22 October 2012

Travel Tuesday - Hippolyte was a Traveling Man

Researching the Hiegel family was not going well. There were the usual surname spelling variations (Heigle, Hagle, Hagel, Hegle, etc.), of course. And the family came from Alsace-Lorraine, where jurisdiction seem to go back and forth between France and Germany on a regular basis. As a result although several siblings were all born in the same village, some would give Germany as their place of birth while others would say France.

And then I got lucky and found a record that named one of my guy's brothers as Hippolyte Hiegel. With a name like Hipolyte, even searches with no surname included often have a chance.

To keep it short, within a few minutes of online searching, I had found Hippolyte and, in the finding, discovered that Hippolyte was a traveling man - I located three records associated with his travel. And that turned out to be very a very good thing. I also found him in the census records, but it is the travel records I want to highlight here.

The first record was the passenger list of the ship on which he came to America:
It told me that Hypolyte Hiegel immigrated from Europe, sailing from Le Havre, France, on the ship, La France, arriving on 9 November 1881. It reported that he had no occupation and that the was 17 years old.

Twenty three years later, in 1904, Hippolyte Hiegel decided to go back and visit the old home country. Preparatory to his trip, he applied to the U.S. Department of State for a U.S. passport that would allow him to travel to Alsace Lorraine. Passport applications can be compact little treasure chests of information. Because the information required on the application changed over the years, some applications will be more informative than others, many will even contain photographs of the applicant. The truth, though, is that even the worst application I ever found was pretty good.

Look at the mass of information this single application contains:
  •  Hippolyte's county of residence, which allows me to confirm that the man applying for the passport is the same man I found on the census.
  • His date and place of birth - not just the region, but also the village.
  • The port he sailed from when he immigrated to America, and the ship on which he sailed - allowing me to confirm that the man on the above immigration record is the same man applying for the passport.
  • The date he sailed to America - note that this date is a little different from the one on the ship's manifes about. Hippolyte gave the date that he saidled from France, and the ship's manifest gives the date they arrived in New York.
  • The fact that Hippolyte became a naturalized citizen, as well as the date and the court where he was naturalized - allowing me to locate the natualization record. Note that the county where he was naturalized (Shelby County, Ohio) is different from the county he resided in (Arcanum, Darke County, Ohio) when he applied for the passport - a new possible source of records.
  • We also learn that during his 23 years in America, Hippolyte has become a merchant.
  • There is no photo, but there is a physical description - age 40, 5'6" tall, blue eyes, light hair, acquiline nose, big mouth, light complexion, with a full beard and mustache.
  • He states that he intends to return to the U.S. within two years.
  • His signature is on the form.
All of that from one relatively small document.

From the next document - not a true travel document, but one that was issued as a result of his travels - we learn that Hippolyte did return to his home village, but he never returned to the United States. He died during his stay in the old home place. Below is a report issued by the State Department of an American's death abroad. It tells us that Hippolyte died in his old village, at Lutzelbourg, Lorraine, on 1 May 1905, just over 7 months after applying for his passport. The report also tells Hippolyte's legal representative that more information can be obtained from the Department of State.
Three documents, all created by two trips, that provide a snapshot view of Hippolyte Hiegel's life.

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