Friday, September 28, 2012

I'm off to a genealogy conference

I'm heading off to a genealogy conference in a couple of hours and will be gone for the weekend. I’ve signed up for "Harvest Your Family Tree 2012", which is organized by Kelowna & District Genealogical Society of Kelowna, British Columbia.

My husband Michael and I are driving to Kelowna in the beautiful Okanagan Valley; it should take us about three hours. We’ll meet a couple there from our local genealogy club.  

It's the first time I'm attending one of KDGS's annual conferences, and I'm really looking forward to it. I've signed up for five workshops (one this afternoon and four tomorrow) given by Donna Potter Phillips, Dave Obee, Rick Roberts and Lyn Meehan. (Michael’s signed up for 4 workshops of his own on Saturday.) Other speakers include Lisa Louise Cooke and Dwight Radford. There will also be vendors and exhibitors, as well as door prizes. Sounds like fun!

I won't post for the next couple of days, but should be back early next week. See you then!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Certificate

Here’s another family treasure I want to share with my readers. It’s my Mom’s High School Entrance Certificate. 

Jacqueline Desgroseilliers' High School Entrance Certificate, 1948.

In the 1940s, Mom attended St. Thomas d’Aquin school in the village of Blue Water, near Sarnia, Ontario. After she successfully completed Grade 8 of elementary school, she received a “high school entrance certificate”, dated July 5, 1948, from the Department of Education. Mom was set to begin high school that autumn.

But, fate had other plans for her. A few weeks earlier that spring, her mother Juliette became ill. Within a few short months, pancreatic cancer claimed Juliette one August day in 1948.

After the funeral, family life seemed to resume for Mom, her sisters and their widowed father. She started high school that September as planned. Mom had enjoyed elementary school and done well. She found the teaching nuns strict, but fair. She didn’t have any reason to think high school would be a different experience. But it was. Instead of walking to a neighborhood school like she did to St. Thomas d’Aquin, Mom had to travel on a city bus every weekday to get to the Catholic high school in Sarnia. While there, she encountered prejudice from some of the staff and students who looked down on the French-speaking students from Blue Water. Also, the added cost of high school (like transportation and books) put a financial burden on her father, who was unemployed at the time.

After a few weeks, Mom decided to quit school. Her father hoped he would find work, but none materialized. She had so looked forward to high school and didn't want to stop learning, but things didn't work out for her.

Soon afterwards, Mom’s elder sister Madeleine helped her get a job as a waitress in the cafeteria at Polymer Corporation (a synthetic rubber manufacturing plant) near their home in Blue Water. She didn’t make much money, but it helped to support her father and young sisters who were still at home.

Despite these difficulties, Mom has fond memories of her elementary school days and cherishes her High School Entrance Certificate.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Sepia Saturday 145 : 29 September 2012

I'm posting a bit early this week, because I'm in a bit of a rush to get ready for an out-of-town genealogy conference in a couple of days. (I'm a participant, not a speaker.)
This photo shows my mother Jacqueline (right) with her sisters Jeanne d'arc (left) and Madeleine (centre), dressed in their Sunday best. I believe the picture was taken on Easter 1958 in Sarnia, Ontario.

I couldn't find a suitable sporting photo of boys in my family albums, but at least you can't see the feet of these ladies, which is one of the criteria of this week's theme.

Be sure to check out the other submissions at Sepia Saturday 145: 29 September 2012

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Workday Wednesday: Ancestral Occupations

Do you know what your ancestors did for a living?

I know what some of my recent ancestors did. For example, my Dad was a welder and later a truck driver. My paternal grandfather Fred was an ironworker in his younger days. My Mom’s father Eugène was a chief of police and later a carpenter.

I wasn’t quite sure, though, what kind of work my Canadian ancestors of the 1600s, 1700s, and 1800s did until I searched my family tree. I found a mix of humble, unskilled work like day labourer to professional and specialist work like wigmaker. The most popular occupations in all my ancestral lines were farmer, soldier (especially in the 1600s), carpenter (charpentier) and finishing carpenter (menuisier). The following lists, sorted by ancestral line, is a selection of some of my ancestors’ occupations.


Cloth maker
Brick maker
Boat captain
Day labourer
Edge-tool maker
Explorer/Fur trader
Husbandry foreman
Slate roofer
Master butcher
Nail maker


Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Travel Tuesday: Quebec City

In June 1975, my high school’s senior band (in which I played second clarinet) went on a trip to Quebec City. I was in Grade 12 and about to graduate in a couple of weeks. What an amazing trip it was. We were there for about a week or so as guests of the music department of Ecole Missionnaire Sacré Coeur. We played pieces conducted by our teacher and by EMSC’s music teachers, then jammed together as one large band. We also had plenty of time for touring and exploring Canada’s only walled city.

Montmorency Falls near Quebec City, 1975. (That’s part of our group
in the lower right hand corner of the photo.)

Although I was interested in genealogy at that age and had started to accumulate some notes and family memorabilia, I didn’t really know a lot about where my ancestors lived in the province of Quebec. I knew where my grandparents were born and raised, but that was about all. I had a vague idea that other, distant ancestors must have lived in Quebec City, but as I took in the sights, I couldn’t name them if I tried.

It wasn’t until some years later that I found out just how deep my roots went in Quebec City. For example, my maternal ancestors Louis Hébert, his wife and their three children arrived here in 1617 (they were the first French family to settle permanently in Quebec); my maternal ancestors Jean and Mathurine (Robin) Guyon arrived here in July 1634; my maternal ancestress Marguerite Langlois (wife of Paul Vachon) was baptised here in September 1639; my paternal ancestress Marguerite Petitpas (wife of Etienne Sevestre) died here in September 1640; my paternal ancestress Marie Marguerie arrived here in 1641 as a fille à marier (a "marriageable girl", a precursor to the filles du roi or King’s Daughters); and my maternal ancestor Médard Chouart, sieur des Groseilliers married his first wife Hélène Martin here in September 1647.

Monument of Samuel de Champlain near Château Frontenac
in Quebec City, 1975.

Marie de l’Incarnation monument in the garden of the
Ursuline Convent in Quebec City, 1975. (That’s me in the white hat.)

One day, I’ll go back to Quebec City and this time, I’ll go prepared with my genealogy notes!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Matrilineal Monday: My Husband’s Matrilineal Line

Two weeks ago, I posted my seven-generation matrilineal line here. Today, I’m following up that post with a brief review of my husband Michael’s matrilineal line. His line is shorter than mine – it’s only four generations. His matrilineal ancestry goes back to his great-grandmother who died in 1925. I should emphasize that this is Michael’s known matrilineal line; of course, his line extends even further back, but at this time, it’s unknown to him and to me despite our research into his past.

Michael’s Matrilineal Line:

1. Michael Demoskoff

2. Ann Cazakoff (1926-1980)

3. Polya [Pelageya] (Polly) Poznekoff (1887-1971)

4. Oxenia [Aksin’ya] Malakoff (?- 1925)

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sentimental Sunday: My grandmother and I

Julie Belair with her granddaughter Yvonne, 1958.

I get sentimental whenever I look at this photo of myself with my grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair. It’s only one of two pictures there are of us together. Julie was my beloved Mémère, the only one I knew, because my maternal grandmother Juliette (Beauvais) Desgroseilliers died ten years before I was born.

When I was a little girl, my family lived in a basement apartment, while my grandparents Fred and Julie lived directly above us in an upstairs apartment. A few years later, we moved two houses away, so we were still very close to each other.

I loved to visit my Mémère and Pépère in their modest one-bedroom apartment. I’d have a snack, explore yet once again the trinkets Mémère kept on her bedroom dresser, and sit by her side while picking out clothes for her for fun from the Eaton’s (or maybe it was Sears') mail-order catalogue.

Mémère Julie suffered for years from asthma. I still remember the day when, coming home from school one afternoon, I saw a delivery truck bringing an oxygen cylinder to her apartment. Later that day, I was allowed to visit her for a few minutes. How unusual the scene was to me. My grandmother was resting with some difficulty in her bed, a clear plastic canopy covering her. The room was dimly lit. I could hear the sound of the oxygen being pumped into the tent. I don’t remember if I spoke to her or if she to me.

I remember another occasion when Mémère was sick and had to go hospital for treatment instead of staying home. At that time, young children weren’t usually allowed to visit patients, but because it was Easter Sunday, we were able to see our grandmother. 

One day in late winter of 1967, Mémère had a serious asthma attack and was taken to hospital. While getting dressed for school one morning, I noticed how sad my mother looked and how quiet my dad behaved. I asked Mom what had happened. She told me that my grandmother died the night before. My beloved Mémère would not come back home to us anymore.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun - Your Family and Genealogy

It’s time for another mission from Saturday Night Genealogy Fun at Genea-Musings. Tonight, Randy asks his readers to:

1)  Tell us how your family members (parents, children, grandchildren, spouse, siblings, cousins, aunts/uncles, etc.) react to your genealogy addict er, hobb, er, interests!  Do they accept it, cooperate with you, listen to your experiences and accomplishments, or not?

2)  Do you have any funny stories about your family members' interest in or with genealogy?  Tell us!

3)  Share your report in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, in a Facebook status post, or a Google+ stream post.

Here’s how I did.

1) My family (mother and siblings) listen when I talk about genealogy, ask one or two questions, and then move on to something else. They are interested, but it’s not a priority with them to be too involved with my genealogy research.

On the other hand, my late father Maurice was always interested in what I did. He’d ask questions, make comments and offer suggestions. He especially liked it when I told him I had worked on his maternal side of the family, because as a child, he knew them more than he did his father’s side.

As for my husband Michael, well, he’s in a class of his own. I mean, Michael is my research helper when I go to archives and libraries, is my companion when I go looking for long-lost relatives in distant cemeteries and is happy to help out at the local genealogy club. Why, he even signs up as a participant when I attend out-of-town genealogy conferences and seminars. How great is that? Michael is really a true blue supporter of me and my genealogy research!

2) This one is tougher; I can’t think of a funny story about my family’s interest in genealogy.

3) I’ve shared in my blog; mission accomplished!

Thanks, Randy, for another great SNGF activity!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Sepia Saturday 144 : 22 September 2012

Sepia Saturday is a great site, where bloggers use “old images as prompts for new reflections”. This week, its participants have the above image to use as a guide, as we are asked to look “not for what is there, but for what isn't” in old photos.

I didn’t have to look too far to find “what isn’t” in my photo collection. My Mom was famous in our family for taking photos of us kids with “parts” missing. Usually it was our faces and heads, but in this mid-1960s picture, she captured about three quarters of my sister, but less than half of me. On the other hand, she did manage to get a lot of wall into the photo. Way to go, Mom!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Family History Through the Alphabet – T is for …

T is for Timmins.

This week’s letter challenge was simple and effortless for me. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that when it came time to choose a topic for T is for … it would be T is for Timmins – because Timmins is the town where I was born and raised. (For those who want to participate in this creative and fun challenge, visit Family History Through the Alphabet.)

Timmins, the “City with a Heart of Gold”, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2012. Located in northeastern Ontario, Canada, Timmins is probably familiar to many people because of its connection with country pop singer Shania Twain. Shania, who was born in Windsor, Ontario, moved to Timmins as a child. (By the way, Shania is my 10th cousin three times removed, but that’s a topic for another time. And in case you’re wondering, no, I never met her, at least not so as I remember.) In 1979, my family and I left Timmins when we moved to British Columbia.

Let me tell you about my Timmins.

My Timmins is the one with cold, long, drawn-out snowy winters, which some years started in late October and lasted until March.

My Timmins is the one with the winding Mattagami River, where my sister and I first learned to swim.

My Timmins is the one with CFCL radio-television station, where the town’s teens would drive to “Hilltop Rendez-vous” during the summer months and wait in our cars for our turn to request songs from the live DJ.

My Timmins is the one where my sister and I would walk to the corner store on early Sunday evenings and buy a treat (like an orange Creamsicle) after watching “Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color” on our Philco television.

My Timmins is the one where kids of all ages could skate and play hockey at wood-panelled outdoor ice rinks, because just about every school yard had one in the winter months.

My Timmins is the one where my Mom would shop for my clothes (and school uniforms) at Bucovetsky’s downtown department store.

My Timmins is the one where family and friends would pack picnics, beach balls, and suntan lotion and head out for a Sunday afternoon of swimming and relaxing at nearby Kettle Lakes Provincial Park.

My Timmins is the one with the Palace Theatre where, as pre-teens, my best friend and I used to see Elvis Presley movies on Saturday afternoons.

My Timmins is the one where my Dad would take my sister and I out in the countryside on bright, winter days and give us rides in his homemade trailer pulled by his Alouette snowmobile.

My Timmins is the one where I and other kindergarten students were privileged to sing with older students at Christmas Mass one year at my parish church Notre-Dame de Lourdes.

My Timmins ... 

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Friday Funny: Blogiversary and Summertime Fun

It’s my one month blogiversary today! I’ve been posting articles to my blog for the past four weeks – and what fun it’s been! A sincere “Thank you” to my followers and those who view my pages! To celebrate, I’m sharing with my readers something fun about me for “Friday Funny”, a blog prompt suggested through GeneaBloggers

This picture of myself as a little girl sure makes me laugh. I don’t remember that day, but since it was a bright and sunny afternoon, I’m guessing it was summertime. I recognize the fenced front yard of the basement home I lived in with my parents and baby sister in Timmins, Ontario. I’m holding a small container, with an enamel dishpan and a saucepan on a low table in front of me. Based on the look on my face (kind of naughty and fiendish at the same time), I’d say that I had probably just served (or tried to serve) mud pies to my little sister. Mom used to tell me that I delighted in making these kinds of “pies” and pretend to feed them to my sister. 

Here's another photo taken that day of me with my baby sister. She doesn’t look worse for wear, and I sort of look like I’m wiping my hands to hide the muddy evidence. Oh, the fun and innocence of summertime childhood days!

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

In Memoriam: Eugène Desgroseilliers

Early Life

Eugène Desgroseilliers, my maternal grandfather, was born on 30 August 1900 in St-Charles, Ontario. He was his parents Albert and Clémentine (Léveillé) Desgroseilliers’ first child. Eugène, the eldest of 14 children, had ten brothers and three sisters. His youngest sibling, Joseph, was only two years old when Eugène married in 1925.

Eugène with his younger brother Arthur and sister Alma, about 1907.

Eugène grew up in St-Charles, which had been carved out of the forest wilderness south of Sudbury after the CPR railway opened up the region in the 1880s-1890s. Eugène’s father Albert supported his family as farmer; they lived for a while on lot 9, concession 2. When Eugène was about 17 years old, the family moved to Moonbeam in northeastern Ontario, where some of his relatives lived.

Marriage and Family

In Moonbeam, Eugène met and courted a young woman named Juliette Beauvais, whom he married in the local Roman Catholic church on 18 August 1925. The couple were a visual contrast: he was tall (6’7”), she was short (5’2”). Juliette was so petite at her marriage that Eugène could wrap his hands around her tiny waist.

Eugène and Juliette had nine children: a son Noël Xavier (born and died on Christmas Day 1926), followed by five daughters (Mariette, Madeleine, Simone, Marianne, and Jacqueline), then a son (Gaston), and then two more daughters (Normande and Jeanne d’arc). Sadly, Marianne died in 1938 when she was six years old following an appendicitis attack, while Gaston died in 1941 of his injuries after falling out of a moving car; he was only six years old. My mother and her sisters say that their father never really recovered from the loss of his son Gaston.

Eugène and Juliette on their wedding day with their parents, 1925.

When he married, Eugène was a farmer in Moonbeam, but after moving to Hearst in 1927, he became the town’s chief of police. (My Mom doesn’t know what qualifications her father had in order to do police work, but believes he was chosen for the job because of his imposing height.)

For the next few years, Eugène served as chief of police in Hearst, and then transferred to Rouyn and later Duparquet and Cadillac, all in northwestern Quebec. With regular employment during the Depression, Eugène provided well for his family, and was able to afford such luxuries as a piano and boarding (convent) school education for his elder daughters. He was known for his generous nature, giving food and money to the poor who came knocking at his door.

Eugène when chief of police, 1930s.

Difficult Years

About 1940, Eugène became ill with double pneumonia and lost his job as police chief. The family returned to live in Ontario, where Eugène worked for a short time in an explosives and munitions factory near Parry Sound. By 1942, the family settled in Blue Water, a village near Sarnia, Ontario. Eugène then worked sporadically as a carpenter, but the family was very poor and there was little money.

The family suffered another tragedy when Juliette was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1948. She died after a short illness that August. Eugène was left alone to raise his family. The youngest daughters continued with school, but the eldest ones had jobs or were married. (My mother regretted having to quit high school to find work soon after her mother died, because her father couldn’t afford the fees.)

Final Days

Eugène with his daughters (left to right) Jeanne d'arc, Jacqueline
and Madeleine, Blue Water, Ontario, 1959.

In the summer of 1960, Eugène told his daughter Jacqueline that he was ill. He did not know it at the time, but he had cancer. Eugène died on 20 September 1960, having just turned 60 years old. His funeral took place three days later at St. Thomas Aquinas Church in Blue Water. 

My Memories

I don’t really remember my grandfather, even though I visited him on a couple of occasions when I was a toddler. I’m told that he would rock me on his knees and call me his “p’tite poule noire” (little black chicken) because of my dark brown hair and eyes.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday: Lukeria Demoskoff and her young sons

Lukeria (Lucy) Demoskoff with her sons George (left) and William (right), about 1917.

Lukeria wears traditional, everyday Doukhobor woman's clothing: a printed cotton apron over a full skirt, a long sleeved blouse, and a head shawl.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Family History Through the Alphabet – S is for …

S is for … Spirit Wrestlers.

In 1786, Archbishop Nikifor referred to a group of people who had broken away from the Russian Orthodox Church as dukhobortsy or “spirit wrestlers”.[1]  It signified “those who wrestled against the spirit of the church and God”; it was meant as an insult.[2]  This sect, living on the fringes of the Russian Empire in what is now Ukraine, embraced the name a few years later, but changed its meaning to signify those who “wrestle with the spirit of truth”.[3]

The Spirit Wrestlers were pacifist Christians whose spiritual origins date back to the mid-1600s when reforms were introduced in the Russian Orthodox Church.[4]  They rejected formal, organized religion, including the sacraments and the priesthood. The Doukhobors were persecuted by the government for their beliefs and forced into exile in far-flung regions of the Empire throughout the 17th – 19th centuries.

With the financial backing of Leo Tolstoy (through sales of his novel Resurrection) and the intervention of others like the Society of Friends (Quakers), approximately 7,500 Doukhobors (descendants of the original "Spirit Wrestlers") left Russia for Canada in 1898 and 1899. Smaller groups continued to arrive until the early 1930s.[5]  Today, there are about 40,000 Doukhobors in Canada, living mostly in the provinces of Saskatchewan and British Columbia.[6]


1. Svetlana A. Inikova, “Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History”, in The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, Andrew Donskov, John Woodsworth and Chad Gaffield, editors (Ottawa: Slavic Research Group, University of Ottawa, 2000), p. 2, note 6. Other sources give a different year (1785) and a different archbishop (Ambrosius). See, for example, Koozma J. Tarasoff, Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living (Ottawa: Spirit Wrestlers Publishing, 2002), p. 1, and, John Woodsworth, compiler, Russian Roots & Canadian Wings (Penumbra Press, 1999), p. 11, note 1.

2. Tarasoff, Spirit Wrestlers, p. 1.

3. Tarasoff, Spirit Wrestlers, p. 1.

4. Tarasoff, Spirit Wrestlers, p. 1.

5. Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, “Index to Doukhobor Ship Passenger Lists”, Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( : accessed 14 September 2012).

6. Tarasoff, Spirit Wrestlers, p. ix.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Amanuensis Monday: Deed of Sale between James Nesbitt and Pierre Genvre

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

This deed of sale between James Nesbitt and my paternal great-grandfather Pierre Janvry (1851-1941), whose surname is rendered as “Genvre” in the deed, was drawn up on 20 September 1881. It was registered on 29 September 1881. The transcription of this deed appears in quotation marks, with preprinted portions shown in black and handwritten portions shown in red.

“This Indenture made the twentieth day of September one thousand eight hundred and seventy Eighty-one

Between James Nesbitt, of the Township of Masham in the County of Ottawa and Province of Quebec farmer

of the one part, and Pierre Genvre of the said township of Masham farmer

of the other part, Witnesseth, That for and in consideration of the sum of three hundred dollars current money of this Province

to the said James Nesbitt

in hand paid by the said Pierre Genvre

at or before the execution of these presents, (the receipt whereof is hereby acknowledged

by the said James Nesbitt) he, the

said James Nesbitt

doth hereby grant, bargain, sell and confirm unto the said Pierre Genvre

his heirs and assigns for ever, all that certain lot of land,

situated and being in the township of Masham aforesaid and described as the lot number fifty-five in the fourth range of the Township of Masham aforesaid containing one hundred and twenty-three acres of land in superfic[ies] more or less

To have and to hold the said lot of land and premises hereinbefore granted, bargained and sold, or intended so to be, with their and every of their appurtenances, unto the said Pierre Genvre his heirs and assigns forever

In Witness Whereof, the said parties hereto have hereunto set their hands and Seals the day and year first above written, at the Township of Wakefield in the District of Ottawa, (in duplicate.)

Signed, Sealed and Delivered     James Nesbitt
A. Cates                                   Pierre his Genvre
Isaac B. Yorke                                  x
                                                      mark ”

Source: “Deed of Sale Between James Nesbitt and Pierre Genvre”, dated 20 September 1881; Demoskoff Family Papers, photocopy held by Yvonne (Belair) Demoskoff, British Columbia, 2012. The photocopy, was supplied by Eloi Belair to Yvonne, his cousin, during her visit to his home in Hull, Quebec in the 1980s. Eloi was Pierre Genvre [Janvry]’s grandson.

Copyright © 2012, Yvonne Demoskoff.