Still missing you Mom.
Still missing you Mom.
Researching ancestors is an ongoing process. There are always records that elude discovery; people for whom you can never answer the question “what happened to them?” Today I am sharing the story and excitement of finally finding a missing child.
The story began when I first started researching the family of Jean Baptiste Bernardin and his wife Marie Charlotte Taillefer. I wrote about them here. A distant relative had shared with me one of the books written by Professor Charles Bernardin, who had done extensive research many years ago.
One thing about the Professor’s research intrigued me. According to the Professor, Jean Baptiste Bernardin and his wife Marie Charlotte Taillefer had 12 children, yet my research had uncovered 13 children. The Professor’s list of children had a 4 year gap in birth dates between 1820 and 1824, which was unusual in French Canada.
I had found baptismal certificates for two sons named Charles. Charles Michel born in 1823 and Charles Jules born in 1837.
For some reason, the Professor’s research had not uncovered the baptismal record of Charles Michel. Therefore, he believed that his direct ancestor was Charles Jules who had married Victoire Peloquin in 1854. I questioned that since Charles Jules would have been only 17 years old at the time. I believed that it was Charles Michel, born in 1823, who married Victoire.
In addition, the Professor had overlooked the fact that his ancestor’s gravestone gave his initial as M. and his birth date as 1823.
So what ever happened to Charles Jules, the “missing” child? Other than his baptismal record, I had found no trace of him. Then recently the Professor’s son found my blog and shared some background documents of his Father’s with me. One of these was an overview of the Bernardin family written in 1936 by Yvonne Bernardin (Sister St. Lucille), a great-granddaughter of Jean Baptiste Bernardin and Marie Taillefer. In it she writes of a son called “Gilles” who:
“secretly answered the call for volunteers of the Army of the United States, possibly recruiting for the 1848 War with Mexico. Only after he had crossed the frontier was his father notified of his intention to join the American Army and nevermore was any news heard of the fugitive. Conjecture after conjecture as to Gilles’ whereabouts and doings would burn the anguished minds of the afflicted parents whose grief lasted as long as their life. Many a time the aged sire, ready to partake of his meal, burst into tears at the thought of his prodigal son and turned away without eating a morsel.”
Another document was a memoir by Marie-Louise Hamel (Mrs. Therrien), granddaughter of Jean Baptiste Bernardin and Marie Taillefer . It includes this:
“Everything was going well when suddenly Gilles, who had military blood in his veins, decided to go off to war in the United States, and unfortunately, never came back, nor was ever heard from again. This was an enormous grief for his dear parents. It aged his father and weighed heavily on the soul of his mother, who often used to say to us: “Dear God, if my Gilles is alive, push him toward us. If he is dead, let his spirit appear before me and tell me where he is.” It was really very sad for everyone.”
My first thought on reading these documents was that Gilles must be the missing Charles Jules! The names “Gilles” and “Jules” could easily be confused in an oral interview!
The Professor knew of these stories and investigated whether or not a Gilles Bernardin had become a soldier in the United States. He concluded that these were just family legends and that no such person existed. Of course, there is much more information available now than when the Professor was doing his research. Plus, he did not know that he was missing a child!
Searching through Civil War records online (Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System) I discovered that a “Julius Bernarden” was a Private in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 47th Regiment. Using the “United States General Index to Pension Files, 1861-1934” at FamilySearch, I also found out that he had applied for an Invalid Pension. With this information I was able to request his pension records, from NARA (U.S. National Archives and Records Administration).
It was months before I received all the files….Eureka! It’s him! “Julius” Bernardin was born in Nicolet, Lower Canada. He enlisted in the Union Army on June 15, 1861, serving as a Private in the Ohio Volunteer Infantry, 47th Regiment. He was discharged February 16, 1863 at Point Pleasant, Virginia, his discharge certificate being signed by the surgeon in charge of the General Hospital.
Although all the official government documents list him as “Julius”, he signed his name as “Jueles”.
On April 1, 1863, he applied for an Invalid Pension. In this application he states:
“that at or near a place called Sewell Mountain [West Virginia] in the month of January 1862, he caught a succession of colds, which resulted from exposure while standing on guard duty; which resulted in lung disease. That he is by occupation a farmer & unable to perform manual labor, which resulted from this lung disease.”
He was granted a pension of $6 per month. On December 15, 1863 he applied for an increase in his pension, stating that:
“ his disability stated in his former declaration has increased so that he has lost his speech & is so disabled by consumption as not to be able to work.”
On April 8, 1864 he was granted an increased pension of $8 per month. His address is given as 57 East Third St., Cincinnati, Ohio, which turns out to have been a boarding house.
And there the records stop.
I was so hoping that the NARA pension records would record a death date, or at least indicate when pension payments stopped, but alas they don’t. I have not been able, so far, to find a death date, a burial record or a grave. Given the state of his health, I expect he died in 1864/65.
I don’t know exactly when he left home. His father, Jean Baptiste, died in 1857, so he had obviously left by then.
Why did he never contact his family back in Quebec? A question that will never be answered.
Of all the interesting stories I’ve discovered, I must admit I never expected to find a Civil War soldier in our family’s past.
Here’s a chart showing Mémère’s relationship to Charles Jules Bernardin.
If my Mother, Madeleine Hogue, nee Vaillancourt, was still alive, June 6th would be her 100th birthday. We would be having a big celebration. Mom would, as usual, have had her hair done, and we would have shopped for a new dress. Children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren would have gathered together. There would have been flowers, food, wine, cake, and much merriment.
Sadly she only saw her 90th. Unfortunately by that point her health was failing, she was in a nursing home, and though family gathered, it was not quite the party we would have wished. Mom’s mind stayed sharp to the very end, but her body let her down.
Madeleine was born in Trois Rivieres, Quebec, the youngest of nine children to Georges Vaillancourt and Marie Anne Girard. When she was about two years old the family moved to Regina, Saskatchewan. Here’s a picture of Mom at a very young age.
And one as a teenager.
Here’s the photo of Mom that Dad carried in his wallet when he was courting her in La Salle, Manitoba.
Here she is as a young woman.
And here is a picture of Mom and Dad on their 35th wedding anniversary. Mom and Dad had eloped in 1933, so this celebration was especially meaningful to Mom.
For Mom’s 85th birthday we did have a big family party. There was food and wine and hugs and laughter. Many loving stories were told about Mom.
I never stop missing her, but in some ways she is always with me.
Here is my last post about Joseph Noel Taillefer. Having established that he arrived in Red River in October of 1872 as a member of the third contingent of the Red River Expeditionary Force, I went looking for newspaper articles about his time here.
On the Manitobia website I found several articles that mention him, mostly in the French language newspaper Le Metis.
He appears to have been well regarded in the French community. Bishop Tache performed the marriage ceremony on February 3, 1873 on the occasion of Joseph’s marriage to Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of Andrew McDermot, a wealthy and notable merchant in the city. Didn’t take him long to find a soulmate, did it?
Zouavania says that Andrew McDermot disinherited his daughter for becoming a Catholic. McDermot was an Irish Catholic who broke with the Church in later life. However, I have read his will at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, and he did leave both money and land to his daughter Jane.The will was written February 19, 1873 after Jane had married. Hmm… her married name is not used in the will, unlike her other married sisters.
Joseph and Jane had four children, all born in Manitoba:
Mary Jane who married Gabriel Belanger
Joseph who married Virginie Poitras
Alfred who died in 1890 at the age of 14
Henriette who married Francois Xavier Poitras
In December 1878, Joseph won the provincial election for St. Agathe by acclamation. Sounds wonderful, except that result led to gunshots and a controversy! Seems the returning officer declined the nominations for two people running against Joseph, for rather technical reasons. Supporters of the opponents tracked down the returning officer the next day, a scuffle ensued, and shots were fired. Joseph was shot in the thigh, and one of the supporters shot also.
By January 25, 1879 the Manitoba Gazette was reporting that new nominations were accepted for Taillefer, Mr. Kyne, Mr. John Grant and a Dr. Bedford. Bedford withdrew before the election on January 29th, and Taillefer won. (I haven’t been able to determine whether this Grant was the John Francis Grant I wrote about here).
In the December 16, 1879 election, Taillefer again won election, this time for the Morris riding. He did not run in the 1883 election. In 1884 he is listed as the Police Magistrate for Provencher.
Sometime before the 1891 census the family moved to the area of Broadview in the Assiniboia area of the Northwest Territories (present day Saskatchewan).
The book Holiday rambles between Winnipeg and Victoria by George Bryce, published in 1888, locates Taillefer in the Qu’Appelle Valley:
“At one point of this part of the Qu’appelle is a settlement of French people, two of the settlers, Taillefer and De Cazes, being well-known in Winnipeg as having been in years gone by officers in the Provisional Battalion.”
When Andrew McDermot died in 1881, his daughter Jane was mentioned as Mrs. Taillefer in the obituary in the Manitoba Free Press. She is also mentioned in the obituary of her sister Annie McDermot Bannatyne in May 1908.
However I believe I know where the story of a disinheritance comes from.
Joseph Taillefer died May 31, 1897. Here’s his burial record from St Coeur de Marie, Marieval, Saskatchewan that I accessed on FamilySearch.
On FamilySearch I also found his probate record, which for some reason was not filed until 1906. It includes a copy of his will dated July 16, 1896, in which he provides for his wife and two of his children (one having already died). Then he says this:
“My dear children, although your sister Mary Jane is excluded from this will, do not conclude I have cast her from my heart, in acting thus towards her, it has been her lot, freely taken. Before God I forgave her the way she left me and her home, and I enjoin you in case she would knock at your door to receive her as your sister, and in case she would be left alone, to give her shelter and divide your bread with her. Moreover you will give her a milking cow valued about twenty dollars.”
Why would Joseph have disinherited his daughter? Mary Jane Taillefer had married Gabriel Belanger January 30, 1893 at St. Coeur de Marie. Bishop Tache himself had given a dispensation for the reading of banns, and no impediments to the marriage had been found.
Mary Jane’s brother Joseph was godfather for her first child Marie Josephine. Was it only her father from whom she was estranged?
Not to fear, family relations must have been restored after Joseph Senior’s death, as Mary Jane’s sister Henriette was godmother for Mary Jane’s son Albert in 1903.
Mary Jane’s brother Alfred who had died in 1890 had property in his own name. A probate was conducted in 1910 and Mary Jane Taillefer Belanger was included in that arrangement.
I have been able to track Mary Jane and her husband Gabriel Belanger in the 1901, 1906, and 1911 census records. They are enumerated on the Crooked Lake Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan. Could this have been a factor in the disinheritance? I can’t find them in the 1916 census, except for a Gabriel Belanger who is a prisoner. But that may not be the same man. I’d love to know what happened to them and their children, but that’s a research project for another day.
As for Joseph Noel Taillefer’s widow, Jane McDermot, the last documentation I have found for her is in the 1921 census, when she is living in St. Boniface, Manitoba with her son Joseph and family. Some public trees have her death listed as 1927, but I have not been able, so far, to verify that date.
So there you have the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, born in Quebec, died in the Northwest Territories. A lawyer, a Papal Zouave, a soldier, a politician, a farmer…and an extremely interesting person to research.
I’m continuing the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, first cousin of my great-great grandmother Marie Louise Bernardin.
Drolet’s Zouaviana, about the Papal Zouaves, does not give a date for Taillefer’s joining the Red River Expeditionary Force that came to Manitoba. However at least two sources state that he came in 1870. The MHS Memorable Manitobans site states:
“Coming to the Red River Settlement with the Wolseley Expedition, he stayed behind at the conclusion of the engagement, took up farming, and married Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of merchant Andrew McDermot.“
The second source was the Dictionnaire historique des Canadiens et des métis français de l’Ouest
Now I was confused! The Wolseley Expedition was sent to Red River to keep the peace after the Riel Resistance. It was headed by Colonel Garnet Wolseley who led a force of 1200 men across the Dawson trail, some 600 miles, arriving at Fort Garry on August 24, 1870. However, if the Zouaves didn’t return until November of 1870, how could Taillefer have been part of a force that arrived in Red River in August of that same year?
Also, why would he join the Wolseley Expedition? It was, by most accounts, quite a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-French contingent, with many Ontario members seeking revenge for the murder of Thomas Scott. The Papal Zouaves were staunchly conservative Catholics. Why would Joseph join this?
So, I set out to learn more about the Wolseley Expedition. On Google Books I found an excerpt to the book Toil & Trouble: Military Expeditions to Red River by George F.G. Stanley. The Winnipeg Public Library has the book, so I borrowed it. It had two references to Ensign Joseph Taillefer “a former Papal Zouave”.
It turns out that the Red River Expeditionary Force was made up of more than just the contingent commanded by Wolseley in 1870. Joseph Noel Taillefer was one of the officers in charge of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles that came in 1872, the third contingent to come to Red River.
Footnotes in Toil & Trouble led me to search out two specific sources. One was an article entitled “Dawson Route Military Expedition”, published in the Manitoban in 1872. Luckily I found it online at the OurRoots website.
It includes a humorous incident involving Taillefer. He had forbidden the men to race their boats, but having his boat “passed” by a boat made up of Ontario men, he
“hurls a diminutive Frenchman from the oar and taking his seat at it –a Hercules in strength and size – gave one tremendous stroke and breaking the thwart pin, went on his back with heels in the air with the momentum of a battering ram.”
The second reference was to “The Journal of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles at Fort Garry” (PAM, MG6, B5) in the Province of Manitoba Archives. A visit to the Archives allowed me to read this for myself.
Further research on the Red River Expeditionary Force led me to the website The Canadian Military Heritage Project where I learned that Fred J. Shore had written a PhD Thesis at the University of Manitoba in 1991 entitled “The Canadians and the Metis: The Re-Creation of Manitoba, 1858-1872.” I was able to access this thesis online through the University of Manitoba Libraries. This, in turn, led me to Library and Archives Canada documents from the Department of Militia and Defence: Register of service, Red River Rebellion, 1870–1877. I found Taillefer here.
All of the above confirmed that Joseph Leon Taillefer did not arrive in Fort Garry until October of 1872, and that he resigned on the 24th of July 1874. His joining the militia in 1872 makes more sense to me, as by that point it may have seemed just a career choice, or a chance to homestead, or perhaps just an adventure.
Just for good measure I looked to see if I could find him in the 1871 Census. Not only did I find him in Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec, where he was an “avocet” (lawyer) and living with his widowed mother and his brother Alfred, but I discovered he was the enumerator for the census which was taken in April 1871!
On the 3rd of September 1871 his mother Angelique died, and Joseph signed the burial record.
So far, I’ve confirmed that Joseph Noel Taillefer was related to our family, that he was a Papal Zouave, and that he came west with the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1872.
I’ll continue Joseph’s story in my next post.
Recently a distant cousin made contact on this blog. He is the son of Professor Charles W. Bernardin who wrote extensively on the Bernardin family. I wrote about the Professor’s research here.
This cousin very generously shared research from his Father’s notes. There were many interesting pieces of information, and one that was completely new to me, was the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer. Oh, oh…someone new to research, yeah! I have had so much fun learning about Taillefer, I decided in this blog post I would not only explain what I discovered, but also how I researched. It has been a fascinating journey for me, and I hope my readers will feel the same.
To begin with, Joseph Noel Taillefer was mentioned in a family memoir written by of one of Jean Baptiste Bernardin’s granddaughters, Marie Louise Therrien. The memoir states that Joseph was the nephew of Jean Baptiste Bernardin’s wife, Marie Charlotte Taillefer.
Secondly, Professor Bernardin had translated into English, an excerpt about Taillefer from the book Zouaviana by Gustave Adolphe Drolet . The book in French is online at the Internet Archive here.
Of course, I googled Joseph and found that The Manitoba Historical Society has a brief biographical entry for Taillefer on its Memorable Manitobans site.
The basic information I had about Taillefer was this:
1) He was a Papal Zouave. ???????
2) He came to Manitoba with the Wolseley Expedition of 1870.
3) He married a daughter of Andrew McDermot.
4) He eventually moved to the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan where he died.
Of course, the first thing I had to do was find documentation to confirm the relationship to our family. Using the Drouin church records on Ancestry, as well as records from PRDH (Programme de recherche en démographie historique) and LaFrance, I was able to find birth and marriage records that confirm the relationship.
Joseph Noel Taillefer was born on Christmas day in 1828 in Montreal, and baptized the same day at Notre Dame.
Here’s a chart showing his relationship to Mémère.
Joseph came from a family of 8 children, 3 of whom died before the 1851 census. I can track Joseph in the 1851 and 1861 census records in Ste Martine, Canada East (Quebec) living with other family members.
The Manitoba Historical Society’s entry states:
“In 1868, he led a regiment of Pontifical Zouaves to Rome to defend Pope Pius IX against Garibaldi, returning to Canada in 1870.”
The term “Zouave” originally referred to a French light infantry troop, recruited in Algeria. But who were the Pontifical (aka Papal) Zouaves, and why did the Pope need defending? I set out to discover the answer.
Without going into a long overview of Italian history, I’ll just say that the Pope, at this point, was the political leader of the Papal States, which included Rome. Other people, including Garibaldi, had been attempting to unify Italy for some time. This involved the usual intrigues of foreign alliances (think France) and various separate Italian kingdoms. However, Pope Pius IX did not want to cede control of the Papal States to a national government. Thus, a call went out for Catholics to aid the Pope, by establishing a fighting force of volunteers. (You can read more about the Zouaves here and here).
The Zouaves came from many different countries. The departure of the Quebec contingent from Montreal, and then New York, was accompanied by great fanfare, as you can see in these newspaper articles that I found on Newspapers.com.
They had the most unusual military uniforms. Here’s a picture I first found in an article God’s Own Devils by Frank Mackey in Horizon Canada. The picture was originally from Zouaviana.
Professor Bernardin’s translation of Drolet’s Zouaviana tells us many interesting things about Joseph. He was a big man, over 6 feet tall (you can certainly see that in his picture!). In Montreal he was for a time in a seminary, but decided he was not called to be a priest. When in Marseille, he dealt quickly and physically with a person who insulted the Zouave flag. When the Zouaves were camped in Italy at a spot once the site of Hannibal’s army, Taillefer organized the men into lacrosse teams.
Alas, the Zouaves were not able to achieve their goal. The final result was that on September 20, 1870, the Italian army marched into Rome and Pope Pius IX ordered his army to lay down their weapons. The Pope retreated to the Vatican.
The return home of the Zouaves in November of 1870 was the subject of newspaper articles. Joseph Taillefer is specifically mentioned in this one concerning the reception that greeted them in New York.
What was next in this most intriguing man’s story? Stay tuned.