1894: Hattie Charbonneau attends Sunday School

Seventh in a series about my paternal Charbonneau and Zinsk ancestors in New York State’s Adirondack region during the 1800s.

My great grandfather Will Charboneau’s younger sister Harriet — better known as Hattie — had the genealogical misfortune of coming of age in New York State’s Adirondack region during a period for which records are hard to come by.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Forestport+Presbyterian+Church&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjLscL0qu3RAhUG_IMKHT0VAysQ_AUICigD&biw=1168&bih=497#imgrc=8uE49rR_qw7UZM%3A
Presbyterian Church, Forestport, Oneida, N.Y., founded in 1839.  During a 1992 family history road trip, my dad and I discovered references to Hattie Charbonneau in this church’s Sunday School attendance records. Photo: Woodgate Library – Fallon Collection

Most of the 1890 U.S. census returns were destroyed in a fire, and the 1892 New York State census records for Oneida County are missing. By the next census, in 1900, she was married.

So I have little information about Hattie as a child or a single young woman beyond the 1880 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — enumerated when she was just 4 years old.

Road trip with Dad yields clues

Nevertheless, armed with the evidence we had, my dad and I made a valuable discovery about Hattie on a family history road trip to Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y., in 1992.

From my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau’s obituary, we knew his 1903 funeral was held at the Presbyterian Church in Forestport (pictured above). So we decided to stop at the church to see if they had any records.

Making a cold call at the church without advance notice was a long shot — but our effort was rewarded. The minister drove up just after we arrived, and she was happy to show us the few records they had.

Dad’s disillusioning discovery

Dad and I divided up the work: he reviewed the minutes of the Presbyterian Church meetings and I tackled the Sunday School attendance records.

Dad didn’t find any references to our family members in the minutes — but he did unearth something else.

“You know, I’ve lost respect for some of the prominent names in town based on their dismal meeting participation,” Dad remarked dryly when he finished his task.

He grew up in the area, so this disillusioning discovery tarnished his childhood image of the town — one of the pitfalls of family history research that fledgling genealogists are warned about.

Hattie’s attendance records

Fortunately, I did better with the Sunday School attendance records. Jotted here and there in the ledger books was Hattie Charbonneau’s name (with various spellings) — as summarized in the table below, with her age added as a point of reference.

Sunday School Attendance Records – Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y. Source: Transcript in author’s files
Year Page Name Age
1894 8 Hattie Charbonneau 18
1895 36 Hattie Charbono 19
1896 64 Halter Cherbono 20
1897 92 Hattie Charbonnos 21
1898 125 Hattie Charbonnos 22

There was no scanning or photocopy equipment available at the church, and our visit predated smartphones, tablets and portable scanning devices — so we could not copy the records. But Dad and I were still thrilled with this discovery.

While Dad chatted with a man who had popped by the church — someone he recognized from childhood — I carefully transcribed what we’d found.

From Lutheran to Presbyterian

Hattie’s presence in the Presbyterian Church records over a period of years seems to indicate that my Charbonneau ancestors had a longstanding relationship with this church.

They may have become Presbyterians after their previous German Evangelical Lutheran Church parish declined — a second transition for Laurent, who was raised Roman Catholic in Quebec.

The family’s change in church affiliation points to a possible new line of research into the lives of my immigrant great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau and their three children — Will, Herbert and Harriet (Hattie) — in the late 1800s.

Please stop back next week when this series concludes with Laurent’s transition from lumberman to family farmer.

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