A Look Back at a Family With 27 Children

By Joan Janzen

Couples who have numerous offspring say they wish people wouldn’t think they were clever when saying, “Don’t you know what causes that?”

I stumbled across an episode of a really old television show called “I’ve Got a Secret”, where special guests would remain anonymous while a panel of four well-know individuals would guess their “secret”. It was an American show, but this particular episode, which aired in 1959, had a Canadian as their featured guest.

A humble, unassuming man appeared, who was identified as Heliodore Cyr, a potato farmer from New Brunswick. Apparently this was his third time to appear on the show. His secret was the upcoming birth of his 27th child! He had previously appeared on the show on the occasions of the birth of his 25th child and his 26th child. Heliodore said his oldest son was 30 years of age, and had seven children of his own.

Many people, besides myself, watched the episode and commented on social media. One individual explained that only nineteen of the 27 children survived to adulthood. Numerous other individuals who commented were great great grandchildren of Heliodore Cyr’s offspring. One individual said she was the great great granddaughter of number 17, Florence, and another said his great great grandmother was number 26 in the sequence of children.

One comment posted said, “I married Heliodore’s great great granddaughter. He must be responsible for thousands of people!”

Married for thirty-one years, all of the children were born to he and his wife, Marie-Elise. Interestingly, all his children were single births and his wife lived to be 80 years of age.

The host of “I’ve Got a Secret” noted the couple didn’t have electric appliances, and awarded them an electric washing machine, stove and fridge. However it’s unknown whether the couple even had access to electricity at that time.

Heliodore was also given a carton of cigarettes as the host continued to puff on a cigarette throughout the show, all of which helped to emphasize the stark contrast to our modern day existence. The host and celebrity panelists were always polite, didn’t express any negative comments or offer him birth control suggestions. Although they were shocked by his huge family (and may not have approved), they never expressed their personal disapproval.

But let’s fast forward to 2021 and the contrasting situation in Canada where Bill C-233 (law restricting sex selective abortions) was voted down at second reading with a vote of 76 in favour and 209 against. Many Canadians are also unaware that abortion in Canada is legal at all stages of pregnancy (regardless of the reason) and is publicly funded as a medical procedure under the combined effects of the federal Canada Health Act and provincial health-care systems.

Heliodore Cyr would have been far more surprised than the panelists on the show, if he had been able to catch a glimpse of Canada in 2021.

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