Last week I had the opportunity to talk to my young cousins about our family. Twin daughters of my mother’s youngest brother, they are only eighteen years old. They unfortunately never knew either of my grandparents, who had both died long before they were born. It was an interesting conversation, sharing stories about our grandmother, whom I still miss to this day.
One of the stories I was able to tell them was about Mémère’s family and her immigration to the United States from Canada. You see, my grandmother is my most recent immigrant to the U.S., and her great-grandfather is my earliest immigrant to the U.S. A very unusual occurance.
Marie Cea Yvette Ruel was born in the tiny town of St. Norbert in Arthabaska County, Quebec (today the town of Norbertville). She was a wonderful Christmas present for her parents, born on December 20, 1914.
She was the fifth of seven children of Joseph Ruel and Yvonne Durand. Their eldest child died at two weeks old. Joseph and Yvonne’s eldest five children were born at St. Norbert. They were both born their, as were their siblings. When I first started researching, I had a great deal of difficulty, however, finding the marriage records of Joseph’s parents, Ferdinand Ruel and Mary Célanire Ferland. I asked my grandmother’s sister, Mary, and her brother, Marcel, if they knew anything about their grandparents, but they were the youngest two children and didn’t remember much.
Back in the late 1980s I did not have easy access to microfilm of the Quebec parish registers. I wrote to St. Norbert and asked for the baptismal records of my grandmother, her parents, and her siblings. I also asked for photocopies of the original records, if possible. I included a generous donation for the parish, and soon was rewarded with a thick envelope.
As I looked through the paper, I found the photocopy of my grandmother’s baptism from the original parish register. The page started with the end of another baptismal record. That record had the end of a marginal note that said “Célanire Ferland à Sanford, Maine” [Celanire Ferland at Sanford, Maine]. This was the first connection if had ever seen between the family and Maine. I quickly wrote back to the parish and asked for a copy of the other record, which turned out to be the baptism of my grandmother’s cousin. I was then able to piece together the story.
I turned to Maine and, lo and behold, there was the marriage record of Ferdinand and Célanire. It seems that Célanire’s parents, Seraphin Ferland and Marie Louis Camiré decided to leave Quebec in the 1870s. This was not unusual in this time period, as many farms were completely depleted and the economic prospects were far better in New England. They packed up the family and headed down to Lewiston, Maine. Ferdinand came down to Lewiston and married Célanire. He then brought her back home to St. Norbert, where they raised their family.
As a side note of caution: years later I went back to the microfilm of the parish register, and the marginal note is not there. The copy of the registers that was microfilmed was the one that was sent to the archives. If I hadn’t asked for a photocopy of the original from the parish, I might still be looking for my great-great-grandparents. Be wary when deciding that you have actually looked at the “original” record.
It took several years of researching to discover this tidbit, which finally opened up the entire Ruel and Ferland ancestries for me. When I told Aunt Mary about this, she said “Oh yes, we have cousins up in Maine.” So, my earliest immigrants to the U.S. came shortly after the Civil War, while my most recent immigrant, their grandson and his family (including my grandmother), arrived a half century later.