Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

Christmas tree

From my house to yours:

a very Merry Christmas to my family, friends, and blog readers!


Thursday, December 20, 2012

Thankful Thursday: My Family

With Christmas so close (just 5 more ‘sleeps’), I wanted to say how thankful I am for my family. My incredible husband, our terrific son, my wonderful Mom, my artistic sister, my happy-go-lucky baby brother, my brother-in-law and sister-in-law, my niece, nephew and great-nephew – you mean the world to me and I cherish all of you!

In a few days, we will be together on Christmas, and I already know that’s the best gift I’m going to receive that day!

Belair Family Gathering 2010

Gabriel and daughter Natalie

Love and hugs to you all!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

In Memoriam: Fred Belair

Today – December 18 – marks the 123rd anniversary of my paternal grandfather Fred Belair’s birth. Although his baptismal record states that he was born on 26 November 1889, my Pépère Fred once told me that he didn’t believe he was born in November and that someone at the church must have written an incorrect day and month of birth on his baptismal record. Years later, December 18th would be a very special day for my family for three reasons: it was my grandfather's birthday, my parents' wedding anniversary (they married on December 18, 1954) and my younger sister's birthday (born on December 18, 1960).

Born and baptised in Sainte-Cécile-de-Masham, Gatineau County, Quebec, Canada, Fred was the seventh child and fifth son of his parents Pierre and Angélina (Meunier) Belair. He received the names “Jean-Baptiste Ménésippe” at his baptism in the local parish church. Although he used either of his baptismal names as a child and young adult, he preferred to be known as Fred as an adult.

In the summer of 1896, Fred suffered a tragedy when his mother died a few days after giving birth to her eleventh child, a son Joseph who lived two days. His mother Angélina was only 41 years old. With seven surviving children, widower Pierre remarried within a year of his wife’s passing. Fred’s father and new stepmother Mathilde had five children, two sons and three daughters. (After Mathilde died in 1923, Pierre married a third time, to widow Rosalie Lavictoire.)

About 1911, Fred left home to seek work as a labourer in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, USA. During World War I, Fred worked in a munitions factory. During the 1910s and 1920s, Fred also worked in the shipyards of Wisconsin and Minnesota and on the railroad in Canada. He was employed as an ironworker for the Dominion Bridge Company in Montreal in the late 1920s-early 1930s. Later, in the 1940s, Fred was a cook in lumber camps in northern Ontario, Canada.

Fred and Julie Belair on their wedding day 1926
Fred and Julie Belair on their wedding day, 1926.

In October 1926, Fred married Julie Vanasse in Ottawa. They met through his half-sister Almina Belair, who was one of Julie’s friends. After their wedding, Fred and Julie settled in a part of Ottawa known as LeBreton Flats, which was a poor working area west of the city centre. While here, their first child, Maurice, was born in August 1927. Later, another son and two daughters completed the family unit.

Fred and his family lived in many places in the 1930s and 1940s, including Timmins, Ontario and Blue Water, near Sarnia, Ontario. After they returned to Timmins in the 1950s, Fred retired and he and Julie settled in a small apartment. After Julie passed away in March 1967, Fred continued to live in their one-bedroom home. It wasn’t until advanced old age that he moved to Peterborough, Ontario to live with his daughter Darlene.

In October 1989, Fred’s family and friends gathered in Timmins to celebrate his 100th birthday.

Fred Belair with his children on his 100th birthday 1989
Fred with his children on his 100th birthday, 1989.

Fred died in Peterborough in January 1991; he was 101 years old. His funeral took place in Timmins, and he was interred next to his beloved Julie.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 16, 2012 - Christmas at School

What did you or your ancestors do to celebrate Christmas at school? Were you ever in a Christmas Pageant? (If you want to participate in blogging about Christmas and holiday-related topics, visit GeneaBloggers' Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.)

Christmas at school (elementary and high school) was a fun time. We would decorate our class, someone (the teacher or a student) would bring an artificial tree, and some years we'd even draw names and exchange simple, inexpensive presents. None of the schools I attended put on pageants, though.

One year, it might have been when I was in Kindergarten or Grade 1 or 2, some of my classmates and I were chosen to form a choir that would sing at that year’s Midnight Mass at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church in my hometown. (My school, St-Charles, was affiliated with Notre-Dame and any religious events like our First Communion, Confirmation and Masses were held there.)

It didn’t matter that our little group wasn’t the main choir (we joined our school’s older children, up to Grade 8) and that we’d sing only one or two songs. It was a thrill to be part of that select group. We little ones lent our voices at one of most special Masses of the year; we were allowed to be up late; and, probably best of all for me, we sang in Latin. (The hymns were in a mix of French, our first language, and the more traditional Latin.) I don’t remember practising the songs or what I wore or how I got to church that night, but I can still see myself sitting with the choir, amazed at the beauty, solemnity and ritual of that long-ago Mass.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Friday Photo: Michael and Christmas

Last week, I began a new column – Friday Photo – in which I share a favorite image on my blog and answer the “who, what, when, where and why” of the photo, then explain why it is my favorite. I got the idea from Amy Coffin’s ebook The Big Genealogy Blog Book, which I recently purchased. (You can read about Amy’s book at The We Tree Genealogy Blog.)

Michael decorating the Christmas tree about 1967
Michael, about 1967.

Michael, my husband, who’s about 14 years old.

He’s decorating his family’s Christmas tree.

The photo was taken in December, about 1967.

At his parents’ house in Kamsack, Saskatchewan.

It’s time to get ready for Christmas!

This is one of my favorite photos of Michael, because there aren’t any photos of him as a child or an adolescent at Christmas time except for this one.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 13, 2012 – Holiday Travel

Did you or your ancestors travel anywhere for Christmas? How did you travel and who traveled with you? Do you remember any special trips? (If you want to participate in blogging about Christmas and holiday-related topics, visit GeneaBloggers' Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012.)

When I was growing up, the only travel my family did during the Christmas holiday was visit our in-town relatives and friends during Réveillon after Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve (if Mom wasn’t hosting it at our place) and on Boxing Day (we would go to as many houses as we could until it was time for supper at one of my aunts’ homes).

The year after we moved to British Columbia from eastern Canada, my Dad decided that since we were now living on the west coast we would take a trip south for Christmas – to Disneyland and Las Vegas! This kind of trip would never have been possible when I was younger and living in Ontario (Dad rarely liked to travel far from the comforts of his home), but somehow Dad and Mom agreed that since we were so close to these places we just had to see what magic California and Nevada had to offer us.

I had mixed feelings about this two-week trip. On one hand, I didn’t want to leave my new boyfriend behind at home (my future husband Michael and I had been dating for only a few months), but on the other hand, I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing Disneyland and Las Vegas for the first time!

My parents made all the arrangements, borrowed my Uncle Ray’s camper, and picked up a few CAA/AAA tour books and guides (the kind that lists attractions, lodgings and restaurants). We also packed our suitcases, camera and film, food and supplies for the camper.

Yvonne and Raymond Belair with their camper 1980
Yvonne and Raymond (on the roof) of their camper, 1980.

We had an early Christmas celebration a couple of days before we left, since we wouldn’t be home for Christmas Day. Michael came over and we exchanged presents.

On December 14th, we were on the road – California, here we come! We travelled on Highway 5 (I-5) through Washington and Oregon states (with overnight stops) and then switched to the Pacific Coast Highway in northern California. We enjoyed breathtaking views of the Pacific Ocean and stood next to magnificent, giant sequoia in Redwood National Park.

Maurice Jacqueline and Raymond Belair near Crescent City California 1980
Maurice, Jacqueline and Raymond near Crescent City, California, 1980.

After a few hours in San Francisco, we made our way to Nevada. As we drove through the Mojave Desert one day, I saw a flash of movement on the side of the highway and realized I had just seen my first roadrunner!

We spent a couple of days in Las Vegas, where we stayed at Circus Circus hotel/casino/RV park. I had fun gambling (I had just turned 21 that summer), my younger brother enjoyed the animal shows, and my parents celebrated their 26th wedding anniversary.

Circus Circus casino clown sign at night in Las Vegas 1980
Circus Circus clown sign at night, Las Vegas, 1980.

When we got to Anaheim, we parked our camper a few blocks from Disneyland. We spent four days there seeing as many of the attractions as we could. We also toured Universal Studios, visited Knott’s Berry Farm, and spent a few hours in Tijuana.

On Christmas morning, we attended Mass at a Roman Catholic church in Anaheim. For a family who knew only cold and snow on Christmas, it was quite a shock to experience warm, sunny weather and palm trees that day.

Maurice and Raymond Belair with Alice in Wonderland characters at Disneyland 1980
Maurice (right) and Raymond (centre) with Alice in Wonderland characters at Disneyland, 1980.

Maurice and Jacqueline Belair overlooking Hollywood 1980
Maurice and Jacqueline overlooking Hollywood, 1980.

We arrived back home on December 29th, filled with memories of a once-in-a-lifetime trip!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

12 Genealogy Mysteries I’d Like to Solve

Randy Seaver of GeneaMusings posted earlier today his 12 Genealogy Mysteries I'd Like to Solve. He got the idea from 12/12/12 Twelve Genealogy Questions that he saw on Leaves & Branches blog by Colleen Pasquale.

I decided to give this prompt a try with my ancestors, because, like Randy says, “Maybe someone will read it and know the answer, or provide the clue needed to solve the problem and answer your question”.

Here are the 12 genealogy mysteries I’d like to solve:

1) In which munitions factories or shipyards in the USA did my paternal grandfather Fred Belair (1889-1991) work during World War I? Many years ago, my grandfather Fred told me about this work, but he never specified where or for which employers.

2) What circumstances led my maternal grandfather Eugene Desgroseilliers (1900-1960) to go from being a modest farmer in Moonbeam, Ontario in the 1920s to chief of police of Hearst, Ontario in the 1930s?

3) Is “Pierre Vrille”, who was buried on 28 December 1848 in Pointe-Gatineau, Gatineau County, Quebec, the same man as Pierre Janvry dit Belair, who died between 1845 and 1851? Unfortunately, Pierre’s burial record doesn’t indicate the name of his wife, which would help identify him. I suspect that “Vrille” is a phonetic (mis)spelling for Janvry (Jeanvri).

4) When and where was Louise (Eloise) Drouin (Derouin) born? She was the daughter of Pierre Drouin and Marie Reine Poirier dit Desloges. According to her baptismal record (created over a year after her birth), she was born about July 1835 somewhere in Upper Canada (now the province of Ontario), where her father worked for a time.

5) Where did brothers Olivier and Joseph Vanasse live from the time they were adolescents in the 1840s in Yamaska County, Quebec and when they were adults in the 1850s in Pontiac County, Quebec? They aren’t at home in Yamaska County on the 1851 census and they can’t be located on that same census for Pontiac County because the records are lost or missing.

6) Who are the parents of Toussaint Laronde (about 1783-?), who married his first cousin Marie Kekijicakoe? Toussaint, who worked in the fur trade, is supposedly the son of Louis Denis de La Ronde by his Aboriginal wife Marie Madeleine Wosneswesquigigo.

7) When and where did Joseph Léveillé (born 1839) die? He was buried on 21 October 1922 in Limoges, Russell County, Ontario, according to the church burial record, which unfortunately doesn’t state the date or location of death. I searched for, but didn’t find, him in the death registration databases at and

8) When and where did Pierre Beauvais (born 1838) die? I know it was between 19 August 1895 (when his daughter Odile married) and 16 August 1897 (when his son Joseph married). A family source says he died in the autumn of 1896 in Chénéville, Papineau County, Quebec, but a search of this parish’s records did not yield his death or burial information.

9) When and where was Arline Deschatelets born? It was sometime between April 1844 and April 1847 in the province of Quebec, based on census records. A younger daughter of Joseph Deschatelets and his wife Angélique Caillé, Arline was possibly born in St-Jérôme, Terrebonne County or Montebello, Papineau County, Quebec, where her siblings were born before and after her.

10) Who are the parents of Michel Frappier? He was born about 1794, according to his age at death. He might be a son of Antoine Frappier and his wife Josephte Neveu of St-Cuthbert, Berthier County, Quebec. His marriage record leaves out the name of his parents and his usual place of residence.

11) Who are the parents of Louise Neveu, wife of Michel Frappier? Their marriage record doesn’t indicate the name of her parents, nor her parish or place of residence. I don’t even know when or where she was born. I do know that she was living in 1836 in or near Ile des Allumettes in Pontiac County, Quebec.

12) When and where did Olive Huot (born 1815) die? She married as his first wife Charles Bouvet (Beauvais) in 1835 in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Terrebonne County, Quebec. Despite my searches, I haven’t found Olive’s date and place of death or burial. She died on or after 25 July 1840 when her daughter Céline was born in St-Jérôme, Terrebonne County, Quebec, but before 28 January 1846 when her husband’s child Philomène by his second wife was born in Montebello, Papineau County, Quebec.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wordless Wednesday: Nicholas and the Gingerbread House

Nicholas admiring a gingerbread house December 1994
Nicholas (2½ years old), December 1994.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Sharing Memories (Week 50): Memories of Santa

It’s Week 50 of “52 weeks of Sharing Memories – A Genealogical Journey” at Olive Tree Genealogy Blog. The prompt for this week is it’s “[…] a good time to talk about our memories of Santa. Were you one of the lucky ones who went to a mall or department store and sat on Santa's knee?"

I have few personal memories of Santa. We didn’t have a mall in our town until I was 12 years old, and I don’t think our 2 or 3 (small) department stores featured a Santa at Christmas time.

I checked my family albums and found two sets of photos where my sister and I saw Santa. Both occasions were at Christmas parties (I don’t remember which organization(s) hosted them) when I was 5 and 6 years old. I sat on Santa’s lap when I was 5, but probably didn’t when I was 6. I think, instead, I tried reaching out for his beard – at least that’s what it looks like in the photo below.

Yvonne with Santa Claus 1963
Yvonne with Santa, 1963.
Yvonne with Santa Claus 1964
Yvonne with Santa, 1964.
When my son Nicholas was little, my husband and I took him to see the mall Santa, but we couldn’t get him near the jolly old fellow. Nicholas was in his ‘shy’ phase when he was about 1½ to 3 years old, and Michael and I didn’t feel like making him see a bearded man in a red suit if he didn’t want to. Nicholas didn’t mind looking at Santa from a respectable distance, though. Consequently, there aren’t any photos of him by or near Santa.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 9, 2012 - Grab Bag

The "Grab Bag" post for today's Advent Calendar is "author's choice ... a topic that helps you remember Christmases past".

What helps me remember past Christmases? One of the easiest ways is to look at photos of the days when my family would get together with relatives to celebrate Christmas.

We'd have three days of partying, starting with Réveillon that followed Midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Some years, Aunt Joan would have Réveillon at her home, while other years Mom hosted it at our home. We'd open our presents on Christmas morning (if we hadn't on Christmas Eve) and later have a big supper. The next day, we'd do the rounds visiting friends and family on Boxing Day and end up (most years) at my Aunt Jeanne d'arc's for supper.

Christmas circa 1957
My paternal grandparents (far left) with their children
and spouses, Christmas, about 1957.

Christmas circa 1961
My Laneville cousins, about 1961.

Christmas 1967
My Aunt Joan and Uncle Andy, their son André,
and (right) my Dad, Christmas, 1967.

Wherever we were, I still remember the sounds, the smells, and the joy of those long-ago Christmas days ...

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sports Center Saturday: The Karate Student

In December 2007, my son Nicholas, a brown belt, was preparing for his black belt in Isshin Ryu karate, which he subsequently received a few weeks later in January 2008. Here he is  practising towards that goal at our local dojo.

Nicholas Demoskoff Isshin Ruy karate student with Sai
Nicholas (center) and students with their Sai.

Nicholas Demoskoff Isshin Ryu karate student
Nicholas executing a high block.

Nicholas Demoskoff Isshin Ryu karate student
Nicholas with his Bo.

Nicholas began studying Isshin Ryu karate (a martial arts style that originated in Okinawa) in the summer of 2001. He continued taking lessons until he reached 2nd degree black belt level in January 2010.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, December 07, 2012

Friday Photo: Yvonne in Granny's arms

Last month, I purchased an ebook book titled The Big Genealogy Blog Book by Amy Coffin. (Visit Amy on her blog at The We Tree Genealogy Blog.)

I ordered my copy of this book from the Kindle Store at Amazon. It’s very reasonably priced ($2.99) and it easily downloaded to my iPad, where I used my Kindle reader to view it. This is a great book for genealogy bloggers (beginners or advanced) who want ideas to help them get over writer’s block.

The first idea I’m putting into action from Amy’s book is from Chapter 7. Idea no. 1 says:
"Examine your collection of family photos. Upload your favorite image to your blog and share it with your readers. Answer the “who, what, when, where and why” of the photo, then explain why it is your favorite."
My take on this idea is that I’m going to upload favorite photos on the first two Fridays of each month – hence the title of this post “Friday Photo”. The first week’s Friday photo will be from my side of the family and the second week’s will come from my husband’s side of the family. Since Christmas is soon upon us, I’ll showcase “Christmasy” family photos for December.

Yvonne with grandmother Julie and aunt Darlene at Christmas 1958

My paternal grandmother Julie holding me (Yvonne), and her daughter, my aunt Darlene.

Mom and Dad invited family to come celebrate Christmas with them. I was my parents’ first child, so that year’s Christmas was especially important to my folks.

The photo was taken on or about Christmas Day 1958.

At my parents’ apartment in Timmins, Ontario.

We’re family and we’re celebrating Christmas!

This is one of my favorite photos because there are only a handful of pictures of me when I was an infant, and even fewer of them of me with my grandmother and aunt.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

52 Weeks of Abundant Genealogy – Week 49: Research Location

Which genealogy research location or city brings a smile to your face? What makes this place special to you? What family history treasures does it hold for you? Why should others visit this place?

For me, the research location or city that brings a smile to my face is Ottawa – my nation’s capital city. But, Ottawa is more than Canada’s capital, it’s also a very special city, because it’s here where my father was born, it’s where I studied, and it’s where relatives lived and still live today.

It’s also where I spent a few days researching at the National Archives of Canada (except back then it was known as Public Archives of Canada) and at the land registry office (to see if there was any truth to my paternal great-great-grandfather owning the lands on which Canada’s Parliament buildings stand).

One of the most important family ‘treasures’ that Ottawa holds for me is St-Jean-Baptiste Church. This Roman Catholic parish church on Empress Avenue is where my grandparents Fred and Julie were married in 1926 and where their first child – my Dad – was baptised in 1927.

Ottawa is a fantastic place to visit. There’s Parliament Hill (with free guided tours of the Centre Block), the National Gallery of Canada, Rideau Hall (the official residence of our Governor-General), museums, the spring Tulip Festival, universities (including U of Ottawa, where I studied in the early 1980s), historic ByWard market, the Rideau Canal (boat cruises in the summer and ice skating in the winter), and so much more!

Rideau Hall Ottawa Ontario September 1918
Rideau Hall (Sept. 1918)
(Photo source: William James Topley / Library and Archives Canada / PA-009280.)

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, December 03, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 3, 2012 – Christmas Tree Ornaments

Did your family have heirloom or cherished ornaments? Did you ever string popcorn and cranberries? Did your family or ancestors make Christmas ornaments?

When I was a little girl, my Mom decorated our Christmas tree with ornaments she bought from the Sears or Eaton’s catalogues. They were made of glass and, of course, fragile, so most of them didn’t survive over time. But, my sister and I were given the few that made it and now these ornaments decorate our trees.

When my husband and I married, we bought tree decorations that were slightly old-fashioned and reminded us of our childhood Christmases. I also bought ornaments that reflected special moments in our lives, like “Baby’s First Christmas” or “Thomas the Tank Engine”. (Our son Nicholas was only two years old when he started playing with that series of toys.) Family and friends also gave us some lovely ornaments over the years.

Christmas tree ornaments

Christmas tree ornaments

I can only think of one or two times when my sister and I strung popcorn to decorate our tree. It seemed like a lot of effort for two young girls and we broke more popcorn with the sewing needle than what made it onto the tree.

My sister and I, and later our younger brother, had our share of school-made ornaments (like angels and stars), as well as the ones that we received as gifts at Catechism class (mostly pop-up Nativity scenes).

There is one Christmas item that I definitely consider an heirloom. It isn’t a tree ornament, but it’s so important that it just wouldn’t be Christmas without it. It’s our crèche – the Nativity set – that holds pride of place under our tree. Mom bought it not long after she and Dad married. Made of wood, it measures about 21.5 cm x 33 cm (about 8½” x 13”). Overall, it’s in reasonable shape for something that’s about 55 years old. The angel and the little sheep have been repaired over the years (they are the two pieces that seem to break the most often), and there’s only one or two pieces of hay left. The crèche was handed to me by my Mom after Dad passed away, and one day, I will pass it to my son.

Belair Family crèche (Nativity set)
Belair Family crèche, with Patches the Cat, 2008.
Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

Advent Calendar: December 2, 2012 – Holiday Foods

Holiday Foods

Did your family or ancestors serve traditional dishes for the holidays? Was there one dish that was unusual?

Year after year, Mom served the same foods for our family’s Christmas suppers. There was the obligatory roast turkey, with a simple bread, onion and celery stuffing, homemade gravy, mashed potatoes, carrots, Brussels sprouts (sometimes broccoli), and tourtière.

Tourtière, or meat pie, is a traditional, French-Canadian dish served at Christmas. It’s a shallow, double-crust pie filled with ground pork, minced onion and cloves. There are different versions of tourtière: some cooks combine beef with ground pork, others add potatoes to the pork filling, while still others use game meat or even salmon; it all depends where your roots are in the province of Quebec. (My brother-in-law Gabriel is originally from the Lac St-Jean region and his mother adds cubed potatoes to her meat pie.)

Tourtière is not only served at supper on Christmas day, but also at the Réveillon (French for awakening), when family (close and extended) gathers after Midnight Mass for a few hours of feasting and partying. There’s lots of food with many of the same dishes we’ll have later at supper (except for the turkey), with some extras like ham, baked beans, macaroni and potato salads.

Preparing turkey gravy Christmas 2006
Mom making her turkey gravy, Christmas 2006.

Dessert followed the Réveillon and Christmas supper. Mom always did her Christmas baking in October and November (and stored it all in the deep freezer) so that she’d have time for other tasks during the days leading up to Christmas. Everything was made from scratch; nothing store bought for Mom. There might be a gâteau de Noël (fruitcake), but there would always be everyday favourites like chocolate chip cookies, as well as holiday specials like fudge, butter tarts, cake doughnuts (powdered with sugar and cinnamon), refrigerator (ice box) cookies, and shaped cookies (using a bell, star, tree and Santa cookie cutters and decorated with red or green frosting).

I love all these holiday dishes; they're wonderful and comforting. My family has changed homes and provinces over the years, but Mom’s Christmas cooking and baking has remained a constant in our lives.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Advent Calendar – December 1, 2012

Since I’m still a relative newbie at genealogy blogging (I started this August), this is the first time I participate in Advent Calendar of Christmas Memories 2012. It's a great way to reminisce about Christmas and share stories between now and December 24. The first prompt is for today, December 1, 2012.

The Christmas Tree

Did you have a real tree or was it artificial? How big was the tree? Who decorated the tree? What types of Christmas trees did your ancestors have?

When I was very little, my parents had real Christmas trees. By the time I was about 5 or 6, though, they had switched to an artificial tree, about 4-5’ tall, with straight branches. I don’t think it was the aluminum kind, but it was green, set up quickly and easily, and its needles never shed. Even though it was a fake tree, I remember liking it very much. We used it for a few years, and then Mom bought another artificial tree, but this second one was of a good height (6’, at least) and the branches were more natural looking.

Dad put up the tree (when it was a real one) and Mom decorated it. There were pretty, coloured glass ornaments (Mom bought these through the Sears or Eaton’s catalogues), lots of tinsel icicles (we loved tinsel), candy canes, gold and silver garlands, and those big old-fashioned coloured lights (so different from the mini lights we use today). Some years we had a multi-light star-shaped topper, while other years we preferred a tree-top angel holding a candle.

Yvonne Belair Christmas 1963
Yvonne, Christmas 1963.

The youngest one in our family had the privilege of setting up the crèche (Nativity set) at the base of the tree. My younger sister didn’t always do it, so I often got the chance to place the papier-mâché characters in and around the wooden manger with its bits of (fake) hay. There was the angel positioned on the edge of the roof overlooking the scene, with the ox and the donkey standing by, the Magi (the three wise men in their colourful tunics) slightly off to the side, the shepherd and his little sheep, and best of all, in the centre, Joseph, Mary and baby Jesus.

I don’t remember what type of tree my paternal grandparents had, but it was probably a real tree. My Mom’s family was very poor for most of her childhood, so a tree was a rare occurrence.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Ancestral Anniversaries for December 2012

For the past two months, I’ve posted articles about some of my ancestors' life events that marked an anniversary in October 2012 and in November 2012. Continuing with that theme, here is a selection of ancestral events for December 2012.

2 December 1632:
Baptism of Anne Boyer in Notre-Dame-de-Cogne church in La Rochelle, Aunis, France. Anne later married Pierre Pinot dit La Perle (Laperle) on or about 14 May 1658 in Trois-Rivières, New France. She and her husband are my maternal ancestors.

4 December 1862:
Burial of Louis Hotte in Grenville, Argenteuil County, Quebec. Louis, who died three days earlier, was 82 years old. His widow Marie des Anges (Angélique) Chadillon (Châtillon) survived him by 17 years. They are my maternal ancestors.

7 December 1862:
Baptism of Elisabeth Vanasse in St-Alphonsus of Liguori church in Chapeau, Pontiac County, Quebec. She was three months old at the time, having been born that September. Elisabeth’s surname is sometimes spelled Venance or Venasse. She married her first cousin Olivier Vanasse in July 1889. They are my paternal great-grandparents.

8 December 1662:
Birth of Mathurin Meunier in Château-Richer, east of Quebec City. He was baptized there four days later. Mathurin married twice, first to Marie-Madeleine Meneux in 1684 and second to Jeanne-Catherine Bonhomme in 1705. He and his first wife are my paternal ancestors.

10 December 1852:
Death of Jean-François-Régis Vanasse in Yamaska, Yamaska County, Quebec. He was buried there the next day. He was sometimes known as “François Régis” or simply “Régis”. His widow Agathe Forcier survived him by 14 years. They are my paternal ancestors.

12 December 1772:
Death of Jean Rosen in Terrebonne, Terrebonne County, Quebec. His name is sometimes spelled Rozene, Roze, Rosene, or even Larose. Jean, originally from Lucerne canton in Switzerland, was a corporal in the Royal American regiment. He married Geneviève Landry in 1760. They are my paternal ancestors.

25 December 1702:
Burial of Marie Poiré in Quebec City. Born in 1674 near Quebec, Marie married Antoine Lecompte as his first wife. Antoine, originally from Champagne, France, and Marie were my paternal ancestors.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Three Young Doukhobor Women

Three young Doukhobor women, dressed in traditional clothing.

Mary and Mabel Tomelin and Mabel Demoskoff about 1918-1920 probably in Saskatchewan, Canada
Left to right: Mary and Mabel Tomelin and Mabel Demoskoff, about 1918-1920,
probably in the province of Saskatchewan, Canada.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Oranges and Snow-Capped Mountains

An amanuensis is a person employed to write what another dictates or to copy what has been written by another.

George Demoskoff was my husband Michael’s paternal uncle. He was the fourth child and third son of Wasyl Demosky by his wife Lukeria Tomelin. George was born in July 1911 in the Doukhobor village Khristianovka (aka Moiseyevo), near Buchanan, Saskatchewan. In November 1941, he married Marie Jmieff, by whom he had three daughters. George died in July 1980 in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

In the 1950s, George moved temporarily to California, USA. He was hoping that a stay at Dr. Jensen’s Hidden Valley Health Ranch would help allieviate his heart condition. (Unfortunately, his visit to the Ranch didn't seem to have a long-term benefit.) While away from Canada, George kept in touch with his family back home by sending postcards. This particular one featuring "Oranges and Snow-Capped Mountains" and postmarked 8 June 1956 Escondido, California, was sent to his brother William (Bill) Demoskoff.

George Demoskoff Postcard to Demoskoff Family front
George Demoskoff postcard to Demoskoff family (front)

George Demoskoff Postcard to Demoskoff Family back
George Demoskoff postcard to Demoskoff family (back)

Hi! Bro. Bill & family
Im [sic] feeling better now
and will be staying
here another few weeks.
Oranges, grapefruit, and
lemons are growing
here almost year round
but I can’t use them
too sour for me.

So long
Bro. George
Mr William Demoskoff

Notice how George addressed the card simply with his brother's name and the town (Pelly) and not with a house number and street or post office box number. A specific address wasn't all that necessary back then, because Bill lived on a farm just outside of town and Pelly was a small enough place that his mail would get to him.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Follow Friday: Voyageurs Contracts Database

While doing background research for a post I’m preparing about my Métis ancestry, I came across a very interesting website. It’s the Voyageurs Contracts Database, which is part of the Centre du patrimoine [Heritage Centre] located in Saint-Boniface, Manitoba, Canada.

If you have Métis or French-Canadian ancestors who were involved in the fur trade (for example, a voyageur*), you’ll find this database really useful. The main page of the Voyageurs Contracts Database explains that its database “includes data from approximately 35,900 fur trade contracts signed in front of Montreal notaries between 1714 and 1830. […] The information collected from the contracts includes: family names, parishes of origin, hiring company, length of contract, destination(s) […]” and more.

* A “voyageur” is a French term that means ‘traveler’. “Voyageurs were the canoe transportation workers in organized, licensed long distance transportation of furs and trade goods in the interior of the continent. [They] were highly valued employees of trading companies, such as the North West Company […] and the Hudson's Bay Company […]”. (Source: Wikipedia contributors, "Voyageurs," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia ( : accessed March 16, 2011).)

Shooting the Rapids by Frances Anne Hopkins
Shooting the Rapids (1879)
 (Image source: Frances Anne Hopkins, Library and Archives Canada, acc. no. 1989-401-2, c002774.)

I searched for my ancestor “Toussaint Laronde” using the Database’s Quick Search page. I put “toussaint” in the keywords field and “laronde” in the names field. There were two results; both were my Toussaint. I then clicked ‘Details’ for the results and found items like date, place and length of his contracts, his functions, his wages, and his destinations. (The contracts are dated 13 April 1803 and 28 July 1821.) Next, I clicked ‘Select’, and then ‘View Selections’, where I requested copies of Toussaint’s contracts. In my email, I also asked for the total cost and how I could pay. The archivist promptly answered my questions and said I could pay with PayPal, cheque or money order.

I’m now waiting anxiously for the mail to arrive with paper copies of the microfilmed version of Toussaint’s voyageur contracts!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Belair Gathering 1975

Belair Gathering 1975
Fred Belair (back, centre) with his children Maurice (back, left), Ray (back, right),
Joan (front, left) and Darlene (front, right), 1975.

There were few times when Fred Belair's children were able to get together as adults. This occasion at my parents' home in Timmins, Ontario in 1975 was one of them.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Clara Strukoff

Two days ago on Sunday, I posted Clara's obituary. Today, I’m following up that post with a scanned image of her gravemarker. Clara is interred in the U.S.C.C. Doukhobor Cemetery in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

Clara Strukoff gravemarker
Clara Strukoff gravemarker.

Clara's gravemarker reads:

1955  1981

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday's Obituary: Clara Strukoff

Clara, my husband’s cousin, was the youngest daughter of George and Marie (Jmieff) Demoskoff. She died of cancer on 18 November 1981 in Trail, British Columbia, 31 years ago today. Clara was only 26 years old and the mother of a little girl Tracey. She was interred in the U.S.C.C. Doukhobor Cemetery in Grand Forks, British Columbia.

Clara Strukoff obituary 1981
Clara Strukoff obituary, 1981.

Source: “Strukoff”, obituary, undated clipping [November 1981], from unidentified newspaper; Demoskoff Family Papers, privately held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2012. Yvonne acquired an assortment of family memorabilia (including Clara’s obituary) in January 2012 from her father-in-law William (Bill) Demoskoff.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday: William Addams Reitwiesner

This past Monday was the second anniversary of the death of William Addams Reitwiesner. He succumbed to cancer on 12 November 2010 in Washington, DC; he was only 56 years old. William, who worked at the Library of Congress, was a self-taught genealogist who compiled royal, noble, and political genealogies.

We first met in the Usenet newsgroup in 1996. We then met in person in the summer of 1997 when I went to Washington, DC to do royalty research at the Library of Congress. William was very kind to me, helped me with my research, showed me where the best royal genealogy material was located at the LOC, and toured the city with me. He also gave me a microfiche copy of his monumental work Matrilineal Descents of European Royalty. One afternoon, we met with another a.t.r. member, Noel, and had our photo taken before going out for supper.

William Yvonne and Noel 1997
William, Yvonne and Noel, 1997.
William kept in touch over the years, and even asked me to help with the French-Canadian portions of some of his research on the Duchess of Cornwall, Angelina Jolie, and Shania Twain.

I’m thankful for having known William. I learned a lot from him about royalty, genealogy, and research methodology. I used to tease him that he probably forgot more about royal genealogy than I'd ever remember. I still miss him today.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Wedding Wednesday: Vanasse - St Martin

David and Marie Louise Vanasse Wedding 1929
David and Marie Louise Vanasse Wedding, 1929.

A lovely country wedding photo of my paternal great-uncle David Vanasse and his bride Marie Louise St-Martin. David, 26 years old, was the son of Olivier and Elisabeth (Vanasse) Vanasse. Marie Louise, who was just 18 years old, was the daughter of Charles and Emélie (Brunet) St-Martin.

The couple (seen on the far right in the photo) married on 12 June 1929 in St-Alphonse parish church in Chapeau, Pontiac County, Quebec. Their marriage record states that one bann was published and that a dispensation was granted for the other two banns. The witnesses were Leo St-Martin (Marie Louise's brother) and Agnes Vanasse (David's sister), who appear on the far left in the photo.

Some of David's family and relatives spelled their surname "Venasse", but my grandmother Julie (Julia) always spelled her surname "Vanasse".

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Tombstone Tuesday: Fred and Julie Belair

Fred and Julie Belair gravestone.
Fred and Julie Belair gravemarker.

My paternal grandparents, Fred and Julie (Vanasse) Belair, rest in Timmins Memorial Cemetery in Timmins, Ontario, Canada. Fred was the fifth, but third surviving son of Pierre and Angélina (Meunier) Belair. Julie was the fifth child and third daughter of Olivier and Elisabeth (Vanasse) Vanasse. Fred and Julie married in October 1926 in Ottawa, Ontario. (You can read about their marriage at Sentimental Sunday: Fred and Julie Belair.) My grandmother passed away in March 1967 in Timmins. My grandfather, who survived her by nearly 24 years, died in January 1991 in Peterborough, Ontario.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: Eugène Desgroseilliers

My maternal grandfather Eugène Desgroseilliers' matrilineal line is relatively long: it extends 12 generations. His matrilineal ancestry reaches back to the early 1600s to his 9x great-grandmother Marie Bruyère who was born and died in France. Marie and her husband did not immigrate to New France (Canada). Their daughter Marie, probably born in Cognac, Saintonge, France, arrived in Montreal in November 1653.

Eugène Desgroseilliers's Matrilineal Ancestry:

1. Eugène Desgroseilliers (1900-1960)
m. 1925 Juliette Beauvais

2. Clémentine Léveillé (1878-1969)
m. 1899 Albert Desgroseilliers

3. Cordélia Racette (1849-1928)
m. 1870 Joseph Léveillé

4. Marcelline Gagnon (1831-1918)
m. 1847 Joseph Racette

5. Marguerite Ducasse (1804-1872)
m. 1823 Charles Gagnon

6. Marguerite Charland (1788-after 1851)
m. 1802 François Ducasse

7. Geneviève Rouillard (1756-1815)
m. (1) 1773 Jean-Baptiste Charland

8. Marie Josephe Truchon (1726-1784)
m. (2) 1750 Pierre Rouillard

9. Marie Josephe Charpentier (1698-1729)
m. 1720 Pierre Truchon dit Léveillé

10. Françoise Hunault (1667-1748)
m. (2) 1691 Gilles (Jean) Charpentier

11. Marie Lorgueil (about 1636-1700)
m. 1654 Toussaint Hunault

12. Marie Bruyère (?-?)
m. Pierre Lorgeuil

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Veterans' Week 2012: Remembrance Day

Veterans' Week November 5 to 11. A young boy placing a poppy on a grave.

Today, November 11th, is Remembrance Day in Canada. My family attended our local ceremony at the Cenotaph in Memorial Park. Here are some of the photos my husband took this morning.

Remembrance Day 2012 Hope BC Canada

Remembrance Day 2012 Hope BC Canada

Remembrance Day 2012 Hope BC Canada

Remembrance Day 2012 Hope BC Canada

Remembrance Day 2012 Hope BC Canada

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Veterans' Week 2012: Images of Canada

Veterans' Week November 5 to 11. A young boy placing a poppy on a grave. 

For my second-to-last post for Veterans' Week 2012, I've selected images showing Canada's participation in various wars.

World War I

A Canadian V.A.D. Ambulance driver at the front.
(Photo source: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-001305.)

29th Infantry Batallion advancing over "No man's Land" through the German barbed wire and heavy fire during the Battle of Vimy Ridge. [Apr. 1917]
(Photo source: Capt. H.E. Knobel / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-001020.)

Wounded Canadians on way to aid-post. Battle of Passchendaele. November, 1917.
(Photo source: Canada. Dept. of National Defence/Library and Archives Canada/.)
Final instructions before going into battle.
(Photo source: Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-000877.)

World War II

Canadian prisoners of war being lead through Dieppe by German soldiers. [19 Aug. 1942]
(Photo source: Library and Archives Canada / C-014171.)

Graves of personnel of the Edmonton Regiment killed in battle of Ortona. [7 Jan. 1944, Ortona, Italy]
(Photo source: Alexander M. Stirton / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-115151.)

Members of the first contingent of the Canadian Women's Army Corps (C.W.A.C.) entering Hamm, Germany, 12 June 1945.
(Photo source: Sgt. Karen M. Hermiston / Canada. Dept. of National Defence / Library and Archives Canada / PA-128229.)

Korean War

L/Cpl. Robert John Sobol, P.P.C.L.I. kneels at grave of Private Lloyd K. Wylie, United Nations Cemetery [25 Apr. 1951, Pusan, Korea]
(Photo source: Sgt. W.H. Olson/Library and Archives Canada/PA-128813.)

Tomorrow on November 11th, remember the men and women who sacrificed their lives for our country. Attend your local Remembrance Day ceremony or pause at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in memory of those 1000s of brave men and women.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.