LEOMINSTER — Being of French-Canadian descent on both sides of the family, Linda Kinsey grew up with many social gatherings — celebrating birthdays, weddings, special occasions — all grateful to have time together with family.
Kinsey was born in 1945 in one of Massachusetts’ mill towns, Lawrence.
“In those days, extended family members lived close by, and we often visited my relatives on my mother’s side, the Roy family and on my father’s side as well, the Fredette family. My cousins and I were remarkably close and my memere Roy lived in the same projects as we did,” Kinsey said. “I personally think that is one of the reasons family is so important to me.”
Kinsey recalls how her mother, Lillian Roy, had casually talked about another brother of hers, named Henri.
“It was very rare actually,” she said, “But when she did talk about him it was with a deep sadness in her voice because he died so young.”
Kinsey said she had always been interested in finding out if she had another uncle, but it was not until her husband sadly passed away this year that she became more interested.
“My oldest Roy cousin had delved into my parents’ genealogical history many years ago, and shared the Roy family history with me,” said Kinsey. “I love history in general and what she found was eye opening — that one of my grandmother’s (Martineau was her birth name) long-ago relatives had been the apothecary to the Queen of France and that Louis Hebert, my ancestor, came over with Samuel de Champlain to settle new France in 1608. That information was so far from anything I could imagine that it woke up my interest in genealogy.”
Ironically, she said, her cousin’s in-depth research never did find their mutual uncle, maybe because his name was Henri, instead of Henry.
“So earlier this year I contacted a family friend and his wife who were genealogists to do a search specifically for Henri Roy,” Kinsey said. “That was five months ago, with no news in between then. Until I received a text from them on Dec. 19 at 4 p.m.”
Kinsey said she cried when she received the text with a photocopy of his death record.
“Tears of joy,” Kinsey said. “I kept reading his name repeatedly, sometimes aloud because it seemed so … well I don’t know the word to use about how I felt when I saw that name — Henri Roy, born April 6, 1919, died of pneumonia March 6, 1920. What a joy!”
Kinsey said her mother was born on May 17, 1920, just a few months after Henri died of pneumonia, possibly since there was no penicillin at that time, and Kinsey said she cannot help but wonder if he may have died from the Spanish flu.
She said she immediately called her cousins to tell them the news, “and now I have a new goal, to go to Manchester, New Hampshire and find where he is buried.”
“I always appreciated having eight Roy aunts and uncles, and knew them well,” Kinsey said. “Knowing they grew up during the [Great] Depression and that they were very poor made their lives even more precious to me, so I was committed to find out for sure if I had an Uncle Henri Roy.”
Kinsey said that she has always been interested in vintage and antique items and finding out the history behind them, “It’s like solving a mystery,” she said. “But when you find out about a member of your family whom you never knew really existed, that’s incredible.”
“There are so many sites and services online,” she said. “I would encourage people to be persistent in pursuing their family’s roots because it is so rewarding.
Sharing that you never know what you might find out, Kinsey said that in her case, at age 77, with no living aunts and uncles or grandparents, she discovered her Uncle Henri.
“Perhaps it had something to do with my husband’s death this year, in the sense that I realized so deeply that life is so precious, every life,” Kinsey said. “I am hopeful that my story will bring joy and hope to others who at this time really need it.”