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Genealogy Ensemble


A group of Montreal-based friends who meet monthly

to discuss genealogy and write about their ancestors


July/August 2019                                                  Newsletter  No 10

Orphans by Thomas Benjamin Kennington 

Wikipedia creative commons


 Out of Sight, Out of Mind


People emigrate from their ancestral places for many reasons, both good and bad. Some embark on this journey with enthusiasm for economic opportunity, intending to return home one day; others leave their homelands under great stress because of famine or persecution; and in many cases, individuals fly away in a fever because they’ve fallen in love with a foreigner.

In the case of Britain’s child migrants, or Home Children, there is little to slide onto the positive side of the ledger.

These unfortunate British boys and girls, children of the very poor, were sent overseas to Australia, New Zealand, Canada and other British colonies for ‘a better life’ as farm labourers or domestics over a 350 year period. Great Britain is the only country to have done this on a large scale.

Most of these British children were over seven, but some were even younger. Vulnerable as they were, many of these children suffered neglect and some suffered physical, psychological and sexual abuse.

According to Library and Archive Canada, over 100,000 of Britain’s neediest children were sent overseas to live and work in Canada between 1869 and the late 1930’s.

The very first children we brought to Niagara-on-the-Lake, Belleville and Galt in Ontario and to Knowlton in the Easter Townships of Quebec, but the program extended as far as Vancouver Island.

Britain’s child migration program continued into the 1960’s in Australia. Some former home children in that country are seeking reparations but as this report says, time is running out.

Are you a former British home child, or do you have one in your family tree?



Jacques Gagné’s Posts


Not Just for Genealogists.


Coureur de Bois by Cornelius Krieghoff. McCord Museum


Mr. Gagné has just posted the 6th  in a series of weekly articles about the merchants, fur traders and ship owners who did business with New France, from the time Jacques Cartier planted a French flag on the shores of the Gaspé in 1534 until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763 and New France became a British colony.

These articles are deep and rich with information and not to be missed if you are a Canadian history buff and/or a genealogist.

Books and Articles about the Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders of New France

Many books and articles have been written about the history of New France and the merchants who were involved in the fur trade. If you discover one of your ancestors worked for a trading company, was a coureur de bois or owned ships that transported furs and goods across the Atlantic, these publications might be of interest to you.

French Seaports and New France

During the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, the French competed with the British and Dutch for control of the fur trade in North America.

The Trading Companies of New France

The fur trade between the First Nations people of North America and the Europeans was central to the history of Canada and the United States.

The Merchants, Ship Owners and Fur Traders of New France, Part 1, A – G

There are a couple of versions of this story: in 1539, someone told the King of France that explorer Jacques Cartier had found gold and silver along the shores of the Saguenay River. Another source says that Cartier had only suggested there might be gold and silver in the Saguenay region. (It turned out to be fool’s gold.)

According to both sources, however, Cartier suggested that trading beaver pelts and other wild animal furs could become a great source of income for the king. Needless to say, the fur trade turned out to be a lucrative business that lasted for almost 250 years.

The Merchants and Fur Traders of New France, part 2, H to Z

In the days of New France and Acadia, a merchant, fur trader, private banker or ship owner was sometimes called a négociant, or dealer. Some négociants were based in Canada, but most had their headquarters in France.

And The Fur Trade: A Wealth of Resources


Quote Unquote

“George Bentley is eight years old. He worked a year; drives between; has 1 shilling per day. He lives in South Normanton and has a mile and a half to walk to the pit. He breakfasts before he leaves home. Goes down at half past eight, one hour dinner; three quarter days; half past six to seven. Half days, half past six to half past three or four, no dinner-hour allowed. He never works by night or Sunday. Has bread and fat for breakfast, bread, potatoes and sometimes bacon for dinner, bread and milk at night. This boy appears half-starved. I visited their homes, and it is the boys who are the most wretched.”

Lord Ashley’s 1942 inquiry into Child Labour



Our Latest Stories


Tracey Arial engages in some genealogy detective work using Presbyterian Church records to unravel a mystery around her great grandparents in Charlotte and Arthur’s Wartime Wedding. Why did they marry in a church basement in Toronto rather than in the local church around the corner in Weston?

What was it like to be a British boy in senior prep school on the eve of WWII? Read Dorothy Nixon’s fictional account of her father, Peter Nixon, at St. Bees School in Cumberland. To the Lighthouse is well-researched and from the heart. It is the first of a three-part story.

St. Bees Rugby Senior Team, 1939.



Mary Sutherland writes about her grandfather René Raquin, an immigrant from Switzerland who  became a Canadian curling luminary. Read all about René and gain some insight into the history of curling in Quebec, in Throwing Rocks.


Nostalgia Alert! Can one of the biggest breeds of dog fit in a snazzy 1964 Mustang convertible automobile? Find out by reading Lucy Anglin’s Great Danes and Convertibles. It’s all about her ‘tomboy’ Aunt Kay. Lucy also writes about her great-grandfather, a savvy speculator during Montreal’s financial heyday, in A Montreal Stockbroker.

Quilts and family history seem to go together, don’t they? You, yourself, might own an old quilt passed down in your family for generations. Read Barb Angus’s story Aunt Madge’s Quilt for an especially touching take on this classic theme in genealogy.

Barb also paints a sterling portrait of her tiny but super-tough grandmother, Jean Jamison Brodie, in Lead Crystal.

Claire Lindell describes a French Canadian ancestor who managed more than one ‘first’ in his illustrious life-time. Read all about this accomplished pioneer in Jacques Archambault, Ville Marie’s First Well-digger.

If you are an Archambault, he’s likely your ancestor, too.

Marian Bulford, who indexes old documents for the Church of Latter Day Saints, discovers all about the strange politics of funerals and the textile industry in 17th and 18th century England.  She tells us about it in Buried in Woolen. 

Marian also pens the sad tale of an ancestor who was suffering from mental illness in ‘A Moody Chef.

Janice Hamilton continues to write about the history of Montreal’s Mile End in John Clark, 19th Century Real Estate Visionary.  

And Sandra McHugh moves much further afield to Tinos, an island in the Cyclades, to write about her husband and his Italian/Greco ancestry in My Husband, a Rare Type of Greek. Why is her husband rare? Because he is a Roman Catholic and not Greek Orthodox. She also describes an intriguing island ritual in her story “Lifting Up.’


Summer Sojourns for Genealogists


All genealogists are time-travelers. As they scan online documents in their living rooms or offices, they may be carried back in their imaginations to, say, 1812 and a courtroom in Old Quebec, or to 1925 and an ocean-liner docked at Ellis Island.

The summer is when a genealogist often takes to the road to investigate their ancestral places, perhaps to snap a photo of a thatched-roof cottage in sunny Bretagne, to sip some sweet red wine with distant cousins in Abruzzo, or to climb the creaky stairs of a Victorian tenement in Manchester. Or maybe she takes a local day trip to a cemetery in Glengarry County or to a pub in Montreal’s Griffintown.

At Genealogy Ensemble we are no different.

Sandra McHugh, who has traveled as far as the Aegean to research her husband’s Greek roots (See the Dovecotes of Tinos) has this to say about her summer plans:  “My grandparents emigrated from Scotland in 1912 and settled in St. Henri. They eventually moved to Verdun. My daughter and I, together with my granddaughter, are planning to walk around St. Henri and Verdun this summer and explore where our ancestors lived. This would entail looking up all the addresses in Lovell’s and then figuring out whether the civic numbers changed. Montreal first revamped the civic numbers when Montreal was divided into east and west in 1906, with St. Laurent Boulevard as the dividing line. Then in 1926, there were more changes as St. Laurent was extended to the waterfront. This year may affect my ancestors’ moves. There was another minor renumbering in 1935-36.

 St-Henri Village 1859, McCord Museum photo

Tracy Arial explains: “ My travels won’t be too far afield—only to libraries in Ottawa. I’m planning several day trips to visit the National Archives, the Museum of History and the War Museum. I love day trips to Ottawa. I’m getting used to taking the bus, although sometimes I drive my husband to work and then take the car for slightly shorter days. I almost always have lunch at the Mill Street Brew Pub. It’s within walking distance of the archives and they have many gluten free options. Just telling you about it makes my mouth water.

Marian Bulford adds: This summer we go to visit our grandchildren in London. Louis, 8 and Molly 6 years old. Whilst there, I intend to visit a friend, in Aberdare, South Wales.  She will be taking me to Pembroke Docks for a few days where my grandfather’s uncle, my Great Grand Uncle Samuel, sailed for America and on to Utah after he converted to Mormonism in Wales.

I have a fascinating book, called  “Pembroke People’ by Richard Rose. The introduction to this book states:

“It deals in unrivaled detail with the men and women who lived in the ancient borough of Pembroke and with the newcomers who from 1813 onward came to work in the Dockyard and founded the town of Pembroke Dock. Every person who lived in the two towns between 1800 and 1837 is identified as a named individual and if possible placed in a structure showing or her occupation and family connections.”

Great Grand Uncle’s Father John O’Bray (or OBrey) is listed in the book with his wife, children, service in the dock, and property litigation, all of which I will be writing a story about later.


Here’s Lucy Anglin: My husband and recently returned from a visit to the UK. We hooked up with real live relatives who live near London for a family trip to Cornwall. So it was not your typical genealogy trip! One of our highlights was a tour of The Levant Mine. The countryside is littered with abandoned tin mines shafts. Our grand kids, ages 8 and 9-1/2, were spellbound as our tour guide relayed the detailed history of the mine. We were all horrified to hear about the use of and the importance of child labour. The grand kids even experienced going down one of the shafts. After that, the spectacular coastal cliff walks were just that much sweeter.  We also stopped in Porthleven. a lovely harbour town featured in some of Marian Bulford’s stories about her Grampy, who was the local constable.

And here’s Mary Sutherland: I have not traveled much for genealogy. Most of my research has been done in my recliner. A number of years ago I went to Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Toronto with my sister, looking for ancestors. We were able to find most but not all tombstones on our list, the best being great Grandmother and Grandfather Sutherland. That monument is wearing and the inscription was very hard to read until the sun broke through.  I now know there are other family members buried in that cemetery so there are others to visit.

Last summer I was going to drive to Grand Ligne, Quebec 50 kms away to find Ismael Bruneau’s grave but because of construction on the Mercier bridge, I never made it. I will try again this summer.

I also hope to travel all the way to Montreal’s east end to photograph the “La Fermiere” statue inspired by my eight-times great grandmother Louise Mauger and to Place d’Youville to photograph the memorial to her husband Pierre Gadois. This is an 18 km journey but because of all the construction and orange cones in Montreal, it could take all day.

My best trip was a visit to Carol MacIntosh Small my third cousin once removed in Denfield, Ontario. She was the source of much of my initial Sutherland information. We had communicated by email for many years so it was wonderful to finally meet in person.

Dorothy Nixon contributes this: In the past, I have made many a summer trek out to Richmond, Quebec to research my husband’s Nicholson/McLeod Isle of Lewis roots. It’s  a lovely trip in summer through beautiful hills.( Read Keeping Up with the Montgomerys).

This summer, though, I’ll likely take a shorter trip to the center of Montreal, to the Cinematheque’s library, to riffle through boxes filled with information about United Amusements, a local movie company connected to my mother’s Crepeau family.  Maybe I’ll take a walk in lovely Monkland Village, on a block of streets once referred to as  Montreal’s “Film Row.” I will explain all about that in a later post on Genealogy Ensemble.

Janice Hamilton corresponds in early June: We just came back from a week in the north of Ireland. Fun trip and beautiful countryside, but the troubles are not over in Northern Ireland. I didn’t do any specific genealogy research in preparation, or while I was there, but it really helps to visit a place and to understand the geography and the history of an area. I plan to do some follow-up research and write about my Irish ancestors eventually.

And, finally, Barb Angus describes an exciting overseas trip: Jim (her husband) and I are going on a tour of WWI battle sites in June. I will have photos and hopefully a story for the fall. I have also not written a story about our visit to the Orkneys last summer, the home of so many Hudson Bay Company employees including an ancestor of my son.


Links We Like


Home Children Lists





Sounds Interesting



CBC Radio Home Child Documentary on Home Children sent to Fairbridge in Vancouver Island. “There was no Love.”



Writing Tip


For many people, getting down to writing those first words of a story, essay or article can be paralyzing. Perhaps this has to do with negative programming from your school days.   Perhaps it’s an emotional block being dealt with.

Even seasoned writers can have writer’s block.

A good strategy authors often employ to combat this paralysis is to talk it out first. We think more freely when we speak out loud.  So, once you’ve done all the research and you are ready to assemble the bits and pieces into a coherent story, talk about it with a family member, friend or fellow genealogist/story-teller.

When something surprising falls from your lips, jot it down. Keep track of what facts or anecdotes the listener finds most compelling.

Be sure to pick a positive person to be your sounding board. You don’t want even more negativity thrown into your writing process.

Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories From Genealogy Ensemble, 2018, is available online at the Ontario Genealogical Society as well as on Amazon (Kindle).

Genealogy Tip


The Name Game


So, you are just getting started on your genealogical journey researching your Mom’s ‘Wood’  Puritan ancestors from Massachusetts when you discover something odd. Your great grandfather wasn’t a Wood from England, he was a Dubois from Terrebonne, Quebec. What a surprise!

Although many French Canadian names got ‘anglicised’ in the US, think Tibo or Lorando, some, like Dubois, got translated.

If you have German ancestors, surnames can be a real challenge. There are so many different spellings over the generations. For example, Schnapp becomes Schnepp or Shnapp or even Snapp.

And some citizens chose to make their surnames more ‘anglo.’ For example, the Greek Stephanos becomes Stevens.

Here’s list on Wikipedia of Anglicisation of Names: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anglicisation_of_names


Food for Thought



It is widely believed that the high-priced lobster, a ubiquitous sea-side delicacy, was once used only to feed the very poor, but this may be only a myth.

According to one academic source, lobster was caught and eaten by both French and English colonists of all social ranks since pioneering times, and the British liked to pickle lobster for a sauce to use on other seafoods.

Indeed, for a short time around the 1890’s, with the advent of canning technology, lobster was Canada’s premiere natural resource and employed many people along the Newfoundland and Nova Scotia coasts.

Before that, the Mic Mac harvested lobster, which they called Wolum Keeh, in abundance on the seashore, especially after a storm.

The bountiful harvests of lobster at the seashore these past seasons may be thanks to warming sea waters. According to the New York Times, this happy trend could end soon unless prudent maritime management is exercised.

So, enjoy the lobster while you can,all buttered up with some fine wine in a fancy restaurant or in a  roll on a blanket at the beach.

Is there a lobster fisher in your family tree?

Lobster Fisherman releasing females with eggs, 1911, Maine.



Genealogy by the Numbers


150,000 Estimated total number of Home Children sent out of Britain over the centuries:

100,000 Estimated total of children who came to Canada.

14,000. The number of Home Children brought to Canada by Annie Macpherson and her sisters

30,000 The number of children brought to Canada by John Barnardo’s organization, mostly to Peterborough and Toronto.

8-16 The average age in years of these Home Children, although some were younger.

50 The estimated number or organizations involved, including the Salvation Army and Quarrier’s.

2. The percentage of Home Children believed to be true orphans.


Genealogy in the News


Facing up to Child Labour

Sad Portraits and the Stories Behind Them


Child labour in pictures – The Lewis Hine Project – 5,000 photographs of American child labourers taken between 1908 and 1924 – and the stories behind some of the heart-breaking portraits researched in the modern era by retired social worker Joe Manning.



Happy Summer!

Annual Spring Luncheon with Friends.



Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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