52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 22: So Far Away

I’ve not written much about my husband’s ancestors. I can barely keep up with my own side of the family. However, it was his Manx great-great grandparents, William John Garrett and Isabella Kissack, that kick-started my serious deep dive into family history.

I’ve written about our journey to the Isle of Man in this post, if you’d like to read that story.

Soon after our visit to IOM, I wrote a book for my grandchildren, “The Story of How the Garretts Came to America.”

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In it, I wrote how William and Isabella married, immigrated to the United States, and finally settled in Illinois. I’d like to tell their story now, but for adult readers.

William John Garrett was born in Douglas, IOM, to his parents, William Garrett, a mason, and Catherine Craine. He was baptized in St. George’s Chapel April 30 by John Christian, Chaplin.

Baptism record of William Garrett

Isabella was baptised at Kirk Braddan, IOM, April 27, 1833. Her parents were Edward Kissack and Margaret Cubbon.

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Baptism record of Isabella Kissack

Isabella was the youngest daughter of six: Mary Ann, Margaret, Elizabeth, Eliza, and Catherine. Her father was a gardener, and the family lived at 6 Queen’s Place, Douglas.

John had at least one sister, also named Isabella, who had married a man named Edward Graves. (This is an important fact, as you will see shortly.)

John and Isabella were married September 11, 1852 in the parish church of Kirk Braddon. According to the register, William was of full age, a bachelor, a joiner (carpenter), and he lived in Heywood Place, Douglas. Isabella was a minor, a spinster (an unmarried woman of any age, not necessarily older, and possibly a spinner by trade), and she lived at Caley’s Place, Douglas (a boarding house). Both William and Isabella signed the marriage register, meaning that both could read and write. For a young woman at this time, especially, this was unusual. No occupation is listed here for Isabella, but in the 1851 census, she is working in a factory.

Marriage register of William Garrett and Isabella Kissack

Less than a year later, June 2, 1853, William and Isabella executed a rather long and complicated legal document in preparation for their move to America. As best as this legal amateur can discern, it involves a bond and security for thirty pounds that William’s sister, Isabella, directed that a Mr. John Clucas give to William to take with him to New York, where Isabella and her husband, Edward, were living.

IOM 2014 (9)

Apparently, Mr. Clucas didn’t trust that Isabella’s letter was legitimate. He requested and received a bond for forty pounds from William to absolve him of all responsibility if indeed William was pulling one over on him. It appears, again to this amateur, that William and Isabella deeded their moiety (half share in a house) in Heywood Place to Mr. Clucas as part of this arrangement.

In January 1858, the bond was cancelled upon receipt from America that the thirty pounds made it to Isabella and Edward.

I think. Anybody a lawyer?

Well, enough of that. What’s important is that there was a lot of information to be found in the midst of all that legalese.

  1. William and Isabella were about to leave the Isle of Man in early June 1853.
  2. Isabella participated in the legal proceedings with William. She also signed the document.
  3. William’s sister and her husband, Edward Graves, had already immigrated and were living in New York city.
  4. William and Isabella’s destination was also New York.

I haven’t found a passenger list yet for them, but I’m going to guess that they sailed directly to New York, rather than one of the other ports in North America, such as Boston or Philadelphia. If so, they would have arrived at Castle Garden, as Ellis Island wouldn’t be built for years.

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Not having a passenger list, I don’t know exactly when William and Isabella arrived. I do know that it was before August 9, 1853. Their first son, also named William John Garrett, was born that day in New York.

Isabella had left her homeland, friends, and family so far away. And, while heavily pregnant, she had sailed across an huge ocean on a constantly moving, rocking, and wave-tossed ship. I can’t imagine how uncomfortable she must have been. In my head, she is a very brave, stalwart woman.

By 1873, Isabella and William had settled in Joliet, Ilinois. They had 12 children in all, eight boys and four girls.

  • William John, 1853-1855
  • George, 1855-1857
  • Albert Eugene, 1858-1937
  • Arthur Henry, 1860-1922
  • Edward Osborne, 1862-1914
  • Gilbert Charles, 1864-1944
  • Lillian, 1866-1954
  • Louis Frank, 1869-1886
  • Richard Walter, 1871-1886
  • Emma Eliza, 1873-1899
  • Kathryn Eva, 1876-1946
  • Mabel Laura, 1879-1948

William passed away in 1900; Isabella lived another ten years without him. I don’t have any photos of them, but I sure wish I did. I want to see the faces of these strong, brave people.

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William’s headstone

‘Til next time.


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks | Week 17: Cemetery

Back in the fall of 2014, my husband, Doug, and I took a life-changing trip to the Isle of Man. The Garrett family lore handed down through his family was that their ancestors   were immigrants from the island. And since I had met him, Doug had talked of visiting one day.

(However, for him, I’m not sure if that desire stemmed more from his heritage or for the lure of the famous Isle of Man TT race. Either way, 2014 was finally the year.)

The night before we left, Doug’s mom found an old, typed, yellowed paper listing the children of Isabella Kissack and William John Garrett, the immigrant couple who first came to America. And, that was so helpful!

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Right away, we learned that the family name was simply Garrett, not O’Garrett. The “O” turned out to be the middle initial Edward Osborn Garrett, the son that Doug’s line descends through. If you say “Edward O. Garrett” enough, it soon morphs into “Edward O’Garrett.”

So, with the paper in hand, we set off across the Pond, not knowing what we were looking for, nor where we would even begin to look. Not the best way to begin a research trip!

Once on the island, we had some tremendous help from the owners of the Devonian, the  cozy B&B we stayed in.


We learned from them that the one and only museum and archive, the Manx Museum, was literally up the hill and around the corner, about a five-minute walk.

The Manx Museum

We set aside an afternoon to spend at the museum, armed with only the paper above, and soon found ourselves overwhelmed with the help of, and the information found by, the museum staff. We sat in amazement as they brought out papers and documents, one after the other, all with information about Doug’s family.

It was the first time I had ever researched in an archive, or even thought about it for that matter, having never done family history at this point. It was a transformational moment to realize that there are literally thousands of stories, just sitting on shelves or stored in a cupboard, waiting for someone to care enough to discover and tell them.

One of the museum staff soon brought out a book with tombstone inscriptions from the nearby graveyard of Kirk Braddan, where we had already learned that William John and Isabella had been married, having been shown their marriage record from 1852.

Tombstone inscriptions of graves at Kirk Braddan

There at #792, buried in the same grave, are Doug’s 3x and 4x great-grandmothers  (mother and daughter), William John Garrett’s mother and grandmother:

In memory of /  Catherine CRAINE / who departed this life / November 27th 1814 / aged 62 years / also Catherine CRAINE / wife of Wm Garrett who / departed this life 26th August / 1832 aged 52 years.

The staff also quickly found a hand-drawn map of the churchyard when we commented that we’d like to visit.


A few days later, we hiked further uphill and inland to Kirk Braddan. A long way inland. A steep walk uphill. It was drizzling. There might have been grumbling.

Kirk Braddan is absolutely lovely. It’s a tiny, ancient, stone church surrounded by a churchyard chock-a-block full of jumbled tombstones, surrounded on three sides by thick stands of trees.

Figuring out the map took us a bit, but once we situated ourselves, we found the grave were were looking for.

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And, there we were. Standing a few feet above two women without whom the man beside me wouldn’t exist. Two women who we had never even given a thought to until days earlier. It was a powerful moment for both of us, and it was what spurred me onto this family history journey.

Getting started…

So, last year, The Male and I went off on vacation to the Isle of Man. Ever since we had married, he’d been saying that he wanted to visit, as he had heard all his life how his family had roots there.

We made our plans, talking about what details he knew about these ancestors. “I think I remember the name as Edward O’Garrett. I guess we lost the O along the way.”

The night before we left, my mother-in-law brought out an old type-written paper, with all the details about the Garretts who came to America. What timing!

Turns out, the name was Garrett all along.  Edward O. Garrett.  O for Osborn!

Armed with the information in this document, we flew off to London, not really knowing what would come of this journey.  
After traveling through Avebury and Oxford, we flew from Manchester over the Irish Sea to Douglas, the capital of the IoM.

Our first drizzly morning there, we discovered that our B&B was (providentially) only a 10 minute walk up from the hill to the Manx Museum. This island nation is so small, all the archives are in one place, in this lovely little museum.  But, we had no idea of that when we embarked. All we had was this piece of paper.
Which turned out to be more than enough to make our heads spin a bit.