Tag Archives: Manitoba

Reinventing Themselves Has Been Launched

It has been almost 200 years since my paternal ancestors came to Upper Canada from Scotland and took up farming here. It has been about 12 years since I started researching and writing about them. Now that I have pulled all their stories together into the pages of a book, it is time to celebrate.

Earlier this week, relatives and friends helped me launch Reinventing Themselves: A History of the Hamilton and Forrester Families. We got together on Zoom, a solution that was perfect considering that the descendants of this family are spread from Montreal to Toronto, Winnipeg, Vancouver and across the United States.

This collection of short articles traces the descendants of weaver Robert Hamilton and carpenter David Forrester. The two Scottish immigrants and their families came to Upper Canada in the 1830s and became part of strong farming communities. Fifty years later, both families moved west. The Hamiltons were founding settlers of a temperance community that eventually became Saskatoon. The Forresters took up prairie farming in southern Manitoba.

The following generations continued to reinvent themselves, with several pursuing careers in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Among them were physician Thomas Glendenning Hamilton and his wife, nurse Lillian Forrester – my grandparents. After their young son died in the 1919 influenza pandemic, the couple began holding seances, and their research into psychical phenomena brought them international fame.

Many of the articles about the Hamilton family have previously appeared on my blog, Writing Up the Ancestors, but pulling them together into a cohesive thread makes the ancestors’ story easier to follow. Much of the material about my grandmother’s family, the Forresters, will be new to most readers.

Reinventing Themselves is available from the online bookstore at https://store.bouquinbec.ca. The direct link is https://store.bouquinbec.ca/reinventing-themselves-a-history-of-the-hamilton-and-forrester-families.html. It is $20.00 Canadian for the paperback version, or you can download the e-book for $10.00. Shipping is $6.50 shipping to Canada and $15 to the United States. Most of the books for sale on that site are in French, but the order form is in English.

The process of reinvention is continuing, as the book has inspired two videos. Tracey Arial interviewed me for her podcast Unapologetically Canadian (the link is coming) and Frank Opolko, a friend who recently retired from the CBC, also interviewed me. Here is the video he made, incorporating some my photos of Scotland and some of the photos that appear in the book:

I learned a great deal while doing this project, best of all I discovered several living cousins who were previously unknown to me. One new cousin instantly felt like an old friend, and the mystery person who is my closest match on Family Tree DNA has turned out to be a Forrester descendant from Michigan.

This project reminded me how challenging it is to write about genealogy. All I know about many distant ancestors is their dates and places of birth, marriage and death. While this is essential information, such lists can make for boring reading. The family stories are the good stuff, and they have been the focus of the articles on my blog. Of course, there are two types of family stories: anecdotes that may or may not be true, and well-documented facts.

I was also reminded how much discipline it takes to complete a project of this magnitude. I recently overheard my husband tell someone that he didn’t dare come near my office while I was working on the book because I would chase him away. There are so many distractions, especially on the Internet, that it really takes discipline to stay focused, and a project this size inevitably takes longer than expected.

Now it is time to take a break from family history, catch up on reading novels and enjoying summer before turning my attention to my mother’s family.

The French Canadians in Western Canada



The Archives nationales du Québec in Montréal on Viger Avenue are the repository of a wonderful and unique collection of books of marriages, baptisms, deaths of French Canadian families who left the Province of  Québec between 1840 and 1930 for destinations in Western Canada, especially in Alberta and Manitoba.

Monsieur Daniel Olivier,  former archivist at the Bibliothèque de la Ville de Montréal on Sherbrooke Street East, the latter no longer in operation, referred to for years as Salle Gagnon was responsible with the assistance of his associates for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide.

Madame Estelle Brisson, former archivist at the Archives nationales du Québec on Viger Avenue East in Montréal with the assistance of her associates was also responsible for the acquisition of many of the books of marriages, baptisms, deaths, and burials outlined in this research guide compiled by Jacques Gagné.

Click on the link            The French Canadians in Western Canada

Did Louis Riel hide in my ancestor’s basement?

riel rebellion battoche

Family lore says that my ancestor Joseph Arial had many meetings with Louis Riel in the basement of a hotel he owned. The story might be about a hotel in St. Boniface that may have served as a hide-away for the Métis hero and later burned to the ground or it may be referring to a hotel owned by his son Joseph Gabriel, who ran his own hotel in Gleichan* (near Cluny), Alberta.

How does a genealogist go about proving such a story? The family legend might refer only to my great great great grandfather or his son, or it may combine the exploits of both.

My first challenge was figuring out the timing. Louis Riel was born in the Red River Valley in 1844 and was hanged for treason on November 16, 1885.[1]

Then I began searching through the names and dates of my ancestors’ lives.[2]

Joseph Arial was the first of my ancestors who left Quebec. He was born in 1812 in St. Roch and died on November 4, 1880 in St. Boniface, Manitoba, where he is buried. His wife was Julie Belleau dit LaRose who was born the year before he was. The two were married in St. Roch on September 4, 1832. St. Boniface is on the south side of the Red River, so the location is correct, although he would have been much older than Riel.

His son, Joseph Gabriel was married to Marie Sophie Bernard in St. Boniface, Manitoba on August 8, 1887. Their hotel would be too late to have anything to do with Riel. Joseph’s wife is important to my story, however, because her mother was born in 1838 in St. Anne-des-Chênes (Oak Point), just down the river from where Riel would be born six years later. Her mother, Sophie Henault Canada was also born in the Red River Valley, so there were roots that went back years. The possibility that Sophie’s parents, Charles-Henault-Canada and Marie Gris, knew Louis Riel’s parents, Julie Lagimodières and Jean-Louis Riel, who were married in the chapel of St. Boniface Cathedral on January 21, 1844 were high.

That isn’t proof though.

My next step will be to verify the guests at the marriages of Joseph Gabriel and Marie Sophie and the marriage of Julie Lagimodières and Jean-Louis Riel, but in the meantime, perhaps what happened after Riel’s death will tell us more.

So far, the only information I have comes from Fred Jones in his story called “Blackfoot Reserve. ” He speaks about Gabriel Arial running a hotel. He writes:

My first impression of Gleichen was when we arrived by way of Calgary from the Blood Reserve. We stayed in the Palace Hotel, owned by a French Canadian named Mr. Gabriel Arial, and I think he built it. Some of the Old Timers seem to think it was originally build of logs, but I had seen parts of it torn down and repaired here and there with no logs under the sheeting, but the rough boards were hand-sawn with the old, long ripsaw, and iron nails were used. The style was what you might call early Western, and no luxuries were provided. The rooms contained a bed, chair, washstand and plain dresser, a big jug full of cold water and a smaller jug, for drinking. If you needed more water you took your jug downstairs and outside, to the well. A kerosene lamp provided light.

The Arials welcomed us, and were very hospitable. So were the cockroaches and bed bugs, but that was the usual thing in any dwelling in those days. There were no insect repellents, except kerosene and pyrethrum powder and these failed to attain victory. A a standoff was the best to be hoped for, as the walls were hollow and the plaster cracked so the enemy could retreat and fight another night.

I went to school later with the Arial boys and girls. The hotel was later sold to Brosseau Brothers, and the Arials moved to Edmonton.

I think we arrived in Gleichen about 1896 or 1897, as the C.P.R. roundhouse was still there and I think it was moved to Calgary in 1898. (As I recount these many events, please consider that they happened over seventy years ago. They may be kind of sketchy and not follow in proper sequence and some that made an impression then, may not have been as important as others that might have been forgotten.)[3]

Is this Gabriel my grandfather? I don’t know for sure yet, but I think so. My grandfather was called Gabe after his father and he grew up in Edmonton. My grandmother also moved to Cluny as a child and that’s where they met. This Gabriel Arial may also have been a cousin though, so I still have much more verification to do.

[1] All the facts about Louis Riel and his life in this story come from Maggie Siggins’ book “Riel A Life of Revolution” Harper Collins, Toronto, 1994.

[2] For this part, I relied on the handwritten notes of Mary Alice Kite and my grandmother, Ann Marguerite Arial. My grandmother learned how to do genealogy from Mary Alice and she knew my great grandparents personally. She would have confirmed their parents’ and grandparents’ names with them. She also collected photos of the family, which I now have. Few of the people can be easily identified now.

[3] The Prairie Hub, by John Julius Martin, Rosebud, Alberta, The Strathmore Standard, 1967, p. 160.


*An earlier version of this story spelled Gleichen incorrectly.