Archive | August, 2014

Is the Death Index a proof of being deceased?

29 Aug The Microcosm, Simmons College Annual, 1913.

I know, it does sound like a silly question but bear with me for a moment. From what I have learned, death indexes are pretty much useless if you don’t look at the original record but there’s always other ways of verifying information from the indexes. So here’s my little mystery:

Frank Albert Volz was born 8 August, 1885 in Genesee County, New York. His father was a real estate man (a very busy one), Albert Joseph Volz (1853-1937) from New York to Kansas and finally Oklahoma, with the “1889ers” who made the first land run. Frank (or Frank A) followed his father and the rest of his family there.

He founded his first company “Volz & Horigan Undertaking” with his half-brother, Lawrence Timmons Volz, in 1911, then quickly moving on to clerk positions in labor unions in Oklahoma City and accounting in oil corporations.

Volz Horigan Undertaking

Volz-Horigan Undertaking in The Evening Free Press, January 27, 1911, p. 3
Source: http://gateway.okhistory.org

In 1920-1921, he went to San Francisco, presumably as a clerk again. I had found him in the city directories and there was an article in 1921 (Daily News, Batavia, New York. Tuesday Evening, July 12, 1921, p.4. Source: fultonhistory.com) that mentioned him being in California.

He didn’t go to San Francisco for nothing, he met this lovely young lady : Katherine Louise Mcgurk (1891-1981). Now Louise (she wore this name in records for most of her life) was a secretary by trade, and she liked to travel a lot. I didn’t quite know how she got from Malden, MA (her place of birth) to San Francisco and THEN to Tulsa, Oklahoma in the house of Frank Volz. I started backtracking my research and found a record of her in the Simmons College Review (Boston) that told of her departure for California.

Simmons College Review

The Simmons college review. v. 3 (Nov. 1920- June 1921).
Source: Hathitrust.org. p. 365

Then I found her also in San Francisco directories, with her mother Alexina Louise Genereux (1861-1941) living at the same address as Frank Volz in 1923! So this was definitely love: Frank Volz and Louise McGurk got married on the 25th of September 1929, in San Francisco. They left the Golden State and went to live in Tulsa, Oklahoma where I found records of them for 1930 and 1940 in US Censuses.

Thanks to Ancestry.com hint features (when you have a paid subscription), I managed to track them both down again in 1956. They were living in Laguna Beach, Orange County, California (source: California Voter Registration 1900-1968). Now according to the California Death Index (I have double-checked on every site that hosts the database): Frank A Volz died April 6, 1961 in Orange County. His mother’s maiden name is Bissell, which concurs with my data. His wife, Louise M Volz died herself in January 1981, Long Beach. She is buried in the Holy Sepulcher Cemetery, in Orange County. Her maiden and parent’s name (Genereux & McGurk) also concur with my data.

Since I had only the death index to rely on for Frank and Louise, I cross-referenced the Social Security Numbers I discovered in the records. First, I had to eliminate a result for Louise; on some databases the SSN for her is that of her husband. I have tracked down hers (using reverse search engines) and using Steve’s Morse Five-Digit Decoder, I now knew that her SSN (565-26-****) was issued in California from 1936-1950.

Then there’s a Social Security Number attached to Frank Volz, it begins with 443-03-****. Still using the decoder, I found that it was issued in Oklahoma from 1936-1950. I tried reverse search on this number but I came up with no results, zip, nada, nothing… Most the time using SSDI or SSN search, it provides me with proof of my initial information: what I don’t understand is how can one database, in this instance the California Death index, give me a SSN that’s seems to be false?! I tried wildcards, switching Frank’s name and surname around, even his birth date and I still have no result for him. Online obituary search has yielded no results as well.

So, what’s your take on this? Can a Death Index database be wrong? Can a SSN be “reused” (if somebody died some time ago)? Do you have any tips or tricks that I have missed?

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Paul Genereux and how many restaurants? – Boston

28 Aug

It seems family history research is never finished! After my last blog post about my 2nd great-uncle Paul Genereux, I thought I had pretty much covered all I could do online. When I found that Paul Genereux had saloons in the mid 1870-1880’s, in Boston’s North End, I had three addresses:

  • His first oyster saloon on 148 Fulton street, from 1868 to 1875 (source: Boston City Directories)
  • His saloon on 76 Broad street, in 1874-1875 (source: Boston Tax Records and Boston Newspapers)
  • His saloon/boarding house on 19 Eastern avenue, from 1877 to 1883 (Source: Boston City Directories and 1880 US Census)

And yet, today, after renewing my subscription to Ancestry.com, I *casually* re-ran a search for Paul and, surprise, I found that he had another restaurant on 19 South Ferry Avenue in 1876! Here are the two images I found using online databases.

Entry for Paul Genereux in Boston City Directory, 1876.

Entry for Paul Genereux in “Boston City Directory”, 1876. P. 367
Source: Fold3.com

Entry for Paul Genereux in Boston Business Directory, 1876.

Entry for Paul Genereux in “Massachusetts Cities Directory”, 1876. Under “Dining Rooms”. P. 411
Source: Ancestry.com

Did this man ever stop? Now my question is to locate South Ferry Avenue in Boston: in a basic map search, it seems the street doesn’t exist anymore. I have a hunch that this address may be the “old” name of Eastern avenue in the North End, but I’m pretty much in the dark for now.

So a question to my readers and fellow family historians; what kind of resource should I look up online to learn about Boston city streets name change?

Paul Genereux (1833-1883): The saloonkeeper in Boston

24 Aug Corner of Lewis and Fulton street, around 1855

Since I’ve started working on my family history more than 10 years ago, I have always envisioned that my ancestors were adventurous and hard-working people, the kind of people would take any chance available at having a better life and never looking back on the past.

Paul Genereux, my 2nd great-uncle is one of those individuals. He was born in Berthier, Quebec to Paul Genereux (1803-1881) and Marguerite Lippe (1804-1886), his sister Emilie Genereux was married to my 2nd great-grandfather Maximilien Dulac (1825-1900), the navigator from Berthier. In fact, two other sisters of Paul, Philomene and Lina got married in the Dulac/Aubuchon family as well.

Paul was born in a rural area, Berthier (also know as Berthierville at the time) where most people would work the fields and raise cattle for the rest of their lives. Paul wasn’t one of those. In 1860, he married Catherine Johnson (1838-1906) in Quebec city, at Notre-Dame de Quebec parish. On his marriage certificate, he is mentioned as a “merchant”. Paul stayed in Quebec working as a trader/merchant for about 8 years. I’ve located him using the online “Annuaires Marcotte“, historical directories from Quebec city. He lived on 90 Richelieu street, in Saint-Jean, until 1867.

In the meantime, he had two living children born there: Louise Alexina Genereux and Alfred Genereux. Paul Eugene was their third child but he didn’t make it a year. I don’t know if this is what prompted his departure to the USA but nevertheless when I found entries in the Massachusetts, Marriage Records, 1840-1915 database on Ancestry.com for both Alexina and Alfred marriages, I knew he had decided to settle in Boston for a while.

Let’s backtrack a bit: I’ve used traditional sources to retrace the steps of Paul in Quebec, he is found on the 1871 Canada census (Census Place: Berthier, Berthier, Quebec; Roll: C-10038; Page: 8; Family No: 23), living with his father, mother and spouse Catherine, in Berthier. His family might have told the census clerk that he was still living in Berthier when he was in fact in Boston, Massachusetts. How do I know this? Because I found Paul living on 148 Fulton street, Boston in 1867 through 1870 in Boston City directories working an oyster saloon (a what??).

Paul Genereux in 1868, oyster saloon.

Paul Genereux in 1868, oyster saloon.
Source: Boston City directories

To prove my point, I tried to locate Paul and his family in the 1870 US Census for Boston but with no luck, I know this is typical of some ancestors moving to the US that they couldn’t (or wouldn’t) be found on censuses. But I had other evidence proving that he was there at the time.

The first is an article from the “Boston Journal” (Boston, MA), 6 December 1869, p.4 (viewable on genealogybank.com), here’s the transcript:

“Augustine Grossire reports at the First Station that he either lost or had stolen from him Saturday $358 in bank notes, while at the saloon of Paul Genereux, 148 Fulton street.”

I was wondering what the North End in Boston was looking like at the time, there are several online digital collections that helped me flesh out the neighborhood in the 1870’s and 1880’s. There’s the Bostonian Society where you can search for photographs & manuscripts, and also the Boston Public Library on Flickr where I found these images :

Altlantic ave at the corner of Eastern ave, around 1891

Altlantic ave at the corner of Eastern ave, around 1891
Source: The Bostonian Society http://rfi.bostonhistory.org/boston

Fulton Street around 1880

Fulton Street around 1880
Source: The Bostonian Society http://rfi.bostonhistory.org/

Corner of Commercial and Fleet Street in Boston around 1880.

Corner of Commercial and Fleet Street in Boston.
Source: The Bostonian Society http://rfi.bostonhistory.org/

Paul stayed on 148 Fulton street for a while, still using Boston city directories, he was renting the space to Mr. Blanchard a french-canadian who also had a saloon on 146 Fulton street. I’ve used the Massachusetts, Boston Tax Records, 1822-1918 on Familysearch to locate tax rolls and I found that Paul had another saloon in 1874 on 76 Broad street in Boston. I thought that life was getting good for Paul so I continued researching him and his family throughout several documents. Using the Library of Congress historical newspaper collection “Chronicling America”, I landed on this mysterious information in a German newspaper in Baltimore:

Der deutsche Correspondent, January 04, 1875

Der deutsche Correspondent, January 04, 1875 Source: Chronicling America

Now I don’t know about you but my German isn’t necessarily up to speed, the only words I could decipher from this where “Boston” “Paul Genereux” and “morden” which… stank of death to me! I went hunting for Boston newspapers at that date, I have to tell you that this wasn’t easy because OCR (Optical Character Recognition) is not perfect. Here are a few tips to help with your research :

  • Don’t use exact names (especially if they are foreign sounding), use wildcards like “*” which will replace a letter inside a keyword or “?” which will replace the ending of a keyword. For example, I’ve used “gene*eu*” several times in my research because Paul’s surname would get a beating in most records I found;
  • Use date-ranges instead of keywords. In my case I’ve tried locating the major newspapers of Boston in January 1875 and looked through them, one by one;
  • Use addresses instead of surname keywords. For this I’ve used “Broad st” or “Fulton st” combined with a date range to narrow my results.

Using those techniques, I found an short article in the “Boston Daily Advertiser”, 4 January 1875 which left me astounded:

Attack on Paul Genereux

Attack on Paul Genereux

The Wild West wasn’t far, we were in a saloon and shots were fired! Eventually Paul got better and he moved from Broad st. to 19 Eastern Ave. where he can be found on the 1880 US Census still working as a saloon keeper. His surname was “Genevaux”, again wildcards are your friend. During that time, another son was born to Paul and Catherine in Boston, Arthur Genereux (1873-1909) and an infant daughter Mary A Genereux (1872) who lived only a few months.

Paul died on 20 February, 1883 of the Brights disease leaving his wife Catherine in charge of the family and their income. You can also view the original record in the Massachusetts Deaths 1841-1915 database on Familysearch.

Newspaper obituary

Newspaper obituary

Catherine lived until October 1906, changing the saloon to a boarding house. In the 1900 US Census, she is found staying with her son Arthur, who became a plumber, and a couple of sailors staying at her boarding house on Eastern Ave. None of the family members ever came back to Quebec, they had stayed in Boston for better or worse. In further posts, I will reveal the lives of Paul & Catherine’s children in the USA and their descendants in the McGurk, Cook & Volz families.

I dedicate this story to Jim Simon, an excellent historian and researcher of the Genereux family pioneers,  who has been working on the Genereux family for more than a decade, I’m more than happy to contribute!

 

  • Boston’s North End: Images and Recollections of an Italian-American Neighborhood (Google Books)
  • Historic Taverns of Boston: 370 Years of Tavern History in One Definitive Guide (Google Books)
  • The Saloon: Public Drinking in Chicago and Boston, 1880-1920 (Google Books)
  • The Boston Directory, Volume 64 (Google Books)
  • Boston’s North End (Google Books)
  • Oyster Bar (Wikipedia)
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