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Heatwaves and Victory Gardens

 

socialnotespotato

On Sunday, October 1, 2017, some members of Genealogy Ensemble will be participating in the Culture Days event at the Verdun Farmer’s Market, in promotion of Beads in a Necklace, our  book of family stories to be published in November.   My talk will focus on WWI Victory Gardens and the rising cost of living during that period.

The newspaper clipping, above, is from the social notes column of the Richmond-Times Guardian, (Richmond, Quebec) circa 1905. The very silly item about a big potato is probably my husband’s grandfather’s way of poking fun at small town pretentions.  Or is it?

The Nicholson family’s vast vegetable garden behind their charming red-brick house in the Eastern Townships of Quebec was no joke to them, not even in an era when pre-prepared foods, like Heinz Beans, Jello, and Quaker Oats, were fast becoming house-hold names.*(1)

In 1911, with their four children were grown up, the large backyard garden that produced corn, beets, sweet peas, etc., was critical to the diet of this frugal Scottish Canadian family.

The potato patch was a particular concern:

“I put the Paris Green on the potatoes twice. Mrs. Montgomery came over to tell me that the bugs were eating up my potatoes. I was waiting to get someone to do it for me, as that was one thing I never attempted.

“But when she interfered thought we would try it. So one dark night, Flora (daughter) got the lantern and we went out when the bugs were asleep and gave them their dose. We dressed ourselves in the shed. You ought to have seen us. When we got through left our clothes there. Went to bed and dreamed all night that the bugs were crawling over us.”

So writes Margaret Mcleod Nicholson, in a July, 9, 1911 to husband Norman, who was away in Northern Ontario working as a railway inspector.

You have to admire Margaret’s style. Although her letters were often penned in haste and full of household concerns, ‘the local news’  as in gossip, and much high anxiety over finances, she certainly could paint a word picture when she wanted to.*(2)

In the spring of 1911, it was 57 year old Margaret’s job to care for the garden because her two older girls, Edith and Marion, were away teaching in Montreal, and her youngest, Flora, was very busy studying for final exams. Margaret and Flora were living alone for most of the year.

Although her daughters returned to Richmond for the summer, they came and went as they pleased, often in motorcars owned by wealthier neighbours. *(3)

Norman, in his letters home,  warned his wife not to work too hard out in the backyard, especially in hot weather, and the summer  of 1911, as it happens, was very, very hot.*(4)

tighsnapcorn

An ‘old-fashioned’ carriage in front of Tighsolas, the Nicholson home, circa 1910. A hire. The Nicholsons couldn’t afford to keep a carriage, let alone buy an automobile, like so many of their neighbours.

The same  letter continues:

“We have had dreadful hot weather. Just fancy, one night we slept out on the veranda. Took our mattresses down. The Skinners (other neighbours) were sleeping in theirs so that we were not afraid and we had Flossie (the dalmatian) with us but yesterday afternoon it rained so last night was cool.

We all had a good sleep and today is fine. We feel like working. I hope you did not have this extreme heat. We had quite a cold wave about the 24th but no frost.”

This sounds like typical Quebec  weather, doesn’t it?  So up and down.  It’s not easy cultivating a garden in this province. It takes perseverance.

Six years later, in the spring of 1917, most everyone in the west end of the city of Montreal was out on the street digging their wartime Victory Gardens.*(5)

Marion Nicholson, now a mother and homemaker living on York Street in lower Westmount, describes the scene in a letter home to Mom:

“Every vacant lot around the city has been utilized for gardens and I think it is more common to see people out digging and planting in these gardens than in a small town like Richmond. Some I think are making their first attempt.”

Her small family is no exception.  “Hugh (husband) and Willie (cousin) are making a garden. What success they will have I do not know. One thing for sure, the beds are straight (her underline) and square. I myself would prefer more in them.”

Marion (who is six months pregnant) then describes how she has hardly slept all week while tending her very sick toddler. She begs her mom to send as many crates of eggs as she can on the next train.

It certainly was an era of high-anxiety about food, nutrition  – and so many other things.

butterbill1917

Margaret’s 1917 butter bill. Inflation. The price of butter goes up from 30 to 40 cents from September to October.* (6)

Still, Marion closes her letter to her Mom by praising her comfort food:  “So, now to get a taste of your home-made bread. When I eat it, I close my eyes and I feel as if I were home. Thank you for all the good things you sent.”

orchard[1]

Edith, young Margaret, and Marion, far right, in summer of 1918 in an orchard in Richmond, possibly behind the Nicholson home as they had apple trees. (The newborn is in other pics.) This was the year of the Spanish Flu. It was safer in the countryside. Marion stayed an entire month in Richmond, until her husband, Hugh, begged her to come home in a letter. “The ice in the icebox has melted all over the floor, there’s no food in the house, the windows are kept open and it’s hot as Hades in here. Please come home and take care of me!” He was in the care of his sisters-in-law, who had better things to do in wartime Montreal  than to baby their brother-in-law. Edith, a Sun Life employee, volunteered in Soldiers’ Aid for the YMCA and for the Navy League.

  • 1. Most of the famous food brands of the 20th century got their start in 1900-1910 by advertising in magazines like the Ladies’ Home Journal with happy-family lifestyle ads with bigger graphics and fewer printed promises. “Pure” was the adjective of the day.

It was understood, even back then, that the home was evolving from a center of production to a center of consumption. Margaret, born in 1853, made everything from scratch, on a woodstove, with recipes she kept firmly locked in her head; Marion Nicholson, born 1886, would cook on a gas stove relying on her Fanny Farmer Cookbook; her daughter, also Marion, born 1917,  living in middle class comfort in 1950’s suburbia, would feed her brood nothing but canned vegetables, even canned potatoes, which she warmed on an electric stove.

  • 2. Norman was tickled by an anecdote from a November, 1909 letter, where Margaret vividly describes a back-and-forth argument she has had with a male relation over woman suffrage. The relation invokes St. Paul as was the custom. She replies “St. Paul has been dead for a long time. I don’t live in those days, milking cows and making fires.” Norman, who is active in local politics, replies in support of his wife: “Too absurd to think that a woman cannot exercise her franchise with as much intelligence as some of the male sex. And when you have to drag some of these supposedly intelligent men to the polls as you would cattle.”
  • 3. Margaret disliked motor cars. From 1909. “Mr. Montgomery is selling his horse and buying a car. Don’t you think he is foolish?” But, she was happy to go on drives when invited.
  • 5.  http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/victory-gardens. Apparently, Victory Gardens weren’t only a way to add to the food supply; they were about improving morale on the home-front by making people feel useful.

 

  • 6. A Chicago Agency sent a very fancy direct mail advertisement out to Richmond homemakers in 1916 on behalf of a new product called Crisco Shortening asking, “Do you like the taste of fresh buns in the morning? Try Crisco.” A coupon was attached.

 

THE DRIVING LESSON

I pace the floor nervously. Where IS he? How much longer do I have to wait? He is already 30 minutes late!

It is 23 January 1979 and I have been in Quebec, Canada for all of three months and today is my first driving lesson – EVER. I have never even sat behind the driving wheel of a car. In England, I walked everywhere pushing the children in my Silver Cross upright pram and later, we caught a bus. In Geneva where we had been living previously, we had a small VW Beetle and my husband drove it. Here, we have what to me is a huge car, and I am supposed to learn how to drive it? I am a nervous wreck. My son Owen, aged 5 has to come with me, as I do not know anyone to care for him, and the thought of Owen in the back seat with ME and my first driving lesson has me really worried.  My appointment was for 10 am. At 10:30 I call the school to ask where he is. They tell me he should be there, and to make alternative arrangements when he arrives.

WHAT? All that worry and a sleepless night to make alternative arrangements?! My fear makes me angry. The driving instructor eventually arrives 40 minutes late, claiming to have been ‘ringing the bell’ and I was not answering. I tell him he is very late and I called the school to ask where he was. Then, HE gets annoyed and informs me he has to go or the other client will be ‘tearing his hair out’ plus, I cannot expect him exactly on time in ‘these conditions’ These conditions being heavy snow, wind and ice which is not ideal  for a first ever driving lesson, but what do I know?

I tell him to leave and I am going to cancel future lessons with this school. I shut the door and cry and cry I feel like a failure. I’ll never learn to drive. Eventually, I mop up and call the school and demand a refund. The director was very kind and said the instructor was wrong trying to justify his lateness.  He would make another appointment. ‘Not with HIM’ I rage. No, another person he soothes. I put the phone down, have another cry. I feel so frustrated, angry nervous and very alone. I wept for most of the day. Two days later, after 2 and half hours of snow clearing another strange ritual, I have my first driving lesson.

The instructor this time is a Welsh man and he is very patient telling me to relax. Ha! relax? No way! The sweat is actually running down my back and I can’t stop trembling. How do I work the window wipers in this snow? Put the heater on? Which side of the road am I supposed to be on? Why is there a ‘Stop’ sign at every corner? I manage to get to the next street and it is covered in thick ice. A water main has burst, and the street is like an ice rink or what I would imagine an ice rink to be, having never seen one. Oh! the anxieties and fears of being a newcomer.

Eventually, I do get my driving license, and today I love to drive but those few fraught months of learning is something I will never forget but the bonus is, that driving in snowy icy weather here in Quebec is a breeze for me now! I have no fear.

 

 

Finding British Regiments in Quebec, 1759-1760

The 1759 Battle of the Plains of Abraham, in which General Wolfe’s British invasion force defeated General Montcalm’s defending army, is the most famous battle in Canadian history. After the British also conquered Montreal the following year, New France became history and a new British colony in Canada was born.

Thousands of people took part in these events. British historians say that the fleet that sailed up the St. Lawrence River in the spring of 1759 carried between 10,000 and 12,500 British sailors and soldiers, while the book Combattre pour la France en Amérique lists 7,450 French soldiers.

Finding out whether your ancestor fought in this campaign is not easy, but the PDF attached below, Finding British Regiments in Quebec, 1759-1760, may help you make a start. This compilation lists the British regiments that fought at Quebec City and Montreal, and it identifies the places British regiments were posted during the 1759-1760 campaign.

The Canadian government website of The National Battlefields Commission www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/ describes the historical context of the Seven Years War (also known as the French and Indian War), while the searchable page www.ccbn-nbc.gc.ca/en/history-heritage/battles-1759-1760/soldiers/ lists the names of 7,279 British soldiers and 4,079 French soldiers who took part.

Marcel Fournier and a staff of about 30 researchers in Montreal and France identified 7,450 soldiers and officers who fought for France in New France, plus the names of another 1374 soldiers. These findings were published in Combattre pour la France en Amérique by La Société généalogique canadienne-française, Montreal, 2009 (in French only).

If you are interested in the soldiers who fought in British regiments, you should consult the two-volume In Search of the “Forlorn Hope”: a Comprehensive Guide to Locating British Regiments & Their Records (1640-WWI) by John M. Kitzmiller II, published in Salt Lake City by Manuscript Publishing Foundation, 1988. You will probably find it in a large library. This book is the source of the information complied here.

These two volumes, plus a supplement, tell you which regiment was posted where from 1640 to 1914. The book does this in reverse: you need to look up the name of a place or campaign and the book identifies the regiments stationed there. The supplement can also help you with genealogical research you might want to conduct in British War Office Records. Once you find your ancestor’s name, you may need to visit the Public Record Office, Kew, near London.

Another book, My Ancestor was in the British Army, by Michael Watts and Christopher Watts, published by the Society of Genealogists in the U.K. in 2009, lists dozens of other archives in England, Wales and Scotland in which military records are kept, including the soldiers and mariners who fought during the Seven Years War in North America. You can also try searching military records on the subscription website Find My Past, www.findmypast.com.

finding-british-regiments-in-quebec-1759-1760

 

The Irish of Frampton, Quebec

Irish immigrants to the province of Quebec arrived at the port of Quebec City from the earliest days of the 19th century. From there, the British authorities began the process of allocating lands to these mostly poor Irish settlers. Some went to Montreal, where many of the men were hired to work on big construction projects such as the Lachine Canal in the early 1820s. Others settled in small hamlets in Portneuf, Lotbinière, Drummond, Gaspé, Huntingdon, Chateauguay, Joliette, Maskinongé, Montcalm, Napierville, Richmond and Deux Montagnes counties, as well as in the Ottawa Valley region. Many Irish Protestants moved further west, to Upper Canada.

Marianna O’Gallagher (1929-2010) wrote numerous books about the Irish of Quebec, and one of her texts inspired Rev. John A. Gallagher to write St. Patrick’s ParishQuebec. This article recalls the communal life of the Irish Catholic families of Quebec City before their final departures to various communities across the province. You can find this article online at http://www.umanitoba.ca/colleges/st_pauls/ccha/Back%20Issues/CCHA1947-48/Gallagher.pdf

The region of Frampton, in Dorchester County, was the site of one of the earliest rural settlements of Irish Catholic families in Quebec. Today, Frampton is in a beautiful area known as the Beauce, south of Quebec City, and the community is almost completely French-speaking, but 150 years ago things were very different. You will find a 62-page text entitled Irish Life in Rural Quebec: a history of Frampton, by Patrick M. Redmond, online at http://www.framptonirish.com/frampton/content/Irish_Life.pdf It includes the names of many individuals, as well as statistics, extensive footnotes and a bibliography.

The Frampton Irish Website, http://www.framptonirish.com/frampton/Whats_New.cfm, written by Dennis McLane, includes a database of more than 12,000 names. This database has also been posted to the public member trees section of Ancestry.com. Irish Needles, McLane’s three-volume history of the Frampton Irish, is available from http://www.Amazon.com. These three books are:

Volume I – Irish Needles: The History of the Frampton Irish – 245 pages – 3,600 families – 13,200 people > $20 US

Volume II – Genealogy Compendium of the Frampton Irish, A-K – 405 pages > $25 US

Volume III – Genealogy Compendium of the Frampton Irish. L-Z – 389 pages > $25 US

Researching French Canadian Ancestors through the Drouin Institute

Institut Généalogique Drouin

 http://www.institutdrouin.com

450-448-1251

Institut.drouin@gmail.com

 If you are researching French Canadian ancestors, the best place to look is the Drouin Institute, www.drouininstitute.com. The institute can help you find a great deal of information about your ancestors, but only some pages are in English and you may become confused because there are several different ways to access the site’s information.

In addition to the subscription database at https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/, the institute has a vast selection of publications for sale through its bookstore.

You will find the link to subscribe to the institute’s online database, Quebec Records, at the top of the page www.genealogiequebec.com/en/ or, if you are on the French-language page, click on abonnement.

The Quebec Records collection, updated as of February 2016, includes more than 42 million files and images. Take a look at the About Us page (https://www.genealogiequebec.com/en/about) to get an idea of the scope of information available. It includes the Lafrance Collection of Catholic baptisms, marriages and deaths starting from 1621, and some Protestant marriages, 1760-1849. The online Drouin Collection includes a variety of genealogical records from Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick. Scroll down the About page to see the listing of additional databases, including notarized documents and obituaries.

The Quebec Records page has a link to the PRDH project, or Research Program in Historical Demography, http://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/home. This huge undertaking by the University of Montreal put together all Catholic baptisms, marriages and burials, as well as Protestant marriages, in Quebec from 1621 to 1849.

According to the project’s website (http://www.genealogie.umontreal.ca/en/LePrdh) the result is “a computerized population register, composed of biographical files on all individuals of European ancestry who lived in the St. Lawrence Valley. The file for each individual gives the date and place of birth, marriage(s), and death, as well as family and conjugal ties with other individuals. This basic information is complemented by various socio-demographic characteristics drawn from documents: socio-professional status and occupation, ability to sign his or her name, place of residence, and, for immigrants, place of origin.” The PRDH site includes an extensive bibliography. Subscription rates depend on whether you live in Quebec, the rest of Canada or elsewhere.

The Drouin Institute sells a number of products through its online boutique. For example, you can buy family histories on CD through https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/collections/patrimoine-familial (search for your family’s name in the naviguer box on the right), or you can purchase published family history books at https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/collections/patrimoine-familial. Almost all of these products are in French.

The page http://www.drouininstitute.com/index.html links to the online boutique. On that page (https://institut-drouin.myshopify.com/search) you can put your family name into the search box and it will tell you what products, including CDs, books, spiral binders and PDFs, can be ordered.

Another way to search this resource is to go to www.institutdrouin.com/neufs. This page will lead you to a long list of product numbers. Click on each selection to see what titles are available.

Here are some of the spiral binders you can buy from the institute containing records that Montreal genealogist Jacques Gagné says are not available through commercial databases:

Item # N-0076 –RawdonSt. Patrick Catholic Parish – Montcalm County – Marriages, baptisms, deaths (1837-1987) – Parish later renamed Marie-Reine-du-Monde de Rawdon > Spiral binders $55. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0278 – Iberville County – Protestant & Catholic Marriages (1823-1979) – Towns of: Henryville – Iberville – Mont-St-Grégoire – St-Alexandre – St-Athanase – Ste-Anne-de-Sabravois – Ste-Brigite-d’Iberville – St-Grégoire-le-Grand – St-Sébastien – Ste-Angèle-de-Monnoir – 802 pages – 2 volumes > Spiral binders $75. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0327 – Trois-RivièresSt. Patrick Irish Catholic ParishMarriages (1955-1981) > Spiral binders $10. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0504 – Terrebonne Judicial District Civil Marriages – (1969-1991) – 8,900 marriages – 684 pages > Spiral binders $69. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0578 – St. Lawrence River’s Mid North ShoreMoyenne Côte-Nord du St-Laurent Judicial District of Sept-IlesMarriages (1846-1987) – 10,342 marriages – Towns of : Sept-Iles – Port-Cartier – Clarke City – Godbout – Gallix – Baie-Trinité – Rivière-Brochu – Franquelin – Moisie – Rivière-Pentecôte – Pointe-aux-Anglais – 607 pages > Spiral binders $43. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0579 – St. Lawrence River’s Lower North Shore &  Southern LabradorBasse Côte-Nord du St-Laurent et du Sud du LabradorProtestant & Catholic marriages, baptisms, deaths (1847-2006) – 6,470 marriagesRegion of Minganie – Aguanish – Baie Johan Beetz – Hâvre-St-Pierre – Anticosti Island – Longue Pointe de Mingan – Mingan – Natashquan – Pointe-Parent – Rivière-au-Tonnerre – Rivière-St-Jean – Region of Lower North-Shore – Aylmer Sound – Blanc Sablon – Chevery – Harrington Harbour – Kegaska – La Romaine – La Tabatière – Lourdes de Blanc Sablon – Musquaro – Mutton Bay – Pakua-Shipi – Rivière St-Paul – St-Augustin (St. Augustine) – Tête a la Baleine – Region of Southern Labrador – Capstan Island – Clear Bay (L’Anse-au-Clair) – East St. Modest (e) – Flower’s Cove – Forteau – L’Anse-au-Loup (Woolf Cove) – L’Anse-Amour – Pinware – Red Bay – Sheldrake – West St. Modest (e) – Catholic Parishes (17) – Anglican Church (4) – United Church (2) – Methodist Church (1) – Congregationalist Church (1) – Plymouth Brethern (Gospel Hall) (3) – Pentecostal (1) – The church records of the Presbyterian Church in Harrington Harbour were destroyed by fire in 1973 – 330 pages > Spiral binders $28. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0585 – St. Lawrence’s River Upper North Shore –  Haute-Côte-Nord du St-LaurentMarriages (1668-1992) – 17,689 marriages – Towns of: Baie-Comeau – Forestville – Les Escoumins – Tadoussac – Chutes-aux-Ouardes – Ragueneau – Pointe-Lebel – Betsiamites – Bersimis – Les Bergeronnes – Les Ilets Jéramie – 576 pages > $40. + taxes-shipping

Item # N-0613 – Gardenville Presbyterian Church & United Church of LongueilGreenfield ParkLongueilMarriages, baptisms, deaths (1905-1925 & 1926-1941) – 77 pages > $35. + taxes-shipping

Researched and compiled by Jacques Gagné gagne.jacques@sympatico.ca

The German Presence in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé Peninsula

This compilation on the German Presence in the Lower St. Lawrence and Gaspé Peninsula is the last of a series on German-speaking immigrants to Quebec. Families that settled along the shores of the St. Lawrence River north-east of Quebec City and in the Gaspé region integrated well into their communities and attended a variety of local Catholic and Protestant churches.

In this compilation, you will find the historic names of the Quebec counties in this area, from their beginnings in the French regime, through the period when Lower Canada was a British colony and into the modern era of the province of Quebec. This document lists the churches these German-speaking families might have attended, and where to find their birth, marriage and death records.

German Presence Lower St. Lawrence & Gaspesia Adj

 

The German Presence in the Lower Laurentians

This compilation looks at the towns and villages in the Lower Laurentian area, north of Montreal, where German-speaking immigrants settled, and lists the churches these people may have frequented. It also lists several books and articles that discuss these people and their communities. There is a list of repositories and addresses at the end of the compilation that will help you find records of births, marriages and deaths.

German Presence – Lower Laurentian Region of Quebecl Mar 19-1

The German Presence in the Eastern Townships, Central Quebec, the Richelieu River Valley and South-West Quebec

As in other parts of Quebec, German-speaking immigrants, including some Loyalists with German roots, integrated well into life in the Eastern Townships and surrounding regions. This compilation describes the towns and villages where some of these people have lived from the late 1700s to the 20th century. It names the churches they attended and the cemeteries where they were buried, and it helps the researcher locate these records.

The German Presence in the Eastern Townships Final Mar 6

Protestant Churches of Arthabaska, Bagot, Drummond, Nicolet, Richmond, Wolfe, Yamaska

This compilation looks at the Protestant churches in seven counties of Quebec east of Sherbrooke and north toward the St. Lawrence River, including the cities of Drummondville, Victoriaville and Richmond. The guide includes a list of names of Protestant families who settled in this area, a list of ministers who served these congregations and brief descriptions of the towns and villages where these churches were located. It guides researchers to the repositories where the records of these churches can be found. Protestant cemeteries in these counties are also listed.

Protestant Churches of Arthabaska, Bagot, Drummond, Nicolet

Congregational Churches of Lower Canada and Quebec

This compilation looks briefly at the history of the Congregational church in Quebec. Many communities in the Eastern Townships had been settled by Loyalists from the United States, and many of those people were Congregationalists. Montreal’s first Congregational church opened its doors in 1831, while Quebec City had had Congregational services since 1800. Researcher Jacques Gagné also explains where the records of these early churches might be found.

Congregationalist Churches in Quebec-1

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