I’ve reached an impasse trying to find the ancestors of my paternal great-grandfather Joseph Voisin1 (1858-1916). It’s a brick wall I haven’t been able to get beyond for several years. If I remove one brick from the wall at a time, I may discover a clue.
Perhaps you can help. If you found this post while searching the Internet, chances are there’s something here that piqued your interest. That means you might know something I don’t know. If so, please post a comment. No matter how small, most any information can provide a clue.
In this installment I’ll remove ten bricks from the wall. See also Bricks 11 through 14.
Brick 1: Date of Birth
There is some discrepancy as to Joseph Voisin’s birth date. No civil or church birth record has yet been found. A wedding sampler shows the date as January 10, 1858. That is perhaps the most reliable evidence to date.
His age is listed as 24 in the 1880 United States Federal Census, when he was actually 22 if born in 1858. Was he actually born in 1856? The ages listed in census records are notoriously unreliable. In the 1900 census, his birth date is listed as January 1858 and his age is 42. The 1910 census shows age 51, which is close enough to 52.
His death certificate indicates he was 65 in 1916, making his birth year 1850. However, it is apparent the birth date and age at death were originally written in lighter ink and subsequently rewritten in darker ink. This document is therefore highly suspect.
Still, I have a hunch Joseph may have been less than truthful about his date of birth for some reason. He may have actually been older.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin was born January 10, 1858 until it can be proven otherwise.
Brick 2: Place of Birth
The key to finding Joseph’s ancestors is locating where he was born. Most all records indicate he was born in Ontario, Canada, while his parents were probably born in Germany. That what’s listed in the 1880 United States Federal Census. The 1900 census indicates Canada, and his parents were born in Canada. The 1910 census shows Canada, and the birth place of his parents was unknown.
In an 1880 declaration of intention to become a United States citizen, Joseph renounced his allegiance to the Queen of Great Britain, who of course reigned over Canada.
His death certificate states he was born in Canada, but again, little credence is given to that document.
It is possible he was born in another Provence, like Quebec, or even in the United States, perhaps across the river in Buffalo, New York. His parents could have moved shortly after Joseph was born. However, there is no evidence of that yet.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin was born in Ontario, Canada, but I remain open to other possibilities.
Brick 3: Parent’s Names
On Joseph’s death certificate, his father’s name is listed also as Joseph. His mother’s name is listed as “Not Known.” Due to other errors on this document, his father’s name is considered unreliable.
Conclusion: The names of Joseph’s parents are unknown.
Brick 4: Netherby, Ontario
In a journal entry, Joseph signed his name and under it wrote, “Township of Humberstone; Netherby PO Ont 1875; 19 November.” Netherby is in Humberstone Township, in Welland County, Ontario. The area is south of Niagara Falls and west of Buffalo, New York. “PO Ont” probably means “Provence of Ontario.”
This means he was 17, and nearly 18 when he was in Netherby, Ontario. However I can draw no conclusion that he was born or raised there. He may have been passing through. It is possible he had just left home and was on his own.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin was near Netherby, Ontario when he was about 18 years old.
Brick 5: Hawkesville, Ontario
Another entry in Joseph Voisn’s journal is, “Mister Joseph Voisin commenced to work the 4 of April 1877; H. Otterbein; Hawksville, Ont.” Hawkesville is about two miles north of St. Clements in Waterloo County, Ontario. Another notation indicates he may have been making $12 a month. He would have been about 19 years old.
There is evidence of a Heinrich or Henry Otterbein in Waterloo county. His wife Margaret (Steinacker) Otterbein apparently died April 17, 1877, just two weeks after Joseph started work, assuming this is the same H. Otterbein. There is no evidence to support this however.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin was probably working on his own as a farm hand or doing odd jobs near Hawkesville, Ontario in 1877.
Brick 6: The Voisin Family of St. Clements
Joseph Voisin was in Hawkesville very near St. Clements, Ontario in 1877 (see Brick 5). There was also a large Voisin family in the same area. This was the family of Joseph and Catherine (Meyer) Voisin. Since our Joseph Voisin was a young man, it is tempting to speculate he was related to the Voisin family of St. Clements.
Frank W. Voisin and Clifton E. Voisin from Kitchener, Ontario researched the genealogy of the St. Clements Voisin family in the 1970s and 1980s. They are convinced there is no connection between that family and our Joseph Voisin. Although Joseph and Catherine Voisin had a son named Joseph Xavier Voisin in 1854, there is clear evidence he married Anna Maria Lehnhart in 1879 and took over the family farm in 1886.
If our Joseph is not a son of Joseph and Catherine Voisin, perhaps he was a cousin or nephew to this family.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin’s presence in Hawkesville along with the Joseph and Catherine Voisin family is a coincidence.
Brick 7: Clements Starr
Clement or Clements Starr was born in 1852, probably in Wellesley Township, Waterloo County, Ontario, Canada near St. Clements. His parents were likely Ambrose and Anna Rosina Starr, who were early settlers of St. Clements.
According to a 1975 centennial booklet on the Beal City, Michigan area, Joseph Voisin immigrated to the United States in 1879 in company with Clements and Elizabeth (Fate) Starr and their children. This could be just family lore, but there are several circumstantial facts that support this claim.
According to his journal, Joseph Voisin was working in Hawkesville in 1877 (see Brick 5). Clements Starr was probably born and raised near Hawkesville. Clements was married (in 1875) and would have been about 25 years old while Joseph would have been about 19. Since they were both in the area, they probably met and were friends.
The 1880 United States Federal Census lists Joseph Voisin in the household of Clements and Elizabeth Starr and their children near Beal City, Michigan. After 1880 they owned two adjoining 40 acre properties and were neighbors thereafter.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin did immigrate to the United States in the company of Clements and Elizabeth Starr and their children.
Brick 8: Remus, Michigan
According to the 1975 centennial booklet on the Beal City, Michigan area, Joseph Voisin and the Starr family first settled in Remus, Michigan before moving to Beal City. I have not yet found any record of these families in the Remus area.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin may have settled first in Remus, Michigan.
Brick 9: Land Deed
A warranty deed from John W. Hance to Joseph Voisin was filed October 3, 1879. Joseph is listed as living in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan at the time. He paid $725 for 80 acres of land near Beal City, Michigan. A deed index entry shows Joseph sold 40 acres of this land to Clements Starr, probably in 1880.
Curiously, the 1880 United States Federal Census lists Joseph Voisin in the household of Clements and Elizabeth Starr, even though Joseph originally purchased the land. Since the Starr family had children, Joseph probably assisted them in building their shelter first. They may also have made a financial arrangement to purchase the land together. If Joseph were 21 years old, he probably didn’t have $725, although it was probably all mortgaged.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin immigrated to the United States between April 1877 when he was last known to be in Hawkesville, Ontario and October 1879 when the land deed was filed.
Brick 10: Declaration of Intention
On October 11, 1880, Joseph Voisin filed a Declaration of Intention to become a naturalized citizen of the United States. In this declaration, Joseph renounced his allegiance to the Queen of Great Britain. Unfortunately, no record of a later petition has yet been found.
Conclusion: Joseph Voisin was from Canada or England.
These are ten bricks from the brick wall. I’m still no closer in determining who Joseph’s parents were, but I may be close.Footnotes
- For source citations and images of the evidence discussed here, please see the Family Group Sheet for Joseph Voisin.