Friday, June 24, 2016

Funeral Card Friday: Agnes Burchill

Front of In Memory card for Agnes Burchill

Agnes Burchill was the youngest sister of my paternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair.

“Aunt Aggie”, as my late father knew her, lived in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada since the late-1930s. I think the only time I met her was when my family and I were there on vacation, probably in the 1980s. We visited her and her husband “Uncle Freddie” at their apartment in a multi-storied building one afternoon. It was a real pleasure to meet my great-aunt because she was a connection to my beloved Mémère Julie. I was researching my family tree at this time, so I came prepared with questions for Aggie and Freddie. Unfortunately, I don’t know what happened to those notes and now remember very little about that visit.

Youngest child and youngest daughter of Olivier and Elizabeth (Vanasse) Vanasse, Agnes was born on 12 September 1905 in Chapeau, Pontiac County, Quebec. She had eight older siblings: Mary, George, William, Cecilia, Julie (my grandmother), Joseph, Corine and David.

Back of In Memory card for Agnes Burchill

Agnes died on 28 June 2000, Freddie having predeceased her in November 1989. They were both laid to rest at Capital Funeral Home & Cemetery in Ottawa.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, June 10, 2016

Friday’s Faces from the Past: Jacqueline and her godchild

Jacqueline Belair with her sister Jeanne d'arc and her niece Kathy

Aunt Joan stands next to my Mom Jacqueline, who is holding her well-wrapped three-week-old niece and godchild Kathy. The photo was taken outside of Joan’s home on 9 June 1968. That’s the day when Katherine Anne, first child of Lino and Jeanne d’arc (Joan), was baptised at Sacred Heart RC Church in Timmins. Kathy’s godparents were her maternal aunt Jackie and her paternal uncle Rino.

I love the 1960s fashion. Mom and Aunt Joan wear a single-strand pearl necklace, Mom has gloves and I’m sure Joan did too, although we can’t see them in this picture.

My sister Marianne and I probably attended our new cousin’s baptism ceremony and the small family get-together afterwards, but I don’t have any memories of the day.

The photo was in Kathy’s family album and she let me scan it when I visited her in May 2014. It’s a touching memento of her with my Mom as her godmother.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

The 1921 Census of Canada and My Ancestors

A few weeks ago, I wrote an article about my ancestors who appeared on the 1901 census of Canada. Today – 1 June 2016 – is the 95th anniversary of the 1921 Census of Canada. I decided to see which ancestors appear on that census, the most recent one publicly available. Here is what I found.


My grandmother Juliette Beauvais was 19 years old (she turned 20 at the end of the month) on the census. [1] She is on line no. 34 in the image below. Juliette and her parents Joseph, a farmer, and Olivine lived in Hartwell (now Chénéville), Quebec. All the family members were born in Quebec according to the census, including elder son Oscar, although he was born in Tupper Lake, New York, USA. The family was French, Canadian, and Roman Catholic. Juliette and some of her brothers could read and write, but their parents could not. They all spoke French; no one could speak English.
Juliette Beauvais on 1921 census of Canada
Juliette Beauvais with her family on the 1921 census of Canada (Ancestry)

Joseph owned his home (it was not rented). He, his wife and their fourteen children lived in a four-room single-family house of wood. The enumerator visited and counted the family on 24 June 1921, although the official enumeration date was 1 June 1921.


My great-great-grandfather Joseph Léveillé was 81 years old on the census. [2] He and his wife Cordélia lived with their younger daughter Adélaïde in South Indian (now Limoges), Ontario. Joseph and Cordélia were born in the province of Quebec, while Adélaïde was born in the province of Ontario. They were French, Canadian, and Roman Catholic. Joseph was a farmer on his own farm and Adélaïde was the family’s housekeeper. Joseph spoke English and French, but he couldn’t read or write.
Joseph Leveille on 1921 census of Canada
Joseph Léveillé with his family on the 1921 census of Canada (Ancestry)

Joseph owned his four-room single-family house constructed of wood. The enumerator seems to have neglected to date the form, but the official census day was 1 June 1921.

Other Ancestors

• Grandparents: Julie Vanasse and Eugène Desgroseilliers; both lived in the province of Quebec.

• Great-grandparents: Pierre Belair, Olivier and Elisabeth (Vanasse) Vanasse, Albert and Clémentine (Léveillé) Desgroseilliers, and Joseph and Olivine (Hotte) Beauvais. Albert and Clémentine lived in the province of Ontario, while the others lived in the province of Quebec.

• Great-great-grandparents: Cordélia (Racette) Léveillé, widow Arline (Deschatelets) Beauvais, and widower Louis Hotte. Cordélia lived in Ontario, while Arline and Louis lived in Quebec.

Ancestor Not Found

Living, but missing from the census is my grandfather Fred Belair.

Some Census Statistics

• 13,000 enumerators were required, including war veterans and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
• The information on the forms “were transferred to punch cards and tabulated by machines”.
• There were five schedules (population, agriculture, animals […] not on farms, manufacturing and trade, and a supplemental schedule for the blind and deaf-mutes) and 565 questions. [3]


1. 1921 census of Canada, Hartwell and Preston (Township), Labelle, Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict 2, p. 23, dwelling 195, household 195, Joseph Beauvais family (written as Joseph Beauvais, indexed as Joseph Beavens); digital image, ( : accessed 25 May 2016); citing Sixth Census of Canada, 1921, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Series RG31, Statistics Canada Fonds.

2. 1921 census of Canada, Cambridge (Township), Russell, Ontario, population schedule, subdistrict 3, p. 9, dwelling 70, household 70, Joseph Leveille [sic] family; digital image, ( : accessed 25 May 2016); citing Sixth Census of Canada, 1921, Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, Series RG31, Statistics Canada Fonds.

3. Dave Obee, Counting Canada: A Genealogical Guide to the Canadian Census, by Dave Obee (Victoria, BC: Dave Obee, 2012), 163.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday’s Obituary: David Venasse

David Venasse obituary

Great-uncle David was my grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair’s youngest brother. Some of the family spelled their last name Vanasse, others spelled it Venasse.

David, the eighth of nine children of Olivier and Elizabeth (Vanasse) Vanasse, was born on 3 May 1903 on Ile des Allumettes, Pontiac County, Quebec. He married Louise St-Martin in June 1929 and they adopted a son, Glen.

I don’t think I ever met David or Louise, but my Dad used to talk about his Uncle Dave to me.

A resident of Pembroke, Ontario, David passed away of cancer on 28 May 1979 in Queensway-Carleton Hospital in nearby Ottawa, Ontario. [1] His funeral took place three days later in Petawawa, just north of Pembroke, and he was interred in Chapeau on Ile des Allumettes. [2]

David’s death was a great blow to his wife Louise and to his surviving sisters Celia and Agnes, who were devoted to their brother.


1. Agnes (Vanasse) Burchill (Ottawa, Ontario) to “Dear Joan”, letter, 1 June 1979; privately held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2016. Yvonne received assorted family memorabilia, including this letter, from her aunt Joan (Belair) Laneville when she visited her home in May 2014. Joan was Agnes’ niece.

2. “Venasse”, obituary, undated clipping, 1979, from unidentified newspaper; privately held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2016. Yvonne received assorted family memorabilia, including this obituary, from her aunt Joan (Belair) Laneville when she visited her home in May 2014. Joan, David’s niece, received it from his sister Agnes (Vanasse) Burchill in a letter to Joan dated 1 June 1979.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Your Ancestor’s Occupations

It’s Saturday, and Randy over at Genea-Musings has issued his weekly challenge to his readers.

Tonight’s challenge is “Your Ancestor’s Occupations”. Randy explains that:

1) Geneablogger Diane Gould Hall posted WORKDAY WEDNESDAY – What kind of work did your ancestors do? on her Michigan Family Trails blog last year, and I thought the topic could be used as an SNGF post.
2) Please go back several generations (say parents or grandparents or great-grandparents) and list the occupations that they had in the records you've found for them. You could do this, say, by ancestor table number.
3) Tell us about it in your own blog post, in a comment on this blog post, or in a post on Facebook or Google+.

My ancestors had the following occupations:

My Parents

2. Maurice Belair (1927-1996):

• 1940s: bushworker

ca 1952-1979: welder
• 1954: pipefitter (his marriage registration)
• 1979-1996: trucker (road builder)

3. Jacqueline Desgroseilliers (living):

• 1948, 1950s, 1980s: waitress

ca 1967: meat clerk at A&P
ca 1970: Avon sales rep

My Grandparents

3. Fred Belair (1889-1991):

• 1910s: laborer
ca 1921-1922: railroad work (perhaps as fireman)
• 1926: bridge builder (his marriage registration)
• 1927: iron worker (his son’s birth registration)
ca 1931: construction worker
ca 1932: garage owner
ca 1933: grocery store operator
• 1935: farmer
• 1930s-1950s: bushworker
ca 1942: mine painter

4. Julie Vanasse (1896-1967):

• 1920s, 1950s: domestic in private homes
• 1940s: cook in lumber camps

5. Eugène Desgroseilliers (1900-1960):

• 1925: farmer (his marriage registration)
ca 1927-1940: chief of police
• 1940: guard at Nobel dynamite factory
• 1940s-1950s: carpenter

6. Juliette Beauvais (1901-1948):

• housework (life)

My Great-Grandparents

8. Pierre Belair (1851-1941):

• farmer (life)
• 1884: landowner (his godchild’s baptism record)

9. Angélina Meunier (1855-1896):

• housework (life)

10. Olivier Vanasse (1863-1944):

• farmer (life) (his obituary)

11. Elisabeth Vanasse (1862-1947):

• housework (life)

12. Albert Desgroseilliers (1879-1957):

• farmer (life)

13. Clémentine Léveillé (1878-1969):

• housework (life)

14. Joseph Beauvais (1877-1937):

• 1901: lumberjack (1901 census)
• 1911: farmer and lumberjack (1911 census)
• 1937: farmer (his death registration)

15. Olivine Hotte (1877-1926):

• housework (life)

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Friday’s Faces from the Past: Madeleine and Jacqueline Desgroseilliers

Madeleine and Jacqueline Desgroseilliers

This lovely, if somewhat damaged, photo is of my mother Jacqueline (left) and her elder sister Madeleine (sitting, centre).

Both girls were tall for their age. Mom appears to be 7-8 years old, while Madeleine is about 11-12 years old. If so, then the picture is from 1940-1941.

The location is a mystery, but since the Desgroseilliers family lived in Parry Sound, Sudbury, and Blue Water (near Sarnia), Ontario, in the early 1940s, it’s likely to be one of those places.

I don’t know who the three little ones are; could they be cousins or are they neighbors’ children?

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Workday Wednesday: Maurice Belair, Bushworker

1945 List of Electors
Rural Preliminary List of Electors, 1945 (Ancestry)

I knew that my late father, Maurice Belair, worked in bush camps as a young man, but I didn’t know the details. I recently called my Aunt Joan (Dad’s younger sister) to see if she could fill in the blanks for me. We had a nice, long chat that lasted about an hour. Aunt Joan remembered how, during the summer school holidays, Dad used to follow his father Fred into the camps to work. When Dad left school (I think it was grade 7 or 8) about 1940-1941, he started to work full-time in the bush. Before he left home, his mother Julie prepared him a ‘goodie’ bag (sort of like what a hobo carries on a stick) to take with him. Dad was only 13 years old.

In the spring of 1945, Dad appeared on a voters’ list as “M. Belair”. He was a bushworker in Camp 49 in the township of Cumming near Kapuskasing, in northern Ontario, Canada. [1] He’s no. 3 on the list of mostly French-Canadian men. (Dad was only 17½ years old at the time, so I’m not sure if he should have been on that voting list.) I had a vague idea of what ‘bushworker’ meant, but Aunt Joan told me that Dad did a young man’s work: he drove horses and cut wood.

Maurice Belair in 1945
Maurice Belair (1945)

Dad must have been a thrifty fellow when he worked in the bush camps. In the above photo, taken in the winter of 1945, he’s dressed in good winter clothes that he bought with his wages.

For the next few years, Dad worked in logging camps, in mills and in mines in places like Matheson, Kirkland Lake and Haileybury in northeastern Ontario. He eventually became a welder after he moved to Blue Water, near Sarnia in southwestern Ontario in the early 1950s. (I’ve written about that occupation in Workday Wednesday: Maurice Belair, Welder.)


1. “Voters Lists, 1935-1980”, digital images, ( : accessed 3 March 2016), entry for M. Belair (written as M. Belair, indexed as M Bushworkcr Belair), bushworker, 1945 Rural Preliminary List of Electors, Electoral District of Cochrane, Rural Polling Division No. 210, Camp 35 [and] 49, Township of Cumming, stamped p. 1228; citing Voters Lists, Federal Elections, 1935–1980, R1003-6-3-E (RG113-B), Library and Archives Canada, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Church Record Sunday: Françoise Paquet’s 1731 Burial Record

Two hundred and eighty-five years ago, my 7x maternal great-grandmother Françoise Paquet dite Lavallée died on or about 22 February 1731. [1] A pious and Christian woman, according to her parish priest, she died in peculiar circumstances.

Francoise Paquet 1731 burial record
Françoise Paquet burial record (Ancestry)

First, some background. One of fourteen children of Isaac (Etienne) Paquet dit Lavallée, a French-born soldier, by his wife Elisabeth (Isabelle) Meunier, Françoise was born on 23 November 1682 in St-Laurent on Ile d’Orléans. [2]

Shortly before her twenty-first birthday, Françoise married Charles Lacasse on 12 September 1703 in Beaumont, a village on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River across from Quebec City. [3] The couple had ten children, including Jean Baptiste (1713-1792), my ancestor.

In early December 1730, Charles and Françoise’s 19-year-old son Charles died. [4] His burial record does not state the cause of death, but his passing must have been a great loss to his parents.

On 22 February 1731, Françoise flees from her home in an impaired mental state. The nearby woods are searched, but Françoise is not located. Could her son’s death have precipitated an emotional crisis and led her to lose her reason?

A few weeks later, a young girl looking for domestic animals that had wandered into the forest happened across Françoise’s body. She appeared to have succumbed to the cold weather or from lack of food. Her funeral took place on 23 May 1731 in St-Etienne parish church in Beaumont.

Françoise’s burial record (above) reads in French:

Le ving et trois de may de l’an mil sept cent trente / et un a eté inhumé le corps de françoise paquet dit / Lavallée agée d’environ cinquante cinq ans morte le / vingt et deux du mois de février a ce que nous présumons / qui est le jour que [la dite] femme de Charles Lacasse de / cette paroisse s’est enfuie de chez elle étant privée / de l’usage de ses sens, et qu’on a lieu de croire quelle est / morte ce jour la du froid ou de la faim; elle a été / trouvée par une fille cherchant des bestiaux La vie / quelle a menée nous fait esperaie que Le Seigneur Luy / a fait misericorde ayant vécû en bon exemple et / piété; [La dite] inhumation a eté faite en presence de Jacques / Fournier et de Joachim moleur qui ont declaré ne / savoir signer de ce enquis Suivant l’ordonnance
[signed J. Chasle ptre]

My English translation:

The twenty and three of may of the year one thousand seven hundred thirty / and one was interred the body of françoise paquet dit / Lavallée aged about fifty five years died the / twenty and two of the month of February to which we presume / was the day when the said spouse of Charles Lacasse of / this parish had run away from home being deprived / of the use of her senses, and we are led to believe that she / died that day of frost or of starvation; she was found by a girl looking for farm animals The life / that she led leads us to hope that The Lord has / show mercy [for she] had lived in good example and / piety; The said interrement was done in the presence of Jacques / Fournier and of Joachim moleur who declared they / could not sign [their names] [burial record read aloud for approval] according to regulations
[signed J. Chasle priest]

Parish priests do not ordinarily give so much information about a parishioner’s demise in a burial record. Father Chasle obviously felt compelled to document as fully as possible the circumstances of Françoise’s death. I am grateful for his attention to detail.


1. St-Etienne (Beaumont, Quebec), parish register, 1731, p. 4 recto, no entry no., Françoise Paquet burial, 23 May 1731; St-Etienne parish; digital images, “Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967”, ( : accessed 19 April 2016).

2. “Dictionnaire”, database, Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) ( : accessed 20 April 2016), Isaac Etienne Paquet Lavallee – Elisabeth Isabelle Meunier, Famille no. 3173.

3. Cyprien Tanguay, Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes, 7 vols (1871–1890, reprint, Montréal: Editions Elysée, 1991), II: 575.

4. “Dictionnaire”, database, Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH) ( : accessed 19 April 2016), Charles Lacasse – Marie Francoise Paquet Lavallee, Famille no. 85852.

Copyright © 2016, Yvonne Demoskoff.