First in a series about the younger sister of my French-Canadian ancestor Laurent Charbonneau, who emigrated from Québec to New York State around 1852.
Elise Charboneau, my great, great grandfather Laurent’s younger sister, is not a direct ancestor of mine. But I feel tremendous compassion for her because of the family tragedies she experienced as a young wife and mother.
According to the 1861 Recensement Personnel [Personal Census] of Canada, she appears to have lost not only her husband but also two babies during the previous year — the sad story revealed in the census-taker’s log.
A tale of heartbreaking loss
During the census year, Elise was a widow living with her parents, her younger brother and a servant at her father Louis’s inn, located in St. Eustache, Deux Montagnes, Québec — which I wrote about in 1861: Charbonneau parents and siblings.
Two little girls (Elise Bouchard, 2, and Marie Bouchard, 1) –presumably her daughters — were also listed with her. Although this part of her family remained intact, the widow Elise was doubtless still in mourning after the untimely events of 1860.
|1861 Recensement Personnel [Personal Census] of Canada – District 1 of St. Eustache village – Deux Montagnes (county) – from Library and Archives of Canada http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng|
|Person No.||Name||Age (next birthday)||Born in 1860||Died in 1860||Age/Cause|
|7||Elise Charbonneau||23||2 Male
|3 Male||7 mos. debility
9 mos. debility
30 yrs. accident
|9||Marie Bouchard||1||1 Female|
What happened to the Elise’s family?
From her census return, translated and abstracted above, Elise Charbonneau appears to have given birth to triplets — two boys and a girl — in 1860.
Multiple pregnancies are still considered high risk — even with today’s skilled maternity teams and modern neonatal units. So the difficulties would have been much greater in the mid-1800s for a midwife-assisted home birth of triplets.
Alas, Elise’s two tiny sons — apparently too frail to survive — succumbed at ages 7 months and 9 months from débilité [debility]. The surviving triplet is most likely her daughter Marie Bouchard — who according to this census was born in 1860 and would turn one year old on her next birthday.
As if the loss of two children was not enough, Elise appears to have also lost her husband the same year. This census shows that a 30-year-old male associated with Elise’s enumeration died in an accident in 1860.
What a devastating year that must have been for my great, great grandfather’s younger sister — and her entire extended family!
In search of answers
When I began researching my ancestor Laurent Charbonneau’s early life in Québec, I never expected to find such a gripping saga affecting one of his siblings. But having discovered Elise’s story, I felt compelled to pursue it further — guided by many questions.
What was her husband’s full name? What type of work did he do? What kind of fatal accident did he have? And what else could I discover about Elise’s young family and the circumstances of her husband’s premature demise? More on what I found in the next post.
To be continued.
© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.