Every genealogist has one; a brick wall in their research through which they are unable to break. Mine is my great-great-grandmother, Rosalie Lapointe. I have come to the conclusion that she did not want people to know where she came from, so she made sure to cover her tracks.
The first official documentation of Rosalie’s existence was the record of her marriage to David Metthe in Danielson, Connecticut, in 1873. The name she gave was Rosalie Lapointe, and her age was 21. The names of the bride and groom were not reported. While I was able to find other proof of who David Metthe’s parents were, I could not do the same for Rosalie.
What I did have about Rosalie were U.S. Census records in which she was mentioned. The information she gave was conflicting:
1880 census: Rosalie Mettey, born about 1853 in Canada; parents born in Canada
1900 census: Rosa Metty, born July 1851 in New Hampshire; parents born (unknown)
1910 census: Rosalie Metty, born about 1855 in New Hampshire; parents born in Canada
1920 census: Rose Metthe, born about 1854 in Canada; parents born in Canada
In all her children’s birth records (both in Quebec and in Danielson, Connecticut), her name is given as “Rosalie Lapointe.” However, in her son Oliva’s marriage record (1904), the mother of the groom’s name is “Rosalie Rickerson.” In her son Joseph’s obituary (1939), she is named “Rosalie Richardson.” Oddly, in Oliva’s obituary (1945), she is named “Marie Lapointe Metthe.”
In 2013, I located Joseph Metthe’s grandchildren. In July, I visited my second cousin once removed, Joy Metthe, in a small town deep in the Nantahala Forest, about 85 miles west of Asheville, North Carolina. It was she who provided me with the only known photo of Rosalie Lapointe. However, she insisted that her great-grandmother’s maiden name had been Richardson. Joy also mentioned that her brother, David, was in possession of a genealogy of the Metthe family Their father, Rudolph, had hired a professional genealogist in Quebec to research his family lines.
I was excited to learn of this genealogy and hoped that someone researching in Quebec might get to the bottom of the mystery of Rosalie’s origins. In April 2014, I drove Connecticut and stopped in on David Metthe. He brought out the genealogy, a volume that was about two inches thick. It was falling apart in places, and so it was stored in a plastic bag. Carefully, I paged through the volume.
What struck me first was the copyright notice, which was “Gabriel Drouin, Janvier [January] 1949.” This was an excellent development, since the Drouin Institute is the preeminent source of Quebec genealogical research. I thought, if anyone could dig out the truth, surely he could! Alas, any genealogist’s work is only as good as the information the family gives them to work with. On the page for David and Rosalie Metthe’s marriage, her maiden name was listed as “Richardson.”
But what was really interesting is what was written in the area for information about the bride’s family. At the top is written, “s. Lapointe.” Then what follows is this:
“Les noms des parents ne sont pas mentionée dans l’acte de mariage, mais sans doute d’origine indienne selon une tradition dans la famille.”
Loosely translated, it says, “the names of the parents were not mentioned in the marriage certificate, but without doubt of Indian [i.e., indigenous] origin, according to family lore.”
For a brief time, actually only a few hours, I thought perhaps I had Native American ancestry in my family tree. Later that same day, I received my DNA results from Ancestry.com. I am 100% European in origin. If Rosalie had been “indienne” as it said in the genealogy, I might have expected to see at least a trace of Native American in my results. However, the way DNA works, I would only have about 1.5% of Rosalie’s DNA, perhaps too little for any Native American genetic material to show up in my results.
However, I am inclined to believe that the family lore is wrong. I think Rosalie wanted to hide who she was and where she came from. Why else would she give two different maiden names over the years (Lapointe and Richardson), two different places of birth (Canada and New Hampshire), and such a wide range of dates of birth (1851-1855)?
Rosalie Lapointe/Richardson Metthe died on February 7, 1923 in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Her body was returned to Danielson, Connecticut to be buried next to her husband, David Metthe, who died in 1912. In the town sexton records, it says that her age was 72 years, 6 months, and 23 days. If I am to believe this, then she was born on July 15, 1850.
I recently ordered a copy of Rosalie’s death certificate from the State of Massachusetts. Maybe it will provide more information about her origins, but I’m not holding my breath.
I’m intrigued by the possible reasons why Rosalie might have wanted to hide her origins. Perhaps she was fleeing an abusive situation at home. Maybe she was born illegitimate and wanted to keep that a secret. I’m pretty sure I’ll never know, because that’s the way Rosalie wanted it to be. Some brick walls are just meant to remain brick walls.