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!

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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!

Another Brick wall Breakthrough

In my last two posts, I asked for additional help in locating information about my maternal grandmother’s mother’s family.  Though I recently discovered that that family’s last name is Laughtin, I still haven’t found any additional information on my grandmother’s maternal family.  However, I did find that the brick wall of slavery has been broken for our Ruben family!

For me, genealogy is like a mystery game or puzzle, and as a genealogist, I spend my spare time trying to connect the puzzle pieces of my family together.  If you are researching in Southwest Louisiana and you are familiar with the towns in the area, you typically can locate at least some of your relatives.  If you use standard research methods—such as looking for multiple spellings of known surnames, looking in census records for neighbors of known relatives, or doing searches on usual given names—you’re bound to find some family connections.

When I first started researching, I really had no clue what I was doing and I didn’t have any person that was guiding me on this journey.  I just knew that I wanted to research my family history and I would do that by any means necessary.

Since the first time I’ve gone to the archives in Opelousas and what I’ve done on every trip, I always look up the marriage records from known surnames of my family.  If I recognized a person’s given name, I would make a note and get a copy of the marriage license.  At this point, if I were searching a specific family line, I may even get a copy of the marriage license, even if I don’t recognize the given name. Now, I sort of know that to make a family connection you first gather evidence, examine the evidence, and then put together the “story” that one gleans from the collected evidence.

Gabriel “Gabe” Ruben, I knew, was originally from the Ville Platte area, but he had lived most of his adult-life in Elton, LA.  Elton is also where my maternal grandmother was raised and where my mother were born.  My mother told me that a lot of the Ruben family lived in Washington, Louisiana, which I later corroborated with another Rubin elder cousin.

I first found Gabriel on the 1870 census, living in Saint Landry Parish with his father Lastie, his mother Ellen, and siblings Louisa and Lovenia.

gabe rubin 1880

For Southwest Louisiana researchers, there’s a useful reference source called the Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLR) by Father Donald Hebert.  SWLR provides some vital records that’s derived from various parish archives and Catholic Church records.   Often you can find family connections, such as parentage, date of birth and date of death.

At one point, my late mother and Uncle James Williams told me was that the Rubens were kin to the Skinners and also kin to the Collins.  The story is that the Skinners were at one point Rubens, but due to slavery, their names had been changed.  So, one motive of my research was to determine if any of this family lore was true.

I found, during one of my research trips, the marriage license of Frank Collins and Eva Reubin.  They married on January 26, 1907 and interesting enough, Lastie Reubin provided the security bond for the marriage.  The bond issuer would generally be a male relative such as a father, uncle, or an of age brother.

eva rubin marriage

In this case, Lastie was more than likely an uncle of the bride.  Eva was the child of John Reubin fils (junior) and Ernestine Thomy (Thomas).   John is either incapacitated or deceased at the time of Eva’s wedding.  John’s brother, then, would be next in line to represent the family and sign the bond, Lastie did in this instance. So, part of the family lore, is true in that the Rubins are related to the Collins.  I’ve not found the connection, yet to the Skinners.

On the 1900 US Census, Eva is living with her parents John and Ernestine:

eva rubin 1900 census

 

From the SWLR, I found that John’s mother was Jane and because fils means junior, his father is John Rubin.

REUBIN, John fils (Janes —)  m. 6 Feb. 1869 Ernestine Zenon TOMY (Opel. Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5224)

eva rubin 1900 census original

On the 1880 census a widowed Jane Ruben is found living in the Latour household as a servant.  According to the census Jane was born in Louisiana at about 1815.   Below is a snippet from the 1880 census:

jane rubin 1880 census

So, with these records, I’ve connected Lastie and John fils who we believe are the children of Jane and John Ruben.    Finding Jane living in the Latour family household will be  a key to breaking through the brick wall of slavery for my Ruben family.

Recently, a fellow Saint Landry Parish researcher and relative, Alex Lee, posted on his Facebook ancestry page information on some slaves that were being sold out of an estate sale for the Rosemont Doucet.  What follows is the sale notice from the Opelousas Courier January 14, 1854:

rosemont public estate sale2

http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/lccn/sn83026389/1854-01-14/ed-2/seq-1.pdf

One of these slaves turns out to be Jane along with several of her children, Nerieth, Caroline, John, Julienne, and Elizabeth.

https://www.facebook.com/Alexgenealogy/photos/a.782188565134511.1073741827.544570968896273/989464044406961/?type=1&theater

jane rubin and children slave

This was an important find in my slavery ancestry.  Although, Lastie is not identified in this record, we already concluded that Jane was his mother.

A few months before Alex published this data, we discovered a DNA match to my mother through 23andMe, but we had no idea how we were kin.  Turns out she is a descendant of Caroline.  Here’s some additional information Alex gives about Caroline:

caroline rubin notes from Alex

As for the other children, I found this entry regarding Julienne: REUBEN, Julienne (Marie JANIS)  m. 11 Jan. 1877 Simon GUILLORY, Jr. (VP Ch.: v. 2, p. 206)

Below, I found Julienne on the 1880 census along with her husband and children:

julienne rubin

Elizabeth Ruben went on to marry Elie Joseph as noted in the following marriage license:

Elizabeth Rubin marriage

I’m sure there are other points to research with the Rubin family.  Do you have any other connections to the Rubens?  I look forward to continuing this journey.

Happy Researching!

Jason Family of Ville Platte, LA –  Brick wall knockdown

The Jasons, like most of the families in Bayou Chicot and the surrounding area, were farmers, and each of the Jasons had a brood of children, ensuring their family’s presence in future generations. That’s how I was going to start part two of my Jason’s blog post. However, with my recent big find, that part of the story will have to wait!

I started doing family research hoping to learn more information about my ancestors, including finding out who held my ancestors as slaves. For several years now, I’ve been visiting the archives in both Opelousas and Ville Platte.  Opelousas is the parish seat for Saint Landry, whereas Ville Platte is the seat for Evangeline Parish.   Established in 1805 and, once, much larger Saint Landry Parish has since been carved up, forming separate parishes, including Evangeline Parish, which was established in 1901.

I remember how nervous I was going into the Opelousas archives for the first time.  It was daunting, seemingly insurmountable. I was doing something that was important for my family, something that my ancestors were pushing me to do, but I didn’t even know where to start.  And, I was alone.  So, I took that step in.  There were hundreds upon hundreds of huge books that weighed easily 25+ pounds spread across the room.  No one offered to help me.  No one pointed me to the starting place.  I didn’t even know that I could do a search on the computer that was in the archive room.  There were just these books, walls and walls of big books.  Saw sections labeled marriage records, probate and succession records, notarial records’, conveyances, miscellaneous records.   I ventured into reading one of the succession records – everything was in French.  Okay, this is not going to work, I said to myself.  I have to get some information.  I took a deep breath and that’s when I decided just to start with the marriage licenses and see if I can pull licenses for the people I did know.   I just started looking up surnames, and if I recognized a given name I would get a copy of the marriage license. Simple as that.

In discussing family ancestry with others, it has been my Jason family members who have had the most interest, and it’s with the Jasons that I also have the most passionate fellow family researchers.  One of my researcher-cousins, Patricia, connected me to Moses Jason’s sister Hannah and their father Godfrey Jason.  Patricia is a descendant of Hannah and she made me aware of the 1870 and 1880 census, which showed Moses and Hannah living as next-door neighbors.

Through the years, they were proud and close knit family, often living in clan clusters a rocks-throw from one another.  That’s a tradition that’s persisted. When my family moved from Louisiana to California in the 1970s, for the first year, we lived with my uncle near the San Francisco Bay. The next year, we moved—right next door to my mother’s first cousin. Researching enslaved persons can be challenging – one reason being the propensity of slavery to split families and possibly sell family members to unknown or faraway plantations.  Another reason is that ‘slaves’ had no surnames, so when do typical genealogy research you’re looking at both the given name and the surname.   So if you don’t know the name of the slave ‘owner’ it can be difficult to find your ancestors under slavery.

Per the 1870 census, Godfrey Jason was born in South Carolina and this same researcher-cousin surmised that Godfrey Jason may be one and the same as ‘Old Uncle Godfrey’ mentioned in the book Old Families and Tales of Chicot; or Miss Emma’s Memoirs , where Godfrey is noted as a slave owned by the Griffith family. Using the censuses, I was able to find Moses’s and Hannah’s other likely siblings: Winifred, Phoebe, and Temperance, also known as Tempy.  In this family, as in other enslaved families, it was common to name children after their grandparents and their parents siblings. This was used as a code. It helped implicitly connect families, even if they were sold and separated. Moses named two of his daughters, Winifred and Hannah; Winifred named one daughter Temperance; two of Tempy’s children were named after her sisters Phoebe and Winifred; Godfrey Tatman, found in the 1900 census, is potentially Hannah’s son—named him after her father, Old Uncle Godfrey Jason.

Three or four years after my researcher-cousin first mentioned Hannah to me, I pored through census records to find links to her brother, my direct ancestor. In 1900 and 1910, Moses Jason who was living in the same household with Tempy and her family.  Then, I had no idea who Tempy was. In 1900, Tempy and Moses are living in the household of a John Brown and his wife Harriet.  Tempy is listed as John’s mother-in-law, making her Harriet’s mother.  Moses is listed as John’s brother, which I thought was a mistake. I wasn’t able to pinpoint the relationship between John and Moses until the 1910 census.  On this census, Tempy King is listed as the head of household, living with several people, including her brother, Moses Jason.  King was probably Harriet’s last name, too, I thought.

Moses Jason 1900 Census  Moses Jason 1910 census

 

Using Rev. Donald J. Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records (SWLA) CD, a couple of significant marriage references, I found out a couple of things:

  • Temperance Jason [Jacena] married Warren King on April 2, 1870
  • Harriet King married John Brown March 30, 1891.

The Louisiana Death records on FamilySearch shows that Tempy passed on March 29, 1921, had a deceased spouse named Warren King… and that her father was Godfrey Jason!  Unfortunately, no mother is listed.

Familysearch.org Louisiana Death Index entry for Tempy:

Tempy Jason Death entry

I traveled with my cousin Geraldine to the Opelousas court house, doing computer index searches and surveying marriage licenses. Then, I decided I wanted to look up sale records. MY ancestors were bought and sold. There may be a record of it. I remembered what Patricia said, about Old Uncle Godfrey and the Griffith family. So, we looked up in the vendor/vendee index several of the conveyance records for Griffiths slave transactions.  Two of these references broke down the slavery brickwall.

Per the conveyance document recorded December 17, 1833, Daniel Ferguson received nine hundred dollars from Isaac Griffith in exchange for a negro male slave, age 36.  The slave’s name was Godfrey.  My great-great-great-grandfather!

Godfrey Jason slave doc 1833

My excitement continued when I found, in another document dated April 18, 1848. Marie Ann Ferguson [Furguson], wife of Isaac Griffith, is transferring ownership of several slaves to her daughter Hester Griffith, wife of C. D. Tatman. These slaves were a negro male named Warren, 28; a negro woman named Tempy, 23; children  Bob, 6, Henry, 4; Louis, 2; and Rachel, infant.  The children are listed as only Tempy’s children, but Warren may indeed be the father.  Not only had a found a daughter of Godfrey, but it so happened to be the one daughter where I had proof per the death certificate that Godfrey was her father.

tempy and warren slave doc

I did not have Bob, Henry, Davis, nor Rachel in my tree, prior to finding Godfrey and Tempy in the slave records.  However, on the 1870 census in the domicile right next to Warren and Tempy, we find Henry [one of the children on the Tempy slave document] and his wife, Isabella, living with several of Henry’s siblings—including Harriett!

Henry King, wife and siblings living next to Mother and Father (Tempy and Warren)

Henry King, wife and siblings living next to Mother and Father (Tempy and Warren)

Daniel Ferguson, born in South Carolina in 1774, was the fifth son of Moses Ferguson and Elizabeth Lively.  In South Carolina, Daniel married Esther (Hester) Peak(e), where five of their  eight children were born; the remaining being born in Bayou Chicot. Their daughter, Mary (Marie) Anne Ferguson, married Isaac Griffith in 1815 and their daughter, Hester, married Cornelius D. Tatman in 1842.  More than likely, The Ferguson, Griffith, and Tatman family records may hold additional documentation on my enslaved family members.  Information obtained using this link: http://dna.cfsna.net/GEN/USA/SC/Moses_Ferguson_and_Elizabeth_Lively.html. Here are a couple of entries on the family from Rev. Donald J. Hebert’s Southwest Louisiana Records entries:

  • CLARK, Elisabeth – native of this parish (major daughter of dec. John & Marie STEVENS)  m. 13 July 1830  Daniel FERGUSON – native of South Carolina (major son of Moses & Elisabeth LIVELY)  Wits: Francis D. SMITH, James MORGAN, Uriah FERGUSON, Edward FAHEY.  Fr. Flavius Henri ROSSI (Opel.Ch.: v.1-B, p.558-B)
  • GRIFFITH, Hester   m.  15 Dec. 1842  Cornelius D. TATMAN  (Opel.  Ct. Hse.: Mar. #5)   W

With these findings, I expect that it will lead me to find other enslaved relatives.  Recently, I’ve been in contact with a number of DNA cousins that have known ancestors only in South Carolina and are not aware of any connections of ancestors in Louisiana.  Wouldn’t it be great if I would be I able to trace my Louisiana family to our long ago- separated South Carolina family members, once again uniting them?  That’s a wonderful dream…and, dreams do come true.

Happy searching!