First in a series about my French-Canadian ancestor Laurent Charbonneau, who emigrated from Québec to New York State around 1852.
Around 1852, decades before my Bull ancestors arrived in New York State’s North Country, my paternal French-Canadian great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau moved to the same area from the Province of Québec.
Exploring his life is vital to piecing together my family’s heritage — and discovering how the Charbonneau and Bull families became linked while they lived in the Adirondack foothills (and later connected with my Dempsey-Owen line in the same area).
Who were Laurent’s parents, grandparents and ancestors? Why did he leave Québec? Did any family members travel with him? How did he feel to leave his home province — anchored by the large, bustling city of Montréal — and start a new life in rural, sparsely populated upstate New York?
As with most of my ancestors, I have inherited no journals or correspondence from Laurent to answer these questions. But because he was an immigrant, naturalization papers offer some clues — as do the federal and New York State census returns and a Canadian census in which he appears.
My brother Jeff, who took an interest in this family before I did, was also able to unearth some valuable background information from descendants on other branches of the Charbonneau family tree.
My inspiration ancestor
I have long thought of Laurent Charbonneau as my inspiration ancestor, because finding his baptismal record in a Montréal archive set me on a path of regular genealogy research — an experience I wrote about in Charbonneau breakthrough: Hooked on family history.
So when my dad, Norm Charboneau, and I began taking genealogy road trips together in the early 1990s, finding details about Laurent and his family was among our main goals.
We did pretty well in those pre-Internet days — compiling what we could in advance from microfilm, correspondence, and by phone; getting a helping hand from Jeff (who planned our early itineraries); then hopping in the car (paper maps in hand) for our upstate New York adventures.
Road trip rewards
The natural beauty, the remoteness and the down-home feel of the North Country stay with me as I continue to research and write about my ancestors who lived there. I probably learned as much driving around the unfamiliar Adirondack foothills with Dad (who grew up there) as I did from the genealogy records we discovered.
Conversations in the car were like road trip rewards, as Dad entertained me with stories of his youth and pointed out the landmarks we passed on our Charbonneau heritage quest — memories I particularly treasure every Father’s Day.
And we returned each time with some new detail about Laurent Charbonneau and his extended family to connect us more firmly to our French-Canadian roots.
Now that I have begun writing about the lives of my Bull ancestors in the North Country, it’s time for my paternal French-Canadian great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau to put in an appearance. I hope you will join me on this new journey.
To be continued.
© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.