Author Archives: Tracey Arial

Our book “Beads in a Necklace” launches today!

I’m so excited. Our book comes home from the printer today and we’re planning a fun celebration of its existence tonight.

Here’s how we’ve described our creation on the backcover:

Book back cover photo

A Fun Collaboration

This work came to shape slowly over time. Lucy Anglin, Barb Angus, Marian Bulford, Janice Hamilton, Claire Lindell, Sandra McHugh, Dorothy Nixon, Mary Sutherland and I have been gathering monthly for five years. Together, we’ve learned how to craft our research into our ancestors into compelling literary non-fiction  that anyone might enjoy reading.

Late last year, we began speaking about the possibility of putting our favourite stories together into a book.

Today, our dream takes shape. In this work, you’ll meet several of our ancestors, including:

  • Fille du roi Anne Thomas, who married master carpenter Claude Jodoin in Montreal way back in 1666;
  • Felicité Poulin, 18th-century career woman, Ursuline nun and matchmaker;
  • Stanley Bagg, Massachusetts-born merchant who helped build the Lachine Canal in the 1820s;
  • Gospel singer Edward McHugh, whose 1910-period debut at the Montreal Hunt Club launched an international career; and
  • William Anglin, respected Victorian-era Kingston, Ontario surgeon and wannabe thought-reader.

For more information, refer to our book webpage.

Official Book Launch Tonight

Tonight from 7 until 9 p.m., we’ll be celebrating our creation in the hall of the St. John the Baptist Church, 233 St. Claire Street in Pointe-Claire. If you’re in Montreal, feel free to join us for wine, cheese, sandwiches, home-made treats and a couple of readings from the book.

We’ve also put together some photographs and heritage items for a display to highlight some of the stories.

A self-published limited edition paperback will be on sale for $20.

Tomorrow, we’ll take whatever books are left to Livres Presque 9/Nearly New Books, 5885 Sherbrooke O; Montreal, Quebec H4A1X6. You can pick up a copy there while supplies last.

If you prefer a digital copy, an Amazon Kindle edition is available for $3.89.

Hope you enjoy reading our work as much as we enjoyed writing it. I’d love to hear your comments below.

Etiennette Alton’s Verdun Years

Imagine my surprise to discover that my ancestors lived in my neighbourhood more than three hundred years ago.

At that time, Verdun’s Crawford Park was a very different place than it is today. Today, the neighbourhood encompasses about 1000 people in about 20 city blocks between the St. Lawrence River to the aquaduct in the north and between the Douglas Research Institute and the borough of LaSalle to the west. In 2006, more than 20,000 people lived here.

When my ancestor Étiennette Alton lived here, however, the neighbourhood was known as the fief de Verdun and it extended further north through Angrignon Park and the St. Jacques Escarpment.

She moved here after marrying her second husband, Barthélémy Vinet dit La Reinte on Monday, June 13, 1672. She already had three sons and a daughter from her first marriage. Her fifth child, their first son, Martin was born a little later the same year.

The family were among 83 families in the neighbourhood, according to the 1681 census.

The census reads :

« Barthelemy Vinet 48; Etiennet Alton, sa femme 42; enfants : Pierre 20, Jean 16, Louis 14, Marie 11, Martin 9, Gunégonde 7, Madeleine 6, Guillaume 3; 3 fusils; 18 bêtes à cornes; 20 arpents en valeur. »

The couple had five more children in the following fifteen years. They could afford them. Her husband worked for Sieur Jean-Baptiste Migeon de Branssat, an attorney and later judge with the manor of Montréal.

At that time most men—including Vinet, Migeon, and Montreal Governor Francois-Marie Perrot—earned significant portions of their income from hunting and selling furs. The market for furs, however, was diminishing.

In 1676, a new law forced fur traders to obtain licences, although few bothered to do so.

A year later, Migeon was appointed judge and asked to create a public inquiry into the fur trade industry. During that inquiry, he discovered that most elite, including the Governor himself, were illegally involved in the fur trade. The Governor responded by accusing Migeon of breaking the same laws and putting him under house arrest to halt the inquiry before its results could be known.

Did you know Library and Archives Canada has a podcast?

The latest Library and Archives Canada podcast just came out April 7. It features the rise of the British Flying Service and how that new technology affected the Battle of Vimy Ridge.

In the early days of flight, you had to expect to crash,” says Bill Rawling, historian and author of the book Surviving Trench Warfare and one of the experts interviewed in the podcast. “And the idea was to see how far, how high you could go before the aircraft would fall out of the sky and they’d have to drag you out of the wreckage. Now, you’re talking about something that when it crashes, you’re going 30 kilometres an hour and you’ve come down from 30 feet and it’s all wood and canvas and it just falls apart around you. And in fact, it’s like a big crunch zone in a car. So, but yeah. You have to expect—Billy Bishop, you know, probably Canada’s most famous pilot ever, when they adopt new aircraft—the Nieuport 17—there were hard landings, as they were called, as he’s learning how to operate this aircraft. And a hard landing may well mean damage. So how many of these hard landings were actually crashes?”

If you have an ancestor who served in the British or Canadian military, this episode will give you lots of ideas of their roles during the war. It also features descriptions of some of the other experts who participated in this, the world’s first industrial war.

This is the first of two podcasts featuring Vimy. The Episode is called Beyond Vimy: The Rise of Air Power, Part 1.

Library and Archives Canada Podcasts Appealing to Genealogists

The Library and Archives Canada  has been podcasting since 2012. Other episodes that might appeal to genealogists include:

 Sifting through LAC’s Cookbook Collection

Hiding in Plain Sight: The Métis Nation

And perhaps the most useful one for any genealogist,

Digging Into the Past: Family History in Canada

To see the entire collection, refer to the main podcast page.

Four Generations Grow up in Weston

Granny, nanny and my mom on the porch in Weston

Granny, nanny and my mom on the porch in Weston

One of my earliest memories has me travelling by bus to the Weston library with my mother, grandmother and great grandmother. For some reason, the Carnegie Foundation in New York provided a grant to build the stunning structure in 1914 despite its Ontario location along the Humber River.[1]

I’ll always be grateful.

Recent visits to the location feel peaceful somehow, as if several generations of residence in that spot left traces in my DNA.

Our family moved to Weston sometime between the 1871[2]  and 1881[3] censuses and stayed there until the late nineteen sixties.

An Irish ancestor at last!

The 1871 census shows great granny’s mom Kezia Charlotte McMaster, who was then 12 years-old, living with her family in 130 Mono Cardwell. Her mother was a 54-year-old Irish immigrant named Ann McMaster. Other family members included 24-year-old Andrew, 20-year-old Alexander, 16-year-old James and 14-year-old Ann Eliza.

Summer wedding

Seven years later, at the age of 22, Kezia married 38-year-old John Paul Charboneau on a summer day in August. The marriage licence describes him as a Francophone Church of England man working as a cooper building barrels and utensils out of wood.

Their son Paul, my great great great uncle, came along on March 13, 1888.[4]

His sister Charlotte, my direct ancestor, was born in Orangeville seven years later.

Charlotte and Arthur

I don’t know how they met, but great grandma Charlotte married British Immigrant Arthur Johnson in Weston on February 9, 1917.[5] Before the wedding took place, they had to sign a “degrees of affinity” document to confirm that they were not blood relatives.

Like her mother, she was 22 years old at the time.

The wedding took place close to her home on Cross Street. His parents, William Johnson and Mary Young attended, as did hers. Their witnesses were Albert and Aimie Johnson who lived nearby on Fife Avenue.

Given their last names, it’s likely these witnesses were also ancestors.

Charlotte and Arthur remained in Weston from then on. Their daughter, her daughter and I all grew up in the village.

The couple only left Weston in their nineties to move in with their daughter in Midland during the last decade of their lives.

 

Sources:

[1] http://welcometoweston.ca/about-weston/history-of-weston, accessed February 22, 2017.

[2] Canada Census, 1871,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:M47F-Q6P : 13 November 2014), Kezia Mc Master in household of Ann Mc Master, Mono, Cardwell, Ontario, Canada; citing p. 40, line 10; Library and Archives Canada film number C-9959, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm 4,396,686.

[3] Canada Census, 1881,” database, Library and Archives Canada film number C-13249, Public Archives, Ottawa, Ontario; FHL microfilm Reference: RG31 – Statistics Canada, Item Number: 3601574.

[4] Canada Births and Baptisms, 1661-1959,” database, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/F2F8-X6G : 27 November 2014), Keziah Macmaster in entry for Paul Charbonneau, 13 Mar 1888; citing Toronto, York, Ontario, 13 Mar 1888, reference cn 901245; FHL microfilm 1,872,230.

[5] Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with ages, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:278P-XTC : 10 April 2015), Keziah Mcmaster in entry for Arthur Johnson and Charlotte Charboneau, 09 Feb 1917; citing registration , Weston, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,130,929.

Profile Your Ancestors 4th Video Released

The fourth video in my Profile Your Ancestor series is now available.

This series is designed to encourage genealogists to write narrative stories about their research, such as those on the Genealogy Ensemble blog.

These kinds of stories:

  • deepen your research by encouraging you to look into tiny details you might not otherwise question;
  • are more widely read, even by people who don’t necessarily appreciate how important family history research can be;
  • are great ways to compile a book about your ancestors; and
  • can be fun ways to reach out to other family members.

This video summarizes the points I made in videos 1,  2, and 3 to get you writing such stories about your ancestors. It also invites anyone struggling to consider joining my upcoming profile your ancestors course. This is a great way to get some assistance getting started.

If you’ve got some stories written, I’d love to see links to them in the comments below.

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.

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.

Enjoying the Story of Westmount

A-View-Of-Their-Own-the-Story-of-Westmount

I began looking for traces of the Huguenots that my grandmother always told me were in the family. First, I looked for anyone born in Blois, Orléans, Paris, Rouen or Tours France sometime after the Affair of the Placards. These are the towns in which people posted signs questioning Catholic dogma overnight on October 17, 1534. The incident set off the reformation and eventually led to hangings and mass migration of Protestants out of France.

Unfortunately, my genealogical records don’t extend far into France during the 1500s, so that research will be for another day.

My journey through the Hurtubise side of my family, however, led me upon a wonderful history of Westmount called A View of Their Own: The Story of Westmount, written by Aline Gubbay in 1998. The little guide introduced me to several early maps of Montreal I hadn’t seen before, Montreal’s Mohawk name “”Kawanote Teiontiakon” and a hint about how some of my distant ancestors lived. Gubbay describes the geology of Montreal in a way that allows you to really imagine how things used to be.

The western part of the island was distinguished by a little mountain Westmount — some 600 feet high, formed by an outcropping of a larger rise, Mount Royal. Iroquoians had discovered that the slope of the little mountain, facing south-east, was sheltered from the strongest northern winds, a factor which, together with abundant water from the mountain springs, made for a richly fertile soil where they could cultivate their traditional crops of beans and corn. (p 11)

My ancestors get a small mention on page 15:

One by one the families arrived, settling along the Indian trail now given the name of Côte St. Antoine. They included names such as Des Carries (sic), Prud’homme, Leduc, Pierre et Jean Hurtubise, and St. Germain.

(Fascinating how Gubbay missed the French word “et” in her paragraph, something I frequently do in my texts. Bilingualism can be quite troubling sometimes.)

She continues:

Most of the men were artisans, recruited from towns of northern France for their skills as stonemasons, millers, brewers, but they soon acquired the new skills necessary to clear and cultivate the land. In winter, after the land had been cleared, the trunks of the trees were gathered, carried down to the water and lashed together on the rim of a frozen lake, Lac St. Pierre. When the ice melted in the spring the lumber was floated through a short inlet to the St. Lawrence River and rafted along the shore for sale at Ville Marie, now renamed Montreal.

If you have Clarks, Dawsons, Dionnes, Elgins, Enslies, Hays, Hendersons, Lighthalls, Mackays, Monks, Murrays, Newnhams, Ohmans, Parés, Shearers, Smithers or Timmins in your family, you’ll find gems about their lives in this book. If you appreciate reading about the Town of Westmount, the borough of NDG or Montreal history, this is definitely a story you’ll want to discover.

At only 151 pages, A View of their Own: The Story of Westmount is a quick and easy read. Gubbays smooth writing style and her use of many anecdotes make it entertaining as well. I highly recommend it.

Sad death

One of the first Canadian women who enlisted into the Royal Canadian Air Force committed suicide less than a year later.

miniHazelTen days after her 29th birthday, Hazel Winnifred Webb Seymour left a steady job with the Bell Telephone Company of Canada to enlist in the Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force. The unit operated under the motto: “we serve that men may fly.”

Ten months later, she swallowed three bottles of cleansers (iodine, cresol and carbolic acid) while in the hospital for hysteria. She died on September 10, 1942.

When she joined the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), Webb Seymour seemed like the perfect candidate. She was healthy, high-school educated, the right age and height, and well-trained in administrative duties. She was married, and had been for seven years, but the couple had no children as he was deployed overseas.

Her early days in the Air Force reinforced her aptitude for the job. One test resulted in the comment:

“One of the best on the course – always cheerful and will make a wonderfully reliable and good N.C.O. Suitable for a difficult station.”

An “assessment of character” completed in March 1942 also contained high praise: “industrious, capable, willing worker,” “highly resourceful,” and “merits accelerated promotion.”

Four months later, Seymour was admitted to the Station Hospital with something so serious, she stayed for eight days. From then on, she went in and out of hospitals, both civilian and military, until her suicide.

During an inquest about her death, Flight Lieutenant Allan Campbell Blair described what happened in the final three days of her life.

“It was considered that before she should be discharged on the grounds of this nervous disorder that it would be worthwhile to give her another chance and to this end was admitted to Station Hospital again to be kept under observation and the be employed doing small jobs about the hospital which was thought might be of benefit to her. She was apparently responding and there was, in my opinion, no need to restrict her freedom about the hospital. There was no evidence or intentions from her that she was planning self destruction. On September 10, at 1205 hours as Dr. Williams and myself were leaving the hospital we encountered her in the hall holding an iodine soaked stained towel to her mouth and she stated that she had just drunk three bottles of poison….”[1]

After she died, her mother wrote to the military needing help.

“The funeral refund has not been sent to me and I really need that amount to help with my winters’ coal, if I can get any.”[2]

Despite those pleas, the only cheque to the family reimbursed $154.16 they paid for Webb Seymour’s funeral.

 

Note: This story is a mini-version of a chapter in Tracey’s upcoming book: Steady Hands, Brave Heart: World War II’s effect on Canada.

[1] Seymour, Hazel Winnifred; Library and Archives Canada, RG-24, volume 28621, testimony, Allan Campbell Blair, C3966.

[2] Seymour, Hazel Winnifred; Library and Archives Canada, RG-24, volume 28621, letter, Pearl Web, August 28, 1943.

John Buchan: Author, Pacifist, Canadian

People often wonder why no one tried to stop Hitler before 1939. One answer is the influence of pacifists, including John Buchan.

His desire to come up with some way to achieve peace in Europe led Buchan to hold secret meetings with Roosevelt on behalf of Chamberlain while serving as Canada’s Governor General, writes Kate Macdonald, in her book  “Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty Nine Steps.”

The most obvious constructive outcome of Buchan’s partly secret, partly public approach was a series of high-level meetings and state visits involving Buchan and President Roosevelt during the late 1930s. From Washington, Roosevelt made active use of Buchan as an informal—but high-level—channel of communication with British political leaders in London, doing so, it seems, to circumvent the influence of the American State Department and British Foreign Office. Buchan, as focused as Roosevelt on the vital issue of peace in Europe, was only too happy to oblige the president by acting in this way, even though he should not (as governor-general) have engaged in this subterfuge.”[1]

Buchan’s public popularity made him invaluable as an go-between for British and American interests. The Scottish National’s novel The Thirty-Nine Steps had just become a mystery thriller movie by Alfred Hitcock and he was also he was voted Time Magazine’s man of the year when the The British Government appointed him Lord Tweedsmuir in 1935. The Lordship was a necessary step to allow him to be appointed Governor General of Canada on August 10 that same year.

His appointment as Governor General of Canada was meant to signal a new era. Leaders were buoyant that the depression would end and employment would rebound. The dust bowl storm of the previous spring was over and a new government had taken power. Unemployment was still high and many people were still struggling to feed themselves, but countries that had been closed to exports were opening up.

As Lord Tweedsmuir, Buchan outlined two international trade agreements in his speech from the throne which began Canada’s 18th parliamentary session on Thursday, February 6, 1936.

I am happy to be able to inform you that a trade agreement between Canada and the United States of America was concluded on Armistice Day, 1935, and that the trade dispute with Japan, which had seriously affected the trade of both countries, was adjusted before the end of the old year. The Canada-United States Trade Agreement will be submitted for your approval. You will also be forthwith advised of the basis on which normal trade relations between Canada and Japan have been restored.[2]

In addition to travelling throughout Canada, welcoming the new King and Queen, establishing the first proper library at Rideau Hall, and founding the Governor General’s Literary Awards, Buchan represented three different Kings during his five year reign. George V died in January 1935. Edward VIII abdicated eleven months later. George VI took office in May 1937.

He spent most of his time, however, supporting desperate Canadians and meeting with leaders to convince them not to go to war.

Their efforts to build a European peace failed.

On Thursday, September 7, Tweedsmuir made the following speech:

Honourable Members of the Senate:

Members of the House of Commons:

As you are only too well aware, all efforts to maintain the peace of Europe have failed. The United Kingdom, in honouring pledges given as a means of avoiding hostilities, has become engaged in war with Germany. You have been summoned at the earliest moment in order that the government may seek authority for the measures necessary for the defence of Canada, and for co-operation in the determined effort which is being made to resist further aggression, and to prevent the appeal to force instead of to pacific means in the settlement of international disputes.

Already the militia, the naval service and the air force have been placed on active service, and certain other provisions have been made for the defence of our coasts and our internal security under the War Measures Act and other existing authority.

Proposals for further effective action by Canada will be laid before you without delay.

Members of the House of Commons: You will be asked to consider estimates to provide for expenditure which has been or may be caused by the state of war which now exists.

Honourable Members of the Senate: Members of the House of Gommons: I need not speak of the extreme gravity of this hour. There can have been few, if any, more critical in the history of the world. The people of Canada are facing the crisis with the same fortitude that to-day supports the peoples of the United Kingdom and other of the nations of the British Commonwealth. My ministers are convinced that Canada is prepared to unite in a national effort to defend to the utmost liberties and institutions which are a common heritage.[3]

After both houses voted to support the plan, Canada went to war with Germany on September 9, 1939.

[1] Macdonald, Kate, Reassessing John Buchan: Beyond the Thirty Nine Steps, London: Pickering and Chatte, 2009, , 1851969985 p 113.

[2] Journals of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, Session 1936, 18th Parliament of Canada, J.O. Patenaud I.S.O., February 6 to June 23rd, 1936, Thursday, February 6, 1936, p 12.

[3] Journals of the House of Commons of the Dominion of Canada, 5th Special War Session, 18th Parliament of Canada, J.O. Patenaud I.S.O., Thursday, September 7, 1939, p 1.

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