Back to the drawing board

On the weekend, I started to suspect that one of the key family tree connections in the Houle line was based on extremely weak evidence. At this point, I’m pretty sure that connection is wrong.

This whole process feels, in odd ways, like programming. I’m reading a document that I didn’t produce, and I’m having to glean from it what the original author was thinking. It’s a lot like reading someone else’s code. “Why did you put that there? What made you think it was important?”

The problem goes back, again, to Pierre Houle. It’s pretty crucial to understand who his parents are. Once he arrives in Dover Township, he and his family are fairly well documented. There are certain circumstantial hints about his parentage available in the documentation:

  • Pierre Houle has a son, also named Pierre Houle. The registration of death for the younger Pierre Houle indicates that his father was born in Montreal.
  • In the 1851 census for Dover Township, Pierre Houle (whose name is badly misspelled as Peter Wooll) is living with his wife, a number of his kids, and his mother, Mary, listed as 100 years old. Mary is not mentioned in the 1861 survey. The various censuses suggest that Pierre Houle was born about 1800.
  • Don’s found only two Houde/Houle households listed in an 1825 census of Lower Canada for Montreal City and Montreal County: the household of Michel Houle and family and the household of Jean Baptiste Houle and family. Only heads of households are named in the census. I don’t know who Michel’s wife was, but Jean Baptiste’s wife was named Marie Therese. Marie Therese isn’t quite old enough to be considered 100 in 1851 — she’d have been 75 — but one can understand a certain amount of inaccuracy.
  • One of Pierre Houle’s kids is named Jean Baptiste Houle. For Don, family traditions of naming children after parents are natural, and I think he’d probably believe that Pierre would have automatically named a son after his father.

All of this lead me to fear that there wasn’t any stronger evidence of the relationship than that. And I think I’m right on this point. Here’s what this part of the family tree looks like, per Don’s notes:

Ancestor Chart Pierre Houle - Don's incorrect Ancestry

I’ve been trying to correlate and validate Don’s belief in a variety of databases, and nobody else seems to have come to the same conclusion. In fact, most of the time I’ve been able to find records for Pierre Houle, the genealogist has no data about parents. But I have found a few folks on who have a different idea of Pierre’s lineage. And I’ve had some Facebook interactions with the “Descendants of Louis Houde and Madeleine Boucher” group, and their records are consistent with the view, which looks like this:

Ancestor Chart Pierre Houle - revised

Notice that both trees still end up at Louis Houde, but through different sons of Louis (Louis and Madeleine had fourteen kids, so there’s a lot of family).

There are a number of mistakes that Don has made throughout his records — he has problems with misspelling certain names, for example — he almost-universally spells “Cosgrove” as “Crosgrove” and “Matilda” as “Matitda”. And, as a life-long Anglophone, he doesn’t understand French accents and uses them incorrectly. But this feels like the first case where it seemed like his assemblage of the family tree was just out-and-out wrong.

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