I’m attending my first FGS Conference this year in Springfield, IL. I chickened out on the one in Arkansas a couple of years ago when it would have given me the impetus I needed to get down to Bradley County and do research—and I regret it. So this year, when I’ll be 45 minutes tops from Logan County, IL—the later stomping grounds of my most untrustworthy and probably most fascinating ancestor—I couldn’t pass it up. So, now I’m making lists—stuff to pack, finding directions, and trying to decide the best way to sneak off and experience a little bit of Harry R. Alison’s Logan County.

But you need to know a little about Harry … back when he was Henry.

He was an Irish cop in DetroitThat’s the only lead my grandmother, Ethel, and her sister, June, could give me in my quest to find their great-grandfather. Their grandmother, Flora Jane (Massey) Packer, shared very little about her parents—and possibly knew very little. They said an aunt and uncle had raised Flora when her mother died and passed on little information—about her father in particular. She knew he was an Irish policeman in Detroit for a time but beyond that her questions weren’t answered. Aunt June suspected that there was more to the story and I had been trying to figure out what that was for 10 years.

To begin with, Flora’s death certificate lists her as the daughter of  Henry Massey and Augusta Cory… and for the longest time searching for the pair through census indexes the closest I could find was John O. Massey, a policeman in Detroit. Eventually—as online indexes improved—I  found Augusta and Flora living in Detroit with Augusta’s parents John B. and Nancy Cory in 1870… but no Henry.

However from there I was able to gather a great deal of information. I started looking at Detroit Directories and found Henry and John O. Massy listed as policeman and as I worked backwards I could place them in the same residence. I also found a transcription of Henry and Augusta’s marriage license from 14 Aug 1866 and while I have been unable to locate an existent copy of Flora’s birth certificate, she lists her birth date as 14 Jan 1867. Given the state of healthcare at the time, I would argue that Augusta was about 4 months pregnant at the time of their wedding.

Patrolman H. R. MasseyIn addition I pulled up HeritageQuest and searched Persi for anything on the Police in Wayne County, Michigan. I was thrilled to find a Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine transcription from the Applications to Detroit Police Department, 1865-1871. I found John O. Massy’s application. It included when he applied and how he was honorably discharged much like every other applicant. And then there was Henry’s. It was unlike any other… his had notes:

  • Patrolman Henry R. Massey was arraigned before the Board on the twelfth day of December A. D. 1866, charged with “sleeping while on duty and with remaining in Skating Rink for two or three hours. He was found guilty of violating the Rules and was fined five day’s loss of pay. [no endquote in original]
  • Patrolman H. R. Massey was charged with leaving his beat on the night of October 28th 1868 and going into a building corner of Hastings and Atwater Sts and while there with going to sleep. The charge was investigated by the Board Oct 28th 1868. He was found “Guilty” and fined five dollars.
  • Patrolman H. R. Massey was arraigned before the Board on the 31st day of March 1869 charged with leaving his beat and going into Burn’s bakery corner of Woodward Ave. and Grand River St. and upon another charge of visiting a house of prostitution on Franklin St. He admitted both of the charges as specified and gave as a reason of going to the house of prostitution that he was looking for a prisoner. Upon the latter charge the judgment of the Board was that he be dismissed from the Police Force. J. S. Booth, Secretary.

Dismissed in 1869 and gone in 1870.

The original book of applications is housed at The Burton Historical Collection at the Main Library of Detroit Public Library.

More later,

Jess

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