Thursday, December 8, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: "New Pension Legislation" That Could Affect Jean La Forêt


This is an article cut out of a newspaper.  It is actually two pieces that have been pasted together.  The complete piece is 3 1/4" x 21 3/4".  No date or newspaper name appears.  After some diligent searching, my best guess is that this was published in 1922, but I was unable to determine a specific newspaper from which it was clipped.  The article was pasted in the same small notebook that holds Jean's typed announcement about his life story and will.

The subject of the article is pension legislation for soldiers and sailors who participated in the Spanish-American War, April 21–August 13, 1898; the Philippine Insurrection, February 4, 1899–July 4, 1902; and/or the Boxer Rebellion, August 1899–September 1901.  Also eligible for benefits were the servicemen's widows and dependent parents.

Since this article was in Jean La Forêt's notebook, it is logical to hypothesize he was the person who clipped it.  Because it deals with pensions for three specific conflicts and he made the effort to save it, it is also logical to hypothesize that Jean must have been involved in at least one of those conflicts.

Looking over Jean's diary, it does not appear he could have been present at the Boxer Rebellion.  His stated locations between May 25, 1899 and January 20, 1902 leave no time for him to have been in China.

The Philippine Insurrection, or Philippine-American War, officially began on February 4, 1899.  Jean wrote that he reported for duty at Mare Island, California on May 25, 1899.  He might have been in the Philippines during the war, but it could have been only for a short period.

The Spanish-American War, however, looks more promising.  Jean's journal had a gap between May 24, 1897, when he sailed on the Independence, and his report date at Mare Island.  Coincidentally, the entire period of the war fits in that gap!  Maybe he was too busy to write, or maybe he didn't want to write about the fighting.  But I suspect that when I get around to ordering a copy of Jean's service file, I'll discover he fought during this war.  Perhaps he was already in the Philippines for the Spanish-American War and so was also there for the beginning of the Insurrection.

It looks as though Jean was interested in his eligibility for a pension, but so far I have seen no documents indicating that he actually applied for one, only that Emma did so after Jean died.  Even though he appears to have been feeling his mortality, maybe he just kept putting off the pension paperwork and never got around to it.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Is Your MRUA?

This week's assignment from Randy Seaver for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun sounds like a great opportunity to get ideas from other people:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

(1) Who is your MRUA:  your Most Recent Unknown Ancestor?  This is the person with the lowest number on your Pedigree Chart or Ahnentafel List whom you have not identified a last name for, or a first name if you know a surname but not a first name. 

(2) Have you looked at your research files for this unknown person recently?  Why don't you scan them again just to see if there's something you have missed? 

(3) What online or offline resources might you search that might help identify your MRUA?

(4) Tell us about him or her, and your answers to (2) and (3) above, in a blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a comment on Facebook or Google+.


I suspect I will have one of the lower numbers for this exercise.

1.  My Most Recent Unknown Ancestor is the father of my paternal grandfather, who is #8 on a standard pedigree chart and Ahnentafel list.  I do not know his first or last name.  In fact, I know nothing about him except that he must have existed.

2.  I have indeed recently looked at my research for this man.  He preys on my mind, in fact.

After several clues over many years made me suspect more and more that my grandfather's father might not have been the man my great-grandmother married, I set about to try to prove it one way or another.  I started out by sending my sister in person to the New Jersey State Archives to find our grandfather's birth record.  She was successful, but the father's name was not listed on the certificate, merely the socially disapproving "OW" (for "out of wedlock").

My grandfather was named Bertram.  My great-grandmother had another out-of-wedlock child three years after her husband died.  That daughter was named Bertolet (no, really, I didn't make that up).  My sister and I both started to wonder if Bertram and Bertolet might have had the same father, someone with "Bert" or something similar as part of his name.  The next time my sister was able to go to the archives, Bertolet's birth and death records were at the top of the list to acquire.  My great-grandmother thwarted us again:  No father's name was included on either record.

Every other record I have found for my grandfather identifies his father's name as Elmer.  Bertolet lived only about six years, so few records exist for her at all.

Now that the standard paper methods had failed me, I turned to DNA.  I was very fortunate in that the only sibling of my grandfather who had surviving children was his brother, who had sons, who had sons.  I tracked down several of my male cousins and convinced one to take a Y-DNA test that I paid for.  I already had my father's Y-DNA test results.  After my cousin's results came in, the inescapable conclusion is that my grandfather and his brother did not have the same father.  Based on the talks I have had with several family members, I am certain that none of the children in the family (my grandfather, his brother, and their two sisters) knew this, so family gossip will not be able to help me either.

My father matches one gentleman in the Family Tree DNA database at 107 markers on his Y-DNA, so I have been pursuing that lead.  The family name there is Mundy.  In addition, a woman contacted my father recently because her husband, also a Mundy, matched my father at about the same number of markers.  So currently I am working on tracing the FTDNA match's family back, and our new contact is doing the same with her husband's family.  For the number of matching markers, the estimated relationship is about 6th cousin, so we have a lot of work to do.  Interestingly, the man on FTDNA identifies as Irish, while the woman's husband's family seems to be English.  The goal is to try to find a man on one or both of these Mundy lines who was in the area of Burlington County, New Jersey or Philadelphia in the ummer or fall of 1902.

I have tried searches for Mundys and for variations of "Bert" in the area, but they have had scattershot results at best, as I know nothing about this man other than possibly his last name and part of his first name.  I haven't found anyone named "Bert" Mundy in the area, that's for sure.

3.  I need to do more work on researching the Mundy family identified by the Y-DNA match on FTDNA.  I've only gone back three generations so far, and I need to go further back and then bring all those lines forward, tracking every man.

I have had both of my surviving aunts, who along with my father are my grandfather's children, do DNA tests.  I need to transfer their results to GEDMatch to help the research along.  Based on what I have seen for matches so far, however, I am beginning to suspect that this great-grandfather might not have had any other children, or at least none who had surviving progeny.  Neither my father nor my aunts have any matches closer than 3rd cousin in their autosomal results.

I'm also considering ponying up the fee on GEDMatch to try the Lazarus tool.  I now have DNA results for my father, my aunts, my brother, my sister, and myself.  That might be enough to give me some kind of credible profile for this mystery man.

If anyone has other suggestions on how I can try to learn who my great-grandfather was, I will be happy to hear them!

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Is Feeling His Age


This is an article from a newspaper.  It measures 2 1/2" x 7 1/4".  Although it appears to be black and white in the scan, it's actually the color of old newsprint, that warm, light tan many researchers are familiar with.  At the top someone, probably Jean La Forêt, wrote "3-Score and Ten" in pencil and underlined it.

This side of the article shows that it came from the Daily Globe-Democrat, which was one of the major newspapers published in St. Louis, Missouri.  As of late 1921, the La Forêt family lived in Creve Coeur, which is in the greater St. Louis area, so it makes sense they would read a St. Loius newspaper.  The other side of this article (which I somehow neglected to scan) shows the date, May 25, 1922.  And that's why I think it was Jean who wrote the comment above the article.

According to the information we've seen, Jean was born December 4, 1851.  So he turned 70 years old, or "3-Score and Ten", on December 4, 1921.  This article must have struck a chord with him, with its claim that 70 was just about as old as anyone could expect to live, more or less.  Perhaps he looked at the fact that it was published not long after he turned 70 as an omen.

As it turned out, Jean died a little shy of his 75th birthday.  So in his case, "a little more, a little less" turned out to be pretty accurate.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Announces His Life Story and Will


This 3 1/2" x 5 3/8" piece of paper was pasted onto a 3 5/8" x 5 3/4" page in a small notebook.  Both pieces of paper have taken on a little color over the years, but they were probably white when new.  No watermark is visible on either paper.  The text is cleanly and clearly typed.

The piece of paper was pasted onto the second page in the little notebook.  And nothing else about his life story or his will is in the book.  (Not much else is in the book, period.)

I don't know yet if Jean did write a will.  I decided to check right now for his name in the California death index and discovered that he died September 12, 1926 in Solano County.  This early death index does not include the individual's birthplace or mother's maiden name, but it has the age at which someone died.  Even though on the page above Jean indicated he was born in 1841, the informant, probably Emma, "youthened" him by a couple of years, and his age at death was given as 72, when it should have been 74.  I'm sure it's him, though, because the rest of the information matches up:


Jean L. (for Leon) LaForet, spouse's initial E (for Emma), and died in Solano County, where Vallejo is.  Yup, it's gotta be him.  I'll order it eventually, of course, and investigate whether a probate file exists.

But when Jean typed up this small note, he was still living in Missouri, in Maryland Heights to be exact.  That means the date when Jean and Emma moved to California has been pushed back a little more, and that Jean's list of ailments couldn't have been typed before December 4, 1921.

I noted that Jean listed only his daughter Rosita, who was Emma's child.  There's no mention of his daughter Adrienne, born in 1874.  Perhaps the "instructions and informations" were only for Emma and Rosita, but Adrienne was in the will.  I also noted that Emma was not named but was simply "His Wife."  Looks like another woman got married and lost her name!

In 1920, when the envelope discussed in last week's post was mailed to Jean, his address was in Overland, Missouri.  In 1921, when he typed this short note, he was in Maryland Heights.  According to Google Maps they're only about five miles apart, so he didn't move far.

I wonder what happened that stopped Jean from writing the will in this notebook, which it appears he planned to do.  I also wonder why he went to the trouble to type up this introduction when he was going to write the will by hand.  Maybe he did write the will but simply never put it in the notebook.  Ah, well, when I get around to seeing if Jean had a probate file, I'll find out if there was a will and if it was handwritten.

Jean also typed "His LIFE from Birth to SEVENTY."  If he intended to write about his life, that might help explain why he kept such an interesting collection of documents.  So far I have seen no evidence of his life story, but I still have more documents to go through!

National Day of Listening 2016

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, when people gather together in appreciation of their families and friends.  And because all those families and friends are gathered together, it's the perfect time to sit down and share stories, one of the best things you can collect as a family historian or genealogist.

In 2008, StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project, launched the National Day of Listening, when Americans are strongly encouraged to record the stories of family members, friends, and community members.  StoryCorps designated the Friday after Thanksgiving as the Day of Listening, which is tomorrow, so you have one day to get ready!

Make the time tomorrow to interview a relative and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (Although StoryCorps does have recommendations for equipment and resources for people to conduct their own interviews.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews!  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.

If you have time to plan ahead after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps has recording booths in some cities in the United States, and also conducts mobile tours, where people can come and record interviews.  These must be reserved ahead of time.

StoryCorps has specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular parts of the population.   Visit the site to learn about the Griot (black Americans), Historias (Latino Americans), Military Voices (service members), and Teachers initiatives, in addition to others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newspapers, Newspapers, Newspapers!

I have been meaning to post another update of what has been added to the Wikipedia newspaper archives page for a while now, but I've been distracted by a lot of other projects.  I didn't realize it had been seven months since I last posted!  I'm trying to catch up, though, so here are some of the most recent additions.  One new country, Lithuania, and new state, Kansas, have been added to the list.  Several of the new archives are being created by one of two companies, Advantage Preservation (which does them with free access) or Newspapers.com (which makes them available for a subscription fee).

• Australia:  Honi Soit, the student newspaper of the University of Sydney (New South Wales), has been digitized for 1929–1990.

• British Columbia, Canada:  The Prince George Public Library has eight newspapers, including the student newspaper for the College of New Caledonia, on its site, ranging from 1909–1965.

• British Columbia, Canada:  Simon Fraser University has a collection of digitized newspapers online, including the student newspaper The Peak and one group called simply "More Newspapers."

• British Columbia, Canada:  The Thompson-Nicola Regional District library is digitizing newspapers from the Kamloops area and has a selection available covering 1882–2014.

• Cuba:  Diario de la Marina is available through the University of Florida's newspaper collection. Years covered range between 1844 and 1961, but coverage is not continuous.

• England:  The Church Times, an Anglican newspaper, has an online archive dating back to its first issue in 1863 and including more than 8,000 issues.

• France:  Two collections of images from Excelsior, a weekly publication that published 20+ photographs in every issue during World War I, are available.

• Italy:  Nine months of the 1885 issues of Il Secolo, published in Milan, are on the Florida State University digital archives site.  The press release I read suggested that more issues will be coming at some point in the future.

• Lithuania:  A new country!  Someone has digitized the Vilna Provincial Gazette and posted it on the Internet Archive.  The years covered are 1838–1917, with a few years missing.  This was published while Lithuania was under the control of the Russian Empire.

• Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas (under Worldwide category):  The Historic Mexican & Mexican American Press collection includes newspapers from Tucson, Arizona; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; El Paso, Texas; and Sonora, Mexico.  The archive goes from the mid-1800's to the 1970's.

• New Zealand:  The Southern Regional News Index covers the Dunedin and Otago area for 1851 to the present.

• United Kingdom:  The Gazette has created an instructional video on how to search and use the online Gazette archives.

• California:  The GLBT Historical Society of Northern California has an online searchable database of obituaries (not just an index) for the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly newspaper covering the GLBT community primarily in the San Francisco Bay area, for the years 1972 to the present.  The Bay Area Reporter itself has an online archive that begins with 2005 and is working on digitizing its issues going back to 1971.

• California:  The St. Helena Public Library has the St. Helena Star from 1874–2014 available for free.

• California:  The now defunct San Fernando Valley Genealogical Society posted a collection of vital records abstracts on RootsWeb for Valley newspapers covering 1911–1945.

• Connecticut:  The Shelton Library has two collections of newspaper clippings.  The "Library Scrapbook" has clippings from multiple newspapers from 1923–1930 relating to the Plumb Memorial Library.  The "Servicemen's Scrapbook of Shelton Men & Women Serving in World War" has clippings from the Evening Sentinel from 1943–1945, so apparently those servicemen were serving in World War II.

• District of Columbia:  The Capital is online for 1871–1880 and is said to be a great source for research in the Reconstruction period.

• District of Columbia:  Quicksilver Times (1973–1985) and Unicorn Times (1969–1972) are available from the Washington, DC Public Library.

• Georgia:  The Macon Daily Telegraph for 1860–1865 is in the American Civil War Newspapers database at Virginia Tech.

• Illinois:  The Lake Forester for 1899–1940 is on the Lake Forest Library site.

• Indiana:  The AIM Media Indiana archive, which has eleven newspapers, is a pay site created via a Newspapers.com partnership.

• Iowa:  Central College in Pella has ten collections of student newspapers and yearbooks covering 1876–2006, but there are some gaps in coverage.

• Iowa:  West Branch newspapers the Local Record and Times, from 1866–1934, are on the West Branch Public Library.

• Kansas:  A new state!  There is an obituary index for Rush County at the Barnard Library site.  It covers 1878–1951.  Copies of the obituaries can be ordered from the library.

• Kentucky:  The Lawrence County Public Library has an online obituary index for the Big Sandy News that covers 1885 to the present.

• Louisiana: The New Orleans Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper, is only for 1850–1946.

• Louisiana:  Scanned ads from former slaves looking for family members and friends lost during slavery which were published in the New Orleans Southwestern Christian Advocate (1879–1885) — which does not appear to be related to the previously mentioned paper — are available for free online.

• Maine:  Digital Maine has the Old Orchard Mirror, a newspaper published only during the summer, for the years 1900, 1901, 1903, 1904, and 1914.

• Maryland:  The Annapolis Capital has been digitized and placed online by NewspaperArchive.com on a pay site.  The collection nominally goes from 1887–2016, but it goes straight from 1887 to 1918–1919 and then to 1929.  It looked continuous from then on.

• Massachusetts:  The Memorial Hall Library in Andover has three newspapers covering 1853–1925.

• Massachusetts:  The Newburyport Public Library has ten digitized newspapers available for free on its site, courtesy of Advantage Preservation.

• Massachusetts:  The Portuguese-American Digital Newspaper Collections, housed at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, includes Portuguese-language newspapers from California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.

• Massachusetts:  The (Mattapoisett) Wanderer, which also serves Marion and Rochester in southeastern Massachusetts, has an online archive for its entire publication history, 1992–2016, housed at the Internet Archive.

• Minnesota:  Two union newspapers, the Minneapolis Labor Review (1907–current) and St. Paul Union Advocate (unsure of years covered), are now online.

• Missouri:  The Houston Herald has been digitized and placed online courtesy of Newspapers.com for 1881–present and is a pay site.

• Missouri:  There are online indices for death notices appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch, along with instructions on how to order copies.

• Montana:  The Montana Newspapers project has some dupblication with the Montana Memory Project but includes many more newspapers.  The years range from 1885 to 2015.

• New Jersey:  The Belmar Historical Society has the Coast Echo and Coast Advertiser for 1881–1974 in PDF and searchable.

• New Jersey:  The New Jersey Hills Media Group has partnered with Newspapers.com to present three newspapers on a pay site.

• New Jersey:  The Woodbridge Public Library has digitized eleven local newspapers ranging from 1876–1970.

• New Mexico:  The White Sands Missile Range published its own newspapers, which cover 1950–1990.  There is a list of the issues that are missing, so if you have an old issue, maybe you can help!

• New York:  A new collection of four Staten Island newspapers has been made available, with plans for more to come.

• North Carolina:  The Nubian Message (1992–2005), the black student newspaper of North Carolina State University, has been digitized and placed online.

• Ohio:  The Stark County District Library has digitized eight newspapers in partnership with Advantage Preservation.

• Ohio:  The WestLife Observer (2013–2015) and the Westlake Bay Village Observer (2006–2015) are online at Westlake Library site.

• Oklahoma:  The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College student newspaper, The Norse Wind, is online for 1948–2007.

• Virginia:  The Library of Virginia has the Charlottesville Daily Progress available for 1893–1964.

• Virginia:  The Prince William County Library System has a local newspaper index for 1993–present for three newspapers that have no other index available.

• Virginia:  The Pulaski County Library newspaper archive has five newspapers that range from 1893 to 2015.

• Virginia:  The Handley Regional Library System has an obituary index for the Winchester Star for 1896–1914.  This is a work in progress, and more information is being added to it.

• Wisconsin:  The Lake Geneva Public Library has searchable indices for obituaries, birth announcements, and local people in the news.  The site does not state which newspapers or years are covered, but an announcement from NEHGS said the obituaries were taken from the Lake Geneva Regional News and Lake Geneva Herald.  The local people in the news database iincludes the code LGNT, which I believe stands for Lake Geneva News Tribune.

• Multistate:  The Swedish American Newspapers collection, hosted at the Minnesota Historical Society, includes 28 newspapers from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.  Total years covered in the database are 1859–2007.

Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of the funders for the Chronicling America digitization project, announced that the years which can be funded are expanding from 1836–1922 to 1690–1963.  This means that eventually we should see a much broader range of historical newspapers on the Chronicling America site.  You can read the press release here.