Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Uncle Sam and Uncle Sam

Kathi mentioned that Footnote was opening its database of FBI files to free access until the end of August. So I headed on over to see what I could find.

I soon learned that Uncle Sam had a 3-page file on my "Uncle Sam".

Sam was my maternal grandmother's brother. As I've written before, he had a son named Everett born in 1906, who drowned in 1924 at age 17. He was also possibly married for a brief time to Everett's mother, but was single in the 1910 and 1920 California censuses, while Everett and his mother were in the Austin Texas censuses. In 1930 Sam was living in Kansas City, Missouri, where he died in 1933.

The FBI file is backwards, with page one being the last page filed, and page 3 being the first page filed. Here are selected excerpts from a letter that appears on page 3 (dated July 1918):
War Department
Information Bureau
Washington, DC

Gentlemen: I was married to S.O Van Every, March 20, 1917 in Jacksonville Fla., my husband gave his age then as 28 but on June 5th of last year he very suddenly grew to be 32 he did not register for the draft ... Mr. Van Every deserted me last December in Little Rock Ark. when he went to Oroville Calif. and Martinez, Calif. and became engaged to another ... Mr. Van Every I learn has been married before he married me but had not a divorce.

I would like to know where I stand...He is a native of Texas, his parents live in Fabens, Texas ... Before the war he was pro-German.

Very Truly
Mrs. SO Van Every
Page 2 of the FBI file an investigator writes that he visited "the Van Every ranch" but no one was home. He describes the ranch as 3-4 miles south of Fabens, Texas.

On page 1 there is a statement from Samuel’s mother, Margaret Jane Van Every, my great-grandmother.
My name is Mrs. M.J. Van Every, my son SO Van Every was born January 15th, 1886, near San Marcus Texas, and is now 32 years of age.
Then the agent writes:
Mrs. Van Every then presented the family Bible with record of births that had been kept by her for many years, and this record shows that on January 15, 1886 a son was born and that his name is Samuel Opham Van Every, the record of this Bible has not been interfered with since the birth of this subject was recorded therein as it is in perfect condition and shows plainly that there has been no erasures of any nature.

Investigation closed.
Closed?! The investigation has just been re-opened!

It appears there was definitely a woman very upset with my great-uncle who tried to attack him with anything she could think of (bigamy, draft evasion and pro-German sympathies.) How much of it was true? Anything? And dangit, why does she have to go by the name “Mrs. SO Van Every.” So dang unhelpful!

Of course, she gives a date for her alleged marriage. Unfortunately, my quick research turns up that Florida state records only go back to 1927, and I have been unable to find information so far on how to obtain Jacksonville (Duval County) marriage records. The county website only mentions birth and death records, so it is possible the marriage records aren't available. Though I've just begun to look.

From my grandmother's collection I have a photocopy of what most likely is the family record that appeared in the family Bible, and was shown to the agent. I've figured it was the type of record one would see in the front of a Bible, but wasn't certain of its origin. It's wonderful to see a reference to it.

This also illustrates that you don't need to actually do anything to have an FBI file - it's possible to get an FBI file if you anger someone enough that they write to the government and make claims against you the FBI needs to investigate. The claims may be true; they might not be true. But it's worth searching the database, as even the simplest of investigations might include facts about your relatives you didn't know.

1 comment:

Laura said...

What a fascinating story - and it sounds like there's more to the story than this...I am really intrigued!

And thanks for the info about the FBI files being free until August - I'm going to go have a look, too.