Category Archives: Road trips with Dad

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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Laurent Charbonneau arrives from Québec

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.

Montréal, Québec, Canada in 1852, around the time my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau left the Province of Quebec and moved south to New York’s sparsely-populated Adirondack foothills. By: Philippe Du Berger

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).

Unanswered questions

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.

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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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Broome County bride

Third in a series tracking my ancestor Arthur Bull’s family from the Catskills to the Adirondack foothills (1870-1875).

Pecking away at the family history of our Bull ancestors was a vacation ritual I shared with my dad, Norm Charboneau — and sometimes it yielded valuable information about the family of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull.

http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e0-f264-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Ahlborn’s Bridal Dress (1875). On a family history research outing, my dad and I found info about the Binghamton, N.Y., marriage of Arthur Bull’s oldest daughter Emma E. to Stephen E. Watson on Oct. 11, 1874 — placing the Bulls in Broome County that year. By: NYPL Digital Collections

Like the time in May 1997, during one of my visits, when my Dad and I ventured out on a research day together at the Onondaga County Public Library Local History and Genealogy Room in Syracuse, N.Y.

That’s where Dad and I first saw a copy of Genealogical gleanings from early Broome County, New York newspapers (1812-1880) abstracted and compiled by Maurice R. Hitt, Jr. and realized it contained loads of folks with the Bull surname.

Not yet clear on who was who, we decided to photocopy the lot. This meant using Dad’s library card and having the staff mail him the photocopies to forward on to me.

As we filled out the required paperwork at the front desk and paid for the copies and postage, Dad pursed his lips and shot me the look my youngest sister calls the “Charbo-smirk.”  A couple of weeks later he sent his commentary with the materials:

Well, here is the info we finally pried out of the library. Dad

I had to laugh when I again saw his wry, handwritten note in my files — stuck to a stack of photocopies containing a clue about a Broome County bride that we discovered together nearly 20 years ago.

A Broome County bride

And it has indeed turned out to be a valuable lead regarding the Empire State meanderings of our Bull ancestors. Specifically, the following abstract from a Broome Republican announcement of the Oct. 11, 1874, marriage of Arthur and Mary’s oldest daughter Emma to Stephen E. Watson:

WATSON, Stephen E. [BR, 21 Oct., 1874] Marr. 11 inst. At the home of the bride’s father in the town of Binghamton by Rev. A.M. Brown: Stephen E. Watson to Emma E. Bull, both of Binghamton.

Wait…at the home of the bride’s father in Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y.?

That had to be my great, great grandfather Arthur Bull’s home. Which meant he and Mary — and their family — made one more stopover in the Southern Tier between the 1873 birth of their son William and their 1875 arrival in the North Country.

Perhaps they were once again trying to make a go if it closer to their Binghamton, N.Y., family. Maybe it wasn’t until later that they were lured north by better job prospects for Arthur. Hard to know for sure.

But either way, it’s been a fun having my dad along again in spirit on the Bull family research journey.

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Did Jeremiah Bull own a tannery?

First in a series on the occupations of my paternal great, great great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the mid-1800s

Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. "Map of Windsor Township; Castle Creek, Chenango TP [Village]; Corbettsville, Conklin TP [Village]" New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 26, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-1bf0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99
Map of Corbettsville, N.Y. (at lower right) from an 1876 atlas. On our last genealogy trip together in 1995, my dad and I discovered this map of the town where our Bull ancestors lived — which shows some tannery owners’ names. Click on the map for a larger view. Image: NYPL Digital Collection 1
Old county history books are not the most reliable source of definitive family history information. Nevertheless, I was pleased to find a reference to my great, great, great grandfather Jeremiah Bull in the History of Broome County, with illustrations and biographical sketches of some of its prominent men and pioneers (1885), edited by H.P. Smith.

A paragraph in the section on Corbettsville — a hamlet located in Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y. — mentions my ancestor in relation to a leather tannery located there:

The foundry was built by Sewell Corbett in 1845, who operated it until 1850, when he sold it to Sewell, jr., and Julius Corbett. In the year 1852 Jeremiah Bull took it and transformed it into a tannery and then sold it to Fred Burt. He transferred it to Geo. Belamy, who sold it to the present owner, John O. Porter. This tannery is a prosperous establishment, gives employment to sixteen or eighteen hands constantly and turns out from 18,000 to 20,000 sides of leather annually.

This passage piqued my interest. Did my ancestor really set up and own a tannery at some point? Where could I look for details?

I decided to start with the 1855 New York State Census for Town of Conklin, Broome County, N.Y.  — a source I already had in my records.

As I discussed in Tanners in my family tree, Jeremiah Bull’s occupation was given as “tanner” on this census — though not tannery owner or entrepreneur or anything along those lines.

However, being a tanner did place him in the leather-producing industry, where he likely learned the trade with the idea of moving up as his skills increased. So this did not rule out his owning a tannery at some point — and a prosperous one at that, if the description in the 1885 History of Broome County proves accurate.

Map evidence supports the county history

On our last family history trip together in August 1995, my dad and I traveled to Binghamton, Broome County, N.Y., and visited the public library in search of information about our Bull ancestors.

In those pre-digital days, we found a hard copy of Everts, Ensign and Everts’ Atlas Map of Broome County (1876) and photocopied the map of Corbettsville — now available online — because we knew our Bull forebears had lived there.

Studying the map again, I was encouraged to see a large building labeled “Parks & Porter Tannery”along with nearby buildings bearing the names “S. Corbett” and “J.S. Corbett.”

My ancestor Jeremiah Bull had left Corbettsville by 1876 when this atlas was created, so his name would not appear. But the map does contain the names of those who reportedly owned the tannery before and after him — lending credibility to the history book passage.

So far, so good. Now, where to look next?

To be continued.

© 2015 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Footnotes

  1. Lionel Pincus and Princess Firyal Map Division, The New York Public Library. “Map of Windsor Township; Castle Creek, Chenango TP (Village); Corbettsville, Conklin TP (Village)” New York Public Library Digital Collections. Accessed September 26, 2015. http://digitalcollections.nypl.org/items/510d47e3-1bf0-a3d9-e040-e00a18064a99