He taught the future at Hawkesbury’s high school, but since his retirement Jean-Pierre Laframboise has been obsessed with the past.
The former computer-science and business studies teacher at ESCRH has just completed a genealogical history of the descendants of Abraham Methot and his wife Marie Madeleine Mezeray. The 228-page family archive is incredible in its detail, with documents and photos of long-lost relatives – tracing the family’s lineage back to the 17th century.
Perhaps most amazingly, the history of the Methot family is the sixth family archive Laframboise has documented and published a book about since his retirement in 2008, after 31 years of teaching students at ESCRH.
“I now have over 10,000 individuals in my genealogical data bank,” says the dedicated genealogical researcher, who credits the spark of his interest to working alongside then ESRCH vice-principal Jean-Roch Vachon, who headed the Hawkesbury genealogy club and wrote articles on local families. “The best way to honour history is to keep writing it.”
All of the families he has documented so far have some relation to Laframboise, or his wife Diane (Mullin). He began his research in 2010 – two years after his retirement – and published the history of his own Laframboise family ancestors in 2012. He followed that up with the Ravary family (2014), the Mullins (2015), Millette family (2016) and the Bergevin family in 2019.
Laframboise does all of his research and writing as a labor of love, selling print versions of his publications at cost and only to people who are in the book. They are not available online, in digital format, or in stores and libraries – just for the families to appreciate and learn about the lives of their ancestors.
“Memories increase over time, but many are lost”
Each family history takes an average of 12 to 15 months to research and write – requiring several hours of research every day – but for Laframboise, it is not work. Rather, his research serves as a kind of therapy, as he pores over historical material – his thoughts only on the family members who will benefit from information which otherwise might be lost.
“Memories increase over time, but many are lost,” an enthused Laframboise explains. “Writing about family is useful not only for the current generation, but for all those to come.”
“Some of your loved ones may not find it relevant today, but they will appreciate the content tomorrow.”
Through his research, Laframboise has developed his own method of unveiling the history of the first settlers in New France – using archives, genealogical websites and the help of other researchers to follow the path of each descendant in direct lineage. From a starting point of either the grandparents or great-grandparents of someone, he will then locate as many descendants as possible. For the Methots, that represented 474 descendants from Hormidas Methot and Emma Levac, most of them with photos and dates.
“You need to have good collaborators for each branch to help you collect data and pictures,” notes Laframboise, of other people who help in his work.
Quebec, France have excellent ancestry databases
One of the reasons his research goes back so far, is that most of the families Laframboise has researched are of Francophone descent, with roots also in the province of Quebec. Historical archives in Quebec and in France are much more extensive than those in many other countries.
“It’s much easier to find a French ancestor than any others. In France they have an incredible database and also in Quebec,” Laframboise explains. “For example, when I researched my wife’s family – the Mullins – they are of Irish descent.”
“Most of the Irish registries and documents they kept in churches were destroyed – either through war or fires – and it’s very difficult to go back further than the 1800s.”
Great history is made up of millions of small stories
His research has uncovered some amazing stories about long-forgotten relatives, including the story of Joseph Frye – an ancestor of the Laframboise family, who was taken captive by the Iroquois at Kittery, Maine, in 1695, when he was just a young teenager. Taken to Canada and held prisoner for about 15 years near Montreal, Frye was later released after a ransom was paid on order from King Louis XIV, who gave each of the approximately 100 captives a letter of naturalization so they could make a life for themselves in a different part of New France. It is just one of the many interesting tales found in Laframboise’s books on family history.
“You have to remember that – beyond dates and events – great history is made up of millions of individual small stories,” Laframboise observes.
Dedicated researcher is also an avid cyclist
While his genealogical research has occupied thousands of hours over the past decade, one should not think for a moment that the retired schoolteacher is a bookworm who spends all of his time in his basement. Laframboise’s second hobby is as a “full-time biking nut”, who has logged more than 130,000 kilometers on his bicycle since 2008.
Heading out from his home in L’Orignal, Laframboise has spent many hours cycling throughout Prescott-Russell. He and his wife also love to travel all over the world. His website allows visitors to travel virtually as if they were there with him.
So how does one person have the energy to spend so many hours on two such extensive pursuits?
“I’m the kind of person who likes to stay active and be on the move, so I can find a good equilibrium of physical and mental activities,” laughs Laframboise, as he excitedly flips through his new book about the Methot family, pointing out significant documents and photos. “I’ve already started my research on my next book about the Levac family.”