At the beginning of the month I took a peaceful road trip up to Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties with my parents and my maternal grandmother and whenever we make the trip—usually to sight see and taste wine —I try to hijack a little bit of the trip for genealogical research.
In the past I’ve always been focused on the Shea’s who were involved in the lumber industry in the 1880s and 1890s in Leelanau. But this year I decided to step back and do a basic search in my database for other family members with ties to either of the two counties—because I know I get very focused sometimes and don’t recognize other connections to an area when it isn’t obvious. The search reminded me that my 2nd Great Grandfather also had ties to the area. I always think of the Johnson family as a solidly Kent County bunch, but at the time of the 1920 Census William Amos Johnson’s family lived in Traverse City where he worked as a plumber.
So, as part of our trip I stole an hour at Traverse Area District Library to look in their city directories in hopes of narrowing down the period in which the Johnson’s lived there, identifying where they lived, and also where he worked.
TADL has a nice collection of local Polk’s directories and William was listed in the 1919-1920 and the 1921-1922 books—first as a tinner and then as a plumber working for Arms & Cole Plumbers, Steam Fitters and Sheet Iron Workers on Cass St. The family lived at 859 Webster. The next day we drove through the neighborhood past the house and then on past his workplace. It was cool to add that snippet of their life to my collection of stories.
As an added bonus we also took a scenic drive from Glen Arbor to Muskegon before coming home which took us past roads traveled by the Shea’s and their allied families—Including Stormer Road (named for a family two of the Shea brothers married into) and the village of Empire where my great grandfather was born.
Someday I’ll make it up solely for research, but my family has been great about letting me steal a little time out of their vacation for research.