A beautiful name

This page was translated by Marc W. Felion,
descendant of Michel Feulion and Louise Le Bercier. Thank you, Marc!

What a beautiful name we have! Or rather what beautiful names we all have. Where does it come from? What does it mean? It is a legitimate enough question to which there is not an easy answer. There are many elements to be considered and we hope to expound on them here in order to better understand the origin of our name.

A question of sound
First, what's the spelling problem? Filion, Fillion, Philion, Phillion, and Felion. Although we have many spellings of the name there is only one pronunciation. To discern how this came about we must understand that our ancestors could neither read nor write. Generally, to record important events in their lives(notorial acts, marriages) they would mark their name with some difficulty with a cross.Thier names were written down by priests and notaries as they were pronounced. We should also add that those who could write back then had their own interpretation of how to spell the sounds they were hearing. It is because of this that Filions of the same region could have there name spelled differently. The family was dependant upon the whims of the writer.

With the four winds
You can not rely solely on the spelling of the name to disern genealogical ascendancy. It use to be that you could speak of the "Filions of Quebec" and the "Filions of Montreal" but the shifts in populations, which mark our history now makes this insignificant. We must realize that Filions, no matter how the name is spelled, form a diaspora strewn to the four corners of the continent and that the spelling of one's name doen't serve to indentify one's genealogical origin.

The influence of Maître Fillion
The notary Michel Fillion, a man of letters if ever there was one, never deviated the way of writing his name, with two Ls when one didn't squarely call them Fillon. Of what to lose its Latin of It... However, many old documentsconcerning memebers of his immediate family, writtten by other notaries and also priests, reproduce the name with only one L. Sheriif's officer, land surveyor, secretary to the governor Pierre Dubois Davaugour, clerk of the senechal and the sovereign council,deputy public prosecutorfor the attorney general, tax prosecutor, judge, and royal notary spread the way he spelled his name across the tiny Canadian colony of the 17th century. It is perhaps, profiting from the "lessons" of maitre Fillion, that we see a standardization of the Fillion name in the Quebec region (then eastern Quebec) with two Ls.

This standardization was susto various forms of attack. For example, R.P Paul-Émile Filion, s.j., reported in an article on the Filions (The Fillions of France and America: research outline, published in L'Ancetre) " ...{my} father, Alfred Fillion of Baie-Saint-Paul, pensioner at the apostolic school of Levis, raised to be obedient and amenable, lost an L at the sugesstion of a teacher more interested in .... than in geneology. My aunts, uncles and cousins of Baie-Saint-Paul continue to live with their two Ls in the incomparable region of Charlevoix.

The Filion who wasn't
The history of the Filions of the Montreal region is quitte different. Did you know that this ancestor in the family tree, Michel, never bore the name Filion? In fact, in older documents, he is called Feyet, Feuillay, Feuilliant, Foilant, Feuillon and Feulion. But never Filion! It was his children who took -or had imposed upon them- the name Filion. Today, we shall call him Michel Feulion, according to the spelling that the notary Michel Roy of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade, largely used during the 17th century.

How do we explain this phenomenon? First of all, we must realize that our ancestors did not speak French. They spoke a provincial dialect, a language unique to their own village, perhaps even to their immediate area, a language that was certainly not the same as that of La Rochelle or Poitiers, and that was even less the language of Paris. As proof, the baptisimal certificate of his sister Francoise, preserved in the civil registry of Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux, clearly bore the name Fillon. Besides, one still finds a number of Fillon in the Poitou area. Moreover, in the Poitevin dialect which is the veritable mother tongue of many modern Poitevins , the name is pronounced something like "Feuillon." Here it is then that the men of letters during Michel's time, who did not speak this language, tried desperately to "translate" on paper.

It is because of this that there are practically no Filions, but many Fillons and even more Fillions in France today.

Like father like son?
How do we explain that the children of Michel Feulion took the name Filion? Let's not hesitate delving into the hypotheses. The children of Michel Feulion were all born in Canada, a colony where the "French of Paris" was imposed to the detriment of the dialects of the colonists who came from different regions of France: this was a measure that guarantied that that the new colony did not become a veritable Babel. The Feulion children never returned to France and they most surely spoke the language of their mother and father, but eventually they would have to adopt the Lingua Franca of Canada.

Let us add that after the deaths of Michel Feulion and his wife Louise Bercier, the Feulion children left Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade where they had been born, where their Canadian roots began and where they were known as Feulions. Undoubtably attracted by better conditions, they established themselves in the seigniory of Lachenaie. It is undoubtably there that, following the example of the aforementioned Fillions of Baie-Saint-Paul, they were taught to pronounce their name as the French would, in the way that the notary Michel Fillion had set forth. Thus, the Feulions of La Perade became the Filions of Lachenaie (with only one L, as was the case with Feulion). So this is why that the "Filions of Montreal" traditionally wrote their name with only one L.

Despite all of this, we can't believe that the name was ever really "standardized." Thus, one finds many Filion descends in the area Benoit/Saint-Hermas at the begining of the 19th century. When several members of the family migrated to Manitoba in the middle of the last century, they kept the Fillion spelling. Thus, the Fillions of Manitoba are related to the Filions of the Deux-Montagnes region.

The American Felions
There is a branch of American descendants of Michel Feulion have a very special history concerning their name. The following was written by Mrs Marcy Kreitinger. According to her nephew, Matthew J. Felion, "she is the authority" in matter of Felions' history.

My great-great-grandparents François-Xavier Filion and Vitalin Pilon who immigrated with their five children to the USA. My grandfather was born on October 3, 1866. He was baptized at Saint-Jérôme with the name Hormisdas Filion, with the statement that the family lived at Saint-Hyppolite. They lived at Saint-Janvier when the older children were born.

Hormisdas was 5 or 6 years old when the family moved to Oscoda/AuSable, Michigan, a lumber milling town. Next discrepancy involves his start at public school. When Hormisdas's mother registered him for school, neither one could speak English. He was shy and became quite uncomfortable when the teacher started asking the children their names. He realized his name (Hormisdas) was different; he did not want to try explaining and could not spell it for her. When the teacher came to him and asked his name, he blurted out "Raymond", a name he had heard the day before. As for his last name, it was quite some time before he realized the teacher had misspelled name (in English, the letter "e" is prononced like an "i" in French) . He was still too shy and timid to tell the teacher she had made a mistake. As a result he went through school and much of his life as "Raymond Felion", although his family called him "Medas" and fellow workmen called him "Mike".

Hormidas was 13/14 years of age when his father died. He quit school and went to work as a lumberjack to support his mother. November 11, 1890 he married Amanda Laflamme at the Sacred Heart church in Oscoda. Three years later, Hormisdas and family, along with the Laflamme family moved to Little Falls, MN, then to Akeley, MN, where the men went to work for the Red River Lumber Company. In 1914, the Lumber Company moved its operations to Westwood, CA. Most of the Felion and the Laflamme families followed the company to California to work as sawyers and in other capacities at the lumber company. Family members who stayed in Minnesota were two girls in nurse's training, and one son, Arthur, a student at the University of Minnesota. After graduating from the University, Arthur started working as a chemist for the Northern Pacific Railway Company in St. Paul. He married Ethel Leegard and made his home in Minneapolis.

Hormisdas and Amanda moved back to Akeley in 1918; but they decided there wasn't enough to do there, and returned to Westwood in 1922. He worked for the Red River Lumber Company until he retired. He spent the remainder of his life in Westwood and in Los Angeles where he died in 1946.

So, these American Felions are from the same family of the Filion of Québec!


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I always appreciate to get new informations and comments about our ancestors.
mario.filion@sympatico.ca