Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#52Ancestors (41) Virginie Richard Blanchette, Mother of Fourteen

This week's #52Ancestors is one of the women in my line who, while most likely Belgian, might actually be the genealogy alien dropped from outer space. I know a lot about her short adult life but little about her childhood and family.

Virginie Marie RICHARD is almost certainly from Belgium. Based on family lore and the cemetery records, she was born on 4 July 1849. Her adult children consistently listed Belgium as her place of birth on their own census records throughout their lives.

Blanchette family c 1887, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

I do have a cousin who has written a lovely book of family stories passed down about Virginie and her husband, Louis BLANCHETTE. The book covers their lives after they met in Oconto County, Wisconsin around 1865.

I used this book as a guide as I worked on this family. But I also did my own independent research. As I rather expected, my records led to a number of different conclusions. I'm sure the book has nuggets of truth but I have also surmised that some of the stories have the people, families, and locations mixed up. No doubt this will happen over 150 years. So the information regarding Virginie may or may not be correct. I'll continue to use it as a guide for reference.

My work on other records, including census and immigration, has come to a grinding halt. I focused primarily on the 1860 census, when she would be about 11 years old, and have almost searched northern Wisconsin person by person. There was a large Belgian population, as well as French-speaking Canadians. I cannot find a single appropriate match for Virginie.

So here is what I do know:

  • born 4 July 1849, possibly with a male twin, in Belgium
  • married Louis Blanchette about 1866 in Oconto County, Wisconsin
  • was the mother of 14 children, including two sets of twins
  • died about a month after childbirth, on 17 March 1888 outside Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Virginie was only 39 years old when she died. The perils of her husband and children have been written about previously in my blog.

Virginia, wife of Louis Blanchard
Hope Cemetery, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

She is one of my ancestors that I really feel is hiding on me. Sometimes you have a theory, or some inkling of a location, but with her I have nothing.

Do you have any experience with Belgian records? Ideas on a search I haven't thought of yet? Let me know!