The patient researcher

I haven’t posted for quite awhile, but it’s not because I haven’t been researching.  I have been working on my husband’s family and this research has made me meditate on the value of patience to the genealogist.

Sometimes, on public trees, we find that the researcher has mistakenly latched on to a presumed ancestor simply because they have the right name.  However it’s often the case that two men with the same name are approximately the same age, live in the same town, and are both married to women named Ethel! Hard to separate the right ancestor from the wrong one.

Then there’s the case where someone is baptized as John Frederick, but shows up in the census and other records sometimes as John, sometimes as Fred, and sometimes as Fred J.  It takes careful research to confirm they are one and the same.

What’s the magic ingredient to finding the right ancestor?  PATIENCE, PATIENCE, PATIENCE!

The patience to research the siblings of the “same-named” people in order to differentiate by finding records that show parentage.

The patience to not rely on indexed records, knowing that indexed mistakes are made, and the original document may say something completely different.  I’ve found many an ancestor simply because I was willing to browse image by image through digitized records, be they a census, a church record, a death registration.

The patience to browse digitized city directories that are often very poorly indexed, especially if the the index is a result of OCR (optical character recognition) software rather than human transcription.  Scrolling through the images can confirm that the person you seek is living with a relative. It can also locate ancestors in the non-census years.   One of the unusual things about many old city directories is that they would continue to list names such as:

“Smith, Mary (widow of Simon)  123 Main St.”  FOR 10 YEARS AFTER THE HUSBAND DIED!

Strange, but does help confirm whether or not we have the right person.

The patience to spend hours searching through digitized newspapers.  What a treasure trove!  Obituaries are of course wonderful items to find, and if a search doesn’t bring  up the name, then, of course, we patiently scroll through the digital pages where we expect the notice to be.  The “social” notices seem so dated and comical to us, but what a thrill when you find that Mrs. Green’s niece, Margaret Black, is visiting from Chicago, and that leads you to discover what happened to a missing family member!

As tempting, and easy, as it is to research from the comfort of your home, we know that not all the records we seek are digitized and online.  Visits to archives and libraries can yield reams of important records. Sometimes the final “proof” we need to establish a relationship can only be found in a document that we  order from a government source, library, archive or genealogical society, and wait, patiently, for its delivery by old-fashioned snail mail.

Patience is not  rewarded 100% of the time.  We will always have unknowns and brick walls.  But oh, the happy dance we do when it pays off!





Oops…July 18th

I should never prepare a post first thing in the morning and post it right away.  Sigh.

Last Sunday, July 16th, I posted about how it was my brother’s birthday AND the anniversary of my Dad’s death.

I was wrong.  I realized it mere minutes after I clicked on Publish.  However, email followers received the message right away, before I recognized the error and deleted the post.

Mea culpa.  Here’s the correct post.

If my brother Don was still alive, he would be celebrating his 80th birthday today, July 18th.  Sadly he died in January.

Last Sunday, July 16th,  marked the 45th anniversary of my father’s death.

Here’s a picture of Don, Mom, and Dad at Niagara Falls.  I’m pretty sure this was the summer of 1970.

Niagara Falls

Don, Madeleine, Tom

Happy times.  Miss you all.

Canada 150

Red on White

Today Canada is celebrating 150 years of Confederation. Confederation was the political union of the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. However, my ancestors have been in this land much longer than 150 years.

In Winnipeg, where I live, archeological digs at the Forks of the Red and Assiniboine rivers confirm that it has been a meeting place for aboriginal peoples for 6,000 years (you can read about that here).   I have three Metis ancestors, Jane Taylor, Josephte Belisle, and Genevieve Beignet.  Lack of documentation means I can’t trace these aboriginal roots any further back than the late 1700s.

As I have written before, I have many ancestors who were involved in the fur trade, which was a major economic driver in the settlement of the country.

My ancestors are mostly French-Canadian and go back to the early 1600s and the settlement of New France. I’ve blogged extensively about their lives.  Like all countries ours is a country with a colonial history. One can find many instances of racism, wars, and injustices, especially dealing with the treaty promises that were not honoured.

We are an imperfect country, and we shouldn’t gloss over our failings. But today let’s look around the world, and realize how lucky we are to live in a wealthy, democratic country, with freedom of speech and a belief in human rights.

Happy Canada Day, eh?

For all the Fathers and Grandfathers

I had many lovely comments on my Mother’s Day post of pictures, so I thought I would do the same thing for Father’s Day.

My maternal grandfather was George Vaillancourt.  He was born in Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He was married twice. His first wife died leaving him with a one-year old son.  He then married my grandmother, Marie Anne Girard.  They lived in Trois-Rivières, in Trochu, Alberta, and in Regina, Saskatchewan, before settling in Manitoba. He died long before my brothers and I were born, at the age of 65, and is supposedly buried in St. Anne’s, Manitoba, although I haven’t yet found a grave.

Vailancourt George

George Vaillancourt 1869-1935


On my paternal side, the oldest picture I have is of Allan “Glenpean” McMillan, my fourth great grandfather.  Born in Scotland, he was instrumental in bringing settlers to Ontario, in what was know as the Lochaber Emigration. I wrote about him here.  He died at the age of  71 and is buried in St. Andrews United Church Cemetery in Williamstown, Ontario.

McMillan Allan

Allan “Glenpean” McMillan 1752-1823


My third great grandfather was James McMillan, also born in Scotland, who came to Canada with his family. I wrote about him here.  His country wife was Josephte Belisle, my ancestor. He died back in Glasgow, Scotland at the age of 75.  I don’t have a picture of him, but I do have this picture of his statue at Fort Langley, British Columbia, courtesy of Joan Sanderson.

McMillan James b1782

James McMillan 1782-1858


My second great grandfather was William McMillan.  He was born near present day Edmonton and  eventually moved to the Red River Settlement where he married Margaret Dease.  He was a  very interesting man whom I wrote about here.  His obituary claimed he was 103, but I’m sure that’s not true.  He is buried in St. Charles Cemetery, Winnipeg.

McMillan William

William McMillan 1806-1903


My great grandfather was Thomas Hogue. He was the son of Amable Hogue, whom I wrote about here. (Sadly I don’t have a picture.)  He married Philomene McMillan and lived in St. Charles before moving to La Salle, Manitoba around 1893.  I wrote about him here. He died at the age of 83, and is buried in the St. Hyacinthe Cemetery in La Salle.

Hogue Thomas Sr.

Thomas Hogue Sr. 1840-1924


My other great grandfather was Napoleon Girardin. Napoleon was born in Kingsey, Quebec and emigrated to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he married Onesime Allard.  They eventually emigrated to Manitoba, and Napoleon settled in La Salle, after the untimely death of Onesime. At the age of 71 he married again.  I wrote about him here. He died, aged 78 and is buried in an unmarked grave in La Salle.

Girardin Napoleon

Napoleon Girardin 1851-1929


My grandfather was Thomas Joseph Hogue. He was born in St. Charles, moved to La Salle with his parents, and was the first constable of the village. He was married to Emma Girardin.  They are, of course, the Pépère and Mémère of my blog posts! I wrote about him here. He died at the age of 75 and is buried in Assumption Cemetery, Winnipeg.

Hogue Thomas Jr.

Thomas Joseph Hogue 1879-1955


And then my father, Joseph Thomas Hogue. He was born in La Salle, but eventually moved to Winnipeg.  A welder by trade, he died much too soon after retirement. He died just before his 63rd birthday, and is buried in Assumption Cemetery, Winnipeg.

Hogue Thomas b1909

Joseph Thomas Hogue 1909-1972


Still miss you Dad!

A tribute to my brother

Six months ago, on January 9, 2017, my brother Donald died.  I am grateful that I was able to be with him in St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver at the time.

Donald John Hogue was born July 18, 1937 and spent the first few years of his life in La Salle, Manitoba. He had a few health problems as a child including a bout of polio. Here are some of my favourite photos of him as a child.

Believe it or not, there was a time when a photographer would go door to door with a pony offering to take pictures!  How could a mother say no?

Don on horse

Don on a pony

Here’s a picture with his big brother and Mémère in La Salle.


In La Salle

This portrait is, I suspect, from his First Communion at St. Ann’s.

Don First Communion

Studio portrait


His dapper look in this photo foretold a lifelong habit of stylish dressing.

Don in suit

How dapper!

Don was eleven years older than I was, and he left home, Winnipeg, when he was nineteen.  Like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, he was “off to see the world”.

Don waving

Waving goodbye at the train station

He didn’t see that much of the world before being captivated by the beauty of Vancouver.

Don on Cornwall

Happy in Vancouver

I remember many train trips, traveling on Dad’s CN pass, to visit him in that gorgeous city.

Don and Jackie

Don and me in Vancouver


Later he moved to Toronto, for business reasons. Any time he came “home” to Winnipeg, we all made a fuss.

3 brothers

Don and his brothers, Christmas 1996

Don always made time to take me aside on these visits,  and really listen to what I had to say about whatever was going on in my life at the time.  When I had children myself he did the same thing, finding time during a visit to really inquire about their interests. Clearing out his apartment after his death, I came across all the photo albums/scrapbooks that he kept, filled with birth/wedding announcements for all of the extended family.  The tears flowed when I saw those reminders that, despite living away, he held us close in his heart.

When circumstances allowed him to move back to the coast, he jumped at the chance. He loved the ocean and the mountains.  If, as I believe, a human’s life is measured by their effect on other people, then Don’s was a great success, for he truly made a difference in so many people’s lives, especially through his involvement in AA.  The many friends I met in Vancouver when he died were testament to that truth.

Two friends in particular were the sole reason Don was able to continue to live his life with dignity and independence in his apartment.  They know who they are, and they also know they have my eternal gratitude.


Donald John Hogue

Rest in peace dear brother.


For all the Mothers and Grandmothers

It’s Mother’s Day.  Time to honour all the Mothers and Grandmothers who came before me. How I wish I had pictures of ALL my female ancestors! Here are the ones I do have. Strong women, every one!

Louise Girardin nee Bernardin 1824-1912

Louise Bernardin Girardin 1824-1912

Louise, my great-great grandmother, died at the age of 87, having outlived two husbands, born 10 children, and emigrated four times, from Quebec to Massachusetts to Manitoba, back to Massachusetts, then finally back to Manitoba.

Onesime Girardin nee Allard 1852-1896

Onesime Allard Girardin 1852-1896

Louise’s daughter-in-law, my great grandmother Onesime, emigrated twice, first from Quebec to Massachusetts,  where she married (and buried her first three daughters), and then  to Manitoba. She died at the age of 44, pregnant with her 14th child.

Girardin Emma b1878

Emma Girardin Hogue 1878-1979

Onesime’s daughter Emma, my grandmother (Mémère) died at the age of 101, having raised her siblings after her Mother’s early death, born 8 children, and outlived her husband and all her siblings.  She had emigrated from Massachusetts to Manitoba as a child.

Margaret McMillan nee Dease 1818-1905

Margaret Dease McMillan 1818-1905

Margaret, my great-great grandmother, one of my Metis ancestors, died at age 87 having born 9 children and outlived her husband. She lived most of her life in the Red River Settlement.

Philomene Hogue nee McMillan 1848-1923

Philomene McMillan Hogue 1848-1923

Margaret’s daughter Philomene, my great grandmother, died at 75, just months before her husband.  She had 9 children.

Marie Anne Vaillancourt nee Girard 1881-1975

Marie Anne Girard Vaillancourt 1881-1975

Marie Anne is my maternal grandmother who died at the age of 94, having born 9 children and outlived her husband by 40 years.  She moved from Quebec to Alberta, back to Quebec, then back to Saskatchewan, and eventually Manitoba. (As an aside, this is the ONLY picture I have in which she’s smiling!)

Madeleine Hogue nee Vaillancourt 1916-2006

Madeleine Vaillancourt Hogue 1916-2006

And here’s my Mother, Madeleine, who died at the age of 90, having outlived Dad by 24 years, and born 5 children.  She was born in Quebec and moved to Saskatchewan as a child, and then to Manitoba. Still “talk” to her everyday.

Happy Mother’s Day Mom!

A Spanish connection

A catchy title, right?  It’s not that we have any Spanish ancestry, but, having returned from a holiday in beautiful Spain, I did come back with a picture to share.

General Castanos

General Francisco Javier Castaños

One of the many museums we enjoyed on our trip was the Museo Historico Militar in Seville.  I admit my husband was a bit more interested than I was.  However, remembering that my great-great-great-grandfather, Jean Baptiste Bernardin, a Napoleonic soldier, had been captured in Spain, I kept my eyes peeled for any mention of that specific French-Spanish conflict.

I was not disappointed.  The picture above shows a bust of General Francisco Javier Castaños, who was the head of the Andalusian Army that was victorious at the Battle of Bailen on July 19th, 1808.  That’s the battle in which Jean Baptiste Bernardin was captured.  You can read my post with his story here.