The migration generation of the Alexander McKee family includes Alexander (a widower) and all of his children that I know of save one daughter—Agnes (McKee) Anderson. The bulk of the family comes into the United States with Alexander when the family sails from Ireland to Liverpool and on to New York City. The family arrives in New York aboard the Republic on 12 July 1837.
Difficult is one of the words used to describe the well-documented period in which the McKee family is traversing the Atlantic. Myriad first-hand accounts tell of grueling shipboard conditions. Passengers of lesser means complain that they must stay below deck for weeks at a time. Food frequently is scarce or running out, and passengers sicken and die while at sea. Many accounts talk about the sharks that follow ships across the Atlantic waiting for the dead bodies to drop over the side.
Like all immigrates, the McKee family takes a huge risk in coming to the United States. The immediate risk of the journey, while considerable, pales in comparison to the unknown that awaits them in a new country. Like many immigrants coming into the U.S. in the 1800s, there would be no turning back. The McKee family would have to make the best of their lot in life in their new home.
Joseph McKee is the family vanguard. Joseph is already in Randolph County, Illinois when the bulk of the family lands at New York City in 1837. Alexander McKee joins his son Joseph immediately, bringing his youngest child (Alexander) with him. His daughter Jane stays in New York with Alexander's sons William and Robert. Sons William and Robert (along with their families) remain in New York City for several years. Presumably, they are working to raise the money they need to join the remainder of the family in Illinois. By the late 1840s, all of the family members in the United States are in Randolph County, Illinois. After completing the journey of a lifetime, members of the migration generation buy land, settle in, and never stray far from their farms.
The one member of the migration generation that is not in the United States is Agnes (McKee) Anderson. Agnes migrates with her family from Ireland to County Cheshire, England, where she settles for many years. However, after the death of her husband and a son-in-law, and major economic upheavals in England, Agnes follows the path blazed by her family 30 years earlier bringing her daughter and granddaughters with her. Agnes sails on the ship Helvetia arriving at New York City 30 Dec 1867 and joins her family in Southern Illinois. With the arrival of Agnes, all of the children of Alexander McKee are together in one place again where they all end their days.
Only Agnes’ children—the Anderson and Dodd families—are left on the other side of the Atlantic. After the 1881 death of Agnes' son--Alexander McKee Anderson--many of Agnes' grandchildren move to the Biddefore, York County, Maine area. These grandchildren stay in New England. The remainder of the Anderson and all of the Dodd families remain in England. I can find no evidence that Anderson family members in Maine have contact with McKee family members in Illinois.
As family members on each side of the Atlantic die, contact between the families withers. Eventually, all knowledge of the English lines of the family is lost to American descendants. Presumably, the same is true for the English descendants. This family tree reunites them with their many American cousins.
1. Alexander McKee
b. 1778 Ireland
d. 1855–1860 Randolph County, Illinois
Unknown Greasen or Greasme
d. 1835 County Armagh, Northern Ireland
Child 1.1 Agnes McKee
b. 1802 Ireland
d. After 1870 Galum, Perry County, Illinois
Child 1.2 Joseph G. McKee
b. 1804 Northern Ireland
d. 11 Feb 1884 Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois
Child 1.3 William C. McKee
b. 1812 Northern Ireland
d. 1870–1880 Randolph County, Illinois
Child 1.4 Robert G. McKee
b. 1816 County Armagh, Northern Ireland
d. 17 Sep 1880 Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois
Child 1.5 Jane McKee
b. 1819 County Armagh, Northern Ireland
d. 1891 Potsdam, Webster County, Nebraska
Child 1.6 Alexander McKee
b. 28 Feb 1827 Northern Ireland
d. 10 Jan 1886 Randolph County, Illinois
Meet Alexander McKee
Based on census records, Alexander is born in Ireland in the year 1778 plus or minus one year. At this time, I know nothing of his life in Ireland. The family’s Presbyterian roots would lead one to believe that they are from Ireland. Another researcher indeed claims that the family is from Kircubbin, County Down, Ireland. However, the researcher provides no source information. I have found no records to support or contradict the assertion.
The two bits of evidence that I do have for a location in Ireland come via death certificates: one for a MCKEE son that says his place of birth is County Armagh and one for a MCKEE grandchild whose place of birth is Port Norris, County Armagh, Ireland.
Mrs. Alexander MCKEE is conspicuously missing from all records. I receive a document from a family member that indicated that she died in 1835 in County Armagh, Northern Ireland. This document says that her maiden name was Greasen or Greasme. So far, I haven't been able to find records that confirm or negate thses assertions. However, other details in the document have proved to be true. Therefore, I would tend to assume that the document is accurate and I've accepted these details as a working line to pursue.
The first record of Alexander living in the United States is his appearance in the 1840 census of Randolph County, Illinois. Alexander is living with his son, Joseph G. MCKEE, with Joseph listed as the head of the household. Included in the group are Alexander MCKEE’s youngest child, Alexander MCKEE (Jr.), and Joseph’s first wife and their children—three at the time.
The second record of Alexander MCKEE (Sr.) in the United States is his appearance in the 1850 census of Randolph County, Illinois. In this entry, Alexander’s age is seventy-two years old and he is the head of the household. He resides with his son Joseph and Joseph’s family and works as a laborer. His youngest son, Alexander (Jr.) is no longer living in the household. Alexander (Jr.) is living on the 40 acres of land that he acquires in 1848.
Subsequently, Alexander MCKEE (Sr.) appears with Joseph in the 1855 Illinois State census. After that census entry, Alexander (Sr.) disappears from official records. Since Alexander is already 77 years old in 1855, assuming that he dies before the 1860 census seems to be a reasonable assumption for the time span.
Locating a grave for Alexander has eluded me to date. I am assuming that he is buried somewhere on the 80 acres of land owned by his son Joseph on the outskirts of Sparta, Randolph County, Illinois. A Google Earth search shows the land as a heavily forested area today. So locating actual graves may never be possible.
One additional piece of information on Alexander exists. A charming tale appears in the memoir of Dr. J. B. Gordon, Early History of the Flack School District Randolph County Illinois. The tale paints a first-hand picture of who Alexander—and several other family members—might have been. You can find a copy of Dr. Gordon‘s memoir at the Chester Public Library in Chester, IL or the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library in Springfield, IL.
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