1885: First born son, Albert Barney Charboneau

Sepia Saturday 524Second in a series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

Studio portrait of Albert Barney Charboneau circa 1910. He often went by the nickname Bert. Scan by Molly Charboneau

My dad’s Uncle Albert, who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918, was born on 17 Feb. 1885 in the small hamlet of Hawkinsville — located along the Black River east of Boonville in Oneida Co., New York.

Albert Barney Charboneau — who often went by the nickname Bert — was the first-born son of my paternal great grandparents Will and Eva (Bull) Charboneau.

A North Country childhood

Albert started his life in New York’s North Country — yet his birth year makes it difficult to learn more about his early childhood.

Contemporary photo of the Hawkinsville Dam — near the North Country childhood home of my dad’s uncle Albert Barney CharboneauPhoto: Kris R./mapio

He was born five years after the 1880 U.S. census — and the next 1890 U.S. census was destroyed in a fire. New York State’s 1892 census is not much help, either, because records for Oneida County are missing.

So Albert first appears in the 1900 U.S. census at the age of 15 with the surname variant “Charbano.” He was living in the Town of Forestport  with his parents and three younger brothers — including my paternal grandfather W. Ray Charboneau.

Albert B. Charboneau and family – 1900 U.S. census – Town of Forestport, Oneida County, New York – Source: FamilySearch[1]FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
Name DOB Age Born in Father Born in Mother Born in Job/School
William L. Charbano May 1857 43 New York Canada Fr. Germany Stay. Engineer
Eva M. Charbano July 1867 32 New York New York New York
Albert D. Charbano
Feb. 1885 15 New York New York New York Laborer Sawmill
Ray M. Charbano April 1888 12 New York New York New York At School
Orville N. Charbano April 1892 8 New York New York New York At School
George D. Charbano June 1898 1 New York New York New York

An interesting heritage

This enumeration supports previous research on my Charboneau ancestors. Albert’s father Will Charboneau, a stationery engineer, was the son of immigrants.

Will’s father Laurent Charbonneau  immigrated from Quebec in the 1850s. Will’s mother Ursula Angeline Zinsk was a German-Swiss immigrant who arrived in New York State during the same time period. Both lived nearby[2]ibid.in 1900.

Albert’s mother, Eva May (Bull) Charboneau, was the daughter Arthur T. Bull (my Union Army great-great grandfather) and Mary Elizabeth (Blakeslee) Bull — whose parents divorced in 1866.

Was Albert aware of his interesting family heritage? Hard to know — but I do hope his parents shared some oral history with him.

Vintage Sawmill in Warren County, N.Y. Albert’s 1900 U.S. census enumeration indicates that he was already at work, at just 15, as a laborer in a sawmill. Photo: Library of Congress

Albert’s lumber job

The other item that jumped out at me from Albert’s 1900 U.S. census entry was that he was already at work — at just 15 — as a laborer in a sawmill.

Lumber and its related products were big business in the Adirondack foothills — with loggers felling forest trees and sending  logs and finished lumber south on the Black River Canal, which fed into the Erie Canal.

At one time Albert’s Hawkinsville hometown had a saw mill, wood products firms and prospects for growth once a railroad line was established.

But those hopes were dashed when the railroad was built further west — and by 1910 the Charboneau family had moved south to up-and-coming Dolgeville in Herkimer County, N.Y.

More on this in the next post. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

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1 FamilySearch requires free login to view records.
2 ibid.

16 thoughts on “1885: First born son, Albert Barney Charboneau”

  1. Only 15. Too young and handsome to be working in a sawmill (which bears a striking resemblance to a torture chamber, by the way). Great installment on Albert’s life.

    1. Yes, sawmills do often feature in mystery and horror films — but in this case, they were the lifeblood of Hawkinsville, N.Y., where Uncle Albert spent his childhood and teen years.

  2. Hi Molly – I love the photos you have selected. I must be getting old because I remember a sawmill being right in the middle of Toowong here in Brisbane. There’s a shopping centre there now. Sawmills were big here in Queensland too.

    1. The sawmill shown here is from a set of photos taken by the U.S. government to document closed sawmills before they were torn down completely. They capture a frozen-in-time sense of what the work may have been like for Albert and other mill workers when they were open.

  3. How fortunate to have that dashing photo but how frustrating not to be able to learn more from the census. So young to be hard working at 15 in what was likely a dangerous job.

    1. Yes, the census gaps are indeed frustrating — but still hoping to develop a general outline of Albert’s early life based on the town where he lived. Alas, his early employment was not unusual — there were young workers on the Black River Canal as well, doing comparably dangerous work.

    1. Thanks, Virginia. Totally agree. Our ancestors spent more time at work — whether in the home, on the farm or for an employer — than at leisure, especially before workers won labor laws that limited the work day. So documenting our ancestors employment as best we can provides a fuller picture of their lives.

  4. Being able to trace family records in regard to where they lived and what they did – accompanied by photographs – is fun and interesting. I am further fortunate in having my great grandfather’s personal journal kept during a vacation trip he took in 1874 wherein he wrote about what he saw and how he felt about it, and the people he was with or met along the way and how he felt about them. It has given me remarkable insight into the kind of person he was beyond where he lived and worked. Truly special.

    1. Wow, what I wouldn’t give for a journal of ANY of my ancestors — direct or collateral. You are indeed fortunate.

  5. I feel your pain over the absence of a census record. Yesterday I was looking for a marriage record that SHOULD be available online but the index for Brides began with “G” – my bride was Chambers. My groom was Nichols and the entire “N” index was missing. What are the odds?

    1. I totally sympathize! Why does it seem that only OUR ancestors end up missing from crucial databases? Fortunately, finding workarounds can sometimes lead us down illuminating paths, intrepid researchers that we are 🙂

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