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.


  1. ACGS is a great group. They have assisted me few times in some of my research quests.
    Regards, Theresa (Tangled Trees)

  2. I came across this post via a google search. I'm picking at straws here but my 3rd great grandmother was Olivine Ethier (nee Page). I only know her to have lived in Montreal and New York City. She had a daughter of the same name...could we be connected? I see you list one of the sponsors as Olivine Ethier.