I am looking for information on Charles J Foster (b. 3 Feb 1849, New York d. 9 May 1929, San Francisco, CA).

At one point I came across information that he was a retired Colonel (I'm assuming with the US military.)

I have found an 1880 Census record of a Charles Foster employed as a soldier at Fort D.A. Russell in Wyoming. If it's not the same Charles Foster then I'm not interested in this record - I only mention it to show what I've found thus far.

Where would I start looking to corroborate Charles Foster's (1849-1929) service record?

  • possible duplicate of How can I get all the military records available through NARA (USA) for an individual veteran?
    – user47
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 19:24
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    Part of the problem @JustinY is with the wording of the other question--"all the military records." See the intro to the link to which your answer refers, "The National Personnel Records Center, Military Personnel Records (NPRC-MPR) is the repository of millions of military personnel, health, and medical records of discharged and deceased veterans of all services during the 20th century. (Records prior to WWI are in Washington, DC.)"
    – GeneJ
    Commented Oct 31, 2012 at 20:20
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    Separately, one of the reason's I'm drawn to this question is that I researched another military man of this day; found him to be among the most interesting persons I've ever researched. That fellow was just a little younger than your Charles. In that research, I learned he had invented the "mess kit"; established the branding for Army horses; even tested automatic records.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 16:18
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    Sausalito News, Volume 4, Number 13, 3 May 1888; "Messrs. C. J. Foster and E. B. Halden will spend the summer at the Hacienda Cottage." Note: Various news items of the day and the area "Blue Book" report that Chas. J. Foster and his wife took the same cottage for many years after their marriage. For the 1888 clipping, see this obnoxious URL cdnc.ucr.edu/cdnc/cgi-bin/…
    – GeneJ
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 20:27
  • @GeneJ: "La Hacienda" was the Foster's summer home in Sausalito; they would live in San Francisco in the winter months. Based on the date of the newspaper clipping you found, it would appear that house was part of the Foster family before Charles married. A new piece to the puzzle!
    – fbrereto
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 21:09

3 Answers 3


Your ancestor, Colonel Charles Jay Foster was reported a retired jeweler at the time of his death. [See the earlier posted San Francisco funeral home reference]

He married Mina Bauer on Saturday, March 23, 1889, in San Francisco, California. Sausalito News, Friday, March 29, 1889, p. 3, c. 6.

The engagement was announced in October, 1888; Charles was then the purchasing agent in Europe for Geo. W. Shreve & Co. See, Sausalito News, Friday, October 12, 1888, p. 3, c. 2.

Geo. ... Shreve & Co., aka Shreve & Co., is reported by today's Wikipedia as the "oldest commercial establishment" in San Francisco.

Charles J. Foster appears in various San Francisco Directories between 1889 (the time of his marriage) and 1880 (the date of the census entry about which you have inquired). (He probably appears in all the years, a few are listed below.)

At San Francisco in the 1880 U.S. census is one one Chas. J. Foster, age 30 [indexed as 20], b. New York. Link here to the FS index; partial snippet below from Ancestry. This Chas. J. Foster is enumerated as a lodger in what seems a boarding house. (Page and image is not in good shape; other than to say it doesn't seem to be "Pine," I can't make out the street.) Occupation is "merchant"; entry remarks that he is "out of the ?city."

enter image description here

SFgenealogy.com has other San Francisco information and directories online. There is probably a better way to navigate to it, but I used their page, "Index of ... Directory." to view images from Langley's 1879 San Francisco Directory.

  • image 71 is the directory title page.
  • image 403 (actual page is 333) has entry, Charles J. Foster, salesman, George C. Shreve & Co., r. 1122 Pine.

And ... they have the 1878 directory.

  • image 86 is the title page
  • image 414 (actual page is 330) has entry Charles J. Foster, salesman Anderson & Randolph, dwl NE cor Kearny and Post.
  • (I couldn't quickly find an ad for Anderson & Randolph in the 1878 directory, but did find an ad for them in the 1879 publication. See the entry here: "Randolph & Co.: Jewelers," said "Successors to "Anderson & Randolph."

I guess this is a long way of saying your Charles J. Foster was probably enumerated at San Francisco in 1880; he may be the man in the census entry provided. He likely resided there at least by 1878.

Your Charles J. Foster does not seem to be the man in 1880 stationed at Wyoming.

Would think it is possible for you to keep "inching" him back to see when he stops appearing in the San Francisco directories.

Wikipedia, "Colonel (United States)" suggests this military rank, "became rare" in the period after the Civil War; also "many brevet colonels were appointed again during the Spanish American War, prominent among them Theodore Roosevelt and David Grant Colson."

Although I suspect news about the time of his engagement and marriage would be a more timely reference, information follows that might help you locate an obituary. Have also included a news item that refers to him as "Colonel Charles Jay Foster."

On the trail of the obituary:

With a 1929 death, there is at least a good chance the cemetery or mortuary has a copy of his obituary, or at least a newspaper reference.

Do you have a copy of his death certificate? The (early) California Death Index reports his state [death record] file number is 28738. See entry, Charles J. Foster (d. 9 May 1929); "California, Death Index, 1905-1939"; digital images, FamilySearch (accessed 2012), cites California State Registrar, California, Death Index; Office of the State Register; Sacramento, and the Butte County Courthouse, Oroville.

FindaGrave has memorial for him at Cypress Lawn Memorial Park, Coloma, San Mateo County, California,

Ancestry's collection of "San Francisco Area Funeral Home Records, 1895-1985," entry for "Charles Jay Foster" (dec'd 9 May 1929), reports the mortuary as N. Gray and Company; reports his occupation as "Retired Jeweler." More about this mortuary and records on www.sfgenealogy.com; http://www.sfgenealogy.com/sf/sfranlib.htm#researchity. (Seemed to me perhaps better luck with the cemetery.)

From the same funeral home, record for his widow, Mina (Bauer) Foster (d. 24 Oct 1943). Her parents John A. Bauer; Louise Hagen.

News item referring to family members; calls him Colonel Charles Jay Foster.

Here is one of the news items; a dramatic story of the shooting death of a young woman. Charles Jay Foster is called "Colonel Foster." The woman killed is, it seems, his wife's niece. Oakland Tribune, January 14, 1913. enter image description here

  • A great answer! This could be a case study on how to approach a knotty problem.
    – Fortiter
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 4:46
  • Thanks for the extensive answer! I have actually obtained most of this information before (it was the newspaper piece with the "Colonel" title that was the original clue.) Truth be told the murder of Mrs. Minna (Van Bergen) Jadwin is a dramatic event in our family's history. Charles Jay Foster is my 2nd great grandfather, and it is his last name that became my first. All this information pertains to his life after his military career: I have ben having trouble finding his story leading up to this point, hence the original question.
    – fbrereto
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 17:12
  • @GeneJ: I don't have the exact details, but according to the 1900 Census they were married in 1889. Both were in the San Francisco Bay Area at the time so my guess is the marriage location was somewhere around there. Other than that I wish I had more specific details to share with you.
    – fbrereto
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 19:24
  • @fbrereto If you would prefer that news item come down, am happy to edit out.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Nov 12, 2012 at 20:50
  • Don't worry about it, I appreciate its inclusion as part of your thorough answer.
    – fbrereto
    Commented Dec 15, 2012 at 21:44

If Charles Foster had retired from the military as a Colonel then I would expect there to be some mention of that fact in his obituary. It would not be uncommon to list both the units in which he served and any action in which he participated.

Have you searched the papers around the time of his death? It would be worth considering both east and west coast papers. If he had a distinguished career that might be acknowledged in his birth place as well as where he died.

Updated: Have you looked at Chronicling America as a source of newspaper titles and their publication history.

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    This is a great point, however I have been unable to find his obituary. From the sources I have available there don't seem to be newspaper images around the date of his death.
    – fbrereto
    Commented Nov 1, 2012 at 16:11

I discovered a PDF of an 1879 San Francisco directory that has Charles J. Foster as a salesman for George Shreve & Co. The Charles Foster in the 1880 census is not the same man.

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    Is the pdf of Langley's 1879 San Francisco directory? Showing him residing at 1122 Pine?
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:37
  • @GeneJ that's the one - I have a link to the PDF in the answer.
    – fbrereto
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:40
  • We are both quoting the same 1879 directory page. Is it the address that suggests to you it is not the same man? As for the directories, I presume our 1879 fellow is the man at 1878 was "Anderson & Randolph, dwl NE cor Kearny and Post."
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 17:52
  • It is not the address but the company. The Charles J Foster I am interested in was director and part owner of Shreve & Co. As for his time before working with Shreve and Co., well that's what started this whole question to begin with :)
    – fbrereto
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 18:01
  • Things to add; questions to ask. I assume we should move this to chat, but I'm having difficulty getting a room set up under our beta.
    – GeneJ
    Commented Dec 6, 2012 at 19:05

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