My only excuse is that sequins are taking a toll on my blog. But I’ve largely finished my sewing project and I’m only a day late in celebrating the 208th birthday of my 5th Great Grandfather.

Smith Lapham was born in Rhode Island, April 8, 1804 the son of Job and Ada (Smith) Lapham. As I’ve mentioned before, Squire Lapham was one of the settlers of Rockford (originally called Laphamville) in Kent County, Michigan, in 1845. He built a mill on the Rogue River in 1844 and ran it for 20 years, served as Village Council President, Township Supervisor, Postmaster, and Justice of the Peace. His son Embree, noted that he met with the gathering “Under the Oaks” at which the Michigan Republican Party was formed in 1854, and he went on to serve Kent County as a State Representative (1855-56) and State Senator (1857-58). Smith lived to celebrate 58 years of marriage to Katherine Gilbert and the couple raised 9 children. He was an entrepreneur, a leader, and a poet.

This image is scanned from From Sawmill to City: The Long Years Passing – a Story of Rockford, Michigan by Homer L. Burch. I am not sure of the location of the original. It may be at the Rockford Branch. I am more aware of a copy on display at Rockford Historical Museum.

Happy belated birthday, Grandfather!

And happy hunting to you all!



Yesterday marked the 135th anniversary of the death of, by all accounts, a grand old lady… Mrs. Hannah Gilbert Dubois (my 6th Great Grandmother), known at the time to Rockford and much of West Michigan as Mother Gilbert.

She was born in Vermont the daughter of Revolutionary War veteran, David Johnson and his wife Mary Joiner.  At the age of sixteen she married Asa Gilbert in Saratoga, New York and they lived first in Genesee County and then back in Saratoga, New York. In 1828 the couple and nine children (two married), became pioneers of Washtenaw County, Michigan where Mrs. Gilbert faced tremendous loss. Asa died within the year, and a son followed during a harsh winter in 1843. She married a much older widower, Jacob DuBois of Alaiedon Township, Ingham County, Michigan in 1841 who died three years later. But Mrs. Gilbert, noted in reminiscences in the Michigan Pioneer Collection, as “Aunt Hannah” was evidently a devout, strong woman and this only accounts for the first 60 years of her life. Her remaining 30 plus, saw years of devoted service to the Methodist church, her large family, and her communities.

Mother Gilbert issued the invitations and enjoyed the festivities of her daughter, Katherine Gilbert Lapham’s, Golden Wedding in 1876. She saw the births of numerous great great grandchildren. And, according to her obituary in the Rockford Register, she was only slowed by age and infirmity in the last three years of her life. She died 23 Feb 1877 at the home of Smith and Katherine Gilbert Lapham.

Scan of an image from the Gilbert Surname file at the Rockford Historical Museum, Rockford MI 

Happy hunting,


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,


Siblings: Katherine and David Johnson GilbertThis happy looking pair (I love old photographs!) is my 5th Great Grandmother Katherine (Gilbert) Lapham and her older brother the Reverend David Johnson Gilbert. The Gilbert and Lapham families moved across Michigan together settling first in Washtenaw County in the late 1820s and then moving on to Kent County in the 1840s. David and Katherine were two of eleven children born to Asa and Hannah (Johnson) Gilbert. The photograph is taken from a series of articles by Homer Birch run in the Rockford Register.

Happy Hunting!