Tag Archives: Genealogy

Mapping & Timelines for Genealogy

24 Jun

It’s not the first time I have envisionned mapping my genealogy data in order to get a clearer picture of my ancestors’ lives. Like many of my fellow geek genealogists, my first try was by using Google maps (you can read all about it here). It was interesting work and it enabled me to verify my data thoroughly before using it for any project. I was disappointed though that I couldn’t add layers to my map: like for example a specific address over the years (my ancestors moved a lot for employment purposes).

A recent blog post enabled to try again mapping data with Google Maps, I did so using multiple .CSV files: one for biographical info, the other with residence, employment location, etc. It’s tedious work if you do not have your genealogy data saved in that format, it means you have to rewrite it yourself (I’m unsure about this, it’s possible that some genealogy software can export your data in CSV files. If you do, please share the info!). Here’s what it looks like:

But I was still not satisfied with what it “looked like” so I tried out two other mapping/timeline tools: Heganoo and Storymap

Heganoo

Heganoo is a visual app that displays custom maps on mobiles, tablets and pcs. I tried them out using my genealogy data about Paul Genereux. I found it slightly difficult to use at first (remember to hit the “save” button often to see your changes!) but finally simpler by creating a “slide” for each event of my ancestor. The cool part is that you can link your Dropbox account to import images to each slide. You can add more than one image per slide. Although I would have wished a “credit” or “source” field for each image imported I’m well satisfied with the result.

You can also customise the zoom level of each slide: for example if your ancestor was born in Canada (but you don’t know where precisely), your first slide will zoom out to show the entirety of Canada. Then let’s say you found in in the 1901 Canada Census living on Champlain street in Montreal, you can show the map at street-level. There are many other features (free and paid) that allows you to adjust colours, background images and so on.

Have a look at my Heganoo map here

Storymaps

StoryMapJS is a free tool to help you tell stories on the web that highlight the locations of a series of events. The interesting part is that it offers you to create a “standard” map or a “Gigapixel” map with large artwork images and photographs. It’s very simple to create a map, you choose a location, customise and then on with the next slide. I loved the “credit” field for imported images so I could cite the source, unfortunately I could only add one image per event/slide. There are less custom options than in Heganoo but if you get your hands on the code, I promise that you can pretty much create the map you want.

Have a look at my StoryMap here

The only thing that bugged me is not being able to set the zoom level of my events on the map, my guess is that he can only be customised if you import JSON data from a webfile. (I know it sounds pretty technical but here’s an overwiew of JSON).

So, what do you think? Are there any other mapping tools you use? 

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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!

 

US Immigration forms in the 1920’s: “Are you an anarchist?”

5 Sep

After all the research I’ve completed on my ancestors who went to the USA during the 1850’s, I decided to go back to my close ancestors on dad’s side in the Levis region, south of Quebec city.

Now, in my family tree, there are a lot of Belanger surnames, in fact most marriages between Goulet and Belanger have always been tinted with a touch of consanguinity. People use to marry their first or second cousin all the time! But let’s get back to Quebec where I’ve been extracting information on records on the Belanger family of Levis, St-Jean Chrysostome and Breakeyville region. My 2nd great-granfather Jean-Philippe Belanger (1856-1909) had a son Napoleon Belanger (1881-1937) born in Levis. Napoleon married Anna Blanchet (1882-ca1925) on 25 Aug 1904 in Quebec city.

Amongst their children, Aime Belanger was born in August 1907: according to family he left with his younger brother Alexis J (1910-1951) to Berlin, NH and never came back to Quebec. Now, I was back in familiar territory, I’m quite used to finding french-canadian cousins emigrating to the US (always remember wildcards using databases and search engines!): I found a record for Aime Belanger crossing the border at Beecher Falls, VT on 23 Nov 1923, going to North Stratford, NH. All the information from the record seemed to fit the info I had on Aime.

Aime Belanger in Nov 1923, Vermont Source: Ancestry.com. Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956

Aime Belanger in Nov 1923, Vermont
Source: Ancestry.com. Border Crossings: From Canada to U.S., 1895-1956

Now a closer look at the image left me a bit shocked, on the lower right of the form, the immigration officer had to tick whether the alien was… an anarchist? It left me baffled the same way when I heard stories of people traveling to the USA post-9/11 and having to fill out forms where you were asked if you were a terrorist, etc. I know for a fact that the great depression, prohibition laws and the fear of communists drove to silly behaviors US officials but I can’t quite place the relevancy of this question in the 1920’s: “Are you an anarchist?”. A Catholic French-Canadian. Come on.

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