Category Archives: A to Z Challenge 2016

Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z

Reflections:  Molly’s Canopy and the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — in which I was survivor number 1127 my first time out! Here’s a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z journey.

imageNow that Molly’s Canopy is proudly sporting a survivor badge, it’s time to kick back and reflect on my first-time participation in the April 2016 Blogging from A to Z Challenge.

Overall, a positive experience!

Because I learned about the challenge only a week before it began, I missed the Theme Reveal and had no posts written ahead. What I did have was a desire to celebrate my Second Blogiversary in style — and a sketched-out list of potential posts.

So I decided to go for it and added Molly’s Canopy to the list of challenge participants. Amazingly, when I jumped a net did appear!

Week one — described in Yes! Almost there! — was a hectic process of writing and scheduling enough posts so I could settle in for the blogging marathon on the theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

Fortunately, I was able to establish and maintain a steady pace for the rest of the challenge — keeping up with posting, doing pretty well with commenting/responding, and even stopping by the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Connecting with kindred spirits

One of the best parts of the challenge was connecting with kindred spirits — genealogy and family history bloggers and others — who care passionately about their subjects and are dedicated to sharing them with a wider community.

For an entire month, the A to Z Challenge united us in a virtual space where we moved together toward a common goal — encouraging one another as we went — and that was an empowering experience.

Speed posting and social engagement

Another plus for me was learning to speed post on a blog topic — complete with a photo and links. I typically post weekly, which allows for longer, deeper posts — sometimes in a series — examining my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

But not all ancestors’ stories require this in-depth treatment. During the A to Z Challenge, I experimented with shorter vignettes and discovered — through visitor feedback — that these self-contained posts can be equally satisfying to readers.

Social engagement for Molly’s Canopy showed improvement, too. Traffic, sign ups and follows on blog feeds increased, and the number of comments rose as well — even through letter Z, when we were all getting pretty tired!

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You  made my first A to Z Challenge so rewarding!

Seeking a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category

Quite a few enthusiastic genealogy and family history bloggers participated in this year’s challenge — which was great! — but it was hard to find them without a dedicated Genealogy/Family History (GF) category.

Because GF bloggers combine specific research and sourcing techniques with history and memoir/oral history to create blog posts, none of the existing A to Z categories seemed to be an exact fit. So I suggested to the A to Z Team — by email and on #azchat — that they consider adding a Genealogy/Family History (GF) category next year.

A dedicated category would make networking easier among participating GF bloggers — especially those like me without “genealogy” or “family history” in their blog titles — and it might encourage more GF bloggers (there are thousands of us!) to join the next A to Z Challenge.

Would I do it again? You bet!

Was it worth it? Yes! Would I do it again? You bet! Like any marathon, the A to Z Challenge was not easy — it was a long, sustained trek outside the comfort zone. But it was also an instructive, energizing and affirming journey through an enchanted forest of friendly fellow bloggers.

That’s why — about two thirds of the way through — I sat down and put together a theme and tentative list for the April 2017 Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Next year, I’ll be ready! Here’s hoping you’ll join me! Until then, stop by any time — Molly’s Canopy will leave the comment box open for you.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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One-stop summary: Ancestors from A to Z

One-stop summary of the twenty-six Molly’s Canopy posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — in which I was survivor number 1127 on my first time out! Thanks for joining me on the journey!

When the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge ended on April 30, I was happy to be counted among the survivors who completed the online marathon. Not bad for a first-time participant!image

After generating twenty-six posts in just one month, I am craving a return to the more leisurely pace of weekly blogging as I continue to explore my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques used to find them.

Still to come is my Reflections post about my A to Z Challenge experience.

Ancestors From A to Z recap

But for this week — while I mentally recharge — here is a summary of my Ancestors From A to Z posts from April 2016 so you can check out any you may have missed. Comments are still open on the later posts, so please join in!

Please stop back for the next post — Molly’s Canopy: Reflections on Ancestors from A to Z.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Swiss family Zinsk

Letter Z: Last of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Crossed the finish line today! Thanks for joining me on the journey!

The Swiss family Zinsk was a late arrival on my family tree . They showed up unexpectedly while I was investigating my paternal Charbonneau ancestors — and restored Switzerland as a long-forgotten source of my family’s roots.

http://backroadstraveller.blogspot.com/search?q=Otter+Lake+Community+Church
Otter Lake Community Church (2015). My Swiss ancestors, the Zinsk family, attended services here when it was St. Trinitatis — a German Evangelical Lutheran parish in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. The church was later moved to its present location on Route 28 in Otter Lake, where it was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2004. Photo by Tom/The Backroads Traveller

I was excited about our Swiss ancestry because my family was completely unaware of this heritage  — or so I thought until I called my dad to tell him the breaking news.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” Dad said thoughtfully, while I rolled my eyes and had a face-palm moment at the other end of the phone.

Yet in some ways it’s understandable how awareness of our Swiss heritage might have faded with each succeeding generation, given how challenging it was to find details about these elusive ancestors.

Seeking Ursula’s maiden name

My first hint of our paternal Swiss ancestry came from the 1900 U.S. Census for Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y. The record for my great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau (spelled Charbono), who emigrated from Quebec to New York’s Adirondack foothills, listed his wife Ursula — born in Switzerland.

To learn more, we needed her maiden name — always a challenge. So Dad and I added this to the list of goals for our next pre-Internet family history road trip in August 1992.

We examined Laurent’s tombstone in Beechwood Cemetery, Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y., but the inscription was no help. All it said was “Ursula, His Wife.”

Then Dad and I found Laurent’s obituary in the Irwin Library and Institute in Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — but Ursula’s name did not appear in that, either, much to Dad’s chagrin.

A census breakthrough

Clearly, we needed more to go on. So back I went to the census, where the various spellings for Charbonneau (such as Charbono, Charbonno, Sharbono and Sherbenon) slowed my microfilm research.

But one evening — while browsing door-to-door through the 1870 U.S. Census for Boonville, Oneida County, N.Y. — I found Nicholas Zink, 84, and Barnard Zink, 40, (both from Switzerland), living in the home of Laurence Sharbono (from Canada) and his wife Angeline [Ursula](from Switzerland). This looked like the breakthrough we needed on Ursula’s maiden name!

There were more surname variants to come — from Zink to Sink to Zingg  to Zinsk — which eventually led to records that clarified our Swiss ancestors’ family relationships and even identified the church where they worshipped, shown above.

Best of all: I found my ggg grandfather Nicholas’s naturalization papers, on which his signature confirmed Zinsk as the correct spelling of the surname — opening the door to future research into my family’s once-hidden Swiss heritage.


With this post, I have completed my first April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge on the theme Ancestors From A to Z. I made it! I’m thrilled! And I can’t wait to order my tee-shirt!

Coming soon – One-stop summary: Ancestors from A to Z Please stop back for the victory lap.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Yes! Almost there!

Letter Y: Twenty-fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me as I cross the finish line!

Yes! One more day and Molly’s Canopy will cross the finish line of the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — to the roar of a virtual crowd and the sound of imaginary hands clapping (or tapping, as they finish up that last challenge post)!

Fireworks. Yes! Tomorrow I will make it to the end of my first April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, crossing the finish line with the Zinsk family — my Swiss ancestors. By: Nigel Howe

Now that I am nearly there, I confess that I did not do the sort of pre-challenge preparation one should do before a marathon — even missing the Theme Reveal.

Because it was my first time blogging from A to Z — and I only decided at the last minute to accept the challenge — when the flag went down on April 1, I wondered if I would be just an April fool or make it all the way to the end.

So I sprinted through week one, getting a bit winded and sleep deprived. Then I settled down during week two for the long haul — writing and commenting and meeting new bloggers as I went.

And that turned out to be the best approach — even allowing me some spare time to weigh in at the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Tomorrow I will dash across the finish line — hand in hand with the Zinsk family (my Swiss ancestors) — to round out my theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

But today I just want to enjoy the feeling of knowing that I am almost there and Yes! I will finish.

Up next: Swiss family Zinsk. Please stop back for my challenge finale.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Xavier and military cartography

Letter X: Twenty-fourth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me on the journey!

A wonderful benefit of the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team is learning about collateral relatives and the interesting lives they led. One of these was Francis Xavier Dempsey, maternal grandfather of cousin Barb from our Dempsey team.

 2nd Lieutenant Francis Xavier Dempsey, 26, at the front in Langres, France, during WW I. Big Frank, a lithography transfer and pressman in civilian life, served as a U.S. Army cartographer whose unit helped mechanize military map-making and reproduction in the field. Photo courtesy of Barb/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team
2nd Lieutenant Francis Xavier Dempsey, 26, at the front in Langres, France, during WW I. Big Frank, a lithography transfer and pressman in civilian life, served as a U.S. Army cartographer whose unit helped mechanize military map-making and reproduction in the field. Photo courtesy of Barb Schmidt/Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team

With many thanks to cousin Barb, here is the fascinating story of Francis Xavier’s work as a cartographer during WW I:

A grandson of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey,  Francis Xavier Dempsey was born on 26 Jan. 1893 in Baltimore City, Baltimore Co., Md. He was a son of James Joseph and Mary Elizabeth Dempsey — and a nephew of my great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey (James Joseph’s sister).

As a boy, Francis Xavier apprenticed as a lithography transfer and pressman at Baltimore’s Crown Cork and Seal Company. That’s where he was working at the outbreak of World War I.

When Big Frank — as his descendants call him — enlisted on 15 Dec. 1917 in the U.S. Army 29th Engineers, the company’s newspaper Crown Topics gave him a rousing sendoff:

Sergeant Frank Dempsey, formerly of Guilford Avenue Lithography Department…is now printing maps for Uncle Sam. By special orders of his Major General, he has taken a special course in lithographic work…and expects to leave for France at any time. We are proud of you!

During his military service, Francis Xavier was stationed in Langres, France — where he served as a cartographer and was promoted in the field to 2nd Lieutenant. Big Frank and his unit did important work during and after WW I, as described in this 16 May 1919 article in The Base Bull, a military newspaper:

U.S. Engineers Break Map-making Record

Paris, April 10 — The 29th Engineers of the American Expeditionary Force are conducting interesting experiments in map-making and reproducing in the field. With a 5-ton truck as a printing and lithographic establishment, they have turned out 10,000 copies of field maps an hour. The French and British are taking a keen interest in the outfit, as they have used a railway train for such work, and their best output has been 300 copies per hour. In some operations of the war, every man in a trench raid party has been furnished with a map, so the importance of quick map-making is very great.

In Maps point the way I wrote about the importance of civilian maps for studying the places where our ancestors lived — and perhaps even finding their names associated with land and workplaces.

Military cartography, such as that done by Francis Xavier Dempsey, adds another dimension to researching veteran ancestors and learning more about the battles they fought in.

Up next: Yes! Almost there! Please stop back.

© 2016 Barb Schmidt and Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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