Catholic Records, Newspapers, Oral History

Wilfrid Dontigny and Anna Matilda Derouin

A couple of months ago, I published an entry on tuberculosis in Ontario, along with a photo that was taken “at the sanatorium.” The photo shows a patient, whose name was unknown to me at the time, along with his wife, my great-aunt Anna Matilda Derouin, and my grandparents Delia Lucie Derouin and John (“Jack”) Eugene McGlade. Click thumbnail preview to see larger image:

Left to right: Delia Lucie Derouin; John (“Jack”) Eugene McGlade; Wilfrid Thomas Charles Dontigny; and Anna Matilda Derouin.
I now know the name of the patient in the above photograph: Wilfrid Thomas Charles Dontigny. He was born at Arnprior on 4 June 1911, the son of Joseph Philip Dontigny and Agnes Simpson; and he died (presumably of tuberculosis) on 4 September 1938, at the age of 27, and was buried at Arnprior on 7 September 1938.
On 20 November 1930, Wilfrid Dontigny married Anna Matilda Derouin at Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa. He married as a fils mineur (minor son: so, not yet 21 [not yet 18 for a fille mineure, or minor daughter, btw]); and both bride and groom were identified in the register as members of the parish of St. John Chrysostom in Arnprior. The witnesses were Earl Steen and my grandmother Delia Derouin (who was not yet married to Jack McGlade).

A French Surname, Anglicized
I found his name (or a somewhat bizarre anglicisation of his surname) more or less by accident, and courtesy of Google News Archive (about which I have written before).
While searching for “Derouin” in the Ottawa Citizen, I came across the following notice of an eightieth birthday party for my great-grandmother Mathilde Dubeau (here named as Mrs. Derouin, widow of Joseph Derouin):
Ottawa Citizen, 3 February 1943.
Worth noting: while the naming convention of “Mrs. [Her Husband’s Name]” obviously omits the wife’s birth name altogether, and subsumes her identity into that of her husband, in a case where one or both of a spouse’s parents are named and/or already known, the “Mrs. [Her Husband’s Name]” nomenclature will actually be more information-rich, in genealogical terms, than her brother’s straight-up, no-reference-to-a-spouse, “Mr. [His Own Name].” In the above article, for example, we are given at least a surname for five of the [male] spouses of the [female] children of Joseph Derouin and Mathilde Dubeau: L. St. Jean; Dontgerey; E. Carriveau; Jack McGlade; and Bill Heldston. There is, on the other hand, no corresponding information about the female spouses of Peter, Edgar and Prosper Derouin.
In any case, the name “Dontgerey” immediately struck me as some kind of corruption of a French surname. An anglicisation, most probably, but with perhaps a typo or a mistranscription or something thrown in for good measure.
Since I already knew that the above Derouin family, originally of Otter Lake, Pontiac Co., Québec, could be found in Arnprior, Renfrew Co., Ontario from the early 1920s, and since I also already knew that this family was Roman Catholic in religious affiliation, I figured the parish register for St. John Chrysostom (Arnprior) was a reasonable enough place to start looking for a French name beginning with Dont and ending in y. It didn’t take long to discover the name Dontigny, which seemed like a strong possibility. And when I searched the “Ontario, Canada, Catholic Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1747-1967” records at, using only “Dontigny” as last name (I did not yet have a first name, after all) and “Derouin” as Spouse’s last name, the very first search result gave me the marriage record of Wilfrid Dontigny and Matilda Derouin (at Notre Dame Basilica, Ottawa). Once I had the name of Anna Matilda Derouin’s first husband, it was easy enough to find both his baptismal and his burial records (both in the parish register for St. John Chrysostom, in Arnprior).
Oh, and then after all of the above searching, and feeling, I’ll admit, a little bit pleased with myself for having arrived at Wilfrid Thomas Charles Dontigny from the clue of “Mrs. Ann Dontgerey,” I happened to mention to my father a couple of weeks ago that I had uncovered the name of my maternal grandmother’s sister’s first husband who was in that photograph from the sanatorium. “Oh yeah, Dontigny,” he said, as if the man’s surname had been known and acknowledged all along! (though, two months ago, nobody could remember it…), “What was his first name? He was a hockey player.” My dad was a mere toddler when Wilfrid Dontigny died, and my mother not yet born; and anyway, this is from my mother’s, not my father’s side of the family; and yet my father could recall the surname (two weeks ago, at any rate, but not two months ago when I first asked). Obviously the name of Dontigny, and his association with hockey, had once circulated amongst the broader family, or how else would my father had known the surname of a man who was the first husband of his wife’s mother’s sister, and who was born and died died before his (my father’s, that is), wife (or future wife, that is) was even born?
Oral history lesson the day: if at first you get a negative (“don’t know;” “can’t remember;” or etc.), it’s probably worth asking again in a couple of months or so, just to be certain.