Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Unlocking a Family Secret
The photo is me setting on my great grandfathers knee and my grandmother in the background.As I have pointed out in the last few blogs the smallest of clues might some day unravel deep secrets of our families past.
My grandfather husband of the lady in the photo used to relate stories about the family when all of us were gathered on Sunday afternoon- one of these was never completed- I recall several times when he would start with "then there was the man that Mag's father shot" about that time my grandmother would rush from the kitchen with a stern voice "Berlin thats enough about that" and the story was never told.
By the mid 1940's I was fully immersed in genealogy- my grandmother would talk for hours about her child hood and her mother Margaret Jane La Valley, and her grandfather Michael LaValley but she knew nothing about her father "Jim Cummings" except he was a blacksmith in a lumber camp in Spring Cove.N.Y. She had a tattoo on her arm that was a big thing for me I had never seen anyone with a tattoo and would examine it every chance I got [it was about one inch high M G over a small X ] I used to ask her who it was and she said a boy did it but he made mistake and made a G instead of C.
In the 60's every time I mentioned the family she would cry then one day she disappeared, she had a life time pass on the railroad from her husband having worked for the NYCRR. she called from Martintown, Canada to sick to come home-My uncle went and got her but he could remember nothing or did not want to.
Maggie passed away in 1965 and with that i dropped the family then in 1969 [I owned a camp site and Recreation area called Pine Lake Park,N.Y.] some one visited our campsite and left me a penciled note-"if you are looking for Cummings should look at Genereau"
I felt like I was kicked in the stomach- got out my trusty wire bound note book and looked at the clues:
A. Maggies father shot a man ???[from grampa's unfinished stories]
B. Maggies tattoo was MG not MC ???
C. Last place Maggie went was Martintown,Canada
D. 25 years of research found no Cummings in Hastings
E.100's of hours and a lot of money researching the Cummings line there was no "J.
Cummings" in the Hastings,Canada Area of the right age.
Now some unknown person said look at "Genereau"
I wrote a letter to the Provincial Police Dept in Hastings and asked about a unsolved murder- a week later received letter from them that a elderly man named Alex King then 96 could tell me all about it he lived in Martintown. 24 hours later I was in the office of the Police and they took me to Alix Kings home and introduced me.
Alex liked me and we sat down in his living room and talked for several hours he told me he knew Moses Genereau and he knew him as Jim Cummings:
Let me relate the interview with some facts added:
Anthony Moses Genereau was born 1855 christened in St Michaels church of Arch Angel in Bellville. the last of 14 children of Dennis Genereau and Claris Dupuis. at age 20 he married 1875 at St Michaels Church, Margaret Jane LaValley age 16 daughter of Michael LaValley and Maria Herin, [she died 1867 when Margaret was 8yrs old] they lived in the Hastings area, Moses had a sister Sophia who married Michael LaValley in 1869 [making Margaret's sister in law her step mother ?? more about this in another post]
Moses worked in the woods in winter and in Jim Cummings Brick yard in the summer-Margaret stayed at home having a child every 2 years so bt 1890 there was 9 children Interview with Alix: in the fall of 1889 Margaret is home carrying the 9th child and Moses is at the bar entertaining Ann Macarthy, a young red head a fight breaks out over her and in the scuffle Moses pulled a pistol and shot one of the men, a colored fellow The towns people grabbed Moses and Ann stripped them naked, tied them to fence rails, poured tar over them and rolled them in a bunch of feathers from one of the mattresses- then paraded the two of them thru Martintown and when they reached what is now Alix's house they cut them lose and dumped them into the creek. old Moses got up on his feet and exclaimed "the best G--Dam ride I ever had"
According to Alix they came in the house this is late afternoon, it was necessary to use straight razor, scissors and lamp oil to remove the tar and feathers "ther wernt no hair left nether"and "she was quit plezin to the eye" before day light they slipped out of town and went west.
While Moses was away his wife had to give the children to other families as she could not support herself and 9 children, My grandmother went to Cornwall to live with the Bronson Family [Little log cabin is still on the property just opposite bridge entrance to U.S.
Five years later Alix went to camp #5, Spring Cove,New York to work, there was old "Mose"
but he was known as Jim Cummings and had his whole family with him in fact Alix moved in with the family. Jim Cummings, was blacksmith, a saw and ax sharpener his wife was cook in the mess hall . I posted a photo of her and the Spring Cove crew I suppose Jim is in there but do not know which one. everything was getting back to normal 5 more children were born in the U.S. giving them 14. As far as I can tell all of there children new about it but went along using the name Cummings.
Rather than hide this story I think its great to know despite all the odds this couple married at 20 and 16 with the exception of 5 years lived together all there lives and were still together in 1932 when they died just a week apart- It was a rough period of time the Hastings area of Canada was a frontier area, Moses or Jim worked in one of the toughest jobs in the world, I am only sorry that my grandmother had to live all those years in fear that it would be found out. There is no doubt in my mind she went to Martintown to talk to Alix [her brother] hoping to get him to keep the secret which she knew I would eventually uncover.
Again let me urge you to talk to your relatives and be observen't you do not know what clue may unlock the route to your ancestor, If I can help you in any way drop me a e-mail, or visit my web page at Ancestralhelp.com