A Métis elder reinforced the idea that it is important to know where you come from on the weekend.
© Herald photo by Jodi Schellenberg
Métis Elder Rose Fleury helped people learn about researching their family trees during a seminar on Saturday.
On Saturday, the Prince Albert branch of the Saskatchewan Genealogical Society hosted a First Nations and Métis Family History seminar with historian and genealogist Rose Fleury.
“It is all about genealogy and your family tree, where you come from, where you were and where you are going,” Fleury said.
Jim Wilm, the president of the local chapter of the Genealogical Society, said Fleury has spent her lifetime working on this subject and is very knowledgeable.
“That is why when she approached us about the possibility of putting on a seminar, we thought sure, we’ll do it and help her and it will also help us too,” he said.
Another area Fleury has helped is with determining the relationship “we have as a community and the First Nations people,” Wilm said.
“That has been quite interesting in her research because she is Métis herself,” he added. “She has been able to go back many generations on her side and then when it came to her husband’s side, she didn’t know very much about him until she ended up going to France to find all this out. It is quite interesting to listen to her in that respect.”
Fleury believes it is very important for everyone to know about his or her family history.
“My thing for genealogy is to help people,” she said. “Some people don’t know where they come from or who they are. They were not told who they are or anything like that.
“You find different ideas and different qualities of your person -- like Métis, French and other, it doesn’t only have to be the two definitions,” Fleury said. “It can be French, English, Ukrainian, Polish or whatever. It is an ancestral background going backwards instead of frontwards. Frontwards you know what you are doing but back you have got to find it and this is my job.”
She said looking back at your family tree “there is not a lot of information that you can grab on to.”
“You’ve got to dig -- just like grabbing a shovel and digging a hole in the dirt because there are good and bad things you’ll come up with and you’ll have to deal with it,” Fleury said. “It gives you a perspective of your life and your background.”
A lot of her interest in genealogy stemmed from her great grandmother, who told her it is important to know where you came from and who you are.
“She always rattled on what we were and never held back,” Fleury said. “This is where my genealogy comes from is her because I kept it when she died. It makes me happy to just keep on her work. She was illiterate, mind you, but she had a good head. I wanted to put on paper what I am doing.”
Fleury finds it sad when she goes into schools and the children do not know any of their family history.
“Some of them don’t even know their great grandparents,” she said. “You go into a school … and they don’t even know their great grandparents or even their grandparents some of them.
“I work at St. Michael’s and I asked them and they said, ‘Well, I don’t know,’” she added. “They are just like lost people and it makes it hard to define after who they are. I take it on to me that I want them to know where they come from and who they are and what kind of people they want to be.”
She urges people to “keep your background open” and to “find out who you are and do the best way you can about it.”
Wilm agreed that knowing your family history is important, something he has shared with his family.
“I didn’t know who some of my family was until I got into the society here and got into the research and finding it out,” Wilm said. “I have family members that I didn’t even know where they were and I was able to tell the rest of my family, this is what I found and where they are interned.
“It is gratifying in that way and it is also gratifying to do research for others too. When you find tidbits of information that you are able to pass on to them, that’s really the thrill of it all.”
The local chapter of the Genealogical Society also brought in Fleury because what she was talking about is closely related to a project they are currently working on.
“In this whole area here, we have a large First Nations population, so over the years, as it has all folded together and … right now we are working very extensively with the First Nations communities, documenting and recording all their cemeteries, which is some that has really (been done),” Wilm said. “A lot of it has been lost, so we are working with them for their local groups to have that information complied and kept available. They are not even sure themselves who is buried. We have the availability to go through the documents and find some of that information.”
So far the club has been fortunate because many organizations have been helpful, letting the members get information from them.
“We have a library we have that we keep here that has an extensive amount of information in it, so if someone contacts us that may be looking for information, we can probably provide what we may have here,” Wilm said.
Wilm joked that in the summer it is common to find their members in a cemetery, doing research.