Monday, March 2, 2009

Seeds in my Genome


Joseph Raphael Fortin – lineage

(1) - Simon Fortin lived at Cosme-de-Vair, France. B. April

10, 1617.

Wife unknown/or or yet to be substantiated.

(2) - Julien Fortin, commercial butcher, son of Simon, B. 1600.

M. Nov. 26, 1619 to Marie LaVye daughter of Gervais LaVye,

Proprietor of hotel named ‘The White Horse’.

(3) - Julien Fortin (dit Bellefontaine) B. Feb. 9, 1621, Cosme-de-Vair,

M. Genevieve Gamarche, 11-11-1652, N. D. Quebec.

(Julien was the first Fortin to help set a foothold in Quebec.

Genevieve B. 1636 at Mantes la Jolie, France. D. Nov. 5, 1709.

(4) - Eustache Fortin son of Julien Fortin dit Bellafontaine, B. Nov. 15,

1658 - D. January 22, 1736 at Cap-St-Ignace, Quebec.

M. Louise Cloutier, May, 25, 1693, Cap-Ste-Ignace, Quebec.

(5) - Francois Fortin, son of Eustache, B. Oct. 28, 1695 at Cap-St-

Ignace, Quebec. M. Madeleine Richard, at Cape Michon, Quebec.,

Jan. 31, 1719. Medeleine’s parents, Pierre Richard and Francoise


(6) - Rene Francois Fortin , son of Francois, B. March 17/23, 1724.

M. Marie Charlotte Normand, Nov, 6, 1752.. Parents of M. Charlotte Normand:

Jacques Nomandeau and Marguerite Louis Collet.

(7) - Barthelemi Fortin son of Rene-Francois, B. March 9, 1763, M. Louise Thivierge, Aug. 10, 1793,

Montmagny, Quebec.

(8) - Joseph Barthelemi Fortin (2nd) M. Marie Louise Ursule Bernier, Nov. 7, 1820, Cap-St-Ignace, Quebec.

Parents of Louise Ursule were Paul Bernier and Marguerite Jalbert.

(9) - Pierre Fortin, son of Joseph B., M. Marie Janille Genide Belanger, July 01, 1862, Cap-St-Ignace, Quebec. Parents of Janille were Gregoire Belanger and Suzanne

(10) - Joseph Raphael Fortin, son of Pierre, was baptized at the Parish of St. Ignace, Cap St-Ignace Nov. 6, 1875.

Joseph Fortin and his spouse Emma Bernier were the godparents. Pierre, Raphael’s father could not leave work to be present at his son’s baptism as jobs were scarce and unemployment reaching high numbers everyday …

Raphael Fortin’s wife was Marie Amanda Fitzback, B. May 23, 1878 and baptized on the 28th of May in the church of Notre Dame du Sacre Coueur, Rimouski, P. Q., By Reverand Charles Guay, priest.

Amanda parents were Georgiana Ouellet and Damase Bard(e) Fitzback. Her maternal grandparents were Jean Baptist Ouellet and Ursule Levasseaur Lebel. Her paternal grandparents were Dominique Fitzback and Adalaide Bard(e).

I have never been sure if either families of Raphael and Amanda knew of each other prior to their meeting in Amesbury, Ma., USA, though many of the same names associated with both families have shown up in researching the lines such as distant cousins, aunts and uncles, godparents, etc. This same research has also drawn a clear picture of a progressive decline in Quebec’s ability to economically meet it’s people’s needs ... The societal structure was changing - Fathers needed to have dependable employment in order to support their families No longer could small farms could sustain a decent livelihood. Steady employment became as scarce as finding buried treasure. Under-paying day by day jobs despaired this Quebeque’s spirit and toughened his resolve to provide for his precious family - They were his priority; his main focus.

... Life of the French-Canadians in Quebec was largely agrarian. It was a system where each household grew, produced or bartered for everything the family needed to survive. As the population grew and time got leaner, family farms could no longer support succeeding generations, many left behind this self-sufficient life style for one based on wage labor in the mills. Eventually, one third of Quebec's population left Canada for mill villages in New England where they gathered in close-knit ethnic communities.

I quote from: Damien-Claude Bélanger,

Département d’histoire,

Université de Montréal

... Causes of French Canadian emigration to the United States

At the outset, two important points need to be established: the first one is that there are costs associated to emigration. These costs are economical, emotional and cultural. The economical costs are fairly easy to estimate as they are quantifiable. When individuals leave, assets have to be liquidated, often at a loss. Many material possessions have to be left behind. Packing material has to be acquired. Then there is the cost of transportation to their intended destination, and the cost of sustaining themselves during their travel. Lastly, there will be further costs of settlement, once the destination has been reached. The emotional costs are more difficult to estimate. To migrate often means to leave behind beloved family and friends with who long association have forged strong emotional ties. To leave family and friends behind certainly meant to leave behind one’s support system. It also always meant to forego the familiar surroundings of one’s region and ancestral home, the land which generations of their ancestors had toiled, and the landscape that had defined their environment since birth. All migrants have to face these wrenching emotional costs, and they will frequently remember very fondly that which they have left behind. The cultural costs may also be great. If one immigrates from a region that has particular cultural characteristics, such as way of life, language, religion and traditions, that are quite different from the host society then one will have to adapt to a far greater extent than a migrant that would share many cultural elements with the receiving society. Thus, it is evident that the greater the costs, economical, emotional and cultural, the less likely one is to leave one’s country for another. While the economical costs of French Canadians to leave for the United States might have been relatively small, the emotional and, especially, the cultural costs were quite high. They left behind a traditional rural society with strong family ties. They entered an industrial world, alien to them by virtue of its way of life, language and religion. Given these high emotional and cultural costs, it is surprising that so many French Canadians engaged in the migration process between 1840 and 1930. In fact, it would be normal to consider that French Canadians, who only find their language and religion dominant in a part of the continent, would be the least likely to engage in the migration process. Indeed, since the beginning of the 20th century, Quebec has had consistently the greatest rate of retention of its population of all provinces in Canada. These comments serve to highlight particularly the factors of causation for the emigration of French Canadians to the Unites States: if French Canadians were the people least likely to migrate from Canada, what severe problems impelled them to leave?

Historically, the great mover of large numbers of people has been poor or deteriorating economic conditions. When one’s life is miserable, when one does not see a way to pull out of poverty, then one is literally pushed out of one’s environment ...

For (my) Fortins, based on personal knowledge and family stories, they must had suffered extreme stress before relenting to the persuasions of mill agents from New England, USA. Before this family, such irresistible promises of dependable jobs, weekly pay envelopes, food, company housing. Yes, they would leave for surely to permanently return in time to their beloved Quebec was inevitable. While living in Amesbury, Ma., The family did visit the homeland a few times and what sweet times these visits were! Once established in Portland, Maine all the money that had been saved along with humble investments were lost in the crash of Wall Street. The Great depression had everyone under its heels. For the French migrants, it was the second blow to hit them. Yet, not one ‘bellied-up’ as hopeless fish, on the contrary, adversity made them stronger and the Fortins, more tenacious; more alive. But, I digress ...

Raphael Fortin was a charming man. All who knew him loved him for his boundless generosity (not viewed approvingly by his wife), his wonderful sense of humor, dancing skills and gifted story-telling. No one they knew could split their sides with laughter or bring them to a flood of tears as he. Raphael met his future bride in “Frenchtown” Amesbury.

Her father, (his origins from Luxembourg) was most strict and, to a stranger, an unyielding man. Yet, this French/German became an admirer of this little man’s big qualities. After, a period of time, Raphael courted Amanda, won approval for her hand and church bands were announced.

Raphael and Amanda were married Nov. 23, 1896, officiated by Rev. John J. Nilan at St. Joseph’s Church, Amesbury, Ma. Raphael Fortin was a multi-talented man:

He was a master carpenter -

Barber – Family pig farmer and breeder (in Quebec)

Musician and leather-worker, machine operator, glass-grinder, wheelwright and hatter.

Of course, he didn’t raise pigs in Amesbury, Ma. but applied all his other trades. When he owned a barber shop, if someone couldn’t afford a hair cut and needed one, no problem as they could always go to Raphael. Someone to provide music? See Raphael. Leather pieces needed, but no money? You guessed it- Raphael. Need a few dollars till pay day? Sure, they knew who to ask and who to stall when pay day came. What about the hungry guy hanging around the barber shop? No problem, Raphael took him home to eat a meal. Amanda would smile and quietly say a “Hail Mary”. These were hard times for everybody and although she was glad to help someone in need, Raphael’s kindness tended to shred his pockets.

Times got thinner, no dollars were entering the cookie jar - no more barber shop – grandfather had to work full time and evening side jobs as by then five children had become ten and addresses changed, first floor to third. Still, on weekends, the living room rug was rolled back, chairs pressed against the walls, kitchen food smells wafted on the air currents tossed about by dancers. Into the evening the merry-making continued till the old clock struck midnight or later. Programmed from birth, no one missed services on Sundays although there were some who required incentive. “La mère, père dort toujours. Obtenez vos frères et déplacez cet homme hors du lit !”

One way or another, the dear ‘joie de la vie’ never missed Mass nor work. And, never did anything or go anywhere without his rosary beads which the author now has and treasures. All Raphael’s children could play a musical instrument and two of his sons reflected him in all ways - “Lets push back the rug and polish the floor and dance and sing of our ancestral home in le belle Quebec and lets toast her with wine.” All of the girls, as expected, were obedient and reserved catholic ladies. There were five girls and five boys.

The ladies could knit, crochet, do various kinds of needle works and design and sew their own clothing. Cook? Oh, yes. My mother became a gourmet cook for many wealthy people. Another could sketch and do watercolors that were sold or given away. She was very artistic. Another aunt could hunt and shoot as an expert and was adapt with the bow and arrow, and loved wood carving. Aunt Exilda should have been a nun, had the calling, but a persistent young man pursued her till she relented and agreed to marriage. The fifth one who was the first born died at 12 years old from Diphtheria that was prevalent at that time. The Fortin boys? They were “Jack-of-all-trades”. They had learned much for they possessed an insatiable thirst for knowledge and were hard workers in their jobs. These ten children of Raphael and Amanda were conscientious and, as their father, good-hearted and musical.

By early 1900’s, an uncle joined the Army was eventually stationed at Fort Preble and then Fort Williams, South Portland, Maine. There, he met an Irish lass and after a passing of time they got married. By 1920, the Fortins left Amesbury, Ma. and moved to South Portland, and Portland, Maine. There was ample work there - Fish factories, fishing boats, a Burham and Morrill Baked Beans plant, the Portland Foundry, bakeries, and several good paying sewing businesses, many dept. stores and restaurants and hospitals.

In 1928, the Great Depression. 1932/34, the Fortins, all but two, were living in the west end of Portland in the St. Dominic’s Parish, an Irish dominated area that paralleled the waterfront. No one there spoke French other than one priest from St. Dominic’s Church and the majority of us spoke no English but became quick learners ... quick to hold our own and quick to set our place in their

Raphael liked to drink wine more than on social occasions and as the years passed, his intake of wine increased still, he always managed to work and earn a living building cabinets and furniture and making repairs on fishing boats. Amanda felt deep commitment and admiration for her husband’s qualities and goodness but was sadly at odds with his dependency.

I ask in a low tone of voice, a whisper, did Raphael’s father, Pierre, suffer from the same weakness?

Marie Amanda Fitzback Fortin died, Feb. 1, 1955 in Portland, Maine.

J. Raphael Fortin died much earlier, Oct. 26, 1939 in Portland, Maine. Both are buried at Calvary Catholic Cemetery, South Portland, Maine. Both funerals were attended by many relatives and friends and a grand niece of a priest who Amanda had designed and embroidered several vestments for was at both services to show appreciation for the vestments which are still kept in the family and Raphael who had build a fancy, hand-carved bookcase for the priest.

Now, what became Raphael and Amanda’s progenies?

They became: A fishing boat pilot, co-captain, crewmen, union organizers, gift shop owner, master carpenters, professional gourmet cook, a beauty queen and artist, a seamstress, fish-cutter, coast guardsman, and soldier, lace-makers and woodcarvers.

Truly, this family is a tenacious people who married and associated with strong men and women yet, however they might  have tried to fit in and would have hadn’t it been for the  damning  seduction of alcohol, they just couldn’t step up to the plate Yet, Through theirs and their companions of the first hundred’s admirable efforts,  Quebec, referred to as New France, became a great land worthy of a place in the world as any other nation and though under Canada’s Flag, it flies it’s own colors in recognition of it’s founders - in recognition of their land - in recognition of the “100” who pledged themselves to creating a French Homeland. Our Fortin, Julien, was one of the hundred who risked all on this vision of stargazers.

Years later, these noble souls’ progenies were no longer the French from France but the French from Quebec. How erect we must hold ourselves in that accomplishment! I felt a closeness as I walked in their footprints … footprints faded but not erased from time.

A sadness, perhaps a resentment, began to slip into my revelry when writing about Raphael. This charming man loved his wine.  Too much. Should there be no mention of this? Yes, I should as 14 generations later (not including my great grandchildren) the propensity for alcoholism  continues to attach itself to our genome but, not all of us – a number of us don’t drink – Never had a need or desire to.

It came to me that all men have their particular weaknesses –Fortins  rank mountain-high in this regard when it comes to liquor.  To be vulnerable is to be human. To be human is to be a person, one person in a family; one family in a long ancestral line. Genetics are relative. Inevitably, where there is weakness; there  must be strength strength and the ability to overcome adversity. The numbers speak for themselves.

My Fortin genes descend from Simon Fortin and beyond him to homo erectus and from there, the God particle that took root in the Garden of Eden. What glorious transformations from there!

Raphael’s handicap did weaken the family but I’m old enough to have seen changes in each generation that have followed mine and anticipate many more changes as future generations take their place in the Fortin line and see that the line is less asymmetrical … And I see that  in the scope of all things Raphael’s wine was but crushed grapes to beware of.



  1. My Lord Alice....what keen insight into Amanda and Raphael's life your writings bring about. I am assuming this is from your geneaology writings on them. Wonderful job as always my friend. Many thoughts are running through my head and I hope I am not overstepping my bounds writing it here. Many folks that allow themselves to be crippled with alcoholism are generally very highly intelligent and extremely creative human beings. None of them have to live like that though. There is a way out...thank God..and it is not a is a cancer genes...we are born with it...sometimes people recover sooner in life than later, saving themselves years of tradegy. It's about finding a spiritual solution. Unfortunately, with many, that is not the case. I would have loved to have met the Fortins you write about so eloquently. Your geneaology writings are a treasure for future family members. Thanks again for a great story.

  2. What else can I say than Fantastic! You are a golmine with all this knowledge of Your family and it´s history!

    Alcoholism is something rynning in my family too unfortunally. My father drank himself to death only 58 years old, but looking like 103. He had his ghosts to fight I think.I my self can take a bear some time, but that´s it.
    I´m already waiting for Your next text!

  3. Such a writer Im telling you. You are striking deep into the hearts and minds of your readers from the looks of the comments you get. I myself have always immersed myself deeply into your writings and followed your words start to finish with an appreicative though tireing eye.

  4. Alice,

    I am truly at a loss for words when it comes to expressing my feeling about your writing, for you are indeed above and beyond all others when it comes to your expressionism. Such a way of deliverance, honestly I can only relate to the time and effort you must have put into this work of art. Your family’s past has made you an author indeed, that few of us, if any could have been able to recall in such awesome and wondrous ways. I can honestly say you and your writing, has made my blogging worth while. Your stories and the way in which you tell them make yesterday seem like today, I can only imagine what these memories must mean to you.
    Sincerely Margaret

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  7. Dear Friend:

    How blessed you are to not have ever known of the horrors of dependencies such as alcohol or drugs.There is no disease as stealthy, as deceptive as the above mentioned. As it is difficult for you to understand this insidious disease, it is equally as difficult for me to understand that this illness has not revealed itself via friends, relatives, neighbors, co-workers, church members,etc., in your lifetime. I find that to be a glorious blessing! Alcoholism crosses all boundaries and social levels - No one with that disease can escape w/out help even the seemingly innocent 'sipper' who maybe a closet-drinker. I don't drink - never been a drinker, but it has effected my life through many family members. It is a living nightmare for all including the drinker!

    Alcoholism is a verified disease like cancer and the like and must be 'treated' as a disease - not a condition to be vilified,viewed as a person who must be mentally weak or dysfunctional or a product of impoverished and under-educated parents, slum-dwellers ... trust me, dear Mona, the list is endless for those in the dark or those lacking knowledge of this hellish disease.

    Some folks, as yourself, through God's compassion have never known of, or encountered, in any way, drunkedness in it's most dastardly stage ... Perhaps you've never even witnessed anyone even humerously tipsy. God help the person with the propensity for alcoholism for their entance into 'Danta's Inferno' starts out no differently and effects all walks of life for those w/the potential.

    Because of my exposure to alcoholism w/close family members, of which, many were lost to it, I have suffered much from it's destructive reach and haver witness close loved ones perish brutally from this horror! Sometimes, my mind and heart could not endure the pain I felt from the human destruction all around me throughout my lifetime.

    I didn't have this disease - Nor did 4 other cousins. Now that's 5 and possible 7 out of dozens of effected relatives that can be traced over a rocky line of several generations! This is not only scary but it is mind-boggling!

    Every night we pray - it is a 'given'. We pray for our families - children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, cousins ... All aunts and uncles are gone! And soon we will be gone, too. So, what can we say that hasn't been said to those to be left behind for who knows the tenacity of this genetic propenisity that is so prevalent in mine and my relative's genes? Can this 'devil-gene' be surgically removed before the birth of a new and innocent child in the family? Good question; big money.

    Please, my friend, learn of this disease and, if not, please understand that the disease is a very provened disease.

    God bless you, Mona ... Your friend, AliceMary