Gwyllyn "Glenn Ford" and his relationship to the John Macdonald 1st Prime Minister of Canada

+7 votes

I was in the process of making some connections and happened across this unconnected notable. From his Wikipedia page, I found his NYT obituary, that states:

"Gwyllyn Samuel Newton Ford was born on May 1, 1916, in Quebec, the only child of Newton and Hannah Ford. The Fords, of Welsh descent, were prominent in Canada. Newton Ford was a railroad executive and mill owner and a nephew of Sir John MacDonald [Macdonald-1567], a former prime minister of Canada. Another Ford ancestor was Martin Van Buren. . ." [emphasis and WikiTree profile added]

In Wikipedia, they hyperlink Glenn Ford from his page to the 1st PM (citing the NYT obituary) - I can't imagine that that would be an erroneous assumption? Using the somewhat developed FamilySearch profile for Newton Ford (and his spouse), his father, I have yet to hit upon a line that (presently) leads back to Sir Macdonald. It is interesting to note that one of Newton Ford's uncles was named Angus Macdonald Ford, so that gives some onomastic credence. 

Just thought that I'd put this query out, in case anyone has some familiarity with the branch that should connect to Ford, such that Glenn Ford could be a presumptive great-nephew of Sir Macdonald. This Manitoba Historical Society site was interesting, but did not answer the question, unless I missed it.

Next up would be to see if the Van Buren link is easier to establish. . . And of course, to establish Glenn Ford's ancestors, some of which will easily connect to at least one existing profile.

Note that Glenn Ford's Aunt, by marriage Susan Maud Vosburgh (who married Newton Ford's brother, Rowland Ford) has a profile, but neither Rowland nor Newton have theirs, yet. Susan hails from Kingston, so that might be a lead, but would seem to be a stretch for a connection that would make Glenn Ford a great nephew of Sir Macdonald.

WikiTree profile: Glenn Ford
in Genealogy Help by Porter Fann G2G6 Mach 8 (88.9k points)
retagged by Porter Fann
I've added a link to his Findagrave profile, which does have profiles for his ancestors, back to Joseph Ford, I of England.
That ought to generate some leads. Thanks, I will check it out.
I think the obit writer may have confused John A. with Angus McDonald of Portneuf See
That would be unusual for a NYT writer to get something this significant completely wrong. From breadcrumb hints in the biography of Angus Macdonald, great uncle of Glenn (I think), I already have a line to Angus' father and grandfather - maybe the two Macdonald lines will converge at some point? It would seem that Angus (b. 1808) would have to be a direct descendant of a Macdonald not too far upstream... <fingers crossed>

BTW: FamilySearch did not pick up that this Angus was by a different husband of Jean Gray's, which really threw me off of at least this "face validity" line that should be investigated.
Ah, didn't notice it was a NYT obit. Now I wonder if the family may have been spinning a bit of a tale. Here's the American National Biography's take on Newton: "Accounts of Newton Ford's profession vary: according to some, including Hollywood publicists during the early days of his son's career, the elder Ford was a Canadian railway executive; other sources variously give his occupation as a train conductor and as the owner of a paper mill. The 1930 U.S. Census lists Newton Ford's occupation as an insurance agent."
They write your obit as soon as you're important enough to have one.  They ask you for the details.  If you're a film star, you leave it with your publicity people.  But those people have already told the story 57 different ways, and they've long forgotten which was the true one.  Facts aren't really their thing.

In the corrections at the end, NYT distinctly say Macdonald was Ford's father's uncle.  So obviously that was Angus really.  Somehow he's become Sir John.  

But Sir John wasn't a paper-mill owner etc, so Angus's career becomes Newton's career.

As for van Buren, his wife had Vosburgh ancestors.  Could they mean that?

Thanks, RJ. I'm looking at all angles. It's a tedious process. Angus could be related to Sir John, but I'm not sure how many generations back I will have to go to find the intersection of Macdonalds, and the records are already spotty on FamilySearch. 

So far I have (all dates approximate from matching results):

Donald Macdonald (1620-?)

Alexander Macdonald II of Balranald (1680-1760) = Catherine Maclean of Boreray (1710-1797)

Angus Macdonald (1749-1830) = ?

Captain Robert Macdonald (1779-1809) = Jean Gray (1790-1868)

Angus Macdonald (1808-1887)

… Angus 1808's mother Jean Gray married secondly John Smith (1786-1849)

their daughter (Angus' 1/2 brother):
Isabella Smith (1826-1905) = Joseph Ford (1832-1922)

Rowland Ford (1860-1932) [Note: his brother was Angus MacDonald Ford - a namesake clue, suggesting that the notable connection to Sir John A was through near kin] = Susan Maud Vosburgh (1863-1934)

Newton Ford (1890-1940) = Hannah Mitchell (1893-1980)

Gwyllyn "Glenn" Samuel Newton Ford (1916-2006) had several wives, notably Eleanor Powell (1912-1982), by whom he had a son who is still living, according to Wikipedia.


On the Sir John Alexander Macdonald line, from WikiTree, the furtherest documented ancestors start with:

John MacDonald (1736, Rogart, Sutherland, Scotland-1822) = Jean MacDonald (1757-?. Note that FamilySearch says that she, too, was a MacDonald)

Hugh MacDonald (1782, Pittentrall, Sutherland-1841) = Helen Shaw (1779, Highland-1862)

Sir John Alexander Macdonald (1815-1891) = Isabella Clark (1809-1857)

Hugh John Macdonald (1850-1929) = Jean Murray (1855-1881)

their daughter Isabella Mary (Macdonald) Gainsford had a son by an unnamed Gainsford (presumably George Kelvin Gainsford), but no descendants by the grandson Hugh Alexander George Macdonald Gainsford are listed by name (maybe living?)

Hugh John Macdonald (b. 1850) also married Gertrude "Gertie" Agnes VanKoughnet (d. 1940)

their son John Alexander "Jack" Macdonald has no descendants listed. as a source for Jack, "Children of the Prime Ministers of Canada" is listed, but apparently that was taken down from Wikipedia. The nearest category page doesn't list Macdonald survivors (Hon Sir Hugh John MacDonald, 1850-1929 is the only son who had surviving sons, if I am not mistaken).

In sum, it looks like the best chance of any sort of connection is among ancestors, vs. descendants of Sir John A. It's an interesting study. At some point, I may be writing to the obituary author. I did note that one of the FindAGrave borrowed biographies mentioned that family papers were used. . . 


3 Answers

+8 votes

Sir John A married his cousin. Both he and his wife had mothers who were Shaw's.

There was also a half-sister Ann Shaw who was married to Donald MacPherson. It was to their Kingston home that the MacDonald's came when they arrived in Canada from Scotland in 1820. MacPherson's had nine children. Perhaps the connection is through this maternal side.

And today is Sir John A's birthday. "Old Tomorrow" would have been 203!

by Dave Rutherford G2G6 Pilot (122k points)
Wonderful. Might be a pivotal lead. I dug around some of his descendants, but the one direct line didn't net any Fords or any Voshburg connections either.

Cousin time. . . Soon.
+3 votes

FamilySearch is woefully incomplete on both the ascendant and descendant lines where an intersection is projected to occur: Hugh Macdonald = Helen Shaw descendant and the potential linking relative of Capt Robert Macdonald = Jean Gray (who had Angus Macdonald, b. 1808, 1/2 brother of Isabella Smith, b. 1826, who married Joseph Ford, b. 1832, parents of Rowland Ford, b. 1860, who married Susan Maud Vosburgh, b., 1863, parents of Newton Ford, b. 1890.

A John Edward Macdonald* comes up as a potential brother of Sir John A, but Sir John A doesn't seem to have any FamilySearch source records (?). This inquiry has gotten to the point where it seems like FamilySearch can be as much of a morass of estimates as anyone's favorite Family Tree.
* "British Newspaper Archive, Family Notices," database with images, FamilySearch: 18 Mar 2018, Hugh Macdonald in entry for John Edward Macdonald, UK; records extracted FamilySearch and images digitized by FindMyPast; citing United Kingdom, 1903, The British Newspaper Archive, Ireland; FHL microfilm.

Further, Hugh Macdonald and his wife (apparently a distant cousin) Jean Macdonald (yet another line where the kinship might have its origin?) have scant records in FamilySearch at present. This is really slow-going, as finding matching records in FamilySearch often involves inspecting many false positive matches at best, and sometimes having a leap in completeness to be able to confirm a true match.

And yet, I persist, but I have to take frequent breaks from this genealogy pursuit because it is cumbersome to do the workout without knowing where ancestors finally have their data already in WikiTree.

by Porter Fann G2G6 Mach 8 (88.9k points)

That John Edward Macdonald is probably a son of Hon Sir Hugh John MacDonald PC 8th Premier of Manitoba (1850–1929)?

+3 votes

Just when I thought relationships couldn't get any more complex:

Isabella Smith and her husband Joseph Ford I had a son who married Mary Jessica Dalgleish (sp?). 

Mary Jessica's parents were William Dalgleish and Katherine Kate Macdonald, whose father, Angus Macdonald (1808-1887) was the half-brother of Isabella.

by Porter Fann G2G6 Mach 8 (88.9k points)
Oh, and Isabella Smith's sister, Susan Smith (1815-1865) married Alexander Watson (1811-1893), whose mother was none other than a Margaret McDonald or Macdonald (1779-?), about whom all I can find is that her husband was James Watson (1777-?).

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