Saturday, January 25, 2014

#52Ancestors (4) Louis Blanchette

My choice for the 52 Ancestors Challenge is one about whom I have written several past posts:

Louis Blanchette
(1838-1923)

It could also be subtitled:    Family Stories vs Discovered Facts.

Better yet:    Oh Louis, Where Art Thou?

We shall begin in the middle. I had the opportunity to visit a couple of times with a cousin of my dad's, also a descendant of Louis BLANCHETTE. She, like me, was an avid family history researcher. Over time she gathered many wonderful documents, and being a generation older than me, many family stories as well. I do not know the circumstances of her hands-on research, or how exactly she latched on to a particular Louis and his named parents.

Once I became fully engaged in researching this family, I discovered that this particular Louis, the one my cousin determined to be our ancestor...died at age one. Off searching I went, for 'our' Louis.

More details of my search for Louis can be found [here], [here] and [here].

One of the best record sets I have been able to search are the Drouin records, available on Ancestry.com, and on other websites. The Drouin records held the clues to Louis' existence. Drouin baptismal records give full names of parents and maiden name of mother, and many records have this information in marriage and even death records. It is then a puzzle to connect the right family groups.

Ancestry.com: Drouin Collection (1621-1967) le-Baie-du-Febvre, Co Yamaska, PQ, Canada, 1838

Finally my four years of high school French (and Google translate) come in handy. This record states Louis BLANCHETTE was baptized 19 June 1838, and his parents were Seraphin BLANCHETTE and Marie-Edesse DIONNE. The Blanchette's had their children baptized at various churches and missions, but lived primarily in the village of le-Baie-du-Febvre, north of Montreal along the Saint Lawrence River.

Louis left his birth home as a very young man and eventually joined his older sister Julia in Saugatuck, Allegan County, Michigan. There he plied his forestry skills working in saw mills. He enlisted in the Civil War after moving to Chippewa County, Wisconsin. He served as a river driver, sending lumber down the Mississippi River to Louisiana, where his French would be useful.

Back in Wisconsin, he married and was father to 14 children, nine of which reached adulthood. My cousin gathered and wrote many wonderful stories passed on about the difficulty and joy of raising a family in the north woods. Sadly, his wife died giving birth in 1888, and Louis was forced to send some of his children off to other homes, including my great-grandmother Rena.

Blanchette family, circa 1886

Blanchette/Blanchard lot marker

Louis' gravestone

Louis died in Chippewa County on 26 November 1923. He is buried in the predominantly Catholic Hope Cemetery in Chippewa Falls, Chippewa, Wisconsin. His gravestone is dated 1840. Louis died never knowing his real birthdate. His pension request forms after the Civil War are very vague, listing what he suspected to be his approximate birthdate.

I am amazed that he survived 85 years, considering his challenging youth, the difficulties he endured during the Civil War, and in raising his family. I take comfort in knowing that I am descended from such hardy stock.

[Note: It was records regarding his sister Julia that helped me conclude that I had indeed found the 'right' Louis BLANCHETTE. Fortunately, many of the family's baptismal records and some census records exist as confirmation.]

Louis BLANCHETTE is a paternal great-great grandfather.

Louis' page in my database

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen



4 comments:

  1. Great post! The grave marker looks very unique. It must have been very tragic when he lost his wife during that childbirth. I couldn't imagine seeing anybody with 14 children these days.

    I also really like how you ended it with "I take comfort in knowing that I am descended from such hardy stock."

    I think all of us find something in each of our ancestors that we can be appreciative of.

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  2. Thank you for your kind comments! He was a fulfilling challenge. I'm glad we were able to visit his grave a few years ago as well.

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  3. Interesting article about your ancestor, Sally. Do you know why his surname is "Blanchard" instead of "Blanchette" on his tombstone?

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    1. Specifically, no. Several of his children used the name Blanchard, although at least 2 retained Blanchette. Even the Canadian records varied among Blanchet, Blanchett, and Blanchette.

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