My Quest to knowing my ancestors
My mother, Jeanne Boivin, told many stories about her family and growing up. She spoke of growing up on the Alberta prairies, the visits from her Cousin Alexis who came and went from her life. He was also my godfather. She told us about her mother who died when she was still a young girl, and her little sister who died shortly after her mom. On those topics details were sketchy, she prefered to emphasize the happy days living near her Tante Alice and attending school in Trenville.
And there was the mystery of how and why she was born in Kansas, USA, in a place called Damar. What was her family doing there? She also had stories about going to school in Prince George, British Columbia, and of being a post mistress in Lac Canard.
When my mother died, she left me her journal. She wrote in it every day of her life starting before I was born in 1947 until she died in the hospital at St. Paul, Alberta. I also received her private letters, including love letters between her and my dad, Ernest Noël. He told few stories about his childhood but I knew that Grand-ma and Grand-pa Noël, like the Boivin family, had moved to Alberta from Quebec. Not only that, Grand-pa Noël had come from Woburn in the Eastern Townships, not far from Coaticook, where my mother’s family had come from. There was very little information about the grand-parents left in Quebec. But somehow we were related to the famous strongman Louis Cyr, and to Bishop Lussier of the Diocese of St. Paul? Who were my grandmothers, Régina Chauvin and Emma Lafosse, and their families? And so the quest for the history of all four of my ancestor families began.
I alway knew that I wanted to write a family history based on Mom’s journal. The first thing that I did was make recordings of her journals from the start to 1962, a total of 50 tapes. I also acquired many photos that were not in albums and worked to organize them and identify the people and locations. I read tutorials on writing family history, and started to visit cemeteries and archives whenever I travelled to locations that might have some relevant information. In 1994 my husband Maurice and I travelled from Montreal to the Maritimes stopping at Lac Megantic and Woburn in the Eastern Townships.
The name Noël shows up often on the gravestones. The building above was formerly the parish church of St. Augustin, Woburn and the location of my Noël Grandparents Albert and Regina’s wedding. A new church was built across the road a few years ago and the steeple was taken off the old one when it was decomissioned. Alice Noël, Albert’s eldest sister is buried at Woburn.
On a later trip to Quebec I visited the archives at St. Jean-sur-Richelieu and found a lot of information about Julien and Julienne Boivin — Grandpa Ernest’s parents. A visit to the Red Deer archives turned up information on Trenville School, Elnora and Lousana. The Alberta Provincial Archives was a source of birth and deaths records and homestead locations.
Emma Boivin is buried in Trochu, Alberta. Her memorial stone notes 1923 as her year of death but her death certificate confirms it as 1924.
Trochu shown on the right is located in Alberta’s Big Sky Country.
In 2004 on a cross-country trip I visited Coaticook. The St. Edmond de Coaticook
church is on a high hill, and the cemetery is behind it. This is where Edouard and Adele Lafosse are buried.
In 2012, Maurice and I took a detour coming home from the Rodeo in St. Tite, Quebec. We visited the town of Damar in Kansas where Mom was born.
Kansas is very much like Alberta, rolling hills, oil, and cattle grazing in the fields. With few trees available, the fence posts are made of the local soft sandstone.
The town of Damar is very proud of it’s French Canadian heritage. The residents hosted a homecoming that year celebrating the 125th anniversary of the town. The cemetery has many familiar names on the gravestones. The church built in 1912 has an endless view as a backdrop.
In 2013 my sister Maria and I took a trip to Quebec. She wanted to visit Iles d’Orlean, and I wanted to visit many of locations that I had read about through my research for the family history book. Our first stop was at Iles d’Orlean where the Noëls first settled upon arrival from France. The oldest cemeteries are now converted to lawns. It’s a bountiful island located in the Fleuve near Quebec City.
Above is a beautiful angel guarding the graves in an old cemetery, the remnants of the dry docks where boats were stored for the winter, and a view of Quebec City from the island.
We also visited the St. Janvier Parish church in Weedon. Another monument to the faith and dedication of our ancesters.
The next stop was at St. Venant de Paquetteville where Julien & Julienne Boivin are buried. The countryside is rolling hills and you can see for miles.
Our last stop before going home was at Henryville, south of Montreal. There were repairs being done to the outside of the church and the workmen allowed us to visit the inside of the church.
These many stops helped me understand the local cultures and history of these places where my ancestors lived and died. Censuses, and other documents allowed me to confirm dates and locations. In between all these trips I did some writing, and online research. I have been writing this book for the last 8 years, always in need of additional information to fill out the story. I am the author of the book, but I received a lot of help with the writing process, and preparation for printing from my sisters Maria, Yvonne and Francoise. I’m excited to finally see it completed. The printed copies have arrived and are now available.