Sunday, April 28, 2013

Church Record Sunday: First Communion

My sister and brother and I received First Communion as children in Timmins, Ontario, where we were born and raised.

After all these years, I don’t remember the exact days and months when we received the Sacrament of the Eucharist. I tried finding out in 1988 when I wrote to my old church in Timmins asking for Certificates of Communion and Confirmation for myself and my sister. The secretary sent our Confirmation certificates, but didn’t have any information about our Communion, because, as she explained, the parish did not keep First Communion records.

My First Communion took place in 1966, probably in April, because it preceded my Confirmation in late May of that year. I was 7½ years old and in Grade 2 at the time.

Yvonne Belair at her First Communion in 1966
Yvonne (1966)

My sister Marianne’s turn came in the spring of 1968. She was also 7½ years old and in Grade 2. Her First Communion must have been that April, because she did her Confirmation the following month.

Marianne Belair at her First Communion in 1968
Marianne (1968)

Like us, our younger brother Raymond was in Grade 2 at his First Communion, but he was nearly 8 years old at the time. His Communion photos are dated “May 1978”.

Raymond Belair at his First Communion in 1978
Raymond (1978)

One difference between us and our brother’s First Communion is that for us the event took place at Notre-Dame-de-Lourdes church (we lived nearby and belonged to that parish), while his took place at St-Antoine cathedral (our family lived in that part of town by then and belonged to that parish).

I remember very little of my First Communion, except that it was an exciting day, that all the Communion candidate students travelled from our elementary school (St-Charles) to the church, that I got to wear a new, white dress with short puffed sleeves, and a pretty little coronet with attached veil. Afterwards, we returned to our school for a little informal party and each one of us received a commemorative souvenir of ma PREMIERE COMMUNION. We might also have received a rosary (pink for girls, blue for boys) and prayer cards.

Two years later, Marianne wore the same veil, but had a different dress with a small, V-shaped collar and long sleeves. Neither of our dresses have survived (did Mom pass them on to younger cousins, perhaps?), but I still have the coronet and veil that we wore.

In 1978, Raymond wore a dark green three-piece boy’s suit. He looks quite formal in his picture, doesn’t he?

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: Desgroseilliers – Léveillé

One hundred and fourteen years ago today, my maternal great-grandparents Albert Desgroseilliers and Clémentine Léveillé married on 24 April 1899 in St-Viateur Roman Catholic church in Limoges, Russell County, Ontario.

Albert and Clémentine Desgroseilliers in the mid-1950s
Albert and Clémentine Desgroseilliers, mid-1950s

The above photograph shows them at home at 286 Nipissing Street in Sturgeon Falls in the 1950s.

Albert and Clémentine had fourteen children, 11 sons and three daughters. Their youngest child, Joseph, was only two years old when their eldest child Eugène (my grandfather) married in August 1925.

My great-grandparents were married for 58 years. Their union is the third longest marriage in the first seven generations of my maternal and paternal ancestry.

Albert died aged 78 on 16 December 1957 in Ottawa. (I’ve written here about my theory as to why he died in Ottawa instead of in Sturgeon Falls, his usual place of residence.) Clémentine survived him nearly 12 years; she died on 18 October 1969, one month short of her 91st birthday.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Travel Tuesday: I'm Heading to Las Vegas!

In just two weeks, my husband Michael and I are flying to Las Vegas to attend the National Genealogical Society's 2013 Family History Conference.

We're both very excited about attending our first NGS conference and look forward to meeting and mingling with a large gathering of genealogists and family historians.

Most of the lectures I've chosen focus on methodology and research, while my husband chose mostly GenTech lectures.

We arrive in the early afternoon of May 7th, check-in at the LVH (the conference hotel), and then check-in as conference attendees. We spend the next four days absorbing as much as we can from a great cast of speakers, and then return home May 12th.

Our passports are in order, our suitcases are standing by, and the NGS Conference App is installed on our iPhones and on my iPad.

As long as I'm not too overwhelmed and in awe at being at such a high-calibre conference, I plan on posting a few blog articles while there.

Hope to see you in Las Vegas!

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Mystery Monday: The Missing Birth Registration

Albert Desgroseilliers about 1955
Albert Desgroseilliers, about 1955
Albert Desgroseilliers

My maternal great-grandfather Albert Desgroseilliers was baptized on 13 February 1879 in Embrun, Russell County, Ontario.1 According to his baptism record, he was born the previous day, presumably in Embrun, where his parents resided and where his father Pierre was a cultivateur (farmer).2

Civil Registration

I knew that registration of births, marriages and deaths began in 1869 in the province of Ontario, and so assumed I’d find Albert’s birth registration in the “Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913” database at Knowing that Desgroseilliers is often misspelled in indexes, I kept my search simple and filled in only three fields: Year: 1879; Gender: Male; and County or District: Russell. There were 236 results, but Albert wasn’t among them.3

I wasn’t worried that I hadn’t found Albert on my first try. I decided to look at the images for Russell County for 1879; since there were only 54 images, it would be an easy task. The section for Embrun begins on image 20 of 54, with entry No. 3 on stamped page 553. I knew this spot was the right place among the images, because the informant was “C. Guillaume / PP [parish priest] / Embrun Russell”. (Father Guillaume served as St-Jacques’ curé from 1875 to 1885.)4

Missing birth registration

I looked through the January births and then the February ones, but couldn’t find my great-grandfather. He should have been between entry No. 18 (Hormidas Gagnon) and No. 19 (Joseph St Amour), based on how he appears in St-Jacques’ parish register. I continued to look through the rest of the February and March entries, but Albert was nowhere to be seen.

Next, I checked all the 1879 entries (on images 20 through 30 of 54 images) in the Division of Russell (where Embrun is located) of the Registration District of Russell [County] and made a list of all the individuals whose births were registered by Father Guillaume.

Once the list was complete, I noticed that Father Guillaume submitted three batches of names to the division registrar for 1879: on March 25, on June 30 and on December 31. The first batch (March 25) was of baptisms that took place between January 1 and March 23. (Although Father Guillaume recorded a child’s date of baptism with a mention of when he or she was born in the sacramental register, it’s the child’s date of birth that is required in the (civil) registration book.)

St-Jacques’ sacramental register

I then made a list of the baptismal entries in St-Jacques’ sacramental register for the same time frame as the district registration entries.5 That’s when I realized there were 39 baptismal entries, but only 35 birth registration entries. The following four names were missing:

• Norbert [aka Albert] Degroseillier (B.16),
• Mary Ann O’Burns (B.21),
• Gédéon Moïse (B.29) and
• Edmond Isaïe Brien dit Durocher (B.32).

What happened?

Why didn’t these four individuals make it into the 1879 registration book for Russell County? These names were located within other pages that had names entered in the sacramental register, so it’s not a case of a skipped page. Both the church register’s and the district registration book’s pages are consecutively numbered. Did Father Guillaume neglect to submit these names or did the division registrar William Loux fail to enter them in the registration books?6 Could it be that a missed step resulted in a disconnect between the priest and the division registrar, or between the division registrar and the next level of government?

Wanting to know more about the early history of the Vital Statistics Act (1869), I downloaded (for a fee) an interesting journal article titled “Ontario’s Civil Registration of Vital Statistics, 1869-1926: The Evolution of an Administrative System” by George Emery.7 I learned that division registrars “recorded vital events on forms provided by the Registrar-General”, and that after 1875, “municipal registrars [communicated directly with] the Registrar-General”.8

However, I’m still curious about what procedures were in place in 1879 for getting birth information from a parish church priest to a division registrar, and from that registrar to the Registrar General of Ontario and eventually to microfilmed holdings.

I also recently learned that original handwritten indexes exist for Ontario birth registrations.9 (I already knew that computer-generated index books existed.) I might have to plan a trip one day to Toronto to consult these originals at the Archives of Ontario.


My goal was to find my great-grandfather’s baptism record and his birth registration. I’m happy that I found at least one of these records. I’m also glad that I did a comparison of the religious and secular registers, because I saw that there was more than one birth entry missing from the county registration book and not just Albert’s.

For now, though, it’s a mystery why Albert is missing from the 1879 Ontario birth registration records.


1. St-Jacques (Embrun, Ontario), parish register, 1877-1883, folio 97 (stamped), entry no. B.16, Norbert Degroseiller [sic] baptism, 13 February 1879; St-Jacques parish; digital image, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923”, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 April 2013). To access these browsable-only images, follow this path from the FamilySearch homepage: Search > Records > Canada > Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923 > [Browse] > Russell > Embrun > St Jacques > Baptisms, marriages, burials 1877-1883.

2. St-Jacques, parish register, 1877-1883, folio 97 (stamped), Norbert Degroseiller [sic] baptism, 13 February 1879.

3. “Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1913“, database, ( : accessed 20 April 2013).

4. J.-U. Forget and Elie-J. Auclair, Histoire de Saint-Jacques d’Embrun (Ottawa: La Cie d’Imprimerie d’Ottawa, 1910), 44; digital image, Our Roots ( : accessed 21 April 2013). French-born Jacques-Charles Guillaume was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in July 1859 in Ottawa. He was St-Jacques’ fifth parish priest.

5. St-Jacques (Embrun, Ontario), parish register, 1877-1883, folio 89 – folio 105 (stamped); St-Jacques parish; digital images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923”, FamilySearch ( : accessed 20 April 2013).

6. Division Registrar William Loux signed his name (Wm Loux) in each entry and on the last page for Russell County, which he dated December 31st, 1879.

7. George Emery, “Ontario’s Civil Registration of Vital Statistics, 1869-1926: The Evolution of an Administrative System”, Canadian Historical Review 64 (No. 4, 1983); digital images, University of Toronto Press Journals ( : 21 April 2013).

8. Emery, “Ontario’s Civil Registration of Vital Statistics, 1869-1926”, 478-481.

9. “Finding a Birth Registration - A Pathfinder”, Archives of Ontario ( : accessed 21 April 2013).

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Photo: Summer Boating

On the first two Fridays of each month, I showcase a family photo and answer the “who, what, when, where and why” of that picture. The first week’s Friday photo is taken from my side of the family and the second week’s Friday photo is chosen from my husband’s side of the family. (I got the idea for this column from Amy Coffin’s ebook The Big Genealogy Blog Book advertised on her The We Tree Genealogy Blog.)

Ann Cazakoff with her brother and her nephews at Madge Lake about 1943
Ann Cazakoff with her brother and nephews, ca 1943

Ann Cazakoff (right) with her elder brother John (at the oars) and his sons Joe (left) and Jack (centre).

My future mother-in-law Ann was photographed with her brother John and his sons Jack and Joe. The number 12 on the boat suggests that they were in a rental craft.

Ann’s nephews appear to be between 8 and 12 years old, so the photo was taken about 1943 or 1944.

My husband Michael tells me that the scenery looks like Madge Lake in Duck Mountain Provincial Park, Saskatchewan, Canada. (Ann lived near Pelly, while her brother John lived in Arran, both not far from Madge Lake.)

When you live in the midst of such natural beauty, what better way to spend a summer day than to go boating with a beloved brother and nephews.

My husband loves this photo, because it shows his mother Anne as a teenager (she was about 17 or 18 years old in this picture), who’s enjoying the great outdoors in her home province.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Funeral Card Friday: Frank Milks

Front view of funeral card of Frank Milks
Front of card

This funeral card was printed in memory of Francis (Frank) Milks, a brother-in-law of my paternal grandmother Julie (Vanasse) Belair. The card measures about 10.5 cm x 6.5 cm. (approximately 4 ¼” x 2 ½”). It was included in the family memorabilia sent to me in 1987 by my aunt Joan, who was Julie’s daughter.

Back view of funeral card of Frank Milks
Back of card

Frank was a younger son of David and Catherine (Lacharité) Milks. He was born on 9 July 1900 in the rural community of Cantley, Gatineau County, Quebec. Frank worked as a railway labourer when he married Corinne (Cora) Vanasse, my grandmother’s younger sister, on 5 November 1921 in Ottawa. The couple had five children: Doreen, Marvel, Lorraine (Peggy), Donald and Lynda.

Frank died on Easter Sunday, 14 April 1968, in Ottawa. He was interred in the cemetery of St. Elizabeth Roman Catholic church in Cantley.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Ancestral Anniversaries for April 2013

From October to December last year, I posted articles about some of my ancestors’ life events that marked an anniversary in 2012. I’m continuing this series by presenting a selection of ancestral events for 2013.

6 April 1713:
Death of Pierre Couillard in Sorel, Richelieu County, Quebec. He was buried there the next day. Pierre was originally from St-Pierre de Ballon in Aunis, France. He and his wife Jeanne Bilodeau, whom he married in Canada in 1666, were my paternal ancestors.

10 April 1643:
Baptism of François Vanasse in the parish church St-Maclou in Rouen, Normandy, France. Son of Paul Vanasse and Barbe Monteil, François arrived in New France about 1665. A few years later, he married widow Jeanne Fourrier, a fille du Roi. They are my father’s maternal ancestors.

11 April 1663:
Confirmation of Joseph-Isaac Lamy at Château-Richer, Montmorency County, Quebec. Joseph-Isaac, originally from Rouen in Normandy, France, was about 23 years old when he received the Sacrament of Confirmation. That October, he married fille du Roi Marie-Madeleine de Chevrainville dite Lafontaine. They are my paternal ancestors.

19 April 1773:
Marriage of Louis Drouin and Marie Josephe Verdon at St-Laurent, on Ile de Montréal, Quebec. The couple had previously entered into a marriage contract on 31 March 1773 in the office of notary Simon Sanguinet fils. Louis was 26 years old, while Marie Joseph was nearly 20. They are my paternal ancestors.

21 April 1753:
Baptism of Valentine Cole at St-Antoine-de-Tilly, Lotbinière County, Quebec. After renouncing his ‘heresies’ (Protestant faith), he was received in the Roman Catholic faith as “Jean-Baptiste”. Valentine, born about 1728, was originally from Boston, Suffolk, Massachusetts. After his baptism, he was known as Jean-Baptiste Col, or Colle or Cole dit Langlais. A few months later that year, he married Marie Josephe Paule Martel dite Lamontagne in Ste-Croix, Lotbinière County, Quebec. They are my maternal ancestors.

24 April 1813:
Birth of Joseph Pinau dit Deschâtelets in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines, Terrebonne County, Quebec. The eldest son of Joseph Pinau and his wife Marguerite Bouvret, Joseph was baptized the next day in Ste-Anne-des-Plaines. In 1835, he married Angélique Caillé, by whom he had eleven children. I descend maternally from their younger daughter Arline Deschâtelets.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

Friday, April 05, 2013

Friday Photo: A baptism

On the first two Fridays of each month, I showcase a family photo and answer the “who, what, when, where and why” of that picture. The first week’s Friday photo is taken from my side of the family and the second week’s Friday photo is chosen from my husband’s side of the family. (I got the idea for this column from Amy Coffin’s ebook The Big Genealogy Blog Book advertised on her The We Tree Genealogy Blog.)

Yvonne with her cousins in 1959
Yvonne with her cousins, 1959

Left to right, Carol, Diane with Pauline on her lap, and André with me on his lap.

My cousins and I were photographed after Pauline’s baptism. Some of her presents are displayed on the back of the sofa, while the baptism shawl is draped next to us.

The photo was taken in April 1959.

At my aunt and uncle’s home in Timmins, Ontario, Canada.

Joan (my Dad’s sister) and her husband Adrien gave a small party to celebrate their infant daughter Pauline’s baptism, a special, religious occasion in a Roman Catholic person’s life.

I love this photo, because it shows me with my cousins, whom I grew up with. Along with my paternal grandparents, my Laneville cousins were my closest relatives when I was young (we all lived in Timmins). We visited each other frequently, played together, went to the same schools, and one year, Pauline and I even took tap dancing lessons together.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.