Laura Lacombe, Who Were You?

Perhaps the only picture of my mother’s cousin, Laura Lacombe, fourth from left in a Crepeau family picture circa 1914.

Genealogy is a gift that keeps on giving. A few years ago, when the 1921 Canadian census came online, I anxiously consulted it to see a Crepeau listing for my mother (4 months old), my uncle Louis, my aunts Alice and Cecile (20 and 17) and my 15 year old Aunt Flo, listed as adopted under the name Florida St-Martin.

Bingo! That’s what I had been waiting to see for 10 years!

In the 1911 census, my Aunt Flo is listed with her birth family, the St-Martins but I wasn’t 100 percent sure the listing was hers. (I had only a vague recollection of her birth family’s name. The family name St-Martin had come to me in a light-bulb moment in the middle of the night!) So this 1921 listing confirmed my subconscious’ powers. I suddenly felt very smart.

Aunt Flo peeking out at my mother in around 1925.

But, I also noticed another name in the Crepeau household on the 1921 census, Laura Lacombe, niece, born 1892. I had never heard this name before, so I took another peek at the 1911 census. Laura Lacombe is listed there, too. I had missed it.

Now I was really confused. (I suddenly didn’t feel so smart.) I rationalized that I might have missed Laura ten years earlier when the 1911 census came online because the Crepeau family listing is at the bottom of one page and Laura’s name comes up on the top of the next. Or maybe I did notice Laura’s presence on the census and just assumed she was one of the many young girls brought in over the years to help my grandmother, Maria, keep house.

Whatever the reason, it did not take long before I figured out who this Laura Lacombe was. She was the daughter of my grandmother’s sister Melina Roy Lacombe who had died in the mid 1890’s leaving behind two young children, Raoul and Laura.

On the 1901 census Laura is living with her grandmother (my great-grandmother) Melina Gagnon Roy and my grandmother, Maria; also Maria’s brother Louis and sister Eugenie who is married to a James Deslaurier. Maria and Louis are mistakenly listed under Deslauriers. (For this reason, I had a lot of trouble finding Maria on the 1901 census at first. ) Melina Gagnon Roy is listed as chef or head of the household.

So, when Maria, my grandmother, got married later in 1901 to the ambitious Jules Crepeau, she took in the twelve-years-younger Laura. Or maybe Laura moved in with them in 1906, after the death of the grandmother.

Now, the real question begs: how come I never heard about Laura before? Was she for some reason a family secret?

Over the decades, I never heard my Aunt Flo or my own mother speak of this cousin – and they both liked to talk about the Crepeau family in the early days.

The answer might lie in another document I found: Laura’s death certificate. You see, she died only a few months after the 1921 Census man came around – and a few months more after my mother’s birth. My grandfather, Jules Crepeau, signed her death certificate. No reason for the death is given, which makes it all very sketchy. (I’m not embarrassed to say, I looked for the name “Lacombe” among my many French Canadian DNA cousins on Ancestry. The name hardly appears at all. Phew!)

Still, I have to ask. Why the silence surrounding Laura’s life. A real mystery, it is.

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