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 :-).
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