Thursday, June 20, 2013

The last days of Eleanor Bessette - part 1

I've spent the last couple weeks going through some Vadnais family documents that were sent to me by a friend of mine in the Quebec research community on Facebook, who excels at French-Canadian research. If you haven't checked out the FamilySearch communities on Facebook, here's a list of them. They have over 100, and they are super helpful, and full of knowledgeable people. Anyways, I've been going through these documents - baptisms, marriages, burials, census records, and others - and putting together this family's history. Very fascinating to see how long this family has been in Quebec, and mind-boggling to think of how many people alive today are descended from these ancestors.

One of the most interesting people in these documents has been someone I've written about before - Eleanor Bessette, wife of Richard Vadnais. I thought the surname was Bissette (that's how it was written in the Alberta newspapers) but I've since found out it was actually Bessette, or sometimes Besset. Anyways, Eleanor (born Marie Eleanor) was the eighth of 15 children (!) of Moise Bessette and Scholastique Dextraze. The documents from my friend revealed she was born on 24 November 1863 in Mont Saint Gregoire, Quebec, and baptized there the next day. Ok, nothing earth-shattering there. But that's where the normalcy ends. The next record in Eleanor's life is a marriage record - but not to Richard Vadnais. Turns out she had a previous marriage to a man named Albert Aldric Lafond in 1882, when she was 18 and he was 20. (Interesting side note - Albert Lafond's mother's maiden name was Picard! How cool is that?) The crazy thing is, they got married in Sturbridge, Massachusetts, over 300 miles from the suburb of Montreal where she was born. They were both from Quebec, so I have no idea why they felt they had to travel so far to get married. I don't know Massachusetts records well, so I haven't started looking to see whether they stayed, or just stopped there to get married.

So far as I know, they didn't have any children, and they were only married for a maximum of eight years, as evidenced by the next record - Eleanor's marriage to Richard in 1890. This record was another surprise. The date was earlier than I'd suspected, since Eleanor and Richard's first child, Florence was born in 1897. But the real surprise was the location - Butte, Montana! Once again, Eleanor seems to have traveled an extensive distance for a marriage. I don't know how she and Richard met, as Richard was living in Butte at the time, and I don't know whether Eleanor stayed in Massachusetts or went back to Quebec with Albert before divorcing him. Either way, when she married Richard she said she was divorced. There's no listing for either Richard or Eleanor in the 1896 Butte directory, so I'm guessing they'd moved up to Alberta, where their two children were born in 1897 and 1902. That's a trip of over 300 miles, not a quick journey in those days.

Thanks to the fireworks between Eleanor and Richard (and the resulting newspaper articles), I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened between them until Richard's death in 1909. After he died, Eleanor moved to Butte, where various members of Richard's family (and possibly hers - there's an Alfonso Bessette listed there in 1910) were living. As I'd mentioned in a previous post, I found a marriage record for Eleanor to a Louis Sicord from October 1910, so she wasn't widowed very long before she remarried. I'd also previously found a death record on Ancestry.com for Eleanor Sicord, giving her death date as 7 August 1919. I assumed she'd settled down with Louis, lived a quiet life with him for the last nine years of her life, and then passed away. Turns out, I was quite wrong. Stay tuned for part two!

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