Great Sources


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

I was able to take a day last week to do a daytrip to Kent County, Michigan to visit another one of my favorite collections—Grand Rapids Public Library’s History and Special Collections Department at the Main Library. It’s been years since I’ve been there to research and took me a little while to get oriented but I was able to answer some of the questions I’d hoped to. For example—and this is for Denise and Gran… Aunt Pearl (Packer) McComb was buried at Rest Lawn Memorial Park according to her Grand Rapids Press obituary—which for some reason I’d missed looking up before. I was also able to work with the Grand Rapids Directories and a few other resources.

I spent the afternoon at the Kent County Probate Court to look at family probate records. As I had used this courthouse before I had gotten a fair explanation of how things worked form their website. And I was pretty well prepared when I arrived. I didn’t know what they might have so I used their indexes to look up a few family names and picked one to work on for the afternoon.

I spent the remainder of my time looking at the very detailed and long probate packet for my 3rd Great-Grandfather George E. Porter, who died without a will. What followed was a very detailed process in which George’s heirs nominated my 2nd Great-Grandfather Charles E. Porter to act as agent in settling his father’s estate. There were pages of material—I couldn’t afford to print it all at $2 per page. But Idid get a great sampling with lists of surviving heirs, property information and value, and lists of debts—from a line by line of the costs of treatment for George’s illness to the burial. I worked with bits of probate packets before but this was my first experience seeing a large detailed packet without someone choosing bits to show me. It was fascinating!

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’m finding that one of my major uses of ACPL collection is tracking down published articles on my allied lines using the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) in HeritageQuest.

I have taken huge steps forward in my research starting with clues found in articles I never would have tracked down if not for working with the database. And it’s not because I have famous family the someone has written about—though I’ve been occasionally lucky to find articles featuring relatives—but PERSI has been great for tracking down transcribed records and articles relating to places important to my ancestors. My most notable find were records leading to my Irish Cop in Detroit.

But this trip, I was focusing on family names—doing general searchers on a number of surnames. I located articles on the Lapham family included a multi-issues article on the descendants on John Lapham, my Smith’s 4th great grandfather. I located a number of articles on Rev. George Burroughs who may be an ancestor through our Holden line. Then in I tried a couple of different searches looking for clues to verify some researchers’ claims that his 2nd great granddaughter, Elizabeth Parmenter, by way of his daughter, Hannah Burroughs Fox married into the Holden family.

I didn’t find anything relevant on the Parmenter line—though in hindsight I didn’t try a variety of spellings. I found citations for a number of interesting articles on the Lawrence family—not all of which I had time to track down—as well as a few on the Whitney/Shattuck line that connect to all of the allied Holden families from Martha’s Vineyard.  But what I thought would be the most useful search, turned out to be impossible.

I had hoped that the Fox line would be well-documented enough that I would be able to track down more solid sources for the suggested connection. Hannah Burroughs had married Jabez Fox the son of an early Harvard Grad and the 2nd minister at Woburn, Massachusetts. And the family is intertwined in the histories of Cambridge, Groton, and Woburn in Massachusetts. So I first went to PERSI and typed in Fox in a Surname Search. I got the very annoying response, “No results were found that matched your request.” I couldn’t believe that no one had ever written about the family. So I tried again, same answer. And on a hunch I tried a couple of other 3-letter surnames, all with the same answer.

It would seem that you cannot do a PERSI surname search on 3-letter names—at least through HeritageQuest. I played with it for a while before approaching one of the ACPL librarians who came up with the same results. Now, on the plus side, she did come to me later to let me know that you can search PERSI through Ancestry fairly successfully. I was able to work with that for the remainder of my trip. But I have the ulterior motive of being a co-database trainer at my home library—and all library editions of Ancestry are not equal. PERSI isn’t available at all in my library’s version.

All that said HeritageQuest is a resource I use a great deal. What I couldn’t find in PERSI was almost made up for with what I found in the Books section of the website including genealogies on the Fox, Lawrence and Whitney families that give me a little more faith in the Burroughs claims. But the issue with 3-letter surnames seems to be a glaring error.

Happy hunting,

Jess

It never hurts to be reminded… you have to keep an open mind. For years I have been aware of two Bailey families coming in the Rockford, Kent Co, MI area around about the same time, those of Smith Bailey (the family of my Step-Great-Grandfather) and Ethan Allen Bailey. To the best of my knowledge they aren’t closely related, though I’ve often wondered about Ethan’s line. On the other hand Bailey is a common enough name, right.

But, in the process of filling in blanks with death records from SeekingMichigan.org this past week it occurred to me that, Ethan’s daughter-in-law, Rachel (Deer) Bailey, and my 5th great aunt Sarah J. (Deer) Helsel, share a maiden name.  So, out of idle curiosity, I went searching for their Deer families and I think that I found them together in Allegheny Co, PA.

Listed here: Sarah Deer and her children: Hannah, George, Rachel, Sarah, and Washington.

Further investigation places everyone but Washington in Kent County by 1870. Hannah married, John Jacob Reinshagen, George a woman named Catherine, Rachel married Harvey Bailey, and Sarah married Henry L. Helsel. And their mother, Sarah, was living with George in 1870. The death certificates for the first three children all list the same parents. Sarah’s certificate does not, so for me this is not definitive… but my gut is pushing me to find more information—especially after I found, a marriage between Sarah’s daughter Zoa and Hannah’s nephew, Henry Reinhagen.

This one’s still an ongoing hunt but, whether or not anyone else needs to be reminded, I need to remember not to focus too hard on a particular possible relationship… often others will present themselves—especially when you’re following a cluster of families.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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

I’ve had lots of long conversations with my Gran and Great Aunt about our families but I have this growing list of questions inspired by research done for these posts and new finds. As an example, I spent hours this week flipping through census pages for Grand Rapids, MI trying to track them down in 1940. I had started with my latest directory locations for the family—which placed them living with my 2nd Great Aunt Pearl in 1937. When I couldn’t find any relatives there I called Gran and she told me they lived on Quimby.  I used Morse and Weintraub’s One Step Enumeration District finder from (http://stevemorse.org) which narrowed the list down to 3 EDs. Then Gran called back and said… maybe it was Union St. Either way she wasn’t sure of the number. So, I entered Union in the finder and it narrowed it down to 30 districts. Needless to say, I found them at 306 Union Street… eventually.

In 1940 Great Grandma Cora was the head of household including my Gran and her siblings and Cora’s youngest sibling Grace (Packer) Elliott and her family—including her husband, Harold, and six of their children. Cora was working at a paper box factory and Harold at an auto plant. I was so thrilled that I posted to Twitter as soon as I found Gran, and almost immediately got a phone call from my mother and Gran because Gran wanted to know what I’d found. It all just leads to more interesting questions: about Cora’s job (which I can’t quite decipher), the moving, all the family they lived with at different times, and really just how Cora managed as a widow with 3 young children.

I think it’s past time for a lunch date with Mom, Gran, and my Aunts!

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

In the process of looking for information to fill out a future blog entry, I happened upon the Michigan Pioneer and Historical Collections. It is a collection that I had heard of and I’d seen things transcribed from, but I’d never had the opportunity to use it. And with a portion of my family solidly planted in the Michigan Territory prior to the 1830s, this is a source I had planned to check out. So I was thrilled to find an MSU Libraries Research Guide that linked to the Hathi Trust Digital Library’s catalog entry for the digitized volumes.

The collection takes some searching. It consists of three distinct series of varying quality from reminiscences to solid historical research largely covering a span from 1650-1850. Also digitized are two indexes covering about 30 of the 40 volumes; but the rest are individually searchable. I spent way too much time just searching various family names. I hit solidly on my Lapham and Gilbert connections and their allied lines, finding a mix of anecdotal and more trustworthy notes. If you’ve got Michigan pioneer ancestors this is worth checking out and infinitely easier now that it’s digitized.

Happy hunting,

Jess

I’ve managed to sneak over to the Library of Michigan a few times in the last couple weeks with the hopes of checking my oldest research and sources. I actually did a bit of a double take when I realized how long I’ve been working on some of my families and how haphazardly I cited when I started. Please believe I have improved dramatically!

That said, I forget sometimes—as it’s in my own backyard—just how fabulous the Genealogy Collection is at LOM. The microform, book, and newspaper collections kept me going for years before I ever travelled to another institution. This past week I worked with a 2 volume, fabulously footnoted, genealogy of the Holden family and a couple of county histories from New York. Next week will probably be a couple of different New York Counties and looking for Kent County obituaries. And I know that there are hundreds of relatives still tucked away in the collection for me to find.

All politics aside—and there has been a lot surrounding the Library in the last 3 or 4 years as the State tried to decide what it would fund—it’s still a notable collection for researchers in general, and Michigan families in particular. If you haven’t already, check it out.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Letters have been on my mind lately. My Gran recently loaned me a packet of letters to go through. They were a mix—a couple from her to my late Grandfather, a few from Grandpa to her, and a number of letters from her children—including one from my Mother to Gran that was so remarkably close to one I wrote Mom when I was away for a summer (and recently read from Mom’s Archive). Letters can offer such interesting insight into a person’s character, the times, and the trials of those discussed. Some of my favorite lines in this stack include:

From Grandpa stationed in San Francisco, CA in to my Gran back in the Michigan: “I hope you are not being bothered too much by my going away present.” (i. e. my Mother)

From Gran visiting my Uncle’s family while he was stationed in Germany to my Grandpa in Michigan: “Sandy hasn’t had a letter from her mother yet and we would really like some mail—Tell Lorraine to get on the ball!” And in close, “P.S. Did you water my plants?”

From my Mom to Gran: In a list of reminders… 2) Put my doll up, out of Vicky’s friend’s reach… please!! Not that I don’t trust them or anything… but!

Letters are also on my mind because I started following Letters of Note after Cory Doctorow at Boing Boing made my day by linking to a really interesting letter from a former Slave to his former Master. Check it out and be sure to read to the end!

Happy Hunting,

Jess

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