Archive for June, 2008

What’s in a name?

Saturday, June 28th, 2008

OK, I found out who and what “Pichette” was – the maiden name of my great grandmother.  And, I found her parents – my great, great grandparents.  So now I am trying to find the parents of my great grandfather, Frank Saucier.  Typically, finding the parents of a male ancestor is easier because his name was the same before he was married as after.  There is no need to find some sort of reference that shows what he was called prior to the marriage like there is when trying to trace a female ancestor.

Not always.

I found Frank Saucier’s draft cards for both WW1 and WW2.  On both, he listed August 17, 1891 as his birthday.  On both, he listed Fall River, MA as his place of birth.  On both, he lists his occupation as “carpenter.”  So far, so good.  Information directly from the person is usually considered pretty reliable.

Knowing that Frank Saucier married Rosanna Pichette in 1912, I checked the 1910 Census for Frank Saucier figuring that was the last time he would have been living at home.  Maybe I could get his parents names.  In 1910 there was a Frank Saucier living with his parents and his brothers, John, Docithio, Henri, Alexander, and Philip.  Frank was the right age and listed his occupation as carpenter!  Yah! It worked! 

Except for one thing.  His father is listed as Isaac.



He is a carpenter too, and he is married to Matilda (which matches other birth records of Joseph and Henri Saucier) but those birth records show the father as Elzear(d) Saucier, not Isaac.

Keeping in mind that these records were taken by hand and in person (which means the accents of the speakers made a difference), I kept looking.

I found what I think is the same family in the 1900 census too.  Same kids, same ages, father listed as a “carpenter.”  And, again, the father named Isaac.  But THIS time, the mother was listed as “Julia.”  Well, not really.  That is what the person who typed it into the database typed.  The original seems to have an extra letter, but isnt clearly legible.  In any event, it clearly is NOT “Matilda.”

I am not going to be able to wade through this without a visit to the Massachusetts State Archives.  More on that after my visit.

In the beginning…

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

In 2007 my mother was formally diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease.  At the same time, my father’s health was not good – to the point where a couple of times my sister called me saying they thought dad might die.  This can have different effects on different people.  On me, it had the effect of forcing me to face my own mortality.

I have given a lot of thought over the years to the concept of immortality.  What, exactly, does that mean?  Does it require living forever, never dying?  Or is it something that can be achieved by less dramatic means?  Even though my thoughts on the subject are still in flux to a point, I think immortality is something that can be achieved as long as we are remembered by someone.

For example, think of Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, King Tutankhamun, Moses, Abraham.  Certainly none of these people achieved immortality in the sense that they are all dead.  However, in a different sense they will never truly “go away” as long as someone, somewhere, remembers them.  That is the kind of immortality that was crossing my mind as I thought about my parents.  The idea of bringing my forebears back to life, in a sense, was appealing.  The idea that if one of my descendants picked up and perhaps continued this project it would lend me a sense of immortality was also appealing.  After all, if I am not likely to be remembered by history, why not my children’s children?

Ever since the movie “Roots” was released, I had a desire to trace my own family back to its’ beginnings.  I never did anything about it because there always seemed that there would be time later.  Things more pressing always seemed to be there.  But realizing that my mother and father were “mortal;” realizing that I am mortal; faced with the prospect of being cut off from my past, my history… suddenly doing the research seemed more important than before.

So, here I am looking through online records, driving to state archive offices, writing and calling relatives I have not been in contact with for years – decades even – all in the name of an unconventional concept of immortality.

I invite you to come with me on my Trek.  I promise not to get too philosophical ;o)

Auntie Philly Teased Nana

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

Aunty Philly used to tease Nana quite often using the word “pishette.”  I was unsure if this was a French word, an Italian word, a name, a swear, or what.  Every time Aunty Phillie said it Nana would laugh, but I could never get her to tell me what it was that was so funny.  It wasnt until much later that I figured it out.

My Family’s “Odd” Story

Wednesday, June 25th, 2008

I know I’m jumping in late in the process, but bear with me.  There was this odd story in my family – I suppose most families have at least one.  This one is mine.

Once there was a man named Napoleon.  No, not the Napoleon who conquered half of Europe.  This Napoloen was of more modest achievements.  This Napoleon was Napoleon Lamothe and he worked on the New York-New Haven-Hartford railroad.  One day he met a woman named named Mary Anna Grenier, known as Annie.  They fell in love and married.    They had children and those children had children and so on until I was born.  You see, Napoleon and Annie were my great grand parents.

So far so normal.  However, this is where the “odd” part of the story starts.

Because his job on the railroad kept him shuttling between two cities, he was able to pull off something usually only accomplished in the movies – he had a wife in each city.   In order to pull this off, he had to marry the second wife, Annie, under a different name.  So, he used the name “Lamont.” 

According to the story, neither wife knew about the other until Napoloen died.  When that happened, both wives tried to file with the Railroad for his death benefits.  That is when, why, and how they learned of each other.

OK, that story, with one or two very minor variations, has been told in my family since before I was born.  It turns out to be only partially true.  And, in fact, this story – and the help and trouble it has caused in my research – is the main reason I call it Genealogical Trekkings.