A Canadian Family

Genealogy & Vintage Postcards

Can a Son-in-law Solve a 115 Year Old Mystery? | Installment 1/2

This is the first of two new guest posts from family historian Peter Lagasse!


It was 1901 in Poland, Maine, USA. My wife’s great grandfather, Benjamin Waterhouse, has turned 19 while his girlfriend, Grace Austin, has turned 16. In August of that year they were married since Grace would give birth three months later to their first child, Margaret, in October 1901. Less than a year later in August 1902 a second daughter, Helen, is born and in Oct 1903 their son, Raymond Waterhouse Sr., is born. By the age of 21 for Benjamin and 18 for Grace, this young couple has three young children including my wife’s grandfather, Raymond Sr.

In 1906, we see Benjamin Waterhouse mentioned in a town census but when the 1910 federal census was taken there was no Benjamin mentioned in the household. One day sometime after 1906, Benjamin leaves the house of his wife and three children and will never be heard from again. Several stories have come down through the generations why Benjamin had disappeared. One story was he left due to fear of a debtor’s prison from a failed lumbering business. Others said he had gone to Massachusetts, USA to see a relative but had simply vanished. One thing was certain; a wife and three very young children were left with no money, no husband and no father. Something that his only son, Raymond Sr. will never forgive him for.

In 1980, the great granddaughter of Benjamin Waterhouse marries Peter Lagasse. Her name is Joy Waterhouse and her parents Raymond Waterhouse Jr. and Priscilla Howard. Peter hears this Benjamin story, as has been shared with you, and when he be becomes interested in genealogy around the year 2005 he begins to research for the “lost” Benjamin Waterhouse. In the next few years his research leads him nowhere and Peter places his research on other brick walls that come falling down. A great joy to any genealogist.

Then in 2016, some leaves appear on Peter’s ancestry tree as hints for Benjamin Waterhouse. It has been by now over 100 years since any hint had reached the Waterhouse family about Benjamin except that one phone call back in the 1970’s. Benjamin’s son, Raymond Waterhouse Sr., had received a call from a woman from Turner, Maine, USA, stating she may have information about his father. He told the lady he wanted nothing to do with a father that had deserted his family and then hung up the phone. So until 2016 the family has felt their one chance of learning anything about Benjamin had been lost in the 1970’s.

Anyone that knows Peter Lagasse will tell you he never gives up on the brick walls in his genealogy research and neither should you. So when the hinting leaves shows up on Benjamin, Peter opens them expecting some old facts he already knew. He, however, sees a hint about a James Archibald Waterhouse that had lived and died in New Hampshire, USA; a bordering state of Maine. As he begins to research the hints his heart skips a beat as he reads a marriage record.

The marriage record from Littleton, New Hampshire, USA, states on the 23rd of February in 1912, James Waterhouse born in Auburn, Maine, USA, to a James Waterhouse and an Agnes Thompson marries a Delia Knapp. A death record states James is born on January 22, 1880. This information sets off some facts in Peter’s brain. Benjamin Waterhouse was born January 22, 1882, in Poland, Maine, USA to a Virgil Waterhouse and an Agnes Thompson. The date and place of birth and the mother’s name seems too good to be true. The date was only two years different, the two towns were only eleven miles from each other, and both men had the same mother’s name.

Peter thought he already knew the facts but he checks a transcript of the Waterhouse Family Genealogy written by George Herbert Waterhouse in 1924 after years of research. As Peter thought there was never a James Waterhouse born in Auburn, Maine, USA and there was only one Agnes Thompson mentioned in the transcript; the mother of Benjamin Waterhouse.

Peter researches further and discovers James and Delia has eight children. Child number six is named Helen and child number seven is named an uncommon name in most Waterhouse families; that name being Raymond. If this James Waterhouse was actually Benjamin Waterhouse had his conscious started bothering him causing him to name two of his later children after two of the children he had deserted fifteen years earlier?

Peter speaks to his father-in-law, Raymond Waterhouse Jr., about his findings and his belief James Waterhouse is the long lost Benjamin Waterhouse. Peter’s father-in-law agrees that James who had lived and
died in Conway, New Hampshire, USA, only an hour away from Poland, Maine, USA is his grandfather.

Now it is up to his son-in-law to prove it. That very night Peter sends out queries to about five other families that has James Waterhouse on their family trees. Now he sits back and waits. Will there be any responses?

Can a Son-in-law Solve a One Hundred Fifteen Year Old Mystery? | Installment 2/2

May 14, 2017 - Posted by | . | ,

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