Tag Archives: Brickwall

Aime Belanger AKA “Jack Acer” : A naturalization mystery

8 Sep

I learn a lot about my genealogy research every day, especially that I can be prone to overconfidence. I said in my last post, that finding french-canadian cousins in the USA was an easy task for me: this one got the best of me after 48 hours of research. Aime Belanger did indeed cross the Canadian border in 1923, in Vermont but until his untimely death in 1988, this man remains a complete mystery.

Let’s start with what I know:

  • Aime Joseph Charles Napoleon Belanger was born in St-Etienne de Lauzon (parish), Quebec on 12 August 1907 to Napoleon Belanger and Anna Blanchet;
  • He is with his family in 1911, in the Canadian Census;
  • No trace of him in the 1921 Canadian Census;
  • He died on 10 October 1998, in Volusia, Florida according to the Social Security Death Index;
  • His Social Security Number says it was issued in Maryland.

I have managed to track down two obituaries for him: the first is in the Orlando Sentinel, 12 October 1988, p.2 (source: genealogybank.com), the other is in the News-Journal, Daytona Beach, 12 October 1988, p. 10A. This last one gave me the hint that I was looking at the right individual (you can read the obituary here in Google Archive News). The names of his siblings correspond to the family tree I have of his parents Napoleon and Anna. So far, so good. However, when I started researching Aime, I had no knowledge whatsoever of what happened to him between 1923 and 1988! From his obituary, he moved to Volusia, Florida around 1976. At the time, he was living in Unionville, Connecticut and worked for United Tool & Die, in Elmwood, Connecticut. His wife’s name is Agnes.

Using reverse search techniques, I have managed to track down Aime in Hartford, Connecticut from 1953 to about 1967 in Ancestry.com City Directories database. In one of the records, in 1953, I found Agnes’ previous husband, Harry H Hallstrom (he died in 1949, in Connecticut).

Agnes H Hallstrom in 1953, married Aime Belanger

Source: Ancestry.com City Directories database

I have not found any record of their marriage in Connecticut but in Agnes’ obituary, 8 September 1996 in the Hartford Courant, I learned that her full name was Agnes Helen Skac from Collinsville, Connecticut and was the wife of the late Harry Hallstrom and the late Aime Belanger.

So, the late 50’s available records provided me with information about Aime in Connecticut, but what was he doing before that? I went back to the obituary and found that he was also an World War II Army Veteran: I found a record of his enlistment in the U.S., Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File on Ancestry.com. It didn’t give me much apart from his Social Security Number (which fit other info I had found) but not his military serial number. I could have used this to locate any relevant military documents in Ancestry and Fold3 databases. As I searched, I couldn’t find any records of enlistment or military service for him. Knowing he was in the army, I did find a couple of passenger lists from New York showing an Aime Belanger as a messman on navy vessels, his date of birth corresponded and he was stated as being American so there must have been a naturalization process somewhere in his life.

His younger brother Alexis Belanger died in 1951 in Hartford, Connecticut, in his newspaper obituary and funeral service article, Aime is said to be living in Harbor, Oregon. I used this piece of info to track him down in city directories but with no luck.

I was left with two options in my research: census records and naturalization records. The first one didn’t not give me any results, Aime Belanger is not found either on the 1930 or 1940 US Censuses. I remembered that his SSN was issued in Maryland; I ultimately found an indexed entry in the U.S. Naturalization Records Indexes, 1794-1995 on Ancestry again however the name entered was “Jack Acer” and between brackets [Aime Joseph Charles Napoleon Belanger].

"Jack Acer" Source: NARA M1168. Index cards for Naturalization Petitions filed in the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for Maryland, 1797-1951 on Fold3.com

“Jack Acer”
Source: NARA M1168. Roll 18 Index cards for Naturalization Petitions filed in the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for Maryland, 1797-1951 on Fold3.com

Now, on Ancestry I did not have any further information about why his name was changed to Jack Acer so I used Family Search to locate Maryland Naturalization Index cards and it did give me two entries on Fold3 and I found this card next in the roll:

"Jack Acer" Source: NARA M1168. Index cards for Naturalization Petitions filed in the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for Maryland, 1797-1951 on Fold3.com

“Jack Acer”
Source: NARA M1168. Index cards for Naturalization Petitions filed in the U.S. Circuit and District Courts for Maryland, 1797-1951 on Fold3.com

His name was changed by order of the court from Aime Joseph Charles Napoleon Belanger to Jack Acer! My first question is why? I understand that name changes are frequent in immigration to the USA; foreign names made “bad publicity” to the immigrant communities in the last century so they did anglicize their names. I have seen my surname, Goulet, changed to Goulett, Goulette and Goulais in the USA. I have also seen “translations” like “Couture” (as in the verb sow) to “Seams”. Nonetheless, I have no idea Aime’s name was changed so dramatically. Unfortunately, I have no access to physical archives and I can’t see his naturalization certificate for myself. I did notice that on the index card, he was residing at the Holabird Q. M. Depot, Camp Holabird, Maryland. It was an old US Army facility (now closed) in Maryland.

My GOD (Genealogical obsessive disorder) tells me there is something more to discover in Aime’s life from his arrival in the USA in 1929 to his residence in Hartford in the 1950’s…. and why he changed his name: I welcome any information on this subject!



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?

Eusebe Bedard – A trove of descendants

1 Aug

Well, it’s been a long while since I have posted on this blog, for the past year I have been incredibly busy at work, I also moved from Switzerland to the beautiful Savoie region of France. Since this time, I have conducted a lot of  genealogical research for friends and family but I have yet to put down in words everything about my family!

So to get back on track, I’ve decided to use a little story I found doing some research in digitised newspapers on genealogybank.com

I was actually researching information about Peter Elwell Cook, a son of Jerry Cook, a sailor in Gloucester, Essex, Massachusetts. Now, the reason I was interested in this individual is because he was married to Sarah Marguerite Mcgurk, in Gloucester around 1925, herself a grand-daughter of Paul Genereux, my second, great-granduncle, a line I’m actively researching in Boston. So, I know from sources that Peter Elwell Cook died on May 1st 1940 in Gloucester… but I have yet to find his obituary! So this morning I decided to track down issues of the Boston Herald for the beginning of the month of May 1940 in the hopes of finding his obituary. I have scoured each obituary page of the Boston Herald (the database maintained by genealogybank could really use a browsing tool… but that’s another story) and I have NOT found his obituary. He is one of my main “brickwalls”, trying to track down the descendants of Paul Genereux. However I have found this story :

“Mr. Eusebe Bedard, retired carpenter […] leaves 124 descendants”

Eusebe Bedard and descendants

Source: Boston Herald, May 3 1940, p. 1939

Now that’s a lot of family! I wonder how many of his 124 descendants now actively research this prolific individual, forty-five great grandchildren today would mean more than double their descendants! So if you’re interested in the Bedard family in Fitchburg, Massachusetts, go ahead, give it a try!

Now back to my research and back to drafting several posts, Mr. Genereux, the saloon owner in Boston is coming up!



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