Conception Bay South Melting Pot

In my analysis of my Parental and Maternal ancestors I kept getting matches connected to communities situated in what is now the Town of Conception Bay South. This town was incorporated in 1973 and was made up of nine existing communities (Topsail, Chamberlains, Manuels, Long Pond, Foxtrap, Kelligrews, Upper Gullies, Lawrence Pond, and Seal Cove) all of which follow the coastline of Conception Bay. This area was originally settled around 1800 by families who relocated from Conception Bay North, especially Port de Grave where many of my ancestors have their roots.

By the start of the 19th century the population of Port de Grave had expanded to beyond the capacity of the land and ocean (in-shore fishing grounds) to support them. For example, in a survey of plantations in the town of Port de Grave conducted in 1805 there were 18 different plantations occupied by members of the Daw/Dawe family (several with adult children).  As a result many families from Port de Grave relocated and established satellite settlements. Some simply moved further into Bay de Grave and settled in areas like Clarke’s Beach, Salmon Cove, Otterbury and North River.  Others moved to northern Newfoundland and settled in areas of the French Shore (e.g. Notre Dame Bay and White Bay) that were just being settled. However, the largest group from Port de Grave moved to the “South Shore” of Conception Bay (different from Southern Shore which is south of St. John’s). This area is now part of the Town of Conception Bay South. In the early 1800s there was no road connecting this area to St. John’s but it was easily reached by boat from Port de Grave.

One of the first settlers of this area was John Andrews from a Port de Grave family who settled in Hopewell, Upper Gully.  He appears in records for this area in the 1830s but as early as 1784 he is listed Harbour Grace baptism records as living in Harbour “Mien”. Harbour Main (a community between Port de Grave and Conception Bay South) was the historical name for the district that included the area that is now Conception Bay South. In the first half of the 19th century numerous other families from Port de Grave settled along the south shore of Conception Bay and became the earliest settlers in many of the towns that developed in this area. The move to the south shore of Conception Bay gave these settlers unlimited land, which was forested and better suited to agriculture, plus access to new in-shore fishing grounds.

I have prepared a Shared Spreadsheet  (for best results right click and select open in new Tab) that compares family names found on the south shore of Conception Bay prior to 1840 by the town they settled in. Family names with strong connections to Port de Grave are highlighted. This list includes many families in my Ancestry tree such as: Batten, Porter, Daw, Anthony, Andrews. Several of these have strong connections to my Newell ancestors. 

Even after they relocated to the South Shore the families from Port de Grave continued to maintain contact with Port de Grave.  A review of place of birth in the 1911 census data from Port de Grave  shows that intermarriage between the two areas was common. For example:

  • William Kennedy (b 1849), originally from Long Pond but living in Hibbs Hole, PDG was married to Sarah Anne originally from Ship Cove;
  • James Porter (b 1851) from Hibbs Hole was married to Lavinia originally from Foxtrap;
  • William Lear (b 1861) from Hibbs Hole was married to Susanna originally  from Long Pond;
  • Samuel Porter (b 1871) from Hibbs Hole was married to Sarah J originally from Foxtrap;
  • William H Dawe (b 1885) from Hibbs Hole was married to Bridgett Warford originally from Long Pond;
  • John Porter (b 1849) from BlowmeDown was married to Mary J Fagen originally from Foxtrap;
  • William Porter (b 1835) from BlowmeDown was married to Martha originally from Long Pond;
  • Anne Morgan widow (b 1861) originally from Long Pond was living in BlowmeDown;
  • Absalom Porter od BlowmeDown (b 1855) was married to Elizabeth Dowden originally from Topsail
  • Abraham Dawe of Ship cove, PDG (b 1879) was married to Christina originally from Long Pond.

An examination of records from the 1921 Census for Conception Bay South (no 1911 data) show the reverse movement. Other data demonstrates that this interaction likely started much earlier; for example, Henry Daw born c. 1801 in Ship Cove, PDG married  Amy Fagan on January 28, 1828 and  John Daw (John’s Son) of Ship Cove married  Charlotte Fagan on 14 Nov. 1836.  Both brides are listed as from Port de Grave but Fagan is a name associated with Foxtrap (Michael and Joseph Feagan/Phegan/Fegan of Foxtrap in 1801 and 1835) and there are no record of the Fagan family living in Port de Grave.

The impact this out migration had on the DNA records for people with roots in Port de Grave is that many DNA matches will link to people with earliest known ancestors from Conception Bay South. Recently, I was researching a 3rd cousin DNA match linked to Alfred Newell (b 1925) of Foxtrap; after researching his ancestry it became apparent that he was connected to the Pouch Cove Newells and there were no other close matches to his Newell ancestors. However, his mother was Mary Emma Porter (b 1900) from Foxtrap and her tree also included the Butler and Hussey names (all likely Port de Grave connections). In addition, Alfred’s wife Lillian, from Conception Bay South, had Kennedy, Morgan and Dawe (other likely Port de Grave connections) in her tree. Many of my Foxtrap connections are also shared by 3rd cousins descended from other branches of the Newell family of the Dock. Based on further research it became apparent that my 3rd cousin match to Alfred likely comes from several of these Foxtrap connections.