Memorial Day Salute to My Grandfather!

In my last post[“Mama, it was true! Your Daddy was in World War I!” ], I discovered that my Grandfather, Alsen Jason I had been in World World I.  This was a significant finding in my genealogical research, as it had been one of my mother’s questions for me when I started tracing my ancestry.  On this Memorial Day, I thought it would be good to share some newly found details.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I submitted a request for my grandfather’s military records.  Years ago, I had submitted a request, but the results of the search showed that he was not in the War.   Now, after I actually found the correct Louisiana World War I Services listing, I was able to provide the alternative spelling of my grandfather’s name, which was used during his service.

When I think of my relatives in Louisiana, many of them have limited their lives to only Ville Platte and the surrounding areas of Louisiana.  A few of these Louisiana clan members have ventured out mostly to places like Texas, and a visit here and there to California, where you find a lot of transplanted Louisianans.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I found my grandfather, Alsen Jason, not only enlisted in World War I, but actually in New Jersey catching a ship for him to serve overseas in France.  How’s that for a Bayou Chicot native!

I guess I need to backup a little and tell you what additional information I recently found.  From the Louisiana Service record, it states that my grandfather went overseas September 8, 1918 and returned to the States June 28, 1919 – nine months in a foreign land.   The key to finding the information was having the correct spelling of the name under which my grandfather served.

My initial response from the National Personnel Records Center is that they do not have any records for my grandfather, Alcin Jasson [Alsen Jason].  Here’s the response I received:

Thank you for submitting a request to the National Personnel Records Center.

We have received your signature authorization for request number 2-xxxxxxxxxxx.

The record needed to answer your inquiry is not in our files.  If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.  The fire destroyed the major portion of records of Army military personnel for the period 1912 through 1959, and records of Air Force personnel with surnames Hubbard through Z for the period 1947 through 1963.  Fortunately, there are alternate records sources that often contain information which can be used to reconstruct service record data lost in the fire; however, complete records cannot be reconstructed.

We are mailing you NA Form 13075 (or NA Form 13055) which asks for additional information concerning the veterans’ military service.  Please use this form to provide us with as much information as you are able.  This information will be used by our staff to help reconstruct service record data lost in the fire.

The form will be mailed to you within the next 24 hours.

Thank you.

End of auto-generated message

I completed the NA Form 13075 as suggested by the personnel office.  The alternative records are scheduled to be sent to me sometime in mid-June 2017.  I can’t wait for what they find.

I decided to see what additional records I could find in the online search databases.   Ancestry.com has a database–U.S., Army Transport Service, Passenger Lists, 1910-1939–that housed more information on Alcin [Alsen].  The records shows that my grandfather, Alsen, left the States via the USS Mercury on September 8, 1918 out of Hoboken, NJ. He listed his mother, Louisa Joseph, as next of kin.  I found that the the Louisiana document had an error.  Per the transport record, Alcin Jasson was part of the Supply Company of 806th Pioneer Infantry.  The Louisiana document mistakenly stated he was a member of company 606th.

US Army Transport Service Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 for Alcin Jasson _Sep 1918

I was even able to find a picture of the USS Mercury ship:

USS Mercury ship Alsen Jason sailed WW1

In reviewing other documents, I was able to get information as to where Jason served overseas.  Fold3 has records of experiences filed by the officers of the 806th Pioneer Infantry.  In his December 6, 1918 memo, B.J. Kavanagh, documented the experience report of the 806th Pioneer Infantry which included the supply companies.  He states that the group sailed out on September 8th, 1918 on the USS Mercury and debarked at Brest, France, 14 days later.  They were initially at Camp Potanazen then, on the September 28th, they arrived at Foulain.  Later, they were put up in a civilian village of Mandres until October 3rd, when they returned to Foulain and finally made their way to Leonval.  This report didn’t speak much about the supply companies.  Here’s Kavanaugh’s experience reports submitted about the 806th Pioneer:

Fold3_Page_1_WWI_American_Expeditionary_Forces_Officer_Experience_Reports

On Ancestry.com I also found the transportation information from France, for Alsen.

US Army Transport Service Passenger Lists, 1910-1939 for Alcin Jasson _June 1919 return

As we celebrate and remember those who have served and many who gave their lives for this country, let us also remember that many fought in foreign lands only to return home to be persecuted and treated as second class citizens in the country for which they fought.  May their fighting not be in vain.

 

Happy searching! Continue reading

“Mama, it was true! Your Daddy was in World War I!”

Last night, I found some information that I wasn’t exactly looking for at the time.  Let me “go back a spell,” as the old folks used to say, and start this story from the beginning.

Growing up, my Mother would always state proudly that her father, Alsen Jason I, was in WWI; her brother, Alsen Jason II, was in WWII; her other brother, Clifton Jason, was in the Korean War; and her nephew, Alsen Jason III, was in the Vietnam War.  She would continue with stories of her other uncles, nephews, and relatives that had also fought in wars.  “They were very brave”, she would say, sometimes followed with a sly “I don’t know anybody on your Daddy’s side that fought in the war.”

Now, Mama, don’t go talking about my Daddy and his family, I would think this but, of course, I would never say out loud.

In 2010, my brother-in-law, John, who worked at The National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, announced that he would be retiring soon.  I used this as an opportunity to finally get documentation on my grandfather’s WWI services so I could present this information to my mother.

I called John up and gave him my grandfather’s information.  I eagerly awaited a response from John with the good news.  I told my mother that I requested information on her father and, she too, was excited.

A few days later, John had news for me, but it wasn’t good.  He told me that he couldn’t find any service record for my grandfather.  I was devastated. I had to break this bad news to my mother.  She was silent and didn’t say a word.

I know that hurt her.   I chalked it up to maybe a name spelling, or a file that was destroyed in the fire or misplaced.  I had no idea what to think.  I didn’t want to believe the story was untrue.  People generally don’t have stories in their family saying a person served when they didn’t, but I had no recourse to find out any information. Over the years, since then, I would occasionally go to military databases and see if I could find my grandfather.  I would try different spellings of his name, but to no avail.

Last night, I hit pay dirt – and I wasn’t even looking for that record! As a normal practice, I like to conduct a wildcard searches, just in case I find I record that I haven’t seen before.  Familysearch.org is probably my favorite online site to do these types of searches.  My grandfather’s name, Alsen Jason, is one that have so many variations – I’ve lost count.    Alsen, I’ve seen also written as Alcin, Elcin, and Alsin.  Let’s night I did a random search for “Alsin Jas*” and I was hoping to find something new.  Right across the page, indeed was something I had not seen before.

The third record on the page listed an “Alcin Jasson” Louisiana Service record!  Could it be I had found an entry that proves that my grandfather was indeed in WWI?

familysearch March 2017 Alcin_Jas highlight

I quickly opened the record and saw information I had sought those many years ago.  The record was from the Louisiana World War I Services and it listed that my grandfather, Alcin Jasson [Alsen Jason] was, in fact, enlisted in the Army and served in WWI.  The record indicates that a 26-year old Alsen was inducted into the Army on June 19,1918 and served overseas starting September 18, 1918 through June 19, 1919.  He was honorably discharged July 12, 1919.

Alsen Jason I WWI information

“Louisiana World War I Service Records, 1917-1920”, database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:Q2TY-588Y : 8 February 2017), Alcin Jasson, 1918.

You may notice that the person shown on the page right above Alsen, is also a Jason.  Austen [Austin] Jason is Alsen’s brother!

I was delighted to find this record.  But knowing the hardship that African Americans fared in the services during WWI, I could only imagine the trials he may have encountered.

I contacted, my now retired brother-in-law, John, and gave him the good news.  John told me a website where I could request my grandfather’s records online.  He also gave me pointers on information I should include in the request.  The key, he said, was to make sure that I asked for the complete service and medical records.  I’ve sent the request and I can’t wait to get a response.

I have limited experience with the military records, so I’m going to have to do more research in this area.  That’s it for now.  I will keep all of you updated.

Happy searching!