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.

5 comments:

  1. Great breakthrough, Mike! Sometimes it takes a while ...... Bill Bay

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    1. Thanks Bill! I appreciate it. Now, here's hoping my other New Brunswick brick walls from that area will follow suit! Mike

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  2. Really nice Blog Michael..thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Lucie, I really appreciate your comment! The information you shared at your talk about the Deportation really illuminated some of things I experienced with Acadian genealogy during my trip there: hard to find records, lack of marked graves and the strong sense of pride of the Acadian people. I loved seeing so many of the Acadian flags flying in front of homes.

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  3. Don't you just love it. Most people have done the same thing, the action was obvious but we just did not think of it or missed the clue.

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