Friday, February 23, 2018

A Poem a Day...

Amphora tobacco. My father smoked it in a pipe. I will never forget how it smells.

Oh, the first Blue Jays game of the season just played on television. It's  a pre-season game from Florida, of course.

Maybe the Blue Jay has replaced the robin as the harbinger of spring. 

I always feel on-hold this time of year. 

My memory isn't what it used to be and it was never that good.  Of course, that scares me.  Except that I'm not sure if my memory is going. Just because I can't instantly recall the name of every actor on TCM. Celeste Holme! 

Being married doesn't help. I think we're typical, always accusing each other of things like "You never said that!" "I never said I'd do that." 

Anyway, I decided to test my memory by learning a poem every two days. I chose e e cummings, because he's a favorite poet and his poems are not easy to memorize.

Half nonsense, half haiku. All social commentary.

So, I learned a new poem: Anyone lived in a pretty how town.  All while watching TV, the Olympics or tennis. Got it down in a short time and then put it away in my brain's long term memory place.  Two weeks later, I tried to retrieve  the poem. I missed a few words, but remembered, say,  90 percent. Not bad. 

But, I realized, the pretty cockeyed poem floating around in my head made me happy.  It pushed out the crap that often floats around in my head as in "Why did my mother say that to me in 1971."

Ha. Ha.

"I sing of Olaf, proud and  strong?, whose very heart recoiled at war, a conscientious object - or. " That e e cummings poem has been in my head since 1971. We kids loved  e e cummings in high school.  It was the era of draft dodgers and the Vietnam war. Especially the one He Said. She Said.

I more recently learned he supported Joseph McCarthy. 

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Como, Croatia and Feeling Safe

This is a capture from a resort in Croatia, live stream.

To get myself through the winter, I like to live stream scenes from beautiful places in Europe (SKYLINE Webcams), while I eat my breakfast and drink my morning coffees.

Italy is my favorite place to go. Positano, Genoa.  The Spanish Steps of Rome.  And I don't have to spend a cent.

It's winter in Italy, too, so no tourists.

My favorite scenes are like the one above, a beach and a mountain.

There's something comforting about such a place. I imagine that in our collective unconscious a place like this felt safe.

Safe from invaders.

 I live near Hudson, Quebec, and part of that little town was once named Como, after the beautiful Italian resort.

Como looks like this -in the summer. 

It's a very pretty part of Quebec. Indeed, I read an account from a 18th century book that claimed  this locale to be one of the most scenic in the province: this place across from the Lake of Two Mountains, mountains that are mole hills compared to that Croatian peak in the pic at top.

Also across the lake from this pretty park  is another  mole hill that is a pine forest and a Mohawk burial ground and the cause of the Oka Crisis a couple of decades ago.

But the beauty of Hudson by the lake doesn't stop me from wanting to visit Italy. Especially in the winter.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Cezanne, Tulips and Me


When I'm feeling low these day, or suffering from winter cabin fever, I take a virtual walk down the grand boulevard in Aix en Provence.

It's one of the most beautiful streets in the world, says a professor on a MOOC I am talking about sustainable cities.

The same professor says the best measure of how much a city will grow in the future is its January temperature.

That doesn't speak well for Montreal, where I live.

"Why can't I have grown up in Aix en Provence?" I ask myself. (It's always sunny there :)  And my ancestors are from that part of the world.

I wudda been happy there.

Homages to Cezanne are everywhere in this city, apparently. The beauty of the city didn't help him. He couldn't get away faster, away from his rich father, to Paris. And the sun didn't help him. He was manic depressive.

The statue at Place Ville Marie in Montreal. In Spring and Autumn Montreal is great. 

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Cravings and Ethnicity Wheels


I love tulips, but my tulip bed, 20 feet away from these fake ones, at about 2 o'clock, is under 3 feet of snow.

It just keeps on coming, the snow.

The good thing: my Italian is improving in leaps and bounds as I listen and re-listen to Grace and Frankie on Netflix in Italian.

Love the dialogue!

My unexpectedly colourful ethnicity wheel from Gedmatch.  French Canadians tend to come out British on these wheels (Normandy) with Irish and Italian. My mother is French Canadian.

And I await the results  of my twin brother's Y DNA test.

By the time my real tulips sprout (the ones I bought in the Tulip Museum in Amsterdam) I'll know more about my bio father.

How much more? Who knows.

If  my brother's paternal line includes names like Houle or Beauchemin, it will suggest the man is French Canadian with a Sicilian? (or Greek or Turkish) mother.

If he's 100 percent Sicilian (or Greek or Turkish  or whatever) well, it's unlikely that any close matches will show up, but the further matches will suggest his ethnicity.

I assume.

But, I'm not learning Italian because of this bizarro fact about my paternity, only recently discovered through DNA.

I'm learning it because I want to visit Italy and I hated not being able to speak Greek when I visited Plomari a few years back.

I'm suddenly hungry. Time for lunch...

If it were indeed Spring I might make myself a pasta with sardines and fresh basil. I get a craving for said dish when the sun appears for good in April.

These days, my craving has been for Moroccan stew! And  cheese blintzes with blueberry sauce , Also eggrolls. I'm going to make my own Chinese eggrolls. The ones you buy in the stores don't have enough filling. They are all wrapper.

Thank goodness for online courses this snowed-in winter.  (I'm auditing one right now on City Design),

I just received this academic paper over the Internet, about how Brits and people from Normandy (French Canadians) have Iberian roots.

On my half-brother's ethnicity chart on Family Tree, my French Canadian mother comes out British and Iberian and my Yorkshire father comes out West European.

How funny!

My Quebecoise mother was more British than my Oxford educated father, son of British Colonials in Malaya. See how puts it:

 Maybe that's why she could ace the Word Power in the English Reader's Digest.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Genealogy Ensemble Newsletter for February

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Genealogy Ensemble

A group of Montreal-based friends who meet monthly to discuss genealogy
and write about their ancestors


February 2018                                                               Newsletter  No.1


Bargaining for a Load of Wood. Cornelius Krieghoff.  Art Gallery of Ontario. 1860

In her biographical piece in Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble, co-editor Janice Hamilton, a journalist, maintains that her professional training has served as the perfect groundwork for writing family history. “Genealogists use different types of sources than journalists, and every ancestor in a different time and place presents a new challenge, but the process is similar.”

Business News

On January 16th, 2018, Janice Hamilton and Mary Sutherland, two co-authors of Beads in a Necklace, gave a presentation on Writing Your Family History to a group at the Montreal West Library.


Mary Sutherland reads one of her stories at the MO West Library.

In the words of Mary Sutherland:

“The presentation went really well. We had about 25 people, standing room only. They all listened and when we did the interactive 'tell a story to your neighbour' the volume in the room went way up. Everybody talked to somebody and we had to stop them. Our presentation lasted for an hour and then there were a few questions. The library supplied coffee, tea and cookies. Twelve people bought books. Lucy was there and collected the money. Many people stayed around to chat. We had a sheet to sign up for the handout, 23 names and emails and most wanted to receive the newsletter. So all in all a success.”

If you are interested in the topic, but missed this presentation, don’t worry. Genealogy Ensemble has other presentations in the works:

February 10, 2018: Tracey Ariel, Barb Angus and Claire Lindell will be talking about writing family history at the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa. Click here for more info.

February 28, 2018: Janice and Mary will repeat their Montreal West presentation for the clients of the Benny Library in Notre Dame de Grace (NDG).

Other presentations and workshops on the West Island and in Hudson, Quebec are planned for winter and spring 2018.  Consult the Genealogy Ensemble website for bulletins.

More Business News
On February 15, many members of Genealogy Ensemble will be attending the DKG (Delta Kappa Gamma) Quebec Speaker Series to hear author  Robert N. Wilkins discuss his new book Montreal 1909 published by Shoreline Press.

Copies of Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble, a book that includes many true-life stories from the 1910 period in Montreal, will be on sale at the DKG event. For more information,

Copies of the paperback edition of « Beads » are still available in paperback from the following venues: Coles in the Dorval Garden’s Shopping Center; May’s Studio, Main Road, Hudson; and Livres Presque 9/Nearly New Books, 5516 Sherbrooke West, in NDG.

A Kindle version is available on Amazon. Click here . An e-book version is also available at the Ontario Genealogical Society Bookstore. Click here

Tracey Arial, co-editor of the book, is aiming for a February 10, 2018 launch of a print-on-demand version ofBeads in a Necklace on Amazon.

Story Summary

As per usual, a wide variety of intriguing family stories were posted to GE this past month:
Dorothy Raquin
In honor of her mother's recent passing at 95 years of age, Mary Sutherland writes about this lady's fascinating life as a WWII WREN.  
Dorothy Nixon compares two cousins from the Eastern Townships of Quebec who could not have been more un-alike in behavior.

Janice Hamilton offers up an essay based on a beloved holiday heirloom with an unusual provenance.

Marian Bulford explains why there’s a giant bird named after her family on Salisbury Plain in Wiltshire, England.

Our most recent posts have Barb Angus exploring the Scottish diaspora, Claire Lindell describing the privileged life of her musical Granny Jodouin and Tracey Arial publishing an excerpt from her book about WWII's effect on Canada.

Quote Unquote
 "The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there." 
L.P Hartley. The Go-Between

Genealogy Tip of the Month

It is important, while doing genealogy research, to revisit your assumptions, advises Sandra McHugh in her post “Did They Travel on the Same Ship?” In this particular case, Sandra assumed something about a travel document about her grandparents’ journey to Canada, but that assumption was incorrect. On paper it looked like the Scottish couple travelled together to Canada, but family lore suggested otherwise. Eventually, Sandra worked it out.  “Look and look again,” Sandra writes, or you may ensnare yourself in a puzzle of your own making.

Writing Tip of the Month
When writing your family stories, choose verbs carefully!

Dynamic verbs are key to strong story-telling. Action words such as carry, explore, launch can be transitive and intransitive.  Appear, seem, sound, show are static verbs and should be used with caution. Example: He appeared angry. (better) His face turned red with anger.

Genealogy in the News

This excellent article about DNA tests was published in August, 2017 in the New York Times. 

With a Simple DNA Test, Family Histories are Being Rewritten.

Food For Thought
The Isle of Lewis Scots, many of whom were forced to come to Quebec and Ontario during the infamous clearings, 1838-1851, ate few vegetables in their Hebrides home yet they were healthy in the extreme.  Their diet consisted chiefly of oatmeal and fish, especially smoked herring. In hard times, boiled fish bones in oatmeal had to do. After they came to Canada, wild venison, rabbit pie and French Canadian dishes were added to their diet. Their overall health, apparently, declined.

Genealogy by the Numbers

Number of miles from the shores of Normandy to Quebec City: 3,165 miles
Number of Filles de Roi who came to Canada: app 800
Years they came: 1663-1673
Percentage of these women who died on the trip. 10%
Number of children then produced in Quebec. Average 5. With 10 children, the family got a bonus of 300livres (French currency before franc).
Number of authors on Genealogy Ensemble with a Fille de Roi ancestor: 4

CBC website.
Stories about Filles de Roi on Genealogy Ensemble include A Rich King’s Daughter by Tracey Arial

Links We Like
   This month, we are showcasing the Lovell’s Directory at BANQ.

Dorothy Nixon was born in 1954 over a shoe store on the corner of Monkland and Oxford in Montreal, or so her mother told her. For decades, that has been the location of the fine Patisserie de Nancy. So, Dorothy looked up “Monkland Ave, 1953 » on Lovell’s Directory, and discovered that her mother was right. There it was: Eddy Shoe Shop, 5605 Monkland. Dorothy also learned that Monkland Village, back then, was the location of many a film distribution company : Paramount Films Services, Confederation Amusements, United Amusement Corp, Quebec Cinema Booking, Twentieth Century Fox, and  Warner Brothers Pictures to name a few. As it happens, Dorothy’s mother worked for RKO Radio Pictures Distributing in the early 1950’s, so it all made sense.

Still, Dorothy wonders: Why was Monkland Avenue the movie mecca of Montreal in the first part of the 20th century? Does anyone out there know?

For more about Lovell’s Directory, read Janice Hamilton’s GE Post Where Did Your Ancestors Live in Montreal?

Sounds Interesting.
While conducting their research genealogists learn a lot about how their ancestors communicated in writing, but how they spoke is often more of a mystery.  Here’s an interesting article from the Globe and Mail about the French Canadian dialect and its possible royal roots. Click here.

Lucy Anglin, Genealogy Ensemble author, is also a talented sculptor.  Her fanciful sculptures
in cloth can be placed indoors and out. To visit Lucy’s blogspot and
see more of her art click on

You are receiving this newsletter because you subscribed. If you enjoyed this newsletter, please feel free to pass it on to your friends and relations.
Copyright © *2018|* *|Genealogy Ensemble|*, All rights reserved.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Am I a Phoenician? Part 2

My colourful ethnicity wheel

Am I a Phoenician?. I'm trying to figure it out.

The Phoencians invented couscous. I love couscous, except for last night. I made a Moroccan stew from memory and it turned out awful.

Note to self: follow the recipe!

I'm wondering if I am a Phoenician because, last year, upon getting my DNA done at Ancestry I discovered I have Caucasus and Middle Eastern DNA.

I'm not supposed to: my mother is French Canadian (who have British, Irish and Italian genes) and my father is a Yorkshireman, via the Northumberland/Scottish border of England.


When I uploaded my DNA to other places, I found I was 23 percent Mediterranean Islander.

Phoenician goddess, frightening precursor to the Virgin.

My ethnicity via Family Tree. The British and Iberian is my French Canadian mother. 

Then, while auditing an online course on "The Early Mediterranean" I learned that the 2000 BC Phoenicians sailed from the Levant to Cyprus, Malta and on to Sardinia, trading in copper and silver - and maybe couscous.

The Phoenicians gave us the alphabet. Very good.(Maybe that's why I have so much trouble spelling their name.)

 They also practiced child sacrifice.  Not so good.

Their early cities were set up to store surplus grain.

 I'm guessing that eventually some greedy guy with big biceps decided that he wanted to hoard the surplus gain, so he fought of others who wanted it as well.  That got tiring. So he told his adversaries "I have friends over the valley who will protect me." That worked for a while.

Soon, the adversaries replied, "My cousin married the head of that tribe, so they are now our friends." So, the greedy guy said, "I have friends up in the sky who will protect me, fearsome friends, half animal-half human. There's one of them over there engraved in stone with the long, sharp eagle talons for toes."

Most of his adversaries ran away, screaming.

A few stayed. They were not convinced. "Prove it," they said.

"Well," the greedy guy hestitated. "I will prove it. I will kill my first born child. I will do this because my friends in the sky will take him up and make him one of them."

"It must be true," said the remainder of the adversaries. "To kill your own child."

The prof who gave the online course I audited basically said as much.  Rituals were conducted constantly for the elite to maintain their rule through fear and awe. Water was an key element, used in many rituals. It is precious, after all.
One possible  breakdown of my ethnicity.

Joseph Campbell wrote that the Jesus myth  is an agricultural age myth. Seems to fit.

Anyway, today I got an email suggested a link to a new paper where archeologists are using MT DNA from mothers to prove that Phoenicians migrated way over to Sardinia a few thousand years ago.

I read only the abstract and conclusion, but it seems promising.

It'll take me a while to digest the info (and it is over my head, scientifically speaking)  but maybe I'll figure out whether or not I am a Phoenician.

My French Canadian mother, from a long line of people from Normandy, Ile de France and Poitou Charentes, could pass for a Sicilian. I look like her, for the most part.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Skiing Through the Woods on a Colourless Morning.

I live in the burbs of Montreal. Everywhere I look these days I see snow. Snow, snow and more snow. I am surrounded by an immense whiteness.

Streaming live images of Venice, Italy has been my joy, these mornings, and other places, mostly in that country. It's not warm there, everyone is wearing parkas, but it's not tourist season either.

You can see the locations for the tourists.

Today, that wasn't enough. I just had to get out of the house, so I went to the local library, which happens to be about 20 miles away.

My town is spread out.

It's a fine library, but it lacks for one thing: a pretty place to sit. There are a few black leather chairs placed in corners and a dentist office grouping of the same chairs in the magazine section, but really!

It's as if they don't want anyone to linger.

I sat in the magazine section and perused some fancy art magazines. Beaux Arts, what a beauty of a magazine.

7 euros!

The latest issue had a story about the Damien Hirst show that I wrote about in the last post. The reviewer liked it. Said Hirst's sprawling Venice show reflected a place where art and nature meet.

Yes, I had noticed a similarity between some of the pieces and Chihuly. Right outta Star Trek!

Anyway, I scanned a few other magazines, including Arts Magazine from Canada. One issue had a hot dog couch. I thought that Joey and Chandler from Friends would have liked to sit on it!

And then I gathered up the books I was going to borrow, about Le Corbusier, Gaudi and an enormous heavy tome about Frank Lloyd Wright, because I have been auditing online architecture courses, and took my books to the Loans or Pretes Counter.

Apparently, I owe the library 80 cents from last summer.

But, before that, as I got up from the 'dentist chair' and turned about, I had my modern art moment and missed it.  My phone was in my purse.

The magazine section's window backs onto woods. Snowy woods, white, silver and grey with flecks of black. Zero colour.  A picture window framing nothing.  But, when I turned  I saw a lonely cross country skiier struggling by, half way up the frame of the window on a skiing track that was invisible to the eye.  This lady skier was wearing a red coat, and not just any red coat, something retro-looking, a tailored coat taken in at the waist, with an A-line below. A coat Barbara Ann Scott might have worn to give an interview out on the rink. A little girlish coat, but the lady wasn't a girl.

What a cool photo that would have made. But, I missed it. I thought for a moment that I should stay and catch another skier going by, but I knew I would never get another lonely lady in a retro-red coat.

Hey, it reminds me a bit of the Colburn painting from the ET that I wrote about in my novel, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, of  a red sleigh in Melbourne, Quebec many moons ago.