Oldest house in Knowlton, Quebec slated for demolition

A golf club in Knowlton, Quebec has received the go-ahead to tear down the 1815 home of Paul Holland Knowlton, the founder of the village in the Eastern Townships. Citizens, however, hope to save the historic home by dismantling and rebuilding it on the grounds of the Brome County Historical Society.

The historical society already has six historic buildings on its property and has agreed to take the Knowlton home only if citizens raise enough money to cover all costs. The golf club has offered to contribute up to $20,000 toward the cost, provided citizens raise enough money to reconstruct it on another site within one year. If not, the club will demolish it. The cost to move and re-build the home could be under $100,000.

Knowlton House. Photograph by Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette.

Knowlton House. Photograph by Marie-France Coallier, The Gazette.

Matthew Farfan, executive director of the Quebec Anglophone Heritage Network said, “Removing the house from its historical context vastly diminishes its value as a heritage site.” On the other side of the argument, Mayor Richard Burcombe said the house is too dilapidated to be worth saving and there are other buildings associated with Paul Holland Knowlton, such as his grist mill.

Paul Holland Knowlton was born in Newfane, Vermont in 1787. At age 28, he settled just outside the future town of Knowlton and later relocated to present-day Knowlton, where he founded a sawmill, store and grist mill. He became a prominent politician, militia leader, and newspaper publisher. He also founded the area’s first high school in 1854.

Knowlton is known for its Loyalist history and is one of the prettiest towns in Quebec. It is located about 100 kilometres from Montreal.

For more information or to contribute to the restoration project, email blkbart@sympatico.ca.

Read more about the Knowlton home and its owner in the Montreal Gazette and in the Gazette‘s sidebar, History of the Knowlton House.

Visit the Brome County Historical Society’s website for information about the society’s heritage buildings, artifacts, and archives.

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One-stop shopping for online Canadian newspapers

It is now one-stop shopping for genealogists looking for information in historical Canadian newspapers. Kenneth R. Marks has finished his list of online Canadians newspapers and it includes all provinces and territories. Mr. Marks writes, “In total there are around 2,000 historical newspapers that are available online (for free) and the links are included in these articles. All publication dates for each newspaper are not online and of course not all newspapers ever published in Canada are either.”

The Canada Online Historical Newspaper Links are available on Mr. Marks’ blog, The Ancestors Hunt.

Félicitations, Mr. Marks, et merci!

Posted in Canada | Tagged | 2 Comments

Franco-American blogger says genealogy blogs provide timely support and resources

Many thanks to Portland (Maine) Press Herald blogger Juliana L’Heureux for the shout out about Genealogy à la carte. Ms. L’Heureux hosts The Franco-American blog. She wrote about the resources Maple Stars and Strips: Your French-Canadian Genealogy Podcasts and this blog share with genealogists and how “genealogy research these days is energized by interactive technology. . . . The combination of Genealogy à la Carte from Canada and Maple Stars and Stripes from the US are excellent on line resources for people who want to share their data and enthusiasm about international genealogy research.” 

Ms. L’Heureux is a freelance writer whose articles about Maine’s Franco-American history and culture have appeared in Portland newspapers for 25 years. She serves on the Maine Franco-American Leadership Council.

Merci beaucoup, Juliana!

Posted in Blogs | 1 Comment

Historians gather in Montreal to discuss WWI and French history

About 600 academics from around the world will gather in Montreal this week to discuss the 100th anniversary of WWI as part of a broader theme of War and Peace in French History. Historians attending the 60th Annual Meeting of the Society for French Historical Studies, co-hosted by Concordia University and the Université du Québec à Montreal, will debate France’s role in the war and discuss everything to do with French history from the Medieval period to 2014. Concordia history professor Norman Ingram said, “France and French history plays an absolutely essential, critical and central role in the history of the west.” This is the society’s first gathering in Quebec.

Read more in the Montreal Gazette article, Historians gather in Montreal to discuss French war history.

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Last of the Minnesota voyageurs

Since I started this blog, I have learned a lot about French Canadian history, the vast size of New France, and the passion of French Canadian descendants in the United States about their heritage. I am particularly impressed at the number of Americans who study the history of New France and research their French ancestry. The members of the Great Lakes French Canadians Facebook group is an example of a passionate group of people who want to learn and share what they know about their heritage. Almost every week, I learn something from them.

Recently, the Facebook group’s administrator posted a column about a voyageur who travelled to Minnesota. The column was written by Brent Peterson, executive director of the Washington County Historical Society. The voyageur in question is Marcel Courtier who joined the American Fur Company in 1832 when he was 16 years old. Born in Saint-François, Quebec, Courtier’s first experience as a voyageur was to hike 1,000 miles across Wisconsin, Minnesota, and North Dakota. Halfway through his journey he fell sick and was nursed back to health by band of Indians. Years later, an article about Courtier described him as the “last of the voyageurs.”

To learn more about Courtier and what happened to him, read Mr. Peterson’s column, Last of the Minnesota voyageurs.

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Vatican Library to digitize millions of pages

The Vatican Library plans to digitize 40 million pages of archives — and it could take 109 years to do so. (But I wouldn’t be surprised if they find a way to speed up the process.) The library was founded in 1451 and it holds about 82,000 manuscripts, some of which date back 1,800 years. Working with a Japanese firm, it will take the library about four years to digitize the first batch of 3,000 manuscripts. Some of these documents may go online as early as this year.

To read more about this monumental project, visit This is How the Vatican Will Digitize Millions of its Documents.

In comparison, I would be curious to know the size of the Library and Archives Canada and Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec’s collections. If it will take more than 50 years, I probably shouldn’t wait. At least one person has suggested LAC needs 70 years.

Thanks to Caroline Marshall Pointer of 4YourFamilyStory for posting this on Facebook.

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Savoir faire — A society by any other name… Does it attract more people?

About a week ago, blogger Scott Phillips received a letter from the Ohio Historical Society (OHS), explaining why they had taken the bold step to change their name to the Ohio History Connection. This letter prompted Mr. Phillips to write about it in his blog, Onward To Our Past, and to address the issue of attracting younger generations to genealogy.

Nearly two years ago, OHS held focus groups throughout the state to gain a better understanding of what the public thinks of them. They discovered that people think the word society sounds “exclusive, private, and antiquated.”

Ohio Historical Society

OHS chose the word connection because at the “core of our service, we are a conduit to Ohio’s past.” They want to attract people with an affinity for history or “one we hope yet to spark.” “We provide expertise, we tell stories, we create experiences, and we help others develop skills to educate our youth. ” They asked Ohioans what they thought about the new name, and people said it sounds “fresh, open and fun.”

What I take away from OHS’ actions is that they consulted with the community at large, not just their members, they want to improve their public image, and they are not happy with status quo. Looking outward not only helps you attract more members, it can also help attract new funding.

In genealogy societies, we need to raise our profile and develop projects and programs that will convince our neighbours that the study of genealogy is important to our heritage and the community. While most societies cannot afford the cost of holding a public survey, we can start with an inexpensive survey among our members and our members’ families. As Mr. Phillips suggests, we need to be more inclusive and open.

As for the name, Connection, I like it. After all, we and our ancestors are connected to each other, to the streets where we live, to our city, to our province, and to our country. If your ancestors lived in Montreal, odds are they are probably in some way connected to the St. Lawrence River. My connection to the St. Lawrence is that my father learned to swim there.

Read the blog post and OHS letter here and perhaps discuss within your society what you think about changing the name.

Posted in Savoir faire, Societies | Tagged | Leave a comment