Category Archives: Charboneau

Research, repositories and relaxation

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

Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research brings on a deep sense of relaxation — like a form of meditation for the family historian.

By: mrgarethm
National Archives and Records Administration Building, Washington, D.C. Research, repositories and relaxation are three words I often think of in combination, because just the idea of going to a repository to do some leisurely family history research induces a deep sense of relaxation — sort of like meditation for the family historian By: mrgarethm

I began doing genealogy research in earnest when I was living in Washington, D.C., in the early 1990s.

Back then, the National Archives building on Pennsylvania Ave. was open most nights until 9:00 pm — so if I was having a hectic week and needed to unwind, I would head over there for a couple of hours.

Microfilm meditation

In those microfilm days, there would be researchers at readers all over the room meditatively scrolling along looking for ancestors — and once in a while, you would hear someone exclaim happily when they found a record they needed.

Sitting in that huge space, I found my maternal immigrant ancestors, who lived and worked in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., in census after census —  because once they settled there, they put down roots.

My paternal ancestors, who had been in the U.S. much longer, offered many more relaxing hours of research because they moved around quite a bit.

After a night at the archives, I sometimes called my dad for tips on where to look next — and one night surprised him with the news that we had Swiss ancestors.

“You know, I seem to remember hearing something about that,” he said thoughtfully after I read him the census entry from Forestport, Oneida County, N.Y.

“Really?” I asked. “Why didn’t you say something?” But in retrospect, I’m glad he didn’t — because it might have spoiled the relaxing evening I spent unearthing that discovery, which I will write about for Letter Z.

Brain-healthy browsing

Although many records are now digitized, with more coming online each day, most materials still exist in non-digital form at government offices, libraries, archives and other repositories.

It’s easy to bemoan this reality and feel frustrated that the ancestral records we want are not instantly available, or just an Internet search away.

But once you realize that research and repositories lead to relaxation, you can tap into the brain-healthy meditative state that accompanies your heritage search — and that can be a good thing!

Up next: Susquehanna River reflections. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Quotes: Letting ancestors speak

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

Quotes from relatives and ancestors enrich a family history story more fully that mere description. Letting our ancestors and relatives speak for themselves — through something they said or something they wrote — truly enlivens a family narrative.

Modern rendition of the letter Q. Quotes from ancestors, relatives or contemporaries can add depth to family history narratives and enliven events that shaped ancestors’ lives. By: Tibor Hegewisch

The voice and personality of my paternal grandmother Mary Frances (Owen) Charboneau made its way into A holiday gift: My grandmother’s voice through entries from her diary.

Because she died when I was very young, I barely knew her. But inheriting my grandmother’s diary allowed me to get acquainted with her — and to let her tell parts of her own story through quotes from her journal.

My maternal grandmother’s younger sister — my mom’s Aunt Margaret (Stoutner) Rothbell — told me the story about my grandparents’ secret meetings as they waited for the chance to elope. Aunt Margaret was an eyewitness to that family drama, so I quoted her rendition in A Valentine’s Day love story: My grandmother elopes.

Then there are my Uncle Fred’s letters (he was one of my dad’s brothers) written to my paternal grandmother during World War II — expressing in his own words a longing for home during the holidays.

Quotes from contemporaries can also animate a family history story. Such as the reactions of friends and co-workers in “You’re going where?” when I told them I was headed to a U.S. Civil War reenactment. Or the initial communications from my Dempsey cousins in Shamrocks and Shared Heritage.

Do you have quotable ancestors, relatives or friends? Have you interviewed any of them? Inherited letters or other writings? Bringing them onstage can add depth to your narratives and enliven the events that shaped your ancestors lives.

Up next: Research, repositories and relaxation. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Norm’s eightieth birthday

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

The year my dad, Norm Charboneau, turned 80, our family threw him a surprise birthday party a little ahead of the big event at a lovely restaurant near my parents’ home outside Syracuse, N.Y. Dad had a great time — and so many of us turned out from far and wide that we had to take the group photo in two parts to fit everyone in.

image
Labor Day Mystery book cover (2005). When he turned 80, my dad Norm Charboneau started blogging and finished up the process of self-publishing his mystery book, which was set in the Adirondacks in the 1940s. Photo by Molly Charboneau

This meant that on his actual 80th birthday — besides celebrating with Mom — Dad was left to his own devices. And as always, he had a plan.

“Today I drove over to Carol’s Polar Parlor, ordered a banana split with everything on it and ate the whole thing myself,” he announced proudly when I called to say Happy Birthday.

Norm felt this was the most suitable way to mark eight decades of a pretty active life — and to anticipate two major octogenarian projects he had in the works.

Chabonews blog

One month later,  Norm started blogging — designing and launching his blog Charbonews all on his own, with a full bio, photos, the works. I have always loved my dad’s forward looking, let’s-try-a-new-challenge attitude — and starting a blog at the ripe old age of 80 was certainly an inspiring act.

Norm wrote short pieces — more as an online journal whenever the mood struck him — about his home town, Elderhostel trips with my mom, and even a post titled Famous Relative? about our family history. Dad had a mini marketing plan, too — emailing family and friends to alert them to blog posts. Like I said, way ahead of his time.

Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn

Norm’s other landmark project, which he was finishing up as he turned 80, was self publishing his book Labor Day Mystery: A Red Flannel Yarn — set in the fictional town of Panther Lake and featuring an amateur sleuth Red Flanneau (aka Red Flannel) loosely based on himself.

Dad modeled other characters and plot lines after friends, family and events from his home town — Otter Lake, Oneida County, N.Y. — to create a murder mystery true to its North Country setting.

Mom and I shared the spoiler alert of reviewing and giving feedback on the manuscript, while Dad handled all the publishing arrangements. Then, like any good publicist, Norm emailed his list and did a blog post alerting us when the book was out — and also made sure that family members got a copy.

Some day, with luck and healthy living, we could all turn 80. When my time comes, I hope I am still writing, blogging and living life to the fullest — though perhaps without the banana split — just like my dad Norm was doing on his 80th birthday.

Up next: Oneonta: City of surprises. Please stop back.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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