A Quebecois Family
In Massachusetts, and from there across America, there is a family spelled “Loucraft”, with its early American years in French-speaking Canada. That the first American in the family, though he came through Canada, and his name and his children’s names were sometimes spelt the French way, I am now fairly sure that he originated from England, every year a little bit more information comes along . I should make clear that many of the recorded events in the tree are not supported by documentary evidence, though a conservative approach has been taken with attributing relationships. (In particular we do not have a record of the parents of Nelson Loucraft, born 1842.)
I found this family through the efforts of Ruth Loucraft Freeland, Daniel Gendron, Juan Manzano, Brian Loucraft, Maria Loucraft-Manzano, and with help from Eileen Loucraft who been putting together their family history. There is a copy of the latest version of the family tree included with this newsletter.
The earliest records the family has is of Joseph Lucraft, whose death records in 1893 the family say state that he was born in New York. The family say he married a woman called Zoe Charron, (though there is a note that she was also called Elizabeth Shaw, or Eliza Sharr, which is a strange mix of names.)
We believe Joseph had two sons, Joseph-Michael Loucraft, born circa 1838 in New York, and Nelson Loucraft, born 1842 in St Venant de Hereford, in Quebec. There are several Canadian events in the family at this time. Joseph-Michael marries a woman called Pricille Thibault in St Valentin, Quebec, and Nelson is recorded as Narcisse Loucraft in Pacquetteville. (Narcisse is thought to be the French for Nelson, but I’m not sure about this.) Joseph-Michael’s son Alfred Lucraft, (sometimes surnamed “Marion” according to the family,) married a woman called Denise Dubois and they lived in Pacquetteville too for a while.
Nelson’s son, Nelson, went to Cuba in 1911, and there he had a family, most of whom were given Spanish forenames.
Readers can follow the family on the tree, together with some of the significant dates and locations. So let’s consider some of the interesting questions, rather than merely recount the tree details.
What are the origins for this family?
I have not been able to identify with clarity who the Joseph born New York is from any English records, and the family has no knowledge of English ancestors. In fact the family legends were more about Dutch or French origins.
Frank Loucraft, born 1871 in Massachusetts, is recorded as returning to Boston in 1901 on board the ship “Anglian” from London. What was he doing in England? The family at that time were working families, and there seems little likelihood of a business connection with England. The fact that the earliest family record shows Joseph as spelling his name “Lucraft” is telling, though by no means conclusive. The census extract on the next page, from the 1880 US census of East Bridgewater, shows that JM Loucraft, in the three right-hand columns, puts his own birth as New York, his father as England and his mother as Canada. Joseph, born c 1820, England and Zoe, or Elizabeth, also born c 1820, but in Canada.
The 1840 US Federal Census shows a Joseph Lucraft, born around 1810-20, (though the dates can be a few years either side of that,) living in Clinton County, Peru Township, New York. He’s in the 20-30 year old age range and married to a woman about the same age. They have two sons, one born about 1836 and one about 1838. An older woman, aged about 60-70 years, and so born around 1770-1780, is living with them, but we don’t know her name, or that of the wife and children.
Joseph Lucraft, in the family we are considering, was born around 1800-1820, if his marriage was around 1835, though the first son we know of was born around 1838, in New York. The Quebec Joseph has sons born circa 1838 (Joseph-Michael) and 1842 (Nelson). It couldn’t be Nelson on the 1840 census, but it could have been another child. It’s a very rare surname, and the only other Joseph known in the US is accounted for in another family.
There is an English candidate for this Canadian Joseph, and that is Joseph Richard Lucraft, christened in Exeter St Paul on 14th August 1808, and about whom I know nothing more. He doesn’t appear in any other records I have seen, and I have researched this section of the family fairly thoroughly, as he is the older brother of Benjamin, my great-great-grand-father. You can see this Joseph Richard on the Nicholas Tree on the website, down in the bottom left-hand corner.
There is another possible candidate, Joseph Lucraft, baptised 1817 in Broadclyst, though this might be a little too late. He can be seen in the Broadclyst Tree for Joseph and Mary his parents on the website. It is less likely to be him as another Joseph was born to these parents in 1828, and while it is not unknown for a family to name two sons with the same forename, and recent research has indicated it is more common than previously thought, it is still probable that the second son Joseph means that the first son Joseph in this family died.
Other Canadian events
There is an intriguing coincidence. The Leaycraft family in America , whose ancestry can be traced back through Benjamin Leecraft born about 1753, and who lived in Bermuda, and ran a fleet of merchant ships from there. His descendants set up outposts of their business in Halifax Nova Scotia, and New York in the 19th century. But there are no connections to this family.
There is also a Quebec record of a John Lucraft, who was a volunteer 1st class on board the Royal Navy ship HMS Penelope. The Penelope was wrecked on 1st May 1815 in the Lower St Lawrence seaway, with the loss of 37 hands; 20 seamen, 6 mariners and 11 boys. And on 24th May 1815, there is a muster roll of those that survived. John is not one of the seven men listed as “drunk”. We have no age record for John as yet, but there is an extract of the HMS Penelope’s fate overleaf.
The French were long gone as a governing nation, defeated at Quebec in 1759, by General Wolfe, though French-speakers were still the more populous then as now. The Royal Navy would have maintained a small fleet in Canada, even though the war against Napoleon required most of the fleet in Europe. Horatio Nelson had defeated the French fleet at Trafalgar in 1805, (with an Alfred Lucraft, half-brother of John Pasley Luckraft, the subject of the lead article in this newsletter, wounded in the battle.) But Napoleon was not completely defeated until Waterloo in 1815, and so a fleet would have been still needed to maintain the military threat in French-speaking Quebec where there would have been much sympathy for the French, and not a little dislike of the English.
Why the French names?
Which brings us back to the names in this Québécois family. In their first enquiries of me the family asked about the names, and the mixture of French and English names and versions of names. There are two historical and cultural factors I believe can be drawn from the names.
First, a family living, and marrying and having children, in French-speaking Canada at the time, would almost certainly have adopted some French-speaking elements in the names. One suspects that in the highly charged politics of the day, unless you were a card-carrying Englishman, with a position that could be protected by the English garrison, assimilation into the French-speaking world would have been the norm. Certainly a generation before that the assimilation of Englishmen into American ways and beliefs, at the time of the war of independence, was the norm except for those families that could be protected by the English garrison.
Second, however, by the time we get to around 1840, and Joseph Lucraft and Zoe Charron’s children are born, and we believe one of them to be “Nelson”, he is making a clear declaration of nationality. John and Zoe’s grand-children are named Mary, George, Annie, Israel and Alfred. With the exception of Israel, these names are redolent of English history. Nelson uses the same name for his son in 1869, by which time the English hero of Trafalgar has a column with his statue on top in the heart of London in Trafalgar Square.
In a final possible ironic coincidence, it was in 1865 and 1866 that Benjamin Lucraft led the marches of impoverished working men and women out of the slums of east London. He stood on a cart drawn by a horse, and then on the platform at the foot of Nelson’s column, to speak and demonstrate for the vote in Trafalgar Square. The leader article in The Times, the establishment newspaper of record wrote: “How dare these unwashed men demonstrate in our square?” If it is the case that the Joseph who founded this Quebec and Massachusetts family is the next brother of Benjamin, who demonstrated in Nelson’s square, then the story has an ending that brings together the major themes of 19th century global politics; the re-shaping of European and transatlantic power, and the struggle of the workers for a decent place in that world which depended on their labour for its growth and expansion.
The family now
Joseph and his son Joseph-Michael, ran a brick manufacturers in East Bridgewater, Massachusetts. East Bridgewater is primarily a residential community centrally located in Plymouth County 14 miles northeast of Taunton, 22 miles northwest of Plymouth, 25 miles southeast of Boston, and 207 miles from New York City.
First settled in 1630 as an outgrowth of the Plimoth and Duxbury plantation, the Town of East Bridgewater was an early industrial inland town located on the northern portion of the Taunton River system. Its early economy was based on agriculture but the community did have both grist and sawmills, iron forges and tanneries. The late 19th and early 20th century saw residential development along the trolley lines in the community.
The Loucraft brickyard covered the area known in the 1600’s as the Devil’s Hop Yard, where early settlers had their homes. Joseph and his son razed about 10-12 feet of the area to extract clay for bricks. And they ran a boarding house, too, for lots of their Canadian labourers.
The family are now living in various parts of the US, but here is Eileen Loucraft and her family, with the stone marking the training ground in memory of her father-in-law, who was deeply committed to youth sport, as well as being a faithful member of the local Catholic Church, as are many other members of the family.