Friday, March 19, 2010

The Gagnons of Saint Malo

The parents of Bernadette (Gagnon) Albert, Pierre and Diana Gagnon, brought many children into the world. In the 1910 United States Census in Westbrook, Maine, we see the whole gang. Families this size were very common for French Canadians.
Of course, they would never know that having this many children would provide a gold mine for a genealogist interested in tracking family history.
So far, I have located four birth records from the group including Bernadette’s (shown below). Hope you know French…but to help out, Jane Lindsey from the California Genealogical Society provides a loose translation below the image.
30 march 1902  We the undersigned priest of this parish have baptized Bernadette Alexandra born the twenty seventh of this month, legitimate daughter of Pierre Gagnon, day laborer and of Diana St Pierre of this parish.The god father is Wilfred Lemieux? and god mother Delia Gagnon also of this parish of Saint-Venant-de-Hereford and the father has declared he knows the signer. -L E Gendron  Priest
Peter and Diana Gagnon were both born in Canada in the 1860’s. Can you imagine being around at the time of the American Civil War? Of course, the Gagnons did not move to the states until the 1900’s. Their last record in the Canadian Census was in 1901.
While the Gagnon’s hail from Saint Malo, Quebec, the more famous Saint Malo is the one in France. It is a walled port city on the gulf of Saint-Malo, an inlet of the English Channel. A couple of interesting facts from this area of France:  the founder of Canada, Jacques Cartier, was born in Saint Malo, and Saint Malo was a base for French pirates in the 17th and 18th centuries.
One of the neat things about writing a blog is choosing pictures to attach to text. In my writing, I like to relate time and place and try to connect the family context to the context of the larger society (family history to general history). One of the most fascinating achievements of Gothic architecture in Europe is located on the Gulf of Saint Malo - the Benedictine Abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel - founded in 708.
The location of Saint Malo in Canada is one of the eastern townships of Quebec province. The website called Eastern Townships describes local residents living in an “environment of forests, farms, and waterways that supply their livelihood”.  At 2100 feet it is the highest municipality in Quebec. The parish of Saint Malo was established in 1863, the same year that Pierre Gagnon was born, and incorporated as a municipality in 1910.
Here is a map of this town’s location and its proximity to New Hampshire. If you are interested in visiting Saint Malo, they have a harvest festival every August.
Sources for some text and pictures in this blog entry:  answers.com, easterntownships.org, encyclopedia.com
The birth and census records come from ancestry.com.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Introducing the Ancestors - Ferdinand Albert (1864-1929)

Ferdinand Albert was the father of August ("Gus") Albert. He was born in Caraquet, New Brunswick (more information on Caraquet) and made his way to Westbrook to work in the mills like so many of our ancestors. In 1900, he was thirty-five living on Winslow Lane, and listed as a silk weaver on the federal census record.  He worked at the Haskell Silk Mill, one of the foremost silk manufacturers in New England.
The Falls located next to the Haskell Silk Mill
"The business began in a wooden building on the west side of Bridge St., very near the falls as this photograph shows.  The Haskell Silk Mill was the only silk mill in Maine and one of the oldest in New England. This was one of the industries that carried the name of Westbrook throughout the entire country and attracted an industrious population to the town." Quoted text and photo courtesy of Westbrook Historical Society.
    Ferdinand emigrated from Canada in 1887 and married a Hebert in 1895. On the Albert gravestone, she is listed as "Georgienne H".
In a taped interview in 1990, Memere reported that Georgienne died of breast cancer at the age of 42 when Pepere was just 11 years old. Many years later, Mr. Albert suffered a stroke. Memere and Pepere became his caretakers. They were living on a second floor apartment on Cole Street in Westbrook at the time. It had four little rooms and was located across the street from St. Hyacinth Church. As the family got larger, Memere and Pepere decided they needed more living space so they bought a lot nearby to have a house built. In December 1927, they moved into the new house on Bridge Street, and had a bathroom installed on the bottom level to accommodate Mr. Albert.                                                                                                               
  Soon after the move to their new residence, Memere and Pepere made arrangements for Mr. Albert to live at  the Marcotte Home in Lewiston, Maine, because it got to be too much to take care of him with four young children - Pauline, their last child, was born in September 1928. Mr. Albert enjoyed going to chapel and chatting with the other residents. He died a few months later of a heart attack having resided at Marcotte for six months. I am hoping some other pictures of Mr. Albert will eventually surface. 
Pictured above: The Albert family headstone at St Hyacinth Cemetary in Westbrook, Maine.