Category Archives: Manitoba
The night before three-year-old Arthur Hamilton became ill, he was reciting a rhyme and joking about lisps and kisses and mistletoe with a family friend who was helping put the children to bed. Someone – his mother or the friend – recorded those words in his baby book.
The following day, Arthur came down influenza. In fact, everyone in the house – his parents, his twin brother and his two older siblings – got sick. The others recovered, but Arthur did not.
When the influenza pandemic reached the Hamiltons’ Winnipeg home in January 1919, it was at its deadly peak. Arthur was among more than 1,200 Winnipeg residents and 50,000 Canadians killed by the pandemic, which was brought to Canada by troops returning from the trenches of World War I.1 Some 21 million people died from the virus worldwide.
Today, Arthur’s baby book, and that of his twin (my father) is in the University of Manitoba Archives as part of the Hamilton Family collection. These cheerfully illustrated booklets include important milestones, such as the twins’ first steps. Arthur’s book is especially moving because of the entry about the jokes he made just before he became ill.2
Archivist Shelley Sweeney has used Arthur’s baby book in the classroom many times. For example, she took it to a religious studies class that was exploring how people react to death by expressing regret and memorializing the person who has passed.
“It strikes people as so unbearably sad,” she says. “There are always sympathetic expressions and murmurs when I talk about it.”3
The death of a young child like Arthur seems especially sad, but the influenza pandemic traumatized whole communities. Some people lost family members to the flu after having already lost sons and brothers in the war. Many of those who died were between 20 and 40 years old, in the prime of their lives. Children were left without parents, families without income earners, businesses without customers, and manufacturers without workers. Poor neighbourhoods had the highest death rates.
Some people compared the pandemic to the Black Death of medieval times. The government banned large public gatherings to try to control the spread of the virus. Hospitals and physicians were overwhelmed.
My grandfather was a physician and my grandmother had trained as a nurse, but they couldn’t save their son. They tried everything they knew, but there were no effective treatments in 1919.
Their older son, Glen, a future a physician himself, later recalled being taken in to see Arthur’s body. He said, “I can remember on the floor beside his crib there was an enamel basin with boiling water in it – Friars Balsam [eucalyptus oil] – that aromatic stuff you put into body rub, and a little tank of oxygen. And those were the weapons to fight the flu. That was all!”4
My grandfather, Thomas Glendenning (T.G.) Hamilton, was devastated by his son’s death. Not only had he failed as a physician, but, as Glen Hamilton suggested in an interview, T.G. may have felt that he had been too attached to Arthur. “Dad was a very strict Calvinist Presbyterian and he felt that in some way, because he was so fond Arthur …. that he was being punished by the Lord ….”5
Arthur’s death was a pivotal event for the Hamiltons in a way that seems surprising today, but was typical for the time. Many people were deeply religious and believed in personal survival after death. Grieving families wanted to communicate with loved ones who had passed, so they turned to mediums and séances. Between the two world wars, a strong spiritualist movement developed in Canada and elsewhere.6 Glen suggested that Arthur’s death stimulated his parents’ interest in the psychic field.
What made the Hamiltons unusual was the effort they put into exploring psychic phenomena. For more than 10 years, until T.G.’s death in 1935, they held almost weekly séances with a small group of regular participants.7 T.G. became known across Canada, the United States and England for his psychic research, while Lillian played a key organizing role in the background. T.G. emphasized the “scientific” nature of his enquiry, but his grief must have coloured these experiences.
Around 1980, Margaret (Hamilton) Bach donated her parents’ research notes, speeches and photographs to the University of Manitoba Archives, and a few years ago I added a few items, including the twins’ baby books. Today, many people consult the Hamilton Family fonds. Some are interested in psychics, several have used the collection as inspiration for plays and visual art, and other researchers are using the collection to explore how people cope with trauma.
Although many people, including myself, are skeptical about the authenticity of their experiments, it is wonderful to see that T.G.’s and Lillian’s passion is still contagious in so many different ways.
(This article is also posted on http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca.)
Notes and Sources
T.G. Hamilton and Lillian (Forrrester) Hamilton had four children: Margaret Lillian (1909-1986), Glen Forrester (1911-1988), and twins James Drummond (1915-1980) – my father — and Arthur Lamont (1915-1919).
To read more about the Hamilton Family fonds, see http://umanitoba.ca/libraries/units/archives/digital/hamilton/index.html
1 Janice Dickin, Patricia G. Bailey, “Influenza”, The Canadian Encyclopedia, Historica Canada, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/influenza/ (accessed March 20, 2017)
2. Baby book of Arthur Lamont Hamilton. University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections (UMASC), Hamilton Family fond, A10-01, Winnipeg.
3. Personal email communication with Shelley Sweeney, March 23, 2017.
4. James B. Nickels. “Psychic Research in a Winnipeg Family: Reminiscences of Dr. Glen F. Hamilton”, Manitoba History, June 2007, p. 5.
6. Esyllt Jones, “Spectral Influenza: Winnipeg’s Hamilton Family, Interwar Spiritualism and Pandemic Disease,” in Magda Fahrni and Esyllt W. Jones, editors, Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society and Culture in Canada, 1918-20, Vancouver: UBC Press, 2012, p. 195.
7. Janice Hamilton “Bring on Your Ghosts!” Paranormal Review, winter 2016, p. 6. This edition of the magazine, published by The Society for Psychical Research in England, is entirely devoted to the psychic research carried out by the Hamiltons.
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.
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.
The Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal on Viger Avenue are the repository of a wonderful and unique collection of books of marriages, baptisms, deaths of French Canadian families who left the Province of Québec between 1840 and 1930 for destinations in Western Canada, especially in Alberta and Manitoba.
Monsieur Daniel Olivier, former archivist at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal on Sherbrooke Street East, the latter no longer in operation, referred to for years as Salle Gagnon was responsible with the assistance of his associates for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide.
Madame Estelle Brisson, former archivist at the Archives nationales du Québec on Viger Avenue East in Montréal with the assistance of her associates was also responsible for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide compiled by Jacques Gagné.
Click on the link The French Canadians in Western Canada
Family lore says that my ancestor Joseph Arial had many meetings with Louis Riel in the basement of a hotel he owned. The story might be about a hotel in St. Boniface that may have served as a hide-away for the Métis hero and later burned to the ground or it may be referring to a hotel owned by his son Joseph Gabriel, who ran his own hotel in Gleichan* (near Cluny), Alberta.
How does a genealogist go about proving such a story? The family legend might refer only to my great great great grandfather or his son, or it may combine the exploits of both.
My first challenge was figuring out the timing. Louis Riel was born in the Red River Valley in 1844 and was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.
Then I began searching through the names and dates of my ancestors’ lives.
Joseph Arial was the first of my ancestors who left Quebec. He was born in 1812 in St. Roch and died on November 4, 1880 in St. Boniface, Manitoba, where he is buried. His wife was Julie Belleau dit LaRose who was born the year before he was. The two were married in St. Roch on September 4, 1832. St. Boniface is on the south side of the Red River, so the location is correct, although he would have been much older than Riel.
His son, Joseph Gabriel was married to Marie Sophie Bernard in St. Boniface, Manitoba on August 8, 1887. Their hotel would be too late to have anything to do with Riel. Joseph’s wife is important to my story, however, because her mother was born in 1838 in St. Anne-des-Chênes (Oak Point), just down the river from where Riel would be born six years later. Her mother, Sophie Henault Canada was also born in the Red River Valley, so there were roots that went back years. The possibility that Sophie’s parents, Charles-Henault-Canada and Marie Gris, knew Louis Riel’s parents, Julie Lagimodières and Jean-Louis Riel, who were married in the chapel of St. Boniface Cathedral on January 21, 1844 were high.
That isn’t proof though.
My next step will be to verify the guests at the marriages of Joseph Gabriel and Marie Sophie and the marriage of Julie Lagimodières and Jean-Louis Riel, but in the meantime, perhaps what happened after Riel’s death will tell us more.
So far, the only information I have comes from Fred Jones in his story called “Blackfoot Reserve. ” He speaks about Gabriel Arial running a hotel. He writes:
My first impression of Gleichen was when we arrived by way of Calgary from the Blood Reserve. We stayed in the Palace Hotel, owned by a French Canadian named Mr. Gabriel Arial, and I think he built it. Some of the Old Timers seem to think it was originally build of logs, but I had seen parts of it torn down and repaired here and there with no logs under the sheeting, but the rough boards were hand-sawn with the old, long ripsaw, and iron nails were used. The style was what you might call early Western, and no luxuries were provided. The rooms contained a bed, chair, washstand and plain dresser, a big jug full of cold water and a smaller jug, for drinking. If you needed more water you took your jug downstairs and outside, to the well. A kerosene lamp provided light.
The Arials welcomed us, and were very hospitable. So were the cockroaches and bed bugs, but that was the usual thing in any dwelling in those days. There were no insect repellents, except kerosene and pyrethrum powder and these failed to attain victory. A a standoff was the best to be hoped for, as the walls were hollow and the plaster cracked so the enemy could retreat and fight another night.
I went to school later with the Arial boys and girls. The hotel was later sold to Brosseau Brothers, and the Arials moved to Edmonton.
I think we arrived in Gleichen about 1896 or 1897, as the C.P.R. roundhouse was still there and I think it was moved to Calgary in 1898. (As I recount these many events, please consider that they happened over seventy years ago. They may be kind of sketchy and not follow in proper sequence and some that made an impression then, may not have been as important as others that might have been forgotten.)
Is this Gabriel my grandfather? I don’t know for sure yet, but I think so. My grandfather was called Gabe after his father and he grew up in Edmonton. My grandmother also moved to Cluny as a child and that’s where they met. This Gabriel Arial may also have been a cousin though, so I still have much more verification to do.
 All the facts about Louis Riel and his life in this story come from Maggie Siggins’ book “Riel A Life of Revolution” Harper Collins, Toronto, 1994.
 For this part, I relied on the handwritten notes of Mary Alice Kite and my grandmother, Ann Marguerite Arial. My grandmother learned how to do genealogy from Mary Alice and she knew my great grandparents personally. She would have confirmed their parents’ and grandparents’ names with them. She also collected photos of the family, which I now have. Few of the people can be easily identified now.
 The Prairie Hub, by John Julius Martin, Rosebud, Alberta, The Strathmore Standard, 1967, p. 160.
*An earlier version of this story spelled Gleichen incorrectly.