Margaret (MacDonald) Williamson
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Margaret (MacDonald) Williamson (bef. 1813 - 1876)

Margaret "Moll" Williamson formerly MacDonald
Born before in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, United Kingdommap
Ancestors ancestors
Wife of — married 19 Oct 1852 in Kingston, Frontenac, Canada Westmap
Died after age 62 in Kingston, Frontenac, Ontario, Canadamap
Profile last modified | Created 18 Nov 2009
This page has been accessed 1,069 times.


Margaret, born in 1813, was the second of five children born to Hugh MacDonald and Helen Shaw. She was christened on 7 July 1813 at their parish in Glasgow, Lanarkshire, Scotland, United Kingdom. [1]

Her mother was described as a woman of great intellectual power and strong personality, however had a gentle manner and a great sense of humour. She had masculine features and a large frame with large eyes full of intelligence. [2]

Margaret's family made the decision to emigrate to Kingston, Upper Canada. The journey was very long, starting with their 42-day voyage on the 'Earl of Buckinghamshire' in early April 1820. There were 600 people on board including her paternal grandmother and several of her mother's relatives. After 42 days at sea, in steerage, they arrived on 20 May 1820 in Quebec. [3] But, that wasn't the end of their journey.

They then boarded Durham boats that were sailed, rowed on the river and canals, or drawn by horses or oxen when the currents were swift. Many passengers died from the elements, and there was always a risk of little children falling overboard. They set up camp along the riverside and cooked over a fire during their three-week journey.

Upon docking, they still needed to wait several days for waggoners to transport them and their belongings to Kingston. [3] On 13 Aug, over two months after leaving their home in Scotland, her family arrived at the home of Lt. Col. Donald Macpherson where they would stay in his two-storey stone house at the corner of Bay and Montreal Streets in Kingston, Frontenac. [4]

Sadly, in 1822 a servant who was caring for the small children hit her little brother James so hard that he was killed by the force of it.

After living in Kingston for about 5 years her family moved to the Bay of Quinte, about 30 miles from Kingston where the family homesteaded on some land just 80 feet from the water's edge.

The MacDonald Homestead near Adolphustown

Margaret (or "Moll", as her siblings called her), John and Louisa walked 3 miles each morning and evening to attend the local school in Adolphustown.

Louisa and Margaret were talented singers and their family were the only ones with a piano in those days and they would perform for their neighbours together.[5]

Her father passed away unexpectedly on 29 Sep 1841 from a brain hemorrhage when she was 28 years old.

In 1847 she became an Aunt to her brother's first child Johnny and the first grandchild born to their family. There was an accident and he passed away about 2 years later. In 1850 her brother had another baby boy Hugh John Macdonald.

Her Brother "Johnny" John A. MacDonald

My Dear Margaret, I received your kind and considerate letter of congratulation. We have got our Johnnie back again—almost his image. I don’t think he is so pretty, but he is not so delicate. Isa was very anxious that he should get his own name again, for she considers him almost the same being, but I think it right that the feelings of those we esteem should not be outraged by doing so. Mamma, Maria, Mrs. Greene, and many others have a prejudice against the re-naming a child. What his name may be, therefore, we will leave to be settled until you come up. Mrs. Geene and you will arrive about the same time, and I will leave it to the female conclave.

I need not say that your presence is anxiously looked for. Mamma had one of her attacks on Friday (Good Friday), and it still hangs about her to an unsafe extent. She seems lethargic and not so free of speech as before, but I trust the active treatment she is under may set her up again. Meanwhile, it is well to be always prepared for the worst news, and if anything went wrong I would not hesitate to advise you of it at once by telegraph.

My poor friend Charles Stuart is very low. How long he may live I know not. His fate is decided. He may live until autumn. He may die to-morrow. For my part, I fear the worst. When I go to bed at night I fear to hear of his death in the morning. He refuses to take all advice and all medicine except from myself, and I get thoroughly scolded and abused for the peremptory manner in which I play the doctor. I trust the Wilsons are in some degree calmed down and able to bear the recollection of their loss. I can sympathize with them fully. They lost their last child. I lost my only one, and when I lost him I never expected another. This is a sad enough letter, but such letters become common as people get older. Tho’ yet a young many, many, very many, of my companions have disappeared, and my firmest and best friend is about to leave me. Isa, who is not at all well, and who lingers very much in her recovery, joins me in love to you.

Always, my dear Margaret,
Your affectionate brother,
John A. MacDonald

P.S.—I have used mourning paper since poor Jane’s death. Lest it might frighten you, I have written ‘All well’ round the seal. [6]

The child's mother was quite ill and when she passed away, John entrusted his son's care to his sisters, Louisa and Margaret, as well as Margaret's husband, James Williamson, a mathematics professor at Queen's University.

Margaret married Rev. James Williamson on 19 Oct 1852 at Kingston's St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church in Kingston, Frontenac, Ontario. Robert Neill and A Harper were witnesses. James Williamson was a widow with a son who relatives raised in Scotland and England. [7]

Her husband leased a large and comfortable stone house on Queen Street, just around the corner from Helen's home on Barrie Street., but four months later they moved in with Helen and Louisa due to some financial challenges. And, then a fire consumed their home on Brock Street and they moved into a house on Collingwood Street for a time.

Margaret and James had no children of their own and became very fond of their surrogate son Hugh, who went on to become premier of Manitoba. But Margaret was living under the same roof with several very strong-willed people, her mother, husband and sister Louisa, specifically. In Oct 1860 there was a large family dispute between Louisa and her husband. Her brother interfered and suggested the family move into separate homes again. At the time Margaret was already beginning to suffer from lung problems. [8]

When their mother was 72 years old she had a severe stroke, followed by another twelve strokes in the 13 years following, prior to her death in 1862. [2]

Margaret Williamson

Margaret's lung trouble became worse as the years progressed and in the latter years of her life she became bed-bound.

Margaret Williamson died at home, in bed at Heathfield in Kingston with her husband and family by her side on the morning of 19 Apr 1876 in her 62nd year. [9] [10]

Her funeral was on 21 Apr 1876 at Mrs. John Macpherson's Clyde Terrace at [11] and she was laid to rest at Kingston's Cataraqui Cemetery. [12]

Her obituary read.

DEATH OF MRS. WILLIAMSON.--We regret to hear of the death of Mrs. Williamson, wife of the Rev. Prof. Williamson, and sister of Sir John Macdonald, which occurred this morning after a long and painful illness, which she bore with Christian patience and resignation. Mrs. Williamson possessed much of the talent of her brother, with whom she was a particular favourite, and had a mind well stored with knowledge not generally possessed by ladies'. Her conversation was at all times very attractive. The annual visit of the students of Queen's College to Heathfield was looked forward to by them with the greatest interest, and it was a matter of deep regret to all that owing to Mrs. Williamson's severe illness that visit could not be paid this year. The students sympathised very deeply with Dr. Williamson in the illness of Mrs. Williamson, and on that account abandoned the conversaxione with which it was proposed to terminate the present session, and which promised to be of more than ordinary brilliancy. The death of Mrs. Williamson will be looked upon as a personal loss by a widespread circle of friends by whom she was greatly beloved. The funeral will take place from Mrs. John Macpherson's Clyde Terrace, on Friday, at 3 p.m. -- Kingston News, April 19th [11]

Alternate Names

  • Margerat Williamson (
  • Moll MacDonald (childhood nickname)
  • Margaret McDonald (Christening)


  1. Christening: "Scotland, Births and Baptisms, 1564-1950," , FamilySearch ( : accessed 17 August 2015), Margaret Mcdonald, 07 Jul 1813; citing , GLASGOW, LANARK, SCOTLAND, reference ; FHL microfilm 102,916, 102,915, 1,041,382, 1,042,936, 102,914.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Mother: "Life of the Right Hon. Sir John A. Macdonald" G.C. B., D.C.L. (Oxon.), LL.D., Q.C., P.C., CIHM/ICMH microfiche series ; no. 09606, Published: St. John, N.B. : Earle Pub. House, 1891, Image 81, page 74 , accessed on 21 Feb 2021, held by the National Library of Canada
  3. 3.0 3.1 Immigration: "Anecdotal life of Sir John Macdonald", Biggar, E. B. (Emerson Bristol), 1853-1921, CIHM/ICMH microfiche series ; no. 00133, (, Image 21, Page 14, 17, accessed on 21 Feb 2021
  4. Kingston: "Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of John A. Macdonald", Patricia Phenix, Publisher : McClelland & Stewart; Illustrated edition, Oct. 9 2007, ISBN-13 : 978-0771070457, page 10. Free preview of all facts mentioned in this profile on Amazon (click 'look inside' and use their search feature)
  5. Youth: "Anecdotal life of Sir John Macdonald", Biggar, Emerson Bristol, 1853-1921, ( , Image 21, Page 23, 26. accessed on 21 Feb 2021
  6. Letter: "Memoirs of the Right Honourable Sir John Alexander Macdonald", G.C. B., first prime minister of the Dominion of Canada, Creator: Pope, Joseph, 1854-1926, ( Image 88, page 65-65, Published: Ottawa, J. Durie, 1894.
  7. Marriage: Registers, 1821-1869, St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kingston, Ontario, Marriages view page 278, Marriage St. Andrew's Presbyterian Church, Kingston, Ontario WILLIAMSON, James, Rev., Prof. Queen's College, MACDONALD, Margaret, 19 Oct 1852, Robert Neill /A/ Harper
  8. Hugh John: "Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of John A. Macdonald", Patricia Phenix, (see details above), citation found on forward page viii, page 148, 128
  9. Death: "Private Demons: The Tragic Personal Life of John A. Macdonald", Patricia Phenix, (see details above) p. 240
  10. Death: "Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947," database with images, FamilySearch ( Margaret Williamson, 19 Apr 1876; citing Kingston, Frontenac, Ontario, yr 1876 cn 3257, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,846,475, accessed on 21 Feb 2021
  11. 11.0 11.1 Obituary:, The Gazette Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 21 Apr 1876, Fri, Page 2,(view obituary, accessed on 21 Feb 2021)
  12. Burial: Find a Grave, database and images (Find A Grave: Memorial #18536 accessed 21 Feb 2021), memorial page for Margaret Macdonald (1813–18 Apr 1876), citing Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston, Frontenac County, Ontario, Canada; Maintained by Find a Grave (contributor 8).

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M  >  MacDonald  |  W  >  Williamson  >  Margaret (MacDonald) Williamson

Categories: Glasgow, Scotland | Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston, Ontario