The Family of William Warner and Sarah Leitch

Finding My Lunn Ancestors

Another DNA Breakthrough

For almost three years, I’ve been posting articles about the Warners, my father’s side of the family. It makes sense, given the name of the website. This time, however, I’d like to talk about some people on my mother’s side.

Today’s story is about Sophia Lunn, my second great grandmother, and her family.

Sophia, whose photo is at the top of this page, was the paternal grandmother of Gwendoline “Gwen” Wainwright, my maternal grandmother.

Here’s what it looks like on the family tree:

I’ve known about Sophia for about fifty years, ever since my late beloved Aunt Marion told me about her. Aunt Marion was grandma Gwen’s sister and a genealogy buff who probably had a lot to do with getting me interested in the field.

Photo of gravestone of John Wainwright and Sophia Lunn
Sophia Lunn in a photograph probably taken in the 1890s
(from the estate of her granddaughter, Marion Wainwright Price)

It’s from her that I inherited Sophia’s photo, but even Aunt Marion didn’t seem to know anything about Sophia’s parents or siblings.

My research, until now, had turned up a lot of information about Sophia, her husband John Wainwright (1833–1915), and their eight children.

Sophia’s Husband, ,John Henry Wainwright
(in a photograph from cousin Claire Gervais, via Ancestry)

DNA Cousins Descended from Sophia’s Sister

But I had been unable to learn anything about Sophia’s mother, father, or her brothers and sisters. That changed recently when I discovered, through Ancestry testing, that I share DNA with a handful of distant cousins who are descended from Sophia’s younger sister Hannah.

Starting with that information, and tracing the lines of descent to those cousins, I was able to show that Sophia’s parents were William Lunn, born in Ireland about 1807, and his wife Catherine, born in England about 1813.

For me, it was an exciting breakthrough after decades of wondering.

Click to enlarge

The diagram above shows the connections. I share DNA with five people who have been tested and can trace their ancestry back to Hannah Lunn. Four are descendants of Hannah’s son William Gilchrist, while one is descended from William’s brother Andrew.

Living people are identified by initials only, to protect their privacy.

[Update June 2023: Since this post was written five months ago, it appears that three more of Hannah Lunn’s descendants have taken DNA tests with Ancestry, bringing the total to eight. Two are descended from William Gilchrist through his daughters Julia and Lillian, while one is a descended from Andrew Gilchrist through his daughter Ella.]

The Lunns Come to Canada

William and Catherine met and married in the early 1830s, probably in Ireland.* They came to Canada around 1840, give or take a couple of years. We know this because their daughter Hannah was born in Ireland about 1836 and their daughter Elizabeth was born in Lower Canada (now Quebec) about 1841. By 1843, the family had settled in Cobourg, in what is now Ontario.

In the documents I’ve found, they first appear in the Canada Census for 1861. They’re living in Cobourg and William, 54 years old, is listed as a labourer. Living with him are Catherine, 48, and three of their children: Elizabeth, 20; Mary, 12; and Richard, 10.

Extract from Canada Census 1861 (click to enlarge)

Sophia isn’t with them. She was 28 by then, and living nearby with her husband John, also 28, and the first two of their children: Catherine, 4; and William, 2.

Extract from Canada Census 1861 (click to enlarge)

Hannah appears to have been missed in the 1861 census. She would have been 18 or 19 and single at the time. She first turns up in the documentary record on January 29, 1866, when she marries John Gilchrist in Artemesia Township.

William Earns his Living as a Gardener

While William was said to be a labourer in the 1861 census , his occupation is listed as “gardener” In later documents (the 1871 census, the Cobourg city directory for 1871, and his Ontario death record),

The couple had six children that we know of — Sophia, Hannah, Elizabeth, Edward, Mary and Richard. There may have been a few more, as there is a gap in our knowledge between Sophia’s birth in 1833 and Elizabeth’s about 1841.

The 1871 census provides additional evidence linking Sophia to the rest of the Lunn family. At the bottom of one page, it lists John Wainwright, his wife Sophia, and their six children:

Extract from Canada Census 1871 (click to enlarge)

But having run out of room to list the entire household, the enumerator went to the top of the next page to list Sophia’s sister, who was living with them:**

Extract from Canada Census 1871 (click to enlarge)

Resting Places

Catherine Lunn died in Cobourg in 1886, at the age of about 73. Her husband William followed her ten years later, on August 27, 1896. He was 89. They are buried together in the graveyard of St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Cobourg. No stone marks the grave.

St. Peter’s Anglican Church in Cobourg, Ontario

Their daughter Hannah had predeceased them, dying in 1869 at the age of 33. She was buried at the Flesherton Cemetery in Flesherton, Ontario, where she rests with her husband, John William Gilchrist, entry for Hannah Lunn Gilchrist
Flesherton Cemetery in Flesherton, Ontario
(photo by Kevin Dee)

Sophia died in Toronto on January 20, 1917, at the age of 83. She was buried with her husband, John Henry Wainwright, at St. James Cemetery, also in Toronto.

Sophia and John’s gravestone at St. James Cemetery in Toronto (Section D, Lot 35)

Edward Lunn died in Vancouver on November 1, 1932, at the age of 89. He was buried there at the Mountain View Cemetery. where his second wife, Elizabeth Blackburn, rests with him. His obituary in the Vancouver Province described him as a “pioneer resident of Vancouver,” having come to Burrard Inlet in the late 1880s.

Vancouver Province, November 1, 1932, p. 5

Richard Lunn died on July 31, 1943 in Hillier, Ontario, at the age of 93. He was buried there, at Christ Church Anglican Cemetery. His wife, Elizabeth Dougherty, had died 46 years before him, and was buried at St. Peter’s Anglican Cemetery in Cobourg.

We don’t know when Elizabeth or Mary Lunn died.

Elizabeth married William John Walker in the mid-1870s and had five children that we know of. We last see her in the 1921 census, when she was a 79-year-old widow. living in Bradford, Ontario with her son Richard, 69, who was also widowed.

It appears that Mary may have died young. We last see her in the 1871 census, a young woman of 22, living with her parents in Cobourg.


* Given that Catherine was English, William was Irish, and two of their older children — Sophia and Hannah — were born in Ireland, it seems reasonable to suppose that the couple met and married in Ireland. They weren’t Catholic, but belonged to the Church of England, so it was likely in one of the northern counties (now Northern Ireland).

** Actually, Elizabeth appears twice in the 1871 census. She as shown as living with her parents in one entry, and living with her sister and her brother-in-law in the other.


  1. Vandra Masemann

    Thank you, Paul. I found this account very interesting. I am researching my mother’s forebears. I just realized yesterday that on Feb.4 2023 it will be the 100th anniversary of the death of my mother’s mother, Augusta Louisa (Ryan) Higgins. But the important descendant is our granddaughter, Augusta May Masemann-Engel. So I plan to make up a composite photo of the two of them to commemorate the important link.

    • Paul Warner

      That sounds wonderful, Vandra.

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