Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Ghost of Narcisse "Nelson" La Porte

My brain almost exploded last night as I was trying to figure out some stuff about my first cousin four times removed, Narcisse "Nelson" La Porte (3GRGR's Nephew -- his brother Julien's boy).  I was enjoying the feeling that comes from a pretty decent breakthrough in piecing together that "Narcisse," who appeared in various church records in Mooers, New York was the same guy as a "Nelson" who appeared in the 1870 Census next door to 3GRGR and in the 1880 Census next door to 2GRGR.

I knew that I'd seen the name "Nelson" La Porte before but couldn't find the person who seemed to fit within my tree.  Francis (3GRGR's brother) had a middle name Nelson (which, I've been assuming was Xavier in French) and his son Sidney had a middle name "Nelson."  But searching my Family Tree Maker database didn't show anything close to matching some data that I'd seen.  It took a while to figure out that this guy living next door to my relatives was also my relative.  I thought it too much of a coincidence that Narcisse married a Phoebe and had a son Joseph born the same era that this next door neighbor (who also married a Phebe and had a son Joseph).  While I'm not going to stretch because the name Joseph was not just common, but commonly added as a Christian name to every boy in some households, the addition of Phoebe's and sons born in the same month and year seemed too much of a coincidence.  So, into my tree, Narcisse got an alias -- "also known as 'Nelson.'"

That feeling didn't last long as I tried to research Nelson forward past 1880.  It seemed like they went to New Hampshire (and possibly Vermont).  But the records were odd.  First of all, there was a New Hampshire death record putting his death in 1896.

But then, there was a 1920 Census record putting him alive and well in New Hamsphire with what seemed like his daughter Rose/Rosie/Rosalie LaPorte and grand kids - presumably Rosie's kids, Antoinette and Leo. But this was 25 years after he was supposed to have died!!


Ok, this was making my brain hurt!!  Was it really possible that there were two Nelson LaPortes both married to Phebe Laportes and both with daughters named "Rose"?  Was it also possible that they were both working at at cotton mill (which I discovered in comparing the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census records)?  Maybe there is a cotton mill in Nashua that EVERYONE worked at?  I checked Google Maps and noted that Warren Street is really close to Bridge Street -- these are the two streets on which Phoebe lived (in 1900 on Bridge, in 1910 on Warren) and now Nelson seemed to be have lived (in 1920 on Warren).  This one was a stumper!!

I went back to check birth dates to see if the dependencies were too large.  Nelson's birthdate in 1920 was supposedly 1846, six years after what I had him at -- 1840.  Odd, but not so out of whack given his now advanced age, the likelihood that he spoke French not English and the rampant errors/imprecision that seems to exist on census forms.  I wasn't ready to rule it out on that basis.  But then I looked back to 1900 and 1910 and noticed that Phoebe's marital status was "Wd" or "widowed!!"  Nelson's status in 1920 (above) seemed to suggest "M" for "married."

Now my brain was spinning out whacky theories left and right -- were Nelson and Phoebe so out of sorts as a couple that the kids bounced between households, but that they lied about their marital status?  Was Nelson so love struck that he clung to the notion of still being married to Phoebe?  Was Phoebe so pissed off at something that Nelson had done that she considered him "dead?"

Occam's Razor.
Occam's Razor.
Occam's Razor.
Occam's Razor.

There had to be a simpler explanation.  Then I noticed two things:

1.  In 1920, Nelson was listed as being born in New York.  I had him born in Quebec.  That doesn't seem like something you make a mistake on.  Rose, his daughter, listed the place of birth of her father (Nelson) as "Canada" which jibbed with what I had thought.  Then, I saw it (or, them, more precisely):

Nelson was also listed as "F" for "female."  And, upon checking the header for the 1920 Census, I noted that "W" was the abbreviation for "widowed" instead of "Wd" as had been the case in 1900 and 1910.  Then it clicked.  "Nelson" wasn't "Narcisse" or the Ghost of Nelson.  She was Phoebe!  For whatever reason, the census taker reported Phoebe as "Nelson" instead of "Phoebe."  All of the other "discrepancies" now fell into place:
Phoebe Porrier La Porte was born in New York.
Nelson (Rose's father) was born in Canada.
Pheobe was a widow in 1900, 1910, and in 1920.
Nelson wasn't "M-for-married," Phoebe was "W-for-widowed."

And, Rosie the spinner/weaver at the cotton mill was the same daughter of Nelson and Phoebe (Porrier) La Porte living in Nashua.

Puzzling these things out is one of the things that I love about genealogical research.  Now, off to find out of this "Leo" Laporte is in any way connected to tech guru Leo LaPorte.

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