A Drowning in the Saranac River

Saranac River. This is just around the bend from where Herbert fell into the river and very close to where Herbert was found.

Saranac River. This is just around the bend from where Herbert fell into the river and very close to where Herbert was found.

The weather in Plattsburgh, N.Y. had been pleasant for several days in April 1964. Herbert Frederick age 76 decided to take advantage of the weather and do some yard work. It was a pleasant 55 degrees as he was raking the lawn and waved to a neighbor that was driving by at five p.m. This was the last known time anyone would see Herbert alive. The lawn ended in a 15-foot drop into the Saranac River that weaves through the city of Plattsburgh. All that was found was the rake and Herbert’s glasses on the thin lip of land at the river’s edge. Fifty-two years later this tragedy would help break down one of my genealogy brick walls and introduce me to people in my family tree that I had no idea of their existence

However, I will have to go back eighty-one more years from 1964 to the birth of my Grandfather, Willis Deloria. He was born to Joseph and Marceline Deloria. The question that I never could find a satisfactory answer to is who was Marceline before she married Joseph and took the last name of Deloria. I can recall my mother telling me that she was an Indian and as a result I was 12% Indian. There may be some truth to this as my DNA test shows 2% Native American ethnicity. Years of research later has given me no information to confirm this and in fact, my Native American ethnicity may have come through my maternal grandmother’s line. But that is still not a proven fact. Marceline’s maiden name was said to be Shadrick or Shredrick depending if you are looking at my grandfather’s marriage or his death certificate. Other facts about Marceline that were either not clear or unknown were dates of birth, death or marriage. Most records say she was born in Canada, but none show where in Canada. I have found Marceline in only two U.S. census the 1880 and 1900. They have vastly different birth years and different countries of birth. I decided to go for a tie-breaker and ordered my grandfather’s U.S. Social Security application. I felt confident that this would give me the information I needed. I waited six months to get the copy in the mail. After I looked it over I was even more in the dark and if possible even more confused. It gave Marceline maiden name as Frederick.

Soc Sec

 My grandfather’s Social Security Application. I have no idea why his mother’s maiden name is listed as Frederick.


I started to review the records I had on my grandfather. That is when the names of the witnesses for his marriage came into sharper focus. They were Herbert Frederick and Lenora Gerow Frederick. Here was the name Frederick, and Lenora was my mother’s middle name. I had to find out more about these people. This was when I discovered about Herbert’s drowning in the old newspaper articles that can be found online through newspaper archive sites. I read how his son Armand called the police and then went into the fast moving river that was at least four feet deep and very muddy. He lost his footing several times and had to come back to shore. Soon hundreds were involved in the search and still Herbert was not found after a full days search.

Marriage Cert 2

 Here Herbert Frederick is listed as a witness to the marriage of my grandparents.


Herbert’s grandsons stationed themselves on a bridge down river to keep an all night vigil on the second night that Herbert was missing. At 5:15 a.m. they spotted the body. The search was over. I also learned who Herbert’s parents were, and this was the break in my brick wall. In Herbert’s obituary, I noted his mother’s maiden name was Nancy Shedrick. The name Shedrick was very close to the maiden name I was given for my Grandfather’s Willis Deloria, mother Marceline.

Where Herbert's grandsons kept their all night watch.

Where Herbert’s grandsons kept their all night watch.

I was able to find an obituary for Nancy dated May 24, 1928. Listed in the surviving relatives were a half brother Willis Deloria and a half sister Mary Bushey, my grandfather and great aunt. Once more in my genealogy research I have found close relatives that I never knew of their existence. I was also to discover that Nancy had another sister Martha. I sent away for Nancy’s death certificate to see what additional information I could gather. With the death certificate  I learned that Marceline was married to a Joseph Shedrick and had two daughters Nancy and Martha before she married my Great Grandfather Joseph Deloria and had two more children my Grandfather Willis and Great Aunt Mary. I also learned her maiden name was Obin not Shadrick, Shedrick, or Frederick. I was able to find other records that show that Marceline and her little family came to the United States from Canada in 1878. Nancy was to Wed John Frederick, who became a city police officer in Plattsburgh, N.Y. The online newspaper archives are full of stories of his exploits. They had three sons of which one was Herbert, who witnessed his Uncle Willis’s wedding.


Nancy Shedrick Fredrick, death certificate.


I was able to find two descendants of Nancy, and they confirmed many facts for me. They also told family stories of Nancy and her police officer husband that had me laughing out loud. They were to try to send me some pictures but almost two months have passed, and nothing has arrived yet. I do hope that I hear from them. I have opened a new door in my genealogy search. By opening this door, I now see many more doors that have yet to be opened and new hidden family history waiting to be discovered.

Here I am with my Grandfather Willis Deloria.

Here I am with my Grandfather Willis Deloria.

Descendants of Marceline Obin

Generation 1

1. MARCELINE1 OBIN was born in 1842 in Canada. She married (1) JOSEPH SHEDRICK. He was born
about 1824 in Canada. She married (2) JOSEPH DELORIA. He was born about 1824 in Canada.

Joseph Shedrick and Marceline Obin had the following children:

i. MARTHA2 SHEDRICK was born about 1866. She died on 18 Sep 1923 in Plattsburgh,
Clinton, New York, USA. She married Joseph W. Frederick.
ii. NANCY SHEDRICK was born in 1870 in Canada. She died on 23 May 1928 in
Plattsburgh, Clinton, New York, USA. She married John J Frederick. He was born in
1864 in Beekmantown, Clinton, New York, USA. He died on 11 May 1943 in
Plattsburgh, Clinton, New York, USA.

Joseph Deloria and Marceline Obin had the following children:

i. MARY2 DELORIA was born about 1878. She married (1) FRANK BUSHEY. She married
ii. WILLIS DELORIA was born on 12 Aug 1883 in West Chazy, New York. He died on 11
May 1954 in Plattsburgh, New York. He married Pauline Mary Bonnett, daughter of
Abner Wallace Bonnett and Bessie E Barney, on 27 Sep 1918 in Plattsburgh, New

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39 Responses to A Drowning in the Saranac River

  1. flamingdarts says:

    You mention having done a DNA test. You seem to think it was worthwhile. Since your original DNA-touting post, there have been many improvements. My wife is buying me, for my upcomng birthday, the 23andMe test kit shown here: https://www.myheritage.com/all-dna-tests?utm_source=ppc_email-blast&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=401972 Looks like a lot of “BANG” for the buck.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Yes I think DNA testing is worthwhile. I find I have to use every tool I can get my hands on for my genealogy research. I looked over the link you posted and I can see why you are looking forward to your birthday gift. Let us know how it turns out for you. Thanks for reading my blog and your comment.

  2. I love it when a new “door” opens. Hopefully you can find some Canadian roots!

  3. Jimmy M. Sisson says:

    As always, you have written an interesting and informative article. Congrats on breaking through a brick wall.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading and your encouraging comment. I always look forward to hearing what you and others from the Dakin group have to say. Even when it is not Dakin family related.

  4. Hi Charles, it’s been awhile since I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of your interesting and informative posts! Your diversified research techniques, and your teaching influence both serve to encourage and inspire me. Like most of us, I hae several brick walls,and you have encouraged me to go after them again! Health issues in our family have kept me away from my genealogy passion recently. However, I am finding myself using dna to research my genealogy more andmore often! the fascination never ends. Thanks for a great article.

    • chmjr2 says:

      Hello Helen, It is great hearing from you. I do miss the great posts you would write in your blog. I hope the health issues get better and you can enjoy the coming summer months. I also like to use DNA in my research, and I have had some great finds that way. I may write about one or two in a future blog.

  5. KerryCan says:

    This whole story makes me think of doing a crossword puzzle that has you stumped . . . until you get one key word and everything else just falls into place! What an exciting development in your research!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Yes! You hit the nail on the head. When you get that one key clue everything falls into place. I just wish the clue did not take so long to find. But it is sure sweet when you can fill in that blank spot.

  6. dkheeter says:

    I love this story! 3 similar last names, none of which turns out to be the maiden name. Great dectective work!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thanks for reading my blog and your comment. It has taken a while to put this all together. Years in fact. Foe example the part of the blog above titled Descendants of Marceline Obin has 19 sources. From 3 Death Certificates, 4 state and federal census, 5 obituaries, 2 newspaper articles, plus 5 other sources. But I will admit I really enjoy doing this type of research.

  7. Ruth Rawls says:

    Excellent work! I do love a puzzle.

  8. Wow! Great story, and well worth the extended research! So glad for your major breakthrough. Just goes to show you the job is never done. Good for you for continuing the search!

  9. Sheryl says:

    What a wonderful story of how you found some missing pieces of your family’s genealogy puzzle!

  10. Reading about your journey to discovery was enjoyable. I have noticed that census workers seem to have done a lot of guessing instead of asking when it comes to spelling. And then there are nicknames instead of given first names – it can cause headaches. Puzzles and guessing games aren’t really something I enjoy, but I do like solutions and discoveries.

  11. Census takers also seemed to have taken liberties with last names! My late husband’s name was Dannnettel – Annette with a D on one end and an L on the other. But, boy! the things the census takers did to that. Strange and wonderful!

    My own brick wall is my grandmother’s father. His name was Jacob Schmidt, which is the German equivalent of John Smith. When my grandmother was a child, her mum discovered Jacob had fathered a child by another woman, and all family records related to him were erased. I don’t know when or where they were married, his birthdate, or anything else. Talk about a headache!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Ahh yes the census. They are one of those things that genealogist can’t live with them and can’t live without. I have one suggestion for your headache. Try and see if newspapers are online where your grandmother was a little girl. If so start looking for family names. Best of luck to you in your search.

  12. kakingsbury says:

    Charles – Your recent “like” on my post led me to check your blog and discover this post. I have also found that newspapers can hold so many answers that only become apparent when you recognize what names to look for other than your known family names. Your post offers a great example of that. Sad story though. I wonder how Herbert’s glasses ended up on the bank of the river? It almost makes you think he intentionally went in the river but left his glasses on shore. But the day seems too cold for that. Any speculation about that in the articles?

  13. chmjr2 says:

    Thank you for reading my post and your comment. I have found newspapers to be of great help in my family research. However as you said you must have an idea of what to look for. I have worn glasses since childhood and can easily understand how they could have fallen off after a 15 foot drop. The news articles had no speculation about this being intentional. They did say he had some health problems and had been unsteady on his feet.

  14. sueone says:

    Thank you for stopping by my blog and commenting. Just read A Drowning in the Saranac River and thought I’d pass along something that may help when you’re looking for Marcelline Obin in Canadian records. Her surname may have been spelled Aubin and changed to Obin when she went to the US. Looking forward to reading more of your discoveries!

    • chmjr2 says:

      Thank you for reading my blog and your comment. I will keep in mind the Aubin / Obin names. This is something I am use to with the French Canadian names in my family lines. I have Gonya, Deloria, Monty, Guyette, Bonnett, to name a few.

  15. jschroeder says:

    My family is from Saranac also- Jacob Smith Moody. Nice to see someone who is from the same town.

  16. chmjr2 says:

    I lived near Saranac and I have been there many times. I grew up in Plattsburgh in which the Saranac River runs through. That corner of New York State is the best place to grow up. While I still live in N.Y. I only get up there about once a year.

  17. weezie450 says:

    Enjoyed the story and realize that it took a great deal of research. Also checked out your posting on Photographs. I love photography and am constantly taking pictures, especially when I travel. WIFI is available world wide so I post pictures daily on Face Book so my friends back home can join me in my adventures.
    This past week I came upon on an ad for “My Social Book” which is compilation of all my mobile picture uploads and timeline items posted on Face Book. I ordered one using a coupon for about $40.00Can. It arrived and I was very impressed. 220 plus pages in a softcover book that was essentially a diary of my life for 2015 including travels, family gatherings, events, animals and all the comments others have posted.
    I was thinking how I could use this to record my Geneaogical adventures for a year. I could photograph documents, pictures…what ever and share them on FaceBook. At the end of the year I would have a printed copy of things I had discovered. I could still post on my WordPress Blog, add to info on my Ancestry tree and upload my pictures to the cloud…but this is something I can hold in my hand

    • chmjr2 says:

      Great idea. I however do not post much on Facebook but I do like to put together photo albums. Thanks for reading my post and you comment.

  18. TallTalesandTrue says:

    What great finds! I love how finding one tidbit of information leads to another and another, and opens up the discovery of more branches on the family tree. Other people ask me if I’m done with that family tree stuff already, but I can’t see how it ever stops – there’s always more to find.

    • chmjr2 says:

      I agree you can never be truly done. When you find a new person in your tree that means you have at least two more to find because of your new discovery. For every question answered means about five more pop up. In this post I only wrote about the questions answered, not the much higher number that were not answered. Thank you for you comment.

  19. Those pesky S’s and F’s. They look so similar in old hand writing. Thank you for sharing. Breaking through these brick walls is, I feel, one of the most satisfying things about genealogy.

  20. chmjr2 says:

    Nothing in genealogy beats the feeling you get when you break down a brick wall. I also enjoy the hunt for the information that you need to make these brick walls crumble. Thank you for reading and your comment.

  21. Wow, Charles, how confusing! (I believe genealogy research has gOt to be good for our aging brains: it’s as challenging a puzzle as any out there… 😉 )

  22. Pingback: Listening To Gravestones | Moore Genealogy

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