Friday, May 22, 2015

52 Ancestors No.19: A Donivan Tragedy on the Chapleau River 1952

This is the nineteenth of 52 blog posts for the 2015 edition of the 52 Ancestors challenge. I have been blogging my family history for the #52Ancestors challenge since it began in 2014.

#52Ancestors asks bloggers to "have one blog post each week devoted to a specific ancestor. It could be a story, a biography, a photograph, an outline of a research problem — anything that focuses on one ancestor.

This week's blog post is about my husband's great grandmother's (Mary Donivan's) stepson Raymond Michael Donivan who died tragically with his son and son-in-law on the Chapleau (Ontario) river in 1952.

Ray Donivan, Lena Donivan,
Theresa Jane Donivan, and Mary Elizabeth (O'Leary) Donivan
Raymond's mother (Mary Ann McGahey) Donivan died giving childbirth in 1891 when Ray was only 4 years old. Ray's father Patrick Donivan married Mary Elizabeth (O'Leary) who lovingly raised Patrick's children from his previous marriage and from this second marriage came fourteen more children.

Ray Donivan (1888-1952)
Ray and half-sister Lena and cousin Mayme Hayes

 Sons and Grandsons - Standing in the back: Jack Boucher, Delbert Warren, Victor Donivan, Amby Donivan, Willie Donivan,. Standing near Gramma Donivan Mary Elizabeth (O'Leary) Donivan, Wilfred Donivan, Jack Donivan, James Quigg, Ray Donivan. The little boys are Jimmie Rice, Ed Boucher or Lloyd Boucher and Arthur Boucher.

Canoeing the North

From the Ontario watershed, all rivers flow north into James Bay. 

The tragic story of Raymond, his son "Donny" and his son-in-law Hilaire takes place on the Chapleau river. The details are captured in news articles below. ( All photos and news clippings belong to Ellen Quigg and are presented here with her permission.)

Chapleau River: Topographic Map

Birch Street Catholic Cemetery, Chapleau, Ontario


  1. Thanks for the page and the info. My father was Victor Donivan and this was such an enormous family tragedy.

  2. My husband's grandmother was Victor's sister (Bernadette (Donivan) Plaus and we visited Victor on our way to do the Missinaibi canoe route to James Bay. Victor never mentioned this canoe tragedy but it must have been on his mind as he watched us set off for our canoe trip - he gave us a delicious loaf of bread to take with us.

    Thanks for posting here!!

  3. Thank you for posting this. I have been looking for info on this for years. I am the daughter of Ambrose Donivan. Our family have heard about this tragic story all our live's. How Dad and his brother Willy searched for year's to find something of the young Michael (Donny) to bring to their Mother and give her peace.

    1. Thanks so much Dale for posting your comments here and sharing your connection to this very tragic story.