Who is that James in Memphis, Tennessee…

James wants to keep a low profile.

I wanted to hide his identity by calling him Jim in my articles, but James prefers to be called James instead of Jim.

We have been exchanging e-mails.

He seems to be a nice fellow and I have fun making jokes about genealogy.

James thinks he is a serious amateur genealogist, and I agree with him.

James wanted to know more about people here in Quebec. I told him about “les dits”, kind of nicknames that people gave to others.

James sent me this question…

Hi Pierre,


Were these second names added later or were they given at birth?

I told him this…

They were given later at first, then… at birth

This came about to be able to distinguish people having the same given name.
Before, people had only a given name.

Then I told him this story I made up…

There was a James, and there was also a James living close by who had, of course, a son named James.

Then James emigrated with his son James and all the people were mixed up.

- Ah… This is James… the soldier who was carrying a rifle… we’ll call him La Gâchette.

– And this one.

- Oh… this is James. He likes flowers. We’ll call him La Rose.

- And this one…

- Well… he’s a lumberjack. We’ll call him La Forêt.

James the lumberjack had a baby boy and wanted to call him… You’ve guessed it… James.

So in the parish register they wrote…

On this date, we, priest, have christened James, son of James dit La Forêt. Godfather, James dit La Rose and godmother Marie, wife of James dit La Gâchette…

Instead of…

On this date, we, priest, have christened James, son of James. Godfather, James and godmother Marie, wife of James…

Have a nice day. I hope it’s sunny and warm in Memphis, Tennessee.

See you.

This is how this whole thing started…

This is what I got in my inbox… last month

M. Lagace,

Je ne parle pas francais, mais j’ai une question.  Parlez-vous anglais? I sure hope so. My wife’s grandmother was born in Spencer, Worcester County, Massachusetts.

I believe she is the granddaughter of Nicolas Renaud. If you can provide me with any information regarding the ancestry of Nicolas and Louise Renaud or direct me to a site that might have such information, I would deeply appreciate it.


James B.

Memphis, Tennessee, USA

When I got the message, I was a bit puzzled…

I sent him lots of information and links to my Websites and I asked him where he got my e-mail. He wrote back…

Dear M. Lagace

How I found your email:  I stumbled upon a website while doing a Google search for Nicolas and Louise Renaud.

I have been finding whatever information I could about my wife’s ancestors on the Internet and through Ancestry.com.

When I moved the cursor over your name at the bottom of the website, your address appeared, so I took a chance and wrote you.

Many postings on the Internet are poorly done and unreliable, while others are excellent.  I was impressed by the thoroughness of your work.

My wife’s maternal grandparents were of French Canadian ancestry.

Her grandfather was a Joseph Menard, and her grandmother was Laura Gendreau.

Joseph Menard’s father was also named Joseph;  his mother was born Sara Loisell.

I have no information on Sara’s Loisell’s ancestry.

Another researcher many years ago traced back the Menard branch to one Pierre Menard b. abt 1660.  I have the lineage on the Menard side, plus the names of their wives, but no other information.  Supposedly this research was based upon church records, etc., but none of the documentation has survived.  It was while examining census data on the Gendreau branch that I discovered the Renaud connection.

You may or may not be familiar with the expression:  “Luck counts.”  Meaning that sheer luck can sometimes be as important as skill.

Of course, I have no problem with your mentioning our contact.

It is very kind of you to offer to pursue the Nicolas Renaud-Louisa Normandin link.

First let me see what I can find on my own.  It may be that my search will not be fruitful, but I don’t want to burden you with anything I could have done myself.  On the other hand, I will appreciate any information you think I would find useful, as well as any advice you may have.  I readily admit I am an amateur in this area, although I have tried to learn from others.


P.S. It is a beautiful day here in Memphis.   Blue sky, mild temperature.  The problems of the world seem far away.

A good day to make a new acquaintance.

Then I realized Jim was talking about this story…