These are my people…

Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet, the first French colonists to New France (Canada) are my 10x great-grandparents. This year, 2017, marks the 400th anniversary of their family’s arrival in the New World. And, on the site of the home they built there, a new exhibition featuring them just opened up at the Musée de l’Amérique francophone, in what is now modern-day Québec City.

Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The exhibition only runs until October 29, 2017, so I’d better get a move on if I intend to see it before it closes.

Louis and Marie are related to me through my Nana Keene, my father’s mother, a tiny, 100- pound bundle of pure French Canadian fierceness. You might remember her from this photo:


I know this connection only through the amazing work of my cousin, Peter, whose grandfather, Eli, was my grandmother’s brother. In other words, we share the same great-grandparents, Osias Bergeron and Marie-Amelia Gaumond, making us second cousins.


I never knew these great-grandparents, but looking at the photo, and their happy faces, I think I sure missed out, don’t you?

Peter researched through an astounding number of records, in French mind you, to document each generation back to Louis and Marie. (And, that’s just the work he did on one line!) Then, he unselfishly shared it with our family. I must confess that I didn’t truly appreciate his astounding work until I began to do research, too.

Here’s the line, from Louis and Marie to me:

Louis Hébert and Marie Rollet,

their son, Jean-Guillaume Hébert,

his daughter, Marie-Françoise Hébert Fournier,

her son, Simon Fournier,

his son, Simon-Philippe Fournier,

his daughter, Brigette Fournier Buteau,

her son, Basile Buteau,

his daughter, Marguerite Buteau Mercier,

her daughter, Agnes Mercier Gaumond,

her daughter, Marie-Amelia Gaumond Bergeron

her daughter, Perpetue Bergeron Keene,

her son, my father, Charles Lawrence Keene,

and finally, 12 generations later,

                      me, Barbara Keene Garrett.

If I make it to the exhibit, I’ll be sure to report back!



A Working Theory: Part 2

So, when last we left this seemingly never-ending search for answers, I had found two names that also occur in our Keene family lore, Shadrach and Tubal.

What I hadn’t found, though, was any direct connection between those two names and Washington E. Keen (my great-great grandfather) or his son, George Augustus Keene (my great-grandfather).

I am fairly certain that Shadrach (born circa 1797) and Washington (born circa 1810) are not father and son. They could possibly be brothers. And, if brothers, then Tubal and Sarah are Washington’s missing parents. But, there is no proof; just proximity.

And, just how does this relate to George Augustus and his rumored name change? According to the family story, George was born in 1833 as Tubal, but changed his name at the young age of 10. Well, there’s that name, Tubal, that we also see as the father of Shadrach. It was very common in early American families to repeat names from generation to generation. Tubal wasn’t a very common name. In fact, there is only one Tubal or Jubal Keen in Massachusetts at this time. So, I think that it might be significant. But, again, no proof.

Now, let’s take a moment to think about George Augustus and his siblings. Why? Because there might be clues in his siblings’ names as to how his parents named their children.

George’s surviving siblings were: Edmond S., Lydia A., and Washington E., Jr. There might have also been another Washington E. Jr. who died at the age of four, years before the surviving Washington Jr. was born.

Do you notice anything? None of those names are what might have been considered old-fashioned in their day. None of those names are Old Testament names like Shadrach, Meshach,  Abednigo, or Tubal. Or, Sarah, Rebecca, or Hannah.

No, they are more “refined” if you will: George, Edmond, Lydia, and Washington.

I think it unlikely, but not impossible, that George Augustus’ parents named him Tubal. It just isn’t consistent with the names of the other children in the family.

But, what if his father, Washington, was born as Tubal?  After his father??? Hummm…

It’s a theory that nicely ties up some of the family lore into a neat and tidy package. Which rarely happens in family history! So, there is that. But, at this point, until I discover something else, it’s the best I have.

keene-georgo augustus
George Augustus Keene, my great grandfather

Washington E. and George A.: A Working Theory

In my last blog post, I told you about the two family stories that I just can’t seem to prove or disprove.

Mystery Story One: Were there really three Keen/e brothers named Shadrach, Meshach, and Abdenigo?

Mystery Story Two: Did George Augustus Keene really legally change his name from Tubal when he was only 10?

Related Bonus Mystery: Who are Washington E. Keen’s parents, and where did they come from?

I have found absolutely no evidence of the three Biblical brothers (as I have come to think of them), not a whiff of Washington’s parentage, and no trace of a birth record or name change documentation for George A/Tubal.

I have searched or inquired in, at, and through:

the family genealogy books in the DAR library in DC,

the online genealogies at Family Search,

vital record books and county/state histories at the Family History Library, Salt Lake,

Google, with all sorts of variations of search parameters,

numerous vital records for cities and towns, both in print and online,

the Massachusetts Historical Society,

church historians,

at least two Keen family histories/genealogies,

a Keene family Facebook page (no relation that we could discern),

the genealogical library at the Huntington Beach Public Library,

Ancestry, My Heritage, The NEHGS,

and more…

But, I have found tantalizing clues, puzzle pieces, and traces of family lore. And, the more I search for answers, the more I think they these three mysteries are related. (A little genealogy humor there!)

Tantalizing Clue #1: Do you remember that in the death record for Washington I also found that he shared the same tomb at Christ Church with Shadrach Keen’s family?

Tantalizing Clue #2: Do you also remember that Shadrach Keen lived in a house in Princeton at the same time that Washington lived in a house in Princeton?

Tantalizing Clue #3: I have since learned that Shadrach Keen had a father named Tubal.

Hummm… What if the names (Shadrach and Tubal, but not Meshach and Abednigo) in these family stories are correct?

But, what if the story has been garbled, sort of like a game of Telephone that has lasted a hundred or so years?

Let me explain. There is a search strategy in genealogy called The FAN Club. It’s collateral research, using the names and information of friends or family, acquaintances, and neighbors, or FANs. Usually, people didn’t live in or move to areas where they had no connections. Taking note of people who appear in more than one document about an ancestor usually means something. Not always. But, it can.

In this case, since I was stuck at Washington, I decided to see what I could learn about Shadrach, since he has shown up twice in proximity to Washington.

I found Shadrach’s death record; he had died in April 12, 1862 at the age of 67 in Boston. He was buried in the East Boston cemetery.

keen-shadrach 1

No, here’s where it gets interesting. (At least for me! You might be gritting your teeth or yawning by now!)

On this same record, we learn that Shadrach’s parents were Tubal (but sometimes transcribed as Jubal) and Sarah. They were born in Pembroke and Salem, respectively.

Well, huh… there’s another familiar name…

So, what can I learn about Tubal and Sarah?

I found their marriage record.

keen-jubal-1790-1796-marriage-boston red

Apparently, Tubal was married twice. First, to Susanna Glover in 1790. Secondly, to Sarah Rock (Ruck) in 1796. On this record, Tubal has been transcribed as Jubal. In other vital record books with the same information, it is Tubal. I’m pretty sure this is our guy, though, based on his wife’s name.

I’m pretty sure that Shadrach’s parents were this Tubal (Jubal) and Sarah. Based on the date of his death, he was born about 1797, a year or so after Tubal and Sarah’s marriage.

So, now I know that Shadrach isn’t Washington’s father. Washington was born about 1810, based on his age (34) when he died (1844). Shadrach would have been only about 13 years old when Washington was born. Possible, but not very probable. If they are related, they could be brothers.

I think that’s enough for today. If you’ve read this far, I’m sure your brain hurts. I will continue my working theory in my next post.

Til then!

Family Lore: Fact or Fiction

Stories. Every family has them. Such as…

…a crazy uncle who supposedly was saved from the Titanic by holding on to a floating tuba….

…or a great-great grandmother who reportedly shot her husband and ran off with a Native American chief…

…or a elderly great aunt who smells of cats and has whiskers who tells stories of her risque’ burlesque dancer days.

My family’s stories are not nearly that interesting, but they intrigue me all the same. Such as…

…that my paternal grandmother was French Canadian/Indian. We even “knew” the tribe.

Fiction: Have the genetic tests to prove it and not a drop of Native American DNA.

…that we were eligible for for the DAR through my maternal grandmother’s family line, the Gards.

Fact: Have the DAR membership certificate on my wall.

…that my great-great-grandfather, Washington E. Keen, was buried in Tomb 28 under Boston’s Old North Church. 

Fiction: He was actually interred in Tomb 27. But, close!

…that our Keen/e family began with three brothers, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednigo Keen, who immigrated from England to America. 

I don’t know! Absolutely no evidence to be found, so far.

…that my great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, was actually named Tubal, but legally changed his name at the age of 10.

Still a mystery! No proof that I have found so far.

I would very much like to find the truth behind those last two stories. But, I have found nothing. Not. A. Thing to support either one of those stories. Not that I haven’t tried.

I have searched through vital records, family genealogies, journals, history books, called historical societies and churches, etc. I have found nothing to support either of the last two stories.

I’m working on some theories, however.

But, maybe some family stories are meant to remain mysteries.

keene-george-a-newspaper photo
Photo of my grandfather, George A. Keene (perhaps born as Tubal) from a newspaper article about his life.








Washington E. Keen: Not Easily Giving up His Secrets

In my last post, I told you about finding Washington’s death date and interment place in the Old North Church, confirming the family lore.

But, I was left with more questions than before, especially the prospect of some sort of relationship between Washington and Shadrack Keen, based on their shared space in tomb #27.

My friend, Jenice, also found two Boston city directories for Washington. The one below is from 1842. Do you see anything interesting about this?

Two entries above Washington (who was a glazier and lived in a house in Princeton) is a familiar name. Once again, Shadrack/Shadrach Keen is found in close proximity to Washington.

Brothers? Father and son? Cousins? Uncle and nephew?

One of the main questions I had set out to answer when beginning this search was who were Washington’s parents, and where was he born? So, I was hopeful that I would be able to find out more information from the church records than was found in the Boston city records, as is often the case.

So, when we got home, I did some research on the Massachusetts Historical Society‘s site, where the educators at Christ Church had told me the records were stored. I found that the records for the church were stored off-site in numerous boxes. Searching through the index on the site, I found in which box the tomb records for 1844 were located. I made a couple of quick screen shots, covering all the bases I hoped, and then I put in a call to the society.

A while later, Alex, a researcher with the society gave me a call back. I explained what I was looking for, and since I was across the country, she was willing to search the records for me. I told her which boxes were probable, based on my screen shots of the index, and she was very appreciative for not having to do that extra step.

About a week later, Alex called back again, after she had done her search. But, unfortunately, the Christ Church records didn’t contain any more information than was found in the Boston city records.

Well, phoo…

So, I am a bit stuck in finding out the secrets of Washington Keen. But, I’m hot on his trail!

More to come…


Washington E. Keen, Still a Man of Mystery

So, when last I wrote, we were deep in the crypt of the Old North Church.

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I had just learned that the church doesn’t store historic records any more. The educators at the church told me that the records are now housed by the Massachusetts Historical Society. I planned to call once I got home.

While we were still in Massachusetts, though, I messaged a friend in the DAR who has an Ancestry subscription. I was hoping that Jenice would be able to dig up some information on Washington before we left Boston.

And, wow!

She found Washington and Lydia’s marriage certificate, two Boston directory listings, and Washington’s city of Boston death record! Thank you, Jenice!

(I’m telling you, without this wonderful community of genealogists, I would never have found out what I have. I can’t tell you the times that I’ve come up empty handed, and then others have dug, researched, or even tramped over hill and dale for me. It’s truly heartwarming, and I always try to do the same when I can. It’s one of the reasons that I write this blog; there may be someone out there, a distant relative or just a curious researcher , who can benefit from what I’ve written.)

But, back to Washington and the Old North Church. From the Record of the Deaths and Burials in the City of Boston for the Year 1844:

keen-washington e-1844-death record-boston ma

He died on June 19th, was interred on the 21st, at the age of 34, from consumption, which was the old name for tuberculosis. His body was prepared by the Whitcomb undertakers and ta-da! was indeed interred at the Christ Church Cemetery No. 27, not No. 28.

“But, Barbara,” I can hear you saying, “Christ Church isn’t the Old North Church!”

But, yes, dear reader, it is. Here is a link to the church’s web site.

Jenice also found a more complete record in Deaths and Interments in Boston, where names have been recorded by year, in order by surname:

wak 1844

So, right there by the arrow is the listing for Washington E., who died at age 34. But, look carefully at the line right above him: Washington Jr., aged 4 years, 9 months, who died Jan. 20, 1839, and was also interred at Christ Church. In Tomb No. 28, according to the Record of Deaths and Burial in the City of Boston for the Year 1839. Hummm…

The record above is just chock full of interesting information listed under the surname Keen. There is a column to the left of Disease for Family. If you examine the page, you will see that the name Shadrack Keen is often listed in this column. And, each name with Shadrack Keen as the family name is also interred in tomb No. 27.


The occupants of No. 27, under the family name of Shadrack Keen, are:

  • Richard, died Aug. 30, 1821, age 1 year, 2 months, dysentery 27 Christ Church
  • Abigail, died Jan. 2, 1823, age 5 years, dysentery, 27 Christ Church
  • John E., died Jan. 5, 1824, age 1 month, 5 days, whooping cough, 27 Christ Church
  • Dorothy J., died Aug. 6, 1842, age 6, dropsy in the head, 27 Christ Church

The occupants of No. 27, under the family name of Washington Keen, are:

  • Mary Ann, died Dec. 28, 1832, age 2 years, scarlet fever, 27 Christ Church
  • Washington E., died June 19, 1844, age 34, consumption, 27 Christ Church

There is obviously a connection between Shadrack and Washington. I just don’t know what it is. Father and son? Brothers?

[Little Washington Jr., is the only outlier. In this record he is interred in 2 Christ Church. So, is it #2 (as in the record above), #27 (with his presumed father Washington E.), or #28 (as in the 1839 record)?]

So, yes, my great-great-grandfather was indeed buried under the Old North Church.

Whether he is still there is another matter.

In the 1800s, families could purchase, or more correctly rent, a tomb. It would be maintained for that family undisturbed until the money ran out. Sadly, it wasn’t uncommon for the church, which needed the income, to empty a tomb into a charnel pit and then rent it again, if the original family couldn’t or wasn’t able to maintain their hold. You can read more about the practice here.

So, one mystery solved, but much more left to uncover about Washington.

Washington E. Keen, Man of Mystery

There’s a much-used term in genealogy, which you will begin to see and hear very quickly after starting to search for your family history: Brick wall.

It’s a full stop in our research. It’s getting to a place where there just doesn’t seem to be any way past this missing person or bit of needed information. It’s a burned out courthouse in the south, a flood along the coast, a fire at the National Archives, or it’s the dreaded missing 1890 US census.

I tend to think that the term is used much too quickly in these days of handy, ever-present internet searches. I’ve gotten very, very spoiled, and I lean toward thinking much too quickly that if the information isn’t easy to come by, well, then, I’ve hit that brick wall.

But, that’s where the good sleuth just goes deeper. It’s time to call, write, visit, or email county records offices, state historical societies, or places where your relative once lived. It’s truly leaving no stone unturned.

And, that’s where I’ve gotten to in the search for information about my great-great grandfather, Washington E. Keen. Or, Keene. Could be either or both.

(His son George is a bit of a problem, too, but I’ll save that for later.)

Here’s the line from me to Washington:

  • Barbara Keene Garrett, to my father,
  • Charles Lawrence Keene, Jr., to his father,
  • Charles Lawrence Keene, Sr. to his father,
  • George Augustus Keene, to his father,
  • Washington E. Keene.

For quite a while, I didn’t have much information about Washington at all. He was listed as the father on his children’s wedding licenses or certificates. He was listed as well as father on his son George’s ( my great-grandfather) death certificate. But, US census records bring up nothing. I can’t find him in vital record searches for Massachusetts. I didn’t have birth or death dates for him.

And, to add a little confusion just to make things interesting, Washington had a son, also named Washington E. There’s plenty to be found about him!

Until just a few weeks ago, when the brick wall began to crack a little.

In the family genealogy papers that I have from my Dad’s family, there was a copy of my great-great-grandmother’s obituary (his wife, Lydia A. Kent Keene, purchaser of the Keene plot at Pine Grove Cemetery), mentioning that Washington had died in Boston and was buried under the Old North Church, in Boston. You know, the “One if by land; two if by sea” church.

keene-lydia ann kent-obit

And, in a handwritten note (by whom, I don’t know) there was a mention that Washington was buried in tomb 28.

On our recent trip to Boston, one of my goals was to dig into this and find out if it was true and if there was perhaps more information to be found.

So, we made our way to the Old North Church…

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This view is from the back of the church; the entrance is around the other side.

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Looking from the front entrance.

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Looking back to the entrance.

We took a tour of the bell tower and crypt, hoping to get a glimpse of tomb 28. While we waited for the tour, we asked the docents if they could tell us where we might find information about tomb occupants. They put in a call to the educational director. The upshot is that the church no longer holds any of the historical records. They are all with the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Well, phoo…

But, once in the crypt, it was pretty east to find #28. The earlier tombs weren’t numbered, but rather had names and dates. The later tombs had numbers, beginning with about #26  and going around a rectangle in the middle of the building to get to #30. Tomb #28 didn’t have a plaque, but it was pretty easy to figure out which one it was.

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And, there it was, in all its nondescript glory.

So, I got no answers on my trip, but I did have some direction as to where to go from there.

And, that will be for another day…

I Bet the Whole Town was Talking

As I mentioned a while back, my great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, married Lydia Thompson soon after the death of his first wife, Ellen Piper Keene.

Ellen had passed away at age 40, not too long after the marriage of her and George’s daughter, Ellen Augusta. Daughter Ellen had married William Edwin Thompson in 1874; mother Ellen passed away in 1875.

William Thompson had a younger sister, Lydia.

Yes, that Lydia.

A year and half after the death of Ellen, George married the younger sister of his son-in-law. George was 42; Lydia was 25.

keene-georgo augustus.jpg


keene-lydia ann kent.jpg

So, George’s wife was his son-in-law’s sister, but also his son-in-law’s mother-in-law.

Daughter Ellen’s step-mother was also her sister-in-law.

Ellen and William’s children’s grandmother would also be their aunt.

I think…

It reminds me of the old song, “I’m My Own Grandpa.” It’s worth a Google.


Pine Grove Cemetery, Lynn MA

As I told you about in my last post, The Hubs and I recently visited Lynn, MA, where so many of my family members came from. And, I mean many…

We visited quite a few of them at the Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. We spent a lot of time lost, trying to find the Keene plot. And, along the way, on headstones and memorials on nearly every lane, were names from my family tree: Breed, Keene, Ingalls, Hood, Bassett, and Thompson….

pine grove (1 of 1)

It really was rather strange. This place is FULL of “my people,” as my Nanna would have said. It was a visual representation of just how deep my New England roots are.

Our first stop that morning in Lynn, after McDonald’s for breakfast, was at the city works department, where the cemetery records are kept. The clerk helpfully printed out several pages, each with a family name, grave numbers, plot sites, and dates of internment.

We decided to focus on the Keene plot as our first priority. I was so glad we did, as it took most of the morning to find it!

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Below is the list of graves we were given for the Keene plot:

keene-pine grove cemetery plot diagram

At the bottom of the list, you can see the diagram we made while there, based on the remaining headstones. As you can see, there are quite a few more graves than there are headstones.

We also learned that the first Lydia A. Keene (1809-1895), wife of Washington Keene (1810-1844), was the first owner/buyer of the plot. The dates of burials range from 1866-1961, nearly 100 years.

What is especially touching are the number of children here:

  • George Arthur Thompson, 10 months, 18 days
  • Minot Tirrill Keene, 1 year, 5 months, 22 days
  • Edith B. Keene, 2 years, 4 months
  • Carrie Browne, 2 months, 19 days
  • Arthur S. Keene, 5 months
  • W. Frank, days
  • Child Keene, days
  • George A. Keene, 11 months

Eight babies. Fully a third of the family members here.

When we got home to California, as I was searching for another file, I came across this:

keene-pine grove cemetery plot

WOW! I wished I had realized I had this before we went to Massachusetts!

(PSA: Stay ahead of your files, paper or digital! Things easily and quickly begin to pile up as your own research yields results and family members generously give you their records, too. You’re welcome.)

In the diagram above, see the *D? That’s Thelma, my grandfather’s first wife.

See #13? That’s Ellen, my great-grandfather’s first wife.

Numbers 15 and 17? Those are my great-grandparents, George A.  and Lydia Keene, his second wife.

Lydia was buried here in 1944, although she passed away in 1938 in California. According to my Uncle George, the family didn’t have the money to ship her to Massachusetts in 1938, so they waited six years.

I am so glad that we stopped here; the backstory of my life is in this plot.




My Grandfather’s Father’s First Wife

I come from a long line of second wives. On both sides of my family, there have been several generations where a first wife has passed away, the man marries a second wife, and we descend from that marriage.

I’ve written about Berthelma, the first wife of my dad’s dad.

In my Gard family line, we descend from William Gard‘s second wife, the sister of his first wife.

And, in my father’s family, my great-great-grandfather, George Augustus Keene, we descend from his second wife, Lydia Ann Thompson.

George Augustus’ first wife was Ellen Piper. They married in 1853, when George was 20 and Ellen was 18. They had three children, Ellen, Florence, and Alice, before Ellen passed away at the age of 40 in 1875. (There might be a an infant son who didn’t survive, but it’s not a sure thing.)

A little more than a year later, in 1876, George married again. His new wife Lydia was only 25; he was 42. Oh, the scandal!

George and Lydia went on to have Annie Louise, George Ashton, George Augustus, Minot Terrill, Charles Lawrence (my grandfather), and Edith Blake. Annie and Charles seem to be the only children of this marriage who survived to adulthood.

Ellen’s grave is in the Keene family plot in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Lynn. Hers is one of the few remaining headstones. I’m glad that she’s not invisible…

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