The Research Journey to "know" our Home

The Senesac House

The story of this house has taken time to compile and lots of research. When we first started looking into its history, we spent hours at the courthouse's record of deeds office sorting out stories we had heard from locals about the house.

I started at Manteno historical society and found the names of previous owners, but that was about it. Speaking to John Tamblyn was very helpful because he recalled information from living there in the 50's when he rented a room from Olivene Senesac. John told us about the nuns who lived in our home with Olivene from St. Joseph Catholic Academy.  He spoke of Olivene's friend who promised to leave Olivene her house so she would have a shorter walk to church.
Our investigation took me to the County Deeds Recorders office where I searched through 110 years of record books. The most amazing part was watching the handwriting change over the years. Years ago, people took pride in their handwriting and it was so beautiful.  It was also interesting to see how writing changed from ink pens to quill and ink! Very neat!
The Geneological Society gave us some addtional information.  We disvoered that the Senesac name was a very prevalent name in the area.  They were a wealthy family.  When located death records for Alexander and Olivene and the locations of thier gravestones.

So..... off we went, on our bikes no less. We were halfway through the cemetary when I had a feeling they were on the opposite side. So we split up.  We found a few Senesacs but too young. Just about to give up, I stopped and looked around and saw a very large monument near the mausoleum.  I read SENESAC in large letters. I ran over yelling “I found it!"  The headstone was  impressive.  I got a little emotional I realized that I had become very attached to this family and its history. We were standing in front of the person who built our house, or should I say, we live in their house.  It was amazing!

We continued to look for other family members.  Buried in a circle around the a priest's gravestone was about 20 other names. Six of them were of the Senesac family. Why were some family members buried with the church and not by the others? What significance does the Senesac family have with the St Josephs Church?

As we rode home we heard the Church bells and decided to just go ask someone at St. Joseph.  The current priest nice but had no information on the church's cemetery history.
Disappointed and not knowing where to go from there, we decided to go talk to the family that lives in the last house Olivene Senesac presumably lived.  As I mentioned before, John Tambyn said that the house on the corner across from the church was left to Olivene.  After talking to the owners of this house, Ron and Jamie, the builder of their house was Isaac Senesac.  They were unaware about Olivene living in the house.

 Ron and Jamie connected us with Maggie Gorman who is very familiar with Manteno. 
Maggie  confirmed that Olivene did move to Alma’s house and lived there for some time.  I still felt like i was missing something. When we were in the genealogy room at the library Dave found something. On Olivene's obituary record there was a name.....Alice Powers.  Since Maggie Gorman knew Olivene close to when she passed, I called her again, hoping and praying that she may knew the name. Fortunately, she did.  She knew that Alice was Olivene's niece and took care of the estate when Olivene passed. Unfortunately she had no other information.  At this point i was so disappointed, but then Maggie remembered that Alice had a son that was about the same age as hers and would have graduated around the same time.
 I got the approximate graduation year and found a William Powers in a yearbook that matched the estimated age.  There was about 30 People with that last name in this area's phonebook, but only one William !!!!!
I called this William was elated to discover not only did he know Olivene, but he lived with her.  He spoke of Olivene Senesac and the house recalling intimate details of the home i love with all my heart. He said my phone call made his day but he truly made my year!!!

Our visit from Mr Powers was a memory I'll cherish. As soon as he walked in, he remembered details about the house such as where Olivene had placed furniture and the colors of the woodwork and wallpaper. I loved listening to him reminisce about living in the house. The way he spoke about Olivene really showed how much he loved her.

He brought photos and documents from the turn of the century, It felt like I had found a long lost relative.  As he handed me a picture of the house from 1906 I had to remind myself to breath. It was gorgeous and so majestic.  I thought it couldn’t get any better until I saw the picture of Olivene. I always wondered what she was like and how she looked. I learned that the Senesac name was a large part of not just this house, but the town's history. Olivene had a very full life.  She was the first woman business owner here in Manteno and head of the Red Cross.  I cant thank Bill enough for sharing his memories with us. He finished our puzzle!

If anyone has any information on the Descendants of Alexander Senesac Sr. or Jr, Olivene Senesac or our home, please email me at

***If you know any of our facts to be false or if you can confirm our information, please contact me.  We want, not only as much information as we can gather, but accurate information *****

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Shannon and Dave! I finally found your blog - so cool! I love the maid's quarters. Nice job on all you've done so far. Wow!
Aunt Chrisa