In Search of Nahoway: Conflicting Family Traditions and the Question of Paternity

Nothing is known of Nahoway’s mother. If the name of Nahoway’s father was known, Hudson’s Bay Company records — or possibly records of the fur trade run out of Montreal — might give an indication of who her mother might have been, at the very least in a cultural sense. There are conflicting traditions and suppositions — of family and academic origin — regarding the name of Nahoway’s father.

I. Officer Holden

The Cowan, Strang, Tait, Inkster, and Kirkness Story

To my knowledge the first written reference as to the identity of Nahoway’s father appeared in Women of Red River, “Being a Book Written from the Recollections of Women Surviving from the Red River Era,” first printed in 1923.[1] The author, W.J. Healy, who was at the time the Provincial Librarian of Manitoba,[2] straightforwardly identified Nahoway as “the daughter of an Englishman named Holden, an officer in the Company’s service at York Factory in the later decades of the eighteenth century.”[3] This he concluded after interviewing many individuals, including descendants of Nahoway, three of whom were her granddaughters — Mrs. William Cowan, Mrs. Andrew Strang, and Mrs. Robert Tait. Each of these women traced their line of descent through a different one of Nahoway’s children.

Harriet Cowan

Mrs. Cowan, christened Harriet Goldsmith Sinclair, was the daughter of Nahoway’s son James Sinclair.[4] Healy described Harriet as “remarkably clear-minded,”[5] and, at the age of ninety-two, “still so active of mind and body, and has such liveliness of interest in the present that there is little about her to suggest extreme old age except her long memory of persons and events.”[6]

James Sinclair

Mrs. Strang, who was also named Harriet, and her daughter Mrs. Clifford, whose given name was Margaret and whom Healy also interviewed, were respectively the daughter and granddaughter of Nahoway’s son Thomas Sinclair.[7] Mrs. Tait, christened ‘Jane,’ was the daughter of Nahoway’s daughter Mary who married John Inkster. Jane was thus sister to Nahoway’s grandson, ‘Sheriff’ Colin Inkster, who probably also had a hand in Healy’s production.[8]

Colin Inkster

The Hon. Colin Inkster, served as High Sheriff of Manitoba for fifty-two years, and was acknowledged to be “a walking encyclopedia of Red River history,” in an article published in the Winnipeg Free Press in about 1953.[9] It’s author, W.E. Ingersoll, a self-professed local history enthusiast who wrote a regular column on the subject, averred that “Whenever Librarian Healy wanted to check Red River history, he went, not to a book but over to the office of Sheriff Inkster, and the sheriff business stopped dead til W.J. and the Sheriff had duly checked their historical reference.” Further, Ingersoll stated that Healy was “One of the Sheriff’s closest friends,” all of which suggests that Sheriff Colin Inkster was among those consulted regarding the veracity of information published in Women of Red River.[10]

Two years after the publication of Healy’s book, some details of Nahoway’s story were expanded upon by Walter Jackson McCrea in his Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba (1925) — with clear indications that both Women of Red River and Sheriff Colin Inkster were principal sources for the text. McCrea’s version of the story establishes Inkster as an authority with an intimate connection to Nahoway, and again Holden is named as her father. At Seven Oaks House, where Inkster grew up,

the grandmother of Sheriff Inkster, Mrs. William Sinclair, the wife of Governor Sinclair, lived the closing years of her life as a widow; and in it she died. She was the daughter of an Englishman, George Holden, who was an officer in the Company’s service at York Factory; her mother was of the Cree tribe. Four generations of her family have always spoken of her by her Indian name, Nahoway. Sheriff Inkster, tall, straight and so active in his eighty-third year that he might easily be believed to be a decade younger, remembers her well.[11]

There is evidence that the tradition, that Nahoway’s father was named Holden, was preserved as well by members of a fourth line of Nahoway’s descendants who were not represented in Healy or McCrea’s books. This evidence is found in the margins of a copy of Women of Red River that was once the property of Mary Cameron Sclater Graham, a granddaughter of Mrs. James Kirkness — Nahoway’s daughter, Jane, who had migrated to Orkney, Scotland, with her husband and daughter, Amelia. The copy of the book bears an imprint indicating that it had been subscribed for “in advance” and was thirty-eighth of a print run of one thousand. An inscription on the fly-leaf reveals it to have been a gift from “Nina & Cecil Walley” to “M.C. Graham.” The latter would be Mrs. ‘Captain’ Charles Graham, née Mary Cameron Sclater — daughter of Amelia Sclater née Kirkness — and known as the “indefatigable” lady president of the North-western branch of the Seaman’s and Boatman’s Friend Society in Liverpool, England.[12]

Nina Cameron Graham

In 1912, Mary Cameron Graham’s daughter, Nina Cameron Graham, upon graduating from Liverpool University as a Civil Engineer, migrated with her fiancé, Cecil Stephen Walley, to Winnipeg, Manitoba. In Manitoba, Miss Nina Graham renewed the acquaintance of many of her ‘country’ relations — mainly through her kinsman Sheriff Colin Inkster. She married Cecil, and eventually secured a copy of Women of Red River for her mother. On receipt of the book, Mary Cameron Graham underscored names and marked the margins with brief explanations as to familial relationship. For example, in the case of Nahoway’s son, Captain Colin Sinclair, she noted “Mother’s uncle, Uncle Colin who stayed with us.” Further, beside the name ‘Holden’ she wrote “Mother’s great grandfather.”[13]

The foregoing gives an indication of the number of learned and accomplished individuals, alive in the 1920s, who demonstrated an appreciation of Red River lore and kinship ties, and who, to all appearances, endorsed Healy’s opinion that ‘family tradition’ held Nahoway’s father to have been a fur trade company officer by the name of Holden (in the one account, George Holden) who had served at York Factory.


II. Ex-Soldier Holden

D. Geneva Lent’s Version

In West of the Mountains, published forty years after Women of Red River, author D. Geneva Lent revisited the family tradition outlined above.[14] Lent embellished it, however, and, without supplying any explanation, changed the locale of Holden’s service, asserting, “She [Nahoway] was the daughter of a British ex-soldier, known only to records as ‘Holden,’ who had been stationed for a time at Fort Prince of Wales during the last quarter of the eighteenth century.”[15] Oddly, the ‘records’ she cited appeared to elude her, for in a contradictory footnote to the above statement she claimed “Nothing is known of Nahoway’s father. No reference to a man named ‘Holden’ can be found.” Lent then proceeded to offer the conjecture that, “It is not unlikely that he was an officer, perhaps military, during the construction of Fort Prince of Wales, who assumed the name Holden to disguise his relationship with a Cree woman.”[16] This is likely more indicative of Lent’s attitude towards country marriages than it is of any historical fact. One might wonder, for example, from whom Holden would be attempting to conceal a country relationship?

  1. In the 1700s many men in HBC service took country wives even when already married in Europe.[17] If they wished to conceal the fact from friends and relatives ‘at home’ they only needed to refrain from writing a letter announcing it. If they wished to conceal the fact from their employers in England, the same tactic sufficed — they could follow the normal practice of Hudson’s Bay Company journal writers and leave mentions of a country family off the record. That references to families were not entered in the Company journals is not surprising, given these books were kept largely as records of business.[18] Missionaries did not arrive until 1818, consequently records of church-sanctioned marriages did not exist prior to that date.[19] Occasionally, relationships known to have been long-standing and quite public were not even acknowledged in wills, particularly if the husband left to retire in Europe.[20] The Company actively sought to prevent the migration to Rupert’s Land of women from Europe, and mostly succeeded up to 1806. There was, therefore, no cadre of women who might have written home to alert other Company wives about the existence of second families in the late eighteenth century. Assuming that the number of European men in Rupert’s Land bent on spreading gossip transatlantically was minimal — given the animosity it might generate if the subject of the gossip found out about it — the tactic of non-disclosure would have been sufficient to keep European contacts in the dark, if so desired.[21] To belabour the point still further, there is no indication that late eighteenth-century men and women in Rupert’s Land and Europe cared over-much whether country arrangements were known about, by their various kith and kin, or not.
  2. As for any objection to Company servants entering into country marriages raised by the London Committee or the Chief Factors that served as their on-site managers in North America — and objections there were from time to time — Lent’s suggestion that a false name might have been adopted makes little sense.  The ruse would have been ineffective for a man intent on concealing a new marital status from superiors or co-workers. The pursuit of furs was highly competitive and the protection of trade so all engrossing that the suggestion that, all of a sudden, an extra, unaccounted for, European man was roaming about the environs would have excited more investigation than anyone could have hoped to forestall.
  3. As for misleading a country bride, a one-time liaison, or her family during the period ‘Holden’ was apparently in Rupert’s Land, there does not appear to have been any need. According to one fur trader:

When a person is desirous of taking one of the daughters of the Natives, as a companion, he makes a present to the parents of the damsel, of such articles as he supposes will be most acceptable … these women, as I am informed, are better pleased to remain with the white people, than with their own relations. Should the couple, newly joined, not agree, they are at liberty, at any time to separate, but no part of the property, given to the parents of the girl, will be refunded.[22]

Children resulting from such a union were readily absorbed into the woman’s original community, or taken on by her next partner (which may in some cases have been her previous partner).[23]

As a final objection to Lent’s surmising, it is worth noting that in a review of West of the Mountains historian Irene M. Spry commented that the book was

… a rattling good story. Unfortunately it is not clear how much of it is based on solid evidence and how much on inference … Even when evidence is adduced it is frequently inaccurately quoted and interpretations are placed on it for which it does not seem to give sufficient basis. Some of the mistakes are no more than paraphrases but some cause a significant change in meaning.

Spry further observed that the book exhibited a “pervasive looseness of documentation.”[24]


III. Officer Norton

The Johnstone Tradition

One explanation, for the alterations Lent imposed on one segment of the Sinclair family’s traditions regarding Nahoway’s parentage, is that Lent was wrestling to at least partially accommodate the views of another descendant, Barbara Johnstone.  A great-great-great grandaughter of Nahoway, Johnstone traced her line of descent through Nahoway’s son, Thomas Sinclair via his son William — the latter being a brother to the Mrs. Andrew Strang mentioned above. Johnstone’s article “Sinclair Homestead,” printed in the Winnipeg Tribune, 12 April 1952, is listed as a resource for West of the Mountains.[25]

Barbara Johnstone

When Johnstone — formerly a library assistant, member of the Manitoba Historical Society, and custodian/curator of the museum of the Hudson’s Bay Company Store in Winnipeg — was appointed as superintendent of Lower Fort Garry, Manitoba, she presented her own version of  Nahoway’s story in an interview featured in the Winnipeg Free Press. This occurred two years prior to the release of Lent’s book. In the interview, Barbara identified herself as a “direct descendant of Governor Richard Norton who started to build Fort Prince of Wales (near the present Fort Churchill), for the Hudson’s Bay Company in the early 1730’s” — a genealogical assertion without recorded precedent.[26] Additionally, she claimed that Richard Norton’s son Moses, who also became Chief Factor at the fort, had fathered a daughter and, “When the French raided and practically destroyed the fort in 1872 [sic], [Samuel] Hearne and other important prisoners were carried away aboard ship, but the widow and two-year-old daughter of Moses Norton were among those abandoned amid the ruins of the fort.” Barbara presented the child’s name as “Margaret,” who later became known as “Nayhowayo.”[27]

Problems with this account are immediately apparent. First, Fort Prince of Wales was destroyed in 1782, not 1872. Second, Moses Norton is known to have died in 1773. Even allowing for a posthumous birth of some nine months, any child would have been at least eight years old at the time of the raid, not two.

A less obvious problem is that, not only do Company records “… not confirm that Margaret was Norton’s daughter,”[28] there is no mention of a child by the name of Margaret, or Nahoway, or permutations thereof, in connection with Moses Norton in any historical document preserved in its original, unaltered form, whatsoever. In fact, Moses Norton’s only descendant documented by his contemporaries was a daughter named Mary ‘Polly’ Norton, born of an unknown Aboriginal woman in the early 1760s. Mary’s  death, at age twenty-two, after the destruction of Fort Prince of Wales was mourned eloquently by Samuel Hearne in his Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort.[29] Though he was apparently married ‘after the custom of the country’ to Mary, Hearne makes no mention of any younger sister. Nevertheless, none other than Irene M. Spry acknowledged Barbara Johnstone’s claim that Nahoway’s father was Moses Norton in The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, referring to it as a “family tradition.” (Spry did not, however, go so far as to endorse it as either verifiable or reliable, adding instead that the father was “possibly a Cree.”)[30]

Subsequently, anthropologist Jennifer S.H. Brown, carried Barabara Johnstone’s story forward in the book, Strangers in Blood (1980). Brown described this as “a strong tradition, still preserved in Selkirk, Manitoba, in the early 1970s.” She apparently based this judgment on an interview with Barbara and her mother, Ruby Johnstone, conducted in 1972.[31] Once again, subtle adjustments are discernible in the story. Brown explained that the tradition maintained that when Samuel Hearne wrote of Mary ‘Polly’ Norton’s demise as having occurred “amidst her own relations” that one of these was Nahoway, “a younger blue-eyed sister.” In addition, the observation was made that Ruby and Barbara Johnstone “also allude to a Hudson’s Bay officer named Holden who assisted the family.” And, Brown argued, it is “a reasonable linguistic possibility that this is an allusion to Hearne.”[32] Yet, in his account Hearne made no reference to assisting any family, and, again, given his affection for Mary, it seems unlikely he would fail to mention a younger sister — with or without so striking an attribute as blue eyes — who had somehow defied the elements (and a small pox epidemic), and survived where so many others had perished.[33]

As further evidence to bolster the story of a Norton connection, Brown alluded to entries in the Anglican Red River Registers of Births, Marriages, and Burials, although she did not mention that one of the entries is controversial. In contravention of explicit instructions printed in each register warning that the original, inked entries were not to be altered in any way, at some point someone had penciled additional information onto the baptismal record of a Margaret Norton (No. 532, page 67, Register #3 of St. John’s Cathedral), alleging she was the wife of Chief Factor William Sinclair. However well-intentioned the unknown author of the notation might have been, the information is at variance with other entries in the registers.

  • The burial registry indicates that Margaret Norton (No. 111), was buried on 5 June 1833, two days after the baptism in question, at the age of 18 years. (There is no reason to doubt that the baptism and burial were of the same individual, there being no other Margaret Nortons recorded at Red River.) Margaret Norton was too young to have been William Sinclair’s wife — he having died in 1818.
  • Further, there is another baptism (No. 441, page 56), for “Margaret the reputed wife [meaning not married by clergy] of Wm Sinclair deceased,” dated 1 February 1825. The baptisms of two of William and Margaret Nahoway’s children (Mary and Thomas), were entered on the same date, adjacent to the record for their mother.
  • Any argument that this might represent a first of two baptisms for the same woman is not tenable. Baptism was a sacrament not knowingly conferred twice by the same denomination upon one individual. Given the calibre of people associated with Margaret Nahoway Sinclair, and the short span of time that had elapsed between the two baptisms, it is unlikely that such an event could have transpired by mistake. For instance, of the numerous people who would have been aware of a prior baptism, Margaret Nahoway’s son-in-law John Inkster of Seven Oaks House was Rector’s Warden to David Anderson, first Bishop of Rupert’s Land, and to Archbishop Machray.
  • As to the pencil notation in the register alleging Margaret Norton’s married status: it was neither dated, signed, nor initialed. It was noted c. 1966 by Clarence Kipling (see Archives of Manitoba MG 8 C 16, photostats), indicating it was made prior to that year. Since pencils only began to come into common use in North America during the 1860s (they proved handy in the American Civil War, but were not mass produced until the 1870s, so were much more expensive to procure than a quill feather and ink), the notation was probably made sometime post 1870 — well after the original baptismal entry.

In my opinion, the above points undermine — rather than add any credibility to — suppositions of a Norton connection.[34]

Notwithstanding the lack of solid evidence, Jennifer Brown accepted that when it came to the Johnstone story of a Norton progenitor, “these family recollections are all plausible or in accord with known history.”[35] Many possible scenarios might be plausible, but without authentic corroborating evidence they must be classed as speculation, not historical fact. To date no one has offered up any historical documentation which might go some way to substantiating Johnstone and Brown’s  ‘Selkirk tradition,’ and there is the published account, in Women of Red River, reinforced by the account in Pioneers and Prominent People, with which there is not accord.

It is reasonable enough to assume that Nahoway’s grandchildren — people who may well have actually spoken directly to her — were positioned to pass down information with some merit to it. Their tradition is a least as valid as Johnstone’s. Setting some standard for rules of evidence means that the one tradition cannot be dismissed out of hand if the other is allowed to stand. At minimum, the family tradition that named a Holden as Nahoway’s father deserves an equal bout of  investigation.

In search of Holden

The first problem to address is the apparent lack of a record of any Holden. There are several explanations as to why it may have been difficult for researches such as D. Geneva Lent to find the name in Hudson’s Bay Company records. One reason is that the records were not readily accessible. Prior to 1974, when the documents were shipped to be archived in Winnipeg, some sixty tons of Company papers were housed in London England and access was limited. A second reason is that researchers may have been looking in the records of the wrong Company. There were a number of fur trading concerns, employing hundreds of men in Rupert’s Land during the later decades of the eighteenth century.[36] So many independent traders were present around and about York Factory that they boasted of being “always first in the field,” intercepting trade meant for the HBC.[37]

More importantly, there has been a failure to take the possibility of an analphabet status of First Nations people of the time properly into account. Nahoway most likely would have passed the name Holden down orally (if indeed she did pass down that name). Holden would therefore be a phonetic rendering of a name in an accent that, at this remove in time, it is impossible to guess at. Added to this, a wide variety of spellings of names was common in Company records — ‘Wadin’ for example, can be found as “Wadin, Wadden, Waden and Waddens.”[38] Nahoway too has its variations: including ‘Nahovway’, ‘Nayvoway,’ and Barbara Johnstone’s “Nayhowayo.”[39] The most linguistically compatible match for the name Holden in any extant fur trade records is Haldane (a particularly good match when imagined as spoken in a broad Scottish brogue).

One Possibility: Haldane

Haldane is a name of Scottish origin. It appears in numerous records of early settlement and fur trade in North America (especially if its many variations, including Haldan, Halden, Hadden, Hauden, Haldin, Holden, and Holdane are considered). It is quite common in the indexes of books dealing with the history of the North West Company — the majority of whose senior members were either Scottish or Americans working out of Montreal, Quebec/later Lower Canada, and Upper Canada; some of whom were cousins of men of the Hudson’s Bay Company, and some of whom were from New England and New York. There are records pertaining to a John Haldane who died 11 Oct. 1857 near Edinburgh, Scotland. He had been a Chief Factor of both the Columbia District and the Lake Superior District for the HBC after the amalgamation with NWC in 1821. Having served as a Wintering Partner in the latter company, Haldane qualified as an officer on two counts: as an HBC chief factor, and as a NWC partner.[40]

Documents of HBC competitors have not survived in anywhere near the numbers one might wish. Much about Haldane’s career is therefore a mystery. According to his entry by historian Elizabeth Arthur in The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Haldane was in Rupert’s Land for the first time in 1798. He was, however, listed as a “Wintering Partner” at that time, with Forsyth, Richardson & Co, otherwise known as the “Little Company” and the “Potties” (from pottée, ‘a small measure’).[41] Arthur does not explain how Haldane managed to accumulate the credentials and the capital required to attain a wintering officer’s rank without any previous fur trade experience that would have proved his ability to survive and return a profitable trade. With or without experience, Haldane apparently did all right. He became an officer with the North West Company in 1804, when the ‘Old’ and ‘New’ companies of that name amalgamated with a view to providing a more effective opposition to the HBC.

Josette Latour Presents Another Possibility: Conflated Identities

Haldane is known to have taken a country wife — Josette La Tour — in 1808.[42] Whether she was his only liaison is not known. Early on in his career, in order to winter successfully in ‘the interior,’ Haldane would have benefited immensely from partnering with a woman native to the country. The practice was of long standing. Historian Sylvia Van Kirk has observed that men of the North West Company “appreciated the advantage which could accrue” from forming “unions with the Indian women … all ranks … were allowed to marry.”[43] Unlike the HBC, Nor’ Wester policy at times even allowed for feeding and clothing the wives and families of employees.[44] Whereas some HBC men practiced polygamy, the NWC was averse to the practice, largely because of the expense it might involve, but, on the other hand, “they did not view marriage as a lifetime contract, nor did they consider it to be in their interest to have their women leave the district” and follow husbands home to the Canadas. Serial monogamy, therefore, was a discernible trend. The Canadian traders were men of movement and “Under such circumstances, it is not surprising that the women sometimes changed hands, especially since there was no guarantee that their former partners would return.” Nevertheless, according to Van Kirk, the children of these unions “remained conscious of their paternity. The father’s name was remembered, even if the father was long gone.”[45]

Mary McKay (Mrs. Wm. Sinclair Jr.)

Oddly enough, John Haldane’s country wife, Josette, is in some sources reputed to be the mother of Mary McKay, Nahoway’s eldest son’s wife. This circumstance needs to be looked at as well. At one point in Women of Red River, the story of Nahoway’s youngest son, Captain Colin Sinclair, does not accord with ‘known history’ in that his father, being deceased, could not — as is stated — have put Colin aboard the ship that carried him away from Rupert’s Land. One explanation for the discrepancy might be that while a William Sinclair did pass the child into the captain’s care, this was Wm. Sinclair Jr., not Sr. If this portion of the family tradition sometimes confused the identities of the two William Sinclairs, then one must wonder whether other aspects of the family’s stories were conflated as well. Conceivably, the father-in-law named Haldane that belonged to the one William Sinclair [Jr.] might have been inadvertently transferred to stories told about the other [Sr.].

William Sinclair Jr.

In search of Haldane family history

Historian Elizabeth Arthur has little to say of John Haldane’s family of origin, noting only that his father was George Haldane a manufacturer, presumably in Scotland, and his mother was named Katharine Murray. Nor does Arthur seem positive as to John’s birthdate, listing it as c. 1775, without indicating the source for the estimate. I have included the information that follows on John Haldane’s family of origin on the off chance that a link to another Haldane who perhaps preceded John to North America and inspired him to seek his fortune in the fur trade surfaces (that John Haldane’s father had the same name as Nahoway’s reputed father presents one tantalizing possibility, but there are others [46]).

John Haldane himself does not appear to be a good candidate for Nahoway’s parentage. Nahoway’s date of birth is unknown, though at the latest it would appear to be some time in the late 1770s or early 1780s based on the estimated ages of her children — the oldest perhaps born in the early to mid 1790s. Nahoway would have been a young bride to William Sinclair (who was born c. 1766), but that was not unusual in Rupert’s Land.

By investigating Arthur’s observation that John Haldane retired to Haddington, I have found additional references to supplement what is known of his family:

According to one common story, the Haldane family name is of Norse origin. It holds that the Danes had settled in England from the ninth century, including a viking leader known as Halfdane (aka ‘the half blood’) — signifying that one of his parents was not Danish. Another version tells that the surname was derived from Haldenus, a Dane, who possessed borderlands of the East Lothian area that were named  Halden-rig in his honour. But, according to a Wikipedia article by John Haldane, a Haldane family historian, the surname was derived  from lands known as Hauden and that a Danish link is unproven.

Nevertheless, as noted previously, variations on the name include Haldan, Halden, Hadden, Hauden, Haldin, Holden, and Holdane. In Scotland, the Haldane name is associated with a peerage family whose coats of arms have been described as including a silver shield with a black saltire engrailed and a crest showing the head rampant of a dragon surmounting a flaunting scroll with the motto ‘suffer’ engraved.

Example of a Haldane coat of arms, where in Scotland it was displayed, when, and by whom is unknown to me, though because the shield appears impaled and quartered, presumably it can be traced.

Haldanes of Haddington

Haddington, where John Haldane retired, was a parish in East Lothian, Scotland, through which the river Tyne passed before emptying into the North Sea at Tyne Mouth harbour near Dunbar [not to be confused with Tynemouth which is near Newcastle].

John Haldane’s parents, George Haldane and Katharine/Catherine Murray, were married in the Parish Church, Church of Scotland, on 14 June 1772.[47] Haldanes and Murrays both were listed among peerage families and they had a  history of  intermarriage [of Sir John Murray of Tullibardin’s daughters, Lady Lilas had married Sir John Grant of Grant, while the other daughter, Lady Margaret, was espoused to John Haldane of Gleneagles]. How exactly the lines of descent might trace down to John Haldane’s parents is currently unknown.



Something is known of the mother, Katharine/Catherine Murray’s lineage, as a genealogy (shown above), was set out by Margaret Haldane McLaren Gray, Family Sketches and Memoirs 1750-1834-1935 (Chatham: Shepherd Print Co., 1936), which indicates:

Janet Bovard/Jeannette Beauvard (a Huguenot),  married Mr. Small.

Their daughter, Sarah Small, married Mr. Clelland.

Their daughter, Helen Clelland, married Rev. Patrick Murray D.D. of Doan, originally from Athol, Scotland.

Their daughter was Catherine Murray who married George Haldane of Haddington who was born c. 5/30 May 1750 and died at the age of 72, c. 7 February/24 September 1822.[48]

The Edinburgh Almanac and Scots Register of 1795, listed a George Haldane Esq. as a member of the British Wool Society.[49] By 1807, the George Haldane who was John Haldane’s father was on record as a hosier, manufacturing woolen stockings with a Robert Haldane, presumably a male relative.[50] George served as Provost of Haddington in 1811.[51] In 1834 George Haldane was a member of the council of the East Lothian Horticultural society, justice of the peace, and a member of the ‘New Club.’ [52]

George Haldane’s wife, Catherine/Katharine Murray, was born 30 July 1751, died 11 December 1809, and was buried in the cemetery at St. Mary’s Parish Church, a.k.a. “the Lantern of Lothian”, Haddington [grave L8, the stone marker commemorates her husband as well], next to the River Tyne.[53]

St. Mary’s, Haddington (the Tyne is out of frame to the left). Source Wikimedia Commons — see “Parish Haddington,” for an aerial view showing the river.

George Haldane and Katharine/Cathrine Murray had as children in addition to John:

  • William Haldane, who never married, and was a pay master of Her Majesty’s 33rd regiment of foot. He died 6 May 1844. His gravestone indicates he was the 2nd son of George and Katharine/Catherine.

William Haldane’s grave marker.

  • Henry Haldane, who in one account was presented as the eldest son, is listed on his memorial stone as the third son. His birthdate has been given as 1783. He is on record as having advanced a loan of £2000 to a man named Dunlop in 1823. He died before the loan was settled and his sisters took the matter of its repayment to court.[54] According to accounts of the court case, Henry died c. 1827.[55] His memorial stone lists his date of death as 9 December 1826, age 43 years. An obituary appeared in Blackwood’s Magazine dated to 1826 for Henry Haldane esq., which stated that he died at his home in Haddington, though previously he had lived in Spanish Town, Jamaica [which his stone recorded as ‘the Spanish Town’].[56] The date of death suggests both references are to the same Henry Haldane. Additionally, there is record of Henry Haldane,  attorney at law, Spanish Town, Jamaica, affiliated with an attorney named David Finlayson in 1808.[57]

Sketches of Spanish Town, Jamaica. Source: Frank Cundall, Historic Jamaica (London: Institute of Jamaica, West India Committee, 1915).

Henry Haldane, wife unknown [possibly Jamaican], had one daughter, Georgina, who married her cousin Dr. James Bruce. They in turn had two daughters and a son:

Georgina Haldane Bruce, married in middle age in 1878, to Dr. Francis Henry Swinton Murphy, Surgeon, Army Medical Corps. They sailed to India where she died at Kemptee in Madras, in September 1880, with no children.

Miss Jane ‘Janie’ Isabella Bruce died 24 August 1879 at Haddington, unmarried, with no children.

The son, James George Bruce, was an officer in the military, who died while still relatively young.

  • Jane Haldane, the eldest daughter, never married, and died 12 April 1845.
  • Margaret Haldane: baptised 23 May 1779, Haddington; married at the same place, Old Parish Church on 5 August 1802 to Alexander Witherspoon [born 7 Jun 1774, christened 13 June 1774, as son of Rev. W. Lawrence Wotherspoon, Haddington, East Lothian]; migrated with her husband to Canada in 1834; had ten children “apparently all settled in Canada”[58] [see the chart above]; Margaret was widowed, burying her husband Alexander on 19 August 1834, Grove Cemetery, Dundas, Wentworth, Ontario; she died 18/19 May 1857 at her home in Hatt Str., Dundas.[59]
  • Isabella Haldane: the youngest daughter was listed in 1872 was as living in Haddington, estimated acerage 2, gross annual value 53 pounds.[60] She died 17 May 1877, aged 90 years, leaving a fairly hefty estate. [61]
  • Robert Haldane, died as a child.
  • Jennet Haldane died as a child.

George Haldane, Catherine Murray and their family lived in a “quite commodious house with walled garden” and “its own secluded grounds” known as ‘The Cottage,’ in Haddington. [Incidentally, the first Congregational Church in Haddington was established by one James Haldane in 1798.][62]

John Haldane’s principal reason for retiring from the HBC seems to have been the death of his brother Henry Haldane. After returning to Haddington, John was involved in settling matters related to his brother’s estate. His efforts were not entirely successful, for, as mentioned above, in 1836 his sisters, Jane and Isabella, initiated a court case to try to recover some money that their deceased brother Henry had let on account. The case continued to about 1840.[63]

By 1837 John Haldane had been listed among the “Nobility, Gentry and Clergy” in Pigot and Co.’s National Commercial Directory of the Whole of Scotland and the Isle of Man — his address given as “The cottage,” in Haddington.

In 1843 John Haldane wrote a letter to a George Catlin who had lectured on ‘Indians’ of North America — the text of the letter was subsequently printed in Catlin’s notes of eight years’ travels and residence in Europe with his North American Indian collection.[64] Apparently Haldane also carried on a correspondence with former HBC associate, Peter Skene Ogden, to at least 1846. [65]

In 1857, John’s obituary appeared in Gentleman’s Magazine. Identified as “John Haldane, esq., F.R.S.E., late of the Hon. Hudson’s Bay Company,” he had died “At the Cottage, Haddington.” [66] His gravestone inscription indicates John was the eldest son of George Haldane and Catherine Murray, gives his date of death as 11 October 1851, and his age as 81 — making his year of birth c. 1770.

In 1862, John was remembered by the Royal Society of Edinburgh as “an unobtrusive amateur in natural history, to which he was naturally enough attracted during his long service in earlier life, as an able officer of the Hudson’s Bay Company in North America.”[67]

According to one family account, John had left his parent’s home in Scotland bent on a fur trade career at the age of twenty — if his birthdate was 1770, he might have arrived in North America in 1790. This would be eight years before he is recorded as a wintering partner, supplying time for him to have served in the field as an engagé, and thereby supplying explanation for how he came to be regarded as worthy of partnership.

Even so, in order for John Haldane, fresh off a ship from England, to have been accepted into a fur trading venture as an engagé, he must have had connections — perhaps to the fur trading Frasers and Grants with ancestral and marriage ties to East Lothian and numerous merchants and traders connected to the NWC.[68]

Some Other Haldane?

For the time being, I am willing to entertain the possibility that a Haldane (Haldan, Halden, Hadden, Hauden, Haldin, Holden, or Holdane), had worked in the North American wilds before John Haldane and served as the latter’s mentor/patron/inspiration, bringing him into the trade. [Probably not the George Haldane featured in the unflattering sketch by George Townsend in the 1750s — though establishing a connection to the Governor of Jamaica from 1756-1759 would be quite the genealogical find.] ‘Pedlars’ were known to have been trading in Rupert’s land as early as 1765 and in the vicinity of York Factory and Prince of Wales’ Fort possibly as early as 1767 and definitely by 1770. Perhaps there was Haldane among them, perhaps with the given name George.

Perhaps a Sailor?

Another possibility is that an earlier Haldane (Haldan, Halden, Hadden, Hauden, Haldin, Holden, or Holdane) was a sailor in Hudson Bay who had formed a liaison with a woman of the country. He could have served on an HBC vessel or aboard a British naval escort to the Bay (such as HMS Aurora  of 1777, or HMS Chatham, HMS Jason, and HMS Portland of 1778, see Ship List 2, this site). Family stories might have conflated the identities of John Haldane and an older, seafaring Haldane relative and thus the appellation ‘officer’ which belonged to Haldane the younger could have been transferred to Haldane the elder. Or, the earlier Haldane may have been a ship’s officer, first or second mate for example, the record of whose name vanished with the many records of early maritime activity which the Company did not manage to keep.[69]

Unfortunately, there do not appear to have been many descendants in this family line, so finding helpful leads through genealogical information posted online is not too likely.

The Irony that a Haldane Paternity might Confer

To my way of thinking, it would be poetically just if, for many of the descendants of Nahoway, the ‘bluest’ of the family bloodlines could be shown to have been conferred through a woman of Hudson Bay.


Photograph believed by some descendants to  be of Nahoway. According to other descendants, however, the woman portrayed is Jean Inkster, daughter of Mary Sinclair and John Inkster. See comment posted by Gail Konantz on January 10, 2012.

[1] W.J. Healy, Women of Red River, Being a Book Written from the Recollections of Women Surviving from the Red River Era, A Tribute to the Women of an Earlier Day by the Women’s Canadian Club (Winnipeg: Bulman Bros. Ltd., 1923). Available from Our Roots/Nos Racines, University of Calgary, Université Laval, online library,

[2] Ibid., title page; and W.E. Ingersoll, “Yarns of Early Winnipeg, No. 35, The Sheriff was an Encyclopedia,” Winnipeg Free Press (c. 1953).

[3] Healy, Women of Red River, 163.

[4] Ibid., 15.

[5] Ibid., 21.

[6] Ibid., 15, 163.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid., 86, 90; Irene M. Spry, “Inkster, John,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography vol. X, 1871-1880 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press).

[9] W.E. Ingersoll, “The Sheriff was an Encyclopedia,” Winnipeg Free Press.

[10] Ibid. The writings of W.E. Ingersoll have been used by other historians as source material. See, for example, W.L. Morton, Manitoba – A History (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), 51 n. 47.

[11] Walter Jackson McCrea, Pioneers and Prominent People of Manitoba (Winnipeg: Canada Publicity Co., 1925), 44. The text also notes that the usual spelling of her name was Nahoway and that she had remarried after William Sinclair’s death — see Another Version of Capt. Colin R. Sinclair’s Story, this site.

[12] Obituary, “Captain Charles Graham,” The Journal of Commerce (Liverpool: 9 December 1922), souvenir reprint, see transcript, this site.

[13] Obituary, “Mrs. Cecil S. Walley,” Winnipeg Free Press (c. 24 March 1974); Autograph Album of Nina Cameron Graham/Walley, possession of Norma J. Hall, in which signatures and notes attest to an acquaintance with Colin Inkster and others who shared genealogical ties; The frontispiece of Mary Cameron Graham’s copy of Women of Red River bears the signature of the author, two of the women who had contributed recollections to the book (Janet Muckle [see Healy, p. 136, 158-162]; and Mrs. A.N. McLeod, [see Healy, p. 84] who was also a writer of Red River history), and M. Inkster, Colin Inkster, and W.A. Inkster.

[14] D. Geneva Lent, West of the Mountains: James Sinclair and the Hudson’s Bay Company (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1963).

[15] Ibid., 7.

[16] Ibid., 294 n. 5.

[17] See, for example, Sylvia Van Kirk, “Many Tender Ties,” Women in Fur Trade Society, 1670-1870 (Winnipeg: Watson and Dwyer, 1980), 38, 107, and references to Moses Norton and Sarah.

[18] Jennifer S.H. Brown, Strangers in Blood: Fur Trade Families in Indian Country (Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 1980), xiv.

[19] Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 45.

[20] Ibid., 111, 120.

[21] Ibid., 3; Healy, Women of Red River, 1.

[22] Daniel Harmon, quoted in George F.G. Stanley, The Birth of Western Canada: A History of the Riel Rebellion (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1936), 6.

[23] See W. Kay Lamb, ed., The Journals and Letters of Sir Alexander MacKenzie (Toronto: MacMillan of Canada, 1970), 134; Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 46.

[24] Irene M. Sprye, review, West of the Mountains by D. Geneva Lent, The Beaver (autumn 1963): 57.

[25] Lent, West of the Mountains, 296 n. 12; in addition, Lent Acknowledges Barbara Johnstone as “Archivist, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives,” Winnipeg.

[26] Edith Paterson, “Canadian History is Exciting Says New Park Superintendent,” Winnipeg Free Press (c. 24 June – 4 July 1961).

[27] Ibid.

[28] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 71.

[29] Richard Glover, ed., A Journey from Prince of Wales’s Fort in Hudson Bay to the Northern Ocean, 1769, 1770, 1771, 1772, by Samuel Hearne (Toronto: MacMillan, 1972), 40, 81-82.

[30] Irene M. Spry, “Sinclair, William,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography vol. IV (Toronto” University of Toronto Press), 722, thanks “the archivist of the Hudson’s Bay Company [Barbara Johnstone? see n. 25 above] and her colleagues for tracing much of the widely scattered material used in the biography that would otherwise have escaped notice,” and lists “D. G. Lent, West of the Mountains: James Sinclair and the Hudson’s Bay Company (Seattle, Wash., 1963),” among her sources.

[31] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 71; subsequently, descendant Donna Sutherland, a student of Brown, incorporated her own investigation of the Lent/Johnstone tradition into a book, see Donna G. SUTHERLAND, Nahoway: a distant voice (Petersfield, MB: White Buffalo Books, 2008).

[32] Ibid.

[33] Glover, Journey from Prince of Wales’s, 81-82; Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 166; Mrs. Andrew Strang’s account, in Women of Red River, of Nahoway’s eyes makes no mention of their having been blue.

[34] See Brown, Strangers in Blood, 71; Norma J. Hall, letter, to The Registrar, Anglican Church of Canada Diocesan Office, Winnipeg, Manitoba, 19 November 1997; Rev. S.C. Sharman, Archivist, The Diocese of Rupert’s Land, letter, to Norma J. Hall, 9 December 1997, responded:

Thank you for your letter of 19 November 19 concerning the pencil notation added to the Baptismal record of Margaret Norton (No. 532, Page 67, Register #3 of St. John’s Cathedral, Winnipeg). I have examined the notation (and also the entries for the burial of Margaret Norton (111) on 5 June 1833 and for the baptism of Margaret reputed wife of W. Sinclair, deceased) and discussed the problem with Brenda Palz, the assistant Archivist, and Mrs. Kathy Stokes of the Manitoba Historical Society. We share your conclusion that the Margaret Norton of this entry is not the Margaret who was the wife of William Sinclair. The pencil notation is, therefore, in our opinion, in the wrong place.

I cannot identify the author of the pencil notation nor can I tell what information or assumptions he used in drawing his conclusion that Margaret Norton was the wife of William Sinclair.

Baptism is, as you rightly point out, never knowingly conferred twice upon one individual.

As the register can now not be further altered, I shall cause your letter and the accompanying page to be attached to the page in the register.

[35] Brown, Strangers in Blood, 71.

[36] Harold A. Innis, The Fur Trade in Canada: An Introduction to Canadian Economic History revised ed.(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1970), 151-152, 154.

[37] Arthur S. Morton, A History of the Canadian West to 1870-1871 (London: Thomas Nelson ans Sons, 1939), 287.

[38] Lamb, Journals and Letters, 8 n. 2.

[39] Healy, Women of Red River, 163; HBCA, “Last Will and Testament of William Sinclair”; Paterson, “Canadian History is Exciting.”

[40] On Haldanes in general see Donald Whyte, ed., Dictionary of Scottish Emigrants to Canada before Confederation (Toronto: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1986), 129; Dictionary of Scottish Settlers in North America vol. 2 (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., 1985), 69, 77. On John Haldane in particular see Encyclopedia Canadiana vol. 5 (Ottawa: Grolier Society, 1958), 58; and Elizabeth Arthur, “Haldane, John,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography.

[41] See Lloyd Keith, North of Athabasca: Slave Lake and Mackenzie River documents of the North West Company, 1800-1821 (Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s Press, 2001), 27.

[42] Arthur, “Haldane, John,” DCB.

[43] Van Kirk, Many Tender Ties, 28.

[44] Ibid., 38.

[45] Ibid., 97.

[46] For example, see “Nowt as queer as folk,” ScotlandsPeople,, which, in commenting upon wills, refers to “Settlement by John Haldane, brewer in Selkirk – 1808. Ref: National Archives of Scotland – CC18/4/8,” noting “It seems that John Haldane, brewer in Selkirk, never forgave his errant fourth son for his misdemeanours. However, the grudge he bore against his son happily did not extend to the wife and children.” The following quote is supplied:

Know all men by these presents That I John Haldane Brewer in Selkirk being in sound judgement have resolved to make a Settlement of my affairs in order to prevent all disputes and differences which might otherwise happen to arise among my Children respecting the succession to and of my property and means and Effects after my decease…

– I hereby recommend to the said Beatrix Scott my Spouse and the said David Haldane [his eldest son] to live together in amity and good agreement, and to the said David Haldane to make her comfortable as possible and as long as they live in family together…

To George Haldane my second Lawfull Son, who sometime ago went to England, and who it is supposed is in his Majesty’s service in the Army [italics my emphasis] if in life the sum of five pounds Sterling in case he is alive and shall return home But I recommend and enjoin the said David Haldane in case the said George shall ever return home to be kind to him and to give him such assistance and further pecuniary aid as he may have it in his power to bestow and see it to be his duty to perform-

– To Robert Haldane my fourth lawfull son now in America, [italics my emphasis] who has not behaved himself altogether well or according to my wishes the sum of one Guinea upon his appearing in this country and claiming the same, and to his son John Haldane and his Daughter Janet Blaikie Haldane and Jean their mother the sum of Fifty Pounds Sterling But Declaring expressly that the said Robert Haldane is Prohibited and Debarred from uplifting or intromitting with the foresaid sum provided to his said son and Daughter and Wife, or from having any share or interest therein and that the same shall not be attachable by his Creditors…”

[47] Parish registers for Haddington, 1619-1854, Church of Scotland, Parish Church of Haddington, East Lothian.

[48] See Graveyard Index H, St Mary’s Parish Church – Haddington, ; and alternate dates given at

[49]The Edinburgh almanack and Scots register for 1795. Containing a correct kalendar, lists of the Scots peers, baronets, state officers, courts of law, revenue boards, Public office, universities, clergy, roads, &c. &c. Also of the British peers, House of Commons, state officers, &c. accurate lists of the army, navy, &c (Edinburgh: David Ramsay, [1795]): 62; on p. 184 there is a Captain Henry Haldane listed among the Royal Engineers — as he had been the year before.

[50] The principal acts of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland (Edinburgh: George Mosman, 1801), 13, 20; John Martine, Reminiscences of the Royal Burgh of Haddington and old East Lothian Agriculturists (Edinburgh: John Menzies and Co., 1883), 152.

[51] James Miller, The lamp of Lothian, or, The history of Haddington: in connection with the public affairs of East Lothian and of Scotland : from the earliest records to the present period (East Lothian: James Allen, 1844), 502.

[52] The East Lothian county list for 1834: forming a complete directory to the nobility, gentry, tenantry and commercial people of Haddingtonshire (Neill and Sons, 1834), 33; see also Report of the … Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science, vol. 5 (London: J. Murray, 1836), 22.

[53] “Graveyard Index,” St Mary’s Parish Church – Haddington, Haddington: St Mary’s Parish Church (Church of Scotland),

[54] Great Britain, Parliament, House of Lords, Scotland, The Scottish jurist: containing reports of cases decided in the House of Lords, Courts of Session, Teinds, and Exchequer, and the Jury and Justiciary Courts, Volume 7 (M. Anderson, 1841), 419.

[55] Great Britain, Parliament, House of Lords, George Robinson, Cases decided in the House of lords, on appeal from the courts of Scotland: 3 ̊& 4 ̊Victoriae, Session of Parliament 1840, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood and Sons, 1840), 237.

[56] Blackwood’s Magazine, vol. 21 (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1827): 373.

[57] David Dobson, Directory of Scottish Settlers in North America, 1625-1825, vol. 6 (Genealogical Pub. Co., 1984), 46; Blackwood’s Magazine, vol. 21 (Edinburgh: W. Blackwood, 1827), 374.

[58] “Thursday, December 15. First Division. (before Seven Judges.) Special case — Wannop and Another (Haldane’s Trustees) and Others,” The Scottish law reporter: continuing reports … of cases decided in the Court of Session, Court of Justiciary, Court of Teinds, and House of Lords, vol. 19 (Edinburgh: John Baxter and Son, 1882),  220.

[59] Ibid., 218.

[60] Angus Fletcher, Scotland: owners of lands and heritages 17 & 18 Vict. Cap. 91, 1872-1873 : return of the name and address of every owner of one acre and upwards in extent … and the annual value of the lands and heritages of individual owners : and of … owners of less than one acre … Presented to both … (Edinburgh: Murray and Gibb, 1874), 102.

[61]“Thursday, December 15. First Division. (before Seven Judges.) Special case,”  217 220.

[62] Miller, The Lamp of Lothian, 502.

[63] “Thursday, December 15. First Division. (before Seven Judges.) Special case,” Scottish law reporter 217, 218 , 220; “3rd March 1836. First Division. … Jane and Isabella Haldane, Pursuers, v. Alexander Donaldson, Defender,” The Scottish Jurist: Containing Reports of Cases decided in the House of Lords, Courts of Session, Teinds, and Exchequer, and the Jury and Justiciary Courts (Edinburgh: M. Anderson, 1836), 280 ; “3d August 1840. House of Lords. …  Alexander Donaldson, Appellant, v. Jane and Isabella Haldane, Respondents,” The Scottish Jurist: Containing Reports of Cases decided in the House of Lords, Courts of Session, Teinds, and Exchequer, and the Jury and Justiciary Courts (Edinburgh: M. Anderson, 1841), 417; see also Great Britain, Parliament, House of Lords, Charles Clark, William Finnelly, Reports of cases heard and decided in the House of Lords on appeals and writs of error: during the sessions 1831[-1846], vol. 7 (Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1873), 558.

[64] Appendix A, George Catlin, Catlin’s notes of eight years’ travels and residence in Europe with his North American Indian collection: with anecdotes and incidents of the travels and adventures of three different parties of American Indians whom he introduced to the courts of England, France, and Belgium (London: George Catlin, 1848), 221.

[65] See D.A. McGregor, “Old Whitehead — Peter Skene Ogden,” The British Columbia Historical Quarterly (July-October 1953), 169 n. 26,

[66] The Gentleman’s Magazine and Historical Review, vol. 203 (1857), 574; see also Blackwood’s Lady’s Magazine and Gazette of the Fashionable World (1857) 120.

[67] Royal Society of Edinburgh, Proceedings of the Royal Society of Edinburgh, vol. 4 (1862), 6. Note: there is an intriguing reference to a John Haldane in York-Buildings Company, “Ans. York-Buildings Company, to the pet. Alex. Mackenzie, W.S. and pet. York-Buildings Company. Answers for the Governor and Company of … Social Sciences (Edinburgh, 1792), 83 pp. It is not clear whether or how John Haldane of Haddington is related to the John Haldane referred to in this court case begun c.1783, that carried on for a number of years so that by 1888 it mentions the John Haldane involved was deceased. The opposing party included Alexander and Kenneth MacKenzie.

[68] See “Simon Fraser, the Explorer,” Simon Fraser University, ; “History of the Frasers in Scotland,” Clan Fraser Society of Canada, ; “Grant,” Tribal Pages, .

[69] For examples of seafaring Haldanes see “The Scottish Nation: Haldane,” Electric; also Memoir of Robert Haldane and James Alexander Haldane … (New YorkAmerican Tract Society, 1858), passim.


34 Responses to In Search of Nahoway: Conflicting Family Traditions and the Question of Paternity

  1. Laura Cowie says:

    Really enjoyed reading your research and inquiry on Nahoway. I found your commentary about Barbara Johnstone’s account quite interesting. My family had many visits with Cousin Barbie and Aunt Ruby, and as a child, I remembered hearing many retellings of Nahoway, of how fortunate I was to have this “Indian Princess” as my ancestor. I’m glad I was taught to always have pride in our Cree great grandmother.

    Look forward to exploring your site further!

    • Marshall says:

      My mom is [supposedly] related to Marguerite Nohovway, through Mr. Thomas Mark Murtagh. She took a FTDNA DNA test. The results of her close mtDNA matches produced [among about 14 other close mtDNA matches] a match with Mr. Murtagh. He lists his earliest known ancestor as Catherine Sinclair, b. 1798, Scotland. It looks like he got the date [about] right, but not the place of birth. I have his email address, if any relatives are interested. My mom & I both have accounts at FTDNA & gedmatch.

  2. Rob Sinclair says:

    Very interesting, can you contact me, I have some very interesting info for you regarding Spence family that travelled west with James Sinclair and also MacKays in manitoba

  3. I Do Like Your Page…

    It has been some time since I have been involved with family history. (my Family Tree layout starts With William the Elder and Nahoway. I come down though their son Tommy. ) My mother paid a detective to follow the story all though The Prairies and I have (Colin-Like) wandered around myself. I have also talked to relatives and looked though more than the odd archive. I have a few pictures, including Tommy out in the wild and some other relatives. I wish I had paid more attention to “Auntie Flo” when I went though Winnipeg as a young man of 17 in 1969. Florance Sinclair was quite a ‘fountain of stories.’

    Kind Regards,
    Gordon Vaughan Sinclair Holmes

    • hallnjean says:

      Thank you, and good to meet you Gordon.


      • Elaine Hiebert says:

        Norma, I have traced you down from a download to someone’s family tree through My ancestor is William Sinclair Sr. Your article was cut off after 19 pages so I am so glad to have found the full article and your wonderful research and writing. I have a thought about Holden and Norton. If the written N was mistaken for an H you would have Horton and this could have morphed to Holden. Also from reading Hearne’s story I understand that he hated Moses Norton and that Moses did not allow any of the other men access to the native women.
        Therefore if there were a lot of younger children around such as an eight year old girl Samuel would not have commented. Just a thought. Cheers (my favorite sign off too) Elaine Hiebert

  4. Jeff Kunold says:

    I found an article recently that seems to give a good argument as to who the ancestors of Nahoway may be. It can be found by doing a search on “Ferdinand Jacobs”. ( It gives the father of Nahoway as a man named George Holt (similar to the name of George Holden) from England and a woman named Thucotch Jacobs. Based on what I read, it appears Thucotch (spelled different ways) could be a daughter of Ferdinand Jacobs and Messenobenoe (daughter of Richard Norton). According to the article, Moses Norton wrote a letter to Jacobs noting that his eldest sister Messenobenoe was ill. Maybe Moses and Messenobenoe had the same mother. I have read that Moses Norton named Susannah Dupeer his mother in his will. It would make me wonder if anyone has an idea as to who were Susannah Dupeer’s parents. I know there is a mention of her on this website which can be found by doing a search on “Susannah Dupeer” and clicking a link about Moses Norton.

    Best Regards,

    Jeff Kunold

    • hallnjean says:

      Hi Jeff, thanks for the link — wouldn’t it have been lovely if somebody had just made a point of asking Nahoway about her story, and then wrote it down (and kept it)? Though there is some fun in chasing the mystery isn’t there?


    • Jeff Kunold says:

      I thought I would mention that I recently purchased the book “Nahoway: A Distant Voice” by Donna Sutherland and have started reading it. While Chapter 2 of the book goes into possible ancestors of people like Nahoway, the author admits we have no way to know for sure who some of her ancestors were. It seems similar to the same conclusion I have reached after considering different possibilities myself. I think Chapter 2 in particular still gives a lot of interesting information that helps one see who some of her ancestors may have been. It also gives interesting information about Moses Norton and his will and a codicil. Whoever is interested in reading more about this should probably consider reading the book.

      • Elaine Hiebert says:

        Jeff, Thanks so much for the above info. I will follow up!

        Elaine (ancestors Joseph Cook and Catherine Sinclair)

  5. I am kind of over any medical problems I can do anything about…but I actually (wait for it), got hit by an SUV a week ago Sunday! Sigh.
    I only have, so far…Many Tender Ties and Women of Red River…I cannot really read! I am rather sad. Nevertheless, do not forget me and I will read intently as possible (letters yes, books, no).
    I am going to recover…as my friend Jimmy Sinclair says, you are like a radio station…”And the hits just keep on coming.)
    At any rate, a Merry Christmas to all out there!

  6. Well,
    Perhaps it it the doctor’s visit, the medications, the neck turning to butter with massage..(ahhh!), but two things. -Neither of Great import: Still, I used to ‘talk’ with William the Elder and say, “This would be a lot easier without your ‘Burn All May Papers Not Related To Monies’ and I have forgotten how to put a picture of myself up here!” Takers on the 2nd?

    Kind Regards,

  7. Eldona says:

    Very pleased, to see all who have decended from this family, i too am a seventh generation, my grandmother, is 5th generation granddaughter to Nahoway(Margaret) Sinclair & William Sinclair, as it is all in our family tree book, my Grandmother, who is an Anderson, whose father is son to, Harriet Sinclair, & Joshua Anderson, an so on, with names including, Cook, Beardy and then the obvious Sinclair, Catherine Sinclair who married, Joseph Cook, daughter to William & Nahoway Sinclair. William Sinclair 1766-1818,Nahoway(Margaret) Birth Circa. 1777 Fort Prince Of Wales Canada, Death 1857 age 80 years Seven oaks Canada.

  8. Kerrie says:

    Hello relatives,
    I am also tracing my ancestors. I come from Nahoway’s son James. I lived in Prince Albert and now Calgary. I am interested in who her mother was and what Cree tribe she came from.

  9. Teresa Naylor says:

    Hello everyone,
    My name is Teresa Naylor. My husband is Ralph John Naylor. His family tree also comes down from William & Nahoway Sinclair. Our branch is from John Spencer who married Anne Sinclair. Anne being William & Nahoway’s daughter. I am looking for family trees of William & Nahoway’s children…down to current if possible. I can provide a family tree of the Spencer & Naylor side for those who might be interested. Are there old pictures of William & Nahoway & their children?
    I have enjoyed reading the above article…great job & well done.
    Thanks & have a great day.

  10. I had so many comments printed..they just got eaten. sigh, a little weak to retype. I will try after some sleep. I come down through Tommy, And Knew Flo and Winnie..My mother, a recluse, has many things. But I will try again Later. My own illnesses are nothing, but Cancer stalked one VERY close and I talked to the Doc and he said it is beaten!!!!!!! This has been a LONG STRUGGLE. Best way get back into life..get back to writing (I wrote the Sinclair Poem, which Malcolm read that the last Gathering ) I wanted to talk about Flo, Winnie, my grandmother and Sydney’s Widow… I think Peggy Evan’s Daughter has much, looked after Flo in Winnipeg… I have pictures of Tommy and a scanner!


  11. One more thing..My Grandmother lived to be over 100 and so did Flo…Curse my 1969 ‘Know It All, Not Interested” mind when I stayed with Flo then. Same with Gran/Winnie and on the other side..Nana/Dad’s Mom.
    Gran named me at 13-14 The New Wandering Boy after Colin, who came home a bit late for Nahoway… I am interested in Her side and Williams. My Sister is executor of Mother’s estate, will try to make sure I have it to send to the Manitoba Museum! Tommy’s Trail Guitar, Tons of Red River “Bolts?” of cloth, things I have yet to lay eyes on….

  12. Elizabeth Haddon Christensen says:

    Hello everyone,

    I was told my Middle name comes from Hadden. The Haddon was a miss spell of Hadden because of poor lights in the old times ?

  13. red says:

    The more I read the more ashamed I am of how Europeans (Canadians) treated native people. Not an ounce of awareness of your deep racism.

  14. red? Agreed…
    It was not only “Fur Country”, but the whole of Canada (and Points South.) I know the tribes in B.C. are still recovering from policies in place until WWII? (I think that is correct).
    I am glad that my GGG Grandfather, Nahoway’s Husband William, was an exception to that popular “Wives of the Field” practice. They were married and he and her were Husband and Wife. Period.
    In dark times, I look for the occasional ray of light.


    • janis freer says:

      my sister and I travelled to York Factory and Prince of Wales this last August to walk where our ancestor William and Nahoway spent so much of their time. We also went to Norway House. We grew up all our life knowing of our ancestors but going up to northern manitoba brought it so much closer. Would go again in a heartbeat.

      Janis Freer, sister Sally Evans ancestors of Thomas Sinclair, HBC

      • Gordon Holmes says:

        I think I did it..Tommy is on the Guitar that I have! and his friend, A. L. Lewis is on mandolin. He is from American Fur and Tommy is with H.B.C.

  15. Dear Janis,

    Please forgive my slow reply. I thank you for sending me that comment and will have my own when I can.
    I lost Two Bothers recently, within 90 days of each other. One to being hit by a car as he was riding his bicycle and next, another to Cancer. I am at a loss to say many things I wish to, as I feel I am ‘sinking.’ But soon I will carry own. My late Father would expect it and I will.
    I am delighted in my heart and mind at the kindness people in my Clan have shown, it helps so much! : )


  16. I have a picture or two of Tommy playing a ‘saddle bag” guitar with his friend. I would be Most Happy to scan them and and a couple your way, when the painting, carpets and electrical work is done. (And I can find my scanner and the mentioned book that I had in my hands the day before yesterday!)

  17. During the re-doing of our house, I found Tommy and his friend ! I will let you know when it is not so insane with workers and I can get that scanner out!

  18. I can’t put the pic up..Ideas?

  19. Norman Inkster says:

    I very much enjoyed the unfolding of history in the details above – particularly the references to Mary (Margaret) Nahoway (sp?). Colin Inkster (the Sheriff) was my great-grandfather and as he passed away a year before I was born, I never had the pleasure of meeting him. He was however, the most often referenced person in our branch of the Inkster family tree. I have a photograph of him wherein he appears much older than the picture above and my wife tells me that I am looking more like him every day! We strongly suspect that it was the sheriff’s dna that led me to join the RCMP in which I proudly served for 37 years. He was a man revered by his grandchildren and now by me and my children all of whom are proud of our Cree ancestry.

    • hallnjean says:

      Honoured to meet you ‘cousin’ Norman,

      My grandmother met Colin Inkster (and was married out of his house). She kept an autograph album and tucked newspaper clippings in it. Some were about the ‘Sheriff’ and other Red River relatives (my grandmother had been born and raised in England), but, one of the clippings was about you and the RCMP! And here you are — What a small world the internet can be 🙂


  20. Hi! Gordon V. Sinclair Homes. Navohway has a few spellings. I usually get it the way others do not spell, but I change it all the time.
    I ‘Met’ through Great Auntie Flow, many of the people surrounding the Sinclairs. (Inkster, VERY well known) , and a few others. I was looking from the ’70’s to the 90’s and still have things, but my Mother has most.If I can Post Tommy and his friend, it may ring a few bells, but I am sorry to say, the majority of the pics are Not with me but her. She is approaching her 90’s now and is difficult to talk to. I have hope that my sister can retrieve things. I have a ‘Family Tree’ with some interesting names on it, but it is in boxes all Over the place. (moved again.)
    I can say This: Never have I heard (Margret’s) Navohway’s mother mentioned in any of the Lit I have, but I am glad to see we are still out and about!
    My (late) Gran told me that as far as they were all concerned, I became The New Wandering Boy, back in the 60’s. I DO have the First Wandering Boy, (Colin’s) Headstone to his Mom, Navohway.
    The people that I mentioned are all G+ Uncles except One, from whom I am decended from.
    (So strange, I was putting all my sheets of booklets together the other day and now, I am not Exactly sure where they are. (A MAIN theme in my writing)
    Cousin Vaughan (Gordon Vaughan Sinclair Holmes)

  21. I am truly sorry I did NOT check this for spelling…Very Sloppy!

  22. Sally Evans says:

    Sarah ( Sally ) Evans here Gord! Interesting that just last week I was looking at a picture of all of us kids at my Mom and Dad’s in East kelowna! Did you know that Janis and I travelled to Fort Prince of Wales and also to York Factory last summer. I , too, have wonderful things from the family house on Mulvey Avenue. Inherited all of Aunty Flo’s possessions after she died at 100 years young…..I also had a chat on the phone with a Jack Reaves in Oxford House last summer – he mentioned our great grands – Cuthbert and MaryJane Sinclair and that a young man had come to Oxford House interested in them and great great uncle James Sinclair …Was that you???
    Stay in touch! Sally and Janis

  23. Bob Small says:

    Just a comment on the Nahovway spelling just in case some folks are pronouncing her name as na-hove-way, the letter u did not come into common usage in English until the 18th century and there are countless examples in English (and Latin) of the v shape used in place of the vowel u. Incidentally I am descended from Joseph & Catherine (Sinclair) Cook. Hello to all my relations, much of interest here.

  24. Thank you for this article! I have just started to look into my ancestry and have found that I am related to Nahoway through Catherine Sinclair, Caroline Cook, Alexander McKay, Edmond Bray McKay, Sarah Eliza McKay, Carl Eckstadt and my mother Kelly Eckstadt. This has been such an interesting discovery as I have always been interested in Cree history and music without knowing my distant relatives. Hello to my relatives here! 🙂

    Victoria Grayson

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