Tuesday 18 November 2014

The August Henry Becker Family – Part 3

In my last post I described how I had found members of August Henry Becker’s first family in Florida. My client (Eileen) was even more interested now in learning about her half-siblings and cousins.

Robert Becker, August’s youngest son from his first marriage, had shown up in several lists on Ancestry. Besides the censuses, his name appeared on a US Petition for Naturalization form which gave his birth date, birthplace and then current address. He was also on the Florida Death Index, the US Social Security Death Index, US Public Records (city and area directories and telephone directories) and several military records pertaining to his service in the US Army during World War II, all of which gave additional addresses for him.

There were similar public records, mainly local area directories and the death records for Robert’s wife, Mary Agnes, his mother, Nellie, and his sister, Emily and her family who, as I mentioned before, also lived in Florida.

I did specific searches for Robert’s and Emily’s children, whose names I had from the censuses and found marriage records and directory listings for them with relatively up-to-date addresses. On a general Google search I found a remarkable site called Florida Memory, which had a photograph of “Sisters Judy and Susan Becker with their dog – Miami Beach, Florida” (see below). That discovery was a real surprise. The photos were contributed to Florida Memory by Susan. The website is associated with the Division of Library and Information Services, part of the Florida Department of State, and has a great collection of photos, videos, audio recordings and other material pertaining to the region’s history.
Susan, Judy and Scat. Photofrom print collections of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memorycontributed by Susan Campbell. Reference: http://floridamemory.com/items/show/13091
I joined a discussion list for the FLMiama-Dade group, hosted by Google Groups, with the hope of making contact with other family historians who might help in the search for the Becker families. I posted a request for information indicating what I knew about the individuals. A participant responded with a copy of an obituary for Robert Becker, from the Orlando Sentinel, that mentioned several members of his family, including their addresses, and the funeral home which handled his interment. That same discussion list-participant found and sent me a 2006 roof-repair permit, of all things, from the City of Miami records, for the home of one of Robert’s daughters. The address matched what I had from the directory lists so I believed I was really on the right track.

I emailed the funeral home that had handled the services for both Robert and Mary Agnes and they indicated they would forward my query to one of Robert’s daughters. I also looked up the daughters on White Pages to confirm present-day addresses and then sent them letters by post introducing myself and Eileen, their long-lost half-aunt. We were soon in contact with each other and exchanging information about the two families of August Henry Becker.

Of great interest was the number of family photographs and important documents of which Judy and Susan were able to give us copies. They included Nellie’s birth and death records as well as the marriage license and divorce papers for her and August. Eileen had never known the details of the breakup of her father’s first marriage so this information really added to his story and filled in many blanks.

Eileen has stayed in touch with both Judy and Susan the last few years. This past summer Judy made a trip to Alberta to visit Eileen and meet her family and, of course, to take in the festivities of the Calgary Stampede. Both Judy and Eileen have expressed to me their pleasure in being able to meet and to learn so much more about their common family members. It is one of those real success stories – to tie together family history events and help forge ties with relatives who might never had had the opportunity to meet.

Wayne Shepheard is a volunteer with the Online Parish Clerk program in England, handling four parishes in Devon, England. He has published a number of articles about various aspects of genealogy and is a past Editor of Chinook, the quarterly journal of the Alberta Family Histories Society. Wayne also provides genealogical consulting services through his business, Family History Facilitated.