12 November 2017

Missing Records : John Dixon in the Civil War

Yours truly A Lincoln
Well, howdy friends. Have you ever been this close to  solving a family history mystery only to be thwarted by a missing or misplaced document or file? I sincerely hope not, because I'm here to tell you that it is great big no fun.

Here's the situation. My great-great-grandfather, John Dixon (b.abt. 1837, d. after 1917) was a veteran of the Civil War. He enlisted in 1861 and deserted two month after he mustered in. [He was later pardoned and served with his regiment through the end of the war.] I have a theory that he deserted because his wife, Isabel was either having trouble with her pregnancy, or their infant children (I believe she gave birth to twins) were not doing well. I had hoped to find his Court Martial files with the case notes to discover what reason he gave for deserting the Army.

Natually, I turned to Debbie Hadley of Bring Out Yer Dead, who does research for me in New Jersey. She was going to be spending some time at the National Archives in Washington, D.C. and agreed to dig up the court martial case file for me.

The Good, the Bad, and the Letter from Abraham Lincoln 


The good news : Debbie did find a file relating to my John Dixon.

The bad news : the transcript of the trial was missing.

The good news : there was some useful information in the file, including the name of the officer who requested John's pardon and return to duty. There were also a lot of notes about where the files had been sent. They got around a bit and the clerks dutifully noted the particulars.

The bad news : There was no mention of the final resting place of the file. They don't appear to be at the National Archives. Which means they could be in any number of places, or they may no longer exist. Vexing.

And then there's the letter from Abraham Lincoln. Naturally, it's not addressed to or written about John Dixon, though his case is mentioned in some of the notes written on the letter. The letter itself concerns one Joshua Francis Noble. It appears Joshua deserted at the same time as John, from the same regiment, was court martialed and sentenced at the same time, and also had a pardon requested by the same officer as John. The letter is President Lincoln's inquiry into the status of Joshua Noble's case on behalf of Joshua's wife. The poor man had been sentenced to prison in the Tortugas, and although the pardon was approved, the paperwork was misplaced. Eventually he got sorted out and returned to his regiment.

Here's the President's letter. You can click on the image to make it larger.

Dear Judge Advocate General, where in the world is Joshua Noble?
His wife would like to know.
Yours truly, A. Lincoln (1)

Here's the response from the Judge Advocate General, and a sideways note from Mr. Lincoln. Ditto with the click to enlarge.

Dear Mr. President, I have no clue. The War Department mislaid the file.
We did sort out that John Dixon fellow.
Illegibly, Judge Adv. General. (1)

And here are the notes written on the back of the paper. Ditto, click, enlarge.

Summary of the cases of Dixon and Noble, with mysterious clerical notations. (1)

If you have any suggestions on where one would look for the missing court transcripts, please leave a comment or send me a note.

I'll be writing more about John Dixon soon, and will also put a transcript of the documents that were in the file up here on the blog.

Source Citation

1. Court martial case file, 1863-1865; John Dixon and Joshua F. Noble, File NN98; Court Martial Case Files 1809-1894; Record Group 153: Records of the Office of the Judge Advocate General (Army); National Archives and Record Administration, Washington, D.C.

26 October 2017

Wedding Bells 1925 : Karvoius & Dixon

 On October 26, 1925 Wally Dixon and Sophie Karvoius were wed. It was Sophie's 19th birthday. Wally had turned 20 in March of that year.

The ceremony took place at Saints Peter and Paul Catholic Church on Ripley Place in the Elizabethport neighborhood of Elizabeth, New Jersey. St. Pete's (as we called it) was a Lithuanian church that Sophie's immigrant parents attended, and which the extended family would continue to attend for many decades.

Reverend Joseph Simonaitis performed the wedding ceremony. The witnesses were Sophie's youngest  sister, Estelle Karvoius, and Wally's friend, Peter Moretti.

My grandfather looks so dapper in his bow-tie!
Left to right: Jimmy Fahey, Wallace B. Dixon,
best man Peter Moretti, and an indentified friend.

Sophie Karvoius in her wedding dress.

The photos and the wedding invitation are from my personal collection.

01 September 2017

First Day of School

Off to Bender Academy!

Me, Steven?, and Heidi Lenartowicz on the first day of school
at Bender Academy in Elizabeth.
Collection of E. Ackermann, 2017.

And don't we look just thrilled? That's me on the left, with the up-flip. I remember my mother making me sleep in rollers for this "special" day. Torture! The curls may have lasted until I got to school. Not much longer than that though. My hair never would hold a curl. The boy in the middle is, I think, named Steven. I don't remember if he was in my class or not. He lived at the end of the block next to Warinanco Park. The other girl is Heidi Lenartowicz. She was a year younger than me.

This was the first day of either first or second grade for me. There were at least four or five kids on the block who went to Bender Academy in Elizabeth. Our parents took turns driving us.

30 July 2017

Immigrant Ancestor Checklist : Naturalization Records

My local genealogy support group spent a session a month or so ago learning about naturalization records. It seemed like a good idea to use the notes I took in class to make a little worksheet that would help me gather the information that I might need to track down my immigrant ancestors' naturalization records.

And then I thought I should share it with you :-)

  • This worksheet is designed to help you gather in one place the information that you might need to find immigration records. 
  • Once you narrow down the time and place, find out where your ancestors might have filed, and where those records are stored today.

Note the section at the bottom that gives some information you might find useful if your ancestors didn't naturalize as US citizens. My Lithuanian great-grandparents never became citizens, but I was able to get some great information about them through their A-File (Alien Files) records.

When you are trying to pin down the earliest possible dates for Declaration of Intent and for Naturalization be sure to find out what the immigration rules were for those actions at the time your ancestor might have been applying for citizenship. You'll find a general overview at the National Archives website.

PDF : Immigrant Ancestor Checklist : Naturalization Records 
I hope you find this checklist helpful in tracking down naturalization records for your ancestor. Free for your personal use. Enjoy!
You can click on the image to make it larger, or click on the link above to access the PDF file.

28 July 2017

What I did on my summer vacation : GRIP 2017

This was my second year at the Genealogical Institute of Pittsburgh (GRIP). Last year I learned about being a family archivist. It was a great class, and the whole experience at GRIP was terrific.

When the class list for this year's sessions came out I knew I had to sign up for this one : 
Gateway to the Garden State : Sources and Strategies for New Jersey Research

I'm so glad I did! For five whole days the class got what seemed like a never–ending list of great sources, repositories, organizations, and how–to's. We covered history, record groups, and the law. The presenters were Melissa A. Johnson, Michelle Tucker Chubenko, Karen Mauer Jones, and Judy Russell.  My classmates were a nice mix of professional researchers and seasoned enthusiasts. There was a lot of sharing of information, and some nice conversations.

I'm hoping to make use of the resources in the extensive syllabus to push my research along and discover some new stories for this blog. So many records, so little time...

12 June 2017

Resource Roundup: New Jersey State Census Update

Good news! FamilySearch has now made available the 1885, 1905, and 1915 New Jersey state censuses. They are indexed and searchable, and best of all, with images.

Previous indexes I've seen for the 1915 census included only the most basic information. With access to the images of the enumeration pages themselves you get so much more. Information on the census form includes:
  • Address
  • Name
  • Color or race
  • Sex
  • Month and year of birth
  • Age
  • Marital status
  • Place of Birth
  • Place of birth of parents
  • Citizenship information, including number of years in U.S. and naturalization status
  • Occupation
  • Education: reading, writing, abitlity to speak English
  • School attendance, including the name of the school and whether public, private or parochial
  • Home ownership information, including ownership, rental, mortgage, and house or farm

Here are the links to search the newly updated records:

I've been going through the 1915 census and have found some interesting things. For instance, my grandmother, Lillian (Maita) Traina, was 11 years old when the census was taken, but the name she is given on the census is "Rosalie." Was Rosalie her middle name, or was Lillian? 
 "New Jersey State Census, 1915", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9W-4DZY : 8 October 2014), Vincent Maita, 1915. Downloaded 11 June 2017.
1915 NJ state census record showing my grandmother, Lillian (Maita) Traina - listed under the name Rosalie.
The birth month and year are a match, so it must be her.
 "New Jersey State Census, 1915", database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:QV9W-4DZY : 8 October 2014), Vincent Maita, 1915. Downloaded 11 June 2017.
 I've also found adults ennumerated in both their parents' household as well as in the household with their own spouse and children. More than one example of that, actually.
If you've found anything interesting about your family in the 1915 census I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment below.

15 May 2017

Wedding Bells 1955 : Dixon and Traina

My mother, Mary E. Dixon, married her best friend's brother, Frank J. Traina, on May 15, 1955. From photographs I have seen, Mary was well acquainted with the Traina family for years before she and Frank tied the knot.

The wedding took place in Union, New Jersey, and was a civil ceremony performed by a Magistrate of the Court. Mary's Matron of Honor was her future sister-in-law, Frances (Traina) Carlino. The Best Man was Frank's friend, Leo Piazzo.

Here are a few photos from their wedding day.

Mary (Dixon) Traina gets help with her hair
from her sister-in-law and
Matron of Honor, Frances (Traina) Carlino.

Mary (Dixon) and Frank Traina
15 May 1955

Matron of Honor, Frances (Traina) Carlino
and Best Man, Leo Piazzo

The toast.
Frank and Mary (Dixon) Traina toast,
as Fran (Traina) Carlino looks on.

The happy couple and their parents.
Left to right: Joseph Traina and Lillian (Maita) Traina;
Frank and Mary (Dixon) Traina; Sophie (Karvoius) and Wallace B. Dixon.

Mary (Dixon) and Frank Traina cut the wedding cake.

Frank Traina dancing with his sister, Mary Ann,
and Mary (Dixon) Traina dancing with her brother, Wallace A. Dixon.

The happy couple in a snazy car.
Mary (Dixon) and Frank Traina.