In response to the Andover Beacon’s solicitation for immigration stories, Donna Hague Blinn of Flaghole Road reached out to offer her family’s history. She is a second-generation immigrant. We sat in her cozy sunny kitchen one afternoon as she retold the following story.
Three of her grandparents immigrated to the United States. Her paternal grandparents, Leonard Hague and Iva Howles immigrated from England in the 1920s. Her maternal grandfather, Eugene P. Langlois, came to this country from Quebec, Canada and married Elise “Emma” Cote – a first generation immigrant and also originally from Quebec.
Donna is a professional family history researcher and has done genealogy for a hundred different families since the year 2000. She grew up in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, and lived with her parents and five siblings. Her paternal grandparents lived with them, and Iva would tell stories about her childhood when she lived in Lancashire, England. Donna was fascinated by these stories and remembers with great pleasure her grandmother’s British accent and her use of British words like “lift” for an elevator and “lads and lassies,” referring to boys and girls. Tea cakes and biscuits would be an afternoon snack enjoyed with a “cuppa”, meaning a cup of tea.
Recently, Donna’s mother gave her a military issued metal ammunition box with a dozen or more documents inside. These now fragile pieces of paper were once important documents of Iva’s husband. For Donna, a family history researcher, these documents are priceless. They document her grandfather’s time in the British Army and his journey to the United States. Among the documents are his British Passport used for his sail on the SS Tyrrhenia Steamship from Liverpool, England to Boston, Massachusetts – dated October, 1922. Leonard Hague Sr. had just turned 24 years of age when he arrived in America. He had already given six years of military service to his homeland. Also, in the box is his Certificate of United States Citizenship, which he received in 1932 at the age of thirty-three.
Immigrants had to declare who they would be staying with before sailing. Leonard was fortunate that he had an older brother William who was married and lived in a large tenement house, with several other family members, in Central Falls, Rhode Island. He resided with them until marrying Iva four years later. Iva was also an immigrant from Oldham, Lancashire, England. Donna is not quite sure where they first met exactly but knows they eventually became members of The Canadian Legion Club, a social club established to provide community for Brit immigrants. They also attended the same local church, St. George’s Episcopal in Central Falls.
Leonard Sr. and Iva remained in Central Falls, raising their only son, Leonard Jr. In 1958, Donna’s parents bought a two-story house on Talcott Avenue in Pawtucket, and her Grandpa, Leonard and Grandma Iva lived in a separate quarter on the second floor. This house remains in the family – Donna’s mother lives here.
Leonard found work in the textile industry as a dyer and “Jigger”, the name given the fabric-dyeing machine.
He was employed at Sayles Finishing Plant in Central Falls, Rhode Island. Her father, Leonard Jr. followed him into the industry. An unfortunate accident occurred in the factory that exposed Leonard Sr. to toxic chemicals. Leonard Sr. died less than a year later from complications due to this spill. He was only 59 years of age having passed away three days before his birthday.
Through genealogy and research, connections are made and pieces of a family tree come together. In 2004, Donna was contacted by someone who claimed to be a descendant of Thomas Hague – Leonard Hague, Sr.’s father. Donna discovered that they are in fact second cousins via one of her grandfather’s siblings. They arranged to meet in England at the homes of her cousins who remain living in Stalybridge. They visited the former brick row house location of Thomas and birthplace of Leonard, Sr. – 121 Grasscroft Street of Stalybridge. This was the address in the 1890s as confirmed through vital records out of England and family stories. Today, updated buildings have been rebuilt here.
Donna and her British cousins became quite close, and by 2005, she and her husband David hosted her relatives at their home in Andover. Ten family members came over and stayed for a “fortnight,” meaning a period of two weeks in British terms.
For Donna, “Living Life in the Past Lane” is thrilling! Donna and her husband have returned to England to explore the land of her ancestors many times since.
If you are interested in researching your family roots and would like to contact Donna Blinn, you may reach her at email@example.com. If you are interested in sharing your family history with the Beacon, please email Donna Baker-Hartwell at firstname.lastname@example.org.