Category Archives: Quebec

A Pembroke Pioneer

Many years ago while visiting the red brick house with the huge front porch at 202 Isabella Street in Pembroke, I had little idea about the people who lived in that grand home.

Francois Evariste Fortin, my great grandfather spent his early years on the banks of the Ottawa River in Montebello Quebec.

Francois was born on the 6th of July 1845. At the age of twenty he married Adele Chevrier from Rigaud. She was also twenty. The marriage took place in Bon Secours Church in Montebello in mid-May of 1866. They settled in Hull, Quebec  where he was an innkeeper.

Several years later, in 1874 after the birth of Louisa, their third child, ( my grandmother) Francois, Adele and their children  moved up the Ottawa River to Pembroke, Ontario where the family grew. They had one son, Frank, who worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York and five daughters, Emma, Julia  (Sr. St. Gabriel) who became a Grey nun, Louisa, my grandmother, Alice who taught music for the City of New York until she was seventy-five and Aline who remained a spinster caring for her parents.

Francois began a business as a merchant-tailor and according to the  1881 and 1891 Census he had thirteen employees. Later census records indicate that he became a  contractor for the railroads and an inspector. He was actively involved with the Pembroke Southern Railway  (PSR) and an original director and in time was named Vice-President. Francois invested substantially in the PSR. The railway linked Pembroke to other local communities. It was eventually  bought out by C.N.R. and at the time became a spur line.

His interest in municipal affairs and a genuine  concern for the welfare of the town led him to run for town council and eventually  for the mayoralty in 1894. He was the first Mayor to serve three years in succession, 1894 – 1896. Francois-Evariste was also interested in politics and a staunch supporter of the Liberals. He worked tirelessly for the party.

Francois and his family were devout Roman Catholics. They would gather in their home each evening to recite the Rosary. He played an active role during the construction of Saint Columbkille Cathedral just blocks from their home. Along the way he  had a falling out with the Church and refused to participate in the evening recitation of the Rosary. He would seclude himself in his office. The family made certain that he could hear their prayers.

Over the years, Francois eventually was brought back in to the fold and made peace with the Church. He died less than two weeks before his ninety-first birthday, July 17th. He had lived in that community for sixty-two years. He was mourned by his family and the citizens of Pembroke alike and remembered as a well respected pioneer in the community. A Requiem High Mass was celebrated in Saint Columbkille. He is buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Pembroke, beside his wife, Adele who predeceased him by ten years.

             Francois Evariste Fortin Adele Chevrier grave_edited-aaa


Obituaries: The Ottawa Journal, July 7, 1936. p.10

Census of Canada 1851, 1871, 1881, 1891 1911, 1921

Interview with Madelyn Smith (Percival) 2011 my ninety year old cousin.

Canada Voter’s List 1935

Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871. John Lovell’s Province of Quebec Directory for 1871. Volume 1 p.998  John Lovell & Son, Montreal,1871

Ontario, Canada, Deaths,1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas 1838-1847

Copyright 2013 Drouin Institute (Lafrance) dlp_32631325.jpg

Le centre de genealogie francphone d’Amerique 1997-2006 GEDCOMn155 #Individu 19607

special thanks to fellow genealogist Oskar Keller for finding the grave.

Of interest:     Excerpt from The History of Pembroke

Pembroke was the first town in Canada in which electric power was generated for commercial use. On October 8,1884 the very first street lights in Canada cast their glow down Pembroke Street. A small building on Pembroke Street east of the Muskrat River provided electricity for street lighting as well as for the factories in the Town.

In 2003 a fully redundant fibre optic cable was installed around Pembroke, enabling local businesses to work anywhere in the world – without leaving their desks- through a telecommunications infrastructure that is vital to remaining competitive in today’s global economy.

Hiding to read that kind of newspaper?

Readers always loved those stories, but…they would rather not admit it.

Shocking News

Vicky Lapointe, graduate historian from Sherbrooke University, signs a special newspaper blog.  She combs through Quebec old newspapers to present us with crimes and catastrophies, francophones from outside Quebec and some pictures, medicine, history and patrimonial buildings.

It is suprising to see what kind of news would make the paper a century or two ago, how people responded, and yes…what strange crimes were being commited.  I also enjoy reading about events that are now part of history, as they happened.

Read Patrimoine, Histoire et Multimédia


To grow a life-size tree, you grow a family

My good friend Joel Bergeron’s grand-father moved to Temiscamingue early in the 20th century.

Their descendants still meet annually at their cousin’s farm.  The most beautiful tree grows on this farm.

It’s painted on the side of the barn; its trunk has their grand-parents’ names at the base.


Wooden apples sit at the base of the main branches:  each pair of apples represents a couple and another branch on the tree.  Along each branch sits an apple for each child and his or her spouse. From each of these grows a smaller stem that in turn holds apples for each of their kids.


Every year, the entire family comes to the farm from Ontario, Quebec, where-ever they live… to feed that tree with joy.

Un arbre généalogique pleine grandeur!  C’est celui des Bergeron qu’on retrouve sur la grange d’un cousin.  Les grand-parents se sont installés au Témiscamingue au début du 20e siècle.  Leurs noms sont à la base du tronc.  A chaque embranchement, deux pomme pour un de leurs enfants avec son conjoint.  La branche qui y pousse, contient les pommes des enfants de ceux-ci, et les petites branches, de leurs petits enfants.  Et toute cette famille se réuni chez ce cousin, quelques jours, chaque année, parce que la famille, ça se cultive!

GenWebCanada updates Quebec cemetery listings

Every morning, I read Elizabeth Lapointe’s Genealogy Canada blog, and she never disappoints. Today, she announced that GenWebCanada has updated several cemeteries in Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island. Read the entire blog post here.

The cemeteries in Quebec are:

Huntingdon County

Hillside Cemetery
Labelle County
Chut-St-Philippe Cemetery
Kiamika Cemetery
Lac Saguay Cemetery
Lac St-Paul
Lac Saguay Cemetery
Lac St-Paul Cemetery
Ste-Anne-du-Lac Cemetery
Val Barrette Cemetery
Gatineau County
East Templeton Cemetery
St Raphael Cemetery
Papineau County
Notre-Dame-de-la-Salette Cemetery

Friday factoid

Between 1840 and 1930, about 900,000 French Canadians emigrated to the United States.

A paper written in 1999 by professors at the Université de Montréal and Marianapolis College explains why so many French Canadians left Canada and it shows where they settled in New England in 1880 and 1930. “According to the 1980 American census, 13.6 million Americans claimed to have French ancestors. While a certain number of these people may be of French, Belgian, Swiss, Cajun or Huguenot ancestry, it is certain that a large proportion would have ancestors who emigrated from French Canada or Acadia during the 19th and 20th centuries.” To learn more, read French Canadian Emigration to the United States 1840-1930 by Damien-Claude Bélanger and Claude Bélanger.