no image

James Joseph Muir (1860 - aft. 1935)

Privacy Level: Open (White)
James Joseph Muir
Born [location unknown]
Ancestors ancestors
[spouse(s) unknown]
[children unknown]
Died after [location unknown]
Profile manager: Fred Nix private message [send private message]
Profile last modified | Created 7 Jun 2013
This page has been accessed 274 times.


James is born in Canada West on February 24, 1860, the son of Agnes Thomson (1837-1865) and Alexander Muir (1830-1906). He is baptised in St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Bendale, Scarborough Township in February 1861. His father, who was born in Scotland, is most famously known as the composer of the “The Maple Leaf Forever” which, for a time, was an unofficial national anthem for many Canadians. On his mother’s side, James is descended from two of the earliest Scotch families to settle in Scarborough – the Thomson’s who were the first European settlers in Scarborough in 1799 and the Paterson’s who settled in 1820 along what is now the east side of Kennedy Road between Finch and Sheppard Avenues. Scarborough Township is now a part of Toronto, Ontario.

James can be found in the 1861 census, at the age of one, living with his family in Scarborough. His mother dies when he is four years old. His father, Alexander, marries for a second time in 1866 and his new wife is Mary Alice Johnston, a widow with children of her own.

James and his family cannot be found in the 1871 census records although it is believed that they were living in Newmarket, Ontario, at the time. Newmarket is about 50 kilometres north of Toronto. James is in the 1881 census, at 19-years of age, in Toronto, with his father, step-mother and a number of siblings.

The story of James’ life past this point is murky and, for a long time, no clues could be found to describe it. However an article in a newspaper in 1935 opened the door. This article describes an incident in Toronto where three women find an old, destitute man who is looking for a grave in Mount Pleasant cemetery. The grave in question is that of Alexander Muir, the composer of “The Maple Leaf Forever.” The women help this man who at some point breaks down in tears and confides that he is James Joseph Muir, the son of Alexander. He tells the women that he had gone to Chicago as a young man; had done fairly well for himself; but then, about eight years earlier, had run into difficult times. The women contact a chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire who step up and find a place for this destitute man to live (no doubt because he is the son of the famous composer).

It was not clear that such a story constituted hard enough evidence to be used in this biography. However, two corroborating pieces of evidence have been found. In the year 2000 the City of Toronto considered re-naming a laneway in honour of Agnes Thomson, the wife of Alexander Muir. In the staff report supporting this idea, there is one small paragraph describing the three children of Agnes and Alexander: “James never married and became destitute before being placed in a charitable men's home later in his life.”

The second corroborating piece of evidence is a United States census record from 1900 that clearly describes James Joseph Muir. He is 40-years old, living in Chicago and, from the clues provided in the census record, appears to be a clerk in a large boarding house or perhaps some sort of hotel of other institution where a large number of people live.

So, while there are still many details about the life of James that are not known, it appears that he did go to Chicago as a young man, had a life there, and then in the 1930s returned to Toronto as an old man with little or no means of supporting himself. He was still alive in 1939 when his brother was killed in an accident. It is not known when he died or where he is buried.


[1] 1968 Paterson family tree shows James as the 2nd child of Agnes & Alex Muir. No spouse for James or children are shown.

[2] St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church, Bendale, Baptism Register: James Joseph born on Feb 24 1860 and baptized in Feb 1861.

[3] 1861 census, Ontario, York, Scarborough, pg 73, lines 7-10; Alexander Muir (30), born Scotland, [cannot read occupation, it is clearly not “farmer” and may be anything from “Icailar” to “Jailar” – can’t read it]; Agnes, (36), born Upper Canada, ; John G. (3); James (1).

[4] Jame’s early years: even though he has not been found in the 1871 census, it is known that his father was a teacher in Toronto until 1870, after which he taught in several schools, one of them being in Newmarket ( Newmarket is abt 50 km directly north of Toronto. Further, his father, Alexander Muir was the village clerk in Newmmarket from April 1875 until January 1876. He moved back to the city of Toronto by 1880. ( J. Paul Green, “MUIR, ALEXANDER,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 11, 2013,

[5] 1881 census, Ontario, Toronto, 134, St Andrew Ward G, division 2, pg 35: Alexander Muir (50), born Scotland, school teacher; Mary A. (33); John G (22), printer; James J (19); Colinette (17); Alice A (14); Charles (10); ?Eda Thomas (23)

[6] The Leader-Mail, Granby, Thursday 21, 1935, pg 6 reprints an article written by Edward Hunter in the Hamilton Advertiser. The article is difficult to read and parts of it are not legible. Clearly the interest in the article is that an off-spring of Alexander Muir, the composer of “The Maple Leaf Forever” has been found. What follows is a brief paraphrase of what can be read: “Three women in Toronto approached by an old man who asked for help in finding a gravestone in Mount Pleasant Cemetery. He has the gravestone number and the name of the stone is Alexander Muir. It turns out the old man is James Joseph Muir, the son of Alexander Muir. James Joseph had gone to Chicago when he was 16. He had lived in good circumstances there until abt 8 yrs ago (abt 1927) when he had broken his leg. He had come to Toronto had was staying in a hostel (he appears to be destitute). It sounds as if the Alexander Muir chapter of the Imperial Order of the Daughters of the Empire step in at this point and helps the old gentleman.”

[7] staff report, Jan 31, 2000 at The report is about naming a street in Toronto after Agnes Thomson and, in the report, the life of Alexander Muir is dicussed. There is a short paragraph on the 3 children of Agnes & Alexander: “John George, James Joseph and Colinetta Campbell. Colinetta married a New Yorker, Converse Kellogg and moved to the United States where she raised her family. John George settled in Newmarket, Ontario, where he had moved with his father as a child. He worked at the Era Newspaper and remained there until his death. He married and had a family. His descendants are still in Newmarket today. James never married and became destitute before being placed in a charitable men's home later in his life.”

[8] "United States Census, 1900," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 30 Oct 2014), James J Muir in household of J W Stafford, Precinct 6 South Town Chicago city Ward 1, Cook, Illinois, United States; citing sheet 3B, family 18, NARA microfilm publication T623, FHL microfilm 1240244. The record shows a James J. Muir (40) who was born in Canada in February 1860 working as a clerk for a J.W. Stafford who appears to run a large hotel or boarding house (the census record does not identify the establishment, but there are something like 30-40 guests and/or lodgers listed on the census record). James is single. He immigrate to the US in 1868 [this cannot be true as he can be found at age 19 in the Cdn 1881 census]. The census record shows that the father of James was born in Scotland and the mother in Canada.

[9] Newmarket Era, June 1939 – reports on the death of George Muir [John George Muir] and, in the list of surviving relatives, it refers to the brother, James Muir, in Toronto.


Thank you to Katharine E for creating WikiTree profile Muir-652 through the import of andrew thomson.ged on Jun 7, 2013. Click to the Changes page for the details of edits by Katharine and others.

The current biography was prepared on Oct 31, 2014 by Fred Paterson Nix.

More Genealogy Tools

Sponsored Search

Sponsored Search by

DNA Connections
It may be possible to confirm family relationships with James by comparing test results with other carriers of his ancestors' Y-chromosome or mitochondrial DNA. However, there are no known yDNA or mtDNA test-takers in his direct paternal or maternal line. It is likely that these autosomal DNA test-takers will share DNA with James:

Have you taken a DNA test for genealogy? If so, login to add it. If not, see our friends at Ancestry DNA.


James is 23 degrees from Virginia Fields, 22 degrees from William Mayo and 18 degrees from Henry VIII of England on our single family tree. Login to find your connection.

M  >  Muir  >  James Joseph Muir