Saturday, September 14, 2013

SNGF: Semi-Random Research

It's time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun! This works out well for me, as my husband is with his best friend and goddaughter at the LSU vs. Kent State game across town. I'm hanging out here at the house catching up on genealogy research. Randy Seaver's mission over at Genea-Musings is to do semi-random research. His instructions are as follows:

1)  We're going to do a little bit of Semi-Random Research tonight...what is your first name? [This is the easy part!] My first name is Jennifer.

2)  Go to your family tree database of choice (you know, like RootsMagic, Reunion, Ancestry Member Tree), and determine who the first person in your alphabetical name index is with a surname starting with the first two letters of your first name (e.g., my first name is RAndall, so I'm looking for the first person with a surname starting with RA).  [If there are no surnames with those first two letters, take the surname after that letter combination.] The first person in my alphabetical name index who has a surname starting with the first two letters of my first name is August JEAN.

3)  What do you know about this person based on your research?  It's OK to do more if you need to - in fact, it's encouraged! All I know about August JEAN is that he was the father of Leo Ralph JEAN and husband of Mary RALPH and that he was possibly born in Canada.

4)  How are you related to this person, and why is s/he in your family tree? I am not related to August JEAN. He was the father of Leo Ralph JEAN, who was the second husband of my second cousin 3x removed, Alberta A. BASNEY. Alberta was the daughter of Burton Eugene BASNEY and Essie Anna PHELPS. Essie was the daughter of Joseph Putnam PHELPS and Agnes Emma PEMBERTON. Agnes was the younger sister of my 3x great-grandfather, John PEMBERTON.

Although August is a VERY collateral relative, I will do a little semi-random research at and FamilySearch to see what I can find on him. First, though, I need to evaluate what I already know about him and his associates. His son Leo's marriage record lists Leo's parents as August JEAN and Mary RALPH. The 1920 and 1930 census records list Leo's father's birthplace as Canada. The 1930 census specifically lists his birthplace as Canada French. The 1920 census listed his father's native tongue as English. Leo's mother's birthplace is listed as Michigan in 1920 and Canada French in 1930.
Leo's entries in the "Michigan Death Index, 1971-1996" database at and the SSDI state that he was born 21 Nov 1897. His WWI draft registration states that he was born 21 Nov 1898. His marriage record states that he was born c. 1897 in New York. The 1920-1940 census records all give him an estimated birth date between 1897 and 1898 and a birthplace of New York. All in all, his birth is stated pretty consistently throughout all of his records. He married Alberta A. BASNEY on 25 Oct 1919 in Detroit. They are found in city directories through 1921 in Detroit. In 1930 and 1940, they are found in the northern suburbs of Detroit in Macomb County. Leo died 20 Feb 1971 in Pontiac, Oakland, Michigan. His residence in the death index was listed as Walled Lake, Oakland, Michigan.
Since Leo was born likely born in 1897 in New York, I decided to start looking for August and Mary in the 1900 census.  BINGO! There was an August and Mary A. JEAN living at 268 Lafayette Ave. in Buffalo, New York, in 1900. August was a 43-year-old lake captain who was born Oct 1856 in Canada French. I'm presuming "lake" captain must mean a boat captain on Lake Erie. Mary was listed as age 37 and born April 1863 in Canada English. There were 5 children enumerated: Mary Ethel, age 13, b. Jul 1886; Marie Elvia, age 10, b. May 1890; Augustin E., age 8, b. Jan 1892; Elizabeth A., age 4, b. Mar 1896; and Leo Ralph, age 2, b. Nov 1897. The three oldest children were born in Michigan, while the three youngest were born in New York. There was also a 25-year-old servant in the household named Sophia G. Izemburg. The family rented the home.

In the "Suggested Records" column of the 1900 census page, I clicked on a link for Capt. August Jean at Find A Grave. I discovered that Captain August Jean is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Lackawanna, Erie, New York. A picture of his tombstone shows that he was born 28 Oct 1856 and died 14 Jan 1905. His wife is buried with him. Her name is listed as Mary A. RALPH on the tombstone. She was born 29 Apr 1863 and died 31 Oct 1900. This means she died just four months after the 1900 census was taken. Leo would have been barely 3 years old when his mother died and 7 years old when his father died.

I checked the Buffalo city directories at and found that August moved to 31 Greenwood Place beginning in 1902. He is listed here in all city directories until 1905, when his widow is listed as Mrs. August Jean. In 1906, she is listed at 31 Greenwood Place as Mrs. Mary E. Jean, widow of August. This tells me that August must have remarried sometime between his wife's death in 1900 and his death in 1905. It looks like he married another Mary! How confusing, but at least she has a different middle initial. 

I then remembered that I had been in contact with the spouse of one of Leo and Alberta's descendants about her tree on I visited her public member tree and found several photos of Leo and one photo of his father, August. One of her photos of Leo stated that he was 3 years old and it was taken at a convent where his stepmother sent him to live. Well, that certainly makes the story more interesting. 

At FamilySearch, I found that August JEAN and Mary A. RALPH were married 26 Mar 1883 in West Bay City, Bay, Michigan. I find it interesting that they went from Canada to Michigan to New York. I guess that was the life of a boat captain. Somehow Leo ended back up in Michigan as an adult.

The probate records for Erie County, New York, are available to browse at FamilySearch. In the index, I found that Mary Jean's probate was filed 12 Nov 1900 and her case number is 35604. August Jean's probate was filed 20 Jan 1905 and his case number is 35606. Unfortunately, the full estate case files for August and Mary were not available online, but I did find the letters of administration dated 14 Nov 1900 for Mary's estate appointing August as administrator.

I also found August mentioned in some Bay City newspapers in the 1880s and 1890s at Genealogy Bank. There was a church social held at his home; his cook stole $140 from him; he sold/bought property; he visited friends in Oscoda; and his boat was listed as having an accident near Buffalo in 1905. Oddly enough, it was several months after his death, but the article did not mention that he was dead. It just said the boat was owned by August Jean of this city. Maybe no one was notified that he had died in Buffalo. Or perhaps the boat belonged to his son, Augustin E. Jean.

Well, since August is a collateral, I think I will take a break now from researching him. It's always fun to take a new path, though!

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