Mary (Gonyea) Devins: Death Certificate

As mentioned in an earlier post, I had made a significant breakthrough in my research of Mary (Gonyea) Devins, my 3rd-grand aunt and sister of my 3rd great grandfather Frederick Gonyea. Through I had been able to track down her obituary, which confirmed she did exist and lived to be 98. Not only is this remarkable given that I only had one previous mention of her in my grandparent’s original research, we had no dates, locations, or really proof. Only a name, written down by my grandparents when they interviewed my 2nd great grand-uncle Alberton Gonyea back in the 1980s.

Yesterday in the mail I received from the City of Plattsburgh, NY a copy of Mary’s death certificate. This was significant for a couple of reasons:

  • For the first time, I have direct evidence that her parents are Louis Gonyea and Salome Larocque (Sally LaRock).
  • I have a specific birthdate now (October 10, 1842), which is oddly 8 years earlier than what her gravestone mentions.
  • It mentions both her and her father as being born in Redford, NY. This is the earliest evidence I have of the Gonyea family in Redford (1842) and given the conflicting reports of where Louis was born, potential evidence that he was born in Redford. This potentially moves back the date of the Gonyea family migrating from Canada to the United States to the early 1800s instead of the mid 1800s that was my original theory.
  • Unfortunately Salome Larocque is listed with an unknown birth location. Very interesting that her mother’s name was written in the french spelling, that continues to validate that Salome Larocque and Sally LaRock are the same person.

Unfortunately tracking down Mary and Louis’ actual birth certificate may near be impossible. New York is infamous for having poor record keeping, especially in the northeastern portion of New York that is referred to as the black hole of genealogy. New York didn’t have mandated statewide records until the 1880s and very few records if any records exist from before then. The only reason I was able to trace my family back to Redford was thanks to death certificates mentioning Redford, old family genealogies that reference that town, and the Assumption of Mary Parish records for the local church in Redford, which only go back to the mid 1850s but thankfully recorded my 3rd-great grandfather’s birth and baptism.

A tough year for research

2013 has not been kind to me for genealogy research. I simply had no time to properly dedicate to my favorite hobby. There is of course many downsides, but one upside is the past week I have had time to start diving in again and with fresh eyes, some important discoveries have come about.

I’ve long been looking for Mary Gonyea (~1849), one of (perhaps the oldest) daughter of Louis Gagne (~1814-1899) and Salome LaRoque (~1823-1887). The single shred of evidence I had of her existence was a mention in old notes from my great-great uncle Alberton Gonyea (1891-1986) and a mention in the 1850 U.S. Census. Picking up this research, I discovered someone on who posted an obituary from 1941 for a Mary Devins (Plattsburgh, NY) who had surviving brothers named Frank and Thomas Gonyea (Rutland, VT) , Fred Gonyea (Newport, NH) and a sister named Rosanna Pelkey. A big victory! I’m going to try and get her death certificate to see if it sheds any more light into her parents and when/where she was born. The obituary did say she was 98 years old.

Speaking of Rosanna Pelkey (1868-1953), I also found someone who posted a photo of her grave stone. Still need to track down her death certificate and obituary, but that is promising.

I also had some success tracking down the first wife of Joseph Francis Gonyea (1910-1989) (or as my family knew him, Uncle Joe), the brother of my great-grandfather Nelson Warren Gonyea (1912-1989). Her name was Alma Emmert and they and a very messy divorce from what I heard in family legends. While I haven’t found her birth date/place yet, I did find her second marriage certificate to a Perley Jordan and starting to fill in some gaps on her history.

I continue to have little success tracking down the Delias side of the family. This is the mystery I can’t seem to solve.

Not as productive as past years, but ending on a good note. Let’s see what 2014 brings.

1940 U.S. Census

Today the 1940 U.S. Census was released to the public.

I’ve already dug on, dealt with timeouts and errors, and managed to download the complete census of Newport, NH and are currently working on Claremont, NH. Just about all of my Gonyea side of the family was within those two towns in 1940.

A few notable discoveries include:

  • My grandmother as a 2 year old living with my great-grandparents, Edwin Smart  and Irma (Parker) Smart. She was on the supplemental question line, unfortunately given her age there is practically no useful info on it.
  • My quest to figure out the mystery of the Delias family continues. I found decedent Mary Gebo and her son Cornelius Gebo living together in Newport. No new clues at first glance.
  • My great-great grandmother, Mary Cutting and her daughter Maude.
  • My great-great-great grandfather, Frederick Gonyea and his wife Nora (Hadley) Gonyea in Newport, NH. This one is notable as Frederick on the supplementary question line. Not much info on there that I don’t already know given his age (79).
  • My great-great grand uncle, Alberton Gonyea with his wife Mary (Louiselle) Gonyea. This is the first census to list them living in the house they had built during the depression.
  • Apparent neighbors to Alberton is my great-great-grandparents on my mom’s side, Amos and Sylvania Parker.
  • In a census image that makes a family story a little more interesting is my great-great grandfather, Warren Daniel Gonyea and his wife Mary Julia (Fontaine) Gonyea living with their 13 year old daughter Catherine. Just down the street is the Quimby family, including a 15 year old kid by the name of Norman Quimby. Norman and Catherine would marry a few years later in what was apparently a controversial wedding from the family stories I have heard.

Still doing lots of downloading, but so far we are off to a good start!

"Robbed of My Childhood" by Mary Jane Cutting

I am trying to track down a copy of a book my great-great grandmother wrote. The book, “Robbed of My Childhood,” was written by Mary Jane Cutting in 1968 (just two years before she passed away). Within it contains a largely autobiographical account of her childhood (with a few names and places changed) and how awful her step-father was to her family.

My parents somehow found a copy of the book being sold online a few years ago and were able to purchase it, but I really would like to own a copy for myself. Having a priceless first hand account of my great-great grandmother’s childhood preserved is extremely important to me.

There are several problems tracking down a copy of this book:

I am going to research who actually owns the copyright on this book by finding and examining the will of my great-great grandmother. If my great-grandmother was granted the rights to the book, that would mean children (my grandfather and his sister) would own the rights currently. Current copyright law is silly and says that the book remains copyrighted until 2063. I would love to release this book from copyright and put it into the public domain.

If there is anyone out there that currently owns a copy of this book and would like to sell it, please contact me. I will be very interested in owning a copy of this priceless (to me) book.