Thursday, April 16, 2009

Secrets, Part 2

[This is part 2 of a multi-part post entitled, "Secrets." For better clarity, please read part 1 - but you don't have to...]

As I mentioned before, according to my dad, my grandfather didn't speak much about his past. As a result, he left behind a family ignorant of its origins. Also according to my father and other relatives, my grandfather was cantankerous. The impression that I got at a young age was that he was a grumpy and contrary man, and this impression stuck, preventing me from discovering just where my grandfather came from and who he actually was.  With age comes clarity, though, and it became important to me to find him and his family.  This was my first attempt at research years ago, so it's clumsy and I've come a long way since then, but I learned quite a few things along the way even though I "jumped" around and had to backtrack many times.

Unfortunately, my father only knew the following information about my grandfather: his name, Joseph Marshall; born 17 Jun 1896 and raised in Galveston, Texas & died in 1968 in San Antonio, Texas; was a fisherman in Galveston; and was thought to have been excommunicated from the Catholic Church, which was a vague recollection at best. [I don't know about you, but that last one set my imagination in overdrive!]

There was another clue [and what I think of as a treasure] that I stumbled upon before beginning my search. Right after my father passed away, I was going through a box of his things and in it I discovered an old jewelry box, and amongst the pennies, nuts, screws, and broken watches, I found the actual "jewel". It was a discolored military medal of some kind. After reading and Googling, I identified it here as a Victory Medal from WWI. The only person on my dad's side who I could think of who could've earned this was my grandfather. A jump in logic?...yes. It could've been anyone's, and I didn't know who had given it to my dad. Definitely a puzzle piece to put to the side and see where it fits, if at all, in the big picture.  My grandfather's picture that I presented in the 1st post of this series shows my grandfather in a military uniform.  The uniform has a high collar with only the top button and a what looked like a pin on the collar on one side.  To my untrained eye, the pin looked like it had a design in the shape of grapes [it was a little blurry]...So, off to Google again...I located a WWI uniform company that sells reproductions, AEF Supply.  The pictures of the uniforms looked very similar to my grandfather's uniform and there I also found a picture of a WWI Medical Enlisted Man Collar Disk that looked just like the "design of grapes" on my grandfather's pin.  There were no other collar pins that had a similar design.  Later on after acquiring more information, I sent off for his military records and found out that he was in the U.S. Army as a Private from 22 Jul 1918 to 10 Feb 1919.  He was in the 29th Company, 3rd Group, 165th Depot Brigade with place of entry as San Antonio and place of separation as Camp Travis, Texas.  It indicated he received a WWI Victory Bronze Button and Victory Medal.  Bingo...the medal I found in my dad's jewelry box - more than likely - was my grandfather's.  It's amazing to me how our history..our family just sitting there around waiting for us to find it.

Though I unravelled the military picture and medal secret, there were some more mysteries here to solve. I love a challenge...The place I started looking was where my grandfather passed away, San Antonio, Texas.  I located a microfilmed copy of my grandfather's death certificate at Clayton Genealogical Library in Houston, Texas [one of my favorite places].  My grandmother was the informant and gave the following information: 1.) WWI Vet (yes!); 2.) father was John Marshall; 3.) born 17 Jun 1895, Galveston, Tx; and 4.) Proprietor of house moving and wrecking business.  Additional info was that he died 29 Jul 1968 at the age of 73 of heart related causes; and was buried 1 Aug 1968 in Mission Burial Park in San Antonio, Texas.

This info provided some more insight to my grandfather.  First, it provided the exact date of his death.  It also indicated that he was born in 1895 - not 1896, like my dad thought [something to keep in mind].  In addition, it indicated that he was a WWI vet.  Which lent more supporting evidence to what I had already found.  Another great piece of info was his father's name.  If correct, this could definitely be helpful for identifying him in his earlier years.  Also, his listed occupation coincided with what my father had told me of what he knew about what my grandfather did for a living.  You'd think it be time to pack our bags, so to speak, here in San Antonio and head on to Galveston, right?...Wrong.

But I'm not quite done in San Antonio, yet.  One day messing around on the Bexar County Clerk's office website, [what, you don't do that for fun?] I found that Bexar County's land info is available on an online database.  So, as "a shot in the dark", I entered my grandfather's name.  Oh boy, jackpot!  He had numerous, nay a bevy, of land transactions.  So many, that even to this day I have not read each one.  [Yes, not only does Bexar County have a database of their historical land transactions, but digital copies are available  As my Gran & mom used to say, "God lov'em!"]  I found transactions also that my grandmother and my dad executed as well for my grandfather's business. Definitely what I needed to verify that this was indeed my grandfather.  I did skim the listing of my grandfather's transcations, including all the name variations and misspellings, and found no other obvious familial relationships, but then I didn't have any other names to compare to...Two more things I found online [just messin' around] in San Antonio for a Joseph Marshall were 2 curious "hits" on the name in 2  issues of the San Antonio Express News.  Joseph Marshall was listed as the landscaper in an ad for the 1st high rise built in San Antonio in the Laurel Heights area.  Also, there was a picture of the biggest rose bush grown by a Joseph Marshall in 1922.  Were these my grandfather?  I don't know...not enough info.  There were also a variety of classified ads involving house/land purchases and sales over the many years.  Also, what I knew of my grandfather was that his business dealt with buying, wrecking, building, and selling buildings, homes and land - not anything to do with plants or landscaping...

The last thing that I needed to check in San Antonio [that I figured at the time] was census records.  In a check in the 1930 Federal Population Census in San Antonio I couldn't find him [utilizing all variations of names, etc.].  He should've showed up there according to family knowledge of his whereabouts and according to his land transactions that started in San Antonio in about 1928 and went through to his death in 1968 [with some transactions after that by his estate].  Plus, his place of entry in 1918 in the Army was San Antonio, Texas.  However, I just couldn't find him.  I searched then the 1920 census in San Antonio, hoping for some info.  I found 2 Joseph Marshall's: one that was clearly not him, and one maybe.  However, the "maybe" was kind of puzzling because this Joseph Marshall was not married to my grandmother.  He was married to a woman by the name of Emma who was the same age as he [27], and by occupation was a tree surgeon.  His parents were listed as being born in Texas and Emma's parents born in Germany.  It was totally possible that my grandfather hadn't made it from Galveston to San Antonio yet in 1920.  So, maybe it wasn't him, but it could've been, yet I needed more info.  Who was this Joseph Marshall?  Another quick trip to Clayton Library in Houston awarded me with a microfilmed copy of a marriage record between a Joseph Marshall and Emma Rosin in 1917 in San Antonio, Texas.  Hmmm...not any info to figure out who this Joseph was and also another name to keep track of in my notes. 

The other subject of interest was my grandmother.  Sometimes in our heads we still think and look at our loved ones with our "child-like eyes."  What I mean is that I never knew my grandfather, and , to me, my grandmother had always been, well, old [and I mean that in the most respectful way].  Of course, my grandparents were the about the same age, right?  Wrong.  When I looked at all the info -together- mathematically and logically things started to look a little differently.  My grandmother was born in 1913 [yes, 1913], and my grandfather, remember,  was born in 1895/1896...He was old enough to have been married before.  [Note to self: looking at people within the context of their relationships saves time in research.  Makes sense, people don't usually live their lives completely isolated.]

Oh it's time to pack our bags and head off to Galveston...yah, a vacation [or at least a working vacation...on a beach].  By the way, I also looked up what a "tree surgeon" was and according to it is "n. a specialist in treating damaged trees" [which makes sense, in retrospect]. 

In my love for genealogy, I sometimes go on and on [hard to believe, right?].  My husband who has a short attention span for all things genealogical is always saying, "Just give me the bottom line, Genea-geek!" [lovingly, of course].  So, here's the bottom line:

1. My grandfather, Joseph Marshall was born 17 Jun 1895 or 1896 in Galveston, Texas
2. He died of heart related causes on 29 Jul 1968 and was buried 1 Aug 1968 @ Mission Burial Park in San Antonio, Tx.
3. He was a medic in the U.S. Army during WWI 22 Jul 1918 to  10 Feb 1919 and was awarded the Victory Medal.  Plus, I have a pic of him in uniform and have what I think is his medal. [Why do I always sit up a little straighter each time I find an ancestor of mine that was in the military?]
4. His business included buying, wrecking/moving, building, renting, & selling houses and land, of which I have his voluminous paper trail. [Oh yeah...]
5.  If accurately reported , his father's name was John Marshall [upside: have name - downside: it's John].  Who was his father? [and mother, family, etc.]
6.  According to dad my grandfather "fished" in Galveston...whatever that means...
7.  Oh and let's not forget, the supposed vague recollection that my grandfather had been excommunicated from the Catholic Church.  What gets a Catholic kicked out of the Church, anyway?
8.  My grandfather was 17-18 years older than my grandmother - definitely old enough to have been married before. [food for thought]...Was he married to an Emma in 1920?
9. Did my grandfather grow rose bushes, or had he been a landscaper?  Either way, was there a connection to Joseph Marshall, the tree surgeon, and was he "my" Joseph Marshall?
10. Why is the sky blue, the grass green, etc.?

Are your bags packed for Galveston Island?  Don't forget the sunscreen as we track down my grandfather who had some secrets [like, a family] on Galveston Island that he never shared with anyone...What happened to his family?



  1. Hmm, more and more interesting and mysterious. I bet this will be an interesting one to solve!

  2. fascinating. This passion takes a lot of detective work.
    Joseph Marshall could be kind of a common name. That is quite two different professions. fisherman to landscaper to real estate.
    But who knows.
    That is a great find and detective work with the military medal.



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