I’m attending my first FGS Conference this year in Springfield, IL. I chickened out on the one in Arkansas a couple of years ago when it would have given me the impetus I needed to get down to Bradley County and do research—and I regret it. So this year, when I’ll be 45 minutes tops from Logan County, IL—the later stomping grounds of my most untrustworthy and probably most fascinating ancestor—I couldn’t pass it up. So, now I’m making lists—stuff to pack, finding directions, and trying to decide the best way to sneak off and experience a little bit of Harry R. Alison’s Logan County.

But you need to know a little about Harry … back when he was Henry.

He was an Irish cop in DetroitThat’s the only lead my grandmother, Ethel, and her sister, June, could give me in my quest to find their great-grandfather. Their grandmother, Flora Jane (Massey) Packer, shared very little about her parents—and possibly knew very little. They said an aunt and uncle had raised Flora when her mother died and passed on little information—about her father in particular. She knew he was an Irish policeman in Detroit for a time but beyond that her questions weren’t answered. Aunt June suspected that there was more to the story and I had been trying to figure out what that was for 10 years.

To begin with, Flora’s death certificate lists her as the daughter of  Henry Massey and Augusta Cory… and for the longest time searching for the pair through census indexes the closest I could find was John O. Massey, a policeman in Detroit. Eventually—as online indexes improved—I  found Augusta and Flora living in Detroit with Augusta’s parents John B. and Nancy Cory in 1870… but no Henry.

However from there I was able to gather a great deal of information. I started looking at Detroit Directories and found Henry and John O. Massy listed as policeman and as I worked backwards I could place them in the same residence. I also found a transcription of Henry and Augusta’s marriage license from 14 Aug 1866 and while I have been unable to locate an existent copy of Flora’s birth certificate, she lists her birth date as 14 Jan 1867. Given the state of healthcare at the time, I would argue that Augusta was about 4 months pregnant at the time of their wedding.

Patrolman H. R. MasseyIn addition I pulled up HeritageQuest and searched Persi for anything on the Police in Wayne County, Michigan. I was thrilled to find a Detroit Society for Genealogical Research Magazine transcription from the Applications to Detroit Police Department, 1865-1871. I found John O. Massy’s application. It included when he applied and how he was honorably discharged much like every other applicant. And then there was Henry’s. It was unlike any other… his had notes:

  • Patrolman Henry R. Massey was arraigned before the Board on the twelfth day of December A. D. 1866, charged with “sleeping while on duty and with remaining in Skating Rink for two or three hours. He was found guilty of violating the Rules and was fined five day’s loss of pay. [no endquote in original]
  • Patrolman H. R. Massey was charged with leaving his beat on the night of October 28th 1868 and going into a building corner of Hastings and Atwater Sts and while there with going to sleep. The charge was investigated by the Board Oct 28th 1868. He was found “Guilty” and fined five dollars.
  • Patrolman H. R. Massey was arraigned before the Board on the 31st day of March 1869 charged with leaving his beat and going into Burn’s bakery corner of Woodward Ave. and Grand River St. and upon another charge of visiting a house of prostitution on Franklin St. He admitted both of the charges as specified and gave as a reason of going to the house of prostitution that he was looking for a prisoner. Upon the latter charge the judgment of the Board was that he be dismissed from the Police Force. J. S. Booth, Secretary.

Dismissed in 1869 and gone in 1870.

The original book of applications is housed at The Burton Historical Collection at the Main Library of Detroit Public Library.

More later,

Jess

Charles F. Clark's annual city directory, 1968-1969

Charles F. Clark's annual city directory of the inhabitants, business firms, incorporated companies, etc., of the city of Detroit, for 1868-9, p. 256.

So while my mother and grandmother explored the sights in Fort Wayne, I settled in at The Genealogy Center at Allen County Public Library for two days of research. One of my major goals was to verify death dates and locations for my 4th great grandparents Lt. Hugh Massy and his wife Jane Alison Massy. I have a date for Hugh from Burke’s Irish Family Records but I haven’t been able to locate a place of death or burial. As for Jane I have her showing up in Detroit directories up through 1869, nothing in the 1870 Census, likely death record in Middlesex Co, Ontario in 1870, and written testimony from her son, Henry R. (my single most untrustworthy ancestor to date) who said she went back to Canada to visit a daughter and died there sometime around 1863. I spent hours going through cemetery transcriptions—especially around Strathroy and Wisbeach (Lambton Co), where other family members are buried, but still no luck. I did however take the opportunity to go through just about all the materials published by the Lambton Co., Ontario Genealogical Society and a good chunk of Middlesex Co., as well.

I was also able to track some of the families that married into Lt. Massy’s extensive family who were landowners in Co. Limerick, Ireland. A number of Burke’s volumes include information about the Massy’s—two of which I was able to work with at the Library of Michigan in Lansing. But entries in those books referred to other editions that I was able to work with at ACPL. Going through those volumes kept me busy for the afternoon. I photocopied a lot of pages and have a huge number of leads to work with on the matrilineal lines (including a sketchy but intriguing connection to Sir Edmund Spenser, author of The Faerie Queen) through the Travers family.

I also got to tell Gran that while a portion of her family has been present in Ireland for 300 years she’s still in that category of Brit transplant to Ireland.  She was not amused. She still has high hopes that the Shea’s will prove to be the stereotypical Celts—Irish Catholic to the core and anti-British. She might win out there but one never knows with her family.

Last month I attended the Michigan Genealogical Council’s annual Abram’s Genealogy Seminar and Jan Alpert, in the intro for her presentation “How My Michigan Ancestors Have Made Me a Better Genealogist,” hit solidly on one of my largest problems in researching… Coming home and not effectively working through the information I find. So many of us are always on the go and only able to catch time for the trip itself and we forget about the important follow-up–cleaning up those notes, making photocopies understandable when you come back to them, and generally pulling the new information into your research.

So, as I mentioned before, I had been effectively away from my research for almost two full years and the interruption came after a really frenzied period of trying to collect data from my local Family History Center, the Library of Michigan and Allen County Public Library. Evidently in my rushing around and as life took a turn away from genealogy the most I had done was folder the found materials. 

Imagine my surprise two years later when I start going through folders and realize… foolishly… that I had a military service record for my 4th great grandfather Lieutenant Hugh Massy who served in the 90th Light Infantry and 33rd Regiments of the British Army (from Record of officers services, 1770-1919).  It included date and place of birth, marriage information, and birth information for 5 of their children. Not one bit of it had made it into my database. I remember being thrilled at finding the record but I’m not sure if even then I had time to really look at all the fabulous detail in it. So on the one hand it was like Christmas in July but on the other hand I was mortified. Hence my post to twitter. 

So, two important things are changing in my research:

  1. I’m doing a massive clean-up to see what I have and hopefully I will avoid totally repeating steps
  2. I am scheduling time to sort out my finds as soon as I get home–while I still know what I have and why it’s relevant.

Both very basic, but both easy to forget in any projects you have to work on part-time.

Learn from my mistakes,

Jess

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