Category Archives for History Worth Remembering

Charlotte and Arthur’s War-Time Wedding

I never asked my great granny Charlotte about her wedding, but the records I’ve found hint at lots of intrigue.

Did they plan a summer wedding and then rush things to avoid conscription? Had they initially hoped to marry in the church next to her home but lost the opportunity due to community infighting?

Probably, but not yet proven.

What I do know is that my great grandparents—then 23-year-old groom Arthur Johnson and his 22-year-old bride Charlotte Charbonneau—chose to marry on Friday, February 9, 1917 in an unfinished church basement blocks away from her home instead of in the church right next door.

The direct information I have about that day appears in an affidavit filled out by Arthur on January 22, signed by the witnesses and solemniser, and turned in to the Registrar on February 17.[1]

When looking at it, I couldn’t help wondering two things: why then and why there?

Why February?

She wasn’t pregnant—their first son wouldn’t be born for another two years.

Money would be tight later, but at that point both had jobs. Arthur worked as a machinist and Charlotte served as a fore-lady, probably supervising women at a factory producing something for the war.

Did the impetus to marry early in 2017 have something to do with federal government musings about conscription at that time? Prime Minister Robert Borden promised publicly that he’d send 500,000 Canadian soldiers to Europe by the end of 1916. Only 300,000 men volunteered by December 2016, and numbers dwindled as horrific details about the Battle of the Somme reached Canada.

Borden passed conscription in August the summer after Arthur and Charlotte wed. Had they married after July 6, 2017, Arthur might have been conscripted. I might not exist.

I’m not sure why Arthur didn’t serve. He certainly had close ties with Europe having immigrated to Canada from Lancashire England ten years earlier. He came to Canada with his brother Albert and his parents, Mary Young and William Johnson.

Neither Arthur nor Albert volunteered for the Armed Forces and the family remained close. Albert and his wife Amie served as witnesses at Arthur and Charlotte’s wedding.

I also wonder how they selected the location of their marriage.

Both families worshipped in the Presbyterian faith. At the time, Charlotte still lived with her parents on Cross Street in Weston, right next to a Presbyterian Church called the Old Kirk at 11 Cross Street.

Why didn’t the couple get married in the Old Kirk?

Turns out that the building couldn’t offer a legally-sanctioned marriage between March 2013 and June 2017, despite more than 200 of the 247 congregation members working hard to keep the place open.

The problem began in March 2013, when fewer than 38 people voted to close the facilities and sell the Cross Street building. Given that the snow kept 209 people at home that day, I suspect that the meeting in question took place in the Main Street building purchased for Sunday School services a year earlier.

The sordid affair appears in a wonderful history of the Church in Weston called “From Then to Now.”

At a congregational meeting in March 1913, bad weather kept attendance to 38 out of 245 members. A majority of the 38 voted to hold all future services at the new facility and to sell the Cross Street site. Westminster Presbyterian Church was then fully established on the new site and the Cross Street site was sold.

The church on Cross Street was then re-purchased by some of the old members and services resumed on January 18th, 1914. Presbytery refused to recognize this congregation though, so it operated as an independent Presbyterian Church known as The Old Kirk The group continued to worship steadfastly and endured three failed petitions to Toronto Presbytery asking to be recognized as a second Presbyterian congregation in Weston (one petition was signed by 259 members). They appealed to the General Assembly, held in Montreal in June 1917, and the appeal was sustained. The church was then named The Old Presbyterian Church. From June 1917 to 1925 there were two official Presbyterian Churches in Weston.

In 1925 Westminster Presbyterian voted for church union and The Old Presbyterian Church opted to remain Presbyterian. It was then named Weston Presbyterian Church and Westminster became Westminster United Church. [2]

I haven’t yet found definitive proof that Charlotte and her family took part in the purchase or petitions of the Cross Street building. Given that Arthur and Charlotte married within a completely different congregation, however, it’s likely that they did.

Perhaps the couple hoped to be the first marriage in the renewed building, but then chose to wed rapidly so Arthur could avoid conscription. They needed a legally-sanctioned marriage.

They Chose St. David’s Church in Toronto

Arthur’s affidavit provides the address. It indicates that Reverend Charles A. Mustard presided over Charlotte and Arthur’s wedding ceremony at 38 Harvie Avenue, a building at the corner of St. Clair Avenue.

Information contained within a Presbyterian Museum article[3] about the Church after it was torn down in 1999 gives context. The St. David’s Church congregation purchasing the Harvie site in 1911. They began operations by moving an original frame church from the south side of St. Clair Avenue opposite McRoberts to the new site. That building opened in 1912.

The community grew rapidly. By 1914, they hired Toronto architect Herbert George Paul to incorporate their original wood frame structure into a new larger building. He finished constructing only the basement, however, when the bank pulled the Church loan due to World War I.

A speech by John Barron in June 1918 describes what happened.

In the year 1911 the present site was secured. Seventy-two feet of the frontage being presented by Westminster Church, to which the Church building was moved and alterations made. This building was opened on Nov. 12, 1912.

The congregation outgrew this accommodation, and in the year 1914 plans were prepared and the present building was commenced, but owing to conditions brought about by the war, the basement only was finished and used for services to the present time.

So, instead of getting married in a perfectly good building on Charlotte’s street, community infighting and a war forced the couple to wed in an unfinished basement in St. David’s Presbyterian Church.

[1] Johnson, Arthur. Affadavid, 022461, loose paper, Office of the Registar General Ontario. Rec. Date: Jan 22, 2019. Ontario Canada Select Marriages. Archives of Ontario. Toronto. MS932, Reel 440, Ancestry.com and Genealogical Research Library (Brampton, Ontario, Canada). Ontario, Canada, Marriages, 1801-1928 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010. Ancestry. www.ancestry.ca : 2010.

[2] From Then to Now, 1847 to 2007, a history by the Weston Presbyterian Congregation, http://westonpresbyterian.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/WestonPCHistory.pdf

[3] http://presbyterianmuseum.ca/files/2014/09/PCC-National-Presbyterian-Museum-Museum-Musings-St-Davids-cornerstone_revised.pdf

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La Cadie before Evangeline

Ten generations before I was born, and for at least three generations before that, my French-speaking ancestors settled in Port Royal on the Annapolis River.

They probably arrived as colonizers in 1603. That’s when France’s King Henri IV set up “La Cadie” between the 40th and 46th parallels south of the Saint Lawrence River. For a good idea of how they lived, visit the Port-Royal National Historic Site.

Just before, or just after, the birth of François Allard III, his parents left the region for Quebec.

I imagine they refused to swear allegiance to the British monarch.

For at least three generations, French settlers like them fought with local Mi’kmaq people against British settlers in New England. Throughout the years, many cross-border conflicts and trade ship privateering occurred. The worse early incident led to Port Royal’s destruction by fire in 1613. It was rebuilt and skirmishes continued for a century, with the French and Mi’kmaq remaining strong.

Siege of Port Royal

The siege of Port Royal in 1710 marked the beginning of the end of French dominance in the region.

On October 5, 1,880 British and New England soldiers arrived at Goat Island just south of Port Royal in five warships with accompanying transport and bomb galleys. First, they blockaded supplies, food and water from getting into the town. Then they began moving men and equipment into the Annapolis River to get ready to attack the fort. One transport capsized killing 23 men. After that, they moved more carefully, landing safely.

Canons attacked the fort for a week. By the end of the day on October 12, the French gave up. The terms of surrender were signed the following day.

According to the University of Moncton researcher N.E.C. Griffiths, surrender terms said:

that the Inhabitants within Cannon shot of the Fort of Port Royal, shall remain upon their estates, with their Corn, Cattle and Furniture, During two years in case they are not Desirous to go before, they taking the Oaths of Allegiance & Fidelity to Her Sacred Majesty of Great Britain.” [1]

Over the next three years, Port Royal became Annapolis Royal and La Cadie became Nova Scotia. Sometime during this period, my family shed their maritime roots for landlubber status.

1714 Acadian Census

The 1714 Acadian Census shows a family headed by François Allard living in Port Royal with his wife, one son and two daughters. If these are my ancestors, François was either a second son who came later or his birthdate is wrong.

More likely this was a different family.

According to my grandmother’s records, my nine times great grandfather Jean-Baptiste Allard and his wife Anne Elisabeth Pageau had François III on February 3, 1719.

It’s hard to figure out why her records show him as the third person to hold the name “François” with his father clearly identified as Jean Baptiste. She does show his grandfather as Jean François but his great grandfather’s name was Jacques. He doesn’t get it from the other side for sure. The men in Anne Elisabeth’s family were Thomases going back at least two generations.

When did they move to Quebec?

My grandmother’s notes show François III’s birthplace as Port Royal, although I found a family tree online that shows a man with the same name born to parents with the same names in Charlesbourg, Quebec.[2]

Either way, by the time François III got married in November 1741, he and his wife Barbe Louise Bergevin definitely lived in Charlesbourg, Quebec. Their daughter, Marie Louise Allard, would be born on November 3, 1742, at Notre Dame de Quebec. Any links to the shores of the Annapolis River were lost forever.

Meanwhile, Acadians in Nova Scotia refused to swear allegiance to the Queen of Britain. Wars continued in the region until 1758. The expulsion of the Acadians, which began in 1755 and continued until the British Conquest, led to Longfellow’s famous poem about Evangeline and Gabriel.

By then, my ancestors were well-established in Quebec.

We have none of the deported Acadians in the family; only people who originally settled La Cadie.

[1] Griffiths, N.E.S. (2005). From Migrant to Acadian: A North American Border People, 1604-1755, ISBN 978-0-7735-2699-0. University of Moncton, McGill-Queen’s University Press. p235.

[2] https://www.nosorigines.qc.ca/GenealogieQuebec.aspx?genealogie=Allard_Francois&pid=70804

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Johanne Gervais Helps us Research our Ancestors

I had fun interviewing professional genealogist Johanne Gervais for this week’s podcast. Here are some highlights from our conversation.

Listen to Unapologetically Canadian Episode 19: Johanne Gervais Helps us Research our Ancestors

Becoming a Genealogist

Our discussion began with the question “how did you become a genealogist?”

I became interested in genealogy while helping my husband who retired in 2008. He wanted to write a book about his mother’s family for his mother’s 90th birthday. So I was a little hesitant because he wanted me to do the research on his family. He knew nothing about his mother’s mother’s family past his grandmother. So I did all the research for him up to his third great grandparents including were searching for family stories finding the houses his ancestors lived in the actual establishments they worked in. His mom came from England, so researching his ancestors was a really a good excuse for us to take a trip to England. So we did some research there.

Visiting England

We went there to where his mom was born to the little villages where his ancestors lived. We actually knocked on the doors of these houses and asked for tours of the inside of the homes and the grounds outside. And these people were only too happy to show us around. So this type of research was fascinating. For me, it was like wow you know we can actually visit a home that his great grandparents lived in and see what they did.

After her husband retired, Johanne decided to retire too.

So I left the corporate world of information technology and dedicated myself to genealogical research.

Starting the Québec Genealogical eSociety

Eventually, she founded a new non-profit entity.

My local Geological Society was about an hour’s drive from my home … So I would spend two hours driving. Combined with the time I spent at the society, it was a full day. So that was always a bit of a dilemma for me. And I thought well there must be a better way. The society wasn’t always open when I wanted to do research. So I’m sometimes an early bird and sometimes I like to work late at night. The more I studied my problem, the more I realized that I couldn’t possibly be the only one having difficulty getting into the local society.

Who does it appeal to?

Johanne described her theory of “can’ts, won’ts and wants” to describe the ideal clients for the association.

The “can’ts” are those who can’t visit their local society because maybe it is too far away or isn’t open when they’re available.

“Won’ts” are those who won’t visit a society because it’s not really their cup of tea or it doesn’t heir fit their lifestyle.

The “wants” are those who want more than what the physical society can offer them. They want to have their society open when they’re ready to do the research.

Attracting the Next Generation

So began our discussion about how we might attract younger people to the world of genealogy.

I have four grandchildren, Tracey, and they are all teenagers. A couple of years ago, as I left to go into the to the society or to the archives downtown, my grandchildren would say “Nana why are you going to a library or the Archive Center? Can’t you just do that on your phone? Can’t you do the research through your iPad or your phone?”

This is the next generation that we want to share in our genealogical research. We want them to continue with that philosophy. No other problem was more clear in my mind. Hey wait a minute. There’s got to be a better way.

The Quebec Genealogical Esociety now has members from all over the world. They can access web sites and research their ancestors without leaving the comfort of their homes, and without having to spend hundreds or sometimes thousands of dollars to hire a researcher to do it for them.

Membership

How many people belong to the Québec Genealogical eSociety and what do they get as members?

As of today, we have 212 members. And right now we have about 43 percent are French speaking. Tthe majority are Anglophone people who come mostly from the United States and from Ontario and the other provinces in Canada who wish to do their research and research on their Quebec ancestors.

I don’t want people to get the wrong impression here of why it created the society because people who live in the province of Quebec are so fortunate because we have such robust databases for birth records marriage records and death records. And most French-speaking communities have a local Geological Society. Almost every French-speaking community or community in the province of Quebec that I know of has a geological society in their community or very close by. So we are extremely fortunate in the province of Quebec. And my main focus was people living outside of the province of Quebec who could not get here because of  travel and/or the language barrier.

[00:25:21] So we will have a message board soon on our Web site where members can post their brick walls and ask questions to other members. So that’s we’re in the final testing stages right now with our software developer. That’s going to be up any day now hopefully by the end of February. So yeah it’s very exciting because I think for everyone who does genealogical research or our research and their ancestors all of us reach a brick wall somewhere sand they are always asking questions.

Research Consultant Services

What kind of work do you do?

So when I first when I first retired it was like OK OK now what am I going to do? I really like to do geological research. So I applied to various geological large geological firms in them in the United States—Ancestry, Legacy Family Tree and Genealogist.com.  Those three companies provide research facilities for people that want to hire them to do to research their families. So this was this was quite interesting because I received a lot of contracts

I still am working as a contractor for these firms but I really want to orient people towards doing their research themselves versus hiring a researcher. If they’re capable of doing the research themselves. So some people are not capable or are not that computer literate or are advanced in their in their senior years and don’t want to do it themselves.

But for the ones that are capable I really do encourage them instead of hiring me or that they’ll hire me for a couple of hours and else I’ll say here’s how you could do it yourself versus you know me spending 20 hours or more research in their tree for them.

Membership in Association of Professional Genealogists

We then discussed Johanne’s membership in the Association of Profesional Genealogists, an association that’s based in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I joined that association when I first started in 2009 in the early years just so I can learn more about how to professionally and research for a client and how to do my sources and how to write research reports. So I’ve been to Salt Lake City multiple times for the Association of Professional Genealogists conferences to learn more about how to improve my research skills.

Johanne and some of the other members are in the process of creating a Canadian chapter for the Association of Professional Genealogists.

We really don’t have an umbrella group in Canada to help genealogist research or to answer questions. You know if people in the in Nova Scotia have questions about how to research in Nova Scotia or you know British Columbia we don’t have an umbrella organization that can help genealogists in various aspects doing research in different provinces or doing a state researching which is forensic genealogy. That kind of thing. So we’re hoping that we can create an umbrella group for all of Canada where genealogists can join and then we can share our expertise and say okay here in Quebec this is what we do and somebody in Saskatchewan will say well in Saskatchewan you know here’s what we do.

Do you consider yourself a Canadian?

I think first and foremost I consider myself to be a Quebecker. I was born here in Quebec as were my two brothers. My parents were also born here but I haven’t lived in Quebec all my life because my dad was in the Canadian Armed Forces. So we grew up in various places across Canada. Recently my parents retired in Nova Scotia.

Truly I’m a Quebecker, but I do consider myself a Canadian.

Living in various towns across Canada really showed me the expanse of the country and how culturally diverse we are. We’re so open to different walks of life, from religions, politics and interests. Being in these different towns and going into different schools …I had to go to different schools and must have changed schools five or six times. People are so darned friendly to each other no matter what province or town we lived in.

Retracing her husband’s father footsteps during World War II

In 2011 or 2012, the couple dedicated a 47-day journey to follow her husband’s father’s footsteps during World War II.

We started from Pier 21 in Halifax where my husband’s dad’s regiment left to go to Europe and he actually didn’t go to Europe right away. The ship went to Iceland. So we went to Iceland we followed. We had researched the regiment in detail as to where they went and we followed exactly where the regiment went all the way throughout World War II. So we went to Iceland we went to Scotland we went to England and France.

His father became a prisoner of war and he spent three years in prisoner of war camp. Johanne and her husband went to Germany and Poland where his father was incarcerated for three years to visit the locations of the prisoner of war camps.

And what I wanted to say here is that in every country we went to once people we met knew we were Canadians. They embraced us as if we were long lost members of their family. It was just so emotional. And by embracing, I mean you know they actually physically hugged us and kissed us and said ‘thank you thank you’ for the role that Canadians played during the war. And they would invite us to their homes. They would show us around their town … it was so very emotional. And I’ve never felt ever so proud to be a Canadian.

Two Military Histories

Johanne’s husband, Michael John Laekas, wrote a book about his father and his father’s life during World War II. The couple also produced a book about three brothers who served during World War I

Note: This episode was brought to you by Kobo. If you’re a Canadian reader, and you want to join Kobo, you can use my affiliate link and get $5 off while getting me a $10 credit on my account. You can also order Michael’s books via the links below and I’ll get a commission.

 

A Soldier's Journey (1940-1945) Book Cover A Soldier's Journey (1940-1945)
Michael John Laekas
History
Gervais-Laekas
Mar 10 2013

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Honouring Fred Christie for Black History Month

 

Honourary Grand Verdunois Fred Christie became known in 1936.

Christie went into the York Tavern in Verdun and the owner refused to serve him. He chose to take the owner to court.

Christie initially won $25, but he lost on appeal. The case took three years to get to the Supreme Court of Canada. There, Christie lost again.

The Supreme Court decision was rendered on December 9th, 1939 and published in 1940. It said:

the general principle of the law of Quebec is that of complete freedom of commerce.” Specifying further, the judgment states that “any merchant is free to deal as he may choose with any individual member of the public […] the only restriction to this general principle would be the existence of a specific law, or, in the carrying out of the principle, the adoption of a rule contrary to good morals or public order.”

After losing his case, Christie left Montreal.

His efforts initiated a series of events that led to the 1975 Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.

Read more about Christie in the memorial page set up in his honour.

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Discovering Scottish and Irish Roots

My former red hair often had people asking where in Scotland I’m from. For years, I knew of no Scottish blood relatives. Now, I’ve finally found Scottish and Irish roots on my mom’s side.

Turns out that great granny Keziah Charlotte Mcmaster Charboneau, whose birth took place almost exactly a hundred years before mine, identified as ‘Scotch’ even though she never lived in Scotland.

Keziah’s heritage demonstrates a clear cultural tradition in my family of identifying children with their father’s heritage.

She could have identified as Canadian, given that her birth took place in Orangeville Ontario. She might have been Irish, because her mom Mary Willard’s birthplace was Ireland. Still, it was her dad Robert Mcmaster’s birthplace that was important. He was born in Scotland, although I don’t know where.[1]

Even though her parents had different heritages, Keziah identified as “Scotch.”

1901 Census

Yet, some crossed-out hashtags next to her eldest child on the 1901 census indicate that someone wanted to make sure her children were seen as French.

The enumerator probably initially assumed the children shared their mother’s heritage of ‘Scotch’ because the entire family was English-speaking and practiced the Brethren religion. Many of the people he interviewed in the village of Weston, Ontario practiced the protestant denomination stemming from a German movement that began in 1708.

His mistake got corrected, however, presumably by 38-year-old Keziah herself.

Clear hashtag marks indicating that Etta was Scotch were scratched out to write in the word “French” to match the heritage of their father, Paul Charbonneau, who appears in a 1917 Weston resident list as “the caretaker who lives in the house on the east side of Cross street.”

The rest of the hashtags identify all ten children—from two-year-old Wilbert, through six-year-old John, eight-year-old Zelia, nine-year-old Charlotte, 15-year-old Paul, 16-year-old Henry, 18-year-old Latton, 19-year-old Maggie and 20-year-old Etta—as French like their father, not Scotch like their mom.[2]

Keziah and Paul’s first son, Matthew Dalton Charbonneau[3] doesn’t appear at all, perhaps because he lived elsewhere on March 31, 1901 (the day the census is supposed to represent). He’s on earlier and later censuses though. Eight summers later, he married Edith Daniels in Toronto.[4]

Death Certificate

Even when family members had more information, they carried on the tradition of father-centred heritage. Kezia’s son, J.P. Charbonneau described her as “Scotch” on her death certificate just a few lines before identifying her parents’ birthplaces.

Keziah’s death took place in her son’s home at 111 St. Johns Road in Toronto. She died there of chronic myocarditis (heart failure) on July 30, 1932, at the age of 76 years old.[5]

She’s buried in Weston’s Riverside Cemetery, 1567 Royal York Rd, Etobicoke, ON M9P 3C4. I plan to look for her gravesite when next in Toronto.

 

[1] “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DC6K-4G?cc=1307826&wc=3LV1-DP8%3A1584243504%2C1584252301%2C1584254001 : 19 May 2015), Deaths > 1932 > no 3918-5556 > image 1593 of 1748; citing Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.
[2] “Canada Census, 1901,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KHPQ-6NG : 18 March 2018), Keziah Charboneau, York (west/ouest), Ontario, Canada; citing p. 8, Library and Archives of Canada, Ottawa.
[3] Ontario Births, 1869-1912,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:VNL1-HYW : 16 July 2017), Matthew Dalton Charboneau, 30 Nov 1882; citing Birth, Weston, York, Ontario, Canada, citing Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,845,583.
[4] “Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database with images, FamilySearch(https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:KSZV-DMR : 11 March 2018), Dalton Charboneau and Edith Daniels, 22 Jul 1909; citing registration , Toronto, York, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 1,871,870.
[5] “Ontario Deaths, 1869-1937 and Overseas Deaths, 1939-1947,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/3:1:S3HY-DC6K-4G?cc=1307826&wc=3LV1-DP8%3A1584243504%2C1584252301%2C1584254001 : 19 May 2015), Deaths > 1932 > no 3918-5556 > image 1593 of 1748; citing Registrar General. Archives of Ontario, Toronto.

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