one-eighth canadian

I HAVE BEEN PUBLICLY SHAMED for writing about my ancestry by numerous people, but I decided to write one more post. This post is called “One-Eighth Canadian.” It so happened that years ago in New York, I was out drinking with my friend Patrick O’Connor and a couple of floozies at the bar inquired if I happened to be the prime minister of Canada. I told them no, but explained that there is a reason that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and I look alike: we both have Canadian blood.

The Canadian blood in me runs thick, sweet, and deep, like freshly tapped maple syrup. Long ago during the inter-Anglo conurbation referred to by Americans as the Revolutionary War, some of my predecessors chose the wrong side and decided to make haste for the wilds of Canada, leaving behind New York for good, or so they thought. They made their home on the shores of Lake Ontario where for several generations, I imagine, they were quite cold. They were joined there by Irish from Ulster and English from County Durham and the West Country. They had boring English-sounding names and were Methodists, I think. While not attractive, they still had plenty of sex.

Many children were made.

Then, in the later years of the 19th century, a roving moulder or foundry worker named Frank, married the daughter of a machinist in Detroit. Her name was Annabelle. They had only daughters and one son and for whatever reason relocated to the Hochelaga district in Montreal around the year 1900. Here they briefly changed the family name to “Millar” and then back to “Menagh.” As most of the documents from that time are in French, I thought they were all chefs, but it turned out that “chef” just meant “head of household” up in Québec. 

Arl was one of the daughters. She married a fellow named Sinclair but then was divorced “pour cause d’adultère” in around the year 1910. Alphonse was the son. He held various odd jobs. In 1911, he was a “colleur,” whatever that means (internet search engines translate it as both “billposter” and “examiner”). He had also recently married a sharpshooter from a Wild West show named Lucy, who was actually from New York. She had pearl-handled pistols. This detail remains.

They had two sons and relocated to New York by the year 1920, for sure. But then Lucy died in the flu epidemic. Her sister Genevieve married the Canadian, and had five more children, one of whom was my grandmother, also called Annabelle. She’s the one who married the Italian, Abbatecola, who lived in the same community in Queens. And so the Canadian blood was diluted, first by New York Irish, and then by first-generation Italians. But the maple still runs strong. There is an affinity there, an unbreakable bond, a fondness for red things with leaves embroidered on them and silly hats. As an old Québécois once told me over croissants, if a person has a drop of Canadian blood in them, just a drop, then that person is a Canadian. Who am I to argue?

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