The first ancestor I chose to research in detail was a woman who lived in Quebec City two centuries ago. She was born during a war, married a carpenter at 18, bore 10 children, grieved the death of four children, and died when she was only 38 years old.
Other than feeling grateful that my life is easier and longer than hers, what can I possibly gain by learning about her life?
More importantly, why should you, my reader, care about her at all?
There are lots of answers to this, depending on who you are, what you’re doing and what you need now, but for me, all these reasons can be described in a single word: hope.
The best thing about researching and reading about ancestors is the feeling of hope created by those actions.
Much of my drive is personal. I’m writing to learn about myself. If you’re one of my relatives, you probably read my stories hoping to learn something about yourself too. We both want to know whether the lives of our ancestors affected those of our grandparents and parents especially if that changed where we live now and who we know.
In the case of that woman from two hundred years ago, if her children died because of genetic health risks, we’ll want to know so that we can try to prevent the same thing happening to ourselves or our loved ones.
Her history might illuminate some of the personality quirks in our family, or you might wonder whether our long line of strong independent women began with her.
If you’re questioning whether that applies to you, think again. The more I do genealogy, the more I realize how many people might be connected to my family either through blood, historic friendship or past quarrels. Anyone in the world might be related somehow. Judy Russell writes about discovering some of these lost family members via genealogical research and new DNA tools in “Oh Charlie” at http://www.legalgenealogist.com/blog/2014/02/02/oh-charlie/. Her article is making me reconsider genetic testing.
Researching our ancestors and sharing about the experience enables all of us to contribute to a wider understanding about who we are, what we’ve been and where we live in a bigger context too.
Even if we aren’t related in any way, the stories genealogists tell have lessons for anyone interested in righting past wrongs, illuminating communities or exploring a particular place. Janice Hamilton’s research on one of her ancestors, for example, has provided helpful background to a group of locals who provide tours of the Mile End neighbourhood of Montreal. You can read her stories about the Baggs and the community they helped found at http://writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca/.
So often, the stories we hear about the past are myths made up of half-truths. Looking into the details of an actual person’s life reveals a series of events that are complicated, nuanced and full of foibles. Circumstances often carry people in different directions than what might have otherwise been expected.
By figuring out what actually happened to whom and sharing any surprises we discover widely, we all get closer to the truth. Getting closer to truth creates possibilities for beauty, understanding and diversity.
Then again, maybe you’re different? Why do you research your family history?
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.