1899: Introducing my Italian great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (di Lorenzo)

Sepia Saturday 574. Genealogy Blog Party June 2021. First in a photo series on my maternal Italian  ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York.

Featuring photos of my Italian ancestors from this Laurence-di Lorenzo-Curcio family album. Photo: Molly Charboneau

We all have bucket lists — and prominent on mine is to scan, preserve and share the large photo archive passed down from both sides of my family.

My maternal ancestors in particular — Italian and German immigrants and their descendants — sat for studio portraits in the late 1800s and early 1900s, which they likely sent to family back home as a way of staying connected.

Later, as popular photography emerged, casual portraits of my maternal and paternal ancestors at work and play also began to fill family albums.

Antique camera. Perhaps the time has come to let ancestral photos guide the narrative rather than the other way around. Photo: Pixabay

These photographs meant something to my ancestors. So perhaps the  time has come to let ancestral photos guide the narrative rather than the other way around —  starting with a photograph of my great-grandfather Peter Laurence [di Lorenzo]

Portrait of Peter Laurence [di Lorenzo]

For decades, a large studio portrait of my maternal Italian immigrant great-grandfather Peter Laurence hung on the dining room wall of my parents’ home. It was a colorized photo in a rectangular frame, and showed him sitting proudly in his Italian army uniform.

One of my siblings now has the large portrait, while I have a smaller black and white version of the same photograph — which happily contains some valuable notations.

Peter D. Laurence (aka di Lorenzo) in 1899, not long after his arrival in the U.S. Scan of family photo by Molly Charboneau

My maternal grandmother Elizabeth (Stoutner) Laurence — who married Peter’s oldest son Antonio — thoughtfully wrote Peter’s name on the front.

There is also a photographer’s mark — W. L. Havens, Gloversville — which does not appear on the larger, colorized portrait.

I had long assumed that the photograph was taken in Italy and that Peter brought it with him — but here is the proof that the photo was taken in the U.S.

Reverse-side clues

The back of the photo also contains details that help place Peter’s photo in context.

My great-grandfather’s name is printed in the center of the back as “Peter D. Laurence.” He was born Pietro di Lorenzo — and in this anglicized version of his name, he included a middle initial D in an apparent bow to his birth name.

Back of photo of Peter D. Laurence (aka di Lorenzo) showing an Oct. 21, 1899 date and printed name. Scan of family photo by Molly Charboneau

The back of the photo also includes a crucial date, Oct. 21, 1899 — which means it was taken three years after my great-grandfather’s 1896 arrival in the U.S. and the year before he first appeared in a U.S. census in 1900.

Peter appears confident and forward looking in this photograph, which may be the first one taken of him in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y. — his new U.S. home.

Yet he nostalgically hearkens back to his country of origin by posing in his Italian army uniform — which, incidentally, still fit him pretty well.

Amazing how much information can be contained in just one ancestral photograph! What will subsequent photos reveal?

Up next: More on Peter Laurence [di Lorenzo]. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here. Then head on over to the June 2021 Genealogy Blog Party: “How You Did It” for valuable family history research techniques.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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From the Archives: Dad Joins the Journey

Sepia Saturday 572. From the archives: In honor of my dad this Memorial Day weekend, here is a blog from the archives, originally posted in May 2014.

This Memorial Day, I’ll be remembering my dad Norm Charboneau — a WW II veteran and my enthusiastic travel partner on many family history road trips.

“Where are we going this time, Mol?” he would quip when I visited him and Mom each summer.

Dad joins the ancestral journey

Dad joined the journey in 1992, and for years we combed upstate New York together, or strategized by phone, in search of our elusive ancestors. But it wasn’t always that way.

Family photo circa 1946 of Norm Charboneau, 22, a U.S. Navy ETM3c. Scan by Molly Charboneau.

Dad grew up in the small Adirondack town of Otter Lake in Forestport, Oneida Co., N.Y., [1]Family Search requires free login to view documents. where he admired those in uniform — postal workers, bus drivers, train conductors — who saw more of the world than he did.

The first in his family to go to college, Dad interrupted his engineering studies at Clarkson University in 1944 to enlist in the U.S. Navy. He served in the Pacific until 1946 — as an Electronics Technician Mate, Third Class (ETM3c) — in the wider world he longed for.

My college years in the 1960s were interrupted in a different way when I gave up my studies and joined the peace movement to end the Vietnam  War. I was not sure I could ever heal the rift that caused with Dad.

Enjoying our shared heritage

But as years passed, we both mellowed. I eventually finished college and began researching our family. One day I realized that our time together was slipping away, so I called Dad.

“What would you say to a trip to Otter Lake, so you can show me everything and tell me all about it?” I asked him.

My dad, Norm Charboneau, at Otter Lake, Onieda Co., N.Y. (1992). On our first genealogy trip together, my dad posed in front of a line of pine trees that was planted decades before by his dad — my paternal grandfather W. Ray Charboneau. Photo by Molly Charboneau

Dad, who inherited the gift of gab from his mother’s Welsh-Irish side, loved the idea. And with that trip, the first of many,  he and I finally moved beyond what divided us and started enjoying the legacy we shared: family, ancestors, heritage.

Up next: Hoping to do some photo blogging to get my family photo collection scanned. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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1 Family Search requires free login to view documents.

Recap and Reflections on “Endwell: My Early Teen Years” #AtoZChallenge

Recap and Reflections on “Endwell: My Early Teen Years” — Including all 26 posts in the April 2021 Blogging from #AtoZChallenge. Thanks for joining me on the journey and commenting along the way!

Now that the April 2021 Blogging from #AtoZChallenge is over, I am happy to be among the winners who completed the online marathon — for the fourth time!

After a frenetic month of blogging six days a week, I’ll be relieved to return to weekly blogging as I continue to explore my ancestors’ lives and the research techniques I used to find them.

Endwell, N.Y., 1965: In our willow tree at age 15 — I had survived my early teens and was headed to High School. Photo by Norm Charboneau

Yet it was fun taking a deep dive into my early teens in Endwell, N.Y, during the early 1960s. Stay tuned — I’m considering a sequel about my late teens next year!


Below are links to my #AtoZChallenge 2021 posts about Endwell: My Early Teen Years, adding my story to the family history mix. Please check out any you may have missed. Comments are still open on the later posts and I love hearing from readers!

Malverne Rd. and Shady Dr. Home base for “Endwell: My Early Teen Years.” Photo: Amy L. Williamson (2020)


Busier than last year. Overall, I found this A to Z was busier than last year — in part because I went all-in on trying to comment regularly. The participant list identified genealogy and family history bloggers to help me focus my visits/comments — but I visited around a bit, too, making it a true blogfest!

Great camaraderie. Overall, I learned so much from the meaningful camaraderie and thoughtful comments I received — and from the blogs I visited. I was gratified by the positive feedback and parallel experiences that visiting bloggers shared. And it was nice to catch up with bloggers from previous A to Z Challenges.

Embracing memoir. My blog focuses on ancestral research — but it’s also important to include ourselves in the mix, leaving an online diary like the ones we wish our ancestors had left. That’s why I followed up earlier A to Z themes on my early childhood (2017) and my  elementary years (2020) with a series this year about my early teens.

Many thanks to everyone who visited, subscribed, followed and commented on Molly’s Canopy. You made my fourth #AtoZChallenge so rewarding. Please join me throughout the year as my genealogy journey continues!

Up next: After a brief break, regular blogging resumes at Molly’s Canopy. Please stop back!

 © 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Growing family trees one leaf at a time