I've been working on Mike's family tree these days, since I've hit some brick walls in mine and I'm giving it some time (and debating how to handle famine diaspora Irish). At first Mike's was easy--we got to the finish lines pretty fast (meaning, the point at which I can go no further on ancestry.com without getting their "world" membership, which I will probably do, but not until I've exhausted all other routes). Irish, recent English, Italian from only 100 years ago. My mother-in-law had put a bunch of the information in already and it was done for now.
Then I got to Quebec. Mike's mother's mother's mother's side is French-Canadian, from a place called Yamachiche, Quebec. And they've been there as long as my English ancestors were in Jamestown. Like, first settlers kind of been there a long time. And of course, just like Jamestown, if you could afford to settle in New France, you had money, and money means you have records. More ridiculously long strings of begats and people with their own wikipedia pages, they're so medieval.
So it makes me ponder things as I click and decide and click again. Several things come to mind:
Do the French have only a select list of given names to go from? Why do all the women seem to be named Jeanne or Marie-Madeleine and all the men are Pierre, Jean, and Francois?
Do the last names have to be so dang French? I mean, my Irish ancestors have Irish sounding names, but they're not McGillicuddy and O'Flaherty--we have names like Dwyer and Blake. And my Germans, sure, there are Wibbenmeyers and Grothhoffs, but there are also simpler names. There's a span. But all these French names in this line, until you get back to a point when people didn't have last names, are things like Gelais-LaJolie dit Bissonet. What? Drouet-LeDroit? Boissoneau? Bouvier? Combine that with the first names and you get things like Francois Ettienne Gelais-LaJolie and it's just laughable.
More depressingly, I have a hard time with these women who have 14 kids and only 4 survive to adulthood. I know that's not only French, but there is a multitude of these situations in Mike's deep ancestry in comparison to mine. And the whole idea of continuing to use a name until it sticks--your first son Jean dies when he's three days old, so you name the next boy Jean as well? Not only is this confusing for me, it's poignant in a way I can't handle very well.
One of Mike's ancestors gets captured by the Iroquois. Another has a house fire that kills three of his children. One moves from France to Haiti, and then to Quebec. Did the ship miss the right sailing route? Several of the women are filles du roi, which on first glance seems to be a grown woman's version of orphan trains. Ship the gals off to Quebec to marry fur trappers and farmers and populate the place (with 14 children apiece).
And further back, there are Huguenots. Notes like "There is no date of death for Huguette (that is one woman's first name) but she probably died in the religious wars of her time." Because French Catholics murdered the Huguenots. There are also Spanish Jews who fled Spain and disguised their names with fake French ones that eventually morphed into regular French surnames. My favorite story, though, involves a man leaving for New France, leaving his wife and 2 of his sons with his in-laws. He takes his oldest son with him, where he registers as a widower. Soon after his arrival, he and his son are married to filles du roi on the same day in a joint ceremony. Bigamy. Ah well.
I'm just about done with that side. After that, I'll be done with Mike's mom's side entirely and can focus on his dad's. Part of it has already been at least mostly completed for me by someone else obsessed with genealogy out in California with the same last name. But the other half is mine to sift through. I've already discovered the Irish surnames: Sweeney and O'Sullivan. Of course.