Wednesday, December 4, 2013

"Uncle Al", Joseph Albert Rivet, would be 94 years old on December 5th, 2013

Al Rivet in family backyard, Cohoes, NY. He is about 18 years old in this photo.

Albert Rivet in US Army Corps of Engineers, World War II

Maybe he was your father, grandfather, godfather, brother, uncle, friend, coworker, church deacon, refrigeration repairman or maybe you never new him at all.  He was Joseph Albert Rivet, son of  Joseph Paul Emile Rivet and Marie Louise LaCasse, brother of Claire and Raymond Rivet.  Although his parents were born in Québec, he was born in Cohoes, NY in 1919 and died in California in 2002.

He easily soothed babies

Uncle Al never minded cooking supper and doing the cleanup too!

Uncle Al showing patience at Bennington, Vermont!

Uncle Al the Catholic deacon in California

Visiting his daughter, the cadet at West Point

Here's some things you may not know about Joseph Al Rivet's early life from notes I took when he told me about his experiences growing up in Cohoes and in the US Army and some stories from his sister, my Aunt Claire.

  • He suffered from diphtheria when a young school boy and the local doctor thought he would not survive. His stepmother, Malvina Hamel, probably thought there was nothing left to try so on someone's advice she gave him sips of turpentine.  He recovered and his recovery ever after was attributed to the turpentine.
  • Although his father did not want him to finish high school, he did and he "loved" it.
  • He spent 2 years at Keveny Academy and 1 year at Cohoes High School.
  • He passed the New York State Regents Exam in French.
  • He studied 2 years of Latin.
  • While going to school, he worked as a barber with his father cutting hair on Friday night and all day Saturday.
  • His first job (other than working in his father's barber shop) was in Strasbourg (?) shirt factory where his sister Claire was already working.
  • He switched jobs to another shirt factory, Barbery(?) and doubled his salary
  • Then he got a job at General Electric Company in Schenectady and car pooled with a fellow named Norman
  • He partied and drank, especially at the Polish Club on Van Schiak Island where he saw a special young lady named Rose.
  • Sunday mornings, after a night of fun at the Polish Club, his sister would make certain he woke up to attend the French Catholic mass at Sacred Heart.  
  • He was drafted into the army and World War II.
  • He trained in Louisiana for three months 
  • He was in the 346th Corps of Army Engineers
  • He was sent to southern Wales in Britain and helped build landing sites for B-17 bombers. The landing sites were originally thin concrete that would crack when heavy planes landed. The corp poured ten plus inches of concrete to help withstand the weight.
  • During that time in Wales, he and his fellow soldiers slept in tents and it was cold- especially compared to what they got use to in Louisiana.  He wore all the clothes he had, all of the time, because he was always cold.
  • Local people wouldn't talk to you because they were afraid you were a German in a US soldier uniform "spying" on them.
  • He continued with the corps doing this  "all over England" for three years.
  • Ate a lot of mutton and drank a lot of cocoa while in England.
  • He remembered someone got a ham mailed from the states and it was shared among buddies.  He always remembered the wonderful taste of that slice of salted meat on that day.
  • He loved living in California. He didn't miss shoveling snow in upstate New York winters.
  • and he never had regrets because he lived a life where he never needed to have any - ever!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Jean Baptiste "Illinois" Jacquet : Saxophone with a Big Band

This post isn't about Cohoes,Whitehall or anywhere in upstate New York AND it isn't about French Canadian families but it is interesting to me because I didn't know a thing about this person.  I had never heard of him until four days ago when I drove through Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, NY and saw his stopped me in "my tracks".  It is a beautiful memorial and naturally with a name like Jean Baptiste Jacquet, I had to find out more about him, his music and his French connection.

So I watched and listened some videos on the internet..........So I am glad I discovered Jean Baptiste and his music, although a little regretful it was a post mortem discovery. Rest in peace JB Jacquet.

Very nearby Jean Baptiste's gravesite in Woodlawn is the grave of Sir Miles Davis, also with a pretty impressive piece of stonework:

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Ma Marraine "Margie": When Marie Marguerite Yetto was "Miss Cohoes"

Sonny, Aunt Claire and Margie (my godmother)

In the past week, beauty and talent contests were in the news. The Miss America Pageant made headlines for selecting a young woman of South Asian heritage and in France, the government made it illegal to host beauty pageants for very young girls. Whenever I am reminded of beauty contests, I remember my mother always telling me my godmother was a very talented and attractive young woman who won the Miss Cohoes pageant sometime when I was too young to notice. This memory made me try to find out exactly when this event occurred for "ma marraine", Margie (pronouced Mar-Gee) Yetto.

Al Rivet and Marguerite Yetto, my godparents.

Margie was thirteen when she stood in the vestibule of St. Joseph's Church in Green Island and became my godmother. Thirteen years older is just the right number of years to create an image of an fascinating teen idol to a very young school girl and that is what Margie became to me - gorgeous and talented. I idolized her and usually just stared at her whenever she walked into the room when I was at my Aunt Claire's house on Summit Street in Cohoes. I would usually visit on Saturdays in the company of my Uncle Al who would fix something for his sister, Aunt Claire. There was always a faucet leaking, the refrigerator needing some attention. I was 3 or 4 years old and too young to fully understand all the happenings in the household on Summit Street. It was about that time, 1951-6, that Margie
started showing up in the Cohoes section of The Troy Record newspaper. She was the Grace Kelly of Cohoes and when I search the newspapers at that time Margie is winning art contests sponsored by the Lions club (1951), portraying characters in high school plays and working on costume design.

Then in 1956, she is selected "Miss Cohoes". I found the news story in the Times Record thanks to a subscription to Ancestry!  My dear mother was not fooling!  How I wish I had a picture of Margie in her Miss Cohoes regalia!

As Miss Cohoes, Margie appeared at Cohoes parades, dedications and city events like the one below as an ambassador of youth. She was quite stunning from all accounts.

Margie was engaged to be married by her senior year of high school.

She was full of promise but she and her young family endured several sad events including the tragic accident of her father leaving him disabled and the death of her daughter in early childhood.  Despite her personal tragedies, Margie raised her family wisely and well. I lost communication with my teen idol as I grew older and went my own way though college, career and family but in the year before she died (2002), she and I had two lengthy phone conversations which I will treasure in my memory bank for a long time.

I only have a few pictures of Margie from the 1950s when I was a toddler and she the young girl growing into a beautiful young woman of promise and dreams.  That's how I will remember "ma marraine".  AND "YES" - Margie was MISS COHOES 1956!!!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cohoes on Ebay!

Here is something quite interesting on EBay today 9/3/2013, especially if you have a genealogical connection to Louisa S. Phillips of Cohoes circa 1911! The starting bid is $14.99.

Louisa S Phillips left a great census trail from Colonie to Watervelit to Troy and is easily researched. Doesn't seem like she married but she did have many siblings, nieces and nephews. Below, she appears in the 1880 census in Watervelit as 35 years old and single:

Years later, she is 85 when the 1930 census comes out and she is living with a nephew who is a farmer in Colonie...

Although I can't claim any connection to Louisa, if descendants of her nieces and nephews check out Ebay they might find a prize OR perhaps they are the currents sellers putting it up for bid!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Thinking of the Mohawk Valley and Green Summers

It is the beginning of September in New York and usually by this time grass has yellowed and landscapes start to dry out but not this year. We have had sufficient rain to keep lawns and landscapes moist and green.......I suspect the Mohawk River at Cohoes generated a great deal of power for Brookfield Renewable Energy Group this summer. With such a green summer I was looking forward to exploring the history of New York's bread basket - the Mohawk Valley.

In past blog stories I ave emphasized the Hudson River and the Champlain Corridor between New York and Montreal and neglected the Mohawk Valley. My plan was to use some vacation time this summer to become more reacquainted with the Mohawk Valley. My mother always took me to Auriesville, the shrine of the North American martyrs Issac Jogues and Rene Goupil. Antique shops in Fonda and Cherry Valley were always important road stops as well as Sir William Johnson Manor House and dinner at Union Hall (my mom and I called it the Johnstown Inn) in Johnstown, NY.  I remember loving the corn fritters they served in the 1960s and according to the menu on the web, are still served!

Anyway summer 2013 didn't work out exactly as I had planned and an accident with a broken arm put a quick stop to excursions in the Mohawk Valley. Before the accident occurred, I did go back to the Cohoes Falls, Fort Hunter, Oriskany Battlefield and Fort Stanwix. There will be more summers. The Mohawk Trail awaits!

Here's a little capture of the great Cohoes Falls with a beautiful rainbow this summer!

and Fort Hunter at Schoharie Crossing.....

Monday, August 12, 2013

franco has a fracture

and is taking a leave of absence from FrancoAmerican back after a few weeks of healing.

Yes, it is a right spiral mid shaft fx of the humerus and I'm right handed!!!!

Friday, July 19, 2013

Marie Claire Yetto née Rivet: BIRTHDAY August 18th, 1918

My Aunt Claire, Cohoes and California legend, would be 95 years old in August 2013.  Recently came across some photos of my mother with Aunt Claire and another friend, Antoinette.  In the first two, taken sometime in the 1970s,  it looks like Aunt Claire was visiting from California and my mother was was purchasing a KODAK Instamatic camera - and putting the bill on her MasterCard.  These three women were all FrancoAmerican by birth.  Aunt Claire and Antoinette, first generation born in New York State, were both raised in French speaking households with parents born in Québec. My mother, Dorothy, was second generation, in New York; her maternal grandparents were born in Montérégie.

Antoinette, Claire, Dorothy
Antoinette, Dorothy, Claire
Dorothy, Santa, Claire

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Poutine in NYC

You have probably noticed that my blog entries are few and far between and the genealogy research has crawled to almost a halt in the past 12 months.  I blame my new location, New York City, on my inability to bring my genealogy interests to new heights. There's definitely too many distractions on this island and the boroughs surrounding it.  I have been immersing myself in other things and other histories so imagine my surprise when this fact was brought to my attention: the best place to grab Poutine in New York City is a few steps away from my apartment!

If you are in NYC you might want Poutine and a beer at The Dive Bar on 732 Amsterdam Avenue, Upper West Side.  I think it is as good as it gets in Québec but try it yourself. As you can see, it is a "House Specialty".

Monday, July 1, 2013

When the past gives way to the present

Here's a topic for amateur genealogists and family history seekers: how children can steal the show right from under us and our well made plans.  Take Memorial Day weekend 2013 when some of the Wills family came together to visit the grave of our great grandfather's brother in Port Henry, Essex County, New York.  Two separate generations came together. For one little member of the family, the grave was the site of her great-great-great grandfather's brother, William Henry Wills, born in 1840 in Cornwall and died in 1888 in Port Henry. William Wills served in the New York State 16th Infantry Regiment, Company F during American Civil War.

When we finally arrived at our destination in the midst of a downpour, I risked soaking my camera equipment to take photos of the little star of the day....and what a joy she was. A midst the rain and water everywhere, the older generation forgot the gravestone and forgot the past.  We stood among the droplets enjoying, for a few moments anyway, the present and the future.  Here is what we saw:

Sunday, April 7, 2013


Yes...I know I having posted in a very long time. And there is still so much to research and family history to discover.  Unfortunately, I am in a time and place where my materials are packed in boxes and my files are inaccessible!  So I am using my time to research genealogy on line.  From time to time I come across something new to me.  Recently I discovered an image to share with you....

Many of the FrancoAmerican ancestors who are the subject of this blog emigrated from the Richelieu Valley to Cohoes in the mid 19th century (see Mapping the Route) because this little town was beaming with commerce and employment at the dawn of the industrial revolution.  Cohoes and Waterford are strategically located at the junction of the Hudson and Mohawk Rivers where water power energized transportation and manufacturing.  There was a little area on the south side of Cohoes called "Juncta" where the Old Champlain and Old Erie Canals came together and then went on to Albany. Present day Juncta doesn't reflect the lively times it once enjoyed as the social and commercial gathering place of canalers and their families, tavern keepers, horse stablers and business people.  After the expansion of the canal system in 1918 and the dominance of the railroads, Juncta fell into a decline but if you search present day Juncta, vestigaes of it remain.

Below is a low resolution image of Juncta from the New York Public Library's digital gallery.  A more detail view can be seen at  NYPL image of Juncta. This was probably illustrated in the early days of the canal - taking a guesstimate it is probably 1840s just before it's heyday.  

The rural nature of Juncta stands out in this image and I can't help recall that this spot is close to the area of Green Island we called "the prairie" in the 1950s.  On the northern side of Green Island, the prairie was full of woods and marshlands - and the island's dump.  Today the area is not as desolate as I remember and many new small industries have been built in the woods and prairie.  Still....behind the new industrial buildings, glimpses of the the Hudson River remain.  Below is a Google map with the present locations of Juncta and Green Island's prairie.

View Juncta in a larger map

The New York Public Library and the New York State Education Department both have digitalized images of maps, engravings, stereoptic views and more of the canals and locations where ancestors lived and work and are worth exploring.

Friday, January 25, 2013

A Memory from childhood

Here is a real memory....

Thanks to The lazycomic on You Tube for this film strip!  I love it!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Lacasse Family in Northside, Waterford circa 1900

The Lacasse family are ancestors of the Rivet family of Cohoes

Dedace Lacasse, one of the younger sons in the family of Ephrème Cassé and Lucie Desautels-Lapointe, was probably made a wanderer by virtue of his birth order. Without a plot of his own land to farm, he was consigned to be a day worker on the farms of others. 

Portrait of woman believed to be Lucie Lapointe-Desautels, the mother of Dedace Lacasse.

Dedace and his wife Marie Louise Mireault were both born in St Jacques de L'Achigan, Quebec - Dedace in 1844 , Marie Louise in 1849. The couple married in 1867 in the church of St Alphonse de Rodriques, Quebec. In the 1881 census of Canada, the family is in Terrebonne, Quebec. In the 1891 census, they are located in Joliette, Montcalm, Quebec.  Sometime around 1898, Dedace brought his family from Quebec to New York.  They came to Northside in Waterford in 1898 to work in or around the factory mills of Cohoes and Waterford.  In the United States Census of 1900, six family members are listed: Dedace, Marie Louise his wife, Marie Ann and Marie Louise his two daughters and Edmond (Edward) and Camille, his two sons.  Marie Ann will not marry remaining at home to care for her parents, especially her widowed mother.  Marie Lousie will eventually became the second wife of Paul Emile Rivet. Edmond, naturalized a US citizen in 1912 will marry in Cohoes but after he is widowed in 1926, he will return to Québec with his children. He marries again in Rimouski, Québec.  Camille Lacasse seems to have moved to New York City but returns to Cohoes to marry.  He and his bride return to New York and raise their family in Queens.  Another son, Joseph Lacasse, not listed in the 1900 census with his parents,  marries and remains in Cohoes to raise his family.

 The Lacasse Family living at 20 Cemetery Road, Northside Waterford

Note the error - Cammile is listed as a daughter instead of son 

On May 1, 1910 Marie Edna Ann Lacasse, daughter of Joseph Lacasse and Emma Marie Fortin, granddaughter of Dedace and Marie Louise Mireault was baptized in the "French" church,  St Ann's Roman Catholic Church in Northside, Waterford where the family members were communicants.  Dedace was listed as the parrain or godfather. Below are two photographs of St Anne's Church in Northside after it was converted to Waterford Wesleyan Church.

Readers unfamiliar with Northside, Waterford and Cohoes may inquire why Northside is called "Northside" when it is actually on the south side of the town of Waterford of which it is a part.  It is my understanding that the founding fathers of Cohoes always considered Northside a part of the Cohoes community even though Northside was officially in a different town and even a different county.  Cohoes is in Albany County and Northside-Waterford in Saratoga County.  Only the waters of the Mohawk River divide the communities of Cohoes and Waterford but an early bridge connected the communities.

So the family of Dedace Lacasse and Marie Louise Mireault expanded and their descendants quickly spread across North America and back to Quebec

Here is a sign of Northside's French Canadian Heritage!
A home in Northside, New York displays its Roots - a flag of Quebec and a US flag!

Part 2 to follow.....