Family Almanac

Gran & Crystal (Porter Johnson) Bailey

It’s interesting… the (vast) majority of the family’s September births are Porter-Holden descendants.

Today in the real world we’re celebrating the birthday of my occasional research assistant. Happy birthday, kiddo!

But he shares his birthday with his 2nd Great Grandmother Crystal (Porter Johnson) Bailey.

Crystal was born 24 September 1910 in Kent County, MI to Charles “Win” and Lula (Holden) Porter. In April of 1927 she married Robert Eugene Johnson and they had four children including my Grandpa Bill, their eldest son and second child. Sometime between 1932 and 1934 the couple split in an ugly divorce. In October of 1934 Grandma Crystal married my Grandpa Bailey and they added one more child to the family. Crystal died in 1968.

This photograph is of my Gran and my Grandma Crystal probably from early 1952 or maybe late 1951 in Rockford, Michigan. Based on the dress and other pictures that look like they are from the same day, this was probably taken the day of a shared baby shower for Gran and her sister-in-law (and Crystal’s niece), Joan. They had daughters less than a month apart in 1952.

Happy hunting,


Sarah Ann (Skiff) HoldenSomeone’s birthday is today—she knows who she is! But it’s also the 191st Anniversary of our shared 4th Great Grandmother’s birth. Sarah Ann Skiff was born 20 September 1822 in Schuyler County, NY to Russell and Sarah (Davis) Skiff. She married Charles Morrill Holden in November of 1842 in Yates County, NY. The couple moved their family to Michigan in the mid-1850s where Charles worked as a doctor and farmed. They had 12 children with a wide range of fun names. My 3rd Great Grandfather Chapin was their 5th child, and his daughter was the recently featured Lula (Holden) Porter.

Happy hunting,


The month has gotten away from me and I apologize for my miss of Not Quite Wordless Wednesday last week… but I’m trying to get back ahead!

Lula V. (Holden) Porter & Mother, 1952Today’s photo features my 2nd Great Grandmother Lula Vanche (Holden) Porter.

Today marks the 127th anniversary of her birth in Osceola County, Michigan. She was the third child of Chapin and Lois (Blakeslee) Holden and she married my 2nd Great Grandfather Charles Erwin “Win” Porter in September of 1904 in Courtland Township, Kent County, Michigan. My Great Grandmother Crystal was her third child of seven.

This photograph is from my Gran’s collection. It was taken in April or May of 1952 and falls into a great run of pictures of my mother with everyone who could get their hands on her. Lula was widowed within a month or two of this photo–Win died in June. My Gran remembers her fondly–especially as a great source for gossip (they were kindred spirits). Lula died in June of 1973.

Happy hunting!


Win Porter

It’s someone’s birthday today!

Okay, it’s September… almost every day is someone’s birthday in my family. And while for people in the know it is Miss Feisty’s birthday it’s also the 133rd anniversary of her 3rd Great Grandfather, Charles Erwin Porter. This picture was in a lovely set of copies made for me by one of my cousins. It’s a photo from the newspaper featuring Win stacking wood. I have yet to track down the paper myself. Maybe on my next trip to Rockford, MI?

Happy hunting,


YorkErnestArverseIt’s the start of a month long trend… September is the 2nd most popular birth month in my database. And today would have been my Great Uncle Ernest Philip York’s 90th Birthday. Here’s Uncle Ernest in the foreground with (I think) his brother Arverse York. Please correct me if you know I’m wrong about which of my many York uncles this is.

Happy hunting,



My parents are celebrating their 38th wedding anniversary this month! Happy Anniversary! And totally unlike the modern spectacle marriages (so many couples have) they invited four people to their wedding. My grandparents.

These shots were taken afterwards at my parents East Lansing apartment.

Happy hunting,


Lorna HoldenSo, as I was running through anniversaries related to this date I came upon the fact that today is the 114 anniversary of the birth of my 1st cousin 4 times removed, Lorna Holden DeBoer. She was the daughter of Kendric Charles Holden (son of Charles and my Chapin’s youngest sibling) and Minnie Isabel Porter (George’s middle sibling). She married John DeBoer in 1921 and they had two children Gaylord and Eleanor. Eleanor in turn married my Great Uncle Darcy (my Great Grandmother Crystal’s brother).

And it seems a great time to express my thanks to the Holden and Porter family who have shown an interest in our common relatives and inspired me to continue researching. As I’ve mentioned before, Lorna penned a book on her aunt, Xantippe, which fellow researchers pointed out to me early on. In my early days as a librarian in Rockford I had the great luck to reconnect with Phyllis (Porter) Dolislager as well as take an informative life writing workshop from her. And the Porters and Holden’s have been tremendous donors to the Rockford Area Historical Museum—where I found countless bits of family memorabilia, family history, and photographs. So many of you have come forward to help with, share, or just be a great audience for my research and I really appreciate it. And that includes Carole, Janet, Uncle Aaron, Uncle Louis, Kathy and my original Porter source, Grandpa Bailey.

Thank you all!

Happy hunting,


This photo was copied from the Rockford Area Historical Museum and is a picture of Lorna Holden.

Eugene Robert Baker, My 1st Cousin Thrice Removed

To all the many who didn’t make it back home and the families they left behind. We remember.

In my family that includes:

Two of my first cousins thrice removed…

Lt. Eugene Robert Baker, 370th and 401st Fighter Squadrons of the U.S. Air Corps, the son of Ethan Rex and Grace (Van Vyven) Baker—named for his grandfather (and my 3rd Great Grandfather), Eugene Smith Baker. He was killed in action 13 Aug 1944 in Chartres, France.

Sgt. Robert S. Baker, Co M 119th Infantry 30th Division, the son of Hollis Lapham and Nora (Beers) Baker, died 13 Sep 1944 also in France.

And my 3rd Great Grand Uncle, Americus G. Holden, Co H, 21st Infantry Regiment of Michigan, the son of Charles and Sarah (Skiff) Holden. He was sent home sick from his post in Tennessee and died of his illness 30 Aug 1864.

All three have military headstones at Rockford Cemetery, Rockford, Michigan.

Happy hunting,


P.s. I made a large error at the end there… Americus Holden is buried in Courtland Cemetery. Thank you for the correction, Carole!

Me, 1980.It’s my annual nod… If I do it to everyone else around their birthday then I must be fair and post my own kid pictures around mine.

Another one of those fine (dated) fashion and design shots.

A) My mom owned knee high boots (thigh high on me)… and she let me borrow them.

B) There is nothing in the visible section of my parents’ kitchen or living room that looks like this anymore. No red shag, no wooden captain’s chairs, or dark brown anything.  The tiles were swapped out and the runners have changed. It’s almost like a whole different—and significantly lighter—house.

C) What is it with kids and big people’s shoes?

Happy hunting,


In my pleasure reading I’ve recently picked up a number of books** that explore the idea that one decision or act can change the course of a life or lives and as a genealogist it sparks my imagination… what choices and decisions lead to my existence? I’ll never know most of them but every time I can find a little more information it’s a little victory.

Martha Ward Garbutt had some hand in raising my 2nd Great Grandmother Flora Jane Massy. I would dearly love to know how Flora ended up in Canada. As I’ve mentioned before, the gap in my research on her life spans from the 1870 Census when she lived in Detroit, Michigan with her mother, Augusta (Cory) Massy, and 1881 when she was enumerated as the youngest Garbutt child. Whatever the story, the Garbutt family made a home for Flora. And it’s through this connection that she met and married into the Packer family—Martha’s 5th child, Mary, married Cornelius’s older brother, Thomas, in 1875. And there’s more than enough photographic evidence that the families all remained in touch long after my 2nd Great Grandparents came to Grand Rapids in 1891.

Martha Ward Garbutt, c. late 1912So, on this 195th anniversary of the birth of Martha (Ward) Garbutt, I’d like to say thank you for whatever role she had in my existence. Martha was born in England to John and Jane (Spenceley) Ward in 1818 and married William Garbutt on 30 Nov 1839. They started their family in Pickering, in North Yorkshire (per the 1851 England Census) but the family immigrated to Woodstock, Ontario, Canada prior to 1855 when Mary was born. They were the parents of eight children. Martha outlived her husband by about 18 years and lived out her last years with Mary and Thomas Packer. She died at home, just over a month shy of her 95th birthday, on 12 Mar 1913.

This photo-postcard was sent to my 2nd Great Grandparents at Christmas in 1911 or 1912. One of my cousins shared it with me and it was one of those great finds that makes the rest of the pieces fall into place. It’s inscribed to “Curly and Flo” (Cornelius and Flora Packer) from Mary with the note, “don’t you think Grandma looks real nice for one nearly 94 years.”

Happy hunting,


** Ex. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson, Strange Attractors by Charles Soule

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