Friday, December 30, 2016

Basque Women, French Canadians and my DNA

Two Isle of Lewis Ladies, by way of Richmond Quebec 1913, my husband's great aunts Edie and Flo.

"Look at this," said my son, tossing some papers onto the dining room table. "I did my DNA and it says I am mostly Spanish, Portuguese and Basque."

I looked at the long list of ethnicities on this print out and, sure enough, those ones were at the top and it was runaway.

"Well, the history of Europe is real mixed up," I said. "Roman Empire and all that." But, Basque? Aren't they some unique, isolated little group of people? That's what I've always heard.

I started entertaining suspicions about my own mother.

Mediterranean ethnicity overwhelmed all others on my son's DNA chart, not that I understood the figures. .59 for Mediterranean with a 10 thousand score, ,47 Western European with a 3 thousand score. Then the Celtic and Norse I would have expected to be more prominent. Then Aegean, Finnic, Polish, Roumanian, North African and... Mesopotamian. How cool! 

My son didn't seem to think so.   He's very good with numbers,you see, and he said this proved, well, ah, that I haven't been 100 percent straight with him.

"Numbers don't lie," he said.

I said, "But look, right after Spanish, Portuguese and Basque, comes Celtic and Norse. There may be a giant blob over the Iberian Pennisula here, but there's a small one over the Hebrides.

That's your Dad's side, your Isle of Lewis side. I have no Isle of Lewis blood. So don't make an Epic of Gilgamesh over this 100 dollar test."

Besides, I added "This test says it details deep ancestry, with deep ancestry underlined!"

My genes, roughly speaking.


It seems it isn't so odd that my son's genes (my genes and/or my husbands genes) are from Iberia. Apparently, it is understood that Welsh and Irish people also share Iberian genes (my husband's father claimed Welsh and Irish ancestry) and in 2007 an Oxford geneticist, Stephen Oppenheimer, said native British, too, were mostly from  Iberia and not derived from the savage Germanic Anglo Saxon. 

 Not everyone agrees with Oppenheimer, but I do, after seeing my son's DNA chart.

 I'm not in the least surprised to have Mediterranean genes on my mother's side.

My son's chart reveals that he shares Mediterrenean genes most with people from the Azores, though.  Weird.

But I've read that the New France was colonized very early on by Basque fishermen. And it seems logical that these intrepid voyageurs stopped at the Azores first on their way to the land of ice and maple syrup and, later, greasy poutine.

And, I do look like these Azorean women...

Lately, I decided to take an test. Apparently, the tests are becoming more reliable with time. The results came in today and, surprise, no Basque.

 Mostly Great Britain 35% (median) then Caucasus 20% (What?) then Italian and Greek, 17% (well, I knew that in my heart) and Scandinavian, then  European Jew. Yes, the history of Europe is really mixed up!

I knew my father's Yorkshire features were Norwegian!

A trace of North American native. (My son's chart suggests it is South American native, Mestizo.)

Maybe a paltry 3% Iberian Pennisula.

My son's DNA did hint at some Polish, Hungarian and Romanian, maybe that's the Caucasus part.
But there's alot of curly hair in my Mom's family. Crépeau means 'curly haired one' apparently.

Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services at Montreal City Hall in the 1920's - the curly haired one, except he should have been nicknamed "Le Chat" for the way he squirmed out of scandals over the years.

So, it's my husband's father, a fourth cousin to General Douglas MacArthur through his mother's Hardy line, who has Basque blood unless my son's 3 year old test was only about very deep ancestry.

Can I get my hubby to spit into a vile?

Ancestry connected me to a slew of fourth to sixth cousins using their site and most seem French - and I assume French Canadian. That seems right, doesn't it?

Does my husband look a bit like General Douglas MacArthur, his 4th cousin. His Dad sure did.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Strange Bit of Montreal History

It all started toward the end of WWI with concerns over prostitutes around the Montreal barracks. Reverend Herbert Symonds of Christ Church Cathedral sent the Montreal Suffrage Association 1913-1919 (of which had been a founding board member)a request to have them address the issue.

The Executive of the MSA didn't think it in their purview at that time.

It grew into a hurricane of righteousness when a certain Dr. Haywood of the Montreal General spoke in January, 1923 to the Canadian Club about drug-addled prostitutes, victims, he said, of very bad people.

There was a taint of racism about it.

Before the turn of the 20th century prostitutes in Montreal were seen as fallen women, or vain women with a taste for fine things, not victims. But with the immigration booms in the city with other races moving in, these women  suddenly became victims.

Haywood's heart-rending speech sparked fury among his well-heeled and influential audience and soon a group of concerned citizens descended on Montreal City Hall to demand immediate action.

So came about the 1924 Coderre Commission into Police Impropriety and Malfeasance, the first session being held on October 7th, 1924. The Inquiry was to investigate prostitution, drugs, gambling and police money-scams.

Movie theatres weren't on the agenda; but on December 13, 1924 a certain Constable Conrad Trudeau was testifying and he suddenly changed the subject,without being asked, from scale-tipping by coal vendors  to unchaperoned children in motion picture theatres, and brought up the name of my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, Director of City Services, whom he said told the police to disregard various infractions, for illegal signs, non-payment of fees, Sunday shows, etc.

All very suspicious.My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, the Director of City Services from 1921 to 1930, had sat with a Dr. Atherton of the Montreal General on The City Cleanup Committee.

Constable Trudeau had apparently lent the Chief of Police, 'a personal friend'  (sic) 600 dollars over the years. The Chief had been accused many, many times of accepting money from his underlings, the previous month's testimony had revealed, even from Rose David, the Madame of a disorderly house frequented by policemen, even from shady underworld figure Tony Frank, who apparently ran a number of such brothels. There were calls for Chief Belanger's firing, even during the Inquiry, but it didn't happen.

On the stand, Constable Trudeau glibly claimed he was guiltless when it came to his loans, and he was not using the money for favors. "After all, I am still a constable and have been for 7 years."

Trudeau offered up another juicy tidbit with respect to over-crowding in theatres.  "One of these days there's going to be a catastrophe. One of these days a fire will break out and no one will be able to get out."

Trudeau was fired by my grandfather on the spot for 'bribery'.  The cop had given money to Belanger on behalf of this brother in law who wanted a liquor license for his business.

The costly Coderre Inquiry ended in January, 1925. Over a year later Juge Coderre published his report culled from 10,000 pages of testimony, claiming that 'vice spread its tentacles in every aspect of Montreal life' and expressing confusion and anger about my Grandfather and his powers over the Police.

And. then, life went on with few changes being enacted.

Two years later, in January 1927, there was a fatal fire in Montreal, the Laurier Palace Fire where 78 children, mostly boys, were killed in a crush of bodies rushing out of the upper balcony after someone yelled "fire" during a Sunday showing.

That fire was a game-changer in Quebec. The Catholic Church, the Protestant Church, the Nationalists and Big Labour got together and from then on,for decades, children under 16 were not allowed into movie theatres, even in the company of an adult.

There was a hint of anti-semitism about the proceedings.

Oddly, soon after the January 1927 fire, Le Devoir re-published  the 1924  Coderre Inquiry testimony fingering my grandfather, saying 'it is worth reprinting at this time.' The phrase beginning "One day there's going to be a catastrophe' was left out.

Despite the fact Le Devoir brought up this business, my grandfather, who testified at the Laurier Place Fire hearings on behalf of City Hall, wasn't implicated this time.

(He discussed how the Laurier Palace hadn't paid their license fee on time, but that was OK, according to the Executive Committee.)

The owners of the movie house were exonerated, too.

I can only wonder what the editors of Le Devoir were trying to do by re-hashing Trudeau's testimony, albeit abridged of its sensational last sentence.

In 1930, Camillien Houde was elected Mayor of Montreal and he got rid of my grandfather over a Water and Power Company money flip he had nothing to do with, but not before Grandpapa negotiated a fine life pension, which made him in retirement the second highest paid person at City Hall, after his replacement, Honore Parent.

In a stormy session at City Hall, where alderman debated whether to accept my grandfather's 'resignation' Houde said "The public want revenge for the Montreal Water Power deal and for the Laurier Palace Fire."

Weird, eh?

In 1937 my grandfather, whose large pension was dogging the City during the Depression, was hit by a car driven by an off-duty police officer. He died of complications a year later. Le Devoir was the only Montreal newspaper that wrote him a long eulogy.

My grandfather's brother, Isadore, who had been VP of United Theatre Amusements, a big theatre chain in the city, had died falling out of his 7 storey office window a few years before.

The official line was that he had been waving to his chauffeur and slipped.