Thursday, December 25, 2008

What happened to Great Uncle Earl ??

Great Uncle Earl Joseph Lake was a man that I never met, nor did my father.

Earl was born in Natural Bridge, New York in 1884. He was the eldest son of Harvey Jessie Lake and Jennie Sanders and he had 4 siblings: Merle, Bessie, Ernest and Robert.

In the early 1900’s Earl disappeared from New York State never to return. He communicated very infrequently with his relatives back home, the only person that he exchanged letters with appears to be his mother, prior to her death in 1918 and his sister Merle. The last time anyone can recall hearing from Earl was in the 1950's when he wrote his sister to obtain information from the family bible. He made mention at that time that he was being assisted in writing the letter by his grand-daughter as arthritis was causing him a great degree of difficulty.

Earl's sister Merle died in 1972 and the last family connection was broken at that time.

When my father and I began researching our family history it was evident that there was almost no information to go on to find Earl Lake. What my Dad did know of him was that he went to Canada around 1915, in the “Three Rivers area,” and married an Indian woman and began his family.

As of 1982 Earl's only living sibling was his youngest brother Robert who was interviewed about family history but he had no information about his brother other than what has already been expounded upon.

So to recap the information available to begin research:

      1. Earl Joseph Lake

      2. born 24 September 1884 Natural Bridge Jefferson Co., New York

      3. May have gone to the Three Rivers Area of Ontario Canada

      4. Married an Indian Woman

That was about it.

I worked on this off an on for a number of years with searches in different databases, articles and books and nothing came of it; however, I only searched this as side line when I came up dry on other efforts.

About a year ago I set out make a direct effort in regards to finding Earl and his family; using the information I had and evaluating family history I drew up a research plan. A brief history of our family is in order to understand the research plan path.

The patriarch of the family in this country, John Lake, came from England in the 1600's and settled in what is now New York City. His great great grandson Thomas Lake was a loyalist, who lived White Creek New York and at the start of the American Revolution was a loyalist who was forced to flee to Canada after the War. To this day there are Lake family members, in my line, living in these Ontario Canada counties. Earl's great grandfather Jesse Lake was first of the family to return from Canada permanently and began farming St. Lawrence Co., New York in the early 1800's. Earl should have been at least exposed to this information and may have known of family still in Canada at the time; there was at least a possibility that this was why he went to Canada in the first place.

I started with a map, applied the known information and came up with nothing.

When came on line I searched that data base for information, nothing!

I then chanced a posting on the message boards for most of the counties in the Canadian / New York border areas. The message was sent out to about 12 message boards seeking information and amazingly enough within about an hour I had my answer as to what happened to Earl. I received information from no less than 20 people that they found Earl’s marriage record. This gave me the area to search, his wife and her parents name, his occupation and the year they married. For the next week I received further responses with the same information.

This information was the revelation necessary to open the doors for future discoveries; I found that Earl became a trapper in the White River Algoma Co., Ontario Canada community. He married an Indian woman who is identified in the document as Suzanne Potowissian, daughter of Louis and Jean (Legarde) Potowissian.

The next bit of information was discovered in the 1901 Census for White River Algoma Co., Ontario, Canada which identified the Potowissian family by the last name of Poto. The Census noted that Suzanne had a brother Albert who died in 1906, he was a trapper that contracted Pneumonia and after battling it for 6 months died.

This family, as with a lot of genealogical research, yields its secrets sparingly, you get a tidbit and information which leads you in a direction, then it all dries up again.

About a year later I discovered in the Drouin Records several references to Earl and his family, I located birth, baptism, death and burial records which have expanded my information base greatly.

Earl and Suzanne had the following children;

  • Marc Mathias Lake 1915 – 1961

  • Agnes Lake 1917 -

  • Joseph Leonard Herby Lake 1919 -

  • Marguerite Lake 1920 – 1923

  • Beatrice Lake

  • Marie Clara Lake 1924 -

  • Helene Suzanne Lake 1926 -

  • Almire Joseph Lake 1928 -

  • Walter Joseph 1931 -

Earl died in 1966 of a heart attack at the age of 81 years, his wife Suzanne died in 1964, their son Marc in 1961 and a daughter Marguerite or Margret in 1932; the rest of the family information has not been sufficently developed at present.

There is still a great deal to do in this line but considering that 2 years ago no one knew what happened to Uncle Earl, we have come a long way! 

Family is posted on and Lake Family Research Project website

The investigation continues............