Monday, October 3, 2011

Burst Our Bubble

            A very observant reader questioned why the first post said that John B. Reno "was buried in an unmarked grave," yet in the second post, there is a picture of his gravestone. That is because we had initially started this blog for an entirely different purpose. But then our bubble burst. Here's the story.
            My cousin Lori and I met while independently researching the same family in Spencer. After comparing notes, we discovered that we had this Civil War veteran in common.
            While visiting the local cemetery, we asked the caretaker to show us where John was buried. He took us to a blank patch of grass. Knowing the pain and suffering our ancestor had suffered in defense of our country, Lori and I, now joined by Jodie, decided that in this, the anniversary year of the start of the Civil War, we should honor him with a stone. Jodie downloaded an application for a free government-provided, period gravestone from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Our plans were to contact the local newspaper to do an article on our ancestor and what we were proposing to do. We thought that by creating the blog, descendants would have a place to contact us. In the spring, near the anniversary of his death, we would have a dedication ceremony with many of his descendants present.
            After getting all the paperwork together, I made an appointment with the cemetery caretaker to sign off on the government forms. After getting his signature, he casually remarked that he didn't understand why we were getting another stone when there was already a big one there. After the shock wore off, he took me to John and Dina's gravesite. There it was, a very large, granite stone!
            So we quickly shifted the focus of our blog. We still hope it will be a gathering place for descendants, but without the pomp and circumstance we had hoped for.
            Perhaps John would have preferred it that way.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

Etched in Stone

             On John B. Reno's gravestone1, his portion of the inscription reads as follows: "John B. Reno, a member of Co. G 25th Inft, April 9, 1811 - April 10, 1882."
            When I checked my genealogy database, I found that I had a couple different possible birth dates and birth places for Jean B. Which were the correct ones?
            Another Reno descendant, Peter Gallant Berlo, had compiled a family history back in the early 1990s. In his Reno Family Descendants Genealogical List2, Berlo confirms (without sources) the birth date on the tombstone, and gives his birthplace as "St. Pie, PQ, CAN." This contradicts John's pension record, which states on the Certificate of Disability for Discharge3 that he was born in St. Antoine. On the 1870 census4, John's date of birth based on his age would have been closer to 1814.
            So I went in search of Jean B. Renaud's birth/baptism record by browsing through the Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1900 on I went first to the records for St-Antoine-sur-Richelieu and scrolled through until I got to the year 1811. There I found a baptism for a Jean Baptiste Renault on the 15th of April 1811 instead of the 9th, but his parents were listed as François Renault and Melence[??] Gendron.
            I then scrolled to St. Antoine for the year 1814. On the 21st of March 1814, a Jean Baptiste Renault was born to Jean Baptiste Renault and Marie Josephte Guertin, the parents I had assigned to him in my database. Could I have the wrong parents?
            It was time to go back through my data and double check. John's death record5 lists his parents as John and Joset Reno, whose marriage record can also be found in the Quebec, Catholic Parish Registers, 1621-1900 at St. Antoine on 23 October 1809.
            Since the parents listed on John B. Reno's death certificate match those of the Jean Baptiste born in 1814, it appears that the correct birth date on John B. Reno's gravestone should read March 21, 1814.

1 St. Mary's/Holy Rosary Cemetery (now called Mary, Queen of the Rosary Cemetery), Spencer, Massachusetts.
2 Berlo, Peter Galant. Reno Family Descendants Genealogical List. (San Diego, CA: self-published, 1992).
3 John B. Reno (Pvt. Co. G, 25th Mass. Inf., Civil War), pension no. S.C. 20,156, Certificate of Disability for Discharge; Civil War and Later Pension Files. Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15. National Archives, Washington, D.C.
4 John B. Reno household, 1870 U.S. Census Population Schedule, Worcester Co., MA, town of Spencer, sheet 19, dwelling 404, family 649, National Archives Micropublication M593, roll 655.
5 John B. Reno entry, Deaths Registered in Spencer 1858-92, Book 2, line 35, 10 Apr 1882, recorded 1 Jan 1883, Town Clerk's Office, Spencer, Massachusetts.