Of Montreal. Or Quebec. Or Somewhere.

March 1, 2017

 

Over the last few years, I've gotten to know my Italian relatives and even visited them in my ancestral hometown (pictured above). What an incredible experience! It has spurred me to learn more about all the other branches of my family. The next person on my list has been, for a while, my great-great-grandmother, Odelie Tremblay.

 

Odelie is known to me only through a few colorful stories that my older cousin, Stanford, told me...including that she would turn her back to the television at my Aunt Yvonne's house (despite the fact that she was blind) to show her disdain for it. I know that she migrated to Fall River, Massachusetts just before the turn of the century, where a number of Quebecois emigrated for work in knitting and weaving mills. She married her husband "Harry" there in 1896 but unfortunately he died ten years later...

 

 A number of questions abound. How did Odelie decide to go to Fall River? Was she alone? (She was plucky enough; it wouldn't surprise me). Why did her husband Harry die of encephalitis at age 32? What was his work as a weaver like? Was her second husband a kind stepfather? What was it like for her to experience blindness at a time when those with disabilities didn't have much support?

 

There are a number of general histories that give an overview of the French-Canadian migration into the US for work. I like to gather this broad context as I delve deeper into the lives of my ancestors.

 

Around the time that her second husband passed away, Odelie owned a small convenience store in St. Hyacinthe outside of Montreal later in her life. My cousin Stanford, born in the 1920s, recalled the "great dray horses hauling heavy wagons of cotton for the knitting mill that used to be across the street", but much of that industry, like in Fall River, is long gone.

 

St. Hyacinthe is on my list of places to visit once I get all the Quebecois family history pinned down. (And I need to practice my French).

 

And then the biggest question of all: where in France are my Quebecois people from? The rule in genealogy is "start with what you know, and work backward." So, I'll get to these deeper questions eventually.

 

What kind of family mysteries are you looking to solve? Maybe I can help bring the past to life for you.

 

 

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