Category Archives: french-canadian

The Dowry

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Maria Roy Crepeau and three daughters and a granddaughter in front of 72 Sherbrooke West in 1926 or so.

In the Edwardian Age, an ambitious young man, however resourceful, usually needed a solid financial foundation to kick-start his career.  If he didn’t have family money, he had to marry well. Take my grandfather, Jules Crépeau, (1873-1938). The son of a mere house painter, he rose up in 30 years from Messenger Boy in the Health Department to Director of City Services, the top civil servant at Montreal City Hall.

Jules didn’t have the advantage of a superior education; indeed, he completed his regular studies at night. He did have a workaholic nature, an affable disposition, a memory like a steel trap,*1 as well as a connection to the powerful French Canadian industrialists, the Forgets.

New information I found on the Internet reveals that the make-or-break-point for young Jules was in 1901, the year of his marriage. Back then, Jules was making only $600 a year, not a terrible salary for a single man, but certainly not enough to get married on.*2 So, Jules, like so many others, had to choose his wife very carefully.

My grandmother, Maria Roy, the daughter of a master butcher, brought a huge $40,000 dowry to their 1901 marriage, so I’m told. The next year, Jules had a house built for them on Amherst, near Ontario Street, and by a noted architect, at that.*3 Maria’s money!

Lovell’s Directory shows that in 1905 the Crépeau family moved to a tony stretch of St. Hubert Street.  Jules is listed as Head Clerk.  City Hall.   In 1918, they moved to St. Denis Street, just a few doors down from J. A. Brodeur, “Montreal’s Napoleon,” and Head of the Executive Committee. My grandfather was, by then, Second Assistant City Clerk, with a salary of $2,500 -$3,500.

 

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Crépeaus around 1918. My mother wasn’t born yet. Doesn’t Jules, center, look stressed?

In 1921, Jules was promoted to the newly-minted post of Director of City Services*4, almost tripling his salary to $8,000, and soon thereafter, to $10,000. In 1922, his family moved to a three storey greystone at 72 Sherbrooke West.

It’s during this period, the Roarin’ Twenties, that my grandmother, Maria, finally started earning dividends on her dowry, taking  shopping trips to New York City to stock up on bourgeois bric-a-brac like marble urns, porcelain statuary, and art nouveau lamps; a complement to the whole roomful of ‘gifts’ the family received from various community groups, especially at Christmas. Jules and Maria needed a good supply of breakables. Family legend has it that the crockery flew over the stairs throughout their tumultuous 37 year marriage.

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Aunt Flo posing in front of some Crépeau bric-a-brac on Harvard in the late 1940’s. The marble bust of three children actually ended up in my mother’s possession, gracing our upper duplex apartment in the 1960’s, but rather out of place among the melamine furnishings and artwork from Woolworth’s. Today, I own the orange art nouveau-deco Le Verre Francais “Amourettes” vase at top right.

In 1931, Jules Crépeau was forced to resign by the new populist Mayor Camillien Houde, but not before negotiating a huge life pension of $8,000 a year. But, soon,  my grandfather, who had no hands-on business experience, lost all of his savings with bad investments.*5  In 1937, Jules also lost his pension when Montreal City Hall passed an emergency bill to abolish it as a cost-saving measure. *6

Just two weeks later, Grandpapa was hit by a car driven by a plain clothes city policeman. He died the next year from complications. Jules probably threatened someone with a long reach.

Living out her life in the final family home on Harvard in Notre Dame de Grace, Jules’ wife, Maria Roy Crépeau (1879-1951) never complained about her situation as an impoverished widow, and this despite the fact her fat dowry financed the first years of the choppy Crépeau-Roy merger. Still, I suspect her story wasn’t at all unique, especially in the Depression Era.

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Rue Jules Crépeau, Ahunsic, Montreal. Designated in the 1980’s. Funny story. In the late 80’s, when my husband and I were buying our first computer, the ONLY place in Montreal we knew that sold them was in  Ahunsic, where we seldom ventured. We got lost and stumbled upon this road and park. I had to find a phone booth to phone my mother to tell her that a street had been named after her father. Serendipity or what? Jules’ nemesis, Camillien Houde, has the huge road winding through the mountain named after him.

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  1. Le Devoir was the only Montreal newspaper to publish a long obit of my grandfather, in 1938, saying that Jules was the go-to guy for any information about how City Hall ran. Affable is their term.
  2. The 1911 census shows that a $600 a year salary was average/above average for a family. Many era workers were ‘day workers’ with unsteady employment, but, even that $600 salary was not enough for the big families of the era to live on. Terry Copp, the sociologist who wrote An Anatomy of Poverty,claims that $1500. was the minimum salary for a family to live in dignity in Montreal in 1910.  In the Edwardian Era, in England and elsewhere, a working class couple might start out in good shape, with a decent salary for a small family, but as more and more kids came, the family fell into poverty.  Such might have been Jules’ fate, save for this huge dowry.
  3. Louis Zephirin Gauthier specialized in churches. His partner was a Monsieur Roy, so maybe he was a relation. Back then few Montrealers owned their own home, in the 20 percent range. Since 1899, male renters could vote in the municipal elections; women had to be single and own their home to vote. Montreal has long been known as a city of renters, but, just lately, this appears to be changing.
  4. The post of Director of City Services was created in 1921 after much deliberation and input from citizens to ensure an equitable distribution of money among the city districts. The post was a liaison between the seven city departments and the Executive Committee. Newspaper accounts of the time reveal that my Grandfather’s office did everything from organizing events for the visiting Royal Princes to being on the City Clean-Up Committee, to testifying in Quebec with respect to Private Bills. When someone had a beef at City Hall, they wrote to his office. My grandfather was the first to testify at the inquiry in to the fatal Laurier Palace Fire, in January 1927, which was ironic, as I suspect  the fire may have been started by organized crime to get at him. (Just my theory, though.)
  5. Jules’ brother, Isadore, Insurance broker and VP Of United Theatre Amusements, the company that erected many of the famous 1920 era movie houses in Montreal, ‘fell’ out of his 7th floor office while waving for his chauffeur in 1933.
  6. Kristian Gravenor, journalist at Coolopolis.blogspot.ca http://coolopolis.blogspot.ca/2017/01/ndg-coincidence-undercover-cop-slams.html wrote a bit about Jules and dug out the info about the cancellation of his pension.

Early Catholic Marriages in Montreal

Etiennette Alton, the ancestor of Genealogy Ensemble contributor Tracey Arial, was married to Marin Hurtubise in Montreal on January 7, 1660. Their union is among the earliest Catholic marriages in Montreal that are detailed on the French-language website Fichier origine (www.fichierorigine.com).  Established under an international partnership between the Quebec-based Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie and the European-based Fédération française de généalogie, it has been available for free on-line since 1998.

The list of 900 people who married in the early days of Montreal is available at http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?nom=&commune=&pays=&mariagerech=Montr%C3%A9al

You can find a wealth of information about each person within the couple, including the name of the conjoint (the husband or wife). Fichier origine tells us Etiennette’s date of baptism in 1635, her place of origin in France before she came to Canada, the names of her parents and siblings, and her date and place of death (Montreal, 1722) (http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?numero=240043). The information about her husband is equally revealing.

To read more about this particular couple, refer to Arial’s story at: https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/10/03/etiennette-alton-a-marriageable-woman/.

Fichier origine includes the very first marriage celebrated in Montreal: that of Mathurin Meunier and Françoise Fafard on March 11, 1647. (http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?numero=242904). It also has information on more than 5000 other people who immigrated to Quebec from France, from the founding of New France until 1865.

In those times, marriage was probably more of a partnership and an agreement to start a family than it was about romantic love. Nevertheless, on Valentine’s Day, it is interesting to recognize these weddings. These couples are the ancestors of thousands of people spread today across Quebec, Canada, the United States and the world. Perhaps your ancestors are among them.

Chasing the Voyageurs, part 2

The fur trade was a key part of Canada’s history and hundreds of people were involved in it from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. One way to research an ancestor who was a fur trader is to find the contracts he signed, contracts thwere generally prepared by notaries in Montreal, Quebec or Trois-Rivières.

The notaries who handled fur trade contracts in the 18th and 19th centuries were:

Louis Chaboillez – Montréal 1787-1813 – 9,346 bibliographical records

John Gerbrand Beek – Montréal 1781-1822 – 5,277 records

Jonathan Abraham Gray – Montréal 1796-1812 – 3,258 records

Jean-Baptiste Adhémar– Montréal 1714-1754 – 3,151 records

Louis-Claude Danré de Branzy – Montréal 1738-1760 – 2,784 records

François Simmonet – Montréal – 1737-1778 – 2,139 records

Joseph Desautels – Montréal 1810-1820 – 1,638 records

Antoine Foucher – Montréal – 1746-1800 – 1,056 records

Henry Griffin – Montréal 1812-1847 – 952 records

Pierre Panet de Méru – Montréal 1755-1778 – 824 records

François Leguay – Montréal 1770-1789 – 814 records

Nicolas Benjamin Doucet – Montréal 1804-1855 – 609 records

Henry Crebassa – Sorel 1795-1843 – 555 records

Joseph Cadet – Québec 1784-1800 – 276 records

Charles Claude Pratte – Trois-Rivières 1801-1817 – 236 records

Louis-Joseph Soupras – Montréal – 1762-1792 & 1809-1832 – 150 records

Pierre Ritchot – Montréal 1821-1831- 117 records

Joseph Gabrion – Montréal 1780-1804 – 54 records

Jean-Baptiste Desève – Montréal 1785-1805 – 15 records

One of the busiest of these notaries was Louis Chaboillez, who practiced in Montreal. Summaries of the more than 9000 fur trade contracts he handled can be found online on the website of the Societe historique de Saint-Boniface (SHSB) at http://archivesshsb.mb.ca/fr/list?q=Louis+Chaboillez&p=1&ps=20

The SHSB in Winnipeg has a special interest in the history of the fur trade and the people who were involved. You can learn more about the SHSB heritage center at http://shsb.mb.ca/en/about_us. This society can also help with genealogy research, especially if you have Metis ancestry. See http://shsb.mb.ca/en/Collections_and_Research.

Diane Wolford Sheppard of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan has done extensive research on the fur trade during the French Regime, especially in the Detroit region of Michigan, the Mississipi River in Illinois and the Green Bay region of Wisconsin. This includes Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island & Mackinak County, Michigan) 1683-1754; Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit – Fort Détroit (Detroit, Michigan) 1701-1760; Fort de Chartres (Mississipi River in Illinois) 1718-1731; Bay of Sauks (Ouisconsin) — Fort Winnebago; (Green Bay, Wisconsin) 1640s-1763.

The notaries in New France who handled fur trade contracts for destinations in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin were:

Antoine Adhémar – Montréal 1668-1714 – Trois-Rivières 1668-1714

Claude Mauque – Québec 1674-1682 – Montréal 1677-1696

Hilaire Bourgine – Montréal 1685-1690

Pierre Raimbault – Montréal 1697-1727

Michel Lepailleur de Laferté – Québec 1700-1715 & Montréal 1701-1732

Jean-Baptiste Adhémar – Montréal 1714-1754

Henri Hiché – Québec – 1725-1736

François Simmonet – Montréal – 1737-1778

http://www.habitantheritage.org/french-canadian_resources/the_fur_trade This article on the website of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan links to a variety of resources about the fur trade in the 17th century.

http://habitantheritage.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Women_and_Their_World_-_for_website.275153906.pdf This article by Diane Wolford Sheppard lists some women who were involved in the fur trade or liquor trade in the 17th century.

http://habitantheritage.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Outdoor_Activities.27051652.pdf This article mentions the names of some of the men who were present in Detroit around 1715.

If you had an ancestor who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, take a look at this article from the Alberta Family History Society on researching family history at the archives of the HBC: http://afhs.ab.ca/aids/talks/notes_mar98.html. The Hudson’s Bay Company records are at the Manitoba Archives, https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/.

Library and Archives Canada has many records of people who worked in the fur trade; for example, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/topics/employment/Pages/fur-trade.aspx

The McCord Museum in Montreal has records of the North West Company, one of the major players in the later years of the fur trade. Some of its photos and documents have been digitized; see http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/search_results.php?keywords=North+West+Company&Lang=1

Notarial records including fur trade contracts from prior to 1800 can be found on the Parchemin database; see https://genealogyensemble.com/2017/01/01/finding-quebecs-early-notarial-records/

The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is slowly digitizing its collection of notarial documents, but most can be consulted on microfilm at the archives in Montreal and other branches across Quebec.

The Société de généalogie de Longueuil (http://www.sglongueuil.org/), just south of Montreal, also has an extensive collection of notarial records on microfilm; see http://www.sglongueuil.org/cadres/texte/greffes.html.

 

Chasing the Voyageurs, part 1

Have you heard a family story about an ancestor who was a voyageur or coureur des bois? These were the men who canoed across the interior of North America to trade with the indigenous people for beaver pelts and other furs and bring the pelts back to Montreal.

The fur trade thrived in the 17th and 18th centuries and the early years of the 19th century. Setting out from Montreal, the voyageurs’ destinations included what is now western Canada, Ontario, Michigan and Illinois. Some had wives and children in Quebec and some fell in love with aboriginal women and were the ancestors of Canada’s Métis people.

Before they set out on their travels, the voyageurs signed contracts with fur trading companies or their agents. These contracts specified where they were to go and for how long, and how much they were to be paid. Notaries, most of whom resided in Montreal, Lachine or Ste-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Ile (now known as Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue), prepared the contracts and kept them on file. As a result, more than 34,500 of these contracts have survived.

The notarial records themselves are stored at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) along with all the other contracts, wills, leases and other documents these notaries prepared.

In addition, the information in many of the voyageurs’ contracts is available online, thanks to La Société historique de Saint-Boniface (http://shsb.mb.ca/en). St. Boniface is a traditionally French part of Winnipeg, Manitoba, and its Centre du patrimoine (heritage center) specializes in the history of the francophone community of Manitoba, and in the heritage and genealogy of the Métis people.

http://archivesshsb.mb.ca/en/list?q=Notaires+de+Montr%C3%A9al&p=1&ps=20 This link takes you to the database of contracts. You can search in English, but the data is mostly in French. There are various ways to search the database, but if you know your ancestor’s name, you can put that into the search box. There is a small box for each result, and clicking on “more detail” opens it up. Included in the details is the date the contract was signed. For example, 18090503 indicates May 3 1809. You can use Google translate or a similar online translator if you need help understanding the text.

http://habitantheritage.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Fur_Trade_Contracts_during_the_French_Regime.29095438.pdf This article by Diane Wolford Sheppard of Michigan is a collection of representative contracts drafted during the French Regime, including engagé (hiring) contracts, partnerships, partnership settlements, obligations and invoices for fur trade purchases. They have been translated into English.

http://www.habitantheritage.org/french-canadian_resources/the_fur_trade For more in-depth background, images and documents about the fur trade in the Great Lakes region, see this page posted by the French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan.

See also http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/voyageur/

Researching French Canadian Ancestors through the Drouin Institute

Institut Généalogique Drouin

 http://www.institutdrouin.com

450-448-1251

Institut.drouin@gmail.com

 If you are researching French Canadian ancestors, the best place to look is the Drouin Institute, www.drouininstitute.com. The institute can help you find a great deal of information about your ancestors, but only some pages are in English and you may become confused because there are several different ways to access the site’s information.

In addition to the subscription database at https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/, the institute has a vast selection of publications for sale through its bookstore.

You will find the link to subscribe to the institute’s online database, Quebec Records, at the top of the page www.genealogiequebec.com/en/ or, if you are on the French-language page, click on abonnement.

The Quebec Records collection, updated as of February 2016, includes more than 42 million files and images. Take a look at the About Us page (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/about) to get an idea of the scope of information available. It includes the Lafrance Collection of Catholic baptisms, marriages and deaths starting from 1621, and some Protestant marriages, 1760-1849. The online Drouin Collection includes a variety of genealogical records from Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Scroll down the About page to see the listing of additional databases, including notarized documents and obituaries.

The Quebec Records page has a link to the PRDH project, or Research Program in Historical Demography, http://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/home. This huge undertaking by the University of Montreal put together all Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as Protestant marriages, in Quebec from 1621 to 1849.

According to the project’s website (http://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/LePrdh) the result is “a computerized population register, composed of biographical files on all individuals of European ancestry who lived in the St. Lawrence Valley. The file for each individual gives the date and place of birth, marriage(s), and death, as well as family and conjugal ties with other individuals. This basic information is complemented by various socio-demographic characteristics drawn from documents: socio-professional status and occupation, ability to sign his or her name, place of residence, and, for immigrants, place of origin.” The PRDH site includes an extensive bibliography. Subscription rates depend on whether you live in Quebec, the rest of Canada or elsewhere.

The Drouin Institute sells a number of products through its online boutique. For example, you can buy family histories on CD through https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/collections/patrimoine-familial (search for your family’s name in the naviguer box on the right), or you can purchase published family history books at https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/collections/patrimoine-familial. Almost all of these products are in French.

The page http://www.drouininstitute.com/index.html links to the online boutique. On that page (https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/search) you can put your family name into the search box and it will tell you what products, including CDs, books, spiral binders and PDFs, can be ordered.

Another way to search this resource is to go to www.institutdrouin.com/neufs. This page will lead you to a long list of product numbers. Click on each selection to see what titles are available.

Here are some of the spiral binders you can buy from the institute containing records that Montreal genealogist Jacques Gagné says are not available through commercial databases:

Item # N-0076 –RawdonSt. Patrick Catholic Parish – Montcalm County – Marriages, baptisms, deaths (1837-1987) – Parish later renamed Marie-Reine-du-Monde de Rawdon > Spiral binders $55. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0278 – Iberville County – Protestant & Catholic Marriages (1823-1979) – Towns of: Henryville – Iberville – Mont-St-Grégoire – St-Alexandre – St-Athanase – Ste-Anne-de-Sabravois – Ste-Brigite-d’Iberville – St-Grégoire-le-Grand – St-Sébastien – Ste-Angèle-de-Monnoir – 802 pages – 2 volumes > Spiral binders $75. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0327 – Trois-RivièresSt. Patrick Irish Catholic ParishMarriages (1955-1981) > Spiral binders $10. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0504 – Terrebonne Judicial District Civil Marriages – (1969-1991) – 8,900 marriages – 684 pages > Spiral binders $69. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0578 – St. Lawrence River’s Mid North ShoreMoyenne Côte-Nord du St-Laurent Judicial District of Sept-IlesMarriages (1846-1987) – 10,342 marriages – Towns of : Sept-Iles – Port-Cartier – Clarke City – Godbout – Gallix – Baie-Trinité – Rivière-Brochu – Franquelin – Moisie – Rivière-Pentecôte – Pointe-aux-Anglais – 607 pages > Spiral binders $43. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0579 – St. Lawrence River’s Lower North Shore &  Southern LabradorBasse Côte-Nord du St-Laurent et du Sud du LabradorProtestant & Catholic marriages, baptisms, deaths (1847-2006) – 6,470 marriagesRegion of Minganie – Aguanish – Baie Johan Beetz – Hâvre-St-Pierre – Anticosti Island – Longue Pointe de Mingan – Mingan – Natashquan – Pointe-Parent – Rivière-au-Tonnerre – Rivière-St-Jean – Region of Lower North-Shore – Aylmer Sound – Blanc Sablon – Chevery – Harrington Harbour – Kegaska – La Romaine – La Tabatière – Lourdes de Blanc Sablon – Musquaro – Mutton Bay – Pakua-Shipi – Rivière St-Paul – St-Augustin (St. Augustine) – Tête a la Baleine – Region of Southern Labrador – Capstan Island – Clear Bay (L’Anse-au-Clair) – East St. Modest (e) – Flower’s Cove – Forteau – L’Anse-au-Loup (Woolf Cove) – L’Anse-Amour – Pinware – Red Bay – Sheldrake – West St. Modest (e) – Catholic Parishes (17) – Anglican Church (4) – United Church (2) – Methodist Church (1) – Congregationalist Church (1) – Plymouth Brethern (Gospel Hall) (3) – Pentecostal (1) – The church records of the Presbyterian Church in Harrington Harbour were destroyed by fire in 1973 – 330 pages > Spiral binders $28. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0585 – St. Lawrence’s River Upper North Shore –  Haute-Côte-Nord du St-LaurentMarriages (1668-1992) – 17,689 marriages – Towns of: Baie-Comeau – Forestville – Les Escoumins – Tadoussac – Chutes-aux-Ouardes – Ragueneau – Pointe-Lebel – Betsiamites – Bersimis – Les Bergeronnes – Les Ilets Jéramie – 576 pages > $40. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0613 – Gardenville Presbyterian Church & United Church of LongueilGreenfield ParkLongueilMarriages, baptisms, deaths (1905-1925 & 1926-1941) – 77 pages > $35. + taxes-shipping

Researched and compiled by Jacques Gagné gagne.jacques@sympatico.ca

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