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Guerin Family Fonds (P610)

Excerpt from the travel journal of Thomas Guerin (1818?-1887) (detail), 1860. Gift of Miss Carroll Guerin, Guerin Family Fonds P610, M2002.84.5.1 © McCord Museum

An imminent departure amidst heart-wrenching goodbyes

"The half hour or so before I left my family was terrible, it began to be feeling even before; while at dinner which was at two o'clock, my attention was attracted by my daughter who was crying, she evidently felt that it was going to be some time again before we should dine together; I was feelingly moved by my youngest son Neddy who was remonstrating with his sister saying "don't coy (cry) Bellell" - Again my wife began to cry, who when seen by Neddy was remonstrated with in the same manner - "Don't coy (cry) Mamma." This moved myself to tears, and immediately I was discovered by Neddy, who commenced saying "Don't coy (cry) Papa" - "Don't coy (cry) Papa." [...]

The remonstrances of this child affected me most severely, he was then aged two years one month and some days [...]. Mich did not seem to be much moved until after blessing him and counselling him; he then retired to the window, hid his face and wept bitterly. I then embraced my children commencing with my daughter, the others in order, then Julia and last my dear wife."

Born in Ireland sometime around 1818, Thomas Guerin immigrated to Montreal in 1844. His work as a civil engineer led him to travel around the world. In a journal entry dated December 3, 1860, he described the heartbreaking moments of saying goodbye to his wife and four children as he prepared to leave for an extended period of work in Australia.

Since it would take him 87 days just to reach his destination, it was understood that the separation would be a long one. In fact, he was gone for four years. At the time, it was not unusual for business or leisure trips to last several years. The slow pace of maritime travel and communications, combined with the fragile nature of life, made such travel challenging. In the eyes of friends and family, especially children, these long absences represented an eternity.

P610 Guerin Family Fonds. - 1780-1961. - 121 cm of textual records. - 840 photographs. - 8 cartographic materials.

Biographical Sketch

Following the Wars of Religion that ravaged France, some Huguenot (Protestant) members of the Guerin (Gueren) family immigrated to Ireland. In 1843, one such individual by the name of THOMAS GUERIN I (1818?-1887) chose to settle in Montreal. In 1848 he married MARY MAGUIRE (1822?-1906), a Montrealer of Irish ancestry, with whom he had five children: Mary Ellen (Bellelle), Michael, James John Edmund (Jas or Jemmy), Edmund William Patrick (Neddy) and John Maguire (Jack).

Thomas Guerin worked first as a professor, then a surveyor, before becoming a civil engineer in 1847. Although called to the Bar in 1852, he never practised law. Over the course of his engineering career, he carried out numerous projects in Canada as well as outside the country, notably in California and Australia.

MARY ELLEN (Bellelle) GUERIN (1849-1929) was a writer, poet, and the first president of both the Catholic Women's Club (1917) and the national association that grew out of it, the Catholic Women's League of Canada (1920). As a child, when her parents temporarily moved to Ottawa, Bellelle was a boarding pupil with the Congregation of Notre-Dame in Montreal. Although she never married, she did raise the children of her brother James John Edmund when he became a widower.

MICHAEL GUERIN (1852-?) was an estate agent. He never married.

JAMES JOHN EDMUND GUERIN (1856-1932) was a physician, politician and businessman. After completing the classical curriculum at Collège de Montreal, he obtained a medical degree from McGill University. He then continued his studies at the Royal College of Physicians in England before returning to Montreal to teach medicine at Université de Montréal. Taking an interest in politics, James was elected to the provincial legislature, representing Montreal Centre from 1895 to 1904. He also represented the riding of St. Ann in the federal House of Commons from 1925 to 1930. From 1910 to 1912, he was the thirtieth mayor of Montreal. His business activities included being Vice-President of Standard Gold Mines Limited. He married Mary Carroll O'Brien (1864-1888) in 1883, with whom he had two children: Thomas and Mary Carroll.

EDMUND WILLIAM PATRICK GUERIN (1858-1934) received a law degree from McGill University. Specializing in criminal cases, he became a Crown attorney before being appointed a judge in 1907. He also tried to enter politics, running as a candidate for the riding of Montreal Centre in 1891, but he was not elected. In addition, he was an officer in the Victoria Rifles Regiment. Edmund married his first wife Mary Evans in 1895, but she died in 1902. He then married Mary Catherine Sexton (1881-1913) in 1904. Neither of these marriages produced any children.

JOHN MAGUIRE (Jack) GUERIN (1868?-1936?) never married.

THOMAS GUERIN II (1886-1963) was the eldest son of Dr. James John Edmund Guerin. On August 18, 1928, in East Hampton, New York, he married ALICE CUDDIHY (1900-1984), the daughter of Robert J. Cuddihy, editor of the Literary Digest and the Standard Dictionary. The couple settled first in Montreal, then in Mont St. Hilaire. They had two children: Alice Theresa (1932-1986) and Mary Carroll (b. 1936).

Thomas Guerin received a PhD from Université de Montréal in 1948. He taught English at this institution from 1952 to 1955. He also held the position of consul general in Montreal for various countries, including Austria (1930-1938), Greece and Montenegro. In the field of business, he was a director and comptroller of Siscoe Gold Mines, Siscoe Metal Ltd and the Harricana & Gatineau Telephone Company. He was also a member of the Montreal Catholic School Board from 1953 to 1961.

Moreover, Thomas was active in politics and very involved in the military. A literary man and author, he published several works over the course of his life, notably studies on family history and genealogy. At the end of his career, he was awarded several honorary titles and founded the Sovereign Military Order of Malta in Canada, of which he was president from 1957 to 1961.

Thomas Guerin died in Montreal on January 6, 1963, at the age of 76. He was buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery on January 9, 1963.

Scope and Content

The Guerin Family Fonds covers three generations of this Irish family of French origin, which immigrated to Montreal in the first half of the 19th century.

Containing information about Thomas Guerin I, the first member of the family to settle in Quebec, it includes documents related to his personal life and professional activities as a civil engineer in Canada and elsewhere. In particular, the fonds contains diaries and travel journals, along with maps and plans associated with the construction of railways and bridges. Numerous letters also chronicle his very loving relationships with his wife Mary, daughter Mary Ellen (Bellelle), and four sons Michael, James, Edmund and John.

In addition, the fonds relates the activities of his children. An illustrated journal documents in detail the European trip taken by Edmund and his future wife Mary Catherine in 1903 and 1904. Files on James and his wife Mary Carroll contain stock certificates, correspondence and an autograph book. Two literary texts illustrate the career of their sister Bellelle, an author.

A significant portion of the fonds is devoted to the activities of Thomas Guerin II and his wife Alice. There are records associated with their marriage, travels, and social relationships. Several archives document his activities as a consul general and member of the Sovereign Order of Malta, including certificates, letters, and various forms. Extensive research notes chronicle his interest in family history and genealogy.

Moreover, the fonds contains numerous photographs, both amateur snapshots and professional portraits taken by studios like Notman, Rice, Ira Hill (from New York), Query Frères and Archambault. There is a photo album that belonged to James Guerin and another that belonged to Alice Cuddihy.

Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical condition: The binding of some notebooks is fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds is composed of donations made by Miss Carroll Guerin in 2002 and 2006.

Language: The documents are in English.

General note: Other objects associated with the Guerin family are preserved in the McCord Museum's Decorative Arts and Dress, Fashion and Textiles collections.

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries, and files:

  • P610/A Thomas Guerin I
    • P610/A1 Biography and genealogy
    • P610/A2 Personal life
      • P610/A2,1 Travel journals
        • M2002.84.5.1 Travel journal of Thomas Guerin. - 1860. - 1 textual record ; 34.5 x 21.5 cm.
        • Digitized document
        • Scope and Content: This document chronicles Thomas Guerin's 87-day journey from Montreal to Melbourne, Australia, in 1860. His work as an engineer obliged him to leave his family for four long years. Among other things, the journal describes the heart-wrenching goodbyes that preceded his departure. It also relates daily life on board the Fisher, Ricard and Co. ship, the James Bayley, the people he met, his activities and his reflections. In addition, he discusses the captain, Bartlett Smith Mayo, describing him as a boorish opportunist.

          Language: The document is in English.

      • P610/A2,2 Diaries
      • P610/A2,3 Notebooks
    • P610/A3 Engineering documents
    • P610/A4 Correspondence

  • P610/B Mary Maguire Guerin

  • P610/C Mary Ellen Guerin

  • P610/D Michael Guerin

  • P610/E Dr. James John Edmund Guerin

  • P610/F Edmund William Patrick Guerin
    • P610/F1 Biography and genealogy
    • P610/F2 P610/F2 Personal life. - 1903-1904. - 4 cm of textual records.
    • Digitized documents
    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the leisure trip taken by Edmund William Patrick Guerin, Mary Catherine Sexton and a Miss Davies, possibly a friend of Mary's, the chaperone of the future spouses, who would in fact marry at the end of the voyage in 1904. The journey began precisely on June 29, 1903, and ended nearly a year later, on April 27, 1904. Mary wrote an original account of the trip by hand, and then created a typewritten version that includes pictures. In the company of the man she refers to as "Mr. Guerin," Mary and Miss Davies, who were both American, began by visiting the cities of Montreal and Quebec before making the crossing to Europe. Among the countries visited were Scotland, England, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and France. Mary recounts the details of her daily life, the tourist attractions visited, and the people encountered.

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P610/F3 Finances and assets
    • P610/F4 Correspondence

  • P610/G Mary Carroll O'Brien Guerin

  • P610/H Thomas Guerin II and Alice Cuddihy Guerin

  • P610/I Unattributed Documents

  • P610/J Photographs


Last update: June 5, 2018