Monday, January 23, 2017

Cousins in the Age of Genealogy

As we mature, the past may seem to hold a promise of insight, perhaps even offering some template of wisdom. Ancestors occasionally even reward us for tending their bones by making us seem young again, at least, by comparison. At best, our forebears remind us that we live out the history of tomorrow today — being each the very stuff of life, just as they once were.

History travels with all of us, in the genes that we carry along, like a matched set of luggage, maybe a little bulkier than we can manage, at times; yet, each case may be necessary to our comfort, being packed with our valuables — even keeping safe our family treasures. Anyone who has lost their travel luggage may appreciate, as well, the loss of genetic baggage, and its potential to dislodge entire generations, especially so during times of embattlement.

A chronicler's craft, too, may run deep in the blood. Les Notaires, whose explorer tracks are retraced, both humble and encourage the scribblings of scribes.
Cousin Codex
1660s Nicolas Denys envisioned in St. Peter's, Acadia
Artist: Lewis Parker
 (Image courtesy Warren Gordon.)

             Mundus Novus

Commemorative plaque
Place René Descartes
Great-Unclex9 Nicolas Denys arrived, in 1632, to the eastern edge of the great Turtle Island, when it was still known to its native people as Taqamkuk.

Close contemporaries of the philosopher René Descartes, Denys and his brother, Simon Denys de La Trinité (who would become my ancestor), accompanied Isaac de Razilly to help settle the region. My eventual seventh cousinx9, the notorious Cardinal Richelieu, had directed Razilly to Acadia where Nicolas Denys would subsequently fill his role as Governor, 1657-1670.
Cousin Codex
Great-Uncle Scribe,
Gov. Nicolas Denys
c. 1850

Known to his native friends and associates as "Great Beard," Denys was burned out of Acadia by Charles Baye de La Giraudière in 1668. Trapped in a harsh winter, he and his family subsisted on the wheat left in a barn, the single unburned structure of his home and business. In dire financial straits, the 70-year-old Acadian settler and explorer then penned the seminal geographic guide to North America, returning to his native France for publication in two volumes, and demonstrating for future generations that it's never too late to write a bestseller.

A very distant 18th cousin, historian and cartographer William Francis Ganong, too, bears inclusion, since it was a highly-regarded professor of Botany at Smith College, Massachusetts, who undertook translation of the narratives of Nicolas Denys, though unaware of their distant family ties. Nonetheless, the deep sense of culture and place that they shared tied the two historically. In his work, Ganong gained knowledge of several languages, including Maliseet and Mi'kmaq, while widening our understanding of his native New Brunswick.

Ganong Brothers 1895
Walter and Edwin (standing)
William and Arthur (seated)
The eldest of seven children, William's father, James H. Ganong and his uncle, Gilbert W. Ganong, had, in 1873, founded Ganong Brothers, where they perfected chocolate confections, created the country's first lollipops and lozenges, and introduced the now-classic heart-shaped box to help fulfill the aims of Cupid and commerce. The chocolatier is now touted as "Canada’s oldest independently family owned and operated chocolate company." 

Cousin Codex
Cyprien Tanguay

The genealogical writings of 6th cousinx6 Cyprien Tanguay have proven a source of reference to millions. His work did omit a particular family event, though; Tanguay's second cousin, Louise Guyon D'Amours, when wed to my first cousin,x10 Mathieu D'Amours, had co-authored scandal for both families, in 1703, when she birthed a baby boy that had been fathered by my great-unclex7, Simon-Pierre Denys de Bonnaventure — providing us yet another source of intrigue for a later date.

René Jetté

Renowned Quebec genealogist René Jetté was a distant 15th cousinx3 whose pioneering ancestor, Urbain Jetté, arrived to the New World with my fifth cousinx11 Paul de Chomeday de La Maisonneuve, the colonial founder of Montréal, and its first Governor.

Some related chroniclers have opted for illustrating our world with images, like the columns flanking this blog, borrowed from a 1782 Mappe Monde drawn by cousin Louis Denis, engraver and cartographer to King Louis XVI.
Cousin Codex
Many more family historians than space allows have drawn upon our branch's leaves yet must be shelved, for now, until time permits them to the party. Yet, a list of familial scribes would be remiss without referencing the most dubious scribe among us a cousin thankfully as distant as the Ganong brothers Frederic Gregory Forsyth, the self-styled Viscount de Fronsac, whose highly disputed genealogy manages to pale in comparison to the infamy well-earned in his founding of the ignoble Aryan Order of America and the College of Arms of Canada, which operated from 1880 to 1937, when Hitler's growing power belied its monstrous genocide.

None have described the travesty of this sordid individual quite so accurately as has the leading scholar of Denys Family research, Yves Drolet:
"From 1878 until his death in 1925, he published more than 30 books and articles in which he speaks at length about the Aryan Order and the College of Arms. Unfortunately, Forsyth was above all a literary man for whom the romanticism of the story took precedence over the truth of facts... a true mythomaniac who constantly reinvented his biography and the history of his movement. Therefore, it becomes imperative to check all his statements against independent sources, consisting mainly of newspaper articles... not easily accessible to researchers as they were not indexed or available through the Internet. In 2014, an article described how Forsyth falsified the genealogy of two families in order to claim a noble ancestry. These studies reveal that Forsyth de Fronsac advocated a monarchist, anti-democratic and racist-tinged ideology." *

Drolet's work is among the most thorough research ever conducted into the family Denys (aka Denis*), providing a key source of information to all Denys researchers. (The prolific works and growing infamy of the so-called Viscount de Fronsac is to be further explored in future posts.)

As a family closet opens, tales told true come to light, preserved by the work of the many biographers who come before us, to further unfold as I, in turn, now undertake to make my mark, in the family tradition  lest our makers of ancestry become lost to us, and to history.

x3  =  three generations removed
x7  =  seven generations removed
 x9  =  nine generations removed
x10  =  ten generations removed
x11  =  eleven generations removed

* Denys aka Denis; Denys de La Ronde aka Denis de La Ronde aka La Ronde aka Laronde aka Delaronde.


Description géographique et historique des côtes de l'Amérique septentrionale, avec l'histoire naturelle de ce pays, tome I, Nicolas Denys; chez Claude Barbin, Paris; 1672.
The description and natural history of the coasts of North America (Acadia), William Francis Ganong (English version editor); The Champlain Society; Toronto; 1908.
The Chocolate Ganongs of St. Stephen, New Brunswick, Ganong Brothers 1895 image, David Folster; St. Stephen, NB; Ganongs, 1999, c1990. p 218 (12) p. of plates: ill; P. 92 © Public Domain. Ganong (TM). nlc-10063. Library and Archives Canada.
Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie jusqu'à nos jours; by Cyprien Tanguay; Montréal; E. Sénécal; 1871.
Dictionnaire genealogique des familles du Quebec; by René Jetté; Presses de l'Universite de Montréal; 1983.
Mappe Monde; L. Denis, Illustrator/Publisher; Chez Basset; Paris, 1782.
Memorial of the family of Forsyth, by Frederic Gregory Forsyth, Boston, S.J. Parkhill & Company; 1903.
*The Aryan Order of America and the College of Arms of Canada 1880-1937, by Yves Drolet; Montreal; 2015, p. 6.

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