I am thrilled to say someone in my family had enough money to make the pages of several county histories—including pictures—giving me a bunch of good (if occasionally confusing) leads to track the family back and I am extremely thankful considering we’re talking about a man with the highly original name of William Johnson. He was my 3rd Great Grandfather and today is his 182 birthday.

William Johnson is a great example of the inconsistencies in family stories as their shared over the years. From Chapman’s History of Kent County (1881) I learned that he was born May 8, 1930 in Norfolk, England and he came to America with his brother Matthew when he was eighteen(p. 685). From A. W. Bowen’s 1900 City of Grand Rapids and Kent County I learned he was sixteen when he crossed the Atlantic alone and settled in the Empire State until he came to Kent County in 1854 (p. 793-794). And according to Grand Rapids and Kent County, Michigan (1918) William lived in Orleans County, New York until 1852 when he came to Solon Township (p. 261). All a little contradictory… but certainly worth looking into.

Here’s what I think I know… William was born on May 8, 1830 in Horsey-Next-the-Sea, Norfolk, England to Richard and Sarah (Suffling) Johnson. He did cross from England and neither he nor his brother Matthew was listed in their father’s household as of the 1851 Census for Horsey, Norfolk, England. I haven’t been able to isolate either on a passenger list but by 1855 the family was reunited and enumerated in the stats census for Orleans County, New York, though the household had added their cousin Elizabeth (Gibbs), who married Matthew in 1854. In October of 1855 William married Mary Gordon of Kent County, Michigan and the pair started their family on a farm in Solon Township. In the 18 years they lived there they had 10 children (5 died young) the youngest surviving child was my 2nd Great Grandfather William Amos Johnson.

William was a successful farmer and served his community as one of the organizers of Solon Township and Township Treasurer. The family removed to 160 acres in Section 30 of Cannon Township in 1873 and there William continued to be involved with his community serving again as Township Treasurer and giving generously to support and advance the congregation of West Cannon Baptist Church. William died December 24, 1908 and was laid to rest at Cannon Cemetery.

Everything in the histories gave me new source material to look into and a rough time frame to work with—and I needed it. As it happens not only is William Johnson one of the most common names in my family but there was a second highly successful William Johnson family in the Rockford area during the same period as my own.

So, don’t forget to check out local histories. You never know what you might find. Seriously, check out the picture of William and Mary from a 1907 county atlas  (p. 129). It was a fabulous surprise when I found it.

Happy hunting,

Jess

So, in the process of trying to track down a set of pictures this past Sunday I went through a lot of papers. Blessedly, I got rid of a lot in the process but then again I don’t really feel like I made a dent. However, I did come across material I hope to share on the blog as time permits and first up is this timely find.

I have no idea about the whereabouts of the original of this picture. This is a scan of a scan—almost certainly printed on my old inkjet printer and thus losing even more definition. But regardless, this is my Great Grandfather Harrison Trotter who was born in Johnsville, Bradley County, Arkansas, 122 years ago today. To the best of my knowledge he was the youngest child of Sam and Josie (Johnson) Trotter but was raised largely in the household of his Uncle and Aunt, Levi and Janie (Johnson) Hampton. He had at least 5 full siblings: Henry, Susan, Pearlie, Matt, and Belle plus 3 more half siblings: Sarah and Richard (Mother, Maggie Goodlock) and Cora (Mother, Etta Stanfield). He married Rhoda Rogers in 1911 and they had 15 children included my Grandpa (Levie) Trotter. He was a farmer and lived out his life in Bradley County. He died April 9, 1975 at Pine Lodge Nursing Home, in Warren, Arkansas.

Note to any Trotters and Allied family out there: If any of you have seen the original of this picture could you let me know? I think it may be cropped from a larger shot. And, while I’m throwing questions out there, does anyone know why he was called “Papa Monk”?

Happy hunting,

Jess

So I haven’t had nearly enough time to work through the Census but I’ve found a few fun bits. I started off searching Bradley County, Arkansas from my Trotter and related families. Palestine township is E. D. 6-7 and 9 pages in I found Papa Monk (Harrison Trotter) and his family and was thrilled to find not only Grandma Rodie on one of the extra question lines confirming she had born 15 children but her daughter, my aunt Irene, on the other one. Harrison and Rhoda are actually listed as what looks like “Hysom” and “Rose” but from then on it’s my Grandpa and his siblings—definitely the right family.  I have so much family in Bradley Co. That I’ve barely begun, but I wanted to find them first. I suspect without indexing finding Gran will take longer—I believe she was living with family in town by 1940. But I’m hoping to have time to go searching for her soon.

On the other side of the family, I’ve now gone through a good chunk of the 4 townships surrounding Rockford for and I’m now working on Rockford proper (I also have to do Plainfield still). I have located my (Great) Grandpa Bailey as the head of my grandpa’s household in Rockford. But I haven’t yet found my biological Great Grandfather Robert or his family. I don’t know where to start from Gran yet but I think I can get a street address and narrow down the search in Grand Rapids. I just haven’t put any time into it yet.

But I’ve got so much to do still… just need to grab more time for research!

Happy Hunting,

Jessica

Today would have been my Great-Grandfather’s 107th Birthday. I don’t know a lot about him personally. I don’t remember him, though I was seven when he died. For practical purposes my Great Grandfather was Grandma’s second husband, my Grandpa Bailey.

Robert was the son of William Amos Johnson and Lena Grove Baker, he had one sister, Betty Lou, who was much younger and died at the age of twelve. Like many members of the extended family, he worked a stint at the shoe factory in Rockford and is subsequently listed as working in manufacturing. He married my Great Grandmother Crystal in April of 1927 and they had four children. And sometime between 1933 and 1934 there was a nasty divorce. But regardless of the reasons for the subsequent estrangement, he was able to have a relationship with his family later in life.

This is a section of a photo postcard from the collection of the Rockford Historical Museum.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Tomorrow is the 100th Anniversary of the birth of my Great Aunt Rosie Lee Trotter Johnson. To the best of our knowledge she was oldest child of Harrison and Rhoda (Rogers) Trotter. She married Leroy Johnson in August of 1932 and the couple had nine children.

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

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Yesterday marked the 135th anniversary of the death of, by all accounts, a grand old lady… Mrs. Hannah Gilbert Dubois (my 6th Great Grandmother), known at the time to Rockford and much of West Michigan as Mother Gilbert.

She was born in Vermont the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran, David Johnson and his wife Mary Joiner.  At the age of sixteen she married Asa Gilbert in Saratoga, New York and they lived first in Genesee County and then back in Saratoga, New York. In 1828 the couple and nine children (two married), became pioneers of Washtenaw County, Michigan where Mrs. Gilbert faced tremendous loss. Asa died within the year, and a son followed during a harsh winter in 1843. She married a much older widower, Jacob DuBois of Alaiedon Township, Ingham County, Michigan in 1841 who died three years later. But Mrs. Gilbert, noted in reminiscences in the Michigan Pioneer Collection, as “Aunt Hannah” was evidently a devout, strong woman and this only accounts for the first 60 years of her life. Her remaining 30 plus, saw years of devoted service to the Methodist church, her large family, and her communities.

Mother Gilbert issued the invitations and enjoyed the festivities of her daughter, Katherine Gilbert Lapham’s, Golden Wedding in 1876. She saw the births of numerous great great grandchildren. And, according to her obituary in the Rockford Register, she was only slowed by age and infirmity in the last three years of her life. She died 23 Feb 1877 at the home of Smith and Katherine Gilbert Lapham.

Scan of an image from the Gilbert Surname file at the Rockford Historical Museum, Rockford MI 

Happy hunting,

Jess

Ethel (Shea) and William Johnson61 years ago, tomorrow, my grandparents married in the 1st Congregational Church in Rockford, Michigan, surrounded by family and friends. From Gran’s photo collection.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

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!

Sincerely,

Jess

‘Tis the Season…

Johnson Christmasn 1979

Christmas for me has always been a time to share with family. This is a shot of my Grandparents from Christmas in 1979—the last before my grandfather died in May of 1980. The two younger children facing away are my cousin and my brother. I’m in the center.

Happy Holidays!

Jess

Mine is not, in contemporary times, what I think of as a military family but I have cousins, uncles, and both grandfathers that served in the U. S. Army. And as I follow my lines back I have found whole generations shaped by the family’s military personnel and the trials and opportunities that came with that vocation.  So I couldn’t let Veteran’s and Remembrance Day pass without expressing my respect and appreciation for the dedication and hard work of our military servicemen and their families. Thank you, all!

Cheers,

Jess

My grandfathers: Sgt. William Eugene Johnson and Sgt. Levie Trotter.

            

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