Canada's AUBRY family traced to a BRENNAN who was the first Irish immigrant

I came accross your Web Site. There is a lot of research material in
there, good show. Have you ever seen Jack Aubry's story published in the
Ottawa Citizen on Canada Day about our ancestor Tadgh Cornelius
O'Brennan who became in New France Tec Cornelius Aubrenan and later
Pierre Aubry. You can print my e-mail address if you decide to use it as
a link. I am still searching for Tec's brothers if any or his father's
who was Connor O'Braonain who married Honora Connor. I have close to
3000 descendants in my data file.
Louis Aubry of Rockland

Recherche familles  Aubry, Charlebois, Legault, Larocque,
Gendron, Hurtubise, Gouin, Dauphinais (Janton)

October 19, 2003:

Thanks to Jack Aubry who sent along the following article which he wrote
for the Ottawa Citizen. 

Diving Into the Gene pool: (Part one): A Citizen reporter's ancestral search ends with 
a revelation in a Kilkenny graveyard
The Ottawa Citizen 
Sunday, July 1, 2001 
Section: The Citizen's Weekly 
Byline: Jack Aubry 
Source: The Ottawa Citizen 

Although often accused of having a stubborn streak and a penchant for a cold beer 
at the end of the day, I have to admit I have never felt particularly Irish. The closest 
I've come is cheering for the Boston Celtics and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. 
And for the record, I don't drink green beverages on St. Patrick's Day. 

Like almost everyone these days, I have relatives who have taken up genealogy as a 
hobby. Inspired by the phenomenally successful television mini-series Roots in the 
1970s, thousands of North American families have searched their past with renewed 
vigour during the past three decades. 

The idea of jumping into my gene pool, though, had never really crossed my mind -- 
at least, until last year. 

As a bilingual, ninth-generation Canadian, born in Rouyn-Noranda, Que., I've always 
thought of myself as coming from a robust mix of French and English cultures. In my 
family, it has always been my mother, a Smith from Pontiac, who spoke with pride 
of her Irish roots: My maternal grandmother, Minnie O'Byrne, was a 
first-generation Canadian whose parents were from County Cork. 

For years my Uncle Louis, an amateur genealogist, had urged me to write about 
the Aubry family history. I had always resisted, telling him, ``Well, it might 
be interesting to us, but ...'' 

Then, one day, he called with some incredible news: There's a lot more than 
potatoes in my Irish roots. In fact, he told me, I'm directly related to one 
of Canada's most notable Irishmen -- this country's first Irish settler. 

Who could ignore such ancestry? Certainly not me. I was hooked. Ireland beckoned. 

The founder of our family, Tadhg Cornelius O'Brennan, was the first drop in 
what was to become a tidal wave of Irish immigration, one that has had a 
profound impact on Canada, from its foundation to the present. 

At the time of Confederation, 25 per cent of Canada's population was Irish. 
And to this day, Canadians of Irish origin make up the fifth-largest ethnic 
group in the country: More than 3.7 million Canadians described themselves 
as being of Irish origin in the 1996 census. You can add me, belatedly, to 
that list. 

A surprisingly vivid portrait of Cornelius's life after he arrived in New France 
in the 1650s emerges from church, court and census records, along with history 
books, journal entries and Aubry lore dug up by family researchers. 

He was born in 1632 and, an adventuresome pioneer, fled his homeland in his 
20s in the wake of the renewed persecution of Irish Catholics by their English 

Cornelius settled in Ville Marie on the island of Montreal, first as a labourer 
and soldier, then a coureur de bois and finally, a farmer and trapper. In 1661, 
he was kidnapped and enslaved by the Iroquois; a true survivor, he was one of a 
handful of kidnapped colonists who got through that harrowing summer alive. 

Cornelius was tough, but he was also easy-going: He didn't care what he was called 
as long as he fit in with the French. Tadhg, which is Gaelic for Timothy, was 
changed at various times to Tec, Tecle, Teague, Thecle and even Jacques. His 
surname didn't fare any better: O'Brennan was converted to Aubrenam, Tecaubry, 
Aupri and Obry. By the time my great-grandfather to the sixth power was buried 
in 1687, his name had been changed to Pierre Aubry. 

Likely a short man, if you go by most of the Aubrys who came after him, he would 
have stood out in the French-speaking crowd because of his unlikely accent and 
loud Celtic ways. In 1633, an island inhabitant who had seen him in Ville Marie 
described Cornelius as an odd Irish vagabond wearing a porcupine belt. 

In 1670, Cornelius heard about a boatload of husband-seeking women soon to arrive 
from France. He knew better than to wait in Ville Marie to choose from the leftovers. 
Instead, he hightailed it to Quebec City, the boat's first stop in New France, to 
claim his wife -- a Parisian woman called Jeanne Chartier. It was the beginning of 
a 330-year-old French-Canadian family with more than 2,500 descendants. 

The advent of the Internet has made it easier than ever to trace one's ancestry. 
Web sites give researchers instant access to contacts and family trees. 

In our case, my uncle Louis Aubry, a retired hospital administrator who lives 
in Rockland, and a distant relative in Montreal, Raymond Aubry, have been researching 
our family tree for more than 30 years. 

When Uncle Louis told me about the census figures and other records showing Cornelius 
was the first recorded settler from the Emerald Isle to settle in the wilds of 
New France, it felt rather surreal. Before Cornelius, we only have the legendary 
saga of Saint Brendan the Navigator, the amazing Irish monk who bobbed to 
Newfoundland and back in a leather boat around 5 A.D. 

The documents unearthed on Cornelius do not reveal how or why he came to New France. 
But there is strong historical evidence that, like many Irish who travelled to the 
New World in the 1600s, he was fleeing oppression. 

According to the Graves Papers, a 24-page account of the family written by Rev. 
James Graves, the fierce O'Brennans of Kilkenny fought to maintain ``a stormy 
independence'' in the face of English rule. The dominant family of Idough, which 
today is northern Kilkenny, the English had confiscated their lands as part of 
their ongoing colonization of Ireland, and the family took the matter to court. 
In May 1635, three years after Cornelius's birth, an English jury found ``the tribe ... 
of the O'Broenains were mere Irish, and had illegally entered and intruded on the 
said territory which they held ... `by strong hand' without any other right or title 
whatsoever'' in Kilkenny County, Graves writes in an 1853 article for The Kilkenny 
Archaeological Society. 

When the land was sold to an English lord, Sir Christopher Wandesforde, the clan 
responded by burning houses, filling ditches and destroying crops. Graves wrote 
that the O'Brennans ``fought for their lands, but they do not appear to have been 
blood-thirsty or cruel.'' 

The O'Brennan clan took part in the rebellion of 1641, besieging a castle at 
Castlecomer that was filled with English Protestants, and ultimately driving 
them from Idough. 

The family ended up in court again, and in 1644, English officials argued that 
``the O'Brennans, a set of thieves without any right or title ... were a perpetual 
disturbance to the peace of the country.'' A strange choice of words, considering 
they had owned the land for six centuries. 

Cornelius would have been 17 when Puritan ruler Oliver Cromwell invaded Ireland in 
1649, after executing Charles I and taking over Parliament. Determined to crush an 
Irish rebellion that had been raging for eight years and to obliterate Catholic 
resistance, the self-anointed Lord Protector of the English Commonwealth oversaw 
the massacre of 4,000 men, women and children at Drogheda and a similar atrocity 
at Wexford. 

The Irish surrendered in May 1652, when Cornelius was 20. With the exception of the 
few who had supported Cromwell, all Irish Catholics were deprived of their lands and 
routed from their homes. Those who refused to leave faced cruel punishment, even death. 

Many were permitted to leave for Europe, while thousands more were transported to 
the West Indies. Some 30,000 joined Irish brigades in the armies of France or Spain, 
sympathetic Catholic states. 

Cornelius was among those who headed to France, likely immigrating with family members 
to Brittany, France, where their Celtic cousins, the Bretons, shared some of their 
traditions. Brittany was one of the French provinces that sent soldiers and settlers 
to New France. 

His interest piqued by similarities to his own family's Irish-French new world connections, 
John P. DuLong wrote Tec Cornelius Aubry: An Irish Habitant in New France as a doctoral 
candidate in 1979 at Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan: ``Tec may have come 
to Canada for the same reasons that motivated the French: for land and property on the 
St. Lawrence, for adventure in the fur trade, or to escape from feudal dues. 

``Certainly for Tec, it was a vast improvement over being a hunted and harassed 
Irishman in Puritan-controlled Ireland.'' 

The first Irish Catholics crossed the Atlantic on English expeditions to colonize 
what would eventually become the United States of America in the early 1600s. 

At about the same time, Samuel de Champlain founded the colony of New France, and 
the outpost of Ville Marie (Montreal today) was established in 1642 by Paul de Chomedy, 
Sieur de Maisonneuve. 

I went to Ireland with my 10-year-old daughter Avril in search of Cornelius's 
birthplace, hoping to find out something about the Irish ancestors who had come 
before him. 

Our first stop upon arrival in Dublin was the Canadian embassy. As the Citizen's 
national reporter for aboriginal affairs in the 1990s, I had met Ron Irwin, now 
the Canadian ambassador in Ireland, when he was minister of Indian Affairs. Before 
our trip, I had contacted him and explained my mission, and he agreed to have his 
staff check out Cornelius's pedigree. 

In early January, after a brisk late afternoon walk around St. Stephen's Green, we 
found the Canadian embassy in an office tower facing the immaculate city park. 
Irwin, an imposing figure who briefly played in the CFL, met us on the run, telling 
us that he wanted to beat the dinner-hour traffic. He invited us to join him and his 
chauffeur for the hair-raising drive to his residence on the outskirts of the city. 

During the 30-minute drive, as we clung to door handles and anything else we could 
hang on to, because of the winding roads and speeding traffic. Irwin informed us the 
embassy's research backed the claim that Cornelius was the first Irish settler in 
Canada. Later, Don Pidgeon, the official historian for the United Irish Society of 
Montreal, confirmed the finding. 

It is in Ville Marie in records dated 1661 that we first come across our hero -- and 
29-year-old Cornelius is in grave danger. Genealogical studies backed by archival 
records show he had been hired by Urbain Tessier to work on his farm, which stood 
on what is now downtown Montreal, stretching along part of St-Jacques and St-Urbain 

On March 24, 260 Iroquois swept down on the farm, surprising 15 workers, including 
Cornelius and Tessier. But the group was armed, since earlier that winter, 13 other 
men had been kidnapped by the same Indians. After a brief skirmish, 10 men, including 
Cornelius and Tessier, were taken prisoner. 

Four days later, the mutilated bodies of four of the captives were discovered. A 
church bulletin in Ville Marie announcing the baptism of Tessier's newborn son 
stated bluntly that it was not known whether the father was ``dead or alive.'' 

The captives' prospects looked grim. On May 5, about two months after the kidnapping, 
Ville Marie officials took steps to sell the possessions belonging to Cornelius and 
two other captives to cover their outstanding debts. An inventory of the goods owned 
by Tec Cornelius Aubrenan, as his name appears in the Montreal archives, puts their 
value at 54 pounds. He was owed another 70 pounds and his debts totalled 61 pounds, 
putting him in the black overall with 63 pounds -- not much when you consider that 
100 pounds didn't cover the cost of one cow. 

Cornelius had been a tenant in the house of Jean Gervaise in Ville Marie. Listed 
in the inventory of his goods were a red cap, a porcupine belt, a shirt with a tie, 
two combs, a mirror and a small safe with a key. Many of the items in his wardrobe, 
including a shirt, were described as mechant, which roughly translated, means `
`sorry'' or ``miserable.'' 

In June, the Iroquois released a few prisoners, who reported that two men who had 
been captured at the same time as Cornelius had been killed; one of them had been 
burned alive. 

A genealogy study on Tessier published in 1960 in the journal Memoires de la Societe 
Genealogique Canadienne-Francaise lists some of the hardships kidnap victims faced 
at the hands of the Iroquois: 

``When (a captive) arrived in the Indian village, he was forced to run down a 
gauntlet of savages who, armed with spears and sticks, hit him as best as they 
could. Sometimes he was stopped in order to rip out his fingernails or burn his 
fingertips in a pipe, perhaps even pushing the cruelty to the point of cutting off 
a few fingers.'' 

In fact, when Tessier was eventually released, he was missing a finger, according 
to the journal of contemporary Sister Marguerite Bourgeoys, 1620-1700, who was 
recently beatified by Pope John Paul II. 

In July, a priest was sent to negotiate the release of the prisoners. In October, 
anticipating that their white slaves would become a burden during the winter, the 
Iroquois finally released nine men; one of them was Cornelius. 

An entry in the parish registry of Ville Marie, dated Oct. 12, indicates that 
Cornelius and the rest of the captives remained devout Catholics. Cornelius 
testified upon his release that one man who was killed, ``le grand Pierre'' 
Cauvin, had entrusted him with his final testament with instructions that if he 
died, all his goods should be turned over to the Church. 

``Cead Mile Failte go hEirinn. It's taken you 350 years but you've finally returned.'' 
That's how Maire Brennan Downey, who has a flair for the dramatic, welcomed us when we 
arrived in Castlecomer, in the county of Kilkenny, about 200 kilometres southwest of 

Her father a Brennan, Downey helped organize international family reunions in 1990 
and 2000, and is the official secretary of the Brennan clan. She explained that the 
Gaelic part of her warm greeting was a traditional expression which meant ``100,000 
welcomes to Ireland.'' 

When I called her from Canada before our trip, Maire -- pronounced ``Moira'' -- 
was tickled with the news that ``yet another Brennan had made a mark in world 
affairs.'' She wasn't surprised by Cornelius's story because ``the Brennans are 
known for being a rugged lot who weren't afraid of adventure and taking the odd 
knock on the way.'' 

During the drive from Dublin, I had expected rugged scenery, but instead I was 
welcomed by lush, undulating pasture land bisected by winding river valleys. 
Kilkenny County has the mildest, sunniest and driest weather in Ireland, and I 
was told the county centre, Kilkenny Town, is the best example of a medieval 
community in the country. 

Maire and her husband, Dan, live in a neat bungalow on a hill overlooking the 
village, just north of Kilkenny Town. A grandmother of two, Maire is one of those 
seniors who seems to have endless energy even though, she later confided, she 
functions with only one lung. Maire is doing a Masters in history at the National 
University of Ireland at Maynooth, in County Kildare. 

She warned us that only a few locals are interested in talking about genealogy. 
As we discovered during our trip, the subject seems to bore most of the Irish. 

But Avril and I had come to the right place: As soon as we arrived, Maire sat us 
down in her dining-room to teach us Brennan family basics. 

The Brennan clan can be traced back to Cearbhall (pronounced ``Carroll''), 
King of Ossory, during the 800s in what is today County Kilkenny. In 873, after 
a few victorious battles and various political manoeuvres, Cearbhall became 
king of the Vikings in Ireland and took a Viking wife, along with his Irish one. 
He was the father of Braonan, the original Brennan, whom he made the king of 
Idough, which today makes up part of Kilkenny. 

Braonan was likely named for Braon, the Celtic god of war, which can also mean 
``raven, one who delights in battle.'' Since Braonan also means ``sorrowful,
'' it would seem he was a brooding, dark king who didn't pass up a good fight. 
Not much is known about Braonan: the only reference to him in the ancient 
Annals of the Four Masters, which is the definitive history book of early 
Ireland, is a mention of his assassination in 887 AD. 

The prefix Ua (which later become O) was added to the names of Braonan's male 
descendants: The sons of Braonan became UaBraonain, and, later O'Braonain, 
which was then anglicized as O'Brenan, O'Brennan, Brenan and Brennan. Maire 
advised me to drop the ``O'' in O'Brennan when asking questions about the 
family, explaining that those who have kept it are regarded by some as stuck-up. 

I told her I was grateful the same wasn't true of Canada because if the ``Au'' 
in Aubry had been dropped, I'd be sharing my name with a popular cheese. 

In 1663, after a rash of kidnappings by the Iroquois, Paul de Chomedey amassed 
a volunteer militia in the name of the Virgin Mary in 1663; Cornelius is 
listed as a member. That same year, Cornelius is listed in Ville Marie's first 
census, living as a ``domestic servant,'' a farmhand. Roughly translated, here 
is how the census describes Cornelius : ``Aubrenan, Thecle Cornelius, a bachelor 
25 years old who is unable to write and whose country of origin is Ireland.'' 

In the census of 3,035 listed people, Cornelius is the only person of Irish 
descent, making him the first recorded Irish immigrant in what was to become Canada. 

In The Population of Canada in 1663, (1973) historian Marcel Trudel, who has 
written extensively on census-taking in the new colony, noted that only six 
people recorded that year had not been born in France or the new colony. 
Besides Cornelius, there were immigrants from England, Scotland and Switzerland, 
as well as two from ``Wallonie'' (perhaps from the Walloon region of Belgium). 
Trudel also noted that all six had lived in France for a ``short or long period 
before boarding for Canada.'' 

Cornelius's age and name were incorrect in the census, hardly unusual. In The 
Population of Canada in 1666,(1995) Trudel noted that more than a quarter of 
the ages recorded in the census were off by one to three years, and in some 
cases as many as eight to 12 years, compared with the census of 1663. 

Cornelius was missing from the census of 1666, although a ``Corneille Thecle'' 
is listed as one of nine coureurs de bois on a fur-trading expedition to 
Lake Superior in 1666 according to Melanges historiques -- La Saint-Jean-Baptiste: 
1636-1852, by Benjamin Sulte. Cornelius survived, although six of his companions 
fell ill and were dead by the end of the winter. 

By the 1667 census, Cornelius is again listed in Ville Marie, as 29-year-old 
``Tecle Cornelius,'' an Irish servant in the household of Andre Dumets, his 
wife Marie Chedeville and their six children. 
Continued on part 2 ... 
October 20, 2003:
(Continued from part one) 

With Maire driving, we took a tour of ``Brennan country.'' There are so many 
in the northern region of County Kilkenny that nicknames have been added to the 
surname to differentiate between families. There are the Brennan Joes, the 
Brennan Bogs, and the Brennan Fattos. In all, there are more than 200 nicknames, 
ranging from family names to occupations to descriptions, including Boxer, Cap, 
Duff, Jackie, Nun, Og, Soldier, Tailor, Tasty and Yadie. 

One of the Castlecomer nicknames is Brennan Con, which is short for Connor. 
This catches my interest because Cornelius's marriage certificate indicates his 
father's first name had been Connor. 

Maire shows us the village cemetery, where the biggest monument commemorates 
a Brennan. At the local golf course, a foursome of Brennans waves to us after teeing off. 

Next, we stop in the village, where Maire shows us the clan plaque mounted 
on the side of a simple two-storey building on a corner of the main street. 
It reads: ``To commemorate the first Brennan clan gathering -- Sept. 1990.
'' More than a thousand Brennans showed up during the week of festivities. 
Across the street, a shop still bears the ancient name of the Brennans: 
``O braonain,'' it says over the door, although the transom bears the more 
modern ``Brennan'' frosted on the glass, with the nickname ``Lander'' in 
parentheses underneath. 

For any Brennan, there is a pilgrimage to be made farther north to Clonmacnoise, 
one of Ireland's most important monastic settlements, where kings of Connaught 
and Tara were buried. There, a marker has been placed by the Brennan clan on 
the grave of Cearbhall. 

The definitive study of the Brennans is A history of The Brennans, of Idough, 
County Kilkenny, first published in 1975. The book is held in such high regard 
that the author, Thomas A. Brennan, a 62-year-old lawyer from New York, has been 
named the honorary chieftain by the Brennan clan and was guest of honour at both 
clan gatherings. However, when I telephoned him, Brennan said he was not familiar 
with Cornelius's story. 

But his and other accounts suggest that if Cornelius had stayed in County Kilkenny, 
it is likely he would have ended up an outlaw, since the Brennans continued to 
rebel against English oppression and became notorious robbers. Ten Brennans pulled 
off a celebrated heist at Kilkenny Castle in 1685, after King Charles II, who had 
offered Catholics partial compensation for previously confiscated lands, failed to 
restore the O'Brennans' lands. In what Thomas A. describes the ``crowning feat of 
their career,'' they stole ``a pair of silver andirons, a silver tankard, the ears 
of a silver serving fountain (the belly was too large to get out the window) and 
other pieces of plate, all worth 1,000 pounds'' from the Duke of Ormonde's closet. 

In 1691, a Protestant archbishop writing about Ireland's Jacobites reported that 
``the famous Tories, the Brannans, who had been guilty not only of Burglary and 
Robbery, but of murder also, who were under sentence of death and escaped by 
breaking Gaol, were made, among the rest, officers'' in the Catholic force. 

Geoffrey Keating, a 17th-century Irish scholar and historian, wrote that the 
Brennans of Ireland ``were distinguished by their military achievements and 
were some of the most renowned champions of the times they lived in.'' 

As a single man, in a foreign culture, Cornelius must have endured periods of 
terrible loneliness. According to the 1663 census, there were only nine single 
women, aged 20 to 35, in the colony; Cornelius was one of 1,293 single men. 
With so few marriageable women, the future of the colony looked grim, prompting 
King Louis XIV to send more than 770 women, known as les filles du roi, between 
1663 and 1673. More than any other single group, les filles du roi helped shape 
Quebec's family tree: More than 95 per cent of French-Canadians can trace their 
ancestors to a member of that group. 

Les filles are traditionally portrayed as heroic pioneers of the highest virtue, 
but some argue they were prostitutes. The debate appears to have been settled in 
Les filles du roi au xviie siecle, (1992) in which Yves Landry, an historian at 
the Universite of Montreal, shows that the fertility rate of les filles du roi 
was considerably higher than that of Parisian prostitutes at the time. The rate 
for les filles was an impressive 480 births a year per 1,000 women aged 20 to 25, 
while in Paris, prostitutes of the same age averaged only 17 to 21 births a year 
for every 1,000, due to the effects of venereal disease. 

There was little time for courtship and romance once the boat arrived: Les filles 
had about two weeks to find a husband or else be put back on the boat to France. 
It was not a venture for the faint of heart or the bashful. Baron de Lahontan, a 
New France official, wrote in his memoirs that when les filles du roi arrived at 
the dock in Quebec City, ``The men gathered around them like butchers examining 
a flock of sheep.'' 

Cornelius, with his mechants vetements, must have been a sorry sight, as he stood 
on the dock. While it's not known how often he tried, it took him seven years from 
the arrival of the first filles du roi ship to land a wife. 

In the summer of 1670, Cornelius, then 38, wasn't taking any chances. Rather 
than wait for the boat to arrive in Ville Marie, he went to Quebec City to get 
first pick. It was a good strategy. On July 31, a boat, which had sailed from 
the Port de la Rochelle in France, arrived with 120 filles du roi. That same 
day, Cornelius O'Brennan met Jeanne Chartier, the 30-year-old orphaned daughter 
of Pierre Chartier and Marie Gaudon, from the parish of St-Honore in Paris. 

After a short engagement and the publication of their marriages bans on two consecutive 
days, Cornelius and Jeanne were married Sept. 10. 

The ``fighting Irish'' spirit with which my ancestors defied the English runs strong 
in Brennan blood to this day, judging from what I saw when I attended the funeral of 
Tom Brennan, a coal miner and sports enthusiast in County Kilkenny. During the service, 
the priest accepted from family members a hurling stick and sweater, along with a lump 
of coal, as symbols of Tom's life. In his eulogy, the priest spoke of Tom's reputation 
as a simple, hard-as-nails worker, illustrated by the story about a homemade cake the 
priest had received as a gift. ``It was so tough, it was like eating a tire off a bicycle. 
Tom would have been up to the challenge,'' he said. 

Brennan's sons and the coal miners who helped carry his coffin afterward shared the same 
burly, rugged look. Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought they looked like men 
you don't want to mess with; one of Brennan's sons had been an extra in Braveheart. 

While I was at the funeral, Avril was visiting a local school. The day before, Maire 
had asked Avril, who had sat patiently through many long interviews (it is true the 
Irish like to talk), if she would like to meet some kids her own age. Avril visited 
St. Brigid's National School, a small school in County Kilkenny crammed with children 
ranging in age from five to 13. When I fetched her at noon, she was sitting at the 
front of the highest grade class discussing pop music. She later told me that they 
had tried to stump her by playing Irish singer Samantha Mumba's hit, Gotta Tell You, 
but she was able to identify it correctly, impressing the class. 

One teacher explained that Canada, like Ireland, has two official languages, and 
asked Avril, an immersion student, to speak French. Then some of the students spoke 
Gaelic (or, as they say, Irish) to Avril. 

When I arrived, two smiling Brennans, aged 12 and 13, agreed to pose for a picture 
with their ``long-lost cousin.'' The school visit was a highlight of Avril's trip, 
right up there with seeing U2 rock singer Bono's mansion, across the street from 
Ambassador Irwin's residence outside Dublin. 

The single most valuable document in the Aubry family genealogical tree is the 
marriage certificate of Cornelius and Jeanne. 

Cornelius brought a modest 500 pounds to the marriage. Jeanne had about the same 
amount (including a 50-pound marriage gift from the king), bringing the couple's 
worth to about 1,000 pounds, the equivalent of a small farm and a couple of cows. 

Witnessed by Father Henri De Bernieres and notary Romain Becquet, the marriage 
certificate presented yet another version of Cornelius's name: ``Tec Aubrenam of 
Assomption River, the son of Connehair Aubrenam and Honoree Jeannehour, his father 
and mother.'' 

``Clearly, the French were trying to make the spelling and pronunciation of his 
Irish name conform to their language. The names of Cornelius's parents also present 
some difficulty. His father's name was undoubtedly Connor O'Brennan,'' and his mother's 
name, Honora Connor, writes chronicler John DuLong. 

The newlyweds settled on what is now the island of Montreal, first on a farm in 
Pointe-aux-Trembles, and then at Lachenaie. They had seven children -- three girls and 
four boys -- with the first one, Madeleine-Therese, arriving in August, 1671. Four of 
the children died before the age of five. The last two girls, born in 1679 and 1681, 
died soon after birth. 

All of the children were baptized as Aubrys. Jeanne, who, unlike Cornelius, was literate, 
probably told the priest what surname to enter on the baptismal records. The name Aubry 
would have been familiar to her: The log for the ship on which she crossed the Atlantic 
to Canada shows there were two Aubrys aboard. 

While in Ireland, I was told at almost every turn that my chances of finding Cornelius's 
forebears were slim to nil. I consulted Mark Tottenham, director of the genealogy search 
team Eneclann at Trinity College, but he was not hopeful. 

To begin with, many Catholic churches -- and all the records of births, marriages 
and deaths they contained -- were destroyed during Cromwell's invasion. In County 
Kilkenny, the earliest extant parish records date back to 1754. 

As well, the Penal Code enforced by the English from 1704 to 1778, made it illegal for 
Irish Catholics to keep records. The few Catholics who owned land were also banned from 
voting, schools, and military service. To make matters worse, during Ireland's civil war 
in 1922, the Four Courts in Dublin, where the country's archives were located, were bombed. 

``Alas, ... those precious records, which would have been so useful to the future 
historian, have been devoured by the flames or scattered in fragments by the four 
winds of heaven,'' the Irish Times reported on July 3, 1922. 

Charred documents floated over the city for days and the provisional government asked 
Dubliners to return whatever records they found, ``however fragmentary or damaged.'' 

When I visited the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, which has a room devoted for 
tracing family trees, researcher Eileen O'Byrne shook her head as she examined my copies 
of Canadian documents detailing Cornelius's past. 

``We are fortunate if we can trace someone's family back to the early 1800s. Anything 
before that and you have to be lucky,'' said O'Byrne. 

An afternoon at the library -- and later at the national archives -- did not produce 
any leads. Avril ran family names through the computers that lined the hushed, dimly 
lit research room, while I examined surveys, studies and census books dating back to the 1600s. 

The invaluable 1659 Pender's Census of landowners in Ireland revealed that O'Brennans 
had lived in several counties, especially Kilkenny, although there was no sign of 
Cornelius or his father, Connor. 

Cornelius' marriage certificate indicates that Cornelius's parents are from the parish 
of St. Patrick's in the village of ``Diasonnony,'' as written by the notary, or 
``Diasony,'' as written by the priest. But no such village exists on any past or 
present map of Ireland. What the illiterate Cornelius actually said, in his thick 
Irish brogue, to the French officials who then wrote down their interpretation of his 
words, remains a mystery. 

In 1681, a census in New France records Cornelius as ``Jacques Tecaubry, 45, a farmer'' 
living in the Seigneurie de Lachenaie, near Ville Marie, with his wife Jeanne and four 
children: Madeleine, 10, Marie, 8, Jean, 5, (he died one year later), and Francois, 4. 
The family owned five farm animals and five acres of land. 

Records show that in 1683 Cornelius sold the farm for 300 pounds to pay some debts. The 
house is described as an eyesore, a clue that Cornelius could no longer cope. Life expectancy 
was far lower in the 1600s than today: At 45, Cornelius was aging, at 51 he retired, 
and died four years later, in November 1687. He was buried in Pointe-Aux-Trembles near 
Ville Marie, survived by Jeanne and three children. 

Court records show Jeanne Chartier collected on debts owed to Cornelius for beaver pelts 
before she died in Ville Marie in 1695, at the age of 55, average age of death for les 
filles, according to Landry. 

Francois Aubry, Cornelius's youngest surviving child, became a militia captain in the 
parish of St-Laurent. He put the family on the map, fathering 14 children with Marie-Jeanne 
Bouteiller, who was only 12 years old when they married in 1708. 

More than 2,500 Aubrys later, the family boasts doctors, lawyers, writers, priests and 
carriage-makers along the Ottawa River. Noteworthy members include Francois Aubry, of 
St-Eustache, who participated in Louis Papineau's failed rebellion of 1837; Fortunat Aubry, 
mayor of Montebello in the 1920s and my father ``Toe's'' godfather; and Claude Aubry, 
director of the Ottawa Public Library Board for 26 years and an accomplished children's
book author, who died in 1984. 

One stop in Kilkenny Town was the Rothe House on Parliament Street, the headquarters 
of the Kilkenny Archeological Society. Mary Flood, its director of research, guessed 
that Cornelius had given his hometown as ``Diocese of the Ossery,'' the name for a 
Catholic district in County Kilkenny, which does sound a lot like "Diasonnony," as 
written by the notary on Cornelius's marriage certificate. All the more likely since 
the Irish word for diocese is ``deoise.'' Cornelius, a devout Catholic, might well 
have referred to his diocese when asked where he was from in Ireland. 

Flood shrugged when I asked if she thought she had really solved the mystery surrounding 
Cornelius's birthplace. She pulled a bottle of Irish whisky from a desk drawer, and 
poured us each a tumbler. ``One guess was as good as the next,'' she said, leaning 
across her desk and smiling sympathetically. ``Every family has a few mysteries. You 
may just have to settle with having a good one at the beginning of yours.'' 

A few days after Tom Brennan's funer-ral, we encountered another Tom Brennan, this 
one very much alive. Chairman of the County Kilkenny, he gave us a tour of council 
chambers, telling us he was the first Brennan to serve in the position in 
``Brennan country'' for centuries. 

``It's about time, don't you think?'' he said, winking at Avril. 

The longest-serving councillor in the county (he first won in 1967), he's the 
Jean Chretien of Kilkenny politics. He is charming but his accent was so thick Avril 
later confessed she was almost relieved he declined our invitation to dine with us 
(he had to milk his son's cows). 

He told us to visit the county's cemeteries, since these were the only truly extant 
records of ancestors before the 1800s. 

On our last day in County Kilkenny, Maire brought us to the confluence of the 
rivers Dinen and Deen, what was probably known as Dysart-on-the-Dinen. This was my 
uncle Louis's best guess at Cornelius's birthplace: Say it enough times and it starts 
to sound like ``Disasonnony.'' 

We spotted a small cemetery on the river's edge. An Irish setter barked from behind a 
small fence, stopping us in our tracks, but he was soon subdued by a few kind words 
and pats on the head from Avril. 

The plots were immaculate and we soon learned that Dan Fitzpatrick, a widower who 
lives in a small cottage behind the cemetery, was responsible for their upkeep. When 
he was told about our search for Cornelius's birthplace, he immediately started talking 
about the Cornelius Brennans he had known. 

``Oh sure, it's a common name in these hills. I have a feeling your man was from around 
here,'' he said, smiling. He added that two Cornelius Brennans were buried in that very cemetery. 

He showed us how to rub grass on the ancient tombstones to bring out the faded 
engravings. The earliest legible one marked the grave of a Brennan who was buried 
in the early 1700s. 

In the twilight, as Avril played with the dog and Fitzpatrick told stories, 
I was overwhelmed by a feeling of calm and contentment. Though I'm not a great 
believer in the supernatural, it seemed to me that I had made some kind of 
connection. James Joyce would have called it a moment of epiphany, for 
everything seemed right in the world. Things made sense -- if only for one 
brief instance. 

Later, when I described this feeling to Maire, she smiled: 
``There can only be one explanation. You're home.'' 

Aubry Family Line 

Connor O'Braonain 

Honora Connor 

from: Diasonnony, Ireland* 

Tadhg Cornelius O'Brennan** 

Jeanne Chartier*** 

m: Sept. 10, 1670, in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Quebec 

Francois Aubry (Captain) 

Jeanne Tetu-Bouteiller 

m: Sept. 23, 1708, in Notre-Dame Cathedral, Montreal 

Francois Aubry 

Cecile Grou 

m: Oct. 8, 1749, at St-Laurent parish, Montreal 

Pierre Aubry 

Marguerite Lavoie 

m: Jan. 29, 1787, at St-Laurent parish, Montreal 

Francois Aubry 

Marie-Reine Beauchamp 

m: July 18, 1825, at St-Eustache 

Francois-Xavier Aubry 

Edesse Charlebois 

m: Sept. 30, 1861, at Montebello 

Auguste Eugene Aubry 

Valeda Legault 

m: April 23, 1912, at Notre-Dame Cathedral, Ottawa 

Maurice Aubry 

Mary Smith 

m: Nov. 8, 1952, at St-Theresa Parish, Ottawa 

Jack Aubry 

Rhonda Ford 

m: May 2, 1987, in Ottawa 

Avril Aubry 

born: Dec. 15, 1990, in Ottawa 

*Diasonnony, Ireland. As recorded in Cornelius's marriage certificate, it is 
written as the French notary heard it spoken by the groom. Cornelius may have 
said "Diocese of Ossory," the Kilkenny Catholic district also later known as 
``Brennan country.'' 

**His Death Certificate written in Pointe-aux-Trembles carried the name Pierre Aubry. 

***Fille du Roi -- one of 774 women sent to Nouvelle France by French King Louis XIV. 

Source: Louis Aubry 
- - - 
Jack Aubry writes for the Citizen.
August 17, 2004: TEC CORNELIUS AUBRENAN : The First Irish-born Immigrant in Canada (Presentation to the British Isles Family History Society Of Greater Ottawa Conference 2002) by Louis Aubry, a descendant
September 4, 2004: I am Francois Aubry, decendant of Claude Aubry. My family link goes down to the Brennan first Irish to land and set ground in the new continent. I believe we have links to Francois Xavier Aubry. I would like to know more about the clan. My father showed me armours and told me stories about the Irish past. You can look out my father as author of books like: Agoohana, and director of the Ottawa public library for 25 years. You can look me up as director of films like; Seurat:the realm of light. Please contact me. Cheers F. Aubry
December 11, 2008: Good morning all, My paternal grandmother being an Aubry, I had been researching her lineage when I stumbled on Jack Aubry's article of July 2001 in 'The Ottawa Citizen, re. Canada's Aubry family being traced to a Brennan. I did have my great-grandfather's name, Nelson Joseph Hubert Aubry, to start with. The reason for this e-mail is that, as I started to read the article, I felt a shiver run up my spine. I remember very clearly my father telling me that his grandfather had always been called TEC, but nobody knew why, except that that had also been the nickname of this own father!!! For Jack Aubry: your ancestor François Aubry who married Marie-Reine Beauchamp is also my ancestor. Their son François-Xavier leads down to you while their other son, Hubert, leads down to me. I have not yet searched any further to find out if there were any more children to this couple and would welcome any additional information you may have along those lines. Thank you, Micheline Mallory
December 26, 2008: New e-mail address for Mr. Jack Aubry incorporated into the list below. ... Al
January 19, 2009: Hello Aubry cousins, I read Louis's article yesterday and Jack's today. What a wonderful contribution you have made! I too descend from Tec's son Francois -- from his son Jean --- and from 2 of Jean's children: Jean-Baptiste Aubry and Angelique Aubry. The last to be born with the Aubry name was Pelagie Aubry, my mother's great-great grandmother. My mother was born and raised in Ottawa, and I still have a lot of cousins up there although I was born in the USA. If you want more info on our Aubry branch, let me know. Tec was captured with my Dad's ancestor, Urbain Tessier, and worked for another ancestor of Dad's, André Dumets. Small world! Since Tec is my only Irish ancestor, it's been amazing to learn so much about him -- quite a guy, I'd say. Thanks again, ... Susan Colby
April 29, 2010: Bonsoir la parenté Pierre Légaré a eu l'amabilité de traduire la causerie que j'ai présentée à la Bibliothèque nationale du Canada. L'original se trouve en anglais sur le site de Al Lewis - Bytown or Bust à la toute fin de l'article de Jack Aubry anciennement de l'Ottawa Citizen. Bonne lecture. Notre ancêtre est un personnage quasi-légendaire. Si j'étais plus jeune j'écrirais un scénario pour un film. Louis Aubry Rockland ON

E-mail Louis Aubry, Jack Aubry, Francois Aubry, Micheline Mallory, Susan Colby and Al Lewis

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