Roadtrips


Saturday was a bit more of a blur as the conference started to take a toll. It might have been a bit more clear if I had not hung out so late at the Genealogy Center or if the Michigan Breakfast hadn’t started well before 7 am. But it was a lovely morning chatting with fellow Michigan genealogists and friends. We had a quick 1812 Pension update and challenge from Curt Witcher and a state of the Archives of Michigan update from Kris Rzepczynski.

I had to pack up my stuff after breakfast but I still made it back to the Convention Center in time to sneak into the last presentation by Elizabeth Shown Mills (S-401 Finding Fathers). In it she used a particularly memorable case study where she was able to prove the paternity of a man based on following out his siblings through probate, petitions, etc. without ever finding a record specifically connecting him to his father.

I attended “Creating Family Histories for Future Generations,” presented by Thomas W. Jones (S-412) which began be encouraging people to work with the records of the day—oral history, identify your own pictures, and collect DNA—the irreplaceable legacy. But it also stressed training, practicing reading and writing, and creating family histories with BEAD—Biography, Explanation, Accuracy and Documentation.

“Truth or Fiction? Unraveling a Family Yarn” (S-418) was another interesting case study presented by Teresa Steinkamp McMillin. She was a great speaker with a fun tale to work through that reminded me of my strange family tales and their veracity.

And finally, I made it to “Staying out of copyright trouble” by Judy G. Russell (S-433) which was a fun and frustrating take on copyright law. Not Judy, she was fabulous, but copyright is an interesting and maddening topic. I came out of this with a lot of good resources to work with and a great refresher on topics I vaguely remember from grad school. It was a fun session to end on.

I had a wonderful time at FGS 2013 visiting with friends, overloading on information, and even managing a little research. Thanks to the FGS board, conference crew and volunteers. Thanks also to the exhibitors, local societies, institutions and libraries, and an outgoing and generous host city. It’s been a fabulous week and I can’t wait to do it again… well, after I catch up on my sleep.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Friday’s post got too long for me to try and catch up so I’ll shoot for a wrap up post in the next couple of days.

Friday was a LONG day! Again, I was fairly methodology heavy, catching another presentation each of Elizabeth Shown Mills and Thomas W. Jones. Mills presented an interesting range of case studies to impress upon us the importance of “trivial” information in documents, for example the minute details in an estate sale that someone didn’t deem important or slaves names that get left out of transcriptions or compilations. She stressed going back to original probate packets or collections to make sure every slip had been accounted for and challenged us to think critically about what the documents said and didn’t say.

Jones presented on documentation. As he noted, this can be a boring topic, but I very much appreciated his detail and again, common sense approach to doing citations. In many ways this is all straight out of undergrad and grad school for me but those days are a little farther behind me every time I blink so getting this refresher and lesson was fabulous.

For the midday and afternoon sessions I jumped over to the African American research track attending presentations by G. David Dilts, Tim Pinnick, Angela Y Walton-Raji, and J. Mark Lowe. Dilts’ presentation (F-322 Overcoming Brick Walls in African American Research) was effectively one on methodology offering ideas to improve attitudes and open one’s mind in approaching brickwalls, as well as offering some common problems and possible solutions.

Pinnick’s session (F-333 And the Church Said Amen) on tracking down records from African American churches was as animated and enthusiastic as the title suggested and somewhere in there he did get an, “Amen!” from the class even after telling us that the existing records weren’t quite what we were hoping for.

Walton-Raji’s session was great survey of Black benevolent societies most of which I knew nothing about beforehand. When I saw her session listing it immediately brought to mind a symbol on my Great-Grandfather’s headstone I had never looked in to. And between her and Pinnick’s sessions in particular, I have a whole new set of records to try and track down.

Finally, I attended J. Mark Lowe’s session (F-350 Following Slaves and Slaveholders…) which offered a great case study emphasizing the need to know the areas you’re researching in and know their laws relevant to your ancestors. This will help you figure out what records might exist to aid you in your research. All were great speakers, but Lowe gets points for making Pinnick hand me a fake $1000 bill in an effort to illustrate that you need to follow the money or assets (whatever they may be).

From there I went straight to the library event in support of the War 1812 Pension Project. I attended the opening remarks and quilt raffle, mingled for a few minutes near the desserts, and then made a beeline for the Genealogy Center to get in some last research for the week. I planned to leave at a reasonable hour (as I had to get it up in the morning) but I had a successful enough time that I didn’t walk back until 11:30 pm.

But now I am just tired…

Happy hunting!

Jess

I’m running a day behind. Here’s what should have posted yesterday… if I hadn’t chosen sleep over you all. Sorry!

Thursday was another day of volunteering and sessions. I started the day on the conference registration table. So, I missed the keynote. But I had a fun time with my booth mate and greeting people.

I then spent the afternoon really focused on methodology sessions.  I attended detailed presentations by Thomas W. Jones (T-202 Planning and Executing Efficient and Effective Research) and Elizabeth Shown Mills (T-213 Smiths and Joneses)—both of which really got to the heart of how to effectively and efficiently research. Really looking at records—what they say and what they don’t. Comparing records—for accuracy, reliability, and with an eye to who created the document and when. I followed those up with a session by Conference Chair Paula Stuart-Warren on creating research reports for yourself which really stressed getting down the details of what you searched, why you looked at the record, and what you found or didn’t find.

Tucked in the middle of those, I attended a fabulous presentation by Laura Prescott on finding materials at university libraries and archives (T-221 Treasures of the Ivory Tower). I’ve come across fabulous collections in the past more haphazardly—for example through footnotes (like Peter John Alison’s memoir). I went into the session looking for ways to more strategically locate materials. Prescott offered a lot of ideas and food for thought, plus she’s just a great and enthusiastic speaker. She also had my quote of the day in discussing FOBs or “Flashes of the Obvious.” It seemed to be the theme of the day… straightforward and common sense presentations that were inspiring and eye-opening.

I did take a turn through the Exhibit Hall during the Showcase. I’m pretty sure I didn’t win a door prize—you can’t always hear in the hall. Then I headed out to dinner with a large group of Michigan genealogists… who couldn’t get their headcount straight. We dined and hung out at O’Reilly’s on Jefferson until Karaoke began. That seemed to be a quick way to get everyone to head back to their hotels. Then again, Springsteen should not sound like that—not that I claim to be any more able to sing his work.

More conference highlights soon, until then…

Happy hunting,

Jess

Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, INFor learning purposes and to simply help out, I decided to volunteer for the conference this year which has been interesting so far. As I noted Tuesday, I made it in to town in time to attend the Volunteer orientation where conference officers and representatives from the FGS Board members gave us pointers, encouragement, and thanks upfront.

Throughout the conference I’ll do a stint as Room Monitor—that was Wednesday, at Registration (way too early) this morning, and in the Exhibit Hall on Friday. My thoughts were that this would give me more insight into FGS, plus I visit here enough that I thought I could actually be helpful, and I’m just crazy enough that I kind of like doing stuff like this—shhhh… don’t tell!

And as a plus I was posted in some of the sessions I would have gone to anyway such as Cyndi Ingle Howell’s plenary on society websites. This was a great common sense presentation and dead on for all the conversations I’ve had as a webmaster or contributor for various organizations.

I also loved Amy Johnson Crow’s presentation “Finding and Keeping Volunteers” (W-103). She offered lots of great common sense advice… that not enough institutions, let alone Societies, use. This included the notion that if you’re going to ask if people are interested in volunteering, you need to get back to them in a timely manner. Or the novel concept that we need to be more specific—job description, title, who they report to, etc. not just say, “We need volunteers. Call me.”

I also monitored for Donna Moughty’s presentation, “Printed vs Online Publishing for Societies” (W-110) which I might not have chosen based on the syllabus but I enjoyed nonetheless. She introduced a number of print-on-demand, and other online services that I would be interested in looking into. She also seconded a number of Cyndi’s comments regarding websites in the plenary.

Once my volunteer stint was through I had lunch and headed back over to ACPL’s Genealogy Center. It was packed and had nowhere near enough plugs for the variety of devices being used. It reminded me of this (for those interested in the secrets of librarians and libraries, this is a great resource). So, I worked for as long as my battery lasted on my Martin family (from Tennessee, Louisiana, and Arkansas) and then headed down to the Dunkin Donuts for a drink and to run database searches while my computer recharged—there are a fair share of seats near outlets and the Wi-Fi reaches down there.

I closed the day attending the opening social at the Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory. I chatted with a number of nifty folks and took a tour around the gardens before calling it quits. I will freely admit that while I have it relatively easy, as I’m here largely on my own and not for my organization, I’m still a bit exhausted already. But I’m definitely looking forward to the next few days!

Happy hunting!

Jess

I am not at work!!! Please let me savor that first glorious part of my day!

I am also now in Fort Wayne, Indiana and ready for the Federation of Genealogical Societies’ 2013 Conference. I came in to town this morning barely in time for a Volunteer Orientation, got checked in early, and spent the afternoon chasing down leads on my Great-Aunt’s lines at ACPL’s Genealogy Center.

I happily hit on a few great compiled genealogies (with citations and annotations) on both the Baggett and Bone families who settled in Bond Co., Illinois. I also had a few possible hits on her Snow line, another Bond Co, Illinois family. The Genealogy Center was hopping this afternoon but they’re certainly prepared with extra work tables, volunteers helping direct traffic, and, I’m fairly certain, copy machine repair on speed dial… the machines were getting a workout.

It’s been such a bizarre month that I never had time to even mention that I’d be here, and on a couple of occasions I had the passing thought that I’d have to cancel… but I am so glad I made the trip! A conference like this is enlightening, entertaining, and a great chance to meet up with fellow researchers.

I am looking forward to everything! Volunteering, attending sessions, and sneaking over to the Genealogy Center whenever I have time.

Happy hunting!

Jess

This week’s photo is one for from our Ontario roadtrip. This is a memorial for William and Martha (Ward) Garbutt. While I haven’t figured out the details of how or when, my 2nd Great Grandmother Flora Massey lived with the Garbutt family for a number of years before she married. She was a witness at the wedding of their 5th child Sarah Garbutt to William Buckburrough. She was enumerated with them in the 1881 Canadian Census as Flora Garbutt. And in 1885 she married Mary (Garbutt) Packer’s brother-in-law, Cornelius.

There is a lovely photo postcard that many of my cousins have posted to their Ancestry.com trees of “Grandma Garbutt” at the age of 94, addressed to “Curly and Flo”—my Cornelius and Flora.

The monument is located in section F, Row C, number 4 at Hillview Cemetery on 5th Street, on the southeast side of Woodstock, Ontario. The other two sides have inscriptions for John Garbutt, their son, and their son-in-law Robert Porter.

Happy hunting,

Jess

   

Gravestone of Captain Harry Alison and Frances SInclair Alison, St. Paul's Cemetery, Warwick Township, Lambton County, Ontario, CanadaSince I omitted it from my post on the first day of our roadtrip, this is the tombstone of Captain Harry Alison, patriarch of the Alison family and the unofficially named Captain’s Alison’s Settlement which sprung up around his lots in Warwick Township of Lambton Co, Ontario in the 183os.

Harry was born in Perth in 1775 and when his father died young he was sponsored by an uncle who sent him to St. Andrews with plans for him to become a solicitor. But, unhappy with the profession, he left service at the end of his requisite period and relocated to London with plans to join the Army. With the aid of a well-placed relative he was given and ensigncy in the 93rd Highlanders. When the 90th Highlanders were reformed under, Major Rowland Hill, Harry came on as Paymaster and served for near 30 years.

In that time he married Francis Sinclair and had a family of nine born all over the world, including Ireland, the West Indies, France, and the Ionian Islands.

He bought out around 1830 and petitioned the Crown for land in Upper Canada (Ontario), and eventually established the family in Warwick Township.

His children were:

  • Jane Alison who married Lieutenant Hugh Massy of the 90th and 33rd Regiments (my 4th Great Grandparents)
  • Rowland Hill Alison who moved his family to Detroit and then ultimately settled in Chicago
  • Charles Alison who served as “Her Majesty’s Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to the Shah of Persia”
  • Brisbain—who became a sailor in Ontario despite likely deserting the British Navy
  • Frances Mary who married Thomas Wade Rothwell, the son of Brevet Major Wade Rothwell.
  • Jullia Dixon who married Robert Armon Hill retired from the 5th Regiment
  • Ann McNair who married William W. Nichols
  • Mary H. who married William R. MacDonald
  • Peter John Alison who married Frances Delia Travers

Harry served as a Justice of the Peace for nearly 25 years. He died in North Duoro where he spent the last few years of his life as part of the household of his son-in-law William W. Nichols. He was buried in St. Paul’s Cemetery.

The marker reads:

In Memory of Captain Harry Alison, late of H. M. 90th Light infantry. Died January 11, 1866 ae 92 years. Also his wife Francis Sinclair died December 16, 1867 ae 80 years.

Happy hunting!

Jess

A long obituary on Harry posted in The Volunteer Review and Military and Naval Gazette (Ottawa, Canada, Monday, 11 Feb 1867) and in the The Peterborough Review around the same time. Also, the Crown Land Petitions and British Regimental Histories add more information on Harry’s military career.

As I mentioned yesterday, part of this trip was inspired by the detailed footnotes in Eleanor Neilsen’s The Egremont Road which has a lovely section on the Alisons and their allied families. And one of the main sources she pointed to was a memoir created by Peter John Alison, Harry’s youngest child, which is held at the Western Archives at Western University in London, Ontario. So, another one of our stops was in London so that I could look at the manuscript as well as an Alison photo album that I found in their catalogue when I was searching for the memoir.

The Archives is located in the D. B. Weldon Library on campus and getting to it was a little trickier that I thought it would be. But when you reach the building it’s huge and, at least for the day I was there, it was consistently packed. Luckily, the Archives are tucked into the back corner of a large Main Floor and you feel miles away from anyone when you’re tucked into the cozy reading room and working.

It’s suggested that you contact the Archives ahead of time for materials that they need to pull from storage (as pulls are only done three times a day) so I had struck up a conversation with one of their staff by email and both boxes were pretty much waiting for me on arrival. I settled in and spent most of the day on Peter’s memoir which, according to the top page was created to satisfy a persistent cousin to whom he remarks:

You have asked me so often to write you an account of my early days in the back woods of Ontario, Canada, that I think I will have to do as the Unjust Judge did with the widow – Grant your request to get rid of you.

The document gives a rough background to the family but it is full of interesting tidbits about his parents and siblings through the eyes of the baby of the family (he was six at the time of their move to Canada). He didn’t display a lot of respect for his elder brothers whom he felt were no help to their father in the initial establishment of their households in Warwick commenting:

My eldest brother had been in the Army with my father’s regiment, and my next brother had been in the Navy, they were not fitted for the bush life at all. It was pitiful to see them using an axe, the one most useful tool of those early days. They would chop around a tree like a beaver, then of course, they would not know which way the tree was going to fall, except it had decided leaning in one direction.

But he did admire his sisters (at least in retrospect) and their accomplishments:

My sisters were all highly accomplished for my mother had them taught by the best French and English masters, it was delightful to hear them play and sing to the piano, harp and guitar, and they spoke Greek and Italian as well as they could English.

In the memoir he shares his memories of his sisters Frances and Julia’s courtships (with Thomas Rothwell and Robert Hill respectively) in detail and humorously.

The manuscript by itself was worth the trip but the other item I had pulled turned out to be a photo album given to Frances (Travers) Alison, Peter John’s wife, in February of 1880. Very few of the pictures are labeled but among the ones that are is a picture of Peter’s brother, Brisbain. I would love to be able to identify more of the images through my research but we’ll see how that works out.

The staff at the archives were very helpful and a pleasure to work with!

Happy hunting,

Jess

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

At the beginning of the month I took a peaceful road trip up to Leelanau and Grand Traverse Counties with my parents and my maternal grandmother and whenever we make the trip—usually to sight see and taste wine —I try to hijack a little bit of the trip for genealogical research.

In the past I’ve always been focused on the Shea’s who were involved in the lumber industry in the 1880s and 1890s in Leelanau. But this year I decided to step back and do a basic search in my database for other family members with ties to either of the two counties—because I know I get very focused sometimes and don’t recognize other connections to an area when it isn’t obvious. The search reminded me that my 2nd Great Grandfather also had ties to the area. I always think of the Johnson family as a solidly Kent County bunch, but at the time of the 1920 Census William Amos Johnson’s family lived in Traverse City where he worked as a plumber.

So, as part of our trip I stole an hour at Traverse Area District Library to look in their city directories in hopes of narrowing down the period in which the Johnson’s lived there, identifying where they lived, and also where he worked.

TADL has a nice collection of local Polk’s directories and William was listed in the 1919-1920 and the 1921-1922 books—first as a tinner and then as a plumber working for Arms & Cole Plumbers, Steam Fitters and Sheet Iron Workers on Cass St. The family lived at 859 Webster. The next day we drove through the neighborhood past the house and then on past his workplace. It was cool to add that snippet of their life to my collection of stories.

As an added bonus we also took a scenic drive from Glen Arbor to Muskegon before coming home which took us past roads traveled by the Shea’s and their allied families—Including Stormer Road  (named for a family two of the Shea brothers married into) and the village of Empire where my great grandfather was born.

Someday I’ll make it up solely for research, but my family has been great about letting me steal a little time out of their vacation for research.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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