When my aunt turned ninety-six a few years ago, I prepared a short bio of her life, including photos of the farm where she grew up, baptism`s, confirmations and a wonderful photo of four people working in a farm yard.
Handwriting on the photo says “maman a l’age de 20 ans” and “papa” to identify my great grandmother, Marie-Berthe Charette and my great grandfather, with her two sisters “tante Eva” and “tante Ida.”
They are all on their knees, looking at the photographer. Jean is staring towards Marie-Berthe, who was also called Martha, with an extremely happy look on his face.
The shot is the only happy photo I have of the couple. In every other shot, they look solemn or downright miserable.
Martha was born on October 3, 1889, so if the note about her age is correct, the photo would have have been taken in 1909 or 1910, five years prior to their marriage. There’s no indication where the photo was taken. It could have been his parents’ farm, her parents’ farm, or given that they are also in the shot, perhaps even the farm where his brother Gustave and her sister Ida moved after they were married.
Both Charette farms were in Clarence Creek, where their families had lived since at least 1891. His family farm was located in Sarsfield, a town right next door near the current Ottawa, Ontario.
The first Hurtubese/Charette couple was already married by the time of the happy photo in my grandmother’s photo album. Later, it would be Jean-Baptiste and Martha’s turn, then his younger brother Francois and her younger sister Dora.
All three couples would eventually follow middle Charette son Ernest, who began farming in Alberta.
My cousin says his mother used to talk about a horse and buggy ride after their family lost a farm due to a train expropriation. My aunt spoke to him about remembering her mom’s tears. I don’t know whether that trip precipitated their move to Alberta or took place afterwards.
All I know for sure is that after this photo was taken, the couple had two little girls, Donna and Marguerite. Then, sometime after their second daughters’ birth in 1917 and the 1921 Canadian Census, they bought a farm with a three-bedroom wooden house on it in Bow River, Alberta.
After that, their life took a turn for the worse, and they lost everything. The dust bowl, the Depression, locusts…take your pick, they saw it all.
By 1941, the family was renting part of a house in Edmonton. He did odd jobs to get through the war years and beyond. They remained in Edmonton until her death in 1957 and his in 1959.
 Data from the 1911 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 21, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 7, line 48.
 Data from the 1921 Census of Canada, Enumeration District 2, Bow River, Alberta, section 7, township 22, range 21, Meridian 4, page 6, line 28.
That was the first question that ran through my mind as I began to try to verify what seems to be indicated by a wedding photo of Jean-Baptiste Hurtubise and Marie-Berthe Charette from my grandmother.
My grandmother’s handwriting below the picture indicates: “Mom & Dad Hurtubise, January 7, 1915.”
Census records from 1901 indicate that they were both 25 years old at the time, another fact I wonder about.
Why would a young man of that age be free to marry and settle down when World War I was in full force? Perhaps this is an indicator of how remote the war seemed to Francophone families in Canada prior to the conscription crisis of 1917.
By that time my great-grandfather would have two children and wouldn’t be required to serve. My grandmother, their first child, was born twelve months after they married.
In addition to her parents’ wedding photo, my grandmother kept only two other pictures. One is a photo of a church, presumably where the wedding took place. The other shows four large church bells. Why are they important?
Turns out that the church in the photo still exists, and it still serves a Franco-Ontarian population! I found it by referring to the census showing Marie-Berthe, called Martha, living in Clarence Creek in 1911.
The Roman Catholic Church in that town is Ste-Félicité de Clarence Creek, and it originally opened on August 19, 1881.
At the time of Jean and Martha’s marriage, it had two steeples, but now the smaller steeple on the right side is missing. I know the church is the same one, however, because a duplicate of my grandmother’s photo appears on the history page of the parish website. 
I’m extrapolating from the facts, but it seems as though Martha’s family were among 170 that remained within the parish after 80 others left in 1908. The bells were part of a renewal show of strength two years later. The families expanded their church, bought the bells and hired famed Montreal decorator Toussaint-Xénophon Renaud to renew the interior. His work can still be seen today.
 Data from the 1911 Census of Canada: her birthdate appears on Enumeration District 21, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 7, line 48; his on Enumeration District 112, Cumberland Township, Russell, Ontario, Sarsfield Village, Léonard Village, Bear Brook Village, page 3, line 25
 Paroisse Ste Félicité – Ste-Félicité de Clarence Creek (1855) http://www.paroissestefelicite.ca/fr/Historique_30/Stefelicite-De-Clarence-Creek-1855_44, written in 2011, accessed on September 17, 2015.