Frannie's Blog

My photo
Vankleek Hill, Ontario, Canada
I look for beauty and truth in everything. It's not always there of course but I try to find it or make it happen. I love people who make me laugh.

Sunday, March 7, 2010


This little pewter pin once belonged to my maternal great-grandmother, Eva Eleanor Etienne, who was born in 1870. For International Women's Day I dedicate this post to her. I don't really know all that much about her except that she was of Huguenot ancestry and she married a man who worked in a tannery. But I do have some brief memories of her as well as a collection of old photographs, many with the patina of the years.

Eva posed for this photo at age 13. Note the pin at her neck and the trace of a smile, a rare thing in early days of photography. She lived in Montreal, then Ste. Hyacinthe, Quebec during her younger years. She later became known as "Memere" and I am lucky enough to have met her on occasion for the first ten years of my life.

Little Eva with her mother, Eleanor, who was about 18 when this was taken.

Eva at age 15, still wearing the pin and holding what might be a diploma but I don't know how much schooling she had or in what, so perhaps it's a prop.

Here's an old tin-type photo with Eve posing in front of a fake snow-scene, wearing what I'm guessing is a Red-River or a Voyageur outfit. Her cheeks are hand-tinted a healthy pink.

Eva married Ferdina (sic) a.k.a. Fred Chartrand when she was 25, which was considerably old for a girl to wed in those days. Above she poses with Fred and her father, Onesime Etienne. This was ca. 1895 as the clothes would indicate. To our eyes now people looked a lot older back then.

Another tin-type showing Eva with son Etienne in a horse-carriage. I don't know if it belonged to them but I do know that Eva loved riding in cars in later years, especially along country roads in the evening. I used to sit in the back seat of my grandfather's car with her.
A family portrait: Fred, Eva, Etienne and Irene, my grandmother, who was born in 1902.

I'm told she was a fan of Alan Ladd. Maybe that's who she's thinking about in this picture.

It's 1943 in this shot of four generations, Eva, Irene, Phyllis and me, at my christening.

For many summers when we were young my sister and I stayed with our Mom's parents in Elmira Ontario. Eva lived in the house with them. I remember her long white hair braided and pinned up. She also made braided rugs and sewed the rags together on her treadle sewing-machine before braiding them. She gave the rugs away to family and friends.

I remember Eva as a quiet little woman who minded her own business most of the time and who also enjoyed a good laugh. Once she poured herself a glass of what I thought was coke and set it on the kitchen counter. When she wasn't looking I swiped a hefty swig, and throat on fire with her evening shot of brandy. She cackled like crazy at that. "Serves you right!", she said. It was true.

In the picture above she is holding my sister, Lynne. I was four at the time and appear to be looking for my gang of summer playmates. This is one of the last photos we have of Eva. She died six years later, following a stroke, at age 83.


Ronna said...

Lovely post Fran. Perfect for International Women's Day. Thanks for sharing.

tthrash said...

Great post. As someone who has spent hundreds of hours in genealogy efforts, I can say that any time you can relay personal stories about your forebears is a great accomplishment, one that is an awesome complement to the hard work of simply finding their, say, birth, marriage, etc records.

Evlyn said...

These photographs are a real treasure. And you told the story of Eva so beautifully. What a wonderful tribute to her.

PK 09 said...

Wow, amazing photographs! Interesting read.

Knatolee said...

Oh what fantastic photos, and a great story Fran. Amazing!

Barbara Strobel Lardon said...

I enjoyed this peek into your heritage and the photos were such an added treat.

We sell a lot of old celluloid scrapbooks of photos like these with the set backgrounds and no smiles on those faces. It amazes me when people bring them in for me to buy from them because they "don't know any of the these people anyway". So sad some people have no interest in their heritage and the lives of they lived.

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