“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!

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All FRANKS are Kin! Part Two

 

While continuing to do research on the Franks of Ville Platte, I found a man named Julienne Frank, who could potentially be a sibling to Ephraim and Jean Baptiste. Julienne was born about 1835 and lived near Ephraim and Jean Baptiste after the civil war. There are two marriage licenses for Julien’s marriage to a Suzette VALMOND SIMON as noted in Father Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLR):

FRANK, Julien  m. 30 Aug. 1869 Suzette VALMOND (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. # 5491)

FRANK, Julien  m. 25 May 1871 Susette SIMON (VP Ch.: v. 2, p. 67)

Together, Julienne and Suzette had five children:  Edmond (b. 1855), Eugene (b. 1862), Emily (b. 1865), Marie (b. 1871), and Adam (b. 1864).

However, for the longest time, I could not make any headway in finding how Julienne Frank connected to the FRANK clan, so for a few years I put this part of my research on the back burner, focusing instead on tracing several of my maternal lines to specific slavery records.

Slavery is a difficult and an emotional subject that I think is hard for slave descendants to research. I often think of how my ancestors were treated: how they toiled in hot fields from sunup to sundown; how they fought to preserve their cultural identity, maintain family ties, and merely survive the harsh reality of enslavement. I, too, feel deep pain, when I read their stories.

However, in looking at history, I can also appreciate how far my family has come. It’s remarkable to think how families like mine have maintained a sense of togetherness and experienced some semblance of success, in spite of the lingering effects of slavery.

Even after slavery, my great-great-grandfather, Ephraim Frank, went on to own land and other assets.  On December 7, 1878, Ephraim purchased land (approximately 50 acres) along with the existing improvements from Augustave Soileau.

After Ephraim’s wife, Nancy, passed and before Ephraim remarried, he gifted all of his children with property. In a document dated November 15, 1882, Ephraim acknowledges his children with Nancy, naming each of the children (Francois, Malinda, Susan, Yves, and Sarah). He gave each child interests in his property, which included Creole horses, oxen, a wagon, and cows.

On my paternal side, I descend from several lines of free people of color.  However, I also had many ancestors that had been enslaved, and I was eager to understand the plantation or any slave documentation on my family.

My breakthrough in connecting the FRANKS came earlier this summer.  Alex Lee, one of my cousins and a fellow Southwest Louisiana researcher, mentioned that he was going to the Opelousas court house and asked if there was anything I needed.  I mentioned to him that I was still looking for the plantation where my FRANK family may have been enslaved and asked him if he could try and find me some leads.  I shared with him my theory that Ephraim and Jean Baptiste were brothers, but that I had no proof.

He texted me later that day, saying that he thought that he’d found the FRANKs on a plantation, but that he would have to go back the next day to pull the document.  I could barely sleep that night.

The next day, he texted me again: he indeed had found Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien in slave documentation – UNBELIEVABLE.

The key data was found in the Saint Landry Parish probate record dated December 11, 1851 for the estate of Osite LAMIRANDE, who was the widow of Jean Baptiste DELAFOSSE.   This entry is also mentioned in the South West Louisiana Records, by Fr. Donald Herbert:

DELAFOSSE, Jean Baptiste m Osite LAMIRANDE  In Succ. of Osite LAMIRANDE dated 11 Dec. 1854 (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Succ. #1608).  Note : the date in the Herbert states 1854, however actual date is 1851.

cover sheet Osite Lamarinde probate

In this document, slaves were named, appraised, and sold to other parties.  Notable amongst the list of slaves was Ephraim, who I believe is my ancestor.  Ephraim was a 17-year boy was sold from the estate to Hildevert DESHOTELS.

Ephraim Frank #71 Osite Lamarinde probate

This shows that Ephraim would have been born around 1835, which matches the known information of Ephraim.

Later in the document, there is Entry #73, which indicates a 21-year-old Baptiste who had an approximate birth year of 1830. This, again, aligns with the known information we have about Jean Baptiste.

Julian Frank #75 Osite Lamarinde probate

Jean Baptiste was sold to Cyprien Fontenot.

In Entry #75, we find Julien, a nineteen-year-old, who was sold to Alexandre C. Larose Fontenot:

Julian Frank #75 Osite Lamarinde probate

Finding three men who lived on the same plantation and matched known information I had about my Frank ancestors supports my theory that Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien were brothers.

However, the most compelling evidence that we indeed had made the right connection was that we also found on this plantation a man named FRANK and a woman named Eloise!  Below, embedded in the Osite LAMIRANDE document, we find the appraisal of FRANK and Eloise:

appraisal Frank and Eloise Osite Lamarinde probate

So with this document, we not only find the brother Ephraim, Jean Baptiste, and Julien Frank; we also find their presumed parents [William] FRANK and Eloise.

One point to consider is understanding how former slaves (who were unlikely to have a surname during slavery) developed surnames after they were freed. Oftentimes, a former slave’s offspring would take the first name of one of their parents as their surname—so, for example: children of a former slave mother named Nannette may use NANNETTE as their surname.  This naming practice was used to connect families and help ensure family members could be identified, even in cases where the families were separated during slavery.

The conclusion is that our Ville Platte FRANK family surname was derived by 46-year old man, Frank,  described in this succession document.  The document does not state where he was sent as a result of the succession however, his wife, Eloise, at age forty was sold to Cyprien Delafosse:

Eloise #64 Osite Lamarinde probate

This document has a lot of information that could find others looking for their relatives in slave documents.  Still looking for more information on the Ville Platte FRANKS, but I’m so glad of the revelations we have thus far.  Tell me what you think about the FRANKs of Ville Platte.

Happy searching!

All FRANKs are Kin! Part One

When I was growing up in Ville Platte, it was common knowledge among my elders that, “all FRANKS are kin.” This was especially interesting to me because my grandmother, Joanna DENTON, had married three different FRANK men: first, she married my grandfather, Chester FRANK, with whom she had two children—Felton and my father Welton. She then entered a common-law marriage with Orise ARDOIN, (whose mother was a FRANK, making him a part of the FRANK clan); together, my grandmother Joanna and Orise had seven children: Ophelia aka Toot, Preston aka Goo-lie, .Horace aka Poule, twins Mattie and Ethel (aka Toe-Toe), Albert, and Maryann aka Pinky.

My grandmother’s last FRANK husband was the well-known gospel minister, Rev. Willie “W.C.” FRANK (1884). The reverend and my grandmother had no children together, but Rev. FRANK (who had been married twice before he married my grandmother) fathered 22 children, four of which were raised by my grandmother.  Here’s a picture of W.C. FRANK that currently hangs in the Greater Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Ville Platte:

9c3391f6-f7f7-421b-aa7a-734c3458f9be

So I accepted early on that I was kin to all FRANKS in my hometown area.  What I didn’t know was exactly how I was kin to these FRANK cousins.  No one could ever tell me.  Finding the specific connections to the FRANK families became one of my many genealogical projects.

To start this research, I first sought out to document my personal FRANK family.  Here’s some of what I found:

My grandfather Chester and his brother Clifton were the children of Yves FRANK (b. 1870) and Ozelia BIBBS )b. 1876). Continuing up my family tree, you will find that Yves was borne to Ephraim FRANK (b.  1835) and Nancy GEORGE HUDSON (b. 1842).  Ephraim and Nancy were also the parents of Francois (b. 1864), Malinda (b. 1866), Susan (b. 1868), and Sarah (b. 1872.)

In the Southwest Louisiana Records, which was recorded by Father Donald Hebert, I found that Ephraim FRANK also married Domatlie LAVIGNE, at which point Ephraim identified his parents as William FRANK and Eloize.  Ephraim and Domatile had one child, whose name was Etna FRANK (b. 1884).

My grandmother’s second husband, Orise ARDOIN, descended from the FRANK clan through his mother Florence.  Louis Baptiste FRANK (b. 1857) and his wife Melaise PIERRE aka Melaise ARVIE (b. 1863) together had at least 13 children.  One of their children was Orise’s mother, Florence (aka T-Ka).  Their other children were Morris Myer, Louis, Tenaide (aka T-Na), Delaide, Lee, Rita, Prosper, Regile (aka Richard), Martha, Mary, Athenaise, and Alex Hosea.

My closest FRANK cousins in Ville Platte were all descendants of this Louis and Melaise clan.  Louis Baptiste was the son of Jean Baptiste FRANK (b. 1830) and Amelia LOUIS (1835).  Their children were Eugene (1852), Jean Baptiste Jr. (1855), Francois (1860), Alcee aka Aley (1865), Julia (1865), Elvina (1869), Armand (1876), Armantin (1877), and Marie (1887).  Here’s a picture of Armand Frank provided to me by his granddaughter:

Armand Frank

Note:  this picture also hangs in the Greater Mount Pilgrim Baptist Church in Ville Platte and had been unidentified, until now.

It’s been more difficult to trace the FRANK line of my grandmother’s third husband, Rev. W.C. Frank.  His father was Jervais, aka Gervais FRANK, and his mother, Celeste ELY.   Rev. W. C. was the eldest of the eleven children.  Their other children were Willis (1889), Melicia (1892), Ophelia,(1894), Amelia (1898), Odelia (1899), Octavia (1900), Philip (1904), Felix (1904), Lorena (1906), and Emily.  However, I’ve been unable to identify yet who Gervais’s parents.

Since I now had the progenitors of these two different FRANK families (Ephraim and Jean Baptiste), I wanted to see if I could tie the family of Ephraim FRANK to Jean Baptiste FRANK.

I first looked at the census records and trying to find males in the Saint Landry parish with similar birth years who were living in close proximately to one another.  If I were to find any living in the same vicinity, I could start with the premise that they were siblings or otherwise closely related.   I did find several males on which to focus and with the assumption that the following FRANKS were brothers:

Saint Landry Franks in Census

I will continue discussing my discoveries in the next blog post.

Happy searching!