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!

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.

Fifth Great-Grandfather David Scranton: Patriot or Loyalist?

I’ve seen a few old inquiries on the internet, asking if David Scranton was a Loyalist during the American Revolution. It’s a fair enough question, since he moved to Nova Scotia shortly after the war and transported a number of Loyalists with him. Also, he is not listed on the Daughters of the American Revolution Ancestor Search database. Because he moved to the British territory of Nova Scotia, David probably never could have applied for a Revolutionary War pension, so I would not find him in those types of records. However, all this is not enough to draw a conclusion. The following is what I’ve found.

In the book “Record of service of Connecticut men in the War of the Revolution” (page 614), David Scranton of Durham is listed as one of the ensigns in Colonel Ely’s State Regiment during June 1777. Other officers included Lieutenant Colonel James Arnold and Major Elias Buell. I found further evidence in Asa Burdick’s Revolutionary War pension application affidavit. Asa was part of a company in New London, Connecticut, commanded in June 1777 by “Captain Collins, Lieutenant Taylor and Ensign David Scranton, in a regiment commanded by Col. Ely and Lieutenant Col. Arnold.” The company was involved in building the original Fort Trumbull at New London.

In another Revolutionary War pension application affidavit by Abiel Baldwin, Abiel was part of team in 1781 that transported beef from Durham to Fishkill for the troops there, under David Scranton’s direction.

In William Chauncey Fowler’s book “History of Durham Connecticut,” David was among those chosen on February 27, 1782 from Durham as part of a committee to put together a regiment to defend Horse Neck & the western frontier. (Today, Horse Neck is now known as Field Point in a very exclusive area of Greenwich, Connecticut along the coast.) Now although the British formally surrendered at Yorktown, Virginia on October 19, 1781, there were still British troops in New York City (a relatively short distance from Greenwich) until November 25, 1783, so I presume the local militia stayed on alert until that time.

To answer the question “was David Scranton a Patriot or Loyalist?”, my verdict is that he was definitely a Patriot! (As a side note, his brother Abraham’s service in the American Revolution has been well-documented.)

So how did David and his family fare during the War of 1812, where there was a lot of hostility along the US/Canada border and at sea? I couldn’t find any mention of him in any kind of service in the war. Even though he was over sixty, he would at least have opportunity to donate supplies or support the cause of the British if he had chosen to do so. Much of New England, including David’s home state of Connecticut, did not support the US government’s decision to go to war with Great Britain. In spite of this, the British did attack Essex, Connecticut (only a few towns away from Durham) in 1814. On a more personal note, David’s nephew Hamlet Scranton who in Rochester, NY had to get his family to safety after a British raid at nearby Fort Niagara in late 1813. Certainly the strained trade relations hit the shipping industry hard, so it was a good thing that David had the farm to fall back on. In any case, David and his family remained in Nova Scotia regardless of where his sympathies may have laid.

Great-Great Aunt Ella Jane (Pleau) Britenstool

Ella Jane Pleau was born March 10, 1988 in Rochester, NY. Although she was the second to last child born to George and Emma Pleau, she became the baby of the family after the death of her younger sister Lucy in 1895.

Ella worked as a clerk in a photograph company, which I assume was Eastman Kodak. On December 27, 1911, she married Chester B. Britenstool in Rochester, NY (more on that in a minute) by clergyman R.R.M. Converse, witnessed by Elizabeth Foster (perhaps a friend?). Chester, the son of Julius Britenstool and Ella Bryant, was a tailor and later a clothing designer.

The couple lived with Chester’s mother at 93 Prince Street, then at other locations in Rochester. They moved to Buffalo, NY in 1917 and back to Rochester in 1929. Eventually they moved to Webster, NY by 1944 and lived there at least through 1965. They appeared to have returned to Rochester by the time Chester died in June 1970.

Ella died November 16, 1980. Ella’s funeral, like her sister Evelyn’s, was at St. Boniface Church. Both Ella and Chester are buried at Mount Hope Cemetery in Rochester, next to Chester’s parents.

Grave of Chester and Ella Britenstool.  Author's collection.

Grave of Chester and Ella Britenstool. Author’s collection.

As I conclude this outline of my great-grandfather’s siblings, I’d like to return to a scene from Ella and Chester’s wedding reception. I discovered an article in the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, and found it to be the most intimate look at the family. Following is my transcription of the article, with my comments in brackets:

New Year’s Wedding Reception

On New Year’s eve at the home of the bride, No. 609 North street, there was a wedding reception for Ella J. Britenstool, youngest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. George Pleau, who on Wednesday last became the bride of Chester Britenstool. [I wonder if they took a short honeymoon before returning to celebrate.] The bride wore white serge and carried roses. The dining room was decorated with holly and wedding bells, and the table with ferns and pink carnations. [This tells me that George and Emma shelled out some money for this, if they got flowers and greenery in the middle of a Western New York winter! And doesn’t this sound pretty and festive?] There were musical selections by Miss Florence Weber, Mr. and Mrs. Charles Weilert, Albert[,] George, Jr., and Eugene Pleau. [First, I am concluding that they must have had a piano in the house. Second, what a musically talented family! And what a joyous time they must have had!] Mr. Britenstool is a son of Ella M. and the late Julius Britenstool, of No. 93 Prince Street.

A modern view of 609 North Street, Rochester, NY.  Courtesy Google Earth.

A modern view of 609 North Street, Rochester, NY. Courtesy Google Earth.

I can only imagine the scene, with snow on the ground outside the home, but music and laughter coming from the inside; the entire family together in celebration.

Great-Great Aunts Ida and Lucy Pleau

This will be a short post, because both Ida and Lucy lived very short lives.

Ida was born in 1885, after Evelyn and before Ella. She probably attended school for a time, and passed away on April 18, 1896.

Lucy was the last child born or George and Emma Pleau.  She was born about 1890 and died on July 2, 1895.  This was only two months before her pregnant sister Cordelia got married.  I wonder if her death (and perhaps illness?) contributed to delaying the wedding.

Both Ida and Lucy are buried at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Section I, which is a children’s section of the cemetery.  As I tried to look for their stones (which do not exist or are gone now), being in this section made my heart break for all the parents.  There were many stones with little lambs on top and laments inscribed on the side.  My thoughts go to Emma, who lost her two little girls within a year of each other.  Did she want to provide a stone for her daughters?  Were they too poor to do so?  I was glad to be able to be close enough to the graves to pay my respects to these little-known Pleau children.

Section I, Lot 6; the area where Ida and Lucy are buried

Section I, Lot 6; the area where Ida and Lucy are buried