Luck: Survivors

This week’s #52Ancestors prompt is “luck”. With the recent coronavirus outbreak, I have been pondering the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic and how some of our ancestors survived that, and how some did not. My Colomy family seemed to be the lucky ones in having survived that epidemic. Indeed, if Bertha (Colomy) (French) Spratt was stricken and did not survive, she never would have met my great-grandfather George Edmund Pleau and had their son, my paternal grandfather! And of course, these words would not be written.

The Colomy’s were not unscathed by the epidemic, however. Like many others affected by the flu, Eleanor M. Colomy, Edwin’s second wife, contracted pneumonia and died on December 11, 1918, only three days after the doctor started tending to her. Just over a year later on December 28, 1919, Bertha’s second husband James Spratt also passed away from pneumonia, with “lagrippe” (the flu) being a contributory cause. Sandwiched between these two deaths, Edwin and Bertha’s father Frank’s second wife Ida died on June 1, 1919 of pyonephrosis (a kidney infection).

One death after another in the Colomy family. Courtesy FamilySearch.

What a devastating year the Colomy family had! I have to wonder if this drew the family closer together, or if perhaps each may have been too emotionally spent by their own grief to comfort each other.

Strong Woman: My Fille du Roi

Continuing with #52Ancestors this week’s theme is “Strong Woman”. I think one of the best representations of strong women is the Filles du Roi, who I first heard about in 2014 on the Maples Stars and Stripes podcast. The Filles du Roi were marriageable women who were recruited by the French government under King Louis XIV to travel to New France (today’s Quebec), marry in the male-dominated colony and start families. Growing the colony’s population from within, if you will.

The strength of the filles lay in their willingness to travel on their own to an unknown world, to face an unknown culture and to make the radical decision of who to marry during a time when that decision was often made for them. Then they would have to go about the business of raising a family without their family network around them. Yet, the eight hundred filles did all that and helped roots to be put down in New France.

When I first heard about the Filles du Roi, I wished I’d be able to find one in my own family tree, but was unable. However, thanks to Rob Gumlaw, an active participant of #genchat who also happens to be the President of the American-French Genealogical Society, I now have my very own fille! Just before #genchat’s discussion on the Filles du Roi last September, I received documentation in the mail from Rob, proving my connection to Louise Gargottin, who arrived in June 1663 with the first contingent of the Filles du Roi!

I’m a descendant of the Filles du Roi! Author’s collection.

I’ve documented most of the generations here in this blogpost, so we’ll pick up where I left off in this post with the marriage of Francois-Ignace Pleau dit lafleur to Marie-Madeleine Gaudin (aka Godin) on February 4, 1722:

  • Marie-Madeleine was the daughter of Charles Godin and Marie-Madeleine Perron, who were married on October 17, 1689.
  • That Marie-Madeleine was the daughter of Daniel Perron dit Suire and Louise Gargottin, who married on February 26, 1664.

A quick investigation revealed the following about Louise:

  • born in 1637 in La Jarne, La Rochelle, France to Jacques Gargottin and Francoise Bernard, who both seemed to be deceased before Louise’s immigration
  • arrived in New France on June 30, 1663 aboard Le Phoenix de Flessingue
  • married Daniel on February 26, 1664 at La Visitation-de-Notre-Dame, Chateau-Richer, Montemorency, New France
  • Daniel died in 1678, so Louise married again on January 7, 1679 to Charles Louis Alaine in L’Ange-Gardien, which was further along the St. Lawrence River
  • Louise died between February 7 and May 20, 1704

I still have so much to learn about Louise, and am grateful for her being part of my family tree! Another thanks to Rob (who told me that we are cousins) for providing me with this wonderful information.

U-Turn:  Augusta Eugenia Atwell

Newspapers.com had a free weekend last weekend, so I mined the free goodness as best as I could.  Searching was a little tricky, but eventually I got the hang of it, inputting ancestors names in quotes both normally and with last name first (which was good to find obituaries, by the way).  I decided to search on my grandmother Eugenie Atwell’s name, even though the website didn’t have any Lynn, MA papers. Who knows what would come up?

I was surprised–I came up with an obituary for Eugenie Atwell Paulmier , daughter of William A. and Altie Atwell.  I’d found Augusta under a variation of her middle name (so I’ll refer to her that way from here)! As I mentioned in this blog post, I couldn’t find her after 1913, so I didn’t know if she died, married or what.  Now I have some answers!

The obit said she died on September 12, 1927 in Edgely, Bucks County, PA.  She left behind a husband, Louis S. Paulmier and she was buried in Vail Memorial Cemetery in Parsippany, Morris County, NJ.  No children are mentioned.  I checked out her grave on FindaGrave and her husband’s grave and found that Louis died later in 1950.  I also saw that he had a previous wife (Edith) who died in 1921 (according to her obituary, in Montclair, Essex County, NJ).  So Louis and Eugenie could not have been married very long before she died!

Vail Memorial Cemetery. Courtesy Google Earth.

Now I have more questions:  How did Eugenie meet Louis? Did she meet him in New Jersey or Pennsylvania? Where was she between 1913 and their marriage? When exactly did they marry? And how did she die, anyway? I don’t have these answers yet, but at least I have better questions to research now.

Favorite Discovery: Pleau Church Records

When I saw that this week’s #52Ancestors theme was “favorite discovery”, I thought, what in the world would I pick? All the discoveries are amazing! So I decided to pick a a recent one because of how the discovery came about.

This past year, the Genealogy Guys podcast instituted an “Unsung Heroes” award for those who have made various contributions to the genealogy world. In August 2019, Jim Paprocki was awarded for his Rochester Churches Indexing Project, which indexes records of Rochester, NY churches that were microfilmed by FamilySearch.

My antenna went up: I knew that Our Lady of Victory Church in Rochester (where my Pleau’s went) had records microfilmed by FamilySearch. I checked out the index and sure enough, there were Pleau’s in there! Some names I recognized and some I did not. Plus the index noted that many records (including for my great-grandfather George) were illegible. Knowing that these kinds of records held much more information than just names and dates, I needed more than just an index!

Fortunately I remembered that it was FamilySearch’s goal to digitize all their microfilms by sometime in 2020. Since the indexes noted which microfilm numbers their information came from, I decided I would find the images I was looking for online…but FamilySearch said the images could only be viewed in a Family History Center or affiliate. Lucky for me there is an affiliate in the next town over from me!

My schedule didn’t permit me to clock off some time to visit the affiliated library for a month (an eternity for an eager genealogist), but I finally made it there, equipped with a flash drive and a notebook.

Now I had never searched on FamilySearch microfilm before, so I discovered that its set-up was a little tricky. Some film numbers said that they were for another church, but upon scrolling through each frame, I saw that they were, in fact, for Our Lady of Victory.

Bottom line: the discoveries began! I discovered the baptism records of all the children of George and Emma Pleau, as well as confirmation information (which was not indexed at all). It also had Cordelia’s marriage record and the baptism of George Albert Pleau (Charles’ son). Some records were even recorded in Latin, which I learned from the Maple Stars and Stripes podcast happened in the Catholic Church as well.

I will share my great-grandfather’s baptism here:

Great-grandfather George Pleau’s baptism record. Courtesy FamilySearch.

The record indicates that his birthday was actually December 22, 1875 (not the 27th as previously thought) and that his full name was George Edmond Albert Pleau. He was baptized on February 13, 1876 with his godparents being Edmond Godin and Mathile Lessieux. There also seemed to be two different records for confirmation: 1884 and 1890; I tend to believe the 1890 date more, due to what his age would be at the time.

Here is a listing of my other discoveries among the family:

  • Charles Napoleon Pleau (this is how his name was laid out in his baptism record) – born March 30, 1870; baptized April 17, 1870 with godparents Joseph _____ and Virginia Fournier; confirmed in 1884.
  • Cordelia Pleau – born January 24, 1874; baptized March 8, 1874 with godparents George and Adelia Daniel; confirmed 1884; married September 17, 1895 to Leonard Weber with witnesses J.B. Martens and P. Liebert.
  • Joseph Albert Pleau – born January 30, 1878; baptized at St. Joseph Church (the only non-Our Lady event) on April 14, 1878 with godparents Joseph and Matilda Surratt; confirmed October 16, 1892 with the confirmation name Tancratus.
  • Eugene Jule Pleau – born February 16, 1881; baptized May 7, 1881 (name recorded in Latin as Julium Eugenium Pleau) with godparents Julius Maniere and Ludovica Shenette.
  • Evelyn L. Pleau – born February 19, 1883; baptized February 25, 1883 (name recorded in Latin as Ludovicam Hevelinam Pleau) with godparents Ludovicus Lapoint and Helvelina _____; confirmed 1896.
  • Ida Emma Pleau – born August 2, 1885; baptized August 9, 1885 with her brother Charles and sister Cordelia as her godparents!
  • Ella Jane Pleau – born March 10, 1888; baptized April 1, 1888 (name recorded as Eugenie Helene Pleau) with godparents Francois and Eugenie Tremblay; confirmed 1902.
  • Lucy Pleau – born March 7, 1890; baptized March 23, 1890 (name recorded as Maria Lucina Pleau) with godparents Carolus and Elmira Darocher.
  • George Albert Pleau – born September 21, 1897; baptized October 10, 1897 (name recorded in Latin as Georgius Albertus Pleau) with his uncle George and aunt Evelyn as his godparents.

I was not able to find other marriages or any deaths/burials from the index. I don’t know if it’s because the indexing project just hadn’t gotten to them yet or if FamilySearch had not microfilmed them. I guess it’s back to the FamilySearch catalog to see what is actually available!

Same Name:  My Grandmother Said…

I have a boatload of ancestors that have the same name as their fathers/sons (and even their mothers/daughters) to chose from for this week’s #52Ancestors theme.  I decided to go with the ancestor closest to me:  my dad.

When I was first bitten by the genealogy bug when I was 15, I asked my paternal grandmother, Eugenie Beryl (Atwell) Pleau all kinds of questions about my ancestors.  She not only knew a ton about her own line, but my grandfather’s as well.  I knew that my Dad was named after his father, George Edmund Pleau.  What about Grampy’s father?  Grammy said that the George Edmund Pleau line went back eight or nine generations!

Well, I’ve since discovered that she wasn’t totally right; but she was partly right!  (And to her credit, it’s amazing she knew as much as she did about my grandfather’s family, since he didn’t talk about them or know too much about them himself.)  Anyway as I’ve blogged about, my grandfather was the child of George Edmund Pleau and Bertha Elizabeth Colomy.  This George was the one who my aunt was intrigued with and wanted to learn more about.  She was the one who found that he was born to George Pleau and Emma LeClair, but then her research erroneously led her to different parents of my great-great grandfather and she was unaware of my conversation with my grandmother.

George Edmund Pleau’s christening record. Courtesy FamilySearch.org.

Fortunately my aunt’s curiosity was passed down to me and I started my genealogical journey with this family.  George Pleau (who married Emma) did not seem to have a middle name, according to his French-Canadian christening record, nor do I show any subsequent records with a middle name.  Also, his father’s name was not George, but Edouard.  There was one more previous George, though:  a brother who was born and died before my George was born in 1843.  Like so many families in the 1800s, the Pleau’s re-used this name for a son who just might live (which he did!).

So George Pleau was a name that went on for four generations.  I’m not sure if my parents had a son that they’d name him George, though.

So Far Away:  “We have mourned for you as dead”

In 2015, I wrote about my furthest-flung relative, Edgar Douglas White, who immigrated to New Zealand from Nova Scotia.  Since this week’s #52Ancestors prompt is “So Far Away”, I thought I’d share something that one of Edgar’s descendants shared with me a few years ago:  a letter from my third great-grandfather Job R. White to Edgar.

Here are the images and transcription (spelling and punctuation errors not corrected):

Page 1 of Job’s letter. Author’s collection.

Page 2 of Job’s letter. Author’s Collection.

Lynn January 3 1869

Dier Edgar  I do not know whether I am writing to the living or the dead.  but you knowes – my dier son we are all well.  We have had no letter from you in nerely two years – and we have mourned for you as dead but still their is a ray of hope still sometimes in my mind so you are spared, so I thought I would make one more effort.  The last letter that I wrote came back to me.  I have been in Lynn about sick months  I am doing pretty well  I board with Fannie  She is married here well off.  Your mother and the famely will be here in the spring
Joseph lives in Glossester 30 miles from here – if you get this plese not fail to write
Direct your letters thus
Lynn, Mass United States of America
O Could it be possable for us all to met again before death parts us how happy we would be, but we are all in gods hands  he knowes best what to do.  I got letters from home last week stating that they were all well.
So you by Dier Edgar
Jobe R White to
Edgar D White his son
in piggen bay Canterbury
New Zeland
January 3 1869
Lynn

How hard it was back then to try to communicate with people on the other side of the world!  I really felt the desperation in Job’s writing.  The happy ending is the fact that this letter exists, showing that Edgar finally did receive it.  Who knows – perhaps he’d tried to write in the time that Job was writing for an answer and perhaps his correspondence got lost.  He obviously wrote back eventually, which is evident in the fact that the descendants continued (and still continue!) to communicate.

Close to Home: Guilford, Connecticut

For the first few years of my genealogical research, I was pretty sure that my New England ancestors were only in Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  Then in 2013, I discovered my connection to John Scranton in Guilford, Connecticut.  I finally had an ancestor in the state where I lived!

After a few years of researching the Scrantons, I decided to do a genealogy road trip to Guilford in the summer of 2016.  Though I took lots of pictures and posted them on Facebook, I never wrote about the trip.  What better time than for this week’s #52Ancestors theme?

Since I was going with my husband, I was going to make sure it was an efficient trip with some couple time thrown in.  So we hopped on I-95 during one of the hottest days of the year and drove across the state to Guilford.

Some pre-research at the Guilford Library’s website turned up an early map of the town, including who lived where.  I wanted to stand on the land where John Scranton lived!  Fortunately, there was a Wal-Mart just off the exit and down the street from that land, so that’s where we parked before walking over.

John Scranton’s land, with a more modern house on it. Author’s collection.

Old colonial house across the street from John Scranton. Author’s collection.

Of course, John Scranton’s house is no longer there, but there was an old house across the street.  Its plaque said 1694, but some research shows it may have been built in 1645.  John would have seen it every day!

We soon found that Guilford was chock-full of beautiful old houses, so we looked at a few in the area that we were walking.  (Later on, I’d bought a book about the old houses around Guilford Green, not too far away.  I guess we’ll have to go back to really look at those!)

Our next stop was the Henry Whitfield House.  As I wrote here, Rev. Henry Whitfield led many of the first settlers of Guilford in 1639.  They soon built the stone house to start the settlement off.  Over the centuries, the house has been remodeled many times, so there is barely any of the original left.  However, the house is now a museum that reflects on Guilford’s history.  They also have a research room, but according to the worker there, it’s best to try the library first, as it has more extensive historical materials.

Statue of Henry Whitfield. Author’s collection.

Author’s collection.

Front of Whitfield house. Author’s collection.

Rear of Whitfield House. Author’s collection.

Some colonial kitchen gear at Whitfield house. Author’s collection.

At the rear of this fireplace is some of the original mortar of the house. Author’s collection.

After a lunch break at the nearby Lobster Pound, we made our last stop at West Cemetery, where my library research showed me that John Scranton’s grandson Samuel was buried.  As we combed the cemetery, we couldn’t find the gravestone.  What we did see was many older gravestones leaning up against small fences and other gravestones.  Although the cemetery opened in 1815, these stones were dated earlier than that.  I found out later that Guilford’s first cemetery was actually on its town green, and that many of the graves later were re-interred at surrounding cemeteries, including West.  Another reason for a re-visit; perhaps we could find Samuel’s headstone among these strays.

Samuel Scranton the 3rd, a descendant of my Samuel Scranton. Author’s collection.

One last reason for another visit:  near the Whitfield house is a traffic island that has a granite slab with the 1639 Guilford Covenant inscribed on it.  During our visit, I saw the 2014-dated slab but didn’t take a picture, since John Scranton’s name wasn’t on it.  Meanwhile, I’ve discovered two other ancestors who are on there:  John Bishop and Thomas Norton.  Now I want to photograph it and touch their names!

I loved this sign, that summed up this trip! Author’s collection.