When I decided to start looking into my family history, it made sense to start with my father’s family first. My mother was fairly close to her family, and between her siblings and our cousins and extended aunts and uncles, there are plenty of people available to help with gathering information and understanding how the clan functions. That’s not the case on my dad’s side. He wasn’t particularly close to his dad, and his sisters both lived quite a distance away for my entire life. I was also drawn to learn more about the one grandparent that I had never met — my father’s mother, Alvina Marie Leblanc.
Alvina Marie Leblanc was born in Moncton, New Brunswick in September 1919, and she died of cancer in a Moncton hospital in February 1976. I know all of this information because I have a copy of her obituary, cut out of a newspaper and laminated and stored for years in a family bible. But except for that and some random photographs, I really didn’t know anything about her or the family that she came from.
I was able to use her obituary to fill in some of the blanks to at least get a semblance of a tree started — she was the daughter of Henry and Evangeline (Richard) Leblanc, according to the Moncton Transcript. She had two sisters, listed with their married names, and three brothers. The Transcript also noted that she had two granddaughters when she passed. These would be my aunt’s children, and one of their names is spelled wrong. It always makes me laugh.
Once I got this basic information filled in, I was sure that the Ancestry Hint process would fall over me like a wave, bombarding me with information and documents and fellow researchers that I could connect with. Boy, did I ever have that pegged wrong. The bombarding was more like an overwhelming wave of noise that I couldn’t make heads or tails of. This is around the time that I realized exactly how many Leblancs there were in New Brunswick. Nothing seemed to match, nothing made sense, and two solid months of sorting through documents and matches got me nowhere.
Then the hint came up for a gravestone photo from Shediac Road Cemetery in Moncton. I knew that I was on the right track.
Once I was able to take the information from the photo and make some edits to my tree (changed my great-grandfather’s name to the correct spelling and added some dates for both him and my great-grandmother), things started to make more sense. I found her birth certificate shortly after, and the certificate for her marriage to my grandfather a few days after that.
In 2011, I wrote a professional exam in Moncton and my mum went to NB with me so I could focus on studying on not driving. When the exam was over, we were leaving Moncton and on the way down the highway I noticed a sign for an exit to Shediac Road. I asked my mum if we could make a quick stop, and she seemed to know where I wanted to go without saying it. Google Maps pointed us in the right direction, although once we got there we had to stumble around for a bit to find the right corner. That was the day that I was able to replace my library photo of my grandmother’s headstone with one that I took myself, standing in front of her and my great-grandparents. I’m not sure where I come down on the religion debate, and I definitely am not convinced of the existence of an afterlife; but that day, in front of my grandmother’s marker, it was the first time that I felt like she was there with me. I needed that experience to remind me of why I took on this project.