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 21 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.

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 de la Franche-Comté near Switzerland. (See photos above.) What's more, the obituary mentioned the name "Cathalongne" (with a misspelling), which I recognized as connected to our family.

Ship Log Ship's log of Lyons, Le Havre to New Orleans, 1843 (click to zoom).

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.) 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).

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 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 paternal 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 21 years ago using technologies both new and old — the log of the ship Lyons on the web and Auguste's family of 17 kids in the city's birth records — 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.  One big open question that remained from the Aha! moment was how the Vitter family got to Clerval, France in the first place. It was a mystery finally resolved 19 years later by Jean-Pierre Vitter, my 4th cousin 1x removed. You can read about it in the history entitled "How the Vitters Got to Clerval."

P.P.S.  Another fun complementary history to read (surtout si l'on parle français !) is the trace of my correspondence around that time on my hunt for family information on both sides of my family, entitled "Après le « Aha! moment » (et avant aussi !)." Enjoy!


More Vitter Histories …

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

  • How the Vitters Got to Clerval: 19 years after Jeff Vitter's Aha! moment described above, Jean-Pierre Vitter resolves the mystery of where in Europe the Vitter family came from originally and how they got to France in the late 1700s.
  • "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 76-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 111 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 and launch the U. S. A., and 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.
  • 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.
  • Après le « Aha! moment » (et avant aussi !): As highlighted at the top of this page in "The Aha! Moment That Led to This Website," Jeff Vitter made a big breakthrough 21 years ago when he discovered when, where, and how his Vitter ancestors came from Europe to the USA. Much correspondence behind the scenes led up to and beyond that discovery, including new information about Jeff's mom's side of the family in southwest France around Uzan (pronounced "u-ZHANG" in the local patois) and Anères. This history gives an inside look at the correspondences that genealogists engage in and how what we understand grows (we hope!) with time.
  • Artigues Family Notes 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 his 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 about the Artigues, who came from Salies-du-Salat in the Haute-Garonne region of SW France, with several tantalizing open questions.
  • 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 heal is the electrical power supply). This history spotlights the inventor and administrator who 108 years ago pioneered 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's a glimpse from 39 years ago when the Baldwin siblings took on the world in the well-known 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 13 years ago as part of the Purdue Oral History Archives when 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 Jillian & Scott in the Woods: Some fun interviews with Jillian, Scott, & Audrey Vitter 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 27 years ago when Jeff & Audrey lost Jillian & Scott. Fortunately all turned out well!
  • Jeff Vitter's Investiture as 17th Chancellor: Jeff's formal inauguration 5 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.
  • Martin Samuel Weaver: Kansas Homesteader: Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's paternal great grandfather Martin Weaver, 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.
  • Mennonite Beginnings: The history traces Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 10th great grandparents of 16th century Switzerland and their Anabaptist/Mennonite/Amish descendants who emigrated to America in the 1700s, as did many others, to escape religious persecution.
  • George Nicolay: The German-Born Secretary Who Made Abraham Lincoln Great: Sharon (née Weaver) Vitter's 4th great uncle 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 became U. S. consul to France, Marshal of the U. S. Supreme Court, and Lincoln biographer.
  • The Hochstetler Attack: Life on the Frontier: One of the most well-known anecdotes in Amish and Mennonite history is the story of pacifist Jacob Hochstetler and the tragedy his family underwent 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 connection in her family to Aaron Burr — the conflicted antihero who shot 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!


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