Since I’ve started working on my family history more than 10 years ago, I have always envisioned that my ancestors were adventurous and hard-working people, the kind of people would take any chance available at having a better life and never looking back on the past.
Paul Genereux, my 2nd great-uncle is one of those individuals. He was born in Berthier, Quebec to Paul Genereux (1803-1881) and Marguerite Lippe (1804-1886), his sister Emilie Genereux was married to my 2nd great-grandfather Maximilien Dulac (1825-1900), the navigator from Berthier. In fact, two other sisters of Paul, Philomene and Lina got married in the Dulac/Aubuchon family as well.
Paul was born in a rural area, Berthier (also know as Berthierville at the time) where most people would work the fields and raise cattle for the rest of their lives. Paul wasn’t one of those. In 1860, he married Catherine Johnson (1838-1906) in Quebec city, at Notre-Dame de Quebec parish. On his marriage certificate, he is mentioned as a “merchant”. Paul stayed in Quebec working as a trader/merchant for about 8 years. I’ve located him using the online “Annuaires Marcotte“, historical directories from Quebec city. He lived on 90 Richelieu street, in Saint-Jean, until 1867.
In the meantime, he had two living children born there: Louise Alexina Genereux and Alfred Genereux. Paul Eugene was their third child but he didn’t make it a year. I don’t know if this is what prompted his departure to the USA but nevertheless when I found entries in the Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 database on Ancestry.com for both Alexina and Alfred marriages, I knew he had decided to settle in Boston for a while.
Let’s backtrack a bit: I’ve used traditional sources to retrace the steps of Paul in Quebec, he is found on the 1871 Canada census (Census Place: Berthier, Berthier, Quebec; Roll: C-10038; Page: 8; Family No: 23), living with his father, mother and spouse Catherine, in Berthier. His family might have told the census clerk that he was still living in Berthier when he was in fact in Boston, Massachusetts. How do I know this? Because I found Paul living on 148 Fulton street, Boston in 1867 through 1870 in Boston City directories working an oyster saloon (a what??).
Paul Genereux in 1868, oyster saloon.
Source: Boston City directories
To prove my point, I tried to locate Paul and his family in the 1870 US Census for Boston but with no luck, I know this is typical of some ancestors moving to the US that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be found on censuses. But I had other evidence proving that he was there at the time.
The first is an article from the “Boston Journal” (Boston, MA), 6 December 1869, p.4 (viewable on genealogybank.com), here’s the transcript:
“Augustine Grossire reports at the First Station that he either lost or had stolen from him Saturday $358 in bank notes, while at the saloon of Paul Genereux, 148 Fulton street.”
I was wondering what the North End in Boston was looking like at the time, there are several online digital collections that helped me flesh out the neighborhood in the 1870’s and 1880’s. There’s the Bostonian Society where you can search for photographs & manuscripts, and also the Boston Public Library on Flickr where I found these images :
Paul stayed on 148 Fulton street for a while, still using Boston city directories, he was renting the space to Mr. Blanchard a french-canadian who also had a saloon on 146 Fulton street. I’ve used the Massachusetts, Boston Tax Records, 1822-1918 on Familysearch to locate tax rolls and I found that Paul had another saloon in 1874 on 76 Broad street in Boston. I thought that life was getting good for Paul so I continued researching him and his family throughout several documents. Using the Library of Congress historical newspaper collection “Chronicling America”, I landed on this mysterious information in a German newspaper in Baltimore:
Der deutsche Correspondent, January 04, 1875 Source: Chronicling America
Now I don’t know about you but my German isn’t necessarily up to speed, the only words I could decipher from this where “Boston” “Paul Genereux” and “morden” which… stank of death to me! I went hunting for Boston newspapers at that date, I have to tell you that this wasn’t easy because OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is not perfect. Here are a few tips to help with your research :
- Don’t use exact names (especially if they are foreign sounding), use wildcards like “*” which will replace a letter inside a keyword or “?” which will replace the ending of a keyword. For example, I’ve used “gene*eu*” several times in my research because Paul’s surname would get a beating in most records I found;
- Use date-ranges instead of keywords. In my case I’ve tried locating the major newspapers of Boston in January 1875 and looked through them, one by one;
- Use addresses instead of surname keywords. For this I’ve used “Broad st” or “Fulton st” combined with a date range to narrow my results.
Using those techniques, I found an short article in the “Boston Daily Advertiser”, 4 January 1875 which left me astounded:
Attack on Paul Genereux
The Wild West wasn’t far, we were in a saloon and shots were fired! Eventually Paul got better and he moved from Broad st. to 19 Eastern Ave. where he can be found on the 1880 US Census still working as a saloon keeper. His surname was “Genevaux”, again wildcards are your friend. During that time, another son was born to Paul and Catherine in Boston, Arthur Genereux (1873-1909) and an infant daughter Mary A Genereux (1872) who lived only a few months.
Paul died on 20 February, 1883 of the Brights disease leaving his wife Catherine in charge of the family and their income. You can also view the original record in the Massachusetts Deaths 1841-1915 database on Familysearch.
Catherine lived until October 1906, changing the saloon to a boarding house. In the 1900 US Census, she is found staying with her son Arthur, who became a plumber, and a couple of sailors staying at her boarding house on Eastern Ave. None of the family members ever came back to Quebec, they had stayed in Boston for better or worse. In further posts, I will reveal the lives of Paul & Catherine’s children in the USA and their descendants in the McGurk, Cook & Volz families.
I dedicate this story to Jim Simon, an excellent historian and researcher of the Genereux family pioneers, who has been working on the Genereux family for more than a decade, I’m more than happy to contribute!
- Boston’s North End: Images and Recollections of an Italian-American Neighborhood (Google Books)
- Historic Taverns of Boston: 370 Years of Tavern History in One Definitive Guide (Google Books)
- The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920 (Google Books)
- The Boston Directory, Volume 64 (Google Books)
- Boston’s North End (Google Books)
- Oyster Bar (Wikipedia)