So why did Paul Girardin, his wife, Louise Bernardin, and their family move to Worcester, Massachusetts? Research indicates that they were not the only Quebec family to do so. According to the article French Canadian Emigration to the United States, 1840=1930 by Damien-Claude Belanger and Claude Belanger:
“Between 1840 and 1930 roughly 900 000 French Canadians left Canada to emigrate to the United States.”
There were many economic reasons for this emigration movement. Life was hard in rural Quebec. The population was expanding at a faster rate than agricultural land could support. The New England states were an easy train ride from Quebec and wages in the U.S. factories could provide a higher standard of living for a family.
In the same article we learn:
“Often, the emigration of an entire nuclear family would begin with the departure of a couple of its members who would sound out the general situation in a given town and then would send for the rest of their family. Cousins, uncles and nephews would often join the initial family before bringing their own relatives down, creating a pattern of settlement where family ties became the primary source of support and information in the United States.”
In the book The French-Canadian Heritage in New England by Gerard J. Brault, we learn:
“Immigrants wrote enthusiastic letters home or, when visiting, forcefully pointed out the advantages of living and working in New England mill towns.”
“Some industries actively recruited labor from Canada, especially in the years immediately before and after the Civil War.”
Were Paul and Louisa encouraged to move by other family members? Were they approached by recruiters? I am still trying to piece together exactly when the various members of the families moved. It is a time-consuming process, searching census, marriage, death records and city directories, but one I confess to enjoy!
To begin with, two of Louise Bernardin’s siblings are found in Lowell, Massachusetts in the 1870 U.S. Census. Charles Michel Bernardin is with his wife Victoire Peloquin and family. Joseph Bernardin is with his wife Marie Peloquin and family. They may have returned to Warwick, Quebec at some point. Several of Charles Michel’s children married in Massachusetts, he died in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1890, and a great many of his descendants stayed in Massachusetts.
And what of the Girardin families? Two of Paul Girardin’s brothers, Antoine and Casmir are in the 1870 U.S. Census for West Boylston, Worcester, Massachusetts. Antoine’s and Casmir’s children, ages 10 to 19, are working in the cotton mills. Another Girardin researcher has determined that Antoine and Casmir were paying taxes in Massachusetts by 1869.
I have not, yet, been able to find Paul and Louise in the 1870 U.S. census, although I suspect they were there. The earliest record I’ve found is when their daughter Caroline Girardin married Pierre Hamel on July 4, 1871 in Worcester.
In the 1873 city directory for Worcester, we find Paul and his son Napoleon, who is listed as a shoemaker. By 1877, Napoleon’s brother Charles Girardin is also in the directory. Both Charles and Napoleon are listed as working at 9 Barton Place. Further research revealed that 9 Barton Place was the address of H.B. Fay & Co. Bootmakers.
Shoe factories were a thriving business in Worcester. Hours were long and the work was tedious. Here’s a picture of a factory in Lynn, Massachusetts in the 1870s.
In terms of direct family history the most important event to occur was the marriage of Napoleon Girardin to Onesime Allard September 29, 1873 in Worcester.
Notice the spellings of their names on their marriage certificate…Jourdan and Allerd! French Canadian names were often mangled in census records and directories.
Onesime had been born 20 May 1852 in St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, Quebec. In the 1871 Census of Canada she was still living at home with her parents. I don’t know when or why she came to Massachusetts. Two of her brothers, Joseph and Frederic can be found in Massachusetts by 1877. That’s the year Joseph’s daughter Laura was born and Frederic married. Frederic’s wife died young, he returned to Quebec, married again and died there. Joseph remained in Massachusetts, also marrying a second time after his wife’s death. He died in 1920.
Napoleon Girardin and Onesime Allard had three daughters who died tragically young:
Georgia Girardin born 18 Oct 1874 and died 22 Feb 1878 of inflammation of the bowels
Lydia Girardin born 11 Nov 1875 and died 12 Jul 1876 of cholera
Marie Diana born 1 Mar 1877 and died 1 Aug 1877, no cause of death given
Infant death was not uncommon. Napoleon’s sister Caroline, wife of Pierre Hamel, also buried two young daughters in Massachusetts in 1876 and 1877.
All three of Napoleon and Onesime’s daughters were dead by the time Mémère, Emma Girardin, was born 23 Jun 1878.
So, there you have the story of how Mémère came to be born in Massachusetts. How did we end up in Manitoba?