In 2007, I joined Ancestry.com. It never occurred to me that online, unsourced trees were inaccurate. I essentially “copied” my entire Acadian family from potentially erroneous public trees and never looked back. Although my newer entries are sourced, a visit to Stephen A. White, at Moncton University’s Centre d’Études Acadiennes [Center for Acadian Studies] in 2014, revealed a number of errors. I am determined to start from scratch, and verify that I have all available records beginning with the 30 direct ancestors, connected to my maternal grandmother Yvonne Marie Roy. This includes her parents, grandparents, g-grandparents and g-g-grandparents.
To keep the project manageable, I will write of one each week for the next 30 weeks.
Click on any photo to see a larger version.
Generation 1 – my grandmother – Marie Yvonne “Yvonne” Roy
1. Marie Yvonne “Yvonne” Roy, daughter of Pius/Paul Roy and Laura Marie Melanson, was born on 16 Aug 1912 in Ste Marie de Kent, New Brunswick, Canada. She was baptized at Eslise du Mont-Carmel four days later. Her godparents were Dosithe Roy (her grandfather) and Domithilde Roy (likely a relative).
Ste-Marie de Kent is located on the north side of the Buctouche River; in 1898 St. Mary’s was a farming and fishing community with 1 post office, 4 stores, 1 cheese factory, 1 church and a population of about 1,000. Pictured is the cemetery/Mont-Carmel Church and Bouctouche River at Ste-Marie and the view as we arrived during my 2014 visit.
Yvonne likely immigrated to Gardner, Worcester, Massachusetts with her mother, when she was almost four, on 17 April 1916 (the immigration date reported in her mother’s November 1932 border crossing documents when she returned to Canada for an eleven day visit and also the date which Yvonne’s father’s claimed to enter the US in his Declaration of Intent to become a US Citizen). The 1920/1930 censuses further supports this 1915/1916 arrival.
The family moved frequently.
In 1920, Yvonne (age 8, attending school, can read and write), was living at 244 Parker Street, Gardner, with her parents and four of her siblings (two siblings were born after 1920). There were five families at this address, all French Canadian.
In 1930, Yvonne (age 17, not in school or working), was living at 5 Moran, Street, Gardner, with her parents and five siblings (brother, Leo passed away in 1929), likely all in one room. There were nine families at this address, all French Canadian [photo not available, but in 2015, it was described as “a 4,968 square foot multi-family home which sits on a 0.26 acre lot and features 9 bedrooms and 6 bathrooms”].
In 1934, Yvonne first appears in city directories living with her parents at r 91 Regan, Gardner. She worked as a toymkr for Royal Manufacturing Company at rear 58 Main.
According to her sister Alida, Yvonne was a big drinker/party girl who had many boyfriends. On 20 August 1934, Yvonne gave birth to her first child (1) Shirley. Based on DNA testing, Shirley’s father was likely French Canadian. His name is unknown.
A few months later, she married in Gardner, 6 October 1934, Charles Billings, who was born 27 Jun 1904 in Pittsfield, Berkshire, Massachusetts, son of Juozas (Joseph) Baltrūnas (Billie) and Salomėja Markevičiūtė (Morris) of Stanioniai and Preibiai, Pasvalys, Lithuania. The first in her line, since the late 1600’s, to marry a non-Acadian.
The couple had three children: (2) Elizabeth “Betty” b. 1935 (3) Ralph b. 1938 and (4) Charles b. 1941
From 1935 to 1936, the family resided in Gardner, Massachusetts. In 1935 on r 91 Regan (with Yvonne’s parents) and in 1936 on 63 Parker (# 14); Charles worked as a cutter and assembler for FSCo. By 1937 directories indicate they had removed to Baldwinsville in the town of Templeton, Worcester, Massachusetts.
By 1939 they were back in Gardner, at 103 Pine and Charles was an inspector for FSCo. In 1940, they were renting 16 Willow Street where they paid $16/month. Charles was an Insulator who had worked 50 weeks in the prior year and made $1,250.
The 1941 Gardner city directory notes that Mrs. Yvonne Billings removed to Athol, Massachusetts. Charles is not mentioned. Did they separate? (Charles’ sister Connie resided in Athol; Yvonne’s parents relocated to Athol about 1947).
In the early 1940’s, according to Yvonne’s daughters, the family moved to Lynn, Massachusetts, where Charles was employed by GE [General Electric]. Yvonne was hospitalized for tuberculosis (a deadly epidemic for which there were no antibiotics until the 1950’s) and the children, infant to about age eight, were left alone, with agreement that the upstairs neighbor would watch them, so Charles could work. Another neighbor reported the situation and the state stepped in and placed the three eldest in foster care. The youngest, Charles, was placed in an institution, unbeknownst to his siblings, who were told their little brother had died. Sadly, I never met my uncle; but he was an amazing man, read of his life by “clicking here“. The remaining children were placed in Malden, Massachusetts (the girls together at 167 Main Street with Joseph and Margaret (Daley) Galiack). My aunt Alida and other relatives recall that both Yvonne and Charles were raging alcoholics and likely not fit for parenting.
In later years, my mother obtained case files from the state of Massachusetts to learn more of her parents. She choose to destroy the documentation and noted “they were full of lies”. The last memory my mother had of her father, was him sitting at the kitchen table, crying and begging them not to take his children. My mother never heard from her father again and contact with her mother was sparse.
Charles and Yvonne separated sometime after the children were placed in foster care, I do not believe they legally divorced. Her husband Charles is listed alone in the 1945 Lynn, Massachusetts city directory – r 14 Munroe, “Libson the lodging house”. No later city directories have been located for Yvonne or Charles, but photos indicate that by 1945 Yvonne had a new boyfriend, Tony Thibodeau.
Yvonne worked as a bartender and/or a waitress in Boston. Her boyfriend, Tony, was not a nice man; he unsuccessfully attempted to sexually molest Yvonne’s eldest teenage daughter (she left foster care and moved in with her mother for a short time). When my mother was a young adult she and her best friend Pat would, on occasion, take a train to Boston and visit the bar where Yvonne worked.
Her sister Alida recalls Yvonne appearing at the door in Athol exposing her children Tuberculosis, an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs. Alida was angry, but drove her to the hospital and visited. Nothing more is known of Yvonne’s life.
By 23 August 1960, Yvonne was again hospitalized with Tuberculosis. Her daughter, Betty, was listed as her “next of kin”, which made her quite angry as her mother had not been a part of her life. Betty did visit at least once, on 31 Aug 1960.
Yvonne died on 14 Jul 1961, age 48 (almost 49), in Mattapan (Boston) and was buried three days later in Athol, Worcester, Massachusetts (Gethsemane Cemetery, Plot: St. Matthew, Row TB, Lot 2) with her father and later her mother and son Charles. Her death was recorded in Boston, her daughter Elizabeth “Betty” Billings was the informant.
She spent 10 months and 21 days in the Boston Sanatorium (a historic tuberculosis hospital at 249 River Street in Mattapan) prior to her death which was caused by “Far Advanced Pulmonary Tuberculosis” .
Prior to her death, Yvonne had been at the same residence, 624 Tremont Street, Boston for 20 years (a section known as “The South End”, where buildings here were tenements and in the 1960s absentee landlordism was rampant and the neighborhood was one of the poorest of the city ). She was a waitress at a restaurant (she was not found in Boston city directories at any address under the name Billings or Roy).
It seems that the only family members who attended the funeral were her daughter Betty and sister Nelsey (many relatives lived out of state, including Yvonne’s mother who was almost 70). The funeral was held in Malden at Leo Norton’s (a very good friend of my grandfather Dr. Charles G. Hall). Betty paid the $511 in fees, noting that Yvonne had not been in her life since she was five.