A Pembroke Pioneer

Many years ago while visiting the red brick house with the huge front porch at 202 Isabella Street in Pembroke, I had little idea about the people who lived in that grand home.

Francois Evariste Fortin, my great grandfather spent his early years on the banks of the Ottawa River in Montebello Quebec.

Francois was born on the 6th of July 1845. At the age of twenty he married Adele Chevrier from Rigaud. She was also twenty. The marriage took place in Bon Secours Church in Montebello in mid-May of 1866. They settled in Hull, Quebec  where he was an innkeeper.

Several years later, in 1874 after the birth of Louisa, their third child, ( my grandmother) Francois, Adele and their children  moved up the Ottawa River to Pembroke, Ontario where the family grew. They had one son, Frank, who worked for Eastman Kodak in Rochester, New York and five daughters, Emma, Julia  (Sr. St. Gabriel) who became a Grey nun, Louisa, my grandmother, Alice who taught music for the City of New York until she was seventy-five and Aline who remained a spinster caring for her parents.

Francois began a business as a merchant-tailor and according to the  1881 and 1891 Census he had thirteen employees. Later census records indicate that he became a  contractor for the railroads and an inspector. He was actively involved with the Pembroke Southern Railway  (PSR) and an original director and in time was named Vice-President. Francois invested substantially in the PSR. The railway linked Pembroke to other local communities. It was eventually  bought out by C.N.R. and at the time became a spur line.

His interest in municipal affairs and a genuine  concern for the welfare of the town led him to run for town council and eventually  for the mayoralty in 1894. He was the first Mayor to serve three years in succession, 1894 – 1896. Francois-Evariste was also interested in politics and a staunch supporter of the Liberals. He worked tirelessly for the party.

Francois and his family were devout Roman Catholics. They would gather in their home each evening to recite the Rosary. He played an active role during the construction of Saint Columbkille Cathedral just blocks from their home. Along the way he  had a falling out with the Church and refused to participate in the evening recitation of the Rosary. He would seclude himself in his office. The family made certain that he could hear their prayers.

Over the years, Francois eventually was brought back in to the fold and made peace with the Church. He died less than two weeks before his ninety-first birthday, July 17th. He had lived in that community for sixty-two years. He was mourned by his family and the citizens of Pembroke alike and remembered as a well respected pioneer in the community. A Requiem High Mass was celebrated in Saint Columbkille. He is buried in the Roman Catholic Cemetery in Pembroke, beside his wife, Adele who predeceased him by ten years.

             Francois Evariste Fortin Adele Chevrier grave_edited-aaa

Bibliography:

Obituaries: The Ottawa Journal, July 7, 1936. p.10

Census of Canada 1851, 1871, 1881, 1891 1911, 1921

Interview with Madelyn Smith (Percival) 2011 my ninety year old cousin.

Canada Voter’s List 1935

Canadian Dominion Directory for 1871. John Lovell’s Province of Quebec Directory for 1871. Volume 1 p.998  John Lovell & Son, Montreal,1871

Ontario, Canada, Deaths,1869-1938 and Deaths Overseas 1838-1847

Copyright 2013 Drouin Institute (Lafrance) dlp_32631325.jpg

Le centre de genealogie francphone d’Amerique 1997-2006 GEDCOMn155 #Individu 19607

special thanks to fellow genealogist Oskar Keller for finding the grave.

Of interest:     Excerpt from The History of Pembroke  http://www.pembrokeontario..com/city-hall/history-of-pembroke#sthash.rCHphQZD.groK4XiT.dpuf/

Pembroke was the first town in Canada in which electric power was generated for commercial use. On October 8,1884 the very first street lights in Canada cast their glow down Pembroke Street. A small building on Pembroke Street east of the Muskrat River provided electricity for street lighting as well as for the factories in the Town.

In 2003 a fully redundant fibre optic cable was installed around Pembroke, enabling local businesses to work anywhere in the world – without leaving their desks- through a telecommunications infrastructure that is vital to remaining competitive in today’s global economy.

The Gift

 

Ashtabula Harbor

 

While checking my mailbox recently a much anticipated envelope  finally arrived. Although I was expecting it, when seeing the contents  I was blown away.

Genealogists are often  faced with brick walls. Sometimes it’s a date, other times a  change in a family name or the spelling of that family name, and often a  language problem.

Catherine Lev, a cousin I have never met,  had sent the envelope. She spent her early years living in Ashtabula, Ohio  where the ore boats would be filled with coal from the neighboring states. They would make their way up the Great Lakes. My father and his seven siblings grew up in that large Finnish community on the shores of Lake Erie. Catherine’s mother, Aunt Helen, a nurse, Dad’s sister had always maintained contact over the years. So too, did Catherine keep in touch with her Uncle Karl.

Facebook brought Catherine and me together. We communicate regularly using email. In one of the messages we came to the conclusion that we both had an interest in our families’ histories and genealogy. She shared the fact that she had done the family tree on the Lindell – Karhu families.

When I opened the envelope and glanced through it I was delighted. It contained a Compact disk, neatly labelled GEDCOM lindell karhu.ged 12/24/2013.  Christmas Eve! What a gift!   Although I was eager to check  out the CD,  time did not permit, so I set it aside with the hopes of viewing it later in the day. When I finally put it in the computer and opened  it I couldn’t believe  my eyes!  There were  over four hundred family members going back to Finland in the early 1800’s.  Births, marriages, deaths and places all neatly organized. Catherine used the program Roots Magic. Indeed it was and is all very magical for the neophyte genealogist who knew so little about her father’s side of the family. As Paul Harvey at the closing of his radio broadcasts would say ” Now you know the whole story.”

Catherine Lev lives in Missoula, Montana close to her daughter Harlean. We are about the same age, give  or take a couple of years.  We continue to maintain contact using email. If she did not live so far away I would give her the biggest hug. Someday perhaps we will meet.

Facebook to connect on and on and on.

Yes, we are all connected with our trees, and the web makes it so you can get lost as one page connects to the next and to the next…  We genealogists are so curious, we can lose entire days brousing.  But sometimes at the end of a treck, you hit what you didn’t know you were looking for but needed anyways.

Fumbling around Facebook today, I found lots I wasn’t looking for. On the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan Facebook Page, I discovered Katherine R Willson’s social media genealogy page  as I was following a lead historical and genealogical Facebook pages.  YES!  Browse throught the list and you may mingle with the right crowd gen-buffs on Facebook: the ones that can help you, the ones where cousins may be hiding, and the ones to keep on getting lost through genealogical maze on the web.  You may download the Facebook list but please keep the credits on each page.

Want to know more about genealogy, art and military family support?  Those are KATHERINE R. WILLSON’s favorite topics and she is writing a book about the use of Facebook as a genealogical research tool.  Member of many historical and genealogical societies, she is also a mixed media artist.  To know more about talks she gives, go to her social media genealogy page .

The French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan page helps us take walls (brick or other) down between Canada and USA to help our searches, and yes, there is a brickwall Facebook page

Facebook nous permet de rejoindre bien des gens, mais Katherine R. Willson nous aide a trouver ceux qu’on cherche: ceux qui peuvent nous aider ou des cousin.  Vous pouvez rencontrer cette conférencière sur sa page social media genealogy page .  La généalogie, le support de familles militaires et les arts sont ses sujets préférés.

Pour rendre Facebook encore plus utile, elle a compilé une liste de sites Facebook historique et généalogique que vous pouvez télécharger.  Elle nous prie de garder les crédits sur chaque page si nous diffusons cette liste.

C’est justement en me promenant sur Facebook, sur la page French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan que j’ai été référée a sa page.  Un autre lien Canada-Usa qui fait tomber des murs, de brique ou autres, page de Brickwall Facebook

Message in a web bottle

You may approach genealogical research like you would fishing — and just to bring it back to French-Canadians — ICE-fishing (OK I wrote the ICE word, but it’s going to warm up today!).  Instead of fishing with one rod, you set up as many lines as you can. The limit is how many you can check at a time… and how many holes you can dig before you are so hot you strip down to your t-shirt.

This is just what  a cousin did:

2001, Welland, Ontario: she sends on RootsWeb * a querry about my great-aunt Simone Viau-McDuff.  And waits.

2011, Laval, Québec: I’m poking around the web, put in Simone’s name into Google and find her message. Wow! For sure it’s the same person, but… the message is 10 years old!  No one keeps their e-mail address for that long. Too bad!

Still, I send my line to the water and reply. Next day, I get a reply.

Geraldine, daughter of my grandfather’s cousin, was jumping up and down in her living room when she got my message (just like I was when I got hers).

Like many Quebecers during the 20th century, her grandfather Philias Viau , had moved from Lachine to work in the Niagara region around 1904. He was my great-grandfather J. Francis Viau’s brother. They lost their French, but there are still some Wellanders that don’t speak English. The Welland canal was of great importance as a link between Lakes  Erie and Ontario. Many industries flourished along the canal, like The Electro Metallurgical Company unit of Union Carbide where Philias worked.

I went to visit Geraldine by train, learned about the region, met some great people. Among them, Renée Tetrault, a founding member of the Welland Branch of the Franco Ontarien Society of History and Genealogy now known as the Réseau du patrimoine franco-ontarien. Renée has served for more than thirty years as the expert who assists researchers at their Centre for Research in the Welland Public Library. She will describe the extensive holdings of their library in and offer suggestions for researching in Quebec.

Which leads me to introduce this French-Canadian resource: there are six regional centers in Ontario.  Three times a year they publish Le Chainon (paper or digital).  They have quite a few online resources (Ontario and other provinces including Quebec, and even American parishes) available to members, among which transcribed notarial records, BMS, cemetaries, family histories, cities and towns, census, archive guides, and a lot more.

Two things to remember:

When part of a family moves away, news and pictures are exchanged to keep in touch. Geraldine had pictures of my Montreal family that I had never seen and letters writen by my direct ancestors. The jewel: a cash book kept when Philias’ father Onesime Viau died in Lachine, where all spendings (lots of prayers in church) and income (rents) were described along with after-death inventory  and each child’s share of inheritance. The two of us were able to piece together family stories that individually we couldn’t figure out and dentify people on each other’s pictures.  Finding cousins will help you go up your tree in surprising ways.

Viau p
Onésime Viau and Antoinette Dorais with their children, Lachine, Québec

The other, send a lot of lines out, keep a log, follow up, but be patient. Be courteous, some will never bite, some are not interested. But dream big, don’t be stopped by logic and expect anything…fish come in many shapes and sizes, and even as messages in bottles.

* Rootsweb was one of the first online free cooperative genealogical resources. Ancestry has picked it up, but we can still go into archives or free.

Free public archives

No, it’s not just to get your attention, Archives publiques libres  is a group of people who believe archives should be free to search to all, and that, by the same token, if you put your information online to share with others, it is not so a company grabs your info to sell to others.

gratuit genealogieFollow them on Facebook 

On their webpage, they explain their position, list actions they take or that we can take to maintain a genalogical world accessible to all…

I really appreciate their inventory of free genealogical resources: simply click on maps and access lists fromFrance and around the world.  You can also find press releases, tips for using internet etc.

Hiding to read that kind of newspaper?

Readers always loved those stories, but…they would rather not admit it.

Shocking News

Vicky Lapointe, graduate historian from Sherbrooke University, signs a special newspaper blog.  She combs through Quebec old newspapers to present us with crimes and catastrophies, francophones from outside Quebec and some pictures, medicine, history and patrimonial buildings.

It is suprising to see what kind of news would make the paper a century or two ago, how people responded, and yes…what strange crimes were being commited.  I also enjoy reading about events that are now part of history, as they happened.

Read Patrimoine, Histoire et Multimédia

 

Empty Boxes

A sense of dread enveloped me on hearing David’s words: “Paige is the first of our generation with Alzheimer’s.” David and Paige are my cousins, the sons of my mother’s eldest sister Madge. Alzheimer’s has long held a dark grip on my family.

Madge died young as did her brother Clark. The remaining five siblings lived to seventy and beyond and all died with Alzheimer’s. Family clusters like this are unusual, my doctor assures me, and likely linked to something in the environment. The Willetts were born and raised on a farm in the Gaspe. Perhaps the trigger was something like drinking unpasteurized milk, my doctor suggested. Good, I’m a city girl and have always consumed pasteurized milk. But wasn’t that also true of Paige?

I was witness to the slow progression of the disease in my two aunts and my mother. Violet was the first to be moved to a nursing home when her sister Kathleen could no longer care for her. Eventually she appeared to have forgotten everything, even how to eat. She died when a feeding tube perforated her throat.

Kathleen was next. Frequently she tried to escape her home. Once she was found wandering miles away in a seedy section of the city. Someone drove her to the address on a letter in her purse, her old apartment. The new tenant invited her in to wait while the police searched their missing people’s files. Evidently the two women had a lovely afternoon chatting about their world travels, the tenant seemingly unaware of my aunt’s dementia. Social skills are said to be the last to disappear. Kathleen died of pneumonia, “the old people’s friend” my mother called it. Years later it was difficult for me to give my consent for mum to have a pneumonia vaccine.

My mother’s Alzheimer’s accelerated rapidly following my father’s death. For a while she was aware of her confusion struggled to regain control. She railed against going to a home and accused me of kicking her out of her house. “Take me home” she would cry again and again. “That’s where my umbrella is. And my memory.” In the end, she forgot who I was and that she was ever angry with me. Time and memory became short circuited. She searched for her own mother in the rooms of the home asking constantly why she hadn’t come to visit her.

My mother died peacefully at the age of ninety-four. By that time she too would not eat or drink and her words made no sense. But Alzheimer’s treatment had advanced. There was no force feeding, just gentle care and comfort from family and staff in her own room and in her own bed with soft music in the background. We no longer prolong the dying of Alzheimer’s patients but travel with our loved ones on their final journal. I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath.

A few years earlier my husband and I had emptied mum’s house and put it on the market. I’m still haunted by the image of the empty boxes we found stored in the basement: big boxes and small boxes, cardboard boxes and boxes covered in velvet, blue Birks boxes and boxes from the St. Hubert Barbeque. The boxes were the remainders of a lifetime of experiences. But the boxes were empty, a very powerful metaphor for the effects of Alzheimer’s. Today I am healthy and my memory boxes are full. So I write of memories, my own memories and the stories of my family that I have researched. If one day my memories are lost, my boxes will hold the record.

Madge Alexandra Willett Whitney 1902-1941 (39 years)
Clarke Stanford Willett 1912-1960 (48 years)
Violet Gwendolyn Willett 1903-1983 (80 years)
Kathleen MacDonald Willett 1907-1991 (84 years)
Marion Geraldine Willett Angus 1917 -2011 (94 years)

Also:
George Ralph Willett 1905-1983 (78 years)
Keith Arthur Willett 1910-1980 (70 years)

To grow a life-size tree, you grow a family

My good friend Joel Bergeron’s grand-father moved to Temiscamingue early in the 20th century.

Their descendants still meet annually at their cousin’s farm.  The most beautiful tree grows on this farm.

It’s painted on the side of the barn; its trunk has their grand-parents’ names at the base.

arbreP

Wooden apples sit at the base of the main branches:  each pair of apples represents a couple and another branch on the tree.  Along each branch sits an apple for each child and his or her spouse. From each of these grows a smaller stem that in turn holds apples for each of their kids.

arbrdetp

Every year, the entire family comes to the farm from Ontario, Quebec, where-ever they live… to feed that tree with joy.

Un arbre généalogique pleine grandeur!  C’est celui des Bergeron qu’on retrouve sur la grange d’un cousin.  Les grand-parents se sont installés au Témiscamingue au début du 20e siècle.  Leurs noms sont à la base du tronc.  A chaque embranchement, deux pomme pour un de leurs enfants avec son conjoint.  La branche qui y pousse, contient les pommes des enfants de ceux-ci, et les petites branches, de leurs petits enfants.  Et toute cette famille se réuni chez ce cousin, quelques jours, chaque année, parce que la famille, ça se cultive!

Cherishing memories

My paternal grandparents immigrated to Montreal from Scotland in 1912 and settled in Pointe St. Charles. They moved every few years and, as the family became a little more prosperous, they moved to Verdun. I grew up listening to family stories that took place in Verdun.

Kathryn Harvey, a Montreal historian, has posted this an article about the Verdun Memories project on the web site montrealmosaic.com.

http://montrealmosaic.com/reflection/verdun-memories

Kathryn Harvey and Leila Marshy put together a short film shot about Verdun Memories called Cutting, pasting and remembering. This film is about the memories and also about the joy of sharing these memories with others. You can view this film at:

http://www.verdunmemories.org/

Researching Your Ancestors in France

Map of France 1740
Map of France 1740

 Are you researching your ancestors? Do you want to know what part of France they came from;  where they began their journey to New France?  If so, you might be interested in the new group formed by members of the Quebec Family History Society (QFHS).

The France Research Special Interest Group meets every 4th Sunday of the month at 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm at the QFHS Library and Center at 173 Cartier Avenue in Pointe-Claire, Quebec  just off of Highway 20 (opposite the CLSC).

QFHS members are welcome  to join  these monthly meetings.  Together, in a friendly and informal setting, new and experienced genealogists gather to discuss our French ancestors. The focus of the group is to share researching techniques available on the Internet. France has a wealth of free websites containing numerous databases and extensive archives  for each of the 95 departments dating back in time to  the 1500s.

If you are not a member and are interested in joining the group or want know more about QFHS, visit the website at www.qfhs.ca.

Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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