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What a nice face … he looks like he’d sign a picture, “Your Friend,” doesn’t he?

James M Justice

I found this photograph at an antique mall in Asheville, NC, so it was no surprise that Mr. Justice listed his home on the back of this photo as Hendersonville, NC, not far from Asheville.  He also dated the photograph, August 6, 1900.  No way I was leaving this one in the store.  When we got back to Atlanta, I started digging.

I estimated the year of his birth around 1880, give or take 5 years, and it turns out that I wasn’t far off.  At Ancestry.com, I expected the first information to pop up would be census information, but it wasn’t – it was a passport application, dated February 5, 1916.  James M. Justice, born April 10, 1876 (yay, me!) had applied for a passport to go to Argentina for missionary work.  He was sailing from Brooklyn, NY on the Vasari on February 19, 1916, with his wife, and their 2-year-old son.  The signature on the form looked a lot like the one on the photo, so I got pretty excited.

Next, I found a 1930 US Census form for Buncombe County, NC, listing James and his family – clearly not in Argentina anymore.  James, age 54, was listed as a minister, and his wife, Martha C., age 42, and their son, Samuel J., age 16, were also listed.  Awww ….

Then came another passport application, this one from 1917 (no, the records don’t automatically show up in chronological order, so that’s how I’m telling the story).  This was identified as an “Emergency Application,” completed at the American Embassy in Buenos Aires, and it included his wife, Mattie and their son, Samuel – hey, new information! Samuel was listed as having been born in Argentina in August 1913.  Very cool.  The application also mentioned James’s father, Samuel, living in Hendersonville – perhaps they needed to get back because he was ill?  Don’t know … but wait! There’s more!  You should see my notes … “PHOTO IS ON PAGE 2!!!”  And it was absolutely my guy, without a doubt.  I’m rolling now!  I am mere moments from finding his descendants and getting this picture back to them.

Next up was an image of James’s death certificate – he died in 1938, and it listed his parents … Samuel Jones Justice (1851-1919) and Mary Etta Murrell.  I found mention of this Samuel in a few places, and it appears he was a big landowner in the Hendersonville area.  Now that I knew when our friend, James, had died, I decided to follow young Samuel, James and Mattie’s son.  His name wasn’t unusual, but the “born in Buenos Aires” part was, so I figured I was golden.  Click!

Very cool – Samuel’s WWII Draft Registration Card from 1940 showed most of the same information I already had, with the additional tidbit that he was employed by the Charlotte Observer.   And a NY Passenger List from 1944 shows Lieutenant Samuel James Justice of the US Naval Reserves, arriving on the Marine Raven.  Wow, this story is really starting to fill out!

Yep – look at that – an obituary in the Sarasota Herald Times reported that Samuel James Justice passed away in December 2000.  He had been married to Virginia Cummings of Yonkers, NY, and they had moved to Florida from Yonkers.  Samuel’s birthplace was listed as Buenos Aires (bingo!); he married Virginia in 1944.  I’m on a roll now … let’s head over to the other family trees on Ancestry.com and see who else is researching this family.

[insert sound of screeching brakes here]

There was ONE tree with accurate information, which referred to Samuel as having one child.  Huh?  That can’t be all … I’ve been researching for hours!  But all of the trees that mentioned this family didn’t really go anywhere, and there didn’t seem to be anyone I could contact.  Oh, for heaven’s sake !!

So, I clicked again … and went back to Samuel’s obituary.  It listed his wife and children as survivors, as well as some grandchildren.  And look!  Oh, yeah, the fates are with me now! One of them lives here in Atlanta!

Now you’re waiting for the part where I tell how happy Samuel’s children and/or grandchildren were to get this picture … aren’t you?  Well, so far, that hasn’t happened.  I posted a message on the Ancestry.com message boards, and got a couple of responses, but we determined it wasn’t the same family.  I even made an attempt to contact one of the family members directly, based on the obituary information, but I haven’t received a response.  The days turn into weeks, Spring turns to Summer . . . .  [dramatic, right?  blame it on my love of soap operas]

Two weeks ago, I got an e-mail from the International Mission Board in Richmond, VA (my hometown).  Someone had seen my message on Ancestry, and recognized the name of James M. Justice … that’s DR. James M. Justice, if you please!  Dr. Justice and his family were instrumental in establishing Baptist mission work in Argentina, and the Mission Board had been asked to find a photograph of Dr. Justice, only they didn’t have one.  But I do!  And yes, I have sent them a scan of the photograph, and am compiling some of the passport and other information so they can have it for their files.

So … here we are, James Justice and me.  His photo is still in my “Searching” notebook, but we have made an “almost” connection – I guess I need a new tab for that in the notebook.  I’m still hoping to hear from one of his family members, and the Mission Board agreed that I should keep the original photo for a while, in case that happens.  I’m hoping that, between the Mission Board and me, we’ll locate a direct descendant and can get this photo where it belongs.

One final note – an interesting side story, really.  When I was in high school, my boyfriend’s father worked at the Mission Board as their facilities manager.  He took care of the building and all of its systems, and I can remember going down there with him a couple of times late at night when he had to re-start something or turn something down or off or up or on.  Also, the Mission Board established a training center just down the road from where I grew up.  Interesting how things seem to go in circles, isn’t it ??