Amy Eagle “Auntie”

Minnie and Amy Eagle 1885

Amy Eagle, my grandmother Minnie’s sister never married and lived at 69 Seaton Street, Toronto for most of her life. During one visit to Montreal in the 1950s, to celebrate birthdays, her house was robbed. She blamed her sister, accused her of orchestrating it and never traveled again.

Amy was the introvert to Minnie’s extrovert. They were close in age, with Amy born in March 1882 and Minnie in November 1883. They did most things together with Amy following Minnie’s lead. Both worked for Ryrie Brothers Jewellers. Minnie worked on jewelry repair and construction with their Uncle, Jim Bailey, while Amy worked in bookkeeping. They often went out with friends but they were mostly Minnie’s friends.

Amy Eagle

Singing was the love of Amy’s life. She sang in the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir and the Canadian National Exhibition Chorus under Dr H. A. Fricker. She must of had a good voice as the Mendelssohn Choir had yearly auditions, even for current choir members. The choir often toured the northern US with trips to Chicago, Philadelphia and Cincinnati and New York. This was one thing Amy did alone as Minnie couldn’t sing. She enjoyed these trips and sent many postcards. She saved her collection of choir medals and pins. When the Exhibition Chorus ended in 1934 it seemed she stopped her singing.

Their mother worried when Minnie got married that Amy would become more of a recluse.

Amy didn’t approve of William Sutherland and they had to tiptoe around her before their marriage. She came around when the children arrived. She was Auntie. She loved her nieces and nephew and enjoyed visiting them in Montreal and their visits to Toronto. After the children came she became Auntie.

We enjoyed the girls visit so much and it did Amy so much good, going out so much. About this winter my principal reason for staying at home is the Mendelssohn Choir business, and it is really the only thing she belongs too to take her out regularly. The only exercise she gets for walking and she loves it so much and if she ever staid out a season she would not go again.”

When her Mother Eliza Jane Eagle died in 1931, Amy continued to live alone in the house on Seaton Street. It was a narrow three-storied semi -detached with little rooms, lots of stairs, and the toilet tank on the wall had a long pull chain.

69 Seaton Street, Toronto, Ontario

She didn’t work after Minnie got married but she continued her bookkeeper’s ways. She kept records of everything she bought all recorded in a fine hand. She even had a box of lace with the date and price of purchase of each little piece. She recorded who was buried where in the cemetery plots. She promised to tell my Aunt Bet the stories of the family coming to Canada from Ireland but unfortunately never got around to it.

In her early eighties she suffered from lung cancer but wouldn’t go to the hospital because her mother went in and never came out. She still lived alone and had become feeble, unable to shop, cook or clean. My mother and grandmother went up to see her. They didn’t have a key. They rang the bell and could see Auntie in the hall trying to crawl to the door. My mother broke a small window and unlocked the door. Although Auntie was relieved to see them she was mad that her window was broken. She remained in her home until the end, with visits from the doctor and the VON. Auntie died March 16, 1965.

Amy and Minnie 69 Seaton Street 1963

My parents went up later to clear the house and put it up for sale. According to Auntie’s account book, she had recently taken out one thousand dollars. She had paid the newspaper boy and had given Mom money for a taxi, but that was all the money that was accounted for. They looked everywhere for it; in dressers, cupboards and desks and in all the little boxes they contained. Finally in the arm of an old kitchen chair, known as the “mouse chair”, wrapped in a rag was the money. They actually found $1151 in her house.

My parents laid in bed on garbage day and listened to the truck door open and close again and again and wondered what family treasures they might have thrown away.

Bibliography:

Letters and postcards written to family members over the years and in the possession of Mary Sutherland.

Eagle, Eliza Jane. Letter to Minnie Sutherland. 24 Sept. 1925. MS. Toronto, Ontario.

Personal recollections of Bet Van Loben Sels, Elizabeth Sutherland Somers and Mary Sutherland.

Of interest: Dr J.N. Humphrey’s account was $19 and the VON $54, not much money to stay in your own home. From Mills and Mills Barristers, Solicitors, ETC. Toronto 2, Canada. Estate of Amy Eagle – disbursements June 3, 1965.

An Ordinary Man

1882 store book page as a single man.

“When the courting at midnight has ended

And he stands with his hat in his fist

And she lovingly lingers beside him,

To wish him ta-ta and be kissed,

How busy his thoughts of the future,

You betchya his thoughts he don’t speak,

He is wondering how they can manage,

To live on six dollars a week.”

(little poem etched in pencil in one of Norman’s early ‘store books’)

Norman Nicholson, my husband’s great grandfather liked to keep track of things: Indeed, that was his one extraordinary trait. He kept track of his every expense, business or household, over five decades (right down to 5 cents tossed to a tramp). He kept balances, inventories, invoices and lists from 1881 when he left home to live on his own to 1921 at this death at home in Richmond, Quebec.

He kept all this information in dozens of ledgers, diaries and notebooks and he kept these booklets neatly arranged in a trunk under the window in his daughter’s room. ( I know because it said so in one of the many letters he kept, which the daughter in her turn kept, and which eventually fell into my hands as the wife of his great grandson.)

Norman in Masonic Regalia circa 1905

That’s how history-challenged I came to have a real appreciation for the life of a 1st generation Canadian living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec at the turn of the 20th century, that is Norman Nicholson, son of Malcolm Nicolson, he who came to this country in 1841 at age 26 with his parents and 8 siblings after being cleared from the family farm on the nearly treeless Isle of Lewis, Hebrides; who walked from Port St Francis to Flodden and settled on crown land, earning money by burning wood for potash and clearing trails through the forest.

That’s how I’ve come to understand that my husband’s great grandfather, Canadian-born, Canadian schooled Norman Nicholson, successful hemlock bark dealer, turkey salesman, bill collector for a local doctor, Town Public Works Clerk, Inspector for the Transcontinental Railway and The Quebec Streams Commission (I have all the documentation) was a work-a-day sort, devoted husband to the spirited feminist-minded Margaret McLeod, (also a Lewis descendant) doting father to three feisty and ambitious daughters Edith, Marion, Flora and one lost soul of a son, Herb.

He was the kind of ordinary man who lives a full life, with all its joys and sorrows and broken dreams, and dies, the memory of him quickly fading to black until, one day, (with any luck at all) a glimmer, as a great great grandson, flipping through the brittle pages of a photo album, points to one particular picture and asks. “Who’s this ‘sick-looking’ dude with the white moustache and beard?” And the boy’s middle aged father answers: “Oh, that’s Norman Nicholson, your great great grandfather, or at least, I think it is.”

“Was he a general or something, too?” the boy asks referring to the man’s mason uniform – because the boy is related to General Douglas MacArthur on another branch of his family tree.

“No, Norman Nicholson was just an ordinary man.”

Cost of setting up house 1883. 45 dollars for furniture

Now, after scanning the ledgers and reading all his diaries, that I can confirm: ordinary, in every possible way. Not a hero like Alexander Mackenzie, the Lewis born explorer, for whom a great Canadian river is named, although Norman did have a thing for bodies of water. From his 1912 diary: List of Rivers East of Cochrane, Abitibi River, Sucker Creek, Mistango River, Low Bush Creek

Not a villain like Lewis descendant Donald Morrison, the Megantic Outlaw, subject of Canada’s largest ever manhunt and at least two books and one documentary, although Norman did have a part in the man’s post capture defense.

From an 1889 press clipping: Let it be hereby resolved that Norman Nicholson be appointed by the Richmond Royal Caledonia Society to press the authorities for an interview with Donald Morrison.

Neither famous, nor infamous, neither scoundrel nor saint; ergo NOT the kind of man whose exploits are chronicled for future generations in plodding high school history texts or low budget straight to cable documentaries; just a loyal husband, protective father, dutiful citizen. An ordinary man, the kind of man who reaches a point in life where he feels the need to lay down the law to his kids: November 14, 1902 Future Regulations: All must be up and downstairs by 7:30 o’ clock in the morning, Sunday included, breakfast at 7:30. The kind of man who, lonely on the job in middle age, writes love letters to his wife: “I don’t want a concrete hall or a little birch canoe; just want a place with you by the fireside.”

Very very ordinary. No, not the stuff of history books or even good caricature, although it would be easy to characterize Norman as the quintessential penny pinching Scot (someone who believes his bank book to be the best kind of reading) but that characterization would be totally unfair.

Norman Nicholson may have been a practical man:

Price of ash for 1899: 8 cents for 12 inch;10 cents for 13 inch; 12 cents for 14 inch.

1913 Trip to Boston to see Grand Lodge: ticket to Montreal, 2.55, street car 05, ticket to Newport, 3.25. Dinner on train .60

with a petty side:

number of times Dr. Kellock was away from his congregation in year 1897: 24 January in Boston; 21 March in Spencerville; 24 October in Toronto;

October 18, 1899. Date McMorine had his water cut off in his store by M. McDonald tinsmith.

But he also was a romantic:

Nothing to do Margaret, Dar..ling, nothing to do. Let’s take a trip on memory’s ship back to the by gone days. Let’s sail to the old village, anchor outside the school door. Look in and see, that’s you and me, a couple of kids once more.

See? An ordinary man of conflicting passions, just like you and me, the kind of man who has but one chance to have something flattering written about him and that’s at the end of his life:

From the Richmond Guardian June, 1922:

The death occurred suddenly last Friday morning in Montreal of Mr. Norman Nicholson, one of the most respected citizens of this place…

And then that’s it, finito, no more, except, perhaps, for an epitaph on a tombstone in a far-flung country cemetery no one ever visits.

RIP Norman Nicholson, my husband’s great grandfather. An oh-so ordinary man, except for this one extraordinary trait, this compulsion to keep track of things, to leave a paper trail for posterity – if mostly in list form.

END

LIST Cost of LIving 1900 Richmond Quebec.

1900 accounts, family of six, children in teens. Wife Margaret got a hefty allowance with her purchases going unnoted, but I see no mention of material or sewing notions in the list and Margaret sewed her daughter’s clothes for the most part. In 1900 the Nicholsons were comfortably middle class with a fine house, but their fortunes would soon fail with the end of the hemlock bark industry.

January

1/3 of a beef, 106 pounds 6.35

Skating rink 10

6 lbs pork 25

2 beef tongues 20

Marion for Rink 10

Postage 12

79 lbs pork from Bromfield 4.35

Sunday School 04

Church plate 05

Scribbler for Flora 05

1 lb sulphur 05

Hairdressing 15

Membership Board of Trade 1.00

Treat of cigars 25

Fare to Sherbrooke and return 1.35

Copy book Flora 08

Scribbler Edith 05

Marion skating rink 10

½ lb Black tea 18

Sunday school 04

1 Ladies Jacket 8.50

1 pair gent’s overshoes 2.00

¼ lb candies 05

1 lb frosting sugar 08

1 lb baking soda 04

¼ lb peppermint 05

Sunday School 04

Church concert 60

Postage 20

1 paper of pins 05

I pocket handkerchief 08

Herbert 05

Postage 25

1 jar molasses 14

Mending Marion’s boots 25

February

Sunday School 04

Bridge toll 02

¼ pound candies 05

Times for one year 1.00

Maggie 25

½ pound Black tea 18

Marion for rink 10

Sunday School 03

¼ lbs cream of tartar 09

1 lbs currants 10

1 bottle Powell’s medicine 25

Maggie 50

W. Daigle for hauling bark 15

1 writing pad 15

1 pair rubbers Edith 45

1 pair rubbers Marion 45

1 loaf break 05

1 lb crackers 08

1 pint oysters 20

Cough candies 02

Scribbler for Marion 05

Postage 02

Maggie 50

1 loaf bread 05

1 bag fine salt 10

Sunday school 02

Church Collection 10

100 lbs salt 05

1 whisk 15

1 loaf bread 06

¾ pounds walnuts 10

Maggie for Church 2.10

1 lamp chimney 07

1 bottle M. Liniment 25

Maggie 06

½ black tea

1 pair laces 04

4 gallons coal oil 75

10 lbs corn meal 15

10 lbs Graham flour 25

5 gallons Coal Oil 95

1 hockey stick 30

Herbert for Dictionary 15

Maggie 10

½ loaf bread 06

1 lbs ginger snaps 10

¼ pound Ceylon Pepper 10

Postage 06

Flora and Marion 05

1 package Corn Starch 09

¼ lbs cream of tarter

Hair dressing 15

Marion for rink 10

March

1 jar molasses 12

1 doz eggs 20

Maggie 10

Chinaman for laundry 14

Sunday School 04

Patriotic Fund for Hockey 60

1 pair rubbers Herbert 60

Maggie 40

Marion and Flora 10

Sutherland for Miss Wilson 1.00

Postage 20

Mending tins 05

Missionary meeting 05

Skating rink 05

Maggie 25

¼ pounds cream of tartar 10

Sunday School 03

Maggie for concert 10

1 cake shaving soap 07

1 lbs soda 04

½ lbs Black tea

¼ lbs cream of tartar 09

1 bottle vanilla 10

5 pounds sugar 25

Maggie 25

5 lbs butter McKee 1.00

Marion 05

Herbert for Sharpening skates 05

Maggie 1.00

5 lbs G Flour 10

6 ½ lbs butter 1.45

Mending Herbert’s boots 25

1 loaf bread 10

Cough candies 05

1 quart milk 05

Skating rink 20

Maggie 22

9 ½ lbs butter 2.00

Flora 05

1 bags fine salt 10

Maggie 50

1 bag flour 2.25

49 pounds oats 49

5 lbs sugar 25

Sunday School 04

½ lbs Black tea

Postage 10

Postal notes 05

Subscription to Herald `1.50

Subscription to Westminster

Pady Jim 25

12 ¾ cords wood 35.25

I scrubbing brush 10

April

5 lbs sugar 25

Maggie 10

1 pair of rubbers Flora 35

Sunday School 04

½ gal Coal oil 10

1 bottle ammonia 05

1 lamp burner 10

1 doz herrings 25

20 lbs Graham Flour 50

1 bag rolled oats 25

5 Gal Coal Oil 95

20 pounds corn meal 30

Flora 05

Small writing pad 05

1 box crackers 25

½ pound candies 10

Scrubbing floor 25

Herbert for sugar 10

Maggie 20

Hair dressing 15

1 jar molasses 15

½ lbs Black tea 18

2 lbs tapioca 10

Postage 27

Sunday School 07

Herbert for Birthday 25

Maggie 10

1 Gallon syrup 65

3 lbs sugar maple 24

3 pairs shoe laces 08

2 pair stockings 60

5 lbs sugar 25

Sugar scale 40

Maggie 2.60

1 pair rubbers 60

Maggie 35

To Sunday School 03

2 dozen eggs 30

1 package popcorn 05

F Lyster for milk 95

Fir dressing Herbert 15

5 lbs sugar 25

Maggie 1.00

Hauling manure 20

Postage 10

Sunday School 03

Bill of goods bought by Dan 32

1 box crackers 25

1 spool thread 10

1 can corn beef? 25

3 ¾ lbs steak 47

Sunday school 04

Candies 04

May

5 lbs sugar 25

½ lbs Black tea 18

¼ pounds ginger 09

1 bag potatoes 45

¼ ream bill paper 05

Daigle for manuring 40

Edith 50

Herbert suit of clothes 4.00

Spading garden 1.00

Mending M and F. Shoes 70

Garden seeds 40

2 pairs shoes Edith and Marion 3.00

1 necktie for funeral 25

Maggie 25

Seeds got by Dr. Cleveland 50

1 package envelopes 07

Post office box 1.00

Sunday School 03

2 scribblers 10

1 bag oatmeal 1.90

1 lb flour 4.50

Mending boots 1.25

Pass Book 10

Postage 09

10 lbs graham flour 30

¼ lbs cream of tartar 25

2 lbs steak 25

3 ½ pounds S. Ham 25

Military dinner 75

3 gallons Maple Syrup 1.95

A Guide to Court Records

Montreal Court House – Palais de Justice

Online resources found on BAnQ

https://www.banq.qc.ca/ressources_en_ligne/intruments_rech_archivistique/archives_judiciaires/index.html?language_id=1

Judicial archives guide

Guide to Court Records, Evelyn Kolish, 2017, 99 p. [PDF – 1.16 Mo]

BAnQ has close to 21 kilometres of court records in its 10 centres, dating back to the middle of the 17th century. These records constitute an historical archival fonds of remarkable depth and continuity, that enables researchers to study how Québec society has changed from its origins to the present day.

Created by courts throughout Québec, these records are preserved in the BAnQ regional centre closest to their point of origin. Because they show how different aspects of daily life have changed, both over time and by region, they can give sometimes highly detailed information about the past. This information can provide many different paths of inquiry: into specific people and events, as well as into broader social, economic and political phenomena – not to mention the judicial system itself! The Guide to Court Records will give researchers an overview of how the courts themselves and the records they create have changed over the past four centuries. Furthermore, for practical purposes, the Guide is based specifically on the court records preserved in BAnQ’s regional centres

Below is a copy of the document the above text refers to.

The History of a Summer Community    

I spent the past two months working on the history of my summer community in Maine. It is not exactly family history, although my family has been vacationing in this place by the ocean for almost 100 years, so bear with me while I tell you what I learned about writing local history.

Local history is essential to understanding our ancestors. The towns, cities and rural neighbourhoods where they lived were the places where they went to work, to shop, to worship, to play. By researching their communities, we can get hints about their daily activities, their values, their friends and acquaintances and the educational opportunities open to them.

Biddeford Pool, the community where I spend my summers, is on a tiny peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean, flanked on one side by a sandy beach and on the other by the rocky shore of Saco Bay. Originally known as Winter Harbor, the peninsula was once home to a thriving fishing village with a herring fleet and shipbuilding industry. In the mid-1800s, several enterprising local residents decided to build hotels and rent out rooms to boarders for the summer.

The big beach, low tide, Biddeford Pool, Maine

Families from big cities such as Cincinnati, St. Louis, Memphis and Montreal have been going there for generations. Eventually, some summer visitors decided to build their own cottages, and they encouraged friends and family members to join them on the coast. Today, many of their descendants are still vacationing at Biddeford Pool, still sailing the same waters, swimming at the same beach and playing on the same golf course that their grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed.

Many of these families are interrelated, although no one has ever done a big family tree of the summer resident families.

Inspired by my experiences with Genealogy Ensemble, several of us started a blog a few years ago and encouraged people to write their own stories. We invited them to find out how their families first came to Maine, and we asked for childhood memories and other stories. Most people were polite, smiled and nodded, but did not write a word. I can’t say I was totally surprised. People are on holiday there, busy with friends and family, and once they get home, they get into their regular routines. Privacy may have been a concern for some. Also, writing is not easy for everyone.

Even more disappointing was that many people never looked at the blog. Maybe they are just not comfortable with digital media, and perhaps we were too successful in trying to keep it low-key. But it seemed the entire effort was a failure.

This spring I took a fresh look at the two dozen stories that were posted on the blog and enjoyed them. And at a time when most of my parents’ generation have already died or are now well into their 90s, the articles preserve memories of the way things used to be in the community – the bad and the good. So now, a group of about half a dozen of us are again copying what the members of Genealogy Ensemble did: we putting together a collection of short articles in a self-published book. At the very least, it will be on the shelves of the community’s little library, and filed beside the hundreds of old photographs that the Biddeford Pool Historical Society has collected and digitized. Hopefully, future researchers and family members will read it.

Some of us went to the county registry of deeds office to research the histories of our century-old cottages, and we used genealogy sources such as Familysearch.org to find marriage records, census records and city directories, as well as old newspaper databases. Others wrote personal anecdotes.

This project is a bit haphazard. It depends on who volunteered to participate and what he or she chose to write about. It is far from a one-place study or a carefully structured oral history project. And we left out most of the local residents who once lived there year-round, such as the lobster fishermen. That is unfortunate, however, narrowing the focus of the book has made it possible to get the project finished in one season, plus we know clearly who the target audience of the book will be.

I will let you know next summer how it turns out. 

The French Republican Calendar

Genealogists love FamilySearch. I have spent many enjoyable hours searching for my ancestors on their free databases. As a way of giving back, I enjoy transcribing historical documents so that others can search for their ancestors. This is called indexing and projects are always available on the FamilySearch web site for volunteers to transcribe.

Not too long ago I chose an intermediate French indexing project on FamilySearch, to transcribe Belgium birth registrations.  I now know that an intermediate level of difficulty may mean very difficult. I was able to decipher the names fairly easily, even the uncommon ones, such as Dieudonné. But I ran into difficulties with the dates.

The records I were transcribing were registered in 1798, smack in the middle of French Republican calendar and therefore the dates needed to be converted to the Gregorian calendar. The French Republican calendar, also known as the French Revolutionary calendar, was used by the French government for twelve years from late 1793 to 1805, and for 18 days by the Paris Commune in 1871. It was used in government records in France and other areas under French rule, including Belgium.  The Republican calendar was one of the ways that the French government wanted to do away with the ancien regime after the French Revolution. The new calendar was created by a commission whose members were French intellectuals. Year I (roman numeral) was the first year of the Republic and each new year was set at midnight beginning on the day the autumnal equinox falls at the Paris Observatory. There were twelve months, each divided into three ten-day weeks called décades. The five or six additional days needed to complete the solar year were called complementary days. This calendar closely resembled the one developed by the ancient Egyptians. 1

Luckily, Family Search has a wiki page that explains how to convert the date on the French Republican calendar to the Gregorian calendar. The twelve months in the French Republican calendar are based the natural events that occur during the year. For example, vendémiaire is the grape harvest month. The Family Search wiki gives an example of how the date would be written out: The 13th of Pluviose in the seventh year. This means that this date is the 13th day of the rainy month in year seven of the French Republican calendar. Family Search then provides four calendars that provides the conversion into the Gregorian calendar depending on the French Republican calendar year.2

I had ten birth registrations to transcribe and it took me two and a half hours to complete.  I spent quite a bit of time trying to understand the French Republican calendar. Looking on the Family Search site, I see that there are more civil registrations to transcribe in French but I will wait until I have a few hours ahead of me as once I start, I like to finish the batch.

Even though it is difficult and painstaking to convert the French Republican calendar dates to the Gregorian calendar, I enjoyed learning about this calendar. And, of course, it is always a thrill to know that you have connected the individuals in the historical records a little closer to their descendants.

  1. Wikipedia, French Republican Calendar, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Republican_calendar, accessed 8 September 2022.
  2. Family Search, French Republican Calendar, https://www.familysearch.org/en/wiki/French_Republican_Calendar, accessed 8 September 2022

Montreal Archives Property Assessments 1847-2003

Évaluation foncière 1847-2003

Property assessment 1847-2003
4,606 online listings
https://archivesdemontreal.ica-atom.org/roles-devaluation-fonciere-1847-2003

3723 documents textuels (registres). – Environ 3800 microfiches. – 957 microfilms. – 12 boîtes.

3,723 documents (registers) – About 3,800 microfiches. – 957 microfilms – 12 boxes

Portée et contenu     
La série renseigne essentiellement sur l’évaluation foncière dans les
différents quartiers de la Ville de Montréal, de 1847 à 2003 inclusivement. Le rôle d’évaluation permet d’établir le montant des taxes municipales à partir d’un taux fixé par règlement par le conseil municipal.

Content of dossiers                                                                          The collection addresses the property assessment from 1847 to 2003 in various districts of the city of Montreal.

Chaque propriété listée dans le rôle d’un quartier possède un numéro de compte unique à huit chiffres, dont les deux premiers réfèrent au quartier.

Les autres informations disponibles sont l’adresse civique, le cadastre, le nom du ou des propriétaire(s) et la valeur de la propriété, résultat de l’évaluation de la bâtisse et du terrain.

Each property listed within various districts was assigned with an assessment number of eight digits, the first two being the district number. Additional information includes the street address, the cadastral number, the name or names of owner or owners in addition to the monetary value of said property.

La série comprend les registres originaux sur papier pour les périodes 1847-1934, 1963-1978 et l’année 1987. Les rôles d’évaluation pour les périodes 1847-1962 et 1979-1986 ont été microfilmés. Les rôles d’évaluation pour la période 1963-1978 et l’année 1987 sont disponibles uniquement en format papier (registre). Pour les années 1988 à 2003, les rôles ont été microfilmés.

Fonds includes the original dossiers of 1847-1934,1973-1978 and the year of 1987 in their original paper formats. The periods of 1847-1934,1973-1978 and 1987 are available on microfilms.

Les documents sont en français et en anglais.

Documents are available in either the French or English languages.

Archives de Montréal  Consultation
archives@montreal.ca Téléphone : 514-872-1173 / 514-872-2615

Opened on Tuesdays and Thursdays

https://archivesdemontreal.com/nous-joindre/

Catalogue of dossiers
https://archivesdemontreal.ica-atom.org/

Researched and compiled by
Jacques Gagné
gagne.jacques@sympatico.ca

 

Researching Quebec when Church and State were one

If you drive into Montreal from the Laurentians on a sunny day, you’ll see a wonderful skyline, complete with a church spire as the tallest building for miles around. Such views are still typical throughout Quebec, although that’s likely to change as the iconic buildings get torn down to be replaced with skyscrapers, auditoriums and other modern structures.

These are remnants of the period from 1621 until 1964, when the Catholic Church operated as Church and State in this province. As genealogists, it’s important to remember this history as we look for traces of our ancestors. Traces of anyone in North American, even Protestant, Jewish and secular ancestors, might be found within documents held by religious organizations in Quebec.

In 1996, David Seljak described the Catholic Church’s influence in Quebec in an article. He wrote:

“Before 1960, the Church exercised a virtual monopoly over education, health care, and the social services offered to French Quebeckers who formed the majority of the population. During his years as premier from 1944 to 1959, Maurice Duplessis had declared Quebec a Catholic province and actively promoted the Church’s welfare. In 1958, more than eighty-five percent of the population identified themselves as Catholic and more than eighty-eight percent of those Catholics attended mass every Sunday. A virtual army of nuns, priests, and brothers, which by 1962 numbered more than 50,000, oversaw the Church’s massive bureaucracy.”

(Seljak, David. “Why the Quiet Revolution Was ‘Quiet’: The Catholic Church’s Reaction to the Secularization of Nationalism in Quebec after 1960,” CCHA, Historical Studies, 62 (1996), 109-124, n.d., 16.)


He argues that the Church took its loss of status with relative serenity because Quebec had so many Catholic residents at the time. The influence of Vatican II meant that most activists in favour of a secular reform in Quebec came from within the Church itself. If he’s right, the Church in Quebec decided itself to remove itself from a position as an instrument of the State to ensure that secularism spread throughout the Province.

Whether that’s true or not, given that many North Americans passed through Quebec during at least one generation, almost everyone has an ancestor whose experience may be highlighted within the records of the Catholic Church in Quebec. If you’re looking for traces of your ancestors, it’s worth exploring these documents.

Records that exist include:

  • baptisms
  • private and public engagement contracts (especially with Marriageable and King’s daughters’ contracts)
  • banns
  • marriages
  • parish records (black cross)
  • migration records
  • death records
  • burial records
  • orphan records
  • land records
  • construction records
  • fundraising records
  • directories
  • newsletters

Glossary

Abjuration: Recantation of faith, often associated with Huguenots (Protestant people from France)

Acquet: Goods inherited or otherwise obtained prior to marriage

cimetière: Cemetery

Communauté de biens: commonly-held goods

claration de fiançailles: oral promise to marry

def, defunt or feu: deceased

Douaire: dower or widow rights to be paid by a future husband to his future bride in the case of his death; this amount could not be taken by creditors in the case of bankruptcy

Fiançialles: marriage bonds, oral promise of marriage, engagement

Mandements: clergical administrative orders

Propres: Items legally owned by a man and women when they married that would not be jointly owned after marriage

Sépulture: burial

Société Notre-Dame de Montréal: a religious organization founded in 1639 in Paris. It recruited people to go to New France, including Jeanne Mance, who wanted to found a hospital, and Marguerite Bourgeoys, who wanted to found a school. The company was dissolved in 1663 and the Seigneurie de l’Ile de Montreal was turned over to the Compagnie des prêtres de Saint-Sulpice. Members started supporting the public program, with Bourgeoys founding the Maison Saint Gabriel farm house in 1668 to house the King’s wards.

Primary Religious Sources in Canada

Archdiocese of Montreal Archives

https://www.diocesemontreal.org/en/archdiocese/archives

30 volumes of mandements, pastoral letters, circular letters and other documents published by the Diocese of Montreal since its beginnings. Also available via: https://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/2751780

Archdiocese of Quebec Archives

https://archivesacrq.org/

Note: The Archdiocese Archives operate on Monday to Friday, from 9 to 11:45 am and from 1 to 3:45 pm, by appointment only.

Appointments are made via email in which the researcher must provide the archivists with the following information: research subject and context, period and dates, places, people (first and last names, titles and dates) concerned, a summary statement of existing research, and the researcher’s personal information: first and last name, title, institution, and city.

Collections include:

  • Adjurations Index
  • Certificates of freedom of marriage, 1757-
  • Confirmation registers
  • Parish, Mission and Centre Archives
  • Archives from the first missions and the Native American missions (manuscripts in Native American languages)
  • Archives from the apostolic vicariate of New France (1658-1674)
  • Archives from the archdiocese of Quebec (1674), with collections pertaining to the government of the diocese, the cathedral chapter, diocesan councils and committees, the chancellery, church authorities, pastoral work, human resources, communications and communications.
  • Archives from the provincial councils of Quebec (1851-1886) and from the Plenary Council of Québec (1909)
  • Archives from the Québec Interdiocesan Tribunal (1946)
  • Archives from parishes and communities
  • Archives from diocesan seminaries and colleges
  • Archives from institutes of consecrated life
  • Archives from ecclesiastic organizations, associations and movements
  • Archives from religious events at the diocesan, provincial, national and international levels
  • Personal and familial archives, including personal archives of bishops and archbishops of Québec

Archives Deschâtelets

https://archivescanada.accesstomemory.ca/archives-deschatelets

The historical archives of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) in Canada (documents going back to 1841); manuscripts; volumes; microfilms; photographs (going back to 1816); collections pertaining to Oblate Missions, Aboriginal and Western history. 

Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BanQ)

https://www.banq.qc.ca/accueil/

  • Canada, Québec, registres paroissiaux catholiques, 1621-1979.” Database with images. FamilySearch. https://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2021. Archives Nationales du Quebec (National Archives of Quebec), Montreal
  • Canada, Québec Index de copie civil de registres paroissiaux, 1642-1902.” Images. FamilySearch. http://FamilySearch.org : 14 June 2021. Bibliothèque et Archives Nationales Du Québec (National Library and Archives of Quebec).
  • Marriage Contracts of Quebec: Contrats de mariage des districts judiciaires de Québec, de Beauce, de Charlevoix, de Montmagny et de Thetford Mines, 1636-1953
  • Superior court records: Fonds Cour supérieure. District judiciaire de Québec. Insinuations, registres des insinuations de la Prévôté de Québec, vol. 1 (Anciennement registres 1, 2 et 3) (1er mars 1667 – 25 septembre 1696), folios 109-109v.
  • Parish Records:Fonds Paroisse Notre-Dame-de-Foy, 1662-1976, Cote : P48, Id 298582
  • Parish Records: Paroisse Sainte-Famille, Ile d’Orléans – registres d’état civil, 1666-1790, ZQ1,S28 #184 : 12 avril 1666 au 7 octobre 1727.
  • Parish Records: Paroisse Notre-Dame-de-Montréal, 1657-[vers 1850], Cote : P1000,D1277 Id 696688 et Registres d’état civil, 1642-1948, Cote : ZQ106, Id 420864 et Index alphabétique des confirmés de Notre-Dame-de-Montréal, de 1676 et 1678 – s.d. 11 pages Numéro : 301330
  • Notarial records: Montréal (Québec : district judiciaire). Notariat, 008127867_003_M99W-KP4, Jan 1, 1657–May 14, 1669; notary Claude Aubert, 1652-1692; notary Bénigne Basset, 1658-1672; notary Pierre Raimbault, 1698-1727; notary Antoine Adhémar, 1673-1712.
  • https://www.banq.qc.ca/archives/genealogie_histoire_familiale/ressources/bd/recherche.html?id=TUTELLE_CURATELLE_20170823

Library and Archives Canada

https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/vital-statistics-births-marriages-deaths/Pages/parish-registers.aspx

  • New France Archive Collection: https://nouvelle-france.org/eng/Pages/new-france-archives.aspx, including the correspondence and memoirs of Jean Talon
  • Collection Jacques Henri Fabien (MG 25 G231), La collection sur microfilm se compose de renseignements généalogiques pour la période de 1657 à 1974.
  • Cases of indentured servants who left their masters (extraits d’arrêts du Conseil supérieur concernant les engagés qui quittent le service de leurs maîtres) 00003916294, fol. 56-57v sur microfilm Centre des archives MG1-C11A, 1663-1702 Microfilm reel number: F-2.
  • Rules, arrests and declarations made in Paris (Recueils de réglements, édits, déclarations, et arrêts : concernant le commerce, l’administration de la justice, & la police des colonies françaises de l’Amérique, & les engagés : avec le Code noir, et l’addition audit code, France, Chez les Libraires associés, Paris), 1765, MG1-C11A. Microfilm reel number: F-2.

McCord Museum

Archived Collections: http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/en/keys/collections/

Parks Canada

History elibrary, http://parkscanadahistory.com/

St. Paul University, Centre for Vatican II and 21st Century Catholicism

Vatican Archives of the Sacred Congregation “de Propaganda Fide” 1622-1846, PFcongressi_1831-1836_p.407-526, https://ustpaul.ca/upload-files/RCRHC/PFcongressi_1831-1836_p.407-526.pdf.

Primary Religious Sources in the United States

Creighton University, Omaha, Nebraska

English translation of The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, 1610-1791, http://moses.creighton.edu/kripke/jesuitrelations/, edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites, secretary of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, computerized transcription by Thom Mentrak, historical interpreter at Ste. Marie among the Iroquois living history museum, Liverpool, New York, 1898-1901.

Internet Archive, San Francisco, California

https://archive.org/

The Internet Archive operates as a free catalogue of everything on the Internet since 1996. It also operates as a public library.

Secondary Sources

Academic papers

Boivin Sommerville, Suzanne. “Marriage Contract in New France according to La Coutume de Paris / The Custom of Paris,” French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan, https://habitantheritage.org/cpage.php?pt=14, May 12, 2018, originally published in Michigan’s Habitant Heritage, Vol. 26, no. 3 (July 2005): 135-137.

Gauvreau, Michael. “From Rechristianization to Contestation: Catholic Values and Quebec Society, 1931–1970.” Church History 69, no. 4 (December 2000): 803–33. https://doi.org/10.2307/3169332.

Seljak, David. “Why the Quiet Revolution Was ‘Quiet’: The Catholic Church’s Reaction to the Secularization of Nationalism in Quebec after 1960,” CCHA, Historical Studies, 62 (1996), 109-124, n.d., 16.

Books

Baum, G. (1991). The Church in Quebec. Canada: Novalis.

Grand’Maison, Jacques. Nationalisme et religion. Tome 2. Religion et 58 idéologies politiques, (Montréal: Beauchemin, 1970)

Jetté, René. Dictionnaire généalogique des familes du Québec. Montréal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 1983.

Lindsey, Charles. Rome in Canada: The Ultramontane Struggle for Supremacy Over the Civil Authority. Lovell brothers, 1877.

Sulte, Benjamin. Histoire des Canadiens-Français. Wilson & Cie, Editeurs, Montréal, 1882, ISBN 0885450183; Editions Elysse, 1977.

Trudel, Marcel. La population du Canada en 1666. Recensement reconstitué. Québec: Septentrion, 1995.

Valynseele, Joseph et al., La Généalogie, histoire et pratique, Paris, éditions Larousse, 1991.

Vincent, Rodolphe, Notre costume civil et religieux, Montréal, Centre de psychologie et de pédagogie, 1963, B004QP56OA

Websites

Genealogy Ensemble: https://genealogyensemble.com/ (particularly

New France, New Horizons, http://www.archivescanadafrance.org/, a bilingual site set up by the Direction des Archives de France (Paris) et les Bibliothèque et Archives Canada (Ottawa) to commemorate the 400th anniversary of New France in 2004. The search function still works.

Southwestern Quebec Genealogical Resources, https://www.swquebec.ca/land_grant/land_grants.html.

Quebec Heritage Repertoire, https://www.patrimoine-culturel.gouv.qc.ca/rpcq/

ARCHIVES MONTREAL PROPERTY ASSESSMENT 1847 – 2003

Montreal Archives Collection
Our collection of thematic files (VM166) is now available online. Well known to our regular researchers, who formerly had to come and consult it on microfilm at our offices, this collection is extremely rich in information relating to municipal administration and

The database below consists of property assessments available at the repository of Montreal Archives.

The subject matter of property assessments is often overlooked by family lineage researchers and some are not aware of the existence of Archives Montreal.

The Beginnings Of The Original Plymouth, Devon England

Previously, I wrote about the ancient Plymouth Gin Distillery located in Plymouth 1 in that story, I mentioned that Plymouth had been attacked, raided and ruled by many others many times.

Here is an account of only a fraction of some of the various raids, uprisings, invaders and wars that is the tumultuous history of Plymouth.

Plymouth is located in the South West Peninsula of England and consists of the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. It is the furthest South and West of all of mainland England.

Map of The South West Peninsula

In 1866 a cave was discovered containing the bones of animals that no longer live on these islands. The bones included the lion, hyena cave bear, rhinoceros, and human remains. So man lived in this district as far back as the early stone age.

Most local finds in and around various areas of Plymouth have been of the Bronze Age, such as mirrors, daggers spearheads and coins up to 150 BC. In an area of Plymouth called Stonehouse, a burial chamber known as a kistvaen or kist was found. The name means a ‘stone chest’ 2

This is known as the Drizzlecombe Kistvaen Dartmoor, Devon

There are many kistvaens in the large area of the Dartmoor National Park just outside of Plymouth. However, the majority of the known Dartmoor kistvaens were opened at some time in the past, and whatever they used to hold is missing. The idea that ancient tombs might contain valuable items is a very old one; one of the first mentions of searching kistvaens in Devon dates back to 1324.

Location of Dartmoor National Park

We can tell that Saxons settled in the Plymouth area because of the names of places ending in ‘Ham, Ton, Leigh, Worthey and Stock. In fact by 926 AD Saxons ruled the whole of Devon. There is an unusual place name are in Plymouth that was once a Saxon lane. In the Doomsday Book of 1086, it was called Heche Bockland and the Saxons had a church there. By 1385 it was known as Ekebokland which over the centuries has evolved into ‘Eggbuckland’ which, as a child, often produced a smirk…

After the Normans conquered England William the 1st gave the Saxon Manors to his Norman Knights and in 1085 had a list made of all the estates in the country and this was called ‘The Domesday Survey’ – the Middle English spelling of “Doomsday Book”.

The Great Domesday Book Held at Kew Gardens, England.

By 1376 we first hear of a Mayor whose name was Maurice Bard. in 1377 the population of Plymouth was 7,000 and by this time, Plymouth was playing an important part in Naval affairs supplying ships for the fleet and was a busy port.

When King Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries in 1539 the priories had to surrender the tithes of Eggbuckland to the king. The present church is a stone building that dates from around 1420/30 called St. Edward. Its Parish registers date from 1653.

The Anglican church of St Edwards Church Road, Eggbuckland Plymouth Devon 3 Photography by Chris Downer

During the 14th Century, the South coast was attacked on several occasions by French pirates with many attacks on Plymouth, which caused a decline in trade and prosperity. Again, raids and attacks took place in 1377, 1400, and 1403. The most famous of all was the 1403 attack from the Bretons. They sent 30 ships and 1200 men at arms who came and anchored as the townsmen of Plymouth fired cannons at them but they landed and burnt 600 houses and plundered.

Later in the same year, an English fleet crossed to Brittany landed 4,000 men and laid waste to a large area. We seem to have had an uneasy relationship with the French ever since!

The famous seaman, Sir Francis Drake was born in 1541 near Tavistock, just outside Plymouth and was the eldest of 12 children. In 1581 Elizabeth I knighted him and the same year he was appointed Mayor of Plymouth. He was second-in-command as a Vice Admiral of the English fleet, in the victorious battle against the Spanish Armada, in 1588.

Sir Francis Drake
Portrait by Marcus Gheeraerts the Younger 1591

Early in July 1620 two vessels ‘The Mayflower’ and ‘The Speedwell’ set sail from Delfshaven in Holland. They were refugees who thought it would be safer in America. Both vessels reached Southhampton, but after leaving the Speedwell sprang a leak and they had to put into Dartmouth for repairs. Again, they set to sea but once more the Speedwell started to leak and so they put into Plymouth. On the 6th of September, 1620 the Mayflower left Plymouth with 102 pilgrims aboard and reached Cape Cod on the 9th of November 1620. The rest, as they say, is history.

In 1642 the civil war started in Plymouth. Most of the counties were Royalists whilst the towns were Parliamentarians. Plymouth, which was surrounded by Royalist country was the key to the West.

It had a harbour it was strongly walled and there was a fort on the Hoe. The word “Hoe” is derived from old English and appropriately means High Ground.

(This year, Facebook banned the word ‘Hoe” assuming it meant something else!) 4

The Royal Citadel on Plymouth Hoe

The Royalists asked the whole town to surrender but they refused, and so, on Sunday, December the 3rd, there took place ‘The Sabbath Day Fight’ The townsfolk rallied from all the neighbouring strongpoints and drove the enemy down a steep hill and into a creek. The rear guard of the Royalist Cavalry was thrown into confusion and the creek was full of drowning men and horses. This was the primary battle but not the end of the siege.

At one time, the King himself came down to Plymouth with 15,000 men but still the town held out. in 1646, the siege was eventually raised. During it, 8,000 people died in Plymouth from various cases a number greater than the normal population.

The Baroque main gate of the Royal Citadel. Note the date 1670 above the arch

Today, the following notable units are based at the Royal Citadel.

The Royal Artillery, Number 3 Commando Brigade and the 29th Commando Regiment 5

Centuries later, World War Two came to Plymouth. My grandfather saved the newspaper cuttings below. They are not too clear but give an idea of before and after a bombing raid on the city.

In the beginning, there were many small daylight raids. As the nights lengthened, these took place at night and in 1940, there were fairly heavy raids on December 29th and January 13th, 1941.

The caption reads: “The city centre as it was. Tomorrow, we propose publishing a photo of the same scene as it appears after most of the buildings have been smashed by enemy action”
The caption reads: “The City Centre as it is. Yesterday, we published a photograph taken from the Guildhall Tower of Plymouth’s shopping centre. Poignant contrast is this picture, taken from the same angle showing the destruction caused by enemy raiders during the Plymouth blitzes”

The worst raids took place in March and April 1941 and on the second of these raids in April, 106 high explosive bombs were dropped, 26 people were killed, 60 houses were completely destroyed, 400 were badly damaged and 2,000 were slightly damaged.

During those raids, the city centre was methodically destroyed in seven continuous nights of bombing. Plymouth lost all of its chief public buildings including the Guildhall, and the council chamber was wiped out.

In the last three years of the war, numerous raids were made. Plymouth lost its large stores and shops, 39 churches including its ‘Mother Church’ St. Andrews in the city centre, 20 schools, a theatre, eight cinemas, six hotels and nearly 30,000 homes completely uninhabitable and although many more raids took place, none were as bad as in 1941.

Although it took decades to rebuild today Plymouth is a vibrant holiday destination and describes itself as “Britain’s Ocean City” It has many holidaymakers visit and there is plenty to see and do. Plymouth boasts some spectacular scenery, a bustling town centre and some delicious dining options.

There is The National Marine Aquarium, The University of Plymouth, the Marine Biological Association, and the Blue Marine Foundation plus the City Centre and the Drake Mall. In addition, for any adrenaline junkie or marine life enthusiast, there are plenty of adventures to be had!

Plymouth Hoe view. with Smeaton’s Tower.

Smeaton’s Tower in this photo was built by an engineer named John Smeaton, constructed of Cornish granite and cleverly dove-tailed together. It has been a Grade 1-listed building since 1954.

It is open to visitors who can climb the 93 steps, including steep ladders, to the lantern room and observe Plymouth Sound – pictured – and the city. 6

Plymouth is now a modern city shaped by its past and steeped in history.

SOURCES

(1) https://genealogyensemble.com/2022/06/29/a-history-of-plymouth-gin/

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dartmoor_kistvaens

(3) Thttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Edward%27s_Church,_Plymouth.jpg Photograph by Chris Downer

(4) https://www.plymouthherald.co.uk/news/plymouth-news/facebook-apologises-removing-posts-rude-4928078

(5) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Royal_Citadel,_Plymouth

(6) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smeaton%27s_Tower

17th Century – Settlement in New France

http://www.ameriquefrancaise.org/en/article-628/la_rochelle_and_french_north_america_.html The port of La Rochelle where new settlers boarded ships sailing to New France

Settlement of New France during the 17th century / Peuplement de la Nouvelle-France au 17e siècle

This dossier addresses the origin of French Canadians, Acadians, and Franco Americans, and those who recruited them to settle in New France.

Websites:

  • BnF Gallica (Bibliothèque nationale de France) in Paris (Online dossiers (free))
  • BnF Catalogue général (Bibliothèque nationale de France- two main libraries in Paris
  • BAnQ Catalogue –12 repositories across the province.
  • BAnQ Numérique (Online dossiers (free)
  • BAnQ Collections (Online dossiers (collections) addressing New France & Québec –  the people who made a difference.
  • MemHOuest – Université de Rennes –  Master Theses – various universities of France who researched the origin in North West France of immigrants bound for the North American French Colonies from 1598 onward.
  • Revue d’histoire – Outre-Mers – Essays, dissertations, papers by college and university professors of France who published texts addressing the immigrants from mostly North West France  destined to the French Colonies of North America including Nouvelle-France, Acadie, Louisiane of the 17th and 18th centuries.
  • Les Cahiers des Dix –the best and most influential historians and authors of the French language in Québec province –  1920s onward..
  • Les Sept aux Archives nationales du Canada in Ottawa. The most prominent French language historians associated with Library Archives Canada and Université d’Ottawa  for the  past 60+ years.
  • University History professors – Cambridge University, Université de Paris à La Sorbonne, McGill University, University of Toronto, University of Ottawa, Université de Montréal, Université Laval, University of Moncton who wrote about New France and Acadia.
  • Société royale du Canada (Royal Society of Canada) based in part in Ottawa- historians who also addressed  New France, Acadia, Louisiana and France.

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Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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