Sunday, September 17, 2017
But, the scientific evidence says otherwise. My husband has only 60 centimorgans of DNA from this woman and her husband, John Mcleod of Isle of Lewis, Scotland and his first cousin has almost 200 centimorgans. This first cousin is the one who should look like Sarah! You can read all about the family here, The Nicholson Family Letters on Kindle.
The best thing about being a French Canadian genealogist is that family trees are relatively easy to do, that is if you can read French and decipher messy handwriting.
The Drouin Collection online lists most of the French Canadian Catholic marriages and by consulting that wonderful resource you can trace your family going backwards in time.
Every church marriage notice gave the names of the parents of the bride and groom, with the mother's maiden name.
Ok. These records can be hard to read, even the ones written in stylish cursive.
Also, French Canadians of the past arbitarily changed their names. On my tree Michel Hubou became Michel Hubou dites Tourville and his daughter only Charlotte Tourville, and I'm not sure, but I think that name changed to Courville when a branch of the clan went to Massachusetts.
(I say this because I have a number of 'close cousin' 4th to 6th generation matches on Ancestry with Courville, a name I do not have on my tree.)
Anyway, I know my tree is OK is large part because I have 80 plus hints or places where the dna evidence is backed up by tree evidence.
That's where it can be fun, all right!
Then there's the downside of having French Canadian ancestors. We're all intertwined. Everyone came from the same 5000 people, 10 generations back.
I read that three Gagnons came to Quebec and spawned the bazillions out there.
Being from Quebec, I can easily spot a French Canadian name. That's a plus when sleuthing out Quebecois ancestry.
And the same names come up all the time - and then these ancestors move to the US and their names become anglicized, Thibeault to Tibo, Laurendeau to Lorando.
Yes, French Canadians were a diaspora long before 1976. On the Ancestry database there's a stronger concentration of French Canadians in Massachusetts than in Quebec :) Also Michigan, Rhode Island, Vermont and, yes, Maine. Remember that infamous "Canuck Letter." If you don't watch All the President's Men again.
I see that Tremblay is the most common French Canadian name.( J.C Tremblay, one of the first Canadian hockey players to wear a helmet.) Fine, I don't have that name on my tree, not yet. But the next two are Gagnon and Roy and, guess what, my grandmother was a Maria Roy and her mom was a Melina Gagnon.
This fact really mucks up the works for me.
Oy! According to another tree, a sister and brother from the Crepeau family (my grandfather) married another sister and brother from the Forget Depatis family in the 1800's. Or maybe not. This is my good-looking side. How does that screw up shared DNA??
As for those fancy centimorgan estimates, iffy tools at best, they are fairly useless for French Canadians. I think, anyway.
A man I share 10 centimorgans with has four people on his tree that match with people on my tree . This man is 100 percent French Canadian and has a complete tree. I am half French Canadian and have about 100 of say 500 (for 10 generations) done.
And, he matches in four places, all in the 7th to 8th cousin range.
His 10 centimorgan DNA match is one one thread, so the genes have been passed down only from one of these ancestors or one yet to be identified. DNA is darned capricious.
My other 80 or so Quebecois 'hint' matches are mostly 7th to 8th generation, while the centimorgans shared usually indicates a closer match. Why? Is this because I share DNA elsewhere (as a French Canadian) or are centimorgan estimates useless for assessing individual relationships on anyone's tree, because they are averages, only good over many, many people?
I went onto my husband's Ancestry account, to see how DNA worked with no known French Canadians in the mix. (My hubby and I share 7 centimorgans, over two places, though.)
As it happens, he has a first cousin there, a person he knows, of course, his mother's brother's daughter.
Another relation is there, with whom he shares 60 centimorgans, correct for a third cousin and, yes, she is a third cousin, descended from John McLeod and Marion Mclean (above) of Scotland and Richmond, Quebec. We asked. (Read all about my husband's Richmond, Quebec family on this blog.)
The weird thing, this woman shares 194 centimorgans of DNA with the my husband's first cousin. How can this be? 194 centimorgans is just on the outer rim of what is possible for 3rd cousins, I read online. (Maybe it's true.) It's as common as, say, having only 2 centimorgans at 3rd cousin.
I contemplate this puzzle and then I think of my intermixed, messy French Canadian side, and wonder, "How in the heck can I find my ancestors?" chromosome browser or no chromosome browser. (Is this 194 centimorgans on the Mcleod/Mclean ancestor shared between the mother's and father's side of this first cousin's tree? That's a possibility.)
Sometimes I think it's just as well to look at family photos, to see resemblances, and guess from there. I find myself dividing my ancestors into 'good-looking side' and not so good-looking side to make sense of it all. Rather shallow of me, but hey.
Go to Genealogy Ensemble for advice on how to make the most of Drouin and other resources to track your French Canadian ancestors.
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
I have complicated heritage for a typical half French Canadian half Yorkshire kind of gal. Why? This is Gedmatch's Eurogenes algorithm.
There is a lot more to your ancestry than your maternal and paternal lines, although geneticists seem fixated for some reason on the paternal lines, that can only be determined through male lineage.
Family trees have many branches, If I go back 10 generations to France on my maternal tree I get over 500 people and 7 filles de roi, minimum.
On top of that, I've had my DNA done on Ancestry.ca, which has brought up more questions than it answered, as per usual.
I'm half French Canadian and half British -right outta Yorkshire - and Cumberland and Northumberland.
As expected, I have a huge number of French Canadian cousins on Ancestry, including 86 people who match with my dna and my tree. Most are American. Yes, I can see that many, many people in Massachusetts and Michigan have French roots, never mind Louisiana.
I expected to find a fair bit of Native America, but I've come out with quite a lot of European Jewish on my chart, a surprise, until I examined my mother's French Canadian heritage in more depth.
Her dad's a Crepeau and her Mom's a Roy.
My mother always said that Crepeau meant "curly-haired" which seemed appropriate as she had curly hair and her father had curly hair and my brother has curly hair.
I couldn't see why Crepeau meant curly-haired - it sounded more like 'grey skin' to me, but after doing my tree on Ancestry, I can see that the first Crepeau to land in Quebec was a Crespeau from Poitou Charentes, Loire.
Crespeau, apparently means curly-haired. I found info on the Net that suggests Crespo may be a Spanish Jewish name.
Crispo, apparently, is from Sicily and that makes more sense when I see my Ancestry Ethnicty chart which gives me lots of Italian, Caucasus and Middle East, the stamp of many Sicilians.
(At first, I attributed this to the Normans, who held Sicily and a part of Turkey in 1100 AD. Most French Canadians are from Poitou Charentes or Normandy and Brittany.)
I can't do my mother's paternal Y lineage, only her brother could and he's been dead for 60 years.
But, I have done my mother's maternal line, already knowing that her furthest ancestor in Normandy is a Lily Rodrigue, (daughter of fille de roi Eva Perron) if I've done it right from the Drouin collection and other Ancestry charts.
Rodrigue is certainly of Spanish extraction.. and my MT trail is very Sephardic as well as Azkenazi.
The truth is, French Canadians have Jewish roots. I'm not unique.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017
My Eurogenes 36 wheel from Gedmatch above and my husband's below. I always knew I was a more complex person ;) but as for him being more French, pas de chance!
Although I learned about Hadrian's Wall back in elementary school, I never heard of the Sarmations, whose Cavalry guarded the wall back 2,000 years ago.
I knew my father spent his childhood in Carlisle, Cumberland, with relations, and I remember asking him why he didn't steal a piece of the wall as a keep-sake.
Today, I've learned more about my DNA and realize the Sarmations (and the Wall) probably play a part in it.
When I first had my autosomal DNA done on Ancestry, I was stunned to see 20 percent Caucasus in the ethnicity.
I realized it was all a soft-science and very speculative, but, still, none of the so-called cousins on the French Canadian side had any Caucasus to speak of, and there I couldn't find my Yorkshire side among the cousins with any certainty.
I had my husband do his DNA, he's half Scottish half English, and he had little Caucasus. So, I had my brother do his DNA to prove I was indeed a Nixon from Cumberland by way of Yorkshire. (The results aren't in.)
Today, my brother emailed to ask me if his spit had arrived at Ancestry (not as yet) and I did a little digging and stumbled upon some evidence that I am a Nixon, a descendant of Border Reivers of Cumberland.
It's on a Border Reiver DNA website mounted in 2009 and last updated in 2014, and it discusses how some Border Reiving families are perhaps descended from the Sarmations.
I had assumed form a while that my Italian was from the Romans soldiers who built the wall, but apparently they didn't mix with the locals, believing them to be sub-human or something. Ha Ha.
And I wasted 100 dollars on my brother's test. Oh, well.
Sunday, August 13, 2017
A sumptous prize-winning quilt at the Williamstown Country Fair (August 11-13, 2017)
"Won many prizes for her baking and crafts." So reads the line after Margaret McLeod Nicholson's name in the seven page McLeod family genealogy.
Margaret (1854-1942) was indeed a very fine baker and cook, who never gave out her recipes without leaving out an ingredient, but there was much more to her.
She was a fiercely protective mother, a devoted wife through thick and thin, a new woman, a feminist and a suffragette sympathizer.
She also had a bit of the olden ways about her, taking an interest in what her dreams told her.
I discovered all this when I found the 1000 Nicholson family letters. I have published the letters and a number of quasi fictional books based on them, two about the Canadian Suffrage Movement.
But, today, it was her baking and crafts I was thinking about. You see, I visited a Country Fair in Williamstown, Ontario. Although the place is near where I live and nearer where I talk my pets to the vet, I have never been in the lovely LITTLE town.
And I can't recall attending a country fair, anywhere. I think that back in 1970 I went to a fake 'Country Fair' in the Chomedey section of Montreal, where I saw an enormous bull sitting in a pen. A city girl, I had no idea how big bulls could be.
This Williamstown fair, the oldest annual fair in Canada, was sprawling, and full of fun and good things, even a bull or two. It was a beautiful day, too. While my husband watched a tug of war between 10 teams of burly men, I looked at the shiny antique cars on display (more throwback to the 60's)and visited the large crafts section to see the prize winning fair fare circa 2017.
The lure of the sound of bagpipes led my Highlander husband (with me following) to the dance competitions. My knees ached just watching. The Nicholsons and McLeods are his family.
Friday, August 4, 2017
Edie in the 1920's, I assume from hair-do and Mrs. Ethel Hurlbatt, the Warden of Royal Victoria Women's College at McGill from 1911 to 1928. Hurlbatt was ill in 1928 and that may be why Edith got to go to Europe, taking her place. They look alike. Scots.
Monday, July 31, 2017
Well, in 1916, a year before he was forced to call the infamous Conscription Election, Premier Borden of Canada called for 500,000 new recruits.
The population of Canada in 1917 was 8,000,000.
I did the math, looking at the Census figures, and, yes, 500,000 men would have meant about every able-bodied man from 14 to 35 living in the country.
And if you figure they weren't allowing foreign born or people of colour into the forces, well...
In very early August, 1917, the P.M. Borden's Government held a rowdy Win-the-War meeting in Toronto, where the key women's societies were invited, but with only two days notice, apparently.
The newspaper accounts of the event make it sound very much like a religious-revival meeting, with testimonials and tears and no shortage of hysteria. Did you know Prussians were cannibals?
Torontonian Constance Hamilton, of the National Equal Franchise Union, a national suffrage organization she started just before the war and which never really got going, used her position to give a keynote speech, saying she didn't want an election.
But, she was all for conscription. All the women of Canada were for conscription she said, perhaps overstating her authority to say so.
According to the Toronto Star report, you could hear the Mme Defarge-like sound of knitting needles clicking all through the meeting. (Women knitted socks for the men at the Front.)
I used this scene in Service and Disservice, my ebook about the iffy involvement of the Canadian Suffragists in the Conscription election of 1917.
It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffagettes to Canada in 1912/13.
The fact is, the female leadership of Canada demanded Conscription even before P. M. Borden and the Canadian Government.
They gathered some 2,000 ladies at this Toronto Win-the-War meeting, some accompanied by their limbless husbands and sons, to make a point: we (Protestants) have suffered enough. Forget recruiting: conscript other people's sons.
Oddly, at the very same time, the Premier of Ontario took out a half page ad in the newspapers saying he needed 100,000 men to bring in the crop in Ontario.
(A little problem, here, obviously.)
Constance Hamilton tried to figure it all out by starting a women's agriculture committee on the National Council of Women.
She had previously been head of the Immigration Committee, a subject she got interested in when she lived in BC and in Winnipeg with her husband, L.A. Hamilton, a legendary surveyor who had a street in Vancouver named after him.
They had no children together. She had no one fighting in the war.
I have to wonder what Mrs. Hamilton thought about the 'cannibal' accusation. She was a from a wealthy Yorkshire family and had spent time in Leipzig studying music and piano.
She even started a Bach Society in Toronto.
The day before thisWin-the-War meeting, Premier Borden sent a telegram to Mrs. Hamilton and to the leaders of I.O.D.E. and the National Council of Women asking them to poll their national memberships to this out: if women were allowed to vote, would his coalition party win an election.
At the August 2 meeting, Mrs. Hamilton met held a powwow with the ladies in the company (perhaps) of Arthur Meighen, Borden's right hand man, to seal this rather undemocratic deal.
Telegrams were sent out and the answer came back: "NO, You would not win the election if all women had the vote." So, in the 1917 election, Borden ended up giving the vote only women with close relatives fighting in the War, with his highly-controversial War Time Elections Act.
Constance Hamilton loudly and proudly defended the War Time Elections Act in the Press. The President of the other (more legitimate) Canadian Suffrage Organization, Dr Margaret Gordon, called it a "Disenfranchise Act" in the press.
Gordon wondered in the Press why women with men in the war were so keen on seeing other women send their men to die in war.
It was a good question, and it was answered by a mother of soldiers giving a speech at the Win-the- War meeting.
"If more men went to war it would improve the chances of our own men coming back," she said.
Sunday, July 30, 2017
I've written a lot about John Naismith Greenshields, of Danville Quebec, who successfully defended both Louis Riel and the Megantic Outlaw Donald Morrison.
Greenshields was a graduate of St. Francis College in Richmond, Quebec where all the children of Norman Nicholson went to high school in the 1880's, or Academy as high school was called back then.
Before 1900 St. Francis was affiliated with McGill University. Norman Nicholson was on the Board of St. Francis at that time.
As I've written here and elsewhere, Norman Nicholson, my husband's great grandfather, was very invested in the 1889 murder trial of Donald Morrison, perhaps managing his defence fund. Did Greenshields enlist him or was it the other way around? Hmm.
I have some documents related to this infamous E.T. event. I wrote about it here on Matthew Farfan's Eastern Townships Heritage website.
Here's a link to my own earlier post all about Mr. Greenshields.
I even put a fictional bit about the man in my novel Threshold Girl, based on the Nicholson Family Letters from 1908-1913. I have Greenshields flirting as a very young man with Margaret McLeod, my husband's great grandmother from Kingsbury, Quebec, who was very, very pretty and who worked as a youth as the first telegraph operator in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
Lately, inspired by these Nicholson letters and the books I wrote about them, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey and Serivce and Disservice, I've grown my own family tree and even taken an Ancestry DNA test.
I'm half French Canadian, with no relations in th E.T that I've found as of yet.
And, lately, poking about other people's trees on Ancestry.ca for more info about my husband's tree, I fell upon the famous Canadian figure skater, Barbara Ann Scott of Toronto, born 1928, to see that her paternal grandmother was an Agnes Schuyler Greenshields of Danville, Quebec.
Danville is near Richmond.
I checked and, yes, it appears that Agnes is John Naismith's sister and that makes her the sister of the more illustrious RAE Greenshields (see below).
So, it follows that Barbara Ann Scott, Canada's figure-skating sweetheart, was (very likely) the great niece of this illustrious English Quebec QC and industralist and newspaper publisher, now all but forgotten except here on my blog and in my e-books, available on Amazon Kindle
I wonder if this is common knowledge. Let me check the Internet ::::time passing:::::Nope. When you enter the search terms Barbara Ann Scott and Greenshields, all that comes up is other people's family trees.I haven't been able to find a biography of the famous Canadian athlete anywhere, which is odd. She was the Gretzsky of her era, a super-celebrity, talented and beautiful.
John Naismith Greenshields doesn't have a Wikipedia page, but he is written up in French here, as an illustrious Quebecker of the past. His brother and partner RAE Greenshields, who rose to be Chief Justice of Quebec and Chancellor of Bishops, and Dean of the Faculty of Law at McGill, does have a Wikipedia page. Donald Morrison and of course Louis Riel do have Wikipedia pages.
Wednesday, July 26, 2017
Entertaining ourselves to death. That's what Neil Postman, I think, said about modern life. That's what I have been doing lately.
Well, it is summer and a very, very wet one at that here in Quebec.
I'm not writing much, as I await the launch of a book in November, but I am reading a lot. The Museum of Innocence right now. It's a wonderful novel, using a spoiled rich man's romantic obsession to describe Turkey in the 1970's.
It's not a page-turner. I'm going slowly. I wait for the sun to appear (which is not often) and go out into the yard to read. I move my little spectator's chair around the yard to change my point of view.
My yard is lovely, all right, but the rain is making the trees grow too leafy.
If there's anything wrong with the Museum of Innocence, it's that hearing someone go on and on about his lost love is a bit boring, just like in real life, even if the sad-sack narrator here is inadvertently pithy.
I've also been cooking a lot of new recipes from the New York Times cooking section, trying not to spend too much. Yikes, the price of veggies this wet season!
Small pleasures, when you are not working for pay.
I've also gone back to my recent hobby of fiddling with DNA online. I had my DNA done in January and was freaked for a few months because the results came in 20% Caucasian (as in Caucasus - Iran) when I'm half French Canadian and half North of England.
On top of that, ALLof my seven thousand DNA cousins on Ancestry.ca appeared to be of French Canadian heritage.
For a few months I went berzerk, using bits of DNA on Gedmatch to FINALLY figure out that I am very probably a descendant of Yorkshiremen and people from Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.
These people don't have much of a presence on Ancestry. They didn't emigrate to North America and they didn't have many children. (Well, the World Wars certainly didn't help.)
The story is all here on this blog. What a history lesson for me.
Being bored, I decided to fiddle with my cousin's DNA, using my new found sleuthing skills. She's adopted.
I think I've figured out who one pair of her great grandparents are, at least. Irish Catholic. Lots of kids.
My husband's DNA trail is boring. Two first cousins, one on each side, turned up immediately when the results came in. My adopted cousin would have loved to see something like that. I can go through his fourth to sixth cousins, the ones with trees, anyway, and immediately see where they fit into his tree.
Most are from the Hardy line, the one he shares with General Douglas MacArthur. This family has been in North Carolina a long time.
My DNA trail on Ancestry, even with a few thousand more people added over the months, continues to confuse me. For instance, I found a DNA cousin with a Hartley from Colne, Lancashire and a Neesham from Yorkshire, just like I have in my tree. Hooray!
You would think this was proof of my English heritage, but no. Not at all. This person also had an Audet from St-Jean, Quebec, and yes, we share an ancestor, Nicolas Audet, pioneer off the boat in 1600's New France, married to Madeleine Despres, yet another Fille de Roi to add to my collection. (It's easy to trace French Canadian ancestry as I've written here on this blog. The English tree is likely filled with errors - and, ah, those irksome non-parental events.)
So, I sent an Ancestry DNA kit to my older brother in Denmark to get this confusion over with.
Meanwhile, I continue to play with my cousin's DNA. She is half French Canadian like me, but we share no DNA.
We do share a few cousin matches, though. One such match, with whom we both share 25 or so centimorgans of DNA, is a guy who is 3/4 German with one French Canadian line.
That French Canadian line is easily traced, of course. I immediately discovered my cousin's connection to him by using Gedmatch, but mine, that's taking more time.
I'm wondering if it's a WW1 non-parental event. No doubt, those happened.
This DNA stuff is very complicated.
Thursday, July 13, 2017
You know that movie It's Complicated? Well, I think my WWI era ebook should be titled that instead of Service and Disservice.
Service and Disservice is about the 1917 Canadian Conscription Crisis and the 'iffy' involvement of the Canadian suffragists, a follow up to the e-book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1912/13 British invasion of militant suffragettes to Canada.
And it's all so very complicated. I don't think even the few scholarly accounts of the event get it one hundred percent correct. It's complicated because even back then in 1917 people didn't know what was going on.
Lots of people involved lied, too.
When I was writing up the first chapter of Service and Disservice, where Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, tells her side of the story, I realized I was missing some critical information, info from the summer of 1917 when Mrs. Constance Hamilton, President of the National Equal Franchise Union, held an emergency meeting of the NEFU in her home to ask Borden NOT to hold an election, because if he did, "slackers from out West and Quebec would get to vote."
In the Toronto press report the Montreal Suffrage Association (a member of the NEFU) sent a statement of support for Conscription, a somewhat hysterical one, quoting from John McRae's war poem.
"Is Canada going to fail? Never. If ye break faith with those who die, they shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields. Canada's honor is at stake. She will not, cannot fail to carry on and keep her word to our brave fighting men and to our glorious dead."
This struck me as very uncharacteristic of the MSA. Miss Derick was always very careful about what she said to the Press.
For instance, the MSA executive supported Conscription, but called it 'Mandatory Overseas Service', a euphemism. (Later, Derick would say they never supported Conscription, per se.)
So I went over to the Montreal City Hall archives and took a look at the 1917 minutes to learn, as I had suspected, that Derick didn't have anything to do with the bizarre pro-conscription resolution.
A Mr. Holt and Mrs.Scott received Hamilton's telegram back then and replied on their own, without holding an executive meeting.
Mr. Holt, a lawyer, was the man who had an angry confrontation with militant suffragette and WSPU memeber Barbara Wylie, when she spoke in Montreal in November, 1912.
Miss Wylie made fun of him from the speaker's platform. A year later, in 1913, Holt was on the executive board of the newly-minted Montreal Suffrage Association.
Quite a few men, many clergymen, were on the executive of the MSA. No young unmarried women, though. Too 'excitable'.
The importance of all this: well, that 'bogus' statement probably made Premier Borden think that Quebec suffragists would be on-board with a limited suffrage option for women voters if the PM was forced to hold a federal election to get his Conscription Bill through parliament.
Indeed, Mrs. Hamilton, in her press statement for that July meeting, made a point to say the Montreal Suffrage Association represented all the women of Quebec, which couldn't have been farther from the truth.
In September, 1917, Borden gave the vote to women only with male relations at the war front.
The Montreal Suffrage Association, led by Miss Derick, passed a resolution in protest against limited suffrage and sent it to the PM. Some members of the MSA Board dissented.
Premier Borden, clearly exasperated by this resolution, replied to the MSA explaining his position. "You don't realize the difficult position I am in. Would you want unpatriotic foreign women out West to vote just because they married a Canadian?"
Borden didn't mention Quebeckers in his reply to the MSA, as if they were irrelevant.
Toronto suffragists, who liked to think of themselves as the leaders in the Canadian Votes for Women movement, were clear about their contempt for 'unpatriotic' Quebeckers. It was written all over the National Council of Women Magazine, The New Century.
Derick, living and working in two solitudes Quebec, couldn't be so blunt.
The quote from John McCrae's In Flanders Fields is all very tell-tale. It was Professor Andrew MacPhail of McGill who reportedly found the unsigned poem in Europe in 1915, recognized it as McCrae's by the style, and then sent it on his own to be published. (The story around this is all very sketchy, I think. File under Wartime Propaganda.)
Francis Fenwick Williams, a writer on the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association, and a woman who would soon speak in favour of Conscription at an August 1917 Win-the-War rally in Montreal, had been MacPhail's secretary for a while, working with him on a McGill Journal.
Tuesday, July 4, 2017
Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went in to take it the atmosphere, and some music, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, downtown.
We saw these surreal gals on the street. Where's the Friendly Giant?
Thursday, June 29, 2017
The other day I had my very first virtual reality experience at a place called ColonyVR in Ottawa. My son took me and my husband.
While my hubby played with lightsabers, I immersed myself in Night Cafe, a tribute to Van Gogh, an experience that was simply mesmerizing.
This week, I was inspired to create my own work, by placing a picture of the 10 year old me in the living room of the upper duplex apartment where we lived in 1965. (It's for sale). As you can see, I'm no Van Gogh.
The living-room window above looked out on a sunny maple-lined street in the Snowdon area of Montreal.
Our white polyester curtains were always greyish, though, from the lead-laced exhaust of the pink Thunderbirds and red Mustangs idling below.
In the afternoon, you could see a thick cloud of dust in the sun's buttery rays.
(Remember, air in the big cities was very polluted in the 1960's, although there was still plenty of fish in the oceans back then and you couldn't walk from Newfoundland to the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, balancing on plastic water bottles.)
Thanks to the late day sun, there was always an African violet, purchased from the Woolworth's on Queen Mary Road, on the sill over the radiator.
It was a five room upper duplex, built in the 1930's, with super thick walls that couldn't take a nail, so no pretty pictures graced our messy over-crowded family home.
(Well, maybe there was a Turner - also from Woolworth's - in the living room.) We had lots of ashtrays, though, of all shapes, colours and all sizes.
I wrote about it in my book Looking for Mrs. Peel.
Most of the duplexes along this stretch of Coolbrook in the 1960's had brown doors and grey porches, because the same penny-pinching man owned them all and purchased the paint in big industrial batches.
Only a few homes had flowers, let alone gardens, in the front. Indeed, one home, up near Queen Mary had a beautiful, abundant garden that stood in startling contrast to the other homes on the street.
I admired it everytime I passed on the sidewalk, on my way to the Woolworth's, where I wished I had the 39 cents to buy a Banana Split.
The Italian family, a few doors down from us, also put out a few potted plants he likely planted and nurtured himself. No wonder he was furious when my brother knocked one over with a soccer ball.
There was no Costco to buy Frankenflowers back then in the 1960's.
Our one-way street, even back then in 1965, was multi-cultural. My school textbooks may have been all "Dick and Jane" and whitebread but my neighbours were originally from Jamaica, Venezuela, India, Greece, Poland, etc.
Today, these same duplex apartments on it go for half a million dollars - despite the fact they back onto the filthy, loud Decarie Expressway, built in 1965/66.
My old duplex apartment is going for a bit less. It hasn't been renovated like the others.
Despite the lack of beauty in my childhood, or perhaps because of it, I'm a huge fan of the Impressionists (and Post-Impressionists).
I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam about one year ago, where they do not let you snap pictures of the works. Still, it's a great museum, that tells Van Gogh's story with clarity and panache.
Right now, I'm also listening to Zola's Oeuvre on litteratureaudio.com. Oeuvre, or Masterpiece, is based on the author's relationship with the artist Cezanne.
Of course, Cezanne, the father of modern art and a manic-depressive, struggled to get his artwork recognized. He even had problems getting his paintings into the "Salon of the Rejected."
This makes me wonder, "What's the equivalent, today?" What great art of the future is being downplayed by the Bourg..ious..oeus, (I can't EVER spell that word.)
The middle class.
Video games? My son, of course, loves his video games and I, of course, have always found them too violent - and silly and a waste of time.
Last year, though, I asked my boy to dig me out a few non-violent ones so that I could try them out on the PlayStation. I no longer wanted to be a smug Philistine. I also was in in search of some brain-sersize.
He lent me Rayman and Assassin's Creed and Christine and Dark Rain.
It is difficult developing this video game 'literacy' when you are much older. I was all fumble-fingered - so I gave up.
But, now, after this wonderful VR experience in Ottawa, one that made me realize that this medium is supposed to be pleasurable, I can see the future of video games and VR and I want to be prepared for it.
I pulled out my son's video games, which are still in my home, and tried again. And I was a little bit better at it.
No, I don't want to be like those short-sighted Paris critics, who said Cezanne's paintings looked as if a monkey had thrown poop at a canvas.
(Hey, aren't monkeys throwing poop BIG on YouTube? That's what my son tells me.)
OK. I clearly deserve kudos for being so open-minded ;) I'm also a typical older person who is into genealogy. I belong to a genealogical writing group that meets once a month to write down our family stories.
We've compiled our best stories in a book, Beads in a Necklace: family stories from Genealogy Ensemble, to be published in autumn, 1917.
I was re-reading some of these stories today. If I say so myself, they are pretty amazing, a genuine chronicle of Canadian social history, with a focus on Montreal history.
These family stories are in essay form, combining fiction and non-fiction techniques - as well as photos.
This makes me wonder whether future genealogists will be taking their family photos and films and videos and turning them into, yes, virtual reality presentations!
OK. Slow down, Dorothy. One step at a time.
Monday, June 26, 2017
Saturday, June 24, 2017
My husband and I decided that we should try to do something new together at least once a week, something we haven't done before, or at least not in a long while.
Well, one of of us decided and the other went along.
"It doesn't have to be expensive," I said. "In fact, it should be on the cheap side. But, that means we have to be creative."
I bought a cheap badminton set the first week. The second week we went to the Aviation Museum in Ottawa. Then, we visited Ile Bizard, a place we've never been to, even though we've passed it by thousands of time.
"In the summer, our new activity should be outdoors, if possible." I had recommended.
Except that I went and hurt my knee playing tennis - not a new activity.
So, what did we do this weekend?
We did some virtual reality, at a place called Colony VR in Ottawa. My grown up son had done it for his birthday and really enjoyed it. He wants to eventually get his own device.
Needless to say, I'm not into video games. (I have tried to play some recommended by my son, but find it hard.)
But, virtual reality sounded like fun. I like to use our big screen TV to imagine I'm in, say, Big Sur, or Italy, in the dead of winter, so I'm half-way there.
"Yes, let's try that," I told my husband.
And we did. ColonyVR looks like a place parents bring kids for birthday parties.
I did the undersea experiences, very, very nice and something called NIGHT CAFE where you immerse yourself in a Van Gogh painting.
As it happens, last year at this time I was in Amsterdam and I did visit the Van Gogh Museum, an excellent museum, one of the best I've ever been in.
This Night Cafe Virtual Reality experience was simply beautiful. The colours! Here it is on Youtube, but the REAL experience is much brighter.
Anyway, as soon as my knee heels, we're gonna go biking on the Lachine Canal.
Before that, maybe we'll visit the Museum on Ile Ste Helene, where there's an Expo67 exhibit.
That Expo67 feeling: I got a little dose today, fifty years on. Expo had cutting edge films, or way beyond cuting edge.
I think this Ile Ste. Helene exhibit at the Stewart Museum -Expo67 A World of Dreams - has virtual reality exhibits of Expo, ir 'immersive exhibits'. How circular is that?
Stamps on an Expo passport. The bright one at left was the Ethiopian Pavilion.
Tuesday, June 20, 2017
Today, for some reason, I got the urge to clean out an Edwardian-era secretary I have in the living room. It was full of crap. I found this pic of my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, at about 24 years old.
I had forgotten about it.
The son of a house painter, at the time this photograph was taken Jules had already been 15 years at Montreal City Hall!
He was married in 1901, or is it 1900, to Maria Roy. Maria, the daughter of a Master Butcher, brought a 40,000 dollar dowry to the marriage which allowed him to build a new house on Amherst.
I have two crystal urns that was one of their wedding presents. I have them in the bathroom, as decorations.
Maria's mother, Melina Gagnon Roy, lived with them on Amherst in 1902.
I have just decided to write a book, Montreal 1928, about Jules. In 1928, he was Director of City Services, a big and powerful position.
Jules was involved in numerous scandals that year, too: the controversy around the 14 million dollars Montreal Water and Power Purchase; the fall-out from the fatal Laurier Palace movie house fire in 1927; and yet another typhoid epidemic.
A couple of years before, Jules' name had been brought up during the Coderre Commission into Police Malfeasance and Impropriety. Apparently, he was BOSS over the police, telling them what to do.
At that inquiry, a certain Constable Trudeau would testify that my grandfather forced police to look the other way when movie houses made infractions against the by-laws.
Trudeau did not like children attending movies. "One day, there's going to be a catastrophe," he said. "One day there's going to be a fire and people won't be able to get out."
I suspect this was a threat against my grandfather, on behalf of organized crime. Trudeau was a crooked cop who 'lent' the Chief of Police money on numerous occasions.
Two years later, new populist Mayor Camillien Houde would force my grandfather to resign, and he told a rowdy session at City Hall that it was because 'the people' wanted revenge for all the above issues, none of which had much to do with my grandfather, but hey.
My grandfather would negotiate a huge life pension of 7,500 a year. He had leverage of some kind: that pension would leave him the second highest paid person at City Hall, without having to work!
During the Depression, in 1937, the city would suspend Jules' pension as part of an emergency measure.
Two weeks later, my grandfather would be hit by a car in NDG, not far from his home, driven by an out of work policeman. His leg would be broken.
(I wonder whom he threatened.)
He would die a year later from complications from X-Rays, bone cancer.
His mother, Vitaline Forget's side, I traced back to Abraham Martin of the Plaines of Abraham fame, the well-known pioneer or "L'Ecossais" who owned the place where the iconic battle took place.
I've turned to DNA. I found Maria Roy's birth certificate and see that her Godfather was a Philias Roy. That's a rarer name than her father, Louis Roy. I went on GEDMATCH and found some people with a Philias Roy in their trees, and, yes, I get substantial DNA matches. The problem is, these trees don't indicate know what part of Quebec he is from. I think this Maria Roy line goes back to Le Roy from Britanny, tho.
Monday, June 19, 2017
Well, how cool.
In celebration of Montreal's 375th, Le Nouveau Theatre Expérimentale is putting on a play about Camillien Houde, People's Mayor of Montreal from 1928 to 1950 something. The play will run August 22, 2017 to September 2.
The play is called Camillien Houde: Le p'tit gars de Ste Marie, the same title as a 1961 bio by Hertel LaRoque.
Camillien Houde is the famously 'colourful' Mayor of Montreal who forced my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, to resign his big post back in 1930. Grandpapa, a 42 year veteran of City Hall, was Director of City Services.
At a fiery 1930 debate at Montreal City Hall between Houdists and the Leon Trepanier faction, Houde said, "The people want revenge for the Montreal Water and Power Deal, the typhoid and the Laurier Palace Fire."
It's all so very strange. My grandfather had never been accused in public of having anything to do with the horrible fire.
I'm plunging into my next project, a novel about Montreal in 1928, from two points of view, city politics and feminism. It's a project I have actually spent 15 years researching.
I learned a lot writing FURIES CROSS THE MERSEY, about the British invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912. In 1914, a certain Edward Beck, journalist, tried to bring my grandfather's career to a halt. He enlisted the Montreal Suffragists to help.
My grandfather will figure large in my new book, with my husband's great aunt Edith, who was Tutor-in-Residence at the Hostel, a woman's residence at McGill. She had a little job in a little place, but she was connected to the English elite. She stepped out with Miss Carrie Derick, McGill Prof, former President of the Montreal Suffrage Association and board member of the newer La Ligue des droits de la femme, with Therese Casgrain. (Edith was also a member of La Ligue.)
English and French, you see. Trough politics and feminism. Jazz Age fun and Prohibition-Era vice.
But, right now, I need to find this Houde bio. It's available on Abebooks but not in my local library.
Why? This morning, scanning the 1928 Montreal Gazettes I found this very suspicious article:
Houde was a member of the National Assembly in February, 1927. The next year, Houde would run for Mayor of Montreal and win, ousting my grandfather's people.
This article suggests that Houde was very invested in the idea of a broad inquiry into the Laurier Palace Fire.
As I have written about on this blog, my grandfather was the first to speak at an initial inquest into the fire, one that, according to the Gazette, aroused little interest. He talked about licenses.
Jules was otherwise involved in the fatal fire, that's for sure, but only in an oblique way, and THAT was never brought up. Read all about that here.
Very soon, there would be a call for a full-blown Royal Commission into the deaths at the Laurier Palace.
My grandfather would be called on to testify, once again, along with policemen, parents, church leaders, school principals, movie house owners, etc.
All this testimony would only serve to muddy the waters. The widely-publicized Royal Commission would uncover little of use. No one was found culpable for the fire or for the deaths of the 78 children. (All but one died from asphyxiation, at a crush by the door.)
Still, when all was said and done, Quebec children under 16 were barred from going to the cinema, even in the company of an adult, for 40 years. Yes, 40 years! (Well, the kids found way around it, of course.)
As the testimony reveals (its available online) there was a great deal that was suspicious about the fire. Read the short-version here on my blog.
Most suspicious of all was an incendiary quote by crooked cop Conrad Trudeau, much earlier in 1925, that WASN'T brought up in 1927, even though the testimony made all the newspapers and was extremely relevant to the 1927 fire. The quote came during testimony at the Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance.
"One day there's going to be a catastrophe, One day there's going to be a fire (in a movie theatre) and no one will be able to get out."
On the stand, that day in 1925, and without being asked, Trudeau brought up the fact that my grandfather forced the police to look the other way when movie theatres broke the rules. (He had been asked only about coal and scale tipping.) Then Trudeau uttered that prescient quote reported on in the Gazette, left out of other newspapers.
This 'catastophe' line, I figure, could have been a threat by organized crime -or someone else- aimed directly at my Grandfather, Jules, whose brother was Isadore Crepeau, VP of United Theatre Amusements.
Conrad Trudeau, apparently, had lent a lot of money to the Chief of Police, Bélanger, but only as a friend. (sic). This suggests he had ties to organized crime.
My grandfather fired Trudeau on the spot, but for another unrelated bribery incident. Juge Coderre laced into my grandfather in his final report also printed up in all the newspapers. Who is this Jules Crepeau who controls the police? he asked.
During the 1927 Royal Commission, Le Devoir newspaper tried to get people to wake up to this two year-old Trudeau testimony, with a sly hint in the back pages of the broadsheet, pointing to the exact line -date, page, and number - in the Royal Commission Transcript, but nothing came of it.
What a media literary lesson this has turned out to be