Category Archives: Genealogy

Friday factoid: Project Gutenberg

On a summer day in 1971, Michael Stern Hart typed the U.S. Declaration of Independence into his computer and shared it freely online via the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

That moment was the beginning of Project Gutenberg.

As of today, Project Gutenberg contains 44,847 books and texts in the public domain that can be searched via keyword, title or author. I’ve already written about finding a book mentioning one of my ancestors. This is a great way to find out context about various time periods or simply find some great texts to download to your electronic book reader.

Visit the site for your own searches at

Why Did Charles and Mary Mathieu Move Back to Canada?

According to his Ontario birth certificate, my great-uncle Jean Charles Horace Mathieu was born to Charles Mathieu and Mary Agnes Proulx in Fort William, Ontario on April 24, 1911.[1]

Ten years later, the family had moved to 500 Aylmer Avenue in Windsor, Ontario, where they were renting a six-bedroom house. Both parents were 51 years old. His father Charles worked as a carpenter. His wife, who was born Marie Agnès Proulx, was then called Agnes. (She went by Mary and/or Agnes depending on the documents.)  Jean Charles had two older brothers, Arthur (16) and Raymond (14), an older sister Fernanda (12) and two younger brothers, Lawrence (8) and George Albert (6). [2]

My great aunt told me that most of the family, except for Raymond, moved back to Canada from Michigan after his dad lost his job in the depression.

I wasn’t able to find them on the 1930 U.S. Census, so if they did go to the States and returned, the entire experience probably happened between 1921 and 1930. There is one person who has a family tree on Ancestry who indicates that a Fernanda Mathieu crossed into Canada in 1924. That may have been John Charles’ sister, but it isn’t confirmed.

They were back in Montreal by August 8, 1940, when Jean Charles volunteered for the Royal Canadian Air Force.

To find out their address, I used Steve Morse’s search engine at Steve Morse’s website to search Lovells directories. I found carpenters named Charles Mathieu living at 6760 St. Denis in 1932[3], and at 3286 St. Antoine in 1940[4]. There were no listings for carpenters of that name from 1933 until 1939. Also, I don’t have anything to say whether these listings actually represent Charlie’s family.

My original question remains a brick wall.

[1] Photocopy of Province of Ontario pocket birth certificate issued at Toronto on November 10, 1947, registered in April 24, 1911 in Fort William, Thunder Bay District by Geo. H Dunbar, Registrar Dunbar.

[2] 1921 Canadian Census, Province of Ontario, District of Essex North, Roger West Minard Subdistrict, Number 47, June 13, 1921, B, Page 20, derivative source.

[3] Lovvell’s Montreal Alphabetical Directory, 1932, p1456

[4] Lovell’s Montreal Alphabetical Directory, 1940, p1771.

Discovery Channel airs new series about Yukon gold rush

On Monday, January 20 at 9 PM (ET and PT), the Discovery Channel in Canada will broadcast a new three-part series, Klondike, about the Yukon gold rush in the late 1890s. Parts two and three will air on Tuesday and Wednesday, January 21 and 22. The series is based on Charlotte Gray’s book, Gold Diggers: Striking It Rich in the Klondike.  This is a rare opportunity to see part of Canada’s history on the small screen.

As genealogists, we often try to picture how our ancestors lived. While admittedly, TV and movies may not provide the most accurate portrayal of the time, they can still provide a sense of how people dressed and acted. As far as I know, none of my Canadian ancestors ventured to the wilds of the Yukon Territory. During the Klondike period, most of them were living in Montreal and Toronto. Nevertheless, I expect my ancestors were aware of the gold rush and perhaps some of them even dreamt of taking part.

Klondike Street Scene

“Our Canadian Roots” February 20

Ruth Dougherty (left) and Joan Benoit chat in front of Earl John Chapman who is seated at the table speaking with Oskar Keller.
Ruth Dougherty (left) and Joan Benoit chat in front of Earl John Chapman who is seated at the table speaking with Oskar Keller during Military Roots Day.

The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) Heritage Centre and Library in Pointe Claire held an open house for people interested in genealogy and history related to their Canadian Roots last year, Wednesday, February 20.

The event was the brain-child of executive secretary Joan Benoit, who has been helping run the QFHS for the past 32 years. “We basically want to bring members together to celebrate and share our common interests in a fun way.” she said. “It caught my imagination.”

The event took place from 1:30 until 4 p.m. at 173 Cartier Avenue, Pointe-Claire, just south of the highway. About a dozen showed up to enjoy coffee out of their own mugs and pleasant family history research discussion.

This was the third in the “Roots Day” series that took place last year. The previous one, Scottish Roots, was the most popular, attracting some 55 people. It was followed up by Irish Roots on March 20, English Roots on April 17, Female Roots on May 15, and Quebec Roots on June 19.

The series began the previous December with an event focussed on military traditions. That one attracted about thirty people over the afternoon and evening. Author and amateur historian Earl John Chapman was there talking about his books, including a history of the Black Watch and his most recent work, “Bard of Wolfe’s Army: James Thompson, Gentleman Volunteer, 1733-1830.” The work collects Thompson’s journals together with historical commentary to help readers understand the times. It might appeal to people with ancestors who served during the siege of Louisbourg, the Battle of the Plains of Abraham or the attack on Quebec City.