My former red hair often had people asking where in Scotland I’m from. For years, I knew of no Scottish blood relatives. Now, I’ve finally found Scottish and Irish roots on my mom’s side.
Turns out that great granny Keziah Charlotte Mcmaster Charboneau, whose birth took place almost exactly a hundred years before mine, identified as ‘Scotch’ even though she never lived in Scotland.
Keziah’s heritage demonstrates a clear cultural tradition in my family of identifying children with their father’s heritage.
She could have identified as Canadian, given that her birth took place in Orangeville Ontario. She might have been Irish, because her mom Mary Willard’s birthplace was Ireland. Still, it was her dad Robert Mcmaster’s birthplace that was important. He was born in Scotland, although I don’t know where.
Even though her parents had different heritages, Keziah identified as “Scotch.”
Yet, some crossed-out hashtags next to her eldest child on the 1901 census indicate that someone wanted to make sure her children were seen as French.
The enumerator probably initially assumed the children shared their mother’s heritage of ‘Scotch’ because the entire family was English-speaking and practiced the Brethren religion. Many of the people he interviewed in the village of Weston, Ontario practiced the protestant denomination stemming from a German movement that began in 1708.
His mistake got corrected, however, presumably by 38-year-old Keziah herself.
Clear hashtag marks indicating that Etta was Scotch were scratched out to write in the word “French” to match the heritage of their father, Paul Charbonneau, who appears in a 1917 Weston resident list as “the caretaker who lives in the house on the east side of Cross street.”
The rest of the hashtags identify all ten children—from two-year-old Wilbert, through six-year-old John, eight-year-old Zelia, nine-year-old Charlotte, 15-year-old Paul, 16-year-old Henry, 18-year-old Latton, 19-year-old Maggie and 20-year-old Etta—as French like their father, not Scotch like their mom.
Keziah and Paul’s first son, Matthew Dalton Charbonneau doesn’t appear at all, perhaps because he lived elsewhere on March 31, 1901 (the day the census is supposed to represent). He’s on earlier and later censuses though. Eight summers later, he married Edith Daniels in Toronto.
Even when family members had more information, they carried on the tradition of father-centred heritage. Kezia’s son, J.P. Charbonneau described her as “Scotch” on her death certificate just a few lines before identifying her parents’ birthplaces.
Keziah’s death took place in her son’s home at 111 St. Johns Road in Toronto. She died there of chronic myocarditis (heart failure) on July 30, 1932, at the age of 76 years old.
She’s buried in Weston’s Riverside Cemetery, 1567 Royal York Rd, Etobicoke, ON M9P 3C4. I plan to look for her gravesite when next in Toronto.