DAWN EVOE-DANOWSKI for THE STORYKEEPERS PROJECT
This inaugural story for The Storykeepers Project reflects the experience of many French Canadians in Michigan whose families have lost the simple awareness of their heritage. Discovery in this case has led to a profound change in the author’s life and a deep appreciation of previously unknown connections. – the editor
After my dad, Larry Evoe, passed in 1984, I was sorting through his papers. Among his papers were death certificates for both his mom and dad. I never knew my Grandfather Earl Evoe so I looked at it with interest. I was struck by two things. First, I realized I didn’t know my great grandparents names on my Evoe side, John and Susanna.
Then, I noticed my great Grandmother Susanna’s maiden name appeared to have been altered (was it Bourdina or Bourbina?). But at the time, I tucked those certificates away with some other mementos related to my dad and mostly forgot about them.
My love of history and genealogy comes from my mom, Barb McGrew. She started working on her family tree when she discovered a family Bible from her Irish side and I too was hooked! However, life got in the way, and I didn’t really seriously start searching until about 3 years ago after her death and I felt I wanted to connect with more family.
I started by “googling” the surnames Evoe and Bourdina. I found nothing for Evoe (other than it had something to do with wine!) and Bourdina was mostly found in Russia. I was so confused! I knew I had a mixture of many ethnicities but no one mentioned Russian and why was Evoe a dead-end?
Then, I stumbled upon ancestry.com. I decided to give it a try, because what did I have to lose? I did what the commercial said and entered what I knew. After searching for John Evoe of Monroe, MI, I found a match that sounded accurate. Unfortunately, the tree that had John on it was private. I contacted the owner and after proving my relationship to John, Lori Lemerand kindly invited me (her cousin) to her extensive tree!
The initial discovery was that I was related to Lori Lemerand through my great-great grandmother, Adeline Lemerand, who had married James Hivon. Again, I was confused…who is James Hivon, I thought? I then made another amazing discovery…Evoe was actually a form of Hivon. I didn’t know then how French Canadians, like many immigrants, changed their names and often had several names…i.e. dit names. Furthermore, Susanna’s name was NOT Bourdina, but Bourbina and she too was very French Canadian (her name went through many variations, including Bourbannis and Brunet).
I was elated, I contacted two first cousins on my Evoe side and they were astonished too. Even though they were older than me, they have never heard any of this and they took some convincing to accept Susanna’s actual last name. They were delighted to know our history and have supported me in my search.
This information has had a profound affect on me. Knowing about my long family roots, first in Canada, then in Detroit and Michigan, makes me very proud. (I had thought my family was fairly new here in North America!) I have shared my information with newly discovered cousins, met with some of them, joined genealogy groups, met other wonderful and like-minded individuals! Finally I am looking forward to celebrating the 1st French Canadian Day here in Michigan!
Michigan, July 2013