My family tree has always been rather stubby. My Italian ancestors came over in the 1900s, my Irish and Jewish ancestors are in the U.S. during the 1880s, my German ancestors came over in the 1850s, and my French ancestors were rumored to have come over with the American and French Revolutions. That last guess was wrong, way wrong….
My French ancestry comes to me through my maternal grandmother, Nanny. She passed in 2001 but her stories live on in a slim volume of family history that she and my Pop-Pop put together. According to family lore, her paternal grandfather’s grandfather arrived in the Americas as a ward of Napoleon; her maternal grandmother’s father came to help the Marquis de Lafayette during the American Revolution and decided to stay. For decades, I couldn’t find a hint of these people’s past beyond evidence of my GGgrandparents’ married life together.
My GGgrandfather Anglicized his name from Eduoard Boisvert to Edward Greenwood when he moved to the U.S. He and his wife would eventually have 5 kids: Edward, Mary Phoebe “Minnie,” George, Eugenia, and Charles Henry Arthur. Source: 1880 U.S. census. Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts. Phebe Greenwood household.
My discovery of new ancestors all began when I upgraded my Ancestry account to allow for international records. I searched using Edward’s frenchified name and came up with all sorts of clues. And in the process I noticed the presence of many Ancestry public family trees which traced the Boisvert line in Canada back to the 1600s. Unfortunately, my Eduoard was not part of these trees.
I knew I shouldn’t care but I wanted my line to connect.
So I got to work chasing down clues. My GGgrandfather died in 1888 – so I knew that I had to focus on looking backwards. I found a Canadian census for 1861 where an Eduoard Boisvert lived with two parents and 5 siblings. I only knew two of his siblings’ names from my Nanny’s history – Alfred and Angel – and they both appeared on the census!
The Boisvert family starts on line 3 and is headed by Hubert Boisvert (a smith) and his wife Euphemie Laborne. They have 6 children: Eduoard, Alfred, Francois, Angelle, Antoine, and Marie. Source: 1861 Canadian East census. Arthabaska. Hubert Boisvert household.
I thought this census entry might be a good lead since Edward’s age lined up with what I had been told. So now I had some questions: Were these people my people? And what were they doing in the 1870s?
I tried 1870s census searches using both the Boisvert and Greenwood names. And I found something I probably dismissed before: Edward Greenwood in Adams, Massachusetts.
Before, this census would have looked wrong to me. According to my Nanny my GGgrandfather Edward had come to the US to study law at Harvard, met my GGgrandmother through her brothers who were classmates, and stayed to marry her. But still I was intrigued by this new document. Eduoard was living where I knew he spent his married life – and now with the 1861 census in hand, the names lined up with the family I had found in Canada.
The Greenwood household that starts on line 7 includes widow Phebe Greenwood (Euphemie Leborgne), Edward, Alfred, Frances, Jennie (Angelle), Anthony. Hubert and Marie are no longer with the family. Source: 1870 U.S. Census. Adams, Berkshire, Massachusetts. Phebe Greenwood household.
I was feeling good about these matches but still not fully convinced. Euphemie and Phebe are hardly the same name. But if they were the same woman, then my Ggrandmother Mary Phoebe Greenwood was named in tribute to Eduoard’s mother.
Still, I had to deny a lot of long cherished family lore to make this leap.
Eventually, Eduoard’s own marriage record did the trick.
The names of the couple who was married are in the third column; the names of their parents are in the eighth column. Note that Eduoard’s younger brother, Alfred, also married on the same day. Source: Marriage record. Eduoard Boisvert and Adele Charbonneaux. December 26, 1871. Adams, Massachusetts.
Finding my GGgrandfather’s birth family opened the floodgates of family ties. Hubert Boisvert is on a handful of Ancestry public trees. His grandparents, Louis and Louise Biron, are on almost all of them for the Boisvert line.
This breakthrough was the end of my ties to Napoleon – but it pointed a path back to some of Canada’s earliest settlers instead. Now my challenge is to make sure that all of those dead relatives are truly mine — and to brush up on my early Canadian history.