Family Almanac

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,


  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,


Harrison and Rhoda (Rodgers) Trotter

Saturday also marked the 120th Anniversary of my Great Grandmother Rhoda (Rogers) Trotter’s birth.

I think this is a shot of the porch of the Trotter Homestead. Rhoda and her husband Harrison are the couple in the center of the picture which was taken some time before Harrison’s death in 1975.

Happy hunting,


UPDATE: I’ve been informed that this is actually my 2nd Great Aunt Cora (Trotter) Steppes. Full Correction will post on Sunday Feb 16th.


Porter-Holden’s,  I was surprised to look back and see that I haven’t really written about Chapin Holden. I’ve mentioned him, but never actually focused a post on him.

C B Holden headstoneToday marks the 165th Anniversary of the birth of my 3rd Great Grandfather Chapin Balean Holden. He was born 1st February 1849 to Dr. Charles Morrill and Sarah Ann (Skiff) Holden in Reading Center, New York, the fifth of their twelve children.  The family moved to Michigan in about 1852 and settled in Courtland Township, Kent County where Doctor Holden served the community and farmed.

At the age of 20, Chapin married Phebe Jenny Tefft, the daughter of Lewis and Phebe (Sweet) Tefft, in Courtland Township on 30 June 1869. At the time of the 1870 Census the couple lived with his parents. On 6 May 1872 they had a son Herman Russell Holden. Jenny died at only 21 on 5 February 1875. In May of the following year Chapin married my 3rd Great Grandmother Lois Adell Blakeslee (the daughter of Aaron and Julia Ann (Tanner) Blakeslee). Lois and Chapin had five children Glen Walton in 1877, Jennie D. in 1882, my 2nd Great Grandmother Lula Vanche in 1886, Erie D. in 1888 and Minnie Lee in 1891.

From what I can find I don’t believe Glen married. Jennie married George Raymer around  1900. Lulu married Charles Erwin Porter in 1904. Erie married Elizabeth A. Sourbutts in 1908. And Minnie Lee died at the age of 16 of appendicitis.

Chapin died on Christmas Eve in 1931 after a lingering illness. According to his obituary he farmed in Courtland Township for about 60 years in addition to serving his community. Other sources note that in 1904 he was elected Constable for Courtland Township. By 1920 he and Lois had retired to Cedar Springs Village in Solon Township. Chapin was buried in Courtland Cemetery.

I know there are more sources for information on Chapin’s life in the collection of the Rockford Historical Museum–notes in Farm Books, mentions in the Rockford Register, etc. Another mini goal is for me this year is to get out to see the new museum and look into how their move has effected research at the museum.

Happy hunting,


Here’sBaileyWmKing  a timely feature for the Baileys!

Today is the 189th Anniversary of the birth of William King Bailey, my Step 3rd Great Grandfather. He was the seventh child of Smith Bailey and Eunice King born 14 January 1825 in Oswego County, New York. The Bailey’s relocated to Cannon Township, Kent County, Michigan sometime in the 1840s having settled by 1846 when the his parents hosted the meeting organizing the First Congregational Church which still exists today as the Bostwick Lake Congregational Church.

In 1852 William married Susan Howard, the daughter of William and Martha Bier Howard. Susan was born March 27, 1830 in England. The couple settled and began their family in Section 24 of Cannon Township on a tract in the west half of the section bordered by what are now Kreuter to the North and 6 Mile to the south. In the 1863 and 1876 plat maps the homestead is shown on Kreuter and nearly opposite the Smith Bailey homestead.

William and Susan had at least nine children. William Howard born in 1853, who married Estella Barringer, the daughter of David and Mary Barringer. Harmon J. was born in 1855 and later married Cordelia Holmes. Martha was born in 1857 and married Frank Benton Henry. Emma Charlotte was born in 1859 and married twice—first to Arista Thompson and then to CharlesUnderhill. George was born in 1865 and married Lizzie Groner. Nettie or Nellie was born in 1867 and later married William Hoag. Three children died young: James H. was born in 1861 and died before he turned three, John H. was born in 1863 and died before his first birthday, and Edward D. born in 1871 lived only 4 months.

Susan died at the age of 46 in April of 1876. William married Mrs. Adaline Parks Beach, widow of Richard Beach, 03 Oct 1876. William died 29 July 1888 after a long illness. William and Susan are buried in Old Bostwick Lake Cemetery, Cannon Township, Kent County, Michigan.

Happy hunting,


I’ve decided to jump in late to Amy Crow Johnson’s 52 Ancestors in 52 weeks challenge. So, hopefully, I’ll be featuring 52 ancestors—blogging research problems, stories, photos, or whatever else I can think of for 52 ancestors. And ideally, I will do this in addition to my “Not Quite Wordless Wednesday” posts… Wish me luck! The real goal is to seriously look at my research and write this year.

I’ve mentioned my Second Great Grandfather Sam Trotter here a number of times but it’s always been just mentions because he’s one of those elusive characters in my family tree. What I know is sketchy. His son, Harrison, claimed Sam and Josephine Johnson were his parents in his Social Security Application. And I was able to find a marriage record for Sam and Josephine, not in Bradley County, Arkansas where I expected to find them, but in neighboring Ashley County on 30 Dec 1880. Family stories, obituaries, and later census records make it look like my Harrison was the last of 6 children born to the couple in 1890—all conveniently between censuses. I have also found Sam listed as a witness in notices regarding Levi Hampton’s Homestead Application in 1890 and 1891

Then things get interesting. I haven’t found anything related to Josephine’s death but Sam is credited with two more children with Maggie Goudlock, Sarah in 1896 and Richard in 1898. And Sam married Etta Stanfield Thompson in September of 1898 and according to family stories they had one child, Cora, in Oct 1901. However, Etta, is listed as a widow in the 1900 Census with four Trotter stepchildren (Henry, Susan, Pearl, and Belle) and two children with the last name Thompson including a Cora born in 1899. I have no idea what happened to Sam but Etta married Ezekiel Hemphill in 1902, making me think that Sam probably did die prior to 1900.

Going backwards Sam is probably the son of Eliza Jane who later married James Newton. Their 1880 household included a 16 year old Sam listed as James’ stepson along with a brother Matt. But he is not listed in 1870–only Matt and his older siblings Rial, Jane are enumerated

Trotter CoggleAll of this is a roundabout (and long-winded) way of saying Sam is the first of my 52 Ancestors because he’s at the top of my research list this year.  I want to know more about the Trotter line and I’m going to follow up every lead I can think of to track down more information on them.

So far the top two items on my to do list are 1. Wheedling my dad into a Y-DNA test… (Check! Now awaiting results.) and 2. Trying to figure out of if there are other records I’m missing. For the latter, I’ve been brainstorming possibilities through a technique suggested by Thomas MacEntee using and it has helped me get an idea visually of what I have checked and what I haven’t. Next up tracking down records.

I’ll update you all as I find out more. Thinking positive!

Happy hunting,


Trotter SistersI have two aunts who are fabulous and have been great in helping me in my genealogy research. This is a photo of both of them from their childhood in Detroit. And one of them (the young lady on the left) celebrated a birthday this week!

Happy Birthday, Dear Aunt! I still fully intend on coming to talk to you about pictures sometime soon!


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