The Pitfalls of a Neophyte Genealogist

Who was my third grandmother? Which one of these women married Moyse Hypolite  Fortin? Were they cousins? Were there mistakes in the information I was finding? I needed answers.

Genealogy requires exact details and facts in order to get the story right. As a new genealogist I learned this very quickly.

In the case of my third great grandmother there were conflicting reports. One day I would find Henriette Bertrand in Ile Perrot and then later find an Henriette Bertrand in Vaudreuil. The dates varied by only two years and they fit in with the time frame of my third great grandfather.

The two communities are very close to one another, a matter of only a few kilometers.

It soon became apparent that there were in fact two Henriettes. I found the baptismal  document on line for Henriette 2. The discovery made me realize that perhaps I had been researching the wrong person.

At this point I needed clarification. I made a visit to Centre d’histoire La Presqu’íle in Vaudreuil and was able with the help of the archivist learn for certain which of the Henriettes was the correct one. Now I had what appeared to be a monumental task ahead. Research had  been done for Henriette 1 thinking she was the right person.  Now, this lineage was of little value as she was not one of my ancestors. This meant  starting over with Henriette 2 and tracing her line.

The archivist was very helpful finding documentation and pointing out the right direction to proceed.

This was indeed a valuable lesson and I am grateful having  learned it early on in my research. It has constantly been a reminder that before making the next move, make certain you have as many exact verified facts as possible  about the particular person you are researching. That way you can avoid  mistakes.

The following two documents were found on Ancestry-Drouin Collection


Baptism Henriette Bertrand



Registres paroissiaux et Actes d’état civil du Québec (Collection Drouin), 1621 à 1967

Name: Henriette Bertrand
Event: Enterrement (Burial)
Burial Year: 1815-1900
Burial Location: Montebello, Québec (Quebec)

Source Information: Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations

Inc, 2008.

Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.

Comparison of data for the two Henriettes

Henriette Bertrand   1                                                                    Henriette Bertrand 2

Born:  December 28, 1811 in Vaudreuil                                  Born March 7, 1813 in Ile Perrot

—————————————                                                       Died November 5, 1838

Mother:  Apoline St. Julien                                                           Mother:  Scholastique Sabourin

Born: Nov 6. 1783 in Vaudreuil                                                 Born:  1789 in Rigaud

Died:  Aug 2, 1834 in Vaudreuil                                                 Died:  July 28 1821 in Rigaud

—————————————                                                       Married: September 12 1831 in Montebello

Father:  Francois Vital Bertrand                                                  Father: Francois Joseph Bertrand

Born:  Jan 4, 1780 in Vaudreuil                                                   Born 1784

Died:  July 11, 1859 in St. Joeph du lac                                      Died:  1832 in Ste Justine de Newton

In 1832 Henriette  2   married Moyse Hypolite Fortin, my third great grandfather. She died November 5, 1838 at the age of twenty-five  in Montebello,  having given him a daughter, Leocadie Fortin, my great-grandmother and a son, Louis.


               Centre d’histoire La Presqu’íle

Achives regionales de Vaudreuil Soulanges

431 BC St. Charles

Vaudreuil-Dorion J7V 2N3

French Canadians in Ontario

French Canadians in Ontario

This compilation “French Canadians in Ontario” consists of lists of the many of the churches throughout Ontario where our French Canadian ancestors migrated and explains where the document of births, marriages and deaths are located for the many parishes.

This compilation is a useful tool for those who may not know exactly where these records are now located. Many can be found at BanQ, the national archives located on Viger Street in Montreal, Quebec.


Highlight the file below and right click to open link in a new window

The French Canadians in Ontario

Who Was Phineas Bagg?



I wrote this article as a self-assigned exercise in applying genealogical proof standards (GPS) to a brick wall.

Following GPS procedures, I did a reasonably exhaustive search of the evidence. For each statement I made, I included a source citation. I tried to resolve conflicts and write a conclusion. I also evaluated the weight of each piece of evidence, depending on whether it was direct or indirect, original or derivative, or primary or secondary. (See an explanation of GPS by Christine Rose,

The problem is that there is no birth or baptismal record for my four-times great-grandfather Phineas Bagg (c.1750-1823). I wanted to prove that he was the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley. In addition, there were several men named David Bagg in western Massachusetts at the time, so I wanted to show which David Bagg was Phineas’ father. It was possible to undertake a research project like this because the Baggs of colonial Massachusetts were limited in numbers and in geographical area. There is a great deal of information about this population, although record-keeping in Pittsfield was poor.

In the end, I decided that I could not make a conclusive statement about Phineas’ parents, but I found nothing to indicate that he was not the son of David and Elizabeth. In fact, circumstantial evidence suggests that he was their son.

As for the GPS exercise, it was a great deal of work. Citing all those sources took almost as long as writing the article. I’m not sure that I would go to such lengths to tackle another brick wall, but evaluating each piece of evidence was extremely helpful.

This article is also posted on my own blog,

Questions: There is no record of the birth or baptism of my 4x great-grandfather Phineas Bagg. When and where was he born? Was he the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley?

The Baggs were a large extended family in western Massachusetts during the colonial period, approximately 1650 to 1790. The first immigrant, John Bagg, married in Springfield in 16571 and each subsequent generation produced many children. Phineas (c 1751-1823) was part of the fourth generation. By 1790, there were 19 different families headed by a male Bagg in Massachusetts, primarily in the towns of West Springfield, Westfield and Pittsfield.2 Fortunately, there was only one Phineas Bagg3, which makes him easier to track.

There are several possibilities for his identity: he could have been the son of David Bagg of Westfield and later Pittsfield as most researchers suggest; he could have been the son of a related Bagg; or he could have been adopted.

David Bagg was born in Westfield, MA on 19 Feb. 1717, the tenth and youngest child of Daniel Bagg and Hannah Phelps.4 On 12 May 1739, David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley announced their intention to marry in Westfield.5

Although both West Springfield and Westfield generally kept good birth and baptismal records, there is a minimal possibility that Phineas was born to another Bagg family and slipped under the radar. David’s brother Daniel Bagg and his wife Abigail, of Westfield, had six children: Daniel, 1735, Moses 1737, Abigail 1738, Roger 1740, Ann 1746 and Naomi 1750.6

There were at least five other young Bagg families in the area between 1740 and 1755. In Springfield, David Bagg and his wife Hannah Stockwell had three children: Noah, born in 1740, who died at age six, Mercy born 1746 and Mary in 1748.7

In West Springfield, Ebenezer Bagg and his wife Lois produced five children: Thankfull in 1749, Frederick in 1750, Warham in 1752, Walter in 1754, Ebenezer in 1756 and Judah 1758.8

West Springfield residents Thomas and Margaret Bagg had Thomas in 1749, Israel in 1752 and Oliver in 1754. In addition, their son Ezekiel was born 1755 died at age three and they had another son they called Ezekiel in 1761.9

James and Bathsheba Bagg of West Springfield, had Bathsheba in 1745, James in 1746 and Jonathon in 1748.10

There was another young David Bagg family in West Springfield, however, I have not found a marriage and mother’s name did not appear in the children’s baptism records; they are simply listed as son or daughter of David Bagg. These children were: David bap. Sept 18 1737, Hannah bap. July 15 1739, Aaron bap. Oct 28 1740, Mercy bap. Jan 19 1746 and Mary bap. Jan 19 1748.11

It is unlikely that Phineas was orphaned or given up for adoption and raised by David and Elizabeth. I have so far been unable to find any references to adoption practices in colonial Massachusetts, but there would likely have been a paper trail and I have not run across any legal guardianship documents concerned with Phineas.

Assuming that he was the son of David and Elizabeth, when was Phineas born? Most sources say he was born around 1750 or 1751. The best evidence for his date of birth comes from the record of his burial at Montreal’s Anglican Christ Church. Dated Nov. 3, 1823, it says, “Phineas Bagg esq of Montreal, merchant, died on the 31 day of November [sic] 1823, aged 72 years, and was buried on the 3rd day of November following by me. John Bethune, rector.” 12 (The minister made a mistake on the date of death: it was actually 31 October.) Neither of his sons signed as witnesses, so it is not clear whether any family members were present. Thus, although the source is original, the information is secondary.

David and Elizabeth had seven children baptized in Westfield: Elizabeth baptized 1741, Joseph 1741, Rachel 1742, Martin 1745, Eunice 1746, Abner 1748 and Aaron baptized 11 March 1750.13 If Phineas was born in 1751, this would have fit the pattern of Elizabeth having a baby every year or two.

Where was Phineas born? Probably Westfield, since David Bagg is not listed among the early landowners of Pittsfield.14 Pittsfield was a newly settled town in the Berkshire Hills, on the western frontier of the colony, about 50 miles from Westfield. David Bagg is thought to have moved there not long after 176415 but more research needs to be done on David Bagg’s land records in Westfield and Pittsfield to try to establish a time-line.


Another question arises here: there were several men named David Bagg in this time period. Was Elizabeth Moseley’s husband the same David Bagg who moved to Pittsfield after her death? The answer is probably yes. David Bagg jr., son of David and Hannah of Springfield died in 1756 in his 19th year.16 David Bagg, son of Jonathon Bagg of Springfield, died in 1760 in his 50th year.17 (Perhaps he was the David Bagg who had five children born in West Springfield.)

There was one more David Bagg: David Bagg, born Westfield to Mary Sacket, March 27, 1739.18 I have found no other records concerning him.

Following Elizabeth’s death, David Bagg of Westfield moved to Blandford, Mass,19 where he married Martha Cook, the widow of John Dickinson, on June 25, 1761.20 She died a year later. After he moved to Pittsfield, David married a third time, to Ruth Tupper.21 There is no record of his death.

Because David and his sons seem to be the main Bagg family in the Berkshires, the presence of Phineas in Pittsfield is a circumstantial argument that supports his being one of David’s sons. In the 1790 federal census (the first such census taken), Daniel Bagg, Martin Bagg and Phineas Bagg were counted in Pittsfield while David’s other known son Joseph appeared in nearby Lanesborough.22 However, there two other Baggs for whom there are no baptismal records, but who lived in Pittsfield in the 1770s through 1790s. Elijah Bagg turned up in tax23 and marriage records and Daniel Bagg was listed as a soldier during the Revolution24 and in other records.

During the War of the American Revolution, Phineas, David, Martin and Daniel Bagg all fought with Pittsfield regiments, while Aaron marched from nearby Lanesborough and Joseph was a Lieutenant in a Berkshire company.25 A paper titled “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough”, written in 1918 by William A. Cooper, husband of Mary Bagg, noted that, in 1776, David Bagg marched to Albany in Capt. William Francis’ company, “and his son Phineas went with him”.26 However, given that this was written more than 100 years later, this statement carries little weight.

The next record of Phineas was his intention to marry Pamela Stanley, dated 21 March 1780 in the vital records of Pittsfield.27 If he was born in 1751 he would have been 29 at the time. I did not find records of the baptisms of their children, nor did I find a mention of Pamela’s death in the church records.28

Times were tough in post-revolutionary Western Massachusetts, and Phineas was caught in a credit crunch. Because of his debts, he lost much of his property to pay off his creditors.29 He headed north with his four children and a new woman. By 1798, Phineas was an innkeeper in La Prairie, Lower Canada, where he and Ruth Langworthy had two children baptized in the local Catholic church.30

Finally, how are the dots between Phineas Bagg of Pittsfield connected to the man who was an innkeeper in La Prairie and died in Montreal? First, a search of databases available on and indicates there was only one man named Phineas Bagg. Second, there is a record of Ruth Langworthy and her parents in Pittsfield.31 Third, when sons Stanley and Abner Bagg were baptized as Anglicans in Christ Church, Montreal in 1831, they both gave their birthplace as Pittsfield.32 In addition, in her 1856 will, Sophia Bagg Roy mentioned that Abner and Stanley were her brothers and Lucie Bagg was the “natural daughter of my father Phineas Bagg.”33

In conclusion, there is considerable evidence to suggest that Phineas Bagg was born in 1751 in Westfield, the son of David Bagg and Elizabeth Moseley, however, most of this evidence is indirect, from derivative sources and secondary information, so it is inconclusive. I found no evidence that conflicts with this hypothesis. The next step is to do more research on Pittsfield deeds to see whether David transferred any of his property to Phineas, and to see whether there are any other resources I have missed.



  1. Henry M. Burt, The First Century of the History of Springfield. The Official Records from 1636 to 1736, with an Historical Review and Biographical Mention of the Founders. Volume II. Springfield, Mass: printed and published by Henry M. Burt, 1899. p. 524.
  2. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch. Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)
  3. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.

Year: 1790; Census     Place: Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M637; Roll: 4; Page: 483; Image: 526; Family History Library Film: 0568144. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)


  1. Westfield, MA: Birth and Death Records. (Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Abstraction of original records, donated to NEHGS by Harold T. Dougherty. “Westfield Birth and Death Records as Obtained From the Files at City Hall, Westfield,” donated 1937) (accessed Jan. 13, 2013)
  2. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook). (accessed Jan 14, 2013)
  3. Ibid.
  4. Springfield births: Vital Records of Springfield, Massachusetts to 1850. Boston, Mass.: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2002. (Online database. New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2008.) (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
  5. West Springfield:     Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
  6. Ibid
  7. Ibid
  8. Ibid
  9. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
  10. Westfield, MA: Baptisms Performed in the Church of Christ, 1679–1836 (Online database., 2003.) (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)
  11. J.E.A. Smith, The History of Pittsfield, (Berkshire County,) Massachusetts, From the Year 1734 to the Year 1800. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1869. p. 125-128. (accessed Jan. 13, 2013)
  12. Smith. Ibid. p. 476
  13. West Springfield Deaths. Massachusetts Vital Records to 1850 (Online Database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2010). (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
  14. Ibid.
  15. Westfield, MA: Birth and Death Records. (Online database: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003), (Abstraction of original records, donated to NEHGS by Harold T. Dougherty. “Westfield Birth and Death Records as Obtained from the Files at City Hall, Westfield,” donated 1937) (accessed Jan. 19, 2013)
  16. 19. William A. Cooper, “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough, Mass” Conshohooken, Pa.: unpublished, 1918. p. 10
  17. Ibid.
  18. Massachusetts, Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011. Original data: Town and City Clerks of Massachusetts. Massachusetts Vital and Town Records. Provo, UT: Holbrook Research Institute (Jay and Delene Holbrook). (accessed Jan. 20, 2013)
  19. 1790 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2010. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.Original data: First Census of the United States, 1790 (NARA microfilm publication M637, 12 rolls). Records of the Bureau of the Census, Record Group 29. National Archives, Washington, D.C.Year: 1790; Census Place: Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M637; Roll: 4; Page: 483; Image: 526; Family History Library Film: 0568144. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)

23. Massachusetts and Maine 1798 Direct Tax. (Online database., New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2003.) Original manuscript: Direct tax list of 1798 for Massachusetts and Maine, 1798. R. Stanton Avery Special Collections, New England Historic Genealogical Society, Boston, MA. (accessed Jan 14, 2013)

24. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution, 17 Vols. [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 1998. Original data: Secretary of the Commonwealth. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution. Vol. I-XVII. Boston, MA, USA: Wright and Potter Printing Co., 1896. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)

25. Ibid. (accessed Jan. 12, 2013)

26. William A. Cooper, “The James Bagg Family of Lanesborough, Mass” Conshohooken, Pa.: unpublished, 1918.

27. Jay Mack Holbrook, Massachusetts vital records to 1850: Pittsfield, 1761-1899 [microform]. Oxford, Mass: Holbrook Research Institute, 1983.

28. Records of the First Church, Pittsfield, Mass. Rollin H. Cooke Collection. Berkshire County, Mass. Reel #2, vols 26 and 27.

29. Land records, Middle District, 1761-1925 Berkshire County [microform] Salt Lake City, Utah: Genealogical Society of Utah, 1771, 1991.

30. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 14 2013)

31. William Franklin Langworthy, compiler, The Langworthy Family. Some descendants of Andrew and Rachel (Hubbard) Langworthy, who were married at Newport, Rhode Island November 3, 1658. Published by William F. and Orthello S. Langworthy, Charles St. Hamilton, N.Y.

32. Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin. (accessed Jan. 14, 2013)

33. Labadie, Joseph-Augustin. 14278. 18 Mai 1856. Testament de Dame Sophia Bagg veuve de l’Honorable Gabriel Roy.



Life Decisions

A simple act followed by a statement can be life-changing. Such was the case for Kaarlo.

Several  years of study at Michigan College of Mines in Houghton, Michigan had prepared Kaarlo, a young Finnish boy from Ashtabula, Ohio  for a career in the mining industry. He had worked as a cook on the ore boats on the Great Lakes and knew he wanted something more fulfilling, much as he loved sailing the lakes.

In 1928 he graduated with a degree in Mining  Engineering. There was a job waiting for him at  Royal Tiger Gold Mines in Breckenridge, Colorado. He packed his Model T Ford and set out for the west with high hopes and dreams of creating a good life, doing something he truly enjoyed.

It wasn’t long after arriving at the mines that he found the owner-manager tampering with the assays (the device used to measure gold). Once the owner realized that the young man was aware of his actions, he ordered him to be “out of town by sundown!”.  Kaarlo didn’t back down and stated that he would leave as soon as he could get his car on a railroad car to carry it  over the mountains.

Dreams of working in the gold mines were crushed. Being young and a go-getter,  he immediately contacted the College to see if they knew of any openings for newly graduated engineers. They responded that there were openings in Canada in the nickel mines in Copper Cliff, Ontario.  It was time to head north.


                                    The Big Nickel in CopperCliff, Ontario,  now part of Greater Sudbury

Kaarlo Victor Lindell crossed in to Canada on the 31st of January 1929 at Bridgeburg, Ontario1 with hopes and dreams of a rewarding career and a new challenge. He found a room in a boarding house and began working for the  International Nickel  Company(INCO) and never looked back. He spoke Finnish and soon made friends with his coworkers, among them many Finns. His employer took advantage of his knowledge of Finnish and in 1934 was sent to Northern Finland where he was actively involved in opening a nickel mine in Petsamo. In 1939 that part of Finland was seized by the Russians.

Along the way he met a pert, pretty, vivacious young lady, named Estelle (Esty) and sought her hand. They were married on September 6th 1930 in Sudbury. In the meantime Kaarlo had legally changed his name to Karl and took religious instruction in the Catholic faith having been a Lutheran all his life.

In 1939 with WW11 on the horizon Karl wanted to serve his new country. He became a naturalized citizen on the 8th of August 19392, however, with four children and a fifth on the way,  (me) his services were needed in the nickel  industry. He remained at work for INCO. Nickel production was crucial for ammunition during the war years.


Royal Tiger Gold Mines thrived from 1918 and into the 1930s, however, it declared bankruptcy in 1938 and in 1973 the town and all the buildings in it were torched to keep the “hippies” from squatting.

Northern Ontario, on the other hand has over time developed  and prospered.

It is interesting to speculate how Kaarlo’s life might have been, especially  if he had stayed in Colorado?


I would not be here to tell the story!


Étiennette Alton: A Marriageable Woman

Business people, merchants and the church recruited 262 French woman who agreed to travel to New France and set up families with strangers before Louis IV decided to set up his “filles du Roi” (daughters of the King) project in 1663.

My ancestor Étiennette Alton was among these women, who are now collectively known as “les filles a marier” (marriageable daughters). Étiennette was a 20 year-old orphan[1] living in France’s Loire Valley when she was recruited by Claude Robutel, the 39-year-old Sieur de Saint Andre and one of 95 surviving members of the “Company of 100 Associates”. Three years earlier he had sailed to Quebec as part of the Grande Recrue and settled in Ville Marie to protect it from Iroquois attack. Robutel returned to France in February 1659 to marry Suzanne Gabriel and search for potential spouses for the other soldiers. Étiennette and others agreed to marry, have children, and ensure the future viability of the settlement of Ville Marie. In return, the company paid the cost of her journey and provided her with a small dowry to set up a household. Étiennette joined Robutel and his wife for an ocean voyage to New France. The Saint-André left La Rochelle on July 2, 1659 and arrived in Quebec on September 7. It took another 22 days to get to Ville Marie via a small boat known as a “chaloupe.” [2] Étiennette Alton wed Marin Hurtubese in Notre Dame Basilica on January 7, 1660. Claude and Suzanne were among their witnesses. Ten months later, their first son Pierre was born. Over the following twelve years, the couple had three more boys, including my direct ancestor Louis, and two girls. Marin died either on Valentine’s Day or on May 12, 1672. On June 13 that same year, she wed Berthelemy Vinet dit La Reinte and moved to the fief de Verdun outside of Ville Marie on the Île de Montréal. Vinet worked for Jean-Baptiste Migeon, an activist who went to jail for accusing the Governor of Montreal of breaking fur-trading laws and then was himself accused of breaking the same laws. Vinet died on November 18, 1687 and Étiennette was alone again, but only for a little longer than a year. She signed a contract to marry Claude Garigue, a man 13 years her junior on December 13, 1688. By the following April, she tried to enter a convent but ended up getting married anyway on October 18, 1689. The couple legally separated three years later after Étiennette testified in court about regular spousal abuse. “My husband hit me with sticks, his fists and his feet; he threw me to the ground, and wanted to butcher me by trampling me with his feet.”[3] She ran from this particular incident to the home of her children. Garigue died a year later, four days before Christmas 1693. Étiennette lived for another 29 years. She died just before Christmas in Notre Dame Hospital at 84 years old.

[1] Gagné, Peter J., Before the King’s Daughters: The Filles a Marier, 1634-1663 (Pawtucket, RI: Quintin Publications, 2002,) p 318 Includes a translation of the bride and groom’s marriage contract by Bénigne Basset a clerk in Ville-Marie. In it, Etiennette Alton’s parents, Francois Alton and Étiennette Barillay, are described as “late.”   *Note that a previous version of this story did not include this source.
[2] The dates of Étiennette Alton’s journey to Quebec and Montreal and the ship she sailed on come from a report prepared for my grandmother by genealogiste Paul-André Langelier in 1996. The report also says she was an employee of Claude Robutel. The report also includes the fact that Etiennette was baptised on Saturday November 13, 1638 at the Saint-Thomas a La Flèche church and that six other brothers and sisters were baptised in the same location. Two sisters are apparently buried there.
[3] A court case to consider their separation took place on January 14, 1692.

My Family History


Handcart Pioneers Postcard pg. 1 - 1939_thumb[1]

Handcart Pioneers Postcard pg. 2 - 1939_thumb[2]

by Marian Bulford

My family history includes, like most peoples’ history, twists and turns and coincidences that sometimes defy belief. In the 1970s, my family and I were living in Geneva, Switzerland, when we had a visit from the ‘Mormons’ doing their proselytizing door to door. Because we were in a non-English speaking environment and they were from the USA, we invited them in. Over the course of a few months, we became great friends and we decided to explore the church’s history with them.

One day, whilst talking to them, they mentioned Salt Lake City as the ‘Zion’ of the church, and how the early Pioneers who had left their homes and families to trek across the US to get to Salt Lake City, Utah. That name Salt Lake City brought back a memory. When I was 11 years old, I lived with my Grandparents for a few years and my Grandfather used to ask me to go to the post office to post his letter to a Salt Lake City address. I remember it so well because in the 1950s Air Mail letters were treated differently from normal mail, and I had to have this important missive weighed and stamped before it could be posted, so it made quite an impression. I remember thinking ‘where was Salt Lake City, and why and who was my Grandfather writing too? Of course, by the time I arrived home again, the questions were forgotten.

Now, years later in the 1970’s the question arose again, so I called my Grandfather Percival Victor O’Bray (The English branch spell it with an apostrophe unlike the USA branch who spell it without) and asked him about the letters and to whom he had been writing.

He replied that ‘Well, you know the Americans, they are always doing their genealogy and one day, I received this letter from a lady, telling me I was related to her, I was a distant third cousin’ I questioned him further and he said they had corresponded for a number of years, and at one point, she had sent him a ‘Family Tree’ all handwritten then, of course and started in 1717 to my grandfather’s day. I was very excited by this and asked him, if, when we next came home could I see the ‘Family Tree and read the letters. He replied that I could have the letters and the Family Tree, he had no further use for them, and he would post them to me.


The Family Tree sent to my Gramps by his third cousin Ellen Louise Gibby Facer in Utah in the early 1950s.

Starting Family Genealogy

I think that started my interest in genealogy and research. The next time I went ‘home’ I questioned my grandparents and family at length, recorded their voices and wrote out the names and birth dates of the family. My Grandparents – who threw nothing out – gave me some marvellous 1800’s photos of family members. On the back, I wrote who these people were, most important because shortly after that, we moved to Canada, and genealogy was put on the back burner in a box, for a number of years.

32 years later a renewed interest came when we met some UK friends again, and members of the Church of Latter- Day-Saint or Mormons. We talked about genealogy, but with young families and busy lives, that was all we did, talked about it, but, never really did any more research.  About 8 years ago, we decided the time had come, and we met and researched together. Our friends invited us to their church’s’ “Centre of Family History” in LaSalle, Quebec, Canada to do some real research with them.

Finding Family Skeletons

I found the Family History Centre a wonderful place. Free to anyone at certain times it has most of the current genealogy web sites online open for free. Books, microfiche and copies of records can be researched, with help from church members if needed. It was a quiet peaceful place and we got to spend some time with friends, have lunch and do some family history together. Our friends were a great help, as the Church recommends that its members do family history so they are very experienced. I recalled all the information I had amassed in the 1970s and had no idea how to put it all together. Now I had a chance to do that. I was pleased with how I had named all the photos as it was a wonderful tool to enable me to search online for family members.

I decided to start with the mysterious ‘Family Tree’ from the USA. It was so exciting to be able to put in full names, birth dates and areas to search. I was grateful to the previous Missionaries that advised us to label and date all information as we received it. A really great tip!

My Grandfather was born in Pembroke Dock, Wales and his Great-Grandfather had, as was usual, a large family. Two of those sons, my Grandfathers’ Uncles, Thomas and Samuel OBray became Mormons and left Wales for ‘Zion’ Salt Lake City in 1854.

This photo, which appears all over, was included in letters to my Gramps from his third cousin in Utah.

Samuel William OBray

(Portrait found on

That was a surprise for me, considering the friends and interest I have had in the church over the years, a case of my Great Uncles having “been there, done that’ so I was able to trace their long and arduous journey across the plains to Utah through Mormon church records.  Our friends were very excited for us, as this was a great honour in the history of the church, to have family that had made the arduous and terrible trip to reach their ‘Zion’.

Further Research

Through the Welsh Mormon History page, on I found that Thomas, was born in Wales in 1824 and he joined the Mormon church when he was 13 years old. Eight years later, he began to preach the gospel in England then Italy, France and Germany. Later, he went to Norway and Denmark. In Malta, he raised up a church branch. In 1854 Thomas emigrated to the US. The ship stopped in New Brunswick, Canada and picked up another family. Thomas joined that family and met Louisa. They continued the journey on their way to St. Louis Missouri to pick up supplies, wagons, food, and animals for the three-month journey across the plains of the United States.

In June at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas Thomas and Louisa were married. During that journey, with her brother Albert and her sister Martha, Louisa died of cholera and was buried en route to Salt Lake City on the plains, in an unmarked grave, a bride of three weeks. Thomas continued on with the family and arrived in Salt Lake City in September 1854.

A Few Surprises

In October 1854, Thomas married Louisa’s sister, Martha. Five children were born to Thomas and Martha. In 1857 Thomas married Carolyn and had 9 children with her. In 1864 Thomas married Ruth and they had 14 children together. The women and children, according to Censuses of the time, lived together in separate houses and were called ‘Housekeepers” Thomas lived with Martha and their children.

Altogether Thomas had 28 children and yes, my Great Grand Uncle had ‘plural marriages’! At that time, it was a tenet of the Church. Martha died in 1887 and a year after her death Thomas was sentenced to the Utah penitentiary for 11 months for ‘Unlawful cohabitation. He was sentenced a second time a year later, and served from April to August 1890.

 Following a revelation to the church Prophet, the practice of plural marriage was instituted among Church members in the early 1840s however; from the 1860s to the 1880s, the United States government passed laws to make this religious practice illegal. These laws were eventually upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court. At that time, the President of the church, Wilford Woodruff issued a Manifesto, which was accepted by the Church as authoritative and binding on October 6, 1890. This led to the end of the practice of plural marriage in the Church.

Decedents Of The Family

My Great Grand Uncle was asked by the church to explore further land outside of Salt Lake City and to build other settlements, and so he moved his families to ‘Cache’ (secret) County and founded a small place called “Paradise’ just outside of Salt Lake City. Thomas homesteaded the site where the church farm is now located.

In 2014, I visited this small town. It was full of my ancestors. Even the local cafe knew the name of my Grandfather and his Uncles. The Paradise Cemetery was a beautiful place, calm and serene and I found my Uncles and their families. It may sound strange, but I ‘introduced’ myself to them, and told them of their ancestor who wrote to my Grandfather, all those years ago, and how I now ended up here, in Paradise. I hope to go back again one day.

The cemetery contained all of the family who were ‘Pioneers’ and had crossed the plains to get to ‘Zion’ It was very moving to see my two Grand Uncles with special plates affixed to their memorial stones to indicate that they were original Pioneers. Great Grand Uncle Thomas died in Paradise, Utah on 21st October 1899 and Great Grand Uncle Samuel died in Paradise, Utah on 5th June 1910.

Meanwhile, I continue my researching and find surprises every day. I would love to contact any members of Ellen Louise Gibby Facer’s family. She, who wrote to my Gramps, all those years ago!  I still have her letters and Christmas cards.

How ever did we manage without the internet and more importantly,



Mapping the Mitchesons of Philadelphia

This 1875 map from the website shows the Mitcheson property in Spring Garden.
This 1875 map from the website shows the Mitcheson property in Spring Garden.

I’ve been researching the Mitchesons, my 19th century Philadelphia ancestors, on and off for a couple of years.  One of the things that most intrigues me is to find out where they lived. Was it rural, or in the heart of the old town? At the top of a hill, or in an unhealthy swampy area? And how did the area change over time?

The best way to find out is to look at old maps. The modern ones help you to get your bearings, but studying historical maps of the areas where our ancestors lived and worked is crucial. They show transportation corridors and distances and indicate population density and land use.

The Greater Philadelphia GeoHistory Network ( has an excellent collection of old maps of Philadelphia.

My three-times great-grandfather Robert Mitcheson bought a large piece of property facing Coates Street (later renamed Fairmount), between 11th and 12th, in the Spring Garden district, north of the city. Looking at it on this 1831 survey plan, it is clear that this was a rural area and that new roads were being laid out:

Zoom in on Spring Garden (the long, narrow pink section) on the1843 survey map at and you’ll find the street grid is in place and the State Penitentiary is located nearby, as is the city’s famous Fairmount waterworks. The Mitchesons were becoming urban residents, and Robert took advantage of it. He built boarding houses on his property that he hoped would provide an ongoing source of income for his children.

The Historical Society of Pennsylvania ( is another good source for maps. Its digital project PhilaPlace ( invites users to write about the histories of their favorite spots in the city. (As I write this, the site seems to be having technical problems.)

To read about Robert Mitcheson’s wife, Fanny MacGregor, see my blog post,

Mind Mapping

Henry Mulholland popplet

Have you ever wondered what mind mapping is all about? Members of the Quebec Family History Society Brick Walls Special Interest Group now know the basics, thanks to a presentation by one of their members, Cindy Kelly, at the SIG’s regular monthly meeting in February.

Cindy described a mind map as a diagram used to visually outline information. To make a mind map, you place a singe word or text in the middle of your page or screen and place associated words and concepts around it. You can link branches representing other words to each main branch. Using a different colour for each main branch will help you organize your thoughts.

SIG member Claire Lindell, a former teacher, commented that organizing material visually helps many people learn effectively. Mind mapping can also be used to help organize any kind of research problem.

Cindy listed a number of different websites that offer mind mapping tools, then went into detail about how to use one such site,

Janice Hamilton showed how she is using Popplet to help with one of her genealogical brick walls. She put a photo of Henry Mulholland (born Ireland, 1809, died Montreal, 1887) at the center of the Popplet screen, then grouped questions she has about various aspects of his life around that photo: his unknown origins in Ireland, his addresses in Montreal over the years, his marriage and children, business ventures in the hardware field and banking, and reminders to look for cemetery records, an obituary and a will. She is using this mind map to generate new questions and ideas, and to keep track of her results.

Following the meeting, member Wendy Doran sent an e-mail to thank Cindy for the presentation. She wrote, “It has motivated me to get going already!”

FamilySearch indexing – How you can become involved

The following article was written for Genealogy Ensemble by Marian Bulford, a genealogist from the West Island of Montreal who has been indexing for many years. She gives us valuable insight about indexing and how we all benefit from the contributions of those who index the records we use in our genealogical pursuits.

Indexing is the data entry of human records worldwide in any language you choose. If you can type, then you can index, so why not get started today?!

Keyboard01_MicrosoftThe FamilySearch website has provided a way for anyone with an internet connection to assist in the monumental task of indexing world genealogical records. It is run by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, more commonly known as The Mormons.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is in the process of digitizing the bulk of their genealogical records, as well as partnering with genealogical societies and other groups to digitize other records of genealogical value. Most of the websites today have obtained their records from this church.

As indexing is entered, the records are checked and arbitrated a few times. Then these digitized records are uploaded to the online FamilySearch Indexing project site for anyone, including you, to view free of charge.

Easy to download software and index
The indexing software is free and easy to download, and the online tutorials should get you started quickly. There is also an online help desk if you have questions.

You do not have to be a church member to index or search this free website. To start, simply go to the website link here. It takes only a few minutes to download your selected batch of records — in any language and in any part of the world you choose — and transcribe the entries using the provided software you will find on the web page.

Alternatively, if you just want to research a wonderful database for free with no obligation or fees, go to

If you volunteer to index for FamilySearch, just remember, you are helping to add millions of data for us genealogists to find plus, as a side benefit, indexing can help you become a better researcher as you become more familiar with the wide variety of historical documents available to you and the type of information each contains. You can choose a beginner, intermediate, or advanced batch to index.

Where to start?
Indexing consists of births, deaths, marriages, banns, obituaries, christenings, or baptisms. In addition, there are historical records consisting of many other interesting items worldwide. For instance, how about indexing the following databases?

  • France, Diocèse de Coutances et Avranches – Registres Paroissiau from 1796 to 1880
  • UK Sussex Church of England Parish Records from 1538 to 1910
  • US Louisiana WW2 Draft Registration cards from 1940 to 1945
  • South African Free State, Estate Files from 1951 to 1980
  • Polska, Radom Roman Catholic Church Books from 1733 to 1868
  • Brazil, Pernambuco Recife Registro Civil from 1900 to 1920

All of the above databases, and many more, now await us to index them and provide a name or a lead for someone who is searching for their ancestors.

To help you through the indexing process, there are Help fields on the right of every batch you download. You never know, you may even come across some of your family names whilst indexing.

Once records have been indexed through FamilySearch Indexing, the new indices (and sometimes the document images) are posted online for free access at FamilySearch.

How I started
Because I am originally from the UK, I usually go to the UK batches for my indexing as I love history and I find so much of interest there, but I also like to mix it up and, as long as it is in English, I will index it.

Last year, I helped index the US 1940 Census. (As you well know, the census is usually the first place we go to find an ancestor’s name.) That monumental task was also completed well within the time range expected and up and running far sooner than anticipated.

Tremendous response to call for volunteers last month
Last month the FamilySearch website asked for volunteers for two days of indexing by asking everyone you know to join in. This, in part, is their response after that weekend. “We hoped to have an unprecedented 50,000 contributors in a 24-hour period. FamilySearch volunteers excelled, surpassing that goal by 16,511! That’s right—66,511 participants in one day! Incredible! We are grateful for the patience and persistence of many volunteers who faced technical difficulties due to an overwhelming response.” To read more, visit the blog post, FamilySearch Volunteers Set Historic Record.

According to some sources, volunteers participating in online indexing projects are adding over a million names a day in total.

Once records have been indexed through FamilySearch Indexing, the new indices (and sometimes the document images) are posted online for free access at FamilySearch Record Search.

So, log on and go see what you get back for a few hours, or even minutes, of indexing. Why not try a test drive on the above links and be part of the many people proud to add to the billions of records that amateur and professional genealogists like us search for daily.

Working together to help genealogists discover their ancestors

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