Our Living Memorial to 9/11

Genealogists spend a tremendous amount of time in the past, seeking out our family members. We work hard to not only identify them, but to go past the bare bones of “born, married, died” to get a glimpse into who they were as individuals. How did they fit into their communities, both locally and on a greater scale? How did historical events, such as World War I, impact them individually? Unfortunately, we spend so much time in the deeper past that we often forget to write about our own lives.

Today marks the seventeenth anniversary of one of the most significant days in world history. Every one of us who was a teenager or older remembers where we were when the planes came down, and over the next few days. Have you taken the time to write down your memories of that time? What did you feel? How did it impact you, not only at the time, but afterwards? Here is a brief story of my experience and memories of that fateful day and its aftermath.

The morning of September 11, 2001, was bright and clear in Boston. My taxi pulled up in front of Terminal A at Logan Airport, dropping me off for my flight to the Quad Cities where I would be speaking at the FGS conference. As I walked in, an unprecedented sight hit me. The airport was closing down around us. Passengers were being herded from the gate areas. Check-in desks were closed. The monitors with flight information were blank. Attendants were as clueless as we were. I decided to back to NEHGS, wondering what was going on. In the taxi, we heard over the radio that reports were coming in of a plane hitting the north tower.

In my office at work, the horror unfolded over my computer terminal. Every plane in America was grounded. We all thought the flights would be going again the next day. On Wednesday morning, my friend Lynn Betlock and I decided we were going to take a bus from Boston to Quad Cities. It was important to us to be at the FGS conference (since it was in the Midwest, many people drove and had already arrived there). As we left Worcester, my mobile rang. Our friend Laura Prescott called to tell us she had obtained a rental car and would meet us in Albany to pick us up and finish the trip.

We drove through the night, arriving at the hotel just 20 minutes before I was to make my first presentation. A quick costume change and I made it to my room exactly on time. I, along with others, covered for those speakers who couldn’t make it that week. We delivered numerous extra presentations to ensure that those present would have as good an experience as possible. The flag flew in the central entryway, next to televisions tuned to the news all day. During those long few days we hugged and cried. We learned how to make origami creatures (how nice!) and supported each other in a myriad ways.
Returning home was difficult. Two of the planes had departed from Logan International Airport. Several of my friends were flight attendants for American and United, and it took days to find out that they were safe. Nobody I knew was more than two degrees separated from someone who died, either in the planes or in the towers. The manager of a store across the street from NEHGS was on Flight 11. Several of my friends knew Mark Bingham, a gay rugby player who was one of the heroes of Flight 93. We have a memorial to the New England victims here in the Public Garden in Boston.

I’ve been to the memorial for the victims in Manhattan, but have not yet been able to bring myself to go into the museum.
The best memorials to those who died that day, however, fall to each of us. To remember them and their stories. To fight terrorism everywhere. To fight the racism and xenophobia that tries to take control, understanding that diversity is America’s greatest strength. To live our best lives, and not let these forces of adversity win.

Euphemie Jalbert’s Life of Strength and Perseverance

Today is International Women’s Day. Genealogists know how important it is to tell the stories of the women in our family just as much as the men. Today I would like to share the story of my ancestor, Marie Euphemie Jalbert.

Euphemie was born at Cap St. Ignace in Montmagny, Quebec, 3 January 1806, eldest child of Abraham Noël Jalbert and Marie Élizabeth Bernier. Abraham was a fifth-generation Quebec farmer. Cap St. Ignace is on the southern shore of the St. Lawrence River, about 70 kilometers northeast of Québec City. Élizabeth’s mother’s family had resided there for generations. Her great-grandfather was a New England captive carried to Canada during Queen Anne’s War in 1704.

Euphemie’s baptismal record in the church of St. Ignace de Loyola at Cap St. Ignace.

Euphemie was born just over a year after her parents married. Two years later, on 4 April 1808, her sister Marie Orante was born. There is no further record of A year later they were joined by a brother on 12 June 1809. Unfortunately their baby brother lived for only two weeks, dying on the 28th of June. Euphemie had just turned eleven years old when her mother died at the age of 31 on 22 February 1817.

Her father married there second 24 October 1820 Geneviève Guimond, daughter of François Guimond and Marie Catherine Labrise dit Kirouac. Lydie Suzanne Jalbert was born to them 29 January 1822. Just a few months later, on the first of August, Abraham died. Her stepmother died 30 January 1825, and her half-sister Lidie joined her parents later that year on the 28th of September. Imagine how Euphemie must have felt as a 19-year-old girl who had seen her family die around her.

On 7 November 1826, Euphemie married farmer Jean-Baptiste Tondreault at L’Islet, just twelve kilometers northeast of Cap St. Ignace. She must have felt great joy when their first child, Marie Julienne, was born 2 October 1828. Unfortunately, the joy was short-lived. Little Julienne died the following March. I cannot imagine the heartbreak of losing your firstborn child, especially so soon after her birth. But the heartbreak did not stop the couple from trying again, and their next daughter, Geneviève, was born the first of February the following year. Sadly, Geneviève did not live to see Christmas, dying on 9 December.

Over the next 16 years, Jean-Baptiste and Euphemie would have nine more children. Three more of these babies would die before they reached the age of 2 years old. Certainly her six surviving children, Emérance, Césari, Jean-Baptiste, Charles, Zoé, and Damase, must have brought happiness to her. Unfortunately, she would not live to see them all grow up.

The parish church of Notre Dame de Bonsecours at L’Islet.

On 10 May 1851, Euphemie Jalbert passed away at L’Islet. She was 45 years old. Her funeral was held there two days later in the parish of Notre Dame de Bonsecours. This was the same church where she had married almost 25 years earlier. The same church where her children were baptised. She was laid to rest in the parish cemetery where her five children lay.

Her surviving children lived longer than she did. Although most died between the ages of 52 and 61, her daughter Zoé beat all the odds. Born 16 April 1842, she was eight years old when her mother died. She was 30 when she married her first husband, Damase Fortin, and 66 when she married second husband Onésime Garceau. Zoé died at Trois Rivières 17 January 1946, just weeks shy of her 104th birthday.

Life was certainly not easy for Euphemie. Her childhood was filled with loss. Despite this, she married and built her own family during the second half of her life. Continuing on despite the losses, she left behind a legacy of strength and perseverance through adversity. Euphemie’s son Jean-Baptiste Tondreault was my grandmother’s grandfather. And I could certainly see that legacy of strength in her.

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 Story of Mémère Morin

I recently connected with a second cousin whom I have never met. Our mothers are first cousins. It has been fun getting to know him a bit, and I am helping him with a genealogical puzzle on his father’s side. He asked me if I had any stories written down about our family, and I had to admit that I don’t have as many of those stories committed to paper as I would like. Many are still in note form. As with many professional genealogists, work on my own family has slowed as I’ve worked on other puzzles. I remembered an earlier version of a story about our great-grandmother. I’ve updated the tale and present it here as an example of how you can take the information from the records in your research and turn it into an interesting story of your family members, to bring them to life for others.

My great-grandmother, Marie Louise Houle, was an amazing woman. She was born in the small farm town of Warwick in Quebec, the sixth of Joseph Houle and Marie Louise Martel’s eight children. The Houle and Martel families were close, and five of the Houle siblings married siblings in the Martel family.

In 1891, Marie Louise Houle’s uncle, Célestin Martel, brought his family to the village of North Grosvenordale in Thompson, Connecticut. Three years later, thirteen-year-old Marie Louise Houle left her immediate family behind in Canada and joined her uncle and cousins in North Grosvenordale to work in the mills there. Eventually her siblings and even her parents immigrated. 19-year-old Anselme Morin immigrated to North Grosvenordale with his family in 1895. On 20 June 1898, Marie Louise and Anselme married at the local Catholic parish church of St. Joseph.

The Houles, Martels, and Morins were all working-class families. Anselme and Mare Louise at first lived with his parents on a small farm. But family members also worked in the nearby mills for income. In April 1899, Anselme’s twin sister Angelina married Marie Louise’s cousin Napoleon Martel. A month later, Marie Louise gave birth to her first child, daughter Florence Marie Louise. Another child, son Joseph Arthur, was born in May 1901. The next few years were marked by successive tragedies for the young family.

Anselme’s mother, only 51 years old, died in March 1902. His father Onésime survived her by only a few months, dying in August. Marie Louise gave birth to daughter Annette Louise in December, but she was sickly. She died only a few months later in March 1903, and was laid to rest family plot in the St. Joseph Cemetery with Anselme’s parents.

The following year, in September 1904, Marie Louise gave birth to twin girls: Marie Alice and Josephine. Unfortunately, Josephine died just a few hours after the birth and she, too, was laid to rest with her sister and grandparents.

The years following these tragedies were relatively happy ones for the family. Seven more children were born over the next thirteen years, including my grandfather, Theodore Edward “Eddie,” in 1915. The last of their thirteen children, Emile, was born in October 1919.

There were two more losses in this time period. Anselme’s brother Mathias Adrian Morin died 16 October 1911, the day after his 28th birthday. He left a young widow and a year-old baby boy. In 1918, his single brother Éloi, my grandfather Eddie’s godfather, enlisted in the U.S. Army and went to war in France. He was killed at the Battle of the Meuse-Argonne  that fall.

Anselme worked in the local cotton mill even though he had asthma. The family was poor working class, and it was the only way to support the large family. The 1920 census, taken on January 16, shows that the three eldest children, Florence, Joseph, and Alice, had joined their father in working at the mill. Unfortunately, Anselme’s luck soon ran out. On April 24, 1920, he had a major asthma attack and died.

Marie Louise was just 39 years old when she became a widow. Of her eleven surviving children, nine were under the age of 18, and six of those were age 10 or younger. In September of that year eldest daughter Florence married. The family encouraged Marie Louise to let Florence take baby Emile to raise to make the burden on her easier. Marie Louise, however, was adamant. Emile was her son, and she would raise him as she had his older siblings.

The family was quite poor, and often there was little food. Because he was unmarried, Éloi left his pension to my grandfather (only three years old when Éloi’s died). Probate records show that after Anselme’s death, Marie Louise often went to the court to ask for money from the pension to take care of Eddie. This money was actually used to help pay for food for the entire family.

Work was difficult to find in North Grovesnordale in the 1920s, so in 1930 Marie Louise sold the farm, which ended up in the hands of her daughter Florence. Marie Louise took the youngest children with her to Central Falls, Rhode Island. Central Falls had a number of mills, thus much more opportunity to find work. In 1933 my grandparents married and shortly thereafter they took the rest of Eloi’s pension money to buy a small farmhouse in nearby Cumberland, Rhode Island, a much more rural place to raise their children.

Tragedy struck again in 1938, when Marie Louise lost a grandchild. Just a week after the Great Hurricane of 1938 dropped a tree on my grandparent’s house, their son Frank, only nine months old, died in my grandfather’s arms. Just three and a half months later, my grandmother went into premature labor. Baby Floura was too week to survive and died the same day.

After Anselme’s death, Marie Louise dedicated her life to her family and never remarried. She always lived with one or another of her children. In the 1940s she moved with her daughter Dora’s family into a home a few doors up from my grandparents. This allowed my mother and her siblings to spend a lot of time with their grandmother. My mother remembers that Marie Louise was a great cook, and she would often invite the children into the kitchen to taste the tortière (French-Canadian meat pie). She would also take them blueberry picking in the fields across the street. My aunt still vividly remembers being awoken at 5 a.m. to go berry picking.

During World War II Eddie and his youngest brother Emile served in the U.S. Merchant Marine. Someone, likely one of their sisters, put together a collage of each of the members of the family and sent it to them.

The family of Anselme Morin and Marie Louise Houle. Clockwise from center top, Viola “Sister Florence” Morin (1908–2000), Jeannette “Irene” (Morin) Rapoza (1913–2004), Anselme Morin (1876–1920), Joseph Theodore “Teddy” Morin (1917–1987), Joseph Arthur Morin (1901–1970), Marie “Minnie” (Morin) Houle (1910–1998), Beatrix (Morin) Gousie (1912–1985), Florence Marie Louise (Morin) (LaPierre) Mandeville (1899–1972), Alice (Morin) Caron (1904–1974), Marie Louise (Houle) Morin (1881–1953), Medora “Dora” (Morin) LeBlanc (1906–1984). Center: left, Theodore Edward “Eddie” Morin (1915–1969); right, Emile Alphonse Morin (1919–1984).

In 1949, Marie Louise lost another grandson. Her daughter Minnie’s son Emile was killed in an accident at the age of 19. As Marie Louise got older she got more sickly and developed diabetes. At the time there were few treatments. On a cold winter day in February 1953 she succumbed to complications from the disease. Her body was brought back to North Grosvenordale, where she was laid to rest in the family plot with her husband, children, and in-laws.

I wish I could have known her. Despite all the hardships she endured, my mother remembers Mémère Morin as a warm, loving woman. Clearly she was very strong. She was a widow far longer than she was a wife. She bore 13 children in 20 years. During the course of her life she buried her parents, five of her siblings, her husband, two brothers-in-law, two children, and three grandchildren.

But she left a lasting legacy of love and family. Her 13 children, raised in very poor conditions, gave her 50 grandchildren whose descendants now number in the hundreds. They have served their country in times of war, and times of peace. Among them are teachers, business people, sales people, singer/musicians, and even a professional genealogist. And we all carry our heritage of a loving woman who did everything to keep her family together in a caring home through the most difficult situations.

Trust But Verify: The Story of Dr. Benjamin Church’s Family

Family historians utilize a large number of sources for our research. This includes compilations as well as original records. We must read all of these carefully and critically in order to reach properly supported conclusions. This includes published information on major historical figures as well as average everyday people, and works by well-known individuals as well as those who are little-known. Anyone can make mistakes, or miss key pieces of information.

I have an article in the latest issue of The New England Historical and Genealogical Register that is a great illustration of this point. When one thinks of traitors of the Revolutionary War, most Americans will quickly turn to Benedict Arnold. While he is today one of the best-known traitors, there was an earlier one who was infamous in his time: Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr. Originally a member of the Sons of Liberty in Boston, he served as George Washington’s surgeon general at the start of the war in 1775. That summer his treachery was discovered and he was quickly jailed.

That he had a wife and children was a well-known fact. But generations of historians and genealogists have misinterpreted documents and published materials over and over. Sometimes conflicting information was morphed away by combing the conflicting bits into a single strand of information with no source or evidence provided.

Even the best of researchers and authors can make mistakes. And sometimes the problem is not a mistake, but an evaluation and conclusion based on insufficient evidence. It is not unusual for new evidence to come to light after one has already published one’s conclusions.

All of this is to say that even work complete with source citations and written by the best of researchers must be reviewed. In the case of this article, examining original records instead of using long-published extracts provided critical evidence; evidence that while extremely significant was omitted from the abstracts. A letter from the papers of Robert Treat Paine was well known, but was misinterpreted by researchers, and the error propagated by later researchers and authors. As recently as 2014, a book on Dr. Church that continued the misinformation was published by a well-known and excellent historian.

It was only by going back to original sources and reexamining other sources based on new information that the truth began to emerge. All of these records have been freely available to researchers for centuries, but nobody ever took the time to examine everything in the context of the whole. And this case well illustrates the importance of going back to original documents to verify information in abstracts.

NEHGS members can read “The Wife and Descendants of Revolutionary War Traitor Dr. Benjamin Church, Jr., of Boston” on AmericanAncestors.org. Non-members may be able to read the article in the current issue of the Register at their local library or genealogical society,  or by obtaining a copy from their local library through interlibrary loan.