I never asked my great granny Charlotte about her wedding, but the records I’ve found hint at lots of intrigue.
Did they plan a summer wedding and then rush things to avoid conscription? Had they initially hoped to marry in the church next to her home but lost the opportunity due to community infighting?
Probably, but not yet proven.
What I do know is that my great grandparents—then 23-year-old groom Arthur Johnson and his 22-year-old bride Charlotte Charbonneau—chose to marry on Friday, February 9, 1917 in an unfinished church basement blocks away from her home instead of in the church right next door.
The direct information I have about that day appears in an affidavit filled out by Arthur on January 22, signed by the witnesses and solemniser, and turned in to the Registrar on February 17.
When looking at it, I couldn’t help wondering two things: why then and why there?
She wasn’t pregnant—their first son wouldn’t be born for another two years.
Money would be tight later, but at that point both had jobs. Arthur worked as a machinist and Charlotte served as a fore-lady, probably supervising women at a factory producing something for the war.
Did the impetus to marry early in 2017 have something to do with federal government musings about conscription at that time? Prime Minister Robert Borden promised publicly that he’d send 500,000 Canadian soldiers to Europe by the end of 1916. Only 300,000 men volunteered by December 2016, and numbers dwindled as horrific details about the Battle of the Somme reached Canada.
Borden passed conscription in August the summer after Arthur and Charlotte wed. Had they married after July 6, 2017, Arthur might have been conscripted. I might not exist.
I’m not sure why Arthur didn’t serve. He certainly had close ties with Europe having immigrated to Canada from Lancashire England ten years earlier. He came to Canada with his brother Albert and his parents, Mary Young and William Johnson.
Neither Arthur nor Albert volunteered for the Armed Forces and the family remained close. Albert and his wife Amie served as witnesses at Arthur and Charlotte’s wedding.
I also wonder how they selected the location of their marriage.
Both families worshipped in the Presbyterian faith. At the time, Charlotte still lived with her parents on Cross Street in Weston, right next to a Presbyterian Church called the Old Kirk at 11 Cross Street.
Turns out that the building couldn’t offer a legally-sanctioned marriage between March 2013 and June 2017, despite more than 200 of the 247 congregation members working hard to keep the place open.
The problem began in March 2013, when fewer than 38 people voted to close the facilities and sell the Cross Street building. Given that the snow kept 209 people at home that day, I suspect that the meeting in question took place in the Main Street building purchased for Sunday School services a year earlier.
The sordid affair appears in a wonderful history of the Church in Weston called “From Then to Now.”
At a congregational meeting in March 1913, bad weather kept attendance to 38 out of 245 members. A majority of the 38 voted to hold all future services at the new facility and to sell the Cross Street site. Westminster Presbyterian Church was then fully established on the new site and the Cross Street site was sold.
The church on Cross Street was then re-purchased by some of the old members and services resumed on January 18th, 1914. Presbytery refused to recognize this congregation though, so it operated as an independent Presbyterian Church known as The Old Kirk The group continued to worship steadfastly and endured three failed petitions to Toronto Presbytery asking to be recognized as a second Presbyterian congregation in Weston (one petition was signed by 259 members). They appealed to the General Assembly, held in Montreal in June 1917, and the appeal was sustained. The church was then named The Old Presbyterian Church. From June 1917 to 1925 there were two official Presbyterian Churches in Weston.
In 1925 Westminster Presbyterian voted for church union and The Old Presbyterian Church opted to remain Presbyterian. It was then named Weston Presbyterian Church and Westminster became Westminster United Church. 
I haven’t yet found definitive proof that Charlotte and her family took part in the purchase or petitions of the Cross Street building. Given that Arthur and Charlotte married within a completely different congregation, however, it’s likely that they did.
Perhaps the couple hoped to be the first marriage in the renewed building, but then chose to wed rapidly so Arthur could avoid conscription. They needed a legally-sanctioned marriage.
Arthur’s affidavit provides the address. It indicates that Reverend Charles A. Mustard presided over Charlotte and Arthur’s wedding ceremony at 38 Harvie Avenue, a building at the corner of St. Clair Avenue.
Information contained within a Presbyterian Museum article about the Church after it was torn down in 1999 gives context. The St. David’s Church congregation purchasing the Harvie site in 1911. They began operations by moving an original frame church from the south side of St. Clair Avenue opposite McRoberts to the new site. That building opened in 1912.
The community grew rapidly. By 1914, they hired Toronto architect Herbert George Paul to incorporate their original wood frame structure into a new larger building. He finished constructing only the basement, however, when the bank pulled the Church loan due to World War I.
A speech by John Barron in June 1918 describes what happened.
In the year 1911 the present site was secured. Seventy-two feet of the frontage being presented by Westminster Church, to which the Church building was moved and alterations made. This building was opened on Nov. 12, 1912.
The congregation outgrew this accommodation, and in the year 1914 plans were prepared and the present building was commenced, but owing to conditions brought about by the war, the basement only was finished and used for services to the present time.
So, instead of getting married in a perfectly good building on Charlotte’s street, community infighting and a war forced the couple to wed in an unfinished basement in St. David’s Presbyterian Church.
 Johnson, Arthur. Affadavid, 022461, loose paper, Office of the Registar General Ontario. Rec. Date: Jan 22, 2019. Ontario Canada Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario. Toronto. MS932, Reel 440, Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Ancestry. http://www.ancestry.ca : 2010.
 From Then to Now, 1847 to 2007, a history by the Weston Presbyterian Congregation, http://westonpresbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/WestonPCHistory.pdf
Ten generations before I was born, and for at least three generations before that, my French-speaking ancestors settled in Port Royal on the Annapolis River.
They probably arrived as colonizers in 1603. That’s when France’s King Henri IV set up “La Cadie” between the 40th and 46th parallels south of the Saint Lawrence River. For a good idea of how they lived, visit the Port-Royal National Historic Site.
Just before, or just after, the birth of François Allard III, his parents left the region for Quebec.
I imagine they refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch.
For at least three generations, French settlers like them fought with local Mi’kmaq people against British settlers in New England. Throughout the years, many cross-border conflicts and trade ship privateering occurred. The worse early incident led to Port Royal’s destruction by fire in 1613. It was rebuilt and skirmishes continued for a century, with the French and Mi’kmaq remaining strong.
The siege of Port Royal in 1710 marked the beginning of the end of French dominance in the region.
On October 5, 1,880 British and New England soldiers arrived at Goat Island just south of Port Royal in five warships with accompanying transport and bomb galleys. First, they blockaded supplies, food and water from getting into the town. Then they began moving men and equipment into the Annapolis River to get ready to attack the fort. One transport capsized killing 23 men. After that, they moved more carefully, landing safely.
Canons attacked the fort for a week. By the end of the day on October 12, the French gave up. The terms of surrender were signed the following day.
According to the University of Moncton researcher N.E.C. Griffiths, surrender terms said:
that the Inhabitants within Cannon shot of the Fort of Port Royal, shall remain upon their estates, with their Corn, Cattle and Furniture, During two years in case they are not Desirous to go before, they taking the Oaths of Allegiance & Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain.” 
Over the next three years, Port Royal became Annapolis Royal and La Cadie became Nova Scotia. Sometime during this period, my family shed their maritime roots for landlubber status.
The 1714 Acadian Census shows a family headed by François Allard living in Port Royal with his wife, one son and two daughters. If these are my ancestors, François was either a second son who came later or his birthdate is wrong.
More likely this was a different family.
According to my grandmother’s records, my nine times great grandfather Jean-Baptiste Allard and his wife Anne Elisabeth Pageau had François III on February 3, 1719.
It’s hard to figure out why her records show him as the third person to hold the name “François” with his father clearly identified as Jean Baptiste. She does show his grandfather as Jean François but his great grandfather’s name was Jacques. He doesn’t get it from the other side for sure. The men in Anne Elisabeth’s family were Thomases going back at least two generations.
My grandmother’s notes show François III’s birthplace as Port Royal, although I found a family tree online that shows a man with the same name born to parents with the same names in Charlesbourg, Quebec.
Either way, by the time François III got married in November 1741, he and his wife Barbe Louise Bergevin definitely lived in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Their daughter, Marie Louise Allard, would be born on November 3, 1742, at Notre Dame de Quebec. Any links to the shores of the Annapolis River were lost forever.
Meanwhile, Acadians in Nova Scotia refused to swear allegiance to the Queen of Britain. Wars continued in the region until 1758. The expulsion of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until the British Conquest, led to Longfellow’s famous poem about Evangeline and Gabriel.
By then, my ancestors were well-established in Quebec.
We have none of the deported Acadians in the family; only people who originally settled La Cadie.
 Griffiths, N.E.S. (2005). From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755, ISBN 978-0-7735-2699-0. University of Moncton, McGill-Queen’s University Press. p235.
Today’s writing group featured many quilts. Stay tuned for the stories to match!
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.
Fourteen days after Canada declared War on Italy and the same day France signed an armistice with the country, my grandfather Richard Charles Himphen left his job as a baker’s helper to enlist in The Irish Regiment of Canada.
He said a declaration out loud, in front of someone whose name looks like Mr. Armstrong Cafo, although it might also be Captain M. Armstrong.
…I hereby engage to serve in the Canadian Active Service Force so long as an emergency, ie, war, invasion, riot or insurrection, real or apprehended, exists, and for the period of demobilization after said emergency ceases to exist, and in any event for a period of not less than one year, provided His Majesty should so require my services.”
Then he said:
I Richard Charles Himphen do solemnly promise and swear (or solemnly declare) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty.”
I know he said those words because they’re on his attestation papers. Although since no one crossed out one or the other I don’t know whether he “solemnly promised and swore” or “solemnly declared.” I suspect he did both because he was reading from the paper and it says both, but I don’t know.
Unless you have an ancestor who participated in a court case or worked as an actor, singer or writer, it can be difficult to obtain quotes from his or her life.
Military recruits, however, usually had to say declarations and oaths out loud in front of a witness and both had to sign to make enlistment legal. If that happened, the declarations and oaths will be on their attestation papers.
You also have the name of the witness if you can read his or her signature.
Most attestation papers include declarations and/or oaths, but not all. The attestation paper of Harry Denis Davy who enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force on February 14, 1919 doesn’t include either an attestation or an oath. Then again, it’s possible that there was a third page missing from his service record.
James Fredrick Devitt served with the same unit and his attestation papers included a declaration and oath.
I James Patrick Devitt do solemnly declare that the foregoing particulars are true, and I hereby engage to serve on active service anywhere in Canada, and also beyond Canada and overseas, in the Royal Canadian Air Force for the duration of the present war, and for the period of demobilization thereafter, and in any event for a period of not less than one year, provided His Majesty should so long require my services.”
Soldiers in other wars said different things.
During WWI, on October 29, 1915, bank clerk John Glass said:
I hereby engage and agree to serve in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force, and to be attached to any arm of the service therein, for the term of one year, or during the war now existing between Great Britain and Germany should that war last longer than one year, and for six months after the termination of that war provided His Majesty should so long require my services, or until legally discharged.”
Boilermaker Arthur Luker said the exact same thing on June 24, 1916.
Steamfitter William Wright said the same thing on September 21, 1914.
Henry Hadley Jr.’s file doesn’t include an oath or declaration. He signed a Officers’ Declaration Paper on December 9, 1915 instead.
South African war recruits swore at least two declarations and two oaths. Farmer Henry Smith Munro, for example, swore on October 6, 1899 that he would:
…well and truly serve our Sovereign Lady The Queen in the Canadian Contingent for Active Service, until lawfully discharged, and that I will resist Her Majesty’s enemies, and cause Her Majesty’s peace to be kept on land and at sea, and that I will in all matters appertaining to my service faithfully discharge my duty, according to law. So help me God.
Then, on December 24, 1901, he said:
I Henry Smith Munro, do sincerely promise and swear (or solemnly declare) that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to His Majesty, King Edward VII, His Heirs and Successors and that I will faithfully defend Him and them in Person, Crown and Dignity, against all enemies and will obey all orders of the Officers set over me.
As you go through the form, you definitely want to refer to a Canadian Archives’ abbreviations page to understand everything on the form.
Pay careful attention to marital status. Often, wives or husbands had to send letters to the recruiting office giving permission for someone to enlist. These letters are wonderful sources of direct information about your ancestor.
Also, look carefully for typical fields that remain blank. This might indicate that your ancestor intentionally left the field blank to make sure they would not be rejected. Eliza Richardson describes why nurses left several blanks on their attestation forms during World War I.
The Nursing Sisters who did not fit the camc requirements of age, education, and marital status bypassed regulations by deliberately abstaining from marking down pertinent information on their attestation forms. It is only through pairing Toman’s statistics with the personal accounts of Nursing Sisters in the form of letters, memoirs and photographs that these inconsistencies become clear and a more accurate picture of the composition of the Nursing Sisters becomes possible.”
After collecting information from the attestation papers of your relatives, you may want to do a search of academic papers on Google scholar to figure out how the information you learn fits within common assumptions about historical trends.
Now that attestation papers have been more widely digitized, historians have been examining them for health and sociological information. New interesting papers are constantly appearing.
A simple search informed me about a decades-long discussion questioning why statistics show soldiers at the beginning of World War I being shorter than those who served in the Anglo-Boer War even though there were only 14 years between the beginning of one war and the end of the second.
Last February, Martine Mariotti, Johan Fourie and Kris Inwood from the Australian National University and the universities of Stellenbosch and Guelph came up with a theory to explain the discrepancy in their article Military Technology and Sample Selection Bias.
We posit that new technologies, and the changes in military strategy entailed by those technologies, explain the difference. The Anglo-Boer War, also termed ‘the last gentleman’s war’, was the last war to use cavalry lancers, a military strategy where height is a particular advantage. In contrast, the mechanization of weapons during WWI meant that soldiers’ heights were no longer so important. In this case, improvements to military technology help to explain the apparent decline in stature between the two wars.
If you have an ancestor who served as a soldier in WWI or the Anglo-Boer War, you might want to mark down his height and compare it to the average height of soldiers at that time. Then you can comment on whether he fits the general trend or not. You might also try to figure out whether his task was height-dependent.
If you want help writing stories about your ancestors using attestation papers, I’m offering a course that begins at the end of the month. You can find more information on my Teachable page. There’s also a free course about my four-step system for writing profiles on that same page.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear what you discover about Canadian military attestation papers in the comments.
 Himphen, Richard Charles; Library and Archives Canada, R112, volume 30826.
 Davy, Harry; Library and Archives Canada, RG-24, volume 25178.
 Devitt, James Frederick; Library and Archives Canada, RG-24, volume 25203.
 Munro, Henry Smith; Department of Veterans Affairs fonds, RG38, volume 11170, T-2079, p1.
 Munro, Henry Smith; Department of Veterans Affairs fonds, RG38, volume 11170, T-2079, p10.
 Richardson, Eliza. “Sister Soldiers of the Great War: The Nurses of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (Book Review)” by Cynthia Toman,” Canadian Military History: Vol. 27 : Iss. 1, Article 9. Available at: http://scholars.wlu.ca/cmh/vol27/iss1/9, accessed January 5, 2019.
 Fourie, Johan, Martine Mariotti and Kris Inwood. “Military Technology and Sample Selection Bias,” Stellenbosch Working Paper Series No. WP03/2018, February 2018, https://www.ekon.sun.ac.za/wpapers/2018/wp032018
As she boarded the great ship Phoénix de Flessingue in May 1663, Catherine Barré knew she would never return to her hometown of La Rochelle, France.
Did she worry about the ship sinking? Would pirates attack during the six-week journey overseas? What kind of life did she imagine might be waiting for her in New France? How could she agree to marry a man, Maurice Rivet, sight unseen? Did she wonder what their life raising a family together might be like?
I am among Catherine’s 12th generation descendants from my father’s side. Thinking about her courage and resiliency gives me strength, even as I notice myself sharing her impulsive faith-led need to act, sometimes with less information than is desirable.
Despite that flaw, Catherine’s life seems to have worked out, with a few major hiccups.
Her first hiccup made her choose to be a pawn in King Louis X1V’s scheme to populate New France. In exchange for her agreement to marry and raise a family, she received 10 pounds for her own use, 30 pounds for clothing and grooming paraphernalia and free passage overseas at a cost of 60 pounds.
Today, she’s known as a “King’s Daughter.” More than 800 women travelled to New France during the decade beginning in 1663.
Catherine was among the first women who chose to travel to New France under the sponsorship of her king, but 262 other women made similar choices in the previous three decades. The private “Company of 100 Associates” sponsored them.
Why did these women choose to leave everything they knew in France? We don’t know.
In Catherine’s case, however, it seems likely that she faced persecution due to her religion. Abjuration records place her among thirteen Protestants sent to New France from La Rochelle.
During this period, the practice of Protestantism by people called the Huguenots was discouraged in France, although not yet illegal. The peace set up by King Henry IV’s Edict of Nantes became eroded over time until his grandson King Louis XIV revoked it in 1685, removing religious freedom entirely. Bishops in New France begged French Finance Minister Jean-Baptiste Colbert to expel the Protestants from the colony as well, but he wouldn’t do it. Many Huguenots were literate craftsmen and business owners who were needed in New France. Also, sending Huguenots overseas eliminated their influence in France. There were no regulations against Huguenot worship in New France until 1676.
Whatever the reason for her departure from France, the daughter of Jean Barré and Marie Epy arrived in Quebec City on June 30, 1663, aboard the Phoénix.
She may have had to take a boat ride down the St. Lawrence, stopping from town to town to meet eligible bachelors, although since she was already betrothed, that may not have been necessary. It sounds like a bizarre 15th-century version of speed-dating.
In addition to eventually renouncing her religion, Catherine also renounced the initial man she chose to wed. Or perhaps he renounced her, although that is less likely. Whichever the case, Duquet annulled the contract between Catherine and Maurice Rivet on November 17, 1664.
Vachon wrote a contract between Catherine and Mathurin Chaillé on December 30, 1664.
During this period, all couples signed marriage contracts prior to their church weddings, as Suzanne Boivin Sommerville pointed out in her comment about this story here. She wrote:
“A marriage contract is a legal _promise_ to marry as soon as possible in the Holy, Roman, and Apostolic Catholic Church. It was not the sacrament and legal act of marriage. It could be, and often was, annulled before any religious rite took place. Some women annulled more than one contract before settling on a husband…prospective spouses were the ones to cancel the contract, even at the advice of witnesses or family, not the Church.”
Catherin married Mathurin Chaillé on January 11, 1665 “as soon as could be allowed after the Seasons of Advent and Christmas” wrote Boivin Sommerville.
Boivin Sommerville has prepared a wonderful PowerPoint presentation and several blog posts about the culture and norms in early New France on the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan website. Her work is well-worth-reading.
Catherine and Mathurin had their first child, a son nine months after their wedding.
My direct relative was their fourth child, Jean Barré Chaillé. He came along nine years later in 1674. By then the family lived in Sillery after being evicted from their farm on the seigneurie of Beauport.
The couple had six children in total. One son died at 10 years old, but the rest married and had families of their own.
Three of the families lived in Portneuf near their parents, but my ancestor Jean and his brother Henri moved to Montreal. I like to imagine Catherine and her husband Mathurin visiting them on occasion, but haven’t yet found evidence of that.
Both Catherine and her husband Mathurin died within a week of each other in the summer of 1707. She was 63 years old. There were record-breaking heatwaves in England and France in July, when the couple died, so I wonder if something similar happened in Quebec to cause their deaths?
*I have updated this story based on comments by Suzanne Boivin Sommerville, who has prepared a wonderful PowerPoint presentation and several blog posts about the culture and norms in early New France on the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan website. Boivin Sommerville made several points about my errors in her wonderfully-detailed comment about my story here. Yes, Suzanne, you’re right, the initial version of this story didn’t make the difference between a marriage contract and a legal marriage clear, even though I do understand that there was a difference and that women had the right to cancel contracts they made prior to meeting their intended betrothed. Also, there is no indication of why she chose not to marry Rivet. I apologize that it’s taken me so long to update the piece as you so rightly suggested.
 Gousse, S., & Wien, T. (n.d.). Filles du Roi. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/filles-du-roi/ on July 18, 2018.
 Dawson, Nelson-M. “The “Filles Du Roy” Sent to New France: Protestant, Prostitute or Both?” Historical Reflections / Réflexions Historiques 16, no. 1 (1989): 55-77. http://www.jstor.org/stable/41298906, p64.
 Most French Canadians are descended from these 800 women | CBC Canada 2017. (2017, March 30). Retrieved from https://www.cbc.ca/2017/canadathestoryofus/most-french-canadians-are-descended-from-these-800-women-1.4029699 on July 18, 2018.
 Inventaire des contrats de mariage du Régime français conservés aux Archives judiciaires de Québec, Volume 1, Roy, Pierre-Georges, 1870-1953 Québec, 1937-1938, p85.
Dee, E. (n.d.). The Families of Beauport – The Chailles. Retrieved from http://www.oocities.org/weallcamefromsomewhere/Beauport/chaille_family.html on July 18, 2018.
 Boivin Sommerville, Suzanne, comments about this story here. Boivin Sommerville has prepared a wonderful PowerPoint presentation and several blog posts about the culture and norms in early New France on the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan website.
 Dee, ibid.
 Maruske, James. A Chronological Listing of Early Weather Events retrieved from https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/weather1.pdf, on 2018.
During World War I, 4,000 people, many of them women, assembled eight million fuses in a building locally known as “La Poudrière.” Given that the job required mounting a detonator cap over a gunpowder relay charge and attaching a safety pin (read more about WWI fuses here), the job was risky and monotonous at the same time.
Who were these people? How can we honour their work?
Recently, while looking through the records of World War I soldiers, I realized that their records may offer us ways to discover our homefront heroines. Several women moved to Verdun and lived within walking distance of the armament plant while their husbands or brothers served overseas.
When Ethel Henrietta Murray’s husband Patrick volunteered for the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force on Wednesday, April 12, 1916, the couple lived at 80 Anderson Street, in downtown Montreal.
According to his military records, he died on October 29, 1917, driving with the 4th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery. She went by the first name Henrietta. Initially, she had moved to 1251 Wellington Street. Later, she lived at 956 Ethel Street.
None of her addresses exist anymore, nor have I yet found any evidence explaining why she moved to Verdun. Based on her address and circumstances, however, I suspect that she—and three other women who lived nearby—worked at “la poudrière.”
Locals call a building that currently houses 64 units for senior citizens “La Poudrière,” which means powder keg. The Canadien Slavowic Association (l’Association canadienne slave de Montréal) operates the space.
I haven’t yet looked into the records of the company to find out if there is a list of employees so that I can see if Ethel or Henrietta Murray appears on their rolls.
Other women I’d like to verify include Marjorie Victoria Stroude Luker, Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, and Mrs. John Sullivan. These three women also lived within walking distance of la poudrière between 1916 and 1919.
Military records include the addresses of these women because all of them received telegrams about loved ones being wounded or killed overseas.
Marjorie’s husband Arthur was wounded in Italy on August 20, 1917, and then died of the flu in Belgium on December 2018. Although the couple lived in Point St. Charles when he signed up, her benefits were sent to her at 714 Ethel Street by the time he died.
Ellen or Helen Elizabeth Winsper, the wife of George Winsper who died on November 7, 1917, had moved from Rosemont to 196 St. Charles Street in Pointe St. Charles by the time he died.
Two records mention the grief of Mrs. John Sullivan when Private William Wright, a steamfitter from Scotland, died in action at St. Julien on April 24, 1915. Neither have her first name. One document describes William, who was 21 when he died as the adopted child of Mr. and Mrs. John Sullivan. The one I think is correct mentions that she is his sister. Her address at the beginning of the war was 9 Farm Street, Point St. Charles, the same as his when he enlisted. His medals were sent to her at 431A Wellington St., Point St. Charles.
If these women worked together, as is possible, they too risked their lives.
Employees with the British Munition Supply Company–which was created by The British Government under the auspices of The Imperial Munitions Board–faced the possibility of accidental explosions. Britain paid $175,000 in 1916 to construct a building that could contain shockwaves. It also included a saw-tooth roof to prevent sunlight from entering.
The IMB had inherited from Sir Samuel Hughes’s Shell Committee orders for artillery shells worth more than $282 million, contracts with over 400 different factories, and supervision of the manufacture of tens of millions of shells and ancillary parts. Its most serious problem was acquiring time and graze, or percussion, fuses for the shells produced by its factories. There was no capacity to create and assemble these precision parts in Canada, and contracts with American companies had proved dismal failures.
The problem was given to Gordon to solve. He recommended that fuse manufacturing be done in Canada. The IMB set up its own factory in Verdun (Montreal) to make the delicate time fuses. Skilled workmen and supervisors were quickly brought over from Britain to train Canadian workers. British Munitions Limited, the IMB’s first “national factory,” was open for business by the spring of 1916. The last order from Britain, for 3,000,000 fuses, came in 1917 and the last fuses were shipped in May 1918. British Munitions was then converted by the IMB into a shell-manufacturing facility.
Another source I read said that Dominion Textile Company purchased the site for its textile operations when the war ended in 1919. Two decades later, Defence Industries Limited revived the site for a shell factory during World War II, between 1940 and 1945. David Fennario’s book “Motherhouse” offers a good look at the women’s lives during this second wartime era.
 Attestation Paper, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #347740, Patrick Murray, a derivative copy of the original signed by Patrick.
 Address card, ibid.
 Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #1054006, Arthur Luker.
 Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #920146, George Winsper.
 Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #26024, William Wright.
 “Usine à munitions pour retraités slaves” by Raphaël Dallaire Ferland, ttps://www.ledevoir.com/societe/354100/usine-a-munitions-pour-retraites-slaves, accessed September 22, 2018.
 Biography – GORDON, SIR CHARLES BLAIR – Volume XVI (1931-1940) – Dictionary of Canadian Biography, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gordon_charles_blair_16F.html, accessed September 22, 2018.
Who were Marie Sophie Henault-Canada’s parents?
It’s clear that my four-times great grandmother Marie Sophie (or Séraphie) Henault-Canada was born in the Red River Settlement on April 6, 1818, to parents Marie and Charles Henault-Canada. But who was her father and where did he come from? And who was her mother?
According to notes left to me by my grandmother, Sophie was born to Marie Gris, who was born in an unidentified location on October 30, 1802, and Charles Henault-Canada, who was born in 1793 in Berthier, Quebec. I haven’t been able to find records of his birth in Quebec, so I’m not sure whether that information is accurate.
In fact, it’s hard to confirm any of the information because the documents I’ve found so far seem to conflict and some information can’t be confirmed.
The 1870 Manitoba Census shows a Manitoba-based location in which Sophie was born that looks a bit like “territorial something,” that could refer to the Red River Settlement. In that document, Marie is listed as “Marie Henault” and she appears next to her husband, Charles Henault. Marie, Charles and Sophie are all described as French-speaking Catholic Métis.
Marie and Charles both have 1810 listed as their birthdates in the 1870 Manitoba Census, a rather extraordinary coincidence I think. Marie Hénault is listed in the 1870 Manitoba Census as 60 years old, however, so the birthdate for her might be correct. If it is, a different Marie may have been Sophie’s mother.
A Hudson Bay Company Census conducted the same year doesn’t list a Marie Henault, but it does show Marie Gris living on a farm on lot 8 in Pointe-des-Chênes with her daughter, granddaughter and another woman and her child. A second house on the same lot is home to Sophie’s aunt Catherine and her husband Francois Ducharme.
Her older daughter Sophie was married to Dominique Ducharme-Charron by then. The couple was living on lot 27 with four of their children Johnny 19, Roger 17, Joseph 13 and Marie, 12.
The Hudson Bay Census also lists Sophie’s father, Charles Henault/ Heneault/ Haineault/ Henault dit Canada/ Enaud dit Canada/ Enaud/ Enault “Métis, born 1810; farmer in his life time” as dead, although the document doesn’t say when exactly he died. My grandmother doesn’t show a date for that either. Perhaps he died that very year, 1870?
The date 1810 next to Charles’ name might refer to the date he arrived in the Red River Settlement rather than his birthdate. He may have come from elsewhere to Manitoba to work for the North West Company Fort Gibraltar trading post, which was set up in 1809. Or maybe it’s correct because my grandmother also shows his father, Pierre Énault-Canada as born in Berthier on August 9, 1730, which would be possible if his son were born in 1810. She shows his father as another Pierre Énault-Canada and his mother as Marguerite Piette-Tremp, whose parents and grandparents are all identified, though with no dates.
Hall’s appendix gives me access to two other potential ancestors beyond my grandmother’s notes. Her father was a Cree man named Thomas Gris and her mother was Marie Nepissing. Then again, if this Marie is not Sophie’s mother, they are not my ancestors.
Guess I have a bit of work to do.
 Canada, L. A. (2016, June 23). 1870 Census of Manitoba. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1870/pdf/e010985547.pdf.
 Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.
 The 1870 Manitoba Census identifies Catherine and Francois living in St. Anne as Métis, French-speaking and Catholic. It also shows Catherine’s father as Charles Henault, lines 126, 127, p231,5. The information was collected on October 27, 1870, and residence was established as of July 16, 1870.
Can the trajectory of Canada’s development be shown in miniature by looking at the life of a small community on the shores of the Seine River between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Grand Forks, North Dakota?
I hope so because the twists and turns in the nature of the town offer me hints about who my ancestors were and how they lived during a crucial period in the history of our country.
The town, which is now known as Ste. Anne, has served as a haven for Aboriginal, Métis, French, Immigrant, and Catholic peoples over the years. It changed its name to match the most important value held by a majority of its settlers and has been known as Oak Point, Pointe-des-Chênes, St. Alexandre, Ste.-Anne, Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes and Ste.-Anne des Chênes.
I’m curious about the place because a family tree my grandmother left me says that my four-times great grandmother Marie Sophie (or Séraphie) Henault-Canada was born and died there. I haven’t found anything to confirm her data, but the 1870 Manitoba Census shows Sophie and her husband farming in the community. It also indicates Charles Enault was her father. The Hudson Bay Company Archives show Charles Henault being in the community as of 1810.
Ste. Anne’s location between the boreal forests of the Canadian Shield and the flat plains of the Red River always made it prime real estate for settlement. Nomads sought good hunting grounds and shelter from high winds close to the era’s key transportation infrastructure along the river and via trails. Later, the plains made for good year-round farming sheltered by high oak. Eventually, the area attracted entrepreneurs and became a bustling pioneer town. Gathering settlers attracted Catholic missionaries who turned the town into a full-blown Catholic parish. Today, the same community sits at the junction of two major highways and has become a suburban community of Winnipeg.
Sophie’s birth on April 6, 1818 may have taken place within a local First Nation. I’ve found traces of several in the area, including the Rouseau River Band, the Oak Point First Nation, the Saultaux First Nation and the Upper Fort Garry First Nation.
It’s also possible that her father was a Voyageur who came to the area from another First Nation elsewhere in North America.
Her father and mother may also have been among Métis settlers known to winter in the area during that period.
As early as 1820, Métis families were wintering at Pointe-des-Chênes, southeast of St. Boniface on the Seine River. The area had a mix of mature forest and grasslands suitable for farming. The large oak groves served as a source of income for the settlers — lumber cut in the parish in 1820 was used for building a large chapel at St. Boniface.
A combination of forests and plains enabled the family to pasture farmed livestock, cut timber for building materials and fuel, and hunt wild game.
Scottish settlers who came under Lord Selkirk’s Red River Settlement plan were attracted by similar amenities, with many establishing farms and businesses in the region during Sophie’s childhood. Métis workers set up local farms after losing their jobs when the North Western and Hudson Bay companies merged in 1821.
Over the next thirty years, the lifestyles of the settlers and First Nations began to clash. By 1852, Oak Point settlers and the chief of the local First Nation, Saulteaux Chief Na-sa-kee-by-ness/ Na-sha-ke-penais/ ‘Flying Down Bird’/ Grandes Oreilles (son of Les Grandes Oreilles) had negotiated a treaty so that First Nations groups would move out of the area.
My ancestors stayed put and continued to farm as the town grew rapidly. By 1856, when the Government of Canada chose to purchase Rupert’s Land from the Hudson’s Bay Company, it boasted a trading post, hotel, general store and jail.
The St. Alexander chapel opened in 1861 and began attracting Catholics. In the following decade, the town became the parish of Sainte Anne to attract additional settlers.
Still, my ancestors stayed and continued farming. The 1870 Hudson Bay Census shows Sophie and her husband Dominique Ducharme-Charron living on lot 27 with four of their children Johnny 19, Roger 17, Joseph 13 and Marie, 12. 
During the 1870s, Ste. Anne served as a stopover for travellers on their journey to Winnipeg along the famed Dawson Trail, a path linking Northern Ontario and the Red River Settlement. It was so heavily developed by 1881, Dominion surveyors maintained its traditional French-style long river-side lots instead of breaking it up into square lots.
If my grandmothers’ notes are accurate, Sophie died in Sainte Anne in 1882 at the age of 64 years, five months and ten days.
Today, 2,114 people live in her community and the land she once farmed has been paved over by the #12 and Trans Canada highways.
1870 Census Of Manitoba, Library and Archives Canada – https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1870/Pages/1870.aspx
 Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.
Barkwell, Lawrence J. “The Métis First Nation Band at Upper Fort Garry,” February 14, 2017, Louis Riel Institute, Manitoba, https://www.scribd.com/document/337524184/The-Metis-First-Nation-Band-at-Upper-Fort-Garry, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.
 Hall, Norma J. Provissional Government of Assiniboia, Ste-Anne, https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/, accessed Feb. 26, 2018.
 https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/internal_reports/pdfs/crow_wing_settlement_groups.pdf, accessed Feb 26, 2018
 Hall, N. J. (2015, March 15). Ste.-Anne/ Point des Chêne/ Sainte-Anne-Pointe-des-Chênes/ Ste.-Anne des Chênes/ Oak Point/ St. Alexandre. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from https://hallnjean2.wordpress.com/resources/definition-provisional-government/the-people-electorate/ste-anne/
 Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.