Character Studies

102 years ago today the Census takers were passing through Palestine Township, Bradley County, Arkansas. This is the entry for the family of Moses Wheeler, my 2nd Great Grandfather. His wife Josie Avery was his 2nd wife.

Moses was a farmer all of his life. He was born in 1862, the son of Isaac and Sicie Wheeler. In the 1870 Census he was listed with his parents and four siblings. In 1880 he is still at home with his parents but in 1882 he married Candes Thompson. By 1900 he is on his second marriage and the first six of at least 12 children were born. With Candes he had at least four children: Sallie, Louis, Joseph, and Amzi. The eldest child, Sallie, is my great grandmother who became the third wife of Philip Henry York in 1913. Candes died sometime between 1892 and 1894. Moses married Josie in December of 1894. They had at least six children including: Isaiah, Moses, Lizzie, William, Mary, and Simon. He also had two children out of wedlock: Wilson “Buddy” Wheeler and my uncle, John W. Newton (with Miss Becky Newton).

Moses and Josie both died in February of 1948. Josie had “worked herself ill” caring for Moses (who possibly had Alzheimer’s or some kind of dementia) and he died 4 days later. They had a double funeral service and were buried at Palestine Cemetery. It’s something that my Grandmother remembered clearly. She wasn’t able to attend the service because she’d just had her first child.

I was also able to locate the couple in the 1940 Census living with a son–I’m guessing Isaiah? It looks like “Iz” to me.

Happy Hunting,


Today is the 165th Anniversary of my 3rd Great Grandparents wedding. On 25 April 1847 Joseph Packer married Harriet Vaughan at St. Margaret’s Church in Rainham, Kent, England witnessed by Joseph’s brother, Charles and sister, Mercy. The couple lived to celebrate 59 years of marriage. They were the parents of at least seven children: William James, Thomas William Horton, Joseph Malcolm Ross, Sara Maria, Charles, Cornelius, and Albert A. The family lived in Kent; Ontario, Canada; and finally in the United States.  The couple completed their lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Happy Hunting,


Another miss in my sequin haze… Saturday marked the 185 Anniversary of my 3rd Great Grandfather Joseph Packer’s birth. I introduced a bit of his story on the occasion of his wife, Harriett Vaughan’s birthday back in January. To give you a little more on Joseph, he was born on April 7, 1827 in Rainham, Kent, England. He was the son of Thomas Swissenton Packer and Hannah Ross. He and Harriett married 1847. In the 1851 Census he was listed as a brickmaker in the Village of Gillingham at Kent. The family lived at Malcomb Place in Sittingbourne during the 1861 Census. By 1871 they were settled in Ontario, Canada. Around 1891 the family came to Michigan. Joseph died February 19, 1911 in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the United States.

Happy hunting!


P.s. Denise, If you see this before I get my act together! I fully intend on writing back. But until then: Yes, I’m still happily tracking our Packers and Masseys!

My only excuse is that sequins are taking a toll on my blog. But I’ve largely finished my sewing project and I’m only a day late in celebrating the 208th birthday of my 5th Great Grandfather.

Smith Lapham was born in Rhode Island, April 8, 1804 the son of Job and Ada (Smith) Lapham. As I’ve mentioned before, Squire Lapham was one of the settlers of Rockford (originally called Laphamville) in Kent County, Michigan, in 1845. He built a mill on the Rogue River in 1844 and ran it for 20 years, served as Village Council President, Township Supervisor, Postmaster, and Justice of the Peace. His son Embree, noted that he met with the gathering “Under the Oaks” at which the Michigan Republican Party was formed in 1854, and he went on to serve Kent County as a State Representative (1855-56) and State Senator (1857-58). Smith lived to celebrate 58 years of marriage to Katherine Gilbert and the couple raised 9 children. He was an entrepreneur, a leader, and a poet.

This image is scanned from From Sawmill to City: The Long Years Passing – a Story of Rockford, Michigan by Homer L. Burch. I am not sure of the location of the original. It may be at the Rockford Branch. I am more aware of a copy on display at Rockford Historical Museum.

Happy belated birthday, Grandfather!

And happy hunting to you all!


Rhoda (Rogers) Trotter & ChildrenThis is my Great Grandmother Rhoda (Rogers) Trotter who would have turned 118 today (or tomorrow—there appears to be some disagreement between the documents and between family members) along with three of her children. Love the glasses! In back is my Grandpa Levie, in the middle is Aunt Lee Ellen (Trotter) Hampton, and on the end is Uncle Graham. Rhoda was the daughter of Pete and Mattie (Martin) Rogers. She married Harrison Trotter in 1911 and was the mother of 14 children. What few pictures I have seen and the stories I have heard make me wish I had met my Grandma (and Papa Monk).She died in 1981.

The digital files are from my father’s collection but the originals were turned in during a call for photos before our last Trotter-Rogers Reunion.

It seems I either read (for work or pleasure) or do genealogy in a lot of my off time. This past week has been spent reading but the two weeks before that I wandered far off my path following a distant line by marriage after realizing a friend and co-worker’s family showed up a page after my own in a Kent County, Michigan.  I doubt we’re actually related but it is always fascinating to me how small the world is.

But in my “wandering”—and it truly is wandering because this is not the family living near my friend but another offshoot from the neighborhood—I found more information about the Botruff families of Kent County who are tied tightly to my Helsel and Morningstar families.

Jacob and Mary Helsel Morningstar (my 3rd Great Grandparents) had a daughter, Lavinia, also known as “Viney,” who married William Henry Botruff. William was the eldest of nine children born to Adam and Barbara (Hammer) Botruff who had come to Michigan from West Sparta, Livingston, New York in the 1850s. His next sibling, Isaac J., married Mary’s cousin (and Jacob’s sister-in-law) Melissa Helsel Morningstar.  Also, William and Viney’s daughter Alice married her first cousin once removed (and Mary’s nephew), Darius Helsel. Additionally, Mary and Jacob’s son, William, lived with Adam and Barbara Botruff at the time of the 1870 Census and that same year Norman Morningstar (I have no idea who he belongs to) lived in the next farm with Isaac’s family. The Botruffs also tie into the Magoon and Hoyt families in Kent County.

An additional fun find… I knew Isaac was a veteran of the 3rd Michigan Infantry but I found a fabulous biography of him on Steve Soper’s blog here.

Happy Hunting,


Harriet (Vaughan) Packer This is my 3rd Great Grandmother Harriet (Vaughan) Packer and today is the 186th Anniversary of her birth. Harriet was born in 1826 in England to John and Frances Vaughan. She married Joseph Packer at St. Mary the Virgin at Upchurch, Kent in 1847. The couple had at least seven children: William James, Thomas William Horton, Joseph Malcolm Ross, Sarah Maria, Charles, my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius, and their youngest child Albert. In 1871 the whole family immigrated to Canada and my Gran and Aunt June remember being told about Albert being young and active enough that they were afraid he’d go overboard during their journey. They settled first in Hamilton, Ontario near her siblings but moved quickly on to Woodstock, Ontario until the early 1890s when Joseph, Cornelius, Charles, and Albert eventually moved their families to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Harriet died in Grand Rapids and is buried in Fairplains Cemetery.

This photo is from the collection of my Great Aunt.

Happy Hunting,


Seth Porter, Jr.Update: And now with picture!

Update: Picture will get added in tonight. For some reason I can’t get to at the moment. Thanks, Ariana!

Today is the Anniversary of the birth of my 4th Great Grandfather, Seth Porter. He was born January 19th in 1825 in Rutland County, Vermont to Seth and Rheumina Porter. He came to Michigan with of his brothers Dennis and Harvey in the 1840s and they settled in Kent County. In 1852 he married Rebecca Huntington and they had a family of seven children including my ancestor, George Erwin. Seth was a successful sawyer and miller settling in Edgerton at what became known as Porter’s Hollow. He was a lifelong Spiritualist. He died in 1911.

Happy Hunting,


Today marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of my 4th Great Aunt Xantippe Roseanna Holden. She was born 13 January 1852 in Kent County, Michigan to Charles Morrill and Sarah Ann (Skiff) Holden (introduced in this post last year). She married Edwin Percival Nelson, on 26 Dec 1869 in Kent County. After the birth of their first child the young family headed north to make a life near Harbor Spring, Michigan. The story of their first few years there are laid out in a book entitled Home is Where the Heart Is by her niece, Lorna Holden DeBoer.

Ed and Tippie had seven children: Gilbert Arthur, Jay Hartwell, Cassisus, Clara, Rowena, Rose, and Berniece. I took a bit of time this weekend to follow out the children. I had more success with the men, of course. Gilbert and Cassius settled in Chicago—Bert working as an engineer and Cassius as a street car conductor. Jay settled his family in Detroit where he also did a stint as a conductor but ultimately worked as a pipefitter. As for their sisters… Bernice married Guy DeArment and they settled in Detroit where he worked as a machinist in an auto factory and I believe both Roe and Rose married and settled in Chicago—but I haven’t had much success tracking them yet.

Today also marks the 190 Anniversary of the birth of my 4th Great Grandmother, Mary Helsel Morningstar Whitebread who I discussed in this post last year.

Happy Hunting!


June Shea, Kay Ammerman and Ethel Shea.The family found out about the death of my cousin (twice removed) Kay (Ammerman) Miller at our holiday party on Saturday. I did not know her well but she has come up in conversation a great deal lately as my mother and I have talked to my grandmother about how she met my grandfather. If I have the short version of the story kind of straight (because it gets confusing), Kay went to Creston High School in Grand Rapids with my Great Aunt June and Grandmother Ethel and somewhere along the way she introduced Gran to her cousin, Gene Johnson. My impression was that he was younger by almost four years, a bit hot-headed, and handsome. It took him a long time to convince Gran to marry him and then it had to be before her birthday so it didn’t look like that much of an age gap.

Thank you, Kay, for whatever role you played in my being here today and my deepest sympathies go out to all of her loved ones!



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