The Notaries who began their careers from 1760 to 1791
The Notaries who began their careers during the French regime of Nouvelle-France (New France) and were reappointed by the British governors and administrators after 1759.
Note that BAnQ keeps adding new online search engines which did not exist about two years back, such as :
BAnQ Advitam-Numérique in regard to notaries and their dossiers is a regrouping of Notarial Acts which previously were only available within the 10 repositories of the Archives nationales du Québec across the province in the form of :
Original Minutiers (Notarial books)
Or as in-house digitized dossiers which could only be accessed within the 10 libraries of BAnQ across the province on dedicated computers
I remember 1967 as the best of year of my childhood. In the US, 1967 was the Summer of Love (flower-in-your-hair hippies) and of war (Vietnam draft dodgers) and of civil unrest (inner city riots) but in Canada it was our Centennial Year, the 100th anniversary of Confederation. For children across the nation it was an especially giddy year: teachers from coast-to-coast were teaching their charges how to sing Bobby Gimby’s exuberant CA-NA-DA song, “one little, two little, three Canadians. We love you. Now we are twenty million.”
For Montrealers like me, it was the summer of Expo67, our fabulous world’s fair, situated just a short bus and metro ride away on two man-made islands in the Saint Lawrence River.
I visited Expo 50 times, if memory serves. I sometimes went by myself and I was only 12 years old!
I could go whenever I pleased because I was in possession of a shiny red passport that cost a whole 17 dollars. With his passport you could go from pavilion to pavilion and get it stamped, just like travelling the world.
I no longer have the passport, but it was not lost. My passport was given away by my mother to a beautiful young African woman – and this is how it came about.
A friend of my mother’s had gone through official channels offering to chaperone Expo hostesses from foreign countries. Two Ethiopian hostesses, Hanim and Mentewab, were suggested to her. My mother got into the act and the two girls soon regularly visited our Snowdon home.
Hanim was shy and wore a caftan and hijab. Mentewab was ‘wild’ and wore a halter top, micro-miniskirt and white go-go boots when not in her official costume.
I do not recall having any specific conversations with these young ladies, but I can still see in my mind’s eye their pretty faces as they sat so graceful and ‘grown-up’ on our brown corduroy living room couch, Mentewab so animated, Hanim so quiet.
These women seemed to exotic to me: the reporter in the Gazette had called them ‘goddesses’ after all.
I doubt that they were as impressed with us and our dingy upper duplex apartment. These girls must have been from the elite classes to have been chosen to host at Expo.
As it happens, on May 2, I caught a glimpse of their leader, Haille Selassie, as he passed through the Expo crowd to polite applause, a small, very proud-looking man followed by a tiny little dog, Lulu the Chihuahua, whose short legs were working very hard to keep up with her master. My mother, who admired powerful men, was very excited. “The Lion of Judah” she sang out as he passed.
On cold rainy days at Expo I spent a great deal of time in the coffee bar at the Ethiopian Pavilion, a shiny red tent with lion cubs on guard, probably pestering Hanim and Mentewab big time.
And then, in mid-October, Expo was over. I guess the women visited us one more time because that is when my mother gave MY Expo passport away to one of the girls. Upon learning that Mentewab or Hanim didn’t have a passport of her own, she merely grabbed mine and said, “Take this one.” (At least, that is how I remember it.)
Sometimes I wonder if Mentewab and Hanim are still alive (why wouldn’t they be, they were hardly older than me) and whether one of them, living in Addis Ababa or Paris or New York City, occasionally opens a drawer crammed with Expo67 memorabilia and shows to her many grandchildren a shiny red passport belonging to a pimply, brown-haired Canadian girl called Dorothy Nixon – and wonders, in turn, where I am today. I’d like to think so.
Many French Canadians left the farms of Quebec and migrated to the mills of New England in the mid 1800s. Some worked and then returned home while other like Dolphis Bruneau settled in the United States.
Dolphis was the eldest son of Barnabé Bruneau (1807-1880) and Sophie Marie Prud’homme (1812-1892) my great great grandparents. One would think he would inherit the family farm in Saint Constant, Quebec but he had moved to North Adams, Massachusetts, long before his father’s death.
North Adams, a mill town in Berkshire County, grew at the convergence of two branches of the Hoosic River, which gave the town excellent water power for the developing industries. Dolphis arrived there 1864, at the end of the Civil War. He first lived in a rooming house and worked as an operative, presumably in a mill. At the same time, his younger brothers, Aimé and possibly Napoleon also lived and worked there.
He married Nellie Saunders the daughter of an Irish immigrant Thomas Saunders. She worked in a shoe factory. They started a family with Maude born in 1871 and another daughter Nellie three years later. Tragically, his wife died during that childbirth so Dolphis was left to raise his two daughters alone. He must have had help from Nellie’s family, as he didn’t move back to Quebec like his brother Napoleon and applied for his United States Naturalization Petition in 1895.
Dolphis continued his quiet life in North Adams. He worked as a carpenter possibly not at a mill but for for a cabinet maker. He kept in contact with his family in Quebec. Some pictures of his growing girls were taken in Montreal so they certainly went north to visit. He didn’t move much as his address, a rental property, is listed as 15 N Holden St for most of his life. His daughters continued to live with him. Maud seems to have kept house and Nellie worked as a bookkeeper.
Dolphis remarried eleven years after his wife died to a widow, Ester Mary Halse Tingue. Information about his second wife is scant and rather confusing. Ester received a Civil War pension from her first husband and so had some income. The census and city directories show them living apart although listed as married. He lived with his daughters and she lived with her daughter Emma Tingue. Dolphis died in 1909 and Ester in 1924. In her obituary she is refered to as Mrs. Ester T. Bruneau, living at 108 Quincey Street and survived only by Emma. “Her death will bring deep sorrow to her many acquaintances,” it said. Dolphis and Ester were buried in different cemeteries.
The year after her father’s death, Nellie married Arthur Henwood. They moved in with her sister Maud at 15 N Holdon Street. Nellie and Arthur never had any children. Arthur kept a steady job working for James Hunter Machinery as a machinist. His draft registration cards for both WWI and WWII showed him working at the same company. Nellie continued to work as a bookkeeper and Maude continued to keep house. Both sisters had a close involvement with the First Baptist Church.
Maude never married and after her sister’s death in 1939, she and her brother-in-law continued to live together for the next twenty plus years, still at 15 N Holden Street. Arthur died in 1960 and Maude then moved to the Sweet Brook Nursing Home in Williamstown, Massachusetts where she died two years later. Maude’s death ended the Bruneau line in North Adams although most of the family are buried in Maple Street Cemetery.
Dolphis BruneauMassachusetts, U.S., Death Records, 1841-1915 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2013. Original data:Massachusetts Vital Records, 1840–1911. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts.Massachusetts Vital Records, 1911–1915. New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts. Accesses March 15, 2022.
Dolphis Bruneau – Massachusetts, U.S., State and Federal Naturalization Records, 1798-1950 [database on-line] NAI Number: 4752894; Record Group Title: Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service, 1787-2004; Record Group Number: R G 85. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2011. Accessed Mar 12, 2022.
Nellie Bruneau Henwood Obituary.The North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) December 27,1939, Page 3. Accessed on Newspapers.com Mar 27, 2022.
Maude L Bruneau Obituary. North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) March 17, 1962, Page 3. Accessed on Newspapers.com Mar 23, 2022.
Mrs Ester T Bruneau Obituary. North Adams Transcript (North Adams, Massachusetts) Dec 19, 1924, page 14. Accessed on Newspapers.com Mar 30, 2022.
1900 Census: North Adams Ward 3, Berkshire, Massachusetts;Roll:632;Page:7;Enumeration District:0051;FHL microfilm:1240632Ancestry.com.1900 United States Federal Census[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2004. Original data: United States of America, Bureau of the Census. Twelfth Census of the United States, 1900. Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, 1900. T623, 1854 rolls. Accessed Mar 2, 2022.
Arthur Henwood: Draft Card H. Registration State:Massachusetts; Registration County: Berkshire Source Information Ancestry.com. U.S., World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918.Imaged from Family History Library microfilm M1509, 4,582 rolls. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2005. Accessed April 5, 2022.
I promise to my dear Anais never to use alcohol or tobacco
and not to lie to her anymore and to be good to her.
This note found in a box of Bruneau family pictures, along with an invitation to Anais Bruneau and Etienne Patenaude’s wedding made me wonder. At first I thought it was a promise made before they married but then realized the date was ten years later. What had Etienne done?
Anais, the sister of my great grandfather Ismael Bruneau was the youngest of 13 children of my two times great grandparents, Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Marie Prud’homme. She appeared to be my great grandfather Ismael’s favourite and only three years his junior. He wrote many letters to Anais and some survived but none of her replies. He traveled for his studies and his ministry while she remained close to home in Saint Constant helping their parents. When Ismael was ministering in Kankakee, Illinois, he wrote that he wanted her to meet his beautiful soon-to-be wife. He asked her to come and visit and said that he would find her a tall strong farmer for a husband. As far as I know, Anais never visited and she found her own husband.
Anais married Etienne Hilaire Patenaude on a Thursday at ten and a half in the morning in L’Eglise Ecossaise in Laprarie, Quebec. I thought it was a strange day and time for a wedding but Anais dressed the part of a bride in a fancy white dress and veil with a bouquet of flowers as their wedding photograph shows. She was 33 and Etienne only 27.
They seemed to live a quiet life on a farm south of Montreal. They had no children. Her mother lived with them for a time after their marriage and most likely until her death. Anais was the good daughter and following her brother’s instructions, continued to look after her mother after her father died. Although Anais had seven sisters only she remained near St-Constant.
Etienne died in 1931 and Anais a year later at 77 years old. They are both buried in the cemetery at St Blaise Baptist Church in Grande Ligne showing they led a religious life. This church was associated with the Feller Institute, founded by Henrietta Feller a Swiss missionary who came to convert the native population but had greater success with the French Catholics. Madame Feller and her partner Louis Roussy were responsible for the conversion of Anais’ parents. Etienne’s parents were also Baptists.
What did Etienne do to have him write this promise? They were both French Baptists and involved in the Mission at Grande Ligne where sobriety would be expected. Did he go off and drink, smoke and lie about it? Who saved this paper and how did it come to me? On the back is written, “What Aunt Anais made him sign.” So, according to family lore, it wasn’t his choice to make this declaration.
Note by Etienne Patenaude translated by author.
Ancestry.com. 1921 Census of Canada[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2013. Original data:Library and Archives Canada. Sixth Census of Canada, 1921. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, 2013. Series RG31. Statistics Canada Fonds.Images are reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada.
Ancestry.com. 1901 Census of Canada[database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006. Original data:Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1901. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, 2004. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1901/Pages/about-census.aspxl. Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels: T-6428 to T-6556.Images are reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada.
Ancestry.com. 1891 Census of Canada[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original data:Library and Archives Canada. Census of Canada, 1891. Ottawa, Ontario, Canada: Library and Archives Canada, 2009. http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/census/1891/Pages/about-census.aspx. Series RG31-C-1. Statistics Canada Fonds. Microfilm reels: T-6290 to T-6427.
Ancestry.com. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 [database on-line]. Lehi, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2008. Original data:Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
We all know time flies but have you ever thought of your life in chunks of five or ten years at a time?
Census records are a vital resource for family historians researching their ancestors. They provide a snapshot of each household on a particular day over the years. Here is the snapshot of my life on census years.
POP: 18,238,247-Prime Minister: John Diefenbaker(Conservative)
In the News: CUSO was formed and the CFCF (Canada’s First Canada’s Finest) Television Network began broadcasting.
Favourite song : Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me”.
Travels included the family summer cottage in Knowlton (Eastern Townships).
My mother died of cancer leaving my father with four children under the age of 12. I was only four years old. We all lived in the house my father built ten years earlier in Montreal (Quebec). My father ran his own engineering company.
POP: 21,568,311-Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)
In the News: FLQ terrorized Montreal. Pierre Laporte and James Cross are kidnapped. Trudeau invoked the War Measures Act. Frankie Vallie and the Four Seasons are a hit.
Favourite song: Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven”.
Travels included winning a trip for two to Paris accompanied by my father and meeting up with my older sister living in England at the time and the Knowlton summer cottage.
I still lived in the same house…blessed with a stepmother (1964) and three more sisters. My youngest half- sister was born in June which gave me a focus to my 14 year-old angst-filled life. As a high school student in 1971, classes were regularly interrupted by bomb scares and evacuations to a shelter across the street. I regularly ran by mailboxes on my way to school “just in case”. I played badminton in the winter and, in the summer, tennis as well as horseback riding just like my older sister… never admitting that the beasts actually terrified me!
(Note: After 1971, the Canadian Census was taken every five years instead of ten.)
POP: 22,922,604 – Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)
In the News: The Parti Quebecois won a provincial majority and Bill 101 (the french language law) was being finalized. Montreal hosted the Summer Olympics.
Favourite song: ABBA’s “Dancing Queen”.
Travels included a family trip to Kennebunk (Maine) beach and the Knowlton summer cottage.
All grown up at 19 years old, I worked at my first real job as a bank teller and moved out of the family home into my first apartment. By the end of the year, I had changed my mind and quit my job, moved back to the family home (with a cat) and signed up for courses at CEGEP (a Quebec college). Maybe I wasn’t quite finished growing up after all!
POP: 24,343,181 -Prime Minister: Pierre Trudeau (Liberal)
In the News: All-time high prime interest rate of 22.75% and Rene Levesque’s Parti-Quebecois was re-elected after the failed Referendum.
Favourite song: The Pointer Sisters’ “Slow Hand”.
Travels included Barbados and weekends of golf in Magog (Eastern Townships).
My fourth attempt of moving out of my father’s house finally succeeded. As an adult of 24 years, my legal secretarial training in Ottawa landed me a job in NDG (west end of Montreal) near my new apartment. However, my interest in investments prompted me to take the Canadian Securities Course where I met a boy and, by the end of the year, I was engaged to be married.
POP: 25,309,331 – Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Conservative)
In the News: The Canadian dollar hit an all-time low of USD70.2 and Jean Drapeau (responsible for the Metro, Expo 67 and Place des Arts) resigned as Mayor of Montreal.
Favourite song: Chris deBurgh’s “Lady in Red”.
Travels included Vancouver (British Columbia) and weekends in Magog (Eastern Townships).
My husband, our one-year daughter and I moved back to Quebec from Morrisburg (Ontario), where we operated a ten unit motel for a year until we quickly realized we were losing money. Real estate prices had increased so much in the one year since we left Dorval that we had to buy in a suburb further west of Montreal (Ile Perrot). Moving “home” was no longer an option once married and 29 years old!
POP: 27,296,859 – Prime Minister: Brian Mulroney (Conservative)
In the News: The GST tax came into effect and Canadian forces participated in the Persian Gulf War.
Favourite song: Cher’s “It’s in his kiss”.
Travels included Vancouver and Victoria (British Columbia).
Now divorced and living with my six-year daughter in Magog (Eastern Townships) after closing our used bookstore since we were losing money…again. True to my flip-flop nature, I enrolled to study business at Bishop’s University as a 34-year old mature student. My daughter and I attended our respective schools and enjoyed a less expensive country life filled with seasonal sports and blessed with a group of supportive friends.
POP: 28,846,761 – Prime Minister: Jean Chretien (Liberal)
In the News: Mr. Dressup’s last children’s show. Lucien Bouchard replaced Jacques Parizeau after the second lost Quebec referendum. Severe flooding of the Saguenay River (east of Montreal).
Favourite song: Sarah McLachlan’s “I will remember you”.
Travels included Glacier Park (Montana), San Francisco and Carmel (California), Los Cabos (Mexico) as well as cottage time at the lake.
My father died (1995). After five years of study, I graduated from university at 39 years old. My daughter and I moved back to Montreal (Quebec) to start my new career but mostly to crowd into an apartment with my boyfriend of three years and his two teenage children. We married two years later.
POP: 30,007,094 – Prime Minister: Jean Chretien (Liberal)
In the News: 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US and Canadian Astronaut Chris Hadfield’s space walk.
Favourite song: Westlife’s “Uptown Girl”.
Travels included Porto (Portugal) and an Alaskan cruise as well as cottage time at the lake.
My business degree enabled me to work full time while juggling my busy new family life but we still found time to travel. The events of 9/11 shook up the world, affecting the travel industry especially, so my husband took the early retirement package “offered” by Air Canada. So at the age of 44, I found myself with my new husband retired, my daughter finishing high school and a roomier apartment as the other two children were away at school in the United States.
POP: 31,612,897-Prime Minister: Stephen Harper (Conservative)
In the News: Dawson College shooting, the fatal collapse of a Laval overpass (a suburb north of Montreal), the Québécois ethnic group officially recognized as a nation within Canada.
Favourite song: John Mayer’s “Waiting on the world to change”.
Travels included Lisbon (Portugal) and a Hawaiian cruise as well as cottage time at the lake.
The only one left in our “nest” was my daughter who attended McGill locally. We continued to enjoy travelling (on Air Canada passes) while I was still working at age 49 and my husband enjoyed his early retirement.
POP: 33,476,688-Prime Minister: Stephen Harper (Conservative)
In the News: Extreme weather conditions with a winter storm in the Maritimes, a cold snap in Quebec, the Richelieu River overflowing its banks and Wild Fires in the West.
Favourite song: Adele’s “Someone like you”.
Travels included a Hawaiian cruise, England to meet our second grandchild, Halifax (Nova Scotia), Los Angeles (California) and Seattle (Washington) as well as cottage time at the lake.
My husband and I are very comfortable in our new house (2007) that we bought after all the children left home! The unfinished basement made a fabulous art studio that I enjoyed now that I was semi-retired. As a 54- year old grandmother of two, I had the time, love and energy to share with them…but sadly they lived in England.
POP: 35,151,728 – Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau (Liberal)
In the News: Final concert of Canadian band Tragically Hip, Wild Fires evacuate Fort McMurray (Alberta).
Favourite song: Ed Sheeran’s “Photograph”.
Travels included a Carribean cruise, a visit with the grandkids in England, a trip down my husband’s memory lane in Winnipeg (Manitoba) and cottage time at the lake.
My daughter married and lives only ten minutes away. Fully retired from office life at the age of 59, I enjoyed an active membership in two art associations. And, as one of nine writers in my genealogy group, my monthly creative writings were due regularly. I volunteered any spare time with the “stitch and bitch” group at my church.
POP: 38,246,108 – Prime Minister: Justin Trudeau (Liberal)
In the News: Covid, Vaccinations, Closed Canada-US border and Canadian Indian residential schools gravesites.
Favourite song: All the Golden Oldies!
Travels were restricted to cottage time at the lake… which helped keep me sane.
The strange year flew by with very little in the way of normalcy. We kept safe in our house, wore masks in public, washed our hands frequently, only shopped when necessary and maintained our distance from others. At 64 years, staying fit and healthy had never been more important. The deck at the back of our house provided numerous opportunities for outdoor entertaining of family, friends and neighbours between May and September.
I wonder what my life will look like for the 2026 Census?
Perhaps someday my “great-greats” will find this story helpful and some of their research on my life will already be done!
The Titanic Sunk and Loss Feared of Over 1,500 Lives
The April 16, 1912 of the Guardian newspaper screamed this headline.1 Other newspapers around the world had similar headlines.
Just over three weeks later on May 11, 1912, my grandfather, Thomas McHugh, his widowed mother, Sarah McLaughlin, and his two brothers, Edward and Francis, boarded the S.S. Grampian in Glasgow, Scotland, to cross the Atlantic to start their new life in Canada.2
They would have been sad to leave their home, excited about their new lives, and definitely worried about hitting an iceberg.
There was a total of 1,638 “souls” on board the S.S. Grampian,3 33 of whom were Saloon or First-Class passengers, and 363 were 2nd cabin passengers. My family was part of the 1,244 passengers in steerage. The crossing took 20 days and the ship arrived in Quebec City on May 21, 1912. Between them, the McHughs arrived with $150 in their pockets. Browsing through the passenger lists, I can see that they had a lot more money than many of their fellow passengers. 4 A Google search tells me $150 in 1912 is about $4,300 in today’s dollars. As they were poor and lived in a tenement in Dundee, Scotland, I can only assume that this meant that they had carefully planned to emigrate.
Steerage accommodations were often divided into three compartments on the ships at that time: one compartment for single men on one side of hold of the ship as steerage passengers certainly did not have an ocean view; one for families in the middle; and a compartment for single women on the other side of the ship. I assume and hope that my family travelled together as a family. These compartments were crowded, with about 300 people in each of them.5 Nor did steerage passengers have a lot of room to move around top deck. They were restricted to a portion of the open deck and prevented from mingling with the Saloon and 2nd cabin passengers by metal gates.
The berths were two-tiered and made of metal frames. Each bed had a mattress and a pillow that could be used as a life preserver. The passengers probably brought their own bedding. Most passengers slept fully dressed.6 The picture below is an example of a four-berth room found in a brochure for the Cunard Line, 1912,7 although many ships had no rooms in steerage and the berths were set up in an open space.
The dining room in steerage had long tables with benches. Steerage passengers were provided with a set of utensils that they used for the entire trip, normally a fork, spoon and a lunch pail. A small dish fit into the top of the pail for meat and potatoes, with an attachment on the lid as a dish for vegetables and a tin cup that fit inside for drinks. The pail also served as a wash basin. 8 The poster below indicates that steerage passengers had to pay 3s 6d per adult for their small pail and utensils (pannikin).9
When the McHughs arrived in Quebec City, they were inspected by one of the medical examiners, either Dr. Drouin or Dr. Dupont, who were tasked with examining all the steerage passengers.11 Each immigrant would have been given an inspection card like the one illustrated below. The ship’s surgeon would have signed that they were vaccinated protected.12
My grandfather, Thomas, his brothers and his mother, were not the only McHughs to arrive on the S.S. Grampian. A year before Thomas arrived, his sister, Mary McHugh also arrived on this ocean liner.13 She came from Dundee, Scotland to work as a domestic. And Thomas’ wife, Elsie, accompanied by their seven children, arrived six months after Thomas, also on the S.S. Grampian. 14
It is no surprise that they all booked their passage on the S.S. Grampian as the Allan Shipping Line, founded in 1819 and whose main shipping line was between Scotland and Montreal, is credited with providing passage for the largest number of Scottish immigrants to Canada.15 In 1907 Sir Montagu Allan of the Allan Line Royal Mail Steamers ordered the building of the S.S. Grampian from the Stephens & Sons Ltd. shipbuilding yards in Scotland.16
When World War I broke out, the S.S. Grampian was used to transport troops of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) from Canada to Europe. After the war, during the summer of 1919, the S.S. Grampian had left Montreal on its way to Liverpool and struck an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland. Even though the front of the ship was crushed, it managed to reach the port of St. John’s, Newfoundland. Two of the crew were killed, and two of them were injured. Even though the ship was repaired, two years later, while undergoing a refit, it was gutted by fire and sank. It was then considered a write-off.17
Newspapers.com, The Guardian, April 15, 1912, retrieved December 25, 2021.
“Canada Passenger Lists, 1881-1922,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:2HLP-31W : 23 February 2021), Thomas McHugh, May 1912; citing Immigration, Quebec City, Quebec, Canada, T-4785, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, retrieved December 25, 2021.
“The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there,” writes L.P. Hartley at the very beginning of The Go-Between, a novel I read and loved in my 20’s.
As a woman who now likes to pen stories based on her family tree, this famous first line has new meaning for me. It makes me ask the question: Despite our best efforts, can we ever really know our more distant ancestors?
Sure, we can absorb with attention the family myths. We can dig out the dates of births, marriages and deaths. We can check out the newspaper record. We can look up legal documents and even research with scholarly precision the historical context of their -often- difficult lives.
But is that REALLY knowing them?
Or is the best way to know our ancestors through our own parents and grandparents, through their inherited behaviours and beliefs that we witnessed first-hand. I have three other ideas.
1. Visiting the ‘homeland’ can give you a feel for who your ancestors were.
There’s a well-known 182 mile coast-to-coast hike that goes from the soaring sandstone cliffs of St. Bee’s Head on the west coast of Cumbria to the charming storied fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay on the east coast in Yorkshire. Patching together my father’s Nixon/Forster family tree, I discovered he had ancestors; farmers, lead miners, grocers, servants; living just north and south of – and even directly on – this picturesque route.
This 182 mile ‘footpath’ traverses three national parks: The Lake District, Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors National Parks. It’s a walk that offers up isolated pebbled beaches and quaint historic villages; rugged wildernesses with hilltop cairns; flat easy patches with long sweeping vistas; medieval castles and ancient stone circles; serene valleys dotted with sheep; sturdy Roman roads and magical heather moorlands.
As it happens, I can take this hike anytime (on YouTube) and see with my own eyes pretty much what many of my ancestors saw with their own eyes.
My ancestors had good eyes, I bet, for long distance gazing. Strong legs, too. And leathery skin beaten up by the cold wet winds of the moors. They probably were skinny and didn’t worry about cholesterol as they downed their breakfasts of heavy black rye bread and fatty bacon. Come to think of it, that description fits my father pretty well. His exceptional long distance eye-sight and strong legs made him a top athlete in the 1930’s at this boarding school in St. Bees. He was still participating in cross-country ski marathons in Quebec in the 1980s.1
2. You can always look to old family recipes to teach yourself something essential about your antecedents.
In my 1960’s Montreal home, on Saturdays when we ate roast beef, I was in charge of making the Yorkshire pudding, and I do believe that it was my father who showed me how to make the batter and take fat drippings from the roast and spoon it into the bottom of the muffin tins.
Still, it was my French Canadian mother who was in charge of the kitchen and her roast was ‘blue’ -practically mooing on the plate a la francaise. My father ate only the outside over-cooked part.
Apart from frying our POM (Pride of Montreal) white bread slices in bacon fat (ICK!) and threatening to feed us smoked herring (double ICK) my British pater (who was born in Malaya, after all) didn’t seem to know much about his native Yorkshire foods. He never mentioned the oatcakes that were a staple of the poor; or the cheese pies eaten on various festive occasions or the special mutton pie made with candied fruit in a rich crust served with fresh fried trout and curd cheesecakes, washed down with ‘home-made’ whisky served as a reward at the end of sheep-shearing season.
As a child of the Raj, my father more often spoke with fond nostalgia of the Mulligatawny soup (curried chicken with apples) he ate on his father’s Selangor Rubber Estate.
Still, somehow, more through his dislikes rather than his preferences, I learned that (generally-speaking) eating plain hearty food was in his North of England blood.
3. Consulting out-of-print genealogy books can give you an insider’s knowledge about the people who came before.
I stumbled upon a terrific little volume online: Rambles Through the North Yorkshire Dales. Published 1913 on archive.org. The book even has a chapter on the Yorkshire character. Bingo!
The Yorkshireman, says the author, a native, is notorious for being tight-fisted. “He loves to get the best of a bargain not only for business purposes but as sport.” He is suspicious of strangers, especially of the patronizing upper-crust kind. He is “reticent and hard on the outside with a queer sense of independence and a real and natural sense of humour.”
So right! My father would drive ten miles to save ten cents on gasoline. He could deconstruct a person’s character, a television show, a work of art with one well-chosen (often withering) word. He didn’t follow the current fashion – and mocked us when we wanted to. He was amused by the minutia of everyday life, although I seldom got his subtle jokes.
Yorkshiremen says the book are filled with ‘a fierce romanticism, a strong religious fervour.’ Still, people from the North of England were once very superstitious. These people believed or half-believed in dragons and water sprites, fairies and ‘boggles’ or imps who were often the ghosts of nasty feudal landlords long dead.
Many of the local traditions around holy wells and sacred fires, etc. stem back to pre-Christian times. and are still carried out in various and sundry small towns.
Does this fit my father? No, not at all. My father, educated in mathematics at Oxford, was a pragmatist. Still, he seemed to actually take delight in reading fairy tales to me.
And last but not least, my North of England ancestors spoke funny. Real funny. According to my mother, my father lost his English accent the day he arrived in Canada.
I learned about the Yorkshire dialect by watching the original All Creatures Great and Small television series based on the life of Alf Wight or James Herriot, a veterinarian, in Thirsk, North Yorkshire. In that show, locals were used to play the farmers and I often needed subtitles to understand them!
No, my Yorkshire father never said things like, “Ere, wot’s f’r us tea Mutha” as in “Mother, what are we having for dinner?”
M’of t’sop, d’yawanowt?
I’m going to the shop? Do you want me to get anything?
Put t’wood int ‘ole. Close the door. (Put the wood in the hole)
Sit this sen Darn as in Sit down.3
but I suspect his grandfather, Robert Nixon, who at 67 in 1911 was still working as a delver in the local Rievaulx quarry certainly did.
Even better, his younger brother, Michael Nixon, living in Keswick right on the hiking path, was awarded the MBE for performing mountain top search and rescue in the mountains of the Lake Country well into his 80s! https://keswickmrt.org.uk/mike-nixon-mbe-1928-2018/)
I never met Michael. I don’t think my father knew him at all, either.
My father very very often made fun of the Canadian ‘aboot’ for ‘about.’ From what I can see, this ‘aboot’ is right outta Yorkshire so I have to wonder if there was something subconscious going on here: if years before at prep school he had had the ‘aboot’ shamed out of him. My grandmother spoke in the Queen’s English. She was from County Durham but educated at a Quaker School. I know because I have a tape of her speaking about British Malaya from Cambridge University archives. It is not in the public domain so I can’t link it here. https://imfromyorkshire.uk.com/yorkshire-sayings. Here’s a link to BBC Sounds discussion of English spoken in Helmsley North Yorkshire, the home of the Nixons. https://sounds.bl.uk/Accents-and-dialects/BBC-Voices/021M-C1190X0035XX-0301V0
In Mount Royal cemetery, on the mountain in Montreal, lies the grave of Emilien Frechette. On the tombstone are the names of two of his three wives while in front is a little stone marker reading Marie and Ida. All his wives had a connection to the Bruneau family.
He first became a member of the Bruneau family in his early 30s when he married Marie Emilina Bruneau, daughter of Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Marie Prud’homme. He must have he enjoyed his wife’s large family, she was one of thirteen children, because after Marie Emilina died he first married one and then a second of her sisters-in-law.
Emilien was born to Emilien Frechette and Philomine Laguë. His father was a Baptist and a farmer on Montreal’s South Shore near Iberville. After his father died, his mother, brother Philippe and three of his sisters moved to Worcester, Massachusetts between 1885 and 1895. Philippe was a carpenter and worked in the building trade while two of his sisters were teachers. I presume that Emilien stayed on the family farm.
With most of his family in the United States, Emilien must have spent time with the large Bruneau clan. In the 1891 census there appeared to be a daughter Alice, 3 who didn’t appear in later censuses. Was she his only child who died young?
After Marie Emilina died in 1922, Emilien must have been lonely on his farm. His brother-in-law, Ismael Bruneau, had died leaving his wife Ida Girod Bruneau a widow. Ida first moved her family from Quebec City to Lachute where she lived with her daughter Helvetia and then spent time visiting family in Switzerland. On her return, Emilien approached her and suggested as they were both alone and he had a large house, maybe they could live together and get married and so they did. My aunt Aline remembers her mother visiting grandmother Ida and coming back with baskets of berries that had to be sorted, cleaned and made into pies.
Unfortunately, Ida was soon diagnosed with cancer and spent her last days in the Montreal General Hospital. She died in 1927 leaving Emilien a widower once again.
One thinks, Emilien liked the comfort of a wife and since another of his brother-laws was dead there was another sister-in-law to marry. In 1929, Emily Beauchamp Bruneau married Emilein Frechette.
Emily Beauchamp married Napoleon Bruneau in 1910. Neither had been married before. Emily was 41 and Napoleon 66 and so there were no children. Napoleon lived all his life in Laprairie, Quebec and kept himself busy. He was a farmer, a veterinarian, a mayor and a justice of the peace. They were both French Protestants. Unfortunately, in 1916 he was hit by a train while in Montreal and killed.
Emily was Emilien’s last wife and they continued to live on his farm in Iberville until his death in 1946. When Emily died in 1951 she wasn’t buried with her husband and his other wives but in her Beauchamp family’s private cemetery in Grenville, Quebec.
My mother remembered “oncle” Emilien. Her grandmother Ida died when she was just five but Emilien, a “nice old man”, kept in contact with all the family. What a guy!
1881 Census Place: St Grégoire, Iberville, Quebec; Roll: C_13203; Page: 60; Family No:268Source Information Ancestry.com and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 1881 Census of Canada [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2009. Accessed November 24, 2021.
1891 Census: Place: St Valentin, St Jean, Quebec, Canada; Roll: T-6420;Family No: 157 Sub-district: St Valentin Source Information Ancestry.com. Accessed Nov 20, 2021.
Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection;Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Year: 1929 Ancestry.com. Accessed January 4, 2022.
I have no doubt that the real cause of my great-grandmother’s death was a broken heart. She had experienced one grief too many and after the death of her daughter, she gave up and her heart gave out.
Alice Mary Knight, my great-grandmother, was born in the small village of West Bromwich, Staffordshire in 1875.1 Mary’s love story started in Birmingham, about six miles away. She went to Birmingham to work and met John Deakin at the rooming house where they were living.2 John also came from a nearby village. They were single, away from their families, and most certainly lonely. They married in 1900 and almost immediately moved to Sheffield, 90 miles away.3
The move to Sheffield would have been difficult. While Mary and John had each other, they would certainly have been homesick. Especially as their son, my grandfather, George Deakin, was born soon after they moved. In a strange city with a newborn, far from her mother and sisters, Mary would certainly have missed living in the village.
John found a mining job in Sheffield and he possibly worked for the Tinsley Park Collieries, situated very close to where John and Mary lived.Mary would have been alone most of the day as miners often worked 12-hour shifts. This young couple could have no inkling that the mine would unravel their lives.
In 1905, their little family was complete with the birth of George’s sister, Alice Gertrude Deakin.4
When George finished school, he went on to apprentice as a fitter, also at a mine, and possibly the one his father worked at.5 Fitters repaired and maintained machinery. George always worked at the surface of the mine. But he knew that it would not be long before he would be asked to work below ground. He was a short man and therefore an ideal size for moving around in the close spaces below ground. “I did not want to work below ground in the mine,” Gramps would say every time someone asked him why he came to Canada.
When George came to Canada in 1922, he had not yet decided whether he would stay.6 As soon as he arrived, he went out west by train to work on the wheat farms, to bring in the harvest. When the work dried up on the farms, he returned east to Montreal and met my grandmother, Grace Hunter. He was content living in Montreal. He married my grandmother and they had two children, Jack and Patricia. He had a job he enjoyed and worked there all his life, even during the Great Depression. George went on with his life but I cannot help but think that his mother must have been sorry he was so far away. Mary must have regretted George’s job at the mine, the catalyst for his emigration to Canada. It is unlikely that George ever went back to England for a visit, possibly because he may have felt that he could not take the time off work. A week to get there, a day’s journey by train to get to his parents’ house, and then the return. My grandparents were not rich, so money would have also been a consideration.
In 1935, John and Mary received more bad news. John had laryngeal cancer. At the time they did not know it, but mining is now considered a risk factor for laryngeal cancer. John underwent surgery to address the cancer, but he had heart failure from the shock of the operation and died on the operating table.7
After the death of her husband, Mary and her daughter, Alice, decided to move back to the village of Smethwick, John’s birthplace. Both John and Mary’s family were in the area. At least Mary would be close to some family members. Mary purchased a house and Alice found a job as a timekeeper at W&T Avery, a spring balance manufacturer.8
Tragedy struck again about ten years later when Alice was diagnosed with a brain tumour. Alice Gertrude died in the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham on November 1, 1951. Alice’s friend and neighbour, Marie Evans, was the informant on the death certificate.9
Within a week of Alice’s death, Mary changed her will.10 She must have already been seriously ill and, although we don’t know for sure, the urgency would have been to dispose of the house. Mary died of a heart attack less than two months after the death of her daughter. She was a widow, her son lived far away, and her daughter had died. The sorrow would have been overwhelming. Mary died at home on New Year’s Eve in 1951, in the company of her younger brother, Benjamin.10
Mary’s new will left 20£ to her brother, Benjamin, for being the executor of her estate. She left a few bequests of 5£ to some of her friends and to the Firth Alms House in Sheffield, Yorkshire. Mary required that all of her other possessions, including her house, be sold and bequeathed to her son, George, in Canada.11
Mary must have felt that she lost her son to Canada and that when her daughter died in 1951, that the future was bleak. When death gently came to claim her just two months after her daughter’s death, Mary did not fight back.
Certified copy of an entry of birth, Alice Mary Knight, born April 17, 1875, extract dated May 4, 2021.
Certified copy of an entry of marriage, John Thomas Deakin and Alice Mary Knight, November 25, 1900, St. Paul’s Church, Aston, Harwick, extract dated May 25, 2021.
1901 census, Tinsley, Yorkshire, John Deakin and Mary Deakin, referenced January 1, 2016.
Copy of an entry of birth, Alice Gertrude Deakin, born July 19, 1905, referenced July 27, 2021.
Declaration of passage, George Thomas Deakin, Form 30A, referenced October 2, 2009.
Copy of an entry of death, John Thomas Deakin, died July 8, 1935, referenced October 29, 2021.
1939 Register, Findmypast, Deakin, Alice G. and Deakin, Alice M., Alice is registered as a timekeeper at a balance manufacturer. Mary is registered as unpaid domestic help, referenced June 24, 2017.
Copy of an entry of death, Alice Gertrude Deakin, died November 1, 1951, referenced August 29, 2021. The informant was Marie Evans, neighbour and friend. The law is specific about who can register a death in England: a relative, someone who was present at the death, an employee of a public house where the death occurred, or the person making the funeral arrangements. As Marie Evans was not a relative, she was allowed to register the death if she made the funeral arrangements. As such, the death certificate states that Marie Evans was “causing the body to be buried.” This way Marie Evans was able to allow her to register the death.
The Last Will and Testament of Alice Mary Deakin, dated November 1, 1951 and probate, dated February 6, 1952, referenced August 12, 2021.
Copy of an entry of death, Alice Mary Knight, died December 31, 1951, referenced August 8, 2021.