Why Profile Your Ancestors

I’ve just published a video outlining why I profile my ancestors. In brief, it says that genealogists who take time to write stories about their ancestors ask better questions, are able to frame their research in time and place, and communicate well.

This is the first video in a series. To get them in your inbox, sign up for my Notable Nonfiction list and select the Profile Your Ancestor group.

Loyalist Settlers and their Notaries: Leon Lalanne

If you had ancestors who were early immigrants to Quebec’s Eastern Townships, the records of notary Leon Lalamme might help you learn details about their lives, but you will have to travel to Sherbrooke to consult them.

The first Europeans to settle in the Eastern Townships region (now known as Estrie) were farmers from Vermont, New York state and New Hampshire. They were looking for free land. After the American Revolution, Loyalists who had supported the British flooded across the border. Having supported the losing side in the war, they were promised new land in Canada. Most of them came from Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Vermont.

The trouble was that, in this part of Lower Canada, other settlers were already living on the land. The colonial government passed an act to legalize the allotment of lands in the Eastern Townships, and several notaries were appointed to settle these issues.

Among the notaries appointed to this task were two from Montreal: Louis Chaboillez, who practiced from 1787 to 1813; and Peter Lukin, who practiced from 1790 to 1814. Pierre Gamelin, who practiced in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu from 1815 to 1855, was a third appointee.

Leon Lalanne.was another notary who served Loyalist & non-Loyalist American families in the Eastern Townships. He practiced between 1799 and 1845. He lived in the village of St. Armand (now known as Frelighsburg) until 1842, then moved to Brome County and served families there until his retirement.

As well as acting as a notary to former American families, he also served the needs of Dutch, Scottish, British, Irish and French Canadian residents. His records at the Archives nationales du Québec are mostly in the English language, and total 8.23 linear metres (28 feet). Notarial acts cover agreements such as land sales and rentals, marriage contracts, wills, apprenticeships and protests over unpaid loans.

The microfilms of Lalanne’s notarial acts (Cote # CN 502, S26) are stored at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Sherbrooke, They have not been digitized. The BAnQ Sherbrooke is located at 225 rue Frontenac #401, Sherbrooke QC J1H 1K1, tel: 819-820-3010, toll free: 1-800-363-9028; email: archives.sherbrooke@banq.qc.ca

On the web: www.banq.qc.ca/archives/entrez_archives/centres_archives/

Note that the Bedford Judicial District (District judiciaire de Bedford) was a group of villages, towns and townships within Missisquoi, Brome and Shefford counties. The St. Francis Judicial District (District judiciaire Saint-François (Sherbrooke)) included villages, towns and townships in Sherbrooke, Stanstead, Compton, Richmond and Wolfe counties.

Among the other notaries who practiced in the Eastern Townships and southwestern Quebec in the early 19th century were Edouard Faribault, Farnham,1826-1832; Richard Dickinson, Bedford, 1826-1877; Henry Bondy, Sweetsburg,1829 -1869; Samuel Gale, East Farnham, 1802-1819; Louis Barbeau, Laprairie, 1804-1864 (his files were burned, but some still exist in the Ellis Papers at the Archives); Pierre Besse,1809-1810, Trois-Rivières and 1811-1854, Richelieu.

Over the next few months, I intend to post more information on the notaries who served the residents of the Eastern Townships. Some, but not all, of these notaries are included on the website of the BAnQ; see http://bibnum2.banq.qc.ca/bna/notaires/

Finally, thanks to Pennie Redmile for help with this post. She has been a family lineage researcher for 35 years and is also an expert on Quebec notarial records. She has compiled information on hundreds of Loyalist and non-Loyalist families, plus British, Scottish, Irish families who settled in Missisquoi, Brome and Shefford Counties, as well as the Upper Richelieu Valley (Missisquoi Bay) from the 1780s onward. She is now retired.

Compiled by: Jacques Gagné  gagne.jacques@sympatico.ca    2016-10-10

Not Once, But Twice

by       Claire Lindell

In the mid 1600s and for nearly one hundred years there was great unrest between “Nouvelle France” and New England. Many inhabitants were caught in the crossfire of the Indians and Canadian soldiers. Anne, a young girl from Dover, New Hampshire witnessed it all first hand, not once, but twice.

Anne was born in 1681 in Cocheco, (Dover) New Hampshire where her father, Benjamin Heard ( born February 20, 1644) was a shoemaker. He had come from England and married Elizabeth Roberts. There were nine children. Anne was the sixth.

In September of 1690 Anne Heard, aged nine, was captured for the first time and soon recovered by a Captain Church and returned to her family. On Sunday, January 25th 1692, Abenaki Indians, numbering 150 and soldiers from Sillery, near Quebec City  burned the homes and garrisons of the citizens near York and Dover. 73 citizens were taken prisoner and among them was Anne, captured for the second time. She spent a year living with the Indians and was eventually was brought to Montreal.

Between the years 1693 and 1700 Anne was raised by Pierre Prud’homme, a master gunsmith, and his wife, Anne Charles. It is thought that Pierre was able to purchase her freedom. She became a house servant. On April 10, 1694 she was baptized and confirmed in Notre Dame Basilica by the Bishop of Quebec City.

Several years passed and little is known about Anne during that time. Along the way she met Sebastien Cholet dit Laviolette, a young weaver from France. On the  October 17th 1705, two days before their marriage the future spouses met with the Notary Adhemar to clarify and sign their wedding contract according to the custom of Paris. Anne being from another country there were legal issues that needed to be addressed.

October 19, 1705, Sebastien and Anne were married by a Sulpician priest, Henri-Antoine Meriel in Notre Dame Basilica in Montreal.  The young couple moved in to a rented home on Saint Paul Street and within the year their first child, Marie Anne was born. Four more children were born while they lived in Montreal.


Sebastien had foresight and began buying property on the island outside the wall surrounding Montreal. In 1707 he purchased land bordering on Lake St. Louis in what is now know as Valois Bay ( Anse Sebastien Cholet between Point Charlebois and Point de Valois) in the city of Pointe-Claire. Although he owned the land he did not move with his family to the area until 1714. Once they settled in their new home, the family continued growing, but not without deep heartache for  Anne. Between 1711 and 1720  she had witnessed the death of seven of her children. Her eleventh child Jacques was born in 1723. The first three children and the last survived to adulthood.

st-joachim-pointe-claire-2Saint Joachim Church Pointe-Claire

April 14th, 1728 Sebastien died at the age of 49 leaving Anne in good hands financially. Three years later on the August 1, 1730 she married a widower, Claude Sansart Le Petit Picard,  in Saint Joachim Church in Pointe-Claire. He died December 25th 1739 and Anne spent her final days with her youngest son, Jacques. She died on January 2, 1750 and is buried in Pointe-Claire.

Anne experienced heartache and hardships throughout her lifetime. She was captured twice by Indians and lost seven of her eleven children. She possessed courage and perseverance. Many would have crumbled under the load.


The Needlework Sampler – 1811 A.D.

I am so excited!  I am embroidering my very own sampler.  Creating the border around the outside edge has been excellent practice getting used to the needle and thread.

What a shame, though, that there are so many daily chores to be done before I am allowed to work on my sampler!  I wish my little brother would help out a bit more.  However, I must remember that Mother and Father work so very hard and we must do our part without complaint.

The border is almost finished.  I have mastered this simple first stitch.  I love the stiffness of the cotton fabric. The silk threads feel heavenly to touch but are annoying when they get tangled. Too bad the colours weren’t brighter. Mother says it’s more important to learn the stitches.  She’s going to teach me a lot of them – the cross-stitch, the slipstitch, the whip stitch, the satin stitch and even the French knot! I can’t wait!

Sometimes it’s difficult to pay attention during weekly classes at school.  The headmaster tells us that James Madison is our President and that we have 15 stars and 15 stripes on our flag which represent all our states.  The British are restricting our local trade and making our young American men join their Royal Navy. Imagine that!  And the Indians…is America ours or theirs?  It’s very hard to be a good pupil when I’d rather work on my sampler!

I’ve started on my alphabet letters now.  Capitals first and then the lower case ones.  They are quite tricky and take a lot of patience.  Oh, how I wish I had more patience!  But Mother says that I am doing very well and that some girls are two or three years older than I am before they start their samplers.

The other day, my brother put a huge beetle in my sewing basket!  Ewww! Why do boys have to be so silly? Maybe if he did more chores, he wouldn’t have time for pranks!

Numbers are wonderful. Stitching twelve numbers is much easier than all those alphabet letters – twice around!

It’s hard to believe the number of stitches that I’ve done already but there are many more to go.  Much patience is required.

…and less chores!  Just think how quickly I could finish my sampler if I didn’t have my daily chores!

Hurry! The daylight won’t last much longer and it’s getting difficult to see my stitching with the dim lamplight.

I am working on my name now.  I like my name.  Mary House.  It looks and sounds very neat and tidy – like a row of my very best stitching.

Beside my name, I am adding the date.  It takes a while to create a sampler so the only dates that are sewn are the year: “my eleventh year” and 1811 A.D.  “My eleventh year” sounds so much grander than “ten years old”.  I know A.D. stands for the number of years since the death of Jesus.  Ah! Maybe I should pray for more patience.

My stitches are improving and I haven’t had to undo as many lately.  Undoing stitches is almost worse than doing chores!

I’m working on the poem next.  It goes like this:

                          When I am dead and laid in grave

                          And all my bones are rotten

                          When this you see remember me

                          Lest I should be forgotten

I wonder who wrote this poem.  It makes me sad.  And can you imagine someone admiring my sampler after I die?

Finished at last!  Mother praised me saying that I did a very fine job indeed.  I am thrilled with it and will store it safely under my bed.


Mary was my 3x great grandmother. She died in 1830 at 29 years old.  Her sampler hangs proudly in our home.  She is not forgotten. 


For Their Health

Donald and Isabella had not been well over the winter and of all the things they could do to improve their health, felt an ocean voyage would be the cure. Hopefully the salt air and a good long rest would improve their appetites.

In 1900, Donald Sutherland, my great grandfather, his sister Isabella Sutherland Rae and sister-in-law Jessie Johnston Sutherland traveled to New York from Toronto and sailed from there to Scotland aboard the Laurentian, a steamship of the Allen Line.

Food was not available twenty-four hours a day, as on a cruise ship today, but was plentiful and varied. Breakfast was porridge with fresh milk or maple syrup, Loch Fyne herring, or beefsteak and onions. Lunch, the main meal was roast veal with lemon sauce or roast goose with apple sauce along with potatoes, parsnips and sweets for dessert. Supper was lighter, with cold meats, preserved salmon, finnan haddie, not our family favourite, breads, cheese and jam.1 Donald wrote, “We had a fine sail for about four days and the rest of the voyage was not very fine but for the pitching and rolling and heaving we had yet none of us three were sea sick long enough to miss our meals.”2  I love this quote as it captures some of the essence of his character. I can just see them struggling up the stairs, not wanting to miss a meal they had paid for and hoped would improve their health.

Donald and Isabella were born in Canada to William Sutherland and Elizabeth Mowat. Jessie Johnston was born in Scotland and came to Canada as a child. She was married to William, Donald and Isabella’s older brother. They arrived in Glasgow and then went on to Edinburgh where Jessie was born. They had a wonderful time touring the area and Jessie remembered many landmarks from her childhood, including of course the castle.


Isabella Sutherland Rae about 1920

The Sutherland’s father William, was from Tongue, in the very north of Scotland. He had left for Canada in 1845 and never went back. Isabella’s mother-in-law Hughina Sutherland Rae, who was also her father William’s sister, was still living in Tongue at the time, but they didn’t visit. I always thought this strange because as far as I know they had never even met. Here they were so close in distance, but when they had the choice of a trip north to Tongue or down to London, London won out! They couldn’t do both without more expense and time than they had available.

Donald had a book store in Toronto, Sutherland’s Dominion Book Store and was very interested in visiting the London book sellers. He wanted to spend time among the books. That city impressed them all and they would have loved to stay longer to see more.


Donald Sutherland about 1895

On arriving back in Canada they figured the trip was a great success as they were all in good health and had gained weight. “However I got the benefit of the trip as I expected and I feel a great deal better now than I have been for a long time. I have gained over 9 lbs. after I got home and am still gaining.”3

They had great tales to tell of their trip and the funniest thing that happened in Dublin, but unfortunately these stories were to be told in person and were not put to paper.

1Allen Line Daily Menu Card second class June 9, 1906. www.gjenvick.com/vintage menus

2Letter from Donald Sutherland to his McIntosh Cousins. Dec 17, 1900. Original donated by Carol McIntosh Small to the Bruce County Historical Society.

3Same Letter


Métis-sur-Mer is a small Quebec town on the south shore of the lower St. Lawrence River. Its population swells when a handful of primarily English-speaking families who own seasonal residences there return every summer. Many of these families have roots in the area that go back for generations.

A book written and self-published in 1994 by researcher Gilbert R. Bossé could be of help to anyone looking for ancestors in Métis Beach, Métis Bay, Métis-sur-Mer, Métis, Cornwallis and Matane. Metis 1814-1900 includes births, marriages, deaths and burials, deeds covering church land acquisition, missionaries and ministers, an index of gravestones and markers, surveyor’s procès-verbaux, 1820-1832, acts of concession, 1822-1854, etc.

The book is out of print, but copies are available at the Toronto Public Library, the Quebec Family History Society and the Family History Library in Salt Lake City. Also, Bossé is willing to help people with their research in the Métis area and can be reached at paleometis@gmail.com.

Here are some historical highlights of the non-Catholic churches in the region:

The Churches

Kirkyard – Cornwallis – Matane

See Leggatt`s Point, see Métis-sur-Mer

Leggat’s Point – Cornwallis – Matane

First settled about 1818 by Scottish immigrants, also referred to as Kirkyard – See Métis for complete listing of churches

1860 – Presbyterian Church

Little Metis – Cornwallis – Matane

Also referred to as Petit Métis and first settled by Scottish immigrants in 1818 – Located south-west of Matane on the St. Lawrence – see Métis-sur-Mer

Matane – Cornwallis – Matane

In the 1840’s, the Scots arrived. The only city within the county on the St. Lawrence River – The majority of Anglo Protestants resided a few miles from Matane in the region of Metis, Metis Beach, Leggatt’s Point, Kirkyard

1844 – Presbyterian Circuit Ministry – Opened in 1844, in 1927 it would join the United Church – see also Métis Bay

1844 – Wesleyan Methodist Mission – Opened in 1844, in 1927 the congregation would join the United Church

  • United Church
  • Saint Georges Anglican

Métis Bay Métis sur Mer Métis – Cornwallis – Matane

A region of the Lower St. Lawrence first settled in 1818 by Scottish immigrants. Hamlets and villages such as Métis sur Mer, Metis Bay, Leggatt’s Point, Kirkyard, De Pietras Seigniory and Matane, the latter being a city.

1824 – Saint Georges Anglican Mission – Most likely an Anglican mission of Rivière-du-Loup.

1843 – Presbyterian Church – First organized in 1843 as a Presbyterian mission, in 1860, a church opened, in 1927 it would join the ranks of the United Church, the congregation was still functional in 1993

1863 – Wesleyan Methodist Church – Opened in 1863 under the leaderships of Rev. David Jennings (1863-1866), Rev. Samuel E. Maudley (1863-1866), Rev. Alexander Drennan (1869-1872), Rev. Isaac B. Tallman (1872-1873), Rev. Thomas Haddon (1872-1873), Rev. John Lawrence (1874-1876), Rev. William F. Marceau (1874-1876), Rev. John G. Brick (1877-1880), Rev. John Webster from 1881 –  In 1926, it became part of the United Church

1863 – Congregational Church – Opened in 1863, closed in 1866

1884 – Saint Georges Anglican Parish – The Anglican parish of Saint George’s was first organized in 1824 as a mission – First church opened in 1884, services were held between 1884 and 1900 by the clergy of Rivière du Loup

1926 – United Church

2012 – Metis Beach United Pastoral Charge

Peiras – Cornwallis – Matane

First known as De Peiras

Price – Cornwallis – Matane

A village of the 1840s and located southwest of the city of Matane – see also Métis Bay, Métis, Métis sur Mer, Leggatt’s Point.

Sandy Beach – Cornwallis – Matane

Also referred to as Baie-des-Sables and located south of the city of Matane, see also Leggatt’s Point, Métis Bay, Métis, Métis sur Mer, Kirkyard

1839 – Episcopalian and Anglican MissionariesParish of St. Philip’s – First church – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans

1840 – Anglican Parish of St. John’s – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans

1882 – Saint John’s Anglican – Second church – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans

1885 – Saint Philip’s Episcopalian – Second church – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans

1914 – Saint John’s and Saint-Philip’s Anglican – Third church – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans for civil registers

1993 – Saint John’s and Saint Philip’s Anglican – Fourth church – see Métis-sur-Mer under Anglicans

 From the SPEC, July 10th, 1980, page 22, an article on Metis by Ken Annett:


The Seigniory of Metis, 1675-1854.

Place of reunion of the Indians from early times, granted as a Seigniory by Count Frontenac in 1675, settled and developed by the Scotch Seignior John Mcnider, the story of Metis is an interesting chapter of the heritage of Gaspesia.

Ken Annett

At the village of Ste-Flavie, a few miles down the St. Lawrence River route from Rimouski and the adjacent landmark lighthouse of Father Point, the Gaspesia-bound traveller faces a choice of route. The way to the right will lead to Mont Joli and onwards to the shores of Lake Matapedia and the valley of the Matapedia River to reach the Restigouche near the head of the Bay Chaleur. The alternate route continues to follow the St. Lawrence eastward. In either case, once past Ste-Flavie, the traveller begins to feel the subtle “lure of the Gaspé”. Another few miles to the east along the St. Lawrence will bring him to Metis, a Gaspesian community with an interesting and rather unique history and heritage.

Long before the sails of European seamen and explorers appeared in the Gulf and Estuary of the St. Lawrence, the site of Metis was well known to the bands of nomadic Indians who used the river as their highway. Though there is some difference of learned opinion on the meaning of the word Metis, it seems fairly certain that it is a derivative of the Indian term METIOUI or MITIWEE, signifying PLACE OF REUNION. For it was the custom of the bands of Indian fishermen and hunters to hold an annual summer reunion at some agreeable place that had an assured supply of food at hand. The site at the mouth of the Great Metis River, where water from the wilderness watershed in the Gaspesian mountains meets the tidal waters of the mighty St. Lawrence, was considered by the Indians as a choice venue for a summer reunion. There they found convenient camp-sites, an agreeable, sea-tempered summer climate and an abundant food supply of salmon, trout, eels and forest game. There they paused from nomadic roaming to relax with fun and games while the elders of the band held solemn council on matters of general interest to the tribe. In fact, as well as in name, Metis was for them, Place of Reunion
As time marched on to usher in the period of New France, the Governors and colonists gave priority to the possession of lands bordering the St. Lawrence – the Great Highway of New France. As the territory had not yet been surveyed or even mapped adequately, it is not surprising that some of the grants made at Quebec were frequently vague and ill-defined. Certainly this seems to have been the case in the grant of the Seigniory of Metis in 1675 by Count Frontenac to M. de Peiras, an influential member of the Sovereign Council. The grant of Metis, then described as having a frontage of two leagues on the St. Lawrence and two leagues in depth, together with three islands and islets called St. Barnabé, may well have enhanced the prestige of M. de Peiras as a landowner but there is little evidence that he proceeded to develop and settle his seigniory in accordance with the terms of the award. In fact, the successors of Count Frontenac evidently forgot or disregarded the claim of M. de Peiras. Little was heard of the grant of 1675 until the year 1724 when Louis Lambert, a merchant of Quebec, related by marriage to the family of de Peiras, came forward to swear FOI ET HOMMAGE for the Metis Seigniory. Meanwhile, Governor Denonville had granted the seigniory to the Sieur de Villeray and his son, the Sieur de la Cordonnière. Governor Denonville was evidently no better informed regarding the topography of the Metis region, for in the years following he proceeded to grant the River Metis and its banks in Fief to the Sieur François Pachot. The only potential that appears to have been developed at Metis as a result of these early and conflicting grants was that of protracted legal wrangling over the respective ownership claims for the seigniory.

It remained for the Mcnider family to begin the settlement and development of Metis, some fifty years after the Conquest. Matthew Mcnider, whose uncle, also Matthew Mcnider, had come to Quebec from Scotland in the early years of the British Regime and had become a successful merchant and member of the Quebec Assembly, acquired title to the Seigniory of Metis in 1802 from Antoine Joubin dit Boisvert and his wife Madeleine Pinguet, descendants of the late Charles Lambert. Five years later a cousin, John Mcnider, bought the rights to the Seigniory, reportedly at Sheriff’s sale for as little as the equivalent of $500.00, and became in fact, as well as name, the Seignior of Metis. Born in Scotland, the son of William Mcnider and a nephew of Matthew Mcnider, M.L.A. of Quebec, John Macnider had come to Quebec as a young lad, been successful in business and had been a founding member and vice-president of the Bank of Quebec. In him the Seigniory of Metis found a man with the dreams and ambition to pursue its development and with the means to do so.

At Little Metis Point, John Mcnider built his Manor House where, in season, his wife Angelique Stuart Ross Mcnider, presided as hostess. A fishing station was developed at l’Anse-aux-Morts, a ship-yard operated at Little Metis, and a Pilot Station was established to serve shipping on the St. Lawrence. Mcnider’s vessels linked the Metis Seigniory with Quebec and other ports along the river. As a pioneer road builder of the Lower St. Lawrence region, John Mcnider is said to have persuaded the governor, Sir James Kempt, to undertake the building of the Kempt road that would eventually link the St. Lawrence with the Bay Chaleur via the Matapedia Lake and Valley route. The story of the Kempt road will be the subject of a future article in the GASPE OF YESTERDAY series.

But unquestionably the most significant and lasting of John Mcnider’s accomplishments as Seignior of Metis was the settlement on his lands of families from Scotland and those of soldiers disbanded after the end of the War of 1812-1814. He did much more than make land available to those new settlers, for he helped them to become established and provided the base of industry for local employment. By the year 1822, some 100 persons had settled along the river frontage of the Metis Seigniory, including the families to be named later in this article.

The development of Metis was enhanced by the personal friendship of John Mcnider with William Price, and their cooperation in exploiting the rich forest resources of the Metis hinterland. Price had a saw mill built on the bank of the River Metis and began to export the lumber to Quebec and overseas markets. This forest industry provided year long employment for a number of the pioneer settlers brought to Metis by John Mcnider.
The early story of the Seigniory of Metis would be incomplete without reference to the wife of John Mcnider. Not only did she support him in his plans for Metis, but her interesting “JOURNAL” recorded fascinating details of life, travel and personalities of her time. Born Angelique Stuart, daughter of the well known Stuart family of Quebec, she was linked, through her mother, with the Cartier family that gave Quebec and Canada the eminent statesman Sir George Cartier. Angelique Stuart grew up to marry William Ross of Quebec. Following the death of her first husband, the widow Ross married John Mcnider and, at Quebec and the Manor House of the Seigniory of Metis, was hostess to many of the influential and distinguished persons of her day. She died the same year, 1829, as her second husband, John Mcnider. As the couple had no children of their marriage and were in community of property, the settlement of their estate between the heirs of John Mcnider, his nephews, John and William, the sons of Adam Lymburner Mcnider, and the heirs of Angelique, the family of her first marriage with William Ross, required many years of complex legal effort.
Following the death of John Mcnider, his role as Seignior of Metis was assumed by Adam Lymburner Mcnider, whose sons of minor age were designated heirs to their uncle’s estate. Adam continued the progressive settlement policy of his predecessor and opened the 2nd and 3rd ranges of the seigniory. From the visit to Metis by Joseph Bouchette in 1830 and his book “THE BRITISH DOMINION IN NORTH AMERICA”, we learn that he was much impressed by the settlement and progress of the seigniory.

Reference to religious life at Metis Seigniory is found in the “Journals” of Archdeacon George J. Mountain and in the travel records of such Roman Catholic visitors as Bishop Plessis. In 1847, a church was built at Leggatt’s Point by the settlers. William Turriff, Dugald Smith, Peter Legatt, Sr. and William McRae were among the prominent founders of the church.
Neither William nor John Mcnider, the nephews of John Mcnider, were active as Seigniors of Metis in the decade following the death of their father, Adam, at the Manor House, Metis. In 1850, they sold the Seigniory to Archibald and David Ferguson, merchants of Montreal and personal friends of the last Mcnider Seignior. At the time of their purchase, the Ferguson brothers agreed that Archibald would have Great Metis while David would take Little Metis. Subsequently, Archibald sold his interests to David who remained the sole Seignior until his death. He built a new Manor House at Little Metis to replace the original home of John Mcnider that was destroyed by fire about 1854. The Manor of David Ferguson stood until 1935.
Though the seigniorial system of Quebec was ended formally by the Seigniorial Act of the Legislature in 1854, the old traditions were slow to fade away, particularly at Metis. David Ferguson continued to be known as Seignior until his death in 1870. His son and heir, John H. Ferguson, continued in that tradition. As the Act of 1854 required that an inventory and report be drawn up for each of the existing seigniories, we are fortunate in having in the Legislative Records the family names of those English and Scottish families settled at Metis. These include:
1st Concession. Ferguson, McEwing, Page, Campbell, Brand, McMillan, McCowan, Cavel, Smith, Leggatt, MacAlister, Paul, Fraser, Mcnider, Richey.
2nd Concession. McEwing, Crawford, Astle, Turriff, Sym, Stuart, Campbell, Smith, Cavel, Craig, McLaren, Blue, Burns, McGougan, McCowan, McMillan, Smith, Shaw.
3rd Concession. Mcnider, McEwing, Crawford, Astle, Turriff, Sym, Stuart, Smith, Craig, Polding, Ross, Riley.
During the later years of his life, John H. Ferguson didn’t live in the old stone Manor that his father, David, had built. He built a modest home south of the highway where he lived with his sisters. In 1886, he sold the Domain of Great Metis to George Stephen, Montreal financier, and President of the Bank of Montreal. Stephen is also remembered as the associate of his cousin, Donald Smith, in the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway. At Great Metis, George Stephen built an impressive summer home which was inherited by his niece, Mrs. Robert Reford, neé Elsie Stephen Meighen. It was Mrs. Reford who embellished the estate with the magnificent gardens that now constitute the Provincial Park of Grand Metis.

On the death of John H. Ferguson in 1920, without heirs, the domain of Little Metis was acquired by the Honourable Arthur Mathewson, a former treasurer of the Provincial of Quebec.

In this brief recall of the past of Metis, only the highlights of its interesting story have been mentioned. The family history of many of its pioneer settlers would be equally of interest. Gaspesians and the visitor to Gaspesia find in Metis a rich and fascinating heritage that in great measure is the memorial of its Seigniors, the Mcnider family and their successors.

Ken Annett – 1980-07-10

Compiled by Jacques Gagnégagne.jacques@sympatico.ca – 2016-02-29


Final Letter to Mr. Baldwin

The final letter to Mr. Baldwin seems so impersonal, despite a handwritten signature.

The RCAF officer signed only his initials “AAG” on the January 4, 1947 letter to John Ansley Baldwin.

AAG signature on Baldwin letter


May I again, at this time, offer my sincere sympathy at the loss of your son.”[1]

The initials seem to bely the sentiment expressed, but keep in mind that “AAG” had to write many such letters to parents. As casualty officer for Air Marshall Robert Leckie, Chief of the Air Staff from January 1944 until August 1947, AAG had to write to many parents of the 17,397 airmen who died serving with the Canadian Air Force during World War II.

In this instance, AAG was writing to the father of Flying Officer Air bomber John Moody Baldwin, the navigator on a flight flown by pilot William Coates. Baldwin went missing almost three years earlier—on March 25, 1944—when his plane went down during air operations in Germany with the RCAF. At that point, the 23-year-old had been an air bomber for two years.

This letter was the news firmly announcing his definite death to his family.

“The report from the Missing Research and Enquiry Service in Holland states that the aircraft in which they were flying crashed at about 12.30 A.M. on the 25gh March near Luyksgestel which is located approximately 12 miles South South West of Eindhoven.”

The letter, which was sent to 838 Concession Street, Hamilton, Ontario, goes on to say that the remains of the seven airmen were buried in the General Cemetery, Woensel, Eindhoven. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission indicates that they are now buried in Plot KK. Coll. grave 28-31.[2]

The letter was addressed to John Moody Baldwin’s father. An accompanying death certificate issued by the Province of Ontario identifies his mother as Margaret Moody. Both were born in Ontario.



[1] Baldwin, John Moody; Library and Archives Canada, RG-24, volume 24791, letter J24527 (RO, No. 10. Section), dated Ottawa, Canada, January 4th 1947.

[2] Veteran’s Affairs Canada, http://www.veterans.gc.ca/eng/remembrance/memorials/canadian-virtual-war-memorial/detail/2617623, viewed on May 23, 2016.

A Beautiful (Terrible) Life


The Royal Selangor Club and padang today in Kuala Lumpur.  Photo taken by my son.

It is a truth universal for genealogists: If at first you don’t succeed – finding info on an ancestor on the Internet – try and try again.

About ten years ago, surfing the Library of Congress online archive, I discovered that there existed a 1953 March of Time video about the Malayan Communist Emergency.  Even better, the blurb on said website claimed said this particular episode of the iconic newsreel contained a bit about my grandmother and namesake, Dorothy Nixon.

I soon found out that the video was long out of production. I couldn’t even find an old copy on eBay. Then, about two or three years later, a former Malayan colonial posted the video in its entirety on YouTube, Playing Cricket whilst Fighting Goes On. It’s still up there. 

Today, all I have to do is point and click and there she is: my small snowy-haired grandmother, about  55 years old, seated beside a man in a tall turban while scoring a cricket match at the much-storied Royal Selangor Club, on the pedang, or green, in Kuala Lumpur.

My grandmother’s segment is at the end of the piece describing  the decade long jungle conflict, at about the 6 minute mark.  “Mrs. Nixon,” says the announcer, “is a fixture at the Royal Selangor Club” which has just opened up to non-Europeans. It isn’t mentioned, but I know for a fact that, at the time, Dorothy was the only woman who had ever been allowed into the men’s section of the club.*

Before WWII, the green or padang was surrounded by government buildings.  That is why, on Boxing Day, 1941, two weeks after Pearl Harbour, the green was bombed by the Japanese.  My grandmother was at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, a library nearby, when the bombs hit. According to her family memoir, she hid under a desk until the barrage ended and then got up to help dig out dead bodies from the rubble.

Here’s a post-war picture of Dorothy with the Selangor Cricket team from the 1947 sent to me by a former Colonial.



The picture suggests my grandmother enjoyed being one of a few women among a large group of men. And, it’s true, almost everything I have learned about her seems to underscore this point.

A few days after the bombing, when Kuala Lumpur was overrun from the North by Japanese soldiers riding on bicycles, all rubber planters’ wives were told by telephone  to leave the city.  My grandmother removed herself only reluctantly, taking a dark and noisy night train to “safety” in Singapore.  When, a few days after that, and much to everyone’s surprise, Singapore fell, Dorothy simply refused to get on a boat to Batavia like most other British women, so she was interned at Changi Prison.

For a 6 month period in 1943, Granny, as we kids called her, was elected Women’s Commandant, where she had repeated run-ins with the mostly hands-off Japanese Commandant. Soon after she relinquished her leadership post, she was arrested by the Japanese Kempetai for allegedly spying (and colluding with the Men’s Camp) in an infamous ‘radio’ incident called the Double Tenth.  


Dorothy: Self-portrait. The relative luxury of her Changi cell. At first, the Japanese Commandant was hands-off and even helpful, but that changed over time with a new man put in the position.  The women’s camp population grew large, to over 300, over the span of the war and soon there were three women to a cell. 

Dorothy spent a month in a tiny windowless room in the bug-infested basement of the Singapore YMCA with 17 desperate male suspects who were taken out nightly to be tortured. Their screams and a bright light kept her from sleeping.  Then she was put in solitary confinement for five longs months and starved to an inch of her life on two cans of condensed milk a day.  Apparently, she much preferred the buggy room.*


(A page from her ‘memoir’..Double Tenth is 10th of October)

My father, a classic “Child of the Raj” hardly knew his own  British ‘mater’, so much of what I knew about my grandmother before my recent Internet forays was mere family myth.

Using Ancestry.co.uk, I recently discovered that my Granny travelled by boat from Yorkshire (well, Liverpool) to Malaya in December, 1921 to meet up with her new husband, Robert, also from the North of England, who was working on a rubber plantation near the beautiful Batu Caves.

(She had been a Land Girl in WWI, in forestry, leading the giant Clydesdales that pulled the logs through the woods.)

She gave birth to my father, Peter, but ten  months later, and this despite the fact my grandfather refused to give up his Asian girlfriend. Anglo rubber companies forced their employees to marry British wives, which provoked a lot of resentment against these interloping women, who were considered too high maintenance and parvenus of a sort.

Still, colonial life wasn’t all terrible. In the twenties, Dorothy attended polo matches with sultans and hosted formal dinners for British dignitaries, some of these men living legends, at her airy bungalow on her husband’s rubber estate.

“We had fun in those days,’ she told a journalist in the 1970’s, who put it in a book about Colonial Malaya. The journalist described my grandmother, in her dotage, as very weak and ‘somewhat vague.’

It was later, in the 1930s that Dorothy became Head Librarian at the Kuala Lumpur Book Club, a turn-of-the-century institution that also provided a mail-order book box service for Brits isolated in the remote jungle.  I don’t know if she took on this job out of sheer boredom (since her children had been sent to England early on, and she had the usual quota of servants) or because the Depression forced her to.

Then came WWII and her near-death experience at the hands of the Japanese.  Eventually, in the fifties and sixties, she was anointed the “Grand Dame of Cricket” in Malaya.  For a while they were giving out a Dorothy Nixon Trophy.

My grandmother died in 1972 at age 77, shortly after that interview, in her rooms at the Majestic Hotel in KL surrounded by her precious personal collection of books which were later donated to the Malaysian National Library, but not before meeting her name-sake granddaughter.

Upon her retirement from the KL Book Club, in the summer of 1967, she flew in to visit us for six months in the Snowdon area of Montreal.

Dorothy Senior was not impressed, I can tell you, with our bilingual island city, our ‘exotic’ World’s Fair, or her pimply, pubescent string-bean of a granddaughter.

And all I saw in her was a bad-tempered old crone, always pacing the narrow halls of our cramped upper duplex apartment with a Rothman’s cigarette in one hand a tall tumbler of gin in the other, criticizing almost everything, including my mother’s decadent pound-of-butter, six egg French Chocolate Pie.

So closely confined and besieged by a band of unruly Canadian grandkids, she must have felt as if she were back at Changi!


Granny, in picture, visited us for Expo67.

She did, indeed, tell my mother about her WWII experience and my mother did mention it to me. “Try to be nice to your grandmother,” I recall Mummy saying. “ During the war she had to sit cross-legged for days in a room with many men.”  But, that plea made no impression on me.

My grandmother and I hardly spoke,that sweet Expo summer, even though I gave her breakfast in bed every morning, one hard-boiled egg and a tiny container of a strange food called ‘yogurt’, and we both preferred it that way.

After all, the  very first week of her visit she had told me I could never visit her in Malaysia, as she would ‘lose face’ in front of her Chinese friends.

Oh, well. I’m making it up to her now.


*The Royal Selangor Club, founded in 1884 by British colonials, has a long history reaching back to Victorian times. The story goes the club was knick-named the Spotted Dog because, from the beginning, people of all races were allowed to join, although this March of Time piece suggests that happened only in the 50’s. Still, no question, Malaya  in the 1920’s and 30’s was a bustling multi-cultural society – but with a distinct pecking order.

*Luckily, she wasn’t horribly tortured like the men or a  certain young Chinese  woman, who suffered all kinds of indignities including electric shock and, yes, even, waterboarding.*(IF you have seen the brilliant BBC series Tenko, you’ll know all about her Changi experience. That fictional mini-series was bang on from what I can see. )

The Irish of Frampton, Quebec

Irish immigrants to the province of Quebec arrived at the port of Quebec City from the earliest days of the 19th century. From there, the British authorities began the process of allocating lands to these mostly poor Irish settlers. Some went to Montreal, where many of the men were hired to work on big construction projects such as the Lachine Canal in the early 1820s. Others settled in small hamlets in Portneuf, Lotbinière, Drummond, Gaspé, Huntingdon, Chateauguay, Joliette, Maskinongé, Montcalm, Napierville, Richmond and Deux Montagnes counties, as well as in the Ottawa Valley region. Many Irish Protestants moved further west, to Upper Canada.

Marianna O’Gallagher (1929-2010) wrote numerous books about the Irish of Quebec, and one of her texts inspired Rev. John A. Gallagher to write St. Patrick’s ParishQuebec. This article recalls the communal life of the Irish Catholic families of Quebec City before their final departures to various communities across the province. You can find this article online at http://www.umanitoba.ca/colleges/st_pauls/ccha/Back%20Issues/CCHA1947-48/Gallagher.pdf

The region of Frampton, in Dorchester County, was the site of one of the earliest rural settlements of Irish Catholic families in Quebec. Today, Frampton is in a beautiful area known as the Beauce, south of Quebec City, and the community is almost completely French-speaking, but 150 years ago things were very different. You will find a 62-page text entitled Irish Life in Rural Quebec: a history of Frampton, by Patrick M. Redmond, online at http://www.framptonirish.com/frampton/content/Irish_Life.pdf It includes the names of many individuals, as well as statistics, extensive footnotes and a bibliography.

The Frampton Irish Website, http://www.framptonirish.com/frampton/Whats_New.cfm, written by Dennis McLane, includes a database of more than 12,000 names. This database has also been posted to the public member trees section of Ancestry.com. Irish Needles, McLane’s three-volume history of the Frampton Irish, is available from http://www.Amazon.com. These three books are:

Volume I – Irish Needles: The History of the Frampton Irish – 245 pages – 3,600 families – 13,200 people > $20 US

Volume II – Genealogy Compendium of the Frampton Irish, A-K – 405 pages > $25 US

Volume III – Genealogy Compendium of the Frampton Irish. L-Z – 389 pages > $25 US

The Beautiful Montreal Metro System

By Sandra McHugh

Genealogy is much more than filling in names and dates on a family tree.  It is also about the social history and context in which our ancestors lived.  It is about technological, economic, and social advances and how they affected our ancestors and changed their lives. This is why I love local historical societies and what they bring to local and personal histories.

The Montreal metro system changed everything about Montreal.  It improved the public transportation system and allowed people to go back and forth from work comfortably and quickly.  It also enhanced neighbourhoods and created synergies between different areas of Montreal.

The metro system was inaugurated on October 14, 1966 during the tenure of Montreal mayor Jean Drapeau.1 Montreal City council voted to build the metro system in 1961, and a year later, in 1962, Montreal’s bid for the world fair was granted and therefore the push was on to have the system completed in time for Expo 67.2 Expo 67, a celebration of Canada’s centennial, was held from April 1967 to October 1967.3

Montreal’s metro system is renowned for its architecture and public art.  Each station is unique.  Today, more than fifty stations are decorated with over one hundred works of art. Some of the more noteworthy pieces of art include the stained glass window at the Champs de Mars Station by Quebec artist Marcelle Ferron and the Guimard entrance to the Square Victoria Station. This is the only authentic Guimard entrance outside of Paris, although there are other subway systems around the world that have reproductions of Guimard entrances. 4

Guimard entrance

Guimard entrance to Square Victoria Station

In celebration of Montreal metro’s system and its fifty years, Heritage Montreal is offering architectural walking tours of the Montreal metro system that include information on how the metro stations transformed the surrounding neighbourhoods.  These tours are open to all for a modest fee and will run every weekend until September 25.  Heritage Montreal is a non-profit organization that “promotes and protects the architectural, historic, natural and cultural heritage of Greater Montreal.”5 You can find information on these walking tours here:


In 2017, Montreal will be celebrating its 375th anniversary.  Over the centuries, the building of bridges, roads, the railroad, trams, and bus and metro systems have shaped and transformed the economic, social, and cultural aspects of Montreal.  The Montreal metro system is a beautiful and integral part of Montreal’s heritage.  Let’s appreciate it.


1 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Metro

2 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellow_Line_(Montreal_Metro)

3 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Expo_67

4 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montreal_Metro

5 http://www.heritagemontreal.org/en/about-us/our-mission/


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