France, Genealogy, Immigration, Montreal, Quebec, Quebec City

La Fermière Louise Mauger

Louise_Mauger_sculpture

Women are rarely commemorated with a statue. There is one, La Fermière, in front of Marche Maisonneuve in Montreal’s East End. It depicts a woman holding a basket of produce. It was sculpted by Alfred Laliberté and he dedicated it to Louise Mauger, as a glorification of traditional rural values. She was one of the early settlers of Montreal and not the only person celebrated with a monument. Louise was my eight times great grandmother.

1024px-Marché_Maisonneuve_3
La Fermiere statue in front of Marche Maisonneuve

Both Louise (1598) and her husband Pierre Gadoys (1594) were born in Saint Martin d’-Inge in Perche, France. They came to New France about 1636 as part of a settlement initiative by Robert Giffard de Moncel, the first Seigneur of colonial New France. Records have them living and farming on the Beauport Seigneurie in 1636 and Pierre employed by the Société Notre-Dame de Montréal pour la Conversion des Sauvages, at Sainte-Foy or Sillery from 1643 to 1645.

Tracing families back is quite easy in Quebec as the church records of births, marriages and deaths, kept from the beginning of the colonies have been well preserved. My maternal grandmother was a Bruneau and her direct male line goes back to Francois Bruneau, my seven-time great grandfather, who arrived in New France in 1659.

The Bruneau family tree is just part of my story. There are all the women back through the tree who were only a name, their families not mentioned. A seventh times great grandfather is one of 256 grandfathers which means there are also 256 grandmothers who have their own stories.

I started with Sophie Marie Prud’homme who married Barnabé Bruneau, my two times great grandparents. Tracing back the Prud’homme line I arrived at Louis Prud’homme who arrived in New France in the 1640s, where he met and married Roberte Gadoys. Roberte came from France in the 1630s with her father Pierre Gadoys, her mother Louise Mauger and her brother Pierre.

Pierre Gadoys (Gadois, Gadoua) my 8th time’s great grandfather moved his family to Montreal shortly after this because of the many attacks by the Huron and Algonquin on settlers around Quebec City. Montreal was fortified. In 1648, he was the first person to be granted land in Montreal (Ville-Marie) by the governor, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. He was known as the “Premier Habitant or first farmer”1. The 40 arpents grant was from the current St Paul Street north to the Petite Riviere between St. Pierre and Bleury. In 1666 he was granted another 60 arpents for helping Charles LeMoyne fight the Iroquois.

Just as important as the first farmer is the first farmer’s wife. Louise had a lot of work to do. The couple had six children, possibly seven. Roberte, Pierre and Etienne (is the question mark) were born in France, while Francois, Jeanne and Joseph on the Seigneurie of Beauport and Jean-Baptiste was born in Sainte-Foy when Louise was 43. Jeanne died at birth, Joseph died in his first month and there is no other information about Francois. According to the 1667 census they had 40 acres under cultivation, six cows and a hired servant.

While Pierre Gadoys died in 1667, Louise lived another 23 years and died in Montreal at the age of 92.

Pierre also has a monument but it is a small trapezoid stone marker in Place d’Youville installed in 1992 as part of Montreal’s 350th celebration. It looks more like a concrete form used to block off a road than a commemoration. It is not a lovely bronze statue in the middle of a fountain.

Bibliography:

1. Dollier de Casson, Francois. Histoire du Montreal 1640-1672. pg 88

Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, “GADOYS, PIERRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed November 29, 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gadoys_pierre_1E.html.

Fournier, Marcel. 1642-1643 Les Origins de Montréal Diffusion au Canada, 2013.

Le Bulletin Recherches Historique Vol XXXIII Levis – Mars 1927 Nos 3 Les Colons de Montreal de 1642-1667 pgs. 180,181.

PRDH-RAB; Origine des Familles Canadiennes; Parchemin Ancestry accessed January 2019.

Sulte, Benjamin: Histoire des Canadiens Français [1608-1880]: origine, histoire, religion, guerres, découvertes, colonisation, coutumes, vie domestique, sociale et politique, développement, avenir January 1, 1882 Wilson et Cie

Senécal, Jean-Guy(senecal@fmed.ulaval.ca); Sep 27, 1998, compilation OCR de trois documents Word disponible en ligne, ses documents se référant principalement au Tome IV & V, Chapitre IV du livreHistoire des Canadiens-Française de Benjamin Sulte, édition 1977.

Notes:

The statue La Fermière was made by Alfred Laliberte in 1915. It was part of a continent-wide city beautification project.

Pierre Gadoys’ sister Françoise was married to Nicholas Godé. They were present at the founding of Montreal.

It is possible but not proven that Pierre and Louise were in Montreal in May of 1642 for the founding ceremony. Their son Pierre, then 11, was said to have attended with his Aunt and Uncle, Francoise and Nicholas Godé. It was thought that Louise was not at the ceremony as she was attending to Jean Baptiste who was only a year old. Pierre first settled in Sillery with his family but had gone to Montreal in the early 1642 and then returned to Sillery as he was there in 1645.

After his death, Saint-Pierre street was named in his honour.

1666 Census – Pierre Gadois the eldest, 72, inhabitant; Louise Moger, 68, his wife; Jean-Baptiste, 25, gunsmith; Pierre Villeneuve, 25, hired servant. 

1667 Census – Pierre Gadoys, 65; Louise Mauger, his wife, 65; Pierre Villeneuve, domestic, 24; 6 cattle, 40 acres under cultivation.  She was buried March 18, 1690 in Montreal. 

Pierre Gadoys: 1594 – Oct 20 1667 Married 1627 de Igé, Saint-Martin, Orne, France.

Louise Mauger: 1598 – Mar 18 1690

Roberte Gadoys: Baptised Sept 15 1628 France – Sept 14, 1716 Montreal

Pierre Gadois: Nov 17, 1631 or 1632 France– May 18, 1714 Montreal

Etienne Gadois: Baptised Nov 17 1631 France – ? Are Pierre and Etienne the same person??

Francois Gadois: Dec 2 1632 Quebec – ?

Jeanne Gadois: June 26 1638 – June 26, 1638 Quebec

Joseph Godois: Sept 28 1639 – Oct 1639 Quebec

Jean-Baptiste Gadois: Mar 1, 1641 Quebec – April 15 1728 Montreal.

The inscriptions on Pierre Gadois Monument In Place d’Youville, Montreal reads, C’est d’ici que Le 4 Janvier 1648 Maisonneuve determina les bornes de la premiere concession accordee a Pierre Gadoys il fixait ainsi l’orientation des rues de la future Ville” and on another side, Stele erigee grace a L’Ordre des Arpenteurs- Geometres du Quebec, a L’Association des Detaillants de Monuments du Quebec, aux Archives Nationales du Quebec, aux Productions D’Amerique Francaise et Au Groupe de Recherche de Raymond Dumais Archivist.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogy, Immigration, Ireland, Quebec

Grosse Île and the Irish

Thousands of Irish immigrants came to Canada, especially in the 1800s. They came by ship, travelling up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, but many got sick and some died during the long voyage across the Atlantic.

After a cholera epidemic swept England in 1831, a quarantine station was built on Grosse ÎIe, an island in the St. Lawrence downriver from Quebec City. All ships were required to stop there so passengers could be checked by doctors to ensure they were not sick. Government authorities did not want people to bring disease to the busy port cities of Quebec City and Montreal.

The worst years were between 1845 and 1849, when the terrible potato famine hit Ireland. Many of those who fled Ireland, optimistic about starting new lives in North America, never made it. Most of them succumbed to typhus, a disease caused by bacteria carried by fleas and lice. More than 7,000 people are buried in three large cemeteries on Grosse Île.

The quarantine station continued from 1832 until 1937. Today, Parks Canada runs Grosse Île and the Irish Memorial National Historic Site. This moving historic site, including several buildings and cemeteries, is open to visitors from the beginning of May until mid-October. See https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/qc/grosseile/index.

There are a number of books about this place and the tragic events that happened there. One of the most moving volumes I have read is Eyewitness, Grosse Isle, 1847 (note the alternative spelling), by  Marianna O’Gallagher & Rose Masson Dompierre, published in 1995 by Livres Carraig Books of Ste-Foy, Québec. You may be able to find it in a library or online.

This superb book begins with a map of Ireland indicating the places that sent 10 or more ships to Quebec in 1847 with Irish immigrants: 53 ships from Limerick, 33 from Cork, 32 from Belfast, 27 from Dublin, 27 from Sligo and 18 from Londonderry.

The authors got the idea for this book after reading letters that the chaplains of the quarantine station wrote to their superiors during the summer of 1847. The authors wrote, “In order to present a full portrait of the dramatic events that unfolded at Grosse Isle, and in order to distinguish between myth and reality, this book will be the forum where eyewitnesses speak. The priests’ letters, little known until today, but which are very significant, contain descriptions of everyday occurrences, prevailing conditions at ‘the Quarantine’ in 1847. The situation proved to be dramatic and arduous, and the missionaries, faced with the spiritual and physical needs of the immigrants, felt powerless and besieged. Very soon their letters elicited response from many quarters.”

For example, Rev. Armine W. Mountain, Church of England, Acting Chaplain Quarantine Station, wrote:

Buried: Meek, Catherine, daughter of James Meek, mason, late of the parish of Whiteburn, County Linlithgow, Scotland, and of France, by her maiden name Somerville, his wife, aged two years, died on the twenty-second and was buried on the twenty-fourth day of May in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and forty-seven, by me – Armine W. Mountain – Present: Robert Armstrong, Joh X. Armstrong.

Rev. Charles Morice, Catholic Priest, Officiating Chaplain Grosse Isle, wrote:

Buried: Heatherington, Taylor, Craig, White, McCray, McCray, Smyth

Hugh Heatherington, aged forty, from Ship Dykes

Margaret Taylor, aged twenty three per ship Maria Soames

Elizabeth White, age sixty-three from ship Emigrant

Margaret McKay, age forty two years per ship Eliza

Alexander McKay, age fifty-two per ship Eliza

Robert Smyth, age two years per Sir Henry Pottinger died sixth October. All died, except the last, on the seventh of October and were buried on the evening of the same day in the year of our Lord one thousand Eight hundred and forty-seven by me – Charles Morice – Present: John Fitzgerald, Patrick Dolan

 https://www.amazon.ca/Eyewitness-Grosse-Isle-Marianna-OGallagher/dp/096908059X

Other suggested reading:

John Boileau, “The Dead of Grosse Île,” Legion: Canada’s Military History Magazine, March 1, 2006, https://legionmagazine.com/en/2006/03/the-dead-of-grosse-ile/

You can read a list of some of those who died on Grosse Île at https://www.pc.gc.ca/en/lhn-nhs/qc/grosseile/decouvrir-discover/natcul4.

To search Library and Archives Canada’s records, see “Immigrants at Grosse Ile Quarantine Station, 1832-1937,” https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/immigration/immigration-records/immigrants-grosse-ile-1832-1937/Pages/immigrants-grosse-ile.aspx

Genealogy, Immigration, Ireland, Montreal, Quebec

Irish Catholic Churches in Montreal

Every year, the city of Montreal hosts a huge St. Patrick’s Day parade that brings people by the thousands to the downtown streets to celebrate their real or imagined Irish heritage. In fact, many Montrealers do have Irish roots that go back centuries.

In 1700, around 130 of the 2,500 families in New France, or roughly 5%, were Irish, and there was massive immigration from Ireland to North America between 1816 and 1860. By 1871, the Irish were the second largest ethnic group in Canada after the French.

The year 1847 was a tragic one as the Irish fled poverty and starvation in their homeland and died of disease before they arrived in Canada. Almost 3900 are buried at Grosse Île, an island in the St. Lawrence River northeast of Quebec City; another 5,000 are buried at the so-called fever sheds near the Montreal waterfront. Many children who became orphans at this time were adopted by French families, but kept their Irish names.

The early Irish of Montreal resided in the central part of the city. Over time, they moved westward, eastward and northward into Saint Ann’s, Saint Mary’s, Saint Antoine’s, Saint James’, Saint Lawrence’s and Saint Louis Wards. They were the primary residents in districts such as Griffintown, Point-St-Charles, St. Henry, Verdun and Ville Émard. Other Irish families eventually moved east into the Rosemount and Hochelaga districts.

Prior to the establishment of St-Patrick’s church in 1847 and St-Ann in 1854, the main churches of the Irish in Montreal were Notre Dame de Bon Secours, the Church of the Récollet Fathers and Notre Dame Basilica.

When I identify a church as being Irish Catholic in this research guide, I do not mean to imply that parishioners were mostly of Irish descent. It does suggest that, at one point in time, a minimum of 10% of the acts of baptism, marriage and death records addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

Especially during the early years, acts of baptism, marriage and death that took place at most of the smaller parishes in the Montreal region were registered in the records of Notre-Dame Church. For example, a baptism or marriage might have been held in Griffintown, but the act would have been included in the Notre-Dame-de-Montréal records.

The attached research guide lists the churches in which the Irish presence was appreciable, or parishes that were inaugurated by members of the Irish community. The years in brackets reflect the year I was able to ascertain as being the beginning of the Irish-Scottish-British presence in these Catholic churches. I reached my conclusions following several years of research on more than 3,000 books addressing marriages and baptisms at the Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Old Montreal.

This research guide includes descriptions of the parishes where Irish Catholics attended church in the Montreal region, as well as a list of the cemeteries where many of them were buried. It also includes a list of recommended books and articles, and a list of repositories including archives and museums, online resources and other local sources of information. It is part of a series of research guides to Irish family history resources across the province of Quebec.

To access the PDF research guide to Irish Catholic Churches of Montreal, click on the link:

Irish Catholic Churches in Montreal from 1815

Genealogy, Immigration, Ireland, Migration, Quebec, Research tips, Resources Outside of Montreal

Irish Catholic Churches of Arthabaska, Compton, Frontenac, Mégantic, Wolfe Counties, Quebec

The research guide below is part of a series of seven compilations designed to help you find your Irish immigrant ancestors in mostly French-speaking Quebec. It explores Arthabaska, Compton, Frontenac, Megantic and Wolfe counties, the most easterly of the province’s Eastern Townships.

Few Irish people came to this primarily rural area until the late 1800s. The earliest church record I was able to trace in regard to the Irish of these counties was 1829, within the parish of Saint-Jacques in the then village of Leeds, Megantic County.

Parish records can help you find traces of the Irish setters who came to North America by the tens of thousands during the first half of the 19th century. Please note: The inclusion of an Irish Catholic churches in this research guide does not imply that parishioners were mostly of Irish descent, but implies that at one point in time, a minimum of 10% of the acts of baptism, marriage, death addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

A good place to start looking for English-speaking settlers in the Eastern Townships is the Eastern Townships Resource Centre, http://www.etrc.ca/. The Eastern Townships Resource Centre preserves the documentary heritage of the Eastern Townships and serves as an archival expertise resource for local heritage organizations. While its Archives Department concentrates on the acquisition of private archives related to the English-speaking community, the Centre’s mission, mandate and on-going activities are meant to be inclusive of all communities present in the Eastern Townships.

Thousands of documents such as diaries, letters, minute books, photographs, postcards, maps, plans and audio-visual material are made available to researchers. Assistance is also provided to genealogists tracing their family roots. You will find contact information for this organization at the end of the PDF research guide below.

Another research guide I prepared a few years ago may also be helpful to your search. See “British, Irish, Scottish, Loyalist, American, German, Scandinavian, Dutch and Huguenot families in Lower Canada and Québec” by Jacques Gagne, https://genealogyensemble.files.wordpress.com/2015/04/british-irish-scottish-loyalist-american-german-scandinavian-dutch-in-quebec2.pdf

townships map

This guide mentions a number of books about Quebec’s large Irish population. Two additional articles of interest are, “Pioneer English Catholics in the Eastern Townships” by T.J. Walsh, http://www.cchahistory.ca/journal/CCHA1939-40/Walsh.html  and “A.C. Buchanan and the Megantic Experiment: Promoting British Colonization in Lower Canada” by J.I. Little, https://hssh.journals.yorku.ca/index.php/hssh/article/viewFile/40265/36450

The attached research guide is an expanded and improved version of a similar guide I posted on Genealogy Ensemble in 2014. It includes a detailed list of the Catholic parish churches in these five counties where people with Irish names worshiped. It also includes links to help you find the cemeteries where they were buried, a recommended reading list and a list of archives and other repositories where further records can be found.

Click on the link to open the PDF:  Irish Catholic Churches of Arthabaska, Compton, Megantic, Frontenac, Wolfe counties

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genealogy, Immigration, Ireland, Quebec, Research tips, Resources Outside of Montreal

Irish Catholic Churches in Rural Quebec: Bagot, Brome, Missisquoi, Shefford Counties

Between 1815 and 1837, an estimated 200,000 Irish immigrants arrived at the Port of Quebec. Many continued on to the United States or Upper Canada, but some settled in Quebec’s Eastern Townships. This research guide is designed to help you find Irish Catholic ancestors who lived in the Eastern Townships counties of Bagot, Brome, Missisquoi and Shefford.

Please note: When I identify a church as being an Irish Catholic Church in this research guide, I do not mean to imply that parishioners were mostly from of Irish descent. Rather, I mean that, at one point in time, at least 10 percent of the acts of baptism, marriage and death within a particular parish addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

If you are researching ancestors in this region, you may find the Eastern Townships Resource Centre (ERTC), http://www.etrc.ca/ to be helpful. For more than 30 years, the ETRC has been preserving the documentary heritage of the Eastern Townships and serving as an archival expertise resource for local heritage organizations.

The ETRC Archives preserves collections that illustrate the development of the Eastern Townships’ English-speaking community. Thousands of documents such as diaries, letters, minute books, photographs, postcards, maps, plans and audio-visual material are made available to researchers, and assistance is also provided to genealogists tracing their family roots.

The research guide attached below includes brief histories of the Catholic churches attended by Irish Catholics in these four counties, a list of cemeteries where these people may have been buried, a list of books and articles about the Irish in Quebec, and a list of website and archives you may find useful.

It is an expanded and updated version of a guide to Irish Catholic churches in Quebec posted to Genealogy Ensemble in 2014. Other similar guides that have been posted over recent weeks explore the Irish Catholic churches in Lanaudière, in Quebec City, and in other Eastern Townships counties, with more research guides covering other regions of Quebec to come soon.

Click on the link below to view a PDF of the research guide Irish Catholic Churches in Bagot, Brome, Missisquoi and Shefford Counties:

Irish Catholic Churches in Bagot, Brome, Missisquoi, Shefford Counties

 

Genealogy, Immigration, Quebec, Resources Outside of Montreal

Irish Catholic Churches in the Eastern Townships of Quebec

Drummond, Richmond, Sherbrooke, Stanstead Counties

Introduction

From 1815 to 1824, an estimated 50,000 Irish immigrants arrived at the Port of Quebec, and 150,000 more arrived between 1829 and 1837. Many kept going, settling in the United States or Upper Canada, but some moved into the rolling hills of Quebec’s Eastern Townships. The region, which is often known by its French name, l’Estrie or Cantons de l’Est, includes Drummond, Richmond, Sherbrooke and Stanstead counties.

In order to determine where Irish Catholic immigrants settled in Quebec, I reviewed hundreds of books of marriages, baptisms and deaths in Catholic parishes of Quebec. These books are kept at the Bibliothèque Archives nationales du Québec in Montreal (BAnQ Vieux-Montréal). I also reviewed microfilms there. I did most of this work between 2006 and 2009, and carried out a further review in 2014.

Please note: When I identify a church as being an Irish Catholic Church in this research guide, I do not mean to imply that parishioners were mostly of Irish descent. Rather, I mean that, at one point in time, at least 10 percent of the acts of baptism, marriage and death within a particular parish addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

townships map

If you are exploring your family’s history in the Eastern Townships, you may find useful material at the Eastern Townships Resource Centre (ERTC) in Lennoxville, http://www.etrc.ca/ For over 30 years, the ETRC has been a center for the study of the Eastern Townships of Quebec. The ERTC preserves the documentary heritage of the Eastern Townships and serves as a resource for local heritage organizations.

The ETRC Archives preserves and gives access to collections that illustrate the development of the Eastern Townships’ English-speaking community. Thousands of documents, such as diaries, letters, minute books, photographs, postcards, maps, plans and audio-visual material, are made available to researchers. It also provides assistance to genealogists tracing their family roots. You can find out how to contact the ERTC at the end of this research guide.

The guide includes a brief description of the churches in Drummond, Richmond, Sherbrooke and Stanstead counties that the Irish settlers attended, a list of the cemeteries where many of them were buried, a list of authors, articles and books on the Irish communities of the region, a list of repositories and archives where the records relevant to these communities are kept, and websites that may be of use to family history researchers. I will cover other Eastern Townships region counties in separate posts on Genealogy Ensemble.

To explore the PDF covering the Irish Catholic Churches of Drummond, Richmond, Sherbrooke and Stanstead Counties, click on the link:

Irish Catholic Churches in Quebec’s Eastern Townships

Genealogy, Immigration, Quebec, Quebec City

The Irish Catholic Churches in Quebec City

During the first half of the 19th century, thousands of immigrants from the British Isles arrived at the port city of Quebec. Most were fleeing poverty, famine, and overpopulation. Although most of the newcomers continued westward, a number, including many of the Irish Catholics, chose to remain in Quebec City.

In response to the sudden growth in population, the authorities encouraged the opening of new townships around the city. The Irish settled in Portneuf, Lotbinière, Dorchester, Lévis and Québec counties, north and south of the city.

In 1819, the Irish population of Quebec City numbered nearly 1000; by 1830, there were an estimated 6000 to 7000 Irish in the area, representing nearly a quarter of the total population. By 1861, 40 percent of Quebec City’s 10,000 inhabitants were English-speaking, largely because of the Irish families who by now made up 30 percent of the total population.

As early as 1817, Irish Catholic priests were tending to the Irish at Notre Dame Cathedral, and also probably at the Diamond Harbour Parish and the Church of the Nativity in nearby Beauport. The first annual Saint Patrick Mass was most likely celebrated in 1819 in the Congregationalist Chapel in Quebec City.

The earliest church record I was able to trace regarding the Irish of the Québec City region was in 1736 in the parish of Saint Augustin in nearby Saint Augustin de Desmaures in Portneuf County. Notre Dame in Quebec City claims to have records of Irish births, marriages and burials as early as 1728. After the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in 1759, English-speaking Catholics of Irish-Scottish-British origin were identified as such.

Please note: The use of the term Irish Catholic Churches in this research guide does not imply that parishioners were mostly of Irish descent; rather, at one point in time, a minimum of 10% of the acts of baptism, marriage, death at a church addressed Irish immigrants or their descendants.

Furthermore, especially during the early days following the arrival of the Irish in the Quebec City region, the registers showing baptism, marriage and death can only be found through the church records of Notre-Dame Cathedral, even though these acts may have occurred in another small church in the region.

At the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) in Montréal and Quebec Ciity, one can find multiple index books of Catholic marriages, baptisms and deaths. I selected the parishes I felt qualified as Irish churches (10 percent or more of baptisms, marriages and deaths) from these records.

For detail on the parishes that served people of Irish descent in and around Quebec City, click on the link to access the PDF:  Irish Catholic Churches of Quebec City

For more background, see,

http://www.irishheritagequebec.net/the-celtic-cross/

https://www.ville.quebec.qc.ca/en/citoyens/patrimoine/quartiers/vieux_quebec/interet/immigration_au_port_de_quebec.aspx

https://www.ville.quebec.qc.ca/en/citoyens/patrimoine/quartiers/saint_jean_baptiste/interet/irlandais_origine_quebec.aspx

http://saintpatrickquebec.com/en/quebec-and-the-irish/

http://www.themetropolitain.ca/articles/view/494

 

Genealogy, Immigration, Montreal, Quebec, Scotland

Polio in the Family

My Auntie Elsie McHugh was quite a chatterbox and so were her budgies. When we used to visit her, the budgies filled the room with the sound of their chatter, competing to be heard. Unless it was time to go to bed, or someone was coming in the door, the budgies were free to fly around the apartment. It was quite an adventure to go there.

My Uncle Jimmy Scott was usually sitting in his favourite chair, not saying a word.

Certainly when I remember Elsie, I think about her continual stream of conversation and story-telling. But I also remember that she had a distinct limp.  This didn’t stop her from being a snazzy dresser or wearing fancy shoes.

Scott, Jimmy and Elsie McHugh

Jimmy Scott and Elsie McHugh

As an adult, I learned that Auntie Elsie limped because she was stricken with paralytic polio when she was an infant living in Dundee, Scotland at the beginning of the 1900s.1 While today, polio is almost eradicated, at that time it would have been a frightening disease.

Only Elsie, out of the family of seven children, contracted poliomyelitis, the medical term for polio. Dr. Ivar Wickman of Sweden proved that polio was contagious in 1905. This was probably after Elsie was sick. And it was not until the 1930s that it was discovered that it was an intestinal infection and spread by the oral-fecal route, and not an airborne virus, as previously thought.2

During Elsie’s childhood, the family lived in a tenement in industrial Dundee, near the jute factories. There was overcrowding and poor sanitation.

In children, paralysis from polio occurs one in a thousand cases. Most children are simply sick and consequently develop an immunity to it.3 It is probable that Elsie’s siblings were also exposed to polio, but they suffered from no permanent consequences.

Because young Elsie limped and probably could not run or jump very well, she was considered disabled or “crippled.” As a result, she attended a special school to learn cooking, needlework and housekeeping. The other girls in the family resented the special education that Elsie received.

In Scotland, children had to attend school between the ages of five and thirteen. In addition, the morals and tenets of the Church of Scotland were influential. The church believed that children should be taught to be self-sufficient.4 Therefore, there was considerable pressure on educational institutions to provide for all children, including the blind, deaf and physically disabled.

Throughout the 1800s, institutions for the blind and deaf were opened in the major cities in Scotland.5 It is likely that Elsie attended one of these institutions as some of them expanded to include “cripples.”

The family immigrated to Montreal, Canada in 1912. Elsie was fourteen and would have finished her schooling by then. As far as I know she always worked in a department store as a saleslady, but like many women at the time, she quit her job when she married Jimmy Scott in 1926.6 Her daughter, Norine Scott, was born the next year. 7

Many people who have had polio in childhood experience symptoms of fatigue, weakness in the muscles, pain and breathing problems later on in their lives.8 I remember Auntie Elsie used to have difficulty breathing but she always said that it was old age.  Elsie never let anything get in the way of her enjoying life and she lived to the respectable age of 91.9

She did put her skills to good use at home, cooking for the family and sewing. I have inherited her Singer sewing machine, although I don’t sew at all. The machine works by pushing on a lever with your knee. It is a lovely piece of furniture in my home and, more importantly, a beautiful keepsake of my Auntie Elsie.

sewing machine

 

  1. Birth register of Elsie McHugh, November 10, 1898, District of St. Mary, Burgh of Dundee, National Records of Scotland, Scotland’s People web site, accessed December 1, 2017.
  2. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed January 28, 2019.
  3. Wikipedia, History of Poliomyelitis, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_poliomyelitis, accessed January 28, 2019.
  4. The Semantic Scholar, Voices from the Past, Early Institutional Experience of Children with disabilities – The case of Scotland, Iain Hutchison, https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/f5d8/80cd842c518f3bc8a2dd3f5fb4e359eecf7e.pdf, accessed January 28, 2019.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Personal notes of author.
  7. Personal notes of author.
  8. Post-Polio Health International, History of Acute Polio, Tony Gould, unknown date, http://www.post-polio.org/edu/aboutpol/hist.html, accessed February 6, 2019.
  9. Personal notes of author.