Thursday, November 24, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Announces His Life Story and Will


This 3 1/2" x 5 3/8" piece of paper was pasted onto a 3 5/8" x 5 3/4" page in a small notebook.  Both pieces of paper have taken on a little color over the years, but they were probably white when new.  No watermark is visible on either paper.  The text is cleanly and clearly typed.

The piece of paper was pasted onto the second page in the little notebook.  And nothing else about his life story or his will is in the book.  (Not much else is in the book, period.)

I don't know yet if Jean did write a will.  I decided to check right now for his name in the California death index and discovered that he died September 12, 1926 in Solano County.  This early death index does not include the individual's birthplace or mother's maiden name, but it has the age at which someone died.  Even though on the page above Jean indicated he was born in 1851, the informant, probably Emma, "youthened" him by a couple of years, and his age at death was given as 72, when it should have been 74.  I'm sure it's him, though, because the rest of the information matches up:


Jean L. (for Leon) LaForet, spouse's initial E (for Emma), and died in Solano County, where Vallejo is.  Yup, it's gotta be him.  I'll order it eventually, of course, and investigate whether a probate file exists.

But when Jean typed up this small note, he was still living in Missouri, in Maryland Heights to be exact.  That means the date when Jean and Emma moved to California has been pushed back a little more, and that Jean's list of ailments couldn't have been typed before December 4, 1921.

I noted that Jean listed only his daughter Rosita, who was Emma's child.  There's no mention of Adrienne, born in 1874, whom I believe was also his daughter.  Perhaps the "instructions and informations" were only for Emma and Rosita, but Adrienne was in the will.  I also noted that Emma was not named but was simply "His Wife."  Looks like another woman got married and lost her name!

In 1920, when the envelope discussed in last week's post was mailed to Jean, his address was in Overland, Missouri.  In 1921, when he typed this short note, he was in Maryland Heights.  According to Google Maps they're only about five miles apart, so he didn't move far.

I wonder what happened that stopped Jean from writing the will in this notebook, which it appears he planned to do.  I also wonder why he went to the trouble to type up this introduction when he was going to write the will by hand.  Maybe he did write the will but simply never put it in the notebook.  Ah, well, when I get around to seeing if Jean had a probate file, I'll find out if there was a will and if it was handwritten.

Jean also typed "His LIFE from Birth to SEVENTY."  If he intended to write about his life, that might help explain why he kept such an interesting collection of documents.  So far I have seen no evidence of his life story, but I still have more documents to go through!

National Day of Listening 2016

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States, when people gather together in appreciation of their families and friends.  And because all those families and friends are gathered together, it's the perfect time to sit down and share stories, one of the best things you can collect as a family historian or genealogist.

In 2008, StoryCorps, a nonprofit oral history project, launched the National Day of Listening, when Americans are strongly encouraged to record the stories of family members, friends, and community members.  StoryCorps designated the Friday after Thanksgiving as the Day of Listening, which is tomorrow, so you have one day to get ready!

Make the time tomorrow to interview a relative and record that person's story.  Use a mobile phone, digital camera, videocamera, cassette tape, or whatever you have handy.  Write it down if you have to!  (Although StoryCorps does have recommendations for equipment and resources for people to conduct their own interviews.)  If you are with more than one family member, make it a family event and have multiple interviews!  Save those family stories and share them with other family members.

If you have time to plan ahead after Thanksgiving, StoryCorps has recording booths in some cities in the United States, and also conducts mobile tours, where people can come and record interviews.  These must be reserved ahead of time.

StoryCorps has specific "initiatives" focused on oral histories from particular parts of the population.   Visit the site to learn about the Griot (black Americans), Historias (Latino Americans), Military Voices (service members), and Teachers initiatives, in addition to others.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Newspapers, Newspapers, Newspapers!

I have been meaning to post another update of what has been added to the Wikipedia newspaper archives page for a while now, but I've been distracted by a lot of other projects.  I didn't realize it had been seven months since I last posted!  I'm trying to catch up, though, so here are some of the most recent additions.  One new country, Lithuania, and new state, Kansas, have been added to the list.  Several of the new archives are being created by one of two companies, Advantage Preservation (which does them with free access) or Newspapers.com (which makes them available for a subscription fee).

• Australia:  Honi Soit, the student newspaper of the University of Sydney (New South Wales), has been digitized for 1929–1990.

• British Columbia, Canada:  The Prince George Public Library has eight newspapers, including the student newspaper for the College of New Caledonia, on its site, ranging from 1909–1965.

• British Columbia, Canada:  Simon Fraser University has a collection of digitized newspapers online, including the student newspaper The Peak and one group called simply "More Newspapers."

• British Columbia, Canada:  The Thompson-Nicola Regional District library is digitizing newspapers from the Kamloops area and has a selection available covering 1882–2014.

• Cuba:  Diario de la Marina is available through the University of Florida's newspaper collection. Years covered range between 1844 and 1961, but coverage is not continuous.

• England:  The Church Times, an Anglican newspaper, has an online archive dating back to its first issue in 1863 and including more than 8,000 issues.

• France:  Two collections of images from Excelsior, a weekly publication that published 20+ photographs in every issue during World War I, are available.

• Italy:  Nine months of the 1885 issues of Il Secolo, published in Milan, are on the Florida State University digital archives site.  The press release I read suggested that more issues will be coming at some point in the future.

• Lithuania:  A new country!  Someone has digitized the Vilna Provincial Gazette and posted it on the Internet Archive.  The years covered are 1838–1917, with a few years missing.  This was published while Lithuania was under the control of the Russian Empire.

• Mexico, Arizona, California, and Texas (under Worldwide category):  The Historic Mexican & Mexican American Press collection includes newspapers from Tucson, Arizona; Los Angeles and San Francisco, California; El Paso, Texas; and Sonora, Mexico.  The archive goes from the mid-1800's to the 1970's.

• New Zealand:  The Southern Regional News Index covers the Dunedin and Otago area for 1851 to the present.

• United Kingdom:  The Gazette has created an instructional video on how to search and use the online Gazette archives.

• California:  The GLBT Historical Society of Northern California has an online searchable database of obituaries (not just an index) for the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly newspaper covering the GLBT community primarily in the San Francisco Bay area, for the years 1972 to the present.  The Bay Area Reporter itself has an online archive that begins with 2005 and is working on digitizing its issues going back to 1971.

• California:  The St. Helena Public Library has the St. Helena Star from 1874–2014 available for free.

• California:  The now defunct San Fernando Valley Genealogical Society posted a collection of vital records abstracts on RootsWeb for Valley newspapers covering 1911–1945.

• Connecticut:  The Shelton Library has two collections of newspaper clippings.  The "Library Scrapbook" has clippings from multiple newspapers from 1923–1930 relating to the Plumb Memorial Library.  The "Servicemen's Scrapbook of Shelton Men & Women Serving in World War" has clippings from the Evening Sentinel from 1943–1945, so apparently those servicemen were serving in World War II.

• District of Columbia:  The Capital is online for 1871–1880 and is said to be a great source for research in the Reconstruction period.

• District of Columbia:  Quicksilver Times (1973–1985) and Unicorn Times (1969–1972) are available from the Washington, DC Public Library.

• Georgia:  The Macon Daily Telegraph for 1860–1865 is in the American Civil War Newspapers database at Virginia Tech.

• Illinois:  The Lake Forester for 1899–1940 is on the Lake Forest Library site.

• Indiana:  The AIM Media Indiana archive, which has eleven newspapers, is a pay site created via a Newspapers.com partnership.

• Iowa:  Central College in Pella has ten collections of student newspapers and yearbooks covering 1876–2006, but there are some gaps in coverage.

• Iowa:  West Branch newspapers the Local Record and Times, from 1866–1934, are on the West Branch Public Library.

• Kansas:  A new state!  There is an obituary index for Rush County at the Barnard Library site.  It covers 1878–1951.  Copies of the obituaries can be ordered from the library.

• Kentucky:  The Lawrence County Public Library has an online obituary index for the Big Sandy News that covers 1885 to the present.

• Louisiana: The New Orleans Christian Advocate, a Methodist newspaper, is only for 1850–1946.

• Louisiana:  Scanned ads from former slaves looking for family members and friends lost during slavery which were published in the New Orleans Southwestern Christian Advocate (1879–1885) — which does not appear to be related to the previously mentioned paper — are available for free online.

• Maine:  Digital Maine has the Old Orchard Mirror, a newspaper published only during the summer, for the years 1900, 1901, 1903, 1904, and 1914.

• Maryland:  The Annapolis Capital has been digitized and placed online by NewspaperArchive.com on a pay site.  The collection nominally goes from 1887–2016, but it goes straight from 1887 to 1918–1919 and then to 1929.  It looked continuous from then on.

• Massachusetts:  The Memorial Hall Library in Andover has three newspapers covering 1853–1925.

• Massachusetts:  The Newburyport Public Library has ten digitized newspapers available for free on its site, courtesy of Advantage Preservation.

• Massachusetts:  The Portuguese-American Digital Newspaper Collections, housed at the University of Massachusetts at Dartmouth, includes Portuguese-language newspapers from California, Hawaii, and Massachusetts.

• Massachusetts:  The (Mattapoisett) Wanderer, which also serves Marion and Rochester in southeastern Massachusetts, has an online archive for its entire publication history, 1992–2016, housed at the Internet Archive.

• Minnesota:  Two union newspapers, the Minneapolis Labor Review (1907–current) and St. Paul Union Advocate (unsure of years covered), are now online.

• Missouri:  The Houston Herald has been digitized and placed online courtesy of Newspapers.com for 1881–present and is a pay site.

• Missouri:  There are online indices for death notices appearing in the St. Louis Globe-Democrat and the Post-Dispatch, along with instructions on how to order copies.

• Montana:  The Montana Newspapers project has some dupblication with the Montana Memory Project but includes many more newspapers.  The years range from 1885 to 2015.

• New Jersey:  The Belmar Historical Society has the Coast Echo and Coast Advertiser for 1881–1974 in PDF and searchable.

• New Jersey:  The New Jersey Hills Media Group has partnered with Newspapers.com to present three newspapers on a pay site.

• New Jersey:  The Woodbridge Public Library has digitized eleven local newspapers ranging from 1876–1970.

• New Mexico:  The White Sands Missile Range published its own newspapers, which cover 1950–1990.  There is a list of the issues that are missing, so if you have an old issue, maybe you can help!

• New York:  A new collection of four Staten Island newspapers has been made available, with plans for more to come.

• North Carolina:  The Nubian Message (1992–2005), the black student newspaper of North Carolina State University, has been digitized and placed online.

• Ohio:  The Stark County District Library has digitized eight newspapers in partnership with Advantage Preservation.

• Ohio:  The WestLife Observer (2013–2015) and the Westlake Bay Village Observer (2006–2015) are online at Westlake Library site.

• Oklahoma:  The Northeastern Oklahoma A&M College student newspaper, The Norse Wind, is online for 1948–2007.

• Virginia:  The Library of Virginia has the Charlottesville Daily Progress available for 1893–1964.

• Virginia:  The Prince William County Library System has a local newspaper index for 1993–present for three newspapers that have no other index available.

• Virginia:  The Pulaski County Library newspaper archive has five newspapers that range from 1893 to 2015.

• Virginia:  The Handley Regional Library System has an obituary index for the Winchester Star for 1896–1914.  This is a work in progress, and more information is being added to it.

• Wisconsin:  The Lake Geneva Public Library has searchable indices for obituaries, birth announcements, and local people in the news.  The site does not state which newspapers or years are covered, but an announcement from NEHGS said the obituaries were taken from the Lake Geneva Regional News and Lake Geneva Herald.  The local people in the news database iincludes the code LGNT, which I believe stands for Lake Geneva News Tribune.

• Multistate:  The Swedish American Newspapers collection, hosted at the Minnesota Historical Society, includes 28 newspapers from California, Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, New York, Oregon, Texas, and Washington.  Total years covered in the database are 1859–2007.

Earlier this year, the National Endowment for the Humanities, one of the funders for the Chronicling America digitization project, announced that the years which can be funded are expanding from 1836–1922 to 1690–1963.  This means that eventually we should see a much broader range of historical newspapers on the Chronicling America site.  You can read the press release here.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Friendly Fill-Ins for Thanksgiving

This week for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun, Randy Seaver has given us something like Mad Libs for Thanksgiving.

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

1) 
This is a fun meme cohosted by McGuffy's Reader and 15 and Meowing (thanks to Suzanne McClendon on the P.S. Annie blog for the links).

2)  Fill in the blanks for these four statements:

1. One Thanksgiving tradition I have is __________________________.
2. Black Friday ______________________________________________.
3. The best part about Thanksgiving Day is _______________________.
4. One Thanksgiving, _________________________________________.


3)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.  Be sure to drop a comment to this post if you write your own blog post and link to it.

Here's my contribution:

1.  One Thanksgiving tradition I have is trying to watch all three NFL games played.  (I'm old enough to remember when it was just one game on Thanksgiving!)  Unlike Randy, I don't try to keep up with my blog at the same time.

2.  Black Friday is one of the ugliest examples of American consumerism ever created.

3.  The best part about Thanksgiving Day is sharing the day with family and good friends.

4.  One Thanksgiving, I received one of the highest compliments ever on my cooking.  I made my version of Thanksgiving dinner for my roommate and a friend of hers:  Cornish game hens with a rice dressing.  My roommate and her friend were both Japanese-American.  After we ate, the friend told me that my rice was excellent.  I was more than a little proud (still am!).

Friday, November 18, 2016

Do More DNA Results Lead to Irish Ancestry?

I had two extra AncestrayDNA kits lying around.  One was left over because my aunt was unable to provide enough spit to make the test work, and I ended up getting her a Family Tree DNA test instead.  The second was unused because the person for whom I had originally intended it passed away before I was able to send it.  So I had been trying to figure out to whom to send them instead.

I remembered a recent post by Judy Russell, the Legal Genealogist, when she discussed the significant differences in ethnicity estimates between her DNA results and those of her siblings.  Since I've been curious about the possibility of actually having Irish ancestry (12%, as shown by my AncestrayDNA results) since I proved (through Y-DNA testing) that my grandfather was a Sellers by informal adoption, I decided to send the tests to my two full siblings.  I wanted to see if either or both of them would have Ireland appear in their ethnicity estimates.  That might lend more credibility to the possibility that my grandfather's biological father was at least part Irish, and maybe help me in my search to find him.

Now, I do realize, as Judy reminds everyone regularly, that the ethnicity estimates are really nothing more than "cocktail party conversation" (or "smoke and mirrors", as I call them), because the underlying statistics are simply not reliable and have significant margins of error.  I also know, however, that if you have double digit results, it's likely that there is at least some amount of that ethnicity in your make-up.

So I checked with my brother and sister to make sure they were willing to do the tests, registered the kits on my account, and then sent the packages off.  I waited patiently for the "processing" messages to arrive from Ancestry.com, and then again for the results.

And now they've both arrived.

AncestryDNA ethnic results for Janice M. Sellers

AncestryDNA ethnic results for my brother

AncestryDNA ethnic results for my sister

The results aren't as wildly varied as those of Judy and her siblings, particularly for the major contributors, but there are definitely differences.  We all show up as about half Jewish, just as we should, but we vary from 45% to 48% to 52%.  We all show large amounts of Europe West, ranging from 26% to 34% to 40%.

And we all show Ireland.  My brother and I show 12%, while my sister has only 2%.  A result of 2% could easily be erased by the margins of error present in these tests, but two results of 12% make me think I'm on the right trail in looking for a man with Irish origins as my great-grandfather.

Of course, now that I have these DNA results, I also plan to work with the real data, the chromosomal information, to see what else I can learn about our ancestry and to try to connect with cousins.  But I figure having one theory borne out by additional testing is a good start.

And why didn't I also test my half-sister, who shares the same father with my brother, my sister, and me?  Because her mother was all Irish all day long, and that would throw off any ability to identify Irish on my father's side of the family.  But maybe I should get her to take a test to see if she really does show up as half-Irish . . . .

Oh yeah, and I realized this is my 1,000th blog post.  Not bad for someone who still hates to write!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: A Registered Envelope from Washington, D.C.


This envelope is 9 1/2" x 4 1/8".  It feels like some kind of kraft paper, similar in weight and texture to a paper shopping bag.  The paper is brown, and the printing on it is primarily red, with some black.  The front of the envelope has handwriting in blue and black; the back has three postmarks.

The return address on the envelope is the U.S. Marine Corps Headquarters in Washington, D.C.  It is addressed to Jean La Forêt at:
J L LA FORET QM SGT RET
R.F.D. #28 -ASHBY ROAD-
OVERLAND MO.

The dates on two of the postmarks are November 30, 1920 from the Navy Department Station in Washington, D.C.  The third postmark is dated December 2, 1920, when the envelope was received in St. Louis, Missouri.

And . . . there's nothing in the envelope.  We should be getting used to this, right?  So again we don't know what Jean received, but he kept the empty envelope.  It couldn't have been for a stamp collection, becaues this envelope doesn't have a stamp on it.

The large handwriting doesn't seem to match the business orientation of the envelope.  The envelope came from the Marine Corps and was addressed to Jean with his retired rank, yet the writing says:

Souvenirs
Some[?] for Album
Société de Geographie – Alger (translation:  "Geography Society, Algiers")

None of that seems to be related to service in the Marines, does it?  Jean's reference to Algiers made me think of his position as Vice Consul, not his re-enlistment.  Maybe the envelope contents were something Jean left in Algeria when he rejoined the Marines, and the consulate forwarded them to the Marines to send to Jean.

Jean also noted in the lower left corner the day he received the envelope:  December 3, 1920.  And now that I've noticed that, I've realized that this envelope came chronologically before last week's list of Jean's physical ailments, because that page had the Vallejo, California address.  Jean and Emma went to Missouri when they returned from Algeria and after that came back to California.  Well, that's a good example of the need to analyze all the clues before coming to a conclusion, isn't it?

There are also three numbers stamped on the envelope:  110 in the upper right corner, 84204 near the lower right, and 157334 near the lower left.  Nothing on the envelope gives any clue as to the purpose of those numbers.  Maybe someone reading this knows and will be able to explain them?

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Saturday Day Night Genealogy Fun: Your Best Genealogy Day Ever

I've noticed recently that several of the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun topics appear to be annual themes.  Last year's request for "best genealogy day" was in October, however, not November.  But on to this week's request from Randy Seaver's:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

1) What was your very "Best Genealogy Day Ever?"  It might be the day you solved a thorny research problem, the day you spent at a repository and came away with more records than you could imagine, or the day you met a cousin or visited an ancestral home.


2)  Tell us in your own blog post, in a comment to this blog post, or in a Facebook or Google+ post.  Be sure to drop a comment to this post if you write your own blog post and link to it.


I've already written about two really great genealogy days (figuring out my great-great-grandmother's actual maiden name and meeting a lot of cousins from one family line), so I had to think about another good one.  I have settled on the day on which serendipity played a part.

At some point I learned that my paternal grandfather's mother, Laura May (Armstrong) Sellers Ireland, had been living with him when she died, and I ordered her death certificate from the state of Florida.  The certificate told me that she was buried in the Valparaiso Cemetery, Valparaiso being essentially a "twin city" to Niceville, where I used to live.  Valparaiso also is not far from where my father has been living for several years now.  So I told my father that the next time I came to visit, we were going to find his grandmother's grave.

I think it was the summer of 1995 when I flew out.  My stepfather had agreed we would scatter my mother's ashes when my brother and I were both there, and my brother was going to be in the area for his high school 15-year reunion, so I made plans to be there also.  I reminded my father ahead of time we were going to the cemetery.

The day we went to look for the cemetery, my father decided we didn't need a map, because Valparaiso was so small it wasn't going to take us long to find it (ha!).  My stepmother came with us.  After driving around for an hour or so and finding absolutely nothing, my father finally listed to my suggestion to ask at the police department.  As I had suspected, they knew exactly where it was, and off we went again.

When we finally found the cemetery, it was a small, square, fenced-in plot.  A caretaker's building was off to the side, but no one was there.  The entrance gate was in the middle of one of the sides.  We had no idea where my great-grandmother's stone would be, so the three of us walked in and headed in three different directions.  My father went to one side, my stepmother to the other side, and I went straight ahead to the rear fence to start from there.

Just as I arrived at the far side, my father called out that we should probably be looking for a flat stone, because as we all knew, my grandfather was pretty tight with money and wouldn't have spent enough for a standing stone.  After we all laughed, I turned and looked down at the ground where I had stopped —and there she was!  And it was a flat stone, just as my father had predicted!

I thought it was nice that even though I never had the opportunity to meet my great-grandmother in life, I was able to find her tombstone and make a connection to her that way.

Friday, November 11, 2016

1921 Armistice Day Commemoration


"Thousands of people standing in the heart of The City in London on Armistice Day, 1921.  This was the most impressive scene in England.  The vast crowd is in front of the Royal Exchange.  To the left is the Bank of England.  Most of the men in the crowd are bankers and insurance men."  A few women are scattered throughout the crowd.  This is a "general view of the bare-headed crowd during the two minutes of silence."

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt Has a Laundry List of Ailments


This is a 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" piece of paper.  Like last week's list of military service dates from Jean, the paper is a grayish/off-white, although the scan shows it as white.  This sheet has a watermark:  LAKES BOND / MADE IN U S A.  It was folded in thirds and then in half across the middle.  The folds do not match those from last week's paper.  Everything is typed and legible.

Perhaps intended to accompany the military service compilation, this list enumerates the ailments from which Jean La Forêt was suffering.  It is not dated.  Because it cites his second retirement date, February 1919, it must have been typed after February 1, the day he retired again (does that mean he reretired?).  Maybe he was preparing to file for a pension or a medical claim?

The address at the top of the list, 615 Indiana Str[eet], Vallejo, mataches that of Emma when she first filed for a pension based on Jean's service.

The "diseases" that he details are a varied lot.  He doesn't list the causes of any of them, so they might not have been associated with his time in the Army or Marines.  Two of them I didn't recognize and had to look up:

A hydrocele is a "fluid-filled sac surrounding a testicle that causes swelling in the scrotum."  Interestingly, though, a "[h]ydrocele is common in newborns and usually disappears without treatment during the first year of life."1  Jean certainly wasn't a newborn, but the definition didn't preclude it occurring in adults.

Varicocele veins are enlarged veins within the scrotum2, similar to varicose veins in the legs.

Jean was very blasé about his treatments for his ailments.  I particularly like his comment about the hernia:  "easily maintained inside body."  Well, that's certainly good news!

After going through his medical problems, Jean gave a synopsis of the military and consular history he detailed on the previous sheet.  If this page were intended to accompany the work history, he probably wouldn't have needed to repeat that information, so maybe this page had some other purpose.

Tomorrow is Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, so it's somewhat fitting to post this page now, as Jean mentioned "the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month", when the armistice ending World War I officially went into effect in 1918.


1.  Definition from Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hydrocele/basics/definition/con-20024139.

2.  Definition from Mayo Clinic, http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/varicocele/basics/definition/con-20024164.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

A Southern California Adventure

Two genealogy presentations, three dogs, two cats, three beds, and three different counties in three days made for a great trip to Southern California.

It started out when Jan Meisels Allen of the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley asked if I could come down to Ventura County to give my talk on using online newspapers for genealogy research.  We worked out an arrangement with the Orange County Jewish Genealogical Society that I would also give a presentation there, this one on techniques for finding women's maiden names (a notoriously difficult thing to do).

So I flew down to Long Beach on Saturday evening and was met at the airport by Shmuel, who had generously offered to allow me to stay at his home in Fountain Valley (Orange County) that night.  He and his wife were very welcoming, they had two adorable and friendly Welsh corgis, and they all made me feel right at home.  On Sunday we went to Temple Bat Yahm in Newport Beach for my talk.   The enthusiastic group enjoyed my talk very much and had a lot of great questions afterward.

After the presentation, Michelle Sandler, the president of OCJGS, and her husband were able to accommodate my desire to stop by the Newport Beach Public Library, where I got a library card, and now I have access to its remote databases, including the Orange County Register.  They then drove me to Studio City in Los Angeles County, where I spent the night at a friend's.  I had been hoping to meet up with a cousin to talk about family history (we really want to figure out a way to order her father's birth certificate from New York City), but she ended up taking a trip to India, which had to have been much more exciting than meeting with me.

After a restful night and saying hello to my friend's two cats, Jan Allen picked me up on Monday.  We stopped at the Agoura Hills branch of the Los Angeles County Public Library, the Thousand Oaks Public Library, and the Oak Park branch of the Ventura County Public Library, where I collected three more library cards for my collection (Thousand Oaks has online access to the historical Los Angeles Times and the Ventura County Star; Los Angeles County has the Los Angeles Sentinel and Los Angeles Times; and Ventura County has the Los Angeles Times, New York Times, Christian Science Monitor, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Ventura County Star).  In the evening we went to Temple Adat Elohim in Thousand Oaks (Ventura County), where I spoke about online newspapers to JGSCV.  Jan and her husband were kind enough to have me as their guest that night, and I met their sweet West Highland terrier.

Tuesday morning saw me heading out from the Burbank airport back to Oakland, where my birds were happy to have me take them home, and the cats let me know they missed me also.

I want to again thank Michelle Sandler, the Orange County Jewish Genealogical Society, Jan Allen, and the Jewish Genealogical Society of the Conejo Valley for their hospitality and for their enthusiasm for my talks.  I had a great time on my whirlwind tour down south, and maybe we'll be able to do it again sometime in the future.

Saturday, November 5, 2016

Saturday Night Genealogy Fun: Your First Presidental Election

This week's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun should make for some entertaining reading.  Randy Seaver, apparently forgetting that politics and religion should never be discussed in polite company, asked when his readers had first voted for a U.S. President:

Here is your assignment if you choose to play along (cue the Mission:  Impossible music, please!):

(1)  The 2016 Presidential election is this coming Tuesday.  When did you vote in your first Presidential election and, if you choose, who did you vote for?  What about your parents?  When did they first vote?


(2)  Share your responses in comments to this blog post, in your own blog post, or on Facebook or Google+.  Please leave a link in Comments if you write your own blog post.

(1) I was born in 1962 and turned 18 in 1980, in time to vote in the Presidential election.  I registered as a Republican and voted for Ronald Reagan (and voted for him again for his second term).  I also performed with the USC Marching Band at two events for Reagan.  I've stayed a Republican throughout my life except for the 1996 primaries, when it was obvious that the only Republican choice on the ballot was going to be Bob Dole.  Rather than face that unpalatable option, I changed my registration to Democrat for the primaries, voted for Bill Clinton, and then changed back to Republican afterward.  I rarely seem to vote for Republican candidates anymore, but I just can't call myself a Democrat.

(2) What I remember growing up is that my father always voted Democrat and my mother always voted Republican, thereby cancelling each other's vote out.  Once my mother voted Democrat, but that was the time my father voted Republican, so it was still a net of zero.  My mother stayed Republican until the day she died, but my father at some point crossed lines, and now all the political junk e-mail I receive from him is heavily Republican in tenor.

My father was born in 1935 and would first have been eligible to vote in 1956, but I don't know if he registered that early.  I think he was still living in New Jersey then, but he might have been in Florida.  I don't know of any voter registers available online for either of those states.  My mother was born in 1940 and would first have been able to vote in 1961, after her arrival in California.  I'm pretty sure she registered as soon as she was eligible.

Unfortunately, I can't use the voter registration lists online at Ancestry.com to look for my parents and verify their early party status because the Los Angeles County lists don't include 1962 or later, and my parents didn't arrive in California until 1961.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Treasure Chest Thursday: Jean La Forêt's Service to the United States


This piece of paper is 8 1/2" x 11".  Although the scan shows it as white, it's actually a grayish/off-white.  It has no watermark and is a fairly low-quality paper.  It was folded in thirds as to be placed in a business envelope, and then in thirds again; I flattened it out as well as possible.  The information on it is almost all typed, save for a few handwritten comments/corrections in the Remarks column.

This is Jean La Forêt's compilation of the details of his military service in the United States.  As he wrote in his journals, he was in the Army for exactly five years.  Barely a year later, the siren call of military life called him back, and he enlisted in the Marine Corps.  His breakdown of his enlistment periods on this sheet gives a little more detail about some of the gaps in his journal.

Here Jean wrote that his first tour in the Marines ended August 25, 1895, with the second starting September 2, 1895.  In his journal, he went straight from January 15, 1892 to April 5, 1897, so there was no way to tell that he had taken a week off.

The other dates Jean listed match up with what he wrote in his journal.  We have read that he joined the Army on August 11, 1884.  He left the Army on August 10, 1889 and a little over a year later, on August 26, 1890, enlisted in the Marines at Mare Island.  There were no gaps between Jean's second, third, and fourth tours with the Marines.  And in the last part of his journal he recorded that his last day in the Marines was December 25 (Christmas!), 1907.

Other dates correlate as well (maybe Jean used his journal when he put this list together).  He wrote that he arrived in Sitka, Alaska on November 14, 1890 and left on April 5, 1897.  (So the week between his first and second tours fell during his time in Alaska.  Did he stick around and enjoy the end of the summer?)  Similarly, his arrival and departure dates from the Philippines match exactly those in his journal.

Because Jean was so thorough, we now know his dates of service in the Marines for World War I, including his notes that he was both recalled to active service and returned to the retired list on his own application.

Jean also included the dates for his service as a Vice Consul in Algiers.  There's a small conflict with his World War I Marine service, however.  He said he re-entered the Marine Corps on October 2, 1918, but that he left the Consular Service on November 11, 1918.  Does that mean for five weeks he was an active Marine and a Vice Consul at the same time?  I do find it interesting that his position as Vice Consul ended on Armistice Day.

I am confused by Jean's inclusion of his time in Alaska in "Foreign and War Service", for which he would earn double credit toward retirement.  The United States purchased Alaska in 1867, well before Jean's arrival there in 1890.  From 1884 to 1912 it was officially the District of Alaska.  Does the designation of "district" connote foreign territory?  I can't find anything online about a war of any type taking place in Alaska between 1890–1897.  The Yukon gold rush began in 1896, but that wasn't a war (and actually wasn't in Alaska, even though many miners went to the latter).  Jean wrote almost no details about his time in Alaska in his journal, the only exception being when he moved into new barracks in 1892.  On the other hand, this was Jean's write-up; just because he classified Alaska as foreign service doesn't mean the U.S. government did.

Jean called his service military and naval.  Emma also made that distinction when applying for a pension based on his service, when she declared that her first husband, Emile Petit, had never served in the U.S. military or naval service.  I'm still confused by the inference that the Navy isn't military, and I'm sure a lot of people in the Navy and Marines would be also.