Saturday, October 13, 2018

The Croteau Connection: 52 Ancestors #64

Researching my great grand-aunt Marie Rabideau/Rabida, I was puzzled by the location of her marriage to Toussaint Croteau: the small Vermont town of Jamaica. There didn't seem to have been any Croteaus or Rabidas in or around Jamaica; it's in the southern end of Vermont, far from where Toussaint might have crossed the Canadian border and far from Marie's origins in Coos County, New Hampshire; and I couldn't discern any possible connection to the place for either the bride or the groom, despite their declarations that both resided there.

Still, their oldest daughter, Eva, was listed in each census as having been born in Vermont, and her marriage record gave a specific birth place of Jamaica, Vermont. Eventually I located a birth record in Jamaica for a Carrie "Creteau" whose parents and date of birth matched Eva's.1 So they did in fact live in Jamaica for at least nine months!

At the same time, I wondered if there was any connection between this Toussaint Croteau, and the Beatrice Croteau who had become the second wife of Louis Rabida, Marie's father, around 1881. It could be coincidental – Croteau is a fairly common French-Canadian surname – but it didn't seem likely that a 16-year-old Marie would have run off to an obscure Vermont town to marry a Croteau with no relationship whatsoever to the Coos County Croteaus (how would she even have met him?).

So I decided it was time to investigate the Croteau connection: Where did Beatrice and Toussaint come from? Were they related? And what was Toussaint doing in Jamaica?

Beatrice Croteau

Death of Mrs. Beatrix Robida, 1914
The 1914 death record for "Mrs. Beatrix Robida," wife of Louis Robida, has her father's name as Louis, no mother's name, and gives her date of birth as 15 Aug 1846, in "Black River, P.Q."2 That's more specific than usual for a Canadian immigrant at the time – I'm usually lucky to get just "Quebec" instead of the almost useless "Canada." Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be any locality called Black River in Quebec today, only a river by that name. The 1900 and 1910 censuses, plus records of children's births, deaths, and marriages, establish her name as Beatrice, Bessie, or Mary B. Croteau; the 1900 census gives an Aug 1846 birth date, while in 1910 her given age of 62 yields a calculated birth year of 1847-48. She claimed to have immigrated in either 1877 or 1870.3

In Ancestry's "Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968" database, the only "Marie Beatrice" in the right time frame was a baptism for Marie Beatrix Croteau, daughter of Toussaint Croteau and Marie Belanger of Saint-Gilles, born 31 Aug 1847 (baptized at St-Nicolas).4 The date was off, the "Black River" location was unexplained, and the father wasn't named Louis, but death records are notoriously unreliable for birth information, and the correct month, off by one year, is certainly plausible for a birth date. (And we have only to look at Marie Rabida's husband to see that Louis is a plausible nickname for a Toussaint!) Or she might have been baptized as Marie, with the "Beatrice" added later.5 So my identification of her as "my" Beatrice was only tentative.

Baptism of Marie Beatrix Croteau, 1 Sep 1847, Saint-Nicolas Parish

Toussaint "Louis" Croteau

The record of the 1894 marriage of Toussaint "Creteau" to Marie Rabida in Jamaica, Vermont, gives his age as 28 (calc birth 1866), born Canada; his father's name was also Toussaint, and his mother's was Marie Obeline "Creteau".6 This information came from his "groom's card" in Vermont's state-wide vital records card file, and I wondered if there was any additional information in the original town records. I was pleased to discover that FamilySearch has digitized the Jamaica town vital records, and even more pleased to find that the certificate of marriage for Toussaint and Marie had one additional piece of information: instead of just "Canada," Toussaint's place of birth was stated to be... Black River, Canada.7 Though I still didn't know where Black River was, I began to view a possible connection as increasingly likely.

Certificate of marriage, Toussaint Creteau and Mary Rabida, 29 Sep 1894, Jamaica, Vermont

Census records give a birth date of Mar 1864 or calculated birth years of 1865-66. The immigration date of 1898 is clearly inaccurate, as he married in Vermont in 1894.8 The censuses and his children's birth and death records all variously call him either Louis or Toussaint, while his death record gives his name as Toussaint.

A search for Toussaint Louis Croteau, born about 1865, in Ancestry's Drouin Collection database again yielded only one likely candidate: Toussaint Alfred Croteau, son of Toussaint Croteau and Marie Dionne, born 14 Mar 1865 in Saint-Gilles.9 There were a number of Croteaus baptized "Louis" circa 1865 but none of the fathers were named Toussaint (or Louis, for that matter). Again, the birth month is correct and the year off by one (by comparison to the 1900 census). The mother's name is no help, other than noting it was neither Croteau (from Toussaint's marriage record) nor Belanger (Marie Beatrix's mother's maiden name).

Baptism of Toussaint Alfred Croteau, 15 Mar 1865, Saint-Gilles Parish
 It was time for some more in-depth research into the Marie Beatrix Croteau and Toussaint Alfred Croteau I had identified, to see if I could verify that they were my Beatrice and Toussaint "Louis" and whether they were related.

Reconstructing the Croteau Family

For this, I turned to Genealogy Quebec and the Programme de recherche en démographie historique (PRDH, Research Programme in Historical Demography) at the Université de Montréal. PRDH has constructed a massive online database of Quebec baptisms, marriages, and burials, linked into "family reconstructions." Although it is not free, and currently runs only through 1849, it is invaluable for French-Canadian research and well-worth the cost.10 Genealogy Quebec complements PRDH by providing integrated access to the images of the original church registers and the civil copies. Its LAFRANCE database is similar to the PRDH database, but extends to 1860 for baptisms and burials and to 1917 for marriages, offsetting the lack of a "family group" view like PRDH has.11

So, I began by searching the PRDH for the parents of Marie Beatrix noted in her baptismal record. Toussaint Croteau and Marie Belanger were married 1n 1845 in St-Nicolas, and had three children born before 1850: Jean Baptiste, Marie Beatrice, and Michel.12 I then searched for the couple in the LAFRANCE with interesting results. Not only did it turn up four more children baptised between 1851 and 1858, and marriages of three of their children from 1878 to 1882, but also the burial of Marie Belanger in 186113 – and Toussaint's remarriage in 1862 to Marie Obeline Dionne.14 In other words, the Marie Dionne who was Toussaint Alfred's mother was almost certainly the same as the Marie Obeline Creteau who Toussaint "Louis" gave as his mother on his marriage record.

A search for Toussaint Croteau and Marie Obeline Dionne provided the 1888 marriage of their son Napoleon, and a third marriage for Toussaint, to Philomene Cote, in 1879. Marie Obeline Dionne had died in 1876.5 (I might note that on the same day Toussaint married Philomene Cote, his son Michel married Mathilde Cote, who happened to be Philomene's sister. The Cote sisters must have been sickly, because Michel was a widow remarrying in 1883, and Toussaint likewise in 1885, to his fourth wife, Philomene Breton.)

Returning to Ancestry, I searched their Drouin database for Croteau baptisms between 1860 and 1880 in St-Gilles (where Toussaint Alfred was born) and St-Agapit (where some of Toussaint's children married), eventually assembling what I believe is a complete picture of the elder Toussaint's families by his first two wives. (So far I haven't found any evidence that either Philomene had any children by Toussaint.)

Children of Toussaint Croteau (1821-aft 1901) and Marie Belanger (abt 1825-1861):
  1. Jean-Baptiste "John" (1845-1920) m. Delima Desange Noel
  2. Marie Beatrice (1847-1914), m. Louis Rabida
  3. Michel (1849-1919) m. (1) Mathilde Cote, (2) Marie Adeline Guerin
  4. Louis Benjamin (1851-1913), m. Virginie Carrier
  5. Marie (1854-1855)
  6. Joseph (1856-1900), m. Delvina Bergeron
  7. Marie Delvina (1858-1930), m. Milton F. Spencer

Children of Toussaint Croteau and Marie Obeline Dionne (d. 1876):
  1. Francois Xavier "Levi" (1863-1938), m. Josephine Nadeau
  2. Joseph Napoleon [twin] (1865-), m. Alida Bergeron
  3. Toussaint Alfred "Louis" [twin] (1865-1940), m. Marie Rabida
  4. Jean-Baptiste (1867-1867)
  5. Joseph Alfred (1869-1970), m. Augustine Nadeau
  6. Charles Gaudiose (1871-1871)
  7. Louis Gaudiose (1872-1874)
  8. Marie Delvina (1876-1876)

The Croteau Connection

It was now clear that "my" Toussaint Louis was Toussaint Alfred. Two of his full brothers, Francois Xavier "Levi" and Alfred, moved to Berlin, N.H., married there, and died there. His twin, Napoleon, lived at least briefly in Berlin – one of his children was born there – though he apparently returned to Quebec shortly thereafter.

But was "my" Beatrice actually Toussaint Louis's half-sister Marie Beatrix? She was nearly 20 years his senior, and very likely never lived in the same household. I hoped to find some indication that Toussaint retained ties to his older half-siblings – making the connection to Beatrice more plausible – or alternatively, some indication that Beatrice retained ties to her own (presumed) full siblings. To that end, I looked for signs of the older Croteau siblings around Milan, N.H., where Louis and Beatrice Rabida lived; in Jamaica, Vt., where Toussaint and Marie Rabida had married and had their first child; and in Massachusetts, where Toussaint and Marie eventually settled.

I actually found all three.

Coos County, N.H.: I found one John B. Croteau living in Coos County, from 1870 until his death in 1920, from being gored by a bull. In 1870 he was in Northumberland, but from 1880 on he lived in Milan, and in 1900 he was enumerated only four households away from Lewis and Mary B[essie] Rabideau. His death record identifies his parents as "T. Croteau" and "Mary Belanger"; the given birth date in 1846 is a bit off, but this is clearly Jean-Baptiste Croteau, the first son of Toussaint and Marie (Belanger) Croteau, born in 1845. And his place of birth? Black River, P.Q.16

Massachusetts: Another possible connection appeared in a somewhat unexpected location. Toussaint's half-brother Michel moved his family from Quebec to Fitchburg, Mass., in 1901, where they had several more children. Michel's wife Adeline died there in 1915, and Michel in 1919. Several of their children, who would have been Toussaint and Marie's nephews, remained permanently in Fitchburg. Hardly definitive evidence of a connection, but it's worth noting that both Toussaint and Michel named a son Wilfred, and it could explain why Marie appears to have ended up in Fitchburg in 1930.

Jamaica, Vermont: Finally, the link to Jamaica was still nagging at me. Initially I had found no evidence of a Croteau presence in Jamaica beyond Toussaint himself. But I recalled that I had some problem finding the groom's card for his marriage – for some reason the search algorithm seems to be erratic about finding the "Creteau" variant if you search for "Croteau", and this spelling wasn't a one-off error in Jamaica's records, because the same spelling was on their daughter's birth record. So I tried searching for "Creteau", and lo and behold, found another Creteau marriage registered in Jamaica, less than three months prior to Toussaint and Marie's marriage!

Marie D. Creteau, marrying Milton F. Spencer on 3 Jul 1894, was 35 (born about 1859), from Canada, and her parents were given as John and Mary Creteau – so apparently, and disappointingly, not one of Toussaint Senior's children.17 Still, I refused to believe that two "Creteaus" marrying three months apart in this obscure location were completely unrelated, so I started tracking Marie (Creteau) Spencer through the years. The Spencers were still living in Jamaica in 1900, but by 1910 had moved to St. Albans, Vt. Milton died in 1915, and Marie in 1930. Her death record was much more forthcoming than her marriage record had been: her place of birth was St. Gilles, Quebec, and her parents were reported to be Thomas Croteau and Marie Belanger.18 Still not quite Toussaint (though for all I know that might be an Americanization), but the mother certainly fits my hypothesis. Put that together with the fact that Marie (Belanger) Croteau's last child, born 1858 at Saint-Gilles, was named Marie Delvina, and I was convinced that Marie D. (Croteau) Spencer was indeed Toussaint's half-sister.  I still don't know how or why they found their ways to Jamaica in the first place, but at least I know that Toussaint did have a connection in that place.

The Final Confirmation

Of course, this still didn't quite prove that Beatrice (Croteau) Rabida was actually the Marie Beatrix who was Marie Delvina's sister and Toussaint's half-sister. But as I was writing this and looking up census records for Marie D. Spencer, I also found her probate records. And these, quite unexpectedly, gave me just the proof I'd been looking for, in the form of two bequests in her will, written in 1926.19
I, Marie D. Spencer... give, devise and dispose of all my estate... in the following manner:
I give to my nephew, Francis Rabida, of East Hardwick, in the County of Caledonia and State of Vermont, One Thousand Dollars ...
I give to my nephew, Thomas Rabida, brother of said Francis, of said East Hardwick, the like sum of One Thousand Dollars...
Francis and Thomas Rabida were the two oldest, and only surviving, sons of Louis Rabida and Beatrice Croteau. The 1920 census places the brothers in Walden, Caledonia County (Thomas, whose wife had recently died, was enumerated in Frank's household), only eight miles from East Hardwick. Clearly, Marie Delvina had remained close to her sister, Marie Beatrix, to make such substantial bequests (over $13,700 each in today's dollars) to Beatrice's sons.

Excerpt from 1926 will of Marie D. [Croteau] Spencer, bequests to nephews
Black River

And what about the mysterious Black River, where the death records of Beatrice, Toussaint, and Jean-Baptiste "John" had claimed they all were born? As I pointed out above, there is no locality in Quebec named Black River today. But, as it turns out, there was in the late 19th century. In the 1873 edition of Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America, I found the following entry:
Black River Station, or St. Agapit de Beaurivage, a post village in Lotbiniere co., Que., on the G T R, 21 miles from Quebec... Pop. 300.20
Saint-Agapit is less than six miles from Saint-Gilles, where most of the elder Toussaint's children were born and baptized, including the younger Toussaint "Louis". And following the younger Toussaint's birth, the rest of the children, starting in 1867, were baptized at Saint-Agapit. Most likely they never moved, though; Saint-Agapit parish was only formed in 1867, from parts of Saint-Apollinaire and Saint-Gilles-de-Beaurivage.21 Very likely Black River Station existed in Saint-Gilles before Saint-Agapit was formed (I haven't found an earlier gazetteer to check). So when the Croteaus said they were born in Black River, they almost certainly meant a village in Saint-Gilles Parish that later became Saint-Agapit, known as Black River [Station]. The Black River itself is a tributary of the Beaurivage River which runs through these parishes.22

The Relationships

My great grand-aunt Marie (Rabida) Croteau was both step-daughter and half-sister-in-law to Marie Beatrice (Croteau) Rabida. That makes Thomas and Frank Rabida (Beatrice's sons) both uncles and half-first cousins to Eva, Wilfred, and Leonce (Marie and Toussaint's children). I'll bet that could make for some complicated DNA matches!

(This post was inspired by Amy Johnson Crow's 2018 "52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks" challenge.)

  1. "Vermont, Vital Records, 1760-1954," database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 3 Oct 2018); birth of Carrie Creteau, 30 Jun 1895, Jamaica.
  2. "New Hampshire, Death and Disinterment Records, 1754-1947," database and images, Ancestry ( : accessed 4 May 2012); death of Mrs. Beatrix Robida, 1 Jul 1914, Berlin.
  3. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, New Hampshire, Coos County, Milan, enumeration district (ED) 268, sheet 5A-5B, p. 242 (stamped), dwelling 96, family 97, Lewis Rabideau household. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, New Hampshire, Coos County, Milan, enumeration district (ED) 67, sheet 2A, p. 158 (stamped), dwelling 26, family 28, Louis Rabideau household. Both viewed as digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 19 Jan 2014).
  4. Saint-Nicolas Parish (Saint-Nicolas, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, 1847, folio 22r-v, B.104, baptism of Marie Beatrix Croteau, 1 Sep 1847; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Jun 2012); Saint > St-Nicolas > 1847 > images 22-23 of 36.
  5. Or she may have been baptized with some other second forename – the birth record of one of her children gave her name as Rose (though that seems to have been an error that was corrected in a later copy).
  6. "Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908," database and digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 30 Nov 2017); groom's card for "TousSaint Creteau"-Mary Rabida marriage, 29 Sep 1894, Jamaica, Vt. While Cr[o]teau was probably his mother's married name (Marie's mother was listed as Mary Rabida on the bride's card), I couldn't rule out the possibility that it might be her maiden name.
  7. "Vermont, Town Clerk, Vital and Town Records, 1732-2005," database and digital images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 Oct 2018); Windham > Jamaica > Births with index, marriages with index, deaths with index 1857-1945 > image 917 of 1380; Toussaint "Creteau"-Mary Rabida marriage, 29 Sep 1894.
  8. 1900 U.S. census, population schedule, Maine, Cumberland County, Brunswick, enumeration district (ED) 37, sheet 18B, dwelling 198, family 327, Louis Crotteau household. 1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Massachusetts, Essex County, Lawrence, enumeration district (ED) 1942, sheet 2B, dwelling 28, family 47, Louis "Crouteau" household. 1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Massachusetts, Essex County, Lawrence, enumeration district (ED) 115, sheet 13A-B, p. 235 (stamped), dwelling 150, family 246, Toussaint Croteau household. All three viewed as digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Jul 2017).
  9. Saint-Gilles-de-Beaurivage Parish (Saint-Gilles, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, 1865, folio 5v, B.12, baptism of Toussaint Alfred Croteau, 15 Mar 1865; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Sep 2018); Saint > St-Gilles > St-Gilles-de-Beaurivage > 1865 > image 6 of 20.
  10. PRDH-IDG ( PRDH access is "hit-based" – searches, by individual or couple, are free; viewing each individual profile, family summary, or BMD "act" details costs one "hit". The subscriber can buy hits by the 100 or 1000.
  11. Genealogy Quebec ( Genealogy Quebec offers monthly or annual subscriptions to their suite of research tools, including The LAFRANCE database and the Drouin Collection of register images.
  12. "PRDH Genealogical Dictionary of Families, 1621-1849," database, PRDH-IDG ( : accessed 16 Sep 2018); family #233336, Toussaint Croteau and Marie Belanger. 
  13. Saint-Gilles-de-Beaurivage Parish (Saint-Gilles, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, 1861, folio 6v, S.8, burial of Marie Bélanger, 14 Aug 1861; digital images, "Drouin Collection", Genealogy Quebec (https:// : accessed 28 Sep 2018); Québec > St > St-Gilles > St-Gilles (St-Gilles-de-Beaurivage) > 1860 > 1861 > d1p_16620805.jpg.
  14. Saint-Colomb-de-Sillery Parish (Sillery, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, 1862, folio 13v, M.8, marriage of Toussaint Croteau and Marie Obeline Dionne, 14 Jul 1862; database and images, "Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967", Ancestry ( : accessed 28 Sep 2018); S > Sillery > St-Colomb > 1862 > image 15 of 37.
  15. Saint-Agapit Parish (Saint-Agapit, Quebec, Canada), Parish Registers, 1876, folio 2v, S.4, burial of Marie Obéline Dionne, 3 Apr 1876; digital images, "Drouin Collection", Genealogy Quebec (https:// : accessed 30 Sep 2018); Québec > St > St-Agapit > 1870 > 1876 > d1p_1632a1300.jpg.
  16. "New Hampshire Death Records, 1654-1947," database and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 2 Oct 2018), death of John B. Croteau, 20 Apr 1920, Berlin.
  17. "Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908," database and digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 3 Oct 2018); bride's card for Milton F. Spencer-Marie D. Creteau marriage, 3 Jul 1894, Jamaica, Vt.
  18. "Vermont, Vital Records, 1720-1908," death of Mrs. Marie D. Spencer, 1 Jul 1930, St. Albans, Vt.
  19. "Vermont, Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999," database and images, Ancestry ( : accessed 11 Oct 2018), path: Franklin > Estate Files, Spaulding, Carrie-Spiller, Leroy C, 1900-1960 > images 959-60 of 1067; will of Marie D. Spencer, 1926.
  20. P. A. Crossby, editor, Lovell's Gazetteer of British North America (Montreal: John Lovell, 1873), p. 37, entry for Black River Station; digital images, Internet Archive ( : downloaded 2 Oct 2018).
  21. "Saint-Agapit," Originis ( : accessed 12 Oct 2018).
  22. "Rivière Noire (rivière Beaurivage)," Wikipédia ( : accessed 12 Oct 2018).

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