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.



Saturday, March 11, 2017

DNA tests, Horoscopes or Science? And, Do We Consumers Care?

This ethnicity pattern from Gedmatch is the one I like the best. It's like an ethnicity Mandala to meditate upon.

This winter, in order to keep me from going stir-crazy in the house, I took the plunge and paid for one of those DNA tests on Ancestry, even though I sense it's all a bit of scam, or if not a scam, at least a fad like spiritualism in the Victorian Age.

Or maybe these trendy ethnicity tests are more like 'electromagnetism' magic shows in the 1910's with real important burgeoning science behind it, but where  the public fascination with it is mostly emotional, driven by curiosity and other basic drives.


Genealogists love these tests, that's for sure. I can understand the appeal: all you have to do is spit into a tube.No plodding through church cemeteries or deciphering scrawled handwriting in written records.

Of course, my results brought up more questions than they answered, and that is what is supposed to happen. It's all very addictive. In my case, I had to wonder, Why am I 11-20% Caucasus ethnicity. My mother is French Canadian and my alleged father is from the northern UK.

I combed the message boards and websites and even read scientific articles from Nature that I didn't understand at all. Is there something rotten in my family tree?

And, then, after a few days, I found that even Ancestry, in a White Paper on Ethnicity Estimation from 2013 posted on their website, admits that the ethnicity component of their service is more about 'ancient history'. Then  the paper goes on for pages describing the scientific methodology behind their results.

Grandmaman Maria Roy from Montreal. I look just like her, except for the heroic bosom.


Another post on the Ancestry website reveals that the results can vary hugely from sibling to sibling.

Put into Gedmatch, these results will confirm if a sibling is a sibling, but according to Ancestry, we're all a wonderful and unique mixture of genes - so go and get your second cousins to sign up for a kit, too.

See, it's a game! A harmless marketing game, if you have the money to plunk down on it. (And, I do, because I haven't left the house all winter.)

I know good marketing when I see it. That's what I used to do, write ads, sometimes for pharmaceuticals. I played with words to avoid telling an unappealing truth, while not lying, outright, while playing up a selling point.

I didn't care, because in those days, only doctors read these ads and they should know better, right?

Today, the Ancestry TV ads seem to play up Native ancestry. Everyone seems to want Native genes, these days, as if assimilating a people is akin to reconciliation.

 Another company is playing up Neanderthal genes.  So, far, no one has been found to have space-alien genes, but I'm sure that would become a badge of honor, too.

But, I have to wonder, am I truly contributing to science by adding my DNA to the big fat alphabet soup of X and Y chromosomes already out there.  The more people who do the test, the more scientists will be able to refine it, so fans say. We are being pioneers.

One day, the estimations might even be exact. (Never mind that the history of  Europe is so complicated that all Europeans basically have the same genes. The Vikings, Genghis Khan, Charlemagne, who, I'm told, cut off the head of 4,500 or more mostly male 'pagan' Saxons, to make sure his own Frankish line carried on, and it did, according to geneticists.

Dorothy Forster, my supposed Grandmother from County Durham. I have her crooked elbow, wrists and hands and chin, but she sure doesn't look Bulgarian.


Knowledge in the fields of genetics and ethnology is growing day by day, thanks to people doing these tests, and that's a good thing, right?

Yes, I want to contribut to science and I especially want to contribute to a specific area of science that will reveal, ultimately, that we are all family from What's-Her-Face in Africa. So let's get along.

But, I have to wonder, will the law of unintended consequences kick in, as per usual? Will insurance companies and employers exploit this info. (No, doubt.)

Even worse, 100 years down the road, give or take 90, will this info be used in a very ugly way, to  malign or even purge an arbitrary subset of people on a vastly over-populated planet?

And these are just two consequences I can think of, thanks to all those free online courses about European History, the History of Human Rights, Comparative Religion, the Psychology of Morality, and the History of Law I audited in winters past. Thank you Berkeley and Yale.

Pondering this hasn't stopped me, though. Should it?  I am hooked.  I want to do more tests, especially to figure out about that bizarre Caucasus heritage. Can I get my twin brother to spit into a tube for a paternal line test?

Yes, I know Ancestry doesn't know what to do with French people, and my mother is all French Canadian, a people who are overwhelmingly from France.  And I know early tribes from the Caucasus migrated from the Steppes to Europe a long time ago.

(My son did an ethnicity test from another company 3 years ago and came out mostly Iberian and some Celtic and I saw him come out of my body.)

But, I'm only human. The urge is strong to figure out who I really am.

Here's a blog I found that seems really good. Kitty Cooper

Here's another. Wheaton Genealogy


Friday, March 3, 2017

What exactly happened at the Laurier Palace Fire in Montreal 1927?

Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, testified at both the Police Inquiry and Royal Commission into the Laurier Palace Fire in 1927 Montreal.


I'm reading the testimony of a young man at the Police Inquest into the Laurier Palace Fire, that happened in January, 1927 where 78 children died.

I'm doing this because in 1924, a policeman testifying at the Coderre Inquiry into Police Impropriety warned, "One day there's going to be a catastrophe One day there's going to be a fire in a movie theatre, and people won't be able to get out."

This Trudeau testified against my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, saying my grandfather's office looked the other way with respect to infractions against movie houses.

He went out of his way to get my grandfather, offering his testimony unsolicited by attorneys.

My grandfather fired Trudeau right then and there.

Trudeau appeared to be a corrupt cop: he had given his Chief of Police numerous 'loans' over the years.  The organized crime king pins of the day appeared to use lowly officers to pass on their bribes. One of these men, Tony Frank, had been executed for an infamous bank heist in 1925.

 I've long understood that there were 'mysterious men' who sent the children back upstairs at the start of the Laurier Palace Fire. This 16 year old boy explains.

He was in the upper balcony with 2 girlfriends.  He smelled smoke and raced down the stairs, only to be stopped by a man blocking the exit doors. He said he broke the glass and kicked the man, but then realized his girlfriends weren't with him and he went back up

By this time there were kids blocking the stairs, but he was able to climb over the pile.

 When he got back up to the balcony, he could still see clearly (and this despite the fact there were no emergency lights.)

Early on in his testimony, he says he saw flames the second time, but later on it isn't mentioned

He could not remember one thing about the dress of the man who wouldn't let him through the first time he descended. Apparently, the man said, "Go back upstairs. There's no fire there."

But that's where the fire (or smoke) was, in the balcony, under the floorboards. (The young witness does not remember seeing anyone smoking or playing with matches.)

Was this a  misguided employee who blocked the door? The attorneys try to find out asking, "Was he wearing a coat, a hat, a vest? "

Apparently, the man could see the crush of children on the steps, but did nothing.

The boy testified that the balcony was filled that day with many standing for that 1 pm matinee. He said there were about 30 adults there.

No adults were killed in the fire and no adults admitted to being there in the balcony that day.

The boy's two girlfriends died in the fire. He found one, but her legs were stuck, somehow.

According to the Coroner  only one child died of burns (two days later.) Twenty five children died from asphyxiation due to having  their lungs crushed and 52 died of asphyxiation by smoke.


 Now, I have to re-read the testimony. It appears an attorney was trying to get at something, but the question was over-ruled.




Thursday, March 2, 2017

Singing in the Rain, a Fatal Fire, and my Grandfather

1927 St. Jean Baptiste parade from my grandparents home at 72 Sherbrooke West.


In January, 1927, my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services, was the last person to testify at the Police homicide inquiry into the Laurier Palace Fire.   A few months later, he was the first person to testify at the Royal Commission into the Laurier Palace Fire  that resulted in a decades long ban on children attending the movies in Quebec.

I'm reading the police inquiry now.  It is mostly in French.

The first person to testify at the police inquiry was a parent who lost his child in the fire. It appears he didn't know his son was at the Sunday matinee. He forbade his son to go to the movies because it was Sunday. He thought his son was out job-hunting. That's what he said.

(Almost all the bereaved parents who testified, at either time, denied any knowledge of their kids attending the cinema.)

I guess these parents felt they would be accused of bad parenting if they admitted they knew their kids were at the cinema, or of something worse, like negligence.

The fact is, children (mostly boys) all over the Western World went to the cinemas, even if, offically, they were supposed to be in the company of an adult.

 Hey, I just saw Singing in the Rain again and it shows Gene Kelly's and Donald O'Connor's characters as kids, sneaking into the motion picture show. It's a cliché.

(Singing in the Rain takes place in 1927, as it happens.It's about the new 'talkies'. I suspect the whole business behind banning kids from movie houses in Quebec because of the Laurier Palace Fire had more to do with the talkies than about safety.)

In Montreal, in 1927, cars were starting to take over the streets and accidents were widely reported in the press. The cinema probably seemed like the safest place for the boys to be. Off the streets.

Next to testify at this homicide inquiry was the architect of the Laurier Place. He presented the plans for the theatre as exhibits. The place is described in detail in the testimony.

It's sad. So many children died that afternoon, but I'm reading this testimony looking for anything that might reflect on my grandfather's involvement.

I've written all about that here on this blog. In fact, the last few posts cover the topic. I'll be writing more when I've pored over this document.

Today, I read my grandfather's testimony, at the end, first.  I already knew what he said. It had been written up in the Gazette.

My grandmother, aunts, cousin and mother at 72 Sherbrooke West in 1929 or so.

I was confused when the court said his address was 28 Sherbrooke West. What? He lived at 72. I went on Google Maps and it looked to me that 28 Sherbrooke West was now a hotel. But then I checked with Lovell's Directory and although it did say my grandfather lived at 28 Sherbrooke West, that the address was between Clarke and St. Urbain and beside the Liberal's Reform Club.

It was the same house!  They just changed the street numbers in 1928 or so.

So, my mom grew up across the street from the Notman mansion, now a museum. Maybe I'll take a stroll down there and visit.

A few years ago, I visited an ad agency for freelance work that was at 72 Sherbrooke West. I told the owner that my grandparents lived there once. I think he thought I was nuts. I didn't get the job.

Now, the place is a law office. It's been recently sold and renovated, but the doors are the same as back in the 20's.



A gargoyle on the house at 72 Sherbrooke West.  Gee, if mythical creatures could talk.