Friday, May 20, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Yet One More Recommendation for Jean La Forêt

The third document I have relating to Jean La Forêt is another recommendation for him.  It is similar to the first and second recommendations which I have previously written about.  This is the largest, at 8 3/4" x 11".  Like the first letter, this appears to be two pieces of paper layered together down the middle to create a larger sheet.  This looks like letterhead, with the coat of arms of Dieuze in the upper left corner and a date line in the upper right corner.  The page is spotted and aged, as the others are, and is backed with the same type of material.  This backing looks even more like fabric than the others, as the edges are frayed.  The page has two heavily creased folds, and the paper is cracked along the folds.  This sheet has a torn lower left corner and looks as though it was attached to the other two by the grommet but somehow became separated over the past 130 years.  The document is again entirely handwritten, but this time the main letter is in French and the verification of the signature is in German.  Two rubber-stamped circular seals are by the signatures.

Here's the transcription of the document:

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

Main body:

Bürgermeisteramt                                                              Dieuze, le ......................... 188


Nous soussigné, Charles Massenes, Maire de la ville de Dieuze, arondissement de Château Salins Département de la Lorraine, certifions que Monseiur La Forêt Jean Léon était principal employé de l'Hotel de ville de cette ville à titre de secrétaire de la Mairie, secrétaire des Hospices et du bureau de bien[faisance] et bibliothécaire de la ville, du premier Janvier mil huit cent quatre-vingt au premier Juillet mil huit cent quatre vingt-deux.

M. La forêt a rempli ces fonctions diverses à la satisfaction générale et les autorités de la ville, le conseil municipal et la population ont regretté la perte de cet employé.

Il a quitté l'Hotel de ville pour prendre un cabinet d'affaires et il a continue à habiter cette ville comme agent d'affaires et traducteur juré en ce qui concerne les langues française et allemande jusqu'au mois de Mai mil huit cent quatre vingt-quatre.

En foi de quoi le présent certificat.

Donné à Dieuze le 10 Décembre 1884.

Le Maire

Dieuze * Bezirk Lothringen * Buergermeisteramt [seal]


Writing at bottom [I apologize for massacring the German]:

Zür Buglüligüng (?) I–r (?) Unterschrift I–n (?) Bürgermeister Massenes, h–r (?).

Dieuze, Im 12 Dezember 1884.

D. (?) Amt–g–ift.

Koening . (?)

Kaiserliches Amts * Gericht zu Dieuze [seal]

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And now my translations:

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Main body:

Mayor's Office                                                                Dieuze, the .......................... 188


We the undersigned, Charles Massenes, Mayor of the city of Dieuze, precinct of Château Salins Department of Lorraine, certify that Mr. Jean Léon La Forêt was a senior employee of City Hall with the title of administrator of the Town Hall, administrator of the home for the aged and charity office, and city librarian, from January 1, 1880 to July 1, 1882.

Mr. La Forêt fulfilled his diverse responsibilities in a satisfactory manner, and the city leaders, the municipal council, and the public regretted the loss of him as an employee.

He left City Hall to work for a business firm and continued to live in the city as a business agent and a licensed translator in French and German, up to the month of May 1884.

In witness whereof the present certificate.

Signed at Dieuze December 10, 1844.

The Mayor

Dieuze * Lorraine District * Mayor's Office [seal]


Writing at bottom (I'm guessing this is similar to the previous items written in French):

To approve the signature of Mayor Massenes, (?).

Dieuze, December 12, 1884.


Koening . (?)

Imperial County Court * Court of Dieuze [seal]

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This is another recommendation letter for Jean, but instead of a teaching position, he was the City Hall administrator (probably a similar position to that of Stéphanie Fischer, whom we saw on the J. K. Rowling episode of Who Do You Think You Are?), in addition to taking care of the home for the aged, the charity office, and the library.  Then he worked as a business agent and a translator.  The second recommendation letter mentioned that Jean was going to work for the Dieuze city and library, so it's nice to see it confirmed.

This time both the mayor and the person verifying his signature were in the same city.  Dieuze was close to the other locations associated with Jean.

With the three letters of recommendation, we now have a timeline of Jean's employment for several years:

1/1/1873–10/1/1875, instructor, Salonnes
4/1/1876–1/1/1880, senior instructor, Villers-aux-Oies
1/1/1880–7/1/1882, city administrator and librarian, Dieuze
7/1/1882–5/1884, business agent and translator, living in Dieuze

According to the information Emma La Forêt mailed to the pension office, Jean was born December 4, 1853, meaning he started working as a teacher when he was 19, which sounds reasonable.  In her application for an emergency passport, Emma wrote that Jean immigrated to the United States about May 1884, which apparently is where he went after leaving Dieuze.  The dates are fitting together nicely.

All three letters of recommendation were written by the various mayors on December 10, 1884 and approved/witnessed on December 12 by the appropriate authorities.  Again according to the information Emma sent when she was trying to get a pension based on Jean's service, he enlisted on August 11, 1884.  I wonder what purpose the recommendations served four months later.  Maybe they helped Jean get a promotion?

Speaking of the mayors, this third man also wrote that he was in Lorraine, not Lothringen.  Fourteen years later, and those Germans still weren't very welcome.

If anyone can help with the German that I've so horribly mangled above, please post a comment with what it should be!  Though I am very proud that I was able to read Unterschrift and Bürgermeister.


  1. Hello Janice,

    I think I found your website via JewishGen and was curious what you searched in Germany. I'm not that firm in that region and the French-German-developements but may help with transliteration: The above document reads as follows:

    Zur Beglaubigung der Unterschrift des Bürgermeisters Massenet hier.
    Dieuze, den 12. Dezember 1884
    K.) Amtsgericht

    For the authentication of Mayor Massenet’s signature here.
    Local court / municipal court

    In “Kurrent” (German Script) the letter “u” often has a swung dash on top in order to distinguish it from the quite similarily written letter “n”. Yet annoyingly not every “u” with the dash is a “u” but can also mean the doubling of the “n” – so “nn” which can only taken from the context.

    Kind regards from the surroundings of Hamburg



  2. Hello, Corinna,

    Thank you very much for your assistance with the German! Now that you've told me what it says, I can see how I misread the Kurrent. I appreciate the opportunity to learn more.

    Kind regards to you also,


  3. Hello Janice,
    it was a pleasure. Time to time - mostly when the workload is high ... - I love to plunge into old family stories. If you need assistance in reading German documents, just give it a try to contact me. I will say no if I can't fit it in or can't read the specific handwriting.
    (I'm no professional genealogist, just researching my own family, but am quite well connected in two Hamburg Genealogical Societies).

    Kind regards again

    1. Hello, Corinna,

      How very nice of you! I appreciate your offer. Thank you so much.

      Kind regards,



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