Mystery Monday: Searching for Lewis Chappel (Part 1)

Ancestor Hunt

My mother’s grandfather, Lewis Chappel, has been an enigma in my family research for years now. By the time mom was born, he was already missing in action and no one, not even her grandmother who raised her, ever talked about him. The challenge of locating information about him will be great, but my desire to know what happened to him is greater.

So my very own, “WDYTYA?” for Lewis Chappel begins today!

Census Records

Since I don’t have any home sources such as — birth, marriage, death, religious, school, and personal records — about Lewis to go on, I will begin my search for him in the U. S. Federal Census enumerated with my great-grandmother, Carrie, and their son Joseph. So I start my search with the 1940 decade and work backward, decade by decade.

1940 – Nothing!
1930 – Nada!
1920 – Niente!

It wasn’t until the 1910 US Census did I finally find them together as a family!

Lewis, Carrie, and Joseph Chappel, 1910 U. S. Census

[Abstraction]

Enumerated on the 18th day of April 1910, this U. S. Federal Census reports living at 1609 Saulnier Street, Houston Ward 4, Harris County, Texas were: [1]

Line 36:  Louis Chappel, head of household, age 27, married 7 years, born in Texas as were his parents, works as a Pipefitter for a Gas Company, rents the house he lives in

Line 37: Carrie Chappel, wife, age 27, married 7 years, mother of 1 child that’s living, born in Texas with parents reportedly born in Mississippi, has no occupation

Line 38: Joseph Chappel, son, age 7, single, born in Texas

Analyzing the Data

Analyze the Data

Let me pause here and say that as I take a closer look at the information reported in this record and other census records; I must keep in mind that though these records are a genealogist gold mine, they’re not perfect! All of the information recorded was done orally. There will be errors on both parts — the enumerator and my ancestor, or person, giving the facts. Enumerators, depending on their level of education, misspelled names miscalculated years of birth and marriages, and simply did not record information as accurately and carefully as reported. Those giving information, depending on their level of education too, sometimes didn’t know all the facts needed, or they would make up information as they went along with the interview. Oh, and let’s not forget those ancestors who were not always “forthcoming” with the truth about their lives for a variety of reasons.

Name | Relation | Personal Description

My great-grandfather’s given name is spelled with an “ou,” as oppose to Lewis spelled with an “ew.” This is a reminder that I must include variations of how his given name may be spelled in my search process as well as possible nicknames he may have used like Lou or Louie. Something else I noticed is that my mother spells her maiden name, Chapple, with the “le” ending as opposed to Chappel with the “el” ending. So when did the spelling of the surname change? That’s an excellent question! But this also means that I must consider all spelling variations of the surname in my search process too!

Something I was surprised to see was the middle initial “E” associated with my great-grandmother’s name. As far as I know, she wasn’t born with a middle name. My mother who is named after her wasn’t born with a middle name either. BUT I have seen on some of my mother’s vital records, “Louise,” as her middle name. When I asked her about it, she said school officials insisted that she have a middle name for their records back then. Mom said she refused to let them call her Carrie Bell or Carrie Mae. So she chose Louise for her middle name on school records. So in light of how my mother came to have a middle name, I wonder what “E” name my great-grandmother was using for her middle name at that time? Interesting indeed — LOL!

Both of my great-grandparents are 27 years old, which means they were born around 1883. Great-grandmother Carrie was born 28 Feb 1883. Therefore, her age is correct on this record. I just hope this is the case for Lewis’ year of birth too.

According to this record, they had been married for seven years, which would put their year of marriage around 1903.

My mother always believed that her father, Joseph, grew up in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas where he was born, then moved to Houston during his young adult years. But this wasn’t the case at all since this census record shows him living with his parents in Houston, Harris County, Texas at the age of 7.

Nativity

Both of my great-grandparents were born in the state of Texas. My great-grandmother was born and raised in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas. And their son (my grandfather), Joseph, was born in Eagle Lake, Colorado County, Texas too. So is it possible that the city of Eagle Lake, in Colorado County, Texas is where Lewis is from as well? If not the city of Eagle Lake, which town in Colorado County did he live?

Occupation

Lewis’s occupation as a Pipefitter for a Gas Company gives a significant clue to the type of knowledge and skills he possessed if he was indeed a Pipefitter at this time.
According to Wikipedia, “a pipefitter is a trades person who lays out, assembles, fabricates, maintains and repairs piping systems. Pipefitters usually begin as helpers or apprentices.” [2]

Keeping in mind my great-grandfather’s race and the 1910 era in which he lived, more than likely he worked as a Pipefitter Helper, than a licensed apprentice for the gas company.
Is Houston Electric Light & Power (HL&P) the company he worked for at the time? It is possible given the fact that his home at 1609 Saulnier Street was in the vicinity of where the city’s first gas plant was built along the west banks of Buffalo Bayou. “HL& P filed a charter in 1882 and was granted a franchise by the Houston City Council. Over the next century, HL&P generated electricity from steam, natural gas, coal or lignite and finally nuclear fission for sale and delivery to retail customers in the rapidly growing Houston area.”[3]

Ownership of Home

The house that they rented at 1609 Saulnier Street was in 4th Ward, better known as Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town. This community, which began with 1,000 newly freed slaves from the Brazos River Cotton Plantations in 1866, grew to over 17,000 by 1910 making it the center of black cultural and professional life in Houston. [4]

Another tip I want to include here is how important it is to carefully review ALL of the families enumerated on each census page you find your ancestor(s) recorded! Ancestry.com  makes this process very easy because each census record you attach to your ancestor’s timeline includes a link to “view others on page” (see below).

When I viewed all of the families enumerated on the same census page with my great-grandparents, I discovered that my great uncle Patrick Robert Blanton, Sr., one of my great-grandmother’s older brothers and his family, lived next door at 1607 Saulnier Street! Below is a Google Satellite street view of where these old homesteads are today. Those original 1910 houses they lived in are long gone. But similar row houses were built in their place by the 1920’s and 1930’s.

House A on the left (1607 Saulnier) was the home of Uncle Patrick Blanton, Sr. House B on the right (1609 Saulnier) was the home of  Lewis & Carrie (Blanton) Chappel, Freedman’s Town, Houston in 1910

So based on information from this census record, what key information have I learned about my great-grandfather that I didn’t know before?

o Names (given, middle, and nicknames) – Lewis Chappel, or possibly Louis Chappel
o Occupations – Pipefitter for a Gas Company (1910 Census)
o Birth date and place – abt 1883, Texas, USA (1910 Census)
o Age – 27 yrs old (1910 Census)
o Residence – 1607 Saulnier Street, Houston, Texas 77019 (1910 Census)
o Family structure – married to Carrie Blanton and has one son, Joseph Chappel
o Marriage – Married Carrie Blanton abt 1903 (1910 Census)

You know, I’m not surprised that my great-grandparents are living in Houston’s historic Freedman’s Town. But finding them together as a family in only one census record leaves me with a lot of unanswered questions:

  • When and where was Lewis Chappel born?
  • Who are his parents?
  • When and where did he meet and marry Carrie?
  • Where were they living at the time their son Joseph was born (in Eagle Lake, TX or another city/town of Colorado County, Texas)?
  • What year did they come as a family to Houston?
  • What became of this family beyond 1910?

Stay tuned, for this is only the beginning of my WDYTYA? journey!

Think we have a family connection?
Let me hear from you because  . . . I’m Claiming Kin!

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Source Citation:

1. “United States Census, 1910,” index and images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/M2MJ-KDV : accessed 29 Mar 2013), Louis Chappel, Houston Ward 4, Harris, Texas; citing sheet 3B, family 75, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1375573.

2. Pipefitter. (2013, February 12). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipefitter

3. Company History. (n.d.). CenterPoint Energy. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://www.centerpointenergy.com/about/companyoverview/companyhistory/

4. Fourth Ward, Houston. (2013, April 08). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 12, 2013, from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fourth_Ward,_Houston

Tuesday’s Tip: Five Online Resources to Jump-start Your Family Research

A conceptual look at the family and its members.

I want to thank family and friends for all the positive feedback I’ve received about my post, Five Steps to Getting Started with Your Family Research! Since I’m asked about my research process all the time, I decided to share those “how-to” instructions on this blog. Now whenever I’m asked how did I get started with my family research, I can just refer everyone to that information!

Now that you’ve been interviewing family members about your ancestors and locating home sources to gather names, dates, and places to fill-in your pedigree charts and family group sheets, you’re probably ready to turn to a variety of online and offline resources to round out your research. When considering the Internet as a place to start your research, there are hundreds and hundreds of excellent websites out there you will use and enjoy along your journey. Just the thought of  listing all the ones I frequent would be impossible . . . WHEW! But if I were to select just five websites to recommend for jump-starting your family research, I would recommend the five below because I visit them over, and over, and over again!

Ancestry.com

This website, filled with billions of digitized records, feeds my need for searchable census and military records, as well as, birth and death indices. Anyone who visits this site can launch an electronic family tree for FREE by typing in your name. Once you’ve found information you want to attach or save to family members of your tree, you will need to become a paid subscriber of the website. I’ve been using Ancestry’s FamilyTree Maker software to manage and organize my family history for quite some time. But, I became a paid subscriber of Ancestry.com in 2011 and totally enjoy the syncing capability I now have with my software and the entire Ancestry online community.

FamilySearch.org

This is my favorite “go-to” website to search for death certificates to download and attach to my family tree. Being able to download and closely review ancestors’ death records have allowed me to fill in some pretty important gaps in my research. I have also been able to dispel rumors, as well as, shed light on assumptions and truths about some of my ancestors. Be sure to read a post I wrote about how FamilySearch.org helped me to reveal that my grand-father, Joseph Chapple (who grew up as an only child), wasn’t the only child my great-grandmother, Carrie Blanton, gave birth to!

USGenWeb and RootsWeb

Knowing where your ancestors lived, worked, and died in the US is very important to your success in locating information about them. So when I’m not able to physically visit states, counties, and towns where my ancestors lived right away, I turn to two great websites – USGenWeb and The RootsWeb Project – for help! Both of these websites, maintained by wonderful volunteers, provide free resources for the genealogy community. USGenWeb focuses on resources and information that you may find about your ancestors at the state level, while RootsWeb allows researchers to access searchable database and indexes for ancestors at the county level. Both of these websites have played an important role in me successfully locating obituaries, deeds, wills, and affidavits of heirship about my ancestors.

FindAGrave.com

Once I’ve had a chance to carefully review an ancestor’s death certificate, I usually head over to FindAGrave.com, a very valuable online community dedicated to recording the final resting place of individuals around the world.  The content at this website, mainly transcriptions and actual photos of tombstones, is provided by volunteers who are more than happy to transfer the management of your ancestor’s memorial page over to you to complete if you contact them.  I truly appreciate this community a lot and show my support by sponsoring family members’ pages when I locate them. Sponsorship is a one-time payment of $5 which goes to helping them sustain the website, as well as, remove all the flashing banner ads on memorial pages.

Cyndislist.com

This massive and wonderful website, personally maintained by the one and only Ms. Cyndi Howell, consist of over 300,000 links to online genealogical resources organized in to 188 categories! WOW! Actually, I call this website –  the genealogist playground – because anything genealogy you can think of is probably linked at this website! If you’re looking for specific online genealogy resources relevant to your ethnicity, then this website is a great point of reference. Finding what you’re looking for is not difficult at all; just use the site’s custom Google search box, or click “Categories” along the site’s left sidebar to explore!

Tuesday’s Tip: Five Drawbacks I’ve Encountered Using Census Records

Archives.com

Archives.com has recently added the complete 1790-1930 U.S. Census to its already billion-record database. This is great news indeed! And to help them promote this new addition to their service,  they have asked Geneabloggers (via contest) to share any tricks, tips, or words of wisdom for first time users, or, offer some sage advice on what to look for to solve those family mysteries via census records.

Using census records in family research is a MUST and is pretty much a straight forward process. But, there are times when using census records can be  down-right frustrating when there are transcription errors, not enough information, ancestors “twisting” the truth about their lives or they go MIA (missing in action) from one decade to another for whatever reason.

Below are five drawbacks I’ve encountered using census records. I know that my information below is not an exhaustive list of all the problems new users will face,  but they are basic and applicable enough for them to refer to as they seek to learn more about their families via census records:

  1. There’s inconsistent and/or phonetic spelling of surnames.
    These inconsistencies are probably due to the limited education of the census taker recording the facts, and/or the ancestors giving those facts (this is especially true with Emancipated African Americans who could not read and write due to slavery).
  2. The flourishes used in old handwriting sometimes make it difficult to read names.
    Distinguishing a capital “I” from a capital “J” when the name is written as initials, and when the open top of the letter “a” looks more like a  letter “u” or the loop top of the letter “a” looks more like the letter “o,” are just a few of the handwriting problems new users will observe in these records.
  3. Name changes by new immigrants in this county and newly Emancipated African Americans is a common occurrence too! In addition to name change dilemmas, the use of nicknames instead of actual birth names can also be a problem.
  4. Ancestors giving false information (such as their age, their ethnicity/race) for personal or political reasons is a common occurrence in these records.
  5. The 1850 Slave Schedules are one of the most important census records for African American researchers. Unfortunately slaves are not listed by their names;  they are listed by age, gender, and color.  And with regards to color, some slaves are listed as “Mu” for mulatto one decade and listed “B” for black in another decade.

Genealogists LOVE U. S. Census Records and use them regularly.  April 1, 2012 cannot get here fast enough for those of us waiting on the release of the 1940 records. New users of these records who are serious family historians will develop a love affair with them too. But as we all know, no love relationship is free of problems. But having a heads up about some of the most common drawbacks associated with census records is helpful!

 

Tuesday’s Tip: Five Steps to Getting Started with Your Family Research

My return to family research with the launch of this blog in 2011, prompted a few family members and friends to ask questions about my research process. The number one question they all wanted to know was — how did I get started with my family research! Getting started is not as difficult as you think. Thanks to new technology and the digitization of so many records which are now available online, getting started with your family research could not be easier. So regardless of your method (using a computer to manage family research, or maintaining paper files of family data organized and stored in cabinets or binders) the basic steps with getting started are the same. Below are five steps anyone can use to get started with their family research.

STEP 1: START WITH YOURSELF!

Record everything you already know about yourself and your family on a Family Group Sheet and Pedigree Chart.

A Family Group Sheet allows you to list all of your family members and pertinent details about them. I recommend that you complete a Family Group Sheet for “everyone” during your research process. I’ve provided a link to a Family Group Sheet I use below. Download it and make as many copies as you need for your research. [1]

Family Group Sheet (complete online then print or save for your files)

A Pedigree Chart allows you to list information about your “pedigree” — such as your parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Below is a link to a Pedigree Chart that I use regularly. Download it and make as many copies  of it as you need for your research. [2]

Pedigree Chart (complete online then print or save for your files)

Once you have listed everything you know about your own immediate family, proceed backwards in time, one generation at a time, listing ancestors on your chart and group sheets.

STEP 2: GATHER HOME SOURCES

After filling in your group sheets and charts with as much information as you can, look for “Home Sources” that may provide additional information — such as names, places, and dates — in your research. Useful home sources include birth, marriage, divorce, and death certificates; newspaper obituaries; funeral programs/memorial cards, and much more.  I’ve provided a link to a Genealogical Source Checklist I refer to daily. Download this document and refer to the “Family and Home Records” for source ideas to information about your ancestors. You may want to check with other relatives (if possible) also to see if they have any home sources that may help with your research. [3]

Genealogical Source Checklist

Be sure to reference all of your home sources so you will know exactly where your information came from.

STEP 3: FAMILY INTERVIEWS

Set aside some time to interview relatives such as your parents and other older members in your family. It’s time to go beyond just collecting names and dates; you are actually ready to collect stories that will breathe life into your research. Therefore, it is very important that you ask close-ended and open-ended interview questions that will help you capture the kind of facts and information you need for your research.

Closed-ended questions encourage short, to the point answers.

Open-ended questions encourage a full, meaningful answer. They are questions that do not have a simple yes, or no, or a number for an answer.

I’ve provided a link to 175 close-ended and open-ended genealogy interview questions compiled by Tracey Carrington Converse that I use below. Download these questions and use them to plan and prepare for your family interviews. [4]

Genealogy Interview Questions

Some folks prefer to take detail notes during the interview. Others prefer to use a tape recorder or a video recorder to capture the interview. Regardless of the method/technology, be sure you are comfortable with it prior to the interview. Record everything you’ve learned from your interviews to your group sheets and charts and don’t forget to reference all relatives who give you information.

Step 4: THE ANCESTOR HUNT

By now, you and family members have completed your group sheets and charts with as much information as you can locate and remember. Now it’s time to turn to other sources to locate missing, incorrect, and incomplete information about your ancestors. So, the hunt begins with you selecting an individual, a family, or a surname from your family group sheets and/or pedigree chart to look for information. Refer to the Genealogical Source Checklist I mention above for a full list of sources to research for your ancestors. Consider using this checklist to plan visits to libraries with genealogy collections, historical societies, family history centers, and archives to locate family information. Explore the Internet for information and leads on your ancestors. When you run out of vital records to research, use historical sources by studying the geographical and historical background of the towns, counties, cities, and states where your ancestors lived.

Be sure to make a record (paying close attention to call numbers, volume and pages numbers) of all the sources you read, review, and use in your research. Take pictures. Make photocopies when necessary. I’ve provided a link to Family Tree Magazine’s Note Taking Form that I use below. Download it and make plenty copies for your files! [5]

Note-Taking Form

 STEP 5: EVALUATE, ORGANIZE, AND SHARE

As you begin accessing and using a variety of new sources in your research, you are going to locate information that will require you to evaluate it for its accuracy and usefulness. Therefore, each time you locate information about your ancestors, you must ask yourself:

  • Is this the information I’m really looking for?
  • Are there some inconsistencies with this information with regards to what I already know and have found?
  • Did this information offer any clues to more useful information and leads?

In short, the evaluation of all information you find is what helps you to connect the relationship dots in your family tree!

Organize your research! So which organizational method is best – binders, computers, notebooks, or folders? Ask a group of genealogists this question and you will soon learn that ALL of these methods are the best – LOL! I organize my research via binders (which are handy enough for me to take along on trips to libraries and archives) and online via my computer. So I can say with certainty that the best method is always going to be the one that fits your personality and style. Regardless of which method is best, the key here is having a system that will allow you to find family information when you need it!

Last, but certainly not least, as you compile your research in those infamous binders, notebooks, folders, and online, etc. — be sure to share your research! Genealogy is a lifelong activity that will connect you to new relatives and give you a deeper appreciation of your heritage.

Well, that’s it!

When you have gone as far as you can in researching a particular individual, a family, or surname – stop and take a break. Then return to Steps 4 – 5 again with another new individual, family or surname from your family group sheets and/or pedigree charts.

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Source Citations:

1. Misbach Enterprises. (2010). Family Group Record. Misbach Enterprises. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from http://misbach.org/download/FamilyGroupRecord.pdf

2. Misbach Enterprises. (2010). 5 Generation Pedigree Chart. Misbach Enterprises. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from http://misbach.org/download/5GenPedigree.pdf

3. Family Tree Magazine. (2008). Genealogical Source Checklist. Family Tree Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from https://www.familytreemagazine.com/premium/genealogical-source-checklist/

4. Converse, T. C. (n.d.). Interview Questions. Genealogy Records Service. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from http://www.genrecords.com

5. Family Tree Magazine. (2002). Note-Taking Form. Family Tree Magazine. Retrieved August 9, 2011, from http://familytreemagazine.com/upload/images/PDF/note2.pdf