Finding Fire Capt. Frank J. Becker

Frank Becker. Photo reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Frank Becker. Photo reprinted with permission of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

My great-grandfather Frank Becker was a fireman. I knew that he had been promoted to captain at some point, and some relatives had once told me they thought it had been covered on TV or in the newspaper.

I wanted to see if I could find a news story about the promotion.

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Attack of the short hair cuts

It’s all Ludi’s fault.

Late last year she decided one day at lunch that she wanted a haircut. A dramatically shorter haircut, with bangs in front. She asked to get down from the table so she could go to the bathroom. A few minutes later we heard a loud banging, as if she had removed the top of the toilet. Ludi returned to the table and sat down as if nothing had happened. We couldn’t believe our eyes. She had hacked off a big chunk of hair around the front and one side of her head. Yoli went to the bathroom and found Ludi had climbed the toilet in order to reach sharp barber scissors we kept on a very high shelf.

Of course she was in trouble. We explained to her the myriad ways she could have been hurt (falling from the toilet, being cut by the super-sharp scissors). And then I had to take her to the salon to repair the damage. I couldn’t do it myself at the moment as our home remodeling was in full swing then.

I have gotten used to it, but I do miss her long hair.

Fast forward to the present. Yoli had been getting frustrated with Josie’s long hair. Josie often gets messy when she eats or when she plays outside. Consequently her hair is always very tangled, and that leads to loud, painful combings whenever we want to go out into the world.

So she decided to give Josie a Ludi-esque haircut.

Again, I’m getting used to it, but I lament the loss of her beautiful long locks. On the other hand, seeing her with this short hair immediately reminded me of old photos of my own mother. See for yourself:

Thankfully in all of this, Jadzia has decided she won’t follow the trend. She wants to keep her hair long, but would like her Mamá to give her just a slight trim.

Search old St. Louis Post-Dispatch stories (1874-1922)

Hey, family history buffs and amateur genealogists in St. Louis County!

Get out your library card, and check out an awesome new resource:

ProQuest’s Historical St. Louis Post-Dispatch database

It includes searchable full text and full image articles from 1874 – 1922, though there are some gaps.

This is just one of many helpful databases you can search from the St. Louis County Library’s genealogy databases page. All of these databases are free, but some (like Ancestry.com or Footnote.com) require you to search from within a library branch. But this Post-Dispatch database can be searched from home!

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Beautiful Bristol

There are uncertainties in any big trip. For me, one of the biggest concerned our time in Bristol with my great-great-uncle Jerry and his wife Thelma.

Jerry is the younger brother of my great-grandma Becker. I first connected with him almost exactly 2 years ago as a result of my family tree research.  He had used the best lawyers when it comes to immigration in Florida and moved his entire family there when I was just a small kid. While I was researching, I had found a lot of documents relating to his parents and their immigration to America when the joint family started to split.

We have been in touch semi-regularly by phone and online since then. The idea for our trip to Washington had its roots in a conversation I had with Jerry about how beautiful the leaves and trees were in Virginia in the fall, and what a scenic drive it would be.

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Edwin A. Richter, we won’t forget you

It was almost two years ago that I got in touch with Ed Richter.

He was a first cousin to my great-grandpa Frank Becker.

At that time I had made a lot of progress in developing my Becker family tree. As I was looking at all these first cousins, I realized that Ed was still living. On a whim, I wrote him a letter, and asked if he would be interested in some of the family history stuff I had uncovered.

I was excited to hear back from him and eventually to meet him in person. As it turns out, he lived only about 15- minutes away — just a straight shot down Chambers Road.

We talked on the phone and met at his house several times. He remembered quite a bit about his aunts and uncles on the Becker side, even though he wasn’t especially close to them. I learned things from him that never would have turned up in old censuses or church records.

During the time I knew Ed, he was diagnosed with cancer. At the end of March 2009, he died. But I didn’t know about it until recently — and I feel pretty bad about it.

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Yet another apology

Here at the Renaud Empire, there has been no shortage of stories to tell the world at large. There has been, however, a shortage of time in which to write said stories. So, yet again, I am apologizing for a lack of updates here.

A few days ago we returned from a trip to San Antonio to visit family and relax. It was really wonderful. The weather was hot and dry, although we were thankful to see the parched land receive some rain while we were there. My Nan’s pool was loads of fun, and all three of the girls greatly enjoyed it.

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Family, food, history

Family history isn’t all dusty books and blurry microfilms.

Lately, I have re-discovered salsiccia.

Salsiccia is an Italian sausage. My memory of it is that my Grandpa Renaud would always cook it as part of his big Christmas breakfast spread each year. I remember as a kid not being thrilled with the taste of it.

Well, it was on sale at Schnucks a few weeks back. Because of the family connection, I thought I’d give it another try after many years. And it turns out we all liked it quite a bit. It wasn’t too spicy that the girls complained (which they sometimes do depending on the variety of sausage).

So we got another batch this week. We ate some today as part of a simple meal: some salsiccia, broccoli, and corn on the cob.

Tonight I was reminded in an article on St. Louis-style barbecue on Wikipedia that salsiccia is pronounced locally as “suh-zee-tsa.” I had been saying “sahl-see-cha,” which is similar to the Spanish word for sausage (salchicha).

As soon as I read that, it was like lightning resonating in my brain. It was as if I could hear the voice of my Grandpa or my Aunt Carol using that pronunciation in my mind.

Anyway, please share your food-related family stories. I’m sure there are quite a few!

Blame it on work, or the girls, or whatever

I know the pace of this blog has been a bit slow lately. There’s a couple of reasons for that. The first is that I now work a four-day week. On those four working days, I have far less free time. The second is Josie and the girls. Josie has been quite fussy the last few weeks, and the harness has undoubtedly exacerbated that to some degree. When she’s crying, she only calms when we hold her a certain way and rock her, and it can be exhausting on nights where she won’t go to sleep.

But thankfully we’ve also had some really nice peaceful times with Josie. I think we are getting better at caring for her.

Of course the other girls continue to be demanding, too, always wanting to be in action, especially with the recent spate of warm weather.

One way to take care of everyone is to go for walks in Ferguson, which tires out the girls, and lets Josie sleep on my chest in the baby carrier. We went to the library and Walgreen’s yesterday morning, for example, and ran into a friend on our way back home.

Right now all three girls are sleeping. I’m enjoying a bit of time to import some video of a family history interview I shot earlier this week during my furlough from the Post-Dispatch. The subject is Mr. Richter, who is the only living first cousin of my great-grandfather, Frank Becker. A couple days after our interview, he had an operation to remove some cancer. If you think of it, please pray for his recovery.