred JONES on 29 Jan 1935 at St. Joseph’s Church in Reserve Mines.
  • George MCPHERSON born about 1917.
  • Dan H. MCPHERSON born about 1918.

15. Gladys LING born 1895. She married Dan RAFFERTY in 1915 and had issue:

  • Hannora (Nora) LING born 6 Sep 1897 and baptized at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines. She married Michael MCNEIL on 16 Feb 1920 in Glace Bay.
  • Flora LING born 10 Feb 1899 and baptized at St. Alphonsus in Victoria Mines.


(4) FLORA LING (1847 – )

Flora LING was born in about 1848, presumably in the Lingan/Low Point area. Her parents were James LING and Catherine MCDONALD. She married Patrick GILDAY (also appearing in the historical record/transcriptions as Kilday and Hilday) in October of 1867 in Lingan.

Patrick was born in about 1844 in Little Bras d’Or and was an Irish Catholic coal miner. Like Flora’s brothers Thomas and William, Patrick served in the Nova Scotia militia during the Fenian Raids of 1866. The family was living in Lingan in 1871 and 1881, but by 1891 had moved to Glace Bay. Flora died sometime between 1901 and 1903, when Patrick remarried to Alice MURPHY on 3 Aug 1903.

Patrick died on 17 Feb 1919 in Glace Bay. He and Flora had seven children:

1. Ellen GILDAY born 19 Aug 1868 in Glace Bay. Was still living with her family in 1891.

2. Bridget GILDAY born 3 Jan 1870 in Glace Bay.

3. Clara A. GILDAY born 14 Mar 1872 in Glace Bay. She married Steven CAMPBELL, a blacksmith, around 1890 and had issue. The family appears on the 1901 census. Clara died in 1909 following the premature birth of her son Dominic. Stephen later remarried to Justine BOUDREAU in 1911 (her name appears as Agatha on the 1911 census, but the DoBs match – maybe a middle name?) Clara and Stephen had ten children:

  • Margaret E. (Maggie) CAMPBELL born 19 Jun 1891. Married Neil Francis CURRIE, a Glace Bay mechanic, on 29 Aug 1911. Died 17 Feb 1948 in Glace Bay.
  • Howard CAMPBELL born 1893 in Glace Bay. Worked as a blacksmith, clerk, and later as a salesman. Married Gertrude Myrtle MACKAY (b. 1918) 5 Mar 1935 in Bridgeport.
  • John Thomas CAMPBELL born 29 Jul 1895 in Glace Bay. Married Katherine MACKINNON on 27 Feb 1931 in Glace Bay.
  • Harry W. CAMPBELL born 28 Sep 1896 in Glace Bay.
  • Stephen Patrick CAMPBELL born 02 Jan 1899 in Glace Bay. On 8 Feb 1917, he enlisted in Sydney to fight in the First World War. On his attestation papers, his occupation is listed as horse shoeing (makes sense, as his father was a blacksmith). He served in France and Belgium as a private with No. 3 Nova Scotia Forestry Corps until demobilization in 1919.
  • Laura May CAMPBELL born 24 Dec 1899 in Glace Bay. She arrived in Vanceboro, Maine in 1921, and in 1927 she married Russell J. WEBBER in Manhattan.
  • Arthur Charles CAMPBELL born Apr 1902 in Glace Bay. By 1930 he had moved to British Columbia, where he married Edna Josephine ALBERS in New Westminster.
  • Florence Mary CAMPBELL born 12 Mar 1903 in Glace Bay. She married William BURKE, a coal miner, on 19 Jul 1923 in Glace Bay and had issue. In 1927 the couple immigrated to the United States and lived in Massachusetts. Florence died in Riverside, California on 24 Dec 1995.
  • Peter Hebbert CAMPBELL born 15 Dec 1904 in Glace Bay.
  • Dominic CAMPBELL born 7 May 1909 prematurely. He died an hour after birth.

4. Flora M. GILDAY born about 16 Apr 1874 in Glace Bay.

5. John Thomas GILDAY born Apr 1878 in Glace Bay. He married Catherine MCNEIL on 1 May 1900 in Sydney. They lived in Glace Bay, where John worked as a machinist and a miner. He died on 23 Feb 1930 in Glace Bay. He and Catherine had four children:

  • Florence Margaret GILDAY born about 1900. Married Roderick MORRISON.
  • Mary Aloysius GILDAY born 9 Mar 1903 in Glace Bay. Married Leo P. BOUDREAU on 27 May 1935 in Glace Bay.
  • Sadie Amabell GILDAY born 1 Apr 1909. May have died young as does not appear on the 1921 census.
  • Patrick GILDAY born about 1920.

6. Louisa GILDAY born about 1885 in Glace Bay. She married Wilbert Kingsley BENT on 20 Aug 1902 in Sydney. In 1916, they were living in Calgary, where Wilbert worked as a machinist. By 1921 they had moved to New Westminster, British Columbia. Louisa and Wilbert had five children:

  • Patricia BENT born 17 Mar 1903 in Glace Bay. She married Robert STEWART, a miner, on 1 Nov 1923 in Nanaimo, British Columbia.
  • Mildred Louisa May BENT born 17 Mar 1908 in Glace Bay.
  • Ines Cecilia BENT born about 1913 in British Columbia.
  • Kingsley BENT born 23 Dec 1913 on Vancouver Island and died 23 Apr 1932 in Halifax.
  • Clayton John De Vernot BENT born about 1917 in Alberta. He died in 2002 in Nanaimo.

7. James GILDAY born about 1887 in Glace Bay.


5 thoughts on “James Ling & Catherine McDonald

  1. Pingback: Thomas Norbert Ling (1838-1914) | Low Point Roots

  2. I have been researching my family, and from what I can tell, Flora Ling married my great great grandfather Patrick Gilday. I’m not sure why the name was changed from Kilday, as his name was listed as? I have found several sources where our family name was once Kilday though. Very interesting!


    • Hi there – sorry, I just saw this (I’m new to WordPress!) I have found the name spelled/transcribed as Gilday, Kilday, and Hilday in the historical record, but it’s good to know firsthand which one is correct! Thank you! I am descended from Flora’s brother, Lawrence Ling.


  3. Pingback: Lawrence Ling (1844-1918) | Low Point Roots

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