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).


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