MSS-020-Hélène’s World-part 1


Susan McNelley

Author Susan McNelley

Episode 020-September 16, 2014

Have you ever thought of publishing the stories of your ancestors? Author Susan McNelley takes us through the process and challenges of writing her book, Hélène’s World: Hélène Desportes of Seventeenth-Century Québec. It’s a fascinating story of poring through seventeenth-century records, searching for the broad themes that made up the life of this pioneer, and piecing together the life of one of the founding mothers of a colony.

In the Language Tip, we learn about the sound of AIN and IN and how it ties in with the language tip we explored in episode 19, the Sound of /d/.


Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

  • 2014 Fall Conference:
  • Saturday, October 18, at 160 Hinesburg Road, in South Burlington, Vermont
  • Speakers-
  1. Muriel Chabot Normand- Weaving Genetics and Genealogy
  2. Mona Andrée Rainville- Les Filles du Roi
  3. Col. David Fitz-Enz- The Battle of Lake Champlain

American-Canadian Genealogical Society

American-French Genealogical Society

  • Classes at 78 Earle St. in Woonsocket, Rhode Island
  1. Sept 20- Beginning French-Canadian Genealogy by Dennis Boudreau
  2. Sept 27-How to do Research at Home for FREE with LDS including Family Search WIKI by Bill Pommenville
  3. Oct 4- The Deerfield Massacre-Some of our English Ancestors by Bill Beaudoin

French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

Société de généalogie de Québec

CMA 2019 Facebook page

  • Link sent in by Janine Penfield


Language Tip #20-the Sound of /ain/ and /in/

Annie Sargent of the Join Us in France podcast and her husband David both sent along information regarding the sound of the letter D. Annie pronounced all the surnames in the show notes for episode 19 as they would be pronounced in France with a D sound similar to English, regardless of the letters which followed.

To better understand David’s explanation, let’s look at the sound made by the letter combinations AIN and IN. If you think of the sounds they each make in English, go somewhere in between, and then give it a nasal quality, you’ll be close. I suggest you type a surname like Beaudin into a text-to-speech utility such as one mentioned back in episode 3, make sure you’ve chosen the Canadian French speaker, and listen to it a couple of times.

David, a linguist, explained that it’s not the following letters that dictate the sound of D but rather the following sounds. The words that have an IN that makes the nasal sound account for the harder /d/ sound, as in Godin. But surnames like Sourdif and Sedilot, where the D is followed by a long E sound, cause the D to make a /dz/ sound, at least in Canada. He sent along a link to a fun website that explains it in more detail. Enjoy the dzidzu-tsitsu words!

Surnames with AINSo when searching for particular surnames, remember that the AIN and IN are interchangeable. But there are many other letter combinations that can also be substituted, such as EN, EGN, ESN, EINE, ENE, ENES, ESNE, AINES, ENNES, ESNES, and GUIN for GAIN and CINQ for SAIN. See the chart to the left for examples of these surname variations.

Hélène’s World-Part 1

Author Susan McNelley joined us to speak about her book, Hélène’s World: Hélène Desportes of Seventeenth-Century Quebec.

Susan has some basic French knowledge and can read French fairly well, but she is by no means fluent. Yet she was able to research French records and discover the pieces that made up Hélène’s life. It helped that baptism, marriage, and burial records follow a pattern, making it relatively easy to pick out vital information. She found that some of the older records are just as difficult for native French speakers to read; however, many of the older documents have been transcribed already.

Hélène Desportes was “the first child of French descent to be born and survive in Québec” as well as Susan’s ancestor. Although her signature is the only concrete item she left behind, she appears in 83 church records, as well as she or her husbands appearing in 33 civil records. From this skeleton formed the body of this work.

The French practice of excellent record keeping as well as women retaining their maiden names throughout their lives made the process easier.Hélène's World

Although there is no baptism record for Hélène, Susan believes she was born in the summer of 1620 due to the age that Hélène gives in several records and the fact that her godmother was Hélène Boullé, Samuel de Champlain’s wife, who did not arrive in Québec until the summer of 1620.

Susan found a typed transcription of Hélène’s marriage contract with her second husband at the National Archives in Québec, and this was the first place she saw Hélène’s parents named. She also marveled at the lofty company Hélène kept, people such as Samuel de Champlain and the colony’s governors.

Susan also used the PRDH online database [which will be covered in a future episode] as a quick way to locate the desired original records. Other civil records included land, inventory, and guardianship records.

Other sources Susan used [see links below] were the writings of Samuel de Champlain, annual reports of the Jesuits located in the Jesuit Relations, and letters from Mother Marie de l’Incarnation who set up a school for the natives and eventually young girls of Québec.

Secondary sources included Marcel Trudel’s Introduction to New France, the Dictionary of Canadian Biography and many books found online from sites such as Google Books.

Writing a book begins, of course, with research, not only of the people, but also the times in which they lived. Next comes a decision as to how you want to tell the story; for example, chronologically or by major themes. Organization is a must. Pick a system, but be prepared to be flexible as you write. One of her greatest challenges was keeping the citations with the material she was citing. There was a great amount of rewriting, and material moved around.

She also would recommend keeping a list of names, both people and places, from the start to make it easier to keep the spelling consistent throughout. She did keep a running bibliography, which was a great help.

She would advise anyone wishing to write the story of his ancestors to keep in mind that it’s an involved process with many steps, and to just take it one step at a time. She also recommends the use of style sheets to cut down on rewriting.

“We are a reflection of our contemporaries much more than we are of our parents and our children.” So we must learn what life was like for them in their part of the world at that particular time to be able to properly round out their character.

Some of Susan’s Sources

The following books can be found on Google Books or the Internet Archive. The URLs for the individual books are too long, but you should have no trouble finding them if you copy and paste the title into the search box.

The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents can be found at both Google Books and the Internet Archive. It can also be found through the Creighton University website. The following URL ( will take you to volume one on Acadia. Note the ‘01’ in the URL. You can substitute that with any number up to ‘71’ to see all the volumes.

 From Google Books:

  • Champlain, Samuel de. Voyages of Samuel de Champlain. Ed. Rev. Edmund F. Slafter. Trans. Charles Pomeroy Otis. 3 vol. Boston: The Prince Society, 1880.
  • Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents (The): Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France. Ed. Reuben Gold Thwaites. 71 vol. Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Co, 1897.
  • Dionne, N.E. The Makers of Canada: Champlain. London: T.C. & E.C. Jack, 1905.
  • Glimpses of the Monastery: Scenes from the History of the Ursulines of Quebec during the Two Hundred Years 1639-1839. Second ed. Quebec: L.J. Demers & Frère, 1897.
  • Sedgwick, Henry Dwight, Jr. Samuel de Champlain. Boston: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1902.

From Internet Archive:

  • Champlain, Samuel de. The Works of Samuel de Champlain in Six Volumes. Ed. H. P. Biggar. Trans. H.H. Langton. vol. 4 & 6. Toronto: The Champlain Society, 1932. You can also access all seven volumes through the Champlain Society. You must register first, but it is free.

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6 comments on “MSS-020-Hélène’s World-part 1

  1. Steve Moray

    Hello Sandra,

    My name is Steve Moray, I’ve just recently found your podcast a few weeks ago and have been catching up starting from the beginning. I just wanted to comment on the /in/ sound that was the subject of this week’s language tip. To make a long story short, I had a brick wall with my Canadian immigrant ancestor Israel Morey (you’ll notice the “Morey” has evolved to “Moray” in the intervening generations), and had never been able to figure out where he was from in Canada, or what his parent’s names were. A few years ago I had my dad do a Y-DNA test to see if it might be able to shed any more light on the subject. There are quite a few English Moreys in Canada whom I thought were the best candidates to be relatives, so much to my surprise all my dad’s matches came back with the last name “Morin”. I believe that to an English ear in the United States, the /in/ sound was so nasal, and the /n/ sound so subtle that it came to be heard as the long “a” sound, thus ending up with “ey” or “ay” spelling I have now. I just thought that your listeners/readers might appreciate yet one more way the /in/ sound could get mixed up! 🙂

    I still haven’t found Israel’s parents (I’m doing a *lot* of descendancy research on the Pierre Morin dit Boucher clan in hopes of finding a clue, which is how I stumbled across your podcast), so if anyone knows of an Israel Morin born around 1835 who disappears from Canada around 1850….please let me know. 🙂

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      Hi Steve, I so enjoyed your story. It seems we all have one similar. Mine were the Mathieus. Imagine how you’d still be hunting for clues if it weren’t for DNA!

    2. Irene Oickle

      I just have a few notes which would need to be verified if any connection. I have nothing recent to
      make your connection of Israel MOREY (possible MORIN) It gives you a few names and place names I
      have on my two Morin familes that see no connection at this time.

      Claude MORIN of Brie, France and spouse Jeanne MOREAU child Noel MORIN who was a
      wheelwright born 1616 died 10 FEB 1680 St Thomas, Montmagny, who married 9 JAN 1639/40 to Helene DesPORTES (1620 died 24 JUN 1675- Notre Dame, Quebec). child Agnes MORIN born 21 JAN
      1641 Quebec – d 31 AUG 1687 married 17 NOV 1653 Nicholas GAUDRY. Child of Agnes is Christine
      (15 FEB 1661 d 15 SEPT 1729 St Croix Lotbinere Co. Quebec who married 16 FEB 1677 Jean HAMEL.
      Second is Jacque MORIN married to Michelle DIONNE-DION child Andre MORIN married Marguerite MOREAU, daughter Marie Pauline Apolline MORIN married Francois CHARTE/CHARTRAIN, daughter Marie CHARTRE/CHARTRAIN who died 24 JAN 1775 place St Antoine de TILLY, Quebec who married
      29 APR 1715 Charlesbourg, Quebec to Pierre CROTEAU. Pierre CROTEAU son Joseph married 14 JUN
      1746 St Antoine de Tilly and died 04 OCT 1800 p ? Pierre son in Prisque CROTEAU – VINCENT married
      1 FEB 1790 Beloeil, Vercheres Co. Quebec. Sorry made this to long but the later ones give some dates
      that can give some time frame. This information is such a great site about Helen DesPORTES . Best to
      your. I found my Jean Bap JUNEAU/GENNO/JEANNOTTE on 1861 Census but not any sibbling or parents.
      You have probably tried the 1841 or 1851 Canada census of Lower Canada but Israel could have been
      gone by then. Early census are heads of household but could find the surname.

      I was told by my grandmother Irish family in Eastern Townships of Quebec that “the boys left and went to Maine to work in the woods and the girls left and went to Boston to be domestic servants. My great grandmother Ellen Donovan who made woven hat out of straw in Boston. Her husband to be was also from
      St. Agathe, Lotbinere Co. Quebec – Denis POWELL was a cook who made fresh made bread and baked
      beans to the after church crowd for Sunday morning breakfast after church. Many left looking for work as it
      is today. Best to you in your search like to hear if you find your ancestor Israel . Irene Oickle

  2. Irene Oickle

    Wow! What a great site! Reading about my 10 Great Grandmother whose second marriage was 09 JAN 1640 to Noel MORIN. Ordering this book will be my perfect birthday gift to take to our August 2016 JOHNSON/BAIRD(BEARD) family reunion in Saskatchewan, Canada. Want to find information about the brothers and sister of my Agnes MORIN(1641-1687) one of the 15 children that was stated in your information about Helene (DePORTES) HEBERT MORIN. I have Helene daughter as Agnes MORIN being married in 1653 to Nicolas GAUDRY. Then as always there is the one other can not find my French Canadian or was he an American ancestor? Found in a 1861 Census Granby, Quebec – the illusive John Bte JUNEAU/ GENNO /JEANNOTTE born in 1823 ish married to Elmire CROTEAU VINCENT daughter of Prisque and Emile (TETREAU/TETRO) CROTEAU. Your site has made my day. Still checking on my data.
    Please advise if I have posted any errors that should be corrected. Thank you. Irene

    1. Sandra Goodwin

      These people are not in my direct line (except for Hélène, of course). Any listeners have these folks in their family tree?

  3. Irene Oickle

    Had that exciting day reading the online background material on Helene Deportes. Have to check but I believe I read that Champlain was one of Helene Deportes godparents at her christening. Looking forward to ordering and receiving the book about Helene. I had read somewhere that Champlain left Lower Canada but was not aware of the travels of the Deportes family with Champlain back to France. Helene traveled with Champlain, her parents, aunt Marguerite Langlois and uncle Abraham Martin and cousins. Plains of Abraham land was named after Helen uncle Abraham Martin, I had read. Thank you again. Irene Oickle

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