I have been searching for any information about my dad Sergeant Richard Charles Himphen since I was a very little girl. My mother has now passed away and did not ever want to share information about him and I suppose always found it to be such a sad time in her life.”
My mother wrote these words in an email on June 9, 2005.
Similar words are read frequently by librarians, archivists and others who hold sacred information about our ancestors.
My grandfather was among 45,000 Canadian soldiers who died during World War II. In addition to his wife and daughter, he was grieved by parents Charles and Violet, brother Robert and two sisters, Rita and Margarite.
Other women grieved too, including Miss M.E. Cull from Kent, who thought she was his fiancée.
Our family found out about her because of a single page in his service file report that says she made a claim as his fiancé.
She wasn’t his only special someone either. Another page in that same file says: “destroyed letters from girlfriends.”
Those same records detail Richard’s military career, which began on a part-time basis at the age of 17. He’d already worked for two years as a baker’s helper at the Canada Bread Company by the time he joined the Active Militia of Canada in October 1937. He was assigned to the 30th Battery of the RCA, where he served until June 1939.
A year later, he left his job to enlist full-time as a private. He signed up with an infantry battalion called the Irish Regiment of Canada, which trained at Camp Borden. His enthusiasm for his chosen path seems clear from a statement on a form he filled out in April 1941. His answer to “state any employment or ambition you may have,” was “soldiering.”
He married Evelyn Doris Johnson in June at the Silverthorne Avenue Baptist Church and shipped overseas in August 1942.
His daughter Marilyn Violet, my mother, was born the following April. He got notice of her birth by telegram in Britain.
His regiment was sent to Italy before he could get home to see her. They arrived in Naples in November.
On May 4, 1944 Richard stuck his left thigh on a bayonet while taking cover in a slit trench during shelling in Cassino. He couldn’t walk for 13 days, but recovered fully.
He fought in Italy for four more months. On September 13, during an action taking Coriano from the enemy, he was mortally wounded.
Major Gordon Brown, who took part, described the day afterwards in a history pamphlet:
in the early hours of the morning, before dawn, the Irish swept down from Besanigo Ridge into the valley which separated it from Coriano Ridge, and began to work their way up towards the town…“B” Company, under Captain Bill Elder, completed the job by finishing the clearing, and covering the Castella feature.”
Richard was pierced under the spine and suffered a “sucking wound to the chest” on his right side. He was brought to the 93 BG Hospital, where he died October 12.
His will was a single signed page in his pay book:
It was signed, but neither dated nor witnessed.
In the winter of 1749-1750, Jesuit Father Claude-Godefroi Coquart travelled through the Malbaie area of New France (now the province of Quebec) inspecting the lands owned by the King of France.
One of two farmers looking after this land was one of my ancestors, Joseph Dufour. Dufour’s farm was called “La Malbaie.”
Coquart’s written report to France describes the farm run by Dufour and his neighbours’ operation in great detail.
Author George McKinnon Wrong describes Coquart’s report on pages 17 and 18 of his 2005 book entitled “A Canadian Manor and Its Seigneurs The Story of a Hundred Years, 1761-1861”:
Father Coquart’s census is as rigorous and unsparing of detail as the Doomsday Book of William the Conqueror. He tells exactly what the Malbaie farm can produce in a year; the record for the year of grace 1750 is “4 or 6 oxen; 25 sheep, 2 or 3 cows, 1200 pounds of pork, 1400 to 1500 pounds of butter, one barrel of lard,”—certainly not much to help a paternal government. The salmon fishery should be developed, says Coquart. Now the farmers get their own supply and nothing more. Nets should be used and great quantities of salmon might be salted down in good seasons. Happily, conditions are mending. The previous farmer had let things go to rack and ruin but now one sees neither thistles nor black wheat; all the fences are in place. Joseph Dufour has a special talent for making things profitable. If he can be induced to continue his services, it will be a benefit to his employer. But he is not contented. Last year he could not make it pay and wished to leave. Nearly all his wages are used in the support of his family. He has three grown-up daughters who help in carrying on the establishment, and a boy for the stables. The best paid of these gets only 50 livres (about $10) a year; she should get at least 80 livres, M. Coquart thinks. Dufour has on the farm eight sheep of his own but even of these the King takes the wool, and actually the farmer has had to pay for what wool his family used. Surely he should be allowed to keep at least half the wool of his own sheep! If it was the policy of the Crown to grant lands along the river of Malbaie there are many people who would like those fertile areas, but there is danger that they would trade with the Indians which should be strictly forbidden.”
For a link to this work, refer to https://archive.org/details/canadianmanorits00wronuoft
According to my genealogy software, there are 66 people in my current family tree who were alive when Canada declared war on Germany on September 9, 1939, including all four of my grandparents.
By the time the last battle in continental Europe ended on May 20, 1945 the number of people alive was up to 70, even though 45,400 Canadians died in the war, including my mother’s father. My mother and father were among the people born during this time.
According to demographer David Foot, 2.2 million people were born in Canada during this time, just ahead of the baby boom that began two years later.
I never realized how clear demographic trends become while doing genealogy.
Today is the beginning of Family History Writing 2014.
Lynne Palermo, from http://www.thearmchairgenealogist.com/ challenges all of us to place a family history story on our blogs every day this month. She’s also created an online forum so that those of us participating can ask questions and share our work with one-another.
I’m participating for the first time. My challenge is to begin communicating some of the stories about ancestors identified by my grandmother, Anne Marguerite Hurtubise Arial, in a family tree that goes back to 1589. Looking through her documents shows how hard researching family history used to be prior to the on-line resources we have today. Marguerite’s documents include letters to researchers, cousins and authorities, mostly in Quebec, where many of her ancestors hail from. She’d be blown away by the National Archives digital resources now available via http://www.banq.qc.ca/, especially Iris and Pistard.
Although all of her work seems to be accurate so far, few sources and original documents are included in the package of material passed on to me. After digitizing her work, I’m now redoing her research and attaching sources to it for future generations. I’m also working on the family tree on my mother’s side.
This month, I’ll share some of the stories I’ve discovered while redoing her research. My plans appear in the publishing schedule below.
Tracey’s Family History Writing 2014 Publishing Schedule
|Sincere Sundays||Mystery Mondays||Catholic Tuesdays||Women Wednesday||Travelling Thursdays||Friday fact du jour||Sharing Saturdays|
|1 Family History Writing Challenge begins|
|2 What do our ancestors’ lives tell us?||3 Which family members lived during WWII?||4 Joseph Dufour’s farm||5 Louise Thérèse Lareau||6 Farewell Sergeant Himphen||7 Soldier service records||8 Federation of Genealogical Societies|
|9 Are we responsible for ancestors’ mistakes?||10 Why did Charlie’s family return to Canada?||11 Marie Louise Allard||12 Étiennette Alton||13 Anne Josephe Gourdine’s trip to Canada||14 Gutenberg project||15 Sandra Goodwin’s Maple Stars & Stripes.com|
|16 Where is the line between fiction and nonfiction?||17 When was that carriage ride when Leonora was crying?||18 Communal living in Sarsfield||19 Sophie Henault-Canada||20 Anne Marie-Therese Pimpurniaux’s trip to Canada||21 1881 Census||22 Find a Grave|
|23 What’s the difference between a genealogist and a historian?||24 When did Jean-Baptiste Mathieu Arial become a soldier?||25 Julie Belleau (LaRose)||26 Suzanne Durand||27 Joseph Arial’s voyage west||28 Lovells’ directory|
If you’ve already followed this blog via the “follow me” widget on the sidebar, you’ll get the whole series as I publish it.
She died in the fall of her 38th year, just after the leaves of Quebec turned colour then fell. The vibrant red of the maples formed a backdrop for the yellow leaves of the birch trees and the oranges of the oaks.
Twenty years earlier, Louise Thérèse Lareau married her husband Joseph. Together, the couple had ten children.
Three of them died before their mother did.
Louise Thérèse’s first son, baby Joseph died only a few weeks after he was born.
Her next eldest child, a daughter named Marie-Reine, died in February, 1784, a week after she celebrated her eighth birthday and her parents celebrated their ninth wedding anniversary. She was the eldest of four children then, and one imagines that it was her responsibility to take care of the baby, Marie-Anne. The family celebrated Marie-Anne’s first Christmas just two months earlier.
By the end of February, the baby died too.
The family of six became a family of four: Louise Thérèse and her husband Joseph with their two daughters Josephe-Angelique and Marie-Thérèse.
The family somehow survived the rest of the winter. Spring arrived, and by the following autumn, Louise Thérèse was pregnant again. The birth of her second son, also named Joseph, cheered the family up in time for St. Patrick’s Day, 1785.
The couple had three more daughters and another son after that. All four children were born as the trees around them began displaying fall colours. Marie-Catherine was born on November 22, 1786; Charlotte came on October 4, 1788; Guillaume was born on September 22, 1792 and Marie-Victoire arrived on October 19, 1794.
Marie-Victoire’s birth was too much for Louise Thérèse. She died two weeks after the little girl was born.
The church did a census the following year, in 1795. It showed the rest of the family living on St. Georges Street in Faubourg St. Jean, the lower town of Quebec City. Joseph was a carpenter and their building was one of only a few on that street without a number. By then, three of the children–Josephe-Angelique, Marie-Therese and their second son Joseph–could receive communion with their father.
Note: This is a non-fiction version of a previous story about Louise Thérèse’s life.