All posts by Tracey Arial

Tracey Arial helps Canadians create meaningful lives with true stories about ancestors, businesses, community action and gardening. She produces books, courses, the Unapologetically Canadian podcast and helps run the Coop CAUS nonprofit.

Cabbage Days

When I was a child, October meant a weekend of gathering in my grandparents’ garage with lots of other family members to make a massive batch of sauerkraut and coleslaw.

I remember the smell of boiling cabbage, although I’m not sure why, since you can make sauerkraut without boiling anything. Perhaps they used boiled cabbage in their recipe. Or perhaps the family made other dishes that day as well, like stuffed cabbage rolls. I can’t really remember. My family skipped the annual weekend in later years.

We still got a jar or two of yummy sauerkraut for Christmas during those years.

I’m not sure when that autumn tradition began, but it probably ended when my grandparents started wintering in Florida. Dividing a life between two homes was difficult enough without adding a big weekend chore to the year. By then, making it through the winter no longer meant relying on tons of jars of sauerkraut.

I’m sad that our family has lost this historic tradition and I’m not even sure which side of the family it comes from. Joseph Gabriel Arial and Marguerite Ann Hurtubese Arial both came from families that had been farming in Canada for generations. They lived through the dust bowl, the depression and World War II.

Perhaps sauerkraut got both families through many winters when food was scarce.

The word “sauerkraut” makes one think that my family’s recipe began in Germany, but even if the modern name came from that country, the recipe itself probably didn’t. Eventually, most cultures figured out that salt transforms cabbage into something that would last through the winter.

Canadian experiments storing the vegetable over winter began in 1541, when Jacques Cartier planted seeds from France along the shores of the Saint Lawrence River.

By the time that writer, botanist and surgeon Sieur de Diéreville visited Acadia 150 years later, local Mi’kmaq had learned to prepare cabbages in ways unlike recipes from the original mother country.

 l’exception des Artichaux & des Asperges, ils ont en abondance toutes sortes de légumes, & tous excellens. Ils ont des champs couverts de Choux pommez ,-& de Navets qu’ils conservent toute l’année. Ils mettent les Navets à la cave, ils font moëlleux & sucrez, & beaucoup meilleurs qu’en France; aussi les mangent-ils comme des Marons cuits dans les cendres. Ils laissent les Choux dans le champs après les avoir arrachez, la tête en bas etla jambe en haut; la neige qui vient les couvrir de cinq ou six pieds d’épais les conserve aussi & on n’en tire qu’à melure qu’on abesoin; on ne laisse pas d’en mettre aussi à la cave. Ces deux légumes ne vont jamais dans le pot l’un sans l’autre, et on en fait de plantureuses soupes avec de grosses pièces de lard. Il faut fur tout avoir beaucoup de Choux, que lesGens n’en mangent que le pignon, & les Cochons etle reste pendant tout l’hyver, c’est leur unique nourriture, & ces goulus animaux dont ils ont beaucoup, ne se contient pas de peu. Il y a de certaines iles le long de la Rivière Saint Jean, où il ne coûte rien à les nourir pendant l’Eté, &: une partie de l’Automne, les Chênes & les Hêtres y étant communs. Dés le Printemps on y jette sept ou huit Truyes pleines, elles y mettent bas leurs petits s’engraissent des fruits des arbres que j’ay marquez; lorsque l’hyver commence elles les ramènent à l’habitation , & on n’a que la peine de les tuer pour les mettre au saloir : Ces petits Cochons sont excellens en petit sale& il faut aller là pour en manger de lait tant ils sont délicats ; c’eft un plaisir d’en voir les bandes dans la saison : il sont plus courts etplus petits que les nôtres.

[With the exception of Artichokes & Asparagus, they have all kinds of vegetables in abundance, and all excellent. They have fields covered with Cabbage & Turnips which they keep all year round. They put the Turnips in the cellar, they are soft & sweet, & much better than in France; so they eat them like Marons cooked in ashes. They leave the Cabbages in the field after having pulled them up and placed them upside down; the snow which covers them with five or six feet thick also preserves them, and we only take out the meals that we need; we do not stop putting it in the cellar as well. These two vegetables never go into the pot without each other, and we make thick soups with large pieces of bacon. You have to have a lot of Cabbages all over the place, so that the People only eat the pine nuts, & the Pigs and the rest throughout the winter, it is their only food, and these greedy animals of which they have a lot, contain little skin. There are some islands along the Rivière Saint Jean, where it costs nothing to feed them during the Summer, &: part of the Autumn, Oaks & Beeches being common there. From Spring we throw in seven or eight full Truyes, they give birth to their young, grated with the fruits of the trees that I mention before; when the winter begins they bring them back to the house, and we only have to kill them to put them in the salting tub: These little Pigs are excellent in a little salt& you have to go there to eat them with milk as they are delicate; It’s a pleasure to see the bands in the season: they’re shorter and smaller than ours.]1

1Diéreville, N. de. Relation du voyage du Port Royal de l’Acadie, ou de la Nouvelle France : dans laquelle on voit un détail des divers mouvemens de la mer dans une traversée de long cours : la description du païs, les occupations des François qui y sont établis, les maniéres des differentes nations sauvages, leurs superstitions, & leurs chasses : avec une dissertation exacte sur le castor. A Amsterdam : Chez Pierre Humbert, 1710. http://archive.org/details/relationduvoyage00dire, based on travels to Acadia and New France from from October 1699 to October 1700.

More than 330 years since that description, cabbage and pork remained popular throughout Canada. As a child, our family enjoyed cottage roll dinners every Sunday night. A cottage roll is a very fatty salted roast of pork and it was always served with lots of cabbage, potatoes and onions. I still drool thinking about it. It was my mother’s recipe and I suspect that it came from my great great great grandmother Mary Willard, who came from Ireland. It doesn’t seem far off from the “Jigs” dinners they still serve in Newfoundland, although those include split peas as well as salty pork, cabbage and potatoes.

Many immigrants to Canada brought favourite cabbage recipes with them. Food historian Dorothy Duncan has written about Pennsylvania Germans bringing sauerkraut to Canada and Scottish settlers pickling cabbage in barrels and combining it with cheese and potatoes in a dish called “rumbledethumps.”

There’s a neighbourhood in Toronto named “Cabbagetown” to this day because Irish immigrants escaping the famine used to fill their front yards with the vegetable in the 1840s.

It’s said that Polish immigrants brought us cabbage rolls, but our family enjoyed those often when I was a kid too and as far as I know, we have no Polish in our blood. I love cabbage rolls and still make them to this day. My mom used to boil the cabbage in huge pots and then rolled hot cabbage around a mixture of beef and rice; coating the whole thing with a can of tomatoes and tomato juice. My recipe is a bit easier and vegetarian to boot. I just put the cabbage in the freezer for a day until it wilts enough to wrap around a mix of rice and lentils. I have to add twice as much tomato juice as she did so that there’s enough liquid in the tray to cook my cabbage rolls for at least an hour and half, but other than that, my cabbage rolls taste close to hers.

It’s nice to continue traditions. Perhaps I’ll make some sauerkraut this weekend in memory of my grandparents.

Writing up the ancestors with Janice Hamilton

It was a joy to speak with journalist and genealogist Janice Hamilton about her ancestors, her recent book « Reinventing Themselves, » and surprises she’s discovered while researching and writing her family history.

Listen to the episode on Mixcloud, SounderFM or any other podcast player you use.

For more information, refer to:

Reinventing Themselves Book

Writing Up the Ancestors Blog

Janice’s stories on Genealogy Ensemble

University of Manitoba Archives Hamilton Collection

Frank Opolko’s interview of Janice:

The tribulations of New France colonist Marie Michel

If my sisters and I have strength, persistence and a refusal to be victimized, we get it from our ancestor Marie-Madelaine Michel Gasnier DeRainville.

Over her 72-year lifetime, Marie left her family and friends three times, married twice, bore nine children, and raised eight of them to adulthood, marriage and their own children. She also lost her first husband to the Beaver Wars that lasted throughout her lifetime.

Jacques and Claire from Genealogy Ensemble also share Marie as an ancestor. If you have roots in North America, chances are, she’s one of your ancestors too.

Like many women, most of the records in which Marie appears focus on the men she accompanied. Many contain estimates about her data. The circumstances they show, however, hint at both suffering and forbearance. She never learned to write, but the strong ‘x’ she used as a signature indicates a woman who knew her worth.

My favourite resource for Marie’s life is a website created by Reverend John F. Gasnier in 2012.1 Gasnier excels at research. His detailed work provided me Marie’s parents’ names, the birth of her children and many of the dates in their lives.

I have begun to collect the original sources he used to compile this data, but so far, his work seems accurate except possibly her birth date. He estimates her birth date at 1620; another good site estimates 1619. Fichier Origine puts her birth at 1615, the date I’m using. Two of the three sites indicate that her birth took place in the village of St-Martin du Vieux Bellême, which Jacques tells me now sits within the modern-day Département de l’Orne. Both her birth town and Igé, the birthplace of her husband Louis, still exist in the now township of Bellême.

From the rest of the data, Marie’s life looks so sad. How did she live through so much suffering?

Her trauma began with the death of her first child sometime between his birth in 1639 and the family voyage from Igé, France to New France in 1644.

Two years before they left, the couple’s daughter Louise was born. By that time, Marie had reached her 27th year; her husband Louis his 30th. Perhaps her birth was the family’s chance for a new life.

It’s not clear why Marie and her husband decided to leave France, but emigration from the region started 10 years earlier, due to the recruitment by apothecary Robert Giffard and the Company of New France.

Giffard recruited many Percherons to New France until his death in 1669, except during the years when the Kirk Brothers occupied Quebec on behalf of England (1629-1631). By then, the colony of New France had 3,000 settlers, including Marie, her husband and their daughter.

In about forty years, 194 adults who had various jobs, often related to construction (mason, carpenter, brick-maker, etc), undertook the great voyage. Some returned to live and work in their native country but the great majority, despite the Iroquois threat, chose to settle on the banks of the Saint Lawrence River in order to clear and thrive the new territories. Their descendants are estimated today at 1.500.000 people in Canada and much more if we include the United States.2

When they undertook the voyage with their two-year-old daughter in July 1644, Marie was pregnant with their second daughter. Her namesake Marie became their first child born in the colony the following September.

Life couldn’t have been easy for the couple once they arrived in New France. It took them more than two years to lease a farm for their fast-growing family from the Saint-Joachim Seminary.

At that period of time, colonists to New France integrated into one of many manors set up under the seigneurial land management system brought to New France in 1627. New France then extended from the Arctic to Florida.

Under the manor system, the Compagnie de Cent Associés (Company of 100 associates) granted important people and groups, including religious ones like the Seminaire de St. Joachim, one by three league (5 by 15 km) land masses along major rivers, including the Saint Lawrence. The land was divided into 3 x 30 arpent sections perpendicular to the river so that everyone had access to boat transportation. (Note that each arpent measured 190 feet (58m).

Marie and her family rented La Ferme Saint-Charles in Cap Tourmente near the town of Saint Joachim for four years. They had two sons—Pierre and Olivier—during this period.

The family then moved back to Quebec while Marie’s husband built a new house in what is now St. Anne de Beaupré. While they waited, Marie had two more children, Louis and Anne.

Just after Anne’s birth, the family moved into a new house on a lot in the Seignerie de Beaupré (Beaupré Manor).

Part of the Beaupré Manor still exists today. Now run jointly by the l’organisme de bassins versants charlevoix-montmorency (obv-cm) and the séminaire de québec – seigneurie de beaupré, the territory covers a 20 by 95 km band north of the Saint Lawrence River. The territory spans 1,600 square kilometres west of Stoneham and east of St-Urbain in Charlevoix. Hunting, fishing and outdoors clubs share the space with loggers, Boralex and Gaz Métro/Valener.3

Back when my ancestors moved in, however, most of the action took place right next to the St. Lawrence River, where the village of Sainte Anne de Beaupré now stands. Marie’s husband Louis built a solid 22 by 20-foot home with 2-foot-thick walls on a cliff overlooking the river. There’s still a house built on the original foundations at 432 Cote Ste. Anne.

Things were good that year. Marie’s oldest daughter Louise got married and she and her husband established their home three lots away. Louis’s older brother Pierre arrived in New France from France with his pregnant wife and three sons. By 1655, he had established a property and house six lots away from his brother.

A year later, Marie gave birth to my six times great grandfather Ignace. The records indicate that Marie worried he wouldn’t live long. Jesuit Father Ragueneau rushed to the house on March 12, 1656 to baptize him. That could have been the first of three major tragedies, but he survived and married. (See my story What legacy stems from our Quebec pioneers?)

In May that same year, the second tragedy occurred. Louis’ older brother Pierre died of recurring fever.

The next three years went quickly, with all three families living in a small neighbourhood along the river. Marie’s namesake child married Andre Berthelot on January 26, 1659. Marie had her last child, son Joachim, a year later.

It would be the family’s last happy year.

In June the following year, 1660, the third tragedy occurred. Louis and seven other neighbourhood men got caught up in the politics of the era. They ended up being scapegoats in the Beaver War.

The Beaver War took place because the fur trade encouraged by British, French and Dutch colonialism pitted Algonquian and Wendat, who sided with the French, against the Haudenosaunee (called the Iroquois in Jesuit papers), who sided with the British and Dutch. Things became even worse after the British and Dutch decided to arm their First Nations allies with rifles. The French refused to supply weapons to theirs.

The weapons imbalance combined with over-hunting led to Haudenosaunee raids of the colonies. Marie’s husband became one of the victims. He probably died in Auriesville.

“Louis disappeared from the records, and it’s believed he was among a group of 8 people who were captured in a raid by some Iroquois on the morning of June 18, 1661. The settlers were forcibly taken to the tribe’s village near Lake Champlain in what is now New York. There the victims were tortured, then killed; one of them was known to have been beaten with “clubs and iron rods” before being scalped....4

Marie didn’t know for sure that her husband was dead until a notary arrived at her home a month later. At the time, she had two dairy cows, two heifers, an ox, two veal calves, nine pigs, a plow, a boat, two rifles, a pistol, an axe and household goods that included only three beds for Marie and six children.

Her son in law Claude guaranteed that she would take care of these goods for her children, her now dead husband’s heirs.

Yet still, Marie stayed strong. Five years after the tragic death of her husband, she remarried Paul DeRainville at 51 years old. Together, they raised my direct ancestor Ignace and his brothers, all of whom married and had Marie’s grandchildren.

By the time Marie died on November 12, 1687, peace still hadn’t arrived in New France. That wouldn’t occur until the Great Peace of Montreal in 1701.

Sources

1Website accessed on February 21, http://www.gagnier.org/p0000353.htm, originally published by Reverend John F. Gasnier on February 8, 2012.

2Website accessed on February 23, https://www.perche-quebec.com/, originally published by Jean-François Loiseau, a board member of the Association Perche-Canada in Paris, France in May, 2019.

3Séminaire du Québec, http://www.seigneuriedebeaupre.ca/, https://charlevoixmontmorency.ca/portraits-seminaire-de-quebec/, accessed October 21, 2020.

4 Website accessed on February 22, 2021: http://ancestorbios.blogspot.com/2018/05/probably-killed-by-iroquois-louis.html originally published by Laura M., Portland, Oregon, May, 2018.

What legacy stems from our Quebec pioneers?

Can someone leave a lasting legacy in less than 26 years? That’s the first thing I thought about when I began researching my seven times great grandmother on my fathers’ side.

I think so. The era they lived, the names they called their children, the way they responded to pressure—it all combines to create the culture that immediately follows them. Every generation leaves a mark on its culture. We today are artifacts of our ancestors, even those born more than 300 years ago, like my ancestor Barbe Dodier.

It’s hard to tell, but names definitely continue throughout families. Several of the people in my family still carry names from our ancestors.

My middle name Louise has been used on both sides of the family beginning with Barbe, since it was her middle name. Her husband Gabriel Robert Dufour passed monikers down to my son, my dad, his dad and his grandfather. I can’t help but wonder what other cultural remnants remain in our family.

Some of us are still Catholic and others French-speaking. Many others are not–and that’s a legacy too.

But what of less obvious legacies? The way we shake a head, a hand shake or a practical sense? These are evident three generations back. My son rubs his neck when he’s tired, just as I do. My father has the same habit, as did his father before him. How many generations does that go back? I don’t know.

Did Barbe share that trait? I don’t know that either. In fact, I know very little about her.

One record that remains of her life comes from her marriage, clearly recorded on page 97 of the Sainte-Anne de Beauprés church register. She married Ignace Gasnier on November 5, 1680.1

After they were married, Ignace and Barbe rented a two-arpent-sized lot in the Seignerie de Beaupré (Beaupré Manor). I know this, because the 1681 Census by New France Intendant DuCheseau lists Ignace and Barbe, along with their rifle and a cow.

Ignace Gasnier 25 ; Barbe Dodier, sa femme 18 ; 1 fusil ; 1 vache ; 2 arpents en valeur.1

Part of the Beaupré Manor still exists today. Now run jointly by the l’organisme de bassins versants charlevoix-montmorency (obv-cm) and the séminaire de québec – seigneurie de beaupré, the territory covers a 20 by 95 km band north of the Saint Lawrence River. Today, the manor spans 1,600 square kilometres west of Stoneham and east of St-Urbain in Charlevoix. Hunting, fishing and outdoors clubs share the space with loggers, Boralex and Gaz Métro/Valener.2

My ancestors probably lived much closer to the river near the current Beaupré, but I’m not sure. A circa-1680 map of the area shows the long settlement patterns typical of Quebec between 1627 and 1850, but the date isn’t precise. Ignace’s brother, Louis Gasnier, appears on the map next to the date 1683.3

Ignace and Barbe don’t appear on that map, but many Manor residents aren’t there.

The seigneurial land management system came to Quebec and the rest of New France in 1627. At that time, New France extended from the Arctic to Florida.

The Compagnie de Cent Associes (Company of 100 associates) granted important colonists and groups, including religious ones like the Seminaire de St. Joachim, land masses extended one by three leagues (5 by 15 km) along major rivers, including the Saint Lawrence. The land would then be divided into 3 x 30 arpent sections perpendicular to the river so that everyone had access to boat transportation. Arpents measured 190 feet (58m).

In 1663, French King Louis XIV gave New France a new constitution but it didn’t interfere with seigneuries, like the one Gasnier leased from the Saint-Joachim Seminary.

Pioneers like Barbe and Ignace probably survived using subsistence farming and hunting. My direct ancestor Louise was born two years after that census. Her little sister Geneviève came along when she turned three years old and her brother Jacques arrived when she was five.

By the time she died on February 7, 1689 in Petite-Rivière, Capitale-Nationale Region, Quebec, Canada, my ancestor went by the name Barbe Gagné. She’s buried in Baie-Saint-Paul Cemetery in Charlevoix. The Tanguay dictionary of French families lists her birth year as 1665, but if the 1681 census was correct, she would have been born in 1663.4

In that case, she was either 25 or 26 years old when she died.

Sources

1Sulte, Benjamin. Histoire des Canadiens-Français 1608-1880, Tome V, Montreal, Wilson @ Cir, Editeurs, 1882, p78.

2Séminaire du Québec, http://www.seigneuriedebeaupre.ca/, https://charlevoixmontmorency.ca/portraits-seminaire-de-quebec/, accessed October 21, 2020.

3Renaud, Alain. Plan de propriété des terres à Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré en 1680, Archives de Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré.

4Register of Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul-de-Baie, Quebec, 1689, p8 viaFind a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed 21 October 2020), memorial page for Barbe Dodier Gagné (1665–7 Feb 1689), Find a Grave Memorial no. 93294269, citing Baie-Saint-Paul Cemetery, Baie-Saint-Paul, Capitale-Nationale Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Pat and Billy (contributor 47767337).

Talking to Marian about Discovering Family Secrets

I published my interview with Marian this week on my Unapologetically Canadian podcast. Marian describes what it’s like to discover family secrets as she researches and writes stories about her ancestors.

If you want to join Marian in indexing records from around the world, you can do so at the Indexing Page on the Family History website. You can also choose a Canadian project if you prefer.

Some of Marian’s stories that we discuss included:

I’ve also interviewed some of the other Genealogy Ensemble writers. Listen to them here:

O’ Christmas Tree

Last weekend, we grabbed a bunch of boxes from the basement and spent a few hours decorating the house for the holidays. We also played carols, drank rum and egg nog and laughed a lot. Most of our decorations are a little kitschy. Others are touching, like the reindeer horns made of our hands and feet when our now adult children were little.

One of the ugliest things we pulled out is an old Christmas tree that once belonged to my grandmother. Made of wire and green plastic that looks a bit like garbage bags, the thing is only about three feet high. We put it on a table so that the lit angel on top almost touches the ceiling.

I love that ugly tree. It came into my possession 36 years ago from Nanny, who used a tiny ceramic tree my mom made her for her apartment from then on. Using her gift over and over makes me feel ecological. Yes, it’s plastic and convenient but it’s being reused, so it isn’t filling up land fill yet.

It brings to mind Charlie Brown’s Christmas, holidays as a child and imaginary visions from the Victorian era.

Canada’s First Christmas Tree Decoration Party

Christmas-tree decorating has been popular in Canada since at least 1781. That year, General Von Riedesel (Freiherr Friedrich Adolf Riedesel Freiherr zu Eisenbach) and his wife Frederika Charlotte held a Christmas Eve party in Sorel, Quebec. During the event, they decorated North America’s first documented Christmas tree. Wikipedia cites his wife’s diary for this fact.1

Von Riedesel grew up in Germany, fought in London, and ended up in North America with thousands of other German soldiers fighting for the British during the American Revolution. His wife brought their three daughters to join him. The couple got captured during the Battle of Saratoga.

It took two years before the British traded them for an American prisoner of war. They lived in Sorel, Quebec for another two or three years before returning to England.

That party also included plum pudding,2 another tradition from my childhood. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to locate the recipe for granny’s yummy rum sauce.

My family and others continue decorating Christmas trees, just as the families of German and British pioneers have done for more than 200 years.

For the first hundred years, as in my house now, the trees stood on a table covered with a white cloth that served as snow.

Christmas trees became full-sized self-standing around 1900, when someone invented cast iron tree stands. The stand I use almost looks old enough to date from that era.

Of course in those days, the trees were lit with candles, which is why the Christmas tree decorating occurred only on Christmas Eve. That way, the freshly cut tree still retained enough moisture to prevent being a fire hazard.

For years, I used electric lights that got warm enough that I lit them rarely. I now have LEDs so that my ugly little tree can decorate our home with the only risk being one of fashion.

Sources

  • 1Riedesel, Friederike Charlotte Luise; Riedesel, Friedrich Adolf (1801). von Reuß, Heinrich (ed.). Die Berufs-Reise nach America: Briefe der Generalin von [sic] Riedesel auf dieser Reise und während ihres sechsjährigen Aufenthalts in America zur Zeit des dortigen Krieges ín den Jahren 1776 bis 1783 nach Deutschland geschrieben. Haude und Spener Berlin, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friedrich_Adolf_Riedesel#cite_note-9, accessed November 24, 2020.

Christmas Trees Over Generations

private radio inspector

The black-leather-lined plasticized bilingual identity card wacked my arm as it fell from the shelf. Until then, I had never really noticed the card among the many items my grandmother left me.

Luckily, its heavy construction protected the words on the card, which remain as legible as they were when my grandfather received it on January 4, 1936.

The Canadian federal “Department of Marine” issued the card to give my grandfather credibility as a radio inspector. It says:

“The bearer G. Arial is hereby authorized to issue and inspect private radio receiving licences in Edmonton East. He is further authorized to require the production of private radio receiving licences for inspection.”

Turns out that this little artifact hints at a short-lived controversy in Canadian history. The card expired on March 31, 1937, but it would be defunct before then.

The Department of Marine seems like an odd overseer of radio licences until you realize that early broadcasting began in the 1890s when Morse Code was used to enable ship-to-ship and ship-to-shore communication. The idea of a public broadcaster begin in May, 1907, when the Marconi station in Camperdown, Nova Scotia began broadcasting regular time signals to the public.

The “wireless telegraphy” industry continued to develop with private individuals investing in ham radios with no regulation. By June 1913, the federal government decided to regulate the industry to protect military communication.

When World War I began in August 1914, private licenses were banned altogether. Only the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company of Canada, Ltd. kept operating during the war years, in part because it became a research arm of the military.i

After the war, the private industry blossomed, particularly in Western Canada. Many of the new broadcasters came from multiple religious communities, a situation the federal government tried to prevent by setting up a public broadcasting system through the Radio Broadcasting Act of 1932.

That act led to the establishment of a licensing commission called the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission under the leadership of Hector Charlesworth. Charlesworth’s group censored many religious groups and political groups, but none more than the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Norman James Fennema described the controversy in his 2003 dissertation, Remote Control.

…in Canada we find a situation in which the original impetus for regulating radio broadcasting began with the specific aim of putting a rein on religious broadcasting. Originally directed at the radio activities of the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, this expanded in the early 1930’s into a policy against the licensing of religious broadcasters, a policy initially justified on the basis of the scarcity of the broadcasting spectrum, but that survived the expansion of the system.ii

By 1935, Clarence Decateur Howe became both the Minister of Railways and Canals and the Minister of Marine,iii the ministry under which my grandfather’s job was created.

Howe favoured private broadcasting, and encouraged new private entities to flourish.

Prime Minister Mackenzie King preferred a public broadcast system however. In February, 1936, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) came into being, and my grandfather’s job ended.

Sources

i https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_broadcasting_in_Canada, accessed May 26, 2020.

ii Fennema, Norman James. REMOTE CONTROL: A History of the Regulation of Religion in the Canadian Public Square, PhD thesis, 2003, https://dspace.library.uvic.ca/bitstream/handle/1828/10314/Fennema_Norman James_PhD_2003.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y.

iii https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minister_of_Transport_(Canada), accessed May 26, 2020.

The Man Behind the Black Cross Temperance Society

What made my ancestor think of using a black cross to mark homes of temperance?

Edouard Quertier (Cartier) launched Quebec’s first official temperance society in 1842 by placing a giant black cross on the top of the escarpment in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. So began an organization that would encompass 400,000 of 900,000 Canadian Catholics eight years later.(1)

The symbol created a tradition that continues in Quebec to this day. If you ever go into a home with a bare black cross hanging in the middle of the living room wall, you’ll know you’re in the house of people who do not drink alcohol.

But what gave him the idea?

1842 Arrival in St Denis

Quertier certainly wasn’t feeling inspired when he first arrived in the tiny hamlet or between 10 and 15 families at the edge of a cliff on the Saint Lawrence’s south shore.

How did I accept this arid rock?,” he wrote. “When I arrived [in October], there was not even a piece of board on which to place a bed or a table. I had to go down the slope and rent a small house, or rather a cabin. No matter! I waited there, until my lodging was acceptable.”(2)

Still, Quertier was no youngster when he arrived in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska. At 43 years old, he had had four previous jobs before his priesthood and 12 years of experience serving communities.

Le révérend Édouard Quertier, 1864, Fonds J. E. Livernois Ltée, http://numerique.banq.qc.ca/patrimoine/details/52327/3114297

Previous Jobs

Both of his previous roles as parish priest were stressful.

As curate and then parish priest of Saint-Antoine in Montmagmy, he argued frequently with his patron, Father Charles Francois Painchaud.

His bishop got him out of that situation by appointing him parish priest of Sainte-Georges of Cacouna. There, a new church and presbytery were required, but building them was difficult due to arguments between residents who wanted religious leadership and those who believed in the strong separation of Church and State. Despite the conflict, Quertier was able to build a new church and presbytery within the village. He oversaw the presbytery stonemasons and carpenters and got the church walls well underway before resigning the post. His departure halted the building of the church for a time, but it resumed in 1845 and opened for worship in 1848. The belfry didn’t get added until 1892 and full consecration delayed until 1897, but that’s another story.(3)

The experience simply makes clear that Quertier knew he had to do something important quickly to make an impact on his new neighbourhood.

He decided to promote temperance as a movement.

Temperance in Quebec

The issue already had some momentum in Quebec. Popular people like Bishop Charles-August-Marie-Joseph de Forbin-Janson and Charels-Paschal-Télesphore Chiniquy had been telling stories about the evils of alcoholism in weekly masses since 1839. Community residents saw that frequent imbibing often led to fighting, lethargy, poverty, spousal abuse, theft and neighbourhood violence.

Unlike his predecessors, however, Quertier decided to formalize the movement with an official association he called “The Society of the Black Cross.” He created statutes, oaths for members and procedures for joining the society, including the requirement that each member display a plain black cross on the wall of the family living room.

For the next 15 years, Quertier’s campaign for temperance spread. So many French Canadian families displayed the black cross, it became a decor tradition. The Quebecois de Souche society includes a photo that shows the once prevalent look.(4)

Growth and Departure as Leader

In the meantime, Quertier continued building his parish. The wooden chapel that originally opened on December 24, 1841 got replaced by a stone gothic church in 1850.

Seven years after that, Quertier retired. By then, the Society of the Black Cross included believers in almost every parish in Quebec and Quertier’s own parish had grown to encompass 100 families containing “625 souls.”(5)

Temperance continued to be a key issue, not only in Quebec but across Canada. In Quebec, however, the secularism movement also had great strength in many communities. To avoid angering these groups, the Province of Canada passed the Canada Temperance Act that allowed any county or city to hold referendums to consider whether or not to forbid the sale of liquor. This would ensure that communities who wanted to stay dry could do so without forcing prohibition on the entire country.

Life after Death

Quertier spent the rest of his life in Saint-Denis-de-Kamouraska, which became Saint-Denis-de-la Bouteillerie in 2013. After his death in 1879 at 73 years old, the church entombed his body under the crypt of the church. A tombstone says in French:

Here lies lord Edouard Quertier, first parish priest of St. Denis, one of the first apostles of temperance. Died July 17, 1873, aged 73 years, 10 months, 12 days. For 15 years, he lived for you. Pray for him.”(6)

Quertier’s remains continued to draw enough visitors that the church got entirely rebuilt after a fire damaged it on March 9, 1886. Initially, they built a belfry to hold a 2027-pound bell that cost $425,000 the following spring, and new walls on those of the former church by October. Later, they’d add two more bells to the tower.

Quertiers’ campaign for temperance didn’t end when he died. Members of his Black Cross Society were among 20% of Quebec’s population that supported a federal referendum on prohibition in 1898.
The movement grew substantially during World War I.

Temperance, not Prohibition

The Quebec Government declared prohibition in 1919. Then it made several exceptions by legalizing the sale of light beer, cider, and wine in hotels, taverns, cafes, clubs and corner stores.

The prohibition law got repealed entirely to enable liquor sales through a government-run commission in 1921.

In many ways, by choosing control over strict adherence to abstinence, the government duplicated the practicality Quertier included within the original functioning of the Society of the Black Cross.
Any household that became a member of the temperance organization could get a special dispensation to serve alcohol during celebrations, such as baptisms, birthdays and weddings. If the parish priest agreed that a special occasion merited an exception, he would temporarily replace the plain black cross in a home with a white one. The white cross hung on the wall during the celebration. After the celebration ended, the priest would visit to exchange the white cross with a black one and return the home to a liquor-free location.(7)

This kind of flexibility enabled temperance to continue growing within Catholic communities in Quebec even after 1921. Some of its proponents resurrected Quertier in the form of a statue in front of his former church in 1925. The statue remains in place today.

Sources

(1) Ferland, Jean-Baptiste Antoine, in a report to the Holy See, 1850 as written in section 8, part 98 of Canada and its provinces, edited by Adam Short and Arthur G. Doughty, Glasgow, 1914, https://archive.org/stream/canadaitsprovinc11shoruoft/canadaitsprovinc11shoruoft_djvu.txt, accessed July 19, 2020.

(2) Julienne Barnard, “QUERTIER, ÉDOUARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 10, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–,written in 1972, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/quertier_edouard_10E.html, accessed on July 18, 2020.

(3) Ouellet, Jean-Baptiste, Municipalité de Saint-Denis-De La Bouteillerie. https://munstdenis.com/municipalit%c3%a9/historique/, accessed July 18, 2020.

(4) Fédération des Québécois de souche, https://quebecoisdesouche.info/la-croix-noire-croix-de-temperance/, accessed July 18, 2020

(5) La Corporation de développement de Mont-Carmel, https://www.mont-carmel.ca/histoire/, accessed July 18, 2020.

(6) Généalogie Abitibi-Témiscamingue, https://www.genat.org/cimetieres/photo.php?idPhoto=2c0bf0249a01fd83b57322e7b7cb3362, accessed July 18, 2020.

(7) Fédération des Québécois de souche, https://quebecoisdesouche.info/la-croix-noire-croix-de-temperance/, accessed July 18, 2020.

Living outside city walls

Settlers have long been attracted to Saint Roch, a neighbourhood on the banks of the St. Charles River next to the cliff leading up to Quebec’s walled Upper Town.

My great great great grandparents—Joseph Gabriel Arial Robert Content and Judith/Julie Belleau-dit-LaRose —both grew up in the neighbourhood. They knew it as the Saint Roch parish, which was officially founded in 1829. By then, the swampy neighbourhood housed 20 different shipyards and most of Quebec’s French-speaking families.

The neighbourhood began in 1620 as a small religious community set up by French missionaries known as the Recollets. They built a chapel in 1620. That chapel has long since gone, as were those built in 1811, 1816 and 1841.1 A stone church built in 1923 now sits on the same site as all the others at 160, rue Saint Josephe Est. For some great photos of the area and a discussion in French about all the different churches on the site, refer to Jérôme Ouellet’s 2014 blog post.

Joseph and Judith got married in the 1816 version of the church on September 4, 1832.2 Her parents Joseph Belleau and Marie-Anne Ratté married in a predecessor on November 5, 1808.3

I don’t know exactly where in Quebec Joseph lived prior to their marriage, but his dad Jean Baptiste worked as a day labourer.4

Judith’s family lived at 28 Saint Vallier. Her dad Joseph Bélau (Belleau) worked as a baker.5

Just down from the Bélau home sat an opulent stone house built by businessman Henry Hiché. He built his mansion on the foundations of a farmhouse originally built by Charles Aubert de la Chesnaye in 1679. The building later became known as the “White House” due to a covering of white plaster.

Most of the neighbourhood, including the White House, burned down in the Great Saint-Roche Fire of 1845. A total of 1,200 houses burned down, leaving 12,000 people homeless that year. Another smaller fire swept through in 1866.

You can still see the third rendition of the home built by Scottish immigrant William Grant on the original vaulted cellars of the previous home at 870 Saint-Vallier East. The stone house gives you a rough idea of the beginnings of the neighbourhood built outside of Quebec City’s walls.

Joseph Belleau appears again in the 1851 Canada East agricultural census in St. Roche, Quebec on line 24.6 Joseph and Judith/Julie don’t appear on the 1851 census, but they and their eight children (one of whom was my direct ancestor “Pete”) appear on the census 10 years later, still living in St. Roche.7

If my grandmother’s notes are accurate, Joseph moved to Manitoba sometime after that. He died in St. Boniface on November 4, 1880.8

At some point, I hope to go on a walking tour of the area and reconnect to the neighbourhood that housed my ancestors 200 years ago.

-30-

To read more about Joseph and Julie’s son Pete and see a photo of him and his children, refer to Original Arial Family of Western Canada

2 Mariage certificate #3816438, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

3 Mariage certificate #2337256, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

4 Mariage certificate #3816438, The Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH), Quebec, 1621 to 1849.

5 Archives de la paroisse de Notre-Dame-de-Québec, CM1/F1, 3, vol. 4, p. 36. Visite générale de la paroisse de Québec commencée le 1er octobre 1805, p 36.

6 Census of 1851 (Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia), Item Numbers: 93934, and 93935.

7 Census of 1861 (Canada East, Canada West, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) for Image No.: 4108628_01187, Item Number 2159833.

8 Handwritten notes from my grandmother.

Three sisters: three flu pandemics

As we go through the current pandemic, I wondered how my ancestors coped with similar pandemics in their lives. After all, including this one, Canadians have faced six flu pandemics since Confederation.1 Looking at their lives might help with what we’re dealing with now.

Turns out they faced much worse circumstances than we have so far, particularly during the Spanish flu pandemic in 1918. Few people living in Canada that year knew to limit contact until the end of the year, and the beginning of 1919. By then, most people saw someone they knew die.

The Spanish Flu killed almost as many Canadians as World War I did, but in a much shorter time.

It took four years of war to kill 51,000 Canadian soldiers and nurses.2

The Spanish Flu took only nine months to kill 50,000 Canadians during the fall of 1918 and the spring and summer of 1919. It killed my great great grandmother’s sister-in-law, Marie Amanda Gauthier Gourdinne.

Oulletteville in 1918

Mrs. Gourdinne lived in a close-knit francophone community called Ouelletteville, near Cluny, Alberta. The village stemmed from a community of 32 families who set up farms there in 1910.

A great many homesteaders from Ontario and Quebec joined them over the next decade, including my great grandmother Marie-Berthe (Martha) Charette, her two sisters, Ida and Eva, with their husbands and their brother Ernest.

Ernest, Ida, Martha, Eva

 

Flu Symptoms

The three sisters probably heard stories about the 1890 Russian flu pandemic from their parents, especially since their little sister Dora was born that year.

Still, nothing could match living through the fear and then reality of someone you love suffering from the disease.

At the beginning of his comprehensive tome about the Spanish Flu in Canada, researcher Mark Osborne Humphries describes the death of an 18-year-old soldier named George William F.

It wasn’t pretty.

“[George William F.] fought his symptoms for two days as he drilled, marched and played sports in the chilly autumn rain. By the 29th [of September], he had grown considerably worse and was forced into a hospital. There his condition quickly deteriorated. Within a couple of days, his breathing grew shallow and more infrequent as his pulse quickened to 112 beats per minute. His temperature climbed above 103 degrees. Blood dripped from his nose. On 4 October, doctors noted that his lips, and earlobes were beginning to turn blue from lack of oxygen. His once slight cough became ‘considerable,’ and he began to complain of chest pain. A mild flu was rapidly progressing into a severe case of pneumonia. Although his doctors still hoped for recovery, his temperature remained high. On the night of 16 October, almost three weeks after entering hospital, his breathing quickened still more, rising above fifty shallow breaths per minute. The young soldier was gasping for air but his lungs were incapable of absorbing oxygen. At five the following morning, Gunner George William F. died from complications of Spanish flu. There was little doctors could do but watch him perish.”3

It didn’t start in Spain

The Spanish Flu got its name from the newspaper reports coming out of that country, which was one of the few places on earth that didn’t censor news reports due to the war.

That fact initially led people to blame immigrants for the virus spread.

Historical research eventually found multiple trigger events on military bases instead.

Military Outbreaks

One strain began with a flu outbreak at a military base in Haskell, Kansas, for example. Researchers traced the transmission through American military camps until Polish troops brought it to Niagara-on-the-Lake in October 1918. It then spread throughout Ontario during the fall of 1918 and from there to new recruits who carried it across the country as they travelled to British Columbia to leave for Russia.4

The Spanish Flu hit Ouellettesville, Alberta on its way west. That’s where my ancestors lived.

Everyone knew everyone else in the town, and they were family, so the three sisters knew the 51-year-old Mrs. Gourdinne. Her suffering and later death must have been a shock.

I have notes from my grandmother saying “1918 was a hard year for the Gourdinne family due to the flu epidemic. Beloved grandmama died.”

Still, the three sisters out west and their family members living near Ottawa all escaped harm.

Limited Mortality from Russian Flu Exposure?

In retrospect, we know that their little sister Dora, who turned 28 in 1918, made the luckiest escape.

A study conducted by researchers in 2013 showed unusually heavy Spanish flu mortality among 28-year-olds.

“We posit that in specific instances, development of immunological memory to an influenza virus strain in early life may lead to a dysregulated immune response to antigenically novel strains encountered in later life, thereby increasing the risk of death. Exposure during critical periods of development could also create holes in the T cell repertoire and impair fetal maturation in general, thereby increasing mortality from infectious diseases later in life.”5

That process may have contributed to all the sisters’ dying soon after the second pandemic they lived through. None of them lived long after that.

Ida died of cancer in 1922.

Asian, Hong Kong and H1N1 flu pandemics

Martha and Dora were among 7,000 Canadians who succumbed to the Asian flu in 1957. My great grandmother Martha died in Edmonton on June 6. Her sister Dora died in Ottawa on October 23.

Eva moved back east to join her family in Ottawa. She survived the Asian flu to die a mere two years later.

The following pandemic, known as the Hong Kong flu, killed 4,000 Canadians in 1968, including my grandmother on my mother’s side. Agnes Maria Himphen died on October 13.

Luckily, no one I know died in the 2009 H1N1 pandemic, although the outbreak killed 428 Canadians.

With all the research efforts underway across the country, I certainly hope that we’ll discover a vaccine for the current COVID-19 soon.

I’m praying that there won’t be any more deaths.

Sources

1Dickin, Janice, Patricia G. Bailey and Erin James-Abra. “Flu” in The Canadian Encyclopedia. Published September 29, 2009; edited May 1, 2017. Accessed on March 24, 2020, https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/influenza/.

2Spanish Flu information kit for students, Ontario Archives, http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/education/pdf/Spanish_Flu_in_Ontario_Lesson_Kit.pdf, accessed on March 24, 2020.

3Humphries, Mark Osborne. The Last Plague: Spanish Influenza and the Politics of Public Health in Canada. University of Toronto Press, 2013, p 3.

4Mitchell, Alanna. The outbreak and its aftermath, Canadian Geographic, August 23, 2018, https://www.canadiangeographic.ca/article/outbreak-and-its-aftermath, accessed March 25, 2020.

5Gagnon, Alain, et al. “Age-Specific Mortality During the 1918 Influenza Pandemic: Unravelling the Mystery of High Young Adult Mortality.” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 8, 5 Aug. 2013, p. e69586, 10.1371/journal.pone.0069586. Accessed 24 Mar. 2020.