Category Archives: Charboneau

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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Yes! Almost there!

Letter Y: Twenty-fifth of twenty-six posts in the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Wish me luck and please join me as I cross the finish line!

Yes! One more day and Molly’s Canopy will cross the finish line of the April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge — to the roar of a virtual crowd and the sound of imaginary hands clapping (or tapping, as they finish up that last challenge post)!

Fireworks. Yes! Tomorrow I will make it to the end of my first April 2016 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, crossing the finish line with the Zinsk family — my Swiss ancestors. By: Nigel Howe

Now that I am nearly there, I confess that I did not do the sort of pre-challenge preparation one should do before a marathon — even missing the Theme Reveal.

Because it was my first time blogging from A to Z — and I only decided at the last minute to accept the challenge — when the flag went down on April 1, I wondered if I would be just an April fool or make it all the way to the end.

So I sprinted through week one, getting a bit winded and sleep deprived. Then I settled down during week two for the long haul — writing and commenting and meeting new bloggers as I went.

And that turned out to be the best approach — even allowing me some spare time to weigh in at the weekly #azchat on Twitter to see how others were doing.

Tomorrow I will dash across the finish line — hand in hand with the Zinsk family (my Swiss ancestors) — to round out my theme of Ancestors From A to Z.

But today I just want to enjoy the feeling of knowing that I am almost there and Yes! I will finish.

Up next: Swiss family Zinsk. Please stop back for my challenge finale.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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