A book on my French-Canadian ancestry is in development!
My book (really a series of books) is coming together. On the suggestion of a friend of mine, I began to lay out the book in a word processing program. This step has put extra wind in my sails to get these books published.
I certainly gave myself a large assignment when I started writing. I wanted to include everything that could be found about the two families my father descended from, the Roys and Castonguays. I wanted to place their information within the context of what was happening around them, people they came into contact with, geographical and societal influences and so forth. In the end, I wanted a very rich and detail-heavy book that was also enjoyable to read.
I hope I have succeeded so far. Let me know what you think: Download the first two chapters here of Book One.
I have also chosen a title: “Those of my Blood.” It was inspired by a quote I pulled from the family history book written by Joseph-Edmond Roy, a distant relative of mine and a historian.
He wrote: “Quelqu’humble qu’elle soit, l’histoire des tiens est bonne à connaître. Il et bon que tu saches où, quand, comment ont vécu ceux de ton sang.” (However humble it is, the story of your family is good to know. It’s good that you know where, when and how those of your blood lived.)
What prompted the writing of this book
I began writing this book in May of 2018 soon after I had a vivid dream about my father. In that dream I came home after having been away for years. Maybe 10 or more years. I came home and there was my father! Alive and well (he’d died in 2001) and looking like I remembered him from my childhood. Not infirm at all.
There was an immediate shock and joy of seeing one another again after so many years! It was so great that we had no words. And it knocked the wind out of us. We both fell to our knees and in a silent and heart-felt sense of gratitude, we hugged each other. It was one of those hugs when you don’t want to let the other person go. It was a hug of wanting to hold on tight, so glad to find a loved one again after years of distance. It was a true sense of home-coming and welcoming.
We were both sobbing. So much so that we couldn’t speak.
That’s all I remember. That intensely emotional moment. After this dream I knew then that my father was still with me and that I longed to reconnect with him again. To show my appreciation for our connection. To bring him back to life after his being dead for almost 17 years.
I had been wanting to write a book about my parents for a while, but now I had a new driving mission. I would write a book dedicated to my father. To him, his mystery and the source of his being. He was a very talented, creative, inventive, intelligent and unique person, so how did he get to be that way?
At the same time, it would be a book about the family and myself. How my father had not been completely honest about himself or where he came from. How he had tried to establish a new persona for himself, primarily, I think because he wanted to be part of a bohemian art world of modern artists. He was a man of the future with roots in the deep past. He was someone who tore himself loose from the past and yet was haunted by it. So much so that he tried to bury it and pretend it had never happened.
But anyone who knew him could sense that my father was wounded by the past. There was something there that he was trying to put behind him. But when I tried to get him to talk about it, he would clamp up. He claimed those stories were too painful to discuss.
My book has three parts:
One: The Roys (everyone I’ve been able to find on my grandfather’s side of the tree).
Two: The Castonguays (everyone on my grandmother’s side)
Three: My grandparents and my father’s stories. This section has proven to be the hardest because there’s so little to go on.
Surprisingly, the further back you go in time, the more information you can find on your ancestors.
In this book I include not just information on the individuals themselves, but also their lives in context with the historical events occurring around them. They survived harrowing ocean crossings from France. Some lived through battles and sieges such as the ones at Quebec in 1690 and 1759. There were attacks by Iroquois they had to ward off. They were there when Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery tried to capture Quebec in 1775 and again when the Americans came in 1812. They lived through economic depression in the 19th and 20th centuries. They fought for workers’ rights and the rights of the francophones. They lived in the smog of factories where they also worked. They farmed for centuries, only to lose their lands after the Conquest. They lost many children to infant mortality and to illnesses such as influenza.
And they survived. Survived enough that a man named Tony was born and was able to establish a family of his own. Six children from two wives. Me the second-youngest.