Genealogy

The Kings’ Daughters: They came to populate New France*

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.

Escape to New France

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.[1]

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.[2]

Huguenot Persecution

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.

How to Select a Suitor?

She may have had to take a boat ride down the St. Lawrence, stopping from town to town to meet eligible bachelors,[3] 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.[4]

Vachon wrote a contract between Catherine and Mathurin Chaillé on December 30, 1664.[5]

Marriage Contracts Prior to the Wedding

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.”[6]

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.

Jean Barré Chaillé

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.[7]

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.

Summer Deaths

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[8], when the couple died, so I wonder if something similar happened in Quebec to cause their deaths?

NOTE:

*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.

Footnotes

[1] Gousse, S., & Wien, T. (n.d.). Filles du Roi. Retrieved from https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/filles-du-roi/ on July 18, 2018.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.

[4] 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.

[5]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.

[6] 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.

[7] Dee, ibid.

[8] Maruske, James. A Chronological Listing of Early Weather Events retrieved from https://wattsupwiththat.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/weather1.pdf, on 2018.

 

Genealogy, History Worth Remembering, Verdun

Women Heroines during WWI

During World War I, 4,000 people, many of them women,  assembled eight million fuzes 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, I was looking through the records of World War I soldiers and realized that their records may offer us ways to perhaps figure out who some of our homefront heroines are too. I discovered several women who moved to Verdun 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, for example, the couple lived at 80 Anderson Street, in downtown Montreal.[1]

According to his military records, by the time he died on October 29, 1917, driving with the 4th Brigade of the Canadian Field Artillery, her first name was Henrietta and she had moved to 1251 Wellington Street. Later, she lived at 956 Ethel Street, less than two blocks away from La Poudrière.[2]

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.”

La Poudrière is the local colloquial name for a building that currently houses 64 units for senior citizens. The Canadien Slavowic Association (l’Association canadienne slave de Montréal) operates the space.

I also 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 1918. 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.[3]

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.[4]

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. Another one, which 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.[5]

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.[6]

One description of their work comes from the biography of Sir Charles Gordon, who led the team that arranged for building construction.

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.[7]

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.

 

[1] Attestation Paper, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #347740, Patrick Murray, a derivative copy of the original signed by Patrick.

[2] Address card, ibid.

[3] Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #1054006, Arthur Luker.

[4] Attestation Paper and address card, Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #920146, George Winsper.

[5] Library and Archives Canada, RG 150, #26024, William Wright.

[6] “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.

[7] 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.

 

Genealogy

Who were Marie Sophie Henault-Canada’s parents?

Who were Marie Sophie Henault-Canada’s parents?

My struggle answering this question typifies the trouble I’ve had researching all of my First Nation ancestors. See my stories about St. Anne and Louis Riel .

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.[1]

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[2] 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.

 

[1] Canada, L. A. (2016, June 23). 1870 Census of Manitoba. Retrieved January 23, 2018, from http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1870/pdf/e010985547.pdf.

[2] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

[3] 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.

[4]http://data2.collectionscanada.gc.ca/1870/pdf/e010985551.pdf

 

Genealogy

Ste. Anne’s First Nation Heritage

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.[1] The Hudson Bay Company Archives show Charles Henault being in the community as of 1810.[2]

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.[3]

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.[4]

A combination of forests and plains enabled the family to pasture farmed livestock, cut timber for building materials and fuel, and hunt wild game.[5]

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.[6]

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. [7]

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.

 

 

[1]1870 Census Of Manitoba, Library and Archives Canada – https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1870/Pages/1870.aspx

[2] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

[3]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.

[4] 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.

[5] https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/hrb/internal_reports/pdfs/crow_wing_settlement_groups.pdf, accessed Feb 26, 2018

[6] 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/

[7] Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, E.6/1-16. Land records of the Red River Settlement sent to the Governor and Committee, 1811–1871.

Genealogy

Québec Genealogical eSociety: A New Type of Family Research Society

I just joined the Québec Genealogical eSociety for $45 Cdn.

Johanne Gervais, a professional genealogist who is passionate about researching Quebec records, founded this online research society last month. It operates in both English and French.

In addition to participating in webinars, the membership will give me access to two important Quebec databases: the BMS2000 and the PRDH database.

According to the website:

The BMS2000 database contains:

BMS records (births, marriages and deaths) from 24 genealogical societies of Québec. Close to 10 million BMS records have been collected.

The PRDH database (The Research Program in Historical Demography) contains:

A repertory of vital events, 1621–1849, for Québec, which includes approximately 2.3 million baptismal, marriage, and burial certificates registered in Catholic parishes prior to 1850. Also included are approximately 26,000 Protestant marriages recorded before 1850 and more than 20,000 certificates of various other types: census records, marriage contracts, confirmations, and lists of immigrants.

A genealogical dictionary of families, 1621-1824 for Québec, which offers a reconstruction of the history of all families who settled in the St. Lawrence Valley, or roughly the current territory of today’s province of Québec, from the beginning of French colonization to 1824.

A repertory of couples and filial relations, 1621–1824 for Québec, which specifies for each spouse the names of his or her parents and the names of his or her other spouses, if applicable, with a link to these couples. In addition, a list of the couple’s children who married before 1824 is supplied, with a link to their first marriage.

If you want to learn more about the society, visit their website or stop by their table at RootsTech2018.

Congratulations on your launch Johanne!

Genealogy

Genealogy Standards

For years, I found the differences between primary and secondary sources confusing. Add the fact that you can have original and derivative versions of both and that either can be negative or positive proof and it all sounds like mumble jumble to someone who isn’t used to them all. Luckily, the glossary within the Board for Certification of Genealogists “Geneology Standards” manual makes all the important distinctions very clear.

For example, on page 72, the glossary defines “primary information” as:

A report of an event or circumstance by an eyewitness or participant; the opposite of secondary information.

This is just one of many confusing nonfiction research terms that are clearly defined in very simple language. The chapters within this pithy guide cover how to plan and research a story. It also shows how to properly cite sources. Several pointers throughout the guide clarify some of the most challenging nonfiction research challenges.

If you want to document, research and write stories about ancestors’ experiences, the guide is a must-have. In my opinion, it’s equally useful for any obsessive nonfiction researcher and writer who wants to communicate carefully and accurately.

Board for Certification of Genealogists Genealogy Standards. Edited by Thomas W. Jones. Washington: Turner Publishing Company, 2014. ISBN 978-1-630-26018-7

 

Genealogy

Sad death

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

Ten 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.

Genealogy

Enjoying 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.

Alberta, french-canadian, Genealogy, Ontario

Happy on the farm

When my aunt turned ninety-six a few years ago, I prepared a short bio of her life, including photos of the farm where she grew up, baptism`s, confirmations and a wonderful photo of four people working in a farm yard.

Handwriting on the photo says “maman a l’age de 20 ans” and “papa” to identify my great grandmother, Marie-Berthe Charette and my great grandfather,  with her two sisters “tante Eva” and “tante Ida.”

They are all on their knees, looking at the photographer. Jean is staring towards Marie-Berthe, who was also called Martha, with an extremely happy look on his face.

The shot is the only happy photo I have of the couple. In every other shot, they look solemn or downright miserable.

Martha was born on October 3, 1889, so if the note about her age is correct, the photo would have have been taken in 1909 or 1910, five years prior to their marriage. There’s no indication where the photo was taken. It could have been his parents’ farm, her parents’ farm, or given that they are also in the shot, perhaps even the farm where his brother Gustave and her sister Ida moved after they were married.[1]

Both Charette farms were in Clarence Creek, where their families had lived since at least 1891. His family farm was located in Sarsfield, a town right next door near the current Ottawa, Ontario.

The first Hurtubese/Charette couple was already married by the time of the happy photo in my grandmother’s photo album. Later, it would be Jean-Baptiste and Martha’s turn, then his younger brother Francois and her younger sister Dora.

All three couples would eventually follow middle Charette son Ernest, who began farming in Alberta.

My cousin says his mother used to talk about a horse and buggy ride after their family lost a farm due to a train expropriation. My aunt spoke to him about remembering her mom’s tears. I don’t know whether that trip precipitated their move to Alberta or took place afterwards.

All I know for sure is that after this photo was taken, the couple had two little girls, Donna and Marguerite. Then, sometime after their second daughters’ birth in 1917 and the 1921 Canadian Census, they bought a farm with a three-bedroom wooden house on it in Bow River, Alberta.[2]

After that, their life took a turn for the worse, and they lost everything. The dust bowl, the Depression, locusts…take your pick, they saw it all.

By 1941, the family was renting part of a house in Edmonton. He did odd jobs to get through the war years and beyond. They remained in Edmonton until her death in 1957 and his in 1959.

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[1] Data from the 1911 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 21, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 7, line 48.

[2] Data from the 1921 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 2, Bow River, Alberta, section 7, township 22, range 21, Meridian 4, page 6, line 28.

Genealogy

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.

To Get Your Copy

It’s on sale for $20 in Montreal at

  • Livres Presque 9/Nearly New Books, 5885 Sherbrooke O; Montreal, Quebec H4A 1X6, (514)482-7323;
  • Coles, 366 Avenue Dorval, Dorval, QC H9S 3H8;
  • Clio, Plaza Point-Claire, 215 N. St. Jean, Pointe-Claire, Quebec H9R 3J1; and
  • May’s Studio, 459 Main Road, Hudson, Quebec.

The Ontario Genealogical Society has a digital copy available for $3.80.

An Amazon Kindle edition is also 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.