The graves of children

Like most genealogists, I love cemeteries. I’ve been to St. Charles Cemetery in Winnipeg several times to photograph gravestones.  Well, to be honest, my husband is the willing photographer.

There are many graves in St. Charles that belong to the McMillan and Hogue families. I’ve written previously about the family of my great-great-grandfather William McMillan and his wife Margaret Dease here. They are buried in this cemetery, as are some of their children, and grandchildren.

It’s always emotional to come upon a child’s grave.   Sadly, there are several in this cemetery and  I decided that the time had come to research exactly where these children belonged in the family tree.

McMillan John James b1890 grave

This grave certainly tugs at the heart strings.  Two cousins dying within two days of each other!  The fathers, John and Patrick were brothers, sons of William, and thus brothers to my great-grandmother Philomene McMillan (Pépère’s mother).

This combined gravestone is for John James McMillan, age 7, son of John McMillan and Virginie Bruce and for Patrick McMillan, age 4, son of Patrick McMillan and Elizabeth Caplette.  The four-year-old is one of those children who was born and died between census years, so without the gravestone we would never even know he existed!

I wondered if there was a rash of deaths in November of 1897 and went looking for newspaper articles.  I found this.

diseases 1897

The Winnipeg Tribune, 31 Dec 1897, Fri, Page 8


Then I found their obituaries and discovered they both died of diphtheria.

John James McMillan obit

The Winnipeg Tribune, 27 Nov 1897, Sat, Page 4

This second one is for Patrick,  whose father was misidentified as Alex.

Patrick McMillan grave

The Winnipeg Tribune, 30 Nov 1897, Tue, Page 4

This wasn’t the first child that Patrick McMillan and Elizabeth Caplette had buried.  Their second-born son, also called Patrick, had died at 11 months in 1881.


I found no obituary for this Patrick.

Patrick and Elizabeth’s son William John, married to Maria Breland, also suffered through the death of two children in the same month, July 1907.


McMillan Laura obit

The Winnipeg Tribune, 27 Jul 1907, Sat, Page 7

Again, the newspaper has misidentified the father.


Joseph McMillan (brother to John and Patrick) and his wife, Pauline Bruce, buried a 22-year-old daughter, Mary Jane, in 1893,  a 14-year- old son, Frederick, in 1898, and a 23-year-old married daughter, Mary Ann Alice, in 1902.

McMillan Mary Jane grave

Frederick 1898

McMillan Mary Ann Alice grave


I’ve found no obituaries for  Violet, Frederick, Mary Jane, or Mary Ann Alice.

Obviously, some of these gravestones are not original.  Presumably family members at some point replaced the original markers.

These graves are a poignant reminder of the hardships our ancestors faced.





A rose by any other name…

In this day and age, when we have government-issued identity cards such as birth certificates, social insurance cards, and drivers’ licenses, it can be hard to get your head around the fact that our ancestors’ names may not have been standardized.  When looking at census records, church documents, or civil records, you can find many variations on the spelling of not only surnames, but given names as well.  There may be a variety of reasons for this, including the literacy level of your ancestor, the difference in ethnic background of the ancestor and the official record keeper, poor handwriting by a clerk, or just personal whim.

This was very apparent as I continued my research into the Allard family. In my last post I shared my excitement in having found the date and place of death for Marie Bonin, married to Joseph Pierre Allard.  Previous to the help I received from a “genealogy angel”, the last record I had was for the 1881 census in Quebec.  Learning that Marie had died in Massachusetts, I started searching for any record of the unmarried daughter who had also been in that 1881 census household.

The daughter in question was baptized as Marie Almeria Allard on June 11, 1869 at St-Denis-sur-Richelieu in Quebec.  My great grandmother, Onesime Allard, who was  17 years old at the time, was godmother.


Allard Almeria b1869 baptism

Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, 1869, B36

In the 1871 census Almeria is “Meria”, and in 1881 she is “Elmeria”. Hmm.  You can see where this is going!

Searching Massachusetts records took some time, but I found a marriage record for an “Amelia” Allard, d/o Joseph Allard and Marie Bonin.  This looked promising.  The groom was listed as Samuel L. Dumonchelle. The marriage took place May 20, 1889 in Oxford, Massachusetts.

Confirming that Amelia was the person I wanted meant tracking the couple via census records and checking the birth/marriage/death records of their 7 children. When a maiden name of mother was listed, it was always Allard, except for once when it was Allord.

Here are all the names I found for Marie Almeria in the records:

Amelia (obviously the one she preferred)
Lydia.  This was a surprise but if you say it quickly you can see how it could be misheard.

As for her husband, who was listed as Samuel L. Dumonchelle on the marriage record, his name was actually Dumouchelle.  He was born in 1863 in Massachusetts, and died November 16, 1922 in Rhode Island.

Here are all the variations of that surname I discovered as I searched the records for this family:


They had 3 children while living  in Massachusetts:

Amelia, born 1890, never married, died 1976 in Rhode Island

Josephine, born 1892, never married, died 1974 in Rhode Island

Joseph Samuel Arthur, born 1894, died 1895 in Rhode Island

After their move to Rhode Island in 1894/95 they had 4 more children:

Aldia Eva, born 1897, who became a nun, taking the name of Sister Mary Amelia, and died 1962 in Kentucky

Napoleon, born 1900, married, and died 1962 in Virginia, buried in Rhode Island

Alfred, born 1905, married, and died 1976 in Minnesota, buried in Massachusetts

Alphonse, born 1908, married, and died 1977 in Rhode Island

The death record for Amelia Dumouchelle,  provided more documentation that this was the right person.

Allard Almeria b1869 death

“Rhode Island Deaths and Burials, 1802-1950,” database, FamilySearch , Amelia Dumouchelle, 24 Mar 1950; citing Burrillville, Providence, Rhode Island, reference 1484; FHL microfilm 2,229,197.

Samuel, his parents, Amelia, and 3 of their children are buried in St. Patrick’s Cemetery, Burrillville, Providence County, Rhode Island.  Find A Grave has a picture.

Allard Almeria b1869 gravestone

Find A Grave Memorial# 101007225

And the research into the Allard family continues.



Marie Bonin

More than a year ago, I blogged about the fact that I could find no death record for my great-great grandmother Marie Bonin. Marie was born to Jacques/Jean Bonin and Amable Dupre and baptized at St. Ours, Lower Canada on 28 July 1827.  She married Joseph Pierre Allard 30 January 1849 at St-Denis-sur-Richelieu. She had 15 children, at least 7 of which died in infancy. Her husband died in 1875.  Until now, I hadn’t been able to trace her past the 1881 census when she was still in St-Denis.

Yesterday, October 30th, I posted a query on the Quebec-Research list and quickly found my answer.  A “genealogy angel” found her death record in Millbury, Massachusetts on 26 October 1895.  She died of pneumonia.

Obviously, sometime after 1881, she moved to Massachusetts!  At least 2 of her sons, were there, although my great grandmother Onesime Allard had already emigrated to Manitoba.

She was not buried in Massachusetts however.  Her body was sent “home” to St-Denis where she was buried on…..wait for it…October 30!

Bonin Marie burial

St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, 1895

She definitely wanted me to find that record!

I have no photo of her grave, if it even is a marked grave after all this time.  However here’s a picture of the beautiful church, built in 1796.

Église St-Denis-sur-Richelieu


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?

A trial in Red River

Recently the Royal Manitoba Theatre Centre presented the play Sarah Ballenden by local playwright Maureen Hunter.  The play is rooted in the historical trial of Foss vs. Pelly that took place in July 1850 in the Red River Settlement.

Sarah Mcleod Ballenden was a Metis woman married to a Hudson Bay Company Chief Factor, John Ballenden. Rumors were circulating that she was having an inappropriate relationship with a soldier, Captain Christopher Foss. In order to clear her name, Foss brought charges of defamation against four members of the community who were the source of the allegations: A.E. Pelly, accountant for HBC; his wife Anne Pelly; John Davidson, the mess cook; his English wife, a servant.

Much has been written about the trial and the issues of class and racism in the settlement.  It is not my intent to analyze this historical event. Readers who wish to know more can read Sylvia Van Kirk’s article “The Reputation of a Lady”: Sarah Ballenden and the Foss-Pelly Scandal at

Dale Gibson’s has an account of the trial in his book Law, Life, and Government at Red River: General Quarterly Court of Assiniboia, Annotated Records, 1844-1872, excerpts of which you can read on Google Books.

What piqued my interest was the fact that I have Hogue, McMillan and Dease ancestors living in Red River during this time frame. During the play there were references to Governor Simpson having abandoned his country wife years earlier.  Of course, the country wife was Margaret Taylor, my great-great grandmother, whom I’ve written about here.

I wondered if any of my ancestors were on the jury. Thanks to the digitization of records on the Archives of Manitoba website, I was able to see the list of jurors.


District of Assiniboia General Quarterly Court District of Assiniboia General Quarterly Court, 1844-1851, Digital Image Number: PR16-002638.jpg Location Code: P7538/1


At first glance I thought, no ancestors there.  Then a couple of days later I took a second look.  One name stood out…Thomas Logan. Checking back through my files there he was… the brother-in-law of my great-great grandmother, Margaret Dease.  Thomas Logan was married to Margaret’s sister, Mary Anne.

Naturally I wondered what his opinions on the trial would have been, given that he was married to a Metis woman.  As I delved further into his background I discovered he was the son of Robert Logan and Mary, a Saulteaux Indian, so he was also Metis.

Thomas Logan scrip

Scrip affidavit for Logan, Thomas, from Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN NO. 1502263

Further research revealed that after Thomas’s mother died,  his father, Robert Logan, married Sarah Ingham, a white European widow, who was a schoolteacher.  Sylvia Van Kirk in her book Many Tender Ties, states that:

“The family of retired Chief Factor Robert Logan had particularly opposed their father’s marriage to Mrs. Ingham”.

Reading the transcript of the trial, Mrs. Logan’s name comes up several times.

Mrs. John Black (Margaret Christie, a Metis woman married to a HBC officer) said:

“I have heard Mrs. Logan state that Mrs. Ballenden was a woman that must always have a sweetheart as well as a husband.” and

“Mrs. Logan told me they were very intimate.”

Mrs. Cockran (wife of the Anglican Rev. William Cockran) testified:

‘I have heard reports, and questions has [sic] been put to me.  Mrs. Logan told me, & informed me that she had spoken to Mrs. Ballenden about it.”

The testimony of most of the witnesses for the defendants was hearsay.  There was a definite undertone of “white” superiority and racism.  So what would it have been like for Thomas Logan, a Metis, with a Metis mother and wife to hear his stepmother’s opinions? We can only guess.

I also noticed that one of the witnesses for the plaintiff was a Mr. Nathaniel Logan, a clerk for Mr. John Ballenden. Thomas had a brother Nathaniel who worked for HBC, and this could have been him.

In the end Foss won his case and damages were assessed against the defendants. However the rumors did not go away and Sarah Ballenden found herself shunned by many of the elites of the community.  She died three years later at the age of thirty-five.

So, what is the point of this post?  Obviously none of my direct ancestors were involved.  However, five of my direct ancestors (Margaret Taylor, Amable Hogue, William McMillan, Margaret Dease, and Genevieve Beignet) were adults living in the Red River Settlement at this time.  All of them, except for Amable, who was French-Canadian, were Metis. This is the social climate they lived in. These are the prejudices they experienced.

The pursuit of genealogy research for me is not just finding the names and dates for my ancestors, but placing them in the historical, social milieu in which they lived. And THAT is the reason for today’s post.