The Antoine Pilon Home Part 2

Antoine Pilon arrived in Ville Marie in 1668 and by 1707 he was a land owner in the growing village of Pointe-Claire, on the shores of Lake St. Louis.

In a recent blog there is a biographical sketch of Antoine, my 7th great grandfather. He sailed from Normandy, France to New France. His family were among the first residents of Pointe-Claire. When he died at the age of fifty, the home he built in 1707 remained in the family for 120 years.

The Antoine Pilon Home Part 1, https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/05/06/the-antoine-pilon-home/

The home is still standing, thanks to the tireless efforts of Andre Charbonneau. It is the oldest home in Pointe-Claire and one of the oldest on the island of Montreal.  Records indicate the many owners over the 300+ years.

Capture.JPGAP HOUSE Googlw

A Google Earth street view of the Antoine Pilon House 258 Bord du lac Pointe-Claire

History of the Owners and the Land Transactions 1.

1707 -2020

Below is a list of the many landowners who lived in the Antoine Pilon house over the years. Several owners inherited the property, while others purchased theirs.

The house lies on lot 88 of the present survey, forming a part of lot number 154 in the original land registry of the Island of Montreal.2

  • Lot 154-D was conceded by the Sulpicians to Pierre Sauvé dit Laplante on November 24th, At the time it was property of 3 acres of frontage and 60 acres deep, on the shore of Lac Saint-Louis.
  • Pierre Sauvé and his wife Marie-Michel sold this land to Jean du Tartre dit Desrosiers on October 27th,
  • Du Tartre gave the concession to Madeleine LeMoyne, widow of Jean-Baptiste Beauvais, September 19th,
  • Dame LeMoyne immediately sold lot 154-D September 19th,1706 to Antoine Pilon, who had already purchased from her the adjoining lot 155-D
  • Antoine Pilon built his house in 1707 on this property
  • Marie-Anne (Brunet) Pilon’s widow gave the land to her son Mathieu on January 22nd, 1729, land of 5 acres of frontage to 20 acres deep, consisting of lots 154-D and 155-D.
  • Gabriel Pilon, son of Mathieu and Marie-Josephte Daoust, became the next owner purchasing it from his parents’ – lot 154-D measuring 3 acres by 28 acres.
  • Pierre Pilon, the farmer and inn-keeper son of Gabriel and Suzanne Meloche, inherited the land on December 7th,
  • The Pilons left the property for good on July 1st, 1826 after 4 generations of family ownership. The home passed from mother to son and then father to son during 120 years.
  • W. Glasford, Carpenter purchased the property on July 1st, 1826.
  • Félix Amesse, carpenter, husband of Marguerite Pilon purchased it on March 1st,1832
  • Francois Larivée, shoemaker, became the new owner on April 5th,1834
  • Jean-Baptiste Legault dit Deslauriers, son, painter obtained the home May 11th,1865
  • Damase Alexandre Valois bought the property July 19th,1873.
  • Isidore Valoix inherited it in 1914.
  • Charles-Benoît Valois acquired the property December 31st,1921.
  • Joseph Duhame, next owner purchased the property on February 21st,1944.
  • André Charbonneau bought the property in 1968 and is the current owner- (2020).

There was a total  of 18 landowners over nearly 320 years.

Pilon property

 

The area in green indicates the extent of the Pilon Property right to the shore line.                   Capture.JPG map text

Capture.JPG current map of village

Current map of Pointe-Claire Village

Andre Charbonneau purchased the large property when he was 25 years old. At the time he was a young hairdresser living in Pointe-Claire.3. He is now retired and has hopes and dreams that his efforts to refurbish the 300+-year-old home could become a museum or an interpretation center. If so, this would promote the history of the area. Andre is also the founder of la  Société pour la Sauvegarde du Patrimoine de Pointe-Claire, https://patrimoinepointeclaire.org/ and has spent time educating the citizens about the history of their community3. Over the years Charbonneau has attempted to have the home declared a Heritage site.  He has approached the City of Pointe-Claire to develop the home.

Funding for a  project of that type is usually based on the following percentages:

25% Municipality,     25% Private donations.           50% Federal funding.

Several years ago, a feasibility study estimated the cost of the project would be approximately $1 million.

Charbonneau lived in the home for a short time until 1973. Time was spent researching, notably at the National Archives, with the aim of restoring the house and having it classified by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs. His request for classification was denied. Despite the refusal, he chose to restore the home to the original plans according to the French Regime, using the building techniques of that era.4.

Andre in house

Owner, Andre Charbonneau

The better part of Andre’s life has been focused on reconstructing the Pilon home to its former glory. He began using an architectural technique of numbering all the stones and wooden planks to rebuild the house.5.

The original size of the house is 25’ x 23’ and he added an extension is 20’ x 18’  He took great pains to research minute details such as the nails used in the new roofing and the flooring on the first floor, made from new wooden beams giving the appearance of the wood of the time. He left no stone unturned, including as noted, an extension to enlarge the home . He has maintained the original appearance of the first floor, a single open room. Behind the fireplace there was an oven that over the years had been condemned and hidden. The major work on the home was done by reliable, skilled workers, carpenters, and a blacksmith. They all worked using the techniques of 17th century craftsmen.

Andre Charbonneau has received numerous awards and recognition for his dedication and ongoing efforts in his attempt to establish a heritage site. In 2002 the Distinguished Heritage Award and in that same year he won the Heritage Emeritus Prize for the neighbouring house that he also owns. There have been other awards over the years, but his main goal  is yet to be accomplished.

La  Societe pour la Sauvegarde de la Patrimoine de Pointe-Claire continues to this day to find a way to showcase this home that has been so painstakingly restored. If you have an opportunity take a drive through the Village of Pointe-Claire and note the many homes that have been lovingly preserved.

Sources:

  1. http://www.piloninternational.ca/international/histoires/maison/maisonantoinf.html
  2. https://www.wikitree.com/photo/jpg/Pilon-239.
  3. https://patrimoinepointeclaire.org/
  4. https://www.lapresse.ca/maison/architecture/maisons/200711/12/01-871145-la-maison-pilon-revit-grace-un-proprietaire-tenace.php
  5. https://montrealgazette.com/news/world/trying-to-keep-a-piece-of-pointe-claire-history-alive

Notes:

http://home.globility.com/~pilon/photos.html – contains several interesting photographs

https://shariblaukopf.com/2015/07/09/the-garden-at-antoine-pilon-house/ -an artist’s point of view

 

Antoine Pilon Google earth

Google Street View – Pilon Home 258 Bord du lac. Pointe-Claire, Québec https://earth.google.com/web/data=Mj8KPQo7CiExX2c2cFNQNjR2SlhwODBIZTI3R0Vtc2ZyN2UwVzVENUESFgoUMEE3OTk3NjlGNTE0NUY0M0VCMTM

Capture.JPG Aerial Google Pilon House

Google Aerial View of Antoine Pilon Home

https://earth.google.com/web/@45.42828134,-73.82327819,19.97449138a,670.74299124d,30.00000005y,0h,0t,0r/data=MicKJQojCiExX2c2cFNQNjR2SlhwODBIZTI3R0Vtc2ZyN2UwVzVENUE

Dear Miss Bulford – Part Four

RAF Upavon Crest

In the first three parts below, of “Dear Miss Bulford” I describe my [1] entry into the WRAF – Women’s Royal Air Force, [2] the basic training [3] posting to a trade training camp, and this part four, my first posting as a trained Medical Assistant.

  1.   https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/02/dear-miss-bulford/

2.   https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/22/dear-miss-bulford-part-two/

3.  https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/29/__trashed-4/

Arriving in Salisbury, Wiltshire by train, I made my way to the bus station. wearing my ‘best blue’ uniform.  As I was searching for the camp bus,  two army men also in uniform approached me, and asked if I was going to RAF Upavon? [1] I said yes, so they offered me a lift in their car. They were stationed a few miles from RAF Upavon, at the Larkhill Army Garrison.  I accepted their offer. Something I now think was not too wise, but it was the 1960’s. However, they were very polite and pleasant and I enjoyed the ride to the camp. They said they often came to our mess to dance and drink so I would see them in the future,  which I did.

Arriving at RAF Upavon the Duty Officer at the main gate, directed me to the arrival office where I waited for someone to take me to my new quarters. RAF Upavon was small compared to my last posting. Only one block for the WRAF and one for the men,  each side of a parade square. From the window of my new single room-  wow! this was great- I could spot the mess hall.

The sergeant of our block, two-storied as usual but only three or four to a room, came and introduced herself, and offered to take me to the mess for tea. On the way, she told me about the SSQ (Station Sick Quarters)  I would be working at and who made up the staff. There was a  civilian Doctor, who drove up from the Upavon village each day,  a Sergeant, two Senior Aircraft men, and a civilian nurse who was retiring. I was to take her place.

Next morning, dressed in my nurses uniform, I nervously made my way to the SSQ. I met the civilian nurse, Mrs Bowes who showed me her routine. Unlike her, I would be ‘on-call’ a shared duty with everyone else in the SSQ.  (Which was why I had the enviable single room!).

Me at RAF Upavon SSQ

A few months after I arrived I went to the weekly ‘hop’ a Saturday night dance drinks and general fun. There, I met John, who had only just arrived on camp himself. He was an admin assistant and worked in the HQ (Headquarters) for Sir Thomas Prickett, RAF Upavon’s Commanding Officer. He walked me back to my barracks and we arranged to meet at breakfast in the mess, the next morning. We spent the weekend together, getting to know one another walking around the camp and talking about our lives so far.

Saturday night dance. John on the far left, shortly after we met, with SSQ staff Dave and Mick, and me.

On Monday morning, when I went to the waiting room, there sat John! In he went in to see the Doctor. When he came out, his medical notes said ‘Mononucleosis’ (otherwise known as the kissing disease!). We sent him to sickbay and put him on antibiotics. The male nursing assistant stayed the night with him.

After one night in sickbay, John had not improved and now had a high temperature, so he was sent to the RAF Wroughton Hospital [2] by ambulance.  I accompanied him on the ambulance trip. I told him he would be spending time in isolation at the hospital but that we could meet again when he got back to camp. We had a date that night!

Seven days later he returned to RAF Upavon and we resumed our getting to know each other routine.  We would see each other at breakfast, lunch and tea, so we got to know each other pretty quickly and very well. We would take the bus to Salisbury on Saturdays to shop and come back in time for the Saturday dance.  We babysat for the local personnel on the camp and spent our days off, together. We took leave and went to my home to visit my parents and up to Liverpool where John was born to meet his Mum.

One year later, on the anniversary of the day we met, March 2nd 1965, we got married. in Plymouth Devon. John’s Commanding Officer, Sir Thomas Prickett sent us a Congratulatory Telegram, as was usual in the days of snail mail and telephones.

Wedding Day 2 March 1968

Telegram from John’s Officer In Command,  Air Marshall Sir Thomas Prickett and Lady Prickett.

After our marriage, I stayed on in the WRAF and RAF Upavon. After all, what was I going to do in the middle of Salisbury Plain for a job? Besides, I was enjoying my life at RAF Upavon. Here, I was photographed demonstrating a new lightweight stretcher for the RAF Magazine – so light even a woman could lift it!

It was considered very unusual for me to continue in the WRAF, as most girls got married to ‘escape’ the WRAF.  However, I loved it so we applied for married quarters, completely forgetting that John was not 21 years of age yet, so he was not eligible!  Whilst I was certainly eligible being a little older than John,  nobody had ever experienced a married 22-year-old WRAF applying for married quarters before, so my request was denied. We just took in  our stride, but today I would have strongly questioned it.

So, for a few months, we lived on camp in our separate barracks and looked around for a place to rent close by. We were lucky to find ‘Dairy Cottage’ an early 19th century run-down, thatched cottage but rental affordable in the village of Upavon, just a bus ride from the camp. We lived there, for 18 happy months. We did some house painting and a few repairs on the inside. There were pheasants and various birds in the overgrown garden and we had get-togethers with our friends.

Our first home together, Dairy Cottage

The SSQ I was posted to was small and intimate and I quickly learned the routine. The staff were very helpful. I soon realised that I was the only female nurse at the camp. Soon, everyone called me Florence, as in Florence Nightingale! I was flattered. As the SSQ was right in the middle of Salisbury Plain, I was not too thrilled as I am a city girl and this place was very ‘country’.  Still, I made some great friends and soon settled in.

We treated the RAF personnel on camp and the civilians from the Village and so the daily ‘surgery’ was usually full.  We did all the necessary vaccinations for overseas postings and dealt with minor sicknesses. We took and developed x-rays and had our own dispensary, where we dispensed medicines and pills. We had a four-bed ‘sick bay’ for things like flu or contractible diseases. The RAF Hospital Wroughton was an ambulance ride away for more serious problems.

One night I was on ‘call’ and my first problem was at 9 pm. The Duty Officer called to alert me to the fact two Army men were at the guardroom, injured. I opened up the SSQ and waited for them. Both men had injuries. They had been on night manoeuvres and had fallen in the dark.  They undressed and I examined them. One had difficulty breathing so I diagnosed a fractured rib. The other man had the same problem but head scratches and a bloody nose.

As I was dressing their wounds and binding their ribs two more men showed up! At that point, I called the other two medics on camp with an urgent tannoy (public address system) message and they also arrived to assist me.  We sent them by ambulance to RAF Wroughton Hospital.

After our marriage,  John decided to change trades and become an Air Cartographer, so he was posted to RAF Northolt to learn his trade.  I tried for a posting there, but no luck. However, I did get a posting to RAF Uxbridge in the SSQ in the same area. So here we were, John at RAF Northolt and me at RAF Uxbridge! Once again we hunted for accommodation and a few months later, found a bed-sitter in Uxbridge for rent. Now, John was ‘of age’ for married quarters and entitled to payment of the rent until we could get a married quarter home at RAF Northolt. I finished my 6 happy, enjoyable years in the WRAF and found a job at a doctors office in the area until I became pregnant with the birth of our first son. This year we have been married 52 years.

Post Script:  When I told my family where I was to be posted, my Gramps told me, that in WW1, he had been at RAF Upavon for his training as an air gunner. However, HE was –  in his own words – ‘under canvas’ What a coincidence!

[1] A Short History of RAF Upavon 

The station motto was In Principio Et Semper, and translated from Latin means “In the Beginning and Always”. The station crest had a pterodactyl rising from rocks, which symbolised the station’s connection with the early days of flying, and was also a reference to the location of the station near to the ancient monument Stonehenge.

Smaller camps such as these were fully functioning  RAF Stations with small Medical Centres and a few beds plus an RAF Hospital nearby in case of emergencies. The nearest hospital to RAF Upavon was RAF Wroughton a Royal Air Force airfield near Wroughton, in Wiltshire, England, about 4 miles south of Swindon.

RAF stations in post-war England were many, and quite historical as most were built in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, most of them, have now closed or like my posting to RAF Upavon, taken over by the Army.  The station opened in 1912 and closed in 1993 when it transferred to the British Army and became known as Trenchard Lines.

[2] A Short History of RAF Wroughton

RAF Hospital Wroughton was part of the station and stood near the eastern boundary of the site, about 1 12 miles (2.4 km) west of Chiseldon. The RAF General Hospital (as it was known) opened on 14 June 1941 and by the end of March 1944, its bed capacity was 1,000. Wroughton continued as a General Hospital treating military patients, and from 1958 took NHS (National Health Service) cases as well to relieve backlogs in the Swindon area.  Following a visit to the hospital by  Princess Alexandra on 4 July 1967, the Queen conferred the prefix “Princess Alexandra’s” on the hospital on 4 October 1967.

The hospital was the primary destination for returning casualties of the Falklands War in 1982. When the hostages from Beirut were released in August 1991, Wing Commander Gordon Turnbull, a psychiatrist based at Wroughton, with his team, debriefed John McCarthy, Terry Waite and Jackie Mann and provided the counselling necessary to ease them back into freedom.  The hospital closed on 31 March 1996 as part of the Conservative Government’s defence cuts at the end of the cold war. The hospital was demolished in 2004 and the site, called Alexandra Park, used for housing and a conference centre; a memorial commemorates the former hospital.

petticoat pioneer

Charlotte Haines (1773-1851) was only ten years old when the breakaway 13 colonies won the War of Independence in April 1783. Those residing in the new United States of America, who had remained loyal to the British Crown, were persecuted and forced out of their homes and their belongings seized. Chaos reigned everywhere and families were torn apart.

One fateful day around this time, young Charlotte sneaked away to visit her British Loyalist cousins, against the expressed wishes of her American Patriot stepfatheri. Upon her return, standing outside the front door, he refused her entry back into the family home.

Charlotte was my three-times great-grandmother. Her daughter Margaret Ann Peters married Daniel Hanington and their son James Peters Hanington was my grandmother’s father.

The British government came to the aid of these Loyalists and arranged for transportation for those who wished to leave the new America. Charlotte’s grandparents, Gilbert and Anna Pugsley, rescued young Charlotte and her brother David. Together they sailed from New York for ten days on the “Jason”ii, with 124 other “refugees” as part of the final large scale evacuation and landed in New Brunswick (then still part of Nova Scotia) in October 1783…just in time for the brutally cold winter.

Charlotte has been the favourite subject of a couple of books and several folktales. She warranted her own chapter in “Pioneer Profiles of New Brunswick Settlers”iii and is the main character in a children’s book titled “Charlotte”iv. One folktale claimed that she was the first Loyalist to set foot ashore (not true) and in doing so, she lost her “slipper” in the mud (possibly). The matching slipper (unlikely) was donated to the New Brunswick Museum years later, however, it looks somewhat too big and stylish for a ten-year old girl. But they make wonderful stories and fully recognize young Charlotte as one of the first “petticoat pioneers” of New Brunswick.

Children’s story about Charlotte Haines by Janet Lunn

Fourteen thousand Loyalists established a new settlement in 1783 along the St. John River and shortly afterwards they petitioned for their own colony. In 1784, Great Britain granted their request and divided Nova Scotia into two — New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. The Loyalists, who made up 90 percent of the population of New Brunswick, became a separate colony with its capital, Fredericton, 90 miles upriver from Saint John.

The Loyalists and their children were entitled to free land once they provided the necessary proof. Charlotte, as the biological daughter of John Haines, a Loyalist on record, appears in 1786 documentation as one of the grantees of 84 lots on Long Island, Queen’s County, along with several other prominent Loyalists – although she was only 13 at the time. I can imagine her grandfather Pugsley nodding discreetly in her direction as he looked after her interests.

For their first three years, the British provided the Loyalists with a few simple tools, blankets, material for clothing and seeds for wheat, peas, corn and potatoes. The rations of basic food supplied by the British supplemented the abundance of game and fish available to them in the forest and streams. Most lived in tents on dirt floors until they were able to build primitive log cabins. Tree by tree, stump by stump, the fertile uplands were cleared to widen the fields making them ready for crops.

The Loyalists kept meaningful social contacts through various community events. Neighbours organized “frolics” whereby the men would work together to clear land, move rocks, build a barn or complete some other task which proved impossible for one or two people. At the same time, the women prepared meals and the children had a chance to play with friends. Women also held their own frolics to make quilts, card wool or shell corn. These Loyalist neighbours were dependent on one another in times of sickness, accidents and childbirth and supported one another at gatherings for weddings, funerals and church services.

Perhaps Charlotte met her future husband at one of these popular frolics. At 17, Charlotte married William Peters (also from a United Empire Loyalist family) in 1791 in Gagetown. Soon afterwards, the happy couple moved downriver, settled in Hampstead and built a home where the St. John River widens to a magnificent view.

At that time, there existed only ten miles of roadway in the whole province and another 20 years would pass before there would be an 82-mile long road linking Fredericton and Saint John. However, in the meantime, the river served as a “highway” enabling the transport of passengers and necessary goods between the two cities.

When the steamboats first chugged noisily up the river in 1816, William decided to compete with them and he built a 100-foot long side wheeler powered by 12 horses walking up and down the deck and propelling the boat along.

A drawing of The Experiment – an example of another horse powered side wheeler.

William actively pursued his interest in politics, and as the first representative of Queen’s County in the New Brunswick Legislature, he spent a lot of time in Fredericton (50 miles away) attending the sessions of Parliament.

Meanwhile, back home, Charlotte managed their entire land-holding on her own. Eventually they had 15 children, five sons and ten daughters. She bore her last child at 50 years old according to the baptismal certificate. They all survived except their son John who drowned at 21 attempting to save another man’s life.

Not only did she clothe, feed and care for them all (including the servants) but also provided much of their early education as well. On Saturday evenings in the summer, the fiddlers would play rollicking tunes and the tapping of dancing feet could be heard in big houses and cabins alike. When winter shut down the fields, and with food plentifully stored in the cellar, the spinning wheels would begin to hum during those coldest months.

By the time William died in 1836, they had recently relocated to Woodstock (100 miles upriver from Hampstead) with two of their younger children, James and Caroline. Their older children were married with homes of their own scattered along the St. John River Valley. Around this time, she wrote a letterv to her daughter Susan, Mrs. Thomas Tilley:

I take my pen to address a few lines to you to inquire after the health of you and all of your family.  The grate distance we are from you prevents me from hearing.  You heard of the death of your Father at Woodstock.

Charlotte described William’s death in some detail and then continued:

I hop [sic] this may find you all well.  I am not well.  My head troubles me very much.  There is not one day that it don’t ake [sic] so that I cant hardly stir.  My cough is something better.  James and Caroline is well and harty [sic] and quite contented hear.  I like the place and if your Father has lived and been hear to see to it we might have made a good living.  It is pleasant and a good place for business but we must try to due the best we can.  The place is out of repair and soon would have been a common if we had not come hear.  I should be glad if my friends was near to us.  I don’t know as ever I shall see you all again.  I thought to have gon [sic]to see you all before I came up hear but I was so sick that I could not go down to see you.  James and Caroline wishes to be remembered to you and all the family.  I desire to be remembered to Thomas and the children and tel them I should be glad to see them and you.  Give my love to all inquiring friends and except a share for yourself.
This from you afectionet [sic] Mother, Charlotte Peters

Although she had her share of aches and pains at that time, she lived another 15 years and ultimately enjoyed the blessing of 111 grandchildren.

She had a powerful influence over all her family for she believed that their heritage carried a great responsibility to others. When the grandchildren would visit, her graceful hands were always busy winding yarn or knitting a sock while patiently answering their questions and reciting passages from the bible.

One of her grandchildren, Samuel Leonard Tilley, later known as Sir Leonard, served as Premier of New Brunswick and went on to became one of the Fathers of Confederation.

Sir Samuel Leonard Tilley 1864

A common tale states that Tilley proposed the term “Dominion” in Canada’s name, at the London conference in 1866, which he gleaned from Psalm 72:8 – “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth”. Ultimately, as Minister of Finance in the federal government, he was also instrumental in seeing the transcontinental railway completed.vi

Young Charlotte Haines might have felt all alone in the world at age ten but, when she died 68 years later, the epitaph on her tombstone proclaimed her legacy: “…Lamented by a large circle of descendants and friends by whom she was universally beloved and respected.”

The gravestone of Charlotte Haines Peters and family – St.John’s Anglican Church, Gagetown, Queens County, New Brunswick

iCharlotte’s mother, Miss Pugsley, died when she was very young. Charlotte’s father remarried Sarah Haight before he died. Then Sarah remarried Stephen Haviland who was Charlotte’s stepmother’s husband (step step father?)

iiThe Ship Passenger Lists, American Loyalists to New Brunswick, David Bell, http://www.uelac.org/Loyalist-Ships/Loyalist-Ships.php as seen 2020-03-28

iiiCharlotte Gourlay Rovinson, Pioneer Profiles of New Brunswick Settlers, (Mika Publishing Company), 1980, p.143.

ivJanet Lunn, Charlotte, (Tundra Books), 1998.

v https://queenscountyheritage.wordpress.com/2011/09/28/loyalist-of-the-day-charlotte-haines-peters/ as seen 2020-04-02

vi Conrad Black, Rise to Greatness: The History of Canada, (Random House), 2014.

Image – https://wiki2.org/en/Experiment_(horse-powered_boat) as seen 2020-06-11

How to Find Protestant Abjurations in Quebec

Over the past several years, I have posted several articles about the Huguenots, or French Protestants, who came to New France. Once here, many of them signed abjurations, or declarations in which they renounced their faith, and they became Catholic.

The act of ‘’abjuration’’ was the first step to be taken by a Protestant individual. The second step was an act of ‘’confirmation,’’ conducted by a Catholic priest at a local or regional parish or at a regional convent. Guy Perron in his superb blog refers to this subject as Confirmations.

Recently, the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) has replaced its online research tool Pistard with a much better search engine, Advitam, https://advitam.banq.qc.ca/ and this has made the task of finding these abjurations and confirmations much easier. The first six entries in the attached research guide were obtained by using Advitam.  See https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/04/19/banq-advitam/

Through BAnQ Advitam, BAnQ Numérique or BAnQ Ask a Question/BAnQ Poser une question, you can obtain an online download for free within days simply by searching for the ‘’cote #’’ (Shelf # at BAnQ) and an approximate date of an event.

The nine-page research guide attached here   Abjurations in New France   includes links to registers of abjuration, to the bulletin of the historical society of French-speaking Protestants of Quebec, to Guy Perron’s excellent blog, and to a list of books and articles on the subject.

Over the last few years, Genealogy Ensemble has posted three listings of Huguenot Family Names of New France and Quebec. The links to these lists are at the end of the PDF.

  • Huguenot family names listed by the Huguenot Trails periodical of the Huguenot Society of Canada prior to 2002.
  • Huguenot family names issued by Michel Barbeau, a retired genealogist. (Michel Barbeau’s work is highly precise but is a short list in comparison to other sources.)
  • Huguenot family names compiled by myself from books, essays, papers issued over four centuries by leading historians, academics, archivists, authors, librarians in Canada and in France.

This last list was compiled from books stored at the Collection nationale within the Grande Bibliothèque de Montréal, books and dossiers at BAnQ Vieux-Montréal and books which can be researched online at BAnQ Numérique and through various online sociétés savantes (literary societies) and finally from the online pages of Fichier Origine (www.fichierorigine.com.)

Over the past few years, I have posted a series of research guides to finding Protestants in France. Here are links to my articles about the Protestants who came to Quebec:

Huguenot Refugees, April 2, 2014, https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/04/02/huguenot-refugees/

The Trail of the Huguenots in Europe, the U.S.A. and Canada, April 4, 2014, https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/04/04/the-trail-of-the-huguenots-in-europe-the-u-s-a-and-canada/

Register of Abjurations, Feb, 3, 2015, https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/02/03/register-of-abjurations/

Huguenots – Index of Names, March 6, 2015, https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/03/06/848/

The Protestant Churches of Quebec City, 1629-1759, Feb. 3, 2019,   https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/02/03/the-protestant-churches-of-quebec-city-1629-1759/

The merchants and Fur Traders of New France, part 2, H-Z, May 10, 2019, https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/05/10/the-merchants-and-fur-traders-of-new-france-part-2-h-to-z/

Protestants in Quebec, Dec. 22, 2019, https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/12/22/protestants-in-quebec/

Also of interest: Marian Bulford’s articles about the Huguenots who immigrated to England. After the British Conquest of 1759 at the Plains of Abraham, British Governors James Murray, Guy Carleton, Frederick Haldimand, Lord Dorchester (Carlton) appointed chief justices, judges and a few lieutenant-governors and senior military officers who were at ease in the French language and all of the above were descendants of Huguenot families who had settled in the London region and also in Northern Ireland. These Huguenot administrators and military officers under Murray, Carleton, Haldimand, Dorchester attended the same churches mentioned by Marian.

Marian Bulford, Huguenot of England, Part 1, April 25, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/04/25/the-huguenot-of-england-part-1/

Marian Bulford, Huguenot of England, Part 2, June 15, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/06/15/the-huguenot-of-england-part-2/

For help finding Protestant families s in France in the 16th and 17th centuries, see my series of regional research guides, posted on Genealogy Ensemble in 2019-2020, as well as:

How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in France, May 20, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/20/how-to-search-for-huguenot-ancestors-in-france/

Huguenot Family Lineage Searches, June 3, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/06/03/huguenot-family-lineage-searches/

Researching Your French Ancestors Online, May 13, 2018, (the attached updated PDF describes how to research in the Archives départementales de France, the country’s 95 regional archives)  https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/

 

 

 

Spitfire Service Socks

My grandmother, Grace Hunter, used to knit, read, and watch television at the same time. She sat in her well-worn high-backed armchair, with her Women’s Own magazine or her Harlequin romance flattened open on the wide armrest, and watch her soap opera or a game show. I realize now that she was reading when the commercials were on but when I was a child, it seemed to me that she could follow the television and read simultaneously. Her lips moved silently to the beat of the clicking knitting needles. Every so often I heard her take in a deep breath as she concentrated on her knitting rather than the television or her book.

My memories of Nana knitting were more than thirty years after the end of World War II. She was a volunteer knitter for the war effort. This well-worn knitting instruction sheet for Spitfire Service Socks suggests that it was used often.

Spitfire

It is most likely that Nana learned to knit as a young girl. She came from a modest working class family so knitting would have been a necessary skill. During World War I, Grace’s father, John Hunter, was stationed in France. Knitting for the soldiers was an act of patriotism and is was highly likely that Grace, thirteen when her dad went off to war, would have knitted so that the care package that the family sent overseas would contain some warm socks and other knitted clothing.

My mom told me that when World War II broke out, my grandmother was active in the war effort. She belonged to the women’s auxiliary in the church and they held knitting bees, held fund raisers, and catered parties for the men on the eve of their departure for war. Knitting socks and other clothing was one way, among many, of doing something tangible for the men who had gone to war.

During both World Wars, the Canadian Red Cross issued knitting instructions to civilians so that they could contribute to the war effort.  Below is a picture of a booklet published during World War II. 1

Red Cross

The Red Cross was also in charge of collecting and distributing the knitting. Before sending the knitting overseas, the Red Cross inspected all items. Volunteers also helped with the quality control inspections and some knitters corrected mistakes made by others, such as taking out knots in heels of socks. Some volunteers would take the knitting completely apart and redo it, if needed. 2

The Canadian Red Cross estimated that 750,000 women knitted more than 50 million garments for the military in World War II.3

Even the style of knitting underwent a transformation. Continental-style knitting was popular in Germany but it fell out of favour in English speaking countries during World War II. Knitters changed to English-style knitting. The difference between the two styles is the hand in which the yarn is held. Continental-style knitters hold the yard in the left hand, not the right. Nana always had her yarn in the right hand, as her reading material was on the left armrest of her chair.4 She needed her left hand free to turn the page.

 

 

  1. Canadian Red Cross, WWII Civilian Knitting Instructions, https://www.redcross.ca/history/artifacts/wwii-civilian-knitting-instructions, accessed April 26, 2020
  2. Canadian War Museum, An Army of Knitters in Support of the War Effort, March 10, 2014, https://www.warmuseum.ca/blog/an-army-of-knitters-in-support-of-the-war-effort/, accessed April 26, 2020
  3. Idem.
  4. Weightman, Judy, More Knitting History, World War II, October 9, 2012, https://judyweightman.wordpress.com/2012/10/09/more-knitting-history-world-war-ii/, accessed April 26, 2020

The Missionary Couple

When Jessie Jean Forrester (1896-1961) married a Presbyterian minister, she committed herself to a very different life from the one she had been accustomed to growing up on the Manitoba prairie. For almost 25 years, the couple lived in India, where he served as a missionary. There they were surrounded by the soaring Himalayas and elaborate temples, they suffered the heat of the central plains and humidity of monsoons, and they enjoyed eating Indian food.

There were some scary moments too. On one occasion, they were staying in a camp, complete with tea service. Jessie got up to go to the bathroom during the night and, as she was passing through the privacy screen, she saw a tiger roaming the camp.

The youngest daughter of farmers Jack and Samantha (Rixon) Forrester, Jessie first left Manitoba as a teenager, accompanying her parents when they retired to Los Angeles around 1911.

The 1920 U.S. census found her at age 24, living with her parents and working as a book keeper for a hardware store. The following year, she and her mother were counted in the 1921 census of Canada, staying with Jessie’s older sister (and my grandmother,) Lillian Hamilton, and her family in Winnipeg. They were probably busy preparing for the wedding.

Jessie Jean Forrester and her mother, photo taken in Los Angeles

Jessie’s husband-to-be, Thomas Benjamin McMillan, was born in 1888 in Margaret, Manitoba. The McMillan family eventually moved to Winnipeg. Tom graduated from Manitoba College with a degree in economics, then served as a lieutenant in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I. After the war, he returned to Winnipeg and completed a two-year course in theology. 

Jessie and Tom were married on August 17, 1921.Three weeks later, the newlyweds left for India. Daughter Hazel Lillian (born 1922) and son Hugh Forrester (born 1924) were both born in India and attended Woodstock School, Landour, a school founded in the 19th century to educate the children of American missionaries. They also attended school in Winnipeg during extended visits to Canada.

Tom went to India as a Presbyterian minister, but after the creation of the United Church of Canada by Presbyterian, Methodist and Congregationalist congregations in 1925, he became a United Church missionary.  Much of his work was based in the central Indian cities of Hat Piplia, Neemuch and Indore, in the state of Madhya Pradesh. When the weather in central India became too hot, the family retreated to the twin cities of Landour and Mussoorie, in the foothills of the Himalayas. When son Hugh McMillan and his wife visited Mussoorie in 1979, they found the cosmos flowers Jessie had planted many years before still seeding themselves and blooming.1

Besides serving as a pastor, Tom was also active on several committees. In central India, he served as chairman of the building committee for 10 years and secretary of the Evangelistic Commission for three years, and he was a delegate to the General Assembly of the United Church of North India and chairman of the Assembly Business Commission.

Tom and Jessie remained in India during World War II, but 19-year-old Hazel returned to North America in 1941 to stay her uncle and aunt in Los Angeles, and Hugh sailed to California in 1944. Both were accustomed to long sea voyages, having travelled back and forth with their parents every few years to visit friends and relatives in Winnipeg and Los Angeles, but it must have been frightening for them to travel alone in wartime. Tom and Jessie came back to Canada for good after the war ended and before Indian independence. 

The McMillans settled in British Columbia, where Tom ministered to several United Church congregations. After he retired in 1960 at age 72, they settled in Victoria, where he continued to visit the sick and served as an associate minister at Oak Bay United Church until 1964.

When Jessie died in 1961, aged 65, her obituary in the Ladysmith-Chemainus Chronicle called her “a woman of great dignity and artistic ability,” adding that the bazaars and festive occasions at the two local United churches where Tom had been minister for four years were made more attractive by her deft floral arrangements.

Tom died in 1965 at age 77 and was buried beside his wife in Royal Oak Burial Park, Saanich, B.C..

Sources.

  1. Walter Meyer zu Erpen, “Mrs. Jessie Jean (Forrester) McMillan (29 March 1896-16 September 1961), sister of Mrs. T.G. Hamilton (1880-1956), and Reverend Thomas Benjamin McMillan (26 June 1888-25 July 1965), BA (University of Manitoba). Draft research report, 2015/12/26. Note: Walter gathered his research from a number of sources, including telephone interviews with family members and United Church of Canada records.

(This article is also posted on Writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca)

The Protestants of Auvergne, Limousin, Lyonnais and Marche of the 16th and 17th centuries

Auvergne

Auvergne is a former region of south-central France. Prior to the French Revolution (1789 to 1799,) Clermont-Ferrand was its capital. After the revolution, Auvergne was sliced up into four modern-day départements: Allier with eight Protestant communes (villages, towns, townships, cities); Cantal with 17 Protestant communes; Haute-Loire with 13 Protestant communes and Puy-de-Dôme with 11 Protestant communes. – Sources: Wikipedia & Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 at the Archives nationales de France, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Limousin

A former region of southwest-central France, Limoges was the regional capital prior to the French Revolution. Then, Limousin was divided into three modern-day départements: Corrèze with four Protestant communes; Creuse with six Protestant communes (a portion) and Haute-Vienne with 22 Protestant communes. – Sources: Wikipedia & Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 at the Archives nationales de France, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Lyonnais

A former province of France in the south-east of France, this territory includes most of the greater region of the city of Lyon. Following the French Revolution, Lyonnais became the modern-day département of Rhône with six Protestant communes.  – Sources: Wikipedia & Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 at the Archives nationales de France, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Marche

This former province in south-central France had Guéret as its capital prior to 1789. Post revolution, Marche became the modern-day département of Creuse with six Protestant communes. Sources: Wikipedia & Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 at the -Archives nationales de France, Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Here is the link to a 39-page research guide to the Protestants of this area: Protestants of Auvergne, Lyonnais, Marche

This is the last of a series of research guides to the Protestants of France of the 16th and 17th centuries. These regional guides were posted by Jacques Gagné between January and June, 2020. Most of the people who immigrated to New France were from the country’s north-west region, including Normandy. The majority of those who came to New France were Catholic, but some were Protestant. The research guide to this area can be accessed here : https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/03/02/the-protestants-of-anjou-beauce-bretagne-maine-normandie-perche-poitou-touraine-of-the-16th-and-17th-centuries/

Here are some resources to help you research Protestant ancestors in France:

How to Search for Huguenot Ancestors in France, May 20, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/20/how-to-search-for-huguenot-ancestors-in-france/

Huguenot Family Lineage Searches, June 3, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/06/03/huguenot-family-lineage-searches/

Researching Your French Ancestors Online, May 13, 2018, (the attached updated PDF describes how to research in the Archives départementales de France, the country’s 95 regional archives)  https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/05/13/researching-your-french-ancestors-online/

The National Archives of France, Jan. 27, 2019, https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/01/27/the-national-archives-of-france/

BNF Gallica (Bibliothèque nationale de France), Dec. 16, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/12/16/bnf-gallica/

Finding Ancestors in French Municipal Archives, Sept. 23, 2018, https://genealogyensemble.com/2018/09/23/finding-ancestors-in-french-municipal-archives/

 

Living outside city walls

Settlers have long been attracted to Saint Roch, a neighbourhood on the banks of the St. Charles River next to the cliff leading up to Quebec’s walled Upper Town.

My great great great grandparents—Joseph Gabriel Arial Robert Content and Judith/Julie Belleau-dit-LaRose —both grew up in the neighbourhood. They knew it as the Saint Roch parish, which was officially founded in 1829. By then, the swampy neighbourhood housed 20 different shipyards and most of Quebec’s French-speaking families.

The neighbourhood began in 1620 as a small religious community set up by French missionaries known as the Recollets. They built a chapel in 1620. That chapel has long since gone, as were those built in 1811, 1816 and 1841.1 A stone church built in 1923 now sits on the same site as all the others at 160, rue Saint Josephe Est. For some great photos of the area and a discussion in French about all the different churches on the site, refer to Jérôme Ouellet’s 2014 blog post.

Joseph and Judith got married in the 1816 version of the church on September 4, 1832.2 Her parents Joseph Belleau and Marie-Anne Ratté married in a predecessor on November 5, 1808.3

I don’t know exactly where in Quebec Joseph lived prior to their marriage, but his dad Jean Baptiste worked as a day labourer.4

Judith’s family lived at 28 Saint Vallier. Her dad Joseph Bélau (Belleau) worked as a baker.5

Just down from the Bélau home sat an opulent stone house built by businessman Henry Hiché. He built his mansion on the foundations of a farmhouse originally built by Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye in 1679. The building later became known as the “White House” due to a covering of white plaster.

Most of the neighbourhood, including the White House, burned down in the Great Saint-Roche Fire of 1845. A total of 1,200 houses burned down, leaving 12,000 people homeless that year. Another smaller fire swept through in 1866.

You can still see the third rendition of the home built by Scottish immigrant William Grant on the original vaulted cellars of the previous home at 870 Saint-Vallier East. The stone house gives you a rough idea of the beginnings of the neighbourhood built outside of Quebec City’s walls.

Joseph Belleau appears again in the 1851 Canada East agricultural census in St. Roche, Quebec on line 24.6 Joseph and Judith/Julie don’t appear on the 1851 census, but they and their eight children (one of whom was my direct ancestor “Pete”) appear on the census 10 years later, still living in St. Roche.7

If my grandmother’s notes are accurate, Joseph moved to Manitoba sometime after that. He died in St. Boniface on November 4, 1880.8

At some point, I hope to go on a walking tour of the area and reconnect to the neighbourhood that housed my ancestors 200 years ago.

-30-

To read more about Joseph and Julie’s son Pete and see a photo of him and his children, refer to Original Arial Family of Western Canada

2 Mariage certificate #3816438, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

3 Mariage certificate #2337256, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

4 Mariage certificate #3816438, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

5 Archives de la paroisse de Notre-Dame-de-Québec, CM1/F1, 3, vol. 4, p. 36. Visite générale de la paroisse de Québec commencée le 1er octobre 1805, p 36.

6 Census of 1851 (Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), Item Numbers: 93934, and 93935.

7 Census of 1861 (Canada East, Canada West, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) for Image No.: 4108628_01187, Item Number 2159833.

8 Handwritten notes from my grandmother.

The Protestants of Agenais – Angoumois – Aquitaine – Béarn – Gascogne – Guyenne – Limousin

This area of Southern France has a long and complex history which makes things difficult for genealogists.

Its regions, Aquitaine, Gascogne, Guyenne and Basse-Guyenne, go back to the 13th century and, even before the era of knights and noblemen, the territory was in constant flux, and borders and place names often changed.

For this reason, North American family lineage researchers, not schooled in the fine points of French history, may have a hard time looking up ancestors, Protestant or Catholic, who lived in this region prior to 1790.  Here is some information that might help.

Here is the link to the 50-page PDF research guide to Protestants in this area: Protestants of Agenais-1  Almost all of these resources are in French. For translation help, try Google Translate or www.deepL.com.

Agenais

Agenais is an ancient region of the provinces of Gascogne and Guyenne. Its capital was the city of Agen and consists today of the département of Lot-et-Garonne and a portion of the départements of Tarn-et-Garonne and Gironde. From 1530, Protestant temples were built in 78 cities, towns, townships and villages of Lot-et-Garonne. The exact location of these temples from 1565 to 1721 is listed on the first four pages of the Genealogy Ensemble research guide https://genealogyensemble.files.wordpress.com/2018/05/huguenot-families-in-france-1565-1721.pdf  See also Gironde – Listings of Protestant communes (villages, towns, townships, cities) obtained from the files of Archives des Consistoires 1317-1446 & 1520-1740 #TT-230-276B stored at the Archives nationales de France at Pierrefitte-sur-Seine,  a suburb of Paris.

Angoumois

Today ancient Angoumois consists of the département de la Charente and a small portion of the Haute-Vienne. Its capital city is Angoulême. Protestantism in Angoumois took root in 1533 in Angoulême, La Roche-Foucault-en-Angoulême, Royan. Sources; Wikipedia and Musée protestant

Aquitaine

Ancient Aquitaine, with Bordeaux as the capital, is comprised today of Dordogne, Gironde, Landes, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques.  Protestantism was present in all or part of 262 communes (villages, towns, townships, cities) from about 1530. Information obtained from the files of the Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT-230-276B stored at the Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris.)

Béarn

Béarn had Orthez as its capital from 1242 to 1464 and Pau from 1464 on. Today’s département of Pyrénées-Atlantiques covers the same territory.  Protestants were present in the city of Lescar in 1549 and in 52 other cities, towns, townships and villages (communes.) Source: Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT-230-276B stored at the Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Gascogne

The ancient province of Gascogne had two capitals, Auch and Saint-Sever. Today it is covered by the départements of Gers, Landes, Hautes-Pyrénées and a part of Ariège, Gironde, Haute-Garonne, Lot-et-Garonne, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, Tarn-et-Garonne. Protestantism took root in the Gascogne in 1559. There were 61 Protestant communes (villages, towns, townships, cities) existing within two modern-day départements, Gironde and Landes. Source: Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT-230-276B stored at the Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Basse-Guyenne

Around 1660, the Protestant population of the Basse-Guyenne stood at 97,000 réformés (members of the Reform Church of France,) with 72 temples within the cities of Bordeaux, Sainte-Foy, Bergerac, Clairac, Nérac. Source: Musée protestant

Guyenne

Bordeaux was the capital of this ancient region prior to 1790. Today’s départements of Aveyron, Dordogne, Gironde, and Lot cover the same territory. Protestantism was established in the Vallée de la Dordogne in 1626. The cities where Protestantism had an impact were Bordeaux, Coutras, Nérac, Saint-Affrique, Saint-Antonin-Noble-Val. Sources: Musée protestant, Wikipedia, Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT230-276B – Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris)

Limousin

The city of Limoges was once the capital of the ancient territory of Limousin. Today Limousin is comprised of the départements of Corrèze, Creuse, and Haute-Vienne. Protestantism first appeared here around 1520 in the cities of Limoges, Villefavard, Madranges, La Souteraine, Confolens, Uzerches, Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne, Argentat, Turenne. Sources: Musée protestant and Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT 230-276B – Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris.)

Périgord

Périgord is an ancient county with Périgueux as its former capital, while Bergerac and Sarlat-la-Canéda are its principal cities.

The centre of Protestantism in Périgord was Bergerac. Modern-day Périgord is Dordogne. This area was home to 79 Protestant communes (villages, towns, townships, cities.) Source: Archives des consistoires 1317-1446 – 1520-1740 #TT230-276B – Archives nationales de France – Pierrefitte-sur-Seine (Paris.)

The Family Genealogist

 

letterpic

The truth is, family genealogists haven’t changed that much over the years. They are still the one in the family with time on their hands and the fierce determination to stick with it through all the brick walls and misinformation and family myth muddles. They still wonder, when all is said and done, if anyone in the future will value their hard work.

Well, I think future generations will care and something happened to me lately to prove it:

The evidence comes in the form of a letter dated only March 3rd, but I know it must be from the 1970’s. It is from a certain Isabel to a Muriel. The type-written missive appears to be the last in a series on the subject of creating a family tree– and, without ceremony, after the “Dear Muriel” salutation, the letter gets right to the point.

“I have found two omissions, Jean Pepler, how could I miss her? and Jean McLeah. I have made Jean Pepler 84a as I found it after I had put in the numbers.”

Jean Pepler is my husband’s great grandmother’s niece. I know this from a family tree I once had on hand, the McLeod Family Tree, and more particularly from about 300 family letters from the 1908-1913 period, letters I long ago transcribed and published in an online book, A FAMILY IN CRISIS.

But, until recently, when I received this 50 year old note, I did not know anything about Isabel or Muriel

Isabel, the genealogist of the letter, discovers another error. “I just found another error in these family notes. The Millers have two daughters. I forgot Annie…I’ll have to correct it before I send it.”

Yes, like all genealogists, past and present, Isabel has poured a lot of energy into her family project and after she’s typed out the family tree, just when she thinks she’s finished, she finds some errors!

Not wanting to retype the whole tree chart, Isabel merely creates an in-between number for Jean Pepler, an esteemed Quebec educator, to use on the summary list at the of her document.

This wonderful letter was sent to me by my husband’s cousin, Debbi who still lives in Quebec. We didn’t know about Debbi either, not before then.

You see, when my husband got his DNA done a few years ago on Ancestry, he immediately discovered two first cousins (whom he knew very well) and a third cousin, Jean, he didn’t know at all.

He assumed this person was a third cousin because he shared 60 centimorgans of DNA with her, the average amount for third cousins. I contacted the woman to confirm the exact relationship.

My husband and Jean were second cousins once removed, related through my husband’s two times great grandparents John McLeod and Sara Maclean of Uig Carnish, Isle of Lewis Scotland. My husband’s great grandmother, Margaret Nicholson and Jean’s grandmother, Isabella Hill, were sisters living around the corner from each other in Richmond, Quebec in early 1900.

mcleod

John McLeod of Uig Carnish Isle of Lewis, Scotland (Crayon Drawing) and his wife Sarah McLean McLeod, tintype.

These days, due to the Coronavirus, Jean is hunkering down with her daughter, Debbi, and they are passing the time exploring genealogy. Debbi saw my years old note on Ancestry.

“ I’m the one who is most interested in family,” Debbi wrote me. “Can you tell me more?”

So, I sent Debbi my compilation of Nicholson Family Letters that contain numerous mentions of Clayton and Isabella Hill. Clayton was a prosperous stone mason in Richmond who lived in a big house on ritzy College Street. Their son, Stanley, is Jean’s father. Their daughter Isabel (Hill Knott) is Jean’s aunt and Muriel (the letter’s recipient) is Jean’s mother, Stanley’s wife.

Isabel and Muriel were sisters-in-law.

Floraa

Flora Nicholson (1895-1978) my husband’s great aunt, with Stanley Hill and future family genealogist Isabel Hill Knott circa 1906

“Were there any other siblings in the McLeod Richmond family?” Debbi enquired of me. “ I’ve heard of Dan and Flora. Maybe a Mary-Jane, too?”

“I think I remember Mary-Jane from the letters, “ I replied. “ There was also a Christie in Illinois and a Sarah in Sarnia. But, I can’t remember any other siblings.”

I then explained to her that I once in my possession a McLeod family genealogy, neatly tied with shoelaces in a sturdy flip-board cover, but I’ve since misplaced it. Sad!

But, only a few days later, checking out some stored data on some random memory sticks, I stumbled upon some gifs of that same McLeod genealogy. (And, yes, we had missed some siblings!)

I emailed the gifs off to Debbi and that’s when she emailed me back a scan of her Great Aunt Isabel’s March 3rd letter from the 1970’s.

“As you can see, it’s the same genealogy. Jean Pepler is there at 84a!” Debbi wrote in the email.

What a serendipitous string of events had to unfold to marry these two documents, once again, almost half a century later!

 

peppler

Isabel’s Pepler page with new info added by a relation.

Today, with electronic communications, genealogists have so many tools at their disposal it is simply dizzying. Isabel’s letter reminds us that in the good old days it could take years and years of correspondence by mail or telephone to build a family tree – and typing it out before the age of White Out and word processors was an especially arduous task.

Isabel did, indeed, take a long, long time researching the tree:

“You should see my desk in the kitchen. At least now I can clean it up, getting rid of all the bits of notes I have gathered over the years.”

Isabel says that she spent three weeks at her kitchen table to type out the seven page genealogy.

“As this is all I have done for the past three weeks, I have no news….This has been hard work and has taken a lot of time but that is something I have plenty of.”

Isabel wasn’t sure, in the end, if she had done a good enough job:

“I find it hard to put in any notes for the younger members. There lives are still in the process of developing, but they can fill in what they find important. There might be even more births.”

And like many genealogists, then and now, she wondered if it was all worth the effort.

“What a job! Probably nobody will be interested because we have to accept that the world has changed.”

Well, it was worth the time and effort, Isabel, I can tell you that. Fifty years later many of us still do care. So, thank you for all the hard work you put into piecing together your (well, our) family tree.

 

 

 

 

Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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