Sunday, February 28, 2016

I Won an Award!

One of the things about editors I have learned in my roughly 35 years of working as one is that they rarely get recognition for their work.  There's a saying that if the editor is doing his work well, you never notice his presence.  And I know someone who has mentioned more than once that he has hired a writer he thought was good and discovered that the person he really wanted was the guy's editor, who had made him look good.

So I was very pleasantly surprised today at the meeting of the San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society to be presented with an award for my editing work on ZichronNote, the quarterly journal of the society.  The award was from the California State Genealogical Alliance (CSGA) and was presented to me by Beth Galleto, the previous editor of ZichronNote.  Beth wrote lovely things about my work in the application she sent to CSGA, some of which was quoted in the letter accompanying the certificate.  So I'm very proud, and I want to show off my certificate and letter.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: What Did You Collect as a Youth?

This week's installment of Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun asks us to reminisce about our youthful collecting habits:

1)   Most of us collect dead ancestors and relatives now What did you collect when you were a child or teenager, or adult?

2)  Tell us about your collections in a blog post of your own, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.

The only thing I remember collecting before my family moved to Australia is dolls.  While most of the dolls I had were Barbie and other Mattel models, I also had a few vintage dolls.  I dragged them from California to Australia and then to Florida and back to California.  I used to make clothes for them, both sewn and knitted.  And yes, I still have them all.

I think I started collecting stamps while we were living in Australia, though I'm not entirely sure.  I might have started in California.  My grandfather used to own a stamp and coin store, and as I recall he started me off with several common stamps and a collecting book.  I remember having the stamps in Australia, and I brought them back to the States with me also.  One of my "themes" for collecting was trying to get stamps from as many different countries as possible.  I continued to collect stamps even into my first couple of years of college.  I finally sold my collection when I moved to the San Francisco area.

I believe I started my playing card collection while I lived in Australia, because one of the decks I have from there is an old game called Chook Chook, which is a resource game based on making as much money as possible from the eggs your hens lay.  (And I am stunned to learn that there is actually an entry for Chook Chook on Board Game Geek. I didn't know the game dated back to the 1920's.  I don't think my deck is that old.)  I still collect playing cards, and that's the most common gift I receive from my father and brother for my birthday and Christmas.  I must have several hundred decks.  Most are advertising for airlines or casinos.

In Florida, I began my collection of dice.  That started when I was playing Dungeons & Dragons and became fascinated with the different polyhedral dice used in the game.  Along with several different colors and sizes of polyedral dice, I also have lots of regular six-sided dice, including many from casinos.  Some of my dice are . . . unusual, to say the least, such as the "2-sided die" (essentially a coin) and a 7-sided die that Uncle Lou swore was balanced, but I don't know anyone who believed him.  I even have a 16-sided die that was made custom for a specific game and a 34-sided die that was created so people could randomly choose numbers for the Danish lottery.

I love maps and have always kept many relevant modern ones in the house, but when I began working at Chaosium, a small company that publishes the game Call of Cthulhu, set primarily in the 1920's, I began accumulating vintage maps.  Coincidentally, they're helpful with genealogy, also!  Nowadays I also download lots of images of vintage maps to keep for reference.

And while I did not collect baseball cards, my brother did, and I used to help him sort cards when he bought a big batch from someone.  The Topps 1972 cards had a distinctive design I can still picture in my mind.  My brother used to memorize players' statistics, and I would quiz him from the information on the backs of the cards.

I began collecting my dead relatives at the age of 13.  Like Randy, I have several thousand of those now.  I still have my original notes from when I interviewed family members.  And I also collect lots of documents, photographs, and ephemera related to my family.

I suspect collecting things is a common pastime among genealogists, as both hobbies tend to attract people with slightly (only slightly, mind you!) obsessive-compulsive personalities.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma La Forêt Applies for an Emergency Passport

This week's document in the life of Emma Schafer is a copy of her emergency passport application from 1917.  This is an original, marked "quadruplicate", so I believe it was her copy that she kept after sending the original to the consulate.  It is pale bluish-green, which scanned with no color; I guess copy machines still don't do blue well.  It is legal size, 8 1/2" x 14", two sided, and has four impressed seals of the American Consulate in Algiers at the bottom, only one of which kind of appears in the scans.  The paper is watermarked with the Great Seal of the United States.  In my transcription I have underlined the information that was entered onto the preprinted form.  I also have again put the descriptions of the fields in small type and placed them after the fields.

-- >< -- >< -- >< -- >< --


NOTE.—This form is to be filled out in duplicate, one copy being retainedi n the files of the office by which the emergency passport is issued and the other forwarded to the Department.

Fee for Passport ............. $1.00
FORM No. 176B—CONSULAR.        Fee for administering oath and preparing   
(Corrected June, 1917.)                         passport application ................ 1.00


No. __________                                                   Issued ____________________ (Date.

I,   Emma La Forêt   , a NATIVE AND LOYAL CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES, hereby apply to the American   Embassy   , at   Paris   , for an emergency passport for myself, accompanied by my wife, __________ , and minor children as follows:   Rosita   , born at   Versoix,Switz.   , on the   4th   day of   Sept. 1909   (Month and year.); and __________ ; born at __________ ; on the _______ day of __________ (Month and year.); and ______________________________

I solemnly swear that I was born at   Welston   , in the State of   Missouri  . on   14 November 1866    (Date.) ;* that my {father husband}   Jean L. La Forêt   (Name.), was born in   Angevillers, Lorraine   and is now residing at   Algiers   , for the purpose of   health & Vice-Consul   ;† [that he emigrated to the United States from the port of   Southampton,Eng.   , on or about   May, 1884   (Date.) ; that he resided   25   years uninterruptedly, in the United States, from  1884  (Year.) to  1909  (Year.) , at   San Francisco, Calif   ; that he was naturalized as a citizen of the United States before the Superior   Court of   City & County of San Francisco,Cal.   at   San Francisco, California   on   March 22,1890,   as shown by the Certificate of Naturalization presented herewith];‡ that I am /   included in my husband's   the bearer of Passport No.   3343   , issued by Department of State   on   April 23, 1909   (Date.) ; that my legal domicile is in   San Francisco, California   , my permanent residence being at    San Francisco,Calif.   , and I last left the United States on   May  1909 .   arriving at   Algiers   (Town, province.)  Algeria   (Country.) , on   May 7, 1910   , where I am now residing for the purpose of   with husband   (Occupation.) , xxxxxxx ____________________ (Name, address, and nationality of firm, corporation, or other organization represented, if any.) ; that I have resided outside the United States at the following places for the following periods:§
   Algiers, Algeria             , from     1909        to   date      
           ---                          , from       --           to     --        
           ---                          , from       --           to     --         ;
and that I desire to remain a citizen of the United States and intend to return thereto permanently to reside and perform the duties of citizenship within   3    {months years} or when __________

I have not applied elsewhere for a United States passport or for consular registration and been refused.

I desire a passport for use in visiting the countries hereinafter named for the following purposes:
   Algeria       (Name of country.)      Residence              (Object of visit.)
   France       (Name of country.)      En route to U. S.    (Object of visit.)
   ----             (Name of country.)      -----                        (Object of visit.)


Further, I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; and that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion:  So help me God.

  Emma La Foret   [signature] (Signature of applicant.)

American   Consulate   at   Algiers, Algeria.  

Sworn to before me this    7th    day of   September, 1917.   (Month and year.)
   A. C. Frost     [signature] (Name.)
[SEAL.]                                                          Consul of the United States of America.  (Title.)
Service Nos. 201-2

* A person born in the United States should submit a birth certificate with his application, or, if the birth was not officially recorded, affidavits from the attending physician, parents, or other persons having actual knowledge of the birth.
† If the applicant's father was born in this country, lines should be drawn through the blanks in brackets.
‡ It is desirable, but not absolutely necessary, that the certificate of naturalization of the father be submitted.
§ See circular instruction of July 26, 1910, entitled "Protection of Native Americans Residing Abroad."  1–91

[Stamped sideways in lower left corner:]
Fee $2 — U. S. Gold equal to Frs.
12—— paid by affixing stamps to
the original copy of this document

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Age:   50   years.                                      Mouth:   medium  
Stature:   5   feet,   7   inches, Eng.         Chin:   round  
Forehead:   high                                      Hair:   dark brown  
Eyes:   blue-grey                                     Complexion:   fair  
Nose:   regular                                         Face:   oval  


   September 7, 1917.    (Date.)
I,    Jean L. La Forêt    , solemnly swear that I am a {native naturalized} citizen of the United States; that I reside at    San Francisco, California  ; that I have known the above-named    Emma La Forêt    personally for   20   years and know {him her} to be a native citizen of the United States; and that the facts stated in {his her} affidavit are true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

   Jean L. La Forêt    [signature]
   Algiers, Algeria.    (Address of witness.)

American   Consulate   at   Algiers, Algeria.  

Sworn to before me this    7th    day of   September, 1917.   (Month and year.)
   A. C. Frost     [signature] (Name.)
[SEAL.]                                                         Consul of the United States of America.  (Title.)

Identifying documents submitted exhibited as follows: *    Passport No. 3343; Marriage Certificate; Birth Certificate of daughter, Rosita, etc. etc.   .
______________________________________________________________ 1–91
* See General Instruction No. 483, circular September 28, 1916, section 4.

A duplicate of the photograph to be attached hereto should be filed with the application retained in the office by which the emergency passport is issued.

[typed to left of above instructions regarding photograph]

A L G I E R S , A L G E R I A.
Sept. 24, 1917.
This document is a copy of
the application upon which
an American passport, No.
1704, was issued September
14, 1917, by the American
Embassy at Paris, France.
A. C. Frost [signature]
Consul of the United Stats
of America at Algiers, Algeria.

[Photograph of Emma La Forêt and Rosita covers middle of the following paragraph:]

One photo . . . [mu]st be pasted
in this space . . . [Co]nsular officer
who takes th– . . . of his office
must be imp– . . . so as partly
to cover one . . .

E. La Foret [signature on photograph]

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The reason for the emergency passport request would seem to be due to World War I because of the timing, although the application was submitted three years after war had broken out in Europe following the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand.  While I can find references to Algerians fighting during the war and battles in other parts of North Africa, the primary actions in Algeria seem to be related to independence movements.  Whatever the specific cause, travel during this period would have been difficult, so the decision to go back to the United States at this time could not have been an easy one.

From the passport application we learn that Emma now has another daughter, Rosita, who was born in Switzerland in September 1909, when Emma was almost 43 years old.  Emma registered as an American citizen in Versoix in June 1909, so she was about six months along in her pregnancy when she arrived.  That must have been a fun cross-Atlantic voyage.

There are several discrepancies in the information given on this application as compared to what we have learned previously. Here Emma said that her husband Jean was born in Angevillers, Lorraine, whereas on her registration form in Versoix she said he was born in Nancy, France.  While both locations are in Lorraine, they're almost 60 miles apart.  Maybe Nancy is the largest city close to Angevillers, but that's a pretty significant difference.

The passport application also states that Jean had lived 25 years uninterruptedly in San Francisco.  He was a U.S. Marine for several of those years, and I doubt he lived uninterruptedly anywhere close to 25 years.  I realize that while in the military you can maintain a permanent residence that is different from where you are assigned, but I'm going to be surprised if I find that he claimed San Francisco that entire period.

Another conflict is within the information on the form itself.  Emma stated that her daughter Rosita was born in Versoix, Switzerland on September 4, 1909.  She also stated that she arrived in Algiers on May 7, 1910.  Yet she later said that she had resided outside the United States only in Algiers, from 1909 to the present date (September 7, 1917).  So when she was in Switzerland she wasn't actually residing there?  I guess the consulate and embassy didn't consider that to be a problem.

A minor discrepancy is that Emma's birthplace is spelled Welston here and Wellston on the registration of American citizen form.  As spelling is still fairly fluid at this time, that's not much of a surprise and is not significant.

Emma stated that her legal residence was San Francisco, California, although there's no evidence she ever had lived there.  I'm certain San Francisco was used because it was Jean's legal residence.

Jean and Emma are still on the same passport, #3343, as listed on the registration of an American citizen, even though it is eight years later.  I'm used to passports during this time being valid for shorter periods.  Maybe Department of State passports were valid longer or were open-ended.

We have a physical description of Emma on the second page of the application.  She was 5'7", fairly tall for a woman at this time.  At the age of 50 she still had dark brown hair (naturally?).  I noticed they didn't ask for weight, though.

An interesting piece of information is in the "Identification" section.  Jean said he had known Emma for 20 years, which would be from about 1897.  At that time Emma was still married to Emile and living in Vallejo.  From the documents I have, she seems to have lived in Vallejo until she went to Missouri.  How did these two people meet?  It does make sense that they knew each other in the San Francisco area, though, because otherwise they would have met in Missouri or Florida prior to their marriage, with a small window of time.

Just because I was curious, I looked up Mr. A. C. Frost.  Among what were probably other posts, he apparently was a Vice-Consul in Genoa in 1916, Consul in Algiers from at least 1917 to 1920, Consul in Guatemala from at least 19211923, a consul in Havana, Cuba in 1923, and Consul General in Zurich from 1938–1939.  So he appears to have been a career diplomat.  But I didn't find what the A. C. stood for.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Free Genealogy Seminar in Fresno, Saturday, March 19, 2016

The California State Genealogical Alliance and the Fresno County Genealogical Society are presenting a free genealogy seminar on Saturday, March 19, 2016.  This is an opportunity to attend three interesting talks at no cost, hang out with other genealogists, and learn more about the Alliance.

The presentations and speakers will be:

• "Mapping Our Ancestors:  They Went Where?  Why?", by Mary Anne Vincent

• "Grandma, Who Are You?:  Finding the Maiden Names in Your Family Tree", by yours truly

• "Vital Records and the Calendar Change of 1752", also by me

A CSGA board meeting will be held after the third presentation.  The presentations and the board meeting are free and open to the public.

The event will run from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  It will take place at:
River Room
Woodward Park Regional Library
944 East Perrin Avenue
Fresno, CA 93720

There is limited seating, so the society is requesting that everyone who plans to attend make a reservation through EventBrite.

For more information, download the flyer.  I hope to see you there!

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Who Were Your Neighbors?

In this week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun exercise, Randy Seaver is asking people to remember back to probably many years ago:

1) Think about who your neighbors were when you were a child.  Where did you live?  Who lived next door or across the street?  

2)  Tell us a story about one or more of your neighbors.  If you want to keep them anonymous, just use first names.   Do some research if you need to recall names and years.

3)  Share your story in your own blog post (but leave a comment on this post so we can find it), in a comment to this blog post, or on Facebook or Google+.

For me this is an amusing question, because my family moved so many times when I was young (by the time I was 21 I had lived in 21 different places), I don't remember details about that many of the locations, much less the neighbors.  But I do remember a family who lived across the street from us when we lived in Pomona, California.

We lived at 434 Randy Street from about 1970 to March 1971.  Across the street and on the corner — now the intersection with Barjud Street, but that doesn't sound familiar at all, so it might not have been the name when we lived there 45 years ago — was the Lamey family.  I remember the parents' names:  Bill and Juanita Lamey.  I recall they had children, who might have been about our ages (8, 7, and 6 in 1971), but have no clue how many or what their names were.

The Lameys had a swimming pool, which made their house a popular place to hang out.  One day while we were over there playing in and around the pool, I stepped on a bee that was on the ground.  I don't know if it was alive or dead when I stepped on it, but I do remember it hurt like hell.  I still don't like buzzy things.

I also recall that sometimes we would go to church with the Lameys.  I think we went at least once on Easter Sunday.  No real idea what denomination it was — Episcopalian kind of rings a bell?  I don't think that my mother, who was Jewish, went with us, and I'm sure that my father didn't.

Another neighbor I remember something about was when my family lived in Australia.  The last home we had there was on Bunnerong Road, Pagewood (a Sydney suburb), New South Wales.  This would have been late 1972 to early 1973.  I don't know the street address (my brother might, because he went back and visited there several years later), but the house was on a flag lot behind the bulidings actually facing on the street.  Right in front of our house, possibly in the same building, was a sausage factory.  Next to it was a TAB office, which is the legalized betting authority in Australia.  Our neighbors to one side were an Indian family.  That was how our family was introduced to Indian food, something I have loved ever since.

Well, that wasn't too bad!  And I didn't have to do any research to come up with it.  Of course, if I did some research, I might find out the Lameys' address and the names of the Indian neighbors . . . .


Addendum, February 24:  I asked my brother if he remembered the street address in Pagewood.  As I expected, he did.  We lived at 309 Bunnerong Road, which now, looking at Google Maps, appears to be gone.  It used to extend back to what is labeled Wild Lane.  My brother visited in 1998.  Apparently sometime between then and now the house was torn down, probably for more "modern" development.

Friday, February 19, 2016

San Francisco History Days at the Old Mint

For the past five years several thousand people have enjoyed the San Francisco History Expo, celebrating the history of many different aspects of San Francisco and its residents.  This year the history celebration is back with a slightly different name — San Francisco History Days — but with the same great mix of historical and ethnic organizations, museums, libraries, genealogical societies, and historical reenactors.

San Francisco History Days will take place on Saturday and Sunday, March 5 and 6, at the Old Mint, 88 5th Street, in San Francisco.   (Powell Street is the nearest BART station if you, like me, don't like to drive in downtown San Francisco.)  Hours are 11:00 a.m.–5:00 p.m. on Saturday and 11:00 a.m.–4:00 p.m. on Sunday.  The event is free and open to the public.  This year the event is being hosted by the City of San Francisco's Mayor's Office and NonPlusUltra, Inc., the current tenant of the Old Mint and also the event's underwriter.

Some planned highlights of the weekend include presentations by local historians on uncovering the mystery of the origin of your house with tips on researching its past, how to understand Victorian architecture, collections of rare and newly digitized photos and film footage, the roles of community archives, and tips for organizing your personal archives.  Transit aficionados can learn about historic ships used during the height of the maritime era.  Experts will discuss treasures such as the murals of Rincon Annex and Coit Tower, the Golden Gate International Exposition, and the visual histories of San Francisco’s neighborhoods.

A new feature for this year's event will be Education Day, a day exclusively for students on Friday, March 4.  Interested educators can reserve a two-hour look at the Old Mint and meet a dozen History Days exhibitors with their school groups.  Reservations must be made as soon as possible.  For information on reserving a space for your class of students on Friday, contact Patty Pforte at

Mini theaters will be set up in the ground-floor vaults of the Old Mint and will feature four views on various aspects of San Francisco’s past through moving pictures.  Special meet-up tables for social-media history geeks as well as for alumni of San Francisco high schools will be available.  Guided tours of the building will be offered.  Dozens of authors will be on hand to discuss and sell their books.

Participating genealogical groups are the African American Genealogical Society of Northern California (AAGSNC), California Genealogical Society, San Francisco Bay Area Jewish Genealogical Society (SFBAJGS), SFGenealogy, and Sutro Library (the genealogy branch of the California State Library).  You'll find me helping at the AAGSNC and SFBAJGS tables.

For more information about History Days, and to see the list of exhibitors and the presentation schedule, visit or contact  And if you feel like volunteering (we can use more volunteers!), send a message to

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma Has Remarried and Is Living in Europe!

The next document in the saga of Emma Schafer is a Certificate of Registration of American Citizen dated June 30, 1909.  As with almost all of the documents I was gifted, this is an original.  It is a creamy off-white and may have been white originally.  It has been folded several times but is still sturdy.  It is 8 1/2" x 14" and watermarked ("Rolleston Mills").  It has an impressed seal of the American Consulate in Geneva, Switzerland in the lower-left corner.  As usual, I have underlined the parts that were entered on the preprinted form.  Most are handwritten, though a few are stamped.  Because I didn't want to try to create a table to put the descriptions of all the entries lined up beneath their lines, I've typed them after the lines and put them in a smalller font size.

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          (Form No. 210—Consular.)                    AMERICAN CONSULATE
                 (Established April 19, 1907.)                                JUN 30 1909                 
            _____________                                       GENEVA, SWITZERLAND


I,      Louis H. Munier     Vice and Deputy Consul       (Name of consul.) (Title.) of the United States of America at      Geneva, Switzerland     (Name of place.), hereby certify that      Emma la Forêt, née Schaefer     (Name of person registered.) is registered as an American citizen in this consulate.  SHe was born      November 14th 1866     (Date of birth.) at      Wellston, Mo., U.S.A.     (Place of birth.), and is a citizen of the United States by birth + marriage (or naturalization).  SHe arrived in     Versoix, Switzerland     (Place of foreign residence.) on     June 10th 1909     (Date.) where she is now residing for the purpose of     health     (Reason why residing in foreign place.)SHe is married to     Jean L. La Forêt     (Name of wife.), who was born in     Nancy, France, Dec. 4. 1853     (Place of birth of wife.) and resides at     Versoix, Switzerland     (Place of wife's residence.).

SHe has the following children:
  Camilla Petit   (Name of child.) born in   Vallejo, California   (Place of birth.)
on  February 19th 1894  (Date of birth.) and residing at  St Louis, Mo., U.S.A.  (Place of residence.);
and   Eugène Petit   (Name of child.) born in   Vallejo, California   (Place of birth.)
on  June 19th 1896  (Date of birth.) and residing at  St Louis, Mo., U.S.A.  (Place of residence.);
and _________ (Name of child.) born in ______________________ (Place of birth.)
on _________ (Date of birth.) and residing at _________________ (Place of residence.);

Her citizenship of the United States is established by    her husband's American passport #3343, issued by the Dept. of State, Washington, D.C., April 23. 1909     (Nature of proof of citizenship produced.).

This certificate is not a passport and its validity expires on     June 30. 1910. (Date of expiration.)
The following is the signature of     Emma La Foret     [signature] (Signature of person registered.)
In testimony whereof I have hereunto signed my name and affixed my seal of office.
    L H Munier     [signature] (American Consul)

[L. S.]

Versoin – Ville
Nat. No. 216      Clos des Nuyers

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This form made me really curious about how in the world Emma met Jean La Forêt.  The second half of Emma's handwritten narrative said that in 1908 she went to Florida and married again and then went to Europe in 1909, but I guess the timeline didn't really sink in for me until reading this form, particularly after having gone through the previous few items from her timeline.  We know from the letter from her lawyer dated April 8, 1908 that she was apparently then still in Missouri.  What we don't know is what took her to Florida and how or when she met her second husband.  However all that happened, by June 30, 1909 she was in Switzerland, though without her children from her first marriage.

We learned from Emma's 1901 insurance policy that the names of her children were Mary, Camilla, and Eugene.  Mary is not included here; was that because she was no longer living?  In my discussion of that same second half of Emma's narrative, I had interpreted her sentence "This daughter is now the wife of William H. Schulte, a farmer of Maryland Heights, in this County" as referring to Emma's daughter, to whom she referred in the sentence preceding thsy one:  "I even sent my oldest daughter to her [Emma's mother] for a while."  Now I'm wondering if the daughter who married William Schulte was Emma's half-sister Alvina, her mother's daughter.  I suppose it's also possible, since we previously did not know the ages of Emma's children, that Camilla and Eugene are listed because they're minors and that Mary is an adult.  I also wonder why Camilla and Eugene aren't with Emma.  Did Jean not like them?  (And I've pegged him as the hero of this story!)   Are they with their sister, Mary, if she is still alive?  Ah, well, that's for future research.

My first reaction at seeing that Emma's American citizenship was predicated on her husband's passport, instead of the fact that she was native-born, was annoyance at a chauvinistic practice.  After I thought about it, though, I remembered that the Expatriation Act of 1907 removed American citizenship from an American woman who married an alien.  Also, since Jean's passport number was referenced but not one for Emma, she may not have had her own passport and may have been traveling on his.  So I'll concede that there is some logic to how her citizenship was established — but I'm still kind of peeved.

I've never registered with a consulate or embassy when I've traveled abroad (though it may have been done for me when I've traveled with groups or with my family), so I wondered why someone would do so.  According to the U.S. Department of State Web site, registering gives you a point of contact in the foreign country for lots of different situations.  I learned something new today!

I noticed that Eugene's name was spelled with an accent — Eugène — in the correct French way.  I wonder if he pronounced his name in the French manner — "oo-zhen" is a close approximation — or the English way — "yew-jean."

Monday, February 15, 2016

Mayday! Mayday! These Projects Need Your Help!

The Moravian Archives, which is affiliated with the Moravian Historical Society, has launched a transcription project through the use of Juxta Editions, a professional editing suite for the creation of digital scholarly editions.  Digital images of original manuscripts from the archives' collections have been uploaded, on a platform which allows individuals worldwide to transcribe, edit, and annotate each manuscript.  Those interested in helping with the project may contact the assistant archivist at  For more information visit the transcription project site.

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World War I centennial commemorations continue to be organized.  The Polish Museum of America (PMA) plans to host an exhibition in 2017–2018 honoring the Polonian recruits of the Polish Army in France, often referred to as Haller's Army.  PMA collections include the recruitment papers of more than 30,000 enlistees.  The museum's goal is to put a face to each of those names.  An appeal is being sent to Polish-American genealogists, media organizations, fraternal societies, veteran associations, and family researchers.

If you have researched a relative in the PMA Haller's Army document collection, or if you have a relative who was a member of the Polish Army in France and have a photographic image of the recruit, please send a message to with the subject line "WWI recruit - <surname>."  While donations of original photographs are particularly welcome, reproductions or scanned images will also be gratefully accepted. Your participation in the project will aid in a meaningful remembrance of those who were willing to sacrifice the most for an independent Poland.

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New Zealand also has a World War I project.  Researchers at the University of Waikato are asking for help from the public in transcribing key pieces of information from 100-year-old handwritten military records — about 140,000 personnel files.  The primary aim of the "Measuring the Anzacs" project is to analyze New Zealanders' health via data such as height and weight.  This project will also be helpful to genealogists, however, and will gather military data on the soldiers, including injuries, decorations, and prisoners of war.  As New Zealand's early 20th-century census records were usually destroyed, the project will be collecting information that might not be available otherwise.

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Donna Swarthout is working on a book of stories about people who have reclaimed German citizenship under Article 116 of Germany's Basic Law.  Her blog post of January 14, 2016 describes the book project in more detail.

Donna's family was from Altwiedermus - Gemeinde Ronneburg (Hessen) and Hamburg.  She had her German citizenship restored in 2012.

If you have reclaimed your German citizenship or are in the process of doing so and are interested in contributing your story to the book, please contact Donna by e-mail.

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During World War II, U.S. airmen who were based at RAF (Royal Air Force) Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England sponsored meals and education (and informally "adopted") seven war orphans.  Photographs and documents relating to the children were discovered during work on the Imperial War Museums' Web-based project on the U.S. armed services' presence in Britain.  The children — Brian, Donald, Jeanette, June Rose, and three siblings, Margaret, Ann, and John — were identified by first name only, and the museum is now seeking more information about them.  The BBC has a story about the search.  The American units mentioned in the story are HQ Detachment, 78th Fighter Group; HQ and HQ Squadron 79th [Fighter] Group; 83rd Fighter Squadron; and 84th Fighter Squadron.  Esther Blaine, Public Relations Manager at the museum, is asking people who know about the children to post information on the Web site.  The museum is also asking for contributions of photographs and stories of the U.S. service members who served in Britain during World War II, and of the British people whom they befriended.

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Little is known about the persecution of the Jews of Hof during the Nazi regime in World War II.  The "Jewish Citizens of Hof on Saale (Bavaria) 1933 to 1945" project seeks to produce a publication, lectures, a public memorial plaque, and possibly also an exhibit.  The publication is planned for 2017 and will be designed for use in history and civics classes in schools and adult-education classes.  The project organizers hope to teach young people in particular about democratic ideas in order to prevent future marginalization of minorities.

If you are a descendant of Jews from Hof, Bavaria, if you know any, or if you have information about them, please share what you can.  The project is looking for any kind of information about persecution in Hof:  memories, documents, photos of people and buildings.  It will gladly accommodate requests for anonymity, etc. and will do interviews by telephone or other means.

The project is sponsored by the Hermann und Bertl Müller-Stiftung (Hermann and Bertl Müller Foundation) in Hof and is supported by the Nordoberfränkische Verein für Natur-, Geschichts- und Landeskunde e.V. (North Upper Franconian Association for Nature, History, and Regional Studies), locally known as "The Long-name Association."  The project executive director is Ekkehard Hübschmann, Ph.D.  Please contact if you can help.

Hof is variously known as Hof/Saale, Hof a.d. Saale, Hof/Bayern, Hof (Saale), and Hof an der Saale.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

2016 International Jewish Genealogy Month Design Competition

International Jewish Genealogy Month (IJGM) is a celebration of Jewish genealogy promoted by the International Association of Jewish Genealogical Societies (IAJGS).  IJGM takes place during the Hebrew month of Cheshvan.  In 2016 this will be November 1–30 on the secular calendar.

The primary means used to publicize IJGM is the winning design chosen from the annual competition for that year.  The design needs to celebrate Jewish genealogy and help promote genealogy as a hobby.  It will be available to organizations and individuals to help promote IJGM, primarily as posters and flyers.

This year's design competition officially began on January 25, 2016, and the deadline to submit an entry is June 20, 2016Submission requirements are available on the IAJGS Web site.  Each entry must be submitted by an IAJGS member organization, but the artist does not need to be a member of the organization.

The winning artist will have a choice of a registration to this year's IAJGS International Conference on Jewish Genealogy, which will be held in Seattle from August 7–12, or of free access to the conference recorded sessions.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

They're Not Mine; Are They Yours?

Herschel Kosewen and
Maria Wiernicka
marriage license (top)
I'm sure that everyone who does family history research has at some time ordered a record (probably more than once!) for a person that turned out not to be a family member.  What to do with these?  They aren't doing me any good.  I've accumulated a few of these at this point, so I thought I'd post about them in the hope that other researchers who can use them might read about them here before ordering them.  It's easy to spend a lot of money doing research; helping someone else save some money is a good thing.  These are all high-resolution scans, all but one from microfilm.  All are from New York City except one marriage license from Cuba.

Edwin Carroll Atwood and Margaret Victoria Andren marriage license, Manhattan, New York, May 9, 1931

Alex Blumenkranz and Leah Citron marriage license, Bronx, New York, December 1, 1934 (first page only)

Julius Fitzgerald and Margaret Andrew marriage license, Manhattan, New York, January 21, 1937

Herman Greenberg and Dorothy C. Itzkowitz marriage license, Bronx, New York, May 21, 1935 (first page only)

Jerome V. Heim and Margaret C. Andrews marriage license, Queens, New York, September 5, 1931

Jerome Klosenberg and Edith Posnick marriage license, Bronx, New York, June 9, 1935 (second page only)

Herschel Kosewen and Maria Wiernicka marriage license, Havana, Cuba, March 19, 1937

Irving Strauss and Rebecca Kshonz marriage license, Bronx, New York, November 24, 1934 (second page only)

Dora Sandals birth certificate, Manhattan, New York, February 23, 1899

Beckie Sandler birth certificate, Manhattan, New York, March 11, 1895

Joseph Sandlowitch birth certificate, Manhattan, New York, May 23, 1893

Margaret (Webster) Morrison death certificate, Bronx, New York, November 27, 1923 (first page only)

John O'Brien death certificate, Bronx, New York, November 27, 1923 (second page only); wife Mary O'Brien

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma Receives a Copy of Her Divorce Decree

This week's document is a letter from Emma Petit's lawyer, John T. Ryan, to Emma.  This is another piece of paper that may have been white originally but now is a creamy off-white.  It is 8 1/2" x 11" and has two folds that suggest it was mailed in a regular business envelope.  It also has another fold made when the bottom third of the letter was folded.  It is typed on letterhead from the American Tire Armor Company, of which John T. Ryan was the general manager.  When I received it, the letter was in an oversized business envelope.  It does not appear to be the envelope in which Emma received the letter, as no mailing address or postage stamp is on it.  The word "Divorce" is written on the envelope in pencil.

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JOHN T. RYAN, GEN. MGR.                                                                               PHONE: DOUGLAS 1618

                                    814 PACIFIC BLDG.

S. F. AND FRESNO                                                             SAN FRANCISCO, CAL. 4/8/08.

Mrs. Emma Margaret Petit,
         Route #38,  Box 57,
                 Anglum, Missouri.

Dear Madam:–

                    On the receipt of your letter some time ago, I took
up the matter of getting a final decree of divorce and it was
granted on the 30th of March.  In some way or other I mislaid
your address and your letter of this morning was rather timely.
                    Enclosed you will find a certified copy of the final
decree, which you desire.
                    Hoping that this will prove satisfactory and with best
wishes for your future success, I remain,
                                                 Yours very truly,

                                                               John T. Ryan .    [signature]


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I have to admit that I'm a little surprised Emma's divorce lawyer was the general manager of a tire-related company.  Maybe he handled the case as a favor for Emma.  He apparently had someone available to type the letter for him, as evidenced by the last line, "JTR/DA."  For those not familiar with secretarial conventions, that means the letter was typed for JTR, i.e., John T. Ryan, and was typed by DA, whoever that might be.

The letter was mailed to Emma in Missouri.  We have no information about when she went there or how long she stayed.  It took some searching to find Anglum.  It no longer exists under that name but was renamed Robertson in 1929 (for the man who paid for the design and construction of Charles Lindbergh's plane Spirit of St. Louis).  Then Google Maps refused to recognize Robertson as a location, so I had to go to Mapquest, which showed that it is about 12 miles from Clayton, which was mentioned in the typed narrative about Emma's early life, and 8 miles from Maryland Heights, where Emma wrote that her oldest daughter and her husband were living.  So it seems that some time after filing for divorce Emma decided to leave California, at least for a while, and go "home" to where her family lived.

The copy of the divorce decree to which John Ryan referred is probably the one that I described last week.  The two items appear to have been separated over time and during multiple changes of caretakers.

Speaking of Emma's divorce, two weeks ago I wrote that I was going to investigate "at some point" whether the complete file had survived.  Coincidentally, on February 6 I gave a presentation to the Solano County Genealogical Society.  While I was there I asked whether anyone knew about the status of divorce files from that far back.  One of the people attending was actually a volunteer archivist for the Solano County Archives!  She told me where to send an inquiry, and I have learned that the file does indeed still exist.  One important fact that I've already been told is that Emma filed in 1906, before she paid Emile to leave.  I'm looking forward to reading the file when I receive a copy.

And of course I had to look up the American Tire Armor Company.  John Ryan was one of five men who organized the company in Vallejo in 1908, with the aim of manufacturing and marketing a steel automatic automobile tire.  In March 1908 he applied for patents for a tire protector and an armored pneumatic tire, assigning the patents to the company.  A large ad seeking investors for the company was published in the San Francisco Chronicle on June 14, 1908.  Ryan was granted his patents in 1913.

One last comment:  Who would have guessed that in 1908 a car show in Fresno would be considered on the same level as one in San Francisco?

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Researching Japanese-American Family History

Example of koseki
(Japanese family registry)
A few years ago I volunteered and worked with a group that was bringing genealogy into schools and social agency programs, trying to interest the younger generation in researching family history.  The outreach during the first couple of years focused on the black community.  It was then decided that we expand our outreach to other groups.  One suggestion was the Japanese-American community, but we ended up not pursuing that, primarily because Japanese family history research can be difficult and we knew of no good resources for beginners.

Well, Japanese family history is still difficult to research, but now I know about a very handy reference for people who are getting started.  Linda Harms Okazaki has created a six-page guide, Finding Your Japanese Roots, in a laminated trifold layout.  It is focused on Japanese-American research, finding records in the United States, and then working back to finding records in japan.

The guide provides a quick overview of important history to keep in mind when conducting your research, types of records to look for in the U.S. and Japan, a glossary, a comprehensive list of online resources, and several short tips.  Most of the information is clear and to the point, but some items would benefit from a little clarity, due in part to the need to be very concise because of the limited space.

The short introduction explains circumstances and records specific to Japanese-American research.  In particular, the incarceration of Japanese-Americans during World War II, while a heinous tragedy, created records that can be extremely detailed and informative.

The timeline Linda has created fits an amazing number of important dates into a small space, but a critical fact was omitted.  She included the 1952 Immigration and Naturalization Act that allowed Asian immigrants to become citizens but did not mention that laws enacted at various earlier times (usually during wartime) allowed Asians who served in the U.S. military to naturalize prior to that.

The records discussed are divided into conventional U.S. records, records unique to Japanese-Americans, and conventional Japanese records, and the lists appear to give a good overview.  One record type for those unique to Japanese-Americans seems to have accidentally been left out, however.  There are two references to "Evacuee Case Files" in the descriptions of other records, but there's no entry for the Evacuee Case Files themselves.

Some phrasing is misleading.  A reference to delayed birth certificates as a resource suggests that these exist only for Hawai'i and pre-1906 San Francisco.  Certainly, the majority of Japanese immigrants in the United States were probably in California and Hawai'i, but some were in other locations that either required vital records registration at later dates or simply didn't come near complete compliance for many years.  Delayed birth registration is something to consider through the early 1940's for anywhere in the U.S.  Another statement that would benefit from rephrasing is in the introduction, which states that "American-born women who married Japanese immigrants lost their citizenship until 1931", implying that this was always the case.  It only began in 1907, however.

As Linda is producing and distributing her guide on her own, she makes it in small batches and updates it on an ongoing basis.  Some of the minor problems I have mentioned here will undoubtedly be corrected in an upcoming print run.  If you would like to talk to her about getting a copy, she can be reached at

Full disclosure:  The copy of Finding Your Japanese Roots that I used for this review was given to me by Linda.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

I'm Apparently a Sellers via Informal Adoption

During my extended search for my grandfather's birth record, one of the reasons I continued to try after being rebuffed by the New Jersey State Archives multiple times was, of course, to verify and document his birth date.  But another reason was that I had begun to wonder who his father actually was.

You see, my grandfather had a younger brother, George Moore Sellers.  I was told by their younger sister that George (who actually went by "Dickie") was named after my great-grandfather Cornelius Elmer Sellers' stepfather, George W. Moore, because Elmer loved his stepfather so much.

I had that little factoid filed away in the back of my brain for several years before I suddenly wondered why, if Elmer loved his stepfather so much, did he name his *second* son after the man, and not his first son?  From that it was an easy step to wonder if maybe Dickie actually had been Elmer's first son.

When my sister finally acquired a copy of my grandfather's birth record, it did not resolve the question, as no father was listed.  The fact that my great-grandmother filed an amended birth certificate 37 years later and listed Elmer as the father seemed a little too convenient, as poor Elmer had been dead for 22 years and really couldn't argue about the issue.

It occurred to me that this was a great way to use DNA testing to resolve a question.  I already had the results of my father's Y-DNA test (Y-DNA being the test for the male sex chromosome, passed down from father to son).  I just needed to find a straight male-line descendant of Dickie and convince him to have a test done.  This was even one of the wishes I had in my Dear Genea-Santa letter.

I was lucky in that Dickie had two sons and they each had sons.  I found most of them through online searches and was able to talk one of my cousins into doing the Y-DNA test (which I of course offered to pay for).

And the big news is here.  I received the results of the Y-DNA test for my cousin (grandson of my grandfather's brother) a few days ago.  If the Y-DNA for two men matches, they have to descend from the same male ancestor at some point in the past.  If it does not match, they do not descend from the same man.

After comparing my father's and my cousin's Y-DNA, the conclusion is that Dickie and my grandfather absolutely do not descend from the same man.  My grandfather's biological father was not Cornelius Elmer Sellers, and my family line became Sellerses by informal adoption.  When Elmer married Laura Armstrong, he accepted her 7-month-old son by another man, and as far as I know raised him as his own.  There are no stories in my family that my grandfather (or any of his siblings) ever knew that Elmer was not his biological father.

Speaking of Y-DNA, another reason this didn't come as a big surprise to me is that with more than 1,000 matches at 12 markers, my father has no matches with anyone named Sellers.  My cousin who just took the Y-DNA test?  At 37 markers he has eight matches, five of whom are Sellers.

So I think researching my adoptive Sellers family line back to 1615 is far enough, and I probably won't do too much Sellers research anymore.  On the other hand, now I have to try to figure out just who Grampa's biological father actually was.  And maybe I'll find out that the 12% Irish that's DNA test claimed for me is actually true.  (Of course, that test also said I'm less than 1% English, when one of my great-grandmothers immigrated here from England and her family is traceable in the Manchester area for five generations.  So I still don't trust the "cocktail party conversation.")

There are some things I'll miss about the Sellers line.  Now I know that I'm not a descendant of Alexander Mack, the founder of the Church of the Brethren (Dunkers); of Justus Fox, a printer in 18th-century Philadelphia who knew Benjamin Franklin; or of Franklin P. Sellers and his son Cornelius Godshalk Sellers, both printers and editors.  And I can't claim Sellersville anymore.  But I'll be sharing all the research I've done with the cousins I've been contacting and letting them know about the rich heritage that's part of the Sellers name.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Emma and Emile Petit's Divorce Is Finalized

When I read the receipt of payment for Emma Petit's lawyer in conjunction with her divorce case, I was surprised it came chronologically before the divorce itself was finalized.  Maybe the lawyer was not concerned about the final decree taking place?  Whatever the reason, the next item is Emma's Decree of Divorce.  This appears to be an original document from the Superior Court of Solano County, with an impressed seal.  It is watermarked bond, 14" x 8 1/2".  The paper may have originally been white, but it is now a creamy off-white.  I've underlined the parts that are handwritten.

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No. 3230


  Emma Margaret Petit    
                      Plaintiff __
    Emile Petit                  

Decree of Divorce.

Filed  March 30th.  , 1908 
    G. G. Halliday            
By  _________________
                Deputy Clerk.

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       I, the undersigned, County Clerk of the County of Solano, State of California, and ex-officio Clerk of the Superior Court of said County, do hereby certify that the foregoing is a full, true and correct copy of the final decree and judgment madein the above entitled action on the    30th    day of    March    , A. D. 190

IN WITNESS WHEREOF I have hereunto set my
hand  affixed  the  Seal  of  said  Court  this
  30th   day of   March   , A. D. 190
 (signature)  G. G. Hallida
By ____________________
Deputy Clerk.

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In the Superior Court

Emma Margaret Petit
vs.                                                                             Decree of Divorce.
Emile Petit

     This cause having been brought on to be heard the   11th   day of     March         A. D., 1907 , upon the complaint herein, taken as confessed by the defendant (whose default for not answering had been duly entered), and evidence having been adduced from which it appeared that all the allegations of the complaint were true, whereupon an Interlocutory Judgement was made and entered declaring that Plaintiff was entitled to a divorce from said Defendant upon the grounds of     Extreme Cruelty         and more than one year having expired after the entry of said Interlocutory Judgment, and no appeal from said judgment haveing been taken or motion for a new trial made, now
     Upon motion of             John T. Ryan             , counsel for said Plain-
tiff, and good cause appearing therefore,
     It is Ordered, Adjudged and Decreed, and this Court, by virtue of the power and authority therein vested, and in pursuance of the Statute in such case made and provided, DOES ORDER, ADJUDGE AND DECREE, that the marriage between the said Plaintiff,      Emma Margaret Petit       and the said Defendant,      Emile Petit      be dissolved, and the same is hereby dissolved accordingly, and the said parties are and each of them is freed and absolutely released from the bonds of matrimony, and all the obligations thereof.
  It is further ordered that the custody of children of said marriage  
  heretofore awarded to plaintiff be and it is hereby confirmed.         
Done in open Court this     30th .    day of      March           A. D., 190

(signature)           L. G. Harrier .          
Judge of the Superior Court.

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In Emma's handwritten narrative, she mentioned that Emile had not appeared in court for the divorce suit, and here that's confirmed.  The case was first heard on Match 11, 1907, four months after Emile accepted $500 from Emma to leave her and Vallejo, so she paid him off before filing.  Since part of his agreement was that he would "never again intrude upon her presence", maybe that's why he didn't appear in court.

Emile and Emma's children are mentioned almost in passing in the decree, only to confirm that Emma will retain custody of them, but they are not named.  If the file still exists in Solano County, it should have more details about them.

As an editor, I was amused by some of the spelling I found.  On the outside jacket we see "judgment", but on the inside decree it's spelled "judgement" once and "judgment" twice.  Somehow I don't expect legal court papers to have spelling errors.  And it's in the preprinted part!