Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Workday Wednesday: Fred Belair, Michigan Bound

As an unmarried young man in his 20s, my grandfather Fred Belair worked in the USA. I found three records at Ancestry.ca that place him in Michigan during the second decade of the 20th century.

Many years ago, my grandfather told me that he worked in the shipyards of Wisconsin and Minnesota in the 1910s or 1920s, or even possibly during World War I (I’ve forgotten that detail). So far, I haven’t found any border crossing manifests or other documents that confirm his recollections.

Record No. 1

red Belair's record of arrival in Sault Ste Marie in 1910
Fred Belair's record of arrival in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, USA, 1910

On 27 October 1910, Fred arrived in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. He was 19 years old (he was actually 20, and about to turn 21 within two months) and a laborer. His last residence was “Cash Bay [Cache Bay], Ontario”, he had never previously been in the USA, and he planned to “Seek work” in the Soo [Sault Sainte Marie], Michigan. He paid his own passage. Personal characteristics include height (5’6”), complexion (fair), hair (red) and eyes (grey).1

I remember my Pépère Fred telling me that he had worked in the US, but I don’t recall him ever telling me that he worked in Michigan. I also didn’t know that he had been in Cache Bay, near North Bay, Ontario. If he was a laborer here, he might have worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, or perhaps in the lumber and pulp and paper industries.

Record No. 2

Fred Belair's record of arrival in Sault Ste Marie in 1912
Fred Belair's record of arrival in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, USA, 1912

On 17 June 1912, Fred arrived in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. He declared he was 22 years old, a laborer, and that his last residence was Ruel, Ontario. He was previously in the USA from 1911 to February 1912 in “Soo [Sault Ste Marie], Michigan”. His destination was the American Hotel in Sault Sainte Marie, and he was there “To visit; may remain & look for work”. Again, he paid his own passage. Personal characteristics include height (5’6”), complexion (fair), hair (brown) and eyes (blue).2

Curious about this “American Hotel”, I turned to the 1911-1912 Sault Sainte Marie city directory at Ancestry.ca.3 I found that the hotel is located at 306 Magazine Street and the proprietor was a certain Achille Corriveau. At this point, I wondered if my grandfather chose this particular hotel because he knew it was run by someone with a French name, and/or if someone back home (maybe a work buddy) told him that the American was a good place for French-speaking workers from Canada to get a room.

I knew that my grandfather worked on the railroad in Ontario (possibly in Ramore, east of Timmins) in the 1920s, but it’s looking like he worked for the railroad even earlier than that, from details found in the records no. 1 and 2. For example, Fred declared that his last place of residence was “Ruel, Ont.” Even though I’m originally from Ontario, I’ve never heard of Ruel. After a bit of checking around on the Internet, I found that Ruel is located more or less in the forest east of Highway 144 about half way between Sudbury and Timmins. Ruel has been around since at least 1911 when it was a subdivision and a siding with the Canadian Northern Ontario Railway.4 I suppose that since Fred was in Ruel, he presumably worked for the CNOR.

Record No. 3

The third record is a manifest for the Port of Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. It’s dated 24 June 1912, but states the same information found in the previous record.5

What have I learned from these records?

I knew some things about my grandfather, like his name, his age, his place of birth, his personal characteristics (he was always red-haired, never brown), and his father’s name.

I also learned new facts, like:

- Prior to 27 October 1910, he resided in Cache Bay, Ontario.
- Prior to this date, he had never been in the U.S.
- On this date, he was able to pay his own passage, and had $20.00 to his name.
- On this date, he was a laborer, heading to Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan to “seek work”.

- Prior to 17 June 1912, he resided in Ruel, Ontario.
- Prior to this date, he had previously been in the U.S. from 1911 to February 1912.
- On this date, he was able to pay his own passage, and had $22.00 to his name.
- On this date, he was a laborer, heading once again to Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan to “visit; may remain & look for work”. While there, he planned on staying at the American Hotel.

Sources:

1. “Michigan Passenger and Crew Lists, 1903-1965”, digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 5 March 2012), entry for Menosipe Bellair [sic], age 19, arrived Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, 1910; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.: Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Algonac, Marine City, Roberts Landing, Saint Clair, and Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, 1903-1955; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3429; Microfilm Roll: 2.

2. “Michigan Passenger and Crew Lists, 1903-1965”, digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 6 February 2012), entry for Menesippe Belair, age 22, arrived Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, 1912; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.: Manifests of Alien Arrivals at Algonac, Marine City, Roberts Landing, Saint Clair, and Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, 1903-1955; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: A3429; Microfilm Roll: 2.

3. “U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989”, digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 14 June 2013), R.L. Polk, compiler, 1911-1912 Sault Ste. Marie City Directory (Detroit, Michigan: R.L. Polk & Co., Publishers and Compilers, 1911), X: 49.

4. “C.N.Rys. Ontario Subdivisions”, database, CNR in Ontario (http://cnr-in-ontario.com/Subdivisions/index.html : accessed 14 June 2013), entry for “Ruel”.

5. “Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956”; digital images, Ancestry.ca (http://www.ancestry.ca : accessed 6 February 2012), entry for Menesippe Belair, age 22, arrived Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, 1912; citing National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington, D.C.: Manifests of Passengers Arriving at St. Albans, VT, District through Canadian Pacific and Atlantic Ports, 1895-1954; Record Group: 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Microfilm Serial: M1464; Microfilm Roll: 184; Line: 12.

Copyright © 2013, Yvonne Demoskoff.

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