Gentil Gernaey – Deel Twee

Well this was just going to be a comment on the last post I did about Gentil Gernaey but I kept finding more and more information.

This started when I was searching for Gentil Gernaey because I had learned from Craig Gernaey (thanks Craig) that Gentil had married again after Bertha. And then I came across some transcriptions of World War I draft registration cards for Belgians in America on The Belgian Researchers website.

The draft Registration Card was submitted on one of three different registration dates – based on age and/or date of birth. This is important for us because it helps us to tie a person to a general time and place. Here is some back-up information for you.

World War I Draft Registration Cards: 1917-1918

Submitted by Beverly Bolton Hyde

The period of 1880-1920 was a high immigration period to the United States. With the loss of the 1890 U.S census records, the World War I Draft Registration Cards provide an oft overlooked resource to the approximately 24 million men living in the United States in the early twentieth-century.

On 6 April 1917, the United States declared war on Germany and officially entered the Great War. Six weeks later, on 18 May 1917, the Selective Service Act was passed, which authorized the president (then, Woodrow Wilson) to increase the military forces of the United States. As a result, every male living within the United States between the ages of 18 and 45 was required to register for the draft.

Over the next two years, approximately 98% of the men under the age of 46 regardless of their U.S. citizenship status filled out registration cards. Not all the men who registered actually served in the armed forces, and there were some who served in the war that did not register. Those already enlisted or in the reserves were exempt from registering.


There were three registration dates:

First Registration. 5 June 1917
* Men aged 21 to 31 – those born between 6 June 1886 and 5 June 1896
This card (sometimes called the Twelve-Question card) asked for: name, age, address, date and place of birth, citizenship status, employer’s name and address, dependent information, marital status, race, military service, and physical appearance.
Second Registration. 5 June 1918 / 24 August 1918
* Men aged 21 since previous registration – those born between 6 June 1896 and 5 June 1897
* Men who had not previously registered and were not already in the military also registered
* A supplemental registration on 24 August 1918, was for men who turned 21 since 5 June 1918.
This card (sometimes called the Ten-Question card) requested the following information: name, age, address, date and place of birth, father’s birthplace, citizenship status, occupation, employer’s name and address, dependent information, name and address of nearest relative, and physical appearance.
Third Registration 12 Sept 1918
* Men aged 18 to 21 and 31 to 45 – men born between 11 Sept 1872 and 12 Sept 1900.
This card (sometimes referred to as the Twenty-Question card) includes the name, address, age, date of birth, race, citizenship status, occupation, employer’s name and address, name and address of nearest relative, and physical appearance.

The complete registration included men between the ages of 18 and 45 – males born between 1873 and 1900—who were not already in the military. Although the cards varied some from one registration to the next, all contained vital information and all carried (in most cases) the actual signature of the individual. ~Source

I did a little more searching and found an example of the draft Registration Card that was submitted on 5 June 1917. As you can see from the example there is all kinds of information here. Name, date of birth, home address, employer and dependents.

I would think most of the information is probably true, although potentially inaccurate. I kind of doubt that someone, especially an immigrant in 1917, would take the risk and intentionally lie. Think about it…this was 1917 and not 2010. I’m pretty sure that if you got caught screwing around and lying it didn’t take an act of Congress to have you kicked out of the country.

So let’s take a look at what I found.

Looking at the 5 June 1917 Registration Card transcription for Odilon the first thing I noticed is that as of 1917, 30-year old Odilon had – brown hair? Wow…I wonder if this means all of us with white hair must have gotten it from Flavie’s side?

Ok ok….Moving right along we see that in 1917 Odilon was living in Detroit at 81 Wright Street. So now we know that sometime by mid-1917 Odilon had left Chicago and was now in Detroit.

I couldn’t find a Wright Street searching Google Maps so I don’t know if they entered or transcribed the wrong street name or if Wright Street no longer exists. If anyone knows or has an idea about Wright Street then could you forward that information along to me?

Odilon also says he has a wife and an 8-year old child. The assumption here is that this is Bertha and Florence. What we don’t know yet is if Odilon was still married to Bertha or not – or if he had met Flavie by this time.

Under the column labeled Cit. (Citizenship) is the letter “D” for Odilon which stands for Declared (your intentions to become an American citizen).

In the last post we figured Odilon left Chicago between mid-1915 and mid-1919. Now it appears that it was sometime between mid-1915 and mid-1917. We have narrowed the span down from 4-years to 2-years.

Now looking at the 5 June 1917 Registration Card transcription for Gentil Gernaey.

Both the Ellis Island manifest and this transcription says that Gentil lived at 1916 N. Ridgeway in Chicago. So we are now are pretty sure that Gentil lived here at least between mid-1915 and mid-1917.

The transcription also says that Gentil is not married or has any dependents at this time. This indicates that, as of mid-1917, Gentil and Bertha were not married.

We had previously estimated that they were married between mid-1915 and 1920 but we can now estimate this to be mid-1917 to 1920. A 3-year span rather than the previous 5-year difference.

But, as usual, I stray from my original mission of finding out about Gentil getting married after Bertha. Then I found it.

By 1922 – on 22 June to be exact – Gentil was married to a Joannam Brugghe.


The question now is: What happened to Bertha and Florence?

Oh what a tangled web we weave, and not necessarily when we try to deceive, as Sir Walter Scott wrote, but what we uncover as we wander through the hidden collections of the past.


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