Tag Archives: Laurent Charbonneau

Breakthrough baptismal certificate

Second in a series about my French-Canadian ancestor Laurent Charbonneau, who emigrated from Québec to New York State around 1852.

Starting at the beginning of an ancestor’s life is always a good idea, especially when a birth or baptismal record exists — as it does for my French-Canadian great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau.

Finding this landmark record in a Montréal archive launched my heritage quest, as described in Charbonneau breakthrough: Hooked on family history. However, words cannot fully capture how difficult it was to read this pivotal document — which was handwritten in French in quill pen in 1832. You just have to see it for yourself!

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My certified copy of Laurent Charbonneau’s 1832 baptismal record, which I found in the Drouin Collection on microfilm in a Montréal archive. The collection has since been digitized. Photo by Molly Charboneau

A rough translation

I asked the Montréal archivist to read out the document to me so I could legibly transcribe the French. When I returned home, I made the following rough translation and shared it with my parents and siblings:

The eleventh of October, eighteen hundred and thirty two, our undersigned priest, curate of St. Geneviéve parish, has baptized Laurent born today of the legitimate marriage of Louis Charbonneau, blacksmith, and Suzanne Marcille of this parish. Godfather François Barbeau, merchant, and godmother Lady Eléonore Rapin were present and undersigned with us along with the father.”

New to genealogy research then and excited by my find, I filed the document away and took off at a mad dash to look for other ancestors — not taking the time I should have to carefully examine the document and write an appropriate citation. (Haven’t we all done this at some point in our research?)

But now that I am beginning to tell Laurent Charbonneau’s story, the time has come to take a closer look at what this document tells us.

A record reveals its secrets

The baptismal record shows that Laurent was baptized the same day he was born — on 11 October 1832 — and his was the 83rd baptism in the parish that year. His parents were Louis and Suzanne (Marcille) Charbonneau, they were united in a “legitimate marriage,” and they worshiped at the Roman Catholic St. Geneviéve parish in Montréal.

My great, great, great grandfather Louis Charbonneau was working as a blacksmith at the time of Laurent’s birth/baptism — and he signed the document, so I have a copy of his signature!

I assume my great, great, great grandmother Suzanne was at home — having just given birth that day — as she is not listed as present in the record, nor is she among the signers.

The archivist advised me to pay careful attention to all the names that appear on Québec records because they might include family members. So Laurent’s godfather François Barbeau, a merchant, and godmother Lady Eléonore Rapin could be related — though further research would be needed to confirm this.

Contrasting Laurent’s baptismal record with others on the same page, I take some pride in the size of the priest’s signature on my ancestor’s record — much larger than on all of the others. And the fact that Laurent’s father and godparents’ also signed the document — rather than just being named, as is the case with adjacet records — implies their ability to read and write French as well as speak it.

Thus was my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau ushered into the world — to the welcoming arms of his parents and godparents. What more can we learn about his background and early life?

To be continued.

© 2016 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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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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