The murder of John Becker

Ninety years ago, a sailor was found dead in Chicago, bloodied but still warm. His name was John Andrew Becker and he was my great-great-great-uncle.

As I mentioned in a previous entry, I have uncovered many names as I have fleshed out parts of the family tree, but it has at times been hard to learn about them as individuals. In the case of John Becker, the murder generated newspaper stories, military reports, police files, coroner’s inquests, and much more. This tragedy has offered a chance to learn more about a person in the family, and the people connected to him (for good or ill) at the time of his death.

What follows is my re-telling of John Becker’s murder based on reading many newspaper reports, a transcript of the Cook County coroner’s inquest board, John Becker’s military personnel file, various death certificates, and other material.

In coming days I will also write about the process of discovering this story for anyone who’s interested.

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Beckers in North St. Louis

Just a little spinoff project from my family research. I’m making a map from all the addresses I can find on death certificates, censuses, etc. You can see that in the first part of the 20th century, the Beckers were pretty well clustered in North St. Louis, which was a predominantly German area at the time.

I try to imagine what it must have been like for them at the time. They were living in a dense urban setting, with most of their family and friends living very close by. Shops and businesses were on the corner, instead of a long drive away.


Click here to see the map on Google Maps.

You can zoom in and out, and get more information by clicking on the arrows.

Or, if you have Google Earth, try this version.

Tragedies in the tree

I spent Christmas evening with my extended family on the Becker side. It’s the first time in a number of years that I could make it to this celebration, since most years I have to work at the newspaper in the evening.

I told some of my aunts and uncles about my research into the Becker and Chorosevic branches of my family tree. More than one of them joked about digging up “dirty laundry” from years gone by.

Truth is, it’s hard to really get close to these folks.

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It may be fall, but the leaves and branches are growing on my family tree

A few months ago, Yoli brought home a MacWorld magazine from the library, which contained a review of some genealogy software. This little review sparked something in me and piqued my interest in family trees.

I knew that certain branches of my family are well-mapped. My uncle Vic Michel prepared a very thorough tree of the Renauds; my Nanny and her cousin George researched much of our Lawrence side.

I got excited about the prospect of taking that existing research and combining it in the computer into one big tree. Putting this stuff on the computer would also make it possible to share it more easily with people seeking info on a long-lost Renaud ancestor or something.

As I began the project, I also realized there were several areas that it seemed nobody had tackled (that I knew of): my mom’s dad’s side (George); and my dad’s mom’s side (Becker and Chorosevic).

So that’s been my hobby now for the last couple months. I’ve found a lot more than I thought I would, and I’m doing things I never thought I’d be doing, like writing letters in Polish to churches in Poland.

We’ve made some incremental progress on Yoli’s side, too, by talking to her dad and her mom’s brother, who can remember some of their grandparents and great-grandparents. Yoli’s family will definitely be the more challenging part to research, I think. In America, there are tons of indexed records you can easily access online. I don’t think this is the case in Bolivia. But when we visit next year, we’ll see if there’s anything we can find while we’re in Santa Cruz.

For what it’s worth, I’ll soon try and put my tree online somewhere on for family and folks who are interested to browse. (Maybe