Rosanna Coyan McCague (1787-1873)

"A second-generation Coyan in America and sister to my 4th great-grandfather, Hugh Coyan"

In May of 2003, I was fortunate to literally "stumble" across a marriage record on the Internet that unlocked a family mystery to which I never thought we'd ever find the key. Female family ancestors this far back in time in the family "tree" are SO difficult to track, because - assuming they lived to adulthood and later married - their surname changed. At this point you generally "lose" them forever - unless just get lucky (or in my case, have a little persistence as well...)

I'll spare you long-winded details of how I made this discovery. Let's just say that thanks to Ruth Blackwell, who is researching the Selover family tree, we now have another HUGE branch of Coyan blood-relatives that I'm tracking in, primarily, Huron and Summit county, Ohio. The "key" that Ruth sent to me was an obscure bible record from the family bible of Isaac Selover that mentioned the marriage of a Thomas McCague to a Rosanna COYAN. With such a unique surname spelling, I just knew this had to be our Rosanna, but this bible record offers nothing else in the way of proof.

I checked my reference material to confirm Rosanna's birth date, which appears in the published vestry records of the Saint James Parish in Harford county, Maryland and here's what it shows (note this early surname spelling - I keep insisting that COYAN is NOT our original surname!!). Note also that my 4th great-grandfather Hugh Coyan, a brother to Rosanna, is mentioned here as well.

With this birthdate in mind, I emailed a query to the Huron county genealogy mailing list and asked if someone would be kind enough to look up a cemetary record for Rosanna McCague. I waited anxiously for a reply and here's what I got back:

"Hello Anthony,

East Bronson - Olena Cemetery, Bronson Township

McCague, Roseannah, d. 29 May 1873 aged 85 y 9 m 21 d (North)

McCague, Thomas, d. 31 March 1863 aged 78 y 4 m 16 d (East)"

Do you see what I saw as soon as I did the math? The age for Rosanna McCague at her time of death, as it appears on her gravestone, coincides to the day with her church vestry birth record in Harford county, Maryland in 1787!  At last I had found our Rosanna Coyan!

When I travelled to Huron county last weekend, I found the McCague family plot in a very small rural cemetary just west of Olena, Ohio in Huron county. This picture confirms the cemetary inscription book entry:

Here's where the fun part of the search began, once I confirmed that Rosanna was finally "found" after all of these years. The first question I asked myself was if she raised a family. The Selover bible record confirmed that Rosanna and Thomas McCague were the parents of at least one son (George W. McCague, who married Isaac's daughter, Esther Selover) but were there other children born to Rosanna Coyan? That cemetary plot sure hinted that there were...

After I danced an Irish jig in the cemetary (just joking, because I can't dance..plus, it IS a cemetary), I touched her gravestone and spoke to my 4th great-grandfather's sister Rosanna (and I'm NOT joking about that - but you'd have to understand how important my Coyan heritage is to me). I told her that she was NOT forgotten by her Coyan family after 130 or so years of time since she passed away.

After that, I was quickly off to the Norwalk, Ohio city library.

In the Biographical History of Huron County, published in 1894, I found a most-shocking discovery. Not only is Rosanna COYAN mentioned as being a Presbyterian (there's that "proud reminder" of the family heritage/religion again..) and the mother of seven children, for most of whom I have already compiled a substantial family "tree"; but her father and our immigrant ancestor Edward Coyan is mentioned as well. Note Edward's occupation and country of birth! At long-last, we have documented corroboration that Edward is indeed our "Irish", ie Scotch-Irish, immigrant ancestor to America!!

If you picked up on the statement that Rosanna may have been married in Philadelphia, you must have more than a passing interest in our Coyan heritage. I commend you! Now send me an email so you can help me out on this dang project :)

All kidding aside, this statement at first glance seems to "conflict" with what is documented and known of Edward Coyan being in Washington county, PA from the mid/late 1790's through about 1814. But I would note that Rosanna's first child, Jane McCague, was born ca 1815, so it IS possible that she (and her father too?) could have headed back east around 1814.

Personally, I think that the author of the Huron county article is in error, as he was (at least to me) more intent on documenting Thomas McCague's ties to Philadelphia. In addition, there is mention of Thomas' McCague's immigrant parents in the History of Beaver County, Pennsylvania, that says the family settled in Washington county, PA (imagine that, of all places..) shortly after coming to America in 1784.