Category Archives: Charboneau

1934: Christmas in August at the Otter Lake Hotel

First in a series on my Charboneau ancestors in New York’s Adirondack foothills during the summer of 1934.

During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country.

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Otter Lake Hotel. During the 1930s, my paternal grandparents William Ray and Mary (Owen) Charboneau operated the Otter Lake Hotel in the scenic Adirondack foothills of New York State’s North Country. Photo: Larry Meyers/Fulton Chain of Lakes Postcards

My grandparents were known as Ray and Molly to family and friends — and they did their best to entertain hotel guests and encourage return visits.

Since the hotel was closed during the winter, one of the high points at the end of each summer season was the Christmas-in-August party before the last guests departed.

At one of these parties, a guest gave my grandmother a “Self Book” with a calendar, a page for important dates and journal pages for notes. Here’s the first one she wrote:

This book was given to me by Mrs. O’Donnell at a Christmas party held at Otter Lake Hotel August 14 – 1934.

Party highlights and guests

Grandma Charboneau then described the party in an entry that reads like a local newspaper community events column item:

A very lovely Christmas party was held at Otter Lake Hotel on August 14 – 1934. A lighted Christmas tree and presents with a poem for each was a feature of the occasion. Mr. James Burris made a delightful Santa Claus. After the tree and presents, the rest of the evening was spent in parlor games and music. Singing was enjoyed by both ladies and gentleman.

Otter Lake Hotel ice cream dish from the author’s collection. My paternal grandparents Ray and Molly (Owen) Charboneau ran the ice cream stand at the hotel before they graduated to operating the hotel itself. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Even better is the guest list, which includes some of my family members (in bold below):

Guests at the Christmas party – Mr. & Mrs. Louis Migurt, Miss Adelle & Hilda Migurt, Mrs. Nora O’Donnell, Miss Lillian Hundley, Miss Jennie Wilson, Mr. W.R. Wilson, Mr. & Mrs. Edward Manning, Mr. &  Mrs. P. T. De Vries, Mr. James Burris, Miss Margaret Saum, Mr. Wm. Charboneau, Mr. Frank Owen, Norman Charboneau, Frederic Charboneau, Mr. & Mrs. W. R. Charboneau.

My dad, Norm, was 10 years old at the time. Uncle Fred, his brother and hotel roommate, was 16. My paternal great grandfather Will Charboneau, 76, lived locally. My maternal great grandfather Frank Owen, 72, was from Baltimore, Md., and known as “Pop” to the family.  My grandfather Ray was 46 and my grandmother Molly was 45.

Pop  Owen’s summers up north

I once asked my dad about Pop’s presence at this gathering. He said by then Pop had given up his Baltimore, Md., home and took turns staying with one or another of his children throughout the year.

My grandmother’s turn came in the summer so Pop could spend the hot months up north at the hotel. That’s how he ended up at the August Christmas party.

Pop was born in Wales and Dad considered him quite a character. “Every day he would put on a World War I pith helmet and march across the street and up the hill to Norton’s store, near the railroad tracks, to pick up the mail,” he said. A cousin told me Pop also drank a daily glass of Epsom salts and took cold bath as a constitutional.

I am grateful to Nora O’Donnell for giving Grandma Charboneau the “Self Book” that inspired her to write about this party and several other happenings that summer. There was even a brief entry about a Charboneau family reunion!

More in the next post. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Memories of Dad on his 93rd birthday

Today my dad would have turned 93. I recently wrote about his younger years. Here, to commemorate his birthday, is an earlier blog post about his landmark eightieth birthday.

The year my dad, Norm Charboneau, turned 80, our family threw him a surprise birthday party a little ahead of the big event at a lovely restaurant near my parents’ home outside Syracuse, N.Y. Dad had a great time — and so many of us turned out from far and wide that we had to take the group photo in two parts to fit everyone in.

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Labor Day Mystery book cover (2005). When he turned 80, my dad Norm Charboneau started blogging and finished up the process of self-publishing his mystery book, which was set in the Adirondacks in the 1940s. Photo by Molly Charboneau

This meant that on his actual 80th birthday — besides celebrating with Mom — Dad was left to his own devices. And as always, he had a plan.

“Today I drove over to Carol’s Polar Parlor, ordered a banana split with everything on it and ate the whole thing myself,” he announced proudly when I called to say Happy Birthday.

Norm felt this was the most suitable way to mark eight decades of a pretty active life — and to anticipate two major octogenarian projects he had in the works.

Chabonews blog

One month later,  Norm started blogging — designing and launching his blog Charbonews all on his own, with a full bio, photos, the works. I have always loved my dad’s forward looking, let’s-try-a-new-challenge attitude — and starting a blog at the ripe old age of 80 was certainly an inspiring act.

Norm wrote short pieces — more as an online journal whenever the mood struck him — about his home town, Elderhostel trips with my mom, and even a post titled Famous Relative? about our family history. Dad had a mini marketing plan, too — emailing family and friends to alert them to blog posts. Like I said, way ahead of his time.

Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn

Norm’s other landmark project, which he was finishing up as he turned 80, was self publishing his book Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn — set in the fictional town of Panther Lake and featuring an amateur sleuth Red Flanneau (aka Red Flannel) loosely based on himself.

Dad modeled other characters and plot lines after friends, family and events from his home town — Otter Lake, Oneida County, N.Y. — to create a murder mystery true to its North Country setting.

Mom and I shared the spoiler alert of reviewing and giving feedback on the manuscript, while Dad handled all the publishing arrangements. Then, like any good publicist, Norm emailed his list and did a blog post alerting us when the book was out — and also made sure that family members got a copy.

Some day, with luck and healthy living, we could all turn 80. When my time comes, I hope I am still writing, blogging and living life to the fullest — though perhaps without the banana split — just like my dad Norm was doing on his 80th birthday.

Up next: Christmas in August 1934 at the Otter Lake Hotel. Please stop back.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Seeking my Dempsey-Owen heritage

First in a March 2017 series about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

March is here and with it the annual series about my Irish (Dempsey) ancestors in time for St. Patrick’s Day. This year, I will include a bit about my Welsh (Owen) ancestors, too.

Celtic shamrock pattern. NARA cenus research on my Dempsey and Owen ancestors prompted a genealogy road trip to Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Md., to find out more. By: Internet Archive Book Images

The last few years I have written about my Dempsey ancestors in Civil War Baltimore, my great, great grandparents Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey and William Patrick Dempsey the blacksmith and speculated on possible Viking heritage — because William hailed from County Wexford.

Meanwhile, the Dempsey Cousins Family Research Team is now up to 17 descendants, We have made some valuable discoveries together and continue to stay in touch — sharing stories and family history finds as they come our way.

So this year, I thought I would write about how I got started researching my Dempsey and  Owen ancestors — which ultimately led to these wonderful cousin connections. And also what I have learned about my Irish-American great grandmother Elizabeth C. Dempsey and her Welsh husband Francis Hugh Owen — also called Frank and, in his later years, Pop.

The research journey begins

This particular genealogy journey began in the early 1990s, when I lived and worked for several years in Washington, D.C. — home of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Although I had previously dabbled in family history research, I hadn’t pursued it in a concerted way before moving to D.C. But all that changed when I discovered the baptismal record of a Charbonneau ancestor while vacationing in Montreal — and a friend told me I could find even more genealogy records at NARA.

Seriously? Just a Metro ride away? That’s when I began spending my free evenings and Saturdays at the National Archives!

Armed with two binders — a blue one for my Dad’s side and a red one for my Mom’s side — I poured through the federal census returns looking for any and every ancestor.

What great way to get started! Nearly every NARA visit yielded a new discovery — details I frequently shared with my parents and siblings. So the research strengthened family connections, too — much as it has with my Dempsey cousins.

My mystery ancestors

Pretty soon, my research binders were bursting and my new discoveries less frequent — so I turned to analyzing what I had found. Of particular interest were my Dempsey and Owen ancestors, who were somewhat of a mystery to me.

My paternal grandmother Mary Frances Owen was born 22 March 1889 in Baltimore. The oldest child of Elizabeth C. Dempsey and Frank Owen, she was also a grand-daughter of William Patrick and Katherine (Gormley) Dempsey.

She met my grandfather William Ray Charbonneau in New York’s Adirondack region while working as a nanny for a Baltimore family that summered there.

When they married, she became an “away” descendant, geographically removed from her large Dempsey-Owen family in Baltimore — so I learned little about these ancestors when I was growing up.

A Baltimore road trip? Why not!

However, my NARA research began to provide details about my Welsh-Irish heritage and piqued my interest in finding out more. I only lived about an hour from Baltimore — why not plan a genealogy road trip to visit the houses and neighborhoods where my Dempsey and Owen ancestors once lived?

To be continued. Please stop back!

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1870: Laurent Charbonneau – from sawyer to farmer

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

The last few posts have outlined some of what I know about family of my great, great grandparents Laurent Charles and Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau — who lived in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. from the mid-1850s. A brief look at Laurent’s occupational transition — from sawyer to farmer — seems like a good way to conclude this series.

Barn with rainbow. By 1870, my great, great grandfather had gone from laboring as a sawyer to working the 37-acre family farm he owned in Hawkinsville, Oneida County, N.Y. By: Mark Goebel

Laurent the lumberman

When my Quebecois immigrant great, great grandfather Laurent Charles Charbonneau, 33, was enumerated in the 1865 New York State census for Boonville, Oneida County, he was working as a sawyer — a common occupation with so many lumber mills operating in the forested Adirondack foothills.

He was married to my Swiss immigrant gg grandmother Ursula Angeline (Zinsk) Charbonneau, 30, and they had one son — my great grandfather Willard, 7.

Although they did not own land in 1865, they lived in a frame house and Laurent was working — so they were off to a respectable start after less than ten years of marriage.

Within a few years, their fortunes had improved. According to the Gazeteer and Business Directory of Oneida County for 1869, compiled and published by Hamilton Child, Laurent had become a farmer. Here is his listing, from page 159:

Charbonno, Lawrence, (Hawkinsville,) Lot 31, Farmer, 37.

At the start of the Business Directory there is a list of Explanations to Directory, which includes this important note:

Figures after the occupation of farmers, indicate the number of acres of land owned or leased by the parties.

A good sized farm

I was impressed to discover these details about my gg grandfather’s family farm. Whispering Chimneys, the farm where I spent my early childhood, covered 10 acres — which seemed pretty big to me at the time. The Business Directory indicates Laurent Charbonneau’s farm, at 37 acres, was nearly four times that size!

A year after the Business Directory was published, the 1870 U.S. census for Boonville, Oneida, N.Y., confirmed that Laurent was working as a farmer and indicated that he owned his land (rather than leased it) — making him the second agricultural ancestor I have documented.

Under the category “Value of Real Estate Owned,” the 1870 census reports the following about the Charbonneau family farm:

  • Ques. 8 – Value of Real Estate – $940 [about $16,500 today]
  • Ques. 9 – Value of Personal Estate – $265 [about $4,650 today]

Keeping up with the neighbors

Of course, Laurent may have continued sawing lumber on the side to bring in extra income — possibly during the fallow winter months. However, the value of the Charbonneau family’s land and personal property was in line with what most nearby families reported in the 1870 federal census — so my ancestors were doing as well as their neighbors.

These discoveries got me wondering: What were farming conditions like in Town of Boonville — which encompassed the Hawkinsville area where the Charbonneau farm was located? Were there maps of the area that might pinpoint the  farm’s location? And what was actually produced by my ancestors’ farm?

Which means I am off again on the research trail to see what else I can learn about my Charbonneau-Zinsk ancestors!

Meanwhile, St. Patrick’s Day is nearly here. Please stop back throughout March for posts about my Irish (Dempsey) and Welsh (Owen) ancestors in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, Maryland.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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.

© 2017 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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