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 ancestor each week.
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2. Pius/Paul Dost Roy, was the eldest child of Docité/Dosithée Roy and Victorie LeBlanc, likely born 09 Jul 1886 in Ste Marie de Kent, St Mary’s Parish, Kent, New Brunswick (in 1871 the village had a population of only 100 people; by 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). Pius’s Declaration of Intent (to become a US citizen), draft registrations, censuses, marriage and death records corroborate this date and parents.
It seems the Acadian Roy family was one of the first to settle in that area. The book “La Vie à Sainte-Marie”, by Emery Leblanc, Sackville, N.B. : Tribune Press, 1985, ©1984 (in French) reads:
“The first settlers of St. Mary were from Bouctouche. They obtained a land grant in 1824 and settled in the district now called “Roy Office” on the south side of the river, named in memory of Joseph Roy, one of the first settlers, and one of the most remarkable”.
Pius was baptized two days after his birth, 11 Jul 1886 at Mont-Carmel; his godparents were Pierre Roy (his dad’s half-brother) and Henriette LeBlanc (his dad’s sister who married Domicien Leblanc).
In 1891, 5 year old Pius lived with his parents and two sisters Albina (age 3; b. 10 July 1888) and Mathilde (8 months; b. 3 Aug 1890) in the parish of St Mary’s in the district of Ste Marie de Kent. His father was a farmer. They were Roman Catholic, Acadians. Little is known of Pius’s childhood. His father did own land in St Mary’s Parish that was purchased of his parents (which will be described in a later sketch). The 1940 census tells us Pius attended school through the 4th grade (as reported to the census taker by his wife) and he was unable to read or write (the 1930 census says he did not attend school at all, but we do not know who spoke with the census taker). According to Inspector reports in 1889, education was not valued in St. Mary’s Parish and many of the schools were closed, “for no good reason”; by 1892 the inspector reported some improvement but in 1901 again reported degrading conditions.
The family grew. Siblings who joined the family included Marie Emma (b. 26 Nov 1892), Aurelie (b. 27 July 1896), Dieudonné and Joseph Hector (b. 3 Sept 1898), apparently twins.
Sadly, four of Pius’s young siblings died in 1899. Joseph, 1 Jan 1899 [cause unreadable], age 4 months; Albina, 13 April 1899, age 10, of consumption [likely influenza]; and a week later, 20 April 1899, Dieudonné (7 months) of la grippe [likely influenza]. No further record of Aurelie has been located, he probably died in the same time frame.
Pius’s sister Emma, who resided in Fitchburg, Massachusetts married Fred LeBlanc, a Chairmaker residing in Gardner, son of Calixe LeBlanc and Anastasia Tazie Cassie on 1 July 1912. She died in Gardner, in 1924, age 32 (cause unknown).
Based on family photos, Pius seemed to stay in touch with his two siblings who lived to adulthood, Edmund (who married Marie Laura Leblanc, daughter of Arcade Leblanc and Marie Boudreau) and Mathilde (who married Cyrille Allain, son of Mélème Allain and Marie-Blanche LeBlanc).
By 1901, Pius, his parents, Mathilde and Emma had moved from their rural community to the “big city”, and were living in Lancaster (today part of Saint John), New Brunswick. A few years earlier, in 1898, Lancaster was known as Fairville, a station on the Canadian Pacific Railway, a lumbering and manufacturing village with 1 post office, 25 stores, 2 hotels, 1 brewery, 1 sawmill, 1 pulp mill, 2 carriage factories, a provincial lunatic asylum, 5 churches and a population of 1,500. Pius worked as a Millman (likely with his father) for five months that year and made $50 (he was 14). He was not in school, and spoke both French and English (French was his native tongue). They used the surname King (the English translation of Roy).
On 20 Aug 1902, another sibling, Edmund Doss was born in Randolph, a community in or near Lancaster.
Meanwhile, Gardner, Massachusetts, like other New England communities, developed from an agricultural village to an industrial center. The furniture industry was in the forefront of this industrial expansion, which made possible with the completion of the local railroad connection from Boston to New York and Western markets.
With Heywood Brothers (Pius’s employer, when he worked, over 30 years) and other furniture manufacturers expanding, (Gardner was known as the “The Furniture Capital of New England”; by 1910 it had 20 chair factories which produced 4 million chairs per year), the need for help skyrocketed, creating jobs for incoming immigrants from Canadian Provinces. Records show that in 1878 Heywood Brothers employed 467 and seven years later 1300. In 1884 Gardner had a French population of 270 families and it expected growth to 600 families (a large majority of Bouctouche, the town Pius’s father was born and a few miles from Ste Marie).
Thus, in about 1904, an 18-year-old Pius removed to Gardner, Massachusetts, likely for work, where he remained for several years, through at least 1910, and met his future wife.
It seems that the rest of the family returned to Ste Marie. A child, also named Dieudonné, was born 17 May 1906 and baptized at Mont Carmel; 3 years later, 2 Sep 1909, he died from measles at St Mary’s.
Two days after Christmas, a cloudy cold Tuesday (temperatures were in the low 30’s), on 27 Dec 1910, Pius married Laura Marie Melanson, daughter of Magloire Melanson/Melancon and Osite/Ausithe Dupuis in Gardner, Worcester, Massachusetts. He was a 24-year-old Chairmaker and she a 19-year-old shop girl. The marriage was performed by Wilfred J. Choquette, a priest, of the Acadian French, Holy Rosary Church, Nichols Street, Gardner.
Pius and his wife Laura returned to New Brunswick, and by 1911 resided in the village of Pellerin, St Mary’s Parish, Kent, New Brunswick (another village of early Roy settlers). He was living with his parents at their residence working as an assistant on the farm “on his own account” (likely for/with his family). Residing with them were his 8-year-old brother Edmund, widowed 83-year-old grandfather Joseph Roy and his Uncle Jude Roy. Only Laura and Edmond could read and write.
Pius and Laura had four children baptised at Ste Marie de Kent: Leo born about 1911, Yvonne Marie born 16 Aug 1912; Joseph Magloire born 8 Nov 1913 and Melesse/Melissa “Nelsey” born 16 Nov 1914. Magloire likely was stillborn or died soon after birth. He is not found in other records and in 1940, Laura, who spoke with the census taker directly, reported having given birth to 7 children (not 8) – the question specifically read “do not count stillbirths”.
On 17 April 1916, Pius and family returned to Gardner, Massachusetts permanently, via Vanceboro, Maine, likely via train (nice write-up of the evolution of trains in New Brunswick here). Acadian researcher Lucie LeBlanc Consentino in 2015 writes: ” I have been listening to an interview with Regis Brun (in French) – he said that there was a depression in the Acadian villages in 1910 and that is when families began migrating. In this interview he is talking about people who moved to the Moncton area for jobs with the railway… however, this gives a glimpse into why your ancestors would have decided to move on to the States too”.
Pius and Laura’s daughter Marie Lena was born in Gardner 08 Mar 1917. Pius registered for WWI (he did not serve), and apparently could not sign his name, as he marked his “X” on the draft card. He claims to have a wife and four children. The card is dated 17 June 1917, further evidence that their son Magloire was deceased.
The pair rounded out the family with three more children in Gardner: Edmund Sylvio born 28 Sep 1919; Alfred born 7 Jan 1923 and Alida born 3 Oct 1926.
On 6 June 1918, under declaration #16313 at Worcester Superior Court, Pius declared his intent to become a US citizen. He then declared his intention again at Fitchburg #43781 and on 6 Dec 1934, was awarded permanent residence under certificate #1106013. Pius did make one short trip to New Brunswick in May 1921 for reasons unknown, it appears he was only in Canada for a few days.
In December 1922, Pius’s mother Victorie arrived in the US and was permanently headed to her son Edmund’s home in Gardner, 244 Parker Street (which was the address of Pius and Laura that year). His father, Docite arrived in May of 1923 with the same contact and intentions. His parents’ deaths were later registered in New Brunswick (1934 – Victorie and 1932- Docite) and thus they likely returned home at some point.
Pius did appear to sign his own Naturalization paperwork and his 1942 WWII draft card. He may have learned to sign his name in later years. Pius is described as medium height, 5′ 6″ with a slender build, at 132/135 pounds with brown eyes, black hair and a ruddy complexion
Pius was a member of the Gardner Assumption Society. With the growth of the Acadian presence in Gardner, it became apparent there was a need to preserve the Acadian culture and language; fifteen Acadians met in 1900 and began the formation of what became a national society. Fred Richard as leader of the group contacted Acadian leaders in other communities and eventually in 1903, La Société Mutuelle de L’Assomption (“Assomption Society”) came to life, as a fraternal insurance organization. By 1935, this organization conceived in Gardner grew to eleven thousand members throughout New England and the Maritime Provinces – some history here.
The French inhabitants of Gardner sought to preserve their culture; as a result, they established a community within a community. They first established themselves in the Park Street area, which became known as little Canada. As more arrived, French residential and businesses flourished in the area of Nichols (home of Laura Melanson’s father), Parker (home of the Roy’s), and West Street. The Nichols Street area with church, school, hotel and small shops formed the heart of the French community and eventually became the center of activity for both Canadians and Acadians who assimilated themselves within this community to become one. As is typical of immigrant renters of that time, our family moved frequently.
1916/17: 13 Greenwood, Gardner
1917-22: 242/244 Parker, Gardner (in 1920 the Roy’s had a 3 1/2-year-old “lodger” Joseph Fredette, son of French Canadians Theophile Fredette and Eliza Ledorex, who were also living at 244 Parker, it is unclear why Joseph was enumerated with the Roys). In 1920 there were five families at this address, all French Canadian.
1928:29 Limerick, Gardner
1929-31: rear 5 or 45 Moran, Gardner (in 1930 they rented for $20)
1934: 91 Regan, Gardner
1938-40: 40 Connors Street, Gardner (in 1940, they rented for $20)
1942: 197 Pine, Gardner
1944-47: 163 Pleasant Street, Gardner
1948-54: New Sherborn Road, Athol (same address as Earl and Alida Cummings, their daughter).
In 1921 Pius was a chair maker, later in life he became a machinist/welder/drill washer. His obituary, city directories and other records indicate he was employed by Heywood-Wakefield Furniture in Gardner for more than 30 years. In 1940, Laura claimed that Pius worked 26 weeks in 1939, as a metal cutter, and made $500 that year and that he worked 44 hours the week before the census was taken in 1940. There was no other family income reported. About 1947, they removed to Athol, where he took a position with Union Twist Drill Company as a drill washer.
Family members who knew him, paint a different picture. A granddaughter recollects that he did maple sugaring. Pius, who was known as Paul, or “Pepe” by the grandkids, was an alcoholic and rarely able to work. He gambled away their home or rent money [land records have not been examined in the US, but they did not own a home before 1940 in the US nor was Pius located in the New Brunswick Grantor/Grantee land deed indexes before 1917].
In later years, Pius and Laura had no choice but to move in with their youngest daughter on her farm in Athol. Pius’s wife Laura, had a very sad life, she raised their children close to abject poverty. She worked very hard to keep things together. She basically ran the small family furniture business (the 1922-24 city directories lists an occupation of “second-hand furniture”), laundered for people and held other odd jobs. Another granddaughter recalls, “Leo, one of her children, had some type of head trauma and Laura cared for him until he died”. A Leo Roy is listed in the Gardner death indexes in 1929; I have not yet obtained this death certificate, he was 18 years old.
Sadly, three of the children, Alfred, Yvonne and Lena became alcoholics like Pepe.
Pius died 9 Aug 1954 in Athol, Massachusetts; his granddaughter recalls “one night a cow got out and Pepe and my Dad spent a rainy night looking for it, Pepe, who continued to drink heavily became sick and died the next morning”. His death certificate lists a cause of Coronary Thrombosis. He is buried at Gesthemane Cemetery (off St Matthew Ta (9) 2). I believe the Matilda Allen listed in the first obit is a misprint and is a sister, not a daughter as stated.