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Madonna, Celine, Camilla and me

I’ve been working on my family history since Family Day last February. It was the perfect weekend for cross-country skiing and I couldn’t find my ski boots. So I had some time on my hands and signed up for I had been thinking about it for a long time.

My sister has done quite a bit of family research that charted back several generations to my ancestors who immigrated to Canada from Ireland, Scotland and England. We had some information about relatives who settled in Simcoe and Kent counties. I wanted to see how far back I could dig.

We knew my grandmother’s great-grandfather was Pierre Laviolette, a French-Canadian militiaman who fought in the War of 1812. On his side of the family, I found the holy grail. I am related to Madonna, Celine Dion, and Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall. We are all descended from the same 17th-century French carpenter, according to French-Canadian historical records.

Zacharie Cloutier and his wife came from northern France and settled in Beauport near Quebec City in 1634. Today there are about 11,000 other people related to Zacharie and me.

In my search, I came across some fascinating relatives. One was an interpreter for the British in the Georgian Bay area, another was a gold prospector in Alaska, another was a sports reporter for The New York Times. There are a few family mysteries as well. I have enough fodder for a couple of novels.

I regret, as most older people do, that I did not ask my grandparents more about their childhoods and their grandparents and their cousins. I wasn’t a very curious teenager but I have lots of questions now.

When I was teaching memoir classes I urged students to write down their stories even if no one in their family seemed interested. Someday, someone will find their stories of great interest.

As for Madonna, Celine and Camilla, I don’t expect a family reunion any time soon.

People who are interested in family history might join the Sudbury District Branch – Ontario Genealogical Society. It meets the third Monday of the month at the Parkside Centre on Durham St. at 7 pm. Warning: Genealogy is addictive.

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