Monday, February 03, 2014

A Day in My Ancestor’s Life – Julie (Vanasse) Belair

I got the idea for this blog article when I read the tip of the day for 18 November 2013 at Genealogy Tip of the Day.

The object of the exercise is to:

“Pick a day in your ancestor's life. Try and answer the following questions as of that date:

• Where was my ancestor living?
• Who was in his (her) household?
• What was the ancestor's occupation?
• What was the ancestor's age?
• What was going on nationally on this date (at this point in time)?
• What was going on locally/regionally?
• Were my ancestor's parents alive?
• Were my ancestor's siblings alive?
• Where would he (she) have gone to church the previous Sunday?
• Who were my ancestor's neighbors?

I picked 2 August 1927, the day my grandmother Julie gave birth to my father. It was a Tuesday. [1] The forecast was mostly fine, with moderate winds. [2] The average temperature was 15.6 C, with a low of 9.4C and a high of 21.7C. [3]

Julie Belair and Almina Lapierre
Julie (right), who was expecting my father, with her sister-in-law Almina (1927)

• Where was my ancestor living?

Julie and husband Fred lived in Ottawa, Carleton County, Ontario, Canada. Their home was located at 62 Lloyd Street. [4] My grandfather never made big wages, so he and Julie likely lived in an apartment. Lloyd Street was in the working-class neighborhood known as LeBreton Flats, located near the downtown core, west of the Parliament Buildings and south of the Ottawa River.

Aerial view of Ottawa Canada
Aerial view of Ottawa (1927)

• Who was in his (her) household?

There were at least two people in the household, Julie and Fred. I don’t know if they lived by themselves or shared accommodations.

• What was the ancestor’s occupation?

My grandmother didn't work outside of the home at the time of my father’s birth. If she worked at “other than household duties”, it would have been noted on the birth registration form. [5]

• What was the ancestor's age?

Julie was 30 years old. (She turned 31 at the end of the month.)

• What was going on nationally on this date (at this point in time)?

Canada was celebrating the diamond anniversary of its Confederation (1867-1927).

• What was going on locally/regionally?

HRH the Prince of Wales (the future King Edward VIII, later Duke of Windsor) and his younger brother HRH Prince George, were visiting Canada. “Thousands of citizens” gathered on Parliament Hill and gave them an “exceedingly cordial welcome” on their arrival in Ottawa on Tuesday, 2 August 1927. [6]

Also, the third World’s Poultry Congress was on its second-to-last day. The well-attended event at Lansdowne Park showcased poultry and educational exhibits, and featured international speakers from countries like Canada, USA, Italy, Germany and Egypt. [7]

• Were my ancestor's parents alive?

Both my Dad’s parents were alive.

• Were my ancestor's siblings alive?

Dad was his parents’ first-born child, so, he didn’t yet have siblings.

• Where would he (she) have gone to church the previous Sunday?

Julie probably attended Sunday mass at St-Jean-Baptiste church, located at the corner of Empress and Primrose streets. It was probably her local parish, because that’s where she married the previous October, and where my father was baptised a week after he was born. St-Jean-Baptiste had served the French-Canadian community of the LeBreton neighborhood since 1872. Sunday mass might have been said by curé Bernard Doucet, O.P. [8]

• Who were my ancestor's neighbors?

I don’t know who my grandmother’s neighbors were. (I don’t have access to a 1927 city directory to Ottawa, but I hope to find one some day.) Based on where she lived in LeBreton Flats, though, many were probably from the same background: working folk, French-Canadian, and Roman Catholic.

Some Thoughts

I wonder how my grandmother Julie spent the last few days before my father’s birth? Did she spend some of her time viewing the poultry exhibits at Lansdowne Park (all that walking might not have been a good idea during her last trimester)? Would she have preferred listening to the band of the Governor-General’s Foot Guards who performed on Parliament Hill that Sunday afternoon? [9] Or, did she spend her time quietly at home, making sure she had all she needed for her baby’s layette and her hospital stay? [10]

Sources:

Image of Ottawa: Canada. Dept. of Mines and Technical Surveys / Library and Archives Canada / PA-015557.

1. “Perpetual Calendar”, infoplease (http://www.infoplease.com/calendar.php : accessed 31 January 2014).

2. “Record and Forecast of the Weather”, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 2 August 1927, p. 1; digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 31 January 2014), Newspapers & Publications Records.

3. “Historical Climate Data”, Climate – Government of Canada (http://climate.weather.gc.ca/ : accessed 31 January 2014), “Ottawa”.

4. Ontario, birth registration, no. 1927-05-020795 (1927), Maurice Melvin Belair; Office of the Registrar General, Thunder Bay.

5. Ontario, birth registration, no. 1927-05-020795 (1927), Maurice Melvin Belair.

6. “Great Throngs Loudly Acclaim Notable Guests”, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 2 August 1927, p. 1; digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 31 January 2014), Newspapers & Publications Records.

7. “Women Speak to Poultry Men Today’s Session”, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 2 August 1927, p. 1; digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 31 January 2014), Newspapers & Publications Records.

8. “Historique”, Paroisse St-Jean-Baptiste (http://www.stjeanbaptiste.ca/ : accessed 31 January 2014).

9. “Guards’ Concert Greatly Enjoyed”, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 1 August 1927, p. 4; digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 31 January 2014), Newspapers & Publications Records.

10. Ontario, birth registration, no. 1927-05-020795 (1927), Maurice Melvin Belair. The physician in attendance was J. M. Laframboise, MD, so my grandmother presumably had her baby in a hospital. (The hospital’s name does not appear on the registration form.)

Copyright © 2014, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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