Frank E. Petersen by Lynnette LaPlace

Lynette LaPlace is a young dedicated genealogist who is consumed with her family history (my kind of gene-buddy). She is from the Virgin Islands and traces her maternal and paternal roots to the Danish West Indies and Dominica.

It is a pleasure to have connected with her while researching my Danish West Indian family. As such, I invited her to be a guest blogger on “my genealogical journey.” Please note how she explains how common-named ancestors can be complex to identify during the Danish period.

Her comprehensive research of the Petersen /Boldt family connections of Estate Hermitage led her to find America’s first Black Marine Aviator, Lt General Frank E. Petersen, her 2nd Great-Grand uncle.

Lynnette posts below about her 2nd Great Grand Uncle

Lt. General Frank E. Petersen , Marine Aviator

If there is one surname that is very common in the US Virgin Islands, then it’s Petersen.  You can find this name in St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John, but they are not all related. 

Those found in Frederiksted are related in some way, and today I will focus on a specific Petersen family found on Estate Hermitage and how they relate to another surname that has disappeared from the Island completely.

Let me introduce you to Martha, we meet her in the 1841 census. Martha was born about 1807 or 1810 on Estate Hermitage.  She was described as being of good moral character.  We find Martha living with her son, Francis, in the 1857 census. Francis is of interest to us because he had three sons born about 1864, 1867, and 1870 all bearing the last name Petersen. Francis, or Frank as he sometimes goes by, does not appear with the Petersen surname until the 1870 census. 

On May 16, 1874, Francis married the mother of his children, Sarah Jane Elizabeth Franklin.

Francis and Sarah’s second son, Augustus Poulis Petersen, would go on to marry and have children with Anne Elizabeth Dorothea Boldt. They had four children together, while Ann had a daughter and possibly a son from previous relationships.

Another of their sons, Frank Emmanuel Petersen born on July 4, 1905, moved to the United States in 1924. Frank ended up in Kansas where he worked as a radio repairman.  He met Edith Constance Southard at the University of Kansas.

Frank and Edith had four children and of their children was Frank Emmanuel Petersen Jr. who was born on March 2, 1932, in Topeka, Kansas. Frank Jr. was a United States Marine Corps lieutenant general, the first African American Marine Corps aviator, and the first African American General in the Marines. 

In 1998, Frank Jr. wrote a book titled Into the Tiger’s Jaw: America’s First Black Marine Aviator – The Autobiography of Lt. Gen. Frank E. Petersen which is available on Amazon.

I wonder sometimes if Martha ever imagined what life would be like for her children or even her great-great-grandchildren.

Thank you very much for sharing, Lynette.

By shelley dewese

As I continue to search out my history, I am discovering how much I did not know. The more information disclosed about my ancestry, the more I learn and understand how I am the person that has evolved today. My family's research efforts have taken me on an enlightening journey back through the past in the U. S. Virgin Islands (formerly Danish West Indies) and Coastal Georgia. As with most people of Afro-Caribbean descent, my ancestry stems from peoples brought together by colonialism and conquest; it stems from people thrown together, albeit forcibly, by the throes of enslavement. As a result, my DNA tells me that my people originate in Africa, Europe, England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Lesser Antilles, and Leeward Caribbean Islands. Two collections made my dream to research my ancestors in the Danish West Indies a reality. I have conducted extensive research using the St. Croix Population Database 1734-1917, a St. Croix African Roots Project product, and a research and document transcription effort sponsored by the Virgin Islands Social History Associates (VISHA). The other catalyst has been accessing the extensive photo, manuscript, and microfilm collections at the Library and Archives of the St. Croix Landmarks Society at Estate Whim in St. Croix. My heartfelt thanks go to all my cousins, extended "cousin-family," friends, and research colleagues from the St. Croix-based Virgin Islands Ancestry Discovery Group, for their input and collaboration. I also want to thank the UJima Genealogy Group in Coastal Georgia and GlynnGen.com; webmaster Amy Hendrick has introduced me to Southern History and its people. This site allows you to transform yourself to a time during the Danish period (1734-1917) when life was both complex and straightforward. If you have any questions, comments, or need assistance searching for a Danish West Indies ancestor, I invite you to drop me an email. Its.sheldew@gmail.com I especially appreciate the followers' encouragement.

2 comments

  1. Thank you for sharing and keeping their names and VI history alive and well! The amount of time and effort it takes to compile this definitely doesn’t go unnoticed.

    Liked by 2 people

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