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 Ancestry.com 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.

Memorial Day

Memorial Day has always been one of those special days to me. While we honor those who fought for our country every day, on this day it just seems to be even more important to honor them. For those who served and are part of my family, I think about them a lot on this day.

As far as I can tell, the first Gonyea in my branch of the family to ever be in the United States Armed Forces was my great-grandfather, Nelson Warren Gonyea (1912-1989). He joined the Army in World War II, but never saw combat action. From stories that my grandfather told me, he was about to be shipped out to Japan when his father (Warren Daniel Gonyea, 1883-1945) passed away after being hit by a car. Looking at the dates, it appears it would have been after the war officially ended and as part of occupation of Japan. My great-grandfather ended up spending over 30 years in the Army Reserves stationed in Rutland, VT.

I think of one of my other great-grandfathers too, Edwin Franklin Smart (1910-2003). He served in World War II against my great-grandmother’s wishes, figuring that the best way to protect his family was by protecting the country. He nearly lost his life when an artillery shell hit right near him during the Battle of the Bulge. He spent several years in hospitals recovering from his injuries. One of his arms never was the same due to the injuries he suffered.

Edwin’s grandfather, William Smart, served in the Civil War on the union side.

My great-grandfather Amos Currier served in World War I, although I know very little about his involvement in it. I’ve only seen a couple of photos of him in his military uniform.

Probably the most famous person in my family tree that served in the military is Captain John Parker. Yes, Captain Parker of “Parker’s Revenge” who fought in the first battles of the American Revolution.

Living in small towns

I grew up in the small town of Goshen, NH, which is about a 5 minute drive from downtown Newport and a 15 minute drive from the town of Sunapee. I had no idea growing up how long both sides of my family have lived in the area. Until I started doing my genealogy research a few years ago, I assumed that most of my ancestors moved to the area relatively recently. I couldn’t have been more wrong.

A few examples:

  • On the Gonyea (father) side, there has been a presence in Newport and/or a surrounding town for over 120 years, with my 3rd great-grandparents moving their family into town around 1891.
  • On the Collins (mother) side, there have been relatives that grew up in surrounding towns as far back as the early 1800s and a sustained presence in Sunapee since about 1910.
  • On the Currier (grandmother) side, evidence suggests a continued presence in Newport and surrounding towns since about 1900.
  • On the Cutting (great-grandmother) side, there is evidence of a presence in Sullivan County since amazingly the mid 1700s!
  • On the Parker (great-grandmother) side, evidence says a presence in Sullivan County since the late 1700s.

It is clear that many of my ancestors, once they moved into Sullivan County, clearly thought they had found a great spot. Very few members of my family and ancestors have moved away from the area since then and if so, only a few hours away at most.

The big benefit of this? Much easier for me to do research given that so many of the records are located in just a couple of towns all close to each other. For example, I could spend all day at the Richards Free Library in Newport given how many ties I have to Newport.