Our Newsletter



Spring 2020                                                    Number 11



Interior of the exquisite Rialto Movie Theatre on Park Avenue in Montreal built by the United Amusement Corporation founded by George Ganetakos (Tzanetakos) originally from Dourali, Laconia, Greece.

The Greeks of Montreal


According to the book To Build the Dream: The Story of Early Greek Immigrants by Sophia Florakas Petsalis, the first Greek immigrants to Montreal were a handful of sailors who jumped ship in the late 1800s in Quebec City. By 1871, there were only 39 people in Canada who claimed Greek ethnicity.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Greek immigrants, mainly from poor villages in Arcadia and Laconia in the Peloponnesus, as well as from the islands of Naxos and Crete, settled in Montreal. Greece was ravaged by poverty and wars that succeeded each other: the Balkan Wars, World War I, and the Greco-Turkish war. The Great Population Exchange between Greece and Turkey resulted in1.5 million Greek Orthodox refugees from Asia Minor establishing themselves in Greece, causing additional economic turmoil in a country already suffering from the effects of over ten years of constant war.

Young Greek men, faced with a dismal future, often came alone to Canada and then would return home to find a bride. Some married Greek women already in Canada from all over the Greek world, even as far as Asia Minor. It was unusual for these early Greek immigrants to marry non-Greek women.

For more about the fascinating history of the Greek Community in Montreal, as explained by Sandra McHugh, scroll further down this newsletter

Jacques Gagné’s Posts.

windmill oval.[9722]

The Old Windmill in Pointe-Claire. Claire Lindell collection. Check out Claire’s new family story about the Antoine Pilon home in Pointe-Claire.

Genealogist Jacques Gagné’s research guides and posts continue to attract scores of visitors from all over the globe to the Genealogy Ensemble website. Over the past few months, Jacques has posted an especially popular series of in-depth guides on the Huguenots from every area of France. You will find the latest here.

Other recent visitors have been attracted to his post explaining about the brand new Advitam search engine at BANQ, the National Library of Quebec. Find that here.

Also among his new posts is an essay on the Quebec Windmills and Seigneuries, a post that will please genealogists and non-genealogists alike.

And if you count a Loyalist Orphan as an ancestor, Jacques has covered this topic as well.

Check out Jacques Gagne’s new posts every second Sunday on the Genealogy Ensemble website.

Scroll to the end of this newsletter to read an intriguing little piece by Jacques about Indigenous Mothers, Fur Trader Fathers. This story is of special interest to people with Lacroix surnames in their tree.

Our Newest Stories

The Coronavirus

Ring Around the Rosie[9724]

No surprise, three of the latest GE stories have been meditations on Coronavirus and the Spanish Flu. In fact, Tracey Arial adds yet another epidemic to the list in Three Sisters, Three Flu Epidemics. Sandra McHugh shares how she felt about becoming a grandmother for the second time during the lockdown in Letter to my Grandson and in Ring Around a Rosie Barb Angus invokes an old children’s rhyme with a hidden dark meaning to discuss the parallels between the two deadly pandemics that came 100 years apart.

Other Recent Stories

At Genealogy Ensemble, this past year, good things came in threes. Lucy Anglin, Claire Lindell and Marian Bulford have all posted trilogies.

In Miss Lindsay, Lucy Anglin recounts a story from the 1920’s (Quebec and Newfoundland) that has it all: a rich and beautiful protagonist, a mysterious death and a bizarre media frenzy that is proof little has changed over the decades.

Claire Lindell tells us the story of her hometown Asbestos, Quebec, past, present and future. Claire knows what she is talking about. Her father was a gifted mining executive who came to be known as “Mr. Asbestos.”

And, finally, in the three parts of Dear Miss Bulford, Marian Bulford explores the early days of her fascinating career with the WRAF in her native England.  Back in the 1960’s, Marian seems to have had more on her mind than go-go boots and the Twist.

In addition, and still in the UK, Dorothy Nixon looks back at the lovely North Yorkshire (Helmsley) estate where her ‘very tall’ grandfather once worked as a footman. Shades of the Downton Abbey, in more ways than one.

Stanley Clark Bagg, Janice Hamilton’s ancestor, would be surprised to know that his European travel diary from 1868-69 can still be found in the open stacks at the McGill University Library. Read Continental Notes for Public Circulation and see Paris, Venice and Pompeii, etc. through the eyes of a well-to-do Victorian-age Montrealer.

The nearly 100 year old Dunany Golf Course in Lachute, Quebec meant a whole lot to the Sutherland family. Mary Sutherland’s parents met there for one. Read Golf in Dunany to learn about one family’s obsession with the Scottish game.

These stories are but a sample of 52 posted since our last newsletter. Take a look, you’ll likely find something of special interest to you.

Beads in a Necklace, our collection of stories published in 2018 is still available on Amazon Kindle.

The Greeks of Montreal (Con’t)

The early Greek immigrants arrived mostly in Quebec and Ontario, in the large centers of Montreal and Toronto. Greece is a country of small communities and it was not unusual for immigrating Greeks to settle in communities where there were already people from their village, island or region.

It is a fundamental part of Greek thinking that it is better to work for yourself than for someone else. This entrepreneurship was responsible for the success of the Greek business community in the early part of the 20th century in Montreal. They quickly opened family-run businesses such as restaurants, cafés, hotels, grocery stores, import/export businesses, and theatres.

Greeks also dominated the fur trade in Montreal, bringing their skills from Kastoria, a city in northern Greece nicknamed the city of the fur traders.


Storied 405 Ogilvy Avenue in Park Extension, the home of CFCF TV, “Canada’s First, Canada’s finest” television station. Pic from the mid 60’s. Many people of Greek heritage were employed there on the crew as well as in production.


The Greeks initially settled in the Park Extension area of Montreal, along Park Avenue, extending from Pine Avenue to Jean Talon. The small businesses that were established in this area catered to the Greek community. Members of this community could find imported products from Greece, could speak Greek in the stores and restaurants, and could hire Greek speaking accountants, plumbers, builders, and any other service that they needed.

Many Greek immigrants found jobs at the Royal Victoria Hospital on Pine Avenue, as janitors, orderlies, or cafeteria workers. They would walk to work from their homes near Park Avenue, forging a path along the southern flank of Mount-Royal Park.

Greeks were loyal to their fellow countrymen. They employed their families and other members of the Greek community to work in their businesses. All generations of the family worked together. Grandparents helped out both in the business and by taking care of the children and preparing the family meals while the parents worked. Replicating the intergenerational homes in their homeland, they often lived in duplexes or triplexes together. Owning their own home was as important as owning their own business.

At the top of this newsletter is a photograph of the stunning interior of the Rialto Theatre, located on Park Avenue. This theatre was built in 1923-24 and is now classified as an historic site by both Parks Canada and Patrimoine du Québec. Raoul Gariépy, a local Montreal architect, designed this theatre for the United Amusements Corporation, which was founded by Greek businessman, George Nicholas Ganetakos in 1908. This entertainment business was so successful that it owned or operated 42 theatres/cinemas in the 1940s. Some of these theatres have been designated as historical landmarks. Ganetakos settled in Montreal around 1900 and started his business ventures in confectionaries and ice cream and then opened the Moulin Rouge cinema, with other partners, in 1910. Ganetakos is the iconic Greek immigrant. He came from humble beginnings, working as a blacksmith in Greece and faced with economic hardship decided to come to Canada. He became one of the most prominent Greek businessmen of his time.

Ninety percent of Greeks are Greek Orthodox and their religion brought the Greeks together as a community and helped them face the loneliness of living in a country of harsh weather, alienation, and the struggles to survive when the language is difficult. The first Greek Orthodox religious service was celebrated in 1905 and, soon after, in 1907, the Montreal Hellenic Community was incorporated by a group of 1,000 Greek residents of Montreal. The Montreal Hellenic Association is the oldest Greek association in Canada.

Greeks take a fervid interest in politics and they continued to be interested in Greece after their immigration to Canada.

During World War II, Greeks in Canada supported the Greek War Relief Fund by sending money to Greece for ambulances, and medical and other essential supplies.

The Greek Junta or the “Colonels” was a series of far right juntas the ruled Greece from 1967 to 1974. Montreal Greek immigrants and the children of Greek immigrants vocally demonstrated against the Greek military regime.

The Greek community of Montreal has made a significant contribution to the vibrancy of the city. The early Greek immigrants had the courage immigrate to Canada. Their hard work, their entrepreneurship, and the role of their family and community values have been long lasting contributions to Montreal.


Florakas Petsalis, Sophia. To Build the Dream: The Story of the Early Greek Immigrants in Montreal, self-published, January 2000.

Vlassis, Georges Demetrios. The Greeks in Canada. Ottawa, 1953. Available for borrowing on Archive.org.

Davies, Bill, The 80 Goes to Sparta, National Film Board Documentary, 1969. https://www.nfb.ca/film/80_goes_to_sparta/

My Big Fat Zoom Easter by Sandra McHugh

I come from a very sedate and quiet anglophone family. When I first starting dating my Greek boyfriend, in the late 1970s, the Greek Easter celebration was a culture shock. In our house, Easter was a quiet affair. My mother would serve ham and scalloped potatoes and that was it. Oh, and yes, my brother and I would each receive a Laura Secord chocolate egg.

Our first Easter together, my then-boyfriend, now-husband, casually mentioned that I should drop by early afternoon. No problem, I thought. I will be home in time for our ham dinner at 6 p.m. sharp. When I arrived at the Greek Easter celebration, I gasped when I saw a complete lamb roasting. Soon I had a glass of wine in my hand and great Greek mezes were offered: spanakopita, tiropita, meatballs, herring, and the list goes on. After the meal, dozens of dyed eggs were distributed for the game of egg tapping.

Little did I know that this would become our traditional Easter.

The whole lamb has to be ordered in advance and picked up a day or two before Easter Sunday. When our daughters were teenagers, there were a few complaints about our ‘weirdo’ household who had a whole lamb hanging-up down in the basement. The lamb is prepared the day before, stuffed with spices, onions, lemons, and garlic, and then sewed together, and trussed on the spit.

The ‘lamb team’ a.k.a. my husband and his uncle, start early to get both the fire and the party started. The lamb is roasted in all weather: rain, snow or sunshine. Beers have been known to cool in the snow. Guests start arriving around noon time and people take turns rotating the lamb. There are usually around 30 to 40 guests.

My husband’s uncle also prepares the kokoretsi early in the morning. It is made of the intestines, wrapped around seasoned offal, including sweetbreads, hearts, lungs, and kidneys. It may not sound very appetizing but it is savoured.

Here is a picture of the lamb and underneath is the kokoretsi cooking on the grill.

lamb framed[9719]

This year the unthinkable happened. Our traditional Big Fat Greek Easter was cancelled. We were all distraught, not only with the anxiety related to the COVID-19 pandemic, but also about not seeing each other at Easter. We would miss the laughter, the conviviality, the children’s egg hunt, the egg tapping game, turning the lamb, and the feast.

Our Greek event turned into a lamb dinner for two this year. Our lamb-for-two seemed pathetically small. Nevertheless we made our cocktails, got our barbecue set up and zoomed with our two daughters and their families. It was surprisingly enjoyable, given the circumstances. We chatted on-line as we barbecued and then we ate together, each in our own home. I fervently hope that this is the last time in my lifetime that I celebrate Easter without my family.

When I think of Easter 2020, I think of the apex of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was such a sense of loss. We missed our family, our shared traditions and most of all, showing our love for each other.

Read Sandra’s the Dovecoats of Tinos as well as Petimezi and Lifting Up on the Genealogy Ensemble website.

Maintaining a writing group during lockdown

Like most everyone else, the members of Genealogy Ensemble have been maintaining social distancing over the past couple of months and conducting their meetings via video screen. We started out using Google Hangouts, then moved to Jitsi and we are about to try ZOOM. The meetings went well, save for a few technical glitches where some of us lost audio and some of us lost video.

We fiddled about as best we could. But we got our work done, with techno-intrepid Tracey Arial guiding us through our monthly meetings.


And What We Do the Rest of the Time


If you can’t go to Italy, you can bring Italy to you. Dorothy Nixon’s 2020 Coronavirus patio.

Chianti optional.

Most of us here at Genealogy Ensemble are retirees active in the community and busy with our grandchildren. What is it like for us during lockdown? How have things changed?

Claire Lindell says: My time has been spent during the Corona virus 19 lock-down delving deeper in to genealogical research, finding a treasure trove of ancestors as I have reached the 6th, 7th and 8th generations, and now have a tally of 28 Filles du Roi on/in my family tree.

Direct ancestors, some more interesting than others, are quite fascinating when one stops to think about what they went through. Oh, the stories they would have to tell if they were here today!

In any case, I am not at a loss as to how to spend my days and have to admit I am enjoying this quiet time for research. I am fortunate in so many ways…except when my desktop camera and microphone are not working properly! …a problem I am trying to solve.

Here’s Lucy Anglin:

The time seems to fly by. Mind you, my life as a retiree/artist/writer hasn’t changed much and I continue to enjoy my life of blessings. Virtual visits with family and friends occur with more frequency than the old fashioned physical ones which might explain my Ottawa sister’s comment. “I spend a lot of time doing nothing and everything these days!”

We were scheduled to be in the UK, these first few weeks of May, physically visiting our precious grandkids and touring Ireland. Ireland can wait for another time … And so, unfortunately, must the hugs with the grandkids.

And here’s Dorothy Nixon: I can never remember what day it is, although I’m not sure that is much of a change from before. My “spring-chicken” newly-retired husband does all the food shopping (masked and gloved) buying way too much so I have to find a way to cook it! But, having plenty of food – and not being able to share it with others – is both a blessing and a bummer. (Time to donate to a food bank, methinks.) The best part: I visit with my son and toddler granddaughter (just an hour’s drive away, alas) every day via DUO. My granddaughter’s favourite part is saying “Goodbye” and pushing the OFF button. I still write, of course. Nothing can stop me from writing, especially in anxious times. I find it therapeutic and distracting.

Mary Sutherland adds this:

Working on genealogy under “Stay at Home” orders is not much different than my regular efforts. I sit in my recliner and use the internet. All the organizing of files and stories still isn’t getting done but I am trying to keep a Covid-19 journal.

The days whiz by and the house isn’t cleaner than it has ever been. There are little disappointments, like getting only half your grocery order or having events cancelled but we still have food and aren’t too bored. Virtually seeing friends and family isn’t the same as in-person but we still connect but miss the hug. My husband and I go on daily walks around the town and little acts of kindness reinforce what great neighbours we have. Luckily, I have a large fabric stash so I can keep quilting. We will get through this.

This a quote from my sister which sums up my situation.

“Really we have the best of this very bad situation being retired – no job to worry about and expertise at staying at home.”

Janice Hamilton is spending quarantine writing a family history book. She explains:

Big projects are always easier when you break them down into small bites. It is also better to spend a lot of time on them at once, otherwise you are always having to start over and remind yourself what you’ve already done and where you want to go with it.

So I’m taking advantage of the extra time I have without my usual activities to write a book about my father’s family. The Hamiltons and the Forresters (my grandmother’s family) were weavers and carpenters who left the lowlands of Scotland in the 1820s to settle in southern Ontario, then moved west fifty years later to become prairie farmers. Eventually, most of them left the farm for the city.

It’s really a rewrite project. Thanks to Genealogy Ensemble, and to my own family history blog, writinguptheancestors.blogspot.com, most of the research has been done and the stories written and posted on the Internet. Now I am taking all those articles, filling in additional information, restructuring them so they flow together, double-checking sources and choosing photos. I also need to find a title.

The next steps will include proofreading and finding a company that helps authors with self-publishing: layout, printing and print-on-demand services. I hope to have the book in my hands by the autumn.

Marian Bulford concludes with:

All my lot including the grand kids are fine, so that is all that matters!

I am, of course, spending a lot of time online, and am actually doing indexing daily, usually, for the church of Latter-Day Saints (The Mormon’s). This link tells you how to get started if anyone is interested.


Recently, I found on Geneanet.org an offer to participate in the indexing of the Canadian World War I Personal Records, but only from May 1, 2020, until May 10, 2020.

Nevertheless, here is the link:  https://en.geneanet.org/indexation/

Funnily enough, I am not doing genealogy so much as the indexing. It brings me a measure of peace to think I am helping others find their ancestors now and in the future, plus, it passes the time quickly too.

That’s it! I have to get back to my very interesting indexing!

Writing Tip:

Fuzzy Wases

Tracey Arial says it’s always good to go over your final draft and count out the wases. Was is a passive verb and not always the best or liveliest choice you can make. Sometimes, it is just a lazy choice. Of course, that is not always the case. If you are using ‘was’ over and over to simplify the prose and make it easier to read or to keep a certain desired rhythm, that can work.


Genealogy Tip


Are you researching your Greek ancestors? There are not many databases on line. This can be particularly frustrating when comparing the number of databases with information from the U.K., the U.S. and France. And the few databases that are available are in Greek.

The most important element of researching Greek ancestry is knowing where in Greece your ancestor comes from. The archives are organized by location. Try to figure out the administrative district, the county, the municipality and the diocese. And in which town their offices are located today. To help you, you can access chapter 6 of the book Family History in Greece by Lica Catsakis. The link is provided below.

The language is quite a challenge. The Greek alphabet has 24 letters, not 26 and the letters correspond to sounds, unlike English that can use a group of letters for one sound. So the ‘f’ sound in Greek can be translated as a ‘f’ or a ‘ph.’ Greek also has some sounds that do not exist in English such as the xee, pronounced ksee, or the psi, pronounced psee. These differences present challenges when converting a Greek name to the Latin, or Roman alphabet system and there are many possibilities.

Another challenge is that your ancestors might have taken liberties with their names when they immigrated. They spelled their names as they thought best. And different family groups, while having the same name in Greek, sometimes adopted different spellings of their names. And they sometimes arbitrarily chose birth dates that may not correspond to any official record.

When accessing Greek records, you can always try the Google translation although it may feel like you are swimming against the current. If you have the patience, learning the Greek alphabet may be an option. Greek is pronounced as it is written so finding the Latin alphabet equivalent or potential equivalents is doable, although it can be slow.

Here is a wonderful and comprehensive book written by Lica Catsakis that will help you to get started with your Greek ancestry, available through the Family Search website. When you click on each section of the book, it will bring you to a PDF file of the chapter.


Genealogy by the Numbers

There was only 1 recorded Greek who come to North America prior to 1800, Ioannis Phokas, a Greek maritime pilot (born 1536 on Cephalonia and died 1602 on Cephalonia). Phokas worked for the Spanish King Phillip II. He is best known by the Spanish version of his name, Juan de Fuca, and is famous for exploring the Strait of Juan de Fuca, off the coast of British Columbia and Washington State, and named after him.

The are 6 Greek Orthodox churches in Greater Montreal.

The time difference between Montreal and Greece is 7 hours.

There were only 39 Greeks in Montreal in 1871.

George Ganetakos owned and operated 42 moving picture theatres in Montreal.

There were 291 Greeks in Canada in 1901.

A group of 1,000 Greek residents in Montreal established a Greek community with a constitution, in 1906.

There were 11,926 people of Greek origin in the 1951 Canadian census.

In the 2016 Canadian census, 271,405 citizens claimed full or partial Greek heritage.

In 2009, Canadian merchandise imports from Greece totalled $141 million. Top imports included preserved food products, fats and oils (mainly olive oil), and aluminum.

drouin copy[9725]

1906 entry Greek Orthodox Evangelimos Church (Drouin Collection online) shows baptism of the son of early Laconian immigrants to Montreal, Zarafonity (Zarafonitis- or es) Kotsonas (Kotsonis, Cotsonis)

Quote Unquote


Spanish Flu R.W. Harrison

Dear Mrs. Nicholson,

I hope you are all keeping clear of this Spanish Flu. Hasn’t it been an awful time? Everything closed up and nothing going on here except people dying and the church bells ringing for funerals and hearses going down in processions. I heard yesterday that 500 died in Sherbrooke since it started.

The Lennoxville School reopened yesterday and Gordon started again and today. Mr. Rothney started out inspecting as things seem to be coming to life again.  If this fine weather will only continue, there will soon be no more grippe……”

Excerpt from a letter from a woman in Lennoxville, Quebec, October 24, 1918 to a Mrs. Nicholson of Richmond, Quebec. 2 Weeks before Armistice on November 11. Mrs. Rothney, was the wife of the local school inspector.

Links We Like

Here are some Greek genealogy sites that can help with your research:

Family Search has a page with on-line genealogy records.


Newcastle University has a Greek Family History web site that provides a search engine for a portion of Greek censuses in the 18th and 19th century for some parts of Greece. This site also tells you how to research your family history, but it is in Greek.


The Greek National Archives (organized by region) and also in Greek. You can navigate in English or French.


SARS, Avian Flu, Swine Flu

Lessons and Prospects

Free Yale University Online Course, Epidemics in Modernity, final lecture.


We Are All Related


Food for Thought.

You know what they say about Canadians. We are polite, eh? My politeness certainly got me into a situation whereby I had to use all my self-control not to throw up.

In was 1979 and I spoke only a smattering of Greek, just enough to get by, really. I was alone in Greece, on a cultural trip sponsored by McGill University. My boyfriend, or husband-to-be, had arranged that I visit his parents.

I desperately wanted to please them. So when they asked me if I liked lamb’s head, I enthusiastically said yes. Well, soon the brain, lightly seasoned and served with lemon was on the table. It then occurred to me what it actually was. Well, being the polite Canadian, I ate it, accompanied with the appropriate sounds of appreciation.

Of course, for them is was a delicious delicacy. I just had to try not to think about what I was eating. (Sandra McHugh)

Genealogy Ensemble and the Suffragettes

One hundred years ago this year, in 1920, ALL Canadian women finally won the right to vote. We will be celebrating that event (and its political undertones) in the next issue.

As it happens, Barb Angus has a soldier ancestor who was treated during WWI at a hospital in England run by suffragettes.  See A Soldier’s Fortunate Care. A while back, Barb was contacted by another author, Wendy Moore, researching the same subject for a book. Here’s an advert for Moore’s newly published book.


This is proof that researching family history isn’t merely an interesting and educative hobby. Our stories are often of use to the wider community, including other writers and academics.

End Note

 Indigenous Mothers, Fur Trader Fathers  by Jacques Gagné

If you have ancestors named Lacroix, you might have First Nations and French-Canadian ancestry, the result of a relationship between an Indigenous woman and a French fur-trader or soldier. Such relationships were common at the forts of New France, an area that at one time covered Quebec, Ontario, Michigan and Louisiana, as far as the Gulf of Mexico.

Many books and articles have been written over the past 100 years about these forts. Some are in French, others are in English, such as the following:


Starting with Étienne Brulé, voyageurs and ‘’truchements’’ (ambassadors and coureurs des bois) to the First Nations, including also François Marguerie, Jean Nicollet, Nicolas Marsolet, Pierre Esprit Radisson, René Robert Cavelier de La Salle, Louis Jolliet, Nicholas Perrot,  Médard Chouart Des Groseillers and Pierre Gaultier de Varennes Sieur de La Vérendrye were instrumental in the establishment of fur trading posts and/or forts français. Fur traders and coureurs-des-bois from Montréal, Lachine, Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Batiscan and Trois-Rivières would reside in these French forts, sometimes for only a few days, sometimes ‘’pour une saison’’ (over the winter months,) and when the ice broke up on the nearby rivers, they would continue their push toward the best fur regions.

Many of the children born of these relationships were raised in First Nations families, but baptized by Catholic missionaries in the regions in which French forts or/and fur trading posts were located. Because the mothers often did not know the fathers’ last names, the priests baptized the children using the family name of Lacroix, meaning the cross, in addition to other family names.

Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

%d bloggers like this: