Old trees, new leaves

I’m Laurie and I love a good story.

I’ve always been drawn to the rich landscape that is our past. Listening to my elders reminiscing about the past, especially my grandmothers, has led to a life-long fascination with history as it intertwines with storytelling. No one’s life is uneventful; everyone has a story (or many stories) to tell. Some stories are sad, some are even tragic, but many of them are inspirational and uplifting and humorous. They’re all worth telling.

My dad used to start many conversations with “Tell me your life story.” I don’t know that I ever replied with any useful “life story” information, but his unique approach to conversation generally got the telling of that day’s story started.

This site is designed to share some of the interesting stories I discover as I research my family’s history. It is primarily about the Brett family of Essex County, Ontario, but it also contains information about other branches of the Brett family tree which traces back to County Sligo, Ireland.

The blog posts are listed in order of publication in a menu that appears on the right-hand side of this page.

Please note that this site becomes somewhat dormant between posts while I continue my research. My goal is to document most of my findings to pave the way for other researchers to enter the conversation and carry on where I leave off.

I hope you enjoy!

[Updated October 15, 2020]

23 thoughts on “Old trees, new leaves”

  1. Hi, i am the Canadian descendant of Thomas Clark and Jane Brett. I would like to know about Thomas’s heritage if you can help me.
    Thomas and Jane settled in the Pontiac region in what is now Norway Bay/Renfrew Quebec Canada. The area has been English speaking till this day. He had a grandson named George Clark in 1844, in Ottawa Ontario. George Clark married Margaret’Jane’Leach. They had alot of children, all in the Ottawa-Quebec area. One being Hiram Arthur Clark who is my grandfather’s, grandfather.
    I now live in Ottawa Canada.

    1. Hi Kody, I’m researching the Brett’s. George Clark was the SON of Thomas Clark and Jane Brett.They were married in 1838 according to the 1861 Census return. George had 11 children (that i could find) including Hiram Arthur who married Margaret Lucinda Twa. I found 8 children for them. Thomas was born in Ireland between 1806-1811 according to various Census returns. Unfortunately, I have not come across his fathers name or siblings. However, Jane Brett’s brother George Brett had a daughter Mary who married an Archibald Conboy. Their daughter Minnie Conboy narried a Robert Clarke from Skreen, Dromore West, Co. Sligo. It may be worth taking a look at Clarkes in that area, as marriage amongst cousins/relatives was relatively common. Good luck.

  2. My great great grandmother was Elizabeth Brett born in County Sligo, Ireland in 1820, daughter of Christopher and Elizabeth Allen Brett…she married James Hammond and theycame to Pennsylvania in the 1850s.

    1. Hi Sylvia.

      My apologies for the late reply. I hadn’t noticed it until now.

      I believe Christopher and Elizabeth Allen Brett are well researched and can be found on Ancestry. Some of their descendants continue to live in Ireland and have been very helpful in trying to connect the 9 sons of John Brett.

      Please feel free to share more information about James Hammond and Elizabeth Brett. I can be reached by email at lbrett7@yahoo.ca.



      1. Laurie – this is great. I am Jane’s (a few greats) grandson. We are trying to track-down some information about the two of them. You mentioned something that made me curious: Do you have any history about Thomas Clark growing up in Sligo. I am having a hard time trying to track him down. Very slippery long dead guy. I am afraid that he might not be Irish, and that will make my search nearly impossible. I was hoping that he grew up in the county near Jane, but it is a hope, that is all.

      2. Hi there. Have we exchanged emails in the past? I believe someone sent me a copy of the chapter containing the story about “Lady Jane” and I recall putting a bit of a damper on the enthusiasm around that tale. I don’t have any additional information on Thomas Clark beyond what is on the blog. I believe he was from Sligo because Jane’s older brother George would ask about him in his letters (see George Brett letters on the blog), as if he were a friend. Had he been from some other part of Ireland or from another country I don’t think George would have been so persistent in asking. At one point, George laments that he thinks Thomas Clark has forgotten all his friends in the Sligo area. There is a genealogy society in Sligo that is willing to conduct research for a fee. It’s website is: http://www.sligoroots.com/

    2. My nan was Eleanor Brett she was one of 10 children from. Sligo, She married James Maye and lived in Tubercurry. My nans dad was called James, his children were Jim, Gus, Danny, Mike, my dad could only remember Agnes but is said there were more sisters, He did tell me that Agnes went to America and i think but not sure she married James Mulvaney. I dont know if this is the same Brett family but there is a chance it might be.

      1. Hi Noreen. My apologies for the late reply. I inadvertently locked myself out of this site and had to jump through a lot of hoops to get it reactivated. There are so many Brett lines that it’s difficult to connect them all. I would hazard a guess that we are in fact related back several generations, but I couldn’t say exactly how. I have a family tree on Ancestry. If you’re on Ancestry and would like to take a look, just let me know. ~ Laurie

  3. My family tree has:
    John Brett b. 1807 Tubercurry, Sligo
    husband of Jane (Patton) Brett
    Married 6/29/1843 Pine Grove Mills, Centre, PA
    John & Jane’s children:
    Robert Gilbert Brett &
    Anna A (Brett) Hammond

  4. Clarke German. I’m a descendant of Thomas Clarke his name was changed to James McGhee ( we thought adoption or something else??) born in Sligo Drumore West he relocated to Scotland married Maria McKeown had Ellen Thomas and James.

      1. Hi Mark. I’m confused. Are you saying that your ancestor Thomas Clarke moved to Scotland and changed his name to James McGhee, married Maria McKeown, and had three children? The man named Thomas Clarke who married Jane Brett is known to have emigrated to Canada in 1842. Am I missing some information?

      2. Different Thomas Clarke 😉 our Thomas Clarke changed his name maybe adoption or other reasons before or after moved to Inverkeithing , Fife Scotland, married Maria McKeown of Ireland had 3 children and (family Oral history records) he, subsequently ,died in Africa working on railways.

      3. It sounds like your Thomas Clarke had a very eventful life. I hope you collect some interesting stories during your research. It’s the stories, not just the bald facts, that make family research so compelling. Good luck!

  5. Laurie, my great grandfather was John Clarke oldest son & 1 of 10 children born to George Clarke & Jane Leach in Eardley Quebec. His grandparents Thomas Clarke & Jane Brett. The 1901 census does not show John because he was already married and living elsewhere. But in the Eardley graveyard their first born Viola died at few months & is buried there. John married Florence Moy, they had 5 children, 1 being my grandmother Genevieve who was the family historian. They moved to Manor, Sask. appear on 1906 census. And then on to Kamloops, B.c. On the 1911 Census. Then on to Vancouver where he died in 1946. There is a large extended family spread throughout B.C. As family historian grandmother said Thomas Clarke was a policeman in Sligo Bay Ireland. And that he & Jane had to leave Ireland, reason unknown. Also, that Thomas Clarke was the tallest man most had ever seen in Eardley & when he died it was days until they could find a coffin. And the Children of George & Jane Clarke were all over 6 feet tall with my great grandfather John being the shortest at 6 feet. Also, she said 1 of John’s brothers went on to be a policeman in Regina. I have read your letters from Ireland & have helped me immensely in tracing the family. I have a ship’s manifest with Thomas & Jane Clarke sailing in 1842 from County Mayo to Canada. The port is a stone’s throw from Sligo. If you need info please contact me.

    1. Hi Jill.

      Thank you for adding to our knowledge of Thomas Clarke and Jane Brett. I did know that they left Ireland from Westport on the ship Britannia in 1842. I am also aware that some of their descendants recounted fantastical stories about them. I would not include the height factor as one of the fantastical stories, but certainly a blessing as my line of Bretts are generally much shorter than 6 feet.

      My family tree in Ancestry contains quite a bit of information about Thomas Clarke and Jane Brett. If you’d like to take a look at it (and correct or add to that information), please let me know. I am always interested in setting the historic record straight and adding to it. I also follow DNA results in Ancestry in attempt to connect with various family lines.

      Please feel free to reach out by email: lbrett7@yahoo.ca.


  6. Extremely interested in learning more about the Brett’s of Sligo. My great grand father was Thomas Hammond Brett! Born to Thomas Brett and Mary Ann (Robinson) Brett. Any information would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Debra.
      Thanks for posting on this Brett blog. I’m not sure which branch of the family Thomas Brett descends from, but hopefully others in your line will reach out.

    2. Hi Debra. I’ve been looking at the Hammonds in my Ancestry tree and would like to understand your line better. Can you outline your known ancestors (in this line) for me? If you’d like to email me privately, use lbrett7@yahoo.ca.

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