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Saturday, November 25, 2006

The Sheppecks and the McGraws

The Sheppecks can be traced back in Dorset, England, to the 17th century.  William Sheppeck's marriage to Sophia Rawles was recorded in 1803 in Bothenhampton, and his children appeared in the 1841 English census in Bridport.  His grandson Jonas was born in Bridport in 1837.

Bridport is north a ways from the coast, but the city was dominated by the seafaring industries of the time.  People became sailors and captains, rope-makers and sail-makers.  The seafaring was not just local - the route from southwest England to Newfoundland and other American points was well established, and frequently used for fishing and trade.

So it was not unusual for the Sheppecks to have connections to Newfoundland.  Sheppecks had married in Newfoundland, and some had come back and settled in Dorset.  I do not know if Jonas was passenger or crew when he went to Newfoundland and married.  He married Mary Parody or Parady in about 1860, and lived in the Fortune Bay area long enough to see his first son born.  The name Parady (possibly a variation on the French Paradis) was common in the fishing villages on the east side of the bay.  By 1864 Jonas and his family had returned to England, but not Dorset.  Jonas settled in St Helier, on the Isle of Jersey, one of the Channel Islands.  At some point he became a ship's captain, or master mariner.

Disaster struck the family when, in 1891, Mary died of an illness, and Jonas was lost at sea the following February.  By the 1891 census, Jonas' daughter Selina still lived at home with her younger siblings Elvena and Reginald.  Her older sister Mary Ann and her husband had gone to America two years earlier, and had found work in upstate New York, so in October of 1891 Selina set sail for New York.  She moved to Avon NY, outside of Rochester, and worked as a housemaid with her sister in the home of Herbert Wadsworth.  (Six months later, Elvena and Reginald emigrated to Boston.)

The Wadsworths were a venerable and important family in the Genesee Valley, and they owned extensive estates.  They regularly hired immigrants, mostly Irish, to work on the land and in their homes.  That is how William McGrath (pronounced McGraw and later spelled that way), working for Herbert Wadsworth, came to meet Catherine Kelly in the early 1860's.  Both of them had been born in Nenagh, in upper Tipperary County, Ireland, but they met in upstate New York.  Even their children worked for Herbert Wadsworth.  Their only son, James, worked as a houseboy, and he married Selina Sheppeck very shortly after she arrived at the Wadsworth house.

In about 1897, James got a new job in Ithaca (thanks to his brother-in-law Alfred Smith, the husband of Mary Ann Sheppeck) and moved there with his wife and three children, including his oldest daughter, my grandmother Alvena McGraw.  The McGraws became a large clan in Ithaca.  When James Calhoun, in Boston, enlisted in the Army for WWI, he was sent to Cornell University for training.  He met Alvena at a USO dance, and brought her to Boston in 1918 to marry.  They settled back in Ithaca, where daughter Josephine was born, and then moved to Boston permanently.


Related websites:
Dorset OPC - Bridport
Newfoundland Genealogy
Jersey Genealogy
Livingston County NY Genealogy