Stow-Davis Furniture Company Employees

Not to mention… the Johnsons, Packers, Sufflings, Holdens, Burroughs… The list goes on. I’m about 0% Native American. I’m a child of immigrants from Germany, the British Isles, West Africa (those last weren’t voluntary). They took the jobs no one wanted. They served our country in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. They helped make Grand Rapids the furniture capital of the world for a time. They were policeman, teachers, and ministers. They worked hard for a better life and to pursue the fundamental right of religious freedom. This country was built on the hard work and perseverance of immigrants and refugees. America’s historical dealings with immigrants and refugees are shoddy at best but I still expect infinitely better than I’m seeing today.

In the picture above there’s a grumpy looking individual dressed in black with his arms crossed, directly below the “w” in “Stow”. I believe this is my Great-Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer. He came to North America as a child from Rainham, Kent, England; grew up in Ontario, Canada; and came as an adult to Grand Rapids, Michigan to work during the lumber and furniture boom around the turn of the century.

What’s your immigrant story?

Jess

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So, the blog has suffered greatly in the last few months (okay, really a couple of years now but work with me) for any number of reasons—new job, day-to-day life, me trying to overcomplicate things… etc. But it’s also happened because I’ve had so many neat opportunities recently—presenting, researching, and writing. Blog posts still may be hit and miss for a time while I work out my new reality but I’ll try to be better about posting.

In the mean time, I’ll be presenting:

  • Finding Non-Traditional Records at the Michigan Genealogical Council’s* Delegate Meeting on Thursday January 12th at 11 am. (rescheduled due to weather) Thursday, March 9th at 11 am.

*Don’t forget to check out their events list for Michigan (and national) genealogy events.

Happy hunting and happy New Year!

Jess

You’ve got some time yet… It’s still Family History Month, which means there are tons of genealogy educational opportunities stretching right into November. And (yes, you’ve heard this from me before) I strongly encourage everyone to get out and attend as many of them as you can. I always, always, learn something new—whether I’m attending or presenting.

For example, I had a wonderful experience presenting in Fort Wayne as part of ACPL’s Genealogy Center’s 31 days of genealogy programming last week, but my evening session looking at my experiences and approach to researching my African American ancestry led to a total change in my research plans for the next day when one of the attendees pointed out a resource I hadn’t realized the Center held—Thank you Roberta, Melissa, and Cynthia each for pointing me in the right direction! I will be transcribing Bradley County slave related court documents for weeks.

raceslaverysnip

Then, on Saturday, I attended Western Michigan Genealogical Society’s annual Got Ancestors! program. This year’s featured speaker was Cyndi Ingle of Cyndi’s List and I got a great deal out of her programs “Striking Out on Their Own: Online Migration Tools and Resources” and “Building a Digital Research Plan.” The first offered a neat list of mapping resources I haven’t tried while the other offered a nice focused approach for laying out a research plan. But the day was also just a fun one for connecting with people and trading ideas.

I have no doubt that you can look around your community and find genealogy events, but if you’re in my neck of the woods here’s a sampling of some of the great family history related programming you can still catch:

On Saturday, October 23rd, CADL South Lansing Library will be hosting “Family History Hunt” a Genealogy Roadshow-inspired presentation with patrons tapping your friendly local librarian’s for suggestions on where to turn next in their research.

Consider the possibilities offered by a two hour drive down to the ACPL’s Genealogy Center… There are still 14 more days of programs including, “A  Day with Juliana Szucs” (from Ancestry.com) this Saturday, October 22nd, or their Midnight Madness extended research hours on October 28th including three 30 minute classes. For more information on programs, check out their calendar.

Western Wayne County Genealogical Society has a day seminar on November 5th with topics including organizing your records and planning a research trip.

The Michigan Genealogical Council’s annual fall seminar will feature DNA expert, Blaine Bettinger speaking on assorted genetic genealogy related topics, along with bunch of other great presenters.

Take advantage of these great programs! Step away from the computer and go learn something new!

Happy hunting!

Jess

I’m settling into a new office at work, family members are moving out of long held homes, and I’m still piecing through a collection of materials from my Great Aunt’s passing. It’s fascinating what you can find at  times like this—long lost photos, documents you had to hunt down or send away for because no one knew they actually had them tucked away, and odds and ends you would never have thought to look for.

A handful of interesting examples we’ve found include:

Grandma Shea’s Sears charge card giving me an address I hadn’t had before and a glimpse into the history of credit cards that I had never thought about–it’s a metal plate. I’d never seen one like it.

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Grandpa Johnson’s ration card (1942), a sobering bit of United States history:

johnsonwmerationbooka

Or 3rd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer’s Naturalization papers… Yes, I had already tracked the packet down at the Archives of Michigan but the journey is just as important as the document in hand and I needed that experience of researching at the Archives:

packer2ndnatpapers

Have you found anything interesting or odd?

Happy hunting!

Jess

 

Um… so, well this:

acplpostcard2016

She says, trying to act cool while in her head she’s doing a Snoopy dance. It’s a great library and staff and I’m honored to speak there.

“Scandalous Ancestors” provides ideas for tracing and teasing out the stories of our black sheep ancestors including a case study featuring an unreliable ancestor with a research story that began in 1860s Detroit and ends in Logan County, Illinois.

“Tracking my Trotters”: Sorting out my father’s family has been a joy… and maddening, but it’s also offered great lessons in research and made our history as a country more real—from the Second Great Migration, to the Jim Crow South to Slavery.

Join us at The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library’s Main Library in Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Happy hunting,

Jess

LincolnTardisI finished my last session at FGS2016 and my head was spinning on overload. I want to run home and research in every direction… all at once—track down my elusive British soldiers, follow out my lone possible French line, better document my suspected slave ancestors, track that railroad employee, take a different angle on tracking a few of the elusive women in my tree. I have learned a ton, been reminded of a great deal I still need to do, laughed harder than I have in forever, and connected with a so many interesting and welcoming researchers. Thanks so much to the FGS board, sponsors, instructors, and attendees for a fun week!

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.s. J. Mark Lowe, Mary Tedesco and CeCe Moore taught us in the Keynote that time travel was possible in Springfield. So, I probably shouldn’t have been surprised when I saw this in a shop window there!

TattooStoryMcGheeWheelerThis post is only tangentially related to my time at #FGS2016, in that it was something I was reminded I wanted to write about while I attended an excellent session on genealogy programming for youths on Wednesday. If you haven’t already done so, check out the blog Growing Little Leaves by Emily Kowalski Schroeder. 

Families come in all sizes, shapes, colors, and… levels of ink?

Tell Me a Tattoo Story by Alison McGhee and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler, appealed to me on so many levels. The genealogist in me sees a fabulous way to share personal and family stories with children, the rebel in me loves the tattoos all by themselves, and the artist in me just adores the amazing details in this fabulous short picture book about a little boy who always wants his very inked father to tell him the stories of his tattoos—all of which have important meaning for milestones or important people in his life. Tattoos can be a fabulous family conversation starter and often carry with them important and heartfelt stories.

And thank you again, Ms. Cassie for pointing it out!

Happy hunting (and reading),

Jess