Names lost in Vermont, Part 8: Hart and Godfrey


MARRIAGE RECORD FROM the Town of Leicester bears the American versions of Jerry White’s surname (Leblanc) and Rosa Hart’s surname (Jolicoeur).

Unmasking one French-Canadian surname often leads to another through family associations. Take, for example, Jerry White [aka Remi Leblanc from Part 7] who married Rosa Hart in Leicester on June 28, 1886. Father Daniel E. Coffey of St. Mary’s Catholic Church officiated the marriage. Six months later, Rosa’s sister Julia Hart married Jerry Godfrey, a marriage once again recorded at St. Mary’s. At first glance, I assumed these sisters were Irish because of my father’s maternal ancestors, the Harts, who born in County Mayo, Ireland. This Hart family, however, was French-Canadian. They had lived in the United States since 1840, their name recorded in Québec as Jolicoeur—a dit name meaning tender-hearted. Thus, the last syllable coeur translated as Hart. Beware though: the Jolicoeur dit name applies to several different families.

Jerry and Rosa’s descendant, Barry Whitney of Salisbury, through years of research, had already mapped these name transformations. But how could the rest follow this trail? A reference essential for 19th-century Vermont French-Canadian families are the repertoires published by the Vermont French-Canadian Society, now located in Essex. Two volumes consulted in this study are St. Mary (Brandon) and St. Monica (Forestdale) Baptisms from 1856 through 1948 and Central Vermont Catholic Marriages, various towns covered from 1857 through 1953. The advantage of consulting these sources is that, in most instances, the names of witnesses are listed in the marriage record, and with baptisms, the names of godparents are named. More than that, if the resident priest spoke French (and some Irish priests did), he would have recorded the proper French name and not the American version. We often see two versions of the same person: Rosa Hart, born 3 July 1870, in Brandon vital records, and Rosalie Jolicoeur in St. Mary’s baptismal register.

Rosa and Julia (Jolicoeur) Hart’s parents, Charles (Jolicoeur) Hart and Sarah Magnan (dit Philipps) were married at St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville, New York in 1866. They moved back and forth between New York State and Vermont, undoubtedly following opportunities for work. In 1900, Charles and Sarah Hart lived in Middlebury. Census data reports that Sarah had ten children, of whom eight were living.

Pushing back one generation to Charles’s Québec-born parents, Charles (Jolicoeur) Hart (1817–1894), and Adeline Deslauriers (1823–1892), the trail of evidence can be confusing. They were married likely in the vicinity of Keeseville, New York, probably by 1839. Most records concur that Charles Jr. was born there. In a pattern similar to other French-Canadian families I have traced (See Edward Bird of Part 1), they touched down in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, where they are found in the 1850 census:

Charles Hart, age 28, born Canada, laborer

Caroline [sic], age 25, born New York

Sarah J., age 12, born Massachusetts

Charles Jr., age 6, born “ “ [probably referring back to New York as birthplace]

Yes, this is a wild variation of names and ages, but in all later census records, Adeline is consistently recorded as Caroline. Some fourteen years after their civil or Protestant marriage, Charles Hart and Adeline Delauriers had their marriage rehabilitated—blessed by a priest—at St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville on 8 December 1853. Alex Hart, brother of Charles, served as a witness. The marriage date has led some researchers to conclude, erroneously, that Adeline could not have been Charles Jr.’s mother because he was about twelve at the time of the Keeseville marriage.  In 1860, the Hart family lived in Chesterfield, New York, with a big gap in ages between Charles Jr. and his nearest sibling. New York State’s 1865 census in Chesterfield gives more details. Charles and Caroline Hart only had one marriage, with 12 children, of whom the eldest still living with them, Charles Jr., was born in Vermont! The eldest daughter Sarah had already married, and there were several other children who must have died in infancy. Charles Jr.’s marriage record confirms the name of Adeline as his mother.

ERECTED LIKELY IN the last fifty years, the Godfrey stone in St. Mary’s Cem- etery attests to an Americanized version of the Gadoury name.
Photo by Michael Dwyer

In yet one more twist in the name game, Charles Hart, husband of Adeline/Caroline, was baptized in Montréal on 14 November 1817 as Charles Georgetau, son of Jean Baptiste Georgetau dit Jolicoeur and Marguerite Blais.  A rare surname, Georget[e]au, goes back to Claude Georgeteau, a soldier from Brittany, who first appears as a soldier in New France in 1717. In this instance, Jolicoeur, “tender-hearted” was the ironic nickname given to a soldier.

And to finish this episode, let us go to Julia Hart, sister of Rose, who married Jerry Godfrey. His case study provides us with another example of a changed first and last name. In church records, he is Desire Gadoury. One can understand why a man in Brandon might not want to be known as Desire, hence Jerry! His last name was anglicized to Godfrey. The Gadoury family followed a similar migration path from Québec to Black Brook, New York, and then to Brandon. Jerry’s father certainly suffered from mangled versions of his name, Peter Gadre, in 1900, Tacom Gederee in 1880, Polhan Godare in 1870. The elder Gadoury was baptized as Pacôme [French version of St. Pachomius the Great] on Christmas Day 1825. Several generations separate him from his immigrant ancestor, George Gadoury, from the town of Luzerne in Normandy.

One never knows how many people in our community today can trace their ancestry back to these families.

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