Early August 2017, I received a shaky leaf hint on Ancestry.com, alerting me to a military record. Note: The shaky leaf is an indicator that lets the user know that there is a possible record that may be a match to a person in your tree that is displaying the leaf. This leaf led me to a U.S. Civil War Pension index record for a Henry King.
Henry was a known relative on whom I had completed some research and included in my family tree. The US 1870 census indicates that 30-year old Henry King lived in Opelousas, Louisiana with his wife, 25-year old Isabella and several others who I know are his sisters. Living next door are Henry’s parents, Warren King and his mother, Temperance (Tempy). Tempy is the sister of my 3rd great-grandfather, Moses Jason, and the daughter of my 4th great-grandfather, Godfrey Jason.
The following US Federal 1880 census, Henry, again, is living in Opelousas with his wife Isabella. Henry’s siblings have moved out of his home and his parents, are no longer living next door. However, all the family are still living in Saint Landry Parish – living not far from where the family had been enslaved.
On a document dated April 18, 1848 document in Saint Landry Parish, Henry and his enslaved family’s ownership are being transferred. Mary Ann Ferguson, the wife of Isaac Griffith is donating this enslaved family to her daughter, Hester Griffith, the wife of C. D. Tatman. At the time of this transaction Henry is four-years old. You can read more about this story and the connection to my family in this previous post>>> Jason Family of Ville Platte, LA – Brick wall knockdown.
So, now I’ve discovered some fascinating information about this 1st cousin 3 times removed. Henry fought in the Civil War.
This was a shocker to me. To be honest, I didn’t expect to find any of my Southwestern Louisiana relatives to have fought in the Civil War. I know that really is a naïve statement, especially since most of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) that fought in the Civil War were from Louisiana. Of the estimated 185,000 USCT, the highest number of volunteers, a little over 24,500 of them, were from Louisiana. Note: There are some estimates that show there were as many of 200,000 USCT volunteers. Estimate of USCT soldiers.
This index record is of combined file of both the Invalid Pension (#902964) and the Widow’s Pension (640104) applications. The certification (459472) on the Widow’s line indicates that her application was granted. Henry submitted his application on 23 Aug 1890 and Isabella filed her widow’s application six years later on 2 Sep 1896. According to this record Henry was a part 8th Regiment Colored Afrique Louisiana Infantry and also the 80th Regiment US Colored Infantry. According to the National Park Services on the Civil War, the 8th Corps de Afrique Infantry was organized September 1, 1863 and eventually reorganized as the 80th. More details can be found here: Brief overview of the 80th Regiment, United States Colored Infantry
Even though, the index doesn’t contain a lot of information, I reviewed what it does contain to determine if this could be my relative. Comparing the index to known information I had about Henry, I was able to surmise this could, indeed, be my Henry:
Assuming Henry joined in 1863, he would have been around 19 years of age which is viable age for war volunteer.
Solider in the index for a person of African descent, like Henry.
Solider and widow filed from Louisiana, which where they both resided.
Henry’s wife was also a match to my Henry.
All of this information pointed to this being my cousin Henry. However, the biggest clue that pointed to this being my Henry was the alias under which Henry served in the Civil War – Henry Tatman. As I mentioned earlier, Tatman was the surname of the last known enslaver – C. D. Tatman and his wife, Hester.
Finding this record just elicited more questions: How was he able to join the Union Army? To date, I’ve not found any manumission papers for Henry. Did he runaway from slavery? When did Henry serve? Where did he serve? How long were his services?
I had to get my hands on the pension file and get answers to my questions. Stay tuned for my next post as I learn more about cousin Henry King.
While continuing to do research on the Franks of Ville Platte, I found a man named Julienne Frank, who could potentially be a sibling to Ephraim and Jean Baptiste. Julienne was born about 1835 and lived near Ephraim and Jean Baptiste after the civil war. There are two marriage licenses for Julien’s marriage to a Suzette VALMOND SIMON as noted in Father Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLR):
FRANK, Julien m. 30 Aug. 1869 Suzette VALMOND (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. # 5491)
FRANK, Julien m. 25 May 1871 Susette SIMON (VP Ch.: v. 2, p. 67)
Together, Julienne and Suzette had five children: Edmond (b. 1855), Eugene (b. 1862), Emily (b. 1865), Marie (b. 1871), and Adam (b. 1864).
However, for the longest time, I could not make any headway in finding how Julienne Frank connected to the FRANK clan, so for a few years I put this part of my research on the back burner, focusing instead on tracing several of my maternal lines to specific slavery records.
Slavery is a difficult and an emotional subject that I think is hard for slave descendants to research. I often think of how my ancestors were treated: how they toiled in hot fields from sunup to sundown; how they fought to preserve their cultural identity, maintain family ties, and merely survive the harsh reality of enslavement. I, too, feel deep pain, when I read their stories.
However, in looking at history, I can also appreciate how far my family has come. It’s remarkable to think how families like mine have maintained a sense of togetherness and experienced some semblance of success, in spite of the lingering effects of slavery.
Even after slavery, my great-great-grandfather, Ephraim Frank, went on to own land and other assets. On December 7, 1878, Ephraim purchased land (approximately 50 acres) along with the existing improvements from Augustave Soileau.
After Ephraim’s wife, Nancy, passed and before Ephraim remarried, he gifted all of his children with property. In a document dated November 15, 1882, Ephraim acknowledges his children with Nancy, naming each of the children (Francois, Malinda, Susan, Yves, and Sarah). He gave each child interests in his property, which included Creole horses, oxen, a wagon, and cows.
On my paternal side, I descend from several lines of free people of color. However, I also had many ancestors that had been enslaved, and I was eager to understand the plantation or any slave documentation on my family.
My breakthrough in connecting the FRANKS came earlier this summer. Alex Lee, one of my cousins and a fellow Southwest Louisiana researcher, mentioned that he was going to the Opelousas court house and asked if there was anything I needed. I mentioned to him that I was still looking for the plantation where my FRANK family may have been enslaved and asked him if he could try and find me some leads. I shared with him my theory that Ephraim and Jean Baptiste were brothers, but that I had no proof.
He texted me later that day, saying that he thought that he’d found the FRANKs on a plantation, but that he would have to go back the next day to pull the document. I could barely sleep that night.
The next day, he texted me again: he indeed had found Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien in slave documentation – UNBELIEVABLE.
The key data was found in the Saint Landry Parish probate record dated December 11, 1851 for the estate of Osite LAMIRANDE, who was the widow of Jean Baptiste DELAFOSSE. This entry is also mentioned in the South West Louisiana Records, by Fr. Donald Herbert:
DELAFOSSE, Jean Baptiste m Osite LAMIRANDE In Succ. of Osite LAMIRANDE dated 11 Dec. 1854 (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Succ. #1608). Note : the date in the Herbert states 1854, however actual date is 1851.
In this document, slaves were named, appraised, and sold to other parties. Notable amongst the list of slaves was Ephraim, who I believe is my ancestor. Ephraim was a 17-year boy was sold from the estate to Hildevert DESHOTELS.
This shows that Ephraim would have been born around 1835, which matches the known information of Ephraim.
Later in the document, there is Entry #73, which indicates a 21-year-old Baptiste who had an approximate birth year of 1830. This, again, aligns with the known information we have about Jean Baptiste.
Jean Baptiste was sold to Cyprien Fontenot.
In Entry #75, we find Julien, a nineteen-year-old, who was sold to Alexandre C. Larose Fontenot:
Finding three men who lived on the same plantation and matched known information I had about my Frank ancestors supports my theory that Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien were brothers.
However, the most compelling evidence that we indeed had made the right connection was that we also found on this plantation a man named FRANK and a woman named Eloise! Below, embedded in the Osite LAMIRANDE document, we find the appraisal of FRANK and Eloise:
So with this document, we not only find the brother Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien Frank; we also find their presumed parents [William] FRANK and Eloise.
One point to consider is understanding how former slaves (who were unlikely to have a surname during slavery) developed surnames after they were freed. Oftentimes, a former slave’s offspring would take the first name of one of their parents as their surname—so, for example: children of a former slave mother named Nannette may use NANNETTE as their surname. This naming practice was used to connect families and help ensure family members could be identified, even in cases where the families were separated during slavery.
The conclusion is that our Ville Platte FRANK family surname was derived by 46-year old man, Frank, described in this succession document. The document does not state where he was sent as a result of the succession however, his wife, Eloise, at age forty was sold to Cyprien Delafosse:
This document has a lot of information that could find others looking for their relatives in slave documents. Still looking for more information on the Ville Platte FRANKS, but I’m so glad of the revelations we have thus far. Tell me what you think about the FRANKs of Ville Platte.
I continue to struggle getting back to posting in my blog. On February 13th, almost five months after the death of my mother, my eldest sister Irma Marie Frank passed. Needless to say, her death has also left me devastated.
Like my mother, my sister was a big proponent of my genealogical research. I’m so happy that I followed my gut and had both of them take DNA tests before their passing. Maybe it will be their DNA that will ultimately lead me to my grandmother’s maternal line.
Since my last post, I have received one additional hint about the identity of my maternal great-grandmother. For those of you that use ancestry.com for your family research, you may be aware that in 2015 Ancestry.com, added a searchable database that I found to be extremely useful. Last year, Ancestry.com added an addition to their Social Security Death Index (SSDI): U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index. This database provides more details about social security applicants, which may include their full name (including applicable maiden name), birth data, and place of birth. However, the most important information I’ve found in the database are the names of the applicant’s parents.
As you may recall from my last post, I found my grandmother Estella Rubin’s mother’s name on a marriage license, which was listed as Eva Laughtin. I wasn’t sure if the Laugh had a “Law”sound such as Lawton or a “Loff” sound like in the name Lofton, but at least I had a name.
I had hoped that I would be able to confirm the name by using the Social Security application database on Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, my grandmother’s application was not online. I followed the instructions provided on the Ancestry site and submitted the request to the Social Administration office to get a copy of my grandmother’s application. Since I had her social security number, the cost of the copy was $27; the cost is $29 if you do not have the SSIN. Here’s what I received:
From the application, looks like my grandmother listed her mother as Evil Loffton. Do you have any other ideas what the mother’s name in the document? Maybe the name is Evie Lofton? I’m not familiar with any Loftons. Do you know any Loftons out of Mowata in Saint Landry parish in the great state of Louisiana? Hit me up with any information you can share on this subject.
In my last two posts, I asked for additional help in locating information about my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family. Though I recently discovered that that family’s last name is Laughtin, I still haven’t found any additional information on my grandmother’s maternal family. However, I did find that the brick wall of slavery has been broken for our Ruben family!
For me, genealogy is like a mystery game or puzzle, and as a genealogist, I spend my spare time trying to connect the puzzle pieces of my family together. If you are researching in Southwest Louisiana and you are familiar with the towns in the area, you typically can locate at least some of your relatives. If you use standard research methods—such as looking for multiple spellings of known surnames, looking in census records for neighbors of known relatives, or doing searches on usual given names—you’re bound to find some family connections.
When I first started researching, I really had no clue what I was doing and I didn’t have any person that was guiding me on this journey. I just knew that I wanted to research my family history and I would do that by any means necessary.
Since the first time I’ve gone to the archives in Opelousas and what I’ve done on every trip, I always look up the marriage records from known surnames of my family. If I recognized a person’s given name, I would make a note and get a copy of the marriage license. At this point, if I were searching a specific family line, I may even get a copy of the marriage license, even if I don’t recognize the given name. Now, I sort of know that to make a family connection you first gather evidence, examine the evidence, and then put together the “story” that one gleans from the collected evidence.
Gabriel “Gabe” Ruben, I knew, was originally from the Ville Platte area, but he had lived most of his adult-life in Elton, LA. Elton is also where my maternal grandmother was raised and where my mother were born. My mother told me that a lot of the Ruben family lived in Washington, Louisiana, which I later corroborated with another Rubin elder cousin.
I first found Gabriel on the 1870 census, living in Saint Landry Parish with his father Lastie, his mother Ellen, and siblings Louisa and Lovenia.
For Southwest Louisiana researchers, there’s a useful reference source called the Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLR) by Father Donald Hebert. SWLR provides some vital records that’s derived from various parish archives and Catholic Church records. Often you can find family connections, such as parentage, date of birth and date of death.
At one point, my late mother and Uncle James Williams told me was that the Rubens were kin to the Skinners and also kin to the Collins. The story is that the Skinners were at one point Rubens, but due to slavery, their names had been changed. So, one motive of my research was to determine if any of this family lore was true.
I found, during one of my research trips, the marriage license of Frank Collins and Eva Reubin. They married on January 26, 1907 and interesting enough, Lastie Reubin provided the security bond for the marriage. The bond issuer would generally be a male relative such as a father, uncle, or an of age brother.
In this case, Lastie was more than likely an uncle of the bride. Eva was the child of John Reubin fils (junior) and Ernestine Thomy (Thomas). John is either incapacitated or deceased at the time of Eva’s wedding. John’s brother, then, would be next in line to represent the family and sign the bond, Lastie did in this instance. So, part of the family lore, is true in that the Rubins are related to the Collins. I’ve not found the connection, yet to the Skinners.
On the 1900 US Census, Eva is living with her parents John and Ernestine:
From the SWLR, I found that John’s mother was Jane and because fils means junior, his father is John Rubin.
REUBIN, John fils (Janes —) m. 6 Feb. 1869 Ernestine Zenon TOMY (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5224)
On the 1880 census a widowed Jane Ruben is found living in the Latour household as a servant. According to the census Jane was born in Louisiana at about 1815. Below is a snippet from the 1880 census:
So, with these records, I’ve connected Lastie and John fils who we believe are the children of Jane and John Ruben. Finding Jane living in the Latour family household will be a key to breaking through the brick wall of slavery for my Ruben family.
Recently, a fellow Saint Landry Parish researcher and relative, Alex Lee, posted on his Facebook ancestry page information on some slaves that were being sold out of an estate sale for the Rosemont Doucet. What follows is the sale notice from the Opelousas Courier January 14, 1854:
This was an important find in my slavery ancestry. Although, Lastie is not identified in this record, we already concluded that Jane was his mother.
A few months before Alex published this data, we discovered a DNA match to my mother through 23andMe, but we had no idea how we were kin. Turns out she is a descendant of Caroline. Here’s some additional information Alex gives about Caroline:
As for the other children, I found this entry regarding Julienne: REUBEN, Julienne (Marie JANIS) m. 11 Jan. 1877 Simon GUILLORY, Jr. (VP Ch.: v. 2, p. 206)
Below, I found Julienne on the 1880 census along with her husband and children:
Elizabeth Ruben went on to marry Elie Joseph as noted in the following marriage license:
I’m sure there are other points to research with the Rubin family. Do you have any other connections to the Rubens? I look forward to continuing this journey.
It has been awhile since I’ve posted in my blog. This year 2015 has been really difficult, filled with a lot of sorrow and loss. My mother, Ella Mae Jason-Frank, passed away September 29, 2015, after battling declining health over the last few years.
She was a big supporter of my genealogical pursuits, and, as I’ve written in a previous post, she really wanted me to find out more about her maternal grandmother.
Amazingly, one month after my mother’s death, I found my great-grandmoterh’s name, almost as if my mother’s first task in heaven was to jumpstart my research. One of my first cousins, a fellow researcher, alerted me that the website familysearch.org had recently added the marriage license of [E]stella Ruben and Rodney Williams. On the license, my grandmother’s mother is listed as Eva Laughtin:
So: Eva Laughtin from Mowata, Louisiana. Laughtin? Not a familiar name to me. I’m sure there are a lot of different spellings for this surname and below are a few variations: Lotten, McLaughtin, Lawton, and, Lawtin. Mowata is a small town outside of Eunice. Family lore has it that Eva, my great-grandmother was from Mowata. Do any of you have any Laughtins in your family? Any connection to Mowata? I would love to hear from you.
After my last post, I had to take a break from writing. I was too high from my last find and I didn’t know where to go for my next blog post. So, over the last month I’ve decided I’m ready to continue the adventure. Let me start be saying this is a mystery and I need help!
Growing up, I remember my Mother making comments about her mother, Estella Ruben, who we called Momí Stella. Unlike other people who have a hard time getting information for their elder relatives, my mother has never had any problem sharing. She always was willing to share family lore, often unsolicited. My mother was known for telling these enthralling stories—well, at least they were enthralling to me.
One story that comes to mind is one my mother told me when I was young. When my mother was about 5 years old, she went to a local “roots worker” to ask her if she could fix up something to heal her sick mother. My Mother said Momí Stella had been crying and crying, in obvious pain. My mother laughed as she continued, “Mama was a drinker back then, and she would cry when she would get drunk. The roots lady knew my mother wasn’t sick, but had been drinking and she just told me that she would come by later to check on my Mama.”
“Momí Stella used to drink? I had no idea. Man, I would have never known that.” My grandmother lived a pretty wholesome life from my point of view – I never saw her drink.
“Yes, Mama kept us spotless, we had food to eat, she made sure we went to school, and she was a very attentive Mama. But, when she would have bouts of crying spells I thought she was sick. I didn’t know until later that she cried like that when she had been drinking.”
While cooking one day, my mother told me “Momma didn’t know her mother—not even her own mother’s name.” From my mother I learned that Momí Stella’s mother died shortly after she was born. My mother Momma said “my grandmother had other children and after she died, my grandfather, Gabe, sent her other children back to Mowata to live with my grandmother’s family”.
My grandmother died in 1974. According to my Mother, before Momí Stella’s death, she had attempted to try to find her siblings. She wasn’t successful and we, at this point, don’t have any leads to finding this part of my family. My grandmother did not even have a birth certificate. On her death certificate, her mother is listed as unknown.
Once I started being serious about genealogy, I knew this was one of the family mysteries I wanted to solve. Over the years, my mother would repeat this story from time to time. She would also ask if I had found any information yet on Momí’s missing siblings.
Bringing back together this long-ago torn family and enabling my mother to connect with aunts, uncles, their children, their children’s children is one of my greatest prayers. Maybe someone reading this blog post can help me.
So, let me sort out the information I do know about my grandmother’s family. Born July 9th, 1905 in Elton, Louisiana, Estella Ruben, was the daughter of Gabriel “Gabe” Ruben. Gabe, per his death certificate, was born in Ville Platte, Louisiana in 1876. On the 1880 census, I found Gabriel listed as the 4-year son of Lastie and Ellen Ruben. Also listed are Gabriel’s sisters, 8-year Louisa and 2-year Lovenia.
1880 US Census – Lastie Ruben
Lastie, appears to have been the son of John and Jane Rubin. Lastie had a brother named John Ruben files [junior] who married Ernestine Zenon Tomy (Thomas) on February 6, 1869 in Saint Landry Parish, Louisiana. [Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5224]
As I continued to look at census records, genealogy enthusiasts know that most of the 1890 US census records were by a fire, so the 1900 census are the next set of records available. Unfortunately, I’ve not yet been able to find Gabriel in the 1900 records.
On the 1910 census, I not only picked up the trail of Gabe, it also is the first census on which I find my grandmother [E]stella.
So at the time the census was taken, April 1910, Estella is noted as being 4 years old, which means she would be 5 on her next birthday of July 9th. As, mentioned earlier, Momí Stella did not have a birth certificate so 1905 could be accurate, although her obituary listed her birth year as 1906. The census shows that Gabe and his wife, Eliza, have been married for 5 years and that Eliza had given birth to one child who is alive at the time of the census.
Finding, Gabe, Eliza, and Estella on the 1910 census made me think I had not only found my grandmother, Estella, but I had possibly found her mother, Eliza. That seemed to be the only conclusion. Then, what of the story about the death of my great-grandmother and her children being sent to Mowata? Was that just a myth?
1910 US Census Gabe Ruben
My grandmother had a younger sister named Martha Ruben. On the 1920, Martha, 13, along with my grandmother [E]stella, 14, are both shown with Gabe and Eliza. If Martha is only a year younger than Estella, why isn’t she on the 1910 census in Gabe’s household?
Tragically, Martha dies almost 4 years later of cardiac dropsy, which is edema due to congestive heart failure. At the time of her death, the death certificate says she was 14, giving her a birth year of around 1910. Martha’s mother’s name is illegible on the document and I’ve been unsuccessful in making out the full name. The last name looks to me to be “Antwine”. What do you think is the name?
Marth Ruben’s Death Certificate
So maybe Eliza is the birth mother of Momí Stella, but I don’t think so. At the age of 14, my grandmother would have known the person listed as Liza on the 1920 census. Assuming Liza is the same as the Eliza that is on the 1910 census, it is unlikely my grandmother would have said that she did not know her mother if in fact Liza (and Eliza) was her mother, right?
There’s also a discrepancy with the age of Martha. The 1920 census, it has that she is 13, which means that she was born around 1907. However, her death certificate have that she was 14 when she died in 1924, means that her birth date was about 1910.
On a World War I draft registration dated September 12, 1918 I found Gabe’s significant other as Eliza Harrow.
The trail ends and I still have no information on who could be the mother of Momí Stella. I welcome your ideas on where I should look next to try to solve this mystery.
The Jasons, like most of the families in Bayou Chicot and the surrounding area, were farmers, and each of the Jasons had a brood of children, ensuring their family’s presence in future generations. That’s how I was going to start part two of my Jason’s blog post. However, with my recent big find, that part of the story will have to wait!
I started doing family research hoping to learn more information about my ancestors, including finding out who held my ancestors as slaves. For several years now, I’ve been visiting the archives in both Opelousas and Ville Platte. Opelousas is the parish seat for Saint Landry, whereas Ville Platte is the seat for Evangeline Parish. Established in 1805 and, once, much larger Saint Landry Parish has since been carved up, forming separate parishes, including Evangeline Parish, which was established in 1901.
I remember how nervous I was going into the Opelousas archives for the first time. It was daunting, seemingly insurmountable. I was doing something that was important for my family, something that my ancestors were pushing me to do, but I didn’t even know where to start. And, I was alone. So, I took that step in. There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge books that weighed easily 25+ pounds spread across the room. No one offered to help me. No one pointed me to the starting place. I didn’t even know that I could do a search on the computer that was in the archive room. There were just these books, walls and walls of big books. Saw sections labeled marriage records, probate and succession records, notarial records’, conveyances, miscellaneous records. I ventured into reading one of the succession records – everything was in French. Okay, this is not going to work, I said to myself. I have to get some information. I took a deep breath and that’s when I decided just to start with the marriage licenses and see if I can pull licenses for the people I did know. I just started looking up surnames, and if I recognized a given name I would get a copy of the marriage license. Simple as that.
In discussing family ancestry with others, it has been my Jason family members who have had the most interest, and it’s with the Jasons that I also have the most passionate fellow family researchers. One of my researcher-cousins, Patricia, connected me to Moses Jason’s sister Hannah and their father Godfrey Jason. Patricia is a descendant of Hannah and she made me aware of the 1870 and 1880 census, which showed Moses and Hannah living as next-door neighbors.
Through the years, they were proud and close knit family, often living in clan clusters a rocks-throw from one another. That’s a tradition that’s persisted. When my family moved from Louisiana to California in the 1970s, for the first year, we lived with my uncle near the San Francisco Bay. The next year, we moved—right next door to my mother’s first cousin. Researching enslaved persons can be challenging – one reason being the propensity of slavery to split families and possibly sell family members to unknown or faraway plantations. Another reason is that ‘slaves’ had no surnames, so when do typical genealogy research you’re looking at both the given name and the surname. So if you don’t know the name of the slave ‘owner’ it can be difficult to find your ancestors under slavery.
Per the 1870 census, Godfrey Jason was born in South Carolina and this same researcher-cousin surmised that Godfrey Jason may be one and the same as ‘Old Uncle Godfrey’ mentioned in the book Old Families and Tales of Chicot; or Miss Emma’s Memoirs , where Godfrey is noted as a slave owned by the Griffith family. Using the censuses, I was able to find Moses’s and Hannah’s other likely siblings: Winifred, Phoebe, and Temperance, also known as Tempy. In this family, as in other enslaved families, it was common to name children after their grandparents and their parents siblings. This was used as a code. It helped implicitly connect families, even if they were sold and separated. Moses named two of his daughters, Winifred and Hannah; Winifred named one daughter Temperance; two of Tempy’s children were named after her sisters Phoebe and Winifred; Godfrey Tatman, found in the 1900 census, is potentially Hannah’s son—named him after her father, Old Uncle Godfrey Jason.
Three or four years after my researcher-cousin first mentioned Hannah to me, I pored through census records to find links to her brother, my direct ancestor. In 1900 and 1910, Moses Jason who was living in the same household with Tempy and her family. Then, I had no idea who Tempy was. In 1900, Tempy and Moses are living in the household of a John Brown and his wife Harriet. Tempy is listed as John’s mother-in-law, making her Harriet’s mother. Moses is listed as John’s brother, which I thought was a mistake. I wasn’t able to pinpoint the relationship between John and Moses until the 1910 census. On this census, Tempy King is listed as the head of household, living with several people, including her brother, Moses Jason. King was probably Harriet’s last name, too, I thought.
Using Rev. Donald J. Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLA) CD, a couple of significant marriage references, I found out a couple of things:
Temperance Jason [Jacena] married Warren King on April 2, 1870
Harriet King married John Brown March 30, 1891.
The Louisiana Death records on FamilySearch shows that Tempy passed on March 29, 1921, had a deceased spouse named Warren King… and that her father was Godfrey Jason! Unfortunately, no mother is listed.
Familysearch.org Louisiana Death Index entry for Tempy:
I traveled with my cousin Geraldine to the Opelousas court house, doing computer index searches and surveying marriage licenses. Then, I decided I wanted to look up sale records. MY ancestors were bought and sold. There may be a record of it. I remembered what Patricia said, about Old Uncle Godfrey and the Griffith family. So, we looked up in the vendor/vendee index several of the conveyance records for Griffiths slave transactions. Two of these references broke down the slavery brickwall.
Per the conveyance document recorded December 17, 1833, Daniel Ferguson received nine hundred dollars from Isaac Griffith in exchange for a negro male slave, age 36. The slave’s name was Godfrey. My great-great-great-grandfather!
My excitement continued when I found, in another document dated April 18, 1848. Marie Ann Ferguson [Furguson], wife of Isaac Griffith, is transferring ownership of several slaves to her daughter Hester Griffith, wife of C. D. Tatman. These slaves were a negro male named Warren, 28; a negro woman named Tempy, 23; children Bob, 6, Henry, 4; Louis, 2; and Rachel, infant. The children are listed as only Tempy’s children, but Warren may indeed be the father. Not only had a found a daughter of Godfrey, but it so happened to be the one daughter where I had proof per the death certificate that Godfrey was her father.
I did not have Bob, Henry, Davis, nor Rachel in my tree, prior to finding Godfrey and Tempy in the slave records. However, on the 1870 census in the domicile right next to Warren and Tempy, we find Henry [one of the children on the Tempy slave document] and his wife, Isabella, living with several of Henry’s siblings—including Harriett!
Daniel Ferguson, born in South Carolina in 1774, was the fifth son of Moses Ferguson and Elizabeth Lively. In South Carolina, Daniel married Esther (Hester) Peak(e), where five of their eight children were born; the remaining being born in Bayou Chicot. Their daughter, Mary (Marie) Anne Ferguson, married Isaac Griffith in 1815 and their daughter, Hester, married Cornelius D. Tatman in 1842. More than likely, The Ferguson, Griffith, and Tatman family records may hold additional documentation on my enslaved family members. Information obtained using this link: http://dna.cfsna.net/GEN/USA/SC/Moses_Ferguson_and_Elizabeth_Lively.html. Here are a couple of entries on the family from Rev. Donald J. Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records entries:
CLARK, Elisabeth – native of this parish (major daughter of dec. John & Marie STEVENS) m. 13 July 1830 Daniel FERGUSON – native of South Carolina (major son of Moses & Elisabeth LIVELY) Wits: Francis D. SMITH, James MORGAN, Uriah FERGUSON, Edward FAHEY. Fr. Flavius Henri ROSSI (Opel.Ch.: v.1-B, p.558-B)
GRIFFITH, Hester m. 15 Dec. 1842 Cornelius D. TATMAN (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5) W
With these findings, I expect that it will lead me to find other enslaved relatives. Recently, I’ve been in contact with a number of DNA cousins that have known ancestors only in South Carolina and are not aware of any connections of ancestors in Louisiana. Wouldn’t it be great if I would be I able to trace my Louisiana family to our long ago- separated South Carolina family members, once again uniting them? That’s a wonderful dream…and, dreams do come true.
Back in 2011, I was the lead coordinator for the Jason Family reunion in Ville Platte. On July 9th, 250 people from around the country converged in that small, southwestern Louisiana town. This event provided a unique opportunity; my family had lived in the area for at least 200 years.
The Jason clan’s patriarch and matriarch are Godfrey Jason (who was born in South Carolina around 1797) and his wife Laura, (who was born in Louisiana circa 1810). The Jasons made their home in the Bayou Chicot area of Saint Landry Parish.
Godfrey and Laura were legally married December 31, 1869, though Laura died of dropsy (edema) a short time later, in April 1870. It’s unfortunate that she did not live to be counted on the 1870 census. That year is monumental for those of us that conduct African American genealogical research because the 1870 U.S. census is the first on which formerly enslaved persons would have been mentioned by name.
Although, Laura wasn’t on this census, we’re able to glean a little information about her from the Federal Mortality schedule. At the time of her death, Laura was sixty years old.
I often wondered how Godfrey made his way from South Carolina to Louisiana. I’m sure it was an advent of slavery, but did he get sold with his parents? How old was he when he left? Did he leave any of his close relatives tolling in South Carolina? Or, was he sold as a slave alone, without any family? At least I know, after his wife’s death, Godfrey, a Southern farmer, wasn’t living alone. According to the 1870 census, eight other people are living in the household from 31-year old Phebe Jason to one-year old Robert Jason. All members of the household have the surname Jason, but the 1870 census doesn’t clarify any relationships.
What we do know is that Godfrey had at least four children: Winifred (1827), Moses (1830), Hannah (1832), and Temperance (1839). Laura isn’t definitively the mother of all, if any, of the children, but it’s feasible.
I’m a descendant of Moses Jason. My first cousin’s research had substantiated our connection to Moses and we kept busy finding our fellow Moses’ descendants. With information from my first cousin’s research, he had traced our family to our two times great-grandfather, Moses Jason (abt. 1830). However, in 2009, I started collaborating with descendants of Hannah and I learned she was the Moses’ sister and I was told that Godfrey more than likely was the father of both Moses and Hannah. Making this connection was my first breakthrough for tracing family to the 1700s.
I want to continue in the next few posts talking about the Jasons and some of the genealogical finds.
Momí Joanna, my paternal grandmother, moved to our house when her youngest son threatened to kill her. This son, my uncle Albert, had two daughters he named Judy and a liked to drink. He was known to some as a fighter, always in trouble. One day, he was picking on a much smaller man with the last name of Doucet. Doucet slashed at him with a razor. Uncle Albert had to be rushed to the hospital with long cuts across his entire body and suffered significant blood loss. His body rejected the blood transfusion. He had been given the wrong blood type.
This all happened in the 60s. My mother Ella, along with my father and Momí Joanna went to visit him when he was in the hospital. Only my mother was allowed to see him. Although Ella begged him to see his mother and brother, he refused.
He always blamed Momí. For everything: for the drinking, the fighting, and the hospital bed. When he was growing up, Momí was too soft. He’d get into trouble, with neighbors or with the law, and she’d just give him a pass. “I know that wasn’t my Albert,” she’d say after he was caught with another boy stealing a bike. “I’m not going to touch him. I know that wasn’t him.”
On some level, Uncle Albert wished she had scolded or hit him when he was young. Maybe he thought if she had, he would have turned out in a better way.
“No,” he told my mother. “I don’t want to see her. I hate her.”
Shortly after, Uncle Albert died.
That was not my experience with Uncle Albert. He was to me a comforting soul. He would watch me and my youngest sister while my mother, his sister-in-law, worked in her beauty shop. I remember him lifting me and sister up into the tree and we would jump into his waiting arms laughing and giggling. He was my protector and with him I had no fears.
There is one image that comes to mind when I think of Momí Joanna. I must have been about 4 years old when she came to live with us. I picture her in our house. She is matter-of-factly squeezing my mother’s breast.
“Oh, no, girl, that’s drying up. That is drying up.”
My grandmother had nine kids. She was a breastfeeding expert. Everyone called her Masistah. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I learned the reason why she was living with us. Her youngest son had threatened to kill her.
Momí Joanna was born November 18, 1906 and passed away September 20, 1973. [Per Social Security she was born November 18, 1907.] In her obituary, she’s listed as the daughter of a Mr. and Mrs. Silas Daniel . At first, I took the obituary at its face value. Then, one day, my mother mentioned in passing that she did not think Daniel was my grandmother’s true last name.
Over the years, I had heard many names that were said to be my grandmother’s surname: Danner, Daniel, Dante, even Fontenot. I was intrigued. What was my grandmother’s full name?
This research started about 2003. My father, Welton Frank, had already died. So, first, I asked my father’s eldest brother Felton. He suggested Daniel and Dante, but he didn’t really know. I followed up to ask my father’s other siblings: they offered their ideas, but they, too, were unsure. I even asked if they would look at their birth certificates. I had no takers. Reading this, I would imagine you’re thinking, “How can a child not know their mother’s full name?” Well, that was my thought, also.
Uncle Felton did give me a hint on my grandmother’s paternal side: he told me about Uncle Charlie, who was a paternal uncle of my grandmother. Both my mother and my older sister also mentioned an Uncle Charlie. His face was disfigured after being burned badly in a cooking fire accident. He lived primitively, in a log cabin in the woods, possibly in the Bayou Chicot area.
I created a list of known facts about Momí so that I could get to her last name:
Father’s name was Silas.
Mother’s name was Victoria Leday (Lede).
Race would probably be listed as Colored, Negro, or Black.
Silas had a brother named Charlie (Charles).
Last name may start with a “D”, possibly a “Dan?”.
Family most likely lived in and around Saint Landry Parish.
Her birth was November 18 in the year 1906 or 1907.
She was born, lived, and died in Ville Platte, Louisiana.
She had very little schooling.
She was married at least 3 times, maybe 4 times: Chester Frank (my grandfather), Horace Ardoin (not sure they married), WC Frank, and Alcide Brown.
So, next I started searching the census the 1910 for a Joanna Daniel, Silas Daniel, and Charles Daniel; this yielded no results. I also looked at the 1900 census to see if I could find anything on Charles or Silas. Still, I could not find anyone who could be my family members.
In March 2008, when I visited the archives in Ville Platte, Louisiana, and obtained copies of two of my grandmother’s marriage certificates, for her marriages to Willie C. Frank  and to Alcide Brown . On the license for her marriage to Frank, my grandmother’s typewritten name is listed as Joe Anna Dantan. On the other license, her type written name was listed as Joanna Dantan. However, in both cases, the actual signatures look different from the typewritten names. On the first license the signature looks like Deonton and it looks like Danton on the second license. The first license listed Charlie Denton as a witness.
I took another look at the 1900 census, concentrating on Silas and Charles. I still didn’t get any results using the surname Deonton, Dantan, or Danton. I then narrowed the focus on Uncle Charlie and began using search wildcard “*”, I searched for “Charles Dan*”, “Charles Din*” and “Charles Don*”. Still nothing.
Then, I entered “Charles Den*”. Across the screen was the name “Charles Denton.” I selected the record.
In 1900, Charles was the 15-year old son of Samuel and Virginia Denton. He had several siblings: Junis, William, Richard, Caroline, Corinne, and most interestingly a 20-year old brother by the name of Cylus Denton . There was no doubt. I had found my great-grandfather and therefore my grandmother’s surname—Denton.
From, this 1900 census find, I was led to other censuses and found more information on Silas, his siblings, his parents, and grandparents. Silas and Charles were the sons of Samuel and Virginia Denton. I traced back to the 1880  and 1870 census , I found that Samuel was the son of Moses and Maria Denton. Samuel had typhoid fever and passed away on September 28, 1926. Virginia Denton passed away October 16, 1929 of acute indigestion . Her death certificate lists Charlie Denton as the informant (the person who provides information on the deceased, which may include the name, date and place of birth, and address.)
In 2010, I found the marriage license of my paternal grandparents. [See previous post.] The names were spelled, let’s say, differently. Also, obtained a copy of Silas’ death certificate where I learned that additional information on Silas. His nickname was ‘Buster’. He had remarried and was living in St. Mary Parish.
I took a DNA test recently and matched with an unfamiliar cousin. Together, we are now exploring the possibility of our connection through Samuel Denton. Just think, if I had not followed the call of my ancestors, I would not have looked into identifying my grandmother’s ancestors and her name may have forever been lost.
With this research effort, may my grandmother’s name always be remembered: Joanna Denton.
 Obsequies of Mrs. Joanna Brown for services September 24, 1973, Dr. M.L. Thomas, Pastor.
 Louisiana State Department of Health Certificate of Marriage File No. 22-476. Groom: Willie C. Frank; Bride: Joe Anna Dantan, December 17, 1953.
 State of Louisiana Certificate of Marriage State File No. 117. Groom: Alcide Brown; Bride: Joanna Dantan, February 25, 1969.
 1900 U. S. Census, Census Place: Ward 5, St Landry, Louisiana; Roll: 581; Page: 28A: Enumeration District: 59; FHL microfilm: 1240581. Charles Denton and Cylus [Silas] Denton.
 1880 U. S. Census, Census Place: 5th Ward, St Landry, Louisiana; Roll: 470; Family History Film: 1254470; Page: 325C; enumeration District: 043: Image: Samuel Denton, head of household.
 1870 U. S. Census, Census Place: Ward 3, St Landry, Louisiana; Roll: M593_530; Page: 110A; Image: 225; Family History Library Film: 552029. Image: Samuel Denton.
 Louisiana State Board of Health Certificate of Death of Virginia Denton, October 16, 1929.
No part of this document can be reproduced without the written authorization of the author.
My father, Welton Frank, didn’t know his father. In my last blog post, I talked about Uncle Felton and the last time I saw him. It was during this trip that he provided me with information about my paternal family. Uncle Felton said that he only recalled meeting his father twice. The last time they saw him, Welton was 10 years old. Uncle Felton had no idea when my grandfather, Chester had died.
My uncle went on to tell me the names of Chester’s immediate family.
“My grandfather’s name was Eve,” he said. Eve. I thought he had misspoken and had just told me his grandmother’s name.
“And what was your grandfather’s name?” I asked.
My uncle looked at me like I had a hearing problem. He said it again. “Eve.” I wrote the name down as is, although I was still confused. It wasn’t until later that I realized that he wasn’t saying “Eve,” the common female English name, but “Yves”, a typical French male name. Chester’s mother was Ozelia Bibbs.
Uncle Felton said that Chester had several brothers that he could recall: Clifton, Gilbert, and Johnny. Only Chester and Clifton had the same mother and father. Uncle Felton said that Johnny Jones was not his real name. Uncle Felton, though, could not remember his original first name, but he knew Johnny’s surname was ‘Bazile’. Clifton and his descendants use the surname Franks, whereas Chester and his descendants use the surname Frank.
Apparently, ‘Uncle Johnny’ had gotten into some kind of a dispute with some white people and was threatened with death, so he fled Louisiana. According to Uncle Johnny’s obituary he moved to Orange, Texas in 1945 and moved back to Louisiana under his assumed name in 1980.
I used the census records, his obituary and death record to try to figure out Uncle Johnny’s real name. Per his obituary, Uncle Johnny was born in 1904. The U.S. 1910 census record for Ozelia Bibbs, listed several sons, including a son named Robert who was born about 1904! Uncle Johnny’s only son was also named Robert Jones. Based on this information, I think we can assume that Robert is Uncle Johnny’s original name.
From the 1910 census, I also got the approximate 1909 birth year of my grandfather. So, on the U. S. 1930 census, I searched and found several Chester Franks that were born in Louisiana, but only one born in 1909.
He was living in Beaumont, Texas with a cousin, Joe Antwin. I did not know of a relative named Joe Antwin (a variation of Antwine and Antoine.) Since Antoine is a common name in southwestern Louisiana, I figured it was feasible that this could be my relatives. I believed this was my family. I just had to find the link.
Chester and Joanna, my father’s parents, were married December 12, 1925 in Ville Platte, Louisiana.
This 1930 census record details a Chester who is Black, male, born in Louisiana, and widowed. If this is the right Chester, it’s interesting to note that he and my grandmother, Joanna, never divorced and she was very much alive at the time this census was taken. She didn’t remarry until 1953 and she died in 1973. Around the time of this census, my grandmother was cohabiting with another man with whom she had seven children. So, I guess my grandparents, for all practical purposes, were ‘dead’ to each other and their relationship with each other may have attributed to the estrangement between Chester and his sons, Felton and Welton.
It’s important that a family historian know the migration patterns of the family in which they are researching. During the 1940s on through the late 1960s, many residents of southwest Louisiana, including St. Landry and Evangeline Parishes, migrated overwhelmingly to Texas and California. Migration cities included Beaumont, Houston, Port Arthur, Los Angeles, Richmond, San Francisco, and Oakland. Knowing that Beaumont was a common migration point for people from Ville Platte made it even more feasible that this could be a record of my relatives.
Well, my ancestors really wanted me to make the link and soon I would have my answer to my questions on Chester and his relation to Joe.
I try to visit my eldest sister at least twice a year, since she has moved back to our home town of Ville Platte. My visits also allow me opportunities to do first-hand research at the local courthouses. During one of my visits to my sister’s home, I was rummaging through my father’s documents, which had been in my sister’s possession since our father’s death in 1978. In these documents I found a genealogist’s treasure—obituaries (funeral programs). I was giddy as I ran to my sister to tell her what I had found. I asked and she was okay with me taking the obituaries home with me. Once I was home and able to look through my find, I located something. Buried in the stack of obituaries was one for a Joseph Zena Antwine. Had I found Joe Antwin?
Chills hit my body. This is usually a sign from my ancestors to let me know I’m on the right track. I felt in my bones this had to be the same Joe Antwin from the 1930 census record.
To help me make a quick connection, I called my Dad’s first cousin who is the daughter of Clifton Franks, my grandfather’s brother. I had met her for the first time in 2004 at my Uncle Felton’s funeral. She was able to confirm that Chester and Clifton did have a cousin named ’Zena’ (pronounced Zay – na), but she didn’t know how they were kin.
I received the Texas death certificate of a Chester Frank who died in Beaumont, Texas on Oct 9, 1938. This confirmed for me – this record was of my grandfather. He died of congestive heart failure at the age of 30. This information was also corroborated by the marriage license of my paternal grandmother, Joanna Denton. On her second marriage license, she indicated that her first husband, Chester Frank, died in 1939 (off by one year) in Beaumont. Through further research, I was able to ascertain that Joe Antwine and Chester Frank were first cousins. Chester’s mother, Ozelia Bibbs and Joe’s mother, Henrietta Bibbs were sisters. Henrietta was married to Joe’s father, Moses Antwine.
I found Chester and I continue looking for other ancestors! Happy searching :-).