Wolverines and Uncle Sid

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

When I jogged my dad’s memory about our mutual ancestors, he sometimes came out with a story that would point to a new research direction. That’s how I heard about the wolverines and Uncle Sid — and found an entirely new group of collateral relatives.

Two wolverines (1890). My dad’s childhood memory of an Uncle Sid from Salamanca, who told a story about wolverines, led to the discovery of a whole new group of collateral relatives. Image: Library of Congress

Dad and I were talking about his grandmother Eva (Bull) Charboneau and her visits to the Otter Lake Hotel in Forestport, Oneida, N.Y.

My dad grew up at the hotel, which was owned and operated by my paternal Charboneau grandparents.

We had already discovered that Eva was the daughter of our Union Army ancestor Arthur Bull, who spent his final years in Salamanca, Cattaraugus County, N.Y.  So Dad was trying to remember any connections to this from his childhood.

“Well, there was this one guy who everyone used to call Uncle Sid ,” Dad said. “He was kind of a strange fellow. He would visit the hotel in the summer, but never took a room. Always slept in his car. And he kept talking about ‘wolverines, wolverines’ and what a problem they were in Salamanca.”

Mondee, Tuesdee, Wolvereeens

Dad picked up a Baltimore accent from his mother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau and pronounced the days of the week Mondee, Tuesdee, and so on — so when he said “wolvereeens” I cracked up laughing.

That’s probably why the story stuck with me — and I’m glad it did. Because eventually my research trail led to an actual Uncle Sid.

He turned out to be Sidney Banton, a store owner from Salamanca and husband of Jessie (Bull) Banton, one of my great grandmother Eva’s younger sisters.

My great, great grandparents Arthur and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — who moved many times during their life together — relocated in their later years from Moose River Settlement in the Adirondack foothills to Salamanca in Western New York

Eva stayed behind after marrying my great grandfather Will Charboneau in the North Country. But her sister Jessie went along with their parents to Salamanca — where she met her husband Sidney.

Which makes Uncle Sid my great grand uncle in-law — and all because of a long-ago story that he told about wolverines.

Do you have any oddball stories that might link you to ancestors or collateral relatives? See if you can pick them apart, then follow the clues — they just might lead you to family.

Up next: Xavier and military cartography. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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10 thoughts on “Wolverines and Uncle Sid”

  1. How wonderful that you get to share your research with your dad (apart from those face palm moments!)

    I can’t think of any oddball stories in the scale of the Wolverines.

    1. Dad and I did quite a few road trips and onsite visits together…and during all that time in the car, some great stories surfaced 🙂

  2. That’s awesome you know so much about your ancestors! Sadly, I know so little of mine. People in my family tend not to live long, and no one wrote things down. So it was a treat to hear about your family’s past. 🙂

    1. Thanks so much for this comment, Ruth Ann. Believe it or not, I began like you…not knowing much…then little by little, with research and asking questions, the stories started to emerge. Good to hear that these family sagas resonate with you.

  3. I have a pair of Queen Victoria’s stocking (white) which she wore before Albert died. My ancestor was her lady in waiting. That is the story but I am sceptical. I did look at a list of L in W but couldn’t find her name. Maybe just a case of my grandmother trying to be grander than she really was.

    1. This is a great family story! Who knows, perhaps she was a fill-in for one of the listed ladies in waiting and that was the day the stockings came into her possession. Would be interesting to see if she is on an all-staff list.

  4. I don’t have oddball family history stories like that, but my husband does and his mother’s stories sometimes crack us up, her phrasing… she has stories about the ice blocks they would get to keep food cold, before refrigeration. I started trying to write them down.

    1. Yes, write them all down! Capturing the phrasing your mother-in-law uses is the start of chronicling the colorful parts of her family’s story. My dad had ice block stories, too!

  5. Interesting how one thing can lead to another. I had heard a “family legend” that is turning out to be true and leading me to parts unknown!

    1. So true, particularly of a family’s oral history. There is very often a hidden gem in these stories…but the stories themselves are gems as well!

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