Monday, July 21, 2008

Unidentified Messenger Shatters Family Secret

My carnival ride on a 30 year mystery, solved by unidentified messenger, leaving five words, hurriedly scribbled on registration form "looking for Cummings check Genereau"

Berlin Olyer was the family story teller, taking great enjoyment in relating the tales of the Olyer and allied families, whenever there was a gathering, which took place every Sunday that I can recall in the late 1930's until his death in May 1943.
There was one story he never got to finish, a story he started enough
times in the 8 to 10 years, that it stuck in my mind, more than if my grandmother, Margaret Cummings Olyer would have let him tell it.
"One Saturday night Maggis father Jim went to the tavern"--a commanding word from kitchen "Berlin that is enough"
She had made a promise to her father to keep his secret and she never
betrayed that trust.
The photo is "Maggie" and me about 1943.
When my grandfather Berlin died in 1943, my interest turned from the family to other things graduation, military service, marriage--when the dust settled and life followed a pattern, I started to work on genealogy again. Man! no one knew anything about any of there ancestors, but my mom was, "in it with me". Her mother Margaret Cummings would not tell us why she stopped the story about her father.
Of course my mother knew him, in fact the photo to the right is her father, James Cummings holding me, in 1926, according to my grandmother her father was Jim Cummings and her mother, Margaret Jane LaVallee.

She insisted for years that this was the truth, LaVallee was correct.

For some 35 years I researched the Cummings family in Canada, of course there was no Cummings that ever married a LaVallee.
In the 60's "Maggie" would avoid me if I got on the subject of family,
so I knew she was hiding something. I was not working with the truth.

In 1963 she left our house upset after talking about the Cummings family, no one could find her, after a few days we got a call from her in Martintown, Ont., she was sick and had to have her son Vern come and get her.

My mother, was sure there were none of her mother's brothers or sisters living in Martintown, mom thought she knew all of her uncles and aunts. My grandmothers list of relatives had a Alex, but no indication of wife or family.

In 1965 both my mother and my grandmother passed away, just a few days apart, in July, now I would never know, about the family.

In August someone in a small motor home spent the weekend in our campsite, On Sundays in a
amusement park, I was very busy and whoever this person was they left a penciled note on the registration form, "looking for Cummings check Genereau". I did not see this person and my attendant could not remember them, so I have no idea who it was-must have been a "genealogical angel."
As soon as the park was closed in the fall, I analyzed what I knew-My grandfather Berlin, said Jim cummings had done something in a tavern??, the only place I found a Jim Cummings was Martintown, Ont. and that is were "Maggie" went when she was upset with me. Now we know there is a Genereau involved. I called the Provincial Police Dept in Martintown. Ont. talked to a Sgt. I.E.Miller told him what I knew, he knew what I was talking about, said it might be best if I come up and talk to a man named "Alex" who was 96 yrs old. I left then and was in his office next day about noon.

Sgt I.E. Miller, had me follow him to Alex's home, little white house next to small creek on outskirt of Martintown. He went to door with me, I was about to have the experience of a life time. The officer left and I was invited to have a chair and I was so excited, do not remember asking any questions, he just started talking family, first the story of who Jim Cummings was=Moses Genereau, 20yrs older than Alex, Moses had killed a colored man in a bar room fight over a Ann MacCarthy, towns people stripped them naked, tied him and girl to fence rails, poured pine tar over them and rolled them in a feather mattress, then paraded them about town, dropping them off in creek outside the dinning room window. Alex helped them into house spent rest of night in the kitchen, picking tar and feathers of , had to use a razor and lamp oil he remarked "she was quite a eyeful dressed in tar and feathers". in the morning Moses and girl went to grand rapids, 7 years later "Alex" went to work in Spring Cove, N.Y. there was Moses, the blacksmith, but being called Jim Cummings, wife Masrgaret LaVallee and family.

I was so excited did not have composure enough to ask him about his family and what his relationship was- he told me Moses and he worked for Jim Cummings in the brick yard in summer and in woods in winter, that is were the "Jim Cummings" name came from. My mother list of uncles did not include a Alex, he must have been first child and stayed there in Martintown, and is the person my grandmother went to visit, knowing I was getting closer she probably tried to enlist him in protecting the family secret.

Alex knew names of all of Jim's children, who they married and most of there children. He said he lived with "Jim" in his house at Spring Cove, remembered "Maggie" helping her mother in the dinning hall.
I was right in Jim Cummings house and did not know it, Every time I look at this family, there is so much I should have asked, thankful for what I have, but oh how I wish for more.

It was 1890, he was a French man, in a English environment, his crime of killing a colored person did not demand as great a punishment as if it were another French man or Englishman , for which he probably would have been hung,Racial equality was way in the future then.
With the correct information- Baptisms and marriage records were found in, St Michael the Arch Angel Catholic church in Bellville, Ont.

I do not believe in ghost, but how did someone know I was working on the genealogy of this family and had to have the information Cummings was Genereau---

Why would this person leave a note instead of finding me???

Nothing in our records showed who it was or were they came from. ?


Rosebud Collection said...

Boy, Oh Boy, this is a really good story..Don't you just wonder.??
Look at the history you are learning.
Would be interesting to find out who the person was that left the me, it was a gift to you for all the work you are doing..

Lordandlady said...

Thanks rosebud, have had couple e-mail suggestions but no positive clue yet bob

Terry Thornton said...

What a story! Wow!


wendy said...

This is an amazing story! I think a lot of us would appreciate a genealogical "angel" for some of the things we are trying to find! Thanks for sharing the results of your search.