The LaPortes of Manitoba and their Roots in Quebec and France

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My Story

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Hello, my name is Tom LaPorte.  I live in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where I'm married and have two grown daughters who have left the nest but live nearby with families of their own.  We now have 2, soon to be 3, grandsons and live with a varying number of terriers. 

I am now retired after a long career, really two very different careers which have had me going back and forth between working with large computer networks locally and internationally and being a political hack.  In the very early part of my computer career I played a minor role as a pioneer in the field as, I believe, I was the first person in the world to run two operator-interactive programs at the same time on a mini-computer system.  That was quite the feat at the time, considering the very small size of the computer.  That was while I was on the Burroughs International team in Downington, Pennsylvania preparing the 'Burroughs B800 computer with CMS operating system' for its world release in 1975.  I wrote the first two programs which were used to demo the new system.  The programs that I wrote used the IBM 3270 dumb terminal standard PF keys which were on the old Burroughs operator console I was given to work on.  I had not been told that those keys were not meant to be used on the release version of the B800 but when it was realized, just before the launch day, that my programs, the only two programs available to run on the new computer, used those keys, they were quickly added to the new keyboard and renamed from PF1 to PF8 as simply 'f1' through 'f8'.  The B800 was released as the world's first mini-computer that could be used as a multi-user application platform.  We beat IBM's System 34 to market by more than a year.  In the absence of anyone else making this claim I believe that I can say that I 'invented' the use of f keys on a multi-user or multi-application computer.

In my career as a political hack I worked for 7 years as a Cabinet Assistant  for the local provincial government in the 1980's seeing the rise of the NDP to prominence and then after a 17 year return to the computer field I had my second stint as a hack as an Assistant to various northern MLA's for 10 years giving me the opportunity to be a witness to the NDP's self-destruction from prominence to an embarassment in 2016.

My hobby and chief interest for the last 30 years has been genealogy.  Sorry, family first and then genealogy!  Okay, family, work and then genealogy.  Oh, and the dogs.  For many years playing Fly Ball with our own terriers and our three grand-dogs consumed many weekends but dogs age and leave us too quickly and Covid-19 limited our flyball club connection.  We don't know yet what the long term impact of this separation will be.

My Family History Research Story

My first research was into my own LaPorte roots which I started working on in about 1985.  At that time, with no internet, it was a struggle but the Family History Center was there with their vast library of microfilms and there were some local resources for French Canadian history in nearby St. Boniface which is the largest French Canadian community outside of the Province of Quebec.  When internet arrived and genealogists quickly realized the advantages of posting information on it, I discovered the World Association of LaPortes and St. Georges based in Montreal.  In a few minutes they confirmed what I had spent 10 years putting together and added a lot more.  For a while I became a board member and the web master for that association's web site but have since lost contact with them. 

At that time I also did extensive research into my home town of Inwood's history.  The LaPorte and Inwood history materials just went into boxes as it wasn't that easy or affordable to post to the Internet yet.

Then I turned to my maternal side.  My mother was Marion Bowles from Ft. William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay).  While Grandpa Bowles died when I was still young, for as long as I can remember I had loved listening to Grandma Bowles' stories of my Bowles ancestors and also her early Jackson family history.  When there was no more challenge on the LaPorte side I turned to following up on Grandma's stories.  At first the Jacksons drew my interest but I soon discovered the record of Thomas Jackson's arrival at Ellis Island through that web site and filled in the few family details in between.  Unfortunately as there were no other family members of Grandma's generation surviving I was not able to learn much more and that is also still in boxes but I'll return to the Jacksons at some point.

Then I moved on to Bowles.  The family story was that Alf Bowles came from an English background and somehow England was not that far back in the story.  His father's name was George so I started by searching for a George Bowles in England in the mid-1800's.  Well it looked like there were hundreds to pick from but none of these seemed to use Alfred as a family name.  Having no idea how to narrow those possibilities down I went back to where every good genealogist should.  Talk to your oldest relative about the oldest relative they can remember.  Well Grandma always said that George Bowles had died while working on the construction of the Peterborough Lift Lock.  That at least gave me a place to start.  Eventually, as the research crawled along through census records and microfilms from the Ontario Archives I learned that George was born in Quebec City (what?), gave his ancestry as Irish (really?) and his death certificate gave diabetes as his cause of death (there goes a good family story shot down in flames!).  So much for relying on memories.  So now, Bowles in Quebec City!  There couldn't have been too many there!

I had a breakthrough with The Bowles when I discovered a very old posting on the rootsweb Bowles surname forum.  A William Lee in B.C. had been looking for any information regarding the Bowles family of Ft. William and his email address was still the same.  He was amazed to hear from me and had long given up on finding anyone who shared his interest.  Having descended from a different branch two generations back I had not been aware of his existence but being one generation older than myself he had personal memories of his grandfather Bowles (my great-grandfather) telling stories of growing up in Quebec City and playing on the Plains of Abraham as a boy.  That opened up the doors and after a quick trip to the Quebec Archives in Quebec City, it was more like flood gates opening as the pieces started to fit together. 

There seemed to be many Bowles in Quebec particularly north of Quebec City and in Montreal.  My thanks to the excellent staff at the archives there.  I found two more generations of my family in Quebec City (George's father was Robert a grocer and Robert's father was John a shoemaker, both inside the walls of the old city) going back to the early 1800's; plus about 40 other Bowles family members.  Several of these looked familiar and looking back through my earlier notes, they were many of those Bowles scattered across Ontario and in Montreal.  Gradually the pieces fit together connecting up Bowles in Brighton, Ontario, in Ottawa, in Ontario county, North Simcoe, Victoria county...and all of them Irish!  References to counties Carlow and Laois in Ireland became a pattern for "my" Bowles and others who I couldn't connect came from there as well or nearby.  Some with children born in Quebec City (were they connected to  mine?) and some who seemed to just arrive from nowhere but still from Carlow or Laois.  Perhaps connected to mine only back in Ireland.

So there was nothing for it but to start collecting all of these Bowles in some manner, sorting the pieces of the jig saw into little piles (MS Word documents) and eventually fitting more and more pieces together.  Finally I found myself sending out more information in response to questions on the forums than I had coming in.  It was amazing how some of my notes benefited other people out there, tearing down brick walls in many cases .  What was obviously needed was some way to collaborate with other "Bowles in Canada" researchers so that others out there could more easily check what I had found and could see what I was missing.

My hope is that with the help of other Bowles researchers that site will serve as a central repository for people who share my interest in the Bowles families of Canada to tell their stories in Canada and as far back as we can trace their history before their arrival. 

Just pumping my data up to my Bowles Family History site will be a major project for me so my first effort will be to publish my raw data so that others can be made aware of it.  Sorting out, documenting and publishing my sources for this information will take much longer.  I caution everyone to take information from this site as being to the best of my belief but some of this comes from other unverified sources.  I cannot guarantee that everything here is 100% correct but I will not intentionally publish a guess or assumption without commenting that it is an assumption on my part.  I will not be able to provide individuals with my sources in most cases until those records are all sorted out.  Please, independently verify this information before accepting it as facts.  Hopefully, I can at least give others some new possibilities to focus on!

It's no surprise that it has taken a while to get around to actually publishing this information but with retirement since 2017 I've had much more time available.  My Bowles family research has grown into a single surname study of The Bowles in Canada and their origins in Ireland and England with my own Bowles line at My Bowles.

Now it's 2021 and we're in the second year of a worldwide pandemic.  Being cut off from many of life's social activities has resulted in my increased focus on maintaining family connections and has given me the time that needed.  My research shifted from what had become a single surname study researching any Bowles family that I came across to focussing on only my own Bowles and I finally made some good progress.  See my New Additions page for the latest Bowles Family History pages I've published.  Building my family connections has also sparked a return to documenting my immediate LaPorte side and I've finally created a new site for My LaPorte Family History.   Finally!

My thanks to my wife for putting up with all my evenings spent staring at my computer screen and muttering and to my daughters for not fully understanding but not completely ignoring me when I try to impress them with the importance of a major family history find!  May they come to realize some day that this is their story too which they can pass on to their children and their children's children so that they may know about and remember us.


This site was last updated 05/23/21