Paternal-Side Christmas: Party!

Growing up, we lived in the next town over from my paternal grandparents, George and Eugenie (Atwell) Pleau. My sister and I saw them often, and every year our family was invited to their annual Christmas party.

Actually, everyone was seemed to be invited to their party, which was held on or right before Christmas (I can’t remember). It was an early exercise in genealogy, as many members of my grandmother’s family were there: Great-grandfather Thomas Atwell, Great-great Uncle Claude Lipsett and his wife Clara, Great-Uncle Thomas Atwell and his second wife Helen, Uncle Tom’s two adult children (both of whom are still living) and my second cousins, who were a little younger than my sister. I remember my grandmother’s cousin, Carolyn Lipsett and her mother Marion. There may have been – no, there probably were – others at the party as well.

An early incarnation of the Christmas party – my first! Pictured are Uncle Claude, myself and Great-Grandfather Tom. Author’s collection.

My grandparents’ house was always decked out in 1960s Christmas kitsch. Giant glowing electric candles at the front door, orange-light candlesticks in each window, a choir of red-robed ceramic angels on the mantle over a fake fire, pretty curly ribbon candy in Christmas dishes on the end-tables. Their small fake tree, decorated with sparkly red and gold balls, stood in the corner where my grandfather set it up under my grandmother’s changing instruction.

At some point in the evening, us kids (me, my sister and the second cousins) got to open our presents. Perhaps it was early in the evening, to keep us occupied for the rest of the night. It was clear that the presents were from my grandparents, not Santa. No matter what the toys were, we’d always get a net sack of chocolate coins in our stockings (which I later learned was a popular Hanukkah thing). I can still hear the sounds of the empty gold foils hitting each other.

Then the grown-ups would talk and talk. There were probably appetizers on the dining room table that they’d eat. For my immediate family, this continued until I was ten, and then we’d moved away the following summer, too far to visit at the holidays. I wish I could time-travel back to the parties to hear what the grown-ups talked about; I bet I’d pick up a lot more family stories!

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!

Third Great-Grandfather Edouard Pleau

I have not yet been able to find Edouard Pleau’s christening record, so I don’t have conclusive evidence of his birth date. However, census records indicate that he was born around 1812-1813. My guess is that he was born in or near Trois-Rivieres, Quebec (although I saw one unsourced place online that said he was born in Berthier). As best as I can tell, he was the fifth of the six children of Joseph Pleau and Marguerite Proulx, the fifth son and the second Edouard! If he wasn’t born in Trois-Rivieres, the family did eventually live there by the time he was an adult.

Trois Rivieres, probably when the Pleaus lived there. From The New York Public Library. https://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47da-222c-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99

Edouard married Julie LaMothe (sometimes spelled Lamotte) on May 30, 1835 at Cathedrale de l’Assomption in Trois-Rivieres. He became a shopkeeper, but owned 76 acres, 46 of which were gardens and orchards. Perhaps he sold some of his own produce.

As best as I can tell, the children of Edouard and Julie were all born in Trois-Rivieres. They are:

  • Francois Edouard, born November 28, 1835; married Sophie Danfousse on February 13, 1860 at Notre Dame de Montreal (maybe this is the connection by which my great-great grandfather George met Emma LeClair?); married Marie Alphonsine Rebecca Gagne on September 2, 1884 at Cathedrale de l’Assomption; died May 24, 1916 in Trois-Rivieres; buried May 16 at Cathedrale de l’Assomption.
  • Antoine, born April 12, 1839; no record of him after 1871 – I think he may have immigrated to the United States, but have no records one way or another.
  • George, born October 1841, died December 9, 1842 in Trois-Rivieres; buried December 12 at Imaculee-Conception Church.
  • George, born August 2, 1843, who I wrote about here.
  • Jean Baptiste, born February 1846; married Marguerite Olivine Boucher on November 10, 1868 at Notre Dame de Montreal; died August 26, 1913; buried August 27 at St. Louis Cemetery.
  • Marie Julie, born April 7, 1849; married Jean Baptiste Micheline on January 14, 1872 at Cathedrale de l’Assomption.
  • Joseph Louis Philippe, born May 27, 1851; married Marie Louise Gagne on September 2, 1879; married Marie Anne Henriette Gerin-Lajoie on July 11, 1896 in Yamachiche, Quebec; married Claire Mathilde Durand on November 25, 1902 in Loretteville, Quebec; died January 4, 1930 in Loretteville.
  • Marie Flore, born on or before May 12, 1853; died April 12, 1869; buried April 13 at Notre Dame de Montreal.
  • Louis Edouard, born May 2, 1855; died May 14, 1855.

Edouard died on February 1, 1882 and was buried two days later on February 3 in the St. Louis Cemetery in Trois-Rivieres (as recorded in the church records of the Cathedrale de l’Assomption).

Great-Great Grandparents George and Marie Emma E. (LeClair) Pleau

When I first started this blog, I began with the story of my great-grandfather George Edmund Pleau and continued with all his siblings. It’s high time that I return to that family line, starting with his parents.

I assume that my great-grandfather was named after his father, George Pleau (though I don’t know if my great-great grandfather had a middle name). George Pleau was born on August 2, 1843 in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec. He was the fourth child and fourth son of Eduouard Pleau and Julie LaMothe (their third son was also named George, but died as a baby in December 1842). He was baptized at the Cathedrale de l’Assomption on the day of his birth. George grew up to be a shoemaker, which was his life-long occupation.

Marie Emma E. LeClair was born and baptized on February 18, 1849 in Montreal, Quebec. Her baptism was at Notre Dame de Montreal. Emma, as she was commonly called, was the daughter of Joseph LeClair and Marie Julie Charpentier and had at least one brother named Joseph Napoleon.

I have no idea how George and Emma could have met, but on November 27, 1866, they were married at her home church. In 1869 they made their move to Rochester, Monroe County, NY, where they proceeded to have their family:

  • Napoleon Charles (who went by Charles), born March 30, 1870 (click here for his story).
  • Cordelia, born January 1874 (click here for her story).
  • George Edmund, born December 27, 1875 (click here, here and here for his story).
  • Albert Joseph, born January 30, 1878 (click here, here, here and here for his story).
  • Eugene Jule, born February 19, 1881 (click here, here and here for his story).
  • Evelyn L, born February 1883 (click here for her story).
  • Ida, born 1885.
  • Ella Jane, born March 10, 1888 (click here for her story).
  • Lucy, born 1890 (click here for her and Ida’s story).

I do see that George was enumerated with his parents in the 1871 Canada Census (between Charles and Cordelia’s births), but I assume the stay was for a short time. He was in Rochester to stay, and the Pleau family lived at many addresses throughout the central Rochester area.

There seems to be a blip in George and Emma’s marriage: the 1892-1893 City Directories show them as living apart. For whatever reason they were separated, they were back together again for the remainder of their lives.

George’s live seemed pretty quiet, but I found Emma’s name in the newspaper a couple times: once in 1899 when she was representing their son Eugene in court after the train wreck he was in, and another time in 1913 when she wrote to the mayor of Lowell, MA via the newspaper The Lowell Sun, searching for her uncle John Savard, who she had been corresponding with. (This tells me that Emma was literate.)

As their children married (and sometimes re-married), George and Emma never had an empty nest; the family (particularly the sons) came and went, and George and Emma themselves spent their last years living with daughter Evelyn and her husband Charles. George died on September 13, 1914 and Emma on February 8, 1918. I can’t find any accounts of George’s funeral, but Emma’s was held at Our Lady of Victory Church, which (being French Catholic) I assume was their home church. Both are buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Rochester, where I was able to find their gravestones easily first online, then in person.

Found in Section M: George and Emma Pleau’s graves in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery! Author’s collection.

It was an amazing moment for me to stand at their graves, connecting with a family whose name I had but only recently had gotten to know them through my research.

Great-Great Grandfather Robert Fenwick Lipsett

Robert Fenwick Lipsett (whose name I love, by the way) was born on January 23, 1866 in Manchester, Guysborough County, Nova Scotia, to Robert Bruce Lipsett and Christina McMaster. He was the fifth of eight children and the third son.

Robert married Sarah Sophia O’Brien (who went by her middle name) on January 18, 1893 in Manchester by a Methodist minister. Prior to marrying Sophia, Robert was a member of the Church of England, like his father (his mother was a Methodist).

Throughout his life, Robert’s occupation was pretty much the same: sailor/mariner/seaman. He was of good height (5’11”) and had blue eyes. I can almost picture what he may have looked like as he went about his hard work at sea. (Alas, I have no pictures of him!)

The children born to Robert and Sophia were mostly reviewed here, but below is a summary of them:

  • Eva Christina, born November 7, 1893
  • Beryl Sophia, born January 17, 1896
  • Leona Carolyn, born 1898, died 1900
  • William Croft, born August 29, 1900, died 1904
  • Claude Stanley, born December 18, 1902

Sometime between 1901 and 1902, the Lipsett family moved to Guysborough, where Claude was born. One by one, each child grew up and moved away, Claude being the last in 1923. With an empty nest, Robert and Sophia moved to Halifax, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, sometime between 1921 and 1932.

On July 23, 1932, Sophia died at home (110 Chiebrieto Road, Halifax) of chronic valvular [something?]. It doesn’t seem that Robert stayed in that home alone very long. By 1935, he was living with his daughter Eva Atwell, at least part of the time. There are some passenger lists that show him traveling from Halifax to Boston or the Port of Calais, Maine, so perhaps he went back and forth with the changing of the seasons. After all, his daughter Beryl still lived in Nova Scotia.

I was excited to find Robert listed on the 1940 Census as part of a three-generation household in Lynn, MA: himself, his daughter Eva & her husband Thomas F. Atwell, and his grandchildren Thomas II and Eugenie (with her husband George Edmund Pleau). The household became four generations in late 1941 when my father was born, and Robert rejoined the family from Nova Scotia in October. Eventually, Robert’s Nova Scotia home became Manchester again.

The end of Robert’s life was similar to so many in their advanced years. On November 21, 1847, he fell down the stairs at home in Manchester and suffered such trauma to his spinal cord that he became a paraplegic. He spent the rest of his life in St. Martha’s hospital in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, finally passing away on February 19, 1948. He was buried with his wife and two small children in Evergreen Cemetery, Aspen, Nova Scotia.

Military Appreciation: Grandfather George Edmund Pleau

For Military Appreciation Month, I thought I would highlight a few of my military ancestors and relatives. The first is my paternal grandfather, George Edmund Pleau. Yes, the son of George Edmund Pleau (of Rochester) and Bertha Colomy (of Lynn), who I’ve written about before.

By the time Word War II rolled around, not only were my grandfather’s parents dead, but my grandfather was married to Eugenie Beryl Atwell and had a baby son (my father). It seems that George’s young family was living with his in-laws, Thomas Francis Atwell I, Eva Christina (Lipsett) Atwell, and his younger brother-in-law, Thomas Francis Atwell II. A veteran of The Great War, the elder Thomas went back into active duty in the Navy at nearby Boston Harbor (more on that in a future post). Not long after turning eighteen in 1942, the younger Thomas followed his father’s footsteps into the Navy (more on him in the future as well).

For some reason, George did not go into the military right away. Was it because he was newly married? Was there an immediate need for him at home at the beginning of the war? Whatever the reason, he did eventually join the Navy before October 20, 1944 (the date of a picture of him in uniform). (I’m sure being in a family of Navy men and the proximity to Boston Harbor were factors.) While I have not yet found any records prior to his muster rolls on active duty, George must have gone to naval basic training, which I assume was in nearby Newport, Rhode Island. On Friday, March 2, 1945, George boarded the Evarts class destroyer escort, USS Dobler (Hull No. DE-48) in Boston Harbor. The weather was overcast and cold, but warming as the day went on, in spite of a brief snow squall. Perhaps his father-in-law was able to see him off or shake his hand; at the very least, I’m sure Thomas Atwell knew his son-in-law would be boarding the ship that would protect Allied submarines and other ships in the Atlantic.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau, October 20, 1944. Author’s collection.

I have found exactly three muster rolls for George’s time in the Navy: March 18, March 31, and June 30. During that time, his rank was Seaman, First Class (Gunner’s Mate), and also during that time, the war in Europe ended! (V-E Day being May 8.) I’m not sure exactly when his time on the Dobler concluded. According to Wikipedia, the Dobler went to New London, CT for training duty on July 18 and was finally decommissioned in New York City on September 11, 1945. I assume that one of these two dates was when George disembarked and went home, as the remainder of the war had already come to an end in August. I imagine that George probably saw minimal battle action, if any, considering the point of the war at which he was at sea.

Battle or no, my grandfather received the military honors due him at his death. I remember the American flag draped over his coffin, then carefully folded into a triangle and gently laid in my grandmother’s arms. A special military marker denotes his place of burial at Pine Grove Cemetery in Plot T, Section 3.

George Edmund Pleau Sr.  WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery.  Author's collection.

George Edmund Pleau Sr. WWII plaque at Pine Grove Cemetery. Author’s collection.

Family Mystery: The Book in the Basement

I was fifteen years old in 1980 when my paternal grandfather died.  My family went up to Salem, MA, to stay with my grandmother a few days and take care of the proper arrangements.

While the grown-ups did their stuff, we kids liked to hang out in the basement.  We’d bang away on my grandfather’s piano or maybe look at some of my grandparents’ old books.  One day I was really bored and I perused each book one by one.  My grandmother’s old copy of “Little Women”, my aunt’s Annie Oakley books, and a slim dark blue volume without a title.  I pulled it out.  It was an old blue notebook with gold lettering on the front:  “Compositions.”

Compostions

I opened it up and found old newspaper clippings carefully pasted on each page.  And what were the clippings?  Every chapter of “All Quiet on the Western Front.”  Although I was never crazy about the story, the fact that someone in my family put this together intrigued me.  I supposed it must have been my grandfather’s, so I decided to keep it.

front page

Like so many other family mysteries, I never asked questions about it.  My grandmother lived with us for years, and I never asked her whose it was, or how it came to be.  (And she would know; she had related extensive genealogical to me that I later discovered was all true.)  I never asked my dad about it; who knows?  It could have been his.  I never asked my aunt, who was such a bookworm and likely would have read it.  And now they’re all gone.

So now I’m left with the book.  Some of the center pages of the notebook were carefully cut out, but pages were not removed from the story; it must have been done before the story was pasted in.  Whoever cut out the story cut out whatever newspaper it came from and whatever date it was printed.  There is no writing anywhere in the notebook.

Yet I still want to know:  who did it belong to?  Is there any way I can figure that out?  A couple of ideas popped into my head:

  • when was that style of composition notebook made?
  • what newspaper might have published the story and when?  I could do search on the phrase before the one instance of “(continued…” that I found.

If I get the answers to these questions, I can narrow down whose notebook it was.  If it was Baltimore, Maryland, then my imaginary story of my great-grandfather George Pleau sitting down with my grandfather would be true.  If it was the Lynn/Boston, Massachusetts area, it’s a whole other story.  Maybe my great-grandfather Thomas F. Atwell, who fought in World War I (albeit in the Navy) put it together.  Maybe the story was published much later and it was my dad who assembled it.   We’ll see what the story will end up being.