Monday, March 19, 2018

NDG Then and Now

My brother, 18 months, April, 1953, I'm guessing, on our balcony on Randall in NDG and a Google Maps shot of the same place these days. That's Cote St Luc Road in the background. There were houses on that street in 1953.  Soon, they were torn down and apartments were built in their place.

This family photograph has a story. My father took the picture. In fact, he took a series of them. First my toddler brother climbs on the chair, falls off the chair and is crying on the deck and then this aftermath.

My father was a man before his time, chronicling the event without interfering in it.

I always felt these photos to be weird.  I thought it reflected a certain coldness on my father's part.

But, I'm guessing, it's just a guy thing.

I'm sure his Brownie camera couldn't take pictures in succession like my Samsung Note. It was a simple machine, I recall, one step over the cardboard box with the pinhole we made in school.

I'm not born, yet.

I will be born here or, more precisely, in the Catherine Booth Hospital nearby.

My mother always told me I was born 'over a shoe shop on the corner of Oxford and Monkland, where her widowed mother lived with daughters Cecile and Florence in around 1950 until her death in 1951. A place that is now Patisserie de Nancy and has been for ages.

I wonder why.

Her sister Florence still lived on that corner in 1954 according to Lovell's Directory. So, maybe she got confused.

My Aunt Alice on the stops of Harvard Street house around the corner. This is where my grandmother lived before moving to the apartment on Oxford and Monkland. That house is still there.  Before that she lived in a four story greystone at 72 Sherbrooke West.

 Thanks to Lovell's Directory, I can trace where my grandmother lived from her marriage to Jules Crepeau, Assistant City Clerk to her death: Amherst, then St Denis then St Hubert. Then Sherbrooke Street West, then Harvard, then Oxford.

First an UP trajectory, as her husband, Jules, rises up at City Hall and then a DOWN trajectory, when he is forced to resign his post as Director of City Services in 1930. He bought this pretty house with his huge pension but lost all his money with investments before THE CRASH.

He invested unwisely, hoping to leave each of his five children 100,000 dollars. Really!

He was a brilliant civil servant, with a mind like a steal trap, (Freudian slip) not above taking bribes, if his enemies told the truth, but a useless businessman.

His brother, Isadore Crepeau, VP of United Theatre Amusements, the company that built all the beautiful Montreal movie palaces in the 1920's, 'fell' out of his 7th story office window on St. James in 1933.

The city stopped Jules' pension in an emergency measure in 1937.  He was run over by an off-duty policeman on ROYAL when he lived on Harvard two weeks later, breaking a leg. He would die from complications a year later.

My mother, well-educated and totally bilingual, went to work as an stenographer. In the 40's she worked for RKO Movie Distributing on Monkland. In 1954, while pregnant with me, she was still working there, at least part-time as a typist.   She often talked about what a bummer it was to have to work while heavy with child. Her husband was working as an accountant during the day and taking courses toward a CA at night.

So, it must have been useful having a sister who lived nearby.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Jewish or Gentile or Both - The Y DNA Trail.

My automsomal DNA confirms my brother's Y DNA

The verdict is in. Well, sort of. My bio father is very likely a Jewish guy, a mixture of Mediterranean Jew and Russian Jew.

FT DNA is still working on my brother's Y DNA haplogroup, but it is likely J M 127.

That explains the messy ethnicity wheel from Gedmatch!

My totally 100 percent French Canadian  comes out British/Irish and a bit Iberian (also Sephardic Jew) and Italian, like most French Canadians. That mixed me up a lot, initially.

(On my half-brother's chart of FT DNA, my French Canadian mother comes out British and his Yorkshire father (the man who raised me) comes out European. LOL.)

This J-M127 haplogroup is huge in the Russian Caucasus - and also in the Mediterranean.

It's still possible my bio-father is a Sicilian, or Maltese, but the Jewish father scenario makes much more sense.

My mother would easily have had contact with Jewish men in 1954. Her boss at work was Jewish. If he was a very tall Jewish man, he's the one! He certainly has the right surname for these haplotypes on my brother's chart.

So, when I attended elementary school in the 1960's, where most of the students in my class were Jewish, I was genetically a cousin, although I practiced no religion. When I had to fill in forms I put Anglican in the religion box, because my Dad said he was Anglican. My snarky older brother wrote "I worship Thor."  He was close, he has ancestors who worshipped Thor.

All very odd. (I remember a teacher asking me if I was Jewish or Gentile (for holiday purposes) and I didn't know what she was talking about.)

My messy ethnicity wheel.

My son tells me not to get 'emotionally invested' in this investigation.  He thinks I am looking for my father. I am not. I had a father I loved.

I've read some accounts online of people who have found out something similar and they've been gobsmacked. Not me. I am looking to find out 'who I am',  the reason I took the Ancestry test in the first place. I am curious.

Besides, the past is the past. You can't get mad at dead people. It's a bloody waste of time.

My mother looked Sicilian even though all of her ancestors go back to Normandy or Poitou Charentes, Loire.  (Her hair was dark at birth while mine was light until puberty.)  Of that, I have plenty of proof on Ancestry. 108 'hints' where the DNA and the tree support each other.  But there's Sephardic Jew in her lines, including her maternal MT DNA line.  Lily Rodrigue, 1600....Bas Normandy.....probably descended from Rodriguez...Spain..  I look pretty much like my mother and all the women on her side, so I never suspected I wasn't my father's bio daughter. We were both very tall.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Montreal's Botanical Gardens, Heritage Site and a Nice Place to Visit in Dingy Weather.

Babies and Butterflies. What a nice combination.

Technology can be a bummer, especially when it reveals the local forecast for the next two months to be rather bleak.

As in hardly any sunlight!

At such times, going back in time seems a good thing to do.

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Montreal's Botanical Gardens to see the Butterflies Go Free exhibit in one of the old Victorian-style greenhouses that are open in winter.

Butterflies and babies galore! Very pleasant, indeed.

My husband, the builder, remarked on the cost of keeping these greenhouses warm in the cold Montreal winter.

"Yea," I said. "Greenhouses like this were designed for English winters."

Now, the butterflies (and babies) were the best thing about the exhibit. A fine idea, this.

Tropical plants hardly hold any fascination for us moderns, who can visit the real thing, or see it on the Internet.

Well, I did find the spice exhibit most interest: cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, cardomon, etc. Everything I cook with today, to spice up my life.

And this series of greenhouses, built in 1931 I just learned, were made for walking (Ikea style) and not for sitting.
Butterflies emerging from cocoons, like something out of a sci-fi movie.

This morning I learned that the Montreal Botanical Gardens is considered a Canadian Heritage Site, which must help with the heating costs.

So, it was my grandfather's nemesis, Mayor Camillien Houde who built these greenhouses or the advice of a flower-loving priest.

In 1931 my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, former Director of City Services, won his lawsuit against Houde, who, in 1930.  had promised him, in a private conversation, ahem, a huge pension of 8,000 a year if he 'retired' - and then the Mayor had gone back on his promise.  Thus the lawsuit.

My grandfather coasted on this enormous pension (which made him the second highest paid person at City Hall) until 1937, when the City stopped it with an emergency measure during the dark days of the Depression.

Two weeks later my grandfather was  hit by a car on Royal Street in NDG in Montreal by an out of work constable. His leg was broken.

My naive mother, only 16 at the time, believed all her life that it was indeed an accident. "I remember the constable was very sorry."

Feeding station: These particular butterflies, when resting, I noticed, look like dead leaves, or (with the phoney eye) a big predator. Great camouflage. And the top of their wings are bright blue, which made for the best spectacle yesterday, as hundreds of them were flying about.

Everyone else in the family suspected the truth. My grandfather was almost certainly targetted. He had probably threatened someone at City Hall when they had retracted his big pension.  He knew so much, after all, about City Hall. He had perfect recall, too; a mind like a steel trap.

This 8,000 pension very likely had been hush money.

Grandpapa Jules died a year later, in 1938,of complications of the x-rays, it is believed. I doubt that he ever visited Montreal's Botanical Gardens. (Or, maybe, someone did bring him there in a wheelchair in the early days.)

A funky installation that I will copy this summer in my garden. I have many such chairs. And if I plant the right flowers this year,  I might attract some butterflies, if there are any still breeding in these parts.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Genealogy Ensemble Newsletter March, 2018

Genealogy Ensemble

A group of Montreal-based friends who meet monthly to discuss genealogy
and write about their ancestors


March 2018                                                               Newsletter  No.2

1919: Trenches on the Somme by Canadian Mary Riter Hamilton, perhaps the first official female wartime painter. Credit: Library and Archives Canada, Acc. No. 1988-180-3

Have you ever wanted to march up the walk of your childhood abode, knock on the door and ask for a tour? Well, G E author, Lucy Anglin, did just that – and wrote a story about it on the Genealogy Ensemble blog. Her story is entitled You Can Go Back.

Lucy writes: “The memories came flooding back the minute we stepped through the front door.  We were tripping all over ourselves reminiscing about this and that and all the good times. There were sad memories as well which were acknowledged and gently released.”

Read the entire story here.


Business News

President Barbara Tose opens the monthly session of BIFHSGO  (Photos courtesy BIFHSGO)

On February 10, 2017, Claire Lindell, Tracey Arial and Barb Angus of Genealogy Ensemble travelled the snowy roads of the 417 highway all the way to Ottawa  to present The Book Creator’s Journey to 150 members of  the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa or BIFHSGO

The large audience of writers and would-be-writers, genealogists all,  seemed very much to appreciate the three- tiered presentation that covered research, writing and publishing.

Barb Angus opened with a  talk about the more creative research techniques she employed to flesh out the stories of some of her ancestors for the book Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy  Ensemble.   Not only did she consult well-known records like the Canadian Census and military records, but she also drew on the archives of the Hudson Bay Company and the Champlain Society.

Tracey Arial followed with the unveiling of her four-step, non-fiction writing model: Story, Structure, Style and Sound. It has been designed specifically to help genealogists get rolling on their own family stories.

Claire Lindell closed the presentation with a detailed description of the self-publishing process, as experienced by Genealogy Ensemble’s nine authors in 2017. Claire focused on what worked best for the group, but she also described, to everyone’s amusement, her hair-raising last minute rush out to the country to pick up the order of Beads paperbacks, VERY fresh off the press, just an hour before the launch party!

Tracey Arial answers a question, seated with Claire Lindell at her left and Barb Angus at her right.

“Collaboration is the key,” Claire told the audience. “Everyone of us had a different skill, such as editing, designing or publicity.  And nine people sharing the cost of publishing certainly was a big plus.”

Judging by the reception given these three authors, there appears to be a hunger among genealogists for new ideas about how to use all the avalanche of information they can collect, nowadays, and to give this popular ‘hobby’ more shape and meaning.

Many in attendance bought Beads in a Necklace and, hopefully, the stories in the book will serve as inspiration and a starting-point for writing their own family stories.

A big thank you goes out  to BIFHSGO for offering  this opportunity  to Genealogy Ensemble to share their publishing experience with the membership.

On February 15, 2017, All nine members of Genealogy Ensemble attended a DKG supper fundraiser at the stately headquarters of the English Montreal School Board on Fielding Avenue in NDG. Barb Angus didn’t have far to go as she is President of the Quebec organization of DKG International, a professional society of women educators with chapters in 27 countries. One of its missions is to raise funds for grants and scholarships for teachers and students.

Robert Wilkins, a former teacher, newspaper columnist, and a self-taught  expert on Edwardian Montreal, was guest speaker for the evening.  He is the author of Montreal 1909 published by Shoreline Press.  His was a most enlightening talk.
Wilkins presided over a slideshow that illustrated how much our city has changed in one hundred years – and what hasn’t changed at all, like the enormous potholes in the streets.

Montreal 1909 can be purchased at Paragraph Books and at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts gift shop.

At evening’s end, Barb Angus  introduced all of the authors of Beads in a Necklace, a compilation of short family stories from many eras, including the Edwardian. Tracey Arial and Janice Hamilton spoke briefly about the genesis of the GE group and about the Beads in a Necklace publishing journey.


Barb Angus, President of the Quebec Chapter of DKG as well as a Genealogy Ensemble author, seen here at a book signing at Cole’s in the Dorval Shopping Center in January.


On February 28, 2017, Janice Hamilton and Mary Sutherland reprised their presentation Writing Your Family Stories at the Benny Library in NDG. A similar presentation, given in January at the Montreal  West Library in January, was a great success.

You can read all about how this Benny Library presentation unfolded in next month’s Genealogy Ensemble newsletter.

Due to popular demand, two similar presentations are planned for April, 2018 in Hudson, Quebec, at the War Memorial Library. One presentation will be on a Saturday afternoon (likely April 14) and another on a weekday evening. On these occasions, Claire Lindell, Marian Bulford and Dorothy Nixon will talk about their own forays into family history, lead some interactive writing exercises and offer up tips on how to get a genealogy writing group off the ground.

And members of the congregation of the Church of St John the Baptiste in Pointe-Claire will have a chance to explore family storytelling with Lucy Anglin, a parishioner, and Barb Angus at their monthly meeting on April, 26th.

If your group, library or genealogical society is interested in a Genealogy Ensemble Writing Your Family Stories presentation, please contact us through our website. www.


More Business News.


Copies of the paperback edition of « Beads » are still available from the following venues: Coles in the Dorval Garden’s Shopping Center; May’s Studio, Main Road, Hudson; Livres Presque 9/Nearly New Books, 5516 Sherbrooke West, in NDG; as well as Librairie Clio in  Pointe-Claire.

A Kindle e-book version is also available on Amazon and through the Ontario Genealogical Society’s online bookstore. where there are many other great books about Canadian history and genealogy.

One advantage of the e-book version of Beads is that it permits instant access to many of the websites in the footnotes, including old newspaper articles.


Summary of Stories

Tragically, tuberculosis figures in the family stories of many people and Sandra McHugh is no different. Her sad tale posted this month on our blog. It is titled The White Death. New this month, we also have Lucy Anglin’s story You Can Go Back, mentioned up top.  Mary Sutherland offers up He Couldn’t Serve, a different kind of war story but one that needs to be told. Finally, Dorothy Nixon, in The Sword, describes how it came about that a family heirloom was returned to her by complete strangers.


Quote Unquote
 "Every man is an omnibus in which his ancestors ride"
Oliver Wendell Holmes


Genealogy Tip of the Month

Board for Certification of Genealogists Genealogy Standards. Edited by Thomas W. Jones. Washington: Turner Publishing Company, 2014. ISBN 978-1-630-26018-7 “If you want to document, research and write stories about ancestors’ experiences, the guide is a must-have,” writes Tracey Arial on GE.

If you want to see her reasons, click here.

Writing Tip of the Month

End the sentence that contains a list with the most powerful  (memorable) element on a list.

For instance, in Dorothy Nixon’s  Beads in a Necklace story, My Bittersweet Expo67 Summer, she originally wrote this sentence:  Granny was just some daft old crone who spent most days pacing nervously around our cramped upper-duplex apartment in Snowdon with a scowl on her face, a Rothman’s cigarette in one hand and a tumbler of gin in the other.

She changed it slightly to this one: Granny was just some daft old crone who spent most days pacing nervously around our cramped upper-duplex apartment in Snowdon with a cigarette in one hand, a tumbler of gin in the other, and a mean scowl on her face.

See the difference?


Genealogy in the News
Neil Postman said, “Technology changes us but in ways we can’t predict.” Let’s hope this new inexpensive  DNA testing technology changes our attitudes for the better.

Food For Thought

Chitterlings, pigs’ trotters and blood pudding. Something Granny Clampett might make? No. Part of the British diet during Post War austerity, according to Marian Bulford in her story, Food Rationing Post WWII, on the GE blog.

“Most people had an allotment and grew as many veggies as possible. Wasting food was a criminal offence during the war my Gran told me. Too bad that does not apply today!”

Read the story here.

Genealogy by the Numbers

1739: First recorded evictions from Isle of Skye. First migrations from
Scotland to North America. (North Carolina)

1785: First large clearances on Glengarry’s estate. Tenants emigrate to Glengarry
County, Ontario.
70,000: The number of Highlanders ultimate affected by the clearances (estimate).

10, 000 pounds: The cost to the proprietor to clear 2, 337 Isle of Lewisers to Canada between 1851-1855

1 (or more): The number of really lame (and racist) reasons these Hebrides immigrants were dispersed upon coming to Canada:  “To eradicate the habits of indolence and inertness that are, in part, the cause of their poverty.”

(*various sources)


Photo taken by Barb Angus of plaque in commemoration of the Arran Clearances.

The Kelly and Jamieson branches of Barb’s family tree settled in the Meganic County area: the towns of Inverness and Ireland. She has not yet researched their lives.
Stories about the Hebridean Scots on Genealogy Ensemble include How Now Black and White Cow: Isle of Lewis Obsessions

This month  Mary Sutherland gives a shout out to Gail Dever's blog, Genealogy à la Carte. It was thanks to that website that  Mary discovered that  Library and Archives Canada has now digitized the WWI soldiers' service records up to Swindells.

 “This was great news for me,” says Mary. The soldier's attestation papers have been online for many years but not their whole files. This meant lots of files to look at but what would I find?

“I found Roy Sutherland, the son of my great grandfather's brother, and started reading his file. It wasn't very long. He signed up in April 1918. The last pages of his file were about a hearing after he deserted on January 22, 1919. The war had ended on November 11, 1918. I checked my files and found his marriage to Florence V. Kerr Easterbrook took place on January 22, 1919. There has to be a story there!”

Yes, Mary. Sure sounds like there is!

Sounds Interesting

(Genealogists learn a lot about how their ancestors lived and wrote but not much about how they sounded when they spoke -or sang.

In Beads in a Necklace, Sandra McHugh profiles her great uncle, Edward McHugh, a gospel singer.  Recently, Sandra  was surprised to  meet someone who spent many evenings in his youth listening to McHugh over the radio. And, why not?  As her story The Gospel Singer reveals, this Mr. McHugh was quite famous in his time.


Many of the stories In Beads in a Necklace and on the GE blog are about ancestors who were in the Armed Forces. As it happens, Marian Bulford, GE author, served  in the WRAF in England in the 1960’s.

 “I loved it,” she says. “I loved the discipline, I loved the marching.  It was such a change from my chaotic upbringing. “  

 Marian Bulford (Clegg), WRAF, posing for a publiciy photo in promotion of a new light weight stretcher for the RAF

If you enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to pass it on to your friends and relations.

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Poem a Day...

Amphora tobacco. My father smoked it in a pipe. I will never forget how it smells.

Oh, the first Blue Jays game of the season just played on television. It's  a pre-season game from Florida, of course.

Maybe the Blue Jay has replaced the robin as the harbinger of spring. 

I always feel on-hold this time of year. 

My memory isn't what it used to be and it was never that good.  Of course, that scares me.  Except that I'm not sure if my memory is going. Just because I can't instantly recall the name of every actor on TCM. Celeste Holme! 

Being married doesn't help. I think we're typical, always accusing each other of things like "You never said that!" "I never said I'd do that." 

Anyway, I decided to test my memory by learning a poem every two days. I chose e e cummings, because he's a favorite poet and his poems are not easy to memorize.

Half nonsense, half haiku. All social commentary.

So, I learned a new poem: Anyone lived in a pretty how town.  All while watching TV, the Olympics or tennis. Got it down in a short time and then put it away in my brain's long term memory place.  Two weeks later, I tried to retrieve  the poem. I missed a few words, but remembered, say,  90 percent. Not bad. 

But, I realized, the pretty cockeyed poem floating around in my head made me happy.  It pushed out the crap that often floats around in my head as in "Why did my mother say that to me in 1971."

Ha. Ha.

"I sing of Olaf, proud and  strong?, whose very heart recoiled at war, a conscientious object - or. " That e e cummings poem has been in my head since 1971. We kids loved  e e cummings in high school.  It was the era of draft dodgers and the Vietnam war. Especially the one He Said. She Said.

I more recently learned he supported Joseph McCarthy. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Como, Croatia and Feeling Safe

This is a capture from a resort in Croatia, live stream.

To get myself through the winter, I like to live stream scenes from beautiful places in Europe (SKYLINE Webcams), while I eat my breakfast and drink my morning coffees.

Italy is my favorite place to go. Positano, Genoa.  The Spanish Steps of Rome.  And I don't have to spend a cent.

It's winter in Italy, too, so no tourists.

My favorite scenes are like the one above, a beach and a mountain.

There's something comforting about such a place. I imagine that in our collective unconscious a place like this felt safe.

Safe from invaders.

 I live near Hudson, Quebec, and part of that little town was once named Como, after the beautiful Italian resort.

Como looks like this -in the summer. 

It's a very pretty part of Quebec. Indeed, I read an account from a 18th century book that claimed  this locale to be one of the most scenic in the province: this place across from the Lake of Two Mountains, mountains that are mole hills compared to that Croatian peak in the pic at top.

Also across the lake from this pretty park  is another  mole hill that is a pine forest and a Mohawk burial ground and the cause of the Oka Crisis a couple of decades ago.

But the beauty of Hudson by the lake doesn't stop me from wanting to visit Italy. Especially in the winter.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cezanne, Tulips and Me


When I'm feeling low these day, or suffering from winter cabin fever, I take a virtual walk down the grand boulevard in Aix en Provence.

It's one of the most beautiful streets in the world, says a professor on a MOOC I am taking about sustainable cities.

The same professor says the best measure of how much a city will grow in the future is its January temperature.

That doesn't speak well for Montreal, where I live.

"Why can't I have grown up in Aix en Provence?" I ask myself. (It's always sunny there :)  And my ancestors are from that part of the world.

I wudda been happy there.

Homages to Cezanne are everywhere in this city, apparently. The beauty of the city didn't help him. He couldn't get away faster, away from his rich father, to Paris. And the sun didn't help him. He was manic depressive.

The statue at Place Ville Marie in Montreal. In Spring and Autumn Montreal is great.