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Overheard on the Message Boards: DesRosiers Family
by Rhonda R. McClure

Each week Rhonda answers a question from the GenForum message boards and gives her expert answer here. We'd love to hear anything you have to add. Go ahead and leave your comments on GenForum with the original message.

December 12, 2002
See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Q: David DesRosiers and his wife Marie had the following children:
Ledisa? DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1902?
Yarnelle DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1905?
Romeo DesRosiers (son) Born in MA in 1909? - Truck
Emelda DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1910?
Ida DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1914?
Leo DesRosiers (son) Born in MA in 1916? - Helper - Dairy
Ella DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1917?
Anita DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1919?
Rose DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1921?
Doris DesRosiers (daughter) Born in MA in 1924?

Emelda was my grandmother. My father's name is Albert Peter DeRosier SR. My father dropped two of the s's in his last name. He was never told who his father was. He was told that his father was French. Emelda later married a man named Martin Kusmier and they lived in MA. Most of the family lived or still lives in or around the Holyoke, MA area. If anyone knows anything about this family, I would appreciate any help. I am working on my history. I would love to find out more about my great grandparents. David and Marie were both born in Canada. Thanks for any help. -- Gloria

A: You have already discovered one of the first rules in genealogy - spelling doesn't count. You mentioned how your father changed the spelling of the DesRosiers surname. And I suspect that are your research progresses that you will find additional spellings as you get further back in the generations.

While the children were born in Massachusetts, you appear to be concentrating on the Canadian aspect of the family given that the parents were born in Canada. Actually, though, there are some records in Massachusetts that you should exhaust before heading to Canada. It is through these records that you are likely to find the important tidbits that help you to determine where to look for the family in Canada.

U.S. records should pinpoint where in Canada

Census Records

It appears that the information you shared in your message was taken from the 1930 census, where David, Marie and the children are found in Ward 1 of Holyoke City, Hampden County, Massachusetts (ED 7-130, SD 3, Sheet 1B). While you included the estimated birth years for the children, you didn't mention what the census record told about David and Marie. In looking at that census page, I found that he was born about 1881 in Canada, but more specifically French Canadian. Marie was born about 1883 and was attributed as French Canadian. Because they were born in Canada, the next thing I wanted to check on the census page was when they immigrated and if they were naturalized. They did not come together. David immigrated in 1891, when he was about ten years old.. Marie immigrated in 1896, so she was about 13 years old. This tells me that both David and Marie traveled with their families. The final thing I checked on the 1930 census was to see how old each was when they married. David is listed as age 19 and Marie as 18. It looks like they married in 1901, which probably means they married in Massachusetts.

After looking at the 1930 census, I wanted to see what could be found in the 1920 census. You may have already searched the 1920 census for them, but the most interesting thing that I found for the 1920 census was that the spelling of the surname in this census was quite different, though in the same Soundex code. In this census, you will find the family of David Desrochers in Precinct 3, Holyoke City, Hampden County, Massachusetts (ED 35, SD 2, Sheet 4B). The other difference in this census is that David is listed as having immigrated to the United States in 1895, which would have made him about 14 when he immigrated.

The next step with the census records would be to see if you can find David in the 1900 census, where he may still be living with his family. I would search both the DesRosiers and DesRochers surnames and any other variants you can think of, if you use the Genealogy.com census index rather than the Soundex film. The 1910 census is not soundexed for Massachusetts. This one may be more difficult, though it is likely that David and Marie and their older children were living in Holyoke.

Vital Records

Looking back at the ages of the children and when the parents may have been married, the next step is to see what records may be available for the births and marriage. Some of the records will be available on microfilm through your local Family History Center. For instance, the Family History Library has birth and marriage indexes through 1905. These are compiled in five year increments. In addition to the indexes, you will also find the birth and marriage registers through 1905. While they do not help you as of yet, there are death indexes and registers as well through 1905.

While these records do not cover many of the children, there are a couple of children who should show up in the index and then in the registers. In the birth register, you will find the full birth date of the children along with some information about the parents, including in some instances the maiden name of the mother, a surname that you presently do not have, and the birth places of the parents. It is likely though that the places of birth will not give you more than what you already know as it generally just mentions Canada for those who were born there.

The marriage register will tell you when and where David and Marie were married. The register recorded:

  • date of marriage
  • names of bride and groom
  • residence of each at the time of the marriage
  • age of each in years
  • occupation of the groom
  • place of birth of each
  • names of the parents of each
  • number of marriage of each
  • the name and station of the individual who married them

I have found in marriage registers, that when the place of birth is another country the name of the country is all that is listed. When it is another state then they list the town and state. And when the individuals were born in Massachusetts, all that is listed is the town. Also, when it comes to the names of the parents of the bride and groom, the listing is usually something like "Apollo & Wealthy Perkins," so you do not get maiden names of the mothers. However, just having the father's name would be of benefit in your research.

Turning to Canada

Once you have a little more information about David and Marie you may be able to turn to Canadian sources. For instance, a search of the various databases available through the Family History Library revealed only one David DesRosiers, this one in the 1881 Canadian census index. Listed as a one year old, he is listed in the household of Hernres and Felanis DesRosiers living in Berthier, Berthier, Canada. Once you have the information from David's and Marie's marriage record you should have the names of the parents of both and would know if this is indeed your David.

Another way to help you in narrowing your research in Canada is to search on David's and Marie's parents, once you have their names you can search the databases at the Family History Library and also look for both father's in the 1900 census as the families should appear in the U.S. 1900 federal census. This should give you enough identifying information about David's and Marie's parents that you should be able to find them in Canada. I have found that the marriages for most counties in Quebec have been published in one way or another.

If you live near to Boston, Massachusetts, then you will want to make plans to visit the New England Historic Genealogical Society's Library on Newbury Street. In addition to having all the birth, death and marriage indexes mentioned earlier, they also have an impressive French-Canadian collection including parish registers, where you will find the baptisms, marriages, and burials once you have established where in Canada, and probably Quebec, that you will be concentrating on your research. If you are not living near to Boston, your Family History Center can get you access to many parish registers, most of them up to about 1900, which will be of use to you since the families were apparently out of Canada by then.

In Conclusion

There are a number of records that will help you determine where to go with your research. Most of those records are not Canadian at this stage of your research but records generated in Massachusetts. Exhaust these records and you should have enough information to follow the family back into Canada.

See Rhonda's Previous Columns

Rhonda R. McClure is a professional genealogist specializing in celebrity trees and computerized genealogy. She has been involved in online genealogy for fifteen years. She is the author of the award-winning The Complete Idiot's Guide to Online Genealogy, now in its second edition. She is the author of four how-to guides on Family Tree Maker. In late 2001, she wrote The Genealogist's Computer Companion. She is a contributing editor to Biography Magazine with her "Celebrity Roots" column and a contributing writer to The History Channel Magazine. Her latest book is Finding Your Famous and Infamous Ancestors. She may be contacted at rhondagen@thegenealogist.com.

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