Friday, August 28, 2015

Friday’s Faces from the Past: Jackie and Julie

Jacqueline Desgroseilliers Belair with her niece Julie in 1963

My mother Jacqueline (Desgroseilliers) Belair with her niece Julie, taken in Sarnia, Ontario in the summer of 1963. (That’s Mom’s handwriting on the photo.)

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Friday’s Faces from the Past: Bill and Ann Demoskoff

Bill and Ann Demoskoff

This photo of my parents-in-law, Bill and Ann (Cazakoff) Demoskoff, was taken in the early 1950s. I’m not sure where they are (there’s no info on the back of the picture except for their names), but the house in the background might be Ann’s parents’ home in St. Philips RM near Kamsack, Saskatchewan, Canada.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: Eugene and Juliette

Eugene and Juliette Desgroseilliers on their wedding day in 1925

Eugene and Juliette (Beauvais) Desgroseilliers on their wedding day – 90 years ago – on 18 August 1925 in Moonbeam, Ontario, Canada. This photo might be the only extant picture of that occasion.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

52 Ancestors 2015: #33 – Philorome Desgroseilliers, asylum patient

I’m participating in “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: 2015 Edition” by Amy Johnson Crow of No Story too Small.

For the 33rd week of this challenge, I used the optional weekly theme (Defective, Dependent, & Delinquent) to feature a distant cousin of mine, Philorome Desgroseilliers.

The terms defective, dependent, and delinquent are classifications found on a special schedule of the 1880 U.S. census. They refer to people who were blind, prisoners, insane, and such. (For more information, see Amy’s post, Do You Have a Defective Ancestor?)

I don’t think there was an equivalent special schedule on Canadian censuses, but similar terms appear on our censuses.

Philorome was born on 25 August 1873 in the province of Quebec. [1] Son of Michel and Odile (Marchand) Desgroseilliers, he had at least seven brothers and seven sisters. Philorome and my maternal great-grandfather Albert Desgroseilliers (who I don’t believe knew each other) were second cousins.

On the 1881, 1891, and 1901 censuses, Philorome is enumerated with his parents and siblings. On the first census, he is 8 years old and does not attend school, unlike his 11-year-old sister Mélina. [2] On the second census, on which he is 18 years old, he does not have an occupation, but can read and write. [3] On the third census, he is 27 years old, unmarried, works as a day labourer, and can read and write. [4]

I noticed that no infirmities are reported for Philorome on these three censuses; he was not “Deaf and Dumb”, “Blind”, or “Unsound of Mind”. However, something happened between 1901 and 1904, because on 30 June 1904, he entered or was admitted to St-Jean de Dieu, a large psychiatric care hospital, in Longue-Pointe, in east Montreal. [5] He was almost 31 years old.

St-Jean de Dieu asylum in Montreal
St-Jean de Dieu in 1875

The hospital, known in English as St-Jean de Dieu Lunatic Asylum, was founded in 1873 under the care of the Congregation of the Sisters of Providence. (The hospital was renamed Hôpital Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine in 1976.)

Philorome appears as a patient of St-Jean de Dieu on the 1911 and 1921 censuses. On the first census, he is 38 years old, single, and has no occupation. [6] On the second census, he is 48 years old, single, speaks French, but not English, can read and write, and his occupation is “journalier” (day labourer). [7]

I lose track of Philorome after the 1921 census. I don’t know when or where he died.


Image source: Archives de la Ville de Montréal. Asile Saint-jean-de-Dieu, 1875. VM006, S10.

1. 1901 Census of Canada, Beauharnois, Beauharnois, Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict A-3, p. 10, family 98, Philor[ome] Desgroselliers (written as Philor[ome] Desgroselliers, indexed as Philomin Dosporelliae); digital image, ( : accessed 18 August 2015); citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1901, no microfilm no. cited.

2. 1881 Census of Canada, St Louis de Gonzague, Beauharnois, Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict E, p. 15, family 65, Philorum Desgroseillers [sic]; digital image, ( : accessed 18 August 2015); citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1881, microfilm C-13207.

3. 1891 Census of Canada, St Louis de Gonzague, Beauharnois, Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict 139, p. 7, family 31, Philorome Desgrosellier (written as Philorome Desgrosellier, indexed as Fhilorowe Desgroseiller); digital image, ( : accessed 18 August 2015); citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1891, microfilm T-6387.

4. 1901 Census of Canada, Beauharnois, Beauharnois, Quebec, pop. sch., subd. A-3, p. 10, fam. 98, Philor[ome] Desgroselliers.

5. 1911 Census of Canada, Longue Pointe, Laval, Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict 22, p. 25, Philoriom Desgrosseilliers (written as Philoriom Desgrosseilliers, indexed as Phelorum Desgrossulliers); digital image, ( : accessed 18 August 2015); citing Library and Archives Canada, Census of Canada, 1911, no microfilm no. cited. The enumerator did not record anyone’s date of birth (month and year) in columns 8 and 9. Also, the date on which a patient was admitted is entered in columns 11 and 12 (year of birth and year of immigration).

6. 1911 Census of Canada, Longue Pointe, Laval, Quebec, pop. sch., subd. 22, p. 25, Philoriom Desgrosseilliers.

7. 1921 Census of Canada, Mercier and Maisonneuve Ward, Montreal (Maisonneuve), Quebec, population schedule, subdistrict 16, p. 15 Philor[ome] Desgroseilliers (written as Philor[ome] Desgroseilliers, indexed as Philomon Desgroseilliers); digital image, ( : accessed 18 August 2015); citing Library and Archives Canada, Sixth Census of Canada, 1921, no microfilm no. cited.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Military Monday: Ovide Desgroseilliers, WWI Sergeant

I read today in Canada's Anglo-Celtic Connections that more World War I service files have been uploaded at Library and Archives Canada, so I decided to see if some of my distant Desgroseilliers relatives’ files were among them. I was pleasantly surprised to see that Ovide’s file was finally online. He was the youngest brother of my maternal great-grandfather Albert Desgroseilliers (1879-1957).

After a quick read, here are some highlights of my great-great-uncle Ovide’s file (34 images):

Name: Ovide Desgrosseilliers (index) / Ovide Desgrossiellier (his signature).

Birth date and place: 26 April 1884 Embrun, Ontario, Canada.

Height: 5’ 7”.

Marital status: Wife (Anna Maurice) and two young children (Carmel and Guy).

Enlistment date and place: 3 April 1916 Sturgeon Falls, Ontario, Canada.

Previous military service: 3 years, 97th Regiment.

Rank: Promoted from Private to Sergeant on 1 May 1916.

Battalion: 163rd Battalion (F.C.) C.E.F.

Theatre of war: Arrived in Bermuda on 29 May 1916. He remained there until his discharge a few months later, and was never sent to the Western Front (France).

Discharge: He was deemed “medically unfit for further service” and discharged on 22 November 1916 (presumably due to a condition known as orchitis).

For more information about Canadian WWI service files, read the introductory articles and then search the soldiers' database. Note that the digitisation of these files is an-ongoing project. LAC states on its website that: “As of today, 181,338 of 640,000 files are available in the database. Latest box digitized—box: #2490, name: Devos.”

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sunday’s Obituary: Clement Potvin

Obituary of Clement Potvin

“Uncle Clem” was my father’s maternal uncle. He married Cecilia (Celia) Vanasse, an elder sister of Dad’s mother Julie, in June 1921.

A man of slight build, Clem was a quiet person. I remember my family's visits to Ottawa in the 1970s and how we'd always find him happy. Uncle Clem didn’t say much, but he always had a smile on his face.

He died on 20 August 1987, age 92, less than a year after Celia passed away. They are interred in Notre-Dame Cemetery in Ottawa.


“Clement Potvin”, obituary, undated clipping (1987), from unidentified newspaper; Demoskoff Family Papers, privately held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2014. Yvonne received the original clipping from her Aunt Joan (Belair) Laneville when she visited her home in May 2014.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Christening Gown

This christening gown is my family’s most precious heirloom. It’s been in our possession for eighty-eight years, ever since my father Maurice wore it at his baptism on 9 August 1927. (I wrote about that event in Church Record Sunday: Maurice Belair’s Baptism Record.)

Belair family christening gown
Christening gown (top dress)

Dress Specifications


The gown and its original pieces were store-bought by my paternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair or given to her as a gift before the birth of her first child. She and my grandfather Fred lived in Ottawa, Ontario in the 1920s, so it’s reasonable to think that the gown was purchased in that city. There aren’t any labels or tags to identify the retailer or manufacturer. My father, his sisters and his brother were baptised in the gown. Later, Dad’s sister Joan used the gown for her children and some of her grandchildren. I wore it, too, and so did my sister and my brother. My sister, who used it for her children, sent me the gown in the late 1980s. After my son’s baptism in 1992, I took the gown to a professional cleaner in Vancouver, British Columbia, who cleaned it and placed it in an heirloom box. In February 2006, I lent the gown to my nephew for his son’s baptism. The gown has been stored in my home since that time.


The gown’s lightweight fabric appears to be fine cotton, voile, or gauze. The heavier-weight cape or cloak might be batiste, muslin, or linen.


All the pieces are in good, but delicate condition. There is some slight yellowing at the neckline of the gown’s top dress, with a very small spot of what might be rust just below the left sleeve of the top dress.

Belair family christening gown
Christening gown (top dress), detail


I think I have all the gown’s original components. The full-length gown (what I call a top dress) features a high waist, round neckline, short sleeves, a deep scalloped hem, and a button-back closure. Next is a sleeveless slip (or liner or under-dress) with sections of insertion lace, a scalloped hem, and two small white buttons on the back. There’s also a little cap or bonnet, possibly in satin, in ivory or champagne colour. The last piece is a full-length cape or cloak in off-white with a ruffled attached collar and a self-tie at the neckline. In 1958, my Mom added a white knit baby shawl. I bought a new cap in 1992 (the original one was too fragile to wear) and a white eyelet cushion on which to carry my son.

Nicholas at his christening

Beautiful memories of a treasured heirloom.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Travel Tuesday: Our 1972 Summer Vacation

My family rarely went away on vacation during summers when I was growing up, but in the summer of 1972 we did. Dad, a welder, worked in the Cobalt-New Liskeard area, southeast of Timmins, Ontario, where we lived. He and his co-worker friend, Normand Gaudreau, sub-let an apartment during their time away from home.

Cobalt Ontario
Cobalt, Ontario*

* Photo credit: By P199 (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

I’m not sure who first suggested the idea, but it was decided that Mom, my sister, my little brother, and myself would go stay with Dad for a while at his apartment and at a cottage. I don’t have any memories of that time, but I see that I entered a mention of it in the diary I kept in those days.

A month later, we went back to that rented cottage. Dad worked during the day and spent his nights and weekends with us. None of us liked being parted from him (he often worked away from home), so being reunited, even for a short while, was a treat. There doesn’t seem to be any photos of this vacation (at least none that have survived in our photo albums), but I still have some notes from my diary about our two-week stay at Portage Bay.

The campground and cottages are situated on the Montreal River, a little to the west of Cobalt, where the red dot is on the image below. (Timmins is the black rectangle on the image.)

Map of Ontario Canada
Map of Ontario, Canada*

Image credit: By NordNordWest [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons.

Our cottage, a log cabin, was a housekeeping unit. It had some supplies like furniture, dishes, and bedding, but we had to bring our own towels and other necessities. It had two or maybe three bedrooms, a kitchen-living room, and (thankfully) had electricity and indoor plumbing. I asked my cousin Pauline to come with us, who is almost the same age as me and my sister. We also had Lady, our new German Shepherd-cross with us. (I recently wrote about her in Friday’s Faces from the Past: Our Dog Lady). One day, she came across a skunk and got sprayed by it. Someone at the camp said wash her in tomato juice, so Mom went to the grocery store to buy a few cans. The juice didn’t help and only made Lady smell like skunky tomato juice.

Three days after we arrived at the cottage, Aunt Madeleine, Uncle René, and three of their children spent a few hours with us. Two days later, Mom’s other sisters Simone and Jeanne d’arc, with some of their children (my cousins Bobby, Suzanne and Kathy) also spent the day at our cottage.

One night, all the cottagers had a marshmallow roast. On another occasion, Dad took me to “The Highway Bookshop” in Cobalt. He had previously been there and, knowing my love of books and reading, wanted me to see the store. Dad was impressed with the amount of books the store had and how easily the staff retrieved any book he’d ask for from the seemingly endless rows of shelves. I treated myself to two books: The Song of Bernadette (in hardcover) and The Diary of Anne Frank (in paperback), each only 75 cents. (I still have those books today.) On one of Dad’s day off, we went to the Earlton Air Show and then drove to Notre-Dame-du-Nord, St-Bruno-de-Guigues, and Ville-Marie, small, Francophone communities just across the border in Quebec. One of the nicest things about being at the cottage was sitting with Dad by the water in the evenings. It was here that I saw an Arctic Loon for the first time and heard its distinctive, haunting call.

That summer vacation was one of the best two weeks of our lives.

Copyright © 2015, Yvonne Demoskoff.