Saturday, February 18, 2012

Down on the Farm

Louis Theophile Auger & Virginie Laflamme Auger’s old farmstead no longer exists, but as it once played such an important part in their family’s life, I’ve always been intrigued by it. Actually, perhaps because it no longer exists, I’m more fascinated by it. I’ve visited the site in East Poland, but the old farmhouse is long gone (apparently having burnt in the 1950's), the land has long since been subdivided and all of the former fields are now forested.

I’m still trying to piece together the exact timeline through property deeds but it appears Louis and Virginie made their first purchase of land on what was known as the Bray Road (now known as the Torrey Road) in East Poland in 1873. This road was also referred to as “Elmwood Extension” in the 1920 Federal Census for Virginie, who was living on the farm with her two youngest sons Oscar and Leon. Louis & Virginie continued to add to the farm with subsequent purchases (as well as a few transfers of land) throughout the years.

Below is a map from 1873 – Louis & Virginie’s land was approximately where the No. 6 is, just north of the land owned by F. Disosea.

Below are a series of photos given to me by Madelyn Provancher (thanks Madelyn!). As an important aside, it was Madelyn and her husband Alfred Provancher (my Dad’s cousin) and Laurette Provancher (Alfred’s sister in-law) who have been so instrumental in my knowing what I know about the old farmstead (and so much about this family in general). They blazed this genealogical trail in the 60’s and 70’s and I assume their work was at least part of the impetus for my brother Donald’s interest, which in turn inspired me.

The photo above appears to be of the old farmhouse. If you look closely at the door, the columns appear to match those shown in the photo I posted previously of Virginie and most of her children (in which Alfred Provancher makes an appearance in as a baby):

It also seems to be large enough to fit the description of the farmhouse in the real estate ad I posted previously – “a fine house of 11 rooms”:

What has thrown me off a bit, is another picture of a house, which is also labelled “the old farm in East Poland”, but which is clearly (or at least to me) a different structure.

One guess I have is perhaps it is the farmhouse on Empire Road in East Poland (just “down the road” from the Bray Road site) where my grandparents raised their family, but it doesn’t look like the same structure that now exists on that site and I never heard of any fire occurring. So, was it simply another structure on the old farm? That seems unlikely to me.

Lastly, I wanted to share a photo of Virginie, which I love. I assume is the old farm owned by my great grandparents, especially because of the topography of it, but again it could be on my grandparent’s land.

What is unfortunate is that these questions probably could have been easily answered if I would have asked them perhaps 10 or so years ago, when more of the family was still around, but now I’m left being a detective piecing together bits of old clues. Hopefully this will serve as an impetus to genealogists who still have lots of family members around – ask lots of questions now and write down the answers citing the sources of the info!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Beyond Names and Dates - More Information Regarding Louis Theophile Auger

A few posts ago I talked about my great-grandfather Louis Theophile Auger being one of my most persistent brick walls. Today I’d like to focus on some of the things that I do know about him. Before I get into some of the details I must say to know anything about Louis feels like quite an achievement. He died in 1906 when my grandfather was only 16 and my Dad always told me that his Dad (my grandfather)never talked about his father, so not much about him appears to have made its way into the family oral history.

I was able to locate his death and birth records relatively easily (finding their marriage record was another story!), but had trouble putting some “meat on the bones” if you will regarding who he was as I lacked stories that are typically passed down from one generation to the next, but slowly through a series of newspaper clippings and other documents I’ve been able to learn enough to make him come a little more alive in my imagination.

I love the mention of his daughter Theodora “Dora” Auger playing piano to the group and how the group sang all the way from Lewiston-Auburn to East Poland. It sounds so “It’s a Wonderful Life” to me.

Ok, to follow my earlier theme, this could be called the “anti - It’s a Wonderful Life” document. The article describes an altercation between Louis and an abutter Frederick Disosca. I plan on trying to research what additional records may be available about this as it may be a treasure trove just waiting to be discovered. As a bit of an aside, but an important one, I’m also very curious about the mention of his wife Virginie being “sick and unable to attend court”. Now this is pure speculation, but work with me on this… In April of 1884, Louis & Virginie tragically lost three young daughters, Emma, Anna and Marie, to diphtheria, which is an infectious disease of the throat. I can’t even imagine the pain of losing one child, not to mention three young girls all in the span of eleven days. That had to have impacted the rest of their lives and I wonder if the sickness mentioned was depression. I also wondered how it may have impacted Louis’ above-mentioned “stabbing affray”. Again, this is all conjecture and not to be taken as fact, but it is interesting to ponder about.

Lastly, the above real estate ad is from when Virginie was trying to sell the farm after Louis passed away in 1906. Prior to this piece of information I had no idea their farm was so extensive. 120 acres in high cultivation certainly sounds like a major farm. Louis' obituary (which I posted previously) mentions he was a milkman, so I wonder if he was also a dairy farmer, which could attribute to why they had two large barns.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Auger line: From Canada to the U.S.

Today I want to go back a little further on my branch to talk about my Auger ancestors that emigrated to the U.S. from Canada.

Joseph Mathias Auger was born on February 13, 1818 to Pierre Auger and Marguerite Chicoine in St. Jean Baptiste de Rouville in Quebec Province. St. Jean Baptiste is a small picturesque village located east of Montreal on the Huron River in the shadow of Mont St. Hilliare.

1864 map showing St. Jean Baptiste area (St. Jean Baptiste is in upper portion of map, just under the "B" in "Brome").

The Auger family had been in the St Jean Baptiste/Beloeil area since at least 1779. Prior to that our Auger ancestors had lived in the Neuville area just west of Quebec City since 1680 or earlier, and prior to that came to the New World from the Poitou area of France. More on that later...

Mathias’ wife was Marie Marine Desmarais the daughter of Jean Baptiste Desmarais and Magdeleine Lacasse, born on May 13, 1817 in St Jean Baptiste.

No known pictures exist of Mathias or Marine, however they were described in great detail in 1947 by their grandson Alphonse W. Auger in his wonderful story about Mathias and Marine and their journey to the U.S. from Canada: “La Vie de Grand-Pere Auger” (which was generously transcribed from the French to English for me by Jennifer Gendron Carleton!).

“Grandpere was handsome and had a wonderful voice. Since he could sing naturally, and also had an extraordinary memory, he knew by heart all the beautiful popular songs of his time. Add this ability to his rare personality – it made him very popular.

In the winter during carnival time folks came to get him for evening fun from miles around by sleigh. He would sing with Grandmere and bring fun to gatherings of family and neighbors. They were the souls of the events.
Grandmere was well educated for that time. She had been a teacher in school before marrying Grandpere, and she was “kind as a fly” “as sweet as could be” to use Papa’s expression. She was good natured and knew when to put her foot down. Of a gentle nature and well likeable, she could be firm when needed. She was beautiful, short and petite, barely weighed 100 lbs. She had the courage of lion though, and once she’d made up her mind about something she’d stop at nothing until she got her way.

Apparently not content with St Jean Baptiste and being of a “gypsy-like” nature, Mathias and Marine moved with their six young children; Marine, Leocadie, Pierre Jean-Baptiste, Alphonse Toussaint, Louis Theophile and Marie Octavie to the village of Wotton further east in 1856. Wotton was in the process of being colonized and there was ample opportunity for Mathias to clear a forested tract of land to convert it to farmland similar to what he had done in St Jean Baptiste. Another possible reason for the move eastward could have been that Mathias’ father died in 1828 and his mother in 1841, giving him no immediate family ties in St Jean Baptiste any longer.

Most of their belongings were sold, two horses and wagons were obtained and the family moved eastward. After almost getting robbed en route to Wotton, they settled in and began a life of great toil. All eight family members, including the youngest children, worked constantly to clear new farmland and to simply survive. Despite their efforts, the family almost starved during the winters and by 1860 Marine, having heard of work opportunities in Biddeford, Maine, convinced Mathias to take the train from Danville to the United States.

They arrived with nothing except for the clothes on their backs and Marine and the five oldest children immediately found work in the mills. Mathias did not want to work in the mill, but found work as a printer.

Louis Theophile Auger was the youngest of the three boys in the family. While Pierre (also known as John or JP)and Alphonse worked in the grocery business, bought and sold real estate and became wealthy men in Lewiston, Louis was drawn, like his father before him and generations before, to the life of a farmer. Like the rest of the family, he moved from Biddeford to Lewiston in 1865. Soon after he married Virginie Laflamme, who similarly to Louis, had arrived in Lewiston during the same time period. Family oral history has it that as she arrived in the U.S. the train conductor announced that President Lincoln had been assassinated, although this has not been proven.

Virginie Laflamme Auger

Louis became a US Citizen in March of 1876, however later in September of the same year his mother Marine passed away in Lewiston at the age of 60. Mathias died of an apparent heart attack in 1885 while loading hay bales into the barn at his son Alphonse’s house on Third St in what would eventually become New Auburn.

Mathias and Marine are buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Lewiston in the large family plot marked by a prominent monument near the current administrative office.

According to an article found in the Sun Journal, Marine was the first adult buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, which was apparently known as St John the Baptist Cemetery at the time. I’ve since located information that may indicate there were other burials in the cemetery prior, although they may have occurred before the cemetery was named St. Peter's. More research needs to be done…

A note about sources

One thing some folks may have noticed during my short life as a blogger is that most of my family history info I've been posting does not have source citations. This is a conscious decision I have made and one I haven't made lightly. I've long been a stickler for making sure the information I have is correct, however most of my source citations are not perfect and need work before I'm willing to share them with the light of day, which became glaringly obvious to me when I took the Boston University Genealogical Research Program in 2011.

So since the program ended in May 2011 I have been going through my tree adding proper source citations. The progress has been slow though as I don't have as much time as I'd like right now to work on genealogy. At the same time I am quite aware of the fact that most of the information I have is not possessed by many of my relatives. So, if I get hit by a bus, a lot of the family information I have might be lost, which I cannot let happen after spending so many years on this. With that in mind, at this point I am trying to simply get the information out to those who may be interested. My hope is still to produce a beautifully crafted family genealogy with impeccable source citations, but I don't see that happening soon unfortunately. So, in that spirit, I am more than happy to provide source information for any piece of information on my blog and strongly encourage those interested to contact me.

Also, as a general disclaimer, while I have made every effort to make sure the information I'm presenting is correct, I always encourage others to do their own research.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Louis Theophile Auger - Brick Walls 101

In my previous posts I’ve mentioned my great-grandfather Louis Theophile Auger. Besides being a fascinating character to me he is also one of my most persistent brick walls or road blocks as I do not know with certainty where he is buried.

Louis T. Auger

I'll go through the sources I've searched for him in, but wanted to give a bit of background first.

For years I assumed that Louis was buried in St. Peter's Cemetery in Lewiston, Maine. This was a natural assumption for me as the rest of his family is buried there and being a French Catholic, St. Peter's was the natural choice. However, I have always been bothered though by the lack of evidence placing him there. Father Youville Labonte's Necrology does not list him as buried in St. Peter's Cemetery. The large family plot headstone doesn't list him (as an aside it does list his god-son Louis E. Auger which was a source of confusion. Because of the similar death dates (1904 for Louis Edmond Auger) and being listed on the stone, Louis E. was assumed by some to be my great-grandfather and it was accepted he was buried there by the family until I located his birth certificate which revealed his middle name as Theophile).

Anyhow, as I was searching for information I reached out to the Maine Franco-American Genealogical Society who informed me that they checked the database for St Peter's and Louis was indeed buried in St. Peter's and had him listed in the same family plot that everyone else is buried in. I was thrilled, however, soon after I reached back out to my source to get a printout of the evidence he had provided me, and he told me he had erred and could not confirm he was buried there. He said there are two "Louis Auger’s” in St. Peter's but can neither deny or confirm if either one is him. Back to square one...

So here's where I have checked (probably missing a few, but want to get this out sooner than later). I welcome "fresh eyes" on this!
• Death records: I've searched in the Town of Poland's (which is where he died) records as well as the State of Maine's death records. Both records do not list a burial place for him.
• Cemetery records: I've contacted St. Peter's on numerous occasions now and finally after years of insisting a Book of Interments existed for the cemetery (as an old letter referred to it), was able to have them check the original hand-written Book of Interment records and he is not listed. I've also contacted Oak Hill, Riverside, Mt Hope Cemeteries which do not have records for him. I've also checked with the Town of Poland's Historical Society and he is not listed in any of their cemetery books. I've also went to the old farm property in East Poland where Louis died (which is now subdivided) and spoke to the current landowners who assured me there are no gravesites on the properties. I've also bought the St Peter's Cemetery CD and couldn't locate him.
• Obituary and funeral notice: Neither of these which I've found in the Lewiston Sun and Journal list where he is buried. I've checked in Le Messager and have found a "condolence" write-up about him, but nothing about burial.
• St. Louis Church: As Louis' funeral was at St. Louis, I reached out for burial info, but none exists.
• Funeral Records: As Louis' undertaker was FX Marcotte I spoke to Jim Lynch of Dillingham & Sons who informed me that all of FX's records from that time period burned in a fire.
• Church Records: For over a year now I've been trying to access the original church records from St. Peters and St. Joseph's (for other records as well). They have not been able to locate Louis' death to date. I've also gone through a ton of microfilm from LDS looking at both old City and Church records from Lewiston and can't locate his burial info.

Louis T. Auger's obituary

My current plan is as follows:
• Continue to work with Prince of Peace Parish (now the custodian of the old St Peter's and St. Joseph's records) to look once again for his death/burial record. A former secretary there told me there were some old death record books that should be searched through. I've offered to volunteer for them doing lookups as they no longer have a volunteer - am waiting to hear back.
• Contact City of Auburn. While Louis died in Poland, his funeral was in Auburn so there is an inkling of a chance that he might be listed in an old record.
• I hope to meet with a distant cousin soon who apparently has a box of old photos. My very distant hope is he might have a funeral card for Louis.
• Continue to search in Le Messager and other local newspapers of that time period.
• Check with the Town of Poland as it is rumored they have “genealogy books” in the Town Office.
• Blog about this hoping a very helpful distant cousin can help me break down this wall (done!)