Saturday, June 15, 2013

Musical Memories


With this being Father’s Day weekend, I’m reminiscing about my Dad today.   One thing that amazes me is how seemingly inconsequential things that he said during my time with him have stuck in my brain, although at the time I didn’t understand where they came from - I just figured it was Dad being Dad. Since he passed though, I occasionally will hear them in their original context and finally piece together the bits and have a wonderful “aha moment.”

My Dad 

An example of this is whenever we would see a goldenrod flowering, typically in mid-July when the early goldenrods would flower, he would hum “summer’s almost gone, winter’s coming on.”  To this day, I can’t see a goldenrod without hearing him sing that line in my head.   Until recently I never knew that he was actually quoting a line from the Kingston Trio’s song “Gotta Travel On.”  It is interesting to me to see how the meaning was changed in Dad’s mind, being more of a lament about the passing of summer and the coming of winter instead of a young man’s need to travel.

I enjoy such moments as I realize Dad was an audio sponge (just like I am) and its really cool for me to be transported back to the 1940's, 50’s or 60’s through a random memory of a jingle he'd sing as an older man.

In memory of dear ol’ Dad, here’s a video of Gotta Travel On, although I’ll take a little creative license and link y’all to a Bob Dylan cover of it which I enjoy more.

Happy Father's Day all! 

Saturday, February 2, 2013

A Most Unexpected Find

Well, I'm very pleased to say one of my most persistent brick walls has been broken through! (trumpets, fanfare, release the hounds!).  The death record of Louis-Henri Boudreau (great great grandfather) has been found.

Before going into the details, I'll admit it. I got lucky on this one. Like “dumb luck” lucky.

O.K. here's the backstory:

I've been wanting to know the death date for Louis-Henri Boudreau for forever and a day it seems. Years ago when I first got started in genealogy and learned that my tree went through New Brunswick, I contacted a local researcher in New Brunswick and gave her the few known details.  Soon the pedigree chart was sent back, filled in with lots of intriguing names and dates, but also with lots of blanks. As the empty spaces were attempted to be filled in, especially regarding Louis-Henri, a lack of publicly available records became apparent. I wrote letters (this was before email was really in vogue!) to the local Catholic Church and after waiting weeks for a response, came up mostly empty. About this time good information on my other lines was becoming available and soon this was placed on the back burner, with the thought that a road trip to New Brunswick was in order eventually.

So, a number of years later, I hopped into my car and headed to northeast New Brunswick with visions of finally being able to learn more about this and my other Acadian genealogical research brick walls.

At the end of the day I rolled into little (pun intended) Petit Rocher, where my ancestors spent generations living and working off the land, and immediately felt at home. It may have been the warm hellos and smiles from the locals or something more innate deep within me responding to the gorgeous, seemingly familiar landscape, but I instantly fell in love with the place and felt fairly confident more would be known soon regarding ancestors who lived in this landscape for so long.

The picturesque Chaleur Bay, Petit Rocher, New Brunswick, Canada.

After a good night's sleep I walked from my motel to the imposing, yet beautiful church in the middle of town. The administrator generously made time to sit down and go through the various record requests. Unfortunately, we kept striking out. What few records were found, were uncharacteristically lacking in detail for French Catholic records. After years of researching Quebecois ancestors and being amazed at how easy it was to learn a lot of wonderful detail in almost a blink of an eye, I was amazed at when records were found, at how little they contained. The person helping with the records confirmed that was typical of New Brunswick church records in that area from the 1800's and before.

Being a little crestfallen, I decided to try the local church cemetery in Petit Rocher and other neighboring towns, where it is assumed most of my local ancestors are probably buried.  I was shocked to see many “empty” spaces in the cemetery.  Later it was learned that because the families were so poor, wooden crosses were almost always used instead of expensive stone markers, which of course rotted away and were usually not replaced, which has led to a vast majority of the older graves being unmarked.

The wooden cross in the foreground, was a typical grave marker for many Acadians.

Well, after that experience, I honestly kind of gave up on finding out more about my more immediate Acadian ancestors, feeling that a visit to the New Brunswick Provincial Archives in Fredericton, NB was ultimately needed.  Occasionally online records via Ancestry.com and FamilySearch.org would be checked, but frankly a lot of time wasn't invested as the thought was that the records just weren't there.

Fast forward to a couple of days ago. I had waaaay too much caffeine and was spending some time tooling around on FamilySearch.org.  Now, I'm not sure exactly how the thought process went, but it suddenly dawned on me like a sledgehammer that, perhaps, Louis-Henri immigrated to the U.S. instead of dying in New Brunswick as had always been assumed.  Ancestry.com was quickly searched for Maine death records under Louis-Henri Boudreau and when a record for a Henry Boudreau in Brewer topped the list of hits, I was gobsmacked.  Brewer was where my great grandparents Alexandre Roy and his wife Melantine Boudreau (Louis-Henri's daughter) initially settled when they arrived in the U.S. in 1903, before moving to Lewiston. Lo and behold, his parental and other information matched to a tee.  It was his death record. 

 The only photo I have of Louis-Henri's daughter Melantine Boudreau.  I have no photos of Louis-Henri.

Of course, I was (and am) utterly embarrassed to have not thought of this 20 some odd years ago. It was so logical and at the least, it should have been ruled out. C'est la vie!  That's probably why after all these years I still love genealogy. Being simultaneously unexpectedly delighted and deeply humbled, is always a good thing.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Late To My Own Party...

Well, today is my first birthday, in blog years that is.   It's hard to believe it has already been one year since I wrote my first words here.   Seeing it is the new year and all, I have a resolution to write more on my blog.  In fact, seeing today is my blogiversary and I'm just getting around to scratching a few meager words out is evidence I need to put more time into blogging. 

Anyhow, all guilt aside, I want to thank all of my readers who have tuned in my blog and for continuing to support me with words of encouragement.   I look forward to continue to share with and learn from the wonderful genealogy community.

Now, I'm off to find some cake...

Mike

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Allagash Journeys

In early December of 2012 I joined my long-time friend Steve on a trip to the Allagash region of the North Maine Woods. Our destination was Round Pond in T7 R14, where we set out to do a little exploration and early winter camping.

Camping on Round Pond

The Allagash and especially Round Pond have a deep significance in my life, in part as I first visited the area about 30 years ago and have continued to venture there over the years. However, part of the bond that ties me to that area is because of the connection my Dad had to the area.

Starting in the 1950’s he and his closest friends, appropriately named the Allagash Travelers, would set off to the North Maine Woods on adventures. Back in the day, it was a significant journey for them to get there. From Lewiston-Auburn Richard Merriam, his brother Babe, Marsh Emery and my Dad would drive up to Greenville, have a pilot fly them and boxes of heavy gear into Caucomgomoc Lake. From there they would paddle up Ciss Stream, then the length of Round Pond, up Poland Stream, around the Poland Pond dam, and then make one last lengthy paddle through the long and sinuous Poland Pond before finally making camp on a little piece of land simply called “The Island”. After making a meal and setting up camp, which included cutting fir boughs for their "mattresses", they had little time before night fell. As Dad often said, "at the end of the day no one had to rock us to sleep.”

The Island, Poland Pond

For years he continued to go to the area with the Allagash Travelers. In the 1970’s when roads became more plentiful up there, he and his friends would make the long trip through a series of dirt roads shared with logging trucks. They eventually settled on Round Pond as their base, from which they explored and fished countless ponds and lakes in the area.

Dad (on the right) and his best friend Richard Merriam

Once his friends were no longer able to make the trip, he continued to go with family and other close friends, including Richard Merriam’s grandson Rick Aspinall whose love of the area led to him becoming a Registered Maine Guide.

Dad at Round Pond, late 1990's

No matter what, Dad would always want to go up to the Allagash. It held an almost spiritual place in his mind, a reverence which he passed onto me. Besides the wonderful times had there, and there were many, it always held a special allure to him, in part I think because of its remoteness and of the effort needed to get there. You had to want to get there.

Today, while a much easier trip than in years past, it still takes about 6 hours to drive to Round Pond from Lewiston on a series of dust-covered roads. As Steve and I rode throughout the area, my mind was alternating between wonderful memories of my Dad and already planning future trips. Indeed the Allagash is still a place worthy of a journey.

Sunrise at Round Pond





Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Getting Ready for a Genealogical Road Trip...

I'm in the midst of preparing for a research trip down to Boston, Massachusetts to look for the gravestones of my 3rd great grandparents: John Randall and Louisa Bryant Randall. I’m pretty excited about it as for years upon years I had no idea where they were buried. I tried numerous times to locate a death certificate that actually listed the burial place, but none of the death records I found had that precious nugget of information. Finally, I learned that the City of Boston kept death records with burial places versus State records which often omitted that information during that time period. After numerous attempts at obtaining the City record, at long last I received a certificate from the City of Boston complete with a bright red seal of authenticity that revealed John’s final resting place. Yeehaw, paydirt at last!

According to John’s death certificate, he was buried in “Bunker Hill, New br gnd” in Charlestown, Mass. on August 29, 1881, having died on the 27th. So based on that tantalizing piece of information, my first inkling was, well he has to be buried at the Bunker Hill Burial Ground. It made sense to me as the family lived just down the street on Baldwin Street for decades and was living at 375 Bunker Hill Street when John passed away in 1881.

So, in anticipation of my upcoming road trip I called to have the Bunker Hill Burial Ground opened for me and while on the phone I asked the very helpful person if the cemetery was ever called the “New Burial Ground”. She wasn’t sure but suggested I contact the Archdiocese of Boston as they might have more info. So, another phonecall was made and they did a search of the records they had for Saint Francis de Sales Cemetery, which is located at 303 Bunker Hill Street. They didn’t find John or Louisa listed, but did find their infant son John C. Randall who died in 1843. His death record listed him as buried in the “new part”. Hmmm… It certainly seems plausible to me that they might be buried in the same cemetery as their infant son. So, based on that I’m checking out St. Francis de Sales Cemetery first and then perhaps Bunker Hill Burial Ground.

Here's hoping their gravestones are still intact and readable. Wish me luck!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Old Settlers Burial Field, Lancaster, Massachusetts

Thanks to recent posts by Bill West, Pam Carter and Heather Rojo, I decided to explore more about an ancestral line of mine I had not delved into much to date: John Prescott & Mary Gawkroger of Lancaster, Massachusetts. John and Mary are my 10th Great Grandparents and I descend from them on my mother’s matrilineal line, which has several lines going back to colonial times.

With the help of Find-a-Grave I located that John and Mary were buried in the Old Settlers Burial Field in Lancaster, Massachusetts. So, Sunday morning at the crack of dawn I left home off on a genealogical road trip down to Lancaster to explore this cemetery.

The Old Settlers Burial Field is not an easy place to find unless you know what you’re looking for. It is located in the back of Middle Cemetery off Main St, itself being a beautiful old cemetery with a multitude of large, ornate markers.


Once you’re in Middle Cemetery, go to the upper left-hand corner of the cemetery and look for a path leading to the railroad tracks. From there walk left until you see graves across the tracks perched within a hilltop forested glade.

Once within the burial ground, I had such a sense of peace. Large trees are scattered amongst the graves and the stones themselves blend in with nature as if they have always been there.

Indeed, most of the graves are from the late 1600’s to the early 1800’s and have been here for a very long time. I easily located John & Mary’s grave near the back of the cemetery which had numerous old worn-down stones which were barely readable, but over which a large dark gray marker installed more recently loomed:

"HERE WITH HIS CHILDREN ABOUT HIM LIES JOHN PRESCOTT, FOUNDER OF LANCASTER AND FIRST SETTLER OF WORCESTER COUNTY. BORN AT STANDISH, LANCASHIRE, ENGLAND, DIED AT LANCASTER, MASSACHUSETTS, DEC. 1681 .INSPIRED BY THE LOVE OF LIBERTY AND THE FEAR OF GOD,THIS STOUT-HEARTED PIONEER ,FORSAKING THE PLEASANT VALES OF ENGLAND,TOOK UP HIS ABODE IN THE UNBROKEN FOREST AND ENCOUNTERED WILD BEAST AND SAVAGE TO SECURE FREEDOM FOR HIMSELF AND HIS POSTERITY. HIS FAITH AND VIRTUES HAVE BEEN INHERITED BY MANY DESCENDANTS WHO IN EVERY GENERATION HAVE WELL SERVED THE STATE IN WAR, IN LITERATURE, AT THE BAR, IN THE PULPIT, IN PUBLIC LIFE AND IN CHRISTIAN HOMES."



Unfortunately many of the stones are now unreadable due simply to wear over the hundreds of years since the markers were installed. Some though are still readable and reflect different styles of gravestones depending upon the era in American history.





On my way back to my car, I perused Middle Cemetery and located the gravestones of my 6th great grandparents Captain Daniel Rugg and Elizabeth Divoll.



I hope to visit this cemetery again, not only for its history, but as this is one of the most beautiful cemeteries I've visited.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Conference Keepers - New Genealogy Conference Website

I just have to share a website I recently learned about through my ProGen Group (special thanks to Terri O'Connell of Finding Our Ancestors).

For a while now I've been searching for ONE place that has ALL of the various genealogy conferences listed. Well, much to my satisfaction and excitement, I've learned that apparently Jen Baldwin of "Ancestral Journeys" was searching for a similar site, so she ended up just creating one!

Conference Keepers is a simple, visually appealing website that gives you exactly what you need regarding dates and places of conferences, without a ton of other information. I highly recommend it.

You can see Jen's blog regarding her site here:

Enjoy!