Thursday, June 22, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Notice of Final Settlement and Probate Court Docket

This is a calling card that is 3 3/4" x 2 1/4".  It is made of fairly heavy card stock.  It is yellowish-brown and has some staining or discoloration in the lower left corner (which doesn't show up when I look at the card itself).  It also has holes that appear to be from two straight pins that were stuck through it (although I don't think it had pins in it when I received it).  A newspaper clipping has been pasted on the back of the card, and that side has some handwriting.

The calling card is for Jean La Forêt, apparently from the same printing as the one I posted two months ago.  That card had the June 25, 1920 "Notice of Final Settlement" pasted over the front of the card  This time we can see the front of the card.

The back of the card has a copy of the same "Notice of Final Settlement" pasted on it, with blue pencil outlining the notice.  It also has a note in what looks like Jean's handwriting:

Settled 8-10-20.
accepted check for $119.94

That dollar amount has come up before also.  It appeared in Jean's notes on the breakdown of Elizabeth Curdt's estate, with his comment that it should have been $133.35.  It's the amount that Emma, Elizabeth's daughter, accepted as her portion of her mother's estate.

This piece of newsprint is 5" x 7 1/8".  It has been torn out and has rough edges on three sides.  The right side appears to be the edge of a newspaper page.  The section that was saved is the "Probate Court Docket", with Tuesday, August 10, 1920 as the first date listed.  Underlined in blue pencil is Estate "5173 Curdt, Elizabeth", with "Aug W Curdt" under "Admrs. and Extrs." (Administrators and Executors).  It was folded down the first column, maybe to fit in an envelope, but that doesn't appear to show up in the scan.

Pasted on this piece is yet another copy of the "Notice of Final Settlement" dated June 25, 1920.  (I'm really starting to believe that Jean La Forêt had a pathological fear of losing paperwork.)

The August 10 date matches what Jean wrote on this card, on the card posted earlier, and in his notes on the estate.  While the $119.94 amount matches that on Jean's notes, it does not match what he wrote on the first card, which was 119 98/00.  So there's a difference of 4 cents for some reason.  I'm leaning toward the $119.94 figure being what Emma actually accepted, since that's in Jean's breakdown, but there's no way to tell for sure just from these items.

None of these clippings has any note saying from which newspaper it came.  The announcement of Elizabeth Curdt's death was said to be in the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat, so maybe these were published there also.

And sometimes I'm really slow, but I figured out tonight what the N. C. probably stands for on Jean's calling card:  "Non Commissioned."  It took a while to sink in because I've never seen it abbreviated in that way.  But Jean was a noncommissioned officer (NCO) in the Marines, so it makes sense.

These two items were next to each other in the original pile of papers I received.  I kept them together because they both have the "Notice of Final Settlement."

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Three Stories for Father's Day

Tomorrow is Father's Day, so of course tonight Randy Seaver picked a relevant theme for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun:

Your mission, should you decide to accept it (cue the Mission: Impossible music) is:

(1)  Sunday, 18 June, is Father's Day.  Let's celebrate by writing a blog post about your father or another significant male ancestor (e.g., a grandfather).

(2)  What are three things about your father (or significant male ancestor) that you vividly remember about him?

(3)  Tell us all about it in your own blog post, in a comment to this post, or in a Facebook Status or Google+ Stream post.

I decided to write about my paternal grandfather.

• One of the first things I always remember about my grandfather is his prosthesis and amputated leg.  He never talked about the accident that caused him to lose his leg (we finally learned details several years after he died), but he let us kids play with the prosthesis when he visited us in California.  After my family moved to where my grandfather lived in Florida, it became a regular part of the routine that every now and then Grampa had to see his doctor to have the prosthesis adjusted.  And one great adventure with my mother driving happened when we were going to Pensacola with Grampa to see his leg doctor.

• Something very important in my grandfather's life was being a Shriner.  He was a member of the Hadji Temple (in Pensacola) Tailgater Unit.  He was an active participant in the group's outreach and fundraising activities and proud of his membership.  Every year there was a big Shriners Fair in our area, and of course everyone in the family went.  (One of the public benefits they offered was blood pressure checks.  I used to have lower-than-average blood pressure, and it always freaked them out when they measured it.  They would turn to my mother and express their grave concern, and she would assure them everything was fine.)  I think they did parades through Niceville, but I don't remember if they had the silly little cars.  I have only one photograph of Grampa in his Shriner fez, and that's because my aunt brought it with her when I coordinated our little Sellers family reunion a couple of years ago.  But I don't know what happened to the fez itself!  (Hmm, I wonder if Shriners have records I should be looking for . . . .)

• Another vivid memory is my grandfather's stamp shop in Niceville, Florida.  It was attached to his house, so anytime we visited, we usually stopped in the store also.  And I worked for Grampa in the shop, so I spent extra time there.  Sellers Stamp Shop was a homey little operation.  The front part was the retail area, which had glass display cases for coins, postage stamps (for philately, not for mailing), and associated paraphernalia.  He sold some other odds and ends also.  The rear of the shop was where we made rubber stamps, such as "PAID" and address stamps, with "hot lead" by hand.  (Nowadays it's all done with computers.  Feh.)  Working at the shop was my first job after babysitting, so I was very proud of the work I did.  And I got to hang out with Grampa!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: The Curdt Siblings Respond

These four sheets of lined paper measure 7 13/16" x 9 13/16".  They appear to be inexpensive and of low quality, with no watermark.  Although the paper is lined on both sides, the writing is on only one side of each page.  Unlike so many items in this collection that have been glued together, these pages are attached by an ingenious metal brad.  The pages have three fold lines; it looks as though they were folded in thirds to fit into a business-sized envelope, and then one end was folded over to fit into a shorter envelope.

This is a four-page letter, all handwritten, dated January 28, 1920.  It is from Emma (Schafer) La Forêt's three siblings — Alvina (Curdt) Schulte, August W. Curdt, and Louisa (Curdt) Schaefer — and was written to Emma in response to the letter dated January 25, 1920 that she sent to them (which I posted last week).

If you don't want to read the handwriting, don't worry — look at this.

Yes, conveniently, I also have a typed transcription of the letter.  It is not exact — several capital letters were made lower case, a few letters went the opposite direction, spelling was changed, ampersands were converted to spelled words, and punctuation (which is very casual in the original) was adjusted.  In addition, two entire phrases were omitted.  But it's a little easier to read than the handwriting.  This particular page is 20# watermarked bond (BERKSHIRE SOUVENIR BOND USA), 8 1/2" x 13", and cream in color.  If that sounds familiar, it should.  It's the same type of paper as used in the typed copy of Emma's letter to her siblings.  In fact, this is attached to those two pages.

The differences between the original handwritten letter and the typed transcription are:

The second page of the original begins with "she always did with her property as she pleased & sold to whom she pleased for what she pleased & did with her cash as she pleased and saw best".  The transcription omitted "& sold to whom she pleased for what she pleased".

About halfway down the third handwritten page is "C. F. Schaefer bought several pieces of ground at different times, & sold them at a good profit, but he bought and paid the prices Mother asked for them, you say there was ($7,000.00) severn thousand dollars worth of property sold".  The transcription left out "at a good profit, but he bought and paid the prices Mother asked for them".

In addition, the transcribed letter has two notes at the bottom not from the original:  when it was received and answered, and a comment that the letter proves distribution of property was accomplished, not a sale.

In this letter we finally hear something from Emma's siblings, giving us a new perspective on some of the goings-on in the family.  Something that particularly caught my attention were the two comments about Emma having left her children in the care of her mother:

"when you married J. L. La Foret and went to Europe & left your children & her in her old age"

"but you do not mention the debts that were on same, & which Mother was left with three small children to pay interest on"

(Although the grammar in the letter is very fractured, it's usually easy enough to figure out the meaning, so I am going to assume that the interest mentioned in the second comment was being paid on the debts, not the children.)

I admit, I have wondered why Emma did not bring her children from her first marriage with her when she married Jean La Forêt and went to Europe.  But the siblings' accusations do not ring true.

First of all, when Emma left Missouri to marry Jean in 1908, the children were not that small.  Camilla Petit was born in 1894, making her 14, and Eugene in 1896, making him 12.  Marie was the oldest.  Emma did not give her birth date on any documents I have, but Jean wrote in his diary that she was born in 1885.  So she was an adult in 1908.  In fact, she apparently was married that year, because I found Marie in the 1910 census, married to William Schulte (as Emma stated in her narrative).  The census says that they had been married for two years.  And Camilla and Eugene are living with them, not with their grandmother.  (As an aside, the census shows that Marie was born in Germany; given how friendly Emma's in-laws were toward her, I'm sure that they were even more excited to have a baby in the house.)  While I have no documents that indicate how long Camilla and Eugene had been living with their older sister, it is not unreasonable to think they had been doing so since Emma had departed.

United States 1910 Federal Population Census, Enumeration District 119
Central Township, St. Louis County, Missouri, May 13, 1910, page 24A, lines 18–22
Once I call the complaint about Emma dumping her children on her mother into question, the siblings don't have much ammunition left.  So even though they wrote that Emma was the person who should dread the family's dirty linen being aired in court, I'm still inclined to think that the siblings were probably in the wrong and deliberately deprived Emma of at least some of her rightful inheritance.

I have one more item to include in this post:

Both the original letter from the Curdt siblings and the three glued-together typed pages with the transcriptions were in this envelope.  One of the copies of the waiver signed by Louis Curdt was in it also.  What was not in it was a copy of the response to the Curdt siblings letter dated January 28, which was sent on February 3, according to the note at the bottom of the transcription.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Significant Family Move

Recently two different influences on my blog came together in a way that made me write this post.  Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun theme had people writing about homes in which they have lived and which ancestor moved the furthest during his lifetime.  And the California Genealogical Society invited Craig Siulinksi to teach a class about writing one's life, in which he suggested that attendees each write about a significant event in our lives.  Having those ideas running around together in my head made me focus on a significant move.

As evidenced by the post about the homes in which I've lived, I have moved many times in my life.  My family moved so many times when I was a kid, my mother was nicknamed "the wandering Jew."

One of the most significant moves came early in my life, when my family left the United States and lived in Australia for two years.  We did this through a potential immigrant program sponsored by the Australian government.  I don't know how many groups might have been targeted, but the relevant one for my family was tradesmen.  My father was a talented and accomplished mechanic and apparently fit in well with what the government was looking for.

He was such a good mechanic, his photo was used in a newspaper ad in Australia!

I don't remember any of the preparations leading up to the move, because I was just eight years old and my parents handled all of that.  My father has told me one thing he had to do was go to San Francisco for an in-person interview at the consulate.  His opinion was that they wanted to make sure he was white; I don't know if that's valid or not.

We flew to Australia in March 1971.  The first leg of our journey was taking a helicopter from Ontario Airport in far western San Bernardino County to LAX, where we would catch a plane.  The three of us children were thrilled that we could look out the windows of the helicopter in all directions, but my mother, who was pathologically afraid of heights, had her eyes squeezed tightly shut the entire trip.  She kept telling us she didn't want to hear about what we could see down on the ground.

The airplane we flew on was a Pan Am Boeing 747.  Those were relatively new at the time, and I think it was pretty fancy, but I can't recall anything specific about the flight other than that we had to stop in Hawaii to refuel (which nowadays sounds amusing to most people).  And illogical as it seems, my mother loved to fly, as long as she was not sitting by the window.

I have only vague memories of our earliest times in Australia.  The first place we lived was an apartment.  I think that's where we were when my parents bet each other who could stop smoking longer.

Some background:  Both of my parents had smoked my entire life.  My mother's best friend smoked also.  When we were younger and my mother asked us children what we wanted for Christmas, we would say in a chorus, "We want you and Daddy to quit smoking."  To which my mother would reply, "Yeah, right, what do you really want?"  Well, be careful what you wish for.

So the bet was on.  My father gave up after three days.  My mother, who was more than a little stubborn, stuck with it.  Unfortunately, she became grumpier and grumpier (a very polite term for how she was acting) and ever more unpleasant to be around.  Eventually, my brother, sister, and I all begged her, "Mommy, please start smoking again!"  (The smoking is what eventually killed her, but she was absolutely miserable without her cigarettes.)

Next we lived in Maroubra Junction.  The main thing I remember about this location is that my mother worked at a Greek deli for Mr. Kringas.  One time when I was there Mr. Kringas asked if I could read.  At 9 or 10 years old, I proudly said I could, and he promptly handed me a newspaper — but it was in Greek!  He thought this was a great joke, but maybe that's what motivated me to learn the Greek alphabet.

As for the photograph at the top of this post, according to my father, "The Concorde was on a world introduction/promotional tour.  Being an airplane buff, I decided we should go see the beast.  Everyone was duly impressed and your Mother was already scheming up how to get a ride.  When we later found the going rates for SST travel, that plan was quickly discarded."  The photo of my siblings and me in front of the Concorde was taken at the airport in Sydney.  According to this history of the plane, the date was June 17, 1972.  (Isn't the Web wonderful?)

Monday, June 12, 2017

Loving Day

June 12 in the United States is Loving Day, the annual commemoration of the Supreme Court decision that struck down antimiscegenation laws, which prevented marriage between blacks and whites, in the sixteen states of the South that still had them on the books.  In honor of that day, this year I am happy to let you know about a New York Times story that my friend and genealogy colleague Nicka Smith contributed research to.

Leon and Rosina Watson of Oakland, California were married in 1950.  According to the Times, they are "among the oldest living interracial couples legally married in the United States."

California's State Supreme Court had only overturned the state's own antimiscegenation laws in 1948 in Perez v. Sharp.  With that decision, the court became the first one of the 20th century to declare that a state antimiscegenation law violated the U.S. Constitution.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Recent Ancestor Photographs

Even while he's busy posting about Genealogy Jamboree, Randy Seaver found time to come up with a new challenge for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun!

For this week's mission (should you decide to accept it), I challenge you:

(1)  Do you have photos of all of your ancestors back to the 1850 time frame?  
Which recent ancestors do you not have a photograph of?  

(2)  Review your files, and list the ancestors for whom you want and/or need to find a photograph.  Also list where they resided and where they died.  Where would you look to find a photograph of them?

(3)  Share your answers on your own blog post (and leave a comment here with a link), or on Facebook or other social media.

1.  I have photographs of my parents, all four grandparents, and eight of nine great-grandparents, counting my paternal grandfather's adoptive father.  As I have not yet identified my grandfather's biological father, it would be surprising if I had a photo of him.  Of my sixteeen great-great-grandparents (eighteen if I count the unidentified great-grandfather), I have photos of only ten.

2.  The great-great-grandparents of whom I have no photographs are:

• Frederick Cleworth Dunstan (1840–1873) and Martha (Winn) Dunstan (1837–1884), who lived and died in the area of Manchester, Lancashire, England
• Amelia (Gibson) Gauntt (1831–1908), who lived and died in Burlington County, New Jersey
• Cornelius Godshalk Sellers (1845–1877), who was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and later lived and died in Philadelphia
• Simcha Meckler (?–before 1903) and Baila (?) Meckler (?–before 1925), who lived and died in the area of Kamenets Litovsk, Russian Empire (now Kamyanyets, Belarus)

My great-grandmother Jane Dunstan had a brother, Frederick, who also immigrated to the United States.  I could try to track down his descendants to see if any of them have photos of the parents.  I also know of some cousins on a collateral line of that family who are still in England.  They would be another possible resource.

I am in touch with several Gauntt cousins.  I'm sure that at least one of them has a photo of Amelia, right?

Cornelius Sellers is a tough one.  He died young and his widow remarried.  Cornelius' only surviving child died young also (before his mother), but one son survived from the widow's second marriage.  Perhaps someone on that side of the family might have a photo of Cornelius.  Another possibility is through his Civil War service.

I doubt any photograpohs of Simcha and Baila Meckler ever existed.  The only person I know of to ask is my cousin in Israel.

Unfortunately, other than Cornelius, it is unlikely that these great-great-grandparents appear in any archival collections, but one should always check, just to make sure.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma Writes to Her Siblings

This is two sheets of paper each measuring 8 1/2" x 13", attached in the upper left by some sort of glue or paste.  They are cream in color.  The paper feels like 20# stock.  Each sheet has a watermark:  BERKSHIRE SOUVENIR BOND USA.

Everything on these pages is typed except the note "Retained" in the upper left.  I don't know if that refers to this typed copy being kept, but that's the only idea I can come up with.

While this letter purports to have been written by Emma (Schafer) La Forêt, as has happened often with documents I have posted, the writing style here seems to me very French, and I suspect the wording came from Jean La Forêt, even if Emma may have physically penned the original letter that was sent to her sisters and brother (which I don't have, unfortunately).  The word "informations" always makes me think of French.

The letter is pretty harsh in tenor.  The accusations of Emma's brother-in-law Charles Schaefer are direct and blunt, more so in some ways than in a previous document detailing his purchases and failings.  I am surprised, however, that Emma's sisters and brothers pretty much get a pass on culpability.  In particular, the characterization of Louisa as blameless and totally under the control of her husband seems odd to me in this context.

Blame notwithstanding, the primary purpose of this letter was to convince August, Alvina, and Louisa to cough up some of what they had gained from their mother — illicitly or otherwise — and share it with Emma.  I have felt sympathy for Emma's position in her family's machinations based on earlier documents, but this letter comes across to me more as whining than as a convincing indictment.  I think that's partly because of the melodramatic tone and partly the taunting withholding of information:  "occurrences in our family . . .  it will be better to keep away from public knowledge", "I know but will not speak of it until it becomes unnecessary."  Maybe the tone was the way average people expressed themselves in this period, but the taunting just hits me wrong.

From the first documents I posted about Emma and her life story, we've known that she and her husband did not pursue a court case against her siblings.  I suspect that's also coloring my opinion of this letter, which I realize isn't fair.  When the letter was written in 1920, Jean and Emma probably were still considering filing a lawsuit.  They must have believed this letter was the best approach.