Category Archives: Quebec

Can We Ever REALLY Know our Ancestors?

Moor Guide.

The Costumes of Yorkshire: George Walker, 1813. New York Public Library Online, Public Domain photo

“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.

The Coast-to-Coast Walk (WIkipedia Share alike Pic John Carter

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

Woman making oatcakes on a Yorkshire farm

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!) my British (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 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.

Midsummer Eve in Yorkshire – a time when witches and fairies come out to play with the humans.

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 or 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.

Peter Nixon and Marie Marthe Crepeau

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.

Rievaulx Castle by Turner: There is no shortage of paintings of the North of England, from Victorian Era and beyond, but these paintings seldom depict working people. The few I could find online were not Creative Commons. Indeed, Her Majesty the Queen has a nice one of poor fisher folk in her collection.
My father’s ancient genes according to mytrueancestry.com. Yes, Danish and Norwegian Viking, Saxon, Visigoth, Merovingian. The history of Yorkshire indicates this is all pretty on spot. He has lot of Celt too. And some deep Illyrian (Croatia). Maybe this has something to do with Hadrian’s Wall and the Roman Legions (mercenaries) who manned them. Apparently, Northern English is riddled with Viking words.
  1. 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/)
  2. I never met Michael. I don’t think my father knew him at all, either.
  3. 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

Emilien Frechette What a Guy

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.

Emilien and Ida on his farm

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!

Barnabe and Sophie Bruneau’s Children

Notes:

https://genealogyensemble.com/?s=Ida+Girod/

https://genealogyensemble.com/2015/11/04/call-me-ismael/

https://genealogyensemble.com/?s=Barnabe/

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.

Library and Archives Canada; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935-1980Year: 1940 Ancestry.com. Canada, Voters Lists, 1935-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012. Accessed January 8, 2022.

Mary Died of a Broken Heart

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.

  1. Certified copy of an entry of birth, Alice Mary Knight, born April 17, 1875, extract dated May 4, 2021.
  2. 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.
  3. 1901 census, Tinsley, Yorkshire, John Deakin and Mary Deakin, referenced January 1, 2016.
  4. Copy of an entry of birth, Alice Gertrude Deakin, born July 19, 1905, referenced July 27, 2021.
  5. Declaration of passage, George Thomas Deakin, Form 30A, referenced October 2, 2009.
  6. Idem.
  7. Copy of an entry of death, John Thomas Deakin, died July 8, 1935, referenced October 29, 2021.
  8. 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. 
  9. 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.
  10. The Last Will and Testament of Alice Mary Deakin, dated November 1, 1951 and probate, dated February 6, 1952, referenced August 12, 2021.
  11. Copy of an entry of death, Alice Mary Knight, died December 31, 1951, referenced August 8, 2021.

Eastern Europeans at BAnQ

Map of Eastern Europe

Eastern Europeans Who Settled in Quebec

The following database consists of books, documents, abstracts, and short articles that were written by numerous Authors whose works are available at BAnQ and numerous other links.

There are also links pertaining to books available at book stores within the list.

There is a History list of sites used in this document.

To view the database click the link below and open in a new window.

When History and Genealogy Come Together

Genealogy is usually of little interest to children probably because their parents already seem from the Dark Ages and their grandparents from the times when Tyrannosaurus Rex tramped the planet.

It was the same thing for me way back in the 1960’s – except for the one day when I was about twelve years old. My mother came home all excited with some important news passed on to her by a cousin who had researched the Crepeau family tree.

My mom’s father, Jules Crepeau of Montreal, was descended from one Abraham Martin dit L’Ecossais, a pioneering (boat) pilot and land-owner in New France. My French Canadian mom found this fact highly entertaining. “I am descended from a Scotsman,” she told me, laughing. “What a joke.”

I remember this episode only because of another part of the story. Apparently, this Abraham Martin fellow owned the Plains of Abraham. THOSE Plains of Abraham. Now that I could sink my tweenage incisors into.

You see, I was learning about Canadian history in school. Our text was Canada Then and Now, a bright green text with a very iconographic cover pic.

From this textbook, I was learning for the first time how the French and British were always at war with each other, way back then, in Europe and in North America. In North America, the fought over control of the lucrative fur trade and, apparently, it all came to a head one morning on the 1th of September, 1759 when a British general named Samuel Wolfe, after being rebuffed a few times by the superior French forces, led a cagey attack on the French General named Louis Joseph Marquis de Montcalm on the cliffs of Quebec City, cutting off his supplies and defeating his superior forces. This was all part of something called The Seven Years War.

All night long kept quietly landing the men on Wolfe’s cove. By morning, 5000 British soldiers were drawn up ready on the Plains of Abraham. The French had avoided battle, believing they were safe because they had more men than the British and plenty of supplies. They knew the British wold have to withdraw before freeze up. But now tht the British had landed above the town and cut off supplies from Quebec. The time had come for battle.

The textbook instructed us Canadian children, in subtle terms, to take no especial pride in this seminal event:

Wolfe and Montcalm were great generals and gallant men. Today, on the Plains outside of Quebec, a monument stands to honor them both. Wolfe’s name is on one side, Montcalm’s on the other. There is a Latin inscription that says, “Valour gave them a common death. History a common fame and posterity a common memorial.”

Illustration from Canada Then and Now. Storming the Plains of Abraham

Today, I am much older and predictably I am into genealogy. I have written many many family stories from both sides of my tree.

My mother’s French Canadian side was easy-peasy to patch together thanks to all those fabulous Catholic church records on Drouin available. And yes, if the Mons Origins website information is correct, my mom was indeed descended from this Abraham Martin.

Should I write about this pioneer ancestor? I have long wondered.

Truth be told, I would very much like to puzzle out the story of my earlier French Canadian ancestors, as Tracey Arial and Claire Lindle have done so brilliantly on this blog. I’d like to discover exciting new tidbits of information about my ancestors to add to the historical record (perhaps using some of the stellar resources catalogued on Genealogy Ensemble by Jacques Gagne) but it all seems so difficult, so labour intensive and so hard on the eyes.

In the past, I have explored the lives of Les Filles de Roi – because I am particularly interested in the lives of women ancestors – only to find there doesn’t exist much detailed information about these pioneering females from Normandy and Ile de Paris. It seems no one bothered to document the day-to-day lives or unique personal stories of these ‘mothers of millions’ back then– either in Europe or New France.

When it comes to this Abraham Martin dit L’Ecossais character, it would be a real waste of time to try to find a new angle or to write something fresh about him. There are already reams and reams (or pixels and pixels) of information written about him. It appears that Abraham Martin dit L’Ecossais is one of the most famous French Canadian pioneers and a father to millions of North Americans, including Madonna and Justin Bieber – and, ah, little ole me.

Long story short: He married Marguerite Langlois. Had 14 children. I am descended through Vitaline Forget-Despatie, my mother’s father’s mother.

The kicker to this non-story of mine: Abraham wasn’t necessarily Scottish. He could have invented the epithet to avoid criminal prosecution or he was a war deserter. His name might have generated from the fact that he had visited Scotland many times in his youth.*1

Now, lately I have dug out one very interesting fact about my mom’s French Canadian ancestors on her dad’s side, one she didn’t know about. My mother always told me that the name Crepeau meant “curly haired one.” She had very very curly hair herself, as did her father. I have no idea how long she had known this fact or who originally informed her.

If that same cousin, back in 1967, had provided her with a paper genealogy, my mother would have noticed that the original Crepeaus, going back six to eight generations, were Crespeaus, from Poitou Charent. I have recently learned that the name Crespeau almost certainly came from Crespo, a very Spanish name – and not only that a Sephardic Jewish name.

I found this tidbit on sephardim.com:

“The name Crespo has been identified by the Holy Office of the Church of Spain as a Sephardic Jewish surname.”

How fascinating.

So, it seems, even genealogically-timid I can dig out an interesting fact or two about a distant French Canadian ancestor. Maybe I should keep trying.

1. Even if Abraham Martin wasn’t born to the Tartan, he likely had English, Scottish and even Viking dna. Normandy, Normans, North men, Norsemen. Ancestry gives most of my many many French Canadian cousins a little bit of Norwegian ethnicity. I have a very vague 0-8 percent.

Wouldn’t it be funny if my mom were related to Eric the Red, chronicled in the second chapter of Canadian Then and Now, after the first chapter on “Indians” and “Eskimos.”

If you believe mytrueancestry.com, my husband, whose Mom comes from Isle of Lewis Scots, apparently is connected genetically to Eric’s clan. How very romantic! If I didn’t love him before, I’d have to love him now!

2. I checked the Y dna lists online at Family Tree and someone is trying to see if French Canadians have Semitic genes. There are very few members. On a regular French from France Y dna site I can see that some French Canadians have J M172, an Anatolian line, often thought of as the Greek Diaspora. Cote and Leger are the names that crop up. There are no Crespos, Crespeau’s or Crepeaus.

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.

The Harvester Scheme

When I was a little girl, I would spend hours with my grandfather in his home workshop. He would make all kinds of things and I used to love watching him at work. I still have some of the tools he made, as well as a cribbage board and a turntable that swings the Scrabble board around to face each opponent. He crafted a complete house of Barbie furniture for my dolls and, to my delight, he asked me my opinion about every single piece. I felt both the weight of responsibility for deciding what each bed and chair would look like, and pride in participating in this project with him.

My grandfather, George Deakin (1901 -1983,) born in Sheffield, England, learned these skills when he was a young man. His father was a miner and George also worked for the coal mining companies of Sheffield, which were significant employers in the early 1900s. Gramps was a fitter which means that he made parts either for piping or for equipment and machinery.1, 2

I used to ask my grandfather why he came to Canada and the answer was always the same and always emphatic. “I did not want to work in the mine.” Sometimes he would go on to explain that, when he left, he still worked above ground for the mining company. However, he was a very short man and he knew that it was a matter of time before he would be required to work underground. Small men were valuable in the low tunnels of the coal mines, but the work was dangerous and unhealthy. Gramps had no intention of ever working underground.

So in 1923, he came to Canada as part of the Harvester Scheme. That year, Canada had a bumper wheat crop and North America could not provide the labour needed to harvest the crop.  Under the Harvester Scheme, the two major Canadian railway companies entered into an agreement with the British government to transport 12,000 workers out west where they would earn $4.00 per day plus board. 3

He ended up in Manitoba and the Canadian west must have suited him because he used to enjoy talking about his time on the farm. The days were long and the men worked hard but Gramps found it satisfying to work so hard.  And how the workers enjoyed the hearty meals that the women of the farm prepared for them!

He only stayed one harvesting season in Manitoba because, once that bumper crop had been harvested, there was no more work. He took the train to Montreal and easily found work as a draftsman at the Northern Electric plant. He had learned to read and draft drawings in Sheffield and his skills were in high demand. He worked at the Northern Electric plant in Lachine all his life, even during the Great Depression.

When Gramps first arrived in Canada, he was not sure he would stay.4 But after he met and married my grandmother in 1925, they settled in the Montreal suburb of Verdun and raised two children.

Here, he was able to work all his life in a job that he loved. He especially enjoyed the attention to detail that went into designing. And when he wasn’t designing at work, he was making tools, games, and Barbie furniture for the family.

1 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

2 http://www.occupationsguide.cz/en/POVOL/148.htm

3 Foster, John Elgin, The Developing West:  Essays on Canadian History in Honor of Lewis H. Thomas, Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1983

4 Canada. “Immigration Records (1865 – 1935)” Database. Library and Archives Canada.  BAC-LAC, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/passenger-lists/Pages/introduction.aspx#d: 2017.

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.

Why the third William Lindsay gave up a promising career as a lawyer

(The Three William Lindsays – Part 3)

Circumstances beyond his control* compelled the third William Lindsay to abandon a brilliant career as a lawyer. In 1841, at the age of 17, he entered the public service as an Extra Clerk in the Legislative Assembly of Canada while also studying law.

I wonder what those circumstances may have been?

The third William Lindsay (1824-1872), my three times great-uncle, exhibited great potential in his law studies as well as becoming an accomplished scholar. He spoke French as fluently as English – a must as the Clerk – but could also speak Latin and Greek as well.

William studied law with such an impressive ability that even before his admission to the Bar many of his teachers predicted a very successful career ahead of him.

But why did he never practise law in the end ?

Perhaps the established family tradition influenced his decision. Like his father and grandfather before him, he became the third William Lindsay to progress to the senior positon of Clerk for the Legislative Assembly. It’s certainly the most plausible explanation. But who knows, maybe there were lucrative perks that came with the “clerkship” that enticed him.* It seems we will never know for sure.

All that to say he certainly had big shoes to fill! There must have been high expectations placed on him not only as the son of the most recent Clerk of the Legislative Assembly but also as the grandson of William Robert Lindsay who held the same office for twenty years in the early 1800’s during the time Lower Canada possessed a separate government and legislature. A multitude of historical changes in the structure of today’s Canada have all been recorded by the “Lindsay” hand.

William was born in Quebec City. He had six brothers and five sisters. One of his brothers, Robert A. Lindsay (1826-1891), was my two times great grandfather who followed their father’s other profession and enjoyed a life long banking career with the Bank of Montreal.

In November 1845, at the age of 21 and just after completing his law studies and passing his Bar exams, William married Marie Henriette Bourret in Quebec City. Eventually, they had 13 children, although four of them died in infancy.

William’s career as a clerk progressed quickly. He was promoted from Extra Clerk to Assistant Law Clerk and Translator to the Legislative Assembly of the then Province of Canada. The progression continued until he ultimately became the Clerk of the Legislative Assembly.

In 1867, The House of Commons came into existence, when the British Parliament passed the British North America Act, uniting the Province of Canada (which was divided into Quebec and Ontario), Nova Scotia and New Brunswick into a single federation called the Dominion of Canada.

William was appointed the first Clerk to this newly established House of Commons1.

William Burns Lindsay 1824-1872

The multiple steps taken toward Canadian independence in the past, during the clerkship of William’s father and grandfather, had finally come to fruition.

William’s main duty as the Clerk of the House began with the reading of petitions and bills, and later progressed to recording the House’s proceedings. Those notes on the proceedings were kept in journals which tracked the decisions and other important transactions of the House.

In September 1872 at age 48, just five years after becoming Clerk to the House of Commons, William’s career ended abruptly. He died in Ottawa during the smallpox pandemic2. He left a family of several children and a widow who then died two months later. His mother-in-law also succumbed to the disease at the same time. The youngest of their orphaned children was only five years old at the time.

Nine years later, according to the 1881 Census, William’s eldest daughter Maria Louisa (then aged 30) was still looking after her three teenage siblings and living in Quebec City. Her older brothers Crawford (and his family) and Lionel (a priest) also lived nearby and perhaps offered support of some kind.

William was the third and last of the Three William Lindsays. His eldest son “Crawford William” went by the name Crawford and did not become a clerk, however, he did inherit his father’s talent with languages and became a translator.

Limestone Sculpture of William Burns Lindsay by Christopher Fairbrother 1979

Notes:

1.As the family genealogist, I research my ancestors and write their stories. Recently, I found three generations of ancestors with the same name and the same role in an evolving Canada.

Their birth and death dates were vital as the first step to sorting them out. I noticed, however, that previous genealogists also struggled to sort them, as two of the three were sometimes labelled “Senior” and “Junior” (and sometimes in reverse order) and then “The Elder” and “The Younger” were assigned to another two. To keep things simple in my story, I will label them first, second and third – in the order of their births.

2.* Handwritten notes – Stanley Bagg Lindsay – dated March 1939

3. My cousin Ian Lindsay recently shared the following in an email 2021-05:

Somewhere I saw the report of the parliamentary committee that looked into the work of the Clerk’s office. By that time, while it was never going to be a sinecure, it was an opportunity to make friends, at the very least with stationers. (An old friend explained the best job was Minister of Supply and Services, where one could feather all your friends’ nests, and bide your time.) In any case, the Committee asked about the qualifications for the job were, and WBLII explained that the clerk had to be fluently bilingual and versed in all the relevant technical terms of both languages. Here, I point out that his son was fluently bilingual and versed in technical terms. The Committee next asked the same question of the Assistant Clerk, who explained that, when needed, he just asked one of the French guys for help. I think a grave injustice was done.

1https://wiki2.org/en/House_of_Commons_of_Canada?wprov=srpw1_0 – referenced 2021-05-23

2https://www.jstor.org/stable/41977998?seq=1