Saturday, March 29, 2014

One Reason I Love Genealogy...

When I located my mother in 1994 (my parents divorced circa 1978-1979), we started a dialogue first through letters, then emails. This also led to exchanging letters and then emails with aunts and my maternal grandfather, and visiting with great-aunts and my maternal grandmother.

In email exchanges with my maternal grandfather, I learned he had many half-siblings and a sister, none of whom he had seen in a long time.

With my aunts, I compiled all the facts, and ultimately put together as much of the story as possible - my great-grandmother Mildred Marian Burrell (b. 1897 in Randolph, MA, d. 1972 in Abington, MA) had married a man named Joseph William St. Onge (b. 1893 in Marlborough, MA, d. ???).

Together they may have had 5 children:

1. Joseph Edward St. Onge (1919-1978)

2. Mary Ellen St. Onge (1920-1985)

3. Gertrude Mildred St. Onge (1921-2000)

4. William St. Onge (1924-?)

5. Frank W. St. Onge (1925-1996)

There are many sad stories about Mildred and the children. There are family stories and speculations that she was already pregnant with her first son when she met Joseph, that she was impregnated by a co-worker. This is certainly possible. She had Joseph Edward (20 July 1919 in Biddeford, Maine) before she and Joseph William married (17 April 1920 in Dover, New Hampshire), so there certainly is a question about his paternity.

There was also a question about William's paternity since he was adopted by the family of George Perry in West, however he supposedly was Mildred's and Joseph's son... At that point, however, it seems they didn't want to deal with having children. They left Frank at the hospital when he was born, and Gertrude apparently suffered horrible abuse from both her parents. 

However, it was Gertrude who ultimately found the boys and her sister, and helped bring the siblings together.

Joseph William St. Onge disappeared at some point. No one knows what became of him. I've talked about Joseph a few times on this blog and he remains a mystery. Supposedly he was a rum-runner during this era, who ditched the family and changed his name to Joe Brown. He did visit sometime in the 1940's, but was never seen again after that.

I guess it's fortunate for my grandfather, then, that when he was born in 1926, he was given to his aunt and uncle to raise. Grandpa's paternity has also been in question. Of course it says on his birth certificate that Joseph St. Onge is his father, but it also lists his surname as "Haley".

At some point - we don't know when - Mildred did marry Herbert Haley. She named my grandfather Herbert Haley as well.

Mildred had one more child (that we know of), and that was Lorraine Haley in 1927. She apparently chose to do right by Lorraine, and keep and rear her, though I imagine it was also the right thing to do to give Herbert to his aunt and uncle (Charles and Edith Haley).

Unfortunately, my grandfather and his sister lost touch over the years. However, I helped reconnect him with some of the children of his half-siblings. And then, thanks to one of my aunts, Herbert and Lorraine also got back in touch.

I write this today because, a couple of weeks ago, my grandfather had a stroke. My uncle made the very difficult decision to move him to hospice care, after grandpa suffered complication after complication.

Because of my parents' divorce, I never knew my maternal grandfather beyond emails we exchanged.

But I'm glad I was one of the people who was able to help him connect with his nieces and nephews. I'm glad my aunts and I made every effort to find his sister, and they got to meet again after so many years, thanks to all of us looking for her. I'm glad I got to exchange letters with her too - Aunt Lorraine, another family member I've never been able to meet.

At least we know that once, when grandpa was in better health, he got to see the sister he never thought he would see again.

Genealogy is not just about tracking down the dead, but the living as well.

Copyright (c) 2014 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. hi this is frank stonge son George last I herd about joseph Stonge he was part owner of the sherton hotel in MS so I checked that out and didn't find nothing so my dad ask his sisters mary and she didn't want to talk about their father so we will never know what happened to him

    1. sorry I meant was MA and not Ms

    2. Yes, unfortunately, that's the same thing my other St. Onge cousins were told - nobody ever wanted to talk about Joseph. It's too bad, because we're all so curious.