Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Border Reivers and the Sarmatians


My Eurogenes 36 wheel from Gedmatch above and my husband's below. I always knew I was a more complex person ;) but as for him being more French, pas de chance!




Although I learned about Hadrian's Wall back in elementary school, I never heard of the Sarmations, whose Cavalry guarded the wall back 2,000 years ago.

I knew my father spent his childhood in Carlisle, Cumberland, with relations, and I remember asking him why he didn't steal a piece of the wall as a keep-sake.


Today, I've learned more about my DNA and realize the Sarmations (and the Wall) probably play a part in it.

When I first had my autosomal DNA done on Ancestry, I was stunned to see 20 percent Caucasus in the ethnicity.

I realized it was all a soft-science and very speculative, but, still, none of the so-called cousins on the French Canadian side had any Caucasus to speak of,  and there I couldn't find my Yorkshire side among the cousins with any certainty.


I had my husband do his DNA, he's half Scottish half English, and he had little Caucasus.  So, I had my brother do his DNA to prove I was indeed a Nixon from Cumberland by way of Yorkshire. (The results aren't in.)

Today, my brother emailed to ask me if his spit had arrived at Ancestry (not as yet) and I did a little digging and stumbled upon some evidence that I am a Nixon, a descendant of Border Reivers of Cumberland.

It's on a  Border Reiver DNA website mounted in 2009 and last updated in 2014, and it discusses how some Border Reiving families are perhaps descended from the Sarmations.

I had assumed form a while that my Italian was from the Romans soldiers who built the wall, but apparently they didn't mix with the locals, believing them to be sub-human or something. Ha Ha.

Hmm.

And I wasted 100 dollars on my brother's test. Oh, well.

http://freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~donegalstrongs/dnareivers.htm

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Country Fairs 1910-2017


A sumptous prize-winning quilt at the Williamstown Country Fair (August 11-13, 2017) 

Moose, beaver, poutine, maple syrup and Mr. Dressup. This is supposed to be a joke, but the display at the Canada pavilion at the 1900 Paris Exhibition wasn't all that different. It included Pelee Island wine, tho.

"Won many prizes for her baking and crafts." So reads the line after Margaret McLeod Nicholson's name in the seven page McLeod family genealogy.

Margaret (1854-1942) was indeed a very fine baker and cook, who never gave out her recipes without leaving out an ingredient, but there was much more to her.

She was a fiercely protective mother, a devoted wife through thick and thin, a new woman, a feminist and a suffragette sympathizer.

She also had a bit of the olden ways about her, taking an interest in what her dreams told her.

I discovered all this when I found the 1000 Nicholson family letters. I have published the letters and a number of quasi fictional books based on them, two about the Canadian Suffrage Movement.


But, today, it was her baking and crafts I was thinking about.  You see, I visited a Country Fair in Williamstown, Ontario. Although the place is near where I live and nearer where I talk my pets to the vet, I have never been in the lovely LITTLE town.

And I can't recall attending a country fair, anywhere. I think that back in 1970 I went to a fake 'Country Fair' in the Chomedey section of Montreal, where I saw an enormous bull sitting in a pen. A city girl, I had no idea how big bulls could be.

This Williamstown fair, the oldest annual fair in Canada, was sprawling, and full of fun and good things, even a bull or two.  It was a beautiful day, too.  While my husband watched a tug of war between 10 teams of burly men, I looked at the shiny antique cars on display (more throwback to the 60's)and visited the large crafts section to see the prize winning fair fare circa 2017.


Prize winning baked goods. I hope they don't go to waste.


 A Model T Ford from 1924. Probably not too different  from the ones from 1911.

Model T Interior.  Bare-bones. 

A Ford circa 1911, a model that might have cost as much as a nice house, say 2,000 dollars. And they didn't have credit back then. My Nicholson letters reveal that the 'motorcar'  were a big deal in the 1910 era in Richmond, Quebec. The Nicholsons couldn't begin to afford one, but Mr. Montgomery, next door, bought one in 1909 and even upgraded in 1911.




1960's T-bird interior.  


The lure of the sound of bagpipes led my Highlander husband  (with me following) to the dance competitions. My knees ached just watching. The Nicholsons and McLeods are his family. 



How now curly-haired cow. Heritage variety. I could have bought some chickens or turkeys ....or a Shetland pony!

Norman Nicholson (1850-1921) was not a farmer. He was a merchant in hemlock bark in 1899 when he signed this certificate. The hemlock industry would soon collapse and he'd worked in various jobs, inspecting ties on the Transcontinental Railway and overseeing the building of the Richmond, Quebec Post Office, until his death in 1921. He never had the money to buy a car, even a Model T!

Margaret McLeod Nicholson 1910. She did not like the new-fangled automobile. She thought her neighbour foolish to buy one, but she happily went on car rides with anyone who had an auto. (The one exception being in 1921 when she went to vote for the very first time. She couldn't wait for her ride, so she walked to the polls.) Perhaps she protested about autos in her letters to make her husband feel better about not being able to afford an auto like his many friends and family members.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Paris 1928, McGill and Boiled Dishes


Edith Nicholson, 1913 with sister Flora.


Ah, Paris, 1928.   The center of the artistic universe.   Sigh. Paris between the wars. F. Scott Fitzgerald, Cole Porter, Gertrude Stein. Henry Miller and the down-and-out George Orwell.

And let's not forget Edith Sophia Nicholson.

Yes, my husband’s great Aunt Edie, born in 1884 in Richmond, Quebec to Norman Nicholson and Margaret McLeod,, spent half of July and all of August 1928  in City of Lights  -and I have two of her letters to prove it.

Alas, Edith never passed into Gertrude Stein’s legendary salon to rub shoulders with future art legends. Her visit to Paris was of the more conservative kind, but interesting in its own way. She was on a student tour, acting as a chaperone.

Aunt Edie was no boho artist. She was a teacher, the “wise and sympathetic” Tutor-in- Residence at The Hostel at McGill University, a place where the female physical education students boarded.
Aunt Edie was a culture-vulture, all right, but of the prim and proper variety.  In a letter she writes “I try to go into the Louvre as often as I can. It is so wonderful to see the original pictures we have always loved. A French artist took ten of us on a tour of the Italian paintings.”

(See no mention of the Impressionists .)



Edie in the 1920's,  I assume from hair-do and Mrs. Ethel Hurlbatt, the Warden of Royal Victoria Women's College at McGill from 1911 to 1928.  Hurlbatt was ill in 1928 and that may be why Edith got to go to Europe, taking her place.  They look alike. Scots.


As a chaperone, Edith had to attend three hours of morning  lectures with her students. She also ate meals, speaking only French, with them.  “Well, one must make an effort.”

There were many guided tours, to Versailles, for instance, “We were  lucky to see the fountains playing.” and to a Chateau in Chantille, “A wonderful place filled with treasures.” The group attended a ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier, in the presence of the British Ambassador. Edith had the honour of placing the wreath.

Edith and two other teacher-chaperones were guests at a luncheon hosted by a Monsieur and Madame  Roy, “such lovely people” where she has two long talks with a Mrs. Lapointe, the wife of the Chief Justice of Canada.

As one might expect the food was very good.  “At luncheon we had cabbage and sausages, a boiled dish that was delicious, with crusty bread (no butter except for breakfast and then only one little pat) then veal chops and green peas and for dessert stewed peaches. The French take such care with every dish. The way they cook the food seems to bring out the best in it.”

(It’s hardly likely Edith would have been treated so well at the Stein salon, which was famous for its casual informality.)

Paris, in the summer of 1928, was hot. Edith remarks upon it in both of her letters. “I am staying in today. The heat has been intense.  Some people are quite played out.”

Luckily, her digs at 33 Boulevard des Invalides were cool and comfortable. “This is quite an interesting place we are staying at. The Lycée (means school) is surrounded by a high wall which encloses this building and a beautiful garden with flowers, trees and walks. And adjacent the grounds of the Rodin Museum.”

From what I can see on Google Earth,  the white stone building at 33 Boulevard des Invalides is still there, and it still houses a school.  I checked, and the building is just a 20 minute walk away from 27 rue Fleurus,  where Gertude Stein lived!

In fact, back then, had Edith taken a walk with her student charges to Le Jardin de Luxenbourg, and that’s pretty likely, (she does mention a walk to Champ de Mars, 20 minutes in the other direction) she might have passed right by the famed salon, and, maybe, even bumped shoulders with a  bohemian artist or wine-soaked patron.


Then again, if she had, it wouldn’t have been anything to write home about, right? Pablo Who?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Cannibalism, Conscription and Mme Defarge-like Clicks


Toronto Suffragists March in Washington in 1913. 
Constance Hamilton, the leader of a provincial assocation, walked behind Mrs. Flora Macdonald Denison and Dr. Stowe-Gullen of the Canadian Suffrage Association.  Hamilton soon mounted a coup against Denison and started her own National Equal Franchise Union, that didn't do much during the War, but in 1917 she used her position to act as a spokesperson for Canadian women.


Well, in 1916, a year before he was forced to call the infamous Conscription Election, Premier Borden of Canada called for 500,000 new recruits.

The population of Canada in 1917 was 8,000,000.

I did the math, looking at the Census figures, and, yes, 500,000 men would have meant about every able-bodied man from 14 to 35 living in the country.

And if you figure they weren't allowing foreign born or people of colour into the forces, well...

In very early August, 1917, the P.M. Borden's Government  held a rowdy Win-the-War meeting in Toronto,  where the key women's societies were invited, but with only two days notice, apparently.

The newspaper accounts of the event make it sound very much like a religious-revival meeting, with testimonials and tears and no shortage of hysteria. Did you know Prussians were cannibals?

Torontonian Constance Hamilton, of the National Equal Franchise Union, a national suffrage organization she started just before the war and which never really got going, used her position to give a keynote speech, saying she didn't want an election.

But, she was all for conscription.  All the women of Canada were for conscription she said, perhaps overstating her authority to say so.

According to the Toronto Star report, you could hear the Mme Defarge-like sound of knitting needles clicking all through the meeting. (Women knitted socks for the men at the Front.)

I used this scene in  Service and Disservice,  my ebook about the iffy involvement of the Canadian Suffragists in the Conscription election of 1917.

It's the follow up to Furies Cross the Mersey, about the British Invasion of Suffagettes to Canada in 1912/13.

The fact is, the female leadership of Canada demanded Conscription even before P. M. Borden and the Canadian Government.


Constance Hamilton

They gathered some 2,000 ladies at this Toronto Win-the-War meeting, some accompanied by their limbless husbands and sons, to make a point: we (Protestants) have suffered enough. Forget recruiting: conscript other people's sons.

Oddly, at the very same time, the Premier of Ontario took out a half page ad in the newspapers saying he needed 100,000 men to bring in the crop in Ontario.

(A little problem, here, obviously.)

Constance Hamilton tried to figure it all out by starting a women's agriculture committee on the National Council of Women.

She had previously been head of the Immigration Committee, a subject she got interested in when she lived in BC and in Winnipeg with her husband, L.A. Hamilton, a legendary surveyor who had a street in Vancouver named after him.

They had no children together. She had no one fighting in the war.

I have to wonder what Mrs. Hamilton thought about the 'cannibal' accusation. She was a from a wealthy Yorkshire family and had spent time in Leipzig studying music and piano.

She even started a Bach Society in Toronto.

The day before thisWin-the-War meeting, Premier Borden sent a telegram to Mrs. Hamilton and to the leaders of I.O.D.E. and the National Council of Women asking them to poll their national memberships to this out: if women were allowed to vote, would his coalition party win an election.

At the August 2 meeting, Mrs. Hamilton met held a powwow with the ladies in the company (perhaps) of Arthur Meighen, Borden's right hand man, to seal this rather undemocratic deal.

Telegrams were sent out and the answer came back: "NO, You would not win the election if all women had the vote." So, in the 1917 election, Borden ended up giving the vote only women with close relatives fighting in the War,  with his highly-controversial War Time Elections Act.

Constance Hamilton loudly and proudly defended the War Time Elections Act in the Press. The President of the other (more legitimate) Canadian Suffrage Organization, Dr Margaret Gordon, called it a "Disenfranchise Act" in the press.

Gordon wondered in the Press why women with men in the war were so keen on seeing other women send their men to die in war.

It was a good question, and it was answered by a mother of soldiers giving a speech at the Win-the- War meeting.

"If more men went to war it would improve the chances of our own men coming back," she said.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

What are the Ties Between Skating Superstar Barbara Ann Scott and Louis Riel?


1900 Canadian Who's Who

I've written a lot about John Naismith Greenshields, of Danville  Quebec,  who successfully defended both Louis Riel and the Megantic Outlaw Donald Morrison.

Greenshields was a graduate of St. Francis College in Richmond, Quebec where  all the children of Norman Nicholson went to high school in the 1880's, or Academy as high school was called back then.

Before 1900 St. Francis was affiliated with McGill University. Norman Nicholson was on the Board of St. Francis at that time.

As I've written here and elsewhere, Norman Nicholson, my husband's great grandfather, was very invested in the 1889 murder trial of  Donald Morrison, perhaps managing his defence fund.  Did Greenshields enlist him or was it the other way around? Hmm.

 I have some documents related to this infamous E.T. event. I wrote about it here on Matthew Farfan's Eastern Townships Heritage website.

Here's a link to my own earlier post all about Mr. Greenshields.

I even put a fictional bit about the man  in my novel Threshold Girl, based on the Nicholson Family Letters from 1908-1913. I have Greenshields flirting as a very young man with Margaret McLeod, my husband's great grandmother from Kingsbury, Quebec, who was very, very pretty and who worked as a youth as the first telegraph operator in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.

Young Margaret McLeod of Kingsbury, Quebec.


Why not?

Lately, inspired by these Nicholson letters and the books I wrote about them, Threshold Girl, Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, Furies Cross the Mersey and Serivce and Disservice, I've grown my own family tree and even taken an Ancestry DNA test.

Edith Nicholson, circa 1914 (when she was a teacher at St Francis College in Richmond) possibly posing at the college with some profs.

I'm half French Canadian, with no relations in th E.T that I've found as of yet.

And, lately, poking about other people's trees on Ancestry.ca  for more info about my husband's tree, I fell upon the famous Canadian figure skater, Barbara Ann Scott of Toronto, born 1928, to see that her paternal grandmother was an Agnes Schuyler Greenshields of Danville, Quebec.

Danville is near Richmond.

I checked and, yes, it appears that Agnes is John Naismith's sister and that makes her the sister of the more illustrious RAE Greenshields (see below).

So, it follows that Barbara Ann Scott, Canada's figure-skating sweetheart, was (very likely) the great niece of this illustrious English Quebec QC and industralist and newspaper publisher, now all but forgotten except here on my blog and in my e-books, available on Amazon Kindle

I wonder if this is common knowledge. Let me check the Internet ::::time passing:::::Nope. When you enter the search terms Barbara Ann Scott and Greenshields, all that comes up is other people's family trees.I haven't been able to find a biography of the famous Canadian athlete anywhere, which is odd. She was the Gretzsky of her era, a super-celebrity, talented and beautiful.

John Naismith Greenshields doesn't have a Wikipedia page, but he is written up in French here, as an illustrious Quebecker of the past.  His brother and partner RAE Greenshields, who rose to be Chief Justice of Quebec and Chancellor of Bishops, and Dean of the Faculty of Law at McGill, does have a Wikipedia page.  Donald Morrison and of course Louis Riel do have Wikipedia pages.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

DNA, Adoption and Sleuthing out Heritage

Canadian Heritage, the Mountie at Mosaic Canada 150 in Gatineau. The exhibits were beautiful, perhaps thanks to the heavy rains. 


Entertaining ourselves to death. That's what Neil Postman, I think, said about modern life. That's what I have been doing lately.

Well, it is summer and a very, very wet one at that here in Quebec.

I'm not writing much, as I await the launch of a book in November, but I am reading a lot.  The Museum of Innocence right now.  It's a wonderful novel, using a spoiled rich man's romantic obsession to describe Turkey in the 1970's.

It's not a page-turner. I'm going slowly.  I wait for the sun to appear (which is not often) and go out into the yard to read. I move my little spectator's chair around the yard to change my point of view.

My yard is lovely, all right, but the rain is making the trees grow too leafy.

If there's anything wrong with the Museum of Innocence, it's that hearing someone go on and on about his lost love is a bit boring, just like in real life, even if the sad-sack narrator here is inadvertently pithy.

I've also been cooking a lot of new recipes from the New York Times cooking section, trying not to spend too much. Yikes, the price of veggies this wet season!

Small pleasures, when you are not working for pay.

I've also gone back to my recent hobby of fiddling with DNA online.  I had my DNA done in January and was freaked for a few months because the results came in 20% Caucasian (as in Caucasus - Iran) when I'm half French Canadian and half North of England.

On top of that, ALLof  my seven thousand DNA cousins on Ancestry.ca appeared to be of  French Canadian heritage.

For a few months I went berzerk, using bits of DNA on Gedmatch to FINALLY figure out that I am very probably a descendant of Yorkshiremen and people from Northumberland, Cumberland and Westmorland.

These people don't have much of a presence on Ancestry.  They didn't emigrate to North America and they didn't have many children. (Well, the World Wars certainly didn't help.)

The story is all here on this blog. What a history lesson for me.

View from Rye House in Yorkshire, where, supposedly, an ancestor of mine lived.  Most of my Yorkshire ancestors were farmers, the nasty fellows who gave those Vets in All Creatures Great and Small such a hard time.


Being bored, I decided to fiddle with my cousin's DNA, using my new found sleuthing skills. She's adopted.

I think I've figured out who one pair of her great grandparents are, at least.  Irish Catholic. Lots of kids.

My husband's DNA trail is boring. Two first cousins, one on each side, turned up immediately when the results came in. My adopted cousin would have loved to see something like that. I can go through his fourth to sixth cousins, the ones with trees, anyway,  and immediately see where they fit into his tree.

Most are from the Hardy line, the one he shares with General Douglas MacArthur.  This family has been in North Carolina a long time.

My DNA trail on Ancestry, even with a few thousand more people added over the months, continues to confuse me. For instance, I found a DNA  cousin with a Hartley from Colne, Lancashire and a Neesham from Yorkshire, just like I have in my tree. Hooray!

You would think this was proof of my English heritage, but no. Not at all. This person also had an Audet from St-Jean, Quebec, and yes, we share an ancestor, Nicolas Audet, pioneer off the boat in 1600's New France, married to Madeleine Despres, yet another Fille de Roi to add to my collection.  (It's easy to trace French Canadian ancestry as I've written here on this blog. The English tree is likely filled with errors - and, ah, those irksome non-parental events.)

So, I sent an Ancestry DNA kit to my older brother in Denmark to get this confusion over with.

Meanwhile, I continue to play with my cousin's DNA. She is half French Canadian like me, but we share no DNA.

We do share a few cousin matches, though.  One such match, with whom we both share 25 or so centimorgans of DNA, is a guy who is 3/4 German with one French Canadian line.

That French Canadian line is easily traced, of course.  I immediately discovered my cousin's connection to him by using Gedmatch, but mine, that's taking more time.

I'm wondering if it's a WW1 non-parental event. No doubt, those happened.

This DNA stuff is very complicated.



I share a lot of DNA with people with Boyes from  North Yorkshire in their tree.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

WWI and the Canadian Suffragettes: A Murky Tale



You know that movie It's Complicated? Well, I think my WWI era ebook should be titled that instead of Service and Disservice.

Service and Disservice is about the  1917 Canadian Conscription Crisis and the 'iffy' involvement of  the Canadian suffragists,  a follow up to the e-book Furies Cross the Mersey, about the 1912/13 British invasion of militant suffragettes to Canada.

And it's all so very complicated. I don't think even the few scholarly accounts of the event get it one hundred percent correct.  It's complicated because even back then in 1917 people didn't know what was going on.

Lots of people involved lied, too.

When I was writing up the first chapter of Service and Disservice, where Carrie Derick, President of the Montreal Suffrage Association, tells her side of the story, I realized I was missing some critical information, info from the summer of 1917 when Mrs. Constance Hamilton, President of the National Equal Franchise Union, held an emergency meeting of the NEFU in her home to ask Borden NOT to hold an election, because if he did, "slackers from out West and Quebec would get to vote."

In the Toronto press report the Montreal Suffrage Association (a member of the NEFU) sent a statement of support for Conscription, a somewhat hysterical one, quoting from John McRae's war poem.

"Is Canada going to fail? Never. If ye break faith with those who die, they shall not sleep, though poppies grow in Flanders Fields. Canada's honor is at stake. She will not, cannot fail to carry on and keep her word to our brave fighting men and to our glorious dead."


Above, Emmeline Pankhurst, Carrie Derick; below,  Toronto "Canadian' suffragists march in Washington DC, 1913, Constance Hamilton among them as President of the Toronto Equal Suffage League. She would soon start her own 'national' organization.

This struck me as very uncharacteristic of the MSA. Miss Derick was always very careful about what she said to the Press.

For instance, the MSA executive supported Conscription, but called it 'Mandatory Overseas Service', a euphemism. (Later, Derick would say they never supported Conscription, per se.)

So I went over to the Montreal City Hall archives and took a look at the 1917 minutes to learn, as I had suspected, that Derick didn't have anything to do with the bizarre pro-conscription resolution.

 A Mr. Holt and Mrs.Scott received Hamilton's telegram back then and replied on their own, without holding an executive meeting.

Mr. Holt, a lawyer, was the man who had an angry confrontation with militant suffragette and WSPU memeber Barbara Wylie, when she spoke in Montreal in November, 1912.

 Miss Wylie made fun of him from the speaker's platform. A year later, in 1913,  Holt was on the executive board of the newly-minted Montreal Suffrage Association.

Quite a few men, many clergymen, were on the executive of the MSA. No young unmarried women, though. Too 'excitable'.

The importance of all this: well, that 'bogus' statement probably made Premier Borden think that Quebec suffragists would be on-board with a limited suffrage option for women voters if the PM was forced to hold a federal election to get his Conscription Bill through parliament.

Indeed, Mrs. Hamilton, in her press statement for that July meeting, made a point to say the Montreal Suffrage Association represented all the women of Quebec, which couldn't have been farther from the truth.

 In September, 1917,  Borden gave the vote to women only with male relations at the war front.

The Montreal Suffrage Association, led by Miss Derick,  passed a resolution in protest against limited suffrage and sent it to the PM.  Some members of the MSA Board dissented.



Premier Borden, clearly exasperated by this resolution, replied to the MSA explaining his position. "You don't realize the difficult position I am in. Would you want unpatriotic foreign women out West to vote just because they married a Canadian?"

Borden didn't mention Quebeckers in his reply to the MSA, as if they were irrelevant.

Toronto suffragists, who liked to think of themselves as the leaders in the Canadian Votes for Women movement, were clear about their contempt for 'unpatriotic' Quebeckers. It was written all over the National Council of Women Magazine, The New Century.

Derick, living and working in two solitudes Quebec, couldn't be so blunt.


The quote from John McCrae's In Flanders Fields is all very tell-tale.  It was Professor Andrew MacPhail of McGill who reportedly found the unsigned poem in  Europe in 1915, recognized it as McCrae's by the style, and then sent it  on his own to be published. (The story around this is all very sketchy, I think. File under Wartime Propaganda.)

Francis Fenwick Williams, a writer on the Board of the Montreal Suffrage Association, and a woman who would soon speak in favour of Conscription at an August 1917 Win-the-War rally in Montreal, had been MacPhail's secretary for a while, working with him on a McGill Journal.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Jazz, eBooks and Cashmere Handbags


Yesterday afternoon, my husband and I went in to take it the atmosphere, and some music, at the Montreal Jazz Festival, downtown.

We saw these surreal gals on the street.  Where's the Friendly Giant?

After eating a couple of Lafleur hotdogs, we sat on the steps of Place Des Arts and listened to a small Dixieland band play all the standards, like Sweet Georgia Brown. Then a youth band played on the large Rio Tinto Stage. All very good.

It was hot, but not JULY hot yet. And there was a breeze. 

I people watched, looking out for interesting outfits.

I saw one wealthy-looking older woman, in beige Audrey Hepburn style culottes and a sleek black sweater, carrying a a turquoise cloth hand-bag I just loved.  Cloth? Probably cashmere. The purse had bone handles. It was very simple and very chic and very, very expensive, I bet.

Everyone comes out for the Jazz Festival.

We walked the 2 kilometers back to Papineau and Rene Levesque, where we had parked the car, looking at the hodgpodge of architecture: old buildings, new buildings, ugly buildings, pretty buildings, gentrified buildings, derelict buildings. 

This building at St. Laurent seemed interesting. I gauged it at around 1905. (I didn't see a date on the building, as is usual.)


I noticed La Patrie was embossed over the door. La Patrie, the tabloid that hated my Grandfather, Jules Crepeau. My grandfather lived two blocks up at Sherbrooke and St. Laurent.

My husband asked when the newspaper was founded. 


"I don't know, " I said. "I know it was around in 1927, a tabloid with more photos than print. The paper covered the 1924 Coderre Commission into Police Impropriety word-for-word and included sketches of the men and women testifying."


 They also had this pic of my grandfather from 1913. Grandpapa was involved in a scandal back then, his first, or maybe second, and certainly not his last. Read Milk and Water, my ebook about my grandfather, here.

"So they've been around at least since 1913, but this building looks around 1905." 


Anyway, today I checked online and the building is from 1905. I'm getting good at this. 15 years of research into Montreal's history has made me quite savvy.

So, I now know where La Patrie was, and the Herald, (down by Atwater).. and I've always known since childhood where the Gazette was... St James Street, right?

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Lightsabers and Banana Splits and Virtual Reality Family Stories.

My living room, 1964. The marble bust of three kids on the right was the only 'art' in our plain duplex apartment,  if you don't count ashtrays.  My mom had inherited it from her parents, who had been wealthy -or at least wealthier. She later sold it to a friend. Our TV was a 20 inch black and white Westinghouse.



The other day I had my very first virtual reality experience at a place called ColonyVR in Ottawa. My son took me and my husband.

While my hubby played with lightsabers, I immersed myself in Night Cafe, a tribute to Van Gogh, an experience that was simply mesmerizing.

This week, I was inspired to create my own work, by placing a picture of the 10 year old me  in the living room of the upper duplex apartment where we lived  in 1965. (It's for sale). As you can see, I'm no Van Gogh.

The living-room window above looked out on a sunny maple-lined street in the Snowdon area of Montreal.

Our white polyester curtains were always greyish, though, from the lead-laced exhaust of the pink Thunderbirds and red Mustangs idling below.

In the afternoon, you could see a thick cloud of dust in the sun's buttery rays.

(Remember, air in the big cities was very polluted in the 1960's, although there was still plenty of fish in the oceans back then and you couldn't walk from Newfoundland to the Isle of Lewis, Scotland, balancing on plastic water bottles.)

Thanks to the late day sun, there was always an  African violet, purchased from the Woolworth's on Queen Mary Road, on the sill over the radiator.

It was a five room upper duplex, built in the 1930's, with super thick walls that couldn't take a nail, so no pretty pictures graced our messy over-crowded  family home.

(Well, maybe there was a Turner - also from Woolworth's - in the living room.) We had lots of ashtrays, though, of all shapes, colours and all sizes.

I wrote about it in my book Looking for Mrs. Peel.

Most of the duplexes along this stretch of  Coolbrook in the 1960's had brown doors and grey porches, because the same penny-pinching man owned them all and purchased the paint in big industrial batches.

Only a few homes had flowers, let alone gardens, in the front. Indeed, one home, up near Queen Mary had a beautiful, abundant garden that stood in startling contrast to the other homes on the street.

I admired it everytime I passed on the sidewalk, on my way to the Woolworth's, where I wished I had the 39 cents to buy a Banana Split.

The Italian family, a few doors down from us, also put out a few potted plants he likely planted and nurtured himself. No wonder he was furious when my brother knocked one over with a soccer ball.

There was no Costco to buy Frankenflowers back then in the 1960's.

Our one-way street, even back then in 1965, was multi-cultural. My school textbooks may have been all "Dick and Jane" and whitebread but my neighbours were originally from Jamaica, Venezuela, India, Greece, Poland, etc.

Today, these same duplex apartments on it go for half a million dollars - despite the fact they back onto the filthy, loud Decarie Expressway, built in 1965/66.

My old duplex apartment is going for a bit less. It hasn't been renovated like the others.

Despite the lack of beauty in my childhood, or perhaps because of it, I'm a huge fan of the Impressionists (and Post-Impressionists).

I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam about one year ago, where they do not let you snap pictures of the works.  Still, it's a great museum, that tells Van Gogh's story with clarity and  panache.

Right now, I'm also listening to Zola's Oeuvre on litteratureaudio.com.  Oeuvre, or Masterpiece, is based on the author's relationship with the artist Cezanne.

Of course, Cezanne, the father of modern art and  a manic-depressive, struggled to get his artwork recognized. He even had problems getting his paintings into the "Salon of the Rejected."

This makes me wonder, "What's the equivalent, today?" What great art of the future is being downplayed by the Bourg..ious..oeus, (I can't EVER spell that word.)

The middle class.

Video games? My son, of course, loves his video games and I, of course, have always found them too violent - and silly and a waste of time.

Last year, though, I asked my boy to dig me out a few non-violent ones so that I could try them out on the PlayStation. I no longer wanted to be a smug Philistine. I also was in in search of some brain-sersize.

He lent me Rayman and Assassin's Creed and Christine and Dark Rain.

It is difficult developing this video game 'literacy' when you are much older. I was all fumble-fingered - so I gave up.

But, now, after this wonderful VR experience in Ottawa, one that made me realize that this medium is supposed to be pleasurable, I can see the future of video games and VR and I want to be prepared for it.

I pulled out my son's video games, which are still in my home, and tried again. And I was a little bit better at it.

No, I don't want to be like those short-sighted Paris critics, who said Cezanne's paintings looked as if a monkey had thrown poop at a canvas.

(Hey, aren't monkeys throwing poop BIG on YouTube? That's what my son tells me.)

 OK. I clearly deserve kudos for being so open-minded ;) I'm also a typical older person who is into genealogy. I belong to a genealogical writing group that meets once a month to write down our family stories.

We've compiled our best stories in a book, Beads in a Necklace: family stories from Genealogy Ensemble, to be published in autumn, 1917.

I was re-reading some of these stories today. If I say so myself, they are pretty amazing, a genuine chronicle of Canadian social history, with a focus on Montreal history.

These family stories are in essay form, combining fiction and non-fiction techniques - as well as photos.

This makes me  wonder whether future genealogists will be taking their family photos and films and videos and turning them into, yes, virtual reality presentations!

OK. Slow down, Dorothy.  One step at a time.



Monday, June 26, 2017

Montreal Area Workshop Fall 2017: Writing Your Family History

Wedding pic. Margaret McLeod and Norman Nicholson 1883, Richmond, Quebec.

Are you part of a Montreal-area community group?

Are some of your members researching their genealogy or otherwise interested in family history? 

Would some of them like to write their unique family stories for a blog, for a book, or for their grandchildren, but don’t know where to begin?

If so, a Genealogy Ensemble presentation about Writing Family History might be just the boost they need.

Genealogy Ensemble groups nine women who have been meeting monthly over the past several years to share stories about their families. The support and feedback they give each other has helped them improve and develop their passion for writing compelling family history. They take turns posting stories to www.genealogyensemble.com. They have just collected a selection of their favourite stories into a book that they can use to inspire others to explore genealogy.  

This one/ two-hour presentation could be given in the daytime or evening between November 2017 and May 2018. Such a seminar would attract about a dozen people.  

Genealogy Ensemble would provide a promotional poster to enhance the library’s efforts in publicizing the event. The presenter would bring a laptop or a USB key with a PowerPoint for use on a projector provided by the library. The presenter will also bring a few copies of Beads in a Necklace: Family Stories from Genealogy Ensemble (Montreal, self-published, 2017) to sell.

Some of the topics to be covered in this presentation:

·         Why write your family history? Stories are the best way to connect family members to their ancestors.
·         Using fiction techniques to tell non-fiction stories.
·         Separating myth and reality and the importance of citing sources.
·         The benefits of forming a writing group: meeting deadlines; limiting stories to 500 words; feedback from the group; polish and publish.

There will be handouts, including writing tips and suggested online resources.

The presenters include:  

Barb Angus, a career educator, is well known among teachers for her workshop presentations on innovative instructional practice. She has travelled extensively and has a passion for people, place, and story. Her natural curiosity ultimately led her to research her ancestors and write about significant events in their lives.

Tracey Arial profiles Montrealers in newspapers, magazines and books. Her work includes I Volunteered: Canadian Vietnam Veterans Remember, Behave Your Way to Project Success and an upcoming book about economic expansion and social wounds caused by World War II. Read her blog at www.arialview.com


Janice Hamilton was a journalist and freelance writer for more than 40 years. She is author of numerous non-fiction books, including The St. Lawrence River: History, Highway and Habitat (Redlader, 2006). Her family history blog is writinguptheancestors.blogspot.ca

Dorothy Nixon has worked in radio, television news, and as a freelance writer for small and major market magazines and newspapers. Her specialty was education and women’s issues. Her passion, today, is exploring Canadian social history through family stories. 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

ColonyVR, Van Gogh and Labyrinths.

Me last year outside Van Gogh Musuem.

My husband and I decided that we should try to do something new together at least once a week, something we haven't done before, or at least not in a long while.

Well, one of of us decided and the other went along.


"It doesn't have to be expensive," I said. "In fact, it should be on the cheap side. But, that means we have to be creative."


I bought a cheap badminton set the first week. The second week we went to the Aviation Museum in Ottawa.  Then, we visited Ile Bizard, a place we've never been to, even though we've passed it by thousands of time.

"In the summer, our new activity should be outdoors, if possible." I had recommended.

Except that I went and hurt my knee playing tennis - not a new activity.

So, what did we do this weekend?

We did some virtual reality, at a place called Colony VR in Ottawa.  My grown up son had done it for his birthday and really enjoyed it. He wants to eventually get his own device.

Needless to say, I'm not into video games. (I have tried to play some recommended by my son, but find it hard.)

But, virtual reality sounded like fun. I like to use our big screen TV to imagine I'm in, say, Big Sur, or Italy, in the dead of winter, so I'm half-way there.

"Yes, let's try that," I told my husband.

And we did. ColonyVR looks like a place parents bring kids for birthday parties.

I did the undersea experiences, very, very nice and something called NIGHT CAFE where you immerse yourself in a Van Gogh painting.

As it happens, last year at this time I was in Amsterdam and I did visit the Van Gogh Museum, an excellent museum, one of the best I've ever been in.

This Night Cafe Virtual Reality experience was simply beautiful.  The colours!  Here it is on Youtube, but the REAL experience is much brighter.

The Labyrinth film at Expo67, 50 years ago. I saw it only once or twice as there were such long line-ups, but I saw the other signature films many, many times.


Anyway, as soon as my knee heels, we're gonna go biking on the Lachine Canal.

Before that, maybe we'll visit the Museum on Ile Ste Helene, where there's an Expo67 exhibit.

That Expo67 feeling: I got a little dose today, fifty years on.  Expo had cutting edge films, or way beyond cuting edge.

I think this Ile Ste. Helene exhibit at the Stewart Museum -Expo67 A World of Dreams - has virtual reality exhibits of Expo, ir 'immersive exhibits'.  How circular is that?



                  Stamps on an Expo passport. The bright one at left was the Ethiopian Pavilion.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Who Owned the Plaines of Abraham? My Ancestor


Today, for some reason, I got the urge to clean out an Edwardian-era secretary I have in the living room. It was full of crap. I found this pic of my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, at about 24 years old.

I had forgotten about it.

He's very French-looking, no?

The son of a house painter, at the time this photograph was taken Jules had already been 15 years at Montreal City Hall!

He was married in 1901, or is it 1900, to Maria Roy. Maria, the daughter of a Master Butcher, brought a 40,000 dollar dowry to the marriage which allowed him to build a new house on Amherst.

I have two crystal urns that was one of their wedding presents. I have them in the bathroom, as decorations.

Maria's mother, Melina Gagnon Roy, lived with them on Amherst in 1902.

Sychronicity!

I have just decided to write a book, Montreal 1928, about Jules. In 1928, he was Director of City Services, a big and powerful position.

Jules was involved in numerous scandals that year, too: the  controversy around the 14 million dollars Montreal Water and Power Purchase; the fall-out from the fatal Laurier Palace movie house fire in 1927; and yet another typhoid epidemic.

A couple of years before, Jules'  name had been brought up during the Coderre Commission into Police Malfeasance and Impropriety. Apparently, he was BOSS over the police, telling them what to do.

At that inquiry, a certain Constable Trudeau would testify that my grandfather forced police to look the other way when movie houses made infractions against the by-laws.

Trudeau did  not like children attending movies. "One day, there's going to be a catastrophe," he said. "One day there's going to be a fire and people won't be able to get out."

I suspect this was a threat against my grandfather, on behalf of organized crime. Trudeau was a crooked cop who 'lent' the Chief of Police money on numerous occasions.


Two years later, new populist Mayor Camillien Houde would force my grandfather to resign, and he told a rowdy session at City Hall that it was because 'the people' wanted revenge for all the above issues, none of which had much to do with my grandfather, but hey.

My grandfather would negotiate a huge life pension of 7,500 a year. He had leverage of some kind: that pension would leave him the second highest paid person at City Hall, without having to work!

During the Depression, in 1937, the city would suspend Jules' pension as part of an emergency measure.

Two weeks later, my grandfather would be hit by a car in NDG, not far from his home, driven by an out of work policeman. His leg would be broken.

(I wonder whom he threatened.)

He would die a year later from complications from X-Rays, bone cancer.

 Grandpapa on a City Hall legend. Middle bottom.

 with family
In a tall hat with city alderman on a hunting trip, I think.

Anyway, I've been doing my family tree, and I managed to trace Jules' paternal line back to Maurice Crespeau from Poitou Charentes, France.

His mother, Vitaline Forget's side,  I traced back to Abraham Martin of  the Plaines of Abraham fame, the well-known pioneer or "L'Ecossais" who owned the place where the iconic battle took place.

It's easy to trace the trees of French Canadians thanks to Catholic Church records. I'm having trouble with the Roy line, though. It stalls (or hits a brick wall)at a few generations back.

 I've turned to DNA. I found Maria Roy's birth certificate and see that her Godfather was a Philias Roy. That's a rarer name than her father, Louis Roy.  I went on GEDMATCH and found some people with a Philias Roy in their trees, and, yes, I get substantial DNA matches. The problem is, these trees don't indicate  know what part of Quebec he is from.  I think this Maria Roy line goes back to Le Roy from Britanny, tho.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Why did Camillien Houde Hate My Grandfather?



Well, how cool.

In celebration of Montreal's 375th, Le Nouveau Theatre Expérimentale  is putting on a play about Camillien Houde, People's Mayor of Montreal from 1928 to 1950 something.  The play will run August 22, 2017 to September 2.

The play is called Camillien Houde: Le p'tit gars de Ste Marie, the same title as a 1961 bio by Hertel LaRoque.


Camillien Houde is the famously 'colourful' Mayor of Montreal who forced my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, to resign his big post back in 1930.  Grandpapa, a 42 year veteran of City Hall, was Director of City Services.

At a fiery 1930 debate at Montreal City Hall between Houdists and the Leon Trepanier faction, Houde said, "The people want revenge for the Montreal Water and Power Deal, the typhoid and the Laurier Palace Fire."

It's all so very strange.  My grandfather had never been accused in public of having anything to do with the horrible fire.

I'm plunging into my next project, a novel about Montreal in 1928, from two points of view, city politics and feminism. It's a project I have actually spent 15 years researching.

I learned a lot writing FURIES CROSS THE MERSEY, about the British invasion of Suffragettes to Montreal in 1912.  In 1914, a certain Edward Beck, journalist, tried to bring my grandfather's career to a halt. He enlisted the Montreal Suffragists to help.

My grandfather will figure large in my new book, with my husband's great aunt Edith, who was Tutor-in-Residence at the Hostel, a woman's residence at McGill.  She had a little job in a little place, but she was connected to the English elite. She stepped out with Miss Carrie Derick, McGill Prof, former President of the Montreal Suffrage Association and board member of the newer La Ligue des droits de la femme, with Therese Casgrain. (Edith was also a member of La Ligue.)

English and French, you see. Trough politics and feminism. Jazz Age fun and Prohibition-Era vice.

But, right now, I need to find this Houde bio. It's available on Abebooks but not in my local library.


Why? This morning, scanning the 1928 Montreal Gazettes I found this  very suspicious article:



Houde was a member of the National Assembly in February, 1927.  The next year, Houde would run for Mayor of Montreal and win, ousting my grandfather's people.

This article suggests that Houde was very invested in the idea of a broad inquiry into the Laurier Palace Fire.

Hmm.

As I have written about on this blog, my grandfather was the first to speak at an initial inquest into the fire, one that, according to the Gazette, aroused little interest. He talked about licenses.

Jules was otherwise involved in the fatal fire, that's for sure, but only in an oblique way, and THAT was never brought up. Read all about that here.

Very soon, there would be a call for a full-blown  Royal Commission into the deaths at the Laurier Palace.

 My grandfather would be called on to testify, once again, along with policemen, parents, church leaders, school principals, movie house owners, etc.

All this testimony would only serve to muddy the waters. The widely-publicized Royal Commission would uncover little of use. No one was found culpable for the fire or for the deaths of the 78 children. (All but one died from asphyxiation, at a crush by the door.)

Still, when all was said and done, Quebec children under 16 were barred from going to the cinema, even in the company of an adult, for 40 years. Yes, 40 years! (Well, the kids found way around it, of course.)

 I must find out: Was Camillien Houde the instigator of this lengthy Royal Commission?

As the testimony reveals (its available online) there was a great deal that was suspicious about the fire. Read the short-version here on my blog.

Most suspicious of all was an incendiary quote  by crooked cop Conrad Trudeau, much earlier in 1925, that WASN'T brought up in 1927, even though the testimony made all the newspapers and was extremely relevant to the 1927 fire. The quote came during testimony at the Coderre Inquiry into Police Malfeasance.

 "One day there's going to be a catastrophe, One day there's going to be a fire (in a movie theatre) and no one will be able to get out."

On the stand, that day in 1925, and without being asked, Trudeau brought up the fact that my grandfather forced the police to look the other way when movie theatres broke the rules. (He had been asked only about coal and scale tipping.) Then Trudeau uttered that prescient quote reported on in the Gazette, left out of other newspapers.

 This 'catastophe' line, I figure, could have been a threat by organized crime  -or someone else-  aimed directly at my Grandfather, Jules, whose brother was Isadore Crepeau, VP of United Theatre Amusements.

Conrad Trudeau, apparently, had lent a lot of money to the Chief of Police, Bélanger, but only as a friend. (sic). This suggests he had ties to organized crime.

My grandfather fired Trudeau on the spot, but for another unrelated bribery incident. Juge Coderre laced into my grandfather in his final report also printed up in all the newspapers. Who is this Jules Crepeau who controls the police? he asked.


During the 1927 Royal Commission, Le Devoir newspaper tried to get people to wake up to this two year-old Trudeau testimony,  with a sly hint in the back pages of the broadsheet, pointing to the exact line -date, page, and number  - in the Royal Commission Transcript, but nothing came of it.

What a media literary lesson this has turned out to be


Jules and family in Atlantic City circa 1928..


Sunday, June 18, 2017

McGill Phys Ed 1928 - and Sin City


In June and July 1928, Edith Nicholson, Assistant to the Registar at McGill University and  Tutor-in-Residence at "The Hostel" for female Phys Ed students, visited London and Paris.

She must have gone on official McGill business, because Edith didn't have any money and neither did her family.

I'm writing a book about Edith, who is my husband's great aunt. It'll take place in 1928, the Jazz Age, the Age of American Prohibition. It'll involved my own grandfather who was Director of City Services.

I'm not sure how to go about writing this story. I have some of Edith's letters and the 1928/29 Hostelights magazine, dedicated to her wise guidance. That's a start.

I also found this article in the the September 14, 1928 Montreal Gazette. "Rise of Physical Education Traced."

That year the McGill Female Phys Ed Department welcoming event was covered by the press with an article in the daily Women's Section of the Montreal Gazette, a section that always featured a sketch of a slim girl in a flapper dress and cloche hat. We all know and love that style.

The article quotes Dr. A.S. Lamb, who was the Director of Phys Ed at McGill back then, and Mrs. J.S. Herriott, the Director the Women's Program.  It also quotes Mrs Walter (sic) Vaugh (Susan Cameron Vaughn, actually) who was acting Warden at Royal Victoria College, the Women's College at McGill and pays tribute to the Warden, Miss Ethel Hurlbatt, who was recovering from a heart attack.

(Hurlbatt soon returns to work and suffers another health setback and then she retired. )

The article goes on to name the teachers in the McGill Phys Ed Department, but it does mention Edith Nicholson, Tutor-in-Residence.

Oh, well. Edith may have stepped out with Miss Carrie Derick, famed McGill professor, (so says a 1927 letter) but she wasn't important enough to get a mention in a newspaper article. I'm certain she was at this event. She arrived from Europe on September 7, 1928.

Not important enough. Indeed, when I visited McGill to check out a few boxes containing the fonds of Royal Victorial College, I found her name mentioned but once.

Letter from England. In France, she attended a War Memorial ceremony and was given the honour of placing a wreath at the grave of the unknown soldier.

And she worked there as Assistant Warden in the 1930's to the 1950's!

She also gets no mention in Margaret Gillett's We Walked Very Warily, about the first women (Donalda's) at McGill.

You see, Edith didn't have a B.A. degree, just a teacher's degree -and a provisionary one at that.  She did have good connections, though. All the Nicholsons did.


I know she started her career at McGill in September, 1920, working in the Registrar's Office. (The Registrar was a Dr. Nicholson, no direct relation, but a member of the Clan, no doubt.)

She had been at Sun Life Insurance during WWI, while volunteering with the Navy League and the YMCA's V campaign.

Before that, in 1915, she had worked at Wesleyan Theological  College, on University. She registered an Italian student who she had converted to Protestantism at French Methodist School in Westmount, under a Dr. Villard. She had worked there from 1908 to 1912.


Dr. Nicholson of McGill recommended Edith visit the Bodelian Library at Oxford while in England - and she did. She got the grand tour of the place.  She spent five full days at Oxford. In June, 1928, they were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the first woman's college at Oxford.

Yes, Edith must have gone to Europe on some official McGill business. She went with a Margaret Reid, Isabel Rowat and a Miss Brittain, possibly the same Miss Brittain who was involved with the Montreal Council of Women during WWI.

(It can't be Vera Brittain.)


Why am I writing another book about Edith, after Diary of a Confirmed Spinster,Threshold Girl and Furies Cross the Mersey? Because in 1928, Montreal was Sin City, also famous for being a place where Americans came to party. (The newspapers were full of stories about the increased tourism to Montreal, while never mentioning that it was alcohol luring the tourists.)

In 1925 there had been a public inquiry into police corruption, where the presiding judge, in his final report claimed "Vice spreads its tentacles into every aspect of City Life."

By September, 1928, the same newspaper claimed, the policemen involved in the corruption were still on the job. Either prosecute them or exonerate them, people said.

I read in the Fonds of RVC that there were only four places in the city where these female students were allowed to go, Mount Royal, The Windsor Grill, Morgan's Department Store and the Ritz Carleton.


And, yet, the Gazette article had this in it:


So, what's up?

The Phys Ed Department, Female Side, had students from Montreal, Quebec, every province and 'a few Americans.'

These days, I've read, Montreal is a booming university student with loads of foreign students, one of the world leaders for student-tourism.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Helmsley, North Yorkshire my Posh Ancestral Seat


View from Rye House, Rievaulx, where an ancestor, a Nesfield, once lived.


My Montreal-based genealogy writing group, GenealogyEnsemble, is about to publish a book of delicious, touching and occasionally mischievous  stories about our ancestors. We've chosen a title "Beads in a Necklace" that is also the title of a story within the book.

Right now, we're looking for a venue to have the autumn book launch. Luckily, Montreal has no shortage of heritage venues in which to hold such events.

Even the McCord Museum, on Sherbrooke West, where I researched so much of my story Furies Cross the Mersey, about the invasion of British suffragettes to Montreal in 1912, has a special room for events.

And, right now, the McCord is featuring a "Fashions of Expo67" show.

How perfect!  One of my stories in the up-coming volume is about my British Colonial grandmother, Dorothy Nixon, who visited us for the first and only time that beautiful Expo year.

At our team's meeting a few days ago, I was joking about how I wanted to visit my ancestral seat in the North of England, but I was finding the trip more expensive than anticipated.

How ironic is it, I lamented, that the town where my ancestors toiled as farm labourers, footmen, and delvers in a quarry, is now such a posh destination.

(Rumour has it my great grandfather Nixon also worked in a sawmill - maybe this one, Dunscombe Sawmill.)

The building where the Nixons lived is still there, an austere brick building, but much of Helmsley town is very lovely, no doubt about it.

I can see on Google Earth Abbot's Well cottage, in nearby Rievaulx, where my great grandmother, Mary-Ellen Richardson lived in the 1800's. An online website says the building is worth a million pounds!

Abbot's Well Cottage in Rievaulx, where my great grandmother lived.

And, what do you know? Today, on twitter came a story from the Yorkshire Life webite about How Hemsley has become a Tourist Destination, and how it was recently voted prettiest market town in the UK.

Yes, Helmsley, North Yorkshire has long been a destination for hunters from around the world, but now it is so much more.

No surprise, Abbot's Well Cottage in Rievaulx, where my great-great grandfather, a tailor, plied his trade, is now headquarters for a hunting-tourism company.

So, I guess I had better make those travel plans soon, before prices go even higher.

Alas, I'm not the only one whose ancestral haunt is now a very touristy place, just ask any Italian or Greek Canadian. Oh, I want to go to Italy, too, soon.


My grandfather, Robert, on the 1911 census. He was working as a footman, I'm not sure where. Maybe Dunscombe.

Robert would soon go to Malaya to work as a plantation worker, then Assistant-Manager. During WWI, he would return home to take a wife, Dorothy Forster, born in Middleton-on-Teesdale, Durham, whose dad, John, a Primitive Methodist Minister, had been stationed in Helmsley in 1912. John  was originally from Allendale, Northumberland. His wife, Emma Cowen, was from Crook and Billy Row, Durham.


I've done my DNA on Ancestry, but almost all my 'cousins' there are from the French Canadian side. Not much Yorkshire DNA on that particular platform. Northern Englanders didn't emigrate much, apparently, even if the Captain on Murdoch Mysteries claims to be from Yorkshire.



Thursday, June 15, 2017

Corn Tortillas, Wilder Penfield and Changi Prison







I am determined to learn new things, especially if they save me money. 

I tried, today, to make my own tortillas out of corn flour to satisfy the gluten-intolerant in my midst and to avoid paying those ridiculous prices at the health food store.

I bought a huge bag of corn flour from the Chinese grocer for one quarter the price of what's in the health food store.

But, as I had anticipated, making tortillas  isn't as easy as one may think. Indeed, some people use a tortilla maker.

My fish tacos tasted good, though, with my garden-grown coriander that appears to be going to seed. The tops are all feathery.

Even growing herbs isn't as easy as one thinks.

This weekend, for Father's Day, I am making a quinoa and black rice salad, with the black rice, or 'forbidden rice,' I also bought at the Chinese grocery.

I hope the salad is good. The bag of rice I bought is enormous.

This ordinarily isn't Father's Day fare. My husband, like most local men, would prefer a steak and fries.

But, hey.  

My son is a chef, so when he visits I try to do the cooking myself. Everyone needs a break. And, despite the fact I'm hit and miss with meals, my son is always quick with the compliments.

Smart boy.

On the subject of housework (sloppy transition here) I am also in the midst of researching a new book about Montreal in 1928, a follow up to the many other 'family story' books I've self-published on Amazon Kindle; 



I'm trolling the Montreal Gazette's for May and June 1928, when my grandfather, Jules Crepeau, was Director of City Services and caught in the middle of a power struggle between two factions at City Hall, one led by new Mayor Camillien Houde and the other led by City Councilman Leon Trepanier. My grandfather was aligned with Trepanier.

My grandfather would be forced to resign in 1930 by the illustrious Mayor Houde. Trepanier and six other councilmen would try to keep him on board.

The debate at City Hall in 1930 would get very rowdy. Houde's false teeth would spurt out while he spoke.

(I have written all about it on this blog.)


Today, I fell upon  two unconnected articles from the 1928 Montreal Gazette that piqued my interest. 

The following one that is self-expanatory.



And, then,  this one about European women in Colonial Malaya. It's of personal interest to me.


,
The woman who gave the above talk in 1928 to Montrealers claimed in her speech that European women in Malaya 'lead unnatural lives," because their kids are sent away to school. 

She also said it was too hot to work in Malaya, but that was OK, because there were plenty of Chinese around wanting to work as servants.

 She said playing golf and tennis is about the only thing for a woman to do, outside of socializing.

My grandmother, Dorothy Forster Nixon,  who I wrote about in Looking for Mrs. Peel, was living in Selangor, Malaya in 1928. 

 My father, Peter, and his sister, Denise, six and five years old, respectively, had been sent alway to England  two years before to go to school as was, indeed, the custom.

The siblings stayed with relations during the holidays, aunts and uncles who did not want them around.  Very sad it was for them.


In her 1928 lecture, this British woman, like many commentators, makes it sound as if  women like her in Malaya led a very lazy life. This was an oft-repeated perception. In my e-book, I  explain why they had no choice.

My grandmother, the daughter of socialist Methodists from Northumberland,  who attended a Quaker School, was born to a life of service.

 She took on the job of Secretary of the Kuala Lumpur Book Club in the 1930's and, later, during the War, she was interned at Changi by the Japanese. She became Women's Camp leader for a stint and then was tortured in the infamous Double Tenth Incident.