52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 15: Giacomo DeGrandis

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

I thought I’d explain in my next few posts why the rest of my 52 ancestors challenge might end up being heavy on the French Canadian information. This is because the French Canadians left a magnificent paper trail in their wake in the form of Catholic church records. Tracing my other ethnicities, particularily from the comfort of my own home on a computer has it’s limitations. So next up: some of my (current) dead ends.

Giacomo DeGrandis was born circa the year 1845 near the modern comune of Castelfranco Veneto, within the province of Treviso, region of Veneto, Italy. Castelfranco is a medieval town, complete with town walls and a castle, both of which are well preserved to this day. At the time of Giacomo’s (Italian for “Jacob”) birth, the region of Veneto was part of the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia, a kingdom within the Austrian Empire. Venetia had long been it’s own self-governing republic (697-1797) with it’s own unique culture and language. Residents considered themselves Venetians and continue to do so to this day. They spoke Venetian, similar to Italian but definitely unique. During Giacomo’s youth, he would see Venetia and Italy’s wars of Independence (Risorgimento), culminating in 1866 when Veneto became unified with the Kingdom of Italy.

Giacomo was quite likely an agricultural worker, either on a farm or (of course, in Italy) a vineyard. Veneto is known as the birthplace of Prosecco wine (and tiramisu!) and still produces some of the most expensive wines in the world. However Castelfranco Veneto is also at the junction of three railways, and a railway station was opened in 1877, so it is also possible he was a railway worker of some kind.

Giacomo married Santa Ambrosi on February 15, 1876. Their daughter, my great great grandmother Maddalena was born June 22, 1886 in the frazione of Campigo, comune di Castelfranco Veneto. Of course, they likely had more children in between, in the 10 years of marriage before Maddalena’s birth. Typically, especially for a Catholic majority society, I’d expect parish records of Baptisms, marriages and burials to be the first place to begin my genealogical search. But in Italy a more readily available, albeit less detailed source of information is civil registration records – births, marriages, and deaths. SOME… and I stress SOME civil registration records are available digitally online through FamilySearch.org, but another way to access a larger archive of these is to write to the stato civile office in the comune in which you are searching, which is the route I went -however I got the bare minimum of Maddalena’s birth, Giacomo and Santa’s marriage, and both of their deaths.

I do know of one other child of Giacomo and Santa, his name is Giovanni, born in 1880 and he served in the Italian military (a link to search that database HERE). He apparently immigrated to Germany and the U.S. in the early 1900’s, but I can find no further documentation on him. I am also told Maddalena had a sister named Josephine (Giuseppina). I DID find records for a Josephine De Grandis born in 1901, she married a man named Edward Barduca/Bardina. But on her marriage record, she lists her parents as Angela Dario and Valentino DeGrandis. The records indicate she was related somehow, and indeed there are many DeGrandis and Dario families in the Castelfranco area at the time, but perhaps she was a niece of Giacomo’s rather than a daughter. Maybe some records were fudged at some time to gain passage to Canada by declaring a closer relation than was real, I can’t be sure.

Giacomo lived to be 74 years old – he died February 13, 1920, just two days shy of his 44th wedding anniversary. 74 years is quite good when you consider that he lived through some major wars (Risorgimento and WWI) and was likely quite poor. His widow Santa lived another 12 years without him, and without their daughter Maddalena and her family as well, since she immigrated to Canada in 1923.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks: Week 14, Louis Bessette

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Louis Bessette was born September 6, 1876 in Essex County, Ontario. He was the third of 13 children born to Joseph Bessette and Marie Ozilda Lavallee. Joseph and Ozilda were from Montreal, and their first two children were born in Fall River, Massachusetts (1873) and Detroit, Michigan (1875) respectively. They settled in Essex County just before Louis’ birth and that’s where they stayed. Joseph was a carpenter, and the family lived in the town of Sandwich, which would become central Windsor later on.

Louis was baptized with the name Joseph Louis Telesphore Bessette. He married Clemence Josephine Elisabeth – or Elise/Eliza Gagnon on November 16, 1897 at St. Joseph’s parish in River Canard. The couple first lived in Sandwich town, where Louis briefly worked as a labourer in a coal pit. But by the 1911 census they had moved to Lot #17, 1st Concession in Sandwich – Louis became a farmer. Interestingly because at this time many people were choosing to move to cities and industrialized.  Coincidentally, being one of thirteen children, Louis himself had thirteen children. Their address was also noted as 938 Martin Lane in River Canard, but it appears that during the Great Depression, Louis fell on hard times and was forced to sell his farm, but remained in the River Canard area, living on 2nd Concession.

Louis died February 4, 1966 at River Canard, having been a lifelong resident of the area.

Danylo Koszlak’s Canadian Naturalization

Another resource (albeit sometimes not a particularily genealogically helpful one) are old Canadian Naturalization records. An explanation of the Naturalization process can be found at the Government of Canada’s website. All newly naturalized citizens were listed in a report published by the Secretary of State, and also published in the Canada Gazette (the official newspaper of the Canadian Government).

The Government of Canada’s website offers a searchable database of these records. You can search by name from 1915-1932, OR you can search by date from 1936-1951.

Danylo Koszlak became a naturalized citizen on July 18, 1932. At the time, he was a labourer in Beausejour. His record was published October 15, 1932.

I have not yet found Passenger or Naturalization records for wife Annie Bruchanski.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 13: Henri Antoine Meloche

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

Henri Antoine Meloche was born October 10, 1862 to parents Etienne Meloche and Soulange Dufour in Amherstberg, Essex County, Ontario. He was baptized October 13th at St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic church and his godparents were his father’s brother Antoine Meloche and his mother’s sister Rosalie Dufour.

He lived on his parent’s farm at either Lot 5, Anderdon Township, South Essex OR Lot 41, 18th Concession, Anderdon Township, South Essex. They grew crops and also raised muskrats – yes, muskrats. Muskrats were primarily raised for their fur – similar to that of a beaver’s – but also for their meat, which is supposed to taste a lot like a mix between duck and rabbit. This could be a profitable venture, since muskrats needed very little to thrive, aside from marshy wet lands. All you had to do was trap them. Sometimes farmers would allow outside trappers to do so on their land, for the payment of a portion of the profits, furs or meats. At the time of the census of 1881, Henri was 18 years old and was his occupation was “hunter” – one could assume of muskrats.

On November 9, 1888, he married Cecile Olivia Meloche, daughter of his godfather Antoine Meloche and Marie Martin – she was his first cousin. They acknowledged their consanguinity in their marriage record at St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church in Riviere-aux-Canards. They moved to a farm not far from Henri’s parents at Lots 38-39 in Anderdon, and Henri is noted as a “game keeper” on the 1901 census, so likely he went into the muskrat business like his father. Henri and Cecile went on to have 12 children – Alice, Raymond, Ernest, Leo, Rose, Lea, Charles, Moise, Stella, Bella, Eugene and Bertha.

Henri died in May 1918 of “carcinoma of liver and lungs”. He was only 56. His wife died not long after him – she passed away on January 20, 1920 of pneumonia.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks, Week 12: Edmond Langlois

Click HERE for last week’s ancestor.

My last two ancestor’s, Emilija and Ieva’s lives spanned through a very exciting time in history – the turn of the century and ensuing industrialization. My Ukrainian and Italian ancestors were immigrants during this time period, so I’ve already covered their stories, so next  I thought I’d explore what my French Canadian families were up to at this point in history.

Edmond Langlois was born on the eighteenth of September, 1882 on a farm in Sandwich West, Essex North, Ontario to parents Antoine Langlois and Salome Mailloux. He was baptized that very day as “Joseph Elie Edmond Langlois” at L’Assomption de Sandwich Catholic church, his godparents were his uncle Louis Mailloux and Julienne Gignac. He had one brother named Denis.

Edmond lived with his parents, brother, aunt, uncle and two domestics on their farm where he also worked until his marriage. He married Marie Helene Belleperche (who went by Helen, Ellen and Lillie in her time) on October 13, 1903 at Assumption church. Edmond and Lillie were 2nd cousins – Edmond’s grandmother was a Belleperche, sister of Lillie’s grandfather – and also 3rd cousins from another line, the Ouellettes (both had paternal grandmothers who’s surnames were Ouellette, their grandmothers were 1st cousins). This may sound shocking but it was a LOT more common than most people realize, being that all people living today with French Canadian ancestry can trace their roots back to the first few thousand French settlers.

Edmond and Lillie lived on a farm on Lot 71, 2nd concession with Edmond’s unemployed brother Denis. On the 1911 census, Edmond is listed as a “Farmer – ret.” Being that he was only 29, he was not truly retired but perhaps done with being a farmer, and by the time of the 1921 census he had left his rural life altogether. He moved his family first to 15 Elm Ave by 1912, and next to 31 Elm Ave by 1921 in Windsor, where Edmond earned his living as a motorman for the electric street car system. Introduced in 1886, Windsor’s was the first electric street car system in Canada. However, being next door neighbour to “Motor City” Detroit and home to some automotive assembly plants as well, the rise of the automobile in the 1930’s along with it’s increasing popularity and affordability soon made the street car obsolete – quite costly for the city to maintain and with a decreased ridership. The last street car ran in Windsor in 1939, when a cheaper city bus system was put in place. Edmond was 57 at the time.

Edmond and Lillie had seven children. They welcomed their first, a daughter named Florence in 1905, then Virginia in 1907 and Beatrice in the summer of 1911. Beatrice, however died as an infant in 1912 due to “chronic nephritis” – problems with the kidneys. Less than a year later in 1913, a fourth daughter named Marie was born, but only lived 5 hours before passing away of “asphyxia pallida”. In 1915, the couple welcomed their first son, named Jerome, but again, tragedy struck when he died of malnutrition and inanition at 11 months of age – quite likely there was an underlying cause. Bernice was born in 1918 and Leo in in 1920.

Edmond died December 7, 1952 in Windsor, at age 70.

Document: The 1920 Canadian Census – Koszlak Family

Bruchanski, Anna - 1921 Canada Census

The sixth census of Canada was taken in June of 1921. Here I found my great great grandfather Danylo Koszlak and his family. Just five years earlier on the 1916 Census of Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta they were living on a farm in the RM of Brokenhead. But by 1921 they had moved to nearby Beausejour town. Here’s the details of the census record:

Koslak,
Dan, Annie, Mike, Pete and Mary
Dan was the head of the house, Annie his wife, Mike and Pete were sons and Mary a daughter
Dan was 33, Annie 30, Mike 7, Pete 5, Mary 2
Dan and Annie were born in Austria, the children in Manitoba
All identified as Austrian in ethnicity
Dan came to Canada in 1910, Annie in 1912
Dan and Annie had not become Canadian citizens yet
No one could read or write
All could speak Polish
All were of Roman Catholic faith
Dan worked as a carpenter on odd jobs, no one else worked

 

My ancestor's stories, and how I found them!

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