Thursday, August 15, 2013

More Questions Than Answers

I've returned from Quebec but unfortunately this trip proved less fruitful than other genealogical missions. To be fair I was accompanying my parents, and their agenda was not quite the same as mine, but I had hoped to get a few good sleuthing days in. However due to my mom's ongoing health issues I didn't want to overtax her and most of my week was spent visiting with relatives, which had its uses too!

My mother's sister always claims to have no interest in 'all that old stuff' but her collection of memorabilia suggests that might not be entirely true. I dug into some of her boxes of mementos and found several photos I hadn't seen before, a telegram from the war office in 1845 with regards to my grandfather, and a copy of my great grandma's wedding invite among other goodies. Nothing earth shattering but all things of interest and nice additions to my files.

One of the main reasons we went on this trip was to attend another Hébert family reunion- this year was a 'small' cousins reunion  but still well attended by at least 3 generations. The photo below is of the last of the elder generation- my oncle Rene at 92 is the eldest survivor of the original 17 Hébert children of Emil and Rose and my oncle Jacques is the youngest. Most of the ladies surrounding them are all the wives of siblings who have passed on, except for my Tante Danielle, wife of Jacques.

Of course having fluently bilingual relatives is also a bonus and I made sure to bring copies of some of my more challenging French records for a proper translation. The scans aren't the best and the handwriting is terrible so even the native French speakers found them difficult but we were able to clarify somethings that I had struggled with.. My cousin Guyaine did me one better- she offered to meet us at Saint-André-Apôtre, the Catholic Church in St Andre Est, on Sunday after mass to speak with the current priest! He very kindly brought us to his office and  pulled out books of handwritten records going back to the early 1800's. In it we found the original marriage for Archibald McVicar and Marie Anna Lemay dit Delorme!

As previously mentioned I found this record in the Drouin collection on Ancestry a few years ago but the difference between the original and the scan is like night and day - the writing which was barely legible in the scan is perfectly clear in the original and you can make out every word. This was even more apparent in the burial record for Marie Anne which the priest was kind enough to look up for me as well. There in the bottom line was the name John McVicar along with his signature as a witness to the burial! The only problem with this is I have no way of identifying which John McVicar, a theme that continued throughout this entire trip. It's not Arch and Marie Anna's son John -I believe he was already dead by 1850 but even if he wasn't, he'd only be 10 years old. It's a strong possibility that it's Arch's father John- I know he was living with the family a few years later because he appears on the 1852 census with them. But it could also be Arch's brother John (b 1818) who also lived in the area and was married in Montreal in 1840- that's the last record I can find for him in Canada tho and I'm pretty certain he left for the US shortly after.

One thing I had hoped to discover from speaking with the priest was the location of Marie Anna's grave. The record states that she was buried in the cemetery of the parish of St Andrew and he was certain that meant in the current cemetery Saint-André-Apôtre. He couldn't pinpoint a grave however and we had no luck finding one although we searched the cemetery pretty thoroughly. In previous online research I came across a website that I copied this info from:

In 1936, the old St. Andrews Catholic Cemetery was closed and the remains relocated to the new Catholic cemetery nearby. The tombstones were left behind and became part of private property. Remains are located in an unmarked area of the Saint-André-Apôtre.

Unfortunately I can no longer find that website and have found nothing else to confirm this. The priest didn't seem to know that the current cemetery isn't the original, however he did mention one other possibility: apparently in the early days of the Catholic church in St André Est, some parishioners chose to be buried in Rigaud, across the Ottawa River. Marie Anne was born there, as were all of her siblings. I suspect she might have chosen to return to her place of birth, particularly since she and Arch wouldn't be buried together in any case- Arch was baptized protestant and is buried in Lachute with his second wife Elizabeth Fraser.

I wish I could have spent more time with the church records but we had basically ambushed the priest immediately after mass and he was gracious enough to assist me so I didn't want to overwhelm him with too many requests. The church does offer assistance with the records but it's usually done by appointment with the office staff and they charge a small fee. I suspect that the records from 1843- 1845 which are completely illegible online might be viewable in the originals and may hold a few answers to some of the info I'm missing - a death for young John and a baptism for his sister Kate. It will have to wait for another trip.

My next mission was less successful;  in my previous post I mentioned my plan to visit Le Musée régional d'Argenteuil. We stopped by on our way back from the church in hopes of making an appointment for Tuesday, which is when the archivist is normally available. Sadly, this week she was unavailable so I was unable to access their records at all. The directrice of the museum was kind enough to email me to see if she could be of assistance so I sent her off a list of questions I have with regards to land records and maps but I've yet to hear back. So it seems that those questions will have to wait as well.

My plan to visit multiple cemeteries didn't work out as planned either. Other than the above mentioned Saint-André-Apôtre, the only other cemetery we made it to was the Lachute Protestant where many of my ancestors are buried. I've been there on many occasions but this time we were there to see if there is any room in the family plots for current family members eventual residence. It seems a bit morbid to wander around looking for a spot to be buried in but both my mom and her sister want to be buried there so they've decided to take care of the arrangements in advance. Oddly, this brought to my attention a new discovery which is very intriguing but puzzling! When consulting with the man who maintains the cemetery we were looking at the plot maps to ascertain who exactly was buried in each of two family plots. The newer one one we were pretty certain of- it holds my grandma Ruth, her parents Tom Anderson and Jessie McCluskey, Jessie's parents John McCluskey and Lizzie McVicar and 2 other relations. So that plot is pretty much full!

The other plot was the more interesting because it turned out to be 2 plots side by side and on the map one is marked JD McVicar (John Duncan, Lizzie's youngest half brother) and it's there that JD and his wives, as well as Archibald and his second wife are buried.

The other plot has no stone marking it which is why we never knew it existed but on the map it is clearly labeled John McVicar, but again I have no idea which John! In checking the record book I was able to find out that JD purchased both plots in 1930 but there no record of who if anyone is buried in the second one. Did JD purchase it for his half brother John b 1839, or his grandfather- both of whom would have been long dead in 1930? Is there anyone actually buried there or was the plan to erect a marker on an empty grave? Such a minute bit of information and yet so many unanswered questions...

I have one last hope in finding out more- the Quebec Family History Society has done a complete transcription of all of the stones in Lachute Protestant Cemetery and it is part of their archives. It's slim chance at best but I'm hoping there are more records that go along with the ones I saw and I recently joined the Society so I'll be sending off more email queries. Hopefully someone there can offers some insight,otherwise it's just one more mystery in the black hole of Argenteuil!


  1. The only thing I said to myself after reading this is "Wow"...

  2. It's an awfully long post to say that I barely found out anything!