My second great grand uncle (by marriage), Joseph Zimmerman, died in 1908 in Los Angeles. I had his death certificate and brief death notice from Los Angeles to establish the details around that event, but I knew there were obituaries for him in Iowa, where he’d resided for many years before removing to Los Angeles. I’d seen a transcription for one from the Guttenberg Press on a GenWeb site. Last week I remembered that, like a lot of other Iowa county libraries, the local library probably had a web site hosting digitized versions of their old newspapers. And the Guttenberg Library does have a newspaper site!
In addition to the Guttenberg Press obituary, the site also has one from the Clayton County Journal (only the first portion shown):
Unlike other evidence which listed either Austria or Baden as his place of birth, this obituary gives a fairly precise location: Alt Metten in Bohemia.
Being the curious and detailed person that I am, I want to know where Alt Metten was. I know there are gazetteers for historical Germany, but I didn’t know offhand if any such things cover the Austrian Empire or Bohemia in particular. And I like maps. So I perused the David Rumsey map collection web site to see if it had any for Bohemia. It does, and the approximate date is 1838, which is really close to Joseph Zimmerman’s year of birth.
Unfortunately, Alt Metten was not immediately apparent. So I made a copy of the map and, using GIMP, started crossing off place names that were not Alt Metten. Below you will see my handiwork, which is still not complete. The red marks tick off places that are within the Kingdom of Bohemia according to the map. Then I started with yellow marks for places outside the borders shown but which could conceivably be considered Bohemia. A couple of places I circled in green for further checking in case I can’t find better candidates. I still have some places to check.
I’m still working through my backlog of evidence, transferring it to my better-sourced database. Over the weekend, I worked on what I know about second cousin twice removed, Julia Charpiot. We share as ancestors my third great grandparents, Johann Theodore Voigt and Maria Agnes Thuernich. Julia’s mother is my relative, Louise Zimmerman. Louise married Henry Charpiot and the two of them lived in Denver where he was a lawyer and for a time the consular officer for the country of France.
Henry’s parents are Frederick Charpiot and Julia Riche, both born in France. Frederick became quite rich as a businessman in Denver, owning and operating Charpiot’s Hotel from 1860 to the early 1900s. The hotel entertained the rich and famous of the world, including many of the American West’s most notorious such as Buffalo Bill. It housed a pre-eminent French restaurant, which Charpiot styled The Delmonico of the West.
GenealogyBank has archives of both the Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News, so I searched through them for information on the elder Charpiot’s as well as Julia (Henry is for another time). Both papers had extensive obituaries for both of them.
In 1903 or 1904, Frederick and Julia left their business affairs in the hands of Julia’s brother and retired to Branges, France. Frederick died there in 1907.
Julia lived several more decades, including through the first World War. She died in Branges in 1921.
Two of the interesting things revealed in their obituaries was where they were born. Frederick was from Bart in France’s Doub department, where he was born in 1829. Julia was born about 1834 in Joncherey in what what was at the time the Haut-Rhin department. After the two of them emigrated to the U.S., control of Haut-Rhin was subject to a treaty settlement between France and Germany in 1871 after France lost a war. The department was split and most of it became part of Germany. Joncherey remained part of France, but the new border was just a short distance away. This was still the case when the Charpiots returned to France. Rather than retire to their childhood home cities, they got somewhat away from the border in Branges. Julia would live to see the territory around her birthplace restored to France after the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I. Nevertheless, she was still close enough to the western front during the war that she saw some of the atrocities inflicted on the combatants.
Henry, with his second wife Edith and his daughter Julia, also relocated to Paris in the early 1900s where he established an international law firm. Julia benefited from a rich person’s overseas education and became part of Europe’s social scene. There she met Andre Sardou, son of famous (at least that’s what I gathered from the blurbs and the fact that he has a Wikipedia page) playwright Victorien Sardou, and they were engaged.
The following blurb from the Richmond Times-Dispatch in early May 1920 is representative of the short pieces that ran in many U.S. newspapers. I had a hunch it was the correct Julia Charpiot because of the reference to the French consular agent at Denver, but I had little other information in the newspaper archives I had access to when last I researched the Charpiots.
Until this weekend, that’s what I knew of what happened to her. But with my recent subscription to GenealogyBank and their archives of Denver papers, I took another look. And lo, there were items in the Denver Post with more details than what was published in other newspapers, one from 12 May 1920 on their engagement and one from 26 Jun 1920 on their marriage:
So the wedding did happen!
So far, none of my direct ancestors have come from France, so I’ve never spent much time researching French people. Ancestry and FamilySearch don’t have a lot of databases devoted to France so my two easy sources weren’t much help.
Some Googling this time around brought me to this post on a blog devoted to French genealogy. In the sidebar there are links to online departmental archives, and Alpes-Maritimes (where Nice is located) is near the top (hurray for alphabetical order!) so I clicked through.
And they have already digitized Nice well past the 1920 date of marriage for Sardou and Charpiot, and ten minutes of paging through those records brought up their marriage:
Not only did it give me the date and location of their marriage, but it also gave me their exact birth dates and cities of birth. In Julia’s case, it’s the first record I have that does so.
The birth registrations won’t have anything on possible Sardou-Charpiot children, as those records are confidential for 100 years. But death records are only confidential for 25 years, so there’s a possibility I can find those with some diligent searching.