Finding A relative in the Civil War – Henry King (part 2)

Unidentified USCT Civil War Soldiers
Unidentified African American soldier in Union corporal’s uniform

I received Henry’s pension file and it helped answer my most burning questions: how did Henry King end up in the Union Army? Did he run away from slavery? If so, how did he manage to escape? [See part 1 Finding Kin in the Civil War – Henry KING aka Henry Tatman (part 1).]

As a genealogist, my explorations include researching my African-descent ancestors from before the Civil War.  Some of these ancestors were enslaved, but a large portion of my family were free.  Doing slave research can be emotional, especially when you have a blood connection to the persons who are enslaved.  There’s a sorrow that touches your spirit seeing your family in slavery documentation.

It meant a lot to read the pension file and learn that Henry had, in fact, run away from the Tatman plantation during the Civil War. A copy of Isabella King’s Widow’s Declaration, included in the pension file, states “that her husband was a slave and was ‘so said’ married to another slave ‘Matilda,’ who died about 1864.” Cyrus Tatman (the son of Henry’s last enslaver) corroborates this in one of his own affidavits: “…we know he was married the first time to a woman by the name of Mathilda Jason, who left Opelousas with Henry Tatman at the time the Federal army passed through here about December 1863, and they went to Berwick’s Bay, La., with the army.”

 

 

 

Recently a reader of this blog, Jessamy, contacted me about a book she had just inherited with information about my family.  (Thanks Jessamy!) Coincidently, the snapshot of what she shared is relevant to this story.  Spanning Three Centuries 1898 Onward, was written by Martha Alma Adelaide Tatman Hudspeth, Jessamy’s great-grandmother.  Hudspeth is the granddaughter of Cornelius Duchane Tatman (Cyrus Tatman’s father) and Hester Griffith.

“Grandpa’s slaves were treated fairly and they behaved well.  They were worth a fortune, which was all lost after the Civil War when the slaves were freed.  Some of the slaves chose to stay and continue working as free men.  There was old Aunt Tempie and her husband, Warren.  Their children were Henry, Bob, Lewis, Frank, Martin, and Martha.  Other slaves were Phyllis, Winnie, Phoebe, and Stella.  All stayed until long after they were freed, except Henry.  He ran away to the Yankees.  Frank died.”

Note: Phyllis, Winnie, Phoebe, and Stella were also the children of Tempie[y] and Warren.  Phoebe and Stella are living in Henry’s and Isabella’s household on the 1870 US Census.

 

Spanning Three Century 1898 Onward
except from Spanning Three Century 1898 Onward by Martha Alma Adelaide Tatman Hudspeth regarding Henry King and family.

 

Henry Tatman—now known as Henry King—was sworn in on June 21, 1863 as a private in Company H, 80th Regiment Corps d’Afrique of the United States Colored Troops (USCT) Infantry.  Henry’s official muster in was 1 September 1863 at Port Hudson, Louisiana.  Henry was promoted from Private to Corporal on 2 November 1863 and up to Sergeant, 22 May 1864.  His rank was reduced down to Private on 20 January 1865.   He was promoted, once again, to Corporal on 15 June 1866.  His muster-out date was effective 31 August, 1866, in New Orleans, Louisiana.  During his service, his medical records show that he also was admitted in the hospital several times, including to treat him for fever.  Below, you will find his military service summary.  Also, from Fold3 I’ve posted some of the details on his rank movements.

 

HenryKingPension023

Henry Tatman aka King service from Fold3
Muster in, Rank promotions
Henry Tatman aka King service from Fold3
Reduced Ranks, promotion, and muster out.

 

The file is combination of both Henry Tatman’s invalid pension application and Isabella’s widow’s pension file.  On August 12th, 1890, Henry submitted an invalid pension and over the next two years, multiple documentation supporting his application.  Henry said he suffered with rheumatism making him unable to do manual work.  However, the doctor observed that Henry had “no chronic Rheumatism” and therefore was ineligible for a pension.

 

 

Henry’s pension application was rejected 20 January 1892 and he died February 25th, 1896.  Henry never received his pension.  In his affidavit for Henry, the doctor may have accidentally foretold Henry death. In his note, Henry’s doctor dismissively observes that “… in our opinion, [Henry is] entitled to a 4/18 rating for the disability caused by Piles [hemorrhoids].” Henry died from chronic diarrhea, a known symptom of Piles.

 

 

 

Later that year, after Henry’s death, Isabella applied for her widow’s pension. From September 1896 through to the end of 1897, numerous reports were submitted in support of Isabella’s widow’s pension application.  On January 22, 1898, Isabella’s petition was finally approved with a monthly payment of $8, effective September 1896. Isabella was dropped from the pension rosters on May 3, 1906, after her death in February of that year.

 

 

 

There’s a healing that comes about when you view manumission documents or see that an enslaved person successfully ran away.  I enjoyed learning more about Henry.

Happy searching!

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Memorial Day Salute to My Grandfather!

In my last post[“Mama, it was true! Your Daddy was in World War I!” ], I discovered that my Grandfather, Alsen Jason I had been in World World I.  This was a significant finding in my genealogical research, as it had been one of my mother’s questions for me when I started tracing my ancestry.  On this Memorial Day, I thought it would be good to share some newly found details.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I submitted a request for my grandfather’s military records.  Years ago, I had submitted a request, but the results of the search showed that he was not in the War.   Now, after I actually found the correct Louisiana World War I Services listing, I was able to provide the alternative spelling of my grandfather’s name, which was used during his service.

When I think of my relatives in Louisiana, many of them have limited their lives to only Ville Platte and the surrounding areas of Louisiana.  A few of these Louisiana clan members have ventured out mostly to places like Texas, and a visit here and there to California, where you find a lot of transplanted Louisianans.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found my grandfather, Alsen Jason, not only enlisted in World War I, but actually in New Jersey catching a ship for him to serve overseas in France.  How’s that for a Bayou Chicot native!

I guess I need to backup a little and tell you what additional information I recently found.  From the Louisiana Service record, it states that my grandfather went overseas September 8, 1918 and returned to the States June 28, 1919 – nine months in a foreign land.   The key to finding the information was having the correct spelling of the name under which my grandfather served.

My initial response from the National Personnel Records Center is that they do not have any records for my grandfather, Alcin Jasson [Alsen Jason].  Here’s the response I received:

Thank you for submitting a request to the National Personnel Records Center.

We have received your signature authorization for request number 2-xxxxxxxxxxx.

The record needed to answer your inquiry is not in our files.  If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.  The fire destroyed the major portion of records of Army military personnel for the period 1912 through 1959, and records of Air Force personnel with surnames Hubbard through Z for the period 1947 through 1963.  Fortunately, there are alternate records sources that often contain information which can be used to reconstruct service record data lost in the fire; however, complete records cannot be reconstructed.

We are mailing you NA Form 13075 (or NA Form 13055) which asks for additional information concerning the veterans’ military service.  Please use this form to provide us with as much information as you are able.  This information will be used by our staff to help reconstruct service record data lost in the fire.

The form will be mailed to you within the next 24 hours.

Thank you.

End of auto-generated message

I completed the NA Form 13075 as suggested by the personnel office.  The alternative records are scheduled to be sent to me sometime in mid-June 2017.  I can’t wait for what they find.

I decided to see what additional records I could find in the online search databases.   Ancestry.com has a database–U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939–that housed more information on Alcin [Alsen].  The records shows that my grandfather, Alsen, left the States via the USS Mercury on September 8, 1918 out of Hoboken, NJ. He listed his mother, Louisa Joseph, as next of kin.  I found that the the Louisiana document had an error.  Per the transport record, Alcin Jasson was part of the Supply Company of 806th Pioneer Infantry.  The Louisiana document mistakenly stated he was a member of company 606th.

US Army Transport Service Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 for Alcin Jasson _Sep 1918

I was even able to find a picture of the USS Mercury ship:

USS Mercury ship Alsen Jason sailed WW1

In reviewing other documents, I was able to get information as to where Jason served overseas.  Fold3 has records of experiences filed by the officers of the 806th Pioneer Infantry.  In his December 6, 1918 memo, B.J. Kavanagh, documented the experience report of the 806th Pioneer Infantry which included the supply companies.  He states that the group sailed out on September 8th, 1918 on the USS Mercury and debarked at Brest, France, 14 days later.  They were initially at Camp Potanazen then, on the September 28th, they arrived at Foulain.  Later, they were put up in a civilian village of Mandres until October 3rd, when they returned to Foulain and finally made their way to Leonval.  This report didn’t speak much about the supply companies.  Here’s Kavanaugh’s experience reports submitted about the 806th Pioneer:

Fold3_Page_1_WWI_American_Expeditionary_Forces_Officer_Experience_Reports

On Ancestry.com I also found the transportation information from France, for Alsen.

US Army Transport Service Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 for Alcin Jasson _June 1919 return

As we celebrate and remember those who have served and many who gave their lives for this country, let us also remember that many fought in foreign lands only to return home to be persecuted and treated as second class citizens in the country for which they fought.  May their fighting not be in vain.

 

Happy searching! Read more

All FRANKS are Kin! Part Two

 

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.

cover sheet Osite Lamarinde probate

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.

Ephraim Frank #71 Osite Lamarinde probate

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.

Julian Frank #75 Osite Lamarinde probate

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:

Julian Frank #75 Osite Lamarinde probate

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:

appraisal Frank and Eloise Osite Lamarinde probate

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:

Eloise #64 Osite Lamarinde probate

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.

Happy searching!

Calling All Loftons (Loftins)! Do you know my Grandmother’s People?

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.

Irma Frank
Irma Frank

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:

Application
Application

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.

Happy searching!

Another Brick wall Breakthrough

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.

gabe rubin 1880

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.

eva rubin marriage

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:

eva rubin 1900 census

 

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)

eva rubin 1900 census original

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:

jane rubin 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:

rosemont public estate sale2

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83026389/1854-01-14/ed-2/seq-1.pdf

One of these slaves turns out to be Jane along with several of her children, Nerieth, Caroline, John, Julienne, and Elizabeth.

https://www.facebook.com/Alexgenealogy/photos/a.782188565134511.1073741827.544570968896273/989464044406961/?type=1&theater

jane rubin and children slave

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:

caroline rubin notes from Alex

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:

julienne rubin

Elizabeth Ruben went on to marry Elie Joseph as noted in the following marriage license:

Elizabeth Rubin marriage

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.

Happy Researching!

The Name of my Great-Grandmother Is Found!

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.

Ella Jason-Frank
Ella Jason-Frank

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:

Stella Ruben marries Rodney Williams
Stella Ruben marries Rodney Williams
Stella Ruben and Rodney marriage license
Stella Ruben and Rodney marriage license

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.

 

Happy searching!

Where Are You, My Grandmother’s People?

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”.

Estella Ruben

Estella Ruben

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

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

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?

1920 US Census Gabe Ruben
1920 US Census Gabe Ruben

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

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.

WWi Draft Registration Gabe Ruben
WWi Draft Registration Gabe Ruben

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.

Jason Family of Ville Platte, LA –  Brick wall knockdown

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.

Moses Jason 1900 Census  Moses Jason 1910 census

 

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:

Tempy Jason Death entry

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!

Godfrey Jason slave doc 1833

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.

tempy and warren slave doc

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!

Henry King, wife and siblings living next to Mother and Father (Tempy and Warren)
Henry King, wife and siblings living next to Mother and Father (Tempy and Warren)

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.

Happy searching!

Jason Family of Ville Platte, LA – Part 1

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.

 

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 1
Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 1
Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 2
Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 2
Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriag Licence pg. 3
Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriag Licence pg. 3

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.

Laura Jason 1870 Federal Mortality Schedule
Laura Jason 1870 Federal Mortality Schedule

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.

Godfrey Jason 1870 US Census
Godfrey Jason 1870 US Census

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.

Happy searching!

My Grandmother’s Name?

Momí Joanna
Momí Joanna

 

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 [1]. 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 [2] and to Alcide Brown [3]. 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.

WC FrankJoanna DentonML

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 [4]. There was no doubt. I had found my great-grandfather and therefore my grandmother’s surname—Denton.

Charles Den* Census
Charles Den* Census

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 [5] and 1870 census [6], 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 [7]. 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.)

Virginia Denton Death Certificate
Virginia Denton Death Certificate
Sam Denton death certificate
Sam Denton death certificate

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.

Silas Buster Denton draft
Silas Buster Denton draft
Silas Denton Death Certificate
Silas Denton Death Certificate

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.

Notes:

[1] Obsequies of Mrs. Joanna Brown for services September 24, 1973, Dr. M.L. Thomas, Pastor.

[2] Louisiana State Department of Health Certificate of Marriage File No. 22-476. Groom: Willie C. Frank; Bride: Joe Anna Dantan, December 17, 1953.

[3] State of Louisiana Certificate of Marriage State File No. 117. Groom: Alcide Brown; Bride: Joanna Dantan, February 25, 1969.

[4] 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.

[5] 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.

[6] 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.

[7] Louisiana State Board of Health Certificate of Death of Virginia Denton, October 16, 1929.

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