Monday, July 21, 2014

Helena A. "Lena" Van Cauwenberge (52 Ancestors - #29)

Helena A. "Lena" Van Cauwenberge was born on the 9th of September, 1889 in Belgium.  In May, 1913 she married Joseph Thomas Stephan.  Helena died at age 29 on December 23rd, 181 in Boston, Massachusetts.

Helena (also "Alina" and "Lena") arrived in America with her mother and siblings in 1904, following her father who had come to Boston in 1903. She was raised in London, where the family lived for a few years after leaving Belgium, and then in Chelsea and South Boston. In May 1913 she married a Massachusetts-born accountant, Joseph Thomas Stephan, before a priest, Fr. R.J. Johnson of the Gate of Heaven Catholic Church in South Boston. Helena's surname was mis-spelled on the marriage record as "Van Corwenberge". (Her mother's maiden name was also given as "LaSalle", while elsewhere it was reported as "Filler".) Joseph's parents were listed on the marriage record as John J. and Katherine (Sexton) Stephan. 

In May 1914 residing on Holworthy St., the couple welcomed a son, John Joseph Stephan. Joseph's 1917 draft card shows Helena's husband living at 117 Almont St. Boston, working as an auditor for the Old Colony Trust Company, and supporting his wife, one child, and his mother. 

According to her son's obituary, John Joseph Stephan was the couple's only child, and Helena died in the flu epidemic of 1918. Helena's death record (MA VR 1918 deaths v. 3, p. 405) shows she died of "lobar pneumonia" after 13 days; the death occurred in her home at 119 Almont St. in Boston. Whoever provided the information for the death certificate
had trouble with spelling Belgian/Dutch names or perhaps just had poor handwriting that was typed up badly: Helena's maiden name was given as "Causenberg", and her mother's maiden name as "Falla").  Helena was buried at St. Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury by the T.J. Mahoney and Sons Funeral Home. Helena's parents were buried there when they died decades later, perhaps in a family plot. 

The 1920 and 1930 censuses, Helena's son, listed as a boarder, was in the household of her parents, Emiel and Wilhelmina Van Cauwenberge. 

No 1920 census listing for Helena's widower could be located, but around 1924 he married again, to Enid Sampson. Joseph and Enid had several children: Virginia, Muriel, George, Richard, and Robert, all present on Fuller St. in Dorchester at the 1940 census, at which time Joseph was working as a salesman. He could no longer work as an accountant, having been convicted of bank embezzlement in 1926; according to newspaper reports he was sentenced to 3 years in prison (but apparently served less). Helena's widower, Joseph Stephan, died in 1955; his wife Enid died in 1977. The 1914 birth record for her son, John Joseph Stephen, misspelled her maiden name as "Van Convenburg"; that spelling was preserved in his 2004 obituary.

All credit for this story goes to Liz Barnett, my friend and professional genealogist (2013).

Martha Dauwer - The Mother They Never Knew (52 Ancestors - #28)

Growing up motherless must have been tough for two little girls and two little boys whose lives were uprooted by their mother's sudden death.  I often ponder this when I think about my father-in-law and his siblings who lost their mother when she was just 24 years old.  Because they were so young when she died they had little or no memory of her.

The few whisps of stories I have about Martha is that she brought her purse to the hospital, according to my father-in-law, but never left the hospital alive.  

Another brief story I heard was that she was a very loving sister.  Martha made sure that her little sister Alice had a gown for her prom according to Alice's daughter Sandee.

When Martha Dauwer was born on August 24, 1908, in Boston, Massachusetts, her father, Camielle, was 30 and her mother, Marie, was 29. 

Oscar W. Bruynell and Martha married on November 15, 1924, in Boston, Massachusetts. Together they had five children by the time she was 23, one of who died before their first birthdy. Alice sadly died on September 11, 1932, in West Roxbury, Massachusetts, at the age of 24.

Martha must have been the love of Oscar's life as he never re-married after her death.  Sadly we have no photos of Martha.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lillian Amanda Snow (52 Ancestors - #27)

Lillian Amanda Snow was my Canadian paternal great grandmother.  Lillian was born on June 1st, 1867 to Winthrop Snow and Elizabeth Bethel in Port LaTour, Shelburne, Nova Scotia.   Just shy of her 18th birthday, this young spinster met and married fisherman Smith Swain Nickerson who was also from Port LaTour, Nova Scotia.

Lillian and Smith had their first child, a daughter Elizabeth, in December, 1885.  Lillian went on to have an additional eight children.  Her second to last child, Charles "Savol" Nickerson was my grandfather.  

On February 28th, 1934 she passed away from complications due to Diabetes and was buried in Yarmouth Nova Scotia.

Those researching genealogy should keep track of what illnesses or diseases start forming a pattern.  For instance, my dad and my brother both are diabetic however, until my research, we didn't know where in the family the disease originated.  My maternal grandfather, according to his death certificate, died from a form of liver cancer.  Since his death some of his daughters either have or are carriers of hemochromatosis which can be genetic and in some forms can cause liver cancer.  We all wonder if he may have had hemochromatosis and if they knew then what doctors know now maybe his death could have been prevented.  Another interesting pattern that emerged through my research was that all my maternal grandmother's family died of some form of heart disease (ranging from heart attacks to congestive heart failure).  All my maternal grandfather's family died from some form of cancer (except 2 - 1 sibling died from a burst appendix and another lived until 106 and passed naturally).  There is lots of thyroid issues in my mom's family as well, however, my paternal grandmother died from complications to chronic thyroiditis.  My point about this paragraph is that genealogy can help you try to avoid illness.  I've been tested for hemochromatosis (and happy to report I'm not a carrier), my heart is good, no cancer, but I am pre-diabetic right now and thyroid issues continue to run in the family.  So I just have to work harder to try to avoid becoming diabetic.  You might be able to help other family members if you see a pattern of disease develop in looking back at your ancestors.

I'm hoping to see a photo of Lillian someday.  Hopefully someone will have a picture of her!!

Johannes "John" Van CAUWENBERGE (52 Ancestors - #26)

Researching my husband's Belgian ancestors feels like a challenge to me because of the language barrier and my inexperience with researching ancestors from other countries.  Thankfully some of the mystery became a little clearer with the help of professional genealogist and friend, Liz Barnett.  It would be wonderful to be able to find the Belgian records of Johannes and Adelaid.  Here is what we know about my husband's x2 great grandfather.

Johannes "John" Van CAUWENBERGE
 b. at Belgium

His name and that of his wife were given in the death record of their son, Emil Van Cauwenberg of Boston, MA. Emil's son, Frank Vann, reported that "John Vann" and his wife, Adelaide Vanderhooten were born in Belgium. No other written record was found showing Emil's parents or where they lived. Although the relationship to Emil is not proven, data from another Belgian-born cigar-maker who may be his brother sheds some light on the Van Cauwenberges origins: When he married Mary Ann Webb in London in 1897, Camille Van Cauwenberge, born around 1867, also gave the name Johannes as his father. This Camille, like Emil, was in the Hackney section of London at the 1901 census (mis-indexed as "Pamil Van Conwenberge"). Unlike Emil, this Camille stayed in London, where he died in 1936,although he did travel at least once to the US: at the 1911 UK census his wife, Mary Ann (Webb) Van Cauwenberge, reported that he was "in America". Happily, before doing so, she wrote on the census form all his age, occupation, etc., and his place of birth: Grammont, Belgium. Since this is the same place that Emil's son, Frank, later gave as his own place of birth, it seems very likely that Emil and Camille were brothers, and both from Grammont, nowadays more commonly called by its Flemish name, Geraardsbergen, in East Flanders. Gramont (or Grammont ) was a well known center of the cigar-making industry. London saw an immigration of such highly skilled cigar makers from Belgium and the Netherlands; some later moved on to Boston and Manchester, NH.

When he married in 1897, Camille Van Cauwenberge reported his father was deceased. Further research might reveal proof of the connection of both Emil and Camille, and possibly other Van Cauwenberges in the US and UK.

As you can see, Liz gives me great direction on where to concentrate my research, especially clarifying the relationship between Camille and Emil.  It is on my "to do" list!  

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Her name was Anty, Anty Boudreau (52 Ancestors - #25)

This family blog would be incomplete if we didn't tell you about Frances Anty Boudreau (1874-1968).  Although I never met Anty I always heard stories of her from the time I was young.  Knowing that my cousin Pat (Sweeney) Cloutier did know her I asked her to write a story for our blog (well she actually offered).  This is Pat's second story in my blog and again she outdid herself and this is what will make this blog a treasure to our future generations.  Thank you so much Pat and here is the story of Anty as told by my cousin:
I begin the tale of my grandmother's sister, Anty, I need to begin with the previous generation. And by the way, Anty is truly her given name, not a play on auntie!

Anty's father was a ship captain, Charles O. Boudreau who resided in Tusket Wedge, Nova Scotia, Canada. He was born in 1843. Sadly, he led a very short life. He died of a brain tumor while he was a patient at a Halifax Hospital in 1886, only 42 and a half years old.

Anty's mother, Johanna, Johanna's brother Robert, and Johanna's father were all emigrating from Ireland when Johanna was only a baby, a matter of months old in about 1857/1858. We do not have  accurate numbers because records were not very specific and nobody was ever very sure about Johanna's age. Johanna's mother died on the way from Ireland to Canada.

This is where Johanna's story gets cloudy. However, since the story was told by Johanna to Anty, Johanna's oldest child, we assume it is fairly accurate. Johanna's father and brother disappeared from the picture. There is conjecture that her brother, Robert, was adopted by a Massachusetts family but we know nothing of the father.  Even a membership to was unable to find any trace of him.

Since Johanna was just a baby she was placed in the care of nuns at an orphanage. When she turned 16 the custom dictated that she should find work and be able to support herself. She was sent to keep house for the priests in Tusket Wedge.  (Years later the name of the village was changed to Wedgeport.) That is where she met her future husband who was fourteen years older than she.  Together they raised seven children. Besides Anty, there were Mary Alice who became my grandmother and mother of eleven children. There was Jeanne born in 1877 about whom we have no information. It's quite possible that she died in infancy. Next was Henry who died at age 24 while fishing off the coast of Maine. Anty's other sister Emma (Ursula Aimée)  died during the flu epidemic in Virginia where she was a nurse. There were two younger brothers, Robert who lived his entire life in Wedgeport and had nine children, and the baby, Terrence who was born and lived in Wedgeport for many years but eventually moved to Meteghan River, several miles up the coast, to be close to his sister, Anty, and his son, Delisle.

Johanna Sheehan and Charles O. Boudreau were married in January of 1873. St Michael's Church, Wedgeport, NS.  Church records show that she was the daughter of Maurice Sheehan and Mary O'Dea. Charles' middle name was Onesippe which was the name he was known by. (“Onesippe” is pronounced own-a-sip, not one-sippy as it looks!)  Sometimes it was written Onesiphore.

Anty, their first born, had a long, interesting and at times difficult life. Her first marriage was to Capt. (Narcisse) Jeremy Pothier. I'd like to inject here that everyone seems to have used their middle names instead of their first name!  They were married May 26, 1897. He was known as Jeremy. He was the thirty-two year old captain of the brig St. Michel and he and all hands were lost in April 1898 (see Narcisse Jeremy Pothier blog from week #22). They were bringing a cargo of salt from the Islands to Argyle (I take “the islands” to mean the Caribbean). Anty was left with an infant son who was only about 3 months old when he died.

Her second husband was Edward Comeau. They were married August 4, 1902. 

Her third husband was Amedee (nicknamed Eddie), brother of Edward. They were married January 29, 1912. He fought in WW1, was wounded and sent to recuperate at an English estate that became a rehabilitation hospital for the  recovery of the needy soldiers (Does that sound familiar to Downton Abbey fans!?).
Amedee and Anty's Marriage Certificate of 1912
She was very well known in the County of Clare, NS. She was the Innkeeper of the old Riverside Inn in Meteghan River for many years. She did all the cooking and “ran a tight ship.” In the summer she took in some of her sister Alice's children. She was responsible for her niece, Grace, attending College in Halifax.

One of the most interesting stories about Anty was the fact that she became friendly with many of the “rum runners” that stayed with her at the Inn. In Prohibition times, the rum runners were the folks who kept busy illegally transporting liquor, mostly from the French-owned islands of St Pierre and Miquelon off the coast of Newfoundland to the Atlantic coast. The same thing was happening from the islands in the rum trade. The illegal liquor trade began after WW1 in the twenties and continued until 1939, just before the beginning of WW2. They had lots of money to spend and Anty had no compunction about hostessing them! “Rum Runners”, that is another story about Nova Scotia in earlier times. I'll save that for another blog story.

In the late forties and early fifties, I remember Anty coming to the Boston area and NH to visit her nieces and their families. She wanted us to save our mending for her when we knew she was coming. She would contentedly sit and sew, humming as she rocked. She did all of us in my generation a huge favor. We got to know a wonderful ambassador of her generation. She regaled us with tales of the “old days”. In fact, she supplied me with extensive information on past generations. I can still see the two of us, sitting at my kitchen table, while she talked late into the night. I not only listened but questioned and scribbled everything for 5 or 6 generations. Thanks to her our family now “knows”relationships and humorous yarns! 

One more thing, about the same time, she and Uncle Eddie spent their winters in Florida. You would wonder if I was dreaming if you knew how frugal she was. They actually traveled there for many winters but always were employed while there. Anty worked as a seamstress in the famous Burdine's Department store. I have no recall about what Uncle Eddie did.
Anty last visited in Mass and NH when she was about 90 years old. She came by bus! She died in her beloved Meteghan River at the age of 94 and was buried in the next town of Saulnierville in the area of Nova Scotia known as the French Shore.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Casimir Bruyneel vs. THE Sam Gompers (52 Ancestors - #24)

Bud had a great grandfather, Casimir Bruyneel, who we feel was a fascinating family member.  He was married to his paternal great grandmother, Emily VanCauwenberg.  
Casimir Bruyneel was born on December 26, 1882, in Belgium.  We are not sure if he was the only child of his parents Alois and Rosalie. It is not quite clear as to when he immigrated from Belgium to the United States.  

One of the first things of interest about Casimir is his last name.  It is unclear if he was born with the name Bruynell or Bruyneel.  My father-in-law, Ken Bruynell, says the last name was Bruynell when he arrived here from Belgium, but due to Casimir's inability to speak clear English whomever the customs officer was either spelled his name incorrectly or one of the "L"s in Bruynell was written small and it was interpreted as a small "e" and therefore the name became Bruyneel.

Shortly after his arrival here is the U.S., he had to marry and underaged Emelie A. VanCouwenberghe and they had one child, Oscar Bruyneel, together in 1905. Like many Belgian men of that error, he was a cigar maker.  We are not sure what transpired, however before Oscar turned 5 years old Casimir had moved on.

In looking at border crossing records it seemed that Casimir made many trips to Canada.  He then married Theresa Mary Batsleer and they had one child together in 1912.
In the process of Casimir building his home, apparently he was unaware he was supposed to use union workers because he worked for the cigar union at the time prior to becoming a poultry farmer. Well, apparently Sam Gompers did not take too kindly to this action and fined him $50. This was a lot of money back in 1915!

Information about Bruyneel, Casimir 1915 Source: Google Story about Casimir vs Sam Gompers

He died on December 30, 1947, in Goffstown, New Hampshire, at the age of 65.

Note:  If I could have just one conversation with Casimir, I would ask about his family, did he have siblings?  Would he tell me why he decided to leave his first family?  Did he arrive in New York or in Boston when he first came from Belgium?  What was going on in Toronto?  Do we have unknown family up there? 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Baby Audrey Nickerson (52 Ancestors - #23)

Many times when we hear various family stories it is all about people who have had long, interesting, robust lives.  Those who briefly brushed our lives deserve mention as they shape some of our family tree.  Growing up my dad often mentioned his sister Audrey.  We heard various stories as to her fate...she was three and died, she fell and died.  He just loved to mention that he had an older sister.  Last Saturday evening we were all out celebrating my milestone birthday and he actually toasted to his sister Audrey who he had never met.

My dad must have heard about his sister from his mom.  When my family tree was first being built Audrey was one of the first ancestors I decided to research because I had heard stories about her.  To my surprise everything I heard was just lore other than the fact that she had died as a young child.

Audrey was born in Boston, MA on February 11, 1933 and didn't even make it to the first flower blooming in spring as she died a little more than a month later of pneumonia.  Her parents were most likely grief stricken at the loss of their only little girl.  No one ever forgot her!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Sea Knows No Mercy: Narcisse Jeremy Pothier (52 Ancestors - #22)

Many of my ancestors were from Nova Scotia, both on my mom and dad's side of our family.  Nova Scotia makes much of its living from fishing and shipping goods.  My vision of fishing is casting a line into a small pond and maybe catching a 5 inch sunfish during the warmest days of summer while dangling my feet off a little red boat pier.  Fishermen from Nova Scotia have a much more realistic vision of fishing which can be during the darkest and coldest days of November and December.  It is not a picnic and it is very life threatening.  Multiply these dangers two-fold before the times of our modern navigating instruments and state of the art life boats and life vests.  This is what many of my male ancestors faced and I've learned that many uncles and cousins lives were claimed by the unmerciful ocean.  One of these people was my great grand uncle (by marriage) Narcisse Jeremy Pothier.

When Narcisse Jeremy Pothier was born on February 19, 1866, in Wedgeport, Canada, his father, Jeremie, was 24 and his mother, Eulalie (LeBlanc), was 25. He had five sisters.  He married Frances Anty Boudreau (my maternal grandfather's maternal aunt) at St. Michael's Parish in Wedgeport, NS on May 26, 1897. Their wedded bliss ended less than a year later when Narcisse died on February 4, 1898, at sea on the Brig St. Michel, at the age of 31.

Below was an article from "The Argus, vol. 9, no. 1, p. 36" that someone passed on to me and it was a poem of commemoration, that writes about Narcisse dying at sea and the pain of his young bride at losing him.  

Sunday, May 25, 2014

I think we're related (What People Talk About)....Natalie Belliveau & Lange Amirault (52 Ancestors - #21)

A few years ago Aunt Mal (Marilyn (Amirault) Lima) passed this 1950's Boston Globe article on to me. Admittedly I've missed placed it and last Wednesday she brought me yet another copy because I want to prove my lineage to these two people. The story of Natalie and Ange is a true beautiful love story that occurred during the exile of the Arcadians from Nova Scotia and it ends so happily.

I've tried to find the article in order to give appropriate credit with no luck.

I'm sure they are my ancestors because I have other Jacques and Ange Amiraults in my maternal grandfather's line. If I go back a bit further I'm sure I'll find the connection. Well, researching this connection will be my summer project!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Harry Amirault - The Perfect Dad (52 Ancestors - #20)

Harry Amirault was my maternal grandfather who I never met because he passed away many years before I was born.  My grandmother, Mary Griffin Amirault, told me so many detailed stories about how wonderful he was and showed us so many photographs of him that I feel that next to her, he is the one I know best!  He should have been one of the first ancestors who I wrote about, but I wanted this story to originate from one of his five daugthters.  His now 83 year old daughter, Geraldine Amirault Mortland (Aunt Geri) was gracious enough to share her memories. Harry must have been the perfect dad because these memories of Harry were of when Aunt Geri was a mere 9 year old! So here are the wonderful memories of her beloved father.

Harry Amirault
"When I remember my father, Harry Lawrence Amirault (also Henri Laurent Amirault - b. 03 June 1901), every memory is a happy one.  He was devoted to my mother, my sisters and me.  In the town where we lived, my parents were well-known and highly respected and thought of.

My 83-year-old memory recalls firstly Dad's taking us all to the beach or a country area for a picnic.  We all wore swimsuits to the beach and his was what was worn by men and boys in that era (1930s) - a one-piece suit that went over the shoulders with shoulder straps.  Ours were the same style.  He tried to teach us to swim but we were not good students at that time.  Perhaps I was three or so.

Being gifted musically to no end, he would tap dance on the hardwood floor for us, play the piano which he played 'by ear' whenever he had a little time, and was also very adept at playing the banjo and fiddle.  He could not read a note of music but when I took piano lessons at age five, he could tell from a different room when I had struck a wrong key.  He headed up a musical band that would practice at our house for playing at weddings and such, and I would sit unseen at the top of our stairs just to listen to him and his fellow musicians play great stuff.

Harry with three of his 5 daughters about 1935
(Joan (L), Marilyn (center) and Geri (R)
Dad came to the USA as a young man, 17 or so, from Pubnico, Nova Scotia, Canada.  His home there was on a dirt road and they lived by the soil with one milking cow.  As a child, he and his father played the music at local dances, his father on the piano and Dad on the fiddle.  After he worked in Virginia at a shipyard for a spell, his cousin Fred, who owned and ran a repair garage which also sold new cars and appliances, gave him a job.  That's when he moved to North Weymouth (MA) and later met Mom at a dance in Boston.  She, too, was full of rhythm and they went dancing every week after that, even after they were married.  That's the only time we had a babysitter, every Friday night.  (married 10 August 1929)

Dad patiently taught me to ride a two-wheel bicycle in the garage.  His nature was such that he didn't get excited when I did the wrong thing, he just corrected me and had me try again.  The lesson was a success.  In our home, my sisters and I never ever heard a cross word spoken, any display of temper, or a cuss-word spoken.  At the time, we didn't realize how blessed we were, but as we matured, it became obvious.  Our kitchen was small, so Mum would feed us supper first so she and Dad could eat together and talk over the day.  While we were at the table, he would come in to Mom greeting him at the kitchen door, lift her off the floor in a hug, and proclaim, "This is MY mama!", to which we would all chime in to say, "No, she's not!  She's OUR mama!"  His Tante (Aunt) Anty once told me that in her life, she had never met a better-natured person than Dad and his sister Grace (who also died young).  I can see why she thought that.

Mary kissing Harry (early 1930s)

In winter, Dad would take Joan and me up to Whitman's Pond in East Weymouth to ice skate.  having grown up with winter sports, he was very good at them.  he had fashioned a huge device made from an indoor stair railing with a strong sail attached, and all you had to do was hang onto the railing, aim the sail, and the wind took us all over the frozen pond!  All the young boys crowded around and Dad always wound up taking them for rides around the pond.  He loved kids, and took us with him whenever he had to drive on an errand.  He was a doll!

Dad learned to pray in French, and every morning after breakfast, just before he left for work, he would kneel, work hat in hand, by a window in the kitchen to say his morning prayers - in French.

Dad had several French-Canadian cousins and friends in the Boston area, so every Sunday afternoon, we were all guests at one of their homes or they came to ours.  mom would dress us in pajamas and our host would offer the big bed to us so we could sleep while they visited and talked.  On going home from a visit, Dad would carry each one of us and place us in the back seat of his big old Dodge, where we slept, and carried each of us to our beds upon arriving home.

While Joan and I were still small, we would flank each side of Dad on the divan (couch), armed with combs, barrettes and ribbons.  We would each work a side of his head and do our thing while he went fast asleep.  He loved it.l  When we were in grammar school, we had to walk past the garage where Dad worked and he would come out to greet us on the way.  it never failed, we always asked him if we could have a penny (for penny candy, plentiful then).  While fishing for pennies in his coveralls, he would say, "For crying out loud, you kids must think pennies grow on trees!" but we got them - every time!!

Harry - I believe while still in Pubnico
My parents were devout Catholics and never missed Mass or Holy Days.  Dad even sang in the choir at St. Jerome's church.  When he became quite ill and was in bed at home, the priests used to come up and spend some time with him catting, etc.  On Sundays, Mom would have us all bathed, shampooed and dressed - in the car - she and we would be waiting for Dad who was probably still shaving.  He used a straight razor and had a strop hanging in the corner behind our white lion-clawed iron tub.

On Sunday mornings, when he didn't have to be at work, I remember his tapping out musical rhythms with his fingernails on the headboard of the bed before he had to get up.

Dad loved and respected his entire family and it was a lesson to me that you start with family and end with family.  Two of his sisters nursed him day and night at home during his worst and final days before passing away (from cancer).  He was part of a very loving family, and a large one at that!  My sisters and I, as did he and Mom, spent some wonderful time with them over the years and now stay in touch with their families.
Harry's obituary - Weymouth News & Gazette - October 10, 1941

Last, but not least, Dad had a great sense of humor and a hearty laugh.  He had a great smile, though photos that we have of him do not show that side of him.  It is a huge pity that his baby daughter Judy never got to know him at all as she was an eight month old infant when the Lord took Dad.  He was only 40 (d. 3 Oct 1941); Mom was 36 and left with five girls to raise, and without the only love of her life (she always said there was no one for her when she had already had the best guy).  He has been so missed.  Tante Augusta, Dad's eldest sister, once said to me of my children, "Wouldn't Harry have loved those boys!"  He died when I was nine."  He really was a perfect dad!

Harry's Prayer Card - 1941
NOTE:  Thank you so much Aunt Geri for your willingness to write about your dad and share it with us! 

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Where is Onesippe? Charles Onesippe Boudreau (52 Ancestors - #19)

Charles Onesippe Boudreau is amongst the missing.  To step back let me give you a little background.  When Charles Onesippe Boudreau was born on August 5, 1843, in Wedgeport, Canada, his father, Felix, was 38 and his mother, Genevieve, was 27. He married Johanna Sheehan on January 20, 1873, in his hometown at St. Michael's RC Church. They had seven children in 11 years.

Some of my aunts and my cousin Pat filled me in in some if his story. He was a ship captain out of Tusket Wedge (Near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia). At some point in 1885 he took sick, ended up in a "mental hospital" and rumor had it that he died from a brain tumor. Our trail stopped there.

In 2012 my aunts, a cousin and I decided to take a road trip to visit family in Dartmouth and Middle East Pubnico, Nova Scotia. While we were up there my Aunt Marilyn and I visited the Nova Scotia Archives (NSA) in Halifax hoping to discover where we might find Onesippe's grave. NSA was quite a place and it was not from a lack of resources that we were unable to find out what happened to my x2 great grandfather. We were just not looking in the right place.

Fast forward a few aunt hired a professional genealogist from Halifax, NS to see if they might have better luck. Well did they ever. We now have his patient file from Mount Hope Asylum in Dartmouth.

He died in February 1886 in Dartmouth, Canada, at the age of 42.  The whereabouts of where he was buried remains a mystery to this day!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Thomas Nickerson - The Very First (52 Ancestors - #18)

While in Cleveland last week I noticed they had quite a grand cemetery.  It was so beautiful as we drove past I texted a close friend who knows my tree as well as she knows her own and I asked her if I had any relatives buried in Cleveland as I so wanted a reason to go poking around the stones.

Prior to starting to REALLY research my family I knew of The Nickerson Family Association ( located in Chatham, Massachusetts.  It has been a wonderful resource for me as they assisted me in identifying my lines to the Mayflower (Steven Hopkins) and to the Daughters of the American Revolution.  My Uncle Joe had their original black binders of all Nickerson's (there were about six of them).  That publication morphed into encyclopedic books that are worth their weight in gold.  I have two of the books detailing the various lines and they are now in the process of writing additional books.  My only regret is that the Association is located quite a distance from my home.  The bonus is that their website is pretty robust and they are very responsive when you write.

The Nickerson Family "Encyclopedia"

Their first book, "The Nickerson Family: Parts 1-3" really gives great information about how the Nickerson name evolved as well as the meaning of the name.  They have old maps in the book, some pen and ink photos, a great Nickerson shield and a well researched family genealogy.

The book talks about my 12th great grandfather Thomas Nickerson and it states:  "Thomas Nickerson born in Norwich, England about 1515 was a plaintiff in Chancery in 1568.  He was buried at St. John's Timberhill, Norwich, February 25, 1584-5.  He married MARGARET RUDD, daughter of Richard of Norwich; issue, a son" whose name was also Thomas.   

NOTE:  If you are a Nickerson who is even remotely interested in genealogy, The Nickerson Family Association is very much worth joining and their books are a great buy.  The Association has a reunion each year which I'm looking forward to attending soon.  It looks like great fun.  When I was down there researching my family last fall I met one woman who was my 7th AND my 8th cousin and another person who was my 8th cousin!  How cool, right!? 

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Fukkers (52 Ancestors - #17)

This week is going to be short, sweet and a slight repeat!  Here I am sitting in Cleveland for work and under the gun because it is 8:28pm on Tuesday evening and I only have until midnight to get my 52 Ancestors blog in for this week.  I've been struggling about who I should write about this week.  I even posted on my Face Book asking for suggestions.  Then it hit me, I'm going to write about Harry Jones.

Harry Jones was the third husband of Emily VanCauwenberge, and my husband Bud's great step grandfather.  I've already mentioned him in my earlier story about Emily, but unless you read it closely, you may have missed Harry's original last name was not always Jones.

Harry Jones was born in London. According to my professional genealogist, Liz Barnett, who helped me with this particular person, "despite his British name, Harry was the son of Dutch parents, Hendrikus and Johanna (Versluis) Fukker, who at his birth were living in the Mile End Old Town section of London's East End. Young Harry had arrived in New York with his mother and several siblings in February 1903 from Liverpool on the SS "Umbria", joining his father, a cigar-maker born in Rotterdam in 1872. The Fukkers had married and had a first child in Holland before moving to England, where several of their children were born from 1896-1901. Harry's birth (as Henry Fukker) was registered in 1898. The elder Henry Fukker moved to Boston in August 1902, preceding his family. Given their similar origins and profession it is very likely the two families, [the VanCauwenberges and Fukkers] knew each other in England and certainly in Boston. By 1910 the Fukkers (or Jones as they were called in the census, though still Fukker in the Boston City Directory) lived in the 14th Ward, on Burnham Place. Harry's father formally changed the family name when he applied for US citizenship in 1915; as a minor, Harry was included in Henry's naturalization."

Harry married Emelie in 1918 and by the laws of the time, she automatically became a US citizen, and never had to apply in her own right. At the 1940 census Emelie (now Emily) and Harry lived in South Boston on East Fifth St.; Harry worked as a driver for a coal company. In their household was their son, Harry, Jr. aged 12, and Emily's widowed son, Oscar Bruynell (here confusingly called Harry's "son-in-law" and named Oscar "Brown"). 

Harry, died of heart disease in November 1963 while living at 48 Newport St. in Dorchester.

Note:  I'm guessing Harry's dad must have had the same problems and some snickers with his name both in London and here in Boston.  Even back at the turn of the century when you would think there may have been a little more decorum.  Harry 's family must have some stories to tell if they were here today.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Catharine "Joe" Leggett - A Spicy 1920s Love Story (52 Ancestors - #16)

After telling Oliver's story last week my mom's cousin Dotti dropped me a note saying that one of my future stories needed to be about "Joe" Leggett. She went on to tell me about my maternal great grand aunt, Catherine Josephine Leggett (aka "Joe). After reading what Dotti told me about her, I felt an urgency to write about Joe and I thought that there is no time like the present!!

Catharine Josephine Leggett was born on a cold Boston, January day in 1885 to William and Honora (Marnell) who were immigrants from St. John's, Newfoundland. She grew up with at least two sisters, Elizabeth (my maternal great grandmother) and Mary as well as two brothers, James and William. Catharine was second youngest.

Many knew her by "Joe" Leggett, including my cousin, my mom and my aunts.  It is not clear when she adopted her nickname.  As of the 1920s US Census, Joe was living with her sister Mary, brother-in-law John McDonough and her mother Honora on Second Street in South Boston.  She listed herself as a machine operator in a hosiery factory.  When asking folks what she was like or what she looked like, they all fondly remembered her being a tall thin woman with strawberry blond hair.  She was quite likeable and lived around the corner from my grand aunt Cassie (Griffin) Hurl.  From what I hear she loved to dress to the nines!  Wish I had a photo!!
1920 Census Listing the Leggetts (snippet taken from my tree in

This is where the story gets interesting!  According to my cousin Dotti, "Joe was the first forelady (aka: female foreman) in a stocking factory on B Street in Southie."  I tried to find a photo or the name of the factory with no luck.  Apparently a female foreman was unheard of for the time!  She was a modern woman of the 1920s, listed as single in the 1920s census, but not for long!

At some time between 1920-1924 Joe had an affair with a married man, Francis (Frank) Leo Cotter, who had an upper management job at the hosiery factory. He was so smitten with Joe that he decided to divorce his wife and marry her.  They were still married in the 1930s and 1940s US census and without children.  It did not seem that he was working as of the 1940's census and it showed that he was several years younger than Joe.

Sadly, Joe died in 1949.  I'm not sure of the cause of her death, but as any good genealogist would do, I'll research the death certificate next time I visit the Vital Records Office here in Boston.  

Note: If Joe were alive today, I would want to know what it was like to be a female foreman back in the 1920s.  I'm pretty sure her pay was not that of her male counterparts.  I would also like to know what happened to Frank's first wife and children.  Today families of divorced parents can find a way to get along for the sake of their children, but I wonder if that was the culture back then??  If anyone has photos of the B Street Factory or where I might be able to find that building, please email me at  I would especially like to thank my cousin Dotti (Hurl) Cucinatta for her contributions to this story!!

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Oliver Amirault - He Died Where?!? (52 Ancesters - #15)

"He died where?!?" Was my initial thoughts and maybe (ok definitely) a few chuckles. This sad tragedy got me thinking about my family whom I've always had the impression that they were perfect.  Every last one of them.  Since starting my exploration of my family history and some more reflection, I've decided that yes, indeed, my family is perfect because they are my family.  Events that happened in the past, such as unwed mothers or alcoholics, were simply hidden or not talked about in the family.  Someone who was close to the family probably didn't know what I know today as hindsight is 20/20. These same unfortunate situations now have more acceptance today as well as social support.  We are so lucky to live in today's day and age in many ways.  We are also fortunate to know the person behind these unfortunate situations was really a good person.

With all this said, my 1st cousin (x2 removed) Oliver Joseph MALONE Amirault was one of those unfortunate souls and I would like to honor him by writing his story. As you can see from his photo he looked quite distinguished and handsome.

Oliver Joseph MALONE Amirault
courtesy of Lea d'Entremont 

Oliver was born October 21st, 1894 in Pubnico, Nova Scotia. As you may recall from my previous posts, Pubnico is a very small fishing village about 25 miles from Yarmouth. It is my understanding that there were many dirt roads up that way up until the late 1920s. My mom and aunts remember visiting there many summers as children during the 1940s. Many families had their own cows, pigs and chickens.  If nature called, my mom said she would have to brave her way through the barn yard animals to get to the smelly outhouse. On Sunday one of the villagers would put wooden benches in the back of their truck and drive around the village collecting a coin to drop them safely at Immaculate Conception Church which was located on the east side of Pubnico.

Most of my Canadian family were called by their middle names, however, friends and family called Oliver by his nick name, MALONE.  In looking back at the name for that era, I'm thinking maybe he was good at playing baseball as a youngster and was named after a famous baseball player of the 1920s? 

In 1915 he traveled to the U.S., according to border-crossing documents, and lived in Boston for some time.  As of, June, 1917, he listed himself as short and slender with blue eyes and brown hair when he registered for the WWI draft.  He listed his occupation as "painter".  I'm not sure if it was while he was in the "States" or when he returned to Pubnico, that he took a liking to his moonshine. 

According to his niece, Lea d'Entremont (who helped me last week with Laurie Amirault)
"Uncle Malone was somewhat of an alcoholic and he was living in the homestead with Ernest [his brother] and Alma [his sister-in-law] and of course Alma was always growling at him because of his drinking. One day he was at a store and this lady asked about Alma and he answered "if ever she gets ill and asks for a drink, she'll be mighty thirsty before I bring her a drink!"  He drank but he was not always 'drunk' and I guess he was very comical. I just remember seeing him a couple of times before he left Pubnico. One of those times was one Easter day.  Mom looked out the window and said to dad, 'here comes Oliver and he seems to be sober.' He [Oliver] came inside and after they talked a bit dad offered him a drink!! I'll never understand that move as long as I live, to me it didn't make any sense at all and it still doesn't. I was only 4 or five at that time but I remember it very well." Lea goes on to write that "After he left Pubnico he worked in the Annapolis Valley as a painter for years and never came back home."

According to his death certificate he was missing from May 14th, 1955 until they found him on May 25th, 1955.  The excerpt below, from his death certificate states "This man disappeared May 14/55.  Found dead in a water closet May 25/55.  No evidence of external injury.  Death due to 1. coronary thrombosis [heart blockage], 2 or cerebral hemorrhage [bleed in brain], 3 or subarachnoid hemorrhage [bleed in spine?]."  Yes, my cousin died in an outhouse and was there 11 days before anyone found the chap.  Poor Oliver was brought back home to Pubnico to be buried but it was a closed casket.
So this is Oliver's story.  He traveled, worked, was a funny guy, never married but had lots of family as well as a sad alcohol addiction.  Oliver will be remembered and appreciated just because he was my cousin and he was perfect in my book!

NOTE: Thank you again to Lea d'Entremont for her contributions to Oliver's story and the photo of her Uncle "Malone".  Oliver never married and I wonder if he had married if maybe he would have avoided the hooch and may have been found in the outhouse sooner.  If AA was available to him maybe this unfortunate ending could have been avoided?? 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Laurie Amirault - a Man's Man! (52 Ancesters - #14)

Blogging about ancestors has proved not only a mechanism for me to learn about the person who I'm writing about, but I'm also meeting new people to whom I didn't even realize I was related!  Over the past few weeks I've been a pen pal with my "new" second cousin (x1 removed), Lea d'Entremont from West Pubnico, Nova Scotia.  If I was not working on this blog we may have never met, even electronically.  A few years ago we visited Pubnico, however, when my aunts and cousin visited Lea, I was researching family (with some of the most helpful nicest ladies around) at the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos in West Pubnico, Nova Scotia (  Lea has been kindly sharing photos of her parents, uncles and grand parents for the last few weeks.  She also sent me a wonderful family tree with names, dates of birth, marriage and deaths.  This week I decided to write about my Great Grand Uncle Laurie who was Lea's grandfather.  

When Joseph Levi LAURIE Amirault was born on October 8, 1861, in Pubnico, Canada, both his father, Marc and his mother, Rosalie, were 28. He was the oldest of five children (of whom I'm aware).  Many of my ancestors in Pubnico went by their middle names, however, I'm not sure how the name LAURIE came to him. 

He married Rose ADELINE on January 11, 1893, at Immaculate Conception Parish in Middle East Pubnico. Because Pubnico was such a small fishing village at that time, clergy was not always available all the time to perform nuptials for those in the village wishing to get married.  Another reason was because the men were busy fishing usually late into the fall. 

Laurie and Laurent (Laurence) wedding announcement -
Courtesy of Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos (copy made 6/7/2012)
Laurie and "Deline" had eight children during their marriage.  One of their children was Bernice and Lea is her youngest daughter.  Here's where the "man's man" part comes in...According to Lea, a story she heard her mom Bernice tell about her father Laurie was that one day he got together with the boys in the neighborhood and had a little too much to drink so he went to the barn to throw up and the horse kicked him in the face!  When Laurie got back to the house he told them what had happened and his wife "Deline" didn’t dare laugh outright because he was kind of grumpy at  the time but every so often she couldn’t hold back her laughter and he heard her laugh.  The next day he told the story to his friends saying that his wife “Deline” would burst out laughing thinking he didn’t hear her.  Lea said there’s a name for it in French but she didn’t know how to translate. 

Lea went on to say Laurie was always kind of a serious guy, never played with his kids like her father did with them but he was a good man.  I think it is because they probably lived a hard life up there in the little village.

Laurie died on October 8, 1930, in Pubnico, Canada, at the age of 69.

I'm forever grateful to Lea for sharing her story with me and the photos.

NOTE:  Apparently all photos that existed of Laurie and Deline were tossed after their death by a nephew.  I ache thinking of the genealogical goldmine of information that is now lost in time.  If he were alive today I'd most likely ask what type of wedding celebration he and his brother shared (was there one?).  Also, I would have him smile for the camera and say cheese!

Friday, March 28, 2014

An Unexpected Email is like a Great Gift - Shaws (52 Ancestors - #13)

The hobby of Genealogy to me is like an insatiable obsession. A day does not pass that I don't look up one if my ancestors in my tree, scout around for a "new" vintage photo, ask relatives for information or surf the net for any clues to where our family originated. Family research is like assembling an endless puzzle or trying to investigate a mystery that might never be solved. Admittedly I've been blessed by many friends and family around me who have been able to provide memories, stories, and advice for my quest to family research. Some of the people who have been my biggest role models are my dear friend Patty S., long lost cousin Tom G., new cousin Trooper Bob, cousin Pat C., friend Jean, and Aunt Mal to name a few. However, on occasion people come out of nowhere to help a stranger.  I've had the pleasure of a stranger coming out of the woodwork this week to help me.  Earlier this week I was doing my usual poking around websites to find anything I could about my husband's Shaw family.  In my search I found an a friendly, robust genealogy site for those seeking information about ancestors from the Grand Banks of Newfoundland,  It had a virtual bulletin board where I could post a note saying I was looking for Shaws from Little Heart's Ease and Brendan responded to my post!  Here is what he said via a personal email to me:

Hi Karen
I saw your posting on the Grand Banks site and decided that I had to reply. My name is Brendan Doyle and I live in xxx, Newfoundland. My family came from nearby Grates Cove which is just across the bay from Little Heart's Ease in Trinity Bay. I am not a genealogist but I have been researching families of my area for quite some time now and the Shaw's come into my search because they were originally from Grates Cove. If you look at a map of our area you will notice that Grates Cove is located at the tip of a peninsula and right on the bountiful fishing grounds of Baccalieu Island. In the early 1800's it was a very inhospitable place especially in winter and it appears that it was quite common for many residents to move across the Bay to the more sheltered areas like Little Heart's Ease. Some settled permanently while others made it their winter living area because of the availability of plenty of firewood. Many would come back to Grates Cove for the summer months to carry on their fishing.
The Shaw surname dates back to at least 1800 in Grates Cove. James Shaw married Tamar Blundon from Bay de Verde about 1805 (no marriage date found) and had George in 1805, James 1816, John abt. 1818, Stephen 1824 and Anne in 1831. Your James Daniel (1886) line descends from Stephen who had a son Daniel in February 1859 by Hannah Duggan of Grates Cove (no marriage date found). It seems that this Daniel moved across the bay where he married Catherine Frances Flynn of Southport, Random Island on 6 Nov 1883 at Little Heart's Ease (Witnesses Thomas and Margaret Shaw). They had James Daniel 1886, William George 1887, Daniel Francis 1891 and Michael Thomas in 1892. Daniel is one of those who made the trip back to Grates Cove because their son Daniel Francis died there 3 June 1892 age 1 year and is buried in the RC Cemetery. 

This information is a gold mine and how nice was Brendan to go out of his way to email me this information!?  I'm certainly eternally grateful to him for this wonderful email.

As I mentioned, I did find the website and was perusing through the posts to see the various topics.  One person asked why so many Newfoundlanders moved to Boston and Edward gave the following explanation:

Emigration from Newfoundland to Massachusetts involved the push-pull factor.  From the 1850s until Confederation in 1949 life in Newfoundland was difficult.  Boston was the "Athens" of the New World, the epitome of culture, education, and opportunity.  By 1925 there were roughly 40,000 Newfoundlanders in the greater Boston area. They had their own newspaper, churches, and stores.

What is particularly fascinating is the impact of religion on emigration.  Catholic Newfoundlanders settled in South Boston, Gloucester, or Cambridge.  However Protestant Newfoundlanders tended to settle north of Boston in places like Chelsea, Everett, Malden, etc...

If you visit the old cemeteries in Newburyport or Gloucester many of the headstones say "a native of Newfoundland" or "a native of Carbonear" which is very interesting because the emigrant's family is embracing Newfoundland as an identity rather than merely being English or Irish in origin.  (Link to post:

Another member, Eileen (enobe), went on to say the following about hardships our ancestor's children experienced in Newfoundland which may have been another reason for the great emigration:
Starvation probably was a reason why many moved away. I hesitated to mention this before because I thought that maybe the people in my little area of NFLD weren't doing something right. While going through the death registers, I noticed that many young children had died of "marasmus". I'd never heard of that so I looked it up, then cried.  It means malnutrition and/or starvation usually ending in death. Often occurring in third world countries. Can you imagine the horror of losing a child that way, no wonder so many left.
Note: This week I've found a wonderful website and even better, a super email!  This goes to show you, never give up your search.  Something will eventually give!!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Emiel: From Geraardsbergen to Boston (52 Ancestors, #12)

This week we are going to get to know Emiel VanCauwenberg, not to be confused with Emily, Emiel’s daughter, who I wrote about a few weeks back.  Emiel was born in Geraardsbergen, Flanders, Belgium on March 20, 1866.  What makes this week different is that I do not have any photos of Emiel which is a first.  Many thanks to my friend and professional genealogist, Liz Barnett, for her amazing talent in composing this story basically from researching documents and her vast historical knowledge.  Everyone needs help from time to time and what makes “Getting to Know You” such a great blogging experience is all the help I’ve received from family and friends.  Contributions from family, friends and professional genealogists is so necessary and will make any budding genealogist’s work more enriching, exciting and successful!  So here is what Liz told me about Emiel…

Geraardsbergen, Belgium

The first record found for Emiel was the 1901 English census, which found him and his family living in the Hackney section of London, where Emiel worked as a cigar-maker. The family was still there in February 1902, when they welcomed daughter Mary Willhemina Van Cauwenberge (birth record 1902 Q2 v. 1b, p. 459, Hackney Registration District). Emiel left for the US soon after, arriving in New York on the SS "New York" from Southampton on July 5, 1903. He was described then as a married cigar-maker, aged 37, born in Belgium and of Flemish nationality, heading to a friend in Boston. Emiel was part of a wave of skilled Belgian and Dutch cigar-makers who came to Boston and other US cities in the late 19th and early 20th century. Their presence upset other cigar-makers, whose union protested their influx, feeling they did not support the established unions. So many Belgians came to Boston that they formed a "Belgian Union" in 1907, and later a federation to support their countrymen at home in the wake of WWI.
Cigar maker photo

Emiel's wife, the Netherlands-born Marie Wilhelmina Feller or Filler, followed Emiel with their children, arriving at NY on the SS "Kroonland" on June 7, 1904. (The purser's handwriting is so difficult to decipher that the surname was transcribed as "Coreabey" by the Ancestry indexers, and "Covebeity" by the indexers at Ellis Island's website.) The "Kroonland"'s passenger list shows Mary, "Alina", Frank, and little Mary were heading to "Emil", then living at 34 Highland St. in Chelsea, Mass.  Daughter Emelie was not listed with them, and may have arrived earlier or perhaps was inadvertently omitted from the list; in 1905 she married fellow-immigrant Casimir Bruyneel, who also lived on Highland St., at #93.
Emiel found work in Boston as a cigar-maker, and by 1910 the family was settled in South Boston. Emiel's English was apparently good enough that he also worked as an interpreter for the Immigration Service.  They later moved to Dorchester, where Emiel and his wife raised their four children and at least 2 grandchildren. Although in 1920 Emiel claimed to have started the naturalization process, no record was found of his becoming an American citizen. At the 1940 census (in which he was named as "Amiel Vann"), his wife told the census taker that Emil had submitted the initial papers for naturalization but neither was yet a citizen. She and her husband then lived at 155 L St. in Boston, along with a great-grandson, Robert "Burnell", aged 14 (elder son of their widowed grandson, Oscar Bruynell). 

Emiel died of a cerebral thrombosis in the Boston City Hospital in 1943. He was buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery in West Roxbury (under the name Vann), as was his wife in 1957; their daughter Helena (Van Cauwenberge) Stephan, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic, is also there.  The informant for his death record was his son, Frank H. Vann, who said that his father's parents were "John Vann" and "Adelaide Vanderhooten", both born in Belgium.
Grave at St. Joseph’s Cemetary in W. Roxbury
The naturalization petition of Emiel's son, Frank, said he was born in "Grammont, Oost Flanderen" (East Flanders); Frank's WWII draft card also said he was born in "Gramont, Belgium", today more commonly known with its Flemish name, as Geraardsbergen, Flanders, Belgium. When Frank died in 1950 his death record said that Frank's's father was born in Brussels, but the informant was not a family member and may have been mistaken; Geraardsbergen is 23 miles from Brussels.  A logical place to look for Emiel's birth would be Geraardsbergen or one of the villages nearby. Frank gave a very specific age for his father at death: "77 years, 1 month, 10 days"; the year corresponds exactly with Emiel's age on arrival in the US in 1903.

Note:  If I could have a conversation with Emiel today of course I would like to find out more about his family in Belgium.  It must have been difficult for him to move from Belgium to London to Boston in a short span of time – what was it like to live in three different cultures?