Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Requesting FBI Records

My son is with his father this summer, and while I miss him very much, I try to make the most of the quiet time in the house.  Sometimes the silence is rather oppressive (like yesterday - it was a lonely one) and sometimes it is perfect for working my way through a variety of to-do lists, whether they are related to writing, crafts (scrapbooking and cross-stitching are my craft hobbies) or genealogy.

A long time ago, I wrote about Joseph William St. Onge.  Joseph was my great-grandmother Mildred Marian Burrell's first husband.  I descend from Mildred through her second husband, Herbert Benjamin Haley.

Joseph is a figure of some mystery and speculation; I'd go so far as to say he's really a family legend, because the only absolute truths we know about him are these:

1.  He was born 30 August 1893 in Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph and Mary Emily (Fortier) St. Onge.

2.  He was married 15 April 1915 in Rockland, Plymouth County, Massachusetts to Amanda Angelina Jean.

3.  He and Amanda were divorced 6 April 1920 in Brockton, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.

4.  He was married 17 April 1920 in Dover, Strafford County, New Hampshire to Mildred Marian Burrell.

5.  He and Mildred had at least 4 children.  Whether or not Joseph is the father of William St. Onge (who was adopted by George Perry of West Bridgewater) is debatable.

The family story is this:

Joseph was a rum-runner during prohibition.  His children saw him sometime in the 1940's and knew him as "Joe Brown" from New York.

Research has not turned up a Social Security Death Index record, so Joseph either died in prison, on the run, or before Social Security was enacted.  Alternatively, he applied under a completely different name.  I have not found a 1930 census record for him or a death record for him.  There was a Joseph St. Onge roughly the same age in the 1930 census in Utah, however I obtained that one's death record and it was not a match.

If Joseph was a criminal, and particularly if he was involved in any organized crime or rum-running, it's possible he had an FBI file.  Today I have written to the FBI to request a look-up for Joseph and his alias, "Joe Brown".  I gave them all the information I have, which seems like so very little to go on.

However, if they have anything whatsoever on him, it will be worth the effort.  If they do not, then I am back to square one: not knowing what happened to Joseph.

Requesting a file from the FBI is very straightforward and they lay out the process for you on their website.

You may make a request via mail, fax or e-mail.  They tell you what information to include in a request.

If the person's date of birth is less than 100 years ago, they require proof of death.

You can name the amount you are willing to pay for information, and the form letter specifies that you would like to be contacted if the fee exceeds that amount.  I erred on the side of an amount close to that which one would pay for a Civil War pension file.

I do not how timely they are in responding to requests, or what fees to expect if I am lucky and they actually have a file on Joseph.  However, I will definitely blog more about the process once they respond, whether they find a file or not.

Copyright (c) 2011 Wendy L. Callahan


  1. Thank you for the very informative article and 'demystifying' a perhaps sadly over looked resource option, our very own FBI!

    I am looking forward to your results and future blogs.

    Colleen Cahoon

    1. You are very welcome, my dear cousin! I've been meaning to write to the FBI for a long time now and finally did it.

      I hope people will look at their site and see how easy it is to send a request about relatives who may have been law-breakers!

  2. Those black sheep ancestors are usually the most interesting because they left records behind. It was a great idea to write to the FBI. I hope you get a great big fat envelope of information!

    1. Yes, he's really interesting and I'd love to know his story! I certainly hope the FBI has something on him. That would be exciting.