I hit a brick wall several years ago on my Belduke / Bolduc line but just recently that wall began to crumble! A couple of weeks ago I read in one of my Rootsweb mailing lists that the LDS folks had added millions of records to their beta.familysearch.org site. I decided to take a look and — voila! — here’s what I found: marriage and death records for both my great great grandfather Joseph Belduke and his brother Napoleon plus a second marriage record for Napoleon’s first wife and a birth record for Napoleon’s daughter.
One of the big mysteries in my family history was whatever happenned to Joseph Belduke? We know that he left the San Francisco Bay Area rather abruptly in the early 1880s and his wife sued for divorce in 1883, claiming neglect. He lived for awhile in Lockeford southeast of Sacramento and then seemed to have left the state forever. We also know that he spent some time during the 1880s trying to sell his screw propellor invention to the US Navy. He even went abroad to Europe and pitched his invention to the English and perhaps other countries.
Well, his death record shows that he went back to Concord around 1888 and lived there blacksmithing for another 16 years until his death in March 18, 1904. Wow! He outlived his first wife (my great great grandmother) by more than 40 years. The record also states that he died of pneumonia with a contributing cause of tuberculosis for which he was hospitalized for three months.
But the most important information on the death record is what caused the brick wall breakthrough: the record also includes date of birth (December 16, 1831), place of birth (St. Cerain, Province of Quebec), and names of parents (Paul Belduke and Emely Lerine). Now I am one generation closer in proving that Joseph is a descendant of Louis Bolduc, a French soldier who came to Canada in 1665.
We know from the 1860 US Census that Joseph and his wife Mary Kiely, a native of Ireland, were living in Concord, NH at that time with their five-year-old daughter Emily. My great grandmother always went by the name of Emma and I always thought that this name from the census was a clerical mistake. But now it seems that Emma was named after her grandmother Emely (or Emily) Lerine.
Emma’s mother died in 1861 and is buried in Concord in the Kiely family plot. We learned from city directories that Joseph was a fireman in Concord in 1862 and from other sources that he migrated to San Francisco in 1864 with his second wife and her two children from a previous marriage (or possibly previous marriages). I also found in the LDS website an 1863 marriage record for Joseph and Frances McKensie (McKenzie) in Lowell, Massachusetts. The record states that Frances is the daughter of John and Mary Maguire. In the 1880 US Census Joseph is listed as a widower even though he was still technically married to Frances at that time. It is possible that Frances filed for divorce a few years earlier but for some reason or another the divorce was never finalized. It seems that Frances filed for divorce from her third husband in 1883 only to find that she was still legally married to Joseph! So she filed to divorce him – again.
The 1880 US Census shows Mabel J Belduke, 7, living with her parents, Napoleon and Melvina (Labonte) Belduke, in Concord, NH. From the LDS website I learned that Mary Belle Belduke was born in Concord in 1873. I also found a record for Napoleon’s marriage to Christiana Johnson, a native of Sweden, on December 29, 1890 in Manchester, NH. Both bride and groom claimed that they were widowed. But I also found a marriage record for Malvina Belduke and Daniel F. Frisbee on November 6, 1890 in Portsmouth, NH. Napoleon’s marriage record also stated that his parents were Paul and Emily, confirming that he and Joseph are brothers.
According to Napoleon’s death record, he died at the New Hampshire State Hospital on August 28, 1909. He had been an inmate there for two months and 11 days. The death record also states that he was born in Canada but all the US Census data has him born in Michigan and his marriage record to Christiana Johnson pinpoints his birthplace as Detroit. I have a hunch that sometime after Joseph’s birth in 1831 and Napoleon’s in 1842, the Bolduc family moved from Canada to the US and the name got changed during the immigration process to Belduke.
I have searched Internet sources such as familysearch.org for years looking for my Beldukes. This story shows the value of double checking. Thanks to LDS for adding New Hampshire and Massachusetts vital records to their website!