MSS-021-Interview with a Self-Proclaimed Taphophile

Episode 021-October 7, 2014

Today’s episode of Maple Stars and Stripes, Interview with a Self-Proclaimed Taphophile, is a change-of-pace look at one man’s obsession as we view cemeteries through the eyes of the Quebec-Research List’s Bill Fleming. We follow him through his historic finds and periodic mishaps. In Language Tip #21, we’ll discover how knowledge of the sound of QUE can aid in our ancestral pursuits.

Language Tip #21- The Sound of /que/

In French, the letters QUE make the /k/ sound, not /kw/ as in English. So Québec is /ke-bec/, not /kwe-bec/. In English, the /k/ sound can be spelled C, K, or CK. Keep this in mind when you transition from American records back to Québec records. If your surname has a /k/ sound in it in English, think of substituting those letters with a QUE in French. Now in the opposite direction, if you already have the French name with a QUE in it, and now you’re starting your research in English records, think of substituting a C, K, or CK. Any of these could be a substitution for the QU in a French surname.

Surnames with the /K/ Sound

Surnames with the /K/ Sound

If you take the nasally sound of /ain/ and /in/ that we covered in episode 20 and combine it with the QU, you’ll understand why you might have to search for the surname Quintin as Cantin or Cantan. Reminder: Use text-to-speech aids to hear what a French name sounds like phonetically.

Interview with a Self-Proclaimed Taphophile

If you’ve ever been a member of Rootsweb’s Québec-Research List, then you probably already know or know of Bill Fleming (I call him Best Bill because that’s always how he signs his name). In his infamous cemetery reports, Bill has often told stories of falling into sunken graves. If you ever thought he was making up those stories, perhaps the following pictures will prove their truthfulness.

Bill and Sue

Bill and Sue

Bill and his wife Sue arrived at the Mt. Zion Cemetery in Webster, Massachusetts, about five minutes before I did. There Bill was, sitting next to a brand new hole, one that he had crawled out of only a couple of minutes before. When I told him that it was too bad I was just a bit too late to get pictures, he was very accommodating and crawled back in just to show me what I missed.

Bill's Hole

Bill’s newly-formed hole

Bill demonstrating his mishap

Bill demonstrating his mishap

After he dusted himself off, he, Sue, and I found a relatively quiet corner of the cemetery, sat in my car, and chatted a bit. Bill lived in New York about a mile from the Ontario border and has a Canadian background. He discovered at an early age that his paternal ancestors were sailors, and a story about one going down with his ship got him hooked. He spends quite a bit of his time in cemeteries, enjoying the history, the architecture, and the exercise. And he reports many of his finds in the Quebec-Research List, some at the request of list members who ask Bill to keep an eye out for particular surnames. Besides these personal requests, he has also made several historical finds. You’ll have to listen to the podcast to hear about them!

Bill’s Call to Action

If you belong to a genealogical or historical society with a regular publication, consider going through Bill’s Cemetery Reports in the Quebec-Research list (search for ‘cemetery report’). Look for people from your area buried in a far-away cemetery. Collect those inscriptions and submit them for publication. Perhaps someone will find a misplaced ancestor. To make sure people are not duplicating efforts, please enter your chosen location in the show notes for this episode. For example, I will enter a comment that I am gathering all Massachusetts burials in non-Massachusetts cemeteries for publication in the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists’ publication, MASSOG. If you search through the cemetery reports, you will find people mentioned who were born not only in other states, but in many European countries as well. There always seems to be an unexpected find.

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One comment on “MSS-021-Interview with a Self-Proclaimed Taphophile

  1. Sandra Goodwin

    Best Bill’s Cemetery Reports:
    I will gather all inscriptions mentioning the state of Massachusetts. They will be published in MASSOG, the journal of the Massachusetts Society of Genealogists.

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