Black Sheep, Moonshine And Bootlegging | Rosaire Theriault (Gen.10)


moonlight-on-the-st-lawrence-canWhen I heard that the latest topic for the Canadian Carnival of Genealogy  was Black Sheep Canadian Ancestors – I was sure I’d have to sit this one out. Almost all of my ancestors have been hard-working farmers with gigantic families and very little free time for getting into mischief.

But as I thought about it a little more I realized that I had once seen something interesting in a short family history paper my father wrote for an anthropology course back in the late 1940s. He was interviewing  his parents about their early married life during the depression years and there were two short references to something my grandfather did to make a little extra cash on the side.

By way of background , I’d like to mention that my grandfather was Rosaire Theriault (Gen.10)  and his father was the Philippe Theriault (Gen.9) whose difficult life I’ve discussed in  The Noble Life.  Unfortunately my grandfather’s life was, if anything , even more difficult.

Rosaire was the fifth of 11 children born to Philippe and his first wife Tharsile Plourde and he was orphaned at the age of only 6 years old. Rosaire grew up in the household of his father and step-mother Genevieve Theriault who went on to have ten more children.  By all accounts his father, mother and stepmother were all hard working people, but times were hard and Rosaire spent his childhood travelling from mill town to mill town throughout Quebec and New Brunswick, as his father looked for work in the lumber industry.

Rosaire left home at the tender age of 13 and spent years in the lumber camps and mills, until he was sent overseas for World War I.  Evidently he had learned about more than lumbering and soldiering during his youth. Here’s what he has to say about how he made a living between 1918 and 1921.

rosaireownwordsAbove: Excerpt from E.A. Theriault (Gen.11) Family History Project

And according  to my grandmother Yvonne Leger (Gen.9), he put those “moonshining” and “bootlegging” skills to good use throughout the dark depression years of the 1920s when he had to support his young family.

Excerpt: Interview, Yvonne Leger. Late 1940s

 Above: Excerpt from E.A. Theriault (Gen.11) Family History Project

Note: While completing a Bachelor of Arts degree at McGill University in the 1940s, my father E.A. Theriault (Gen.11) interviewed his parents Rosaire Theriault (Gen.10) and his mother Yvonne Leger (Gen. 9). Portions of the manuscript are sensitive so for the moment they are published in little snippets!


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