Hello, and welcome to the latest edition of Branches, Twigs, and Roots!

Genealogy Tip of the Month

Surnames transferred
from one language to another
can be spelled many different ways
in the second language,
and may bear little resemblance
to the surname in the original language

Brick Wall

Your Brick Walls

This month’s brick wall takes us to French Canada. Here is the scenario, as described by the contributor:

We can't find the origins of Edward Mayo/Maheux and his wife Ann Toose. He was seemingly born in Canada around 1811; she was born in England or Ireland about the same time. They were married sometime around 1836, possibly in Quebec's eastern townships.

We know of eight children to this couple but can only find the birth of the last one, William, in 1856 in l'Avenir, Quebec. At least five of these eight children moved to New England around 1880 with their families; John (with wife Julia Kelly), Eliza (husband Edward Kennedy), Francis (wife Mary Doherty), Martha (Felix McGoldrick) and William (Celina Courchesne). All but William were married in Montreal; William was married in l'Avenir.

Ann Toose died Nov 21 1856 in L'Avenir. Edward remarried and had more children; one of whom also moved to New England, Freddie Mayo (Marie-Louise Dubois). We found several descendants in Vermont, Massachusetts and New Hampshire, but are deadlocked on ancestors."

This is an interesting case, which illustrates the difficulties which can arise when a person of one culture is living and working in another, and the second culture is unsure about the spelling of the surname. In this case, it seems to be true for both Edward and Ann!

Edward Mayo

'Edward Mayo' is an anglicization of both the forename and the surname; in the French language, his name would be Edouard Maheux. I did find an Edouard Maheux, born in the right time period in Quebec, but I have no way of knowing whether he is the correct one, without further research and information.

The Edouard I found was born September 3, 1812, and christened the same day in the parish of Beauport, the son of Pierre Maheux, farmer (‘cultivateur’) and Marie Josette Tivierge, his wife.

The Maheux surname has been written various ways in English. I have seen Mahu, Mayhu, and Mayhew, to name a few. Those spellings are reasonably reflective of the original pronunciation in French.

The family in the situation here opted for Mayo, which, generally speaking, is an Irish surname, and is somewhat removed from the original French pronunciation. This would suggest an Irish influence at play in the choosing of an English form of the name; whether this influence was from Ann Toos, from the local parish priest, or from some other source, it is difficult to say.

The other possibility, of course, is that Edward Mayo was not French at all, but was Irish, and Mayo was his actual surname. It is possible that the French-speaking person recording the marriage simply wrote down what he thought he was hearing, when Edward stated his name. If that is the case, then it would be necessary to search for his origins either in Ireland, or in Quebec, but of Irish parentage. His children certainly seem to have married into Irish families, so this is a definite possibility.

Quebec flag

Ann Toos

In the French Canadian culture, a woman may be known in everyday life as “Mrs. So-and-so” (using their husband’s surname), but where legal documents are concerned, her maiden name is always used. So, in birth registrations, death and burial certificates, marriage records, and any other documentation (such as petitions for land), where she is mentioned, her official, legal name (i.e., her maiden name) is always used. A genealogist’s dream, in most cases, as one never has to search for the mother’s maiden name!

In this case, however, while the couple may have been speaking English in the home and in their general environment, they were Roman Catholic. The Roman Catholic church records from this time period in Quebec all are written in French. The wife’s surname, Toos, or Toose, seems to have been written phonetically in the French documents.

It seems likely that Ann did not know how to write, as the majority of people born in the early 1800s did not. Her daughter Ann Eliza, in her marriage record in the 1860s, indicated that she was unable to write her name.

While I don't intend to draw a conclusion about Ann based on her daughter's inability to write, I mention this to point out that, if this was the case for Ann, she would not have known whether her surname as written was spelled ‘properly’, or not.

Neither form of the surname (Toos or Toose) really looks or sounds like an English or Irish surname, to my mind, at least! In looking at various records from English-language databases, I see a couple of individuals born in England in the 1809 to 1813 time frame with the surname Towse, or Towze, whose marriages are recorded in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada (known as York then) area during the same time period. Another possible spelling would be Touse or Touze. I have also seen an Irish surname of Twohy, so perhaps Twose or Twoze would not be out of line, either.

Another version of Ann's surname is recorded on son John Mayo’s death certificate, which states that his mother was Ann Twoes, born in England. Yet another variation - Francis Mayo’s marriage record gives his mother’s name as Ann Toughes; which leads to the possibility that it was spelled like Hughes (Tughes).

Quebec flag

The Eastern Townships

The possibility of a marriage in the Eastern Townships in the 1830s is also interesting. This area was populated by mainly English-speaking settlers, although there are some records in French.

A good website for research in the Eastern Townships is located here. The website owner has transcribed over 600,000 English-language documents for this area, which includes what is now northern Vermont.

You might also want to check Vermont marriage records for this marriage, as the borders between Canada and the US have changed in the intervening years.

I hope that these suggestions will be of assistance in solving this brick wall. Good luck with it; let me know how you get along!

For further information with respect to Quebec vital records, see Quebec Vital Records: Births Marriages and Deaths.

For more information regarding surname changes and name variations, see Surname Variations and Name Changes.

Heard the buzz about the Flip-Pal scanner, that has taken the genealogy world by storm? See my review, at FamilyHistoryAlive.com, or go directly to their site from the link (the photo) below.

New Content on www.familyhistoryalive.com

Only one content page has been added to the www.familyhistoryalive.com website since the last e-zine was issued. It is:

Parish Chest Records - Scotland.

These are the records that will tell you all about your Scottish ancestors, in so far as they ran afoul of the parish church's watchful eye. You'll find out about their misdemeanours, including drunken or disorderly behaviour, swearing, and so on, and about the punishments which the parish counsel handed out!

I have also located an additional heritage tour operator in the United Kingdom, and have added a page for referrals to him. He provides heritage tours in the Norfolk and Suffolk (East Anglia) areas of England, with some overlap into the surrounding counties.

To contact him, go to Family History Tours - Inquiry - Norfolk and Suffolk, England.

My website provider is implementing a long-awaited upgrade to the software used to create pages. That should be happening this week. So hopefully, once the pages in the old format have been switched to the new, you will see a number of new pages on the site, as I am eager to put the new 'Cadillac' model through its paces!

News, Stories, Contests, etc.

Click here for a neat little story about a US man of German heritage finding his 'body double', back in the 'Old Country'.

Keep a look out for DNA Day, which usually is around April 15. The companies that offer DNA testing for genealogy purposes usually have some really good specials on around this time of the year!

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