My great Grandmother Diane was the daughter of a Joseph Robitall. He was born in Quebec in 1860.

Here is a census document from Quebec in 1861. There is a one year old boy in this family named Joseph. He lives with his parents, siblings, and grandparents. Could this be my particular Joseph? Did he end up in Cook County, Illinois, making shoes, twenty years later?

It could be his brother, Napoleon, 5 years of age, and his brother Frederic, 3, and there he is, 1. Daddy is Michel Robitaille, 31, and Mama appears to be named Margten. She’s 29.

There’s Josephte and Louis, both 61. Must be his parents. And young Josephte, 28, who is I suppose Michel’s sister. Magdalene, 86, presumably Louis’s mother.

Josephte seems like an odd name, but I Googled “Josephte Robitaille,” and there seem to have been quite a few of them in Quebec. In fact, I found this family on Ancestry while writing this post.

No sign of Joseph having a daughter named Diane or going to Chicago to become a shoemaker and changing his name to Robitall.


This family includes someone named Philomene. I thought that would be an unusual name and I’d be able to find the family because of that.

No. Philomene was a totally common name in Canada in the 1800s. Like Courtney or Jennifer in the U.S. now.

The particular red herring I’m chasing here has a Diane on his tree, too. But she’s Odiane. How charming is that? Josephte and Odiane and Napoleon get together for lunch…

But there were doubtless lots of little boys named Joseph Robitaille born in Quebec in 1860. I may never find mine.