The Mystery of Effie Jean (Jane) McMaster Born 1861 Ontario

I recently had an email from the great-granddaughter of Effie Jean McMaster whose name was also Jean. She has been trying to find out more about her mother’s favorite grandmother. Here if Effie’s photo at age 18:

The Mystery of Effie McMaster

Effie’s great-granddaughter states:

Family oral history and limited documentation indicate that the McMaster’s immigrated to Toronto, Canada in 1845 from Sligo. My great-grandmother, Effie Jean (Jane) McMaster, b. 1861, Effingham, Ontario, Canada was born to William McMaster and Margaret Frazer. He is said to have died before she was born and that her mother, Margaret, was unable to care for her and she was “adopted” by a Susan McMaster, b. 1834, Sligo, Ireland, and her husband, John Beckett, b. 1806, Ontario, Canada. In family oral and written history, Susan and Margaret were ‘sisters’ but both belonged to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) who referred to each other as ‘sisters’ by religious tradition, casting doubt on any biological connection.  

Then in a follow-up email:

I started my genealogy journey because I wanted to find out more about the woman my mother adored, my great-grandmother Effie Jean (Jane) McMaster. Ironically, I’ve never been able to unlock the mystery of her parentage. I have been through the Canadian Census’s, the Quaker Meeting notes, read notes in autograph books and the back of pictures and queried family members when they were alive but still no answers. The family oral history says her father, William McMaster, died before she was born in 1961 and her mother, Margaret Frazer, died when she was 16, about 1877, indicating she probably knew her mother. Effie does show up in the 1871 Census as the ‘adopted’ daughter of Susan McMaster and John Beckett but I’ve been unable to find any death certificates, gravesites or mention in church records of William McMaster/Margaret Frazer. I’ve looked at Canadian immigration records and have found a Margaret McMaster traveling with a child but it is before my g-grandmother was born. Again, dates and ages do not match.

Effie in 1871

Here is Effie in 1871:

Effie shows as adopted at age 9, but either with a line through adopted (or underlined?). She goes by the name Effie J Beckett. Her father is a miller. Also living in the house is Alfred Beckett and his family:

The location of this Census is Pelham, Ontario:

The John Beckett Household

Isabel McMaster

I assume that John’s wife Susan was a McMaster. I assume that the 40 year old single “Esibel” is Susan’s sister. That would put her birth at about 1831 in Ireland. She is likely Isabel. Effie is said to be short for Euphemia.

Here is Isabel in 1861:

Now Isabel is 35 which means she was born about 1826. Now there is also a George A McMaster living in the house. Perhaps he is a younger brother to Susan and Isabel. George appears to have been born in Canada in about 1847. John and Susan are listed as Quakers. Isabel and George however are W M which I take to be Wesleyan Methodists.

The 1851 Census didn’t come out until 1852. There, we see Isabella living with Mary Ann McMaster Shannon in Vaughan, York County:

That puts Isabella born in 1827. A working theory is that Isabella is a daughter of William McMaster and Margaret Frazer.

A Clue With George McMaster?

A search for George brings up this birth in the Wesleyan Methodist Baptism Register:

This is where you need to read the fine print. The George A McMaster of the 1861 Census is very likely George Arthur McMaster, son of George and Jane McMaster from Vaughan, Ontario (where other McMaster relatives lived). This George fits in with the George from my Blog on the four McMaster sisters:

Jane McMaster was the daughter of William McMaster and Margaret Frazer. George was her youngest son with George McMaster. Susan McMaster, above was 28 in 1861, so that would mean she was born about 1833. In 1871, Susan listed her age as 36, making her a bit younger.  Now we have a few possibilities for Susan (McMaster) Beckett. Was she the daughter of Jane McMaster or Jane McMaster’s sister? Also how does Effie fit in? As George, born 1847, was the youngest son of George and Jane McMaster, he could not be the full brother of Effie who was born about 1861.

Part of the mystery of Effie is that there are lot of similarities between the family stories about her and my McMaster relatives. I mention those relatives in a Blog about four McMaster sisters and their brother. One of those sisters, Catherine McMaster lived in Burford, Ontario. Her husband, Henry Bennett was also a miller. Family lore has William McMaster and Margaret Frazer as Effie’s parents. My ancestors were also William McMaster and Margaret Frazer, though they were born much too early to be Effie’s parents. In 1852, Catherine Bennett, the miller’s wife was living with her mother Margaret Frazer McMaster who put her age at 63. That means that Margaret was probably born around 1789. The miller connection may be a coincidence, but I mention it in case it isn’t.

Summing Up the 1871 Census

We learned that Effie was living in a house where George A McMaster used to live. George was the son of George McMaster and Jane McMaster. Jane was the daughter of William McMaster and Margaret Frazer (my ancestors). Also sharing the Beckett house with Effie was Isabel McMaster. Isabel was single and in 1852 lived in the household of Mary Ann McMaster Shannon. Mary Ann, Jane and my sister Fannie McMaster were all sisters originally from Kilmactranny Parish in the Southern part of County Sligo. Sometime between 1852 and 1861 Isabel moved from the Shannon household to the Beckett household. We can deduce that Effie was not a full sibling of George Arthur McMaster as George was the last child of George and Jane McMaster.

Effie in Antioch, California

In 1880, the Census shows that the Beckett family had moved to California:

Here Effie is shown as a niece. That would normally mean the daughter of a brother or sister of the John or Susan. The birthplace of Effie’s parents is interesting:

This has Effie’s father born in Ontario and mother born in Ireland. That brings up the possibility that Effie’s mother may have been a McMaster. If that is the case, then her birth name may not have been McMaster. My reasoning goes like this: Jean has the McMaster family immigrating to Canada in 1845. My previous guess was 1844, so pretty close. Effie’s father could not be from the McMaster family that came to Canada in 1844 if he was born in Ontario 1841 or earlier. I’m guessing that if Effie was born in 1861, then her father should have been at least 20 in 1861. That means that if the 1880 California Census is correct, then Effie’s mother would more likely be a McMaster. A scenario would be that Effie’s mother is a McMaster born in Ireland. She comes to Canada and marries and has Effie. For some reason, possibly the death of both parents or the remarriage of one of the parents, she comes to live with the Beckett family.

Susan Beckett

One question is whether Susan Beckett is the same as Susan McMaster, daughter of George McMaster and Jane McMaster. If this were the case, that would mean that George Arthur McMaster would be Susan’s brother and it would make sense perhaps that he would live with her for a while.

I don’t have much information on Susan McMaster in my tree. I just have that she was born in Dromore, Sligo in 1841. I’m not sure where I got this information. It may actually not be right. Jean has that Susan Beckett was 19 in the 1851 Census:

The 1951 census wasn’t taken until 1852. So that would put this Susan Beckett’s birth at about 1833. This seems too early for her to be Susan McMaster, daughter of George and Jane McMaster. I have that George McMaster was born around 1820 and married Jane McMaster in 1839. Here is Jean’s photo of Susan McMaster Beckett:

Was Susan Beckett the Daughter of William McMaster and Margaret Frazer?

Margaret Frazer McMaster was born about 1789. That means that in 1834, she would have been 45. This is not an impossible age to have a baby. Here are the known children I have of Margaret Frazer McMaster:

Jean asked me if any of her photos looked like any of my photos. I don’t have a photo of Fanny, my ancestor. Here is Jane in the middle of the photo:

Susan McMaster Beckett (from Jean):

I’m not good at comparing photos.

Under this scenario, if Susan was the younger sister of Jane McMaster Thompson, then George Arthur McMaster would be her nephew. My working theory is that Isabel McMaster is one of Jane’s sisters. That would make her Susan’s sister also. That doesn’t directly help us figure out who Effie was but it helps define who she may have been related to.

More On Effie

Effie was born in 1861 according to Jean. That means that she could not have been the daughter of Margaret Frazer McMaster who was born about 1789. Margaret would have been alive at Effie’s birth but would have been about 72 years old. Let’s assume that Susan McMaster was the Aunt of Effie. That would mean that Effie would be the daughter of one of Susan’s siblings. I’ll go through those quickly:

  • Jane McMaster b. 1816 – She had two families. The first by George McMaster. When she married her second Thompson husband, the children of the first marriage were sent out to different families. It is unlikely that Effie was a Thompson as that family seemed to stay together.
  • Mary Ann McMaster b. 1820 – She married in 1849 and had two children around 1864. She was taking in other family earlier. I don’t see any reason why she would give her daughter to a sister.
  • James McMaster b. 1822 – James was living in Michigan in 1861. I don’t see any reason why he would give a daughter to a sister in Canada.
  • Catherine McMaster b. 1827 – She was living in Wisconsin in 1861. I don’t see any reason why she would give a daughter to a sister in Canada.
  • Fanny McMaster b. 1829 – She is my ancestor and stayed in County Sligo. The records of baptisms were fairly good at this time. If Effie was a daughter of Fanny, I would probably already know that.

Any other candidates for parents of Effie?

  •  Isabel McMaster b. about 1827 – She would have been about 35 when Effie was born. Isabel was single  in 1861. If Isabel was Effie’s mother, she was either a single mother or got married quickly and had a baby the same year. However, in the 1871 Census, Isabel is not listed as married or widowed.
  • John McMaster b. about 1841 – I mention John in my previous Blog. He was living in the household of Mary Ann McMaster Shannon in 1852 along with Isabel. I don’t know much about this John. If he was Effie’s father, he would have been about 20 at the time of her birth. Also if the 1880 Census is correct, Effie’s father was born in Ontario. According to the 1851 Census, this John was born in Ireland.
  • Other – There may have been other descendants of William McMaster and Margaret Frazer living in Ontario that I don’t know about.

Based on the above, it appears that Isabel would be the best known candidate to be Effie’s mother.  That choice is followed by ‘other’. In fact, take another look at the 1871 Census:

Effie is listed directly under “Esibel”. Sometimes in a Census, this could indicate that Effie may be the child of the person directly above. It would be interesting to find out what happened to Isabel McMaster whether or not she was Effie’s mother. I think that if Isabel was Effie’s mother, it would answer more questions than it would raise. For example, if Isabel was Effie’s mother, then it is improbably that would become the family story. There would be another more palatable story made up. In this case, it appears that the story of  Effie’s parentage was borrowed from her Aunt’s parentage.

Based on Ontario Quaker records provided by Jean, the following six Becketts left the area by January 1, 1879:

One interesting point in the above minutes is that there is no mention of Effie. Why would Alfred’s children be mention and there be no mention of Effie? In addition, Alfred has another daughter Ruth who isn’t mentioned in the minutes.

Here is Alfred’s family in 1880:

Alfred continued to live next to his brother John in California.

An obituary for Alfred indicates that he was married to Mercy Ward in 1857:

Jean’s DNA

Jean doesn’t match me or my four siblings who have tested at AncestryDNA. If she uploaded her DNA to Gedmatch, she may see more DNA connections with other McMaster/Frazer descendants who tested at different companies. Jean tells me she matches Keith by DNA. I match Keith also and wrote a Blog about that match here.

I show as a 3rd cousin, once removed to Keith. Our common ancestor is Fanny McMaster. Of course, this gets confusing as Fanny married a McMaster. Assuming that Isabel is the mother of Effie and that Isabel is the sister of Fanny and Susan, one may see how Jean would be a DNA match to Keith. However, that is a lot of assuming.


  • I first made a connection with George A McMaster who was living in the household of Susan Beckett in 1861. I further identified him as the son of George McMaster and Jane McMaster born in Vaughan, Ontario in 1847. Jane McMaster was the daughter of my ancestors William McMaster and Margaret Frazer born around 1789.
  • From there, I made an assumption that Susan Beckett was the sister of Jane McMaster. I note that Jane also had her daughter Anna living with Jane’s sister Catherine McMaster Bennett based on the 1860 Census. Apparently the children of Jane’s first marriage were not welcomed by her second husband, so they were sent out to Jane’s sisters.
  • I then looked at possible McMaster parents for Effie Jean Beckett. By the process of elimination and based on the 1871 Census, it seemed like Isabel McMaster could be a candidate to be Effie’s mother. Isabel was in the right place at the right age.
  • If Jean uploads her AncestryDNA results to Gedmatch, it would be possible to check other matches that would give more evidence to support or detract from the Isabel McMaster theory.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *