Ismael Bruneau wanted a biblical family, one child for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. His wife Ida didn’t share that ambition, but still, they had 10. When one of her daughters was getting married she asked her mother what she could do to prevent the arrival of so many children and Ida answered, “If I knew, do you think I would have had all of you?”
Ida herself came from a very large family. She was born in 1862 in Les Convers, Switzerland, to Gustave Girod and Sophie Balmer, the sixth of 16 children. Her favourite aunt, Celine Balmer was teaching at a private girl’s school in Baltimore, Maryland and arranged a job for Ida at the same school. In 1882 Ida sailed to the United States for the teaching position.
After a particularly bad year, with many deaths in the family, her parents decided to emigrate to America. Another son tragically died on the voyage and was buried at sea. The Girods were farmers and settled in the French community of Kankakee, Illinois. When Ida went to visit, she met the Minister, Ismael Bruneau. He was taken with her and they were soon married.
Ismael and Ida then lived in Green Bay Wisconsin where their first three children, Edgar, Beatrice and Hermonie were born. A French Protestant minister moved frequently and the next charge was in Holyoke Massachusetts, where Helvetia was born. Next was a move back to Canada. Sydney, Fernand, and Edmee were born in Quebec City and Renee, Herbert and Gerald in Montreal. All the children survived except Fernand. My Grandmother Beatrice said it was his name that killed him but we didn’t understand why as we thought the other siblings had stranger names. They played funeral with him and pulled him around in a wagon covered with flowers.
Although a minister’s salary was meagre the family survived and flourished. The first two sons went to McGill. One became a doctor and the other a lawyer. All the girls finished high school, went to Normal school and became teachers except Renee who attended Business school. The two youngest boys were still at home when their father died. There wasn’t the money to send them to university but they both became successful businessmen.
Ismael’s death was a shock to Ida. He had preached at an earlier service in Portneuf and ran uphill from the station in Quebec City, as the train was 50 minutes late. He arrived at the end of the service and died of a heart attack. Her heart was broken, “ I must realize that my dear husband of nearly 32 years has left me forever.” She moved to her daughter Helvetia’s home in Lachute, a town Ismael had felt would be a good place to retire. She went back to Switzerland because her aunt Celine had returned, but Celine was suffering from dementia and with all other friends and family gone Ida decided her life was in Canada.
One of her husband’s brothers-in-law, Emilien Frechette, whose wife Emilina Marie Bruneau had died, proposed that as they were both alone they get married. He had built himself a large house in Iberville south of Montreal and wanted company. My Aunt Aline remembered hating her mother’s visits to Iberville because she would come back with large baskets of gooseberries, red and black currents, which had to be cleaned for jam and pies. Aline’s other memory of her grandmother Ida was teaching her to play rummy and seven up. Aline said, “ She liked the little games they played and thought the ‘Devil’s plaything’ was a misnomer.” It was fine to play cards, just not on Sunday.
Ida developed cancer and spent her last days in the Montreal General Hospital. She was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in the Frechette plot with Emilien’s first wife Marie. After Ida’s death in 1927, he married Emilie Beauchamp Bruneau, the widow of Napoleon Bruneau, Ismael’s brother. Emilien certainly looked after the women in the Bruneau family. My mother remembered him as a nice old man. She didn’t remember her grandmother who died when she was five but she did remember visiting Monsieur Frechette in Iberville, going to the toilet and thinking, “My grandmother sat here!”
Bruneau, Ida. A Short History of the Bruneau – Girod Families. 1993.
Bruneau, Ida. letter to Mes Frere et Soeur. February 5, 1918. Quebec City, Quebec. A copy in the author’s possession.
Aline Raguin Allchurch. Letter to Mary Sutherland. 2002. Author’s possession.
Dorothy Raguin Sutherland’s Stories. Personal interview. 1998.
Ancestry.com. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.
Remembrance Day services always bring me to tears.
My childhood was spent in the shadow of World War II. My father, Douglas Ian Rankin Angus, and my uncle, James Oswald Stewart Angus returned home from overseas but they left an older sibling in a grave in Germany 1. My grandparents grieved for the rest of their lives.
My earliest memory of Remembrance Day is of my father parading down Quebec City’s Grand Allee to the cenotaph with his head held high, so handsome in his RCAF uniform. No tears then, just a stiff upper lip.
The first tears I remember were shed when I was fifteen. On the way home to Canada from a contract in East Pakistan, my father took his family to Hong Kong. At the Sai Wan Bay War Cemetery, my dad stood by the graves of many of his high school classmates who had served with the Royal Rifles of Canada in the defense of Hong Kong and sobbed. It was the first time I had seen my father cry and I was shocked. 2
In school that September my history teacher was one of the men who survived the horror of a Japanese POW camp. “He was never the same”, claimed my grandmother. Was my father also not the same man who joined the air force in 1940?
Dad never spoke of his war-time experiences. When discharged from service he returned to his old job at Price Brothers in Quebec City, bought a house and started a family. I often wonder how he and my mother were able to resume a marriage after four years separated by war. Dad spent additional periods of time in a military hospital following his discharge. All I knew is that while hospitalized, he made wonderfully big stuffed felt rabbits for my brother and me.
Every year without fail Dad took part in Remembrance Day services. He joined the Canadian Legion and sold poppies; he presented scholarships to the children and grandchildren of veterans at graduation ceremonies ; he attended squadron reunions and, following several medical procedures, convalesced at the Veteran’s Hospital in St. Anne de Bellevue .
I struggled to push my father’s wheelchair over the bumpy lawn at the Field of Honour in Pointe Claire on what would be his last Remembrance Day. Tears streamed down his face throughout the entire service and he sobbed uncontrollably during the Last Post. At his funeral seven months later, at age eighty- three, friends and colleagues who had also served overseas hobbled up to the altar in tears and laid poppies on his urn.
It was only after his death that I learned of dad’s war time service. I found his Pilot’s Flying Log Book, his service file, his discharge papers, a scrapbook of newspaper clippings my mother had complied, various certificates and a bundle of letters.3
Dad began his military service as a Wireless Air Gunner and was discharged to the Reserves as a Flight Lieutenant. He was trained to fly Hampdens, Elbacores, Wellingtons, Tiger Moths, Ansons and the Link C. He served in the Swordfish Squadron #415 and, when deployed oversees, he was assigned first to the RAF Costal Command and then to Bomber Command. He flew out of air force bases at Thorney Island, North Coates and St. Eval in England, Tain and Leuchars in Scotland, and Sumburg in the Shetland Islands.
The average expectation of life for nine crews out of ten was less than six months.
In one of the articles my mother clipped from the Quebec Chronicle Telegraph, Dad was listed as a Dambuster having participated in the 1943 bombing of the Mohne Damn and the Eder Damn which destroyed the heart of Industrial Germany in the Ruhr Valley: the factories, roads, railroads, mines, bridges and power stations.4.
One journalist attempted to interview a returning Dambuster and was told that the men had been ordered not to talk about it. It would seem that Dad never disobeyed order. In the his book Bomber Country, Daniee Swift refers to the “forgetting” by the bombers, “For in the place of a full record of the bombing, there is a curious absence.” 5
More than 500,000 German civilians were either killed or drowned in the raids on the damns. Immediately following the war the politicians of the day argued that to honour Bomber Command for their enormous contribution and sacrifice towards defeating Hitler was too politically charged because of the deaths. It was not until 2012, sixty-seven years “too late” that a memorial to Bomber Command was unveiled in Green Park, London. By then, Dad had been dead for nine years and with him the loss of the stories he never told.
And of the Remembrance Tears? They are shed for the bombers and for the bombed.
1. Service Record of Sergeant David Colin Brodie Angus, Library and Archives Canada
3. Documents on file with author
5. Daniel Swift. Bomber Country: The Poetry of a Lost Pilot’s War. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
Single women, or spinsters as they were once called, did not generally live independently or own a home in the 1800’s. So it was with my second great aunt, Annie Eleanor Kelly of Quebec City.
Until her father William Kelly died in 1902 at the age of eight-two 1. , the census records every ten years list Annie Kelly as living under his roof. 2. Family legend claims that she served as a missionary at one point but I have not found any supporting documentation.
Annie was one of five children born to William Kelly, a coal merchant, and his wife Jane Jamieson. Two brothers and a sister died young. Her remaining sibling Emma Jane married Peter Brodie. Annie’s mother lived until she was seventy-one and I presume it was Annie who cared for her parents during the last years of their lives. 3.
According to his will, William bequeathed to his married daughter Emma the property and house he owned on 1908 Valier Street. To his spinster daughter he bequeathed all his interests in the Quebec Coal Company, all the money in his bank accounts, and all his shares and stock. He also left to her all his household furniture, goods and effects. 4.
One wonders where William thought Annie would put these goods and effects when the house itself went to her sister. He appears to have simply followed the mores of the time. Emma’s husband must deal with the house. There is no evidence that Peter and Emma ever lived there.
The 1911 census finds Annie living with newlyweds Jean Brodie and James Angus, my grandparents. Where she lived from her father’s death to that date is not known. Annie was fifty-seven when she moved in and she stayed there until she died at seventy-four. Jean was the little niece William described in his will as having been taken into the care of her aunt. His sizable bequeath to Annie was “partly in remuneration of her long service in the family and towards me, and to help provide for a little niece she has taken in her care”. 5.
The term “long service” sounds like Annie may have been the family Cinderella.
There has been much speculation as to why Emma gave the care of her youngest daughter over to her sister. It is uncertain if Jean moved into her grandfather’s home to live with her aunt or if her aunt acted as a nanny in the Brodie home. The expression “taken in her care” would suggest the former. There were two other Brodie children, Carrie and Lawton, who appeared to have stayed with their parents.
Or was Emma actually Jean’s mother, despite the names Emma and Peter Brodie on Jean’s baptismal certificate? 6. It is not unheard of for the child of an unwed mother to be raised by a sister. Annie would have been twenty-six when Jean was born. Secretly I like to think she experienced love and romance sometime in her life.
Whatever the reason, clearly the bond between aunt and niece was as strong as any maternal bond.
Undoubtedly, much of the furniture, goods and effects left to Annie by her father were moved into her niece’s home. It may also have been Annie’s money that saved the Angus family when my grandfather’s bookstore went bankrupt during the Depression. As a child, I remember hearing about “Auntie Annie” but I was too young to remember any details. She would have been an integral part of my father’s childhood but my interest in her life came too late for me to ask for more information.
Today I look at some of the beautiful antiques I inherited from my grandmother and ponder their provenance. Might they have been the inheritance of Annie Kelly, spinster aunt?
Research Notes and Sources:
- Burial Record, Mount Herman Cemetery, Quebec City, November 15, 1902 (on file with author)
- Census records up to and including 1901, 1911, 1921, 1931, Library and Archives Canada
- Kelly Family Bible (owned by author)
- Last Will of William Kelly, 6th June, 1901. Louis Leclerc, Notary Public in the city of Quebec (on file with author)
- Baptismal certificate of Jane Jamieson Brodie – on file with author
- For many years baptismal documents were used in lieu of birth certificates in Quebec. One could obtain a passport with a baptismal certificate. I did not obtain a birth certificate until 1992.
Morrin Centre Cultural Centre, Quebec City
44, chaussée des Écossais, Québec, QC, G1R 4H3
418-694-9147 ext 227
Jessica Kelly-Rhéaume, Library Manager
418-694-9147 ext 229
The Literary and Historical Society of Quebec, Canada’s first learned society, was founded by the Earl of Dalhousie, Governor of Lower Canada, in 1824 in Quebec City. Today, the society has evolved into the Morrin Cultural Centre and includes Quebec City’s English-language library.
The original aims of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec were diverse. It gathered historical documents about Canada, republished many rare manuscripts and encouraged research in all fields of knowledge. Over the years, the society played a part in creating new institutions that would eventually take over some of its traditional roles. For example, the society helped to save what was left of the historic battlefield on the Plains of Abraham, and it participated in the creation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada.
In the late 1800s, the Morrin Centre’s library incorporated the collection of the Quebec Library, the oldest subscription library in Canada, founded in 1779. The current collection includes a number of old volumes, some of which date to the 16th century, rare historical books and manuscripts and many articles published by the society between 1824 and 1924.
Iron Bars and Bookshelves: A History of the Morrin Centre, tells the story of the former prison in which the cultural centre is housed, and the history of the Literary and Historical Society of Quebec. Published in 2016, it was written by Louisa Blair, Patrick Donovan and Donald Fyson. Louisa Blair is author of The Anglos: The Hidden Face of Quebec City 1608-1850, Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in history at Université Laval and Donald Fyson, a professor at Université Laval, has published extensively on the history of crime, justice, and the law in Canada and Quebec.
The Morrin Centre does not have any research tools designed specifically for genealogists, but staff are willing to help genealogists find other historical resources. Upon request, members can access the centre’s historical collection for on-site consultation. The documents in this collection are listed in the library’s online catalogue, http://www.morrin.org/en/explore-the-library/library-catalogue/. For further details, contact the library manager (see above).
An individual membership costs $45 a year. See www.morrin.org/en/support-morrin-centre/become-a-member/. To learn more, visit the Centre’s website at www.morrin.org/en/. The website includes 25 short biographies of individuals who were important in the organization’s history. See “Prisoners, Students and Thinkers,” http://www.morrin.org/en/prisonniers-eleves-et-penseurs
On August 18, 1943 Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Flight Sergeant Colin Angus was posted as missing and presumed dead following a devastating air raid made on the missile research laboratories at Peenemunde, Germany. Forty one bombers and one fighter plane were lost that night. Colin’s plane did not return.
Peenemunde was Colin’s second mission. He was initially rejected by the Air Force on medical grounds – a damaged mastoid bone, the legacy of a childhood illness. As the war took its toll, the physical requirements were downgraded. Colin was accepted and trained as a navigator.
The target of Colin’s first mission was Cologne, Germany’s military command center. Other comrades and other aircraft did not return that night. “We can only hope for them”, Colin wrote in a letter to his brother Ian.
Two days before Colin flew his second and final mission, he wrote in another in another letter that should he “take a cropper”‘ would Ian, also a RCAF pilot stationed in England, send from his personal effects “such stuff as should go home”.
The family of the missing exist in a liminal zone. How long did my grandparents hold out hope that their son would be found? They may have reasoned that he lay wounded and yet unidentified or that he would soon be listed as a prisoner of war.
How powerless they must have felt during the days and weeks and months that followed. When Colin had hovered between life and death as a child, they could hold him, soothe and tend to him. Now they could do nothing but wait. Did they rant at the unfairness? Did they make pacts with God? How did they get through the long nights when daytime activities could no longer offer a sense of normalcy and hold the pain at bay? Were they able to share their fears and support each other, or did they suffer alone, neither willing to expose their despair to the other?
It took seven months for the RCAF to confirm their son’s death. On April 30th, 1944, a memorial service was held providing the family a semblance of closure. There was no coffin. His body, along with those of his crew members, had been buried in German soil far from loved ones.
“Such stuff that should go home” eventually reached my grandparents. It was a very small package that included Colin’s watch and glasses.
When I was sixteen, my grandmother was chosen to be Mother of Honor at the annual Armistice ceremony in Quebec City. The night before the event she carefully unwrapped the package. As I watched, she stroked each item, tears streaming down her cheeks. I was yet too young to fully understand her grief. I could only fixate on the glasses, so very fragile, and marvel that they could survive the crash that killed the uncle I would never know.
Yet that uncle left me a treasured gift. The bond I had with my grandmother was forged because of his death. I have since come to understand that her joy in the birth of a grand-daughter the year following her son’s death enabled her to move beyond her sorrow. I believe that I was her salvation and the reason she held me close all her days.
Service Record of Sergeant David Colin Brodie Angus, Library and Archives Canada
Personal letters between Colin and his brother Ian – on file with author, Ian’s daughter
Service Held for Colin Angus, Quebec Chronicle Telegraph, May 1, 1944 – clipping on file with author
Jacques begins his latest compilation, The German Presence in Quebec City, with a translated quote by German Quebec expert University of Montreal Professor Manuel Meune. In this quote, Meune describes the context of German immigration to Quebec over the years.
The circumstances Meune describes challenge family researchers with ancestors from Germany who might wonder where original records might be stored. To help sort out the information, Jacques has highlighted books and document collections in churches, libraries, schools and societies in and around the Quebec City area.
He’s also included Facebook or other contact information for each repository so researchers can visit these locations to explore what might be available.
He arrived when the service was almost over. He walked to the pulpit and announced the last hymn “Seigneur Tu donne Ta Grace.” As the organ played he collapsed to the floor. So ended the life of Ismael Bruneau, my great grandfather.
His life began in 1852 as Ismaer Bruneau in St-Constant Quebec, just south of Montreal. Ismaer was the eleventh of thirteen children and the youngest son of Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Prudhomme. He attended the French Protestant school in Pointe aux Trembles and one summer went to West Randolph, Vermont to work in the mills. He spent a lot of time thinking about his future. He had written for advice to the principal of the school, Dr. Tanner who encouraged him to return to his studies and take the classes for those considering the ministry.
He was not sure of that path. One day he was out walking in the woods and climbed to the top of a hill. He sat facing Canada and prayed to God about the decisions he must make. As he reported, there was a dark cloud on the horizon and a voice spoke to him as if from the sky, telling him to return home and study, then travel and spread the gospel.
Ismaer continued his studies at Pointe aux Trembles and was then admitted to the Presbyterian College in Montreal, which had begun teaching subjects in French. At this time he changed his name from Ismaer to Ismael which he thought was more biblical and added Prudhomme as a middle name in honour of his mother.
After graduating, he was sent to Saint-Anne’s Kankakee County, Illinois to work with Father Chiniquy. Father Chiniquy was a Catholic priest who had left Quebec in the wake of several scandals. His zeal for God remained intense but not his feelings for the Catholic Church, which he renounced. He made his beliefs known to his congregation and they all chose to follow him and convert to Protestantism.
One family living in Kankakee was the Girods, who had recently immigrated from Switzerland. When their daughter Ida, a teacher in Baltimore came to visit, she was introduced to their minister. Ismael had been very homesick and often wrote letters home. He began writing about the lovely woman he had met. Then in one letter, he wrote to his sister Anais, “ Wouldn’t you like to come out after the harvest and see my wife. It would be worth it for without a doubt she is one of the beauties of the world in my eyes.” Ismael and Ida were married June 12, 1886.
The Bruneaus had three children in Green Bay, Wisconsin, one in Holyoke, Massachusetts, three in Quebec City and the last three in Montreal. Ismael had wanted a biblical family, a child for each of the 12 tribes of Israel but in the end had only 10. Nine of the children survived. He continued moving and preaching, taking a charge in Cornwall, Ontario and finally in 1917 back to Quebec City.
In Quebec, he had a church in the Old City as well as a congregation in Portneuf. He would conduct the morning service, catch the train to Portneuf for an afternoon service and be back in Quebec City in time for the evening service. On January 27, 1918 the train was delayed because of a troop train. Arriving late in Quebec City he ran up the hill from the station. He entered the church before the service ended but while his spirit was still willing his heart was weak. His family suffered financial hardships after his death as there were no pensions and the Presbyterian Church sent his widow one cheque for the days he had worked that month and nothing more.
Bruneau, Ida. A Short History of the Bruneau – Girod Families. 1993.
Duclos, Rieul P. Histoire Du Protestantisme Français Au Canada Et Aux États-Unis. Montreal, Canada: 1912. Print
Villard, Paul. Up to the Light: The Story of French Protestantism in Canada. Toronto: Issued for the Board of Home Missions of the United Church of Canada by the Committee on Literature, General Publicity and Missionary Education of the United Church of Canada, 1928. Print.