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

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“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!

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!

Jason Family of Ville Platte, LA – Part 1

Back in 2011, I was the lead coordinator for the Jason Family reunion in Ville Platte.  On July 9th, 250 people from around the country converged in that small, southwestern Louisiana town. This event provided a unique opportunity; my family had lived in the area for at least 200 years.

The Jason clan’s patriarch and matriarch are Godfrey Jason (who was born in South Carolina around 1797) and his wife Laura, (who was born in Louisiana circa 1810).  The Jasons made their home in the Bayou Chicot area of Saint Landry Parish.

Godfrey and Laura were legally married December 31, 1869, though Laura died of dropsy (edema) a short time later, in April 1870.  It’s unfortunate that she did not live to be counted on the 1870 census.  That year is monumental for those of us that conduct African American genealogical research because the 1870 U.S. census is the first on which formerly enslaved persons would have been mentioned by name.

 

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 1

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 1

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 2

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriage License pg 2

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriag Licence pg. 3

Godfrey and Laura Jason Marriag Licence pg. 3

Although, Laura wasn’t on this census, we’re able to glean a little information about her from the Federal Mortality schedule.  At the time of her death, Laura was sixty years old.

Laura Jason 1870 Federal Mortality Schedule

Laura Jason 1870 Federal Mortality Schedule

I often wondered how Godfrey made his way from South Carolina to Louisiana.  I’m sure it was an advent of slavery, but did he get sold with his parents?   How old was he when he left?  Did he leave any of his close relatives tolling in South Carolina?  Or, was he sold as a slave alone, without any family? At least I know, after his wife’s death, Godfrey, a Southern farmer, wasn’t living alone.  According to the 1870 census, eight other people are living in the household from 31-year old Phebe Jason to one-year old Robert Jason.  All members of the household have the surname Jason, but the 1870 census doesn’t clarify any relationships.

Godfrey Jason 1870 US Census

Godfrey Jason 1870 US Census

What we do know is that Godfrey had at least four children: Winifred (1827), Moses (1830), Hannah (1832), and Temperance (1839).  Laura isn’t definitively the mother of all, if any, of the children, but it’s feasible.

I’m a descendant of Moses Jason. My first cousin’s research had substantiated our connection to Moses and we kept busy finding our fellow Moses’ descendants.   With information from my first cousin’s research, he had traced our family to our two times great-grandfather, Moses Jason (abt. 1830).  However, in 2009, I started collaborating with descendants of Hannah and I learned she was the Moses’ sister and I was told that Godfrey more than likely was the father of both Moses and Hannah. Making this connection was my first breakthrough for tracing family to the 1700s.

I want to continue in the next few posts talking about the Jasons and some of the genealogical finds.

Happy searching!