Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Grandmothers never tell a lie?

Celena Beauvais Bissonnette Constant was born in St. Cesaire.  Finding her birth record in Quebec was not easy but it eventually was found.  My mother often told me stories about her grandmother who lived to be one hundred years old plus a year or two more.  Yes, some of our ancestors died young but grandmother Celena lived to be more than 100 was always the refrain.  Celena outlived all of her seven children but one, and,  as it was later found out, she did not live to be 100!  She either hoodwinked her son and grandchildren into believing she was 100 in order to get a great big birthday party and have wonderful newspaper write ups extolling her hard working values or she herself just never really knew exactly what year she was born in.
Below is a celebration of her 100 years according to the Syracuse Herald Journal on August 20th, 1941.  (click on the image to enlarge it)

Note the subtitle stating "great grandmother of 34 Still Opponent of Woman Suffrage!!!  Great grandma was certainly a good French Canadian wife and let the man of the house make all the voting decisions while she cleaned and "worked hard all her life".

Then came stories in the Cohoes newspaper, the Troy Record, and the Albany Times Union... Celena was quite a celebrity  in 1941 and noted to be the oldest living person in Cohoes.  The only thing was it wasn't true.

Here is a one picture from the celebration:
Great Grand daughter, Susan Benoit presenting Celena with flowers at her 100th birthday celebration

Detailed story from Syracuse Herald Journal

here's another pic of Celena....
Celena on the left and granddaughter Muriel Etta Wills St Hilaire on the right.  Celena is holding her great grandson Arthur St. Hilaire Junior.  Etta is holding Anne St. Hilaire (later Anne Shannon). 

Here is the baptism record from St Cesaire in Quebec and it is from 1850 -
Ce vingt-un mai mil huit cent cinquante = May 21st, 1850 which is the day of baptism.
The priest states Celena was born the previous day.

Finally, here is Celena's funeral card

Celena's first husband was Joseph Bissonnette who died from Tuberculosis in 1899.  She later married a gentleman, I 'll call Mr. Constant.
If my math is close, Celena's age when she died was 92 years, 4 months,  29 days.  That doesn't add up to 100 years.  I prefer to believe my great grandmother, one of nine children, knew the correct day and month of her birth but never learned her exact year of birth.  She had a great time enjoying all the attention and we can only hope we have some of that genetic material that kept her going strong through her 92 year!

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