Monday, April 25, 2011

Joseph Albert Rivet: what does a barber do in his spare time?

I grew up believing Joseph Albert Rivet, my godfather,  knew how to fix everything and do anything.  As a young man he learned the craft of a barber and worked in his father's shop on Vliet Street  in Cohoes.   He could figure things out and was a great carpenter.  Before he moved out to California in
1959, he remodeled the living room, the kitchen and my bedroom.  He installed the overhead light switch for my bedroom about 30 inches from the floor so I could easily reach the switch when I was five years old.  In our basement , he had a carpentry shop with table saws and a coal pot belly stove. Instead of using coal, Uncle Al and I fed it wood scraps.  In the damp basement, the fire kept us warm while he worked and I played in a sandbox he built to one side of the shop. Other times, I just stared through the Eisenglass windows of the little door on the stove to watch the flames flickering inside the pot belly stove while his saw hummed away.
 Every other day we bagged and carried the wood shavings to Dominic the butcher three doors down the street.  Dom threw the shavings over his wooden floor in the butcher shop.  Uncle Al taught me to always wet the broom before I swept up the basement floor or we would both suffer the consequences - dirt and dust in the air and in our mouths!

In the 1940s, after WWII and in the 1950s, Uncle Al worked for himself and Miller Electric on Congress Street in Troy. NY.  He installed and fixed refrigerators, boilers, electrical motors.  He also ran his own business repairing almost anything mechanical.

Everything Uncle Al did or made turned out perfectly.....and cutting the hair of kids was just another thing he did right.

and later there's always a few extra touches

and then relaxing after a job well done

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Moving Brickwall: Marie Sophie Lalonde from Champlain NY to Holyoke, Massachusetts

Taking a little left turn here to write about my genealogical ups and downs and how researching leads to new interests and finding out new things about places and people everywhere.

You might already know how fascinated I am by the canals that went through Cohoes and Waterford - the Erie, the Champlain and the canals that were built specifically to generate power for the Harmony Mills.  So imagine my delight when researching Marie Sophie Lalonde, I learned about the power canals in Holyoke, Massachusetts.   Here's the research background...

Marie Sophie Lalonde is what I call a moving brick wall.  Sophie  married Jacques Jacob Poissant dit Glaude (Glode) whose father dropped the Poissant when he moved across the border from Québec to Clinton County, New York.
Sophie and Jacob are the great great grandparents of Edgar, Milo and Arthur Mylott through their mother Edith Lida Glode. I cannot locate the marriage of Sophie and Jacob or anything about her parents, despite obtaining her death certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.  The document states she died in South Hadley of "old age" on June 24, 1893; she was 84 years old and the widow of John Glode. Her parents were both born in Canada.  Her father was Norbert Lalonde and mother was Larvie Ledamp (sic).

She raised her family in Champlain, NY.  Several years after becoming a widow, she can be found in Holyoke city directories.  The 1888 Holyoke City Directory states she is boarding at 101 Lyman St., Holyoke.  Her son Nelson Glode also lives there.  "Nelson" here is the Anglicized name for Narcisse.

  101 Lyman Street looked quite impressive in this 1877 map of Holyoke and its power canals on the Connecticut River.

the detail....

So I checked out Google maps for present day 101 Lyman Street to see if the house is still there.  I found an empty area and then found a blog with unusual photographs from a fire on December 23rd and 24th, 2009 at 102-103 Lyman Street leaving fifteen families homeless.  It would seem the building was demolished after the fire. Industrial era  buildings are vanishing rapidly but the canals of Holyoke are still there.....Click on these links to check it out:

Friends of Holyoke Canalwalk

Wikipedia: Holyoke Canals

Photos of Christmas Eve Fire on Lyman Street, Holyoke

According to the city directories from 1888 through 1902, Sophie Lalonde's sons William and Nelson had many different jobs: clerk, teamster, laborer on Holyoke Street Railroad Company, worker in the paper mill. Finally, in 1902, ten years after Sophie's death,  they operated their own "feed stable" at 59 Hampden St in Holyoke along with their sons. Her grandson, Joseph, appears to have died prematurely - his wife was Lucie Salabin who appears as a widow in the 1902 directory listing:

After Sophie's death in 1893, her body was returned to Champlain, NY where I suspect she was buried alongside her husband, Jacob Glode.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Serving in World War II: Edgar Jesse Mylott

My father was the youngest of seven children.  Four never lived to adulthood. Living on the Champlain Canal in a canal boat or near the canal easily compromised the safety of families and children before there was something called "Personal Flotation Devices".  The story passed down to me was that one of those four children drowned but I am not certain which one it was - John, George, Louise or Frank.  I know Milo, Edgar and Arthur made it to legal adulthood and then came World War II.  Somehow, they all survived the war in the United States Army.  The story of Uncle Edgar and his  Silver Star is here, and some more pictures below:


Posing for a Picture: Edgar is on the let

Edgar with his bride, Dorothy Marois
Soon after the end of WWII and discharge from the US Army

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Full Moon on the Mohawk

Here's a very interesting postcard that I hope Cohoes natives will carefully look at and offer a comment about.......

Full Moon over Cohoes Falls
The Cohoes Falls under the light of the full moon......except I don't think it is possible from the trajectory of this romantic painter.  Viewing the falls from this point, the spectator would be looking almost directly north.  So readers, astronomers and Cohoes natives please tell me is this possible in the northern hemisphere?  Can the moon shine directly over the Cohoes Falls as in this postcard? Or is the painter using a great deal of license?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

What I am reading this week: "Changes in the Land" by William Cronon

This blog is about ancestors and history of French Canadians so you can rightly ask "Why are you interested in reading about New England's Pilgrims and Puritans and the changes they brought upon the New England ecology?"  I suppose it is because all the colonial immigrants to the western hemisphere made drastic changes upon the lands forever altering the balance. From the very beginning of the Pilgrim's venture they made plans to support and pay for their efforts by shipping timber and beaver skins back to England. The landscape and whatever animals lived and plants grew on it were commodities that could be traded.  Historians sometimes write the French colonists were more tolerant of the the native peoples and  less destructive of the environment.  Probably that is because the number of French who established farms in the St. Lawrence Valley was so small compared to the number of English colonists establishing farms in New England. The French farmers cleared rectangular plots along the shores of the St Lawrence River and      seldom moved into the deep interior in the 17th century.  The English colonists arrived in droves between 1620 and 1630, rapidly moving up the Connecticut River, the Essex River, north of Boston, and established towns inland.

However, it is hard to imagine the French control of the northern beaver fur trade as more benign than the English and Dutch trade in New England colonies and the Hudson Valley of New York.  It did not take long for the beaver, and many other native birds and animals to be wiped out.  The beaver traders had to travel farther and farther into the hinterland to obtain the furs they needed.  The passenger pigeon  once so abundant in the St Lawrence River Valley were killed by the French Canadians to stuff in their tourtiere pies and became extinct by the 1890's!  My point?  Well, there is enough blame to go round the ancestor's tree but let's open our eyes to what is happening in the present.  We must stop thinking of resources (think oil and petro fuel) as commodities to be used up now.   I cannot understand why we even think and speak  of oil reserves as "lasting 50 years" or "supplying our nation's needs for X period of time".  The pursuit of genealogy has made me realize we are here for a blink of time and 12 generations is really not very long.  What will I leave for my children??  So Changes in the Land is a great book that has starting me thinking  about that past, my present and their future....  here's a review of the book on someone's blog Review of Changes In the Land.   

Monday, April 18, 2011

In the Family: Catholics and Protestants Together

I spent last Saturday at the American Canadian Genealogical Society (ACGS) in Manchester, New Hampshire doing some lookups to secure dates for baptisms, marriages and burials in Cohoes, Waterford, Schuylerville, Greenwich and Whitehall - all in New York State.  ACGS, as its name implies, is an organization whose mission is to assist people tracing the family lines of Americans with Canadian ancestors who migrated to the USA.   So ACGS has many resources available including a library of  "repetoires" which are the transcriptions of the church records from French Catholic Parishes of northeast communities.  Dedicated ACGS volunteers are the lifeline of the organization because they staff the library and do the work behind the scenes.

I visited the library to access the repetoires of the French parishes in New York where I can read all the Bova, Beauvais, Bissonnette, Bissnett, Lacasse, Rivet, Rivest, Millotte, Mailloux, Mireault and Wills baptisms, marriages and burials in alphabetical order.

I found some interesting and new information that I did know before.....

Milo Benjamin Mylott converted to Catholicism as an adult after his 1910 marriage to Edith Lida Glode. Benjamin Mylott was from Whitehall and although descended from French Canadians, his parents and grandparents were Protestant.  He was 27 years old when he was baptized in St Anne's Church in Northside, Waterford, NY.  The record states his name as Benjamin Napoleon Mylott.  "Napoleon" was his baptismal name, no doubt taken because his sponsor was Napoleon Glode, the brother of his wife. His other sponsor was Aurelie Hamel.  The record goes on to state "Adult conditional baptism; date of baptism is not given; in register between 28 April 1911 and May 1911".

The former Ste Anne's Northside, Waterford, NY
Now a Wesleyan Congregation

So despite the great Catholic-Protestant divide among the people of the early twentieth century, both of my sets of grandparents compromised a Catholic grandmother and a Protestant grandfather.  In the Glode-Mylott union, my grandfather Benjamin Mylott converted to Catholicism.  In the Bissonnette-Wills union, my grandfather John Albert Wills continued to be Protestant but he agreed to raise all his children Catholic.

Here are the baptisms of all of his nine children with names as recorded by the parish priest, sponsors, when and where the baptisms occurred:

  • Celanire Anna Wills (Celena), baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Cohoes, NY on 19 September 1904.  Her sponsors were her uncle Joseph Bissonnette and Celanire Bissonnette (Celena). 

  • Anna Elizabeth Wills, baptized in St Joseph's Catholic Church, Greenwich, NY on 30 September 1906.  Sponsor was Mary Bisnett.

  • Marie Anna Julie Wills, birth recorded 5 July 1908.  Baptized in Notre Dame de Lourdes, Schuylerville, NY. Her sponsors were Augustin Galipeau and Julie Bissonnette.

  • John Albert Wills (son), baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Cohoes, NY on 23 October 1910.  His sponsors were John Hayes and Olivine Ethier.

  • Elizabeth Wills, birth recorded 12 January 1913. Baptized in Notre Dame de Lourdes, Schuylerville, NY. Her sponsors were Alfred Bissonnette and Elizabeth Bissonnette.

  • Mary Dorothy Wills, birth recorded 15 July 1916. Baptized in Notre Dame de Lourdes, Schuylerville, NY. Her sponsors were Louis Bissonnette and Marie Louise Beauvais.

  • Marie Etta Wills, baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Cohoes, NY on 28 September 1917.  Her sponsors were Louis Ethier and Elizabeth Henri.

  • Earl Lawrence Wills, baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Cohoes, NY on 4 April 1920.  His sponsors were Wilfred Hebert and Celina Wills (his oldest sister).

  • Robert William Francis Wills, baptized in St. Joseph's Catholic Church, Cohoes, NY on 9 December 1923.  His sponsors were Henri Chabot and Julia Wills (his older sister).

St. Joseph's, Cohoes, NY
This church is now a closed parish

North of the mill town of of Victory Mills, the French catholic parish of Notre Dame de Lourdes flourished in Schulyerlville.

Posterior of the grotto

The grotto of Notre Dame de Lourdes, Schuylerville, NY.  Now the church is Notre Dame Visitation.
The former Irish parish is united with the French parish. 

And finally in Greenwich, New York is the Church of St. Joseph

Interior of St. Joseph's, Greenwich

Exterior of the Church of St. Joseph, Greenwich, NY
Of course the stories of the many families in this blog are about the interchange of people coming to Québec, Acadie and the northeast United States. Some of these early families were French Huguenots and some were Catholic. The divide between the two was once so great that it fueled wars, murders and genocide.  Somehow I can now feel peaceful about the past role of religion in the history of families on these pages. Today, the differences have became too small to mention and the similarities too many to identify. Peace.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Fiftieth Anniversary of St Joseph's in Cohoes, the first French parish in town

In an earlier blog posts, I wrote about the three French churches in Cohoes.  St. Joe's was the first French Catholic parish in Cohoes and the one Elizabeth "Libbie" Bissonnette and John Albert Berryman Wills were married on 26 August 1903.   It was where Etta Wills and Dorothy Wills made their First Communions.

First Communion at St Joe's, Cohoes

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

150th Anniversary of the opening shots of the American War of the Rebellion, the Civil War, the Brother's War, the Cousin's War

I only have one relative who fought in this war, William Henry Wills.  It really wasn't his war at all because he was most likely recruited only a few months after he entered the United States from his homeland in Cornwall, England.  Unlike many who were on American soil for generations, he had no vested interest other than finding some way to provide for himself when he got here.  He worked as a miner in Cornwall starting as an older child.  Information gathered so far, seems to indicate he was recruited in a regiment that formed in upstate New York around Potsdam.  He was 48 years old when he died. He outlived his first wife; his second wife, Carrie, is buried next to him in Port Henry, Essex County, New York.  I hope to gather more information about him at the Saratoga Military Museum in Saratoga Springs soon.    Unfortunately, there are signs in our times that Americans are still fighting the issues of states rights versus federalism.  Read here a CNN commentary that makes one consider and reconsider what is happening in Washington, DC right now.

But really, today let's silence all the rhetoric and bickering and just remember.  Today I just want to remember William Henry Wills and all the people who sacrificed so much in that bloody conflict.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Then and Now Along the Towpath

The photo below is of the last house  Elizabeth "Libbie" Bissonnette Wills lived at the southern end of Central Avenue in Cohoes, NY. On February 1st, 1936 she died in this house that still stands, albeit with changes, along the west side of the old Erie & Champlain Canal Towpath.  The two canals merged at a place in Cohoes called "Juncta" and continued southward through Maplewood, West Troy or Watervelit, Menands into Albany.....

This is the present day house with new siding, new windows and fewer trees in front.....

The backyard goes down to the old towpath which is now a bicycle trail and walking path that stirs the imagination to recall that this was once a very busy thoroughfare where the ancestors of many in America past through on their way to the western frontier the Great Lakes, Chicago, or points north through Lake Champlain.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Ancestors from Gaspé?

Ann Hum Genet. 2011 Mar;75(2):247-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-1809.2010.00617.x. Epub 2010 Nov 8.

When genetics and genealogies tell different stories-maternal lineages in Gaspesia.

Centre de Recherche, CHU Sainte-Justine, Université de Montréal, Côte Sainte-Catherine, Montréal, Québec, Canada.


Data from uniparentally inherited genetic systems were used to trace evolution of human populations. Reconstruction of the past primarily relies on variation in present-day populations, limiting historical inference to lineages that are found among living subjects. Our analysis of four population groups in the Gaspé Peninsula, demonstrates how this may occasionally lead to erroneous interpretations. Mitochondrial DNA analysis of Gaspesians revealed an important admixture with Native Americans. The most likely scenario links this admixture to French-Canadians from the St. Lawrence Valley who moved to Gaspesia in the 19th century. However, in contrast to genetic data, analysis of genealogical record shows that Native American maternal lineages were brought to Gaspesia in the 18th century by Acadians who settled on the south-western coast of the peninsula. Intriguingly, within three generations, virtually all Métis Acadian families separated from their nonadmixed relatives and moved eastward mixing in with other Gaspesian groups, in which Native American maternal lines are present in relatively high frequencies. Over time, the carriers of these lines eventually lost memory of their mixed Amerindian-Acadian origin. Our results show that a reliable reconstruction of population history requires cross-verification of different data sources for consistency, thus favouring multidisciplinary approaches.

Ticking Time Bomb? Dispersal of Mycobacterium tuberculosis via the Canadian fur trade - An interesting paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011 Apr 4. [Epub ahead of print]

Dispersal of Mycobacterium tuberculosis via the Canadian fur trade.

Division of Infectious Diseases and Department of Biology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.


Patterns of gene flow can have marked effects on the evolution of populations. To better understand the migration dynamics of Mycobacterium tuberculosis, we studied genetic data from European M. tuberculosis lineages currently circulating in Aboriginal and French Canadian communities. A single M. tuberculosis lineage, characterized by the DS6(Quebec) genomic deletion, is at highest frequency among Aboriginal populations in Ontario, Saskatchewan, and Alberta; this bacterial lineage is also dominant among tuberculosis (TB) cases in French Canadians resident in Quebec. Substantial contact between these human populations is limited to a specific historical era (1710-1870), during which individuals from these populations met to barter furs. Statistical analyses of extant M. tuberculosis minisatellite data are consistent with Quebec as a source population for M. tuberculosis gene flow into Aboriginal populations during the fur trade era. Historical and genetic analyses suggest that tiny M. tuberculosis populations persisted for ∼100 y among indigenous populations and subsequently expanded in the late 19th century after environmental changes favoring the pathogen. Our study suggests that spread of TB can occur by two asynchronous processes: (i) dispersal of M. tuberculosis by minimal numbers of human migrants, during which small pathogen populations are sustained by ongoing migration and slow disease dynamics, and (ii) expansion of the M. tuberculosis population facilitated by shifts in host ecology. If generalizable, these migration dynamics can help explain the low DNA sequence diversity observed among isolates of M. tuberculosis and the difficulties in global elimination of tuberculosis, as small, widely dispersed pathogen populations are difficult both to detect and to eradicate.
PMID: 21464295 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lost Without a Trace: Eugene Edward Chouiniere 1923-1942 and Allen, Parklyn, Vandervoort, Guichard and too many more

The Chouiniere family of Waterford, NY is a  large family.  Officially the Chouinieres are "distant extended family" to the families written about on this blog....through marriage...Etta Wills, Arthur St Hilaire, his cousin Lea St Hilaire, her mother Rosalie Chouiniere.  However, I feel it is important to share the story of Eugene Chouiniere because there isn't enough information in Cohoes and in the internet community about him and the missions he and others flew.  Maybe because he flew for the Brits and Canadians, we here in New York seem to be less aware of their sacrifice.

Eugene Edward Chouiniere
in Cohoes, NY

Eugene Chouniere with Lea St Hilaire
Uncle, Niece, and Childhood Playmates

On the night of November 25th, 1942 five men of the Royal Canadian Air Force went missing on a mission flying over Europe.  The five men were:

Alfred Joseph Parklyn, Pilot Officer, J/16080 from New Jersey, pilot

William John Vandervoort, Warrant Officer Class II, R/74630 RCAF from British Columbia, bomb aimer

James McGregor Allen, Flight Sergeant, R/93188 from Toronto, Ontario, wireless operator

James Louis Guichard, Warrant Officer Class II, R/83204 from Detroit, Michigan,

and finally
Eugene Edward Chouiniere from Cohoes and Waterford

The plane was an Avro Lancaster ... a heavy bomber made by Avro, a British aircraft manufacturer

Avro Lancaster Bomber
"A heavy bomber"

I do not know how Americans Parklyn and Allen came to serve in the Canadian forces, but I do know the story of Eugene Chouiniere because Lea St Hilaire told it to me.   Eugene was from Northside in Waterford; he was quite young when both his parents died.  According to Lea, he was eight years old when he came to live with his older sister, Rosalie's family in Cohoes.  Despite Gene being her uncle, he and Lea were the same age and played together, fished together and hunted rabbits - together. The household spoke French and English. Lea's grandfather had a farm in the area of Cohoes that is still called "The Orchard" section of town. Gene's sister, Rosalie St Hilaire neé  Chouiniere became his surrogate mother, Alfred St Hilaire his foster father.

Then when he was still 17 years old, Gene wanted to join the US army and went to the recruiter.  He was told he was too young and should finish his high schooling and then join. Gene couldn't wait so he jumped on a train from Cohoes to somewhere in Québec where he easily enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force.
He didn't tell anyone where he was going when he left Cohoes.  When he returned, Lea and the family were stunned to learn he joined up in Canada!

Eugene Chouiniere was nineteen years old when he, the pilot and crew aboard the Lancaster  went missing without a trace over Haselunne, Germany. 

Presumed missing, causalities of the great war, never found, there were no bodies to place in a national cemetery or sacred ground.  However, they were memorialized in a special place at Runnymeade, England: Air Forces Memorial, Runnymede Those of 207 Squadron who have No Known Grave, WWII.

Silhouette of Lancaster Bomber

Friday, April 1, 2011

Marie Ann LaCassé, sister of Marie Louise and aunt of Claire, Al and Ray Rivet

Over one year ago, when I began this family history blog, I posted the image of four your women from Cohoes-Northside with a short explanation.  The names of two of the young women, Marie Louise Lacasse (1880-1923) and Marie Ann Lacasse (1878-1951) are written in Al Rivet's handwriting. Who the other two women are isn't known.  Here is the picture again....

Marie Louise Lacasse, standing on the right side, was the biological mother of Claire, Al and Ray Rivet. She died one and a half year after Ray was born.  Seated on the left is Marie Ann Lacasse who never married. As I commented, it appears Marie Ann looked after her mother, Marie Louise Mireault after her father, Dedace Lacasse died.   In the 1930 census, Marie Louise Mireault is 81 years old and residing in Northside.  Her daughter, Marie Ann Lacasse is 52 years old and resides with her.

As I write this I do not have a death certificate for Marie Louise Mireault.  I thought I had no further information about Marie Ann Lacasse, the spinster aunt of Claire, Al and Ray.  That was true until Ray Rivet's son sent me the memorial card for Marie Ann Lacasse.  I was somewhat surprised to see that she died back in Québec! Here's the card....

Most interesting was to see her face age but not otherwise change through the years.  Yet a question remained...why did Marie Ann return to Québec after the death of her mother?  and why Rimouski, Québec on the south side of the St. Lawrence where it begins to open up to the Gulf of St.Lawrence?  Well, it appears there was a brother, Edmond Lacasse, who lived and married in Cohoes but returned to Québec after the death of his first wife, Josephine Nolin.  Marie Ann Lacasse went to live out her years with Edmond and his family there.