Genealogy Professional Podcast

I listen to many podcasts. They cover a wide variety of subjects, including genealogy, history, education, business, music, film, politics, current events, and comedy. One of my favorites genealogy podcasters has always been my friend Marian Pierre-Louis.

Among her many activities is the Genealogy Professional Podcast. It targets professional genealogists as well as those transitioning from hobbyist to professional. She interviews professionals who make their living as genealogists in a variety of ways. She has covered a wide variety of professionals from around the world in almost 50 interviews. Among them are:

  • Blaine Bettinger
  • Audrey Collins
  • Lisa Louise Cooke
  • Cyndi Ingle
  • Thomas MacEntee
  • Megan Smolenyak
  • Mary Tedesco

You can see a complete list of her guests with links to the individual podcast on her Episodes page.

I had the pleasure of appearing on her most recent episode, discussing my wide and varied career as a professional genealogist. My path has certainly been very different from most. From working at a large non-profit to a small startup; researching, writing, editing, teaching, speaking, and more, for more than twenty years I’ve had the pleasure of doing work that I love and helping people reconnect to their families. You can find out more about my interview on the page for episode 49. Thank you to Marian for having me as a guest.

If you are thinking about becoming a professional genealogist, you should definitely take a listen to this podcast. And thank you to Marian for having me as a guest.

Marriage Dispensations in the Catholic Church

When working with French-Canadian Catholic church records, it is very common to come across ancestors who needed a dispensation. This was an approval granted by the bishop or cardinal to suspend the usual rules for Catholics that would prevent the marriage from occurring. Dispensations come in two types: dispensation of banns or dispensation for consanguinity. These dispensations provide great clues to genealogists for further research.

 

Banns

In order to be married in the Catholic church, couples were required to have their intention to marry announced at the parish mass three times prior to the marriage. If the bride and groom were from different parishes, the announcement needed to be made in both parishes. This was a safety precaution so that if one member of the couple was already married, or too young, or any other reason why the marriage would not be valid in the eyes of the church, the couples’ neighbors, family, or friends could bring the issue to the priest ahead of time. The banns are still part of the church today, although they are often printed in the bulletin in addition to or instead of being announced during the mass.

Dispensations on the banns could be made for a number of reasons. Usually. these were granted because there was a need or desire for the marriage to take place quickly. It is very common for those who are about to emigrate to have the banns dispensed with. This is especially common when one of the parties (usually the husband) has already emigrated and returned for the sole purpose of getting married. Such individuals may not be able to remain in Quebec for long. Another reason, of course, is that the first child is already on the way. If you see a dispensation for banns, be certain to look for a child born fewer than nine months later.

Dispensations were given for one or two of the banns, but never for all three. This is because the third bann is part of the marriage ceremony. Perhaps you may be familiar with the words “If anyone can show just cause why these two should not be married, let them speak now or forever hold their peace.” (or words to that effect).

 

Consanguinity

Dispensations for consanguinity were made for a different reason; one that is far more valuable to genealogists. These dispensations were made because the bride and groom were related by blood. The degree of consanguinity is measured by the difference to the common ancestor.

 

Degree Relationship Common Ancestors
First Siblings Parents
Second First Cousins Grandparents
Third Second Cousins Great-Grandparents
Fourth Third Cousins Great-Great-Grandparents

 

Dispensations are never give for the first degree of consanguinity. They are not required for the fourth degree or higher. The only time a dispensation is required is for the second or third degree. There may be records where the fourth degree of consanguinity is stated, but a dispensation was not required by the church.

These dispensations are frequently found in smaller parishes. After a generation or two, it is not surprising to find intermarriage of relatives. My maternal ancestry leads back to the parish of Gentilly in Nicolet. I have both Rivard and Poisson ancestry whose lines are constantly intermarrying. This record from the parish of St. Edouard shows the marriage of my fourth-great grandparents, Alexis Rivard dit Lavigne and Julie Poisson, on 9 October 1821. After the naming of the bride and groom and their parents, the record goes on to say that no impediment to the marriage was found, other than the third degree of consanguinity, and a dispensation was issued by the vicar general on the 21st of September. The vicar general is the highest official in the diocese after the bishop. He is usually responsible for executing administrative authority in the diocese. Alexis and Julie were both great-grandchildren of François Rivard dit Lanouette dit Lavigne; Alexis from the first wife and Julie from the second.

5 In the News

The following stories captured my interest this week. African-American neighborhoods in Maryland, the history of zero, hobos in the Great Depression, the history of tea in Britain, and mirror balls.

Amid Festival Fun, a Serious Pasion for African-American History in Baltimore County
The Baltimore Sun reported on the Baltimore County African American Cultural Festival, which had some different groups this year.

“They told the stories of Marylanders who played on Negro Leagues baseball teams, of men who served their country as Buffalo Soldiers, and of Henrietta Lacks, whose cells sparked medical discoveries that her family never knew about for years. And they shared the stories of Baltimore County’s 40 recognized historically African-American neighborhoods, which few residents know about.”

Carbon Dating Reveals the History of Zero is Older than Previously Thought
For numbers people, the history of math can be as interesting as family history. The first known text describing zero as a number was written in India in 628 C.E. New carbon dating, however, has shown that date to be off . . . by hundreds of years.

Residents Embrace Rail History at Hobo Fest
The Port Huron and Detroit Historical Society recently held its 13th Hobo Fest. The festival remembers and tells the stories of those who rode the rails in the 1930s and 1940s to find work during those dark economic times.

The True Story Behind England’s Tea Obsession
Tea is universally thought of as a very British thing. But history shows us that it was actually a Portuguese woman who introduced the drink to the English. Catherine of Braganza, who married King Charles II after the restoration of the monarchy, brought the drink with her and introduced it to a nation.

 

Last of the Disco Ball Makers Still Hustles
 Yolanda Baker has been making mirrored balls for half a century. The Kentucky woman is still going strong, working at the last American manufacturer of the items, keeping Madonna, Kid Rock, and Beyonce (among others) in mirror balls.

Dit Names and Databases

This post was inspired by a message my friend Marian Pierre-Louis posted on Facebook. She is experiencing French-Canadian for the first time in helping a friend with her research. the question posed was “How do I handle dit names in genealogy programs or online trees?!!”

 

Dit names are sobriquets; nicknames to differentiate individuals who bear the same surname. (The word dit literally translates to called in English.) This practice was carried over from France to the New World, and was especially important in New France. The number of immigrants was quite small, and in a very short time it was necessary to tell the difference between all these people bearing the same or similar names. Dit names came about in a variety of different ways: personality (Jolicoeur), hair color (Leblanc or Leblonde), where the individual lived (Lamontagne or Larivière), or many other ways.

 

This multiple surname scenario causes issues with genealogy database programs and online trees. As a rule, they force you to choose a single surname as the standard surname, allowing you to attach other surnames for an individual. This is not the way these surnames were used. They were alternative but equivalent surnames, and used interchangeably. Sometimes they use dthe wor dit to connect them, sometimes it was a hyphen, sometimes nothing at all to link them. Individuals might use the original name in one record, the dit name only in another record, go back to the original surname, then use both in the next. In some families, the original name was eventually dropped in favor of the dit name as the surname. This is what happened in my family, as the name Houde went through multiple transitions to become Leclerc.

 

My seventh-great grandfather, Gabriel Houde, married Jeanne Petitclerc at Ste. Foye on 21 November 1713. They went on to have six children over the next decade, one of whom died in infancy. Of the five who lived to adulthood, three were boys and two were girls. Gabriel and the children sometimes used the dit name Houle. The two daughters continued to use the surnames Houde and Houle. The eldest son, Augustin, used Houde dit Clair. The next son, Claude (my sixth-great grandfather) and the youngest, Alexis, used Houde, Houle, Clair, and Clair Houde.

Burial Record of Antoine Claire Houle in the parish at La Baie du Febvre.

As they got older, they and their children would often appear in records as simply Clair Houde. Claude’s son Antoine used Houde, Houle, Clair, Claire, Clair Houde, Claire Houde, Clair Houle, and Claire Houle. Antoine’s great-grandson, Abraham, was born in 1862 as Abraham Clair Houde. He was my great-great grandfather, and brought his young family to Rhode Island in the 1890s. From that point forward, the family name was Leclerc.

 

This is one of the many reasons why I only use genealogy database programs for data management. For genealogical purposes, information is written up in word documents. That way, each record statement contains the version of the surname that was used in that record, something the database programs do not currently allow. The best of all worlds, however, would allow us to print all the names our ancestor used on consecutive lines in the same box.

 

The use of dit names was ubiquitous for more than two centuries. Despite the Quebec Act’s protections of French-Canadian culture, by the 1870s Anglo officials pressured them to “pick a surname and stick with it.” The practice of dit names dropped precipitously in Quebec, and those who migrated to the U.S. were also forced to pick a single name.

 

5 In the News

The following stories captured my interest this week. From ancient earthquakes and Viking DNA to modern crimes and architecture, they tell us much about out past.

DNA Proves Viking Women Were Powerful Warriors
“An elaborate Viking Age grave in Sweden holds the remains of a decorated female warrior from the 10th century, providing the first archaeological evidence that women held high-status positions in Viking culture.”

What Crime Most Changed the Course of History
The Atlantic asked a number of writers, directors, producers, crime specialists, and average readers to answer this question. Some of the responses may surprise you.

Nashville’s Fort Negley  Nominated as Globally Recognized Site for Slavery
“Fort Negley, a Civil War-era fort in Nashville that is getting renewed attention amid the debate over a proposed development nearby called Cloud Hill, is now nominated to join a worldwide registry of historically significant sites for slavery.”

The Deadliest Earthquake Ever Recorded
“Humans have been recording earthquakes for nearly 4,000 years. From the ones we know about, the deadliest by far happened in China in 1556 A.D. On January 23 of that year, a powerful quake rocked the province of Shaanxi as well as the neighboring province of Shanxi, killing an estimated 830,000 people.”

Five Architects on the One Building They Wish Had Been Preserved
Another survey, this one from the Smithsonian. The publisher asked five prominent architects to name the one building that has been destroyed that they wished had not been. Interesting answers, including one who changed the rules and did not name a building but something else instead.

Ste. Marie de l’Incarnation et les Ursulines de Québec

In 1639, Marie de l’Incarnation left France for the wilderness of Nouvelle France. At forty years old, she had already lived an interesting life. She had no way of knowing what a lasting difference she would make in the world.

Marie Guyart was born at Tours, France, 18 October 1599, daughter of Florent Guyart and Jeanne Michelet and baptized there in the parish of St. Saturnin the following day. From the age of seven, when she had a vision of Jesus, she felt drawn to religious life. Ignoring her wishes, her parents made her a match with a silk worker named Claude Martin. Married at 18, she became a mother a year later and a widow just months after that. She lived with her parents for a time, then her sister. In 1631 she joined the Ursuline convent, and in 1639 she went to New France, where she founded a convent in Quebec City.

The Jesuits had been teaching young native boys their European Christian values for years. Now the Ursulines took upon themselves the education of young native girls in these ways. They were the first female religious order from Europe in North America. After three years in the lower town, they moved to the upper town and built a new monastery. The land was donated to the nuns by the Company of New France. The Ursuline convent has been located on this property ever since.

Since its founding, the Ursulines have been dedicated to teaching. From the natives, to the children of colonists, to the children of wealthy merchants, the nuns have taught girls of all ages. More than two dozen convents and monasteries were founded, starting in Trois-Rivières in 1697 and ending in Yagi, Japan, in 1974. Many members of our ancestral families joined the Ursulines to continue their mission of teaching.

From small beginnings, the Ursuline Convent is now a large complex of buildings. In 2014They remained a cloistered order until the 1960s. Unfortunately, that was a harbinger of greater changes to come. The sisterhood is dwindling. The numbers of those joining religious orders in general has diminished greatly since that time, and the Ursulines are no exception. Today there are only 40 nuns living at the convent, the youngest of whom is in her 60s.

A recent story broke the news that the sisters have made a difficult decision. After 375 years of living on the same land, the remaining Ursuline sisters will move into a modern assisted living facility in 2018. In 2017 the Musée des Ursulines de Québec was founded. It will work to preserve the monasteries and convents, artifacts, and the archives of these valiant women. In these archives is doubtless a great deal of information about those in our ancestral families who became Ursulines.

Little could young Marie Guyart have known what a difference she would make around the world. After more than thirty years toiling in her new home in Canada, Marie de l’Incarnation passed away on 30 April 1672, just two weeks after Easter. Pope John Paul, II, beatified her in Vatican City.  More than 340 years after she died, Pope Francis canonized her on 2 April 2014, making her now Sainte Marie de l’Incarnation.

 

For more information about Marie Guyart and the Ursulines of Quebec, visit the following resources:

The Canadian Encyclopedia entry for the Ursuline Convent

The Catholic Encyclopedia entry for Marie de l’Incarnation

The Musée des Ursulines de Québec

 

 

The Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project

Maps are a vital part of genealogical research. Recognizing their historical and genealogical value, the Massachusetts State Library initiated a major project to digitize a part of their collection.

The Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project, supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, is working to digitize the collection of about 200 atlases. These volumes provide 6,500 maps of areas throughout the Commonwealth.

To date the project has digitized 167 of the 200 volumes; almost 85% of the collection! The earliest published volume digitized to date is an atlas of plans to subdivide the estates of William C. Barstow in East Boston, created in 1857. The earliest maps, however, are much earlier. In 1894 an atlas of Boston was published with maps created in 1819–20. This excerpt shows the Granary Burying Ground (labeled simply Burying Ground), and the house on Unity Street (at the corner of the alley just up from Love Lane) built by Benjamin Franklin’s sister and brother-in-law, later owned by Franklin himself.

The largest part of the collection is comprised of 50 atlases of various parts of the city of Boston in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The most recent of all the materials in the online collection is a 1938 atlas for Back Bay and the central part of Boston.

Maps are not limited to Boston, however. You can find towns across the state in these atlases. This small section of a map of the town of Seekonk in an atlas of Bristol County published in 1895 shows the eighteenth-century farmhouse where my family lived while I was in high school.  No names are present, but the small black squares on the mapeach represent a building.

The files are available in both PDF and jpg format. While neither is searchable, it is very easy to browse both versions. The PDF files are on the DSpace platform that holds all of the digital collections of the library. The jpg files are on Flickr. If you have ancestors in Massachusetts, visit the library’s page for the Massachusetts Real Estate Atlas Digitization Project and check out these resources.

 

Land Ownership in Canada

Our French-Canadian ancestors had a far different system of land ownership than we, their Franco-American descendants, are used to. The seigneurial system, born out of feudal France, requires we think of researching their property records in different ways.

In the earliest days of the settlement, the crown granted large swaths of land to the Company of New France (also known as the Company of One Hundred Associates), various branches of the church, and to a limited number of individuals. These grants were called seigneuries. Individuals who received the grants were called seigneurs. The church and the company acted as the seigneur for their grants.

The seigneurs would then give their own grants to individuals, who would pay a cens (a small annual cash payment) and rent, much larger and usually a combination of cash, crops, and farm animals. These were the habitants who cleared the land and created farms. They were usually referred to in official documents as censitaires.

Waterways were the primary method of travel in New France, thus everyone wanted easy access to them. Seigneuries usually had a certain amount of frontage on the river, with the land extending deep back from there. The seigneuries would then be further subdivided with each censitaire receiving a certain amount of frontage, with the rest of the land going back from there.

Censitaires were able to assign their property to others. They could buy or sell rights to property, or leave their property to their children through a will, division of estate, or other method. As censitaires distributed their land to their children, the property would be further subdivided. Eventually the land would become a series of tiny strips moving away from the water.

Once the seigneury was divided and no further frontage was available, the land would be subdivided into ranges (pronounced like rang in the phrase “rang the bell”). A second range of subdivisions would be created by the first. In some cases, a third or fourth (or more) range might eventually be created. These were seldom neat, straight lines. Natural occurrences (such as marsh/swamp land, ravines, and more) might impact the way the land was granted. The lower the range, the greater the likelihood that your ancestor might have been more economically successful.

The seigneurial system of land tenure continued even after the Conquest. It continued throughout the first half of the nineteenth century until the passage of the Feudal Abolition Act of 1854. It was not until well into the twentieth century, however, that the seigneuries were all finally totally gone.

Records of these rentals, as well as sales and purchases of individuals’ rights to property, are found in the notarial records. Remember that not all transactions were handled locally, and the notaire in the seigneurie may not by the one who handled all the legal contracts surrounding the property of your ancestors.

For more information on the history of land and property in Quebec, see:

Harris, Richard Colebrook. The Seigneurial System in Early Canada Madison, Wisc.: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1968.

Munro, William Bennett. Documents Relating to the Seigneurial Tenure in Canada, 1598–1854 New York: Greenwood Press, Publishers, 1968. First published 1908 by the Champlain Society.