Found my Grandfather in French Military Records

I met a man through a cousin who met him on GeneaNet.  He is our distant cousin. He actively researches our family tree and is an excellent ally for all things genealogy in France. This weekend he informed me that France has put up a new military database, Registres de Recrutement Militaire.

The records give the name of man, his birth information, parentage, and residency. Then, there are sections for various details about his military service.

I put in some surnames and found a couple of relatives. I was intrigued by two who were in the US at the time that their records were written. This intrigued me. As family lore goes, my grandfather left France in 1907 so as to avoid military conscription. Could there be a record for him in this database?

It’s a little tricky searching. You have a field for name which is entered last name first without a comma. Then you can put in a year of conscription or service. I first entered Lassalle Jean and received way too many entries. I didn’t know what year my grandfather might have been conscripted. I started with 1907 as that was the year he left France. I didn’t find a match. I tried 1908 and then 1909. Bingo! I found him.

militaire lassalle jean crop

I wasn’t sure how to interpret the information in the service section.  The word “Insoumis” means absent or rebellious.  I asked my French cousin about this.  He believes that it means absent from service, but not always as part of a rebelli0n or for political reasons. In essence, my grandfather was a draft dodger.

Ironic, isn’t it?  He left France to avoid military service then 10 years later the United States got him anyway.

According to my cousin, the French military would continue to try to contact him.  They would stop if he became a US Citizen.  If he went back to France before he gained that citizenship, he could have been imprisoned.

This record has important information for my research.  Note that it gives his address in America.  Was he obligated to be on record or did his parents provide the address?  As to my research, my grandpa arrived in 1907 and then we lose him until he is drafted for World War I.  Though the information was on his immigration record, I could not make out the address or the name of the cousin he was going to stay with.  Now I have something to work with.  In fact, I did a little work in Oakland, California City Directories and came up with this.  I am not surprised to find that my grandfather was working and living at a French laundry.  There were many relatives from Ogeu les bains, France, his home village, who opened laundries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

oaklandcity dir 1907 leclerque ma grandpa lassalles cousin he stayed with crop

M.A. Leclerque is the cousin listed on his immigration papers.  This surname has not come up in conjunction with the Lassalle family tree.  I now have another mystery to solve.

I’m grateful for this record.  It proves Grandpa’s own story that he left to avoid military service.  It also gives me a new avenue to research as I try to piece together the story of his early years in America.


In Honor of Veterans Day

On Memorial Day, I have written about those who fought but did not come home.  For Veterans Day, I want to show some of those who fought for their country and returned home.  They did their service, some for the amount of time they were drafted for, and some made a career of it.  They all served honorable.  There were many others than the ones shown, but these are the only family members I have photos of in their uniforms.

My Dad was one of the veterans.  He was drafted for the Korean Conflict.  He served in Japan and Korea.  He was a cook in the Army and the only time he used his gun was every 6 months when he had to go through weapons training to recertify.

He had some funny remembrances that made it sound like a grand old time.  But, underneath there were some moments that were haunting.  They never left him.  I remember him telling about how he and another soldier were ordered to walk up a ladder on one side of the ship in full gear to draw enemy fire.  They would run across the deck, climb down the ladder, then swim around and repeat.  I don’t know how long they did this.

There was also his experiences of the major earthquake that hit Japan in the early 1950s.  He told me about how his fellow soldiers who weren’t from California and were not used to earthquakes ran out in the streets and were scalded with the boiling hot water that was in the above ground water pipes that had burst.

I do not know how close my Dad was to the fighting.  I believe he spent most of his service in Japan.  I remember him telling me about the prostitutes who were certified by the US government (too much information there, Dad!) and the Japanese child who became a part of their camp.

Then, there was the poverty.  My Dad lived through the Depression and remembered when his parents could no longer afford the weekly milk delivery, so he understood not having enough to eat.  Yet, he was shaken by the poverty he saw in the villages.  When they closed up a camp, they were ordered to bury their perishables.  They would watch the poor, hungry villagers come out from the hills and dig all through their camp trying to find any food.  They’d go through the garbage and eat whatever they could.

All of these experiences were a part of my Dad.  Though he went on to manage a race car team, run a gas station, get married, raise 5 kids, work the graveyard shift for Safeway, volunteer his time off to Little League, and spoil his grandkids rotten,  he never forget what he experienced during his service.  It is why he always felt war should be the last option and those who make decisions never should go into it lightly.

These are some of the men in my family tree who served their country.  They all returned home.  While they went on to have families and careers, like my Dad, I am sure they never forgot their experiences.
veterans photos1
Large photo:  My grandpa, Jean Lassalle, served in WWI.  He joined the California National Guard in the 1930s so his family would have food on the table.

Top to bottom:  Jose Pacheco Smith, Theodore Pacheco, and Albert Figg (husband of Sophie Figg) all served in WWI.

veterans photos 2

Left to right:  My Dad served in the Korean Conflict, and his brother, Eugene, served in Europe in the late 1950s.

ted souza army

My Mom’s cousin, Ted Souza, served in WWII and made the military his career choice.  Ted will be 89 years old in two weeks and he’s still going strong.

Remembering them all on Veterans Day and thanking them for their service.



A Letter from the After the War

I found a gem in the Garden Island Newspaper this evening.  It is a letter from Theodore Pacheco to his parents, Francisco Pacheco and Alexandria de Caires.  Theodore was stationed in Bourges, France in 1919, after the war ended.

The letter details what Theodore experienced in the small town the day the German’s stopped fighting.  I got chills reading it.  I have so few writigns from my relatives.  To have the newspaper preserve this little piece of the Pacheco history is a wonderful find!

Part one of letter from Theodore Pacheco


Part two of letter from Theodore Pacheco

Part two of letter from Theodore Pacheco

The letter reads as follows:

The following interesting letter was written to Mr. Frank Pacheco of Kilauea by his son, Pvt. Ted Pacheco, now in France:

Bourges, France

Nov. 24th 1918,

Dear Father:

This is your day, set aside by the A. E. F. as fathers’ day.

You of course already know that the war is over, a complete victory for the Allies.  I am in a small town, but the day the Germans quit fighting there were more people in town than I thought would be.  They went wild over here, both the men and women.  It was good to see them happy once more.  All stores and business houses closed.  The people paraded up and down the streets for three days and nights.  A fellow couldn’t walk on the main streets they were so crowded with people.  I was on my way home to camp, I met a parade, or better, a singing, noisy mob, and I could not get by, so I went down the street and got noisy with the rest of them.

The people here think a lot of the Americans.  They say we were the cause of bringing the war to such a sudden and successful end.  It wont be long before we will be going home.  Uncle Sam will get us home as soon as he can.

Winter is setting in and its getting pretty cold.  Little puddles of water freeze over during the night.  They say it gets very cold here in the middle of winter.  We have fires burning night and day to keep warm.  They have just issued us another blanket, making it four blankets now.

You will receive this about Christmas time, so I will close wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Your loving son,


(I do not know if the typist messed up or if perhaps he was called Fred.  Who knows with my people!)


Garden Island Newspaper, “Letters from over there”, 14 Jan 1919, page 2, columns 3 and 4.