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
- Muriel Chabot Normand- Weaving Genetics and Genealogy
- Mona Andrée Rainville- Les Filles du Roi
- Col. David Fitz-Enz- The Battle of Lake Champlain
- Preregistration is $15; $20 at the door
American-Canadian Genealogical Society
- Fall Conference and Annual Meeting
- Saturday, September 27th, at the Château Event Center and Restaurant at 201 Hanover St. in Manchester, New Hampshire
American-French Genealogical Society
- Classes at 78 Earle St. in Woonsocket, Rhode Island
- Sept 20- Beginning French-Canadian Genealogy by Dennis Boudreau
- Sept 27-How to do Research at Home for FREE with LDS including Family Search WIKI by Bill Pommenville
- Oct 4- The Deerfield Massacre-Some of our English Ancestors by Bill Beaudoin
French-Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan
- French-Canadian Heritage Week in conjunction with the Detroit Historical Museum
- October 3 and 4- presentations and a potluck
Société de généalogie de Québec
- 350th anniversary of the founding of Notre-Dame-de-Québec parish
- See if you are descended from one of the founding families.
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!
So 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.
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.
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 (http://puffin.creighton.edu/jesuit/relations/relations_01.html) 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.
Also of interest:
- Letters of Marie l’Incarnation to her son: on the website Les Ursulines [scroll down to the bottom].
- Library and National Archives of Québec
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