Jane Finlay McDowell (Abt 1880 – )

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Quick Facts About Jane Finlay:

Born about 1880 (immigration to US records record her age only, 30 years – 29 Aug 1910. Marriage registration does not record an actual age, only listed “Full” – as in adult age to be married).

Married: John George McDowell (21 July 1909)

Children: Unknown

Immigration To USA: Departed Londonderry, August 1910. Arrived New York City 29 August 1910.

Known Residence In Ireland: 54 Parkmount Street, Belfast.

Parents: David Finlay & Mary Jane (Maiden Name Unknown At This Time).

Introduction To Jane Finlay

It’s hard to believe that a couple would get married, and then three days later, be separated for a year. But this is in fact what happened to Jane, and her husband, John McDowell. We don’t know how long they courted before they were married, or what their dreams were, but starting a new life in America must have come up in their courtship time.

Jane married John on July 21, 1909 in Belfast, and three days later, John would be boarding the S.S. Laurentian at Londonderry enroute to America, alone. His final destination after arriving at Boston, MA was the residence of a Mr. Redmond in Canton, OH. Who was Mr. Redmond? Was he possibly a relative of either Jane or her husband, John? Another possibility is that it would seem John had visited America previously, before marrying Jane – was Mr. Redmond an acquaintance from John’s earlier visit?

We don’t even know right now how John and Jane met, although they did live only a 15 minute walk between their homes. They could have met at the Presbyterian Church, or maybe their fathers knew each other through their occupations. Both were listed as “Joiners” on John and Jane’s marriage registration, although Hugh appears to have more often be listed as a carpenter by trade.

One wonders what was going on in their lives at the time, that Jane married John, knowing they would be starting a new life in America, but beginning with John’s absence from Belfast for a year before she would see and join her husband again.

According to the Passenger Arrivals record in New York City, Jane was not much shorter than John, as she stood about 5’1″ tall. Her dark hair, brown eyes, and dark complexion would have contrasted with his fair coloured looks both in complexion and hair colour, and blue eyes.

According to the 1901 census, Jane was a Dressmaker by occupation, by the age of 22 years old. Her family living at 54 Parkmount Street seems to be mostly unemployed with only Jane and her brother James working. But by her marriage date in 1909, Jane appears to not have no longer an occupation and she’s listed as being a “Housekeeper” when she arrived in America.

Immigration of Jane McDowell (Finlay)

By the early 20th century, people in Belfast, America, and throughout the Western world for that matter, would have considered themselves fairly “modern.” We might scoff at that by today’s standards, but the early 20th century saw terrific advances in medicine, science, exploration, and even in social lives. The days of ships being powered only by sail were mostly over; steam ships were the norm, and advances in engine design, the use of iron instead of wood, and world trade were increasing the economic state of many people.

Compared to their grandfathers, life would have been somewhat easier. But, there were no telephones in those days and trans-Atlantic communication would have still been done by postal mail, carried by the ships that crossed the Atlantic.

For a year, this must have been the only communication between Jane & John – and we know letters must have crossed the Atlantic between the two of them. When Jane arrived in New York, she knew the address of her final destination in Canton, Ohio – the same address John had provided a year earlier of 1325 Jackson Street. However, there was no “Mr. Redmond” listed – this time, when Jane landed at New York, its noted that she’s going on to her husband McDowell.

Did John go to New York City to be there when the ship arrived? There are no big hints, but the documents indicate that Jane had a ticket to her final destination of Canton. She also arrived with $50.00 US – the equivalent of $1,405.00 in today’s dollars. To anyone, that would be a significant amount of money – had John been working in America and sent that back to her?

ss california in new york, 1911
S.S. California In New York City, 1911. From Wikipedia – Library Of Congress Photo

Jane’s voyage from Ireland to America was on the S.S. California, a modern ship at the time, built in 1907. It was owned by the Anchor Line, built in Glasgow, and it’s main purpose was to transport passengers between Glasgow, Scotland and New York, NY. It was eventually sunk by a German U-Boat that fired two torpedoes at it, near Fastnet Rock off the coast of Ireland. There was loss of life (41 lives), and today we might be shocked at the idea of a passenger ship being targeted in war time, but it should be remembered that passenger ships also carried cargo, oftentimes this would include munitions and military supplies for wartime. Having said that, I have no information that the California was carrying any such cargo when she was torpedoed and sunk by the Germans.

Wikipedia has a good summary about this ship, which you may read here.

Other Information About Jane Finlay-McDowell

At this time, I have no other information about Jane, or even if Jane and John had children. This leads to other questions which I will write about, additionally, and perhaps motivation for further research.

I don’t know if we have photos of Jane. There are photos which I do not have access to at this time, of possible McDowell immigrants to the US, but cannot be sure. It is very likely that photos do, or did exist; in the early 20th century it was quite common for families of varying economic status to have their portraits taken.

Importance To Scott Family

While obviously neither John or Jane are direct ancestors of the Scotts/Halls today, they are important to the family history. It is this McDowell household that Hugh McDowell Scott would have for his “final destination” when he arrived in New York City, with the intent to immigrate to America. Hugh’s uncle and aunt would have helped him with a place to stay and figuring things out in America, when he arrived in Canton, Ohio.

Wedding Registration Of John McDowell & Jane Finlay

Manifest of Passengers Arriving In New York: View Page 1 View Page 2.

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