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Sunday, July 1, 2012

Visiting St-Pie and St-Hyacinthe

          I finally decided to take the plunge and visit St-Pie and the archives in St-Hyacinthe, so on Sunday,  June 24, I boarded Megabus for a $1.00 trip to Burlington VT.    After a rendez-vous with my parents, who drove up from MA, we crossed the border and stayed at a motel in St-Hyacinthe.    Most of the people in the area still do not speak English, so I had the opportunity to practice communicating in French.  
          I’d corresponded via e-mail with personnel in both genealogy and archives at the Centre d'histoire de Saint-Hyacinthe inc.  In 2010, I’d learned from Luc Cordeau, General Director at the Centre that records had been collected from the church in St-Pie in 2002, but that the collection had not yet been processed.   In the archives there, I’d hoped to find any of the following:  materials gathered from the church in St-Pie, including bulletins, announcements, choir attendance records, photographs of the choir, or other documents pertaining to the choir during the years 1886-1902, when Valérie Provost would have lived in St-Pie.  In addition, I hoped school records might be available.
          I also wrote to the genealogy area at the Centre to inquire about newspapers on microfilm that might potentially contain an obituary, and to ask about Confirmation records.  Ghisaline Letarte from genealogy informed me by e-mail prior to my visit that in the newspaper Le Courier of St-Hyacinthe in 1910, there are no obituaries as such, but only a social section that mentions trips, parties, deaths and so forth.  She also told me that Confirmation records are not available for legal reasons.    She also informed me that I had to make an appointment with archivist Anne-Marie Charuest in order to visit the archives.   So, I didn’t have to spend time looking through microfilm of Le Courier and could just focus on visiting the church in St-Pie and the archives in St-Hyacinthe.
          On Tuesday, we drove to the church in St-Pie and met with Lise Martin, the parish secretary.  I’d corresponded with her via e-mail prior to our arrival.   In addition to seeing the church and the town, I’d hoped to find the grave site of my great-grandmother in the St-Pie cemetery.  Lise checked the database and map of cemetery plots, but did not find burial plots for any members of the Provost family, even though burial records for them are inscribed in the register.   Besides Valérie, there are burial records for three members of the Provost family in St-Pie; her father Désiré, her brother Wilfrid and her sister Exavérine.  Lise said that most likely, they were buried in the common burial area, in which the graves are unmarked.    The family must have been so impoverished that they were unable to afford burial plots or headstones.  Lisa kindly agreed to call and make an appointment at the Centre in St-Hyacinthe for me, since I was unsure that I would be able to communicate very well in French over the phone.  She was successful in getting me a 1:30 appointment for that afternoon.   During the course of our conversation, Lise mentioned that one of her ancestors was a Catudal St-Jean from St. Paul d’Abbotsford, so we’re cousins!   
              The façade of L’eglise Saint-Pie was replaced in 1910 and the interior refurbished.   Photos of the previous façade show only one steeple, but nevertheless, the old façade was grandiose in the context of a small town.   The interior of the church is made light by the maple wood floors and pews, coated with a clear finish rather than stained, which allows the natural wood to be seen.  The windows are frosted glass rather than stained glass, which also allows more light into the church.  The Stations of the Cross are all painted in full color, and the unique design of the church interior can be seen in the photographs posted here.  Since the renovations were done in 1910, the year Valérie Provost died, the church probably looks somewhat different from when she attended Mass there.   

L'eglise St-Pie 

L'eglise St-Pie interior from back of church facing the altar.

L'eglise St-Pie choir loft

L'eglise St-Pie interior detail

L'eglise St-Pie. interior to left of altar.

Common burial area of the St-Pie Cemetery, where members of the Provost family are presumed to be buried.

           While in St-Pie, I noticed this pizza place with the name Dumont on it.  This pizza establishment could be a clue.  If Auguste Dumont had some relatives living in St-Pie, perhaps he did know Charles Catudal before the families lived together in North Attleboro.
Pizzeria Dumont in St-Pie
Pizzeria Dumont sign 

                Except for the addition of highways and paved roads, St-Pie and the surrounding area probably hasn’t changed much since the turn of the century.  Most of the region is agricultural.  There were fresh strawberries for sale at every roadside stand and farmers’ market, and corn fields are abundant.
                Once at the archives in St-Hyacinthe, I was allowed to view a few items, including a recently published history of St-Pie (the title and author of which, unfortunately, I neglected to note) and a Parish Council minutes book from the late 19th-early 20th c.   From the minutes book, I learned that the church employed a male “chanteur” to intone responses at Masses and serve as soloist for special occasions (Roman Catholic churches still employ cantors in the US).  That being the case, what opportunities would have been available for female volunteer singers during that period?  If my great-grandmother ever sang as a soloist, it would probably have been under limited circumstances.  
              In the history of St-Pie, the choir directors and chanteurs employed since the beginning of the parish were listed, but no distinction was made regarding their roles.   One of them would presumably have been the organist.   During the period of interest for our research, the following choir directors/chanteurs are listed:

1883-1912 Joseph Laperte
1883-1889 Raphael Caderre
1890-1891 and 1901-[1902] Clement Hamel
1892-1897 Pierre A. Meunier

The name Raphael Caderre popped out at me because I’d seen his signature on Désiré Provost’s burial record in 1886 and he was godfather to Raphael Louis Désiré Provost (b. 3 August 1885).  I had identified him in a previous post, "A Visit to AFGS," as the wife of Elmire Provost (married 4 February 1873, St-Pie).   Elmire was the sister of  Désiré senior, so Raphael Caderre would have been Valérie's uncle.

                 Some questions were answered for me by Ms. Charuest.   All schools in Canada, including those schools run by Catholic institutions, are under the authority of the Canadian government.  Therefore, records are not stored at the archives in St-Hyacinthe, but at the Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec.   She also showed me some posters for musical shows that were produced by students in St-Pie in the early 1900s and said that private individuals send them in from time to time.   So, even though the posters were a few years too late for our research purposes, I know that there would have been musical performance venues for the young people of St-Pie, and there may still be more posters in someone’s attic that will eventually make their way to the archives.   Ms. Charuest was friendly, helpful and bilingual (a rarity in the region), and she promised to notify me if relevant information is found.   So, the search continues . . .

Saturday, September 10, 2011

A visit to AFGS

            While vacationing in Massachusetts recently, I visited the American French Genealogical Society in Woonsocket, RI.    After looking at their website, I decided that it would be most efficient if I made a list of the items I most wanted to find, in order of their priority.   First, I searched their online searchable obituary database to see if there might be anything useful.   An entry for Germaine Catudal Henry came up, so I made a note of the book and page number.   The AFGS obituary database contains names and locations, but it is necessary to go there and look up the actual obituary.   I did not find any other obituaries, which is not surprising, considering that the collection only began in the 1970s and it is solely dependent on submissions by AFGS volunteers.  

            My research goals were:

1. Find a baptismal record for Valérie Provost.   I have found what I think is a birth record on FamilySearch, but as I mentioned in a previous post, the mother’s name is incorrect.  The first name on the record is Sophronia with no middle name or other names, so I cannot be certain that the record is a match.  The father’s name and child’s birth date are accurate, and the birth occurred in Chicopee, MA, where her parents were married the year prior.  An inquiry of the church records in Chicopee was unfruitful.

Outcome:  Not found.  No records for parishes in Chicopee.

2. Find a marriage record for Desiré Provost and Marceline Monast.  Again, I found a transcription on FamilySearch but was unable to track down a church record in Chicopee.   Unlike the birth record, which is a civil record, the marriage record does not exist in the state archives.  Therefore, the transcription must have been made from a church record.   That aspect of it remains a mystery to me.

Outcome: Not found. Marriage indexes at AFGS only contain Canadian church records.  Again, there were no records for Chicopee.

3. Look for exact death dates for Charles Catudal and his mother, Marie Anne Boulay.

Outcome: Not found.  AFGS has death indexes only, but not the vital records themselves.  I  had already found the indexes at the New Bedford Public Library.

4. Look at the funeral home records for more information about Valérie Provost.  

Outcome:  Although they have volumes of funeral home records, they didn’t have the records from McGinn funeral home in North Attleboro.  There probably would not have been any information that I don’t already have anyway.   These funeral home records provide such information as next-of-kin and other information that is usually found on a death certificate.

5. Try to find a birth or baptismal record for Marie Louise Trémouillé (see last post “What happened to the Dumonts?”). 

Outcome: No luck here either.  The volunteer who assisted me said that it would be very difficult to find a birth or baptismal record without the parents’ names.  He did say that  Trémouillé is an unusual name for a French Canadian, and that she was probably an orphan or of mixed heritage.  

6. Look in the St-Pie church records register just to see if there is any information I have not found elsewhere.

Outcome:  Lots of information here.

I found listings for the baptism of two more children of Ambroise Provost and Magdeleine May Denonville, bringing their total number of children to fifteen.  Both children died in childhood:

M. Genviève – 7 September 1832 – 23 November 1834
M. Magdeleine – 26 July 1834 – 17 April 1836

I also found a death date of 6 February 1841 for their child, Désiré, who was born in 1837.

Other information contained in this register were the marriage dates and names of spouses for:

M. Rosalie Hermine – Prosper Michaud – married 4 August 1873
Joseph Charles – Victorine Chagnon – married 24 February 1873
Adelphe (he is a new addition) –Elmire Gendreau – married 8 June 1853
Elmire – Raphael Emery Coderre* – married 4 February 1873
Misaél – Sophie Séraphine Morin – married 21 October 1859
Antoine – Aschash Emma Ball – 15 June 1858

*I had wondered who Raphael Coderre was.  He signed Désiré Provost’s burial record in 1886 and was godfather to Raphael Louis Désiré Provost (b. 3 August 1885)

The children of Misaél and Sophie and their spouses were also listed:

Olivier Théodore (b. 17 September 1869) married Alice Coderre in St-Hyacinthe.
Alice Exire (alt. spelling Escire) (b. 13 November 1873)
Henri Fabien Antonio (b. 28 November 1879) married Elmire Laporte, was widowed and remarried Alice Traverse.

Entries for the children of Pierre Ambroise and Tharsile Thomas (Williams) were also available, and I was able to find more complete names and birth dates:

Aurelié Valérie (previously, we didn’t know her name was Aurélie) b. 31 March 1868
Léandre –  b.  14 October 1855
Gabriel Ambroise Georges –  b. 12 February 1859

So, the regional collection at AFGS proved to be quite useful.  As with any collection of records, I would not place complete trust in the accuracy of the information, and it is not complete by any means, but it is an excellent place to gather names and dates as a preliminary step in searching for the original documents.   Most of the entries I saw matched records I had already found.  There were only two discrepancies, which I will have to go back and check (it is entirely possible that I made an error in recording the dates as well).  I also found the obituary for Germaine Catudal and was able to photocopy it.   By the time I had asked for assistance and browsed the shelves a bit, I was out of time. 

AFGS is run entirely by volunteers.   The three volunteers who assisted me were very friendly French-Canadian American gentlemen, and one of them even answered my questions about Canadian French pronunciation and idioms.  If you decide to conduct research at AFGS, you can save yourself some time by going through their list of holdings online and knowing exactly what you want to look for in advance.  As daunting as it looks online, it is much more so onsite.  The onsite “catalog” consists of two binders listing the volumes that line the shelves.  The binders have categories, but they do not actually match the lists contained within the sections.  The second binder contains addenda to the first one, so it is necessary to look through both if you do not find the item you are seeking in the first one.   From what I could tell, there is no logic to the holdings list categories.  I even asked one of the volunteers to explain it to me and he said it didn’t make sense to him either.  I suspect that they made sense at one time but as pages of holdings were added, the categories were not updated to reflect the changes.  I ultimately gave up on the binders and just perused the shelves.  Also, as knowledgeable and helpful as the volunteers are, don’t expect to be assisted by a professional reference librarian.  When you visit AFGS, try to plan in advance and give yourself plenty of time.  There is a lot of information in the library there, but it may take a while to find what you are looking for.

            Non-members pay an admission fee of $5.00 for the day, and bring change or small bills if you plan to make any photocopies.  You will also be required to leave bags, 3-ring binders and fanny packs in the lockers provided outside of the research room.  Even if you visit their website, you will find useful information and some interesting items, including some familiar French-Canadian recipes from the Grandmère Cookbook, which is available to order for $14.00. 


Sunday, August 7, 2011

What happened to the Dumonts?

     In the first post of this blog, I mentioned the Dumonts, a family with whom my great-grandparents, Valérie Provost and Charles Catudal, shared a house in North Attleboro, MA.  According to the 1910 census, Auguste and Agnes (O’Brien) Dumont had two daughters, Marguerite, age 4 and Leonia, age 1½.   I envisioned little Désiré (Joseph), my grandfather, who was also 4 years old, playing with little Marguerite.  Leonia and Alphonse, who was 2, were also close in age, and may have hit it off.   I recently realized that the Catudals and Dumonts had lived together in another house before moving to 219 Washington.  The North Attleboro 1909 city directory lists Charles Catudal at 247 Washington Street in 1909, the same address that appears on Blanche Dumont’s death certificate in 1906.  So, the two families moved from 247 to 219 Washington sometime during 1909 or 1910.   According to the 1910 census, the Dumonts had been in the U.S. since 1900, the Catudals since 1906.   Whether they knew each other before they came to North Attleboro is still unknown, but they clearly liked each other well enough to relocate together.   I wonder to what extent they were involved in each other’s lives. Did Agnes care for Valérie’s children when she became too ill to care for them herself and Charles was at work?  In my historical imagination, I can see these Canadian expatriates providing practical assistance as well as moral support for one another.  
     As I was writing about the Dumonts, I wondered what became of them - did they have more children? – did they stay in the U.S. as the Catudals and so many other migrant French and Irish Canadians had done? I briefly entertained the idea of trying to find their descendants, but ultimately decided against it.   Imagine my surprise when, one day, I received an e-mail message from Joanne (Barbeau) Caselli, a great-granddaughter of Auguste and Agnes Dumont!  Joanne’s family had known that Auguste and Agnes had a child named Blanche who had died in infancy, but they had not been able to learn the cause of death.  I had found the birth and death records for Blanche on and included the information in my first blog post.  Joanne had also been researching the O’Brien family and had come to an impasse.  As Joanne shared with me the story of Agnes and Auguste and I helped her find some records on the O’Briens, the narrative of “what happened to the Dumonts,” unfolded.  It is the story of a family that endured more than its share of tragedy and loss.
     Auguste Dumont worked as a house painter and was boarding with the Bouchard family at 13 Grant Street in North Attleboro before he and Agathonique (Agnes) O’Brien were married in North Attleboro on 12 October 1903.  In addition to Blanche, Marguerite and Leonia, they had three sons, Maurice, born in 1910 (while they were still living with the Catudals), Marcel, born in 1914 and François born in 1916.  Leonia, left paralyzed after contracting polio at about the age of three, remained unmarried until her death in 1985.  Sadly, Agnes and Auguste lost three of their children in 1927.  On 9 January, Maurice, age16 and Jean Marcel, age 12, were killed in the Montreal Laurier Palace Theatre fire.  Later that year, Marguerite died of typhoid fever on August 18, a little over a month after giving birth to her second son, Marcel, whom she had named after her recently deceased brother.  Marguerite was only 21.  

 Marguerite Dumont Barbeau 
(15 April 1906-18 August 1927)

     Marguerite had married Edmour Barbeau in 1925 and they had two children, Victor (Joanne’s father) and Marcel.  Joanne writes, “Edmour remarried so my dad had nine half-siblings; however Edmour died when he was only 12.  His step-mother was a wonderful woman who raised the boys as her own.  My father was very close to his maternal grandparents.”  Auguste Dumont died suddenly at home on 10 December 1945.  After Agnes died on 2 November 1956, their youngest son, François and his family inherited Agnes and Auguste’s house and took care of Leonia.  
     Unlike the Catudals, the Dumonts returned home to Canada and remained there.  Joanne’s parents, Victor Barbeau and Marguerite Turcotte were married in 1951 and they immigrated to Michigan from Montreal in 1957 with their children.  Victor still resides in Michigan.   Joanne lives in California with her husband and has three grown children; a son and twin daughters.

Twin sisters Agnes and Fortunate O’Brien with Agnes’ grandson, Victor Barbeau, July 6, 1947

 Auguste Dumont (date unknown)
(If anyone can identify the uniform he is wearing, please contact me)

Tracing the O’Briens

Joanne had given me the names of Agnes O’Brien’s parents:  François Xavier O’Brien  (b. ca. 1827) and Marie Louise Trémouillé (1 April 1849- 2 February 1930).  I first found them on the 1861 Canadian census, but with a slight surprise.   François was married to someone else and Marie Louise was their 12-year-old servant!   All members of the household were listed as having been born in Canada.  The 1861 Canada Census, L’Assomption, Repentigny lists:

François X. O’Brien, age 37
Zoé Mercier, age 27
Clément F.S. O’Brien, age 3
Pierre H. O’Brien, age 1
Louise Trémouillé, servant, age 12

François O’Brien and Zoé Mercier were married 26 November 1857, in Repentigny, L’Assomption, Quebec.  Based on the dates on burial records, it appears that the twenty-nine year old Zoé Mercier O’Brien died in childbirth on 1 December  1863.  Her infant daughter, Marie Zoé, died eighteen days later.  After six years as a widower, François was remarried to Marie Louise Trémouillé (12 September 1869), who, as we know from the 1861 census, had been a servant in the O’Briens’ household.  Their marriage record gives no information about Louise’s parents, which is unusual.  Joanne is to be commended for finding François and Marie Louise’s marriage record.  I couldn’t find it myself, so I asked her how she had searched.  She said, “When Tremoullee appeared on census and birth records the “r” sometimes looked like an “e” so I searched for Teamoulle and after about 4 or 5 pages there it was with Francis Obrian.”   Good work, Joanne! 

By time of the 1881 Census, only one of Zoé’s children, Roch, born 29 April 1862, is listed as a member of the household.  In 1878, when he was nineteen years old, Clément had drowned in the St. Laurent River.   The 1881 Canada Census, L’Assomption, Repentigny lists:

François O’Brien, age 54
Louise O’Brien, age 30
Roch O’Brien, age 19
Zénon O’Brien, age 11
Cyriarque O’Brien, age 6
Rose Blanche O’Brien, age 5
Agathonique O’Brien, age 3 (twin)
Fortunate O’Brien, age 3 (twin)
Marie O’Brien age 10/12  (10 months)

The 1891 census lists one additional child.  Roch has moved out and was living on his own by this time.

François, age 67
Marie Louise, age 42
Zénon, age 21
Cyriac, age 17
Rose Blanche, age 15
Agathonique, age 13
Fortunate, age 13
Marie, age 10
Véronique, age 7

A transcribed entry (original record unavailable) on from Lovell’s Business Directory of the Province of Quebec 1890-91 listed F.X. O’Brien as Postmaster in L’Assomption, Repentigny.  His occupation on the census records is consistently listed as Notaire (Notary).  A Notaire registered contracts, such as wills, deeds and marriage contracts.  More information can be found here:

I was able to trace the lineage of François Xavier O’Brien a few generations back through marriage records I found on 

Parents of François Xavier O’Brien:

Marie Josephète Paré and François O’Brien, married 8 May 1810, St-Sulpice, Quebec

Parents of François O’Brien:

Michel O’Bryain and Marie Françoise Lamotte, married 7 January 1765 in Beauport, Quebec.

Parents of Michel O’Bryain

Guillaume Bryaine and Marguerite Tool (from the parish of St. Francis in Dublin).

Parents of  Marie Françoise Lamotte:

Louis Lamotte (1699-1743) and Marie-Charlotte Alard (b. 1704)

Note: In the process of looking for more information on Louis Lamotte and Marie-Charlotte Alard, I discovered that the Tanguay Dictionnaire généalogique des familles canadiennes depuis la fondation de la colonie is available on Google Books (searchable, of course), and found them listed there, on p. 117.  I also found at least two postings on listing Guillaume Bryiane (O’Brien) and Marguerite O’Toole by performing a Google search on Guilliame Bryiane.
            I was surprised to find the name O’Brien among the French-Canadian records, since I had read about tension between Irish and French Canadians, especially in the context of fair labor practices in the New England textile mills (Irish workers demanded higher wages, went out on strike, and were replaced by French workers who were willing to work for the lower wage).  In North Attleboro, at least, Irish and French attended separate churches; St. Mary was Irish and Sacred Heart, French.  Language was also a barrier to cross-cultural relations, and since Irish Canadians spoke English, they had an easier time fitting into American culture.  
            Although the O’Briens are ethnically identified as Irish on the census records, François X. O’Brien’s mother and grandmother were French.  Furthermore, he had married and borne children with two wives who were French (as far as we know).   They were living in a French speaking region and spoke French, so it appears that they had adopted the French-Canadian culture.  In the census records, all members of the family are listed as “Irlandais” (Irish), and Joanne noticed that François himself is the census taker in 1891, so we know that he was the one who identified the family as Irish rather than French.  Auguste and Agnes both identified themselves as French-Canadians on the 1910 North Attleboro census, and the census also indicates that they and the Catudals spoke English.  Joanne says that the Dumonts spoke French at home, but could also speak English quite well.  I have not made an exhaustive search for research conducted on intermarriage of Irish and French Canadians in the 18th through early 20th centuries, but the cursory search I performed produced few results.  I suspect that it would be difficult and time consuming to identify Canadians of Irish descent who acquired French surnames, either through marriage or by Frenchifying their Irish names.  If any readers out there are specialists on the topic and can recommend some resources, please send an e-mail.

The Family of François Xavier O’Brien

François Xavier O’Brien (16 August 1826 - 24 January 1901)  married Zoé Mercier O’Brien (3 April 1834 -30 November 1863) on 26 November 1857 in L’Assomption, Repentigny.  He was widowed and remarried Marie Louise Trémouillé (1 April 1849- 2 February 1930) on 12 September 1869, also in L’Assomption, Repentigny.

Children of François Xavier O’Brien and Zoé Mercier:

Clément François.Smith O’Brien (1858 -1878)

Pierre H. O’Brien (1860-1872)

Roch O’Brien (b. 1862) Engineer

Marie Zoé O’Brien (1863-1863)

Children of François Xavier O’Brien and Marie Louise Trémouillé:

Zénon O’Brien (1870-1931) Toolmaker.  Married Evelina Gendron (1884-1965) on 13 September 1905 in Central Falls, Rhode Island.

Cyriaque O’Brien (1874-1946) Physician – lived in Massachusetts

Rose Blanche O’Brien (b. 1876)

Agathonique (Agnes) O’Brien (1878-1956) Married Auguste Dumont (1872-1945) on 12 October1903 in North Attleboro, MA.

Fortunate O’Brien (b. 1878) Married Joseph Godin (b.1871) on 11 January 1904 in Providence, Rhode Island.

Marie O’Brien (b. 1880) Married Omer Juneau (b. 1877).

Véronique  O’Brien (1884-1931) Married Paul Alfred J. Degroseilliers (b. 1886) on 27 December 1911 in Lowell, Massachusetts.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Infant mortality

           Infant mortality is not something that is a large part of our daily lives in this country, but our ancestors had to deal with it on a regular basis.  Of course, the average adult lifespan was much shorter and epidemics were commonplace, so they lived with the expectation that death could come at any stage of life.  I have recently found a number of baptismal and burial records for Provost children who died in infancy or childhood.  I found them on by selecting the Birth, Death and Marriage records database, leaving the first name field blank, entering Provost in the last name field, adding a start date in the events field, leaving “any event” as the default and adding “St-Pie” as the place.  This is also a way to find records for ancestors who may have been baptized or appear on census records in childhood with one first name and are buried under another.        Each record retrieved has to be examined in order to find names of parents, spouses, etc., and determine if it belongs to the correct family.
So far I have found evidence that Ambroise Provost and Magdeleine May Denonville had at least thirteen children.  We have already discussed the descendants of  Pierre Ambroise and Jean-Baptiste Désiré, and I have since found marriage records for Antoine (Marie Achsah Emma Ball, m. 15 June 1858, St-Pie),  Léandre Misaél (Sophie Séraphine Morin, m. 20 September 1865) and Marie Rosalie Hermenie (Prosper Michaud, m. 4 August 1873, St-Pie).   I also found a burial record for Marie Valérie, who died at the age of sixteen.  I have seen Elmire, Charles and Léonore’s names on later census records.  That leaves me wondering about the fate of Louis and the child baptized Désiré in 1837.  I suspect that they may have died in infancy or childhood.   If that is the case, eight of the thirteen children survived to adulthood.

Children of Ambroise and Magdeleine May:

Pierre Ambroise 1827-1901
Antoine 1830-
Damasse Alphred Lucien 1831-1841
Léonore 1834-
Marie Luce 1836-1836
Désiré 1837-
Léandre Misaél 1841-
Marie Valérie 1843-1859
Louis 1848-
Marie Rosalie Hermenie 1845-
Joseph Charles 1849-
Jean-Baptiste (called Désiré but not baptized Désiré) 1851-1886
Elmire 1853-

                 For Pierre Ambroise Provost and Tharsille Thomas (Williams), who were discussed in my last post, I have found records of four children who did not survive.  Some of them were mentioned previously because I had found baptismal records for them.  I have recently found their burial records. Herminie Delima, born 8 February 1863 and buried in St-Pie on 28 February 1872.  Joseph Misaél, born 5 February 1861 was buried 7 July 1862.  Marie Louise, born August 1870, died 25 March 1871.  There is also a 5 March 1872 burial record for an unnmed infant of this couple, who died the same day he/she (gender unspecified) was born.  Additional children for whom I recently discovered baptismal records who were not mentioned in my last blog post are Marie Eloise Lumina b. 1875 and Amanda b. 1878.   To date, I have no information one way or the other about their fate.  The 1871 Quebec census lists Désiré, Napoléon, Léandre, Emma, Gabriel, Hermenie, Louis and Valérie.  Georges is probably Gabriel, I found a baptismal record for Gabriel Ambroise and a burial record for Georges that coincide with the the age listed on the census and the burial record, and since there is no Georges listed in the 1871 census when there clearly should have been, the evidence is very strong for his being called Gabriel at that time and then later assuming the name Georges.  I have found marriage records for Léandre, Valérie and Emma, and if we assume that Georges is Gabriel, we can presume that at least four children grew into adulthood.  We do know for certain that at least four did not.

Children of Pierre Ambroise and Tharsille:

Pierre Ambroise Désiré 1852-
Olivier Napoléon 1853-
Gabriel Ambroise 1859/1860 (possibly same as Georges 1859-1880)
Joseph Misaél 1861-1862
Hermenie Delima 1863-1872
Louis Joseph Provost 1865-
Marie Tharsille Emma 1867-
Valérie 1868-
Marie Louise 1870-1871
Unnamed infant 1872-1872
Marie Eloise Lumina 1875-
Amanda 1878-

            Léandre Provost and Delphine Catudal, also mentioned in my previous post, are probably the most tragic couple of all, because Delphine’s own life was so brief.  They had at least two children who died in infancy; Joseph Léandre Albert, born 27 July 1881 and died 16 August 1881 and Georges Eugene Provost, b. 22 October 1884 and was buried on 30 April 1885, both in St-Pie.  I found a baptismal record for another child, Marie Emma Emmenda Provost dated 18 January 1882, but have not found any further records for her. The only child of theirs for whom I have found evidence of survival to adulthood is Joseph Arthur Provost (1880-1928).  Delphine died at age 26, in June of 1885, just a month and a half after the death of her son, Georges Eugene.

Children of Léandre and Delphine:

Joseph Arthur 1880-1928
Joseph Léandre Albert 1881-1882
Marie Emma Emmenda 1883-
Georges Eugene 1884-1885

Monday, June 13, 2011

Provost relatives in Rhode Island

Recently, I found a Rhode Island death record on Family Search for Pierre Ambroise Provost, brother of Désiré.   The record lists his parents as Ambroise Provost and Madeleine Denonville (spelled incorrectly but still recognizable), thus confirming his relationship to the family of our blog.  His wife is listed as Tharsile Thomas, which raised  a red flag, since I’d seen records from St-Pie for Pierre Ambroise Provost with his wife listed as Tharsille Williams.   I wanted to determine if Tharsille Williams and Tharsile Thomas were the same person.  I also thought that there might be descendants of this couple still living in Rhode Island or Masssachusetts, so I looked for as many census, birth and death records for the family as I could find online. 
            The marriage record for Pierre Ambroise Provost and Tharsille Williams (14 October 1951, St-Pie) lists Tharsille’s parents as Louis Williams and Josephete St. Charles.  The name Thomas is not mentioned anywhere in the document.  An 1852 (St-Pie) baptismal record for Pierre Ambroise Désiré Provost, lists the parents as Pierre Ambroise Provost and Tharsille Williams.  This record is only partially digitized because it is divided between the bottom of one page and top of another, so I am not able to determine the exact date of the event.  A 14 October 1855 (St-Pie) baptismal record for Léandre Provost indicates Pierre Ambroise Provost and Tharsille Thomas as the parents.  Gabriel Ambroise Provost’s baptismal record (13 February 1859) also lists Pierre Ambroise Provost and Tharsille Thomas as the child’s parents.  After examining the census records for this family, I am nearly certain that Tharsille Thomas is Tharsille Williams, but I have not found any connection between the names Thomas and Williams, nor have I been able to see any logic in the change from one name to the other.
            St-Pie census records for 1861 list Pierre Ambroise Provost, Tharsille Williams and five of their children: Désiré, Napoléon (b.1853), Léandre, Napoléon (b. 1854) and Gabriel.  The three highlighted names correspond with the abovementioned baptismal records for the children of this couple and their ages correspond to the baptismal record dates.  I need to find baptismal records for Napoléon and Emma, but I do think there is already sufficient circumstantial evidence here to conclude that Tharsille used the names Williams and Thomas interchangeably.
            The 1871 St-Pie census lists Ambroise and Tharsille, both under the name Provost, along with their children.  By this time, three more children have been born; Herminie, b. 1864 (possibly Armenie, a name that appears in previous generations of this family), Louis, b. 1866 and Valérie, b. 1868 (another Valérie Provost, cousin of my great-grandmother).   In the absence of baptismal or birth records, estimated birth years are based on calcuation from their ages given in the census.
            It appears that at least three children of Tharsille and Ambroise and/or their children migrated to New England, because I have found Rhode Island and Massachusetts records for Léandre, Valérie, and Emma or their descendants. 
            Léandre married Delphine Catudal (another Catudal-Provost pairing) in St-Pie on 7 October 1851.   I found a death record for their son, Arthur Provost, in Pawtucket, RI (19 February, 1928).  So far, I have not discovered any other children of this couple, and it is possible that there are none, because Delphine died at the age of twenty-five (burial record: 15 June 1885, St-Pie).  If any descendants of Arthur are reading this, we are related through both the Catudals and Provosts.
            Emma Provost married George Poulette in Providence, RI on 30 Jan 1883.  I have found two of their children listed in the 1900 Providence, Rhode Island census: Anna, born in Canada and Georgianna, born in Rhode Island. By this time Pierre Ambroise was widowed and also listed in the census as a member of his daughter and son-in-law’s household.  1930 Rhode Island census records also reveal that Anna Poulette married Ovila , and between 1905 and 1923, the couple had seven children: Annette, Horace (born in Canada), Ovila, Marion, Raymond, Beatrice and Irene (born in Rhode Island).
            Valérie’s story is probably the most interesting, because was widowed twice and remarried each time.  The marriage records are all available on FamilySearch.  I have not found any records of offspring from any of the marriages, however.  Her first marriage was to Nazaire Lizotte in Lincoln, RI on 17 September 1888.   Valérie was 47 when she married the widower Jean-Baptiste Desgronier (later known as John B. Degrenier) on 2 January 1907 in Southbridge, MA.   In 1900, Valérie was one of four female servants working at a boarding house in Southbridge, Massachusetts run by Jean-Baptiste Desgronier and his wife, Stephanie (Southbridge, MA 1900 census).  Stephanie evidently died sometime between 1900 and 1907.  Jean-Baptiste must have died shortly after he and Valérie were married, because she is a widow once again when she marries Julius Livernois just two years later on 18 September 1909 in Southbridge, MA.

Descendants of Pierre Ambriose Provost and Tharsille Williams/Thomas

Pierre Ambroise Désiré Provost  b. 1852, St-Pie
Gabriel Ambroise Provost  b. 1859, St-Pie
Léandre Provost b. 1855, St-Pie
            +Delphine Catudal (1859-1879)
                        -Arthur Provost b. 1880, d. 19 Feb. 1928, Pawtucket, RI
Valérie Provost b. 1868
            +Nazaire Lizotte m. 17 Sept. 1888, Lincoln, RI
            + Jean-Baptiste Desgronier (John B. Degrenier) m. 2 Jan. 1907, Southbridge, MA
            +Julius Livernois m. 18 Sept. 1909, Southbridge, MA
Emma Provost b. 1861
+George Poulette b. 30 Jan. 1855, Providence, RI, m. 30 Jan. 1883, Providence, RI, d. 13 Jan. 1917, Providence, RI
-Anna Poulette b. 1884
            +Ovila J. Dufort b. 1882
                        - Annette E. Dufort b. 1905, Canada
                        - Horace F. Dufort b. 1906, Canada
                        - Ovila Dufort b. 13 July 1911, d. Feb. 1978*
- Marion B. Dufort b. 1914, Rhode Island
                        - Raymond Dufort B. 1916, Rhode Island
                        - Beatrice Dufort b. 1919, Rhode Island
                        - Irene Dufort b. 1923, Rhode Island
* Source: Social Security death index.

Except were actual birth and death records were available, estimated birth years have been calculated from ages provided on census records.

Friday, May 27, 2011

They live on through their records.

 As I mentioned in the last post, I came to genealogy somewhat inadvertently, so I did not approach the process of gathering information in any systematic way.  I just recently discovered the Family History Library Québec Research Outline, available for free in PDF format (also available as a complete PDF document here) and, and wish I’d found it sooner.  The guide offers examples of form letters in English and French, as well as translations of key words that appear frequently in genealogical research.  I must have been able to make myself understood in the poor French that I was able to put together, because I received responses to my queries, but it would have been nice to have had a guide.  The Family History Library also offers a Research Outline that includes all of Canada and one for the U.S.
            In the beginning, I was looking for any information I could find about my great-grandmother, Valérie Provost Catudal.  All I had was a name and a photograph, my great-grandfather’s name and the names of their three children.   The first record I found was an entry listing the death of a Valeria Catudal in North Attleboro in 1910 in the Massachusetts Vital Records Archives index online. The online index only provides a name, year, event type and page number on which the actual record is located.  In this case, the first name was slightly misspelled, but the rest of the information confirmed that I’d found the correct record.  Most ancestral records contain errors and misspellings, and English-speaking clerks often seriously butchered the spellings of French names.  Sometimes records are found under an anglicized version of a name or an “American” nickname, so the first and/or last names on records could be different from what is expected. The MA Vital Records Archives database stops at 1910, so Valérie’s death record was a fortunate find.  In the Vital Records database, I was also able to retrieve a birth record for her son, Alphonse Catudal, born in North Attleboro in 1908.  The next step I took was to request a copy of the death certificate from the North Attleboro town clerk’s office, because I had read that the local death record often provides more detailed information than the state record.  That didn’t turn out to be true in this case.  The town clerk did not send me a copy of the original handwritten record, and the transcript I received did not contain all of the information that is available on the death certificate filed with the state.  I did learn, however, the cause of death, which came as a shock.  My mother had assumed that her grandmother died in childbirth, probably because nobody ever mentioned her having been ill.  I think the secretiveness surrounding Valérie’s death is strange, considering that death by tuberculosis in 1910 was not a quick and painless end.  Later, I contacted Judy Schneider because she had written a book about the Catudal family and I thought she might have information aboutValérie Provost.  It turns out that both of our mothers are Catudals and we are fifth cousins.  Judy sent me some original documents, which included Valérie Provost Catudal’s Massachusetts state death certificate.  That document is also now available on Family Search.  From the state death certificate, I learned that Valérie had been ill for two years prior to her death, and that she had only sought medical treatment in the final seven months.  The physician’s signature is dated November 17 even though her official date of death it November 18.  I don’t know what the practices were in Massachusetts in 1910 for pronouncing a person dead, but I’ve concluded that two scenarios are possible.  Either the doctor entered the wrong date or, knowing that she was in the process of dying on the evening of Nov. 17, he signed the death certificate in advance so that the necessary paperwork would be ready for the body to be prepared for transportation to Canada as quickly as possible.  The official time of death, which could have been entered by the undertaker the next morning, is 8:00 a.m. on November 18. 
            Judy had also sent me a couple of other interesting documents; Charles and Valérie’s original marriage record, a baptismal record for Germaine, and a 1917 border crossing for Germaine.  The border crossing was of particular interest, because it indicated that Germaine’s residence was in Canada at the time and not in the U.S. with her father.  Judy also noted that Germaine appeared in the 1911 Canadian Census and in the 1910 North Attleboro census (all of these original documents are available on   The 1910 North Attleboro census was recorded before Valérie’s death and includes the names of all three children.  Following Valérie’s death, Germaine evidently returned to Canada to live with relatives for several years, which also came as a surprise to my mother and me.  Germaine never mentioned having grown up in Canada, and my grandfather never told his wife or children that he and his siblings had been separated when they were children.  We know that Charles Catudal remained in North Attleboro, presumably because he had a secure job with the jewelry manufacturing company, Baker and Paye.  He remarried in April 1912.   Who took care of Joseph, age 4, and Alphonse, age 2, from November 1910 to April 1912, and why did Germaine stay in Canada?  We will probably never know. 
            When looking for information on Canadian ancestors who worked and lived in the U.S., if you have exact or close approximate dates and the name of a town, and are able to travel to the local library, you may find some information in town directories and newspapers on microfilm or fiche.  The Richards Memorial Library in North Attleboro, MA is one of my favorite libraries.  The librarians there are both knowledgeable and helpful with local town history and genealogy.  It was there that I learned that Sacred Heart Parish was the French Catholic church and St. Mary was the Irish.  I also learned that once again, I lucked out when I found the obituary on microfilm for Valérie (Provost) Catudal (see previous post for image of the obituary) in the Evening Chronicle (eventually the Sun Chronicle and now the Attleboro Sun), because all copies of the newspaper prior to 1910 weredestroyed by fire.  The librarian at Richards Memorial even gave me some names and numbers of people she thought might have information about my great-grandmother singing in the church choir, but none of the leads were fruitful. 
            Several aspects of the death notice from the Sun Chronicle stood out to me.  It states that the funeral “took place yesterday afternoon at 3:45 with services at the Sacred Hearrt Church.”  The next paragraph reveals “The remains were sent on the 4:28 train to Canada, where the burial will take place at St. Pie on Tuesday afternoon.”  No personal information about the deceased is given, other than a name, address and date of death, and none of the surviving family members are mentioned.  The funeral must have been very short, probably just consisting of the necessary parts of the Catholic Mass, since there were only 43 minutes during which the funeral had to take place and the body transported to and loaded onto the train.  Why was it necessary to publish the train departure time?  There is no longer a train station in North Attleboro and there is certainly no direct route to Canada from the area, but evidently, one existed in 1910. 
            Another excellent resource for finding French-Canadian records in Massachusetts is the New Bedford Free Public Library.  It is recommended on the Irish genealogy research site, Southern New England Irish.  Of the New Bedford Free Public Library, the resource list reviewer says, “this is the place to go to get the most available info in one visit, and if your research time is limited, go there first.”  I can vouch for the accuracy of that statement.  The librarian in the genealogy department is an expert on French-Canadians in New England.  He suggested that I check Rhode Island for records because the Canadians moved around a lot and commuted back and forth between Massachusetts to Rhode Island for work.  Lo and behold, I found a listing for a Jerry Provost that matched Désiré Provost’s death date (as indicated on his St-Pie burial record) in the Rhode Island death index.  I sent for the record from the State archives and it turned out to be the correct one.  His father’s name is indicated on the record and his birthplace is Canada.  I still don’t know why his name was recorded as “Jerry.”  Maybe it was a nickname given to him by his coworkers or the records clerk thought “Désiré” sounded like “Jerry.”  At the New Bedford library I also found Désiré Provost listed in the Fall River directories for 1878, 80 and 82.   I checked the 1876 and 84 directories and he does not appear on them, so I have a fairly accurate idea of the time span that the Provosts lived in Fall River.  At this library, I was also able to find death dates for some Catudal ancestors on the Massachusetts death index. 
            I contacted the Provost-Prevost Family Association (site is in both French and English) and have exchanged some names and dates with Michel Provost (no relation).  I got a few names from my second cousin Nancy, and have found some additional records on and  I have had plenty of fruitless searches and unproductive trips to libraries as well, but finding a long searched-for piece of information or stumbling upon an unexpected item makes it all worthwhile.  The most recent discovery I made on FamilySearch was the Chicopee, Massachusetts marriage record for Désiré Provost and Marceline Monast.  I also found, in Chicopee, what I am almost certain is Valérie’s birth record.  The date of birth is exact (22 August 1876) and the father’s name is Désiré Provost.   There are a couple of problems, though.  The mother’s name is listed as “Sarah.”  It could be a clerical error or a mishearing of “Marceline.”   The second issue is that the child’s name is Sophronia Provost.  By now, I know not to expect to find birth records under the name one would normally expect.  It is very common to find a different first name on a French-Canadian birth or baptismal record because they were customarily given three names.  The third name was usually the one they were known by.   I already know from Valérie’s marriage record that one of her names was Marie.   My mother had always heard that her middle name was Jeanne, but I suspect that may have been a Confirmation name, and have not found any evidence of it so far.  Once I figured out, from information on the Internet, which Catholic parishes existed in Chicopee in 1875, and determined which one the French-Canadians attended, I contacted the parish administrator where the archives are housed.  I am still waiting to find out if there is a sacrament of marriage record for Désiré and Marceline and a baptismal record for Valérie.  If we do find a baptismal record in Chicopee, I would wonder if Valérie even knew where she was born, because on Alphonse Catudal’s birth record, the mother’s place of birth is given as Fall River.  Although Désiré Provost doesn’t show up in the Fall River town directory unitl 1878, she probably remembered having lived there as a child.
            Census records provide a wealth of information.  It was from census records that I discovered that the Catudals and the Dumonts shared a house in North Attleboro, I learned the names of the Dumonts’ children and the fact that one child had died.  Knowing that, I went to FamilySearch and found the birth and death records for their deceased child.   Why did I do that?   I wanted to get a more complete story about the lives of people who interacted so closely with my ancestors, and I suppose I just wanted to see if I could find the records.  When searching for census records online, it is important to find an image of the original handwritten form in addition to or instead of a transcription.  Transcriptions often do not include every detail from the original form, and each transcription presents another opportunity for error.  Digitized original census records for the U.S. and Canada are usually available on  FamilySearch and other free census search sites, such as, have transcribed information from census records online as well, but an image of the original document is not usually available.  Family Search also has information about how to read census forms, years the census was taken and for which records are available.  Information about Canadian census records is available at the Library and Archives of Canada.     Bear in mind that census records are not always 100% accurate, but they are still a valuable source of information and clues and should not be overlooked.
           I am adding this as an edit because I realized it is important to mention the "dead ends," how they can provide information about other places to search or at the very least, they can be crossed off the list of places to look.  I wrote to the church in St-Pie and even included a donation, but did not receive a reply.  I eventually traced the international money order and discovered that it hadn't been cashed for three months.  Things evidently move more slowly in St-Pie than I had imagined.  One year later,  I decided to contact the St-Pie library via e-mail regarding archival/historical material about the town, and received a response from the librarian.  She referred me to the Centre d'histoire de Saint-Hyacinthe, where the Saint-Pie archives are now housed.   I then wrote to the director there, Monseur Luc Cordeau, and he responded that the St-Pie archives were collected in 2002 and he did not find my great-grandmother's name on his inventory lists.   That was last summer and the collection has not been processed.  I was advised by a church archivist here in NYC to go there in person, and hope to do so within the next year.  Before I pack my bags and get on the train, I will check to see whether patrons are allowed to search unprocessed collections.   Incidentally, I also received a reply from the church after contacting the library and telling the librarian that I had previously contacted the church.   The church did not have any additional information, but at least I know my request was received.
            I will be posting updates as information comes in, so stay tuned!

Some useful websites for French-Canadian Genealogy (I am also posting these in the permanent links section)

University of Montreal

Can perform first level search for free.  Subscription after that.
Denomination in Old Quebec – explains dit names, interactive database of nicknames associated with surnames.  Other features include information about parish registers in Quebec, Canadian census records and links to other relevant sites.

Searchable database of names.   Not an “official” site, but useful as a starting point for finding names of ancestors.  Anyone can add photos, family histories and there is a discussion forum.  Cyndi’s List of genealogy on the Internet
All kinds of genealogocial resources and information.   Many links to census sources and explanations.  Alphabetical index.  Click on Canada for a wealth of information.

Massachusetts Vital Records Archives  (1841-1910)

Library and Archives of Canada

Provost family members

Désiré Provost (Jean-Baptiste) was born and baptized on 23 November 1851 in St-Pie, Bagot. He died 3 July 1886in Lincoln, Rhode Island (name on death record : Jerry Provost) He is buried St-Pie.

Marceline Monast was born 16 July 1857, Ste-Marie-de Monnoir. Died: St-Damase 3 February 1934 and is buried in Saint-Pie, Bagot. Marceline was remarried to François Létourneau 8 September 1906 in St. Hyacinthe.

Valérie Provost (Sophronia ? Marie Valérie) was born 22 August 1876 in Chicopee, Massachusetts, died 18 November 1910 in North Attleboro, Masssachusetts, and is buried in St-Pie, Bagot. She married Charles Catudal on 22 October 1902 in St-Pie, Bagot. They had a daughter and two sons; Exavérine Germaine, born 4 July 1904, Joseph Arthur Désiré, born 27 March 1906, and Alphonse, born 27 July 1908.

Wilfrid Provost (Joseph Jean-Baptiste Wilfrid) was born 13 August 1878 somewhere in the U.S.(possibly Fall River, Massachusetts), died 11 June 1902 and is buried in St-Pie, Bagot.

Auguste Provost (Augustin Edouard) was born 22 January 1881 in Fall River, Massachusetts and died 13 November 1969 in Iberville. He married Alice Desparts on 2 October 1905 in St-Pie. They had two daughters, Marie Gilberte Augustine Provost, born 3 May 1908, and Marcelle Françoise Provost, born 5 December 1918. Augustine married (Joseph) Camille Lavalée on 20 July 1943 in Marieville and died 14 October 1976. Françoise married Edgar Le Sieur on 30 October 1945 and died 30 October 2000 in Iberville.

Exavérine Provost (Marie Exavérine Alba Blanche) was born 25 March 1883, married Euclide Martel 24 October 1905 and died on 3 July 1917 all in St-Pie, Bagot and is buried there. Euclide and Exavérine had a daughter, Simonne Martel, born 28 March 1914. Simonne was married in 1949 to Leopold Tétreault. Simonne and Leopold had a daughter, Marie Cécile Nicole Tétreault, born 1 February and baptized 3 February 1950.

Désiré Provost (Raphael Louis Désiré) was born on 3 August 1885 in St-Pie, Bagot. On 5 September 1910 he was married to (Marie) Anne Desmarais. Désiré died 25 June 1950 and is buried in Joliette.

About Me

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New york, NY, United States
I live and work in New York City as a freelance classical singer and voice teacher. After earning two music performance degrees, I decided to pursue a degree in Medieval Studies program at Columbia University and focused mainly on Church History. Since that time I have helped to organize archives and research the history of several churches in NYC.

Contact me / Contactez-moi

If you would like to write to me or have something to contribute to the Provost family story, please contact me here. I would be very happy to correspond with relatives in Canada or the U.S. who are decendants of this family and anyone else who has information, photos, letters, newspaper clippings, or anything else related to this family. Correspondence in English or French is equally welcome.

Si vous voudriez m'écrire ou vous avez quelque chose contribuer à l'histoire de famille Provostl, svp contactez-moi ici. Je serais très heureux de correspondre aux parents au Canada ou aux États-Unis qui sont des descendants de cette famille et autres personne qui ont de l'information, des photos, des lettres, des coupures de journal, ou toute autre chose liées à cette famille. La correspondance en anglais ou le Français est également bienvenue.