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Am I My Father’s Son, or Genealogy Revisited

By René Péron, Ottawa, 2015

Have you ever considered? At a certain point did you ever imagine that ………………?

We are inclined to approach our genealogical research in a manner which may not be quite exact, if not incorrect! That is particularly so in our present day context, with our so-called free lifestyle, not to say libertine one, when words such as marriage and spouse seem to have lost their importance, their value as transmitted to us by our ancestors.

I would say that we are all guilty! In this our twenty-first century, it would seem less important and more difficult to try to find out who is the father of a given child, often for reasons of divorce or of couples splitting up. Children are bounced hither and thither, given the father’s or the mother’s family name, or even the name of a new father or mother.

And what can one really say about those new partnerships between women where one of the two, or even both, claim the right to have or to bring up children, to adopt one or to pass on their name? All of this over and above the present system when one can adopt a child whose mother is perforce almost always known by the very nature of things, but where the father may be anonymous. Etc…. Etc….

However, let us not cast stones on our current era or on the twentieth century only. Take an honest look at the past here in North America, as well as in Europe. Without casting that same stone on any one of our female or male ancestors, what do we perceive through the ages?

So many children were born of incest, of concubinage, of adulterous unions! How does one view the matter of those children born during a gestation period which does not at all correspond with the presence of the father, or whose features or other characteristics have a strange resemblance to those of the village priest, of the uncle, of……..and so on?

And now we have come into an era where one openly discusses the merits of the egg being fertilized by frozen, donated or bought sperm, supplied through a sperm bank. In such an event, because of requested anonymity or confidentiality, the biological father or mother are often unknown.

Facing this situation, would it not be more logical to trace the ascendancy of a person or the descendancy of a family from one female to the other? Save but in a few rare occurrences today, the biological mother is nearly always known in the normal course of events. The father?????

And just as such a solution seems simple, we now find ourselves in a period where one woman’s egg, fertilized via the sperm of a man, either known or unknown, may be inserted into the body of another woman known as a surrogate. Tackling the question head on, who would be the mother, who would be the father, what should be the child’s name?

In The Seven Daughters of Eve (New York: W.W. Norton, 2001), author and scientist Bryan Sykes describes how all humans share one ancient mother in Africa: Mitochondrial Eve. In the future, where will our descendants find themselves in their genealogical searches? Already some researchers have hit an almost insurmountable wall in the past, dates which did not correspond with reality in timing, or mysteries hidden in confidential orphanage records.

For the last twenty years or so, authors relate for us that very obscure past which was that of our ancestors here and abroad. And what can one say of the situation, mainly in the United States, where, in order to clarify a dubious lineage, people have begun to use the new science of DNA? What normally confidential situations will be encountered there?

Will the future bring clarification as well as problems to the field of genealogy? It will be up to the younger generations to watch for this, as the whole matter risks becoming clouded at the expense of serious genealogical research. At least that is what I surmise, whilst hoping that I am in error.

Quebec City Directories

City directories contain a wealth of information for the genealogist, historian, urban geographer and the just plain curious. Quebec City directories are no different: they list residents, merchants and city streets, churches, courts, hotels, banks, charitable organizations and much more.

The link included in the PDF below will take you to the website of Quebec’s provincial library and archives, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec. It has digitized Quebec City directories (annuaires) from 1822-1976. If you had ancestors living in Quebec City or suburbs (banlieue) such as Beauport and Lévis during these years, you will probably find them in the directories. Some years include listings in what was known as the Huron Village.

The directories are at least partly written English until 1955; after that, they were published in French, but shouldn’t be hard to follow with the help of a free online translator such as Google Translate.

Thanks to Jacques Gagné for putting this listing together, and to Claire Lindell for editing.

Quebec City People

Our Contributors

GE group2Some of the volunteers who contribute to Genealogy Ensemble got together this week to plan the blog’s schedule for the coming months. We’ll be posting our stories on Wednesdays and Jacques Gagné’s compilations will go up on Sundays, as they become available. We also hope to eventually welcome new contributors. Pictured here, left to right, are Mary Sutherland, Sandra McHugh, Claire Lindell, Janice Hamilton, Marian Bulford, Lucy Anglin and Tracey Arial.


By René Péron

Religious history tells us that what we call The Reformation was indeed part and parcel of several attempts to reform certain aspects of the once dominant Roman Catholic Church. Be it under the influences of Francis of Assisi, Erasmus, Waldo, Hus, most prior moves towards reform from within said Church lasted but short periods of time. It remained for two convinced and strong willed men, namely Martin Luther and Jean Chauvin (whom we know best as Jean Calvin or John Calvin) to found separate though like-intentioned movements for deep and exacerbating reform.

Out of these said movements there was born a surge of people who became followers of the revised theological thinking as promulgated by each of the above named men, each in his own right and own sphere of influence. Thus the followers of the one became known as Lutherans and those of the other as Calvinists.

As is also well known, homo sapiens being a questioning animal, even the followers of the above two men started questioning some of their theological pronouncements. Over the years, much to the dismay of many, such questionings became points of division within the very core of the first Lutherans or Calvinists. These divisions on doctrinal or other issues within “reformed” Christianity over the last several centuries have led to a multitude of groups, such bearing names which they gave themselves or were given by others to differentiate, separate them from other believers in Christianity. Some of these names were outright fanciful whilst others were based on their beliefs or organizational set-ups. Thus Lutherans, Calvinists, Baptists, Pentecostals, Presbyterians, Brethren, to name a few.

As North America as we know it today was founded by members of these diverse religious groups said members formed communities of like minded folk and their religious entities bore, bear, names borrowed,  adopted, from the movements found in the country of origin, be it the British Isles or the European continent. . Canada, particularly after the Conquest, inherited similar religious names through the migration of people from the British Isles as well as Europe. To these was the added influence of those U.S. citizens known to us as (a) Loyalists, or more simply as (b) people who crossed back and forth over the common border between Canada and the U. S. A., loosely guarded and even more loosely observed or recognized. Some of these latter individuals belonged to splinter religious entities, thus forming dissentient groups in Canada, keeping their identifying religious nomenclatures. Needless to say, further dissenting members of the established groups perpetuated the practice of adopting names to identify themselves.

In all of this one must not lose sight of the historical fact that in the early days, after the conquest, non-French speaking immigrants were most apt to affiliate, join, with the then official state church, namely the Church of England. However many areas soon saw the arrival of itinerant preachers of the then established denominations, some originating in the British Isles, others in the U.S.A., ; these men would often visit communities which were not, or at least not well, served by the state church. Thus there soon were pockets of folk who formed Baptist, Methodist, or other church groups as they gathered around the said itinerant preachers, adopted their way of expressing their religious beliefs and took on the nomenclature which defined their particular approach to “religion”.

Perhaps this modus operandi was most noticeable in those geographical areas where the established state church had not found it expedient to send representatives. Understandably such areas were in the undeveloped hinterland. Those places, distant from the large centres, such as along the U.S./Canada border, were most susceptible to experience this phenomenon.

All of which leads one to remark or note that when the Province de Québec saw the beginnings of its own “reform” movement amidst the French speaking population in the early 1800s the people who converted to Protestantism  were apt to follow the same pattern in joining one particular religious denomination or the other. One can cite as an example the group which many historians recognize as the first to firmly put down roots and later affiliate itself with a recognized denomination, namely the Baptist one. Its founders, from “la Suisse” (Switzerland), namely Louis Roussy and Mrs Henriette (née Odin) Feller  had felt a spiritual calling to come to Québec to evangelize. Supported by a non-conformist missionary /religious society, La société des missions évangéliques de Lausanne, in Suisse, encouraged by a fellow Christian, namely Henri Olivier, who was already trying to evangelize French language Canadians in the Montréal region, they briefly came to that city and endeavoured to convert the local folk to their view or approach to the Protestant faith.

French Canadian Research tips

To look up French-Canadian Catholics:
1. Plug in the name of your ancestor in to the BAnQ archives directly (refer to our link for the right address): no need to know the church or village name.
2. Remember that in Quebec, women are listed under their birth family name in records, from birth to death, regardless of whether they married or not. There may ‘’wife of’’ or ‘’widow of’’ also included.
3. To make it even easier, parents are listed on marriage records.
You can use the Drouin collection of books, one for men and one for women, with marriages 1760-1935, or online Drouin or Ancestry or Family Search at home or at the Quebec family History Society or at numerous other sources.

Writing Your Family History

For some people, genealogy is enough. BMDs, children’s names and extended family trees keep them busy. But some of us want more. We want to learn the details of our ancestors’ lives, find out what historical events affected them – and then write about them.

Once a month a group of us meet at the Quebec Family History Society library to share our ancestor’s stories, try to improve our writing skills, and learn from each other. There are two rules: articles are limited to 500 words, and we must list our sources. It isn’t always easy, but it is fun.


This month Claire wrote about her great-grandfather François Evariste Fortin, a merchant and contractor in Pembroke, Ontario who lost and then rediscovered his Catholic faith. Barb’s story was about her grandfather James Rankin Angus, a Scottish carpenter who worked on the construction of the ocean liner Lusitania, then spent 20 years running a book store in Quebec City.

Lucy has been writing about the Hanington family, the first English settlers in Shediac, New Brunswick. Janice’s subject was Robert Hamilton, a Scottish weaver who took up farming in Scarborough, Upper Canada. Mary told the story of great-grandfather Ismael Bruneau, a French-speaking Protestant minister.

Dorothy wrote about Norman Nicholson, her husband’s great-grandfather, an ordinary man who had one extraordinary habit: for five decades he kept track of every aspect of his life, from business expenses to a dating diary.

Oskar focused on Abraham Martin, from whom his granddaughter is descended. The Battle of the Plains of Abraham was fought on his land, but consensus about Abraham’s life ends there. Some stories say he was a farmer, others call him a river pilot. Some accounts say he returned to France for several years, others say he stayed in Quebec. Oskar clarified the confusion even if he didn’t resolve the conflicts.

Ruth wrote about her search for John Morrison. This being a common name, she couldn’t figure out which John Morrison in the 1861 census of Scotland was hers. John’s mother’s name was the less common Robina, and his daughter was also Robina, so she looked for Robina and found John in Illinois.

Next month some of us may do rewrites and others will tackle new subjects, but we are all making progress on writing our family histories, 500 words at a time. To learn more about this Special Interest Group, go to