U-Turn: Fifth Great-Grandmother Anna (Capernaum) Taunt

This particular story begins at the end of Anna (Capernaum) Taunt’s life, because it raises many questions for me.

The end came on January 29, 1856 in Braintree, Norfolk County, MA. Anna died of old age as a pauper. Being a widow, this did not raise any flags for me; but the 1855 Massachusetts Census, taken just six months before, did. On July 13, 1855, Anna is listed separate from any family members and boarding with the Albert and Eliza Howard family with about a dozen other boarders. Albert’s occupation was listed as a “keeper of poor house”. The 1860 Census notes that this was an alms house that was supported by the town. (Thank you, meticulous census-taker!)

The question I ask is: why wasn’t Anna with any of her family? Her husband Seth died on April 7, 1837, so he was out of the picture. The 1840 Census showed her living next door to her son Seth and his family, but she was head of her own household and living alone.

I wondered how long Anna lived apart from her children, so I looked at the 1850 Census for each of her children:

Cynthia (Taunt) Savil had been widowed in 1846 and was living with her two surviving children in Braintree, being supported by her son Elisha, who worked as a bootmaker.

Seth Taunt lived next door to his sister with his wife and two youngest children. He also worked as a bootmaker.

Jerusha (Taunt) Goodwin lived in Berwick, York County, Maine with her own family, as she had since her 1824 marriage to Ivory.

William Taunt was living in Braintree with his young wife and month-old baby.

Anna was not in or very near any of these homes. In fact, I could not find her on the 1850 Census. Albert Howard did not yet run the alms house, so I wonder if there may have been another alms house where Anna could have boarded. It is possible that she may not have been living in Braintree, but I strongly doubt it, since she lived there since birth and all but one of her children lived there.

So I am left wondering why Anna did not spend her widowed years living with her children, as so many women of her generation did. Was she especially independent-minded, in spite of her poverty? Did her children not have sufficient means to support her (which is possible)? Or was she difficult to live with? Whatever the answer, there is a story here!


Third Great-Uncle Joseph White: Wait – What?

Technically, this is kind of a U-Turn post for my entries on Job and Elizabeth White and on John David White, but I think Joseph deserves his very own post.

One of the great things about online genealogy is connecting with cousins who may have pieces of information that you may or may not be looking for. I had the pleasure of meeting online, and later in person, one of Edgar Douglas White‘s descendants from New Zealand. (For purposes of privacy here, I will refer to him as “my cousin”.) My cousin is the fortunate custodian of many letters from the White family in Lynn to far-away Edgar. He shared with me the first letter dated January 3, 1869 that Edgar received from Job, which includes the following:

I have been in Lynn about six months. I am doing pretty well. I board with Fannie. She is married here well off. Your mother and the family will be here in the spring. Joseph lives in Glosseter [sic]: 30 miles from here.

Excerpt from Job White’s letter to his son Edgar. Author’s collection.

This was my first inkling that another son named Joseph even existed! What else could I find out about him? And how would this impact my previous conclusions about the family?

My first stop would be the 1870 Census. Since I had a name and a location, it was easy to find Joseph: he boarded at James Bennie’s house in Gloucester, Essex County, MA and worked as a laborer. The census confirmed that his birthplace was Nova Scotia and his age was 22, putting his year of birth about 1848. This fits in with the timeline of births in the family.

Joseph’s existence changes my narrative about his older brother, John. Since Joseph was living by the 1870s, he would have been the one enumerated on the 1861 Canada Census rather than John. This would mean that John probably died no later than about age 15.

Judging by Job’s letter, it seems that at least Fannie was in the United States before Job, and I suspect that Joseph might have been as well. It would have made a lot of sense for a single woman to travel with her brother, and they could help take care of each other in their new homeland. Once Fannie married Harmon Burns in 1868, Joseph was free to live on his own, as he was by 1869.

I’ve found a few stray records that mention a “Joseph White” in Massachusetts at about the same age, but the information is so scant and the name too common to confirm that it would be this Joseph. The only other information I have is that Joseph “went West” sometime before May 3, 1872, according to another letter that my cousin transcribed. The letter stated that the family had not yet heard from Joseph, so I don’t know if they ever did, or where in the “West” he went.

Ancestor Road Trip: Holyoke, MA

As I blogged about my Markoskis, I began to explore Holyoke, MA’s online resources to give me a greater context for their lives. It became apparent to me that it would be a good idea to visit the Holyoke Library’s History Room and Wistariahurst Museum’s Research Room to see if I could uncover some off-line resources. After all, Holyoke is only a two hour drive away. A day trip would be very fruitful if I did some careful planning, just like I’ve read about on other genealogy blogs.


The first thing I needed to do was decide what day of the week to go. Wistariahurst’s Research Room had open hours on Monday and Thursday, and Holyoke Library’s History Room was open Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. So Thursday it would be! Wistariahurst’s website said it was open until 1pm, and the Library until 4pm, so I would hit the museum first, then the library. That would give me some time to squeeze lunch in between.

Both websites had finding aids for their collections. Awesome! This helped me see what was in their collections, what might apply to the Markoskis, and how to easily locate the items for a pull request if needed (at the museum, it is always needed). It also helped me prioritize what I wanted pulled.

Another thing I wanted to do if I had the time was visit the “old neighborhood” (what used to be Fountain Street), which has long since been razed and redeveloped, and Mater Dolorosa Cemetery, which was just over the Connecticut River in South Hadley. I’d already been comparing pre-redevelopment maps with Google Maps, so I knew where Fountain Street was; I just had to plot out the most efficient route to drive, as well as determine where to park.

Research Stops and Their Bonuses

First stop: the Research Room at Wistariahurst Museum, which was in its Carriage House. The first thing I learned was that the posted closing hours was at noon, not 1pm (and I arrived at 11:30)! (Lesson: always, always call ahead.) Going in, I was a little apologetic (“I know research hours are almost over, but can I still take a look?”). The small staff was very helpful and accommodating, especially when I provided them my list of things I wanted to look at (that made it so much easier for them and faster for me). I didn’t find anything mind-blowing, except for a few photographs of the area, including an area shot of the Lyman Mills tenements, which they kindly allowed me to photograph.

Lyman Mills housing. Holyoke History Collection, MS 201, Wistariahurst Museum, Holyoke MA.

Bonus: the museum was only a block away from an apartment building my grandparents lived in during the late 1970s, so I was able to take a quick walk to take a picture.

Beech Street apartment building. Author’s collection.

After lunch at a friendly McDonald’s (seriously!), it was off to the library, whose ample parking was just across a non-busy street. A funny side note about both the McDonald’s and the library: the public bathrooms are locked; you have to ask for a key. Judging by the surroundings being somewhat run-down, perhaps this was to keep undesirables out.

It turned out that most of what I needed at the library was available on the shelves. My favorite collection was the Holyoke High School yearbooks, going back to 1915. Neither my grandfather nor his siblings seemed to have graduated from HHS (and older yearbooks didn’t have underclassmen pictures like they do now), so I only found my mom’s generation, which included her cousins who lived in Holyoke as well. In my search, it was neat to see the photos from the 1910s and 1920s and all the hairstyles of the day! I also did a little newspaper microfilm searching, since I had just a few events with definite dates to search under. It was nice to know that I remembered how to use the machine!

As I was getting ready to leave, one of the workers asked if I found everything I was looking for. I said, “Well, your finding aid didn’t list anything for the Kosciuszko Club, so I doubt you’d have anything on that.” “Let’s check!” said the gentleman, and he did in fact have one small folder with two newspaper articles about the club, which he copied for me. Moral of the story: even if you don’t think a repository has something, ask about it anyway; you never know! And even if they don’t, they may know where you can get more information. In this case, the worker suggested the Polish Center of Discovery & Learning in Chicopee (which will be my next road trip for this area).

Memory Lane

I had plenty of time to make my more sentimental side-trips. The first stop was the old Fountain Street area, which modern maps basically show as St. Kolbe Drive. Again, parking was no problem, as the lot for the now-closed Mater Dolorosa Church was open. It was sad to see the church that my great-grandparents attended and that hosted my grandparents’ funerals; it was all fenced off due to being closed and on-going issues with the diocese.

Mater Dolrosa Church. Author’s collection.

The one building in the old neighborhood that I remember from my early childhood was the Mater Dolorosa School, which was built in 1959. My grandparents’ rental house was right next to it and my grandmother had worked in its cafeteria for a time. Today, Pulaski Park stretches behind the school and along the Connecticut River. Back in my great-grandparents’ time, it was known as Prospect Park and was named after General Count Casmir Pulaski in 1939. Today, it is very hard to envision the old buildings and tenement housing that stood where some of the park currently extends to. I tried to picture just where my grandparents’ house was, knowing that there was an old tree in their yard. But today there are quite a few trees that have grown large since the mid-1970s.

Could this area be where my grandparents lived? Author’s collection.

From Pulaski Park, you can see the mouth of the canal that fed the mills, and you can see the mill buildings down-river. Despite being a couple blocks from the former industrial are, the old “neighborhood” looks pretty suburban now.

Pulaski Park, Holyoke. Author’s collection.

Finally I had time to run over to Mater Dolorosa Cemetery in South Hadley. I had not been there since my grandmother’s burial in 2000, and the cemetery is rather large, with its sections unmarked. This is how I found my grandparents’ grave: at my grandfather’s 1992 burial, my uncle took a picture of all of us at the site, showing the surrounding headstones and houses in the background. The houses told me that the grave was not far from the street. I went to Google Maps Street View and saw what the houses looked like today, and the approximate position along the street that the grave would be near. Then I looked at the unique-looking stones and the nearby names. It took a little while, but there it was! My eyes filled with tears as I made my way to the heart-inscribed stone.

My grandparents’ grave. Author’s collection.

After a little visit with my grandparents, I wondered if I could possibly find my great-grandparents in this vast cemetery. Pulling up Find-A-Grave, I looked at the photo taken by Vicha and noted the sloping shape of the stone, as well as the fact that it was in front of pavement — it had to be along a driveway! Since the cemetery is loosely organized chronologically, I thought maybe they might be buried near the next “block”. Looking that way, I saw some sloping headstones along the driveway. “I bet that’s them!” I said, as I walked there.

Well, not only did I find Stanislaw and Joanna Markoski, but right next to them was oldest son Max and his wife, Catherine! (Special bonus photos for my second cousin, who was not able to make the trip.)

Max and Catherine Markoski’s grave. Author’s collection.

Stanislaw and Johanna Markoski’s grave. Author’s collection.

After a good-bye to my ancestors, I stopped for supper at the Friendly’s that was around the corner from my grandparents’ last apartment, which we would go to together when visiting my grandparents. (No locks on the bathroom there!) And on the way out, I had to drive by the house that held that apartment. I was so glad to have plenty of time to spend on the sentimental portion of my journey, thanks to good planning on the research side of it!

U-Turn: Frank Valek’s Whereabouts

When writing about my great-grandparents Adam and Elisabeth Valek, I listed their children and what became of each. The youngest, Frank, seems to have disappeared around 1919.

I think I may have found what became of him; the fly in the ointment is that there seems to be other Frank Valeks in New York State. What I really need to do is sort them all out, which is hard to do with the lack of New York records!

What I found was a 1918 World War I Draft Registration with a Frank Valek listed, who has the same age and also born in New York. Frank was working as a bus boy and living in New York City with a wife, Lizzie. I also see subsequent indexes for National Guard service. Then I see Frank Valek (obviously the same one as on the Draft Card, having the same birthday) on the Social Security Death Index, dying in February 1972 in Albany, Albany County, NY.

I really want to believe that these records are for my Frank. But I know my research has to be more thorough to ascertain this!

U-Turn: Great-Grandmother Bertha Colomy

So long ago, I touched on Bertha Colomy’s June 27, 1900 marriage to Frederick Morton French. At the time, all I knew was that they divorced by 1910. Thanks to online city directories, now I know a little more! (Thank you, HeritageQuest!)

In the 1903 Lynn, MA Directory, I found that Bertha French was living at 63 Autumn Street (where her mother Jennie and stepfather James Starbard lived). It looks like Bertha lived with her mother until about 1905, then in other locations in Lynn.

63 Autumn Street, Lynn. Author’s collection.

So Bertha was at least separated from Frederick after about three years of marriage. Although I still don’t know when the divorce took place, this clue narrows down the timeframe a bit.

U-Turn: Markoskis

I’ve discovered a few things about the Markoskis during the 1930s since I last wrote about them.

One is about great-uncle Stephen Markoski. I wrote that he moved to Springfield, MA in 1931; at least, that is what the 1931 Holyoke Directory said. I don’t actually show him living in Springfield until 1933. My mom, in talking about my grandfather’s Brooklyn years, maintained that the family moved to Brooklyn to be with Stephen. So perhaps he was the one who led the family out of South Hadley.

The second item is about Doris. I found out when she married John Mieczianka: November 26, 1933 in Suffolk County, NY (which is where Riverhead is). So it is likely through Doris’s marriage that the Markoskis made their connections in Riverhead.

This map of Long Island shows Brooklyn in the west and Riverhead in the east. Beers, Comstock & Cline. Map of Long Island. [New York: Beers, Comstock & Cline, 1873] Map. Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://www.loc.gov/item/2005625368/. (Accessed August 28, 2017.)

The Pleau Line

My Pleau family line past Edouard starts to get kind of sketchy. The following is his paternal line as far as I know:

Joseph Pleau was born circa 1780; he married Marguerite Proulx on November 15, 1802 in Nicolet, Quebec. The following are his children that I was able to find:

  • Andre, born around the time of his parents’ marriage.
  • Edouard, born March 18, 1807; died January 7, 1808.
  • Edouard, who I’ve written about here.
  • Antoine
  • Emmelie, born circa April 1825.

Joseph and his family lived in Trois Rivieres as early as 1825. I found two occupations for Joseph: one, a “navigateur” (which I believe is some kind of traveller), and the other (in the 1851 Census) is “Pilot Branche”. I have no idea what this is, but the handwriting is impeccable, so I don’t think it’s misspelled. Joseph died on January 16, 1857 and was buried at the Cathedrale de l’Assomption.

Louis-Joseph Pleau dit LaFleur was born March 30, 1755 in Les Ecureuils, Quebec. (In case you’re wondering about the “dit” in his name, it’s like an alias and is quite common in early Quebec. The Maple Stars and Stripes Podcast covers dit names.) He married Marie-Madleine Chaille dit Maturin on January 10, 1780 in Cap-Sante, Quebec.

His father was also named Louis-Joseph Pleau dit LaFleur. This Louis-Joseph was born circa 1726 in Neuville, Quebec. He married Marie-Francois Gueret dit Latulippe and Marie-Madeline Lefebvre (mother of the younger Louis-Joseph).

Francois-Ignace Pleau was born January 15, 1697 in Neuville. He married Marie-Madeleine Gaudin on February 4, 1722 in Neuville. He later died January 1759 in Les Ecureuils.

Pont de Châtillon-sur-Loire (bridge). The Loire River is the original Beautiful Water! Courtesy Wikimedia Commons.

The immigrant Pleau was Simon Pleau dit LaFleur, born circa 1641 in Chatillon-sur-Loire, France. He married Jeanne Constantineau on November 28, 1680 in Neuville. (As far as I know, she is not a Fille de Roi.) Simon died October 7, 1711 in Neuville.

Simon’s father is said to be Etienne Pleau, born circa 1615. He married Martine Audebert in Notre Dame de Chatillon-sur-Loire, France.

Obviously, there is much more to be learned about this family!