Sunday, May 14, 2017

Mother's Day Pink, Pillar and a Sephardic Side Discovered.


I'm feeling really bored, as I await my husband's Ancestry DNA, although I enjoyed the Blue Jays game, with all the guys dressed up so pretty in pink for Mother's Day (and breast cancer awareness)and Pillar's walk off home-run. Now, the team is pretty well where they were last year and the year before. Everyone can stop freaking out.

My husband's spit in the laboratory, supposedly.  When I had my DNA done, it took only two days in the lab, but who knows.

I've been looking over the results of my French Canadian mother's Full MTDNA analysis from Family Tree and figured out that all the Sephardic Jewish connections are probably because of Lily Eva Rodrigue, born 1599 in  Haute Normandie, grandmother of Francois Boivin, the fille de roi (I think) who came over to Quebec in the early 1600's.

My autosomal test said I'm 2 to 9 percent European Jewish.
Church at Garrigal. 

Otherwise, my mother's maternal line seems all that it should be for a French Canadian whose ancestors came from Normandy France and the Charentes, Pitou district: close connections in Canada and France, more distant connections in England and Norway - and Italy, especially Sicily (the Normans) and Austria and Germany and Switzerland, Greece and Spain...etc.

Even further back, connections in Morocco and Algeria.

That's if I'm reading the data right.

I have no interest in finding my relations on that side. I'm 1/2 French Canadian. We're all related!

But, I couldn't do the Y DNA test, for the male line. I'm a girl. (NOT FAIR!)

My father was a Yorkshireman and Ancestry doesn't have much to offer descendants of Yorkshireman. I had to use GEDMATCH to eke out a few bits of shared DNA from those quaint little North of England towns if they still exist, or crossroads places, if they don't. (Witton Le Wear, Durham is a cross roads. Helmsley is a thriving touristy market town (not far from Castle Howard of Brideshead Revisited fame) and Alston, Cumberland, once a thriving place, has seriously downsized.

I discovered that a pioneer family from my home-town, Hudson, the Viponds, came from Alston, Cumberland in the late 1700's, straight to Vaudreuil- Soulanges, Quebec.

I wonder if these Viponds mined lead, like my ancestors did. Probably. They attended the same 'dissenting' church at Garrigal. Some of them, anyway.  Of course, as I've mentioned here in the past, Alston was the location  of a broad social experiment. The town had a good school, library, and organized leisure. So, it is not surprising that my ancestors from Alston became socialist, social reformer religious types.

Anyway, the Sephardic and Azkenazi Jewish part of my Mom's heritage is, to me,  the most interesting part of it all.

My Mom had no idea.  I wonder if I am representative of most French Canadians? Probably


Thursday, May 11, 2017

Exotic and Expensive North Yorkshire.



I am quite enjoying watching All Creatures Great and Small on YouTube, this terrible, ugly, cold Spring in Quebec.

I'm on season 2.

I see that, for some strange reason, it was deemed a children's show for the Primetime Emmy's. Pretty crazy.

Sure, All Creatures has a lot of animals, and no swearing, but  the protagonist is a grown-up. The main characters are grown-up and the situations are very realistic, naturalistic, one might say.

The show is  not heavy-duty like my current favorite Call the Midwife, although very similar when it comes to all the birthing issues ;) and James seems to save most of the animals, but really, a children's show?

I'm watching the program because I am researching my ancestry, half from Yorkshire.

I've never been to Yorkshire or to the Dales. I intend to go to the Helmsley region, sometime in the future, but the hotels are expensive for the most part and I can't figure out how I'll get around once there, since I don't want to drive around on the 'sinister' side of the road.

Using the databases, I am trying  to figure out who I am related to out there (all the ususal names are in my tree, I can see from the era censuses). And, when I find a name and a distinct "house," I look that up too.

(Gosh! The high prices of homesin  rural Yorkshire!)

The picture at the top is the view from a fine house where an ancestor, a Nesfield, I think, lived.  This Nesfield must have been a richer person to reside there.. Most of my ancestors seem to have been farm labourers.

My father was called Peter Nesfield Forster Nixon, so it was obvious he had a Nesfield ancestor. I just had to figure out who.. It was his father's grandmother.

Ann Nesfield.
My genetic heritage through the prism of Dodecad on Gedmatch. Which part is my mother's?Which part my father's? I think the Caucasus bit is from my Yorkshire Father.

Nesfield is a rare name, and it is found only in Yorkshire, I believe.  There are few Nesfield matches on Gedmatch, so I can't see if I share genes with anyone with such an ancestor posting their DNA there. If what I read on the Internet is right, this Nesfield family has Norman heritage, as they are  named after a place.

My mother, being French Canadian, has lots of Norman genes, too, of course. So, it can get complicated for me.

I share genes with descendants of Richardsons  and Boyes and Wilsons, etc. etc.  so I guess I am a Yorkshire girl.

I don't look like my father, so I'm not 100% sure.  Many of the locally-hired bit actors playing Yorkshire farmers sure do look like my father, though. His father's Nixon line dies with a non-parental event around 1800 and continues as Neesam, another Norman name, I guess. His second great grandfather took his mom's name. She was Hannah Nixon.

This website started out about my husband's Isle of Lewis Scots - Richmond, Quebec ancestors, at the turn of the last century.

While researching their story, I discovered something. At that time, 1910, Canada was looking for farmers from other countries to farm wheat out West. Some xenophobic Canadians wanted only Yorkshiremen to come, but that didn't work out. These British farmers were too set in their ways, apparently, to deal with the winter cold, etc.

Eastern Europeans, with their bright clothing, settled the West, to their dismay.

From what I can see on All Creatures Great and Small, Yorkshire farmers were rather exotic, too, in their way.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

All DNA Matches, Great and Small, in Yorkshire


I've been despairing, just a little bit.

I recently had my DNA 'done' on Ancestry - and not only was the ethnicity estimate totally weird - but, from the start, I could find no evidence of my father and his North of England side.

I don't look much like my father, so...well, you know. I began to wonder.

My mother is French Canadian with most of her ancestors (all French)go back to the boat in the early 1600's, to Normandy and Poitou in France.

My father is pure Durham, Yorkshire and Northumberland, off the plane in 1948 after WWII.

At first, it was the Ancestry ethnicity estimate that perplexed me. It had NO French or "Western Europe,"  just British, Italian/Greek, Caucasus? and bits of this and that... On Gedmatch Eurogenes I had a bit of Red Sea (Levant) and Amerindian and South Seas and South Asian, to go with North Sea and Baltic and, yes, West Asian and Mediterranean.

On some estimates, like DNA LAND  I am 10 percent Jewish. Family tree changed my estimate in mid-stream from Western Europe, Italian and Greek and Turkish, to British, Iberian, and Turkish.

Was the British my Mother or Father? I still don't know.


I  have learned that French Canadians,  by and large,  come out British, Irish and Italian on Ancestry ethnicity, so I started to wonder about the Caucasus/West Asian business on my own chart.

So much to worry about.

Well,  the ethnicity estimates are from thousands of years ago. This explains a lot.

 A few weeks ago Ancestry launched a Genetic Communities feature, where they indicate outright that my ethnicity estimate is from millenia ago.  They also tell me that I come from a genetic community called  French Settlers along the St. Lawrence and French Settlers in Montreal and Detroit.

Now, tell me something I don't know! All my DNA "cousins" (Americans, Canadians) seem to have a French Quebecker connection, if they aren't a quarter or half French.

The other day, I decided to take my sure-fire maternal connections (little floaty leaves where people match dna-wise and tree-wise) and use the Shared Matches feature to find all the "cousins" who are connected to my Mom. That took up just about every one of the 350 potential cousin matches.

ALL of them.

So either, my father's English side is invisible - or my REAL father is also French Canadian and his matches got swept up with my mother's.. not unlikely as French Canadians are so inter-connected coming from 5-7 thousand initial settlers.

I've been driving my family crazy fretting over this puzzling conundrum. (My parents have passed away, of course, so I can engage in this self-indulgent exercise guilt-free.)


My beautiful Eurogenes 13 profile on Gedmatch. The colourful little bits are from the North of England ancestors, it seems.

I've been using Gedmatch to seek out people with DNA kits with relatives with the right names in the right places in their trees,  Hall in Cumberland, Nixon in Nawton Yorkshire, etc.

I have to memorize a lot of numbers, good for the brain.

I now know how far Helmsley is from Thirsk, where the author who wrote All Creatures Great and Small had his animal surgery, as they call them in the UK.

I even watched a few episodes of the charming show on YouTube. (I'd seen it before, of course.)

I've matched small bits of DNA with many such people, but I also performed a control experiment and noticed that I can match little bits with random people, too.

But, today, checking out Boyes in Yorkshire, I got too many matches, largish matches, like 5 and 6 centimorgans, double matches, matches with siblings, etc.  to be able to deny that I am related to my father.

Or to man from Yorkshire called Boyes ;)

I think, anyway. Likely. Maybe, Perhaps.

About 20 matches out of 30 names available with DNA. As per usual, the one person with the same direct ancestor in his/her tree, didn't have any DNA to compare to mine.

These Boyes started up a department store, apparently.

It seems that Ancestry doesn't have many British people in the database, even though they started up a UK division last year. It also seems that few people from the North of England emigrated to the New World, so their DNA isn't in many American Ancestry subscribers. (The Nixons and Cowens I have found on Gedmatch went to Australia.)

This is what I'm telling myself today. Hey, in the 70's, when Richard Nixon was President,  I couldn't make a purchase in a store without the cashier asking me if I was related to Dick. That was because there were so few Nixons around. (I said No, but it looks like we may be Border Reivers.)

A bit of shared DNA is someone who has a Boyes in their tree...

Sunday, April 16, 2017

French Canadians - Genes - and Colourful Ethnicity Wheels

I have a rainbow of colours on my ethnicity wheel of Gedmatch.. My French Canadian possible cousins had very plain wheels with North Sea, Baltic and Western and Eastern Mediterranean.  I was confused.


Well, let's hope it's over.


I have been agonizing over the fact that my Ancestry DNA 'cousins' seem all to be French Canadian.
After all, I'm supposed to be half French Canadian and half British from Yorkshire,Cumberland and Northumberland.


I had my autosomal DNA tested and I instantly found oodles of French cousins, with ties to my family tree, on Ancestry.


41 of them, in fact, and I've only completed about 10 lines back to the boat and Normandy and Poitou.

But, I couldn't for the life of me find a tree that didn't have a French Canadian in it!

To top itoff, my ethnicity wheel made things more confusing. French Canadians, it appears, come out North Sea, Western and Eastern Mediterranean and Baltic.

I had less North Sea than almost anyone of my 'cousins', except for a cousin who is three quarters Italian and one quarter Northumbrian.

I also had a real rainbow of colours. Lots of Caucasus (about double what my cousins had) and Siberian and Holy Land and Polynesian and Amerindian. Whoa!

No one I could find on my connections list, with a tree I could verify, had a wheel anything like it.

But, then, I went to Gedmatch and tried to find people with my English Grandparents' names in the right regions, Richardsons, Cowens and Forsters.

It wasn't hard, I immediately found shared DNA with 4 people with those names. Four people with shared DNA out of a handful of  contenders.

 And when I checked out the Forster wheel, (Eurogens 13) it was as colourful as mine, except no Amerindian.

Someone directly related to my father's great great grandmother had a kit, but when I entered it, it stalled. (What bad luck!.)

But, there you go. Case closed. Until tomorrow, when I start agonizing again. I won't rest until my brother gets tested this summer.

The problem is, many people on Ancestry have large trees going back to pioneer times, Virginia and such, and they all have at least one French line, to go with their Italian line and their many German lines, etc. America is, indeed, a melting pot.

 It seems many immigrants to North America have someone who stopped in Montreal. It was a major port, after all. That messed me up.

Whenever I saw a French name on these American trees, or an Anglicized French name like Beechamine or Tibo or my favorite, LeFEEVER,, I decided that person was attached to my French Canadan line.

That's not necessarily true.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Helmsley, James Herriot and DNA Dilemmas

When my son travelled around York by bus as a student, he said it felt like home (and he had no idea about his roots.)  Maybe that's a clue.


I can't recall when I watched the television series, All Creatures Great and Small, on PBS, but it ran from 1978 to 1990 apparently, so it's likely I watched it in the late 80's, when I had little babies.

I recall only one episode, one where the Harriot's character is upset because so many people are bringing him animals to be put down. (Must check what year that is.)

I have never read the books by Alf Wright, alias James Herriot, on which the series is based. Maybe I will now.

I watched the first three episodes of  All Creatures on YouTube today.  I did so because I just learned that Wright had his real veterinary practice in the town of Thirsk in North Yorkshire.

The series is shot somewhere else in North Yorkshire.

I've been doing my genealogy. I've taken the Ancestry DNA test, and I am trying to grow a tree. My father's side of the family is from North Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland and his father was born in Helmsley, Yorkshire, 15 miles from Thirsk.

There are still some Nixons and lots of Richardsons (his paternal grandmother) in the area.

I'm becoming familiar with the names of all the little towns in the area, and all the local families, like Featherstone,  as I try to figure out if ANYBODY in my DNA 'cousin list' is from my English side.

Yes, my 'ethnicity estimate' from Ancestry says I am 32 to 57 percent British, but French Canadians come out British on these tests. Most French Canadians came from Normandy, originally.  From what I see from the bazillions of French people on my Ancestry cousins list, French Canadians, even those who are 100 percent Quebecois,  come out British, Irish and Italian/Greek, for some crazy reason.

I came out British Isles, Caucasus and Italian/Greek. No Irish. Weird.

I have so many cousin connections on my French Canadian side, I am wondering if I even have a British side.


Unfortunately, my Yorkshire foremothers (if they are my foremothers)  had a lot of their kids out of wedlock. (Apparently, this was a fairly common thing for farm girls back then. See my last post.) So no DNA matches. At least, I hope that's the reason.

Of course, as I've explained here, French Canadian genealogies are quite reliable due to the excellent records kept by the Catholic church. These Yorkshire, Cumberland and Northumberland records, not so good.

Yesterday, I suddenly realized that I already was familiar with the Helmsley area, through this British television series, among many other TV programs, no doubt. Well, Downtown Abbey takes place in the area, doesn't it? And that program I loved called Jam and Jerusalem..

Too bad All Creatures Great and Small isn't on Netflix, not right now, not in Canada, anyway.

But I'll settle for the Youtube, until it's taken down. It's a comfort to watch as I agonize over this puzzling situation.


One name, Calvert, from Yorkshire, seems to be promising. I am DNA  cousins with a number of Americans with his family in their tree, and these American families have NO apparent French genes.


But, it's amazing how many 'pioneer' Americans have at least one French Canadian line.When I see something like Tibo, even in a Texan, I say to myself:  "Oh, no. Not another French Canadian connection."

Some people seem to have both small Yorkshire towns and small Quebec towns in their trees. Annoying!

And, even if the people don't seem to have any French connections in their tree, if I see they are from Maine, or Vermont or Rhode Island, I know they probably do and  just don't know it.

But, I was buoyed by a bit I read on a message board.  Some guy from Northumberland, 100 percent going back centuries, said he took a DNA test with his siblings and they all got Caucasus as a puzzling result.  These ethnicity estimates are ancient, it seems.

Maybe my perplexing Caucasus genes are the proof I'm really British. My Dad's families go back to the Border Reivers in Cumberland and Northumberland and possibly all the way back to the Holy Land. (I wrote about that a few posts ago.)

So, on theme of pets and genealogy, my cousin got her DNA done, she's adopted, and also her mutt's. He is part chihuahua and part poodle.


Over the Top for Women's Suffrage

Canadian Suffragists, all from Ontario, marching in a March 1913 Suffrage Parade in Washington DC. Stowe Gullen in the motar board. Constance Hamilton was there, too.  She would soon start her own national suffrage movement, the National Equal Franchise Union, but she would give up the suffrage fight within a year. Hence, the report below, by the Canadian Suffrage Association, trying to cement their place in history as the one-and-only credible national organization.



WWI was still raging in June, 1918 when the National Council of Women held their annual general meeting in Brantford, Ontario.

1917 had been a bitterly divisive year in Canada, especially among Canadian suffragists, because in order to get re-elected and pass his conscription bill, Premier Borden had concocted a Wartime Elections Act that gave the vote only to women with close relations at the Front.

Suffrage was still a key issue for the National Council of Women during the WWI years, and many provinces, including Ontario, granted the provincial franchise to women during that time, although many society ladies put aside their suffrage advocacy for 'patriotic work.'

I am writing about this bizarre business in a book called Service and Disservice, about the Canadian suffragists and their dubious involvement in the 1917 Conscription Election. It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffragists to Canada in 1911/12.

It was all a bit of a mess, well, a HUGE mess, and in the 1918 Yearbook of the National Council of Women most of the women's societies agreed to let sleeping dogs lie and avoid re-hashing, in their annual reports, any of the raw emotion, bent logic, viciousness and invective that had characterized the Canadian women's movement the final months of 1917.

The Canadian Suffrage Association, led by Dr. Margaret Gordon, a pacifist, had come out vocally against this limited suffrage ploy of Premier Borden's Union Government.  Dr. Gordon called the Wartime Elections Act 'a  disenfranchisement act.'

So, too,  had the Montreal Suffrage Association, under Carrie Derick, although they were 'warmly in favour of compulsory national service.'

(The MSA was careful not to use the word Conscription in their propaganda.  That was a hot-button word in Quebec.)

 The Montreal Local Council of Women had been greatly divided over this Wartime Elections Act. Their President, Dr. Grace Ritchie England suffered an impeachment hearing over her support of Liberal Sir Wilfrid Laurier in the 1917 election, and for a September, 1917 letter to the Press she co-authored with Mme Dandurand, an elite French woman, calling the Wartime Elections Act 'an insult to women'.

But, you wouldn't know it by the  annual reports filed in 1918 National Council of Women  Yearbook.

Only the National Equal Franchise Union, whose President Constance Hamilton had loudly supported Borden's Union Government and this limited suffrage re-election ploy, made mention of dissent within the ranks over the issue, while claiming that all ended well with everyone coming together in a spirit of patriotism.

(Not true, of course.)

The Montreal Local Council avoided discussing the Conscription Election, focusing, in its report, on its work to care and control (and  put away on special farms) the feeble-minded of society, Carrie Derick's pet project. She was a McGill Botanist/Geneticist and a eugenics evangelist.

In the 1918 report, the Montreal Local Council of Women also mentioned  that they distributed Conscription literature around town, in both languages, at the request of the Federal Government.


By 1918, most women in Canada had won the right to vote federally. This was the silver lining in the dark, undemocratic cloud of the very cynical, anti-Quebec and anti-immigrant Wartime Elections Act, that made hypocrites of so many of the society ladies/social reformers of Canada.

The Montreal Suffrage Association uses the Suffrage Play "How the Vote was Won" as a war fundraiser. Although pledging the MSA to war work almost immediately,"We have been asking for our rights, now it is time to do our duty" in September, 1914, President Carrie Derick never gave up the suffrage cause, putting pressure on Borden in May 1917, demanding the Federal Vote for Women: "We have been doing our duty, now it is time to have our rights." 

She tried to organize a nation-wide deputation to Borden that month, but the PM, at the end of May, suddenly promised all Canadian women the federal vote.

 Then, in September, Borden broke his promise, after receiving 'disturbing intelligence from out West,' revealing that citizens in many constituencies weren't likely to vote along patriotic lines. This according to a representative of the Montreal Suffrage Association. 

Borden's main man, Arthur Meighan, was just as afraid of the anti-war sentiment in Quebec, but Borden couldn't come out and say that. He told  Quebec Suffrage Leaders that he couldn't give ALL Canadian women the vote in 1917 until he changed the laws regarding citizenship for new Canadians. As it stood, a female immigrant was granted Canadian citizenship directly upon marriage to a citizen.

"You don't appreciate the pickle I am in," says Borden to a French suffragist organization in September,1917 defending his Wartime Elections Act that gave only women with men at the Front the right to vote in the December federal election, ensuring that Borden would win the election and that his Conscription Bill would pass.  (He wanted 100,000 conscripts. In 1916 he had asked for 500,000 recruits and the MLCW formally endorsed mandatory overseas service to fill that huge quota, about 1/8th of all the men in Canada!)

Here's a direct translation: "Before women have the vote, we must establish what quality of citizen she is." And some suffragists in Canada bought it. Oy.

Here's the entry for the Canadian Suffrage Association for 1918. It all sounds so very familiar, doesn't it?

CANADIAN SUFFRAGE ASSOCIATION. Margaret Johnston, Recording Secretary.

The many long years of steady educational spade work, together with deputations to Parliament and the bringing of world-famous speakers to Canada by this Association, was undoubtedly the means which resulted in such glorious victories for the cause of Suffrage, as Canada has had during the past two years.

 A movement gathers weight and rapidity, as it grows, and finally it is able to sweep aside obstacles which obstruct its progress, and to "carry on," by its own momentum. The women's suffrage movement has undoubtedly reached the crest of the wave sooner, because of the war, than it might otherwise have done, but had not the foundations been laid secure and sound on the rock bed of Justice, supported by an educated public opinion, no parliamentary action could have taken place.

Naturally, since the war broke out, the energies of the Canadian Suffrage Association had to be diverted into many channels, for it was imperative to loyal citizens that they do patriotic work, both as an Association and as individual members.

 No new Associations, therefore, have been formed since Ontario went "Over the Top" for Suffrage, but we felt that the Rubicon had been crossed, which was soon shown by the Federal Amendment following so quickly in its wake. 

No longer, do we hear the old slogan of Anti-Suffragism, "A woman's place is in the home," for this terrible world war has conclusively proven that "A woman's place is wherever she can be to serve humanity." 

This Association has contributed, through the personal work of its leaders, much that is basic in the making of Democratic opinion in Canada. 

We are too close to the life-work of Dr. Emily Stowe, Dr. Stowe Gullen, Mrs. Flora MacD. Denison, Dr. James L. Hughes and Dr. Margaret Gordon, our five National presidents, to estimate the scope and true value of their work—history will tell the story—but The National Council of Women know the long hard struggle, the many years of intensive work which were necessary, before Woman's Suffrage became a plank in their platform. 

A man-made nation, emphasizing the combative attributes of the male sex and glorying in the ideal of power through might, has launched the human race into a bloody struggle that staggers the imagination, and dazes, almost to madness, the human mind. 

Nations are recognizing that the co-operation of women is necessary, and that the ideal, for which, to-day, the Allies are staking their all, is the same old ideal on which the Women's Suffrage Movement was founded. 

When the Union Government invited many of the representative women to present themselves at Ottawa, to discuss policies for the nation's welfare, our national president. Dr. Margaret Gordon, was asked to represent us. 

(Editor: This is news to me. It is said that 4 leading women, including Mrs. L. A Hamilton of the National Equal Franchise League and Mrs. Torrington of the National Council of Women,visited Borden in Ottawa in early August, 1917. Earlier, he had sent them telegrams, asking them to poll their nation-wide memberships to see if he would win the election if women got the vote. The answer was NO. In my book, I suggest that Mrs. Hamilton, who was convenor for the immigration committee on the National Council of Women, gave Borden the idea of limited suffrage, although Nellie McClung generally gets the credit for this.) 

This notable gathering bore testimony to the truth of the vision of the the pioneers, whose efforts laid the foundation on which has been reared that great modern structure which the President of the United States epitomized when he said, "We must make the world safe for Democracy." 

Though the Canadian Suffrage Association has been in the thick of the fight for over a third of a century, it is not going to rest because of victories won. Our work will not be finished, until women and men, throughout Canada, shall meet on the democratic ground of political equality, for on that foundation, and that only, can a real Democracy be built.

HERE'S a tidbit by Mrs. Torrington from the same yearbook.

The franchise makes women, as they are in the majority, the arbiter of the nation's destiny.

And lest we forget how religious many of these "maternal' reform-minded mostly Presbyterian women were: Mrs. Torrington again.

The future of Canada lies in the home. The victory won on the battlefield must be followed by a realization of the power of consecrated motherhood. To us it is a testing time, and surely there is not a woman to whom war does not bring its problems. Upon woman rests the responsibility, in a great measure, of the development of a higher civilization. Nor is it a time of our personal beliefs or convictions. A writer has said : "The origin of your duties is in God. The definition of your duties is found in His Law. The progressive discovery and the application of His Law is the task of humanity." I am convinced that the solving of the many social problems which we are facing will come through the spiritual touch—our being in touch with the Infinite. 

Read Suzanne Evans' Mother of Martyrs.

War and Spring Cleaning 1917





Here's a bit about Montreal's Edith Wharton, a suffragist and militant suffragette sympathizer back in 1910-1919 Montreal, who also supported the very undemocratic Wartimes Election Act of 1917 that gave the vote only to women with men at the Front.

Frances Fenwick Williams, a Montreal-based novelist, figures large in my booService and Disservice about the 1917 Conscription Crisis in Canada - and the iffy involvement of the Canadian suffragist movement.

It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1911/12 British Invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal, an invasion Ms. Fenwick Williams helped bring about, I suspect.

I've written about Ms. Williams a lot on this blog. She was clever and nervy - an outlier who was part of the social elite but who made fun of these people in her books.She was the daughter of a Montreal stock market official and from a distinguished Nova Scotia family.

Her second novel, A Soul on Fire, was published in 1915 when she sitting on the Executive of Board of Directors of the Montreal Suffrage Association, although she wasn't a social reformer like her co-members.

Frances Fenwick Williams, about 30 years old, was an 'equal rights' suffragist, not a 'maternal' suffragist.

 She married in 1910  but was estranged from her American husband,a well-known city planner. The fact that Frances Fenwick Williams was entered in as a male, Frances, in the 1881 census might explain her short-lived marriage.

But, being married gave FFW the right to be a member of the MSA.  Young single women were not invited into the Montreal suffrage movement. They were too 'excitable.'

FFW was a bit like the famed American author Edith Wharton, if you think about it, but she was not nearly as good a novelist. A critique of her 1915 novel, A Soul on Fire, claimed the characters didn't resemble any  in real life.

Hmm. Ivy Compton Burnett was a Dame Commander of the British Empire, Post-War novelist and member of the Women's Writers Suffrage League.  FFW went to London in 1912 to visit with the suffragettes. And, then, she joined the very 'sane' and 'reasonable' Montreal Suffrage Association, as a kind mole.

FFW liked to give speeches. She was an able debater at the February, 1912 Montreal Suffrage Exhibit. Her speech is in my book Furies Cross the Mersey.

During  the 1917  Conscription Crisis, she was there when Borden needed her, giving a speech in Montreal on the first day of December, a day after riots in Sherbrooke, among other Quebec towns.

Borden deliberately pitted English Quebeckers against French Quebeckers during that year's election.

"I am a suffragist, a socialist and half a soldier," she told the 100 ladies assembled at the 1917 rally. She also said she had no political affiliation but was for the Union government because it was the closest thing you can get to a non-partisan government.

She said anyone against the Union Government and Conscription was a  "Traitor to the Dead."

(Grace Ritchie England, Montreal born President of the Montreal Council of Women, stumped for Sir Wilfrid Laurier and suffered an impeachment hearing in 1918 for her troubles. Sir Wilfrid, as leader of the Opposition, said he'd give women the federal vote in 1916, probably forcing Premier Borden to do the same. He also cautioned that giving women the vote wasn't going to bring about all the good things people thought; nor was it going to bring about all the bad.)

At least FFW wasn't a hyprocrit like so many of the other suffragists during WWI.

In 1913, she wrote a piece in her column The Feminist, called Women and War  stating: "It is generally believed that since women don't take part in military actions that they are opposed to war. It would be a similar thing to say that since men don't take part in Spring Cleaning, that they are opposed to it."

But she also wrote this 1917 war poem that seems to show two enemy soldiers dying together.

Before Verdun
By FRANCES FENWICK WILLIAMS

No prayer can help, no agony atone,
As I came into life I go  - alone!

Another man is lying by my side,
Another, caught in death's fast-brimming tide.

Mine was the hand that struck his life away,
And his the hand that laid me low today.

Yet now, as nearer draws the dreadful end,
He seems to me a brother and a friend.

What is he thinking as his life ebbs fast?
(How lonely each poor soul is at the last!)

If I could hear him speak before he dies I should not feel so desolate,  but he lies,
Silent and spent.

His lips grow slowly white.

I hate to look upon the piteous sight!



(There's more.)

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Matriarchy, Patriarchy, DNA and Family Ties

 My maybe ancestral paper trail.. My Nixon Helmsley Yorkshire line goes back a few generations and then goes 'female', Hannah giving her name to her son Robert. This was often done if the kid wasn't the father's...and Hannah's son marries a woman with unknown father.. 

Well, I had my autosomal DNA done on Ancestry and I constructed a tree, easy to do for the French Canadian side, not so easy for the Northern English side.

Within a month, I had 41 almost-certain matches between DNA and my tree, all French Canadian - and I've only complete 10 lines or so of about 500... if I want to go back to the boat...to the shores of Normandy.

Now, the Drouin records are excellent, so the paper trail is easy, but it also looks like French Canadian girls, these filles de filles de filles de roi, who mostly became farmer's wives, were faithful types.

As for the Yorkshire farmers in my ancestry...

I knew from reading a book called The Edwardians, that in the 18th and 19th centuries a good portion of women were pregnant at marriage, a figure which dropped off to near none in the Edwardian era, where unmarried mothers and illegitimate children were victimized and shunned - to make some kind of point.

Patriarchy appears to be a mere suggestion for these resourceful farming women in the North of England.  They were valued for more than being baby receptacles.

For a farmer to be successful he needed a capable wife. Women had a lot of earning power, apparently, in the pre-industrial economy.

Also, these Northern English people were more superstitious than Southern Britons. They believed tha pregnant women had special powers, so these women were protected from any middle-class-type scorn.


Apparently, if a young woman came home pregnant in Yorkshire, in the good old days, she didn't tell her parents who the father was. The mother merely went out and found a man who would take on the roll.

It all very practical, doesn't it?
*

For Better, For Worse: British Marriages, 1600 to the Present

By John R. Gillis



But, it screws up genealogy,or makes it irrelevant. (One Yorkshire farmboy or another, who cares?) I'm probably never going to find someone attached to both my DNA and my paper trail family tree...
 Cousin, Cousine.... Faithful French Canadian women...This 'cousin' tie goes back to Abraham Martin, L'Ecossais, who owned the Plains of Abraham. He was the ancestral father of many a French Canadian. My mother knew of this sort of famous ancestor, a cousin had done his genealogy the old fashioned way. Whether Abraham was, indeed, Scottish or not is up for debate.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Nixons, Forsters and Border Reiving Ruffians



As a young person in the 60's and 70's, growing up in Montreal, I'd continually be asked, "Are you related to Richard Nixon?"

 I would reply an emphatic "No! I'm English. He's Irish."

That's what my father told me to say.

My British-born father also told me that HIS Nixons were from England and they were sheep stealers.  It all sounded a bit silly to me.

Today, 50 years on, I am engaged in working out my genealogy. I've had my DNA tested at Ancestry and I'm growing a tree on Ancestry.

Seems that my father was right..about the sheep.. possibly about Richard Nixon's Irishness...but not about our ties with Tricky Dickie. 

I've just learned the Nixons of Northumberland, as well as the Forsters of Northumberland (my father's mother is a Forster) are descended from the Border Reivers of the Scottish/English border regions.

Some English Nixons went to Ireland but were kicked out due to bad behavior.

My father, Peter, was born in Kuala Lumpur, to Dorothy Forster, born in Middleton-in-Teesdale, Durham to John Forster, born in Allendale, Northumberland. John was an itinerant Primitive Methodist Minister, changing headquarters every two years, and in 1912 he was posted in the lovely town of Helmsley, Yorkshire. 

Border Reiver alliances were made at that time, because after WWI, Dorothy took a boat to Malaya to join Robert Nixon of Helmsley, Selangor plantation manager, who in 1911 had been working as a footman at Dunscombe Abbey in the area of that pretty market town.

Romanticized image of Border Reiver

As I've written on this blog, my mother is French Canadian and I've found it easy to create her tree because of the fine records kept by the Catholic church and also found in Quebec archives, but the Nixon/Forster trees, well, I'm cutting and pasting them off other trees on Ancestry so, who knows.
I've already got 30 plus French Cousin Connections confirmed on Ancestry. That company is  confident that my 'Genetic Community" is from the French immigrants to the St-Lawrence. LOL. 

 I have proof that four branches of my French Canadian tree, back to 1700 or longer, are genuine, paper to gene.

With my English side, it's impossible to tell.  My father's paternal Nixon line goes FEMALE at 1800, with a man taking his mother's, Hannah Nixon's line.  And there's a Featherstone in the line, where the woman had my ancestor out of wedlock.

(It seems many Nixons married Featherstones in that era.)

I can't prove my English lineage with a DNA cousin tie and probably never will, but I can safely say my father's people were brigands and ruffians and real good horseback riding guerrilla fighters.

If you were on the King's side, you were SIR Ruffian.

Don't blame these people. The area around the English/Scottish border was destroyed by repeated warfare and so not arable. Raiding sheep and cattle was a way to make a living. The exact location of the border was disputed, as well. 

Horse-riding, now that's the part of the story I would have loved back as a child. Galloping over the moors, just imagine!

 The BBC did an expensive series in 1968-69 called the Borderers about these very people. The show is very "Cowboys and Indians" - but also very informative. 

 If the series came to Canada back in 1968, when I was 13, I doubt it would have appealed to me, despite the horses.

The Borderers can be found on YouTube, right now. The show features a young and very handsome Michael Gambon.

You can read more about the Border Reivers and their connection to men in the Nixon Administration here on the Historic UK website. (PS. I don't have to feel so bad. My husband is descended from the MacLeods from Isle of Lewis, just like Donald Trump.)

And, there are tonnes of books about the Border Reivers out there,often featuring colour plates of burly men in armour on beautiful steeds with windswept manes. 

Anyway, I can see from my tree that the Forsters and the Nixons aren't my only Border Reiving relations. There are also Musgraves, Bells and Grahams in my line.  

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Norman Nicholson: An Ordinary Man

Norman Nicholson, my husband's great grandfather liked to keep track of things.  Indeed, that was his one extraordinary trait: He kept track of his every expense, business or household, over five decades.
Balances, inventories, invoices and lists.

From his work: Price of ash for 1899: 8 cents for 12 inch;10 cents for 13 inch; 12 cents for 14 inch.
From his travels: 1913 Trip to Boston to see Grand Lodge: ticket to Montreal, 2.55, street car 05, ticket to Newport, 3.25. Dinner on train .60
From his 1883 ‘dating’ diary: 10 cents for shave and haircut.  15 cents ticket to dance.  5 cents for a peek through a telescope.

He kept all this information in dozens of ledgers, diaries and notebooks and he kept these booklets neatly arranged in a trunk under the window in his daughter's room.

That's how I came to have a  real appreciation for the life of a 1st generation Canadian living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec at the turn of the 20th century.

That's how I've come to understand that my husband's great grandfather, Canadian-born, Canadian schooled  Norman Nicholson, hemlock bark dealer, turkey salesman, Town Public Works Clerk, Inspector for the Transcontinental Railway and The Quebec Streams Commission, was a work-a-day sort, devoted husband to the spirited feminist-minded Margaret McLeod, doting father to three feisty and ambitious daughters Edith, Marion, Flora and one lost soul of a son, Herb.

He was the kind of ordinary man who lives a full life, with all its joys and sorrows and broken dreams, and dies, the memory of him quickly fading to black until, one day, (with any luck at all) a glimmer, as a great great grandson, flipping through the brittle pages of a photo album, points to one particular picture and asks. "Who's this 'sick - looking' dude with the white moustache and beard?" And the boy's middle aged father  leans forward, squints and answers: "Oh, that's Norman Nicholson, your great great grandfather, or at least, I think it is."

"Was he a general or something, too?" the boy asks referring to the man's Masonic regalia.

"No, Norman Nicholson was just an ordinary man."

Ordinary in every possible way.

And with a soft spot for his devoted life-mate.

1911: “I don't want a concrete hall or a little birch canoe;  just want a place with you by the fireside."
See? An ordinary man of conflicting passions, just like you and me, the kind of man who has but one chance to have something flattering written about him and that's at the end of his life:
From the Richmond Guardian June, 1922

The death occurred suddenly last Friday morning  in Montreal of Mr. Norman Nicholson, one of the most respected citizens of this place

And then that's it, finito, no more, except, perhaps, for an epitaph on a tombstone in a far-flung country cemetery no one ever visits.


RIP  Norman Nicholson, my husband's great grandfather.


An oh-so ordinary man, except for this one extraordinary trait, this compulsion to keep track of things, to leave a paper trail for posterity - if mostly in list form.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Border Reivers and Wall Builders




Maybe it wasn't the Normans in 1150. Maybe it was the Romans, the soldiers posted in Northumberland, building Hadrian's Wall, about 2000 years ago.

When I got my 'ethnicity' estimate from Ancestry about a month ago, to learn I was, perhaps, 18 percent Italian, (some Tuscany, some Sicily) I was very perplexed.

But, I soon learned these 'estimates' are from thousands of years ago.

Since my mother is 100 percent French Canadian, I soon figured out that, maybe, those Italian genes come from the Normans.

Most female French Canadian pioneers came from Normandy and the Normans ruled over most of Britain, Northern France, Southern Italy and Sicily and a bit of Turkey.

See this pic.



I am following up and doing my mother's MT DNA, following my maternal line back in time. I already know that my 10 times great grandmother is one Francoise Boivin from Haute Normandy, a Fille de Roi, who took a 1668 boat to Quebec to marry and have 10 kids.

If I'm right, her grandmother was a Rodrigue and that's a surname from Brittany - by way of Spain -as in Rodriguez.

Well, who knows.

So, if my Italian genes don't come from my mother,where to do they come from?

My father, whose ancestors, the Forsters and Nixons, were Border Reivers, the people who guarded the English/Scottish border way back when.

When I was young, I recall asking my father why he didn't pick a few rocks from Hadrian's Wall, which was right near where he lived as a school kid.

He only laughed. "Why would I?"

My father's ancestral stomping grounds, from the Pennines to the coast. I have yet to find a sure cousin connection on Ancestry. I have plenty of French Canadian connections, though

There were Nixons in Carlisle in the 1500's, where my dad lived in the summers. A stretch of Hadrian's Wall is nearby.



Now, I've read that many British men have Italian DNA... I've also read the opposite... Apparently, the Romans who came to Britian to build the wall (and they stayed a long time) thought the Britons were less than human, like monkeys or something.


But, I guess that didn't stop them from inseminating some of them.



Sunday, March 26, 2017

Two Goddesses, a Tent and a Passport


The Ethiopian Pavilion stamp ( a literal stamp) in an Old Expo67 passport.  The passport belonged to my mother-in-law. We found it in a drawer upon her death.

I had a passport for Expo, too, but  I don't have it. Not that I lost it, like everything else. I actually gave it away, right after Expo67, to a hostess at the Ethiopian Pavilion. (My mother made me do it, I think.)

I was 12 in 1967, and I still can remember (sort of) the day my father brought home my little red passport that cost a whopping 17.50!

But it was 17.50 well spent! All the exhibits at Expo67 were free.

Sometime during that summer, my mother made friends with two of the young hostesses at the tent-like Ethiopian pavilion. Hanim and Mentwab. Hanim was Muslim and always covered her face with a scarf, except when around me and mom at our home. (Because of this we assumed she was shy, but that wasn't necessarily the case, was it?)

Mentwab was westernized, a Coptic Christian, I think, and she loved to get rid of her exotic finery at the end of her work-day and change into micro mini-skirt, halter top and go-go boots.

These young Ethiopian women, so very different from each other, were described as 'goddesses' in the Montreal Gazette. I spent a lot of my down-time at the World's Fair at the coffee bar there, bothering the poor girls, no doubt.

Also that summer, I saw their leader, Hailie Selassie in person. He walked by my mother and me at Expo. I was taller than him, but he carried himself with much more confidence.

Anyway, with all this controversy over the burkini lately, I was reminded of these girls I met in 1967, in the era of Emma Peel and Twiggy, of Flower Power and Women's Liberation.

My first meeting with the veil and it didn't bother me one way or another.

Deconstructing women's changing fashion though the ages is a complex business enough, but deconstructing it cross-culturally, in a tumultuous political time, is impossible.

I am something of an expert on Edwardian fashions and the suffragettes, but with respect to the burqua, niqab and burkini, I'm confused.

A few years ago my mother lived beside a Muslim girls school and I recall some days seeing them all leave by the back door after the end of day bell, 90 percent of the girls whipping off their hijabs and happily shaking out their cascades of gorgeous dark brown hair.

Scarves are one thing. I mean, what would Elizabeth Taylor or Grace Kelly be without their pretty head scarves?

I, myself, do not like seeing women all covered up, in black, especially:it scares me. I don't believe these women are really empowered by hiding their indentities.  But, I might be wrong, in some cases.

But, it's not what the women wear, it's the symbolism of it, some say.

 Then, I remind myself that many a boffo modern Canadian woman dreams of her wedding day, where a man gives her away to another, where she wears white for purity and maybe even a veil, if only on backwards.

The traditions is an ugly one, really. But we carry on with it. (Actually, I read white wedding dresses were a Victorian thing, to sell British lace.)

I know that long before 9-11 and even before the first World Trade Center  bombing, some very high profile North American women were trying to educate the West about the horrors of the burqua for Afghan woman. One woman, a journalist, went over there and put on the thing for a while. She described the experience, if I recall, as horribly claustraphobic. She couldn't see. She couldn't breath. She was terribly hot.

So, it's not all about fear of terrorism.

Both Hanim and Mentwab were probably high born women (not that we thought about that) or they wouldn't have been selected to be hostesses.  I wonder what they thought about our small upper duplex apartment in Snowdon.

We probably took photographs, but those we did lose. So all that is left is the pictures in my mind. Mental pictures from the point of view of an adolescent girl seeing two teenagers from another mysterious country.

I wonder where Mentwab and Hanim are today. In 1967, Mentwab was already worried about her brother in the army. (My mother told me.)

I wonder if one of them still has my Expo67 passport and therefore has something tangible to remember me by, an ordinary little Canadian girl they met during a very exciting 6 months in their young lives.

But, soon Selassie would be deposed, there would be wide-spread war and terrible famine in their country.

A short time after, really. In the 70's. And while this was happening I was busy going to university and not thinking for a moment about Mentwab and Hanim.



The Ethiopian Pavilion at Expo was one of the smallest, but it was very striking and classy.

My grandmother came to visit that summer, but I don't recall if she met the women. I bet she did. I wrote about my grandmother's visit in Looking for Mrs. Peel


Friday, March 24, 2017

Deconstructing a Fille de Roi and a Maternal Line

 My perplexing ethnicity chart, care of Eurogens and Gedmatch.


I just received my MT Full test from Family Tree DNA. I am going to swab my cheeks to investigate the origins of my French Canadian mother's maternal line.

It's no mystery to me. My mother is French Canadian and her Mom's maternal line, if I've figured things right, goes back to a Fille de Roi called Francoise Boivin dit Normandie from, of course, Normandy.

The history of French Canadian migrations is well-documented. Apparently, Francoise, whose parents are unknown, arrived in Quebec on La Nouvelle France in 1668. (Whoops. Her Mom, at least one person on Ancestry claims,  is an Irene Perron from Haute Normandie and her grandmom a Lily Eva Perron from Ste Genevieve Haute Normandy, right on the English Channel.)

Here's the place:


Francoise married a Lamoureux in Quebec and had 10 kids. She was a fecund Fille de Roi.

Now, my mother always told me her people were from Calais.  Well, that's not far from La Bas Normandie. And I have found an ancestor who came from Picardy, a vintner. Calais is in Picardy.
My grandmother Maria Roy about 1900.  She comes from a long line of butchers, I notice. My mother always characterized her Mom, Maria, as a peasant type, because she had only a fourth grade education, and her father, Jules Crepeau, as a more cultured man because he had risen up to be Director of Montreal City Services in the 1920's.  But, Maria's side was the wealthy one. Her father was a Master Butcher, and she supposedly had a 40,000 dollar dowry. Read about that here 


I've completed a few lines on my mother's tree and her father's paternal line, the Crepeau side, comes for Poitou, in La Loire district and her Mom's maternal line comes, as I said, from Normandy.

Most French Canadian pioneers came from these two places. Indeed, there's a museum dedicated to these 17th century emigrants in Normandy.

So, I don't quite know what to expect on this MT Full test.  I am doing it because my autosomal test from Ancestry came out very weird, indeed. (See this previous post.)

My Dad is from Yorkshire and Cumberland, England and I came out part British, Scandinavian, Italian, Aegean Islander and Caucasian -as in Caucasus, Turkey.

What? I was a little confused. Was my REAL father a Sicilian?

I have since read that many people who are part French Canadian come out this way on these ethnicity tests. And I've found potential English cousins on Ancestry with ancestors that look like  my Dad.

How about this one. The top is my Dad. The second guy a Yorkshire-born man I nicked from a " distant cousin's" tree. (My dad was born in Kuala Lumpur, but that's another story.)


In 1100, the Normans controlled part of Turkey, the Southern half of Italy including Sicily and Normandy and most of England.

I also exchanged emails with a 100 percent Norwegian woman who had lots of Caucasus in her Ancestry ethnicity profile.

So, that might mean the Caucasus bit is from my father, who is from a part of England with lots of Norwegian roots.

So, there you go. I may be wasting my time and my money (300 dollars) or I may be explaining a little bit more about a mysterious Fille de Roi pioneer from Normandy, my many times great-grandmother Francoise Boivin dit Normandie.

PS. There's a book, Frenchmen into Peasants by Leslie Choquette, explaining it all, but it costs, yikes, 100 dollars on Kindle. I found a paper by the book's author. She says the original Quebec settlers were urban, merchantile and mobile, but they became virtual peasants for the next 300 years due to various forces.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

When your DNA Divides You.



The place where some of my English ancestors (dissenters) worshipped. Alston, Cumberland (Cumbria) from a document by Lucy Jessop and Mathew Whitfield for English Heritage.

What do the little towns of Alston, Cumberland, England and Terrebonne, des Moulins, Quebec have in common?

Well, nothing much, until you look at it through my eyes.

Alston is where my British father's mother's parents lived and worked in the 1700 and 1800's.  It was a mining town, back then, amid the beautiful Pennines.  At its peak the town had a population of 7,000, according to Wikipedia.

Apparently, Alston was the scene of a wonderful social experiment led by the Quakers. They built a library, surgeon's house, and a laundry, for the workers' health of mind and body.  (My grandmother, Dorothy Forster born in Durham in 1895, but with a father from Northumberland, went to a  Quaker school with boys and girls! Her father was an intinerant Primitive Methodist Minister.)

Today, Alston is a small town of 1,000 surviving on tourist dollars.

A while back, I tracked one of my ancestors, a Cowen, back to a 18th century lead mining job. Ugh! 

Terrebonne is a town of about 100,000 north of Montreal, where many, many of my French Canadian grandfather's and grandmother's people come from. Years ago, again according to Wikipedia, it was a very important place.  It was referred to as Lachenaie in the Drouin marriage records, and that place name comes up a lot in my personal genealogical research.

As a teenager at Rosemere High School in the 1960s and 70s, Terrebonne, in our huge catchment area, was where the tough kids came from, the  boys who escaped a pimply puberty, the wild early-to-mature girls. Well, of course. These Terrebonne kids came from a real town with a history, whereas we lived in a sleepy 50's era suburb.

(Still, Terrebonne was much, much smaller back in the 60's, I'm sure.)


My French Canadian mother didn't tell me she had roots in that nearby historic town.

As I've explained  on this blog, I had my DNA tested at Ancestry. When you do this you are connected with potential cousins, in my case 4th to 8th cousins, that is if you pay for a subscription of five dollars a month.

This exercise had me crazy because, for the first few days, because I seem to have only French Canadian cousins on the long list.

I immediately found seven people connected to both my Grandfather's Crepeau side and my Grandmother's Roy side through their trees.

No British ancestors, though, until I had a brainstrom and entered Alston, Cumberland in the search engine. Three names came up (out of hundreds and hundreds) and, yes, their trees suggest that two of them have no connection  to any French Canadians.

The other name, well, that person's tree is connected to both Terrebonne, Quebec and Alston, Cumberland, England.

How weird is that?

French Canadians in the past didn't inter-marry much. An online figure I read claims French Canadian are genetically from France  to the tune of 90%. And, if French Canadian did marry outside the clan, it was usually with Irish Catholics.




I visited Paris last year, just after the floods. I wanted to go to Italy on this trip, but my travelling companion didn't want to.  According to Ancestry DNA ethnicity report, I am more Italian (Sicilian and Tuscan) than French. This has something to do with the Normans. See my last post.


My British father, a Yorkshire Nixon, met my mother, a Crepeau, because he was  posted in Dorval in WWII, as part of the ferry command.  With no connections at home in England to help him find work after the war, because his parents were British colonials in Malaya, he married my mother after a foreshortened war-era stint at Oxford.

My mother had been well-educated by the nuns of Sacred Heart Convent because her father was Director of Montreal City Services, a big job in the 1920's. She took pride in the fact she could ace the English Word Power exercise at the back of Reader's Digest Magazine.

And she was the one who told me what novels to read in my teens. She loved Sinclair Lewis, Carson McCullers and Pearl Buck.

Years later, I realized that the novels she recommended were the bestsellers of the 1930 and 1940 era. But, of course.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

A New Agey Post about Genes and Ancestry

A colourful scene from the chapter Pedro of the Andes from Visits in Other Lands, my fourth grade social studies textbook.


Do your genes speak to you?

In elementary school, back in the 60's, I was obsessed with all things South American.  This was likely due to the colourful portrayal of Peruvian natives in the 4th grade social studies book, Visits in Other Lands.

I've written about this book here and mounted a video on Youtube that is quite popular. Everyone remembes Bunga of Malaya best.

This highly-esteemed American textbook centered on children from around the world, but only on aboriginal children.  As I explain, this gave the impression to the children of North America that the rest of  the world was charming and backwards.


The South American children had llamas and alpacas and everyone wore brightly coloured ponchos.

What wasn't there to like?

I still like alpacas. There's an alpaca farm nearby and I always want to stop and take pictures, but it's just off the highway, so too dangerous.


At about the same time, I had another 'obsession.'  With all things Pompeiian. You see, my mother owned the book, the Last Days of Pompeii.

That book contained only black and white photos of the victims of the volcanic eruption frozen in time, so it wasn't the colour that attracted me.

(Today, of course, it is understood that Pompeii was a super colourful place. I bought a reproduction of a mural last year at the Pompeii Exhibit in Montreal (I'm clearly not the only person obsessed with this topic) and put it up in my bathroom with some other pictures I downloaded from the Web and printed out. When I stoop to spit into the sink, I have Pompeiian Venus staring you in the face.)

These weren't my major obsessions back in the 1960's. The adorable Men from UNCLE (Ilya!) and Emma Peel and her elegant kick-ass ways and Captain Kirk in his tight pants and Herman's Hermits and horses, horses, horses, were what preoccupied me most back then, but still...

The other day, I received my results from Ancestry, the autosomal test you do at Ancestry and other places.

As I wrote in my last post, I was kind of shocked at the results.  I'm half French Canadian, half British (North of England). The pie chart reveals my genes are half from Britain and the North Sea area,  but they are also Italian (Tuscany and Sicily) and Turkish and even Middle Eastern.

Well, after freaking out a bit and cursing my mother, I have figured out that, in these tests, many French Canadians come out as part Italian, Caucasian and even Middle Eastern.


DNAland claims I am part Sicilian (or Cyprus) and part Tuscan. To this I have no objection, as long as it comes from my mother's side.


We're talking French Canadians like me who go back in Quebec to the first half of the 17th century or even before that, to the first Champlain era settlers. (I already found one ancestor who was born in Quebec in 1635.

French Canadians are mostly descended from the same few thousand people (5,000?) to the tune of 90%. And, most of these people hailed from the North or Northwest areas of France.

Myself, I traced my grandfather's direct paternal line to Poitou in the Loire, where, it is written, most Acadians came from. (I visited Paris last year and wanted to visit the Loire Castles, but it was right after the floods.)

My grandmother's direct maternal line goes back to Normandy, as she always maintained.

(Familytreedna offers tests that can trace your direct maternal line MTDNA and your direct paternal line with the Y Chromosome. Only men can take the second test. Bummer! Who was to guess genes could be so patriarchal?)

Ah, Normandy.  These Ancestry tests results may go back a thousand years or more, they say on their website. "100 or even 1,000 years."



Well, the Normans held these strongholds in 1100, as well as most of Great Britain.

Naples was under their rule. Pompeii!

(Yes, I'm being airy fairy, I know, but after this crazy week hurting my brain as I studied "Genetics for Dummies" to figure out my Ancestry results, I need to wax New Agey.)

As for my early South American obsession, well, like most French Canadians, I have some native blood, but apparently it is from somewhere between Bolivia and Guatamala, not from North America. I would have expected Cree or Mohawk.

What a surprise!

Another obsession with me, back during my school days and beyond, was Pre-Columbian culture. (Obsessions, back then in elementary school, usually translated into what subjects I chose for projects.)

The Pompeii exhibit last year at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I dragged my husband. He said, afterwards, he doesn't understand the appeal. What?


Anyway, I'm not at all surprised to have Italian blood, even if it passes through France on its way to North America.

This winter, while waiting for my test results, I amused myself by learning Italian online (Coursera) and learning about Roman Architecture (Yale Course) and by putting live scenes from mostly Italy (Genoa, Rome, Venice) on the big screen HD TV.

Before I got my Ancestry results, I assumed this was all about the food and nice weather. I want to take a trip to Italy next year or later.

The trouble is, my Isle of Lewis Scottish/British gened husband has little interest in visiting Italy.  He thinks Alaska would be a great place to visit.

Are you kidding me?

He spends his off-time watching ICE ROAD TRUCKERS - which is produced by his Isle of Lewis nephew.



My Pompeii bathroom - done on the cheap. But, I really wanted to use beautiful imported tiles.



Friday, March 17, 2017

Filles de Roi, Normandy, and DNA Industry Doubts


Does this map explain my weird results on the Ancestry Autosomal DNA test?  It was a little bit of a shock. When I got my results a week or so ago, I expected to see Britain, Scotland, a little Scandinavia and lots of Western Europe.

Instead, I got Britain, Caucasus, Italy, Aegean islands and Scandinavia.

Although I adore all things Italian, I am half French Canadian back to the early 1600s and allegedly have a British father  from the North of England.

Confused, I read up  on the subject and it seems it's all a bit of a crap shoot. If you read the 'small print' and not the marketing jargon, the companies don't deny it, either.

 "Like a ouiji board," one scientist on one such site admits.  On top of it, these ancestry DNA companies, all of them, really screw up when it comes to French mainland ethnicity and French Canadian, too, which is 90 percent from France.

This confusion  probably only sows more profits for these ancestry testing companies. I certainly feel the need to take more tests, or maybe get my twin brother to take a paternal line Y Chromosome test for, yikes, 300 dollars. Then, again, with all the ethical issues surrounding DNA technology, maybe it's only good citizenship to bone up on the topic.

Still, while surfing, I was surprised to see how a woman who is half Western Europe  and half Sicilian got EXACTLY  the same ethnicity results as I did at Ancestry.  Another program online confirms I have genes from either Sicily, Cyprus or Malta.

Sicilian? I began to wonder. Are my genes why I am spending the cold winter of 2017 learning Italian online, watching live streaming scenes from Genoa, and taking another course on Roman Architecture?

Does my French Canadian mother look Sicilian?

No, here it is all explained in one chart. (Very likely, anyway.)

I just traced my mother's maternal line back to Normandy (Protestants for three generations in Quebec, I think). I hit a brick wall going backwards marriage-to-marriage in the Drouin Catholic Church collection, but I found someone else's extensive tree that had it all worked out.

There are a lot of French Canadians doing their trees because the online scans at BANQ etc. make it all so easy.

My mother always said her people came from Normandy. Her father's line I traced to Poitou in the Loire district, the same place many Acadians came from.

And there are about 500 other lines to go.

I have traced about eight other lines back to France and I have already found three Filles de Roi, as it were. One girl had no recorded parents ( Francoise Boivin my furthest maternal line ancestor out of Quebec) and one had parents in France and a dowry of 200 dollars.

So, not all of these  Filles de Roi were prostitutes or jailbirds, choosing to take the treacherous journey to the land of ice and maple syrup rather than hang for stealing a ribbon, or something.

(One of my immigrant ancestors from 1630 or so was a vintner back in Picardy. Are you crazy man?)

As yet, I haven't found any huge families in my tree. Yes, the biggest family was 13, but from one of the first families to arrive, so I don't count it.

I haven't found any unusual first names, either. I have spent a lot of time on the 1911 Canadian census and my fellow French Canadians at that time had strange highly creative names.

Well, my ancestors so far are all Marguerites, Jacquelines and Louises among the many, many Maries.

And, I found only one woman, ah girl,  married at 12. I expected to find many more. Poor child. She, too, was a new immigrant. She only had one child who lived and she died at 23. I wonder  if she suffered miscarriages in-between. Maybe I'll try to write a story about her, but that'll take some research, won't it?



                               My genes, through the prism of Eurogens on Gedmatch.


Monday, March 13, 2017

DNA, Sicilians, and Circadian Rhythms.

Morning Person. So Right.


This blog is about the 1910 era, for the most part. Or it got started that way.  It is about my husband's mother's Hebridean Scottish ancestors.

These people, crofters or farmers,  were cleared from the land in the 1800's so that the owners could raise sheep.

They came (often reluctantly) to Canada, the US and Australia.

My husband's Isle of Lewis ancestors, the Macleods and the Nicholsons, arrived in 1838 and 1851 respectively. It has been well chronicled. Well, the Nicholsons went to Skye first.

It's also well understand the Lewisman were pretty pure people, their genes unsullied since 800 years before, when the Norse landed on that outpost of an island. They were hardy people, these Lewismen, famous for good health and extraordinary longevity among the women. (I guess that's about natural selection. They lived on fish "haddie" and oatmeal and blistering sermons, these people, in harsh, treeless conditions.)

I write this because I lately got my DNA tested, for fun, and I am not sure of the results. I am supposed to be half French Canadian half North of England, but according to my charts I have a lot of West Asian and Aegean Islander, either Cyprus, Malta or Sicily. (I think it's a Sicilian great great grandmother. Name Maria Savaria.)

These algorithms don't know what to do with French Canadians, apparently, who are almost entirely from France.

I've sent for a kit for my husband. He's half Scots and has English/Irish (maybe Welsh) on his dad's side.  His ancestry should be clearer, although it's all a bit of pioneering exercise. Just for fun. (See my last post.)

 I just  learned you could upload your file to other platforms. I did a couple of medical ones today and it came out polarized, some things so right and some things so wrong.

One site was running a very preliminary program that measures circadian rhythm. I was asked if I was a morning or night person. I am famous for being a morning person. In the past, I wrote my best essays at 5 am.

Well, the chart came out (see graphic above) bang on. I am more morning than almost any others in their database.

I did the test for eye colour and it came out probably blue. I have dark green hazel eyes.

That was fun. I entered my info into another medical database that links a person's info with articles.

It came out that I was 99% likely to be blue eyed. Wrong again.

But, my genescape does tell me I have straight brown hair. Right. And a gene I have suggests I can metabolize caffeine. No kidding. I drink pots a day and sleep like a baby.

Apparently, I have multiple genes that may guard against Alzheimer's, the disease my blue-eyed father died from, the disease that ran in his family, through his mother's Cumberland side.

But, I have a heightened risk of breast cancer.   Well, my aged mother died of  breast cancer, as did her sister at 50, a much younger age, but in the 1950's.

It's early days for this influx of very intimate info. Sometimes I wonder what use it will be put to, good or bad, commercial or ideological.

Myself, I'm just trying to get through this long, cold winter and I don't like cellphone Majong.

Remember the line, "Technology is neither good nor bad." Well, I wonder what  1910 eugenicists, mostly Protestant Scottish types in Canada like my husband's ancestors, would have done with all this DNA.

How confused they would have been to learn that a gene for good  long term memory is also associated with schizophrenia. I have that 'worrier' gene.

It served me well at exam time many decades ago.

Well, I can guess what they might have done. They might have tried to find defects in the darker races, like Sicilians, many who settled in Montreal - which is why I have this Sicilian blood.  (Maybe.)

FEAR OF IMMIGRANTS: Ontario's 1911 Hygiene Text had a final chapter on Eugenics, or 'choosing your mate.' This was likely Carrie Derick's doing. She was Education Chair of the National Council of Women.


Here's everything on my blog I've written about eugenics - and Carrie Derick, McGill Botanist who was all for this Jukes Edwards studies that proved that 'goodness' was inherited.