Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge

I have been thinking about this post for a long time.  This, along with the post from earlier in this series on Wilfrid Lacasse, is one of only two posts from my maternal Grandfather’s side of my family, which, interestingly, I have the most genealogical background on both from my research through Ancestry as well as through work that has been done on family history by a number of different distant relatives throughout the years. This part of my Canadian pedigree can be traced back to my 8th Great Grandmother, Marie Helene Desportes, who was according to some reports the first child of European descent born in  New France (now the Province of Quebec). Born in 1620, she married twice and had fifteen children, one of whom, Marie Morin, married Gilles Rageot, a recent arrival from France, in 1673. From here, the Rageot (later Rajotte) family spread in French Canada, then eventually also into western Canada.  My Grandfather, Albert Rajotte, was fascinated by this family history, as are many descendants of the Rajotte lines.  That said, it is the branch of my family history with the least evidence of direct participation in the Great War.  There may be many reasons for this, but, as I wrote in the entry on Wilfrid Lacasse, I suspect that at least in part, this is due to the fact that the war was not part of the French Canadian consciousness in the same way that it was in English Canada.  This was related to the fractious relationship with British Imperialism in French Canada as well as to the sense that, as this fantastic article from the Canadian War Museum states: “neither France nor Britain was “a mother country” retaining the allegiance of French Canadians. The “patriotic” call to arms rang hollow.”  Attempts were made through a variety of means to appeal in different ways to French Canada’s interests, including the poster below blatantly appealing to the connection between French culture and Catholicism, but enlistment would never reach the pace it did in English Canada.

French Canadian recruitment

Recruitment poster directed at French Canadians: loosely translated: “Are we waiting until it’s ours that burn? Let’s join up, and right away.”

The Canadian government’s 1917 reversal of a previous promise to never conscript men into military service also hurt the relationship with French Canada. Demonstrations at the Military Service office in Quebec City turned to a deadly riot in March of 1918, with English troops opening fire on French protesters.  These wounds between what Hugh MacLennan later famously called the two solitudes would not easily heal, and in some very real ways, still haven’t.

Joseph Jean Baptiste Thivierge, my 2nd cousin 2x removed, was one of these French Canadian conscripts.  He was not connected to the Rajotte line, but rather to the Monette line, my Grandfather’s paternal grandmother’s line.

Thivierge

Abbreviated family tree of descendants of Elmire D’Amour and Auguste Monette

Joseph was born in 1895 in Hull, Quebec, to Jean Baptiste Thivierge and Adelia D’Amour.  By the time Joseph was called up under the Military Service Act to join the 2nd Depot Battalion of the Eastern Ontario Regiment, it was May of 1918.  He was 22 years old, and an accountant, still living in Hull.  His mother, Adelia, was listed as his next of kin.  He trained throughout the summer, and was transferred to the 2nd Canadian Tank Battalion in September of 1918. On October 4th, 1918, he sailed from Halifax for England, arriving on October 18th.  On November 11, hostilities ended, and Jospeh, never having left England, re-embarked for Canada eleven days later, arriving on November 29.  He was discharged from the service on New Year’s Eve 1918.

While in retrospect, it is clear that Joseph would never see the western front, and his voyage to England and back is almost comically short, he had no way of knowing that he wasn’t going to find himself inside a tank in France. For nearly six months, he was training for, and even shipped overseas in preparation for, a war he did not sign up to fight. I can’t imagine how frightening and frustrating this may have been.

Joseph married Alice Sauve in 1919, and they went on to have two children.  Joseph passed away in Hull at the age of 64 in 1960.

 

Wilfrid Lacasse

As happens with us all, life happened to me last week, and I did not get my post on Wilfrid Lacasse, my 2nd cousin 3x removed, completed.  Apologies for any confusion that the blank post may have created! This will mean you’ll see two posts from me this weekend, one on Wilfrid today, and another tomorrow on Herbert Hewlett.

Wilfrid Lacasse is one of only two members of my maternal grandfather’s family I am profiling over the course of this year.  I have a few theories about why that is, but most notably is the fact that my grandfather came from a French Canadian family in an isolated part of Northern Ontario.  French Canada was less likely to subscribe to the British imperial rhetoric driving recruitment, so the likelihood of enlistment was lower.  Also, being in a community where the main industry were mines and mills, men’s incomes were important to the survival of families, and the products of the work was considered important to the war effort.  Wilfrid is not only one of the only two members of this side of my family I will be profiling, he is also the only member of the American war effort I have as part of this project.

Wilfrid and I are both descended from Laurent Lacasse and Emelie Bergeron who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Wilfrid’s Great Grandparents.  Both families extend back generations in Canada, with traces back to the settlement of “New France” around the St. Lawrence River. Both were born just south of Montreal, and, sometime after their marriage, settled in the Ontario community of Clarence Creek, just south of the Quebec/Ontario border.

Lacasse

Abbreviated family tree of Wilfrid Lacasse

While I am descended from their son Jean Baptiste, Wilfrid is descended from their oldest son, Laurent, and then his son, also named Laurent.  Wilfrid’s father and his mother, Josephine Bergeron, were both born in Clarence Creek, where they married and where their children were born.  In the 1901 census, completed early in the year, Laurent and Josephine are listed as living in Clarence Creek with with their four daughters and one son: Wilfrid.  In July of that year, Josephine died, leaving Laurent with five children ranging from one to twelve years.  By the end of the year, the family had moved to Michigan, potentially to be closer to his brother Felix, who already lived there.

Wilfrid was living in Alger, Michigan when the American forces joined the war in 1917. He was twenty four.  As I’ve written before, American service records were destroyed in a massive fire at the National Personnel Records Centre in St. Louis which destroyed 80% of service records of men discharged from American military forces between 1912 and 1960.  As such, there is no military file for Wilfrid, but there is a record of a request his wife made for him to have a military headstone upon his death.  This record states that he served as a cook at Camp Mills in Long Island, New York. This was a camp that was established in the autumn of 1917 as an embarkation point for troops leaving for Europe.  His period of service was less than a year, ranging from September 2, 1918 to July 1919.  Since the war ended in November of 1918, it is very unlikely that he served overseas.

He returned to Michigan after his discharge where he married Ruth McMaster in 1924 and began his family.  They later moved to Wisconsin where he lived until his death in 1952 at 59 years of age.