Barry Ancestors Provide Glimpse into Irish History and the Settlement of Upper Canada (Ottawa)

When I was growing up and St. Patrick’s Day was approaching, I wanted to wear green like all of my friends. My mother told me I couldn’t, and that I should wear orange instead.  I didn’t wear green OR orange.  My mother, a devout Protestant, saw St. Patrick’s Day as a Catholic celebration, rather than a declaration of pride for Irish heritage.

The color orange celebrates William of Orange, a Protestant who seized the throne from Catholic King James II in the Revolution’ of 1688. It was the beginning of the conflicts between the Protestants in Northern Ireland and the Catholics in the rest of Ireland.

Later when I was an adult and wanted to join in the St. Patrick’s Day festivities, I found a button at a Hallmark store declaring I was ‘temporarily Irish,’ and enjoyed wearing it.

temporarily Irish

In 2001 when Chris and I were continuing our research on our great-grandfather, John Brodie, we discovered his marriage to Eliza Jane Barry after he left Scotland and moved to Ontario, Canada. Her grandfather, Jonas Barry was born in the north of Ireland, probably Fermanagh – pronounced “fuh” + “MAN” + “uh”, and her father was born in Tipperary – we had Irish ancestors!

When he was 20, Jonas joined the British Army, first serving in the Royal Sappers and Miners, the engineering group, and was eventually assigned to the 100th Regiment of Foot (Price Regent’s County of Dublin regiment). While many of the soldiers were English or Scottish, over half were recruited from Ulster. At the time of his marriage to Rebecca Parker in Cork in May, 1814, Jonas was a corporal in the army. At that time he was based at Spice Island, outside of Cobh, Ireland, and remained there at least through 1815.

We have not been able to find any record of Barry ancestors before Jonas; however, we can probably make some assumptions. In an effort to establish a stronghold in Ireland, King James I created the Plantation of Ulster in the early 1600’s by granting land to English noblemen who invited tenant settlers called “undertakers” from the lowlands of Scotland—just 20 miles away across the North Channel of the Irish Sea. They brought Protestantism with them, which culminated in the Revolution of 1688 referenced above.

Since our Barry ancestors were Protestant, we can assume that they arrived in Ireland as part of this movement. While the official color of Fermanagh is green, maybe our mother was right…

Jonas Barry, was born during the period when there was beginning to be unrest in Ireland between the Catholics and Protestants and entered the military eight years after the Act of Union was passed, which made Ireland and England one state.

Jonas Barry and Rebecca Parker had three children, Jonas (our ancestor), Jane Eliza, and Robert. Jonas was born in 1817 in Tipperary, Ireland.

And through our research, Chris discovered Wes Cross, a descendant of Jane Eliza – and a avid historian, who lives in Montreal, Canada


Wes Cross – when Chris and Wes met in Toronto in 2002

and has had access to more resources which he has graciously shared. These records have provided us with some fascinating information about our mutual Barry ancestors.

It is unclear exactly when Jonas arrived in Canada with his regiment. Historical records show while many from that regiment were involved in the War of 1812, the regiment had a home base in the British Isles where a recruiting and training depot was maintained to continue to recruit and train soldiers who would be shipped at intervals to join the regiment stationed in Quebec. Since Jonas (Jr.) was born on June 4, 1817, Jonas (Sr.) must have been in Ireland at least through late 1816.

The regiment was disbanded in 1818. According to research published on Roots Web by Wes and another historian, “A concern of the British was the prospect of large numbers of trained, unemployed ex-soldiers returning to Ireland or England.” To assure that there would be trained soldiers if the United States decided to invade Canada in the future, the plan was to established ‘military settlements’ in Richmond, Upper Canada (now Ontario) and offer land grants. Privates would receive 100 acres. According to Wes’s article, “They would also receive their army pension (officers were placed on half-pay) as well as rations for the first 12 months. Each family was to receive a shovel, ax, hoe, scythe, knife, hammer, kettle, bed tick and blanket, hand saw, 12 panes of glass, one pound of putty for glazing and twelve pounds of nails (in three sizes). The community itself would receive two sets of carpenters tools. For the sake of protection and militia duties, muskets and ammunition were retained by the ex-soldiers. In addition clergyman and schoolteacher were to be dispatched.”


Ontario Military Settlements Map

“There is an element of the Jonas Barry/Rebecca Parker story that involves you stopping by for lunch at my condo in Verdun in 2006,” Wes emailed me in 2018. “We didn’t know it at the time, but just a couple hundred feet from my backyard was the road that they passed along by cart in 1818. The road is now called Lasalle Boulevard, but back then was known as “The Lachine Road”, and was one of only two ways to bypass the Lachine Rapids which blocked boat traffic moving from the St Lawrence to the Ottawa River. In Lachine they boarded small river boats (called bateaux) for the balance of the transit up the Ottawa River to Richmond Landing.”  That is the same location as the modern-day road that I took from his condo to the Montreal International Airport.

Jonas (Jr.) would have been an infant when their family walked along that road. Due to an epidemic, they had to leave Montreal quickly and couldn’t wait for wagons to transport them.

When the families arrived at Richmond Landing, the land the area was largely a cedar swamp. The settlers constructed ‘bark huts and crude shelters’ while the former soldiers cleared a 20-mile road to the area that was to become Richmond and then built permanent log cabins before winter set in.


Since most of our ancestors were more recent arrivals in the new world, it was fascinating to read the challenges the Barry’s faced as settlers who helped to open up and develop the Ottawa area of Canada that would go on to become the country’s capital in 1867.

Barry - Richmond_1830 (Natl. Archives Canada)

Early Richmond

According to the book, Early Life in Upper Canada, by Edwin Gullet, by 1820 there were 20 general stores, 4 breweries, 2 distilleries, 1 sawmill, grist mill, carding mill and a town hall (that is still standing!).


Early Richmond

William Lettman, the first City Clerk of Ottawa recorded his recollections of the early days of Old Bytown (the name of the community before it incorporated as Ottawa in 1855) mentions contributions of early settlers:

And Nat and Jonas Barry too,

All plasterers of the old time

Who made their bread by sand and lime.

Nat was another Barry relative. Jonas Barry’s two sons – Jonas (Jr.) and Robert followed in their father’s footsteps and also became plasterer and stucco workers.

Jonas Barry (Sr.) evidently fulfilled the requirements to convert his military land grant to permanent ownership by 1824.


Jonas Barry Land Grant document

“When we looked at the site a few years ago (on a road trip from Ottawa with one of the Plet brothers),” Wes relayed in an email, “we were struck about how daunting it would be to try to homestead there. The land was still undeveloped 200 years later with no nearby inhabited places either.”


Site of Barry Land Grant today

In 1828 is listed in the militia for Nepean Township (just east of Richmond).

When the Richmond Military Settlement incorporated into town status a lot of the ex-soldiers moved on, especially when the canal construction started. “Although I can’t prove it,” Wes reported, “I believe that the Barrys left Richmond for Bytown (now Ottawa) when work on the Rideau Canal started in 1828. There was a demand for masons and plasterers by the British Army who built the canal to provide a safe bypass around the US border on the St Lawrence River. There is a gap in the record between 1828 and 1851 in terms of locating where the Barrys were, but many Richmond residents left that town for the work offered just to the east.”

Daughter Jane Eliza married John Cross. Second cousin, Wes, is descended from this line.

Son Jonas married Jane Burns September 12, 1844 and they had eight children. Their second daughter Eliza Jane, born 1820, married John Brodie (our gr-grandfather) in Ottawa shortly after he arrived in Canada in 1871.

Unfortunately, we don’t have any photos of our Barry ancestors.

“I have a theory about how John Brodie met Eliza Jane,” Chris speculated. “I found a passenger list with a Jonas Barry arriving in 1871 and I think he was on the same ship as John Brodie.  No doubt that is how he went to Ottawa and where Jonas introduced John to his daughter.”

According to Wes, “the names Eliza and Jane play importantly in the early Barry family…I am assuming that if I can ever get further back into Irish records, I’ll spot the name Eliza occurring in the Barry family, and perhaps Jane as well…There was a real effort to keep the Jane name in circulation.”

At some point John and Eliza moved to London, Ontario as the birth of William Jonas Brodie (our grandfather) is recorded in Middlesex Township where London is located and John Brodie’s occupation was listed as watchmaker.

Jonas Sr. died prior to 1851, about age 62. Rebecca went to live with her son Robert in the Ottawa area and lived to be 93. Jonas Jr. died in 1894 at age 76. Jane lived to be 85. The last Barry ancestor on our side of the family was Eliza Jane. She died shortly after the birth of her fifth child.

Jonas Barry and his descendants provide both a glimpse into Irish history and into the settlement of the Ottawa area of Canada.






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