Category Archives: Tangled roots

Translation Challenge: What does this say?

This 1663 Jesuit baptismal record shows Europeans acting as godparents to native children at the reserve at Sillery.  It is an unusual record in that most Jesuit baptismal records don’t record multiple baptisms in one entry.  I am having difficulty with it because of the thick ink, the old Latin, and the obscurity of the native names.  Anyone see this as a challenge and want to take a peek?

April 20th, 1663 baptism record at Sillery.  Source: familysearch.org

1663 baptism records at Sillery. Source: familysearch.org

I am primarily interested in the April 20 entry at the bottom, but have included three others for context and handwriting clues.  The first, second, and final (April 20) record are all in Father Bailloquet’s writing.  Entry 3 is in the very neat hand of Henri Nouvel.

If you don’t know Latin, googletranslate helps a lot!

April 20, 1663 baptism at Sillery.  Source: familysearch.org

April 20, 1663 baptism at Sillery. Source: familysearch.org

Line by line, this is what I think I see.  (Underlines mean word left out.  Parentheses mean my best guess at a native name.)

  1. I Father Bailloquet Society of Jesuits ______ baptize
  2. _____  ______  Sillery ______  ______ infant _____  ______  ______
  3. first child of mother Nicola (Nosnisaksa) and _____  of father (Piksachins)
  4. _____  ______  _____  (Nosnisaksa) born Gropius (Srxchelin)
  5. 3rd ______  born of mother Martina (Nigoty) and father ______ (Nikazhkasnt)
  6. ______  ______  Abenaki.  Stephen Brantigni ______ ______  ______  Stephen
  7. Godmother Trud 2nd & 3rd.  ______ Nicolas.

I believe that this is the baptismal record of three natives at Sillery.  Some believe it might be the baptism record of the founding Boisvert ancestor for whom no baptismal record has ever been found.  (Etienne Boisvert went by a dit name rather than his father’s name, not unusual in the era.)  In this understanding, the child in this record is later orphaned and raised by his godfather Etienne Denevers (called Brantigni here) as his own son.

What do you think?

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Tangled Root: Claire Greenwood

Ancestry.com is offering U.S. census searches for free through July 6.  And with a couple of quick searches I came close to solving a photo mystery.

gen_dobbins family after church copy

Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins surrounded by her three daughters, two sons-in law, five of her six grandchildren, and Claire Greenwood.  Source: family photo, @1955.

My mom knows the name of everyone in this photo.  Standing (left to right): Claire Greenwood, William Tully, Minnie (Greenwood) Dobbins, Sheldon Reed, Mary Dobbins, and Gertrude (Dobbins) Tully.  The only adult crouched below is my mom’s mother, Lillian (Dobbins) Reed, surrounded by her three daughters and near two of Gert and Bill’s three kids.  (You know who you are — but I didn’t identify you since you are living.  Grin.)

My mom also knows that this photo was taken in Pittsfield, Massachusetts one Sunday after church — and that some of the kids were quick and untamed and managed to change into their play clothes before the adult plan for the photograph could be carried out.

What Mom doesn’t know is how Claire Greenwood is related to everyone else. With Ancestry’s help, I found a clue.

Source: Ancestry.com

Source: Ancestry.com

Although the image is faded, it lists Clara Greenwood as the three year old daughter of Fred and Lizzie Greenwood of Adams, MA in 1880.  That makes Clara a cousin to Minnie as their fathers were brothers (who married on the same day in 1871.)

The only problem I have left is the fact that Clara looks to be the age-peer of Minnie’s daughters — not three years younger than Minnie herself.  So is the Claire in the photo above a well-preserved, spinster cousin?  Is she the daughter of the Clara in the census’ brother, a namesake niece?  Or is she someone else altogether different?

Got a theory?  I would love to hear it.

Oh, and any labeling errors are mine (I didn’t run the picture past my mom before posting.)

Update: I labeled everyone wrong, which I explain here.  Basically, I switched Claire Greenwood and Gert Tully around.

Update II: Claire Greenwood married into the family.  She is Minnie’s elder brother, Edward’s son Arthur’s wife.  She is not a long lost connection to Eduoard Boisvert’s sibling line.  Drat.  🙂  But she was a beloved family member that my mom’s family saw whenever they visited Pittsfield.

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Prying into Antoine Boisvert’s Life

Excerpt of an inventory of Antoine Boisvert's estate, February 26, 1835.  Housed at the National Library and Archives of Quebec.

Excerpt of an inventory of Antoine Boisvert’s estate, February 26, 1835. Housed at the National Library and Archives of Quebec.

Time for research and writing has been in short supply this summer but I did start to look into the estate inventory completed after my GGgreat grandfather, Antoine Boisvert, died of cholera in 1834.  As I scan through the document, it appears to go through everything in his home (kitchen, bedroom, attic), his closets (linen, clothing), yard (outbuildings, animals, farm goods), and finances (cash, debts, loans, community property rights, and titles.)  I find myself wondering if he would have wanted me to know such detail about his worldly goods.  Is what he had private?  Could a dead man care?

As a living person, I hate to think of what would be discovered if I was suddenly cut off from life.  All the things that I have held on to because I might get to them sometime (art supplies, cross country skies.)  All the things I have repeatedly purchased because I have failed to keep the clutter at bay (I recently found 4 sets of freezer pop molds in a cabinet clear-out.)   All the unfinished projects (my poor kids’ scrapbooks.)

But as a historian, I love what the details reveal to me about Antoine’s life and times.  In my brief time with this document I have discovered that he owned a wooden clock, many chests and axes, and dishes made of iron and tin.  In my mind, these items indicate that Antoine was a pragmatic farmer with dreams of becoming more than he was.  I imagine this because the clock he owned was valued more than anything else in his inventory besides livestock.  And what use did a farmer have for a clock in the 1830s – to account for time in a factory, to get to the train on time.  Neither is likely that early in the century.

I wish I could know more about Antoine’s life but it is a struggle to read the inventory.  It is hand-written in French.  “F” before “s” was still used to indicate “ss.”  Some of the words are either advanced vocabulary or specific to the era – and I can’t find any meaning for them.  I wish reading wasn’t such a chore.

If Antoine did care about his privacy, his details seem pretty safe from me.

*****

This is a complete version of the inventory: 1835 Boisvert Antoine inventory  If you have any luck translating this document, I would love to hear about it!

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Tangled Root: Anne Leodet

"Veuve" or widow of Jean Nepveu, Anne Leodet's land in Sillery, 1663.  Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel's Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

“Veuve” or widow of Jean Nepveu, Anne Leodet’s land in Sillery, 1663. Source: excerpt from a map found in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.

You might have noticed in the last post that Anne Leodet was listed as widow of Jean Nepveu in the 1666 census.  She was also listed as the widow of Jean Nepveu on the Sillery map of 1663 in Marcel Trudel’s Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent.   But Peter Gagne’s The Filles a Marier and the PRDH both note that Anne Leodet’s marriage to Jean Nepveu was annulled due to a bigamy conviction.  So was she part of a bigamist relationship or not?

My confusion rests on the use of the word “widow.”  Today, the word is reserved for women whose spouses have died.  Was the word “widow” used more broadly in the seventeenth century?  Or was it that they, like us, have no alternative that could be used to label a betrayed woman.  Maybe “widow” was all they had to explain Leodet’s situation (woman given title to her former husband’s land.)

Curiously, Anne Leodet was not the only one in her community to have marriage troubles.  The lord of the manor, Denis-Joseph Ruette D’Auteuil, also had a complicated married life.  He married Claire-Françoise Clément Du Vuault who ran off with Charles Cadieu while he was away in France in 1650.  Some say that she eloped with Cadieu, elsewhere it is suggested that Cadieu kidnapped her.  Either way, in 1657, Du Vuault managed to obtain a separation of property, left for France, and never returned.  The 1666 census is silent on the matter.  D’Auteuil is listed as head of household with his son and six servants, but not a peep is made about his wife or what her absence meant for his social identity.

This second situation confirms the existence of language issues in formal documents for me (what label do you use for an abandoned husband?)  And it also makes me think that the historical record is difficult to decipher for other reasons too.  There was probably some level of damage control going on.  People had reputations and livelihoods at stake.  Those that persisted (or maybe their descendants) might have worked hard to spin the story into a more favorable light.

Does anybody have any idea of how to figure out if the bigamy incident is real or not?

 *****

For more on D’Auteuil and Du Vuault, look here for the elopement story, and here for the kidnapping story (the dates are off by a decade here but I think that is a typo.)  Neither story provides much detail but together they go to show that multiple interpretations exist for the same bits of fact.

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Scribbled Latin Obscures the Truth

I have been thinking about my 9G grandmother, Anne Leodet, and what happened to her after her husband Jean Nepveu was convicted of bigamy and exiled from Canada.

Records show that Anne went on to marry Gilles Pinel – and that after their marriage, her life seemed to go on without skipping a beat.  I assume that this is true because Anne had eleven children over the course of her lifetime.  She always had her children two years apart, with only two exceptions.  Twice she had children three years apart — once between husbands, and later between her seventh and eighth child.   She was nothing if not regular about childbearing.

But what stumped me was how Anne managed to meet Gilles in the first place.  After the bigamy episode she was a woman alone with two young daughters and a sordid past.

And then the PRDH gave me a fascinating clue – Gilles is listed on her second daughter’s baptism record.  So Anne and Gilles probably knew each other before her first marriage came to its dramatic end.  Anne and Jean might have even selected Gilles to act as their daughter’s godfather.  And if they did, he merely changed roles in the family.  Way to look out for his goddaughter’s life!

I wanted to settle my suspicion that Gilles had been a family friend by confirming his role as godfather on the original record, and that is where I got stuck.

Photot: Screenshot of Suzanne Nepveu’s baptismal record from the Druoin Collection via Ancestry.com

The record is scribbled in non-standard Latin.  I tried translating the document using the Latin word list from Family Search.   Unfortunately, I could only get as far as my handwriting interpretation skills and imagination would allow.  For example, the first few words “Ego patrus Bailloquet …” I translated as “I, Father Bailloquet …” – even though I couldn’t find the word “patrus” on the word list.  I made the guess because I could find:

  • Parochus (parish priest)
  • Pater (father)
  • Patruus (uncle – father’s brother)

I decided that patrus doesn’t seem that far off for father/priest.

And happily, the word “patrinus” or “godfather” does show up in the third line of the record.  But nothing here is easy.  Patrinus is followed by fuit, or “he was” by [unclear word] [inkblot] Pinel.  It looks like the blot could start with a G – but that might just be wishful thinking.

Does anyone have Latin or handwriting interpretation skills to share?

***********************************

This is how I have interpreted the record so far ….  Everything here is an educated guess at best.  I copied it line by line.

Record: Talli baptinati in ecclesia Sillesiana ab anno dominin 1655, 11 Octobris

Me: List of baptisms from the church of Sillery October 11, 1655 AD

Record: Ego patrus Bailloquet soietatis jesu sacerdos vice agent partchi babtizane

Me: I, Father Bailloquet of the society of Jesuit priests ___ have officially baptized

Record: Sol danifer in sa ville silleranno pullileu bedl nafum de Joeanneu dide et

Me: Sun _____ in her village of Sillery, child born of Jean ___ and

Record: Anne Ledette consigibus patrinus fuit asoidius ___ pinel, matrina Suzanna

Me: Anne Ledette married couple, godfather was ______ ____ Pinel, godmother Suzanna

Record: Barbet hac fanto nomde duo suzannan nuncopauit

Me: Barbet ,the latter ____ by the name of her ____.

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Tangled Root: GG-grandma Greenwood

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.”

Source: Photo by Kevin Cahill

Source: Photo by Kevin Cahill

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.

This is a picture of Libby with Nanny’s older sisters and some guy I can’t identify.  She looks like a perfect grandmother to me.  Source: copy of a family photo.

This is a picture of Libby with Nanny’s older sisters and some guy I can’t identify. She looks like a perfect grandmother to me. Source: copy of a family photo.

 

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Tangled Root: Antoine Boisvert, 1779-1834

As I am researching cholera and its impact on my family, I realize that there are quite a few things I wish I could find out about Antoine Boisvert and his family that I don’t yet know how to find out.

  • I wish I knew who shared Antoine’s household. I would love to find a genealogy dictionary that covers 19th century Quebec.  I hear that the PRDH might be what I am looking for – and that there is a hard copy at a library about an hour away from me.  It might be time for a trip….
  • I wish I knew where Antoine lived in Ste. Croix, Lotbiniere – and if he lived close by any of the other victims of cholera from the 1830s.  I wonder if there are any maps out there that might help me.
  • I wish I knew if Ste. Croix and Lotbiniere are really the same place?  Is Ste. Croix the community’s parish name and Lotbiniere its civil one?
  • I wish I knew how to distinguish the Antoine Boisverts who shows up in the 1831 census of Ste. Croix.  There are 3.  I have ruled out the one with only 3 family members at home (Antoine, Joseph, Julien, and Antoine’s wife make 4 so this household is out.)  But the other two are nearly identical.  Antoine from page 5 has 10 family members at home and 85 of his 121 arpents of land are cultivated.  Antoine from page 9 has 11 family members at home and 54 of his 300 arpents of land are cultivated.  Which is my Antoine and how are they related?  Are these men brothers?  Cousins?
  • I wish I knew what happened to Antoine’s family after his death.  I know that his son (my ancestor) Hubert eventually left Ste. Croix.  Did older brothers get the homestead?  Is there a will that could help me figure this out?

If anyone has any tips on how to proceed, my ears are open!

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