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

 

Packer FamilyYesterday was the 147th anniversary of the birth of  my Second Great Grandmother, Flora Jane Massy Packer. She was born in January of 1867 to good old Henry R. and Augusta (Cory) Massy. Here she is with her husband, Cornelius Packer.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Packer FamilyI don’t know who all is in this photograph but I know for sure that the standing girl in pigtails is my Great Grandmother Cora Packer, the woman with the boy in her lap is her mother Flora (Massy) Packer, the boy is her brother James Arthur Packer, and the girl sitting down in front is Cora’s sister, Pearl Packer.

Any Packer, Garbutt, Massy, or Cory researchers recognize anyone else?

From my great aunt’s photo collection.

Happy hunting,

Jess

George Garbutt and Flora (Massey) Packer

Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer and I plan to celebrate the season on the blog.

So, my photo of the week goes back to a beach with my Great Great Grandmother, Flora Jane Packer, and her pseudo-older brother–George William Garbutt. I have yet to figure out if she was fostered, adopted, or mysteriously related to the Garbutts but there’s no ignoring the ties between her, the Garbutts and the Packer family.

I am not sure whether this one is taken in Ontario or Michigan… but don’t they look all comfy lounging on the beach?

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.s. I’m always looking to hear from relatives but if there are any Garbutt researchers in particular, drop me a line!

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,

Jess

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

Updated: 9:26 am with a better image. jt

I spent the past week road-tripping across Western Ontario in search of my maternal grandmother’s roots and this is the first of a series of related posts talking about that trip.

So my intrepid crew (Mom & and Gran) and I started our journey on a sunny Sunday morning with the a plan to drive into Canada via the Blue Water Bridge and take the 402 into North West Lambton County swinging North around Warwick and driving down the Egremont Road, one of the earliest in the area built by and for the Irish and British emigrants in the 1830s.

Gran’s family, led by my 5th Great Grandfather Captain Harry Alison, came to Canada in 1832 after Harry and his eldest son Rowland Hill Alison each sold out of the British Army. Both served with the 90th Regiment Light Infantry (the Perthshire Volunteers) along with Lieutenant Hugh Massy who married Harry’s eldest daughter Jane Alison (my 4th Great Grandparents).  Harry parked his family in Ancaster, near Hamilton, Ontario, while he, Rowland, and his next son, Brisbane, scouted out a lot in Warwick Township. They settled on the highest lots along the Main Road just inside the Middlesex County border exactly midway between Sarnia and London. The settlement that sprang up around them became unofficially known as Captain Alison’s settlement.

The one site that I knew still existed is St. Paul’s Anglican Church on the Southeast corner of Egremont and Wisbeach Road where Harry, his wife, Francis Sinclair, and my 3rd Great Aunt Frederica (Massy) Rothwell were laid to rest. So that was where we made our first stop.

The little lot is picturesque. The plaque on the church reads 1856 to 1906. Harry’s grave stone is lying on the ground near the front door of the church. In the picture to the left (taken from the entrance) it is just in front and slightly to the right of the prominent tree in the background on the left.

For more information about the history of the Egremont Road and my inspiration for this leg of our journey, check out The Egremont Road: Historic Route From Lobo to Lake Huron by Eleanor Nielsen, published by the Lambton County Historical Society. It’s a fabulous read and meticulously footnoted with great primary materials that I otherwise would never have known existed.

More to come from Canada soon!

Happy hunting,

Jess

I managed to slip away for a couple of days of fun and research in and around Kent County, MI. On the first day of my trip my mother and I spent a good portion of the day with my Grandmother and Great Aunt. Hanging out with this feisty pair and sharing my progress is truly rewarding. They are so appreciative of the research I’ve done and their very interested in how I’ve organized it.

We spent a couple of hours going through their old family pictures and telling stories—many that I have heard before and love to hear them repeat—and often with an added tidbit, or a possible puzzle piece, that I might be able to use on another day.  And as I talked about some of the characters I had found in my research it is definite that my grandmother in particular has an affinity for the black sheep of the families.

We, of course, talked about good old Henry R. Massy, but we also talked about. Cornelius Shea who may or may not have been dismissed from working for a Catholic church in Grand Rapids over a problem with disappearing wine. And this was the same man who laughed too hard to help his pregnant daughter-in-law out of a well. Poor Grandma Cora! Aunt June still fumes a little telling that story.

But more than anything for me these visits are a time of gathering memories from and of these lovely women who are so neat! Families are so interesting to observe. I see these two ladies and their mannerisms echoed in my mom and aunt (who I watched at breakfast the next morning), or even between myself and my cousin. And it’s those echoes that keep me interested in what’s passed down from generation to generation.

Talk to your elders, talk to your contemporaries and pass it down!

Happy hunting,

Jess

In honor of St. Pat’s, here is a view of the resort town and Galway suburb of Salthill in Co. Galway and the edge of Galway Bay taken during a study abroad trip in 1997. It was a beautiful day and an all around lovely trip… but I have no family from there that I’m aware of.

Salthill and Galway Bay from a Ferris Wheel, Summer 1997.

My known Irish ancestors include the Massy family from Rathronan in County Limerick, and the Byrne, Cunningham and Dowdall families who reported themselves from Armagh, in what is now Northern Ireland. I haven’t yet figured out where my Shea line originally hailed from in Ireland.

Ideally, I’d love to take a trip to research these lines.

Happy hunting & Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Jess

These are my 2nd Great Grandparents Flora Jane (daughter of Henry R. Massy) and Cornelius Packer and three of their children: My great grandmother Cora, her older sister Pearl, and their younger brother James Arthur. The photo was likely taken at their home 160 Shirley Street, Grand Rapids, Michigan after the death of their oldest child, Ethel, in September of 1900 and prior to 1905 when their last child, Grace, was born. The original resides with my great aunt.

So Henry R. Massy dropped off the radar in 1869-70, as far as I could tell. But I was slowly able to expand what I knew about him before then–including finding out he was a replacement soldier in the Civil War. My only thought to move forward was to try following that lead. I found Henry Massy who served for the Michigan Infantry Civil War in a pension index now living at the time in Latham, Logan Co, Illinois and requested his pension record.

I was blown away when the packet arrived. True to form everything was complicated for Henry. There was an extensive back and forth in the file because he was forced to prove his identity. He had changed his name to Harry or Henry (he used both) R. Allison and remarried a widow named Nancy Stinnett in 1876. In the pension he describes his police service, but claims he was never previously married and had no heirs. His pension request was approved with a special note about the way he signed his middle initial “R.” And that’s exactly what helped me to solidify the connections. He signed his oath to the police force, and he signed his enlistment and pension paperwork with the same funny “R.”

As an additional note, I was playing around on Ancestry on a day after they started picking up more scanned newspapers and looked for obituaries in the Logan Co. area for H. R. or Nancy and I came across a number of articles. One featured a Harry Allison and friend who went into Decatur and were charged with drunkenness, fined and asked to leave town. I don’t know if it’s really him. There was one other Harry in the county. But given other things I’ve seen… It’s certainly possible.

Decatur Herald, 3 January 1908

So, now I hope to find some time to slip away from FGS and swing back up to the Logan County Genealogical & Historical Society’s research room to see if I can round out any more of Henry’s story, as well as over to Lake Bank Cemetery to photograph Harry and Nancy’s headstones.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

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