Needless to say, the pandemic has totally thrown my year, but I’ve been sitting on a version of this post for a while. I’m not sure I’ll be able to get back into a more normal run of posts anytime soon, but I will endeavor to at least post more.

Some of you know I was working on a presentation on occupational records and resources for a Virtual Genealogical Association webinar last week. It was another presentation that was truly meant to get researchers out and about looking for information in libraries, archives, and museums. Then… pandemic. But, in the retooling of the presentation, I found so many interesting and cool online resources that I really thought they were going to have to cut me off for going too long. Suffice to say, there is much that can be done online—but you should also be making the list of places to visit when it is safe for you to do so too.

I’ve talked about examples of occupational records/resources on the blog before: Henry R. Massy’s  Police Force Application, Grandpa Bailey’s work photo from Kirkhoff Manufacturing, labor union publications. But being in lockdown gave me time to explore other resources. For example, did you know that Ancestry has record sets like U.S., Baseball Questionnaires, 1945-2005—a collection of self-completed surveys including the likes of Roger Marais, Ken Griffey, Jr  (and Sr.), or former Detroit Tiger Brad Ausmus. Or maybe you need a record set more down to earth? They also have a collection called Wisconsin, Employment Records, 1903-1988—including the four occupations for which one needed a license: education, barbering, watchmaking, and boxing.

Family Search has a variety of collections like the Certificates of admission to the Guild of barbers, surgeons and chandlers, Shewsbury, 1745-1792 (UK), the Business license records (Pike County, Ohio), 1816-1854, 1877, or the Peddlers and Show Licenses, 1852-1866 (Decatur County, Georgia).

Clippings from WorldCat.org entry for the Arkansas Borad of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 from the Arkansas State Archives and a photo of the catalog entry for Fred Elliott, barber.

Searches in WorldCat or ArchiveGrid can net more collections—such as the Arkansas State Board of Barber Examiners files of inactive barbers, series III, 1937-1994 at the Arkansas State Archives including a picture of my Great Uncle Fred Elliott. But so can a search on Google. That’s how I found a number of industry journals with mentions of family members. Like the notice of the fire at my 4th Great Uncle H. R. Rothwell’s barrel, cask and box factory in Chicago, Illinois in on June 9th 1908 in The National Cooper’s Journal  and The Barrel and Box.

Clippings from Barrel and Box, July 1908

“But I only have Farmers!” I hear you. I know. I have my fair share, but check out the community your family is from to see if any of the farm books or store ledgers for the area survived. I can’t promise they’re out there, but it’s worth a look—especially if you’ve hit a brick wall.

Or maybe your find is waiting for a building renovation and will find its way to Facebook, like this. It a grocer’s card that a pizza joint in my mom’s hometown found while renovating. I totally wanted it to be our George, but then it settled in that there were three George Porter’s in town at that time (and we’re only related to two of them)—needless to say that’s the one we have no claim to. But, wow!  What a neat job-related find sitting out there on social media for someone.

Happy hunting!

Jess

I had the chance to read a digital ARC of the following title from NetGalley so thanks to them and Abrams Press.

You should know how the use of DNA tests could affect you, even if you never take one.

 

Cover of "The Lost Family" by Libby Copeland.If you’ve taken, want to take, or even never want to take a DNA test, The Lost Family by Libby Copeland is for you. I came into this with a background in genealogy and genetic testing and I very much appreciate the way Copeland lays out the more challenging aspects of the genetic genealogy boom–results that contradict the stories you’ve been told all your life, the fact that you testing could totally affect the lives of genetic relatives that never intended to test, the use of testing for health research or law enforcement purposes. These are all very big topics that people generally don’t consider when they get a kit for Christmas or arbitrarily decide that it would be cool to see they pie chart (or some other “ethnic” breakdown depending on the company). Whether you’re Interested in family history or not this is a compelling and important read.

 

Happy hunting and reading,

Jess

One of the cool things I’ve found in my research is that people lived in areas I had never considered possible. One branch of my family generally thinks of itself as poor farmers and while we have many of those, we also come from a line of landed or aristocracy adjacent Brits. This includes younger sons who chose or were slotted for military service like Hugh Massy, or military families who through their standing and acquaintances were able to get children on the track for foreign service like Charles Alison. And if you do have people in those middle to high echelons of British Society, then you have to consider the previous global reach of the British Empire and consider all the possibilities. For example, Charles, noted above, was probably born in the West Indies, married a  resident of Constantinople at the British Embassy in Paris, and died in Tehran, Persia. And even having researched Charles, I still was surprised to find my 2nd Cousin, 4 times removed, Maud Mary (Rothwell) Mardon traveling the world.

Maud was born 12 Apr 1881 in Brantford, Ontario the daughter of Burrows Rothwell and Mary Merryweather. However, while Mary, older brother Percy, and her next two siblings (were born in Canada, Burrows had actually emigrated to Michigan as early as 1856. He married Mary in 1867 in Oakland, Michigan and their first four children (Horatio, Fanny, Arthur, and Charles) were born in Eastern Michigan. But by the time of the 1900 Census he was firmly established as a major player in Detroit and Western Ontario real estate. All of this left Maud well placed in Detroit Society during her formative years including participating in multiple charity theatrical events on the Lyceum and Detroit Opera House stages as a teenager.

In 1901 Maud was invited to stay with her aunt and uncle Julia Hill (Rothwell) and James Digges La Touche—a noted Irish civil servant in British India. Maud first joined the family in Dublin then traveled with them to India when La Touche took up his appointment of Lieutenant-Governor of the North-Western Provinces and Chief Commissioner of Oudh. Two years into her stay with the family her engagement to Evelyn John Mardon, also of the British civil service, was announced in the Detroit Free Press on 27 September 1903.

Detroit Free Press Wedding Announcement for Mr . and Mrs. Evelyn John Mardon.

Wedding Announcement for Mr . and Mrs. Evelyn John Mardon. Detroit Free Press, 06 December 1903, p. 28

The couple married 5 October 1903 at Naini Tal, Bengal, India, with the La Touche family standing in for her parents. John and Maude’s first children, John Kenric La Touche and Eveline Mary, were born in Bengal in 1905 and 1908. By 1911 the family had been recalled to England and the remaining children, Victor Rothwell, Julia Alison, Maude Elizabeth, Geoffrey Burrows, and Cedric Hall, were born in Devon. The family appears to have retired to Halsway Manor in Somerset in 1938 where members of the family lived until Mardon’s death in 1958.

 

It appears that Mardon is best known for his work in India and traveling the world as a big game hunter. Ah… colonizers and big game hunting. Really not my thing, but fascinating research, nonetheless.  The family remained an international one—you can find them on passenger lists in and out of the Americas including Brazil, Canada, and the United States. It appears that Victor even took up farming in the Kenya Colony until the Kenya Colony and Protectorate came to an end and Kenya became independent in 1963. This might explain the fact that Maud died 13 February 1950 at the War Memorial Hospital in Nakura, Kenya. Her headstone is noted in the Nakuru North Cemetery at East African Cemeteries and Memorials.

Will entry for Maud Mardon, England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995, Ancestry.com.

England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1995, Ancestry.com

I’d never imagined I’d find all these relatives so far away.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Edit: As of March 12th this event has been cancelled.

This one snuck up on me. Join us on Saturday, 14 March 2020 at the Downtown Lansing Library. On Saturdays street parking is free and there is a lot behind the library with entrances on Washington and Kalamazoo that’s also free. Join us!

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I may never catch up (because life) but the  #52 Ancestors writing prompts are still great! And I enjoy teasing them out in different directions. So, that said…

The week 4 prompt was ”Close to Home” and I had a bunch of different ideas of what I wanted to talk about, but then life happened. However, that included getting to present in a number of venues (thank you WMGS, Redford Township District Library, Grand Rapids Public Library, and LAAAGS) in February. Those experiences redirected my ideas for this prompt. Instead of spotlighting a specific ancestor or family member this time I want remind everyone to take advantage of the resources you have “close to home.” I realize I’m extremely lucky in my local community—we have multiple societies, great resources libraries from public branches to the State Archives and Library. But regardless of where you live, I think there’s a very good chance that there are people ready and willing to talk genealogy.

LAAAGS2020WGCMy last event of the month was presenting at and participating in a joint program hosted by our local African American genealogical society and two area churches and I was overwhelmed by the turnout, interest, and discussions. And listening to the many speakers, it reminded me that in my community there is so much experience to be shared, stories to be told, support to be given. Hearing how these avid researchers worked through their brick walls gave me so many ideas for my own. Sharing that I as one of the presenters still have a ton of brick walls,  I think helped other newer genealogists. Comparing notes with new acquaintances researching in the same communities gave everyone in the discussion new ideas.

If you are able to get out and make connections locally—with a group you’re able to commiserate with, or brainstorm with, or simply cheer each other on… it helps. Don’t overlook your local resources—try a society, a library program, or a genealogy workshop. And talk to people, ask your questions, ask for advice, share your experiences—all politely and while listening at least as much as you talk.

Give it a try!

Jess

P.S. The fact that I finally finished this as events across the country are being cancelled because of the Coronavirus is not lost on me. But I still think the point is good in normal times.

P.P.S. This also is not meant to knock the fabulous online community I have found. Shout out to  BlackProGen, #genchat, and Genealogy Twitter in general, as well as the Virtual Genealogical  Association.

I’m behind but I’m making a comeback (I think)!

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1893 Woodstock, Ontario, Canada City Directory

So, my first thought on the prompt regarding long lines was a bit of research I was working on this summer regarding occupations. Researching an ancestor’s occupation may tell you more about your family and the choices they made. For example, I knew that Cornelius Packer and several of his siblings  came to Michigan to work in the furniture industry in the 1890s, but a more careful examination of the occupations in the family shows an interesting evolution. They came from Canada where I knew many of them did factory work of some kind—but by tracking down multiple city directories (they don’t always identify employers) and newspaper articles I was able to tie the family—including brothers Albert, Charles, and William and their father Joseph Packer to the James Hay Co. in Woodstock, Ontario—a  furniture company. So, two generations worked in some aspect of the furniture industry as it swept west.

Tracking the family back further it’s clear that Joseph Packer did at least a stint as a Brickmaker—but that actually seems to be the general profession of his Vaughan in-laws. His brother-in-law Cornelius Vaughan, who immigrated with them to Canada, found work as a brickmaker in Ontario bringing skills already honed in Kent, which, after the Napoleonic wars, briefly became a major supplier of bricks for London development. The decline of the industry coincided with the families’ immigration.

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1858 Melville’s Directory of Kent, England (Milton) p. 217

Another tidbit to add to consideration about the family. Joseph Packer is one of the only members of his family to go into brickmaking. The rest worked in basket making. In fact, several researchers have noted the basket making Packers of Kent possibly tracing back to a basket maker on the Isle of Thanet born in the mid-1600s. It’s something I plan to spend more time researching. But Cornelius Packer’s grandfather Thomas and Great Uncle John, as well as a 2nd and a 3rd great uncle (John and Edward respectively), are all identified in records as basket makers.

Happy hunting,

Jess

So, this is the point where I look around and realize that I have actually posted the majority of my “favorite” photos over the years I’ve had this blog. Browse the Photographs category for a fun range of pics. As I’ve noted before, photography is something that many parts of my family have gravitated towards–my maternal grandmother’s line in particular left a ton of (unidentified) photos to the family. But for the purposes of this challenge one particular picture did come to mind.

Robert Shea with a Banjo and Cora (Packer) Shea both seated in front of a log cabin.

Robert Shea with a Banjo and Cora (Packer) Shea both seated in front of a log cabin.

This old tinted shot of my maternal grandmother’s parents, Robert and Cora (Packer) Shea, makes me think it should be an old bluegrass album cover. Weirdly, this is the first time I’ve noticed all the shadows in the foreground. They bring to mind Robert’s many brothers–in fact the hat shape of the middle shadow on the right hand side–makes me think immediately of this shot. I don’t know if Grandpa Shea actually played banjo or not. And I’m not sure where this was taken. I suspect though, that it is after their wedding in August of 1922.

Happy hunting,

Cheers,

Jess

I’ve again decided to participate in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks. And I’m already off to a slow start—indecisive about what I want to talk about. Or maybe more accurately indecisive about whether I should tell the story I want to talk about. It’s not a secret per say but it still feels like it falls into the realm of delicate.

Back in 2018, I started talking around an NPE (I’m running with Judy Russell here and translating as “Not the Parent Expected”) in my Genetic research. In other words, after a long time of looking at our matches that didn’t quite make sense and a conversation with someone who should have been registering as a first cousin but wasn’t a match at all, it was clear that one of my grandparents was not actually a genetic match to my parent.  One of my aunts tested to confirm the findings—proving she and my parent were only half siblings. Trauma and angst aside that changed my research dramatically.

I now had another family to figure out. But luckily, we had a lot of matches to work with and my aunt as a match that I could use to help narrow down the possibilities through our non-shared matches. The discovery prompted a deep dive into doing genetic research—with huge thanks to Blaine Bettinger, Diahan Southard, Judy Russell, and Angie Bush whose presentations I have attended and hung on their every word, the members of the Capital Area DNA Interest Group which grew out of  our community need for help with these kinds of experiences, and Ancestry’s Crista Cowan who in a prize consult took a quick look over my theory and basically said yes you’re on the right track.

I was able to lay out our matches and identify, not my actual grandparent—it’s one of four siblings—but very definitely their parents. I had a surname and a large extended family through a multitude of verifiable trees. It has introduced me to research in different counties and states, as well as my first experiences using records like the Dawes Rolls (no, I’m not indigenous), a very informative disputed will, and a first known relative who was a member of the United States Colored Troops (with a gigantic informative pension file).

Dawes Example

This is the family of a 3rd Great Aunt by marriage who were Choctaw Freedmen.

In short starting this line over—no matter how jarring at the time—has opened me up to so many new and interesting experiences. And honestly, we, the addicts, are always looking for a new line to trace.

Happy hunting,

Jess

P.S. The above-mentioned Capital Area DNA Group will hold its quarterly meeting at CADL Downtown Lansing on January 25th., 10-12 pm. Join us!

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Pumpkins outside of  Leelanau Wine Cellars Tasting Room, Omena, Michigan

This morning I attended a Yoga class focused on gratitude and dedicated to a recently lost friend from my childhood. It was heart-warming, there was laughter, and I was reminded to remember all those that got me to this place (whatever their roles)–and to have a little care form myself as well. With that in mind, I would like to take this problematic holiday and focus on my gratitude.

 

Thank you to everyone who’s invited me out to present. Thank you to all who have attended sessions–and asked amazing questions that challenge me and push my research. Thanks to everyone I have taken classes from, researched with, or traveled with on the way to more research. You all help me re-frame questions, think outside the box, and move forward on my path—even (and maybe especially) when it might feel like I’m the one giving advice. Society, Council members, and friends I’ve met through genealogy… Thank you too.

And also, thank you to my family for not calling me out (often) when I use our crazy stories and connections as examples. My research was probably begun more as a means of finding myself, but has become something I know you enjoy and take pride in. Thank you for your support!

Happy Thanksgiving and happy hunting!

Jess

PS. All the love for Just B Yoga!

First Birthday, c. 1953So eight years ago I published my first post and it’s been a crazy ride since then. I credit the blog with helping me improve as a researcher, connecting me with friends and family, and giving me a fun outlet–that also pushed me to further explore my roots. And while I haven’t been that consistent–especially in the last couple of years–I still want to keep it open and (ideally) post more often about what’s happening.

On the fun side, I’ve been distracted doing a fair amount of presenting, which has been fabulous! In fact, if you’d like to catch me around Michigan, I’ll be at:

I also will freely admit I get pulled down the rabbit hole in my research–which of course has it’s negatives–but it makes for great blog and talk fodder. I’ve been pulling together a new presentation on occupational records. I’ve found coopers, distillers, bankers, Levantine merchants, my share of farmers and more to discuss and use as examples–like the following Barrel And Box article about the fire at H. R. Rothwell’s factory. Rothwell was the widower of my 4th Great Aunt Frederica Massy who later also married her 1st cousin, Julia Hill Alison.

Coopers

Thanks so much for hanging out with me! Stay tuned for more posts and happy hunting!

Jess