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A Real Canadian
Canadians (singular Canadian; French: Canadiens) are the people who are identified with the country of Canada. This connection may be residential, legal, historical or cultural. For most Canadians, several (frequently all) of those types of connections exist and are the source(s) of them being considered Canadians.
Aboriginal peoples, according to the 2006 Canadian Census, numbered at 1,172,790, 3.8% of the country's total population. The majority of the population is made up of Old Worldimmigrants and their descendants. After the initial period of French and then the much larger British colonization, different waves (or peaks) of immigration and settlement of non-aboriginal peoples took place over the course of nearly two centuries and continues today.
I grew up having a French surname and grandpere’s family, I was told, was from France. Somehow, when I was young, I took that to mean that dad’s family wasn’t French Canadian. Not true. His father’s grandfather came from France. While some branches can be traced much further back, I can say that many of my ancestors have been in Quebec for a long, long time. My brother and I have often thought of ourselves as Métis.
Dad’s father’s family is one of the more interesting. I’ve written about my 7th gr-grandmother, Abigail Nims who was kidnapped from her home in Deerfield Massachusetts during a raid in the early 1700s. She grew up among the native peoples in Quebec. I’ve got voyageurs and Hudson’s Bay types, interpreters and politicians, farmers and felons from the “French” side of the family. Okay, I only found one felon- a woman who was hung for colluding to murder her son-in-law. He had been abusive to his wife, the woman’s daughter. What’s interesting is that I can trace some of dad’s family back to England and the early aristocracy. Dad’s mother was Irish. Hynes (or Hines) and Sheehan (or Sheen), these lines give me a lot of trouble... so far, I can’t get past the early 1800s.
My mother’s father came from England. His background is a great deal Welsh. There are impossible stories about that part of the family and my mother is mortified by things that I’ve discovered. The flying trapeze and ventriloquism are the least of it. St Clair was a stage name, Hughes was the real name and many of my family still go by both. His mother was a Clingan, a lot of them members of the constabulary.
My mother’s mother identified as Pennsylvania Dutch although her father’s family was English and Scottish. Franklins and Carlyles- they’re not easy to research either; as those surnames have frequently been used as forenames. Many of Nana’s people came over in the earliest immigrations- among them, Mordens and Vandervoorts and families important in the founding of the United States. They were proper and pious, intelligent and educated people, frequently pillars of their community. Her paternal gr-grandmother was sister to Thomas Carlyle, the Scottish essayist and it is fun to read newspaper accounts of people like Ralph Waldo Emerson coming to call on her.
Genealogy is enlightening, beyond your imagination. It gives you chills to find a piece of the puzzle that resonates with old family lore. It’s helpful, understanding the values and how they came to be. It gives new meaning to lessons and stories and the people raised you. It personalizes history and politics and religion. For a real Canadian, it’s the story of our identity.