In my last blog, The Catholics Behind the Baptist Church, I gave one explanation as to how my husband Marty’s French Canadian great-grandparents, Charles and Adeline Desmarais, came to be buried in Brunswick’s Growstown Cemetery. Though the story was short, only 250 words and 4 citations, it was just one stop on a meandering fourteen-year journey in search of Desmarais ancestors and where they came from.
It all started in 2001 when Bernice (Simpson) Douglas (1908-2012) gave me a binder stuffed with old cemetery transcriptions typed up by her cousin-in-law, Beatrice (Leighton) Simpson (1912-2009). Beatrice had also added genealogical notes.
I promised to posts the transcriptions to my fledgling website Cemeteries of Brunswick, Maine so other genealogists could find and use the information. One of the Growstown Cemetery transcriptions caught my eye: Baby H. Erving Demaris d. 6-30-1903, (w. died 1933, not buried here).
Since “Desmarais” in any form is rare in the Brunswick area, I headed out to the cemetery behind the Baptist church on Church Rd. to find Baby Demaris. Eventually I came upon the monument bearing the names of Charles B. (1841-1910) and Adeline L. Desmarais (1845-1933), along Sarah Z. Paul (1870-1931), Margaret Desmarais (1868-1952), and Rose E. Perron (1872-1956). I was confident I had found members of my husband’s family, especially since the surname on the stone was “Desmarais” instead of the transcribed “Demaris.” I copied down all the names and dates and brought them home to show my husband.
Of course, Marty and I both wanted more details so I took the information to Curtis Memorial Library in search of obituaries. I scrolled through Brunswick Record microfilms and found an entry for Charles, but not for the others. The obituary confirmed that Charles and Adeline were Marty’s great-grandparents, and that H. Erving was his great-uncle and the women his great-aunts. I entered all the information from the tombstone and obituary onto a family group sheet and filed it all away.
Over the years, every once in a while I entered Charles and Adeline’s names in Ancestry.com or FamilySearch.org, hoping to find where they came from and who their parents were. I found the couple and their children in Brunswick’s 1880 and 1900 United States Federal Censuses, but not the 1910. I didn’t find them in naturalization or border crossing records, either.
I couldn’t seem to go back any further than Charles and Adeline but I knew they had owned property in Brunswick, so several years ago I went to the Cumberland County Court House in Portland to find their deeds. Since Charles had a son by the same name, I only searched through 1910 (the year Charles Sr. died) and earlier. I found the deed to the family farm on Highland Rd. and a property on Cushing St.
This fall, now having online access to Cumberland County deeds, I searched again from my own computer at home, finding additional entries under Demarais and Demaris. Most notable of these was the 1910 deed for the Pleasant Park property naming Adeline Demarais of Lynn, Massachusetts.
I figuratively cut apart the obituary to research each person named in it. Since five of his children had apparently moved to Massachusetts, three of them to Lynn, I used that information in the search fields at Ancestry.com. Eventually I found Adeline and daughters Annie (Anne), Maggie (Margaret), and Sadie (Sarah) in directories, censuses, or marriage records.
The Growstown note, “w[ife] died 1933, not buried here” must have referred to Adeline, who was memorialized on the Brunswick tombstone but probably buried in Massachusetts. I haven’t yet located Adeline’s death certificate which might name her parents and where they lived.
I was able to locate Charles’s death certificate, though, which lists Charles’s birthplace as Annersville, Canada. It also lists his parents’ countries of birth, Canada for his father and France for his mother. I searched unsuccessfully for Annersville in lists of Canadian towns.
I once again repeated all my past online research, using the name Charles DeMurray, DeMerey, DeMarey and other phonic variations of our name. I found deeds, directory listings, and the big prize — Charles’s U.S. Naturalization card.
What made the naturalization record the big prize was its birthplace listing. Charles was born just north of the New York/Vermont border in Henryville, Canada. Since H is silent in French, the Desmarais family’s native language, their pronunciation of Henryville sounded like Anner(s)ville to the person taking down information for Charles’ death certificate.
Every time someone misspelled Desmarais or Henryville in a transcription, deed, or other record, they created a roadblock that I had to travel around. Fortunately for me, sometimes things like family names and vital dates really ARE written in stone.
Next Blog: The Unvarnished Truth About the Varney Sisters
- Beatrice (Leighton) Douglas’s transcription collection is available at the Pejepscot Historical Society. “My” binder now resides with a Simpson descendent.
- Area town directories are available at Pejepscot Historical Society and Curtis Memorial Library.
Sources: (For formal citations, please contact the author.)
- Ancestry.com (Census, birth, marriage, naturalization, and death records; city directories)
- Brunswick Record, August 26, 1910
- Cumberland County Register of Deeds, formerly at the County Courthouse at 142 Federal St., now at 25 Pearl St., Portland, Maine and https://me.uslandrecords.com/ME/Cumberland/D/Default.aspx
- Curtis Memorial Library History Resources http://www.curtislibrary.com/research/topical-directory/brunswick-history/
- Beatrice (Leighton) Douglas Transcription Collection
- Familysearch.org (Census, birth, death, and pension records)