Monday, April 25, 2011

Tracking a career

My great grandfather, George A. Fields (b. 5 Feb 1885 Nashua, NH d. 30 Jan 1963 Everett, MA) began working in his brother Osias O. Deschamps's grocery and butcher shop as a young man. First records show him as 14 years old working as a clerk in the store, Deschamps and Houde, located in Nashua. George joined the Army for a number of years, beginning in 1903 as an 18 year old. He met and married Nellie Huff in New York and returned to New England to continue his trade. He worked as a butcher in a couple of shops in Boston and Roxbury before opening up his own shop in Roxbury. Later he opened up a second shop on North Street in Boston's Faneuil Hall. I plan on tracking George's moves from young clerk in Nashua to well established and respected small business owner in the heart of historic downtown Boston. I'm going to track and date his jobs, residences and important events in his life in a Google Map. It's an exciting task that I'm really looking forward to beginning. I'll post the link to the Map as I go and maybe this is a project that I take on with other family members.

George A. Fields's Map

UPDATE 4/27/11: I really like how this project is turning out. I have updated George A. Fields's map with 9 locations in Boston and Nashua with descriptions of where I found the record/info. I think this is really something I may pursue for other people and/or families.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

There sure are a lot of Gustafsons

Part of my genealogical research, is to investigate my wife's family history as well. My wife's father, Joseph Evans, was born in New Philadelphia, Ohio. I've been able to trace the Evans family back to Wales through his great grandfather John J. Evans (b.1844 Wales.) And I've been able to track Joe's Irish roots back to Ireland via his grandmother, Mary Kelley's line (b. 1889 Ohio.) However, Joe's mother was Ruby Irene Gustafson, b. 1910 in Ohio. Her parents, Gustaf A. Gustafson and Augusta Lindstrom immigrated to the US, from Sweden, in 1902 with their one year old daughter Martha/Marta. Joe has said that his family came from Goteborg, but apparently so didn't every other Gustaf A. Gustafson. I'm having a real difficult time tracking the family back any further than their July 1902 arrival. I was hoping to find some record of them in Sweden via a census or marriage record, but I haven't been able to find anything so far. I do know that they were married in front of Sophia of Nassau, Queen of Sweden, but I don't even know when. I would assume the marriage took place in the mid to late 1890s, but I haven't found any records of it yet. I hope to find the connection between Gustaf and Augusta and the Queen. I know that the Queen sent her children to public schools, so maybe Gustaf or Augusta were friendly with her sons in school? I don't know, but I intend to keep digging until I do!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Those We Never Knew About

My grandfather used to tell a lot of stories. Stories about growing up in Revere, MA in a predominantly immigrant community. He used to tell us about the chicken coup he had in his backyard in Revere; that he used to have rock fights with kids in the neighborhood, literally across the train tracks from one another; and every story seemed to involve a friend named Freddie Zizza. We never knew if Freddy Zizza was real or just a character my grandfather created in order to tell us stories. It turns out that these were the stories that my grandfather wanted to talk about. Stories that he wanted us to know about. But there were much more private stories in the Barresi family. Stories that his sons never even knew about. 

Between 1906 and 1924, my great grandparents, Francesco and Caterina Barresi, had seven children. The oldest, Arcangela (Rose) was born in Sicily and emigrated with her parents in 1906. The rest of the children, Concetta (1908,) Margaret (1913,) Angelo (1914,) Agrippino (1917,) Anna (1920,) and Michael (1924) were born in the either Boston or Revere, MA. Then I found death records of two sisters that I never heard about and a sad story emerged. After I spoke to my grandmother about this, she said that my great grandmother gave birth to 15 children in all; only seven of the 15 reached adulthood. 

It was heartbreaking to find the death records of two young girls that would have been my grandfather's older sisters. He never had the chance to know them. On February 19, 1912 eight month old Giuseppa Barresi, lost her 15 day battle with "Broncho-Pneumonia". And then on October 28, Margareta Barresi, age two years and seven months, passed away after only four days due to gastroenteritis. 

I can't comprehend how a parent is able to deal with not just the death of one child, but the death of two children in less than a year. Yet, in the end I think I know how my great grandparents were able to survive these tragedies. They lived through their children. In 1913, they had another baby, a little girl. They named her Margaret Barresi in memory of the daughter they lost only months before.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

How far back can you go?

In order to bring some sort of order to my research, I've begun to do what most well organized family researchers already have done. I'm actually going to try and follow each family line as far as I can before I move on to the next. For the time being, my research is being done predominantly online, in cemeteries and through stories with relatives. I've begun to organize my research on my mother's side of the family first. My mother's French (French-Canadian) side (Deschamps) has been so well documented that I've been able trace it back hundreds of years through various family lines. Here is the list that I've exhausted thus far. And this is just a fraction of the list of names that I'm trying to research and these are all direct relationships (no cousins, etc.)

Surname, First name - Date in which line ends - Place line ends
Deschamps, Nicholas Joseph  1710  St. Martin-de-Re, Fr
Toupin, Gaspard  1580  France
Desmarais, Jacques  1630   Paris
Gobeil, Michele  1565   St. Liguaire, France
Royer, Jean  1636  St. Come, France
Messier, Marin  1550  Rouen, France
Lavalle, Jean  1674   Richelieu, France
Blanchet, Leopole  1760   Canada
Bougie/Baugis, Pierre  1560  France
Lapointe, Nicholas  1637  St. Pierre, France
Poulet/Paulet, Pierre  1600  Dieppe, France
Petit, Nicholas  1600  Courcon, France
Trahan, Nicholas  1570  Loire, France
Giroux, Jean  1598  Bignon, France
Pepin/Pepin-Lachance, Emile  1580  Valcourt, France
Drapeau, Etienne  1585   La Rochelle, France

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Wednesday's Child: Alida P. Deschamps

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Unfortunately, there are too many stories that I could have written about for Wednesday's Child (graciously run by Amy at Gravestoned). However, I chose to write about Alida P. Deschamps because we don't know much about her. Alida was born 20 Feb 1889 in Nashua, NH to Osias and Octavie Deschamps, nee Lucier. And just two months before her second birthday, she passed away, 8 Dec 1890 in Nashua, NH. And though we don't know anything else about Alida P. Deschamps, we do know that Osias's sister, Clara Adeline and her husband Joseph Houde, had a daughter less than three years later and named her Alilda C. Houde. Besides Clara and Osias being sister and brother, Osias and Joseph were business partners and to me, the naming of their daughter Alida was clearly in memory of the niece they lost. And it may have been a fitting tribute because Alida C. Houde went on to become a nun and lived to be 103 years old. Stories like this make me believe in a higher power. How could they not.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Do you trust on-line research?

William Douglas Fields (Pop) 
I have been able to trace the French side of my family to the 1300s in France. My grandfather William Douglas Fields's legal birth surname was Deschamps. He reportedly changed it to Fields in 1955, but I haven't found the record for this. My grandfather was born in 1911in Roslindale, MA. Of course there's even some dispute about this. It's possible that he was born in Roxbury or Jamaica Plain. His father, George Arthur Fields (Deschamps) was born in 1885 in Nashua, NH. His father, Louis Deschamps was born in 1842 in St. Hyacinthe, Quebec. Thanks to my cousin's research and some on-line family trees at, I've been able to trace the Deschamps back to Nicholas Joseph Deschamps birth in 1710 in St. Martin Ile-de-Re in France. However, through Nicholas's wife, Judith Dorion, I can trace my family back to Hubert Comeau and his birth in 1363 in Dijon, Côte-d'Or, Bourgogne, France. Many people on that have the same lineage, go back one more generation to Hubert de Comeau's birth in 1300, however, not enough evidence really lends credence to this person. Though there is so much information and useful assistance on the internet, it's been a great learning experience wading through the mud and the muck. It's been interesting trying to find out what information is valid and what is likely mere conjecture. I may have taken some dates and people at face value, but I try to be as critical as possible in my research. Though I don't only rely on documents to add to my tree, I try and follow best practices when adding information to my family's ancestry.

Other than actual documents, are there any secondary or third hand resources that you trust in your research? Do you have any recommendations on what to rely on (or what not to rely on) when researching?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Photo Album

While my daughter naps, I thought it was a good time to upload some family photos. Here are some photos from my childhood.
Me and my sister Sheryl outside our grandparents' house. (1981 Melrose, MA)

My younger sister, Alicia's, christening. My mother, Betty, is holding my sister and then it's my father, Michael, my aunt Anne Fossetti Fields and my father's first cousin, Stephen Belmonte. (June 1983 Everett, MA)

My grandfather, Michael J. Barresi, holding me. (1979 Melrose, MA)

My sister Sheryl and my mother getting ready for my uncle, Paul Barresi's wedding. (1980 Woburn, MA)

My father holding my sister Alicia (1983 Malden, MA)

Me and my sisters (1983 Malden, MA)

My grandfather, William Douglas Fields (1979)

My mother, me, my grandfather, my sister, my father (1979)

me, my father, my sister and my mother (1979)

my sister and I dressed up for Easter at my grandparents' house (1980 Melrose, MA)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Knocking down walls

I've recently hit a bit of a wall with my Italian heritage research. I haven't found anything new or insightful for a few weeks now. Then today at lunch, I was doing some research on-line using and Ellis Island, I found the arrival information of my great great great grandfather, Michele Tammaro. It was such an interesting discovery because I wasn't particularly looking for his arrival record, but it was a happy accident.

All that I knew about Michele Tammaro was that he was married to Vincenza Riccia, that his daughter was Diomina (my great great grandmother) and that he was likely from the province of Avellino in Italy. Here is what I found out about Michele today:

Michele Tammaro, age 58, arrived in New York on May 25, 1909 aboard the San Giovanni. The point of departure for the San Giovanni was Napoli and Michele's last residence was in Mirabella, Avellino, Italy.

For some reason I've head much better luck finding records of my French and Irish relatives, but maybe this is the kick start I needed to get going with my father's family.