I got my earliest start in serious genealogy from a distant relative whom I’ve never met and who may never even have known I exist. That man was Ruben J. Leger and he was the brother of my paternal grandmother Yvonne Leger (Gen.9). Ruben Leger never knew it in his lifetime, but some papers he’d sent to my father gave my first glimpse into how to build a family tree.
This happened about twenty years ago when my father (E.A. Theriault) gave me an old, wrinkled copy of a letter from a Lewis J. Bezinge of Dallas, Texas to my great-uncle Ruben. The letter is from January 1957, but is a typed copy of a letter originally composed in March, 1941.
It’s easy to forget what it meant to do genealogy in 1941. This is not only pre-internet, pre-computerized databases and pre-scanners, this is pre-photocopiers and pre-electric typewriters. Think – when he contacted my great-uncle Ruben in 1957, Mr. Bezinge or his secretary had to manually retype all the pertinent information! For those of you who have never used a manual typewriter, I’d like you to think not only about the fact that the material had to be re-typed, but that there was no such thing as a “right justify” or “center” button to automatically line everything up. nor could you undo your mistakes with the touch of the “undo” button. Of course, secretaries had their little tricks. For instance, as a secretary back in the ’70s, I would “undo” errors with a sharp razor-blade) but it was still very laborious.
Mr. Bezinge explained to my great-uncle Ruben that he had traced our Leger genealogy back to 1668, and that he had been helped in this by Ruben’s father (my great-grandfather Louis Gonzague Leger). The letter includes a four page Leger Family Tree and although there were gaps in the tree (most of which I’ve filled) most of the information is accurate.
Thanks to my great-uncle’s curiosity about his roots, my father’s care in keeping family papers and Mr. Bezinge’s earliest work, I got a great head start with my Leger family history. Over the last few years, working with other Leger researchers and primary sources, I’ve filled in most of the gaps in the family tree and I’m now preparing a little booklet which will contain a new annotated version of the “Family Tree of Jacques Leger” with the following dedication:
“To my great-uncle Ruben Urbain Leger, upon whose shoulders I stand”