For the past decade, I have been researching my family’s history and genealogy. In addition to being a great way to improve one’s computer and internet skills, genealogy research can result in some amazing surprises. Several years ago, my mother asked me to research her family (the Howard’s of Grand Falls, New Brunswick Canada) because she didn’t know or couldn’t remember very much about them. I found the Grand Falls Historical Society website back in 2003, and left a posting on their genealogy message board about what little I did know about the Howard family, and asked for more information. Four years went by with no response to my posting. My mother, father and I even drove up to Grand Falls to visit the Grand Falls History Museum. The museum had no records of the Howard family, but an elderly docent remembered my mother’s cousin.
Then in May 2007, I received the following email:
From : Pelletier Chad <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Sent : Wednesday, May 2, 2007 6:43 PM
To : email@example.com
Subject : Howard Genealogy
Hi, my name is Chad Pelletier and I’m a historian of
the Fort Kent, Maine area. I was shocked & surprised
when I read your query on the Grand Falls Genealogy
Club page, as I was on that site to do research myself
on the Howard Family of Grand Falls. I’m praying that
even though you wrote the query almost 4 years ago, I
hope you still check this email address regularly. I
have been interested in the Howard family for many
years. I never knew Alice (Howard) Coffin personally,
but I knew the woman who took care of Mrs. Coffin
till she died in 1968. (7 years to the day before I
was born). Susie Sullivan Bernier, who was a historian
in her own right, took care of Mrs. Coffin in her home
at Connors NB for many years, and was left with many
personal possessions of the Coffin/Howard Family.
Since Mrs. Bernier’s death in 2005, I have been the
owner of these priceless relics and have been
researching the family ever since. Your Great
Grandfather James Howard was definitely the son of
Frederick Howard & Ruth Langdon Howard from Grand
Falls, NB. My first attachment is a tintype of your
Great Great Grandfather (Frederick A. Howard)
who served in a unknown Maine Regiment during the
American Civil War.
I’ve heard from many historians that it was unusual for
Canadians to have served as it was forbidden by the
British Government. All my research in this area have
been fruitless. The second attachment is Frederick
Howard as an older man. The third attachment is an
ambrotype of Frederick Howard’s mother; her name is
unknown as of now. Mrs. Bernier had told me that Mrs
Coffin had remarked that her father had carried the
Ambrotype of his mother with him during the Civil War.
I’d love to find out her name, as you can see it’s in
great condition. Attachment number 4 is Ruth Langdon
Howard. 5 is Alice Howard Coffin. 6 is Lillian Howard.
7 is Marie Howard. 8 is Herbert Coffin husband of
ALice Howard. I really hope you get this email & we
can exchange information as I have loads more photos &
other personal papers of Alice Howard Coffin that I would be
honored to share with you.
19 St. Joseph St.
Fort Kent, Maine 04743
Based in part upon Chad’s information and further research, I was able to confirm that Frederick A. Howard was indeed my great great grandfather, and that his parents were John and Jane Howard, both also born in New Brunswick. Thanks to Chad, I was able to compile the following biography of my ancestor Frederick Howard:
The photo of Frederick A. Howard above was likely taken prior to October 1861. It shows him at 20 years of age in his American Union Army uniform. Frederick A. Howard was born on November 5, 1840. He was the fourth child of John and Jane Howard of Kingsclear Parish, York County, New Brunswick, Canada. According to the 1851 Census of New Brunswick, John Howard, age 48, was a farmer, Jane was 38, and both were born in New Brunswick and were Wesleyan Methodists. Their seven children at that time were Alexander (age 20), Louisa Jane (age 17), Caroline J. (age 13), Frederick A. (age 11), John A. (age 5), Sarah (age 3) and Frances M. (age 1). John and Jane Howard were tenant farmers on land owned by "freed black man".
In 1861, Frederick A. Howard, a British subject, defied the order of the British government that its citizens not become involved in the American Civil War, and he enlisted as a Private in Company F of the 10th Maine Infantry Regiment of the Union Army, and mustered at Portland, Maine on October 4, 1861. The regiment left for Baltimore, Maryland on October 6th. During the war, Frederick’s regiment was first stationed at Baltimore until November 4, then at Relay House until November 27, and then back at Baltimore until February 27, 1862. Company F was then sent to Harpers Ferry to guard the trains on the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad until May 24, when all companies moved on to Winchester. After the battle of Winchester on May 25, they retreated to Williamsport. Frederick went on to see more action in the following battles: Cedar Mountain on August 9, Pope’s Campaign in Northern Virginia from August 16 to September 2 including the Bull Run Battles, the Battle of Antietam on September 16-17, 1862, Chancellorsville on May 1-5, 1863, and Gettysburg on July 1-8, 1863. After Gettysburg, the 10th Regiment moved on to Tennessee to secure the reopening of the Tennessee River.
Following his Civil War service, Frederick returned to New Brunswick, married Ruth Langdon and by 1868 had settled in the town of Grand Falls, New Brunswick.
According to the 1871 Lovell Directory, Frederick worked as a lumberman in Grand Falls. According to the 1881 Canadian Census, Frederick (then age 40 and still a Methodist) and Ruth (then age 38 and an Episcopalian) had five children: George (age 13), James (age 11), Alice (age 8), Marie (age 7), and Lillie (age 4), all being raised as Episcopalians.
Frederick went on to become a successful hotelier in Grand Falls.
By 1900, Frederick (age 60) was a widower and a grandfather, but two daughters Marie and Lillie (then ages 26 and 24) still lived at home with Frederick in Grand Falls. Frederick A. Howard died in 1906.
Frederick’s adventurous spirit must have been genetic, for he passed it on to his children and grandchildren. Daughters Marie and Lilly became life-long Red Cross nurses who never married, although the extraordinarily beautiful Marie (or "Molly" as the family called her) was one of the lucky survivors of The Great Halifax Harbor Explosion and then went to England where she became the long-term mistress of Lord Lipton (of Lipton Tea fame). Molly must have meant a lot to Lord Lipton, because he left a large part of his immense fortune to endow a retirement home for Red Cross nurses. Daughter Alice (or "Doll" as the family called her) married and settled in Fort Kent, Maine where she and her husband owned and operated a successful lumber business. Frederick’s grandson Donald Whitfield Howard (my grandfather) ran away from home at age 14, lied about his age to enlist in the Canadian Expeditionary Force to fight in Europe during World War I. It took Donald’s frantic parents two years to track him down in Europe and have him sent home to New Brunswick. As soon as Donald came of age, he enlisted in the United States Army, trained in Oklahoma, and served for several years in the Balloon Corps in the Philippenes before returning home to New Brunswick.
To have recovered very early family photos, including one of my great great great grandmother Jane Howard from before the Civil War is astonishing.
God bless the Internet.