Since I’ve already spent a great deal of time on my Grandmother’s parents (Robert and Cora (Packer) Shea) I’d like to explore some of their close family as the year progresses starting with Gran’s Aunt Retta Shea Brooks.

Loretta SheaLoretta M. Shea was my Great Grandfather’s oldest sibling. She was born 10 months after him on October 13, 1889 in New York State, possibly while the family was visiting her father, Cornelius Shea’s family. She grew up with her siblings in Empire Township, Leelanau County, Michigan. In the 1910 Census she was still living at home but was working as a teacher in the public schools. The family then appears in the 1911 directory for Traverse City where Retta worked as a clerk at Steinberg Brothers, dry goods store.

Four years later she married William Ralph Brooks in Frankfort, Benzie County, Michigan. Ralph was the son of Cook and Martha (Snell) Brooks of Benzie and then Grand Traverse County, Michigan where Cook labored in and later owned his own farm. Interestingly the couple started their family immediately with the birth of Donna Marian Brooks, in Woodson Virginia. I have no idea why they were there but multiple sources say Marian was born in Virginia. By June of 1917, when Ralph filled out his World War I Draft Card, they were settled in Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, where Ralph worked as a carpenter.

By the 1920 Census they had moved to Kent County and settled near Loretta’s family in Grand Rapids, Michigan where Ralph worked as a carpenter for one of the many furniture factories and their next two children Ralph Jr. and Jack were born. By the 1930 Census the couple owned their own home and had added Lucille, Wayne, Doris and Mary Kathleen. By 1936 the family had moved out to a rural part of Grattan Township, Kent County and added their last children Glenn in 1931 and Clare Ellen in September of 1936 (who sadly died a scant 18 weeks later). In the city directories I’ve looked at so far, it appears that the couple moved back into Grand Rapids and throughout the 1940s and as late as 1960 they were listed as living at 43 Stewart Street SW.

Ralph Sr. died 30 April 1963 and was laid to rest at Resurrection Cemetery, Wyoming Township, Kent County, Michigan. Aunt Retta died in April 1975 and was laid to rest beside him.

Any Brooks researchers out there? I’d love to know why both Aunt Retta and her daughter were born out of state.

Happy hunting!

Jess

Note:  The photo is cropped from this larger family portrait.

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