Tag Archives: Albert Barney Charboneau

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.

https://mapio.net/pic/p-9170669/
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: FamilySearch1
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 nearby2in 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.

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/resource/hhh.ny1306.photos.124358p/
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.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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Uncle Albert and the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918

Sepia Saturday 523. First in a new series about Albert Barney Charboneau — my paternal grandfather’s brother who died in the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918.

As we collectively live through the global Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, there is new interest in the last similar worldwide outbreak of a deadly respiratory disease – the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Surprisingly, news commentators and others generally say they knew little about the 1918 pandemic before now.

Yet I learned about that outbreak years ago because it claimed a collateral family member in the prime of his life – my paternal grandfather’s brother, Albert Barney Charboneau.

And it all started with a family photo.

The Charboneau brothers (circa 1910). From left, my paternal grandfather William Ray (b. 1888) and his brothers Albert Barney (b. 1885), George Dewey (b. 1899) and Orville Nile (b. 1892). The photo was taken at the John Mutchler Jr. Art Studio in Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y. Scan by Molly Charboneau

Charboneau brothers photo

When my parents retired and downsized to a new house, my dad hung the studio photograph shown above of my grandfather William Ray Charboneau and his brothers — Albert, Dewey and Orville. During a visit, I noticed the photo and asked Dad about his uncles. That’s when I first heard about Uncle Albert.

“Albert died in the 1918 flu pandemic,” Dad said, shaking his head. “Really a shame. I always thought he was the handsomest of the four brothers.” Sadly, Dad had to base his assessment on photographs because Albert died six years before my father was born.

The story of Albert’s untimely death stayed with me, and when I began doing regular genealogy research in the 1990s I asked Dad if he knew more. Alas, he did not.

“Well, it makes sense that the family wouldn’t talk about it,” I observed. “It must have been such a shock.”

“Oh, the family talked about Albert and what happened to him all the time,” Dad said. “I just can’t remember anything specific.”

A three-generation tale

So here was a 1918 pandemic story passed down through three generations of my family — from my grandparents to Dad to me. Yet the details remained elusive — and that got me wondering.

Why did Albert die and while other family members lived – including his wife? Who else got the flu in his area? What more could I learn about the deadly virus that claimed Albert and millions more?

In 1918, all four Charboneau brothers lived in the small Mohawk Valley town of Dolgeville in Herkimer Co., N.Y. — located northeast of Utica, the closest city. So how did the deadly influenza that was sweeping the globe arrive in this relatively sparsely populated area?

https://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2017668638/
Infection control in Seattle, Wash., circa 1918, where passengers were not permitted to ride on street cars without wearing a mask. How did the deadly influenza then sweeping the globe arrive in sparsely populated Dolgeville, Herkimer Co., N.Y., and claim the life of my dad’s Uncle Albert? Photo: Library of Congress

Time to tell Albert’s story

Over the years as I researched my family, I began gathering information about the 1918 influenza pandemic – books, news clips, whatever I could find – with the idea that one day, when the time seemed right, I would tell Uncle Albert’s story.

I never imagined that the right time would arrive this year — more than 100 years after the 1918 outbreak — as humanity grapples with a new, global coronavirus pandemic.

Suddenly the unimaginable 1918 infection control measures I read about – homemade masks, venues and schools closed, no large gatherings, social distancing – have become part of our everyday lives.  The significance of Albert’s death to those who loved him has also become all too real — with so many now losing loved ones to Covid-19.

Beyond the statistics

Today, daily briefings sum up the coronavirus toll and our progress in stopping its spread. Yet so many personal stories of individuals, their families and their communities are hidden in the numbers.

In her book Flu: The Story of the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 and the Search for the Virus That Caused It, author Gina Kolata speaks to this phenomenon:

One way to tell the story of the 1918 flu is through facts and figures, a collection of data whose impact is numbing and whose magnitude is almost inconceivable….But the raw numbers cannot convey the scenes of horror and misery that swept the world in 1918, which became part of everyday life in every nation, in the largest cities and the remotest hamlets.

In this new blog series, I hope to rescue Uncle Albert from the statistical realm by placing him in the context of his family and community and telling what I have discovered about his life — cut short in its prime by the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Up next, First born son: Albert Barney Charboneau. Please stop back! Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants here.

© 2020 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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