Genealogists tend to visit a lot of cemeteries, so if those are beautiful places, the experience can be a pleasure. Anyone with Montreal ancestors in either Notre-Dame-des-Neiges (Catholic) Cemetery or in the non-denominational Mount Royal Cemetery can consider themselves lucky: both cemeteries are located on the slopes of Mount Royal, both are filled with trees and wildlife, and both have services to assist genealogists find their relatives.
These cemeteries were opened in the middle of the 19th century after the city’s population expanded, putting earlier burial grounds too close to residential areas. Hygienic concerns became particularly important when cholera epidemics swept the continent.
In fact, because of epidemics, poor sanitation and a lack of clean drinking water, many of the city’s dead were children.
Since Mount Royal Cemetery opened in 1852, more than 300,000 people have been buried there. To check the location of a grave in Mount Royal Cemetery, go to https://mountroyalcem.com/index.php/en/our-services/genealogy-menu.html. The Quebec Family History Society (QFHS) sells a book of 4600 monument inscriptions from Hawthorn-Dale, Montreal’s second-largest Protestant Cemetery and an affiliate of Mount Royal Cemetery. See http://www.qfhs.ca/forsale.php.
Notre-Dame-des-Neiges Cemetery, the largest graveyard in Canada, has been in operation since 1874. To find a grave there go to http://www.notredamedesneigescemetery.ca/en/research/locate.htm and click on locate deceased.
When the older cemeteries were closed, people were told they could move the remains of their relatives, but that did not always happen. Every now and then, human remains turn up when repairs are done to Dorchester Square, a former cemetery that is now a park in the heart of downtown. And in addition to proper cemeteries, there are some unusual burial places in the city. Priests and nuns were buried in the crypts of Catholic churches and other religious buildings. Some 6000 Irish immigrants who died of ship fever in 1847 are buried in a mass grave, marked with a commemorative stone, near the Victoria Bridge.
Because so many of the city’s old cemeteries were closed and eventually built upon or used for other purposes, anyone who comes to the city looking to find the grave of an ancestor who died before the mid-1800s will probably be disappointed.
For a list of 110 Montreal cemeteries, current and closed, including crypts and military cemeteries, see http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/ListerCims.asp?MP=E3&TY=M&SS=52
To find out about Jewish burials, see the following article posted on the Jewish Genealogy Society of Montreal website: http://jgs-montreal.org/burials.html
The QFHS has a number of publications related to cemetery histories and monument inscriptions in its library. Go to http://www.qfhs.ca/libraryRecords.php and put cemetery in the keyword space.
Following is a list of old cemeteries primarily used by the city’s English-speaking community. Most of them no longer exist. The links will tell you their locations and other information.
Montreal General Old Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2148
Montreal Old Negro Cemetery – St-Jacques Street at St-Pierre Street in Old Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=826
Dufferin Square Cemetery – Dorchester Boulevard at St. Laurent Boulevard http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=828
Montreal Old Military Cemetery – Papineau Street at Lafontaine Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=831
St. Mary’s Anglican Burial Ground – Malo Street and Bordeaux Street in Southeast Montreal http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=837
St-Hélène Island Old Military Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=846
St. Stephen’s Old Anglican Cemetery Lachine http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2081
Goose Village Ancient Irish Cemetery http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=2717
Field of Honor Military Cemetery Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=858
Lakeview Memorial Gardens Pointe Claire http://www.leslabelle.com/Cimetieres/AfficherCim.asp?MP=E3&CID=861
Research: Jacques Gagné
Additional writing: Janice Hamilton
Etiennette Alton, the ancestor of Genealogy Ensemble contributor Tracey Arial, was married to Marin Hurtubise in Montreal on January 7, 1660. Their union is among the earliest Catholic marriages in Montreal that are detailed on the French-language website Fichier origine (www.fichierorigine.com). Established under an international partnership between the Quebec-based Fédération québécoise des sociétés de généalogie and the European-based Fédération française de généalogie, it has been available for free on-line since 1998.
The list of 900 people who married in the early days of Montreal is available at http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?nom=&commune=&pays=&mariagerech=Montr%C3%A9al
You can find a wealth of information about each person within the couple, including the name of the conjoint (the husband or wife). Fichier origine tells us Etiennette’s date of baptism in 1635, her place of origin in France before she came to Canada, the names of her parents and siblings, and her date and place of death (Montreal, 1722) (http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?numero=240043). The information about her husband is equally revealing.
To read more about this particular couple, refer to Arial’s story at: https://genealogyensemble.com/2014/10/03/etiennette-alton-a-marriageable-woman/.
Fichier origine includes the very first marriage celebrated in Montreal: that of Mathurin Meunier and Françoise Fafard on March 11, 1647. (http://www.fichierorigine.com/recherche?numero=242904). It also has information on more than 5000 other people who immigrated to Quebec from France, from the founding of New France until 1865.
In those times, marriage was probably more of a partnership and an agreement to start a family than it was about romantic love. Nevertheless, on Valentine’s Day, it is interesting to recognize these weddings. These couples are the ancestors of thousands of people spread today across Quebec, Canada, the United States and the world. Perhaps your ancestors are among them.
The fur trade was a key part of Canada’s history and hundreds of people were involved in it from the late 1600s to the early 1800s. One way to research an ancestor who was a fur trader is to find the contracts he signed, contracts thwere generally prepared by notaries in Montreal, Quebec or Trois-Rivières.
The notaries who handled fur trade contracts in the 18th and 19th centuries were:
Louis Chaboillez – Montréal 1787-1813 – 9,346 bibliographical records
John Gerbrand Beek – Montréal 1781-1822 – 5,277 records
Jonathan Abraham Gray – Montréal 1796-1812 – 3,258 records
Jean-Baptiste Adhémar– Montréal 1714-1754 – 3,151 records
Louis-Claude Danré de Branzy – Montréal 1738-1760 – 2,784 records
François Simmonet – Montréal – 1737-1778 – 2,139 records
Joseph Desautels – Montréal 1810-1820 – 1,638 records
Antoine Foucher – Montréal – 1746-1800 – 1,056 records
Henry Griffin – Montréal 1812-1847 – 952 records
Pierre Panet de Méru – Montréal 1755-1778 – 824 records
François Leguay – Montréal 1770-1789 – 814 records
Nicolas Benjamin Doucet – Montréal 1804-1855 – 609 records
Henry Crebassa – Sorel 1795-1843 – 555 records
Joseph Cadet – Québec 1784-1800 – 276 records
Charles Claude Pratte – Trois-Rivières 1801-1817 – 236 records
Louis-Joseph Soupras – Montréal – 1762-1792 & 1809-1832 – 150 records
Pierre Ritchot – Montréal 1821-1831- 117 records
Joseph Gabrion – Montréal 1780-1804 – 54 records
Jean-Baptiste Desève – Montréal 1785-1805 – 15 records
One of the busiest of these notaries was Louis Chaboillez, who practiced in Montreal. Summaries of the more than 9000 fur trade contracts he handled can be found online on the website of the Societe historique de Saint-Boniface (SHSB) at http://archivesshsb.mb.ca/fr/list?q=Louis+Chaboillez&p=1&ps=20
The SHSB in Winnipeg has a special interest in the history of the fur trade and the people who were involved. You can learn more about the SHSB heritage center at http://shsb.mb.ca/en/about_us. This society can also help with genealogy research, especially if you have Metis ancestry. See http://shsb.mb.ca/en/Collections_and_Research.
Diane Wolford Sheppard of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan has done extensive research on the fur trade during the French Regime, especially in the Detroit region of Michigan, the Mississipi River in Illinois and the Green Bay region of Wisconsin. This includes Fort Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island & Mackinak County, Michigan) 1683-1754; Fort Pontchartrain du Détroit – Fort Détroit (Detroit, Michigan) 1701-1760; Fort de Chartres (Mississipi River in Illinois) 1718-1731; Bay of Sauks (Ouisconsin) — Fort Winnebago; (Green Bay, Wisconsin) 1640s-1763.
The notaries in New France who handled fur trade contracts for destinations in Michigan, Illinois and Wisconsin were:
Antoine Adhémar – Montréal 1668-1714 – Trois-Rivières 1668-1714
Claude Mauque – Québec 1674-1682 – Montréal 1677-1696
Hilaire Bourgine – Montréal 1685-1690
Pierre Raimbault – Montréal 1697-1727
Michel Lepailleur de Laferté – Québec 1700-1715 & Montréal 1701-1732
Jean-Baptiste Adhémar – Montréal 1714-1754
Henri Hiché – Québec – 1725-1736
François Simmonet – Montréal – 1737-1778
http://www.habitantheritage.org/french-canadian_resources/the_fur_trade This article on the website of the French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan links to a variety of resources about the fur trade in the 17th century.
http://habitantheritage.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Women_and_Their_World_-_for_website.275153906.pdf This article by Diane Wolford Sheppard lists some women who were involved in the fur trade or liquor trade in the 17th century.
http://habitantheritage.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/Outdoor_Activities.27051652.pdf This article mentions the names of some of the men who were present in Detroit around 1715.
If you had an ancestor who worked for the Hudson’s Bay Company, take a look at this article from the Alberta Family History Society on researching family history at the archives of the HBC: http://afhs.ab.ca/aids/talks/notes_mar98.html. The Hudson’s Bay Company records are at the Manitoba Archives, https://www.gov.mb.ca/chc/archives/hbca/.
Library and Archives Canada has many records of people who worked in the fur trade; for example, http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng/discover/genealogy/topics/employment/Pages/fur-trade.aspx
The McCord Museum in Montreal has records of the North West Company, one of the major players in the later years of the fur trade. Some of its photos and documents have been digitized; see http://collections.musee-mccord.qc.ca/scripts/search_results.php?keywords=North+West+Company&Lang=1
Notarial records including fur trade contracts from prior to 1800 can be found on the Parchemin database; see https://genealogyensemble.com/2017/01/01/finding-quebecs-early-notarial-records/
The Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ) is slowly digitizing its collection of notarial documents, but most can be consulted on microfilm at the archives in Montreal and other branches across Quebec.
The Société de généalogie de Longueuil (http://www.sglongueuil.org/), just south of Montreal, also has an extensive collection of notarial records on microfilm; see http://www.sglongueuil.org/cadres/texte/greffes.html.
Pierre Panet de Méru was an important notary in Montreal between 1754 and 1778, a period that included the years immediately after New France was conquered and transitioned into a British colony. If your ancestors lived in Montreal during this period, Panet may have drawn up wills for them, or helped them purchase property or make business agreements.
The son of Jean-Nicolas Panet and Madeleine Françoise Foucher, he was born in Paris in 1731. He moved to New France in 1746 and settled in the capital city of Quebec, where his brother Jean-Claude Panet served as a notary from 1744 to 1775. Panet married Marie-Anne Trefflé-Rottot in Quebec City on October 2, 1754, and he was appointed a notary in the jurisdiction of Montreal two months later.
Following the British victory in 1759 at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City and the surrender of Montreal to the British in 1760, many notaries, court clerks and other notables left New France and returned to Europe. Panet was not one of them. From the beginning of the British regime, he learned to live and work with the new authorities.
He was one of the first notaries in Montreal to work closely with the English-speaking merchants, civil servants, military officers and soldiers who now resided in the region, assisting them with marriage contracts, wills (testaments), after-death inventories, guardianships, property transactions and business agreements.
In addition to being a notary, Panet served as a judge and a justice of the peace. He died June 15, 1804. For more details of his life, see http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/panet_pierre_5F.html
As of December, 2016, the fonds (collections) of notarial acts of Pierre Panet de Méru are not available in any online databases, nor are they on microfilm at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ). These notarial acts are only available from Parchemin, a database of notarial acts of Québec owned by Archiv-Histo, a division of the Chambre des notaires du Québec.
The notarial acts acts written by Pierre Panet can be found in the Parchemin collection under Cote # 06010308 or under Saphir # 6009308 (1755-1778). See https://www.archiv-histo.com/EN/.
You can consult the Parchemin database at the BAnQ in Montreal and several other locations in Quebec, and at some public libraries elsewhere.
BAnQ Montréal – Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec 535, avenue Viger Est, Montréal, QC H2L 2P3 – Tel : 514-873-1100 #4 or 1-800-363-9028 – email : email@example.com
For more information on notarial records see the following links:
Young Elizabeth Hardy Fair of Virginia. Daughter of Elizabeth Hardy, who was sister to Mary ‘Pinky’ Hardy, United States General Douglas MacArthur’s mother.
As a schoolgirl back in the 1960’s before Expo 67 opened in Montreal, the only works of art I would have recognized were the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. I would have seen them, you see, on TV caricatured in advertisements for toothpaste or gloves, or on sophisticated Saturday morning cartoons like the Bugs Bunny Show.
Today, when I think of the Venus de Milo, I think of my husband’s Great Aunt Elizabeth.
In 1910 Elizabeth Hardy Fair,a single society girl from Warrenton, Virginia, USA, was visiting the Continent for the first time. She was in her mid twenties.
The aging ingénue kept a written record in diary form and I have it. This European diary reveals that she started her trip in London (hated it, too gloomy) and then went on to Paris, (loved it, so pretty).
Sorry to say, that’s about as deep as she gets.
Still, Elizabeth penned this one rather intriguing phrase from a visit to the Louvre: “Saw Gaylord Clarke coming out of the Venus de Milo Room. Second time we have met since abroad.”
Now, if this were a scene from an E.M. Forster novel, and Miss Elizabeth Fair were a luminous young woman of head-strong character, this ‘chance meeting’ at the Louvre would have been, no doubt, a significant turning point in the trajectory of Miss Elizabeth’s life.
Just think of it. In 1910, women such as Elizabeth covered themselves, neck to toes, in starchy shirtwaists and princess skirts.
Now contemplate the Venus de Milo with her sumptuous drapery dipping below the upper curve of her perfect buttocks, and then figure what it must have felt to be a young man coming out of the Venus de Milo room in that era–before the age of California beach volleyball. And then imagine what an opportune moment it was for the very eligible Miss Elizabeth Hardy Fair of Warrenton, Virginia.
As it is, this Mr. Clarke left for England the next day. End of their story.
Elizabeth soon returned to Warrenton, still very much single. Eight years later she would travel to Montreal (to visit her older sister, Mae) and find a husband in the form of one Frank Tofield, banker.
She would live out her life in the posh Linton apartments on Sherbrooke Street West in ‘uptown’ Montreal, impressing her great nephews and nieces at every Sunday dinner with the button on the floor under the dining room table that she used to summon the staff with her foot.
Now, as someone who likes to write about ancestors, I like to think that everyone who ever lived is worthy of at least one book, or at least a good short story, but my husband’s Great Aunt Elizabeth may be an exception.
Elizabeth and Frank had no children and all she left behind to her nephew is a tattered scrapbook with a few yellowed clippings like this one from a 1904 St. Louis Social Notes page: .
Miss Elizabeth Fair of Warrenton VA is the guest of Dr. and Mrs. John O’Fallon and is a beautiful girl who has been a great deal feted and admired around St. Louis. The 1904 World’s Fair!
The year before, in 1903, she attended her soon-to-be famous first cousin, Douglas MacArthur’s, West Point graduation. She glued the dance card into her scrapbook. Mae had the first dance, a waltz; she had the third, a gavotte.
And then there’s this diary, this pedestrian record of her 1910 European experience visiting all the usual landmarks, Hyde Park, Les Champs Elysees and Le Bon Marche where she bought handkerchiefs and gloves. It is a diary exposing no wicked sense of humour, sharing no penetrating insights, and including not even one memorable phrase like, say, “I shall return.”
Well, she did mention seeing suffragettes on the march in London.
Oh, she does pencil in this candid opinion on Da Vinci’s most famous work.
Went to the Louvre in the morning. Pictures most interesting. Mona Lisa was carefully inspected but it does not appeal to me in the least. After lunch, shopped and then drove through Parc Mont Claire. This park is lovely, abloom with flowers, statuary and strollers galore. Great place for lovers and babies… So, no surprise, in 1910, Elizabeth, had love and babies on the mind.
I wonder what was wrong, then, with this mysterious Mr. Clarke? If things had gone well, it might have been a very good thing for one Frank Tofield. Family legend has it the well-to-do couple argued incessantly over the decades over her spendthrift ways.
(I found Frank’s signed Bible and it was filled with dozens of brittle, faded four leaf clovers.)
So, no book about Great Aunt Elizabeth Hardy Fair, by all definitions a most ordinary Southern Belle and first cousin to a genuine history-book legend. No short story either.
Just this short blog post.
Below: Elizabeth at her wedding: lavish tastes
Société de Généalogie des Laurentides
This short research guide addresses indexes of marriages, baptisms and deaths of English-speaking families of Lower Canada and Québec, both Protestant and Catholic, that can be purchased as spiral binders from the Société de Généalogie des Laurentides (the genealogy society of the Laurentians). These indexes refer to records from the vast Laurentian region north of Montreal, as well as Irish-Scottish Catholic parishes in Montreal.
Family lineage researchers in Québec have compiled this information at various repositories of the Archives nationales du Québec, and by visiting the vaults of Protestant churches and English-language Catholic churches. These record will help you determine precisely in which church a child was baptized, in which church young couples were married or the place of burial of a person or persons. Contrary to popular belief, indexes of people and places at various commercial online search engines in genealogy are not complete and not always precise.
Item #R 12 – District judiciaire de Terrebonne – Judicial District of Terrebonne – Protestant Marriages (1900-1992) – 846 pages – Indexes by names of both husband and wife – Towns and churches – Arundel : Holiness Movement – Standard American Church – Anglican Church – Methodist Church Presbyterian Church – United Church of Rouge Valley – Avoca-Rivington – Baptist Church – Presbyterian Church – United Church – Belle-Rivière – Église Évangélique Française – United Church – Boisbriand – Pentecostal Assemblies – Brownsburg – Maple Baptist Church – Second Baptist Church – Pentecostal Assemblies – United Church – Calumet – Pentecostal Assemblies – Chatham-Brownsburg – Baptist Church – Cushing – St. Mungo’s Presbyterian Church – Dalesville – Baptist Church – Deux-Montages (Lake of Two Mountains) – All Saints Church – Christ Church Anglican – People Associated Gospel Church – Grenville – Baptist Church – Methodist Church – Pentecostal Church – Presbyterian Church – Church of England (Episcopal) – Harrington – Presbyterian Church – Lac-Marois – United Church – Lac-St-Denis – Protestant Chapel – Lachute – St. Simeon’s Anglican – T. Henry’s Presbyterian Church – Wesleyan Methodist Church – Margaret Rogers Memorial Presbyterian Chapel – Baptist Church – United Church – People’s Church & Associate Gospel – Église Évangélique Baptiste – Centre Chrétien Évangélique – Église Groupe Évangélique Chrétien – Lakefield – Holy Trinity Anglican – Methodist Church – St. Simeon’s Anglican Mission of Lachute in Lakefield – Lakefield-Dunany – St. Paul’s Anglican – Lakeview – Presbyterian Church – Lorraine – Église Évangélique Chrétienne – Lost River – Presbyterian Church – Louisa (Wentworth) – St. Aidan’s Anglican – Mille Iles – Christ Church Anglican – Presbyterian Church – Mont-Tremblant – St. Bernard’s United Church – Morin Flats – Holiness Movement – Morin Heights – Trinity Anglican Church – Methodist Church – United Church – New Glascow – Church of England – Presbyterian Church – United Church – St. John’s Anglican Church – Oka – Methodist Church – Pentecostal Church – United Church – Rosemere – St. James Anglican – United Memorial Church – Centre Évangélique Chrétien – Shawbridge – Methodist Church – United Church – Shrewsbury (West Gore) – St. John’s Anglican – St. Andrew’s East (St-André-Est) Christ Church Anglican – St-Eustache – Trinity United Church – All Saints Church – Église du Nazaréen – Église Évangélique Rive-Nord – Mennonites Church – St-Jérôme – St. Andrew’s United – Témoins de Jéhovah – Armée du Salut – Groupe Évangélique – St-Jovite – Methodist Church – Centre Évangélique Hautes-Laurentides – Apötres-de-l’Amour Infini – St-Sauveur – St. Francis of the Birds Anglican – Ste-Adèle – United Church – Assemblée Chrétienne du Nord – Ste-Agathe – United Church – Holy Trinity Anglican – House of Israel – Centre Évangélique – Église Chrétienne – Ste-Marguerite – St. Christopher’s Anglican – Ste-Thérèse – Presbyterian Church – United Church – Mennonites Church – Témoins de Jéhovah – Terrebonne – St. Michael’s Anglican – Assemblée Chrétienne La Mater – Église Baptiste Évangélique – Centre Évangélique Chrétien > Spiral binders $105. + taxes-shipping
Item #L 6 – St. Colomban’s Irish Catholic Parish – Catholic Marriages (1836-1984) – 521 marriages – Please note: This research guide in the form of a spiral binder also contains the Catholic Marriages of the parish of Bellefeuille – The latter with 545 marriages (1954-1991) > Spiral binders $10. + taxes-shipping
Item #R 33 – St. Colomban’s Irish Catholic Parish – Catholic births, baptisms, deaths (1836-1939) > Spiral binders $35. + taxes-shipping
Montreal Irish–Scottish Catholic Parishes
Item #H 8 – St. Patrick’s Irish Catholic Parish – Montreal – Marriages (1859-1899) – 316 pages > Spiral binders $40. + taxes-shipping
Item #H 9 – St. Patrick’s Irish Catholic Parish – Montreal – Marriages (1900-1941) – 360 pages including indexes of brides > Spiral binders $45. + taxes-shipping
Item #H 10 – St. Patrick’s Irish Catholic Parish – Montreal – Births & baptisms (1859-1899) – 1,253 pages > Spiral binders $160. + taxes-shipping
Item #H 11 – St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Parish – Montreal – Marriages (1884-1941) – 277 pages > Spiral binders $30. + taxes-shipping
Item #H 12 – St. Patrick’s Irish Catholic Parish – Montreal – Baptisms (1900-1945) – 659 pages > Spiral binders $85. + taxes-shipping
Item #H 13 – St. Anthony’s of Padua Catholic Parish – Montreal – Baptisms (1884-1941) – 649 pages > Spiral binders $85 + taxes-shipping.
Researched & compiled by: Jacques Gagné – firstname.lastname@example.org
The last letter my father received from Wolfgang Kempff was dated Berlin, September 20, 1939. Canada had declared war on Germany ten days earlier.
We hear many stories about allied soldiers, their heroics in the war and how proud they and their ancestors are of the medals won. This past remembrance day there was a story about a couple who had found medals and were trying to reunite them with the recipient’s family. One person commented that his German father had burned all his medals, not wanting to remember his part in the war. This invoked other comments saying how we have never heard what the German soldiers really felt about Hitler and the war.
I have some letters written to my father from a German fellow, Wolfgang Kempff, who was just 22 in 1939. Wolfgang had followed in the footsteps of his older brother and spent four years in Canada, attending Westmount High School, Westmount Quebec. He enjoyed his time perfecting his english and living the Canadian life. When he graduated in June 1935 he returned to Germany.
He is pictured in the school year book with all the other graduates. His biography is very revealing of his thoughts and feelings about Hitler and the position of Germany at that time.
His Quote: “Nature might stand up and say……”
His Favourite Expression: Heil Hitler
Pet Aversion: The treaty of Versailles
Past Time: Boosting Hitler
Ambition: To be as like Hitler as possible
Activities: Sailing Team, Junior Basketball, Play, Lifesaving and Public Speaking.
Wolfgang corresponded with his school friends after he returned home. He was very anxious for them to come visit him, to enjoy German beer, wine, racing cars, skiing and opera. He lived in Berlin with his mother and their guest room was always available. He even suggested they try to win scholarships so they could study in Berlin.
In 1937 Wolfgang was in the German army. He loved it and thought he would have great success because of his knowledge of english. He was proud of being German and believed Hitler was doing great things for his country. “I really gave myself pains to do everything well, and one can only do that when one is “flesh and blood” for the idea.” Unfortunately because of his health, continual throat infections, he was dismissed from the army. He was very upset as he would have been promoted to the military school that October and become an officer 18 months later.
With his military career over, he decided to study engineering at the University in Berlin. He needed six months of practical experience working in a factory before he could begin his program. It would then take seven and a half years before he would obtain his degree, much longer than his friends in Canada. In the summer of 1938 he worked for the State Railway and found it a very interesting experience. That fall he started his second term in mechanical engineering.
Wolfgang was enjoying the typical student life, going out, drinking beer, ski trips in the Bavarian Alps and chatting up English girls. He was annoyed that his summer holidays were to be cut by five weeks, but in September 1939 he and his mother were to drive to Italy, with stops in Prague and Vienna.
He wrote about politics. He didn’t think what was reported in the west was the truth. Wolfgang thought German food rationing was a joke. Every person could still have a pound of butter per week and enough eggs for breakfast! Lobster and caviar were expensive but these luxuries were something people could do without. No one was starving as local meat and vegetables were still readily available and there was almost no unemployment. “In 6 years much has been achieved. Perhaps no country in history has undergone such a change in 6 years. Hitler said in one of his last speeches, that Germany would far rather spend cash on things than on an unproductive army but apparently other countries have different ideas.”
The final letter was from September 20, 1939. He said, unfortunately he and his mother had to cancel their trip to Italy. Wolfgang didn’t understand why Britain and Canada had declared war on Germany. “We fight our own battles and won’t stand other people sticking their fingers into things which are none of their business.” He felt the Allies had nothing to gain and everything to lose in fighting the very fine German forces. “I don’t suppose any of you fellows will ever get on French soil. My pity for the “Paile and Tommy” who is going to try to run in our fortresses.”
He certainly didn’t think the war would last very long. “My invitation still holds good when the scuffle is over. Please give my regards to everybody and with best wishes to you and your family,
Letters and photographs from Wolfgang Kempff, Germany to Donald Sutherland, Westmount, Quebec, Canada. Aug 5, 1937, Aug 23, 1938, March 29, 1939 and September 20, 1939. In the author’s possession.
Westmount High School Annual, Westmount, Quebec, Canada. 1935
I assume Wolfgang was accepted back into the German army and didn’t survive the war. As yet, I haven’t been able to find any more information about him.