Sugarplum Tree

As Christmas fast approaches it stirs memories of my childhood holidays. The pungent smell of the balsam fir ready to be decorated, Christmas carols playing in the background, especially Joan Baez, the bright paper and ribbons waiting to wrap presents and the kitchen noises as my mother prepared all the holiday foods, including our favourites, the sweets. My mother baked all year round so we always had dessert but Christmas meant special treats.

November found my mother chopping dried fruits and nuts and mixing them in a big enameled wash pan, also used to bathe babies and soak feet. The fruit cake had to be started early so that after baking it could be wrapped in cheesecloth and regularly doused it in brandy. We liked fruit cake but we liked other things more.

Next came the shortbread cookies. I am not sure how much she enlarged the recipe because we seemed to have a mountain of cookies. While I make a log and cut slices or balls that I roll and flatten with a fork, my mother would roll out the dough and cut Christmas shapes. Stars, bells, candy canes and holly leaves all decorated with red and green cherries and silver balls would appear. Layers of cookies, laid between sheets of wax paper, filled a large canning pot put on the top shelf of the pantry to keep the cookies away from little hands. Luckily, with a step stool and a good reach, cookies could be extracted and enjoyed in ones own little space. Of course, many still remained for Christmas.

Cherry Bonbons made by my brother

We loved the Cherry Bonbons, a candied cherry covered in cookie dough, rolled into a ball and coated with pink icing. Then the Gumdrop Squares, a chewy and spicy cake fill with chopped gumdrops and nuts topped with white icing and more gumdrops filled another tin. Another favourite, Cornflakes Meringue cookies with chocolate chips and a cherry on top quickly disappeared. Lastly, the Christmas pudding, steamed on the stove ready to be served with hard sauce. Never my favourite!

The day before Christmas was the time to make the Sugarplum Tree. I am not sure when my mother started making this treat. She rarely baked with yeast. The recipe had been cut out of a magazine and stuck into her book, spotted with years of flour and greasy fingers. The dough, filled with raisins and citron raised in a warm corner, rolled into a rectangle, spread with sugar and cinnamon, the corners folded in and cuts made on the sides to form branches magically appeared. She iced it, added more gumdrops for decorations including one flattened yellow gumdrop cut to form a star. All done ready for Christmas.

Mom’s Recipe Book

In our house, when we woke up Christmas morning, we didn’t hurry downstairs in our pajamas. We had to brush our teeth, get dressed, make our beds and then sit on the stairs waiting until everyone was ready. My father would go down and light the tree and then we rushed to see if Santa had come. We could play with our Santa Claus present while my mother made breakfast. Along with the Sugarplum bun we had half grapefruits with crushed pineapple, red and green cherries in the center and Santa mugs for our milk. Some people would even eat cereal!

My sisters continued the tradition of making sugarplum trees. My older sister had Christmases at her home after she married so she has made many buns. My younger sister began her own tradition after my mother stopped visiting her and making the bun at Christmas.

I never made the treat until the Christmas after my mother died. I had her recipe book with the original magazine recipe, so in her memory, I made the bun. Not quite like hers, as I used ginger, no gumdrops and a cream cheese icing. Still, the delicious sweetness evoked fond memories and so I will make it again this year. I did and a few pieces are still in the freezer!

Catholic Parish REgisters of Paris and Ile de France

Map of Paris and Ile de France

Below are excerpts from the attached database:

“Catholic baptism records began in many regions of France in 1539, some regions a few years later. Marriage documents five years later. Death about ten years after marriage dossiers. In a few Catholic parishes, acts of baptisms have survived dating back to1334 and 1357 within the region of Saône-et-Loire.”

“Subsequently, both Parish Registers from about 1539 to 1793 (Registres paroissiaux) and Civil Registers from 1793 onward (Registres de l’état civil) were the responsibility of the newly created départements. In 2020, 95 such départements. A département is a mini state or mini province.”

Click her to access the database:

Catholic Parish Registers of Paris and Ile de France

Val-des-Sources

logo

In 1945 our family moved to Asbestos, Quebec. Dad, a mining engineer was hired to design and oversee the construction of a shaft. The company was planning to mine underground.

My older sister, Ruth had to learn French and the same for brothers John and Karl. For them it was a difficult transition. My younger brother, Paul and I, were young enough that we learned the language easily and took it in stride.

As children we used to play Tic-Tac-Toe on the cars parked near the Main Office which was not far from our home. In those days, all the cars were black! It was like having our own little blackboards.

Our home was also extremely close, perhaps 500 yards from the open pit. Our house would shake when they blasted several times daily. Sirens could be heard all over town at blasting time. It did not take us long to get accustomed to them. When the Second World War ended it seemed like the sirens were never going to stop. That is one of my first memories of living in Asbestos.

Jeffrey Mine Open Pit ceased operations in 2012 Photograph by Claire Lindell

During the past year I have written and published these stories about my hometown, Asbestos.

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/09/04/a-turning-point-in-quebec-history/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2019/11/06/a-time-of-prosperity/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/01/15/the-future-of-asbestos/

Recently the town of Asbestos entered a new era. Over the years there has been a constant demand to change the name of the town. “Asbestos’ is a known carcinogen that causes various lung diseases. Businesses, particularly English companies, did not wish to be associated with name ‘asbestos’, while in the French language the product asbestos fibre is referred to as ‘amiante’ and does not create a similar problem. However, the citizens of the town were aiming at creating a new direction for their community.

Several names were suggested: “to vote in a ranked-choice referendum among six options: L’Azur-des-Cantons, Jeffrey-sur-le-Lac, Larochelle, Phénix, Trois-Lacs and Val-des-Sources. Val-des-Sources won 51.5 per cent on the vote”.1. in recognition of the Nicolet River and Three Lakes nearby that had already been incorporated with the town.

One of the choices was Jeffrey which would have been my choice. The open pit was named Jeffrey Mine. It helped make Canada one the world’s leaders in asbestos exports. The Jeffrey mine, once Canada’s largest, closed in 2012.2’

The Provincial Government, Toponyme committee and the Municipal Affairs and Housing accepted the new name in December 2020.

Having spent so many years living there, in my heart of hearts, it will always be Asbestos. Most of the places I frequented while growing up are no longer there. The church where I was confirmed, the elementary school, the commercial district, our house, all have disappeared.

Much of the town as I knew it has been absorbed by the pit. However, the golf course is far enough away and there will not be anymore changes to the pit except for those who will be able to enjoy slacklining.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is picture2.jpg
Slacklining over Jeffrey Mine

Note:

Slacklining refers to the act of walking, running or balancing along a suspended length of flat webbing that is tensioned between two anchors. Slacklining is similar to slack rope walking and tightrope walking. Slacklines differ from tightwires and tightropes in the type of material used and the amount of tension applied during use. Slacklines are tensioned significantly less than tightropes or tightwires in order to create a dynamic line which will stretch and bounce like a long and narrow trampoline. Wikipedia.

Sources:

1. https://montrealgazette.com/news/quebec/town-of-asbestos-chooses-new-name-val-des-sources

2. https://www.nationalobserver.com/2020/10/20/news/quebec-town-abestos-changes-name-val-des-sources-after-vote

https://montreal.ctvnews.ca/town-of-asbestos-officially-renamed-to-val-des-sources-1.5235546

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Val-des-Sources

Catholic Parish Registers in Normandy (France) of the 17th & 18th Centuries

Catholic Parish Registers in Normandy, France of the 17th and 18th centuries.

For genealogists researching Catholic ancestors in Normandy, France, it is useful to understand some French history, pre and post Revolution, in order to navigate modern French bureaucracy.

It also helps to know French.

Whether you do or do not speak the French language, here is Jacques Gagne’s list -in English- of the best free online research tools with some helpful historical – and technical – background.

Click below to access the database:

Catholic Parish Registers of Normandy – 17th & 18th centuries

Leaving school at 15 Years Old

Leaving school at 15 was the normal thing to do in 1960’s England.  Unless, at 11 years of age, you passed the ’11+ exam’ and went to a High School or a Technical college, which you attended until you were 16, and then university was offered.

 I can remember the day I took that 11+ exam. in 1956. All these kids, strangers to each other, crammed into a large Church hall from early morning to late afternoon. When we wanted to go to the toilet, a teacher accompanied us. I can recall, picking my way through stones, bricks and rubble, to get to the outside ‘loo’  debris that was still leftover from the war years. England was slow in some areas to re-build, bomb sites were still our favoured playgrounds, and besides, more important buildings were needed, such as homes.

I obviously did not pass the 11+  and now I feel that was probably due to a rather turbulent childhood.  Mum and Dad, although divorced when I was seven, got back together again. However, when I was 11 she met my stepfather and decided to marry him, so once again, we left my father. Nobody explained anything to you in those days and all this was happening whilst I was supposed to be taking a day-long exam – at 11 years old – to determine my future!

However, I did quite well at school usually coming in the first top 10 out of classes of 33 or more. I was 15 years old in November 1960 and still wearing white ankle socks when I left school! That last Friday that our class of 15-year-olds were to leave we had cakes and lemonade in the Church hall and that was that. Goodbye, now go and find a job!

This rather battered piece of paper from the headmaster stuck together with tape, served as a ‘Reference’ whilst searching for a job. The Headmaster could not even spell my first name correctly!

“To whom it may concern Marion (Spelt wrong!) Bulford has been a pupil at this school for the past four years. She is a girl of good average ability, possessed of a quiet and pleasant personality, always polite and extremely well behaved and exceptionally willing and helpful. She can be given some measure of responsibility and is at present doing good work as a House Captain. She has taken part in all normal school activities, and her attendance throughout has been very regular and punctual. Signed George H. Smart, Headmaster.

After Christmas, in January 1961, I went looking for a job. I went into Plymouth ‘town’ as we called it and went into every shop I could see to ask if they needed any help.

One shop asked me to return for an interview. They offered me the job, and so, I started in a shop called ‘The Remnant Shop’  which had bolts of leftover materials, buttons, ribbons all the accoutrements for making your own clothing and for some strange reason, christening frocks for babies.

I worked in their upstairs office with only the boss and me, separated by a curtain. I did the opening of mail, typing, filing, and posting customers’ orders.  In those days, customers would send a letter with money in them, and a request for material. I would go to the shop floor, measure and cut the material, parcel it up and take it to the post office.

One day, after the ‘junior’ on the shop floor left, the supervisor told me, that the junior had left, and so now, I was the junior and I would have to clean the toilets on the main shop floor.

I was horrified! I might be a lowly shop girl, but there was NO WAY I was going to clean toilets. I told the supervisor this, who told the ‘boss’. I had to go and see him.

He told me, that Beryl, the supervisor, had said it was not the first time I had refused to do a job. That was a lie. This was my first job and I was very unlikely to refuse anything asked of me. I told him in no uncertain terms, that Beryl was a liar and I did all I was ever asked to do, but I did not want to clean the toilets.

He responded ‘Either you clean the toilets or leave’

I said, “No, I will not clean toilets, but I will give a weeks notice’

‘No, he said you can leave now’. So I did

. I got my coat and bag, and head high, walked down the stairs from his office, out through the shop floor and away into the crowds of shoppers to the bus stop to go home. I did not know what else to do. I think I was in shock! I had actually refused to do something an adult had told me to do… I was normally such a good little girl!

When I arrived home,  I fell into my Mums’ arms sobbing that ‘I have been sacked’ (The shame of it all!) I was convinced that I would NEVER get another job after being sacked. That day was the worst day of my life. My Mum did not seem as upset as I was and told me it would be alright and not to worry.

Usually, my Mum was not one to fuss over you or listen to your tales of woe, but that day she made me a cup of ‘milky coffee’ a treat for us, known nowadays as a Café au lait and I sat in the sitting room, relaxed and enjoyed the coffee. I was so upset at the time, but looking back, I think now, ‘Good for me”!!

My Dad went into the shop a few days later and demanded that I get paid for the days worked otherwise, I don’t think the shop would have sent me my pay. 

So, thanks to my Dad, this is the letter I received

The “National Insurance Card” mentioned was a card that was carried with you, to each job and stamped every week you worked.

However, the drama of it all subsided and I continued my evening classes where I was taking English grammar,  typing and shorthand. I rather liked the office work. I continued to look for a job and got one within a few days, so crisis over. This one was in a shoe shop. And so it continued for a few years, nothing but dead-end jobs that went nowhere.

However, once I reached the age of 18, I decided to join the WRAF – Women’s Royal Air Force –  I was accepted and life took on a far different life for me. It turned out to be the best thing I ever did!

You can read my four-part adventures in the WRAF, here:

  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/

4. https://genealogyensemble.com/2020/07/01/dear-miss-bulford-part-four/

Notes

In the 1944 Education Act, schooling in the United Kingdom was rearranged so that children would be entitled to free education between the ages of 5 and 15. So children aged 5-11 would attend a primary school, and children aged 11-15 would attend a Secondary school. At this time there were three types of Secondary schools – Grammar Schools, Secondary Modern Schools and Technical Schools or Colleges.

Each school was designed to fit in with the child’s capabilities, so a grammar school would suit those who were academic and wanted to go onto university, whilst a Technical School suited those who wished to pursue a trade, with a Secondary Modern fitting somewhere in between.

All children took the 11 Plus exam in their final year of primary school and based on their performance in this exam, they would then go onto one of these three types of secondary school.  The 11+ exam in use from 1944 until it had been phased out across most of the UK by 1976.

http://www.the11pluswebsite.co.uk/history-of-the-11/

Little Bits of Brown

According to the Hudson Bay Company biographical records, in May of 1829 an un-named “Indian woman” married George Robertson. In the 1827 census George is reported to be the father of seven children born before his marriage.  

George Robertson was my son’s fourth great grandfather on his father’s side.

In May of 1791, George Robertson entered the service of The Hudson Bay Company and sailed from Stromness in the Orkney Islands to York Factory on Hudson Bay. He was 19 years old when he began work there as a labourer. An HBC contract was for one year but George renewed his contract year after year, moving on as a canoe man, a bowman and a steersman. His death is recorded as being in St. Andrew’s, Scotland in January 1855 at age 84.

White women were not allowed into Hudson Bay Company territories so many HBC employees turned to indigenous woman or “little bits of brown” for physical comfort and the survival skills necessary for life in the harsh north. Some would eventually marry a “country wife”. When George retired to Scotland sometime after 1835, he abandoned his Metis family to what is now northern Canada.

The 1811 the Canadian census records Catherine Robertson, a daughter of George Robertson and the widow of Robert Beads, (another HBC employee from the Orkneys), as living with her daughters Elizabeth and Caroline in the Atikamekw native reserve of Manawan inland from James Bay on the upper St. Maurice River. Catherine described herself as Scottish, not Atikamekan.

In the summer of 2020, almost three hundred years after the Hudson Bay Company began trading for beaver pelts on Hudson Bay and referring to Indigenous women as “little bits of brown”, Joyce Echaquan, a 37-year-old Atikamekw woman from Manawan live-streamed the moments before her death in a Joliette hospital. Health care workers were seen and heard taunting her with racial insults.

So much had been tried during the intervening years to “beat the Indian out” of the indigenous peoples of Canada. Indigenous children were pulled from their families and sent to residential schools where they were beaten for using their mother tongue or following their traditional practices. Many never went home again. Their descendants still suffer from the trauma they experienced.

The “Sixties Scoop”, a series of government policies beginning in the mid1950’s and continuing well into the 1980’s, allowed for indigenous children to be taken from their families, fostered and eventually adopted by white families across Canada and the United States. These children lost their birth names, their languages and any connection to their heritage. 

Today there is a long list of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls across all provinces whose cases have not been solved. These “little bits of brown” appear to be unworthy of a full investigation.

Back in1852, Caroline Beads, Catherine Robertson’s daughter, married French Canadian Joseph Mercier, a riverman working the St. Maurice River. Caroline’s daughter Mary died in childbirth leaving two older children, Flora and Lily. Immediately afterwards, the girls were abandoned by their father Ligouri Tremblay to be raised in La Tuque by a spinster aunt.

At that time, La Tugue had a large but socially, economically and politically marginalized indigenous and Metis population. Flora Tremblay, my mother-in-law, married Lawrence Tarrant, a World War I veteran from the Eastern Townships. She was accepted into La Tuque’s mainstream society because Larry had a management position at the local pulp and paper mill. She learned to hold her head high above the whispers behind her back about her native background. To this day her own daughter will not speak of it. 

Yet I am determined not to despair for these indigenous women, past, present and future. There is hope in 2020.  In 2016, under Prime Minister Trudeau, the Canadian government established the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls. Many cases have been solved and the root causes of what is referred to as a overall genocide have been identified. Address has begun through actions based on the Truth and Reconciliation Recommendations.

The summer of 2020 saw thousands and thousands of Canadian and Americans and others nationalities around the globe march in the Back Lives Matter movement – black lives and brown lives, indigenous and multiracial lives – following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis. White lives are not the only lives that matter any more.

The most meaningful evidence for me, however, was the election of Kamala Harris as vice president of the United States. Kamala is multiracial, Indian and Jamaican. She represents so many women in North America, my own grandchildren included. Eleven-year-old Evelyn and seven-year-old Marisa have a Japanese mother and a Caucasian father and, tucked inside that heritage, a little Northern Quebec indigenous. Finally, they can see themselves in a political leader, a leader who can, and will, lead to significant change in how the “little bits of brown” women are viewed.

Brown Girl, Brown Girl

What do you see?

I see a Vice President

That looks likes me.

(Leslie Honore)

Sources:

Family conversations

Newman, Peter C., Company of Adventurers: How the Hudson’s Bay Empire Determined.  the Destiny of a Continent. Penguin Canada, 1986.

George Robertson, Biographical Sheet, www.govv.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/biograhical/index.html.

Various newspaper, television and digital articles

Hogmanay

Imagine Christmas being cancelled? As we all face lockdown restrictions, we can easily imagine how the Scots felt in 1580 when John Knox banned the celebration of Christmas.

Except that his ban lasted 400 years.

Knox led the Presbyterian movement during the Reformation when Scotland officially split from the Roman Catholic Church. He saw Christmas as a Roman Catholic celebration and wanted none of it. Parliament backed him. In 1640, an Act of the Parliament of Scotland abolished the “Yule vacation and observation thereof in time coming.”1 Christmas Day only became a public holiday in 1958. It took almost two decades more to get Boxing Day, which happened in 1974.2

The celebration of Hogmanay, or the coming of the new year, took on a greater significance.

There are a few theories about the origin of the word Hogmanay.  The Scandinavian word for the feast preceding Yule was Hoggonott. The Flemish words hoog min dag mean great love day. Some believe that the origin of the word Hogmanay can be traced back to the Anglo-Saxon Haleg monath or Holy Month or the Gaelic words for new morning, oge maidne. Many believe that the source is French, homme est né for man is born. In France, the last day of the year when gifts were exchanged, was called aguillaneuf and in Normandy, this was called hoguignetes.3

 My father, Edward McHugh, was usually the “first-footer.” He stepped across the threshold after midnight, bearing gifts.  Traditionally, to ensure good luck, the first-footer is a tall and dark-haired male.  No one wanted to welcome a fair-haired first-footer, as they were associated with the Viking invasions.4 My father brought gifts of coal and a herring, but some of the other traditional gifts include shortbread, a black bun, and whiskey to toast the new year.5

My Scots grandmother also traditionally cleaned her home from top to bottom, literally sweeping out the old. And if anyone in the family had any outstanding debts, they had to be paid by midnight.

Saining is the practice of blessing your house and livestock for the New Year. Anyone can bless their house, as long as they use magical water from a river that has been crossed by both the living and dead. And you will have to find some juniper bushes to burn throughout your house.6

At Hogmanay parties hundreds of years ago, bonfires would be lighted and tar barrels would be rolled downhill. These fire ceremonies represented rebirth and new beginnings. Sometimes animal hides were wrapped around sticks and lit on fire. It was thought that the smoke would ward off evil spirits. 7

Every year Edinburgh hosts its Torchlight Procession to recreate the fire ceremonies. This year, it will be on-line so we can all enjoy the celebrations.8

Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession, 20189

Of course, it would not be a party without ceiladh dancing in Scotland. The word ceilidh means simply ‘gathering’ or ‘party.’ So essentially, it is a gathering that features music and dancing. 10

Ceiladh dancing at Edinburgh Torchlight Procession 11

The partying and hospitality that goes on at Hogmanay is a way of wishing family, friends, and strangers a Guid New Year

I wish you all a very Guid New Year.

  1. Scot Clans website, A History of Christmas in Scotland,  December 17, 2013, https://www.scotclans.com/a-history-of-christmas-in-scotland/ttp://www.scotland.org/features/hogmanay-top-facts, accessed December 21, 2020.
  2. Ibid.
  3.  Rampants Scotland website, Did you know? New Year’s Eve – Hogmanay, http://www.rampantscotland.com/know/blknow12.htm, accessed December 21, 2020.
  4. https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/explore/view/a-guide-to-hogmanay-traditions, accessed December 21, 2020.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay web site, A Guide to Hogmanay Traditions, https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/whats-on/edinburghs-hogmanay-goes-online-and-on-screens-for-2020, accessed December 21, 2020.
  9. BBC News, Edinburgh’s Torchlight Procession Recreates Scotland’s Map, Brown, Angie, December 31, 2018, https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-scotland-edinburgh-east-fife-46721188, accessed December 21, 2020.
  10. Edinburgh’s Hogmanay web site, A Guide to Hogmanay Traditions, https://www.edinburghshogmanay.com/explore/view/a-guide-to-hogmanay-traditions, accessed December 20, 2020
  11. Ibid.

Oral History in Quebec

 

These institutions are highly active in the field or Oral History :

  • Concordia University,
  • Dawson College,
  • UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal),
  • Centre d’histoire de Montréal,
  • Université de Sherbrooke,
  • UQAC( Université du Québec à Chicoutimi),
  • UQAR (Université du Québec à Rimouski.

In full partnership and cooperarion, BAnQ with all of the groups and above educational institutions listed have agreed to post online at BAnQ Numérique, as dossiers at BAnQ Advitam, as documents or books at BAnQ Catalogue, and papers penned by professors, authors, historians, university students, college students in both the English and French languages, all addressing: Oral Interviews.

the following is what can be found at BAnQ addressing Oral History.

  • BAnQ Numérique– Oral History – Histoire orale – Three online databases : 48,765 online dossiers / 13,117 online dossiers / 10,247 online dossiers.
  • BAnQ Catalogue – Oral History – Histoire orale – Three databases (some of the items can be
  • BAnQ Advitam – Oral History – Histoire orale – One database with 1,161 dossiers

Click below to access database:

Oral Archives Québec

Oral History in Quebec

These institutions are highly active in the field or Oral History :

  • Concordia University,
  • Dawson College,
  • UQAM (Université du Québec à Montréal),
  • Centre d’histoire de Montréal,
  • Université de Sherbrooke,
  • UQAC( Université du Québec à Chicoutimi),
  • UQAR (Université du Québec à Rimouski.

In full partnership and cooperarion, BAnQ with all of the groups and above educational institutions listed have agreed to post online at BAnQ Numérique, as dossiers at BAnQ Advitam, as documents or books at BAnQ Catalogue, and papers penned by professors, authors, historians, university students, college students in both the English and French languages, all addressing: Oral Interviews.

the following is what can be found at BAnQ addressing Oral History.

  • BAnQ Numérique– Oral History – Histoire orale – Three online databases : 48,765 online dossiers / 13,117 online dossiers / 10,247 online dossiers.
  • BAnQ Catalogue – Oral History – Histoire orale – Three databases (some of the items can be
  • BAnQ Advitam – Oral History – Histoire orale – One database with 1,161 dossiers

Click here to access the database:

Oral Archives Québec

Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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