My great great grandfather was John McCann. I have not been able to uncover his birth date. His wife Margaret Smyth was born in County Antrim in 1854.

They were both Roman Catholics and were married at St Mallachy's church, Belfast on 15 January 1871, when Margaret was still a teenager. As their first child arrived some six months later Margaret almost certainly pregnant  at the time of the marriage. They settled in the Shankhill area of Belfast where John worked as a labourer.

John and Margaret McCann had a total of eleven children, not all of whom survived beyond childhood.

Their first child, Henry, was born in July 1871, followed by twins Maryann and John (born in 1873). One of the twins, John, died shortly after birth (this is borne out by the fact that John was baptized but not registered as a civil birth). Their next child, another son, born in 1875 was also christened John, presumably in honour of the deceased twin.

Sadly this John also died in childhood. He was followed by Catherine (1878), Elizabeth (1880), my great grandmother Teresa (1882) Sarah Jane (1883), Hugh John (1884), Margaret (1886) and Frances Dominick (1891).

Hugh John was known as "John", but presumably the family had come to the view that a baptismal name of just "John" was unlucky.

John McCann senior died in the early part of 1901. The census for that year shows that the widowed Margaret was living at 18 Friendly Street, Belfast, in the Shankill parish of the Cromac district of Belfast and was working as a "charwoman". The census also records that Teresa aged 18 was still at home and was working as a "tobacco spinner". It is possible that this might have been at one of the forty five tobacco spinning machines in operation at the giant Gallaghers cigarette factory in York Street, Belfast, just a mile from the family home.

Also resident at 18 Friendly Street in the 1901 census were Teresa's younger brothers brothers (Hugh) John and Francis.


1901 census showing the widowed Margaret, McCann, Teresa, John and Francis living at 18 Friendly Street, Belfast. It is clear from this document that Margaret could not write; she signed the census form with a letter "X".


Teresa McCann married my great grandfather, William Donaldson, a protestant, on 10 March 1906. At the time of the wedding her address is given as 13 Stanfield Street. The 1911 census confirms that Margaret was living at the Stanfield Street address. Stansfield Street and Friendly Street are neighbouring residential roads in the Cromac district. 

Teresa was reportedly ostracised by her family as a result of marrying a protestant, and her decision had extraordinary repercussions for her own children.