River Bourgeois, Saint John The Baptist Church

River Bourgeois is just a few miles east of Louisdale, and a shorter distance from St. Peter's.

Follow this link to a page about River Bourgeois.

River Bourgeois is important to the Alfred Longhurst/Theresa Burke family as being the home of Theresa's grandparents (Damien and Eugenie Burke) the birthplace of her father (Fred Burke), and the wedding location and first home of her father and mother (Ellen Jane Thibeau). The Catholic church in River Bourgeois was, and is, well known to many Bourg family descendants.

riverbourgeois.ca: "After many years as a mission of Arichat and L'Ardoise, Saint John the Baptist Parish was established on August 8th, 1869. At that time there were approximately 900 inhabitants in River Bourgeois."

The church is located on Church Point. For those unfamiliar with River Bourgeois, here is a satellite view of River Bourgeois showing points of interest including the church.

Note: the images from Google Earth have imagery dates of between 2011 and 2015 (chosen to reduce cloud coverage and image slicing).

River Bourgeois points of interest.

The distance from Damien and Eugenie's property on Pointe à Bouleau to the gravesite (white dot to white dot in the aerial view) is 5.4 miles by road, or just 4,200 feet as the dove flies.

This church, which opened in 1868, has transcribed birth, baptismal, death, and marriage records that date back to 1840. The date ranges are irregular, though, with births and baptismals up to 1913, deaths up to 1937, and marriages up to 1945. There must have been a previous church that residents attended for there to be records that pre-date this one being built. And there must be records that post-date these transcriptions.

According to Library and Archives Canada, "The first parish registers were created in Europe in the sixteenth century. The first Europeans to arrive in Canada continued this practice of creating parish registers. The first parish register (in Canada) was created in Quebec City as early as 1616; the oldest record dates back to 1621. There is no central repository for parish registers in Canada. Many are in the custody of individual churches, church archives and provincial/territorial archives, or they have not survived. Library and Archives Canada holds only a small collection of parish registers, none of which are comprehensive for any region. Most are transcripts rather than originals, available on microfilm and listed in our Checklist of Parish Registers (ISBN 0660538636)."

This having been said, there are records that can be found online, and more will follow. Nova Scotia Archives has become quite digitized and offers searchable databases with links to original documents and photographs. This link will take you to the Genealogy Guide. Two examples of parish register records are shown below - click on either to be taken to the appropriate page on the Archives site.

Here is an example of a parish register page. Pages such as these are now searchable at the Nova Scotia Archives and elsewhere.

As I understand it, the River Bourgeois parish has only kept the most recent ten years of records locally, older records went to the Archdiocese of Antigonish for archiving.

(Other records pre-dating the Deportation may well have been taken back to France when Nova Scotia was finally surrendered to the English.)

Pictures of the church and its location...

Cam's note: many of the photos on this site are very high resolution pictures. This is true of many of the images below. Click on them to expand them to their browser limits. If a magnifying cursor is then offered, click on the expanded image to make it grow to maximum size. Once fully displayed, the picture can be scrolled through to see many details not visible when the picture is viewed in confined format.

St. John the Baptist Church Street view from the south side.
This photo was taken while on a vist in 1998.
This is a "streetview" from the same perspective, in 2015.
This photo was taken while on a vist in 2011.
This photo (with some zoom) was taken while on a vist in 2011.

From Church Point Road, corner view.
Front view.
The original bell, after church renovations replaced the steeple.

Photo taken in 2011.
Photo taken in 2015.

As I understand it, from someone very familiar with the workings of the church and graveyard, the oldest gravestones and markers that were on top of the hill were plowed under/over by a parish priest's decision years ago, so the specific location of graves is not known. (It is not clear what the benefit was in doing so, aside from removing "broken and unsightly" markers from view.) This was confirmed by another source, who said that Father Flavian Sampson was the parish priest.

Looking up the hill towards the church, from the same direction as the two previous pictures. Photo taken in 2015.

The overgrown area on the left side of this picture was the approximate location of the Stella Maris school, which opened following a merger of two previous schools, in 1954. With a significant drop in student enrollment over forty years, the renamed River Bourgeois Consolidated school was torn down in 1994.

This is a visual comparison of the location with, and without, the school. The photo of the school was taken by Anne Louise Tousenard, while the image of the vacant land is a Google streetview from the same point of view, in 2015.

With the church behind, looking down over a city of gravestones.
Nearby houses in view outside the grounds.

The view from the hill as seen on the morning of November 17, 2015.

The view to the right of the picture above, taken a moment later.

An attempt at joining the previous two images into one panoramic view.

Looking down the hill, but through these monuments for clergy members. (Taken in 2011.)

Drone aerial footage of River Bourgeois...

Follow this link to a youtube video that shows a couple of minutes of River Bourgeois from above.

Just beyond the church is the passage that leads to the Atlantic Ocean.

The church and graveyard from a different angle, the image includes the homestead property of Damien Burke Jr. and Eugenie Landry (upper right). A blue line indicates the approximate shoreline closest to the house.

Those buried here...

Many of the Bourg/Burke descendants and relatives are buried in the River Bourgeois and Louisdale church graveyards. These are photos of the River Bourgeois graveyard and the gravestones there, taken on a few different visits. This is a link to the Louisdale church page, where pictures of that church, graveyard and gravestones can be viewed.

Damien Burke Jr. and Eugenie Landry were buried here. When Damien passed, a cross with an engraved metal "heart" was erected, but this was replaced with a gravestone when Eugenie passed later. The "heart" is shown here with the replacement gravestone.

Damien Burke's grave marker is preserved by, and in the possession of, Anne Landry. Approximately 12" in diameter, it was mounted on a cross, "a metal scroll work type".

Looking NNE, down Church Point Road, the gravestone is below center, unshaded.
Looking SSE, towards the church, the gravestone is barely visible below the branches.

Imagery: 09/2012. 45º 37' 48.88" N., 60º 56' 43.00" W., elevation (above sea level, this date): 52 ft.

Looking SE, the gravestone very low on the left; the church visible on the right.
Readily seen, lower left. The wrought iron scrollwork grave marker (see notes below) is nearby.

The gravestone faces the homes of family members on the South Side, 3,000 feet away.

This gravestone can be found near the road perhaps a third of the way down the hill. These images from Google streetview show its position relative to the road, other prominent stones and the church itself.

A view showing the low and wide Burke gravestone.

Celeste Anne Landry (née Burke) was the daughter of Eugenie and Damien Bourg (Burke, above), and she was the sister of Fred Burke (Theresa Burke's aunt). Celeste Anne and Peter Landry are represented on numerous web pages of this site, beginning with this page for Celeste Anne.

Fred Burke and his wife Ellen Jane (née Thibeau) are both buried nearby in Louisdale graveyard.

The gravestones and markers below also have some interest to me. A brief description explaining my interest follows each one.

This scrollwork metal grave marker is likely very similar to the scrollwork cross Damien Burke's "heart" was mounted on. This one (erected a few years after Damien's had been) is for Phroisine (or Euphrosine) Burke, who died August 22, 1948, at age 69. The only record I can find close to this is Euphrosine Dugas, born 1879, married to Amos Burke in 1915. Her name was alternatively spelled "Frazine" in the 1921 River Bourgeois census. Amos was a fisherman, and there may have been family or work in Massechusetts that resulted in border crossing records (on which her name was spelled "Alouzine" and Frazen").

This is a good example of how innacurate and incomplete many grave markers are.

Note this marker can be seen in the upper left corner of Damien's and Eugenie's gravestone photo (above) .

"Cyprein" Burke was recipient of a portion of the original land grant to Urbain Cordeau, the rest of the property making its way into the hands of Damien Bourg Sr. Both individuals passed the land down to their descendants.

I liked this one which has what I believe to be a Royal Canadian Legion cross and Canadian flag. I have respect for seniors and veterans and Peter Thibeau appears to have been both. Age 73 puts Peter's birth date at 1858. As it turns out, Peter was a brother of John Antoine Pius Thibeau, father of Ellen Jane Thibeau (Theresa Burke's mother, my maternal grandmother).

"Uncle Henry" (to Theresa Burke) was a fiddle player. His wife was Margaret Anne Boudreau. He had eight children.

William Robertson was the brother of Annie Robertson who married John Antoine Pius Thibeau. John and Annie are the parents of Ellen Jane Thibeau (wife of Fred Burke).

This is a good example of how just about everyone buried here is related to Theresa Burke (and, therefore, me) somehow.

This file last modified 10/21/2023...

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