The Family of William Warner and Sarah Leitch

I’ve Been Searching for This for a Dozen Years

New Information about William and Hannah, Our Fourth Great Grandparents

When you do family history, every so often you get that big breakthrough — the moment when you find a missing puzzle piece that has eluded you for years.

This, for me, is one of those moments.

In an earlier post, I told you how I discovered that my fourth great grandparents were William Warner and Hannah Benson of the village of Howden, Yorkshire. Let me give you a quick reminder before I share my exciting news.

Finding William and Hannah (a Dozen Years Ago)

First I found the record for their son’s marriage in Quebec City in 1832 (he was also named William). The church’s record book said that he was a farmer from the town of Frampton.

Then I found an 1831 census record for a William Warner and his family, living on a farm in Frampton. It only listed one name, that of the head of household, but other information in the record made it clear that the younger William was living with his parents, and that his father’s name was also William.

Other records had already told me that the younger William, my third great grandfather, had been born in England about 1808, so now I needed to look for a baptismal record for a baby named William, born in England, to a father named William, around that time. I found seven.

I was able to narrow the seven down to one, for a baby William who was baptized in Howden on May 4, 1808. His parents were William Warner and Hannah Benson. Circumstantial evidence supported the belief that these two were my fourth great grandparents, and DNA evidence later confirmed it.

And Then They Disappeared

So I had found my ancestors, William and Hannah, living on their farm in Frampton in 1831. He was 42 and she was a few years older.

But then they disappeared. I knew absolutely nothing about their later life. The 1831 census entry was the only record I ever found, for more than ten years, of their life in Canada.

That changed this week.

And Then They Reappeared

A few days ago, a search on, the kind I do all the time, turned up an 1850 burial record for “Hannah Benson, widow of William Warner.” It was recorded in the Book of Acts of Christ Church Anglican Cathedral in Montreal. I was shocked (and surprised I hadn’t found it before).

Burial Record of Hannah Benson, widow of William Warner,
Burial record, Hannah Benson, widow of William Warner, Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal
Click to enlarge

I had long suspected that William and Hannah had failed at farming and moved from Frampton to Montreal. At least four of their grandchildren — Sarah, James, Hannah Maria, and another James — were born there in the 1830s. The fact that Hannah was buried in Montreal seemed to confirm that suspicion.

With that in mind, I looked for other evidence of their life (or death) in Montreal. I had seen a census record for a William Warner living there with his family in 1842, but was unsure if this was the right Warner family. Now I was certain that it was. They lived in “Queen’s Ward,” later known as Quartier Saint-Antoine, just outside what we now call “Old Montreal.” It’s a few blocks away from the cathedral where Sarah’s burial was recorded.

More research revealed that many of the burials recorded at Christ Church Cathedral took place at the nearby St. Lawrence Protestant Burial Ground, at the corner of what are now Boulevard René Lévesque and Rue Chênevlle. The cemetery closed in 1854. The Complexe Guy Favreau stands where it once was.

St. Lawrence Protestant Burial Ground1
Click to enlarge

Based on the hypothesis that Hannah and William had both been buried there, I reached out to the Quebec Family History Society, who have access to the cemetery’s records.

A Flawed Hypothesis

My hypothesis turned out to be half right. William was indeed buried in the “Poor Ground” at the St. Lawrence Protestant Burial Ground, and the Society provided me with a copy of the page where the burial was recorded. He died on March 1, 1842 and was buried two days later. The entry is at the bottom of the left-hand page, below.

Burial Record for William Warner (1789–1842) at the St. Lawrence Protestant Burial Ground in Montreal.
Burial record for William Warner, St. Lawrence Burial Ground
Click to enlarge

Hannah, though, was buried at a different cemetery, St. Mary’s Protestant Burial Ground, also nearby, on Rue Papineau near Sainte-Catherine. It’s another early cemetery that has ceased to exist.

Once again, the Society was able to give me a copy of the register page. Hannah’s entry is at the bottom of the right-hand page, below.

Burial Record for Hannah Benson, widow of William Warner, St. Mary’s Protestant Burial Ground
Click to enlarge

At least Hannah was not in the cemetery’s Poor Ground, so perhaps the family’s circumstances had improved in the eight years since William died. Her plot is described as “Single G[rave] N[orth] ground 13/4 & 2/6.”

One More Mystery Solved

There was one mystery still outstanding after these discoveries. William’s burial record should have shown up in a search of the records of the church he attended (it was called “Christ Church” at the time he died, but had become “Christ Church Cathedral” by the time of Hannah’s death). So why had my Ancestry searches never found it?

Armed with William’s date of burial from the cemetery register, I found the page for that date in the church register. The answer to the mystery turned out to be simple. William Thompson, the priest who made the entry, misspelled William’s last name.

The entry said “William Waren” instead of “William Warner.” That’s why my searches had always come up dry!

Burial Record for William Waren [sic], Christ Church, Montreal
Click to enlarge

A Final Note

Neither of the cemeteries where William and Hannah were laid to rest exist anymore. So where are their remains now?

That’s another story, and not a good one, for another post.


1 The photograph of the St. Lawrence Protestant Burial Ground is taken from Adams, Frank Dawson. A history of Christ Church Cathedral, Montreal. Montreal: Burton’s Limited, 1941, opposite page 81.

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  1. Carol Warner

    Amazing work, Paul! We really enjoy reading the results of your searches.
    Sister Carol

    • Paul Warner

      Thank you, Carol. That means a lot. I really enjoy doing this but I worry that I’m boring everyone I tell about it.

    • Paul Warner

      The couple I’m talking about would be your kids’ great great great great great (five times great) grandparents and your grandloids’ great great great great great great (six times great) grandparents!

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