I really intended it to be out… oh, at least last month (preferably Monday), but the week got away from me. 

Notes Snapshot MGC 2013This past Saturday I attended the Michigan Genealogical Council’s annual Fall Seminar featuring Lou Szucs from Ancestry.com. I enjoyed the day and (as I have said many times) I always get something out of the presentations no matter how often I’ve heard a subject discussed or a particular speaker—it’s  always worthwhile. Szucs offered informative programs on “Hidden Treasures in Ancstery.com” and Midwestern Collections researchers should be aware of. In each I came away with collections ether I hadn’t been aware of or hadn’t, at the time, known a relative they might shed light on. For example to my Holden family… Did you know there was a Directory of Deceased American Physicians in Ancestry.com? It’s not something I’d happened upon yet. (Mind you, I did’t find Horatio or Charles in it, but still…).

For my breakout sessions I attended a presentation on The Clarke Historical Library on Central Michigan’s campus—I’m particularly interested in looking into their collections on the Timber industry given our Shea family’s involvement in in. I went to Richard Hill’s presentation on DNA research which was fascinating and now I really want to read his book—Finding Family. And I finished up the day in Don Hinkle’s presentation on FamilySearch.org. Other talks included researching in archives, New York research, Border Crossings, and Civil War Resources among others.

The short of it… Take time out to go and continually educate yourself—it will eventually help you over your brick walls.

And mark your calendars! The Abram’s Foundation Annual Seminar will be July 18th and 19th and feature Michael LeClerc, Chief Genealogist at Mocavo.com.

Happy hunting!

Jess

This is just a quick note to say that I had a lovely time yesterday at the Michigan Genealogical Council and Archives of Michigan Fall Seminar. These, along with the Abrams Genealogy Seminars in the summer, are always worth it and I would encourage any Michigan area researcher to attend. This time I enjoyed both presentations by featured speaker, Shirley Gage Hodges. I’ve also added the Bentley Historical Library in Ann Arbor back on to my roadtrip list again, because I’d forgotten how much they have and how little I have gotten through in past trips… thanks to Archivist Karen Jania. And most importantly, I had a great time talking research with friends!

Now, everyone mark your calendars, the annual Abrams Genealogy Seminar on July 12th and 13th, 2013 will feature Thomas W. Jones, whom I gushed about here after seeing the first of four fabulous presentations at FGS in 2011. I hope to see you there!

Happy hunting,

Jess

I have had a couple of great genealogy experiences over the past couple of weeks so I’d like to offer a quick recap and a plug for a couple of great programs.

To begin with I attended the Abrams Genealogy Seminar on July 14th featuring D. Joshua Taylor. This program is presented by the Abrams Foundation, the Archives of Michigan, and the Michigan Genealogical Council and I always come away with great suggestions research ideas—and never enough time to implement them all.  Taylor’s sessions were fabulous. He crammed in a lot of information, and is an all-around great presenter. He focused on the 1780-1830 gap, and Online New England resources. His suggestions have already been useful in helping me close in on some of my mother’s more elusive New England ancestors. But that Parmenter-Fox connection may plague me forever!

My other sessions were a look at 1812 veterans’ records with Connie Reik and German research with Richard Doherty. The 1812 session offered strategies for finding information that I haven’t tried applying yet but I am fairly certain that Mother Gilbert’s father served for New York and now I have a few more sources to look at for more information on his experiences. And the German research program was informative as well. One of the things I learned here is that I simply don’t have enough information to trace people to Germany yet—though I’m getting there.

All around it was a great day with sessions for all skill levels and time to catch up with fellow researchers. I’m looking forward to the next Archives/MGC event, a family history workshop on November 1oth.

I also finally had the chance to attend a Genealogy Lock-in at the Grand Rapids Public Main Library hosted by their Local History Department and volunteers from the West Michigan Genealogical Society. It was a lot of fun both for socializing and talking out research strategies, as well as simply having research time in a positive environment.

I would dearly love to host something like this in my own library but I don’t really feel like we have the collection or staff to support it. Though, I did mention to one of the society members that I’d be there in a heartbeat if the State Archives ever considered the idea. Are you following along dear friends at the Archives?

If you have Kent County research in particular—you have to check out the collections at GRPL and I’d strongly encourage you to join WMGS. They’re one of those fabulous overachieving societies—always in the know about what’s going on across the state (and the country) and forever building fabulous resources for researches. Check out their current databases!

Looking for more information about events around you? Check out the Michigan Genealogical Council’s Community Calendar (for people closer to me) or connect with your local genealogical societies or those around where you research!

Happy hunting!

Jess

This week’s research included a pair of trips to the State Archives of Michigan to look at the patient records of my Great grandparents, Cora Packer and Robert Shea from the Michigan State Sanatorium (MSS) in Howell, Michigan where, according to family story, they met as Tubercular patients.

Now, this is a set of restricted records accessible by patient or by researcher with death certificate of patient in hand. Additionally, the records are not totally indexed and are in order by case file (roughly admission date). And, going in, I was only certain that my Great-grandfather was a patient during the 1920 Census and that my Great-grandmother was a patient sometime.

The Archives staff, on first pass, was only able to find my Great Grandmother as a patient—for a grand total of nine months in 1916—four years prior to when I knew Robert was there. But they couldn’t find Robert in the index. Luckily, the staff was very helpful. They checked 1916 on the theory that Cora and Robert met during her time at MSS, and then 1919 and 1920 based on what I told them about the 1920 Census and my pictures of Robert at the facility. When none of that worked they graciously consented to check 1917 and 1918 and let me know if they found anything. Within a couple of days they had gotten back to me—they had found Robert. He had been admitted in late 1918 and discharged in 1920.

So, what did I find out? I’m still working through my copies of the files but for all MSS patients there should be a detailed set of forms filled in on entry to the facility which included a family health history section. It asked questions such as occupation, name of a close relative, and it requested information about grandparents, parents, and siblings. For Robert, in particular this was interesting because the facts might not support my theory about the identity of Robert’s grandparents. But with Cora it also noted that one living and one deceased sister were also diagnosed with TB.

This set of forms also has updates on dismissal from MSS. So it corroborated the story that Robert had had some kind of surgery for his TB. Interestingly enough, he had an operation called pneumothorax in which they temporarily collapsed some portion of his lung allowing it to rest and hopefully prevent TB lesions from spreading to healthy lung tissue. If Robert had a lobectomy, as his daughters were told, it wasn’t during his time at MSS.

The files also each had at least one other bit of treasure. For Cora the standout item was a handwritten letter sent to MSS advising them of her arrival when she was accepted into the Sanatorium. For Robert, it was a detailed letter about his movements from the time he was dismissed from military service due to his health to the time he was accepted at the Sanatorium—for insurance purposes. It included a list of jobs he attempted, but was too weak for, such as working in a basket factory in Traverse City, Michigan and cutting wood for the Antrim Iron Company in Mancelona, Michigan.

If you have a tubercular patient from this period it’s worth trying to track down the patient files. The information in them is fascinating.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Note: I also just finished, A History of the Michigan State Sanatorium and An Evaluation of It’s Role in the Anti-Tuberculosis Campaign by Marjorie D. Parsall (1991). This is a fascinating Masters of Arts thesis for Oakland University available at the Kresge Library at Oakland. It was very useful to have gone through this ahead of looking at the patient records because it gave me a better idea of what medical practices were for the time in which my Grandparents were at MSS.

I’ve been thinking a great deal about my great grandfather, Robert James Shea, and his family lately. I’m not sure if it’s because I’ve been going through my files and photos—I probably have more from the Packers and Sheas than any other branch of my family—or because I decided to inventory my postcard collection which includes a stack related to the Michigan State Sanatorium in Howell, Michigan where he was treated for Tuberculosis and met my great grandmother as a fellow patient. Or maybe it’s because I’ll have a chance to pass through that part of Michigan where he was born in the Leelanau Peninsula next week. Regardless of the reason, Robert Shea is on my mind.

He was born 25 Jan 1888 in Empire Township to Cornelius and Ellen (Cunningham) Shea, the first of their nine children. He was listed as a farm laborer in the 1910 Census but by 1920 he had been admitted to the State Sanatorium. He met my great grandmother, Cora Helena Packer, there and they were married in Grand Rapids in 1922. Their first two children were born there—my Grandmother, Ethel, and her younger sister, June. In the 1930 Census Robert was working in an upholstery shop and the family lived in Tallmadge, Ottawa County. In 1931 their last child Robert Arthur was born. In April of 1933 Robert finally succumbed to complications from his Tuberculosis at Kalamazoo State Hospital.

He’s a character I really only know from pictures and the stories my Grandmother and Great Aunt share—and Gran was only 8 when he died. In every picture is a dark, thick head of hair that seems often unruly. The more unruly shots make me think of Lyle Lovett (I’m a big fan). And he had a darker complexion—an olive undertone—that he passed on to Gran and likely her three children. It’s a running joke that they all tan darker than me.

He didn’t have an easy life. The idea that he likely had a lung removed as part of his TB treatment but was still working as a lumberjack before he died has always struck me as sad. But the photo evidence suggests he was able to have fun and find joy in the times that he had.

As with all my other lines, I am always searching to add more depth to that disjointed list of facts, so I plan to continue my research on Robert (and Cora) by looking into the history and records held by the State Archives on the Michigan State Sanatorium at Howell and the Howell Carnegie District Library. I’m quite curious about what their routine would have been like especially since they were patients when the “fresh air cure” was a popular approach to TB treatment.

For more information on The Michigan State Sanatoria check out this great 2009 article from SeekingMichigan.org: A Healing Place.

All photos are from the collection of my Grandmother and Great Aunt.

I took a very short road trip today with a run out to the Archives of Michigan to do a little research using their Naturalization records. For those of you not familiar with these, the State Archives has made this very easy for many researchers with great online finding aids for many of the counties in Michigan, with one notable exception—and of course the one I have the most relatives in—Wayne County (which is not to say they’re not trying). So, I went with a few names with exact index information that I just wanted to print or copy and a few names that I knew I’d have to work for—if I was lucky enough to find anything.

Interestingly enough, it became a bit of a lesson in being prepared and flexible. When I arrived I was behind another researcher who was fairly certain that the rules about not taking in coats, pens, etc. didn’t apply to him, which was a tad uncomfortable to watch the attendant have to deal with—though she was great. But it made me think about some of the other places I’ve researched lately and some of the encounters I’ve witnessed… and the librarian in me couldn’t help but take over for this post.

I’m sure I’m preaching to the converted (mostly) but as a researcher, a librarian and someone who has more than once worked in situations such as these:

  • It works a lot better for all involved if you know what you’re looking for—go in with a few solid goals or record groups to work with.
  • Know the rules of the place you’re visiting (and follow them)—including be aware of what they allow you to bring in.
  • Be patient—even the best staffed institutions can be overwhelmed with researchers and most places, due to the economy, are not staffed or equipped optimally for demand.

Many places have clearly laid out rules and a lot of collection information on their websites. Most have email and you can request rules and inquire about records ahead of time if you can’t find them online. And, of course, telephones work too.

None of this is new… but it doesn’t hurt to throw this out into the aether as a friendly reminder.

As it happened, there was a pretty large group already working on readers and printers so, I wasn’t as successful as I’d hoped to be. But it was easy enough to make arrangements to leave my list and have the copies mailed to me. Plus, I did hit on one of my Wayne County folk—needless to say it wasn’t H. R. Massy—but it appears my 5th Great Uncle, Captain Rowland Hill Alison, did start his naturalization paperwork in Wayne County.

Happy (and respectful) hunting!

Jess

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 348 other followers