Family History Stories

“Study the past if you would define the future.” Confucius

  • Georgian Bay,  Gereaux Island Lighthouse

    Gereaux Island Lighthouse Gallery

    Photo collection of Gereaux Island Lighthouse, near Britt/Byng Inlet, Ontario. My grandfather grew up in this lighthouse.

    Click here to read more about its history. 

  • Ezekiel Solomon,  Family History Stories

    Marie Elizabeth Louise Dubois: Who is She?

    Marie Elizabeth Louise Dubois was my great-x5-grandmother. She married Ezekiel Solomon. Click here for a timeline of Solomon’s life.

    1748: Beginnings

    St Laurent

    She was born in 1748 in Montreal, Quebec. She was baptized Roman Catholic at St. Laurent Catholic Church. It is likely that she grew up in Montreal. She is noted in many places as being French-Canadian,

    During this time 22,000 people lived in what we call Old Montreal, once the land of St. Lawrence Iroquoians. According to Wikipedia, Indigenous peoples had lived in the area for over 8,000 years.  The French set up a trading post and decided to establish a colony there.  By the mid-1700s, Montreal had about the same amount of people as Cobourg (my town) does today. Montreal was a well-established fur-trade French colony and was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church; they initially named the colony Ville Marie in honour of the Virgin Mary. Most of the population was Indigenous or French in the beginning but as Montreal grew, the population became more diverse.

    Who were Dubois’ parents? When did they arrive in Montreal?

    There was one source that suggested Dubois was from Penetanguishene… Was her family involved in the fur trade? Then, would Solomon be known to them?  Did she choose to marry Solomon?



    1760: Montreal shifts from French to British Rule

    In 1760, when Dubois was 12, French colonial rule ended in Montreal and the British took over. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 marked a turning point in Montreal’s history. I wonder if the changes in Montreal and the emergence of Protestants and Anglicans as Dubois was coming of age influenced her ability to marry Ezekiel Solomon.

    How likely was an inter-faith marriage at this time? And why did she keep her name after marriage? She is usually noted as Louise Dubois, not Solomon.

    Solomon was a man of faith. There is no indication that Solomon was a ladies’ man. The only woman he is ever connected to in anything that I have read is Dubois. After being released from capture by Pontiac at Fort Michilimackinac, Solomon was ransomed in Montreal. Soon after he opened up and ran a general store in Montreal.

    Did Dubois meet Solomon at his store?

    Did their value of faith and spirituality bring them together, even though their religions differed?

    Solomon continued to work between Montreal and Mackinac for the rest of his life. He did not have a wife in the Montreal (the city) and another “country wife” in Mackinac like other traders. Rather, it seems that Dubois was present in and connected to both his communities.

    1768: Inter-faith Marriage

    In 1768, Solomon was part of 12 families who founded the Shearith Israel, the Sephardic congregation of Montreal.

    In 1769, Dubois married Ezekiel Solomon at Christ Anglican Church. During this time, Anglican services were held in the chapels of Catholic Churches in Montreal. Christ Church wouldn’t have its own space until 1789, a church given to them by the Jesuits.

    When I looked at a map showing St. Laurent Catholic Church and  Shearith Israel it was interesting so see that they were within 5 kms of each other.  This general area of Montreal might be where Dubois was born and where she lived with Solomon.

    After the marriage, Dubois and Solomon followed their own religions. Later records show that Dubois was the witness at many baptisms by the Jesuits in Mackinac (1794-1807).  Solomon gave money to help bring Jesuit priests to Mackinac while also providing funds to Shearith Israel.

    Dubois and Solomon had six children–all born in Montreal between 1773 and 1778. The children were baptized Roman Catholic.

    I found a record in Solomon’s name for the deed for the sale of a slave: April 16, 1776.  I wonder about the nature of this. Was this an Indigenous person as was common in Montreal at the time? Was it connected to domestic service or his business? In 1803, Solomon would be selected by King George to sit on an inquiry to look into the slave trade at Michilimackinac. What did they think about all this?

    1780: Moving to Mackinac

    Sometime between 1780 and 1794, the family moved to Mackinac and stayed. Fort Mackinac was built in 1780 by the British to protect from attack by the Americans and/or indigenous peoples.

    Given that Solomon had survived the attack by Pontiac on Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, I wonder if the building of the new fort on the island influenced the decision to move the family out of Montreal. Did it provide a sense of safety?

    Another theory is that there was a reversal in his business fortunes that caused the move in 1780.

    Some of the information I’m using in this post is from comments that people have left on some of my other blog posts.

    “I came across information that stated Ezekiel and his then business partner William Grant each provided £50 for the maintenance of Roman Catholic clergy at St. Anne’s church on Mackinac Island, probably as an act of good will to the voyageurs and local FN and Metis community, but also, no doubt, to keep Loiuse happy. As you mention, Louise’s name frequently appears as a baptismal witness in St. Anne’s records, records which also document the FN/ Metis heritage of those of us descended from William and Agibicocona through their daughter Sophie, born in 1796 and baptized the following year, as the priest was itinerant from 1765 (the year of the British suppression of the Jesuits in North America) until a permanent priest took up duties in 1830” (Brendan O’Gorman).

    1783: Life in the Fur Trade

    In 1781 his house in Fort Michilimackinac is destroyed by a fire. Does this prompt a fresh start for the family on Mackinac island?

    By 1783, Solomon’s business was booming. He was a big competitor for Hudson’s Bay Company. Perhaps it was this success that drew them north.

    There is evidence that Dubois helped with the family business.

    “Dubois was active in the fur trade when she lived in Mackinac. She is recorded at least once as the “Merchant Company” who engaged voyageur Alexandre Petis on 26 March 1783 to carry merchandise, victuals and skins on the route from Montreal to Michilimackinac and return” (Paul King).

    “How much Louise helped him is concealed from us, in part because we don’t have the Montreal shipping records for most of the years. [The Voyageur Data Base] That she shows up once as a bourgeois in charge of shipping goods and outfitting a voyageur makes it very tempting to speculate that this was not a one-time operation. This is reinforced by her aggressive missionary activity in the area of baptisms at Michilimackinac – she was a strong-willed woman” (Paul King).

    “Louise probably ran the business a good part of the time whenever Ezekiel was away or ill. She would likely have taken an active role in the business from early on in the marriage, would have been thoroughly familiar with both European and FN traders who did business at Michillimackinac, and, I’m willing to bet, she would have known of their approach long before they got there, perhaps giving her an edge over the competition” (Brendan O’Gorman).

    1802: Influence in Mackinac

    Solomon and Dubois had influence in Mackinac.

    “The Rev. David Bacon, from Connecticut, attempted to start the first Protestant mission to the Indians on Mackinac Island starting in approximately the summer of 1802. His efforts did not succeed. The main reasons his efforts failed was that Rev. Bacon and his wife failed to learn the Indian language despite living several years on Mackinac Island. They had to rely on interpreters, who for some odd reason, insisted on being paid. Decades later his son wrote a short history of the attempt. I believe the memoir clearly mentions Ezekiel Solomon, his wife Louise, and one of their sons in this account of Rev. Bacon canceling a planned trip from Mackinac Island to L’Arbrecroche in NW lower Michigan in 1802: “The want of access to the Indians was still more discouraging. Without a competent interpreter, there would be no hope of gaining anything from a visit to Arbrecroche. The interpreter with whom he had corresponded through a friend, and whom he had so often hoped to obtain, had again disappointed him. Finding another man who could speak both Indian and English, he had attempted to obtain his help in the expedition; but that man’s father and mother—the one a Jew and the other a Papist — were unwilling that he should fulfil his engagement” Bacon, Rev. Leonard D.D. A Sketch of the Life of Rev. David Bacon. 1876. Reprint. Boston, Massachusetts: Congregational Publishing Society, Alfred Mudge & Son, n.d.. Digital images. : .” (A. Dembinski).

    Okimabinesikoue means Chief Bird Woman

    I’ve always wondered why Dubois had an Ojibway name.

    “Many have tried to discover why (or even if) Elizabeth Dubois has been assigned a First Nations name; it may just be because descendants wanted to associate such with her, it may be because she was highly thought of in the FN community on Mackinac Island and therefore granted a FN name. We’ll probably never know.” (Deborah Crawford).

    “My research has brought me to the conclusion that she was half French and half Anishnaabe. The Bird clan are the spiritual leaders of the people. Hate to bring up the cruder aspects of eighteenth century imperialism, but marriage into influential indigenous families by traders was by then a time honoured recipe for good business. You also need to understand that during this time Mackinac was no backwater; it was the commercial hub of the fur trade in central North America. Pre-1760 it was the middle of New France, linking the Mississippi with the Great Lakes, the Prairies, and the St. Lawrence. To marry a woman with family ties in both Quebec and among indigenous peoples in the heart of the continent would have been of incalculable value to Ezekiel, and he most certainly would have known it. His documented success in the fur trade is proof of it; so too, unfortunately, was the destruction of indigenous culture at that time. However, it is extremely important to also note that Ezekiel and Louise are among the fathers and mothers of the Metis nation in North America, and whether or not we choose to take the political action of self-identifying as Metis, one of the three indigenous peoples of Canada, if we are their descendants, we are Metis” (Brendan O’Gorman).

    1813: Death in Mackinaw

    Ezekiel Solomon dies in 1808. Dubois puts in a claim to the Treasury Department to be given Solomon’s land (see the image below).

    In 1813, Marie Elizabeth Louise Dubois Solomon dies. This is during the War of 1812. Was she a casualty of the war?

    On July 18, 1812 the Americans attacked Fort Mackinac but the British held strong. In 1813, the Americans cut the British supply lines to the post so food became scarce. Soldiers were given half rations. It would have been a difficult winter. She was 65 years old when she died.

  • Family History Stories,  Georgian Bay

    Family Picnic Magic

    Georgian Bay: July, 1988.  The clouds feather high in the cobalt sky.  When Evergreen floats near the shore, I climb out the nose and jump to the rock holding the rope. My feet splash into the water.  I stumble.  My cousin Michael laughs.

    From the bay, dad slides up the slippery rock. I had never seen my dad water ski before. Usually the water is too cold.  He grabs the yellow rope from me and ties it to a boulder.  Water from our feet trickles along the hot, dry island to make it shine.

    Uncle Bruce drops the anchor out the back of the boat.

    Evergreen 1988.

    In the shade of the cedars, Auntie Ann and mom pin the red checkered table cloth onto the folding card table.  I spot a box of Tim Horton’s donuts, the blue thermos of red Koolaid, and bags of chips and cheesies. The steel blue cooler sleeps by my feet. I open the lid: macaroni salad, potato salad, bologna, ham.

    “Did he bring the costume?” Auntie Ann asks, neatly stacking the paper plates.

    “Can you believe it?” Mom says.

    I snatch an orange cheesy out of an open bag on the edge of the table. Mom raises her left eyebrow.  I slink away but she notices the Mug root beer. I slid it into my hat when she looked for the plastic forks. My smile drips with charm.

    “You’re going to ruin your dinner,” she chimes.

    “No I won’t.” I crack open the silver tab on the can and smile again.

    She shakes her head and turns away. “Ann, where do you think we should put the cake?” Mom’s gaze drills a hole in my face. “To keep it from everyone until it’s time.” Then mom grins.

    Possibly 1984?

    I fan my towel five times before it lies just right on the rock next to Andi.  The blue jean coloured water and windblown spruces wave as I watch Uncle Bob and Chantell motor away to a secret fishing spot. The sun twinkles. I tilt my head into the brightness.

    Madonna belts “Get into the Groove” on my red Sony walkman.  My pen pal from Germany, Clemens, sent the cassette with his last letter.  Andi lounges on the sun-warmed granite next to me listening to Def Leppard. She oozes coconut tanning oil.

    I sip my warm root beer.  “What do you think Lorel is doing?”

    “Don’t know,” Andi replies.

    At eighteen, Lorel looks just like Brooke Shields and sings the lead in a rock band.

    “Do you think it’s because of the snake?”

    “Nah,” Andi rolls over to tan the back of her legs.

    I wonder how anyone could miss a family picnic.  I close my eyes and lean into the ground imagining my ancestors picnicking on these rocks a hundred years ago. Sometimes when I am out in the bay I feel so connected to the landscape. Maybe I lived on these rocks in a past life.

    Maybe I’ve even peed in the same bush as my grandmother or great-grandmother or great-great grandmother.  Gross.

    I always find a rock that slopes into the moss near a big tree. I try not to slip. I try not to pull my shorts down if someone else is nearby. I try not to wander too far and get lost.

    At our last picnic on the island at Sand Bay, I didn’t see Lorel go into the bush, but we all saw her sprint out.   Yanking her bikini bottom, she staggered, screaming “Snake!”

    “Was it a rattler?” Uncle Bruce asked.

    Lorel told us how she heard the rattling sound under her as she squatted on the rock. “Ticka ticka ticka ticka.”  When she glanced between her knees a Massassauga Rattlesnake stuck out its tongue, coiled and ready to sink its fangs into her behind.

    Dad, Uncle Bruce, and his cousin Wally marched into the bush. I wanted them to slice off its head.

    My brother Colin jiggles a wet life-jacket over me.

    “Get lost!”

    “I’ve been swimming eight times today,” he boasts, shaking his soaking hair.

    “I thought you didn’t have to wear a life jacket this year?”

    “It’s Sarah’s.” He drops the drenched life jacket on my legs and runs to the other side of the island to give mom a big wet hug.


    After dinner we sit by the campfire.  I put on my red Roots sweatshirt and sit next to Uncle Ernest.  His fingers are yellow from rolling tobacco.  I like how he talks out the side of his mouth.

    Uncle Bruce stirs coffee in a beat-up black pot.  A cloud of tanning oil, beer, cake, smoke, and Folgers coffee dances just over our heads.

    Chantell giggles at Colin when he makes a funny face.  Mom chats with Aunt Bernice about the time dad ironed the living room sheers.  Andi and Sarah snuggle up under Aunt Estelle’s beach towel whispering sisterly secrets. Uncle John shoves another log onto the fire.  Everyone glows from family picnic magic.

    Grandpa and Grandma are here too.  Even though I can’t see them I know it.  Grandpa died in 1975, the year I was born. Grandma died in 1979. Mom had lost both her parents before she turned twenty-five.

    Aunt Pat, Aunt Estelle, Uncle Bruce, and mom were smart.  They decided to meet on a picnic island on Georgian Bay each summer. They wanted to keep close. They wanted to stay connected to the landscape of their childhood.

    Our family history seeped into the moss and granite, whispered through the needles of the lonely spruces.


    As dusk begins everyone talks at once. The juicy blend of hushed tones, deep belly laughs, and animated chimes weave and flourish in the spaces between us.

    Aunt Bernice sits on a green plaid lawn chair.  She crosses her long slender legs. “Yes, our only entertainment—”

    “How did you get there?” Aunt Pat hoots.

    “By boat.”

    “What?—That dance hall out on Salem’s island?” Uncle Bruce asks.

    “Your father hated it.  Muriel and Ernest came sometimes.  Me, I danced for hours.” Aunt Bernice waltzes. “One two three, one two three…” She freezes.

    “Would you look at that!” Aunt Muriel squishes out her cigarette between her loafer and the rock. Everyone turns.

    Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live glides over the hill.

    I recognize him instantly as my dad. He wears a black gown with a white collar, large brown sunglasses, and mom’s witch hat without the peak.

    “How did a priest get all the way out here?” Aunt Bernice blinks.

    Anda how did you-a come to be all the way outta here? Sucha beee-a-uuutiful lady!

    “Are you here to see me?”

    Father Sarducci’s head bobs. He traces his mustache with a finger. “Iva come with a verrrrrrr-y special message from the Pope. La Papa.

    Aunt Estelle rests her hand on Aunt Bernice’s shoulder.  “Imagine! A priest!”

    “In seventy years, I’ve never seen a priest out in the bay. He must’ve walked on water…” Aunt Bernice gasps.

    “Ahhh..yes. Iva gotta some miracles to use onca in a while.”

    The colour drains from Aunt Bernice’s face. Tears fill her eyes. She squeezes Aunt Estelle’s arm.

    “It’s just me, Aunt Bernice. Dave.” Dad takes off the sunglasses and hat. Everyone laughs.

    I’m assigned to the last boatload home.  The hum from the motor on Evergreen’s floor mixed with the rocking of the waves make me tired. I sit at Auntie Ann’s feet wrapped in a large royal blue and yellow beach towel.

    “There’s the lighthouse.” Auntie Ann pats my head.

    I peer over the side of the boat at the red and white building, Gereaux Island Lighthouse. I imagine Grandpa climbing the ladder in the tower to change the oil in the lamp on a foggy night. And then I imagine Uncle Ernest and Aunt Bernice playing with giant turtles and waving at the passing oil tankers. I wish I grew up on a lighthouse too.

    With the boats unloaded we settle into the warmth of the cottage.  Outside, the black sky swallows the last bit of light.

    We cram into the living room. Mom’s cousin Nancy passes out bright orange song booklets. The title page says ‘Lamondin Family Picnic, 1988.’

    Uncle Ernest tunes his guitar.  Aunt Estelle and Aunt Pat sip white wine by the woodstove.  Mom laughs at something Uncle Bob says when he joins her on the couch. I lean on the grey stairs leading up to my bedroom in the loft.  On the top step, Andi and Chantell flip through a songbook.

    Toes tap. Hands clap. Together we sing “Green, Green Grass of Home,” grandpa’s favourite song.

  • Family History Stories,  Georgian Bay

    Dad Finds a Peavey Log Roller


    When Dad was dragging his kayak away from the shore to store it at the end of the summer his foot twisted a bit on this rusty old metal piece hidden below some juniper branches. He said:

    At first I thought it might be an old dock spike but was happy to see this was the metal component of what is known as a “peavey” log roller. I last saw one of these about 45 years ago at your mother’s home, your grandfather  had one of these. He told me the name of this weird looking tool and explained it’s use. Grandpa’s had a stocky rounded hardwood handle about 5 feet long. So I attached the rusty metal part to a piece of pressure treated wood and have already used it a number of times to effortlessly roll and move logs at the shoreline.

    Dad explained how this peavey log roller was from when the logging industry was in Britt/Byng Inlet. What a treasure for a piece of the area history hiding on our property! Byng Inlet had one of the largest sawmill operations in Canada in the late 1800s. During the logging days the population in Britt/Byng Inlet was larger than Sudbury at the time, with over 4000 people. There was even a theatre!

    On my mother’s side, my ancestors were drawn to the area around 1860 from Penetanguishene likely for the work. On my father’s side, my ancestors came in the early 1900s and worked on the railway for CNN.

    A few summers ago, Dad and I looked along the Magnetewan River and into Georgian Bay for rings and spikes that were used during the logging days. We found so many. It surprised me that I hadn’t noticed them before. Were the rings used to attach log booms? How did they decide which islands to attach these rings?

  • Family History Stories,  Georgian Bay,  Life Lessons

    Thanksgiving Tradition: Hike in the Bush on Georgian Bay

    Thanksgiving 2017. Britt.

    Some people might call it the woods, but our family has always called it the bush.  Rolling granite, moss, and long grasses topped with juniper bushes, birches, maples, and pines extend for many kilometres from my parents’ place across Crown land.

    Fall is the best time to go for a hike in the bush. The deer flies, horse flies, and mosquitos are gone. The bears are preparing for winter and most have gone deeper into the bush, beyond where our feet would take us in a day. I’ve never seen a rattle snake in the fall but we have seen other kinds of snakes–grass snakes, water snakes, fox snakes. We know there are wolves in the area but we’ve been lucky. It’s rare to see a wolf during the daytime. Usually it’s winter when the wolves are spotted by the residents. The most worrisome is the hunters. Dad always encourages us to wear bright colours when we go out in the bush in the fall.

    Our hike is about 45 minutes each way. It follows a one-lane path or dirt road that cottagers use to get to their remote places. When my dad was a kid he had a family camp at the very end of the path. He remembers when the narrow road was made in the 1960s. Before that they would hike in, walking 45 minutes to an hour with their food and gear.

    Sometimes at Thanksgiving it’s just dad, my brother Colin, and I making the trek out into the bush. Other years we have a big group of 15 going. It all depends on the weather, who is visiting, and the timing of Thanksgiving dinner.

    Yesterday there were five of us. We decided to drive most of the way. Not everyone is able to hike that far these days.

    Beaver Dam

    Usually when we get to “our spot” it is quiet and the silence is the kind that fills you from your feet up through the top of your head. But yesterday was different. As we approached the beaver dam we heard gunshots. Lots of gunshots. Too many to be hunters.

    Dad and Colin got out of the car to investigate. I shouted, “I have First Aid but we didn’t cover gun shots!”

    Dad said, “Don’t worry. I’m wearing a red hat. They will see me.”

    It was skeet shooters. Across the marsh was a big group of young people, as disks shot up into the air they shot at them with a rifle. We could see them. They could see us. They were shooting out in the other direction. It was safe to explore. But the sound of gunshots changed the peaceful silence I love.

    Eventually the skeet shooters were done. We were able to soak in the beauty uninterrupted–just as it should be.

    Not everyone has a chance to go for a hike in the bush on Georgian Bay in Fall. So I put together a slide show to share some of the photographs I took yesterday:

  • Family History Stories,  From the Cottage Porch,  Georgian Bay,  Life Lessons,  Once Upon a Rocking Chair,  Theatre

    A Short History of Porch Bingo at Our Annual Girls’ Week at the Cottage

    Why it’s important to me…

    My upcoming play “Once Upon a Rocking Chair” is 90% fiction. The 10% of truth is inspired by my mom, aunts, and cousins. For years we had the annual tradition of going to the cottage together for a week: Girls’ Week. It started when my cousins and I were kids as a getaway for the moms (my mom and her two sisters). When my cousins and I were in our 20s we slowly infiltrated the tradition, starting by coming at the end for the weekend. Then our stay got longer and longer until we were all there. It continued for years. I think our last official Girls’ Week at the cottage was in 2008 or 2009, with three generations of Lamondins.

    Although the play features six actors, there were more than six of us at Girls’ Week. The six characters are representations of all of us in many ways. I remember sitting on the porch during our Girls’ Weeks and noticing the strength of the women, their compassion, intelligence, humour, and value of family above all else. In the 20+ years of Girls’ Week there was never any conflict. We were lucky to have such a perfect week together each year.

    This is a true story about our Girls’ Week tradition of Porch Bingo and how it came to be…

    It was first published in From the Cottage Porch: An Anthology by Jessica Outram and Ewa Krynski in 2011. Then it was published The Country Connection Magazine, Summer/Autumn 2011.

    Girls’ Week 2007. Porch Bingo.

    Porch Bingo

    Britt, Ontario: 1997. Britt Legion Bingo.

    Aunt Pat, Aunt Estelle, Nancy, mom, and I arrive early. We sit at a folding wood table in the Britt Legion. To attempt to filter the air, a ‘smog hog’ hangs in each corner from the ceiling, but the smoke still buries deep into my clothes, my hair, my skin. The scent lingers for days after I leave bingo. Dart boards and pictures of past Legion executives and veterans line the walls.

    I count sixty-seven people at bingo tonight. Mom and I made a deal. If I win, she gets half my prize. If she wins, I get half her prize.

    When I look into the faces and eyes of the people here, I see something familiar. I see pieces of mom, Uncle Bruce, Aunt Pat, Aunt Estelle, and my brother looking back at me. For years I’ve wondered about the resemblance. I’ve wondered if we are all related somehow. It isn’t until 2010 I learn about my Métis heritage and I finally understand my attraction to the beautiful people with the deep brown eyes.

    Two minutes left before the game begins. Three people still need to buy bingo cards. Mom passes me her troll with the orange hair and tinfoil crown. Mom made it for Aunt Pat for Christmas last year as a joke to persuade her to join as at bingo. Aunt Pat said we should all share the bingo troll and it should live in mom’s bingo bag, and then she said she would be delighted to play bingo with us.

    “Maybe tonight you’ll win,” mom says to me.

    At the front of the room, the bingo caller, a man in his late thirties with black hair and dark sunglasses, switches on the bingo machine and turns the crank to spin the balls.

    “Good evening and welcome to the Britt Legion Bingo,” he says. “There are 171 days until Christmas. Don’t forget to buy your raffle tickets for the baking table to support the Britt Community Centre. The 50/50 draw will be just before the jackpot game. But, first we need to pick our King and Queen.”

    I poke mom in the arm. We hope Aunt Pat gets picked as the Queen. It’s her first time at the Britt Legion Bingo. Even though Aunt Pat lived here when Britt didn’t have electricity and she grew up being chased by Wally and Uncle Bruce with snakes, Aunt Pat lives in Toronto now. Mom, Aunt Estelle, Nancy, and I put her name in the bowl for Queen.

    “Pat!” the caller announces.

    I hoot.

    A stocky girl with long black hair brings Aunt Pat the tinfoil crown. Aunt Pat must wear the crown for the entire game.

    “Alright, Queen,” the caller says. “Pick your number.”


    “If B-7 is called, you must stand up and declare ‘I am the Queen of the Britt Legion Bingo.’ Then one of the girls will bring you a loonie.”

    The King of the Bingo picks O-66, clickety-click.

    “Our first game: one line, any direction.”

    Silence sweeps the room. The bingo balls tumble in the bowl of the machine. Tockatockatockatocka-tock! One pops out.


    “I am the Queen of the Britt Legion Bingo!” Aunt Pat proclaims. She stands and waves her hand like Princess Diana.

    “Giiiiiiiiiiiiivvvvvvvvvve the Queen her loonie,” the caller replies.

    The bingo girl skips to our table. She smacks a loonie on Aunt Pat’s open hand and smiles.

    The Britt Legion bingo ends. I didn’t win tonight. I had hoped to buy some new magazines and rent movies with my winnings. Mom nearly won. She needed O-75, the Grandpa of Bingo.

    Aunt Pat, Aunt Estelle, Nancy, mom, and I pile into the burgundy Impala. We drop off Nancy on the side of the road, in front of her cottage. Nancy’s cottage is Grandma Laura’s old house, the house where mom grew up.

    Aunt Blanche was the first bingo Queen

    Mom went to her first bingo with Aunt Blanche in Sudbury. Aunt Blanche could play twenty-four cards at a time. She played at the French Bingo at St. Jean de Brebeuf on Notre Dame Avenue in Sudbury. She used smooth silver markers that looked like nickels because no one had invented clear markers or flashy daubers yet.

    Every time she won the jackpot she hid it. She donated it to the church or bought clothes for her nieces and nephews. She bought my mom a new winter coat and Uncle Bruce his first suit.


    Bingo at the Magnetewan First Nations

    Two summers later, the postmaster told dad that bingo had moved from the Britt Legion.

    “Magnetewan First Nations built a new community center,” dad reported. “Bingo’s still on Thursday but you’ll have to go across the river.”

    Mom and I picked up Nancy on the side of the Britt Road on Thursday night. We drove south on Highway 69. We turned at the Byng Inlet turn-off.

    The Magnetewan Community Centre sparkled with newness. No cigarette smoke. The mosquitoes stayed outside. But there was no Queen of the Britt Legion Bingo, no Christmas countdown. Just serious bingo.


    My cousins came to the Magnetewan bingo one summer. Sarah and Andrea were naturals. Lorel’s dramatic panic to keep up with the caller made me snort. But it was Chantell who called a false bingo.

    We needed to get one line to win.

    Someone called “Bingo!”

    “Are there any other bingos?” the caller asks, “Are there any other bingos? Are there any other bingos? Bingo closed.”

    Next we needed to get two lines. The caller said, “N33.”

    Chantell shouted, “Bingo!”

    Aunt Pat mouthed a slow motion “nooooooooo.” It was too late.

    “We have a Bingo,” the caller said.

    A young girl with hot pink Crocs skipped over to check Chantell’s card.

    “No bingo! False alarm!” Aunt Pat called.

    Chantell squished her eyes closed. She needed N33 to get one line. To win this game, she needed to get two lines.

    “It’s a bad bingo,” the girl shouted.


    Porch Bingo was our favourite

    In 2005 Mom decided to set-up an annual summer bingo game on the porch at our cottage. We called it Porch Bingo.

    Mom, the shyest one of the group, picked the role of Bingo Caller.

    “B-4 not B-after,” mom calls. She wears a bejewelled tinfoil crown. She holds up a bingo ball.

    Mom: Our Bingo Caller

    Our laughter travels out the windows to Georgian Bay.

    Auntie Ann, Lorel, Jaimy, Nat, Aunt Estelle, Sarah, Andrea, Aunt Pat, Chantell, and I compete for the jackpot. Yellow markers, bingo cards, party snacks, and wine glasses cover the tables on the porch.


    “Forty!” we shout.

    “I-17, Dancing Queen,” mom calls.

    “Bingo!” Chantell squeals.

    We laugh.

    “Are you sure this time?” Andrea asks.

    “Are there any other bingos?” Mom asks with a flat voice. “Are there any other bingos? Are there any other bingos? Bingo closed.”

    Chantell reads out the numbers on her winning card.

    “That’s a good bingo!” mom proclaims.

    Chantell takes the tinfoil crown from mom and places it on her head. She selects a prize wrapped in green paper from the laundry basket and tears it open to find frog-shaped salt and pepper shakers with googly eyes. Aunt Estelle snaps a picture of Chantell beaming at her prize.

    We clear our cards. Mom puts the balls back in the spinner. “Next game: postage stamp, any corner.”

    “What’s that?” Jaimy asks. She just turned sixteen. It’s her first Porch Bingo.

    “Four squares together in a corner, like a stamp on an envelope,” I reply.


    And now…

    It’s 2011. We play Porch Bingo whenever my aunts and cousins are in Britt. Mom and I go to bingo at the Magnetewan Community Centre a couple times a summer. We still split our winnings.

    Bingo Crown Shenanigans

    Now it’s 2017. I can’t remember the last time we played Porch Bingo. Years ago. Our mothers switched to Word Feud and Words with Friends, regularly passing the emoji crown whenever they were on a winning streak.

    But I think for now Aunt Estelle gets to wear the crown for as long as she likes. We are heartbroken over her passing on April 23, 2017. She was such a beautiful, amazing woman in every way and will be deeply missed. It is such a gift to be able to capture what was so special for us about Girls’ Week in a play about women who love and support each other unconditionally.

    We love you, Aunt Estelle!


  • Family History Stories,  Mayflower Heritage

    My Great-Grandparents (x10 and x11) were Pilgrims on the Mayflower

    During the March Break, mom and dad and I went to the Canadian Canoe Museum to learn more about my Métis and voyageur heritage on my mom’s side. Across the street from the museum was St. Peters Cemetery. My dad remembered that my great-parents were resting there so we popped by to see them. Marjory Lottie Reed Koster was Grace Koster Outram’s mother. Grandma Grace died in the 1970s so I didn’t get to know her but I spent a lot of time with her sister, my great-Aunt Arleigh.


    When I got home I spent some time exploring my family tree on I told dad that I thought I was going to find a good story behind Great-grandma Marjory Lottie Reed. So, after a couple days of research, I found this…

    Here are some details following a direct line to the Mayflower:

    The journey from Peterborough to Michigan to Massachusetts to the Mayflower and England…

    • Lottie Reed was born in Michigan in 1879. When she married William Joseph Koster they moved to Peterborough. They worked and raised a family, staying in Peterborough, Ontario until they died.
    • Lottie’s parents, Merton Reed (1853-1930) and Effie Reed (1860-1935), lived in the Michigan area their whole lives.
    • Effie’s parents, Herman L Jones (1832-1914) and Harriett Cole (1837-1918) also lived in the Michigan area.
    • Herman L Jones’ parents, Simeon Paul Jones (1799-1888) and Mary Ann Chaffee (1805-1875) lived in the New York and Michigan areas.
    • Simeon’s parents, Sargent Jones (1775-1843) and Hannah Paul (1776-1877) lived in the Massachusetts and Michigan areas.
    • Sargent’s parents, Benjamin Jones (1736-1821) and Susannah Baker (1743-1775) lived in the Massachusetts and Michigan areas.
    • Benjamin’s parents, Cornelius Jones (1694-1744) and Abigail Hawkes (1701-1746), lived in the Massachusetts area.
    • Abigail Hawkes’ parents, John Hawkes (1668-1748) and Abigail Floyd (1679-1732), lived in the Massachusetts area.
    • John’s parents, John Hawkes SR (1633-1694) and Sarah Cushman (1641-1694), lived in the Massachusetts area. They are my 9th great-grandparents.

    And here is where it gets really interesting:

    John Hawkes SR (1633-1694): My Ninth Great-Grandfather.

    • John’s parents, Adam Hawkes (1605-1671) and Anne Brown (1603-1669), arrived in America in 1630 as part of the Winthrop Fleet, a group of 11 ships from England to New England.
    • According to a note on by another descendent, Adam was a Cow Commissioner and Surveyor in Massachusetts. “He and his family were known as the first known white settlers in the wilderness then called Lynn and now known as Saugas, Massachusetts.”
    • Adam was granted 100 acres of land where iron ore was later found–which resulted in a lot conflict.
    • Anne Brown‘s first husband was named Thomas Hutchinson (1586-1630). They had five children together between 1620 and 1629. One of their children, Elizabeth Hart Hutchinson, was accused of being a witch in the New England Salem Witch Trials in 1692.
    • Anne Brown has a nickname of “the widow.” It looks as though Thomas Hutchinson died on the ship in 1630. She marries Adam Hawkes the same year.

    Sarah Cushman (1641-1694): My Ninth Great-Grandmother.

    There is an incredible monument in Plymouth dedicated to my 10th great-grandmother Mary Allerton and the Cushman family.  Click here to read more about it. And this is a statue in Brewster Gardens, Plymouth, that is dedicated to her.

    This is just a couple days of research…I look forward to digging deeper into these stories. It’s amazing what we can learn about our roots online.

  • Family History Stories,  Georgian Bay

    Our Métis Family Story: Reclaiming Our Heritage


    My citizenship card arrived at the end August 2016. I was surprised how much peace it brought me. It was almost as though my ancestors breathed out a collective sigh of relief. I am proud to be Métis.

    Using the App “Explain Everything” I unpack our family story and the importance of learning their story:

    Five Things I’ve Learned

    1. My family’s story was difficult to find but it was possible. I was able to trace it back to the mid-1700s using online tools.
    2. My grandfather (on my mother’s side) was the first in many generations to marry outside of the Métis community. Our family tree has many generations of Métis.
    3. Since the 1700s, my mother’s family has lived and worked on the water. From voyageurs to lighthouse keepers to fishing guides. My grandfather grew up living in a lighthouse and worked as a fishing guide (among other things). My generation is the first to grow up away from this lifestyle.
    4. My mom’s generation didn’t know they were Métis. My grandfather’s generation worked very hard to hide it.
    5. My family was involved in the War of 1812 (supporting the British), chose to be Canadian, was displaced/moved by the government 3-4 times as national boundaries were being established, and was involved in Treaties (as interpreters).

    The best summary of the history of my ancestors is in this Report on the Origins and Evolution of the Penetanguishene Area Métis Community.

    Things I Still Want to Learn

    1. How can I share the story of grandmothers and grandfathers with future generations? I don’t want this story to be lost again.
    2. What does it meant to be Métis today? And tomorrow?
    3. Where can I learn more about the culture of my ancestors, uncovering and sharing what they worked so hard to hide?
    4.  What parts of my family’s way of doing things has roots in Métis culture?

    It’s been over a hundred years since my family changed their name from Normandin to Lamondin and pretended to be French. I am proud to be Métis and honoured that I can be part of the story by sharing our lost history with my family.