The ever-open end

Any genealogical study of this nature must always be open-ended, first in the sense that so many linkages between family units lack absolute certainty, and can only be offered for correction, and secondly, because a relatively high proportion of its children will always be lost to a small Island, through the pressure of economics, leaving a gap in knowledge of them that cries out to be filled.

The size of this gap may be expressed this way. To take as a round figure of 1,400 for the Kissack births between 1700 and 1950 means that there will be some 700 males to be accommodated on some 350 cartouches of legitimate families. It has not been difficult to list every household to be inferred from our parish registers. However erroneous may have been my individual assignment of the fathers, the fact remains that some 50% of the male children born have not found on the Island a family to father. Allowance must be made for bachelordom and premature death, but even so quite one male in three in Manx families seem to have left the Island. This survey then must end in inviting news of the destinies of our Manx 'disappeareds'.

So this study is offered as an aid particularly to family units overseas in search of the homes where their father was a child. In fact I have been stimulated beyond measure by the incentive provided by queries about the family from overseas. They made me probe at deeper levels, and unravel mysteries such as the MacKissack question. These stimuli have come in many forms. It was a photograph of a gravestone nearly a century old, that tumbled out of an envelope on the desk of the Librarian of the Manx Museum, bearing two particular words - my surname and the parish where I lived - at the precise moment that I passed the desk, that gave me the task of satisfying Vesta Hendrick's longing in Wisconsin to know something of her Manx grandparents. Then again my wife's occasional contribution to the American Methodist devotional manual, The Upper Room, over the name of Kissack and the Manx address, brought in several enquiries. And the more obviously, the global growth of membership of the Manx Family History Society and its Journal bring in more.

But the most intriguing of all began with the sudden appearance in the burial ground of a small Wisconsin town of a splendid memorial curb and headstones for five graves. No-one knew whose graves they were, except that the name was Kissack. Nor was anything known of any local people of so strange a name. Conversation at a Family History Conference led to someone suggesting that the problem be put to me. So again came photographs, and there was my mystery - Five Graves at West Salem. It was a strange situation. No-one in the family had asked any questions, nor was there anyone to tell whatever I might find out.

The photographs told the story of a Manx lad from Onchan Village, emigrating first to Barrow-in-Furness, marrying a Cumberland wife about 1870, who there bore him two children. Some time between 1874 and 1.882 they emigrated to Wadena, Minnesota, where their third child, Ethel G. was born in that latter year. William lived to 84, his wife, Mary Agnes to 88. Their son, Thomas A, had died at West Salem in 1915, when only 41, but the elder daughter, Eleanor, then Mrs. Shoults, was 90 when her time came at Hayward, California in 1961, and the younger Ethel G. Mars reached the age of 98, and had died at Las Vegas as recently as April, 1980. Clearly it was her death that had prompted someone to set up the family memorial in one of the places where this scattered family had had their home.

Later I learned who she was. She had been the wife of Frank C. Mars, who had made his name world-famous with his Milky Way candy bars. After his death in 1934, she had directed Mars Inc ., until in 1964 it merged with the other family concern of Forrest E. Mars of Las Vegas, their son. It was this son who had raised the memorial, and who also gave the name 'Ethel M.' to one of his own special high-class chocolate products.

But of what Kissack line did she come? It was not hard to find the William born in Onchan Village in 1846, to learn his father`s name was Thomas, and to identify his mother as Eleanor Gell, married in Lonan in 1828. The 1841 Census showed them living in Factory Lane, Douglas, Thomas aged 35, his trade that of Hatter. The '51 Census locates him in Onchan, where besides William, aged 4, there is an elder sister of 18. Later I found that two children had died young, a Thomas and another William. Ten years later, William is a widower, living with his son in Maughold, the parish of his birth, with a widowed sister Jane, whose husband had been a Thomas Callow of Ballaskeg-beg. In 1871, Thomas, now 66, has a new wife, Mary, the daughter of John Fell, a shoemaker of Finch Hill, Douglas. Thomas died in 1876.

The next stage was more difficult, for Thomas proved to be one of those whose names somehow are not on any baptismal list. But fortunately, his stay with his sister being recorded in a Census, and her identity being clear, their parents are known to be William Kissack and Jane Joughin (MgXVI), and the line can be traced upwards through William and Margaret (Kinnish) (MgXI), Ewan and Isabel (Kermode) (MgVI) to the Hugh Kissage (LzIV) who died in 1699. He was of the Kerrowmoar line, and it was he who made the contract in 1693 with John MacKissack of Mutehill, Kirkcudbright over the Kerrowmoar lands 'to the end that the said ancient estate may be brought again into one entire holding, and possessed in the ancient name of the Kissages, as formerly it hath , and whom the Scat called 'his loving friend and kinsman'. That is as far in antiquity, and as near to aristocracy, that any of our lines could reach, should these lines ever reach this unknown family.

I hope that this study may link such families more and more with their parent Manx stock. So the Gazetteer ends with an ever-open arboretum to be stocked with plantings from the native trees. I call it 'Transmarian', and code it Tra.

With the 5 graves in West Salem (Tra6), are saplings on both sides of the Atlantic from MgXXV, whose line unites with theirs in MgVI. We can see MacKissacks continuing in name in Parma, Ohio, but also in line in the family of Bob Kissack of Winnebago, Illl. (from AnIX).

Gerald Miller`s enquiry from Champayne, Ill., about his grandmother, Louisa, born in Ramsey about 1866, links up with RyXIX, but the more I look at her father, Robert, the more chimeric he becomes. He once looked as if he were the son of the John Kissack, Labourer, of JuXII, but now he looks more like the posthumous son of John and Margaret (Quayle) (AnIX). What is more, he may also be the Robert of RyXXI. If so, he seems to have been a Jack of all trades, yet a Master Mariner. When Louisa was born, he was a baker, he went to sea, but also was one of the earliest Crossing Keepers on the Railway (Tra2).

Flossie Anderson of Eaton, Colorado, asked about a grandfather born on the Island, named William Kissack, whose birthday was believed to have been in November, 1837, who died in Nebraska, in 1927, and was buried in Champayne, Ill. He could well be the William of AnIX, although dates are not exact fits (though they rarely are in a pre-birth certificate age). This would make him the elder brother of Robert above, a possibility more plausible through the connection of both families with Champayne. It would also explain the tradition in the Miller family that Louisa had come out alone of her own family from Ramsey but with 'some sort of relatives'. There are several Island families that descend from the John and Margaret on AnIX. It is interesting to note that whether Louisa's father was of JuXII or AnVI, his great-grandfather in each case would be the same, the William of Jurby who married Esther Garrett in 1751 (Tra2).

Throughout the 19th century a single family appears in Lonan in the censuses. It originates in the Philip of DmVIII, and continues with his son Philip (LoVI). The descendants of Philip and Jane (Hogg) have preserved a good record of the family. It bears a tinge of resentment of the way that the elder Philip neglected his daughter-in-law when she was widowed in 1858 after only six years of marriage, when her Philip died at 46 after an accident in the Laxey mines. However their children did well and cared for her. The central figure of the saga is the one son of the family, John William 1853-c1914 (LoVI). He loved a girl named Henry, and emigrated to America to make enough money to marry her. Whilst working at the building of the railway through South Dakota he noticed a similarity between some of the rocks there and those of his native Laxey. As he had worked in the mines there, with other ex-miner members of the gang, he stayed in S. Dakota when the line moved on. Their hunch was right. They discovered and successfully mined there and founded Lead City.

In 1885 he returned to the Island, and like the miner of song, finding his sweetheart had died, he married her little sister, Louisa Catherine, the next year. They returned to S. Dakota, raised their family, were joined for longer or shorter stays by his sisters and their husbands, and prospered so well that just before the first World War, he bought his son Claude 'the first motor car in the State'. Tragically he met his death in it, when on the eve of a visit to the Island, he was killed when it collided with a tree. Jane, the mother, died in comfort in her home in Rencell, Laxey aged 78 in 1894. John William's sister Margaret, married to James Kewley, died of cancer in Lead City and her family returned to the Island. Here was a family which kept in close touch with its mother, and with each other, perhaps because of that, and so with the Island. This no doubt accounts for the richness of their family memories (LoIX).

Few things can obliterate such family memories like the dispersal of a family of young children on the death of both parents. This was the fate of a branch of the Isaac sept of the Kissacks, when William of Llergy. dhoo and Margaret Kermeen died in 1866/7 (GrIX). There were six children, ranging from William, 17 (LoVII) to Daniel, 1. Their cousins from the Tops (GrX) only maintained contact with two of the children, John James (Johnny) (GrXI), and James of Ballacross (WeI).

Johnny the Preacher married a widow, Bella Corlett, nee Maddrell in 1881. They had 4 daughters, Clara, Emily, Margaret and Christian. The parents lived all their lives in Michael, and both died in 1933. Clara and Christian emigrated to Canada in 1908, Clara ultimately became a Mrs. Fred Columbain living in Baltimore, Maryland. Her husband was a Catholic, and fear of her father's Methodist displeasure kept her from ever writing home. Yet for the rest of their lives the old folks would kneel on their kitchen floor at night and pray for their lost child.

But the pattern of his brother James' life was destined to follow that of his father. He married Jane Faragher in 1887, and died 5 years later, leaving her with 4 children. Compelled to leave Ballacross, she moved to Peel, and reared them as best she could until the boys were old enough to emigrate as Homesteaders to Canada, in 1908. The Tops Kissacks lost track of them, but they left behind the memory of their names, 3 boys, James, Frederick and Stanley, with little sister, Maud, and the fact that 'they had red hair'.

Then in 1983 Kathleen Parcey, her sister Margaret and her daughter came from Cowan, Manitoba, in the Manx Homecoming of that summer, and through the Family History Society later came into touch with myself, a grandson of Thomas Kissack of the Tops, who had been first cousin to Johnny Kissack, and from her I learned the story of Clara and Christian, the two daughters of Johnny, who emigrated in their teens in 1908 (Tra11).

Christian had married Charles Prosser in Winnipeg in 1922, and they had lived in Cowan. She had died in 1933, in the same year as her parents when Kathleen was only 9. Here again the loss of a parent in childhood had cut off the transmission of family lore. In her case the complete destruction by fire of the family home soon after, had removed any keepsakes or letters that might have carried hints of a story. But when we from the Manx side told her of the lost Ballacross family, it stirred in her memory the childhood sight of her mother`s travelling trunk with the words painted on it 'Moose Jaw Saskatchewan'. So her mother and her teenage sister had begun their Canadian life, like the Ballacross family, in Saskatchewan, and at precisely the same period. Could they have travelled with an aunt and cousins? Kathleen wrote to the Saskatchewan Archives, who located the family's homestead near Sovereign , and a letter to the Postmaster there found its way into the hands of Margaret Leverington, the sole grandchild of James and Jane, the daughter of Maud. Let her tell the story :

`In 1907 with the Canadian Government advertising for people to come and homestead, my uncles Fred and James came to Canada. They took up a homestead in the Sovereign-Wiseton district in Saskatchewan. In 1908 my grandmother Jane, my uncle Stanley and my mother Maud also came to Canada. I remember Mother speaking of being on the train on May 24th, 1908.

'They have all passed away and I am the only grandchild. I am retired and live on a farm at Zehner. The homesteaders could purchase 160 acres of land for 10 dollars. They had to break a certain number of acres of land each year. It was a good enough deal, but it certainly brought a lot of hardship to many.

'In 1907 Uncle Fred and Uncle James came to Canada. They each took a homestead in the Sovereign district which is about 170 miles from Zehner. They built a sod shack on Uncle Fred`s land in the summer of 1907. First, they had to haul poles to frame the house from about 60 miles away. This would be a 4 or 5 day trip with horses. The next thing was to plough furrows of soil and grass about 18 inches wide. These would be laid in layers like bricks and made a very warm house. In May, 1908, Grandma Jane and Uncle Stanley and my mother, Maud, came to Canada. They travelled for about a week by train till they arrived at Hanley, Saskatchewan. Uncle Fred met them with a team of bronchos and a buggy. They had to cross a river on the ferry. Grandma sat firmly in the buggy with the horses jumping about.

'I am sure the next years were hectic. Money was scarce , no conveniences, or telephone, or radio. Uncle Stanley went to work on telephone construction, and my mother went to work in Regina. (Uncles Fred and James worked on a dairy farm near Regina the winter of 1907-8. Then in spring they went back to the homestead, and Uncle James bought my Grandma her first cow.)

'Somewhere about 1916 Grandma had a new lumber 2-story house built. It was painted white and could be seen for miles. Mother had learned cooking and management and decided to go home and help Grandma there. She was a wonderful cook, and the best mother I could have had.

'In 1920 my parents married and came to live, again on a homestead, here at Zehner. My father had spent over 4 years in the army, and soldiers were given the choice to buy land the Government had acquired from the Indians.

'Uncle James had asthma and died in February, 1922. He was only 33 years old. He was 6' 6" tall, had red hair and blue eyes, and he never married. He gave my Dad an anvil, and my mother a meat-grinder which I still use after 64 years. Uncle Fred died in July, 1924. He was a haemophiliac. He was about 5' 10", with black hair and blue eyes. He was 36, and he never married. They say he was very clever, very serious, very honest, a devout Methodist who never smoked, drank or swore. Grandma died in 1942 at the age of 88. She was very short in stature but every inch a woman. She too was a firm Methodist, and a great manager. Each year I would visit her, and she gave me a nice keepsake - her gold ear-rings, a sugar bowl which is over 160 years old and came from the Isle of Man. One thing I cherish as the only keepsake of Grand father James is his butcher's steel. Grandma, Uncle Fred and Uncle James are all buried at Sovrreign.

'My mother Maud was the only one who married, and I was the only child. Mother was about 5' 8" tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. Everyone liked her, and after 25 years still speak of missing her. My father died in 1938 when I was 15 years old. Mother was so upset and worried because there was a debt on the farm. I had promised my father I would complete Grade 10, and so in 1939 I approached my mother and told her I would quit school after Grade 10, and I would drive a tractor or do anything there was to do around the farm. At first she would not believe I could really drive a tractor, but for the next five years 1 drove a tractor (tilling and harvesting in the fields), fed pigs, milked cows, and looked after S00 head of poultry, besides doing all the other jobs about a farm. My wages for S years were food and a few clothes, but after about 6 years she got a clear title to her 320 acre farm which 1 now own. In 1944 I married John Leverington, who had managed and worked our farm too. We have 3 children, Shirley, John Stanley and James Garnet.

'I have never really got over my mother's death. Her worry over the farm led to hospitalisation for a while in a psychiatric ward. She committed suicide on April 7, 1958. She walked a quarter of a mile and drowned in a dug-out. All the family were searching for her and I found her. My screams brought neighbours from a distance. I ran home and phoned the police. They came and interrogated me. Then they gave me their condolences and went away. I feel that she needed surgery, but she would never let doctors examine her. I was really devastated, for 1 had supported her for 20 years, and had thought I had been a very good daughter to her. She is buried in Regina.

'Uncle Stanley was the last of the family to survive. He died in 1974 He had little real joy in life. He was very good to his mother, and took care of her to the end. He continued farming with horses, and when visiting Wiseton, 7 miles away, always drove team and wagon there. He paid a visit to the Isle of Man in 1960, and stayed at Crosby with a Faragher relative. He never married, drank or smoked. He was poor when it came to business affairs. In the end I was given responsibility for handling his affairs. If I could have done it sooner things could have been much better for him. He did not know how to invest his money, otherwise he could have been really rich. He stayed on the farm till 1960, then for 2 years he lived in Saskatoon. In his latter years he lived in Regina, living in old hotels. He was a bit temperamental and it was better not to make too frequent visits. I was able to have him taken care of in a private home after he became ill in 1973 with heart trouble. He died on November 27, 1974, and is buried in Regina".

So there is sunshine at eventide and reuniting in kinship for two great-granddaughters of William Kissack and Margaret Kermeen.

With nonagenarian wisdom Jimmie Kissack would say : "I've sometimes thought that the Kissack womenfolk were better than their men."

The late Syd Bolton devoted much of his later years as the doyen of Manx journalists to stories of Manx emigrants. Among a fair-sized colony of Manx in California (whose story is told in South Fork Country, by R. Powers) was the couple William Kissack (NrXIII) and Jessie Kissack (MgXXVII), one-time Schoolmistress of the Dhoon. From such sources I hope the Saga of the Seed of Isaac will grow.

I suppose each family will have its own questions to ask of history. What was the reason why sudden silence fell so utterly between Catherine and the son William that had been so close to her? (JuXXI). Or the children of Michael (LzXVII) T Or if the line of the Close-y-Killip millers still goes on in America whither John Vark's son William went (LzXXIX)?

Please note that the copyright of the 'Seed of Isaac' and 'The MacIsaacs' remains with the family of Rex Kissack and no part may be reproduced from this site without their permission.