FAMILY TIES

Miramichi family planted roots deep in Moosehead region

Posted May 01, 2011, at 3:29 p.m.

I’d never heard of Neguac, but a look through an atlas shows that this hometown of Hector and Madeleine Breau is located on the Miramichi Bay in New Brunswick.

Betty Doyon Ryder of FAMLI — Franco-American Moosehead Lake Identity — is understandably thrilled with the recent gift of oral history from their son Lionel and his wife, Theresa Breau, to the Moosehead area and the Franco-American community about the Breau family, who came to Greenville in the mid-1920s.

Hector Breau and Madeline (Comeau) were both Acadian, descended from the Franco-Americans who were displaced by the British in 1755 from what is now mostly Nova Scotia. Some of the Breaus were deported and wound up in Louisiana, while others had fled to the Miramichi area, Ryder wrote.

Hector and Madeline married and had sons George and Henry before moving to Greenville. In Maine they had daughters Victorine and Elena, and sons Lionel, Hank (John), Hector Jr., David and Pat, Ryder wrote. Victorine drowned at age 12 in Moosehead Lake near the Breau home. (Another story had a happy ending. When Hector Jr. fell into the lake and got caught on a nail on a pier, he was rescued by Buddy Jardine, who had been summoned for help. Son Jim Jardine remembers that his dad revived the boy by rolling him back and forth over a barrel.)

The LDS website at http://www.familysearch.org, which is free, lists a transcript of the Hector D. Breau family in the 1930 census of Greenville (though not the census image): Hector D., 33; Madeline, 28; George, 9; Henry, 8; Victorine, 5; Leonel, 4; Lena, 2; Anthony, 1.

The ancestry.com website, a paid database that you also can use free on a computer at public libraries in Bangor, Ellsworth, Belfast and Oakland (and maybe others), allows you to see the actual census image, but has the family indexed as Hester D. Bearce rather than Hector D. Breau — not even close. So when I searched for the Breau family, initially I thought they weren’t enumerated in the 1930 census.

Hector and Madeleine became part of the fabric of the community and their Catholic parish in Greenville, Ryder wrote, and eventually they moved to a large home on Village Street. Hector worked long hours in the plywood mill and picked up extra work. Madeleine was busy with the family, but also earned money by delivering newspapers during the war years.

That touches me, especially since all of her sons served in the military — George, Henry and Lionel during WWII; “Hank” and Hector in Korea or Japan, then Dave and Pat in Germany during the Korean War.

“Many an evening, the family sat by the radio listening for any news of the war and praying for the safe return of sons who were in harm’s way,” Ryder wrote. Later the boys worked at places such as Atlas Plywood Mill and Scott Paper Co.

George married a girl from France who had been active in the French Resistance during the war, Henry married Joyce Tarsook of Greenville, Lionel married Theresa Dufour of Stockholm, Hank married Alaine King of Greenville, Hector Jr. married Jeannette Hebert of Fort Kent, David married Beverly Turner of Pittsfield and worked in both Connecticut and Maine, Pat married Shirley York of the Forks, “Mary Elena” married Louis “Hampy” Gravelle of Aroostook County,

The “FAMLI table talk” oral history about the Breau family was filmed by Yvon Labbe for later publication on the website http://francoamericanarchives.org/ as part of the Franco-American Centre’s oral history archive project at the University of Maine. Its also will be archived at the Moosehead Historical Society.

What a wonderful project. Good for the Breaus for sharing their family history, and good for FAMLI and the Franco-American Centre for helping to preserve it.

—•—

Steven Bunker, author and historian, first heard about the Civil War from his grandmother who shared her memories and tales about family members. Those stories must have resonated. In 1959, at age 13, Bunker started the 1st Maine Cavalry, which is today an active living history group offering a glimpse of the hard lot of a cavalry soldier. Bunker has been working on a history of the 2nd Maine Cavalry and is raising funds for a monument to honor the 1st Maine Cavalry in Aldie, Va.

Bunker will speak to the Greater Portland Chapter of Maine Genealogical Society at 1 p.m. Saturday, May 7, at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 29 Ocean House Road, Cape Elizabeth, Route 77.

—•—

Surnames, by nature, turn into male lines quickly. As we pursue the surnames, it becomes so easy to focus on the males in our ancestry and overlook the females.

On Mother’s Day, let’s make an extra effort to remember the women who made us possible.

When my great-grandmother’s half sister died of influenza in Millinocket in 1918, my Nana, Thressa (Given) Steeves, took in her niece and nephew, 10-year-old Elaine Baker and 1-year-old Ralph Baker, to live with the Steeves family in Sangerville.

Thressa’s granddaughter, Joyce (Steeves) Moore, grew up in Sangerville and is the mother of three, grandmother of six, great-grandmother of five and a hospital volunteer. One of my favorite quotes is “Women hold up half the sky.”

Send genealogy queries to Family Ties, Bangor Daily News, PO Box 1329, Bangor, ME 04402; or email familyti@bangordailynews.com.

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