Leda D. Derosier & Relationships

Family trees often end up with duplicate branches and those branches may be so hidden in the tree that you have no idea that they even exist.  These branches usually occur when certain familial relationships go unnoticed.

The most interesting case of this that I’ve found thus far involves my great-grandaunt Leda D. Derosier, a sister of my great-grandmother Celestine (Derosier) Peltier.

As I worked on filling in information (birth, death, places lived, spouses, children and related documents) for Celestine’s 12 siblings, I got to Leda, the 11th of the 13 children born to Jean Baptiste and Rose Delima Derosier.  She was born on November 25, 1882 in Centerville, Anoka County, Minnesota.1  In general, the information for Leda was what I normally see and most of it could readily be linked to her.  As I filled in more and more of her life, including her marriage to Joseph J. DeMers (also French-Canadian), I wanted to know more about her.  My desire led to some unexpected results.

Leda on the right shown with her niece Delia – circa 1894

I know some of Leda’s background from previous research.  In the late 1800s, Leda’s family lived on Bald Eagle Avenue in White Bear Lake.  Her father had tuberculosis and was not residing with them.2  Interestingly, the 1895 Minnesota census shows Leda at age 12 living elsewhere in White Bear, with the Wetherington family: the father a railroad engineer, the 24 year old mother a housewife and their 2 children who are 4 and 5 years old.3  I venture to guess that Leda was a live-in domestic for the family.

The 1900 U. S. Census has 17 year old Leda living with her mother and 4 of her siblings at the Bald Eagle Avenue location.  Her occupation is given as nurse.4  I don’t believe she was a nurse as we know, that is someone with a college degree in the field.  She is also listed in the St. Paul city directory for 1900 as working as a domestic.5  

The 1901 city directory shows Leda working as a clerk and residing as a boarder at 823 Mississippi, St. Paul.6  The address is Leda’s uncle Antoine Napolean Peltier’s residence and the location of his bar.  From 1902 to 1907 Leda is listed in the city directory as a machine operator for Sharood Shoe Company.  Over these years there are different addresses in St. Paul where she boarded, except for 1904-05 when she is back living in White Bear Lake.7  It appears that she is a working woman and will never marry.  After all, by 1907 Leda is about 25 years old, a spinster by the standards of the time.

A few pictures of Leda as a young woman

Her marital status changes in March 1908 when she marries Joseph J. DeMers, a doctor practicing medicine in Cassville, Wisconsin, a small town about 190 miles south of White Bear Lake on the Mississippi River. At the time of their marriage, Joseph was 28 years old and Leda 25 years old.  They were married in Cassville.   I was curious, how did they know/meet one another?  To answer that question I needed to know more about Joseph and his family.

Joseph and Leda marriage license announcement in the newspaper8

Joseph’s WWII draft registration card contained the fact that he was born on March 25, 1880 in Rice Lake, Barron County, Wisconsin, a town about 68 miles from White Bear Lake.9  This is still not enough information to give me any insight as to how they might have met.

I did not yet have any of Joseph’s extended family entered in my tree.  I knew from census records for him that his parents were born in Canada and their names were Frederick [Frederic] and Marie.10  Ancestry hints for Joseph provided 3 similar trees.  One tree showed no parents.  In the other 2 trees Frederic Demers (1845-1908) was his father and his mother on one tree was given as Marie Derosier (1847-1924) and on the other as Marie Marguerite Desrosiers (1842-1924).  Leda’s surname was Derosier (there are a number of spelling variations); my curiosity was piqued.  Was Frederic’s wife (I’ll just call her Marie) somehow related to Leda and her family?  If so, that would help explain how they may have met/known one another.

With Frederic and Marie added to my family tree, I now needed to find information that showed them as husband and wife and clarify her first name and birth year.  Their marriage record would provide most of the information I was after.

I did a search and found a marriage record dated February 27, 1865 at Saint-Michel d’Yamaska, Quebec, Canada for Frederic Demers and Marie Deguire Desrosiers.11  The beauty of French-Canadian church records is that the associated parents’ names are always included.   The record listed Frederic’s parents as Magloire Demers and Marguerite (Dauplauis) and more importantly, Marie’s parents were listed as Jean Baptiste Desrosier and Marie Luce (Cournoyer).  I entered each of their parents into the family tree and made a note to myself that I would need to look at them for possible connections previously entered in the tree.

Census records had shown Joseph’s parents as Frederic and Marie, but it would be prudent of me to find further proof.  As luck would have it, I stumbled across a history of Barron County, Wisconsin at Google Books.12  The book contained the following wealth of information about Frederic Demers and his family:

The historical sketch of Frederic tied all the people together and also gave me information about Joseph’s siblings.  I just needed one last thing, some clarification with regard to Frederic’s wife Marie.  Was her name just Marie and when was she born?  A search for her baptismal record yielded that her name was Marie Mathilde and she was born on October 1, 1846 and baptized the same day at Saint-Michel d’Yamaska, Quebec, Canada.13  Saint-Michel’s is the same place where Leda’s father Jean Baptiste Derosier was baptized in 1842.14

Armed with this information I queried my tree for Marie’s parents and found that I had more than one profile for them.  Generally when people are duplicated in a tree the case is that members of a family have yet to be connected to one another. 

As it turns out, Marie’s parents, Jean Baptiste Desrosier and Marie Luce (Cournoyer), are also Leda’s grandparents and my 3rd great-grandparents.  Marie is not only Leda’s mother-in-law, but she is also Leda’s aunt, my great-grandaunt.  Put another way, Joseph’s mother Marie is the sister of Leda’s father Jean Baptiste Derosier and probably most clearly put: Joseph and Leda are not only husband and wife, but they are first cousins!  Theirs is an example of a consanguine15 marriage which is marriage between individuals who are closely related; according to Wisconsin law at the time, it was a perfectly legal marriage.16  However, it is well known that physical and mental health problems are possible consequences for children born to parents who share genetic similarities.

So, to repeat my earlier question: how did they know/meet one another?  I believe that the only way Joseph and Leda met is because they were family.  Distance would have posed a problem for courtship to have occurred.  I imagine there was correspondence that occurred between the two of them previous to getting married, but overall it looks like a family arranged marriage to me.  Of course, we will never know the exact answer.

Even though I’ve addressed what I had wondered about Leda and Joseph, I don’t want to end their story at their marriage. 

Until about 1914 Joseph and Leda remained in Cassville, where Joseph practiced medicine.  Their 2 children Adelaide (born in 1912) and Vincent (born in 1913) were both born there.17  The family then moved to Harlem, Montana and in 1917 to Pompey’s Pillar, Montana where Joseph operated a ranch.  In 1921 Joseph obtained his license to practice medicine in Montana and opened an office in Huntley, a town near Pompey’s Pillar.  It was there that he practiced medicine until his retirement in 1957.18

Main Street, Cassville, Wisconsin where the DeMers family resided from 1908-1914
Interior of Dr. DeMers’ office building on the grounds of the Huntley Museum in Huntley, Montana19
Leda & Joseph DeMers, Huntley, Montana

Joseph lost Leda to cancer on Friday, January 18, 1957.  I wonder if her death was the reason why he retired from medicine.  According to the obituary she was buried Monday, January 21st in Sunset Memorial Gardens, Billings, Yellowstone County, Montana.20

Obituary for Leda D. DeMers

Not long after Leda’s death, Dr. DeMers moved to Burton on Vashon Island (a short ferry ride from Seattle) in Washington to be closer to his family.  He passed away on Friday, February 28, 1969 at Burton and was buried in the Vashon Cemetery on Monday March 3, 1969.21  The grave marker shows both Joseph and Leda, but I’m pretty sure she is buried in Montana.

Obituary for Dr. J. J. DeMers
Vashon Cemetery grave marker for Joseph and Leda DeMers22

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