Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Rembrance

Mon grand-père Jean Claude Hébert 1919 - 1971

Son frère, René Hébert a 90 ans aujourd'hui

To you and to all who served to keep us safe, merci.
Je me souviens

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Where is Maudie?

Jessie McCluskey had an older sister she never knew. According to the family bible, Edith Maude McCluskey was born August 27, 1878, 12 years before Jessie. In her short life, Maudie appeared on just one census, in 1881 when she was 3; by May 22 of the following year she was dead. No death record exists to explain how she died but like many children in that era it was likely an illness that took her. Her parents John and Lizzy must have known she was gravely ill because they had her baptized the same day she died, by the minister of the Lachute Methodist Church. Her burial occurred two days later.

John and Lizzie outlived their daughter by many years and are buried together in the Lachute Protestant Cemetery. Jessie, the only one of their remaining five children who stayed in the area is also buried there with her husband Thomas Anderson; they all share a monument. But Maudie's name doesn't appear on the stone and there's no sign of her having been buried there at all. Nor is she recorded anywhere else in this cemetery; I've searched the complete transcripts for the entire cemetery which was compiled by the Quebec Family History Society in 1992 and is available on line here. Of course she could be there in an unmarked grave, in which case I may never find her but I'm not willing to give up just yet.

So I went back to have another look at the burial record and discovered something odd that I hadn't noticed before: Maudie's burial service was conducted from the Lachute Church of England! From all accounts, John and Lizzie seem to alternate between Presbyterian and Methodist. They were both baptized Presbyterian and married at the Presbyterian church but all three of their daughters (Jessie, Maude and the eldest Maggie) were baptized Methodist and the family identified as Wesleyan Methodist on every census. (Their sons Archie, Willie and Lenny don't appear to have been christened at all!) Still they cared enough to have Maudie baptized before she died, but why have her baptized as one denomination and buried by another? And where is she buried?

My first thought was that perhaps there is a separate burial ground associated with this church so I began researching the Church of England in Lachute. The Church of England in the Dominion of Canada became the Anglican Church of Canada in 1955; this much I knew. The current Anglican church in Lachute is St Simeon's, which according to some online sources, has existed as a parish since at least 1868 although the first actual church wasn't built until 1881. The present day St Simeon's has very little historical information on their website but does mention that the current church was built in 1947 on the same site of the previous church. It does not however mention an associated cemetery, past or present. To get more information about the parish records, the physical church and any associated cemeteries, I needed to check the archives of the Anglican Church; fortunately they have a dedicated website here. The site lists all the diocese and the repository of the archives for each. A contact name and email for each is also given. The records for Lachute fall under the diocese of Montreal so I wrote an email to the assistant archivist Barbara McPherson. I've also spoken to her by phone but as of yet she doesn't have an answer for me. The backlog of requests is currently about 3 months because they can only afford to employ an archivist for two days per week and the diocese is considering cutting their funding. The records there are invaluable and the service is provided for free so if you find it useful you should perhaps consider making a donation so they can continue their wonderful work!

In the meantime I am considering another possible resting place for Maudie. Since she predeceased all of her immediate family, it occurred to me that she might have been buried with her grandparents. Her maternal grandparents are not a possibility for various reasons but I believe the location of her paternal grandparents grave is a good possibility. The only problem with that theory is I don't know where they are buried either- but that's a story for another post!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

An Update!

The missing marriage at long last! The comment written in another hand states that the marriage was mixed (Protestant/Catholic) and required a special dispensation; my grandmother never did convert to Catholicism although both my aunt and my mother were baptized Catholic.

Merci beaucoup à mon oncle Jacques et ma tante Danielle pour trouver cela pour moi!

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Une Histoire

My grandfather Jean Claude Hébert was just 51 when he passed away forty one years ago today. Weaken by TB which he contracted while fighting in the trenches in WWII, he suffered a number of heart attacks before he finally succumbed to heart disease on February 5, 1971. Claude was born in 1919 in Brownsburg Quebec, the second of seventeen children born to Emile Hébert and Marie-Rose Drouin. Two sisters died at birth but the remaining 15 all grew up to have families of their own- my mother has 52 first cousins on the Hébert side alone!

Keeping track of such a large family must have had its challenges but if there's one thing the Héberts were good at, it was family. In the 1930's, Emil bought land on Lac Louisa in the Laurentian Mountains and built a large log cabin that became the camp where the family gathered as often as possible. As the siblings grew up and married, each got to have the camp for a week in the summer but on Sundays, everyone was welcome. As families grew even larger and more dispersed the 'shares' were sold off one by one until the camp is now owned only by one of the siblings, the youngest brother. However the family as a whole is still very close and to this day there's at family reunion every summer, and every five years a 'big" reunion is held, including other Hébert descendants of Emile's siblings.

To keep the multiple generations abreast of each other, there's even a numbering system that goes back 4 generations from mine, and books listing all the family members are updated every few years. My number as the first child (1) of the second child, my mom (2), of the second child, my grandpa Claude(2) of the third child Emile,(3) of Augustin Hébert and Rose-Anna Meyer . Numbers are listed in descending order so my number is I also have 'no de filiation' - I am the 129th descendent of Augustin and Rose-Anna and I have a certificate to prove it!

Compiling this side of the family won't be much of a challenge for me - my great uncle Yvon Hébert has already traced the families back ten generations, to the 1600's in what was then called New France! That is one of the many blessing of being part of a large French Canadian family- the Catholics sure know how to keep good records!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

A Ring

112 years ago today, on January 25 1890, my great grandmother was born. The youngest child of John and Lizzie McCluskey, there seemed to have been some debate initially over what her name should be. She was recorded in the family bible as Jessie E Pearl but christened Lizzie Jessie Pearl, and on the 1891 census when she was just one, her name was given as Pearl E McCluskey - no mention of Jessie, the name she'd be known as all her life. My cousins and I had another name for her: she was our 'Gamie', a child's mispronounciation of granny that stuck long after those great grandchildren grew up.

Jessie lived to be 87 but spent her last decade lost in a haze of dementia brought on by numerous small strokes. I was 13 when she passed away so my memories of her physical presence are fairly clear yet I still don't know much about her. Even my mother and aunt who lived with her for many years know little of her life; she was a private person who disliked talking about the past. What's past is past, she liked to say.

No one knows when or where Jessie met Thomas John Anderson. Thomas arrived in Montreal from Scotland in 1906, along with 2 of his brothers. There's no record of what drew him to Brownsburg in particular but we know he went to work in the quarry. Having visited Kinettles where he was born and Dundee where he grew up, I can certainly see why the Laurentian mountains would have felt a bit like home and it seems once he met Jessie, he never looked back.

One bit of family lore gives a brief glimpse of how strong willed Jessie was. For reasons unknown to us now, Jessie's brother Lenny objected to Thomas and hoped to encourage a match with another wealthier suitor. Perhaps Thomas being a recent arrival, and likely without much means, seemed like a poor risk - but at least he was a Scot, and the fact that he was a teatotaller must have met with Jessie's approval. Lenny however had other ideas for his youngest sister and offered to buy her a ring if she'd agreed to marry the other gentleman. The ring, a pearl for her second name, was purchased but never worn as long as she lived; it was found, still in the original box, amongst her things when she died.

Thomas and Jessie were married in Lachute in Oct of 1912; Lenny was not a witness but her father John was. Jessie and Thomas had a son Gordon and a daughter, my grandma Ruth and lived happily in the house that John built in Brownsburg until Thomas died in 1958. When Jessie died she was buried with Thomas in the Lachute Cemetary. It would seem that my great grandmother preferred love to riches. As it should be.