Today, I thought I would share a few hard learned lessons.
The parents of my husband’s maternal grandmother Dorothy Elizabeth White, who married David Charles Little, in Lynn, Massachusetts, have been a mystery.
I easily found Dorothy with her parents Herbert Joseph White and Annie M. in the 1920 and 1930 censuses. Herbert’s “Petition for Naturalization” is online. I collected a draft registration and an SS-5 (social security application) for Herbert and a death certificate for Dorothy from the Lynn City Clerk.
(1) Herbert was born on lot 5, Prince Edward Island on 29 August 1889 and arrived in Maine via rail in December 1908.
(2) His wife Annie M. was born in Boston , July 1894 to a German father and Irish mother; her daughter Dorothy’s death record lists Annie’s maiden name as Elezer.
(3) Dorothy was born on 12 June 1912 in Lynn, Massachusetts and married David Charles Little about 1928.
This is where the trail ends. No record on Ancestry.com, Family Search or American Ancestors, nothing in the Massachusetts index books at the Massachusetts vital records office or at the Lynn City Clerk’s office for the marriage of Herbert & Annie, no birth for Dorothy, no marriage for Dorothy and Charles, no death record for Annie or Herbert. Neither Annie or Herbert are found in the 1910 census in Massachusetts and there are no families with a surname close to Elezer in all of Massachusetts with a combination of Irish/German descent.
I decide to post the facts on several genealogy message boards. About five months later, a wonderful woman named Karen responded with LOTS of information. She says:
“I noticed in the 1920 Census at Lynn MA, Herbert White is listed as French and since it was quite common for French Canadians to anglicize their names when they moved to english speaking areas, I searched records in PEI under the the surname “LeBlanc” (blanc is french for white). Sure enough, it looks like Herbert’s surname was originally “LeBlanc”….” The rest of the post can be found here, she basically helps me reconstruct his entire life http://genforum.genealogy.com/cgi-bin/pageload.cgi?kingston,ontario::canada::98481.html
I instantly feel like a dope! My Lithuanian’s changed their name when they arrived, a common occurrence with many immigrant groups; I have been taking Spanish lessons twice a week for the past five years and know full well that blanco (blanc in French) means white; and my maternal grandmother was Acadian (a family I have traced back to the 1600’s thanks to an mtDNA test) and my tree is full of LeBlancs. [Side note: After a bit more research using the microfilm for St Anthony's Bloomfield at NEHGS, and other sources, I now know that my husband and I are 10th cousins through at least six different sets of grandparents].
My research propels forward! The Lynn City Clerk has Dorothy LeBlanc’s birth dated 12 June 1912 and Dorothy LeBlanc’s marriage to David Little. Her mother Annie’s surname on both documents is listed as Brown. I search the Lynn newspapers at the Boston Public library and find obituaries for Annie, Herbert & Dorothy but none provide clues to Annie’s origins (although it does confirm a Boston birth).
Then, success! Can’t fool me twice!! Brown “germanized” is Braun. I find an Annie Brown/Braun in the 1910 census living in Boston with her German father George Brown/Braun and Irish mother Mary Keohane/Cohan. The ONLY German/Irish Brown/Braun family in all of Boston with a child Annie. Annie is no longer with the family in 1920 (perfect, she shouldn’t be – she is married and living in Lynn with Herbert!). Annie is listed as Agnes in the 1900 census (obviously a census taker error) and her birth date listed as Feb 1893 instead of July 1894 as on Herbert’s naturalization (another census taker error or Herbert not knowing his wife’s birth date; typical man). And the surname Elezer from Dorothy’s death certificate… Well, Dorothy was dead. She couldn’t give her mother’s maiden name. Herbert was still alive when his daughter died, typical male, perhaps senile – he just messed up his deceased wife’s maiden name.
Anyway, I digress. The Brown/Braun tree is fascinating. Annie descends from Friderich Braun who was born in 1821 in Germany. He travelled to America (alone) with his 9 children in 1873, settled in Boston and is buried in Holyhood Cemetery in Brookline, Massachusetts. His son George is employed by a furniture factory. My husband is thrilled to hear this! His love is his woodshop. He finally feels a connection to his otherwise dysfunctional, crazy, misfit, alcoholic family.
For 4 days, I stayed up until 1 or 2 AM adding no less than 213 new family members and hundreds of records to the Brown/Braun tree. I corresponded with seven “cousins”, found the family’s ship manifest on Ancestry.com and ordered George’s naturalization from NARA (which is on the way to me as we speak). Annie M. had 6 siblings, all of whom have birth & marriage records online and all of whom I easily traced forward to 2013.
Then, 4 days later, I realize I hadn’t discovered Annie’s birth record. Strange. I found records for all of her siblings in Boston, Massachusetts. After some creative searching, I found a birth dated February 23 1893 (the same month/year listed in the 1900 census) for a “Sophia Agnes” born to George Brown and Mary Keohane. The address matched that of a few siblings. The name Annie was written and then crossed off – the informant was not a family member (probably a midwife). Hmmm… I recalled that the 1900 census had her name as Agnes.
Can you say “light dawns on marble head”…. Did I have the right Annie? or did I jump to conclusions….
Then I think…how did Annie M. Brown and Herbert J. LeBlanc meet if he lived and worked in Lynn and she resided in Boston. I try another search - 1910 census, Lynn, Massachusetts, Ann* Br*n – father German, mother Irish – I hold my breath, hoping for nothing to appear as I tentatively hit the search button – Up pops an Annie Brown living with her mother Annie E. Blazer and step-father John. I search for the Blazer’s in the 1920 & 1930 census. Crap. There they are in 1930, living on Summer Street in the same house as Herbert/Annie White and Dorothy/David Little.
Blazer/Elezer?…pretty close, sounds like an error when the Lynn Clerk was reading/transcribing information onto the death certificate… There is even a French Canadian “Arsenault” boarder living with the German/Irish couple – Arsenault is Herbert White/LeBlanc’s mother’s maiden name. Why had I not noticed this? I learned long ago to ALWAYS look at the neighbors when I find a census record!
I do a Google search on Annie E. Blazer. Up pops an article from the Lowell Sun dated 1937. “Will Orders Dog’s Death”. Annie Blazer leaves an interest in her Lynn home to her daughter “Mrs. Annie M. White” of Lynn AND she wishes to have her dog killed, because her husband John E. Blazer can’t even take care of himself! Now that sounds more like my husband’s crazy family!
I couldn’t bring myself to delete the 213 Braun/Brown’s – so much effort went into piecing together this unrelated family. I deleted George Brown and Mary Keohane in the “relationships” tab of Annie M. Brown’s Ancestry.com record and instead added Sophia Agnes as their daughter. Maybe my efforts will help some other researcher. I still have not found Annie’s father – I am secretly “hoping” that he is somehow part of this Boston Brown/Braun family. Annie M’s mother, Annie Elizabeth Callan/Callahan, daughter of James Callan/Callahan and Annie Kehon (maybe Keohane ?), was listed as a widow when she married her second husband John Blazer in Maine on 7 December 1905. Another mystery – what was she doing in Maine? Was Annie M. really born in Boston? Where did her father Brown/Braun die? This time I will be a bit more careful before jumping to conclusions and adding records to my tree.
Need I say more? Hard lesson learned!