I think grandchildren often have a soft spot for their grandparents. The grandparent in question might be mean, petty, or unreliable to pretty much everyone else in their lives, but these weaknesses are rarely revealed to youngsters. Instead, grandparents gain a reputation of always being generous and kind because they are seen from the right remove. I am starting to think that this might be true for the maternal grandmother of my maternal grandmother. She might have been the bee’s knees to my Nanny, but she is anything but generous and kind to me.
I have always thought of my Nanny’s grandmother as Libby Coleman. That is how Nanny introduced her to me: “my grandmother’s name was Adele, but everyone called her ‘Libby.’ She was the kindest person I ever knew.”
Libby was buried as Adele C. Greenwood. Her son-in-law P. James Dobbins bought the family plot on the occasion of her death in 1921. Libby is at rest with my Nanny’s parents, sister, aunt, and (unmentioned) uncle. Libby and her bachelor son had lived with the Dobbins family for the entirety of Nanny’s life. She was 8 when her grandmother passed.
According to Nanny, Libby was born in Charlotte, VT on March 12, 1855. She was the youngest of thirteen kids. Some of her brothers were so old that they had already married and moved away by time she was a kid. She was close to her sister, Zoe (who might have spent her adult life in Manchester, NH) and had at least two other sisters: Clara and Bertha (who both spent their married lives in Dalton, MA.) A fourth sister might have been Nettie Briggs, who recalled a brother named Isaac.
According to Nanny, Libby met her future husband, Edward Greenwood (also known as Eduoard Boisvert), through her brothers Alfred and Hubert. Her husband Edward died in 1888, leaving her with 5 children ages 2, 7, 12, 14, and 16. Later, when her oldest son’s first wife died, Libby raised his sons until he settled down again.
But in trying to document these stories that were handed down to me, I have learned that what my grandmother shared with me wasn’t even close to the whole story. For example, Nanny knew of four of her grandmother’s names: her given, her nickname, her surname at birth, and her married name. Adele “Libby” Coleman Greenwood. But it turns out that those names were only the beginning.
I don’t think that Nanny hid anything from me on purpose (because she was so generous and kind.) But searching censuses, marriage records, birth records, and death records from MA, VT, and NH from the 1850s until Libby’s death in 1921, left me with a much more complicated woman than the one that my grandmother recalled:
- Libby/Adele had three additional first names: Adelaide, Elizabeth, and Lydia.
- Libby also had a second maiden name: Charbonneau. This name means the same thing as Coleman, but it is French. This discovery revealed that Libby Coleman never married Edouard Boisvert, Adele Charbonneau did.
- Libby might have been born in Charlotte, Vermont; plain old Vermont; or somewhere in Canada.
- Libby’s parents’ names were Joseph and Mary. Mary’s maiden name was either Kelley or Cote.
- Libby had a second husband: Gilbert Boucher – whose surname was sometimes mistaken for Busha or Banchey. Libby never seems to have lived with Mr. Boucher – which is probably why Nanny didn’t know her grandmother remarried. Though she did know that her grandmother had “trouble with men.”
The unfortunate news is that none of these new discoveries help me one bit when I try to find young Libby. I don’t know what Libby has against me but she is being mean and unreliable. I can’t find any evidence that she existed prior to her marriage to Edward in 1871. And all those siblings of hers? Impossible to find too.
Still, I haven’t given up hope. I am missing four key documents from 1871-1910 that might offer clues for me to chase:
- Birth records for Edward (1871 in South Adams) and George (Feb 1876).
- Marriage records for Minnie (1902 Feb 8, Goff Falls, NH) and Edward (Emma Bruder of NY by 1910).
And while I might be the petty one for blaming Libby for my research difficulties, she isn’t my grandmother. We are at the wrong remove, and she isn’t being kind to me.