6    Aug 20149 comments

Our Stories: A family tribute

Raymond (Ray) Malenfant always thought of looking into his family history, but it remained at the back of his mind until after his mother died.

We know all too well stories of family history research that begin only after a death in the family - too late to ask questions. Although it makes research more difficult, it is a great motivator to delve into family history.

Ray, 66, is now a retired civil engineer. After receiving his B.S. in Civil Engineering from Northeastern University (Boston, Massachusetts, 1971), he moved to Dover, Delaware with his wife Ellen and their son, then 2. He now lives in Marydel, Delaware - retired since 2008. He has two sons, Mark, 45, and  Jon, 42.

After trying to start a home inspection business in a slow real estate market, he discovered genealogy, and hasn't looked back since!

Ray's parents, Elizabeth and Henri

The genealogy bug

Ray’s mother lived with him and his family for nearly 13 years and had a wealth of family knowledge. Yet, Ray rarely asked her about it.

What a mistake it was to not ask more, since she died very unexpectedly over the course of three days.

After his mom died suddenly, Ray began to go through all the memorabilia she had saved.

I started going through all the pictures, trip details and letters she had saved, but that just brought on so many questions.  For example, I heard her speak of a Grampa Rose many times but didn’t know what that was about, and naturally I didn't ask.

Ray’s biological great-grandfather died at a young age, and his great-grandmother remarried. Her new husband was a widower whose surname was Rose, aka Grampa Rose. More interesting was the discovery that this Grampa Rose became a widower upon the death of Ray’s mother’s grandfather’s sister!  A top priority in Ray's research was to prove that Rose was originally married to Ray’s great-grandmother’s sister. After some digging, that was verified. “Digging” is half the fun!

Interesting discoveries

After talking with many people, Ray has helped others gain appreciation for researching their heritage as well.

After talking - I don’t mean preaching - they gain some appreciation for their own ancestors. After all, they got us to where we are now!

Ray was also very close to establishing a connection between his wife and a descendant of the Mayflower.

As I went back in generations, I happened upon a note in one of my ancestor matches talking about Degory Priest, a passenger on the Mayflower’s 1620 voyage.  It seemed, and I say that in retrospect with the greatest of hesitation, that I could link my wife up to him. That was not to be.  One link around 1722 blew the trail out the window.  The name of the wife was right, but she was not the right one for the proper linage. The right name never made it to 10 years old, so that ended that. Then I came upon another apparent link of myself to the famous John Alden. There was again only one link that was not solid, and that too fell apart. This was after making application to the Society and their informing me of my ancestral shortcomings. Frankly, I was a bit crushed.

Ray then embarked on another quest to find a connection with another Mayflower passenger, Thomas Rogers.  This one appeared to be a winner and it was!

Not only was that journey a winner for me, but for my wife also. It turns out that  Thomas Rogers and his wife Alice (Cosford) had a son John who married Anna Churchman. They had four children, the most important to myself and my wife were Abigail and Elizabeth. It turns out, and has been verified by the Mayflower Society, that my ancestor is Abigail and my wife’s ancestor is Elizabeth. So that means we have common ancestors in John and Anna. I get some interesting looks when I relate that story to others.

Fortunately for me, one of my ancestors in line from Abigail was in the Revolutionary War, so now I am also a certified member of the Sons of the American Revolution. My wife has a similar path and she could, if she wishes at some point, be a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution.

His second biggest surprise was learning how many of his ancestors have split and come back together again over a couple of generations.

I surmise that the pool of people back in the late 1600s and early 1700s was small enough that it was difficult to avoid some second-cousin marriages. Mapping these out is most interesting! Frankly, I did find some first cousin marriages, but it didn't seem to affect me too badly!

Ray has also reconnected with cousins with whom he had lost contact.

I restarted communication with my first cousins. I don’t have many cousins, but I did miss them. I sent an invitation to the one that I had some very limited communication with and that expanded a bit. I have yet to see them face-to-face, but at least we have something now.

Rewarding finds

Ray has done extensive research into his wife Ellen’s ancestry as well. Together they work on developing her side of the family tree as Ray discovered things about her family she didn't even know.

It was very rewarding and truly fun to find information on the immigration of my wife’s great- grandparents and her grandmother through Ellis Island. We were able to locate the date and even found pictures of the vessels in which they came over. Her great-grandfather had come over the year prior to set things up - a pretty common practice - and her great-grandmother came over the following year with the kids, which included the person who would end up being my wife’s grandmother. I still want (need!) to find out more about that heritage.

Ray's wife Ellen's parents, Imogene and Earl

Joining MyHeritage

After just a few short years on MyHeritage, Ray has over 1,200 people in his family tree.

I found the basic MyHeritage site for free about a year ago and thought 'that’s for me.' I found myself falling into the trap of my ancestors and I was rather quickly expanding my tree to include more than the free version would accommodate. I quickly bumped up to where I am today - and I’m very glad I did.”

I am only focusing on a pedigree tree. I have found that many families were very large and therefore if I had included them, it could be well over 5,000 people. They are spread into two general areas, the Province of Quebec and the State of Massachusetts.

I have gotten some family members interested, but no one is yet interested enough to do any footwork - maybe later! I have used MyHeritage to explain how we link up. This has been most recently valuable in one of my grand-daughter’s projects for school. I was able to answer exactly the question she was searching out using MyHeritage.

There have been a lot of SmartMatches, and it appears I have gleaned information from these matches, but I am very cautious in trusting anything now.

Next steps

Ray hopes to take a trip to Quebec in the near future to explore his roots and see where his family came from. He is looking forward to pursuing his family history further after his wife retires.

Tips for others beginning their research

-- Don’t automatically believe everything that you read. My experience with the Mayflower research has proved that. People link up other people with the best of intentions, but it’s not always right. Proceed with caution and accept nothing as positive without real proof in hand!

-- Talk with your living relatives every possible minute that you can do so. Probe… probe… probe.  Don’t let a simple answer be the end of the discussion. Try the trick, 'Do you remember telling me about thus and such? Can you remember anything else about it? Something doesn't seem clear to me.' Questions can be the beginning of more stories to come.

Did you enjoy reading Ray’s story? Share your comments with us. Do you have a story to tell? Send it to us at stories@myheritage.com.

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Comments (9) Trackbacks (0)
  1. One way to ensure that others will learn about life before them is to write your memoirs. It doesn't have to be fancy. I just finished mine, complete with pictures, maps, and wonderful experiences. The Internet is a wonderful thing to compile items and insert them so those who come after you will know what a "typewriter" and a "Hudson" was.
  2. Love the story! So much like many of us who try to make connections, find surprising ones, and who are dedicated to the hunt. The joy is in the search and discovery for sure! I've taken this genealogy to the level where I now research for a couple of my cousins and my husband - in addition to myself. Where will it all end? I just hope it doesn't! Thanks for the great story Ray!
  3. My Mother and Grandfather started looking into our family tree in the 1970's which was a labour of love and involved many trips to London searching for birth certificates etc. Sadly they have both passed on and we were left with a bunch of paperwork to plough throu. Then my brother found Myheritage and we started in putting all the information they had gathered from the past and entered all the current family details. We now have a comprehensive family tree going back six generations spreading between the USA, Norway, Canada, England and Ireland. You do need to upgrade and where we have photos we have tried to include stories relating to that family. Not everyone in the family is interested but I now find myself one of the oldest members of the family (60) and feel that I am now the keeper of our history thanks to myheritage.
  4. If you are researching families in Quebec, the best source is the Drouin collection. The French started recording baptisms, marriages and deaths from the fifteen hundreds. At that time New France ranged from the Atlantic coast to the Gulf of Mexico. You will probably need a French to English dictionary as most of the records are written in French. The physical books take up more than 12 feet of shelf space. You might be able to find them on Archive and Library of Canada, they are available on Ancestry. I started genealogy in 1980 on my father's family and went on to cover my mother's family. When a cousin (his mother married a Charbonneau) ask me to research his father's family, I made good use of the Drouin collection. Should you wish to contact me, I am at rodjackson@sympatico.ca.
  5. This is more serendipity than genealogy because I have to say how exciting it is to see Ray's name and to know that he is involved in genealogy also. Ray and my husband worked together at the State Highways Department in Dover so seeing his name again is a great pleasure.
  6. Joseph Norbert Albert Poulin was in the Air Force during World
    War II and served as Medic in England for Canada. His 3 brothers
    Joseph John Poulin, Joseph Edmond Poulin and Joseph Leo Poulin
    also served somewhere in France.
  7. My dad as per name below was in the Canadian Air Force and served in England as a Medic for the last 2 years of World War II.
  8. It is the most challenging of things to do is to be working on a genealogy project. I really enjoyed how Ray finally found what
    he wanted after a few disappointments. He continued without
    without being depressed and continued his search with a heart
    ready to look for mystery. Congratulations to him.
  9. The Drouin Collection is also on Quebec Records.com. (www.quebecrecords.com) where there are also a lot of Quebec resources.

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