December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve with our Ancestors

Christmas Eve for French-Canadians is known as the réveillon (literally, “awakening”), a feast that followed midnight mass and ushered in Christmas Day. Traditional food is the tourtiere or meat pie.

In German it is Heiliger Abend. The festival is usually celebrated in the family circle. In Germany it is common to eat potato salad with sausages or a similarly simple meal, but also more complex dishes such as goose or carp are common. A traditional Christmas Eve meal consists of carp (a type of fish), potato salad, boiled potatoes, cucumber salad and lemon slices. Germany is credited with starting the Christmas tree tradition as we now know it in the 16th century when devout Christians brought decorated trees into their homes. Some built Christmas pyramids of wood and decorated them with evergreens and candles if wood was scarce. It is a widely held belief that Martin Luther, the 16th-century Protestant reformer, first added lighted candles to a tree. Walking toward his home one winter evening, composing a sermon, he was awed by the brilliance of stars twinkling amidst evergreens. To recapture the scene for his family, he erected a tree in the main room and wired its branches with lighted candles. In Ireland or Oíche Nollag.

Christmas Eve is traditionally a day of fasting in Ireland followed with a small evening meal of fish and potatoes. After evening meal on Christmas eve the kitchen table was again set and on it were placed a loaf of bread filled with caraway seeds and raisins, a pitcher of milk and a large lit candle. The door to the house was left unlatched so that Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller, could avail of the welcome.



  Irish Christmas Cake

and all that food needs to be followed up with Gluehwein (you can make it with red or white wine)

August 24, 2012

The world is a small place

Recently I've been corresponding with a 2nd cousin once removed.  We are related on our Irish side.  I found out her mother's second husband, her father, was French Canadian descent so I backed up her tree and found a familiar town and a familiar name.  So, we are very distantly related on our French-Canadian side as well as our Irish side.  Small world and what you learn from dead ancestors.

August 7, 2012

I See Dead Relatives

Finding your relatives in old cemeteries is like finding a needle in a haystack.  Recently we went searching for relatives in Provincetown, MA but unfortunately did not come across them.  There were three town cemeteries and until we got home we weren't sure which one they were in.  It is believed they are somewhere in this cemetery pictured.  We did come across a distant cousin though.

June 29, 2012

More on Internments

By the spring of 1917, so much of Canada's workforce had entered the armed forces that industry and agriculture were severely short of labour. As a result, all able-bodied internees were paroled from the internment camps to work in factories, railway camps and mines. Parole conditions included travel restrictions and required parolees to carry identity cards and report regularly to local authorities. Those assigned to railway labour in northern Ontario experienced conditions as hard as in the camps. Some 1,300 prisoners were paroled from Kapuskasing that spring. Approximately 60 men remained in camp for health or security reasons. They were soon joined by 400 prisoners of war transferred from the Fort Henry internment station. To hold these more dangerous inmates, high barbed-wire fences were erected around the camp and a stricter regime was instituted. Soon the camp's population again rose to over 1,200 prisoners. The majority now were German prisoners of war, mostly sailors and merchant seamen taken from German ships in the Caribbean.

Why was Fredrich Gerull considered "dangerous"?   Most likely he was just a merchant seaman like Grandpa who got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Update:  Fredrich was most likely in the German military and was captured and interred on behalf of England in Canada.

June 6, 2012


Today is D-Day, the longest day for Allied Soldiers.  When visiting Normandy not too long ago, I was taken by the impossibility of success.  Looking at that hill that they had to climb in order to defeat the Germans looked insurmountable by itself.

May 13, 2012

Happy Mother's Day Past and Present

Delia Beaulieu Thibault
Nana Gerull, Mom, Nana Thibault
Catherine Roche Reynolds

Mary Ester Donovan Reynolds

May 7, 2012

Photos from Germany


German Solders M.W. Class April 18 (1918?)


May 6, 2012

The postcard

The depicted person, Heinz Gerull, sent this card to his brother Friedrich. The post card was written on 12 November 1916 in the town Ruß or vicinity (presumably). The card was postmarked on 13 November 1916 in RU.. (OSTPREUSSEN). The Canadian 2-Cents stamp was stuck on it later. I think that Friedrich and Heinz came from the area of the town Ruß.

Ruß, d. 12.11.16

Lieber Bruder!

Send Dir hiermit meine Photographie 
und wünsch gleichzeitig eine 
frohe Weihnacht.
Dein treuer Bruder Heinz.

Schönen Gruß von Vater u. Mutter.

Rusne, d. 12.11.16

Dear Brother,
Send you here withwith my photograph
and wish the same time Merry Christmas.
Your faithful brother Heinz.

Best wishes of father and mother.

April 27, 2012

Friedrich Gerull

Between 1914 and 1920, thousands of Canadians of Ukrainian and Eastern European descent were imprisoned in internment camps across Canada, simply on the basis of their origins. For decades, their stories were buried under fear and shame

  Friedrich Gerull was one of these thousands. Who was Friedrich?   The first we learn of Friedrich being interred is by a post card that was sent to him in 1917 to Fort Henry Kingston Ontario that was in my grandfather's possession.  Was Friedrich a brother or Uncle?  He was obviously much cared about because family wrote to him.

  Internees at Fort Henry were removed by the end of 1917; however, it seems Friedrich was not released and instead ended up at another camp in Kapuskasing.  On October 27, 1919 he was Repatriated and sent back to Germany on the ship Pretorian.   His journey to come to the Americas for a better life came to a disheartening end.

If Friedrich was grandpa's brother they kept in touch up until WWII after which he heard nothing about anyone in his family.  What happened to Friedrich and the rest of the family?

click on image to take you to newspaper archive

What it was like for Internee's

April 25, 2012


When one speaks of Internment Camps they think of WWII and Japanese Americans but Internment Camps existed before. In WWI, Canada interred Ukrainians and others considered a threat including Germans, women weren't interred. One of those interred was a relative named Friedrich Gerull. We do not know who Friedrick was to my grandfather but he was a relative because a post card sent to Friedrich while interred is currently in our possession as well as other photos we thought didn't exist. Photos to follow soon.

Most of the POWs of German nationality and German-speaking Austrians were separated from the other internees and placed into a "first-class" category. This meant that they were generally kept in relatively more comfortable camps, such as the one established in Fort Henry, near Kingston, Ontario However, the majority of those described as "Austrians" (on lists of prisoners these men were often more precisely categorized as "Galicians" of "Greek [Ukrainian] Catholic" religious affiliation or as "Ruthenians", although the word Ukrainian was also used in some official reports) were sent to work sites in Canada's hinterland, to places like Spirit Lake, Quebec; Castle Mountain, Alberta; and Otter Creek, British Columbia There they were obliged not only to construct the internment camps but to work on road-building, land-clearing, wood-cutting, and railway construction projects As the need for soldiers overseas led to a shortage of workers in Canada, many of these "Austrian" internees were released on parole to work for private companies, the federal and provincial governments, and the railway companies. Their pay was fixed at a rate equivalent to that of a soldier, which was less than what they might have expected to make if they had been able to offer their labour in the marketplace. As General Otter dryly noted, this "system proved a great advantage to the organizations short of labour". Thus, the internment operations not only uprooted families but also allowed for exploitation of many of the internees' labour.

April 1, 2012

1940 Census

 The 1940's Census becomes available starting tonight at midnight. will begin to input the data and make it available as quickly as possible but to research once available you will need a subscription.   FamilySearch Record Search will start making it available for free.  Why not help them out and volunteer to index  The more people indexing the quicker it becomes available for searching.

March 17, 2012

Mayflower Descendant

This week my husband was approved by the Mayflower Society for a line to Giles Hawkins and Stephen Hawkins, passengers on the Mayflower in 1620.  The line is as follows

            Elizabeth Doggett
               Lathrop Doggett
                  Priscilla Freeman
                      Experience Knowles
                          Mary Hopkins
                                Elisha Hopkins
                                     Joshua Hopkins
                                         Giles Hopkins
                                              Stephen Hopkins

..and though not fully verified by the Mayflower Society it can be said that there is also a line to William and Mary Brewster as well since we have verification to Mary Hopkins whose husband was Corneilus Knowles.  Corneilus  Knowles' father was Lt. Richard Knowles who mother was Mercy Freeman.  Mercy Freeman's mother was Mercy Prence.  Mercy Prence's mother was Patience Brewster daughter of William and Mary Brewster.

    Corneilus Knowles m. Mary Hopkins
       Lt. Richard Knowles
          Mercy Freeman
                Mercy Prence
                   Patience Brewster
                      William and Mary Brewster

January 25, 2012

Orphan Trains

Between 1854 and 1929 an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, and homeless children were placed out during, what is known today as, the Orphan Train Movement. The name is derived from the children's situations, though they were not all orphans, and the mode of transportation used to move them across forty-seven states and Canada.  Many of these children were adopted and grew up in loving homes, but many were treated as servants and worse.

Our family was lucky, when Emily Gendron Thibault died between 1875 and 1879 she left behind  seven children, the oldest being between 12 and 16 and the youngest being between new born and  four years old.   Fabien was able to hold together the family, probably with the help of his siblings and his older children.  In 1879 Fabien married again to Celina Miville Deschenes who died sometime before 1884 leaving behind three young children as well as her step children some who were still fairly young.  Again Fabien managed to keep his family together and remarried a third time to Claire Banville in 1884.  

Life for many of these orphan children weren't good,  newspaper stories titled “Babies Sold Like Sheep,” telling readers that the New York Foundling Hospital “has for years been shipping children in car-loads all over the country, and they are given away and sold like cattle.”  Charities attempted to guarantee successful orphan train placements by agreeing to remove children from failed placements and, where necessary, transport the child back to the charity’s Eastern office at the charity’s expense.  Many children placed out west had survived on the streets of New York, Boston or other large eastern cities and generally were not the passive, obedient, respectful children that some families expected; this prompted placement changes and 
returns to the East.

Numerous factors came together to end the orphan train movement in 1929.   One factor was that railroad expansion in the United States was complete and most railroads ended subsidized fares provided to charities moving children. Another critical and underlying factor was that the need for labor which drove the initial success of orphan train placements in the West was no longer as great. The trains had relocated children to rural areas where their labor was needed on the frontier.  

Another factor that contributed to the end of the orphan train movement was the backlash from the Western states. They reacted to their role as “a dumping ground for dependents from other states” by passing legislation limiting or prohibiting placement of out-of-state children. Many of these states had become urbanized and were facing their own child care and child placement issues. Cities such as Chicago and St. Louis began to experience the same problems in caring for neglected and destitute children that New York, Boston and Philadelphia had experienced in the mid-1800s.  These cities began to seek ways to 
care for their own orphan populations. In 1895, Michigan passed a statute prohibiting out-of-state children from local placement without payment of a bond guaranteeing that children placed in 
Michigan would not become a public charge in the State.  Similar laws were passed by Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri and Nebraska. Negotiated agreements between one or more New York charities and several western states allowed the continued placement of children in these states. Such agreements included large bonds as security for placed children. In 1929, however, these agreements expired and were not renewed as charities changed their child care support strategies.

Lastly, the need for the orphan train movement decreased as legislation was passed providing in-home family support. Charities began developing programs to support destitute and needy families limiting the need for intervention to place out children. State and local governments funded foster care for orphans while compulsory education and anti-child labor statutes were also being passed.