September 21, 2009 by 8junebugs
I took to reporting and journalism (in spite of veering professionally into nonprofit editing and web communications) because I thrive on knowing stuff and having a record of things that happen. The parchment from American University says “journalism,” but I consider it a degree in Asking Questions and Finding Stuff Out. (My master’s degree, naturally, is in Researching Stuff.)
I believe our stories are important. Whether we’re here for a greater purpose is a question I tend to leave to priests and philosophers — what interests me is that we are here, and we each have a unique life story and experience of the human condition. One of the loveliest times I had with my former in-laws was an afternoon spent on the patio, listening to the story of how Mike’s paternal grandparents met. It was during World War II, and it had to do with chocolate (his Nana never lost her sweet tooth).
When I first moved out of my parents’ house, I took with me (without my father’s knowledge, at the time) our first-edition copy of my great-uncle’s Gingras Family Marriages. Andrew Gingras basically built, printed, and bound a database full of family and marriage records dating back more than 300 years — pre-internet, y’all. Can you grasp the Herculean nature of this effort?
Frankly, the list of names scared the heck out of me. I took to looking for each new potential boyfriend’s family name in the records…you know, just in case. I COULD BE RELATED TO ANYONE.
Uncle Andy traced the genealogy back to 1675, when Charles Gingreau married Francoise Amiot and settled in St. Augustin, New France (Quebec). Charles emigrated from St. Michel le Clou, France, in 1669 — his brother, Sebastien, came earlier and did have sons, but Uncle Andy’s research showed that the name died out in three generations of Sebastien’s line.
Charles and Francoise had eight sons and two daughters. The change from Gingreau to Gingras appears to begin with this first generation — there are many different spellings that this book of marriage records traces back to Charles…whom Uncle Andy refers to as Charles I for the position he holds for our family.
I am, in my line, the ninth generation descended from Charles and Francoise:
- Charles and Francoise had Pierre, who married Anne Hamel.
- Pierre and Anne had Charles, who married Therese Loignon.
- Charles and Therese has Francois, who married Josette Dame.
- Francois and Josette had Abraham, who married Josette Viens.
- Abraham and Josette had Hormidas, who married Cordelie Smith.
- Hormidas and Cordelie had Hulderic, who married Laura Ferland.
- Hulderic and Laura had Bernard, who married Yvonne Rheaume — my Memere and Pepere. (Uncle Andy is my Pepere’s brother.)
- Bernard and Yvonne had Gary, who married Jeanne Whipple.
- Gary and Jeanne had me and KidBrother.
I’m in this book, listed below KidBrother. Gingras daughters are expected to take a married name, of course (Uncle Andy was born in 1925, after all), so our marriages are recorded but our offspring are not — they will not carry on the name. In 1990, though, extrapolating from the marriages he documented, Uncle Andy estimated that there could be as many as 10,000 of us in North America descended from Charles and Francoise. Three-hundred-plus years of predominantly Catholic families…that’s a lot of Gingrases.
Or, if you will, Gingreaux.
I don’t know anymore how many of my cousins know this history — I remember my dad being very interested in it, and I think we were the only ones who went down for the massive Gingras Family Reunion in 1990. (It was the weekend of my birthday, and I was none too happy about being where I knew no one under the age of 30 — I think I’d remember if any of my first cousins were there.) I don’t know who else has the book, and if anyone has a later edition than the one I have. I do know that Uncle Andy’s research is still the authority on the history of this family.
In the credits and acknowledgments, Uncle Andy requested that arrangements “be made to be sure the book gets passed on to [*cough* stolen by *cough*] a family member with like interest to perpetuate. Pride in family is a good motivator to personal pride; that would be the best inheritance we can give to our children.”
So, here you go, ninth generation:
I promise to keep writing everything down.