When Norbert Albert Villeneuve was born on March 3, 1840, in Quebec, Canada, his father, Joseph, was 31 and his mother, Julie, was 33. He married Adele Adelaide Paquet on November 7, 1865, in Maskinongé, Quebec, Canada. They had 11 children in 21 years. He died on May 13, 1914, in Ishpeming, Michigan, at the age of 74.
That doesn’t say a lot about Albert or Al as he was known. He was likely a farmer in Quebec as many in the community of Maskinongé were but we also know from family stories that he made furniture, very solid, functional furniture that was nice looking too. He became a miner in the iron ore mines in and around Ishpeming area. He was a carpenter and worked in and around the mines constructing joists and structures to hold up the rock for the miners, hoping to keep them safer. According to the 1910 census, he was still working for the mining company even at the age of 71. When he died just 4 years later, his obituary stated that he was one of the “early pioneers” and had cut trees to help construct the main road in Ishpeming. The family must have been a bit musical as family stories that I heard over the years about Albert, Adele and the kids included a great deal of music and dancing. And on his death, the inventory of his belongings included a piano that my Great Grandmother Louise Villeneuve Elliot took for her large family. My Grandmother Elsie Elliot Sutinen told me that this family, back in Quebec, were well known formal dancers – participating in waltz and ballroom dancing competitions, often winning. So maybe the family piano helped in teaching the children?!
A recent trip this summer to Ishpeming included driving around the area where the Villeneuve family lived, even finding their home address using the census records. Such a small home for a family of 11 children and 2 adults!
Today is Grandma’s birthday – Mary Elsie Cecelia Elliot Sutinen – she was of French-Canadian, Acadian, Scottish and First Nations descent. Born in Ishpeming, Michigan to immigrant parents who came from Maskinonge, Quebec. She had five children – my mother was the youngest girl and the fourth child. Her life was not easy … hard work, poverty, difficult circumstances and more. But my memories of her are of a loving, doting, beloved woman who gave us kids sugar-free (she was diabetic) Jello with whipped cream, the BEST snuggles, learning from her about tatting, needlework, hearing occasional Quebecois words from her, her sisters, and the wonderful smells of a grandma’s home. A devout Catholic, she endured a lot and relied on her faith to get her through – AND was happy, smiling, welcoming, gentle and very obviously loving me and my brother, my cousins. Missing her now when I would like to ask SO many questions. Bonne Fete with our ancestors, Grandma!!
And thank you! You birthed my mother, who birthed me … and you loved and cared for all of us in your family, and the HUGE family of your birth (she was one of 16; 14 lived to adulthood). She connects me to my matrilineal ancestors, my distant past, going all the way back to Benouville, Rouen, Normandie, France where my 10th great-grandmother Guillemette Rolleville was born in 1625 and any paper trail further seems to end (for now … ). From Guillemette to her daughter Marie-Catherine and on and on, for generations, it comes to me and my only female first cousin in this line, Karen … Neither Karen or I had children, so this part of the lineage ends with us. Feels sad … but there are others who descend from her in the mitochondrial lines so the DNA continues. Merci, Grand-mere …. je me souviens!
From RootsTech 2019, where there will soon be over 14,000 people taking hundreds of classes and networking, finding cousins and having fun!
My first workshop, You CAN Take It With You: Mobile Genealogy Tools for Genealogists, went SOOO well and there must have been over 600 people in the room. Great questions, energy – we even did “stand up, sit down” exercises. AND cousin meet-ups! How fun!
Today felt like a day of healing and reconciliation … certainly, there is much more to do, but a beginning and significant movement in the right direction. Friend and fellow GeneaBlogger Tribe member Cheri Hudson Passey offered a workshop “Discovering Slave Owners in the Family Tree” that was so impactful that people were crying, and not bad tears but those tears of recognized loss and finding common ground for healing. We also learned about the incredible donation of $2 Million to the International African American Museum in Charleston, South Carolina from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, announced at the Opening Session! Wow! There will be a family history center within the museum that will help anyone seeking information about their family, especially focusing on the African diaspora and records that will help in tracing those that were enslaved. An incredible opportunity for everyone to learn, share, grieve, and hopefully gain some healing, pride in the strength of ancestors.
Part of the magic of RootsTech is the networking, mingling, meeting cousins. Also having opportunities for growth from those synchronistic meetings or information that those of us long in the genealogy field know to expect. My research time at the Family History Library on Monday and Tuesday led to some really great information for my clients (one in French-Canadian and another in Native research) AND some perfectly wonderful experiences for myself.
As I have just begun the research on the Polish family on my
dad’s side, I had recently found the name of the village that my
great-grandparents immigrated from – Gorlice, Malopolska, Poland (it wasn’t
always Poland, as it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire). The Niemczyk, Niemiec, Nimer, Nemshak family
(yes, they changed the name a number of times) immigrated in about 1880 but no
one in the family knew where they came from.
The family worked hard to fit into their initial American community in
Chicopee, Massachusetts and later in Detroit, Michigan but not many stories of “the
old country” apparently were shared. Reaching
out to cousins, there was much to go on.
So, I went down to the International section of the Family History
Library and, wonder of wonders, there is a specialist FROM POLAND who is a
Missionary there. She was awesome! AND introduced me to two young men,
themselves Polish and here doing research.
AND …. Wait for it … they are from the Malopolska region!! Yes!! So they are going to take the information
that I know about my family and see what they might find when they are in the
Polish archives. :::::::::::::::crossing
Hopefully the pictures here will show you just how great RootsTech 2019 is and what a great experience it is. And it’s only the beginning of Day 2 as I write this. Stay tuned for more!
Yes, it’s the new year … and how many DNA testing kits did you get as a gift? Yes, it’s a current fad and yes, it is also fun. But let me help to frame some of the issues with DNA, genealogy, testing, ethnicity vs. race and those pretty pie charts.
First, I’m a genealogist AND a scientist. I have two degrees that stress the importance of data, replication as a tool of quality and refinement, and control groups and more. And I value documentation, and proof – more than one document that provides information confirming or refuting what another document says, and a “reasonably exhaustive search” – a standard of utilizing everything that we can access to prove/disprove facts.
Second, let’s be clear – DNA testing is in its early stages. Yes, it has come a VERY long way from the 1980s when it was first used with genealogical information, and tools now available to us is far more extensive, detailed, scientifically-based that ever.
And third, there is NO biological basis for “race”. From a chemical, DNA, or cellular level, we are all 99% the same and we share chemistry, DNA and cellular structures with bananas, trees and other living things. We are carbon-based organisms that have evolved over millenium. To state, because of DNA data, that we are a particular race is just wrong – scientifically, genetically, socially and otherwise. There are plenty of research-based studies and writings that trace every human living on the planet back to Africa…..thousands and thousands of years ago. AND those pretty pie charts – with percentages and lovely colors – stating this or that percentage of DNA from Western Europe or the Iberian peninsula or wherever …. that information is based on a testing database of samples that place the same or similar DNA in a particular geography at a point in time (most of the DNA sites will offer that this ancestral DNA is from approximately a 500 to 800 year old time frame).
So, to keep it simple, if you decide to use the DNA test kits (please at least be sure to use the companies that work very hard to maintain scientific standards, privacy rights, testing protocols and ethics – these are Ancestry, 23 and Me, MyHeritage, FamilyTreeDNA, and FindMyPast), there are some things to consider: 1) Please know that virtually everyone will get a surprise from their results. It may be as simple as “I didn’t know we had Scandinavian ancestors!” to as emotional as “My dad isn’t my dad??!!!” Yours truly is working her way through what a really big revelation means, so don’t take this lightly. 2) The pie chart is the LEAST of it! The database that is used for the testing is always growing and changing, refining and developing. I’ve already seen as least two updates that have changed my results – in the first one, I was Ashkenazi Jewish, then from the Iberian peninsula, and now it’s Scandinavian. The Scandinavian one actually makes sense as I know that my ancestors (from the years of doing research in the paper trails my ancestors left) were from Normandy – a region of France heavily impacted by Norman or Viking invasions … hence “Scandinavian”. THE most important part of your results is the COUSIN matching!! You will find people related to you through the DNA that you didn’t know about (I found someone a half hour from my home!) and you will have a really fun time getting to know them! Trust me – the COUSIN CONNECTION is the BEST part of DNA testing. 3) Follow the instructions. It’s easy, and perhaps a bit yucky, but it’s important. The science is built on a clean sample and your results will make sense. 4) AND know that there is a paper trail that will help you to sort it all out, with lots of helpful people to show you how to look at what you find in your results.
And don’t let anyone tell you what RACE you are – because they can’t! The results can tell you a bit about where geographically your ancestors traveled through on their way to where you are today. It will tell you a bit about ethnicity – the culture of our families, such as customs, favorite foods, holidays, dances and music, clothing styles, and possibly eye and hair colors. The testing information is based in finding clusters, clumps of DNA that reappear over and over again in a particular region, geography, locality in people in that area. I know, for instance, that on my mom’s side, our people were Native, French-Canadian, and Scottish because – and this is important – others with our similar DNA were from these identified groups because of records, documentation, and more. But it doesn’t tell me WHICH tribe, or WHERE in France or Scotland, or that level of detail. At least yet …. as more and more people are tested and can document specifics about these ancestors, we can begin to narrow down migratory trails, immigration routes and track back into time.
So please look beyond the pretty pie charts. Take time to look for the paper trail that your ancestors left to find out about their lives …. their religion, foods, homes, jobs and what made their lives worth living. You are the product of pairs of people who had a relationship that created a child …. I was going to say “pairs of people who loved” but I know that many children were born of affairs, rape and incest. In the context of their lives, the child lived and had children ….. down to you. Think about the blessing of two parents, 4 grandparents, 8 great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, and more going back into time. Learn about that and don’t worry about whether they wore kilts or lederhosen, a sari or animal skins … find a cousin and learn about your common ancestors’ lives and the courage, stamina, and strength that helped them to thrive. Let me know if I can help ….
The time is coming soon – the National Genealogical Society’s Family History Conference is coming in May 2018!! Can’t wait – AND I’m presenting two sessions: French-Canadian Migrations into the Midwest and Beyond and Native, First Nations, Indian: Research Indigenous Peoples. Here’s the recent post from the NGS Blog – http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/french-canadian-migration-midwest-beyond/R
The French-Canadian session is Thursday, May 3 at 11 a.m. and the Native session is Friday, May 4th at 4 p.m..
Registration is open AND volunteer positions are available – you can get in free to the conference, based in how/where you volunteer. There is information here to guide you …. http://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/volunteer/ There are opportunities still available and the vendor hall is open to you as well, where you can learn about new programs, mobile apps, obtain books and software and network with other family histories, speakers and professionals across the field.
Join me?! And please be sure to find me and say hello!
With a room of people, microphone checks, an interpreter and a whole bunch of enthusiastic and interesting people, my workshop began at 9:30 a.m. !!!
There were great questions, support from friends and even a French expert in the room (thankfully, I didn’t know until later, right?!) who told me that I did an excellent job and that he enjoyed my presentation …. whoa!!
The audience had some great questions and they all provided their emails and a list of the surnames they are researching so that we can help them with their research! A document, listing all of them with these names, is being shared with them all in the hopes that they will make progress toward documenting their French-Canadian and Acadian families.
It was fun to be presenting to an international group – there were people from all over the United States but also Canada, France, Brazil ….. and those are the ones that I know! And afterwards, people were stopping me in the hall to continue to ask questions – if you are reading this and have questions, please don’t hesitate to email me at email@example.com. I LOVE doing genealogy!!!
The day ended marvelously – with research!!!
Two of my clients are benefiting from my presence in Salt Lake, just a small walk from the Family History Library! Rows on rows of microfilm, digital content, books, maps and so much more! I haven’t been here since 2001 I believe and the updates/renovations/new art are beautiful, easy-to-use and empowering.
A truly sweet and helpful volunteer showed me the new way to make copies, create images from online content and even gave me a print card WITH MONEY ON IT!!! She was awesome – and that has been my experience here at the FHL for years – volunteers eager and ready to help you. She shared some amazing spiritual things with me – we had a lovely conversation. What a blessing she was! And I found things – lots of things for my clients. Can’t wait to share.
Growing up in Michigan is a unique experience. As a kid, when the snow gets melty, dirty, you just want to be somewhere else. But when you experience the glorious moments when the trillium fill the forests in spring, morel mushrooms are cooked intodelicate culinary treats and the call of the lakes, boats, warm summer days or the swish of snow during a ski run with the smell of hot chocolate or bonfires is in the air …. oh, and those trees in the fall – how DOES a maple tree have so many colors within it!! Well, I went off there a bit … but THAT is the Michigan I know.
My heritage, lineage here in Michigan isn’t that long. My people are, on dad’s side, fairly recent (late 1800s) immigrants from Poland and Germany by way of Massachusetts and then to Detroit where grandpa had a bicycle sales and repair company, and my dad and his brothers worked in the auto industry; on my mom’s side, we are VERY long on the North American continent but not so long in Michigan – my Native ancestors are mostly from the regions now called Canada and the Upper Peninsula in the 1870s, having been longer in the eastern maritimes; and mom’s ancestors who founded “New France” in their moves in the 1600s to Quebec and Montreal from northern regions of France (Normandie mostly), settling in for a long time in the area around Maskinonge, Quebec. The French-Canadians came to Michigan in the 1880s where they met my Native ancestors, ultimately my grandparents moved to Detroit for jobs after mines began closing. Mom’s dad was a Finn, coming as an infant with his parents and a brother. So we haven’t been here all that long.
But we are Michiganders. We GET Petoskey stones, pasties, Yoopers (we descend from them), Trolls (those from under the bridge – lower peninsula residents), the Mighty Mac (the Mackinac Bridge), and more. We rejoice in Morel Festivals, FlannelShirt Days, and the four seasons. Genealogy is important to me and, over the years, it has helped to inform me about who I am in the context of family, culture, spirituality and geography. Increasingly over the years, while Michigan is home, so is South Dakota (where my extended Native family are), and Quebec (where other extended family are) but so too, Eastern Canada and Normandy, France, and Scotland and Germany … well, the world actually.