|Fred Belair's baptism record*|
My paternal grandfather Fred Belair always maintained that he was born on 18 December 1889. I had no reason to doubt him; after all, he should know, shouldn’t he?
One summer in the 1980s, I visited my Pépère Fred’s hometown of Ste-Cécile-de-Masham in Gatineau County, Quebec. While there, I took the opportunity to do some research in the local Roman Catholic church’s sacramental registers. I looked for my Pépère’s baptism record on or about December 18th, but didn’t locate it. I searched a few pages before and after that date, but only found the record when I went as far back as December 1st. That’s when I found entry no. B.81 for Jean-Baptiste-Ménésippe Bélair. I knew I had the right person, because my grandfather’s real name was Ménésippe. But I couldn’t believe my eyes when I read the date of birth – 26 Novembre dernier (26 November last). My goodness! My grandfather was, according to this document, born in late November, not in mid-December.
My grandfather Fred once told me that his baptism record was incorrect, because a fire had destroyed the church’s records. But, during my visit, I asked the secretary if there ever was a fire at Ste-Cécile’s. She told me, yes, there had been a fire a long time ago, but that the records were saved.
I wasn’t about to argue this point with my beloved Pépère. He was in his 90s, by then, and had celebrated his birthday on December 18th for as long as my family could remember, that it didn’t matter too much on what day he was born.
* Source: Ste-Cécile-de-Masham (Ste-Cécile-de-Masham, Quebec), parish register, 1887-1898, p. 42 recto, entry no. B.81 (1889), Jean-Baptiste-Ménésippe Bélair baptism, 1 December 1889; Ste-Cécile-de-Masham parish; digital image, “Quebec Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 30 July 2007).
Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.