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Relativity Research

The underlying theme of our website is research on relativity. They say that "everything is relative," and we (your website co-hosts Sharon Louise (née Weaver) Vitter and Jeffrey Scott "Jeff" Vitter) are beginning to believe that all of us are indeed relatives, especially if we look far enough back! (For a related point, check out the story on our home page about our patron Charlemagne.)

On this relativity page are several interesting histories about relatives in our time-space continuum — pulsating outward in a series of gravitational waves spanning many generations and relationships! There are yet unanswered questions to resolve and more relatives to discover! Please get in touch with us with any information, corrections, or questions. We welcome your input!

The history below on Jeff's Aha! moment from 24 years ago kicks it all off for us, since it's what really got us hooked on genealogy and ultimately to form this website. Below it are lists of many more histories — one list for the Vitter side and another list for the Weaver side. We hope you enjoy them. If there is a history you'd like to contribute, we welcome submissions!

The Aha! Moment That Led to This Website

When I (Jeff Vitter) was growing up in New Orleans, my parents A. L. Vitter Jr. and Audrey (née St. Raymond) Vitter would always tell my five siblings and me about family trips to France as young children to meet relatives, but they didn't know many particulars beyond their grandparents, especially on my dad's paternal side. When my sister Donna moved to France in 1981, they visited her and took the opportunity to research family records at churches and city halls in the extreme southwest of France around Uzan, Anères, Salies-du-Salat, and Toulouse, where my mom's side of the family and my dad's maternal side of the family lived until the 1800s. My dad, recently retired at the time as chief engineer of Chevron, started computerizing what they found on the trip.

Obituary Virginie (née Ovale) Vitter obituary, New Orleans, Louisiana, 13 September 1884 (click obituary for more info).
Clerval Clerval Village, Doubs, France (click photo to zoom on Google Maps).

I remember fondly when it was that I really caught the genealogy bug big time: During the Christmas holidays in December 2000 during a visit to the main branch of the New Orleans Public Library, I was researching microfiche obituaries in a local 19th century French-language newspaper L'Abeille de la Nouvelle-Orléans (The New Orleans Bee), and I came across the obituary of Virginie (née Ovale) Vitter, originally from Clerval, France, in the département du Doubs, région Bourgogne-Franche-Comté in eastern France near Switzerland and Germany. (See photos above.) What's more, the obituary mentioned the name "Cathalongne" (with a misspelling), which I recognized as connected to our family.

So I went to the web, and after a quick browser search using the keywords "Vitter," "Clerval," and "France," up popped three pages of the ship's log of the ship Lyons that sailed from Le Havre, France to New Orleans in 1843 with an entire Vitter family on board! (See figure below.) Pierre Vitter (1803–1846) and Virginie (née Ovale) Vitter (1799–1884) were on board with their seven kids! There were other families from the Doubs, France on the ship as well. They disembarked in New Orleans, and the ship continued onward to Indianola, Texas (near Galveston).

Ship Log Excerpt of the ship's log of Lyons, Le Havre to New Orleans, 1843. (Click ship's log to zoom on entire log, minus one missing page.)

It was an exciting Aha! moment of discovery! (Fortunately for those around me, I wasn't naked taking a bath at the time, as in the legendary tale of Archimedes!) The discovery was also well-timed, because the website that hosted the photo of the ship's log was online for only a couple of years; it disappeared shortly after I found it. I'm glad I made a copy to preserve it!

Five months earlier in July 2000, as I was looking through city records at the same library, I had made another startling discovery (a "mini" Aha! moment of sorts): I found out that my dad's paternal grandfather Alfred Nicolas Vitter (1855–1898) was was one of about a dozen siblings! It was especially surprising because my dad had always thought that his Vitter grandfather was an only child! (The sibling count has since grown to 17!) Alfred's father (Joseph) Auguste Vitter (1828–1896) was one of the children of Pierre and Virginie listed on board the ship Lyons in 1843. That made Pierre and Virginie my 3rd great grandparents (i.e., my great great great grandparents).

The connection of those two complementary discoveries from 24 years ago using technologies both new and old — the modern web search that uncovered the log of the ship Lyons and the old-fashioned search through the city's birth records for Auguste's family of 17 kids — explained how, when, and where the Vitters came to the USA from Europe. It has since led to the discovery of many, many 3rd and 4th cousins, now spread across the USA. And the germ for this website was formed!


P.S.  Jeff and Sharon Vitter made their first trip to Clerval in October 2022 to see numerous sites where the Vitter family lived and work. You can see several photos and a video of their Clerval visit in the history entitled Exploring Clerval in 2022.

P.P.S.  One big open question that remained from Jeff's Aha! moment was how the Vitter family got to Clerval, France in the first place. We knew from genealogist Roger Chippaux in August 2000 that there was a Hérard Vitter (or Witter or Widder) who emigrated to Clerval as a war veteran in 1799. Hérard was the son of Mathieu Widder and Ursule Jaektin and a fine crafter of ornamental building surfaces (see example photo). And in May 2001, genealogist Joelle Minary uncovered that Pierre Vitter, who emigrated to New Orleans in 1843, was the son of Hérard. But where Hérard and his parents came from was still unknown. There were cryptic references (and spellings!) in Hérard's birth, marriage, naturalization, and death records found by Roger Chippaux and Joelle Minary, which suggested that Hérard originally came from "Biethiruge, canton de Chafferesse Suenchingen" and "Süenchingen, canton de Schaffhouse (Bade)" and "Autriche" (Austria). The mystery of Hérard's origins was finally resolved in 2019 by my French 4th cousin 1x removed and fellow genealogist Jean-Pierre Vitter. You can read about the "rest of the story" in the history entitled How the Vitters Got to Clerval.

P.P.P.S.  Other fun complementary histories to read (surtout si l'on parle français !) show the trace of my correspondence around that time on my hunt for family information on both sides of my family.

  • One history that shows the correspondence with Roger Chippaux and Joelle Minary mentioned above is entitled Avant et après l'« Aha! moment ».
  • Another about my dad's mother's side of the family from the Haute-Garonne department in southwest France is Artigues Family History and Open Questions. It shows photos from our October 2022 visit to Salies-du-Salat and our valiant (and successful!) effort to save the tombs of some of my Artigues ancestors.
  • The history of my mom's family, who came from the Hautes-Pyrénées department in extreme southwest France, is the subject of Exploring Mimi's Ancestors near the Pyrénées of Southwest France. It includes photos from several visits the family made in the 1980s, 1990s, and 2022 to the Ferran farm "Larneilh" and the town of Uzan, including the monument to World War I dead in front of the Uzan town hall that was funded by my mom's family.


More Vitter Histories …

Click on the following titles for more histories about the Vitter Family:

  • Exploring Clerval in 2022: Jeff Vitter had been wanting to visit Clerval in the Doubs department of France near northern Switzerland ever since his Aha! Moment 24 years ago described above. He and Sharon Vitter finally got the chance 22 years later during a Fall 2022 trip to France full of wonderful family history visits, photos, and videos.
  • How the Vitters Got to Clerval: As highlighted above in The Aha! Moment That Led to This Website, Jeff Vitter made a big breakthrough in December 2000: He discovered when, where, and how his Vitter ancestors came from Clerval, France to the USA. But the mystery remained about where the Vitter family came from originally and how they got to Clerval, France in 1799. Jean-Pierre Vitter, Jeff's 4th cousin 1x removed and a fellow genealogist, resolved that mystery 19 years later!
  • Avant et après l'« Aha! moment »: Before Jeff Vitter's Aha! moment described above, Jeff and his dad did not know much at all about where the Vitter line came from. Much correspondence behind the scenes — both electronic as well as old-fashioned hardcopy letters — led up to and beyond the big discovery. This history gives an inside look at the correspondences that genealogists engage in, the friendships that develop, and how what we understand grows (we hope!) with time.
  • Exploring Mimi's Ancestors near the Pyrénées of Southwest France: Unlike Jeff's dad's side, where we knew very little of his lineage, Jeff's mom had a fair amount of knowledge about her ancestors, who came from around Uzan (pronounced "u-ZHANG" in the local patois) and Anères in extreme southwest France near the Pyrénées mountains. She and her mom, grandmother, aunt, and siblings visited southwest France when she was 13 1/2 years old in 1934, shortly after her great grandmother passed away. With that information as a base — along with more trips to southwest France in the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, and 2020s — we were able to greatly expand our genealogy horizons of Mimi's lineage through the same kind of letters described in the prior history that we sent to Jeff's dad's paternal Vitter ancestors. In this history, we show more "inside genealogy baseball" about how connections are discovered, along with plenty photos of visits.
  • Artigues Family History and Open Questions: A. L. Vitter Jr. had Artigues connections on both sides of his family: His mother (Marie) Berthe (née Artigues) Vitter was the daughter of immigrant Ferréol Jean Marie Artigues, and A. L.'s 1st cousin 2x removed Marie Louise Cathalongne (daughter of 1843 Clerval immigrant Marie Louise Vitter) married immigrant Jean Ferréol "John" Artigues. Ferréol and John were 1st cousins. This history includes records and photos about the Artigues, who came from Salies-du-Salat in the Haute-Garonne region of southwest France, with several tantalizing open questions.
  • "Take 'Er Down!": The Story of Commander Gilmore: Commander Gilmore was a bona fide hero of World War II. His fateful words as he made the ultimate sacrifice are uttered still today by every submarine commander in the U. S. Navy.
  • A. L. & Audrey Vitter: Role Models Extraordinaires: Jeff Vitter's parents A. L. Jr. & Audrey (née St. Raymond) Vitter (grandparent names Père and Mimi) led accomplished lives of extraordinary service and caring for others — a legacy for generations to follow (including many Domers and a killer cookbook!).
  • Photos from Mimi's Homecoming Weekend, June 2006: We couldn't bury Audrey "Mimi" (née St. Raymond) Vitter in New Orleans at the time of her death because of the devastation from Hurricane Katrina. When her body was brought back home for reburial eight months later, it was a time for several family events and to celebrate her life.
  • Vitter Holiday Cards Through the Years: 'Tis the Season to be jolly! Welcome to a 79-year-old Vitter tradition of annual Christmas greeting cards, augmented from time to time with cards for other occasions.
  • Our Loyal Guardians Rex & Queenie: Rex and Queenie — half-ton cast-iron Newfoundland dogs — have stood guard over Vitter-Artigues homes in New Orleans for about 114 years and have a fascinating (and still mysterious) genealogy of their own.
  • Albert Artigues Jr. & All That Jazz: For the middle part of the 20th century, Albert Artigues Jr. and his cornet were mainstays in the New Orleans jazz scene at night, while he worked at the family fisherman sporting supply business during the day.
  • Uriah Hayden: Colonial Shipbuilder: Building a strong and vital navy helped win independence in the late 1700s and launch the U. S. A. as an independent country. Connecticut shipbuilder Uriah Hayden and his wife Ann (née Starkey) Hayden played a key role — right in their own backyard.
  • What Might Have Altered the Start of World War II: French foreign minister (Jean) Louis Barthou, the "grand old man of European diplomacy," played an important role in Europe in garnering opposition to the rising Adolph Hitler … until he got shot in 1934, as shown in the video.
  • Three Vitters of the French Résistance: World War II saw France divided and conquered by Hitler's Third Reich, so brothers Louis and Roger Vitter and their 2nd cousin Pierre Vitter went underground in their native Franche-Comté region to fight for France as part of the infamous Résistance.
  • Alcée Fortier and the Creole Culture of New Orleans: One of New Orleans's outstanding educators (and well-known names) was a Baldwin family relative and a leading advocate for the many languages and cultures that formed the city's renowned melting pot.
  • Baldwin Wood: The Inventor Who Keeps New Orleans Dry: Much of New Orleans lies under sea level, and flooding is always a major concern. One of the greatest infrastructure feats in New Orleans history is the elaborate system of pumps and canals that move water from the city up to the surrounding lakes — though its Achilles heel is the electrical power supply (and the politicians who don't fix the problem!). This history spotlights the inventor and administrator who 111 years ago pioneered the pumping technology that is still in use today in New Orleans and around the world.
  • Baldwin Family Feud: While we're on the topic of the Baldwin family, here're some videos from 42 years ago when the Baldwin siblings took on the world in the well-known TV game show Family Feud, hosted by the kissing Richard Dawson. They appeared five times on the show, winning four times until their luck eventually ran out.
  • Academic Genealogy: Jeff Vitter has another kind of family tree: the academic generations created by a teacher who teaches a student how to learn, who in turn becomes a teacher and passes on that knowledge to another student, etc. The cycle continues, as it has since the days of Socrates, his student Plato, and Plato's student Aristotle.
  • On Databases, Deanships, and the South: This Vitter-Weaver website is built upon a relational database. When you go to the page of someone in our family tree, the page is dynamically created for you on the spot by querying the database to get the up-to-date info you want about that person in the form you want it. In this 2008 interview of your co-host Jeff Vitter, Jeff talks about his work in the field of databases, being a dean, and growing up in the Deep South. The interview was conducted by ACM SIGMOD, the world's leading database professional organization.
  • Jeff Vitter Reflects on Being a Dean at Purdue: This interview was conducted by the late Ms. Katherine Markee 16 years ago as part of the Purdue Oral History Archives when your co-host Jeff Vitter was the Frederick L. Hovde Dean of the College of Science at Purdue University. It gives insights on the importance of education and the productive interplay of academics and administration.
  • When Jeff & Audrey Vitter Lost and Her Siblings in the Woods: Some fun interviews with the kids when their dad Jeff was being inaugurated in 2016 as 17th Chancellor of the University of Mississippi, including a vivid description of their Fathers' Day hike in the woods 30 years ago when Jeff & Audrey lost her siblings. Fortunately all turned out well!
  • Jeff Vitter's Investiture as 17th Chancellor: Jeff's formal inauguration 8 years ago as the 17th chancellor of the University of Mississippi included some great music and an opportunity to talk about the transformative power of higher education.

More Weaver Histories …

Click on the following titles for more histories about the Weaver Family:

  • The Weaver Way: Zurich → Pennsylvania → Ohio: This history traces the path of Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 4th great grandfather, Swiss immigrant Jacob Weaver Sr., who ventured from Zurich to Pennsylvania via Rotterdam on the ship Sally in 1767. His sons continued onward in the early 1800s to Ohio. Open questions remain about his ancestors in the old country. (If you have any information about his Weaver/Weber ancestors in Switzerland, please contact us!)
  • Martin Samuel Weaver: Kansas Homesteader: Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's paternal great grandfather Martin Weaver, the oldest child from a family of 18 children, forged the way from Holmes County, Ohio to Miami County, Kansas and established the Weaver Homestead in what is today suburban Kansas City. Jeff and Sharon had their wedding reception there at the family homestead.
  • Mennonite Beginnings: The history traces Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 10th great grandparents Jacob Nicklaus Kauffman and Anni (née Bürcki) Kauffman of 16th century Switzerland. They and their Anabaptist/Mennonite/Amish descendants emigrated to America in the 1700s, as did many others, to escape religious persecution. This history also discusses fascinating new discoveries made by Y-DNA technology that are shedding new light on the Kauffman lineage.
  • George Nicolay: The German-Born Secretary Who Made Abraham Lincoln Great: Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 3rd great granduncle George Nicolay played what is essentially today's crucial role of chief of staff to the President of the United States — and that president was Abraham Lincoln. After President Lincoln's assassination, Nicolay built upon his impressive resumé and became U. S. consul to France, followed by a 15-year stint as Marshal of the U. S. Supreme Court. In his later years, he collaborated with John Hay on a massive 10-volume, 4,800-page biography of Abraham Lincoln and a two-volume edition of Lincoln's complete works.
  • In Memory of Sharon's Mom Ginny on her 91st Birthday: For Christmas 2022, our daughter Audrey gifted us (Jeff & Sharon) a Storyworth subscription consisting of story ideas about our times growing up, and our homework was to write our recollections on each topic. The following history was written by Sharon in response to a topic from her kids about “What do you admire most about your mother?” It was such touching tribute to Sharon's mom Ginny that we include it here.
  • The Hochstetler Attack: Life on the Frontier: One of the most well-known anecdotes in Amish and Mennonite history is the story of Sharon's pacifist relative Jacob Hochstetler and the tragedy his family underwent in 1757 at the Northkill Settlement in Berks County, Pennsylvania.
  • Aaron Burr: Not Throwin' Away My Shot: Which character in the play Hamilton are you related to? Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter has a roundabout connection in her family to Aaron Burr — the conflicted antihero who shot and killed Alexander Hamilton.
  • The Ups and Downs of Mini-Me: Pick someone with one of a dozen popular Amish/Mennonite surnames, and Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter is probably related to that person, sometimes in many ways. Such is the case with 2-foot, 8-inch-tall actor and stuntman Verne Troyer, most well known for his portrayal of "Mini-Me" in the Austin Powers movies.
  • Sharon Weaver Vitter: First Lady: Your co-host Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter began as a hospital pharmacist at Stanford University Children's Hospital and Rhode Island Hospital, and gradually transitioned into more academic roles during husband Jeff's career. She played an especially important role as First Lady at the University of Mississippi during 2016–2019. In these video clips, Sharon has some fun with campus activities and shows why people are naturally drawn to her.

Research Notes

That's not all by any means! There are many open questions contained in the written histories on this website and in the notes in the family tree itself.

Check out the What's New page (accessible from the Info menu at the top of the page) for a summary of new additions and features on the website.

If you have new info, questions to ask, or a history to contribute, please send it to us!

Stay Up to Date!

You can always check the What's New page for the newest additions and updates. We welcome your ideas and suggestions on content.

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