Character Studies


CoryEdwardGettysburg1863My interest in visiting Gettysburg was peaked when I learned about my 4th Great Uncle Edward M. Cory. He was born around 1826 in Ontario County, New York one of the younger children of Gideon and Ruth Cory and the younger brother of my 4the Great grandfather John B. Cory (father of Augusta Cory). The family appears to have moved to Michigan sometime between the 1830 and 1840 Census settling in Wayne County. I know nothing of his early life but on 21 Dec 1848 Edward married Clarissa A. Gates in Plymouth, Wayne County, Michigan. Within a year the first of two daughters was born—Miss Mary Ann Cory. Two years later she was joined by Josephine A. Cory. In the 1850 Census Edward was listed as a Farmer but come the time of his enlistment in August of 1862 he was occupied as a carpenter.

Edward mustered in15 Aug 1862 as a Private in Company C of the 24th Infantry. As mentioned in yesterday’s post he was mortally wounded in on 1 Jul in the opening salvos of Gettysburg. He was wounded “through the thigh by a ‘Minnie ball’ and died 14 Jun 1863 of gangrene per his company Chaplain’s testimony in Clarissa’s widow’s pension file. The Champlain states that he was buried at the old burying ground at Gettysburg but there is also at least a stone at Riverside Cemetery in Plymouth, Michigan.

Clarissa was granted a widow’s pension including some funds to aid in raising Josephine as a minor (under the age of 16). I haven’t been able to trace what happened to Mary Ann, but Josephine married Albert M. Button 25 Dec 1868. The couple had one child, Edward, born 22 Jan 1870. At the time of the Census they lived in Plymouth and Clarissa was part of their household. Josephine and Albert appear to have divorced sometime between then and 1880 when she and Edward resided with Clarissa in Plymouth. At the age of 18 Edward married Minnie E. Pulcifer in my hometown of Lansing, Michigan. From what I’ve found so far they had no children—creating yet another dead end in my Cory family.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m well off pace but I still hope to complete the challenge! These next few ancestor profiles will hook into my recent roadtrip.
I’m 99% certain that Philip Helsel is my 6th Great Grandfather and the father of John Helsel who brought his family to Michigan in in the 1840s. I believe—but have been unable to conclusively prove—that he is the son of Johan Tobias and Engela (Mohr) Heltzel. I do not know the name of his wife (some researchers have suggested Catherine) but their children included John (above), Jacob and Catherine (who married William McFall)—who brought their families to Michigan around the same time; Peter whose family thrived in Mahoning County, Ohio; and then I believe there were at least two other sons: Philip Jr. and Joseph. Philip was born in Pennsylvania in 1769 in York County, Pennsylvania. He is the Philip who lived in Fallowfield Township, Washington County in 1810. In 1820 and 1830 he is enumerated in Boardman Township, Mahoning County, Ohio. I believe that he died  before 1840.1830 Census HelselWhile I am fairly confident that my gut feeling that the connection between Philip and Johan Tobias is correct, I wasn’t able to make any progress in proving the connection on this trip. I found a tremendous amount of material on the Helsel/Heltzel/Hoetzel families including a fair amount of supporting material on collateral lines—particularly in Bedford and York Counties—but nothing concrete came to light. I’m hoping that backtracking and doing more research in Ohio will get me farther.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Here’s one of those family finds that brings a painful truth of history to life…  Not everyone made it across the pond.

Rosetta Suffling was the younger sister of my 4th Great Grandmother and the second known child of William and Elizabeth (Pegg) Suffling. She was born 8 Apr 1805 in Lessingham, Norfolk, England. She married Samuel Gibbs at St. Mary the Virgin Church, Hemsby Parish, Norfolk, England on 25 December 1829. The couple appears to have settled in Hemsby where Samuel worked as farm labor. They had nine children: Samuel Jr, William Suffling, Isaac, Elizabeth, Edmund, Mary Ann, Alfred, James, and Matthew.

GibbsPassengerList1849On 1 May 1849 the family started their journey to the United States boarding the Bark Gov. Hinckley or George Hinckley under the command of Captain William Loring at London. Unfortunately around the middle of May (165 years ago this month) there was an outbreak of cholera aboard ship and by the time the ship arrived in New York on the 12 Jun 1849 10 individuals had died including Rosetta and daughter Mary Ann (both died 21 May), and her sons Edmund and Matthew (both died 23 May).

 

Samuel Gibbs and their remaining children made it to New York and Samuel married Lovina Huff to help raise them. Samuel and Lovina ended up in Barry County, Michigan in the vicinity of their Johnson cousins, my 3rd Great Uncles Matthew (who married his cousin, Elizabeth Gibbs) and John.

Happy hunting,

Jess

For more information on the 19th century sailing lines between America and the world see: Cutler Carl C. Queens of the Western Ocean: The Story of America’s Mail and Passenger Sailing Lines. Annapolis: United States Naval Institute, 1961.

To date Sandy York (my 2nd Great Grandfather)  is my earliest identified York ancestor. Per the Census he was born a slave in March of 1837 in Virginia to slave parents also born in Virginia. He married his wife Agnes in 1861 and the couple settled in Palestine Township, Bradley County, Arkansas. And according to the 1900 Census they had 13 children, only 10 of which were still living. So far I’ve identified:

  • Susan who married Charley Martin and Henry Webb
  • Albert
  • Philip Henry (my Great Grandfather)
  • Daniel G. who married Elizabeth Martin
  • Edward who married Eliza Martin and Millie Hamilton
  • Mary Lee who died young
  • Agnes or Maggie who may have married Alexander Charles Cabean*
  • Julia who married Joseph Trotter
  • Ida Jane who married Harvey Ross

Sandy York Household, 1880I have had trouble locating Sandy in major sources prior to 1870 but I have found him listed among registered voters in 1867. He also appears frequently in land transaction indexes. In 1871 a sale of cotton to E. B. Turner was recorded. In 1885, 1888, 1890 he bought lots of land from J. T. Johnson, B. F. Previtt, and John D. Pugh. The only sale I found was to his son Edward in 1903. In a compilation of material created by the Bradley County Genealogical Society as an 1890 substitute he was noted as the owner of 160 acres. He was also named as a witness in an inquisition on what was deemed an accidental drowning in 1886.  And as late as 1905 he is listed as having paid his poll tax. He is also listed in the county Index of Marks and Brands on page 122 (which I would dearly love a copy of but haven’t tracked down yet).

Sandy died in (at least) his 70s on 7 May 1909 (105 years ago tomorrow) and was buried at Johnsville Cemetery.

Happy hunting,

Jess

AlisonSarrellMg1863Today marks the 142nd Anniversary of the death of my 4th Great Grand Uncle, a strange, and interesting, figure in history whom I only learned about by accident.

Charles Wright Parker Alison was the second son of Captain Harry and Frances (Sinclair) Alison and the brother of my 4th Great Grandmother Jane (Alison) Massy. Charles was born in 1811 (possibly on St. Vincent in the West Indies) and raised around the world while his father served as a Paymaster for the 90th Regiment Light Infantry (the Perthshire Volunteers). His youngest brother in a memoir credits Charles as being “the only one of the family that left his mark in the world.” Where his older brothers followed their father into the military, Charles took another route to service. He instead joined the Foreign Service and had a highly successful if eccentric career as an envoy for the British Empire.

Charles early career included stints in Albania, Egypt, Syria, Samos, Serbia, Bosnia, and Wallachia. On 20 Feb 1857 he was appointed Oriental Secretary at Constantinople and in December was promoted to Secretary of her Majesty’s Embassy there. In 1858 Queen Victoria appointed him Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Shah of Persia and in 1860 he was appointed a Companion of the Order of Bath.

After likely meeting while he served in Constantinople, Charles married Eliza (Sarrell) Baltazzi, the widow of banker Theodore Baltazzi, on 28 Feb 1863 in Paris, France. But the marriage was short-lived. While Charles was on assignment in Tehran, Persia, Eliza traveled to Cairo, Egypt with her daughter Helen Baltazzi, fell ill and died on 27 Dec 1863 at the Hotel D’Orient. Charles did maintain some connection with her family as her nephew Henry Hardy Ongley was appointed with him in Persia as well as served as his personal secretary for a time. Charles was also one of the godparents of another nephew, Philip Charles Sarrell, in 1866.

In The English Amongst the Persians historian Denis Wright notes that Charles did “acquire an Armenian mistress” and with her had at least one child, Victoria. He also spends a bit of time on his career and rumors about his conduct in Tehran.1 In fact there is an interesting Chancery case noted in The Weekly Reporter in January of 1875 regarding both Alison’s alleged children and a subsequent marriage between his mistress, Vardine Rafael, and his nephew Henry Ongley.

By contrast to Wright’s descriptions, one of Alison’s contemporaries and friends, Sir Austin Henry Layard described him thus:

He had real genius and was singularly gifted. He was, perhaps, the man the most highly endowed by nature that I have ever known. His qualities of head and heart were equally remarkable. He was generous, affectionate, and unselfish, of the most amiable disposition and the most equal temper. He was an accomplished linguist, speaking and writing Turkish, Persian, and Greek, and several European languages, with perfect facility, and having a sufficient knowledge of Arabic. He was a skillful musician, playing on several instruments, and would have been an excellent artist had he given himself seriously to art. His memory was singularly tenacious, and although he had not read much, he had retained all that he had read.2

A description that echoes the list of accomplishments his brother described of most of their siblings as well as their mother.

Charles served in Persia until April of 1872 where after a twenty day illness he succumbed to pneumonia attended by the British Doctor to the embassy and the Shah’s own chief physician, as well as the tender ministrations of his sister Mrs. Julia Dixon (Alison) Hill. He died the 29th of April and was buried in the Armenian Church of Saints Teddy and Bartholomew in Tehran, Persia.

I’d love to find out more about Charles and I am very curious to know if his line (the children of Vardine Rafael) survived.

Happy hunting,

Jess

  1. Wright, Denis. The Persians Amongst the English: Episodes in Anglo-Persian History. London: I.B. Tauris, 2001, p. 26.
  2. Layard, Austen H. Early Adventures in Persia, Susiana, and Babylonia: Including a Residence Among the Bakhtiyari and Other Wild Tribes Before the Discovery of Nineveh. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011, 439-440.

William Amos JohnsonI’ve mentioned bits and pieces of William Amos Johnson’s life as it pertained to his parents and his wife Lena but never totally focused on him. And it’s seems a natural progression to move from Eugene Baker to his son-in-law (and my 2nd Great Grandfather)—especially since today is the 112th anniversary of William and Lena’s wedding.

William Amos Johnson was born 15 December 1877 the youngest child of William Suffling and Mary E. (Gordon) Johnson. William grew up in Cannon Township where the family had settled in 1873. By 1900 the Johnsons owned a successful farm noted for its large orchards and William remained at home to help with its management. He married Lena Baker 22 April 1902 at the home of her parents and the couple removed to a home on Moffitt Hill. Their first child Robert Eugene was born in March of 1905.

At the time of the 1910 Census the couple and Robert were enumerated with Eugene Baker’s household in Cannon Township where William was listed as attending college—something I’d like to know more about. In 1918 the only other child, Betty Lou Johnson was born.

As early as 1918 through 1922 the family lived in Traverse City, Michigan where William worked first as a pipefitter for Traverse City Gas Co, a tinner (would those be the same?) and then as a plumber for Arms & Cole. Around 1923 the family returned to Rockford, Michigan where William continued to work as a plumber. In September of 1928 Lena Johnson died after a six month illness. Betty Lou was sent to live with her Aunt Clara Harnack in Ypsilanti, Michigan for the school years and would come home for the summers. But three years later she died after a long illness at the age of 12.

In 1930 William was still living and working as a plumber in Rockford. I have yet to find him in the 1940 Census but at the time of the 1942 draft he reported his residence as Rockford, Michigan.

William died in August 1958 well remembered by his grandchildren and my Grandmother who remembers him going to play euchre with the boys back when the Corner Bar was Stag.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Eugene Baker, Death Certificate 1920Some of these character studies remind me that I have a remarkable small amount of information on some of my direct lines. Eugene is one of those—which always strikes me as weird because I know so much about his grandparents (Smith & Katherine nee Gilbert Lapham) and Great Grandmother (Hannah nee Johnson Gilbert DuBois). I’m missing the anecdotal notes which I hope exist in the local happenings of the Rockford Register. I’ll have to look into that soon.

Eugene Smith Baker was my 3rd Great Grandfather. He was born 15 Oct 1850, to Isaac and Harriett (Lapham) Baker in Rockford, Michigan. He loved most of his life within the community with the exception of a stint working in a hotel in Crystal Lake, Benzie County, and a brief time in Illinois around the time of his marriage to Amelia Grove 26 Oct 1873 in Joliet, Will County. The couple had seven children: Katherine (born in Joliet), Willis George, Frank E., Clara, Lena Grove (my 2nd Great Grandfather), Hollis Lapham, and Ethan Rex. Upon returning to Kent County Eugene settled to farming in Cannon Township and later relocated to Algoma Township. He was a staunch Republican like his grandfather (who served in the Michigan Senate) and involved in his community. He died after a 3 month illness on 15 Apr 1920 and was buried in the Rockford Cemetery. Sadly his wife never recovered following him quickly in June.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m falling behind in the challenge but I will make it through. However,  I won’t likely gain ground this week… and I say this in the hopes of proving it wrong.

MasseyDPD-14aSunday marked the 181st anniversary of the birth of my 3rd Great Grand Uncle, John Orpin Massy. I’m quick to tell people that in the years bashing at the brickwall of my Massy family, John was the closest person I could find matching the rumors my Great Aunt and Grandmother offered me to begin my search. They said their Great Grandfather was a Irish policeman in Detroit named Henry. Instead, in the 1870 Census the only relevant household I could  I could find was John and his wife and he was an Irish cop in Detroit.

Years later, in the process of just trying to find out what it meant to be a policeman during this time period, I found a transcription of the Detroit Metropolitan Police Force’s applications with entries for John and his brother (and my 3rd Great Grandfather) Henry. If Henry was the black sheep of the family then John comes off as one of the good sons.

John was born on 6 April 1833 and baptized at Rathronan, Co. Limerick, Ireland in 1834. He was the fourth child and first son of Lieutenant Hugh Massy, then late of the 33rd (First Yorkshire West Riding) Regiment, and his wife Jane Alison Massy. The family appears to have followed Jane’s parents to North America in the 1850s though I have been unable to figure out if they went to Canada or instead settled directly in the United States.

The earliest appearance in the U. S. that I’ve found for John is his enlistment in company G of the Fifth Infantry, of the Union Army in 1861 where he served as a Sergeant briefly during the Civil War. After the war John was naturalized in August 1865 and he was working as a druggist at the time he applied to join the Detroit Police Force in September of 1865 where he served honorably. The Detroit city directories show John O. living in the same residence as his brother, Henry Massy in 1867 and with his mother in 1868 and 1869–though he probably lived with her pre-1867.

On 30 January 1868 he married Julia Saventia Madison at St. Peter’s Church in Detroit witnessed by Julia’s sister and brother-in-law Mariah and Augustus Reohm. In the 1870 Census the couple was enumerated as part of the Roehm household along with George Roehm (Augustus’s partner in A. F. & C. G. Roehm Butcher shop) and Julia’s brother, blacksmith Winfield Madison.

John O. Massy died 26 May 1872 after a short illness. His probate record includes several notes about his illness lifted from the local paper which included note of his membership in the Zion Lodge of Masons.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

My great grandfather Philip Henry was born around October of 1870, the third child of Sandy and Agnes York. I believe Philip was born in Arkansas and I know the family was in Bradley County by 1871 when Sandy sold $62.50 worth of cotton to E. B. Turner. But I have yet to find the household in the 1870 Census. By the 1880 Census Philip was 11 and listed as working on his father’s farm.

York-Wilfong Marriage License, 1894On Christmas Day 1894 Philip married his first wife Mary H. Wilfong (the daughter of Monroe and Ellen Wilfong) and in fairly rapid succession they had 4 children: Calvin in the following September, Sandy Napoleon in November of 1896, Aunt Rachel in April of 1898, and Frederick Philip in August of 1899. The family is enumerated in the 1900 Census and Philip is listed as renting land and farming as well as being able to read and write (unlike his parents). He is counted immediately following his father’s household and before his younger brother Edward. I’ve also found a note indicating in 1905 Philip had paid his poll tax to be eligible for voting.

York-Philips Marriage License, 1903While I have been unable to find a death certificate or notice, family stories indicate that Mary died young and in December of 1903 Philip married, Mattie C. Philips (the daughter of Shade and Camelia (Howell) Philips). Mattie added five children to the line: Preston Garett, Ossie B., Mary, Walter, and Mamie. When the family was enumerated in the 1910 Census Philip owned (with a mortgage) and worked his farm with the added labor of Calvin and Sandy Napoleon.

York-Wheeler Marriage  License, 1913Again, family stories indicate that Mattie died young and in October of 1913 Philip married his third wife (and my Great-Grandmother) Sallie Wheeler, the daughter of Moses and Candes (Thompson) Wheeler.  Unlike his other wives, Sally brought a small parcel of children born out of wedlock with her into the family—Ressie and Willie B. Wheeler and James Avery. The couple then added Anna, Arverse, Herman Lee, Oscar Shelly, Ernest Philip and finally my Grandmother, Elnora in 1926.

By the 1920 Census the large family was farming on rented land with a few of the older sons working the home farm. This was also after the death of Philip’s father and his mother and older brother, Albert, were also counted in the household. The 1930 Census offered a surprise in the form of a previously unmentioned sibling credited to Philip and Sallie, a daughter named Katheline born in 1928. This is probably actually Katherine York, their granddaughter and the daughter of Mamie York and Willie B. Hampton.

Less than a year later, in March of 1931, Philip died and the following November Sallie followed, leaving the younger children scattered among older siblings and cousins. Grandma remembered time spent in the household of Uncle Sandy and his wife though in 1940 she is listed (as a cousin) in the household of her half-sister Ossie B. and James Rogers.

There’s so many important bits and pieces I’m missing in this family… death dates, information on how the children were parceled out after Sallie’s death, the location of the York families in 1870, just to name a few. Dad’s family is full of roadblocks I’ve yet to skirt but I’ll keep working on it.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Cornelius Packer

Tomorrow marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer. He was born 19 March 1864 in Milton, Kent, England to Joseph and Harriet (Vaughn) Packer, the sixth of seven children. At the age of six his family immigrated to Canada and stories persist of his parents’ fear of his energy onboard ship and his ability to climb the railings.

By the time of the 1871 Canadian Census the family had settled in Hamilton, Ontario where Joseph worked as a laborer. By 1881 they had relocated to Woodstock, Oxford, Ontario. The family was deeply involved in the Salvation Army—even playing in their Brass Band.

On 6 May 1885 he married Flora Jane Massey (a ward of his sister-in-law’s, Mary (Garbutt) Packer’s, family). The couple began their family quickly with the birth of Evelyn Maud in April 1896 but tragedy struck early with Eva dying at 9 months. Ethel Augusta was born the following November. December of 1889 saw the birth of Pearl Elizabeth. The family remained in Woodstock through their enumeration in the 1891 Census then immigrated to Grand Rapids shortly after where Cornelius took up work as a machine hand in the booming furniture industry.

Based on directory listings the family moved regularly in their early years in town living on 5th, Marietta, Myrtle, Ashland, Hickory, and Palmer between 1891 and 1899 until they finally settled in a rental on Shirley Street around 1900. They also met with both fortune and tragedy with the births of Cora Helena (my Great Grandmother) in 1892 and James Arthur in 1897, followed too quickly by a stillbirth in 1899 and the untimely death of 12-year-old Ethel in 1900.

Cornelius was always listed as a turner, machine hand or machinist. Employers were not listed consistently in the directories but in 1895 Cornelius was listed as a Machine hand for the V. C. Rattan Company. From 1902 to as late as 1915 he worked as a Turner and Machine Hand for the Phoenix Furniture Company. And in 1927 he worked as a machinest for Stowe and Davis Furniture Co.

In 1896 Cornelius was naturalized at the Superior Court of Grand Rapids. In the 1900 Census he was enumerated right before his next older brother, Charles and his family in houses on Shirley. At the time of the 1910 Census, Cornelius’s widowed father had moved into the household and brother, Charles, and family had relocated to Detroit, Michigan. In 1912 the family had bought a home on Hovey. And in 1916 the family settled into Cornelius’s last home on Burton. His younger brother, Albert and his family were initially part of the household as well. But by 1920 the household was down to Cornelius, Flora, and their daughters.

Cornelius died at his home 11 June 1929 at the age of 65. His obituary noted that he was survived by his widow and four children, Arthur Packer, Mrs. R. E. Jones [Pearl], Mrs. Robert Shea [Grandma Cora], Mrs. Harold Elliott [Grace]; seven grandchildren, all of Grand Rapids; four brothers Albert of Belmont, Joseph of Hamilton, Ontario, Thomas of Woodstock, Ontario, and Charles of Detroit; and one sister, Mrs. Sarah Chesney of Kinde, Michigan. He was buried 14 June at Fair Plains Cemetery in Grand Rapids.

Grand Rapids city directories were an incomparable source in pulling together Cornelius’s story and the detail about his employers, however inconsistent, is sparking the idea for a road trip to Grand Rapids Public Library to research some of the furniture companies my family worked for.

The photograph of Cornelius is one we found tucked into a tiny scrapbook probably belonging to my Great Grandmother, Cora. It’s not a great shot given his movement—but he sure is happy!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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