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Family Jewels

No one in our family ever had any pieces of magnificent jewellery but even the most ordinary piece has its story.

My mother always wore her wedding band and engagement ring. The diamond in the ring wasn’t big and the band was plain but they were what my father could afford in 1947. As she got older and her fingers were thinner, she kept losing them, one or other or both. Luckily, the staff at her residence kept finding them. Eventually, they encouraged me to keep them.

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After, when I would visit my mother, she would look at her hands and the freshly done nails and say, “You have my rings and I want them!” She thought her hands were naked without them and nobody would know she was married.

“I really want them!” she would say.” She would tell others that Mary had her rings in a Birk’s box in her bureau drawer.

I bought her costume jewellery replacements. She had stories for those too. One, a ‘diamond ring’, she said a policeman found on the street and gave it to her. That one disappeared. Another set she said was her grandmother’s and she was sad when they were thought to be lost. Even a couple of days before she died she still said to me, “I want my rings!”

When we divided up her jewellery there was a large blue glass pin in the shape of a flower. None of us remembered her wearing it or even seeing it before. I gave it to my cousin Sharon. When her brother died recently I looked for pictures of him. There was one when he was a new baby being held by his Grannie, Beatrice Raguin and she was wearing that pin. So now Sharon has something that belonged to her Grannie.

Beatrice Raguin also had a thistle pin, silver with topaz coloured stones. She belonged to a sewing group where all the other ladies were from Scotland. She was French Canadian although born in Greenbay, Wisconsin. So as to fit in, she bought the pin and told everybody she was from Aberdeen. My mother gave me that pin.

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Minnie Eagle Sutherland, my other grandmother worked for Ryrie Brothers in Toronto as a jeweller. I have a stick pin that I think she made. It has a spiral of gold on the top with a tiny diamond and a pearl and now rests in a tiny rectangular box. It might have been a wedding present for her husband as she didn’t work after they were married. There is also a picture of a Union Jack made out of stones and on the back it says made by Minnie Eagle. Unfortunately, we don’t have that piece of jewellery!

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Dad did give my mother a few other pieces of jewellery. He once bought her a silver bracelet at the Tower of London on a business trip to Britain. He said the intricate metalwork reminded him of her tatting. She gave it to me because I could also tat.

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Mom was right. Her rings are in a Birk’s box in my bureau drawer. We haven’t yet decided how their story will continue.

What is a Limonadier?

 

When you are lucky enough to find original documents pertaining to your ancestors do you really read everything on them or do you just glance through them, copy them and file them for later? One thing I have recently learned is to thoroughly read all documents. What a novel tip for genealogy research!

I was sending information to a fellow writing about my grandfather, Rene Raguin. He told me that Rene’s father Marie Joseph Raguin had been a Limonadier. What kind of occupation is that I wondered? I wrote back and asked him how he knew that information. He responded that it was on my grandparent’s marriage licence.

I had never looked up their documents as I knew when and where they were married. One of my great uncles, Herbert Bruneau had done a lot of Genealogy research and I had his family tree. I was more interested in people I didn’t know and had put off confirming other’s research. The document was easy to find and there under “profession of father of husband” was “Limonadier”. There is a lot of information on Ontario, Canada marriage certificates.

What was this profession? It sounded like someone who made lemonade. The marriage was in 1912 when bottled soft drinks were not available. According to Wikipedia, a Limonadier made and sold lemonade, could also make and sell alcohol or run a cafe.

Aside from being an interesting occupation, this explained some of our family traditions. My mother had a recipe that we called “Grandfather’s Lemon Syrup”. It was a lemon syrup that when added to water made lemonade. My mother used to make it and on visits to my grandparents, we had the lemon drink in little glasses that once contained cream cheese and home-baked sugar cookies. My cousins called my aunt’s version of it, “Grannie’s Lemon Drink” but they were obviously wrong about the origin.

It is also possible that Marie Joseph did run a cafe in Fleurier, Switzerland. One story that we heard growing up was that grandfather used to take a big pan of plum pie to the bakery to have it cooked as the pan didn’t fit in their oven. Why would a family of four need such a big pie? So making it for a cafe makes sense. It was a simple dish, pie crust covered by half plums with sugar sprinkled on top, a dessert that my mother also used to make.

It is amazing how much information one can get from a single word.

Notes:

Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KS8D-G3N : 10 April 2015), René Emile Raguin and Cecile Béatrice Bruneau, 09 Jul 1912; citing registration, Cornwall, Stormont, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,906,765. On Feb 22, 2017.

https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limonadier accessed Feb 22, 2017.

Safe Passage

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René Emile Raguin, my grandfather, was the last of my relatives to arrive in Canada. He was the only one to return home after he emigrated. His family, originally from Doubs, France, moved to Fleurier, Switzerland soon after he was born.

He arrived in Canada aboard an Allen Line steamship, the Lake Erie and so didn’t have to endure a long voyage on a sailing ship. It was 1910 and he was 23 years old. He had been a Lieutenant in the French army. His father was French and as the son, even though he lived in Switzerland, he had to do his service. He had also trained as a teacher but there were no jobs in Switzerland, so he was fortunate  to find a job at the French Protestant school in Pointes aux Trembles, Quebec.

René was a dapper little man with a full beard and moustache. He was sure he was going to be a hit with Canadian girls although his landlady told him they didn’t like men with a lot of facial hair. The morning after meeting Beatrice Bruneau and her sisters, he came down stairs with only a goatee! In later years he only had a small moustache but with a completely shaved head.

René and Beatrice were married in 1912 in Cornwall, Ontario by Beatrice’s father, Reverend Ismael P. Bruneau. Their first daughter Aline Marguerite was born in May 1913. The next summer they sailed to Europe to show off Aline to Rene’s family. Rene enjoyed the voyage, walking on deck with his little daughter, but Beatrice, pregnant with their second child Robert, suffered from sea sickness and was mostly invisible. Rene was very happy chatting with all the other passengers who wondered about the little girl’s mother.

They were having a wonderful time in Fleurier, visiting Rene’s parents, Joseph Marie and Rosina Steinman Raguin and his sister Bluette, when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated and World War I began. When England declared war on Germany August 4, 1914, returning to Canada as quickly as possible became a priority. As Rene had become a Canadian/British citizen in 1913, they appealed to the British Government and received a document of safe passage through both France and Italy to return to England. They made a quick journey by train from Switzerland to Le Havre, France taking what they could easily carry and leaving their trunk behind.

They made it safely back to Canada where René was then the principal of De La Salle Academy in Trois Riveres, Quebec. The school administration had been worried he wouldn’t return for the beginning of the school year. He used his story to raise money during the war, for the Canadian Patriotic Fund. 

Robert was born in December followed by Arthur, Dorothy and Madeleine. René continued teaching and finished his career as a French teacher at Baron Byng High School in Montreal. They spent summers in Dunany north of Montreal where he enjoyed golf and socializing and winters in Montreal where he curled and socialized. He and Beatrice didn’t travel very much, just one train trip to Vancouver to visit their son Robert. They never returned to Europe, never again saw any of Rene’s family, or their trunk.

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Notes:

Rutherdale, Robert. Hometown Horizons: Local Responses to Canada’s Great War. Vancouver: University of British Columbia, 2004. Print.

Anecdotes personally communicated to the author by Aline Raguin Allchurch in 2003.

Passeport; original document in possession of author.

Rene’s British /Canadian Naturalization Certificate was in his possession in Europe to obtain his Passport but the document was later lost as it was replaced in 1916. Libraries and Archives Canada: Citizenship Registration Records for Montreal Circuit Court 1851-1945.

Military documents in possession of author.

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