Character Studies


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

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

1893CityDirectoryWoodstockONT

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.

Milton1858p217

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

It’s one thing to know the bare facts of a story but a totally different thing when you find a more personal or intimate view of a person. This was a heartbreaking find tucked among my Great Aunt June’s belongings.

The following is an entry from my 2nd Great Aunt Ethel Augusta Packer’s diary. She was born 12 November 1887 in Oxford, Ontario to Cornelius and Flora (Massy) Packer. The family came to Michigan and settled in a house on 163 Shirley St, in Grand Rapids around 1891. At the time of the entry she was twelve years old and stricken with tuberculosis. She died the following September just short of her thirteenth birthday. My grandmother was named after her.

January 18, 1900 Entry from Ethel Packer's Diary.

It reads:

Freddie Ellingham is sick and so am I and he sent me two oranges. I am setting up and I have been in bed six  weeks. Papa is sitting by the bed reading my story book and mama making me a tidy. I have taken my medicine good all day to day. I had me bed drown up by the window to see the children snow ball.

For more information on the TB epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th Century check out this post.

Happy hunting,

Jess

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

Another major focus of my winter research was working my back a little farther on Shea-Macumber lines in New York. I comber through land records and wills and probate for St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison and Cortland Counties trying to track the Macumbers in particular in the hopes of more substantially identifying Teresa and Amy (Macumber) Shea’s mother. I believe she was Pulchara Jaquay but I can’t as yet tie her to any of the Jaquay families in the area. She is listed in one lone document that I’ve found so far—selling land in Lewis County with her husband in 1836.

Deed of sale from Rufus & Pulchara McOmber to Michael Lehr

In the process I have figured out that Rufus was a junior, the son of a Rufus Macumber of Otsego, Madison, and Cortland counties. He probably had a brother named Moses who married Sarah “Sally” Crumb who was, in turn, probably their stepsister by Rufus Sr.’s second wife, Polly Whaley Crumb McUmber. Polly and Rufus also had a t least 4 children, two of which—Nathan and Waity Ann—finished out their lives an hour and a half away from me in Van Buren County, Michigan.

I’m exhausting my online resources and really need to go back to planning a New York State research trip.

Happy hunting!

Jessica

When you feel like you’ve run out of records and the trip to New York seems impossible to plan right now… what do you do? I tend to start researching the locations, ideally to unearth more records. For this particular branch of the tree that meant researching Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties in New York.  By looking through the St. Lawrence County Historical Association’s website I discovered the NYS Historic Newspapers project—a fabulous resource for New York researchers! Again, newspapers are the perfect resource for finding out the dirt on our black sheep relatives—what sells in the news business has not really changed… scandal and crime being top of the list. And that’s how I learned another piece of Michael O’Shea’s story.

OSheaMWatertownReunion18860428I was aware of Michael’s existence. He was an Irish immigrant and tailor in Upstate New York. I believe he is a close relative of my 3rd Great Grandfather, Patrick Shea or O’Shea and I know the men married sisters, Amy and Theresa McCumber, and the two couples were listed consecutively in the 1850 United States Census in Philadelphia, Jefferson County, New York. I had already found evidence that Michael and his wife were buried at St Patrick’s Cemetery in Rossie, New York (as was Patrick). But that was pretty much the total of my information prior to finding the newspapers.

Upon searching the NYS Historic Newspapers, I learned that Michael stopped by the hotel of George McLear in Rossie for drinks twice on the 21st of April 1886 and then while walking home that night fell into the Indian River. He was first reported missing but his body washed ashore days later.

OSheaMHisdeathwasnolossIn response, his widow, Amy, filed a civil suit against the hotel owner for serving Michael. The story plays out in articles in a number of the region’s newspapers in two counties as the case was tried, overturned and pursued again later by Michael’s daughter Rosanna. Ultimately the O’Shea’s lost the case when the defense persuaded the jury that Michael wasn’t that drunk and it had been a very dark night to be out walking without a lantern and it was likely just an accident.

His history of drinking didn’t serve the family well either as the defendant in the first trial remarked, “his death was no loss to the plaintiff as he was a worthless fellow and did nothing to support his wife.”

Ouch!

Happy hunting,

Jess

So as I noted, I’ve been working on a presentation on black sheep ancestors—which I’ve found a fair number of hanging out on my family tree. Some I’ve found by accident, some I obviously went looking for—like good old H.R. I’m going to write about a few of the side characters in my presentation because of their interesting stories and the great resources I found to research them.

SmithAbner1902I was trying to be better about following out the siblings of my direct ancestors and researching the siblings of Hugh and Jane Alison Massy starting with Rowland Hill and Elizabeth Massy Alison (because siblings marrying siblings). I’d hoped the double family tie might lead me to more information on my Massy-Alison family. But while the Rowland Alison family did move briefly to Detroit and it appears Jane and family followed along right after Hugh’s death, Rowland and family quickly moved on to Chicago where they settled and the research hasn’t yet led me to further revelations on my direct line. But it did lead to a few interesting characters like Abner Smith.

Rowland had at least 5 children including Edith who married Charles Lee Caswell in 1870. The couple had two children including Charles Lee Junior who studied at Northwestern University Law School and was admitted to the Bar by the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois on 1896. He worked in practical law in Chicago until he made junior partner in the firm Smith & Caswell with Judge Abner Smith upon the Judge’s retirement from the Circuit Court Bench in 1903. Smith and Caswell can each be found among the turn of the century who’s who for Chicago prior to the fall of 1905 when Abner became the president of Bank of America and Caswell appears to have gone on to found Caswell & Healy.

DarrowonSmith19090602By April the following year Smith and several others were indicted for conspiracy leading to the wreck of the bank. Among those who lost the majority of their investments was Clarence Darrow who paid out of pocket to all small depositors and served with his partner Edgar Lee Masters (Spoon River Anthology) as attorney for the receiver, Daniel Healy, at Abner’s hearings. There are great detailed write ups in the Chicago Tribune Archives—like this one, “Smith Plea Met by New Charges”.  Abner tried every appeal possible before turning himself in to the Cook County Jail for transport to the State Penitentiary in Joliet, Illinois in May of 1909. And then the process was lengthened when the Sheriff actually refused to transport him.

SmithARasclChiTrib1909In the end he served a year and a month, and on parole in July of 1910 returned home to Chicago and practicing law. His wife Ada died in 1914, he was enumerated as a widowed lodger in 1920, and when the census came round again in 1930 he had married his former partner’s widowed mother, Mrs. Edith Alison Caswell—Rowland’s daughter and my 1st cousin 5 times removed. Abner died in 1932 at the age of 89 and Edith died a year later.

One of my biggest finds from this side trip is that the Tribune archives are fabulous for researching the notable and infamous—especially if you have Chicago roots. And as cases get messy enough you may be able to continue your research in legal reviews or biographies of notable lawyers.

For example, Reports of Cases at Common Law and in Chancery Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Illinois Vol 239 (available in Google Books) has a detailed and verbose review of the case which charged that the defendants wrongfully, wickedly, fraudulently, feloniously and unlawfully conspired, combined, and confederated… to cheat and defraud and injure the public…” and that’s leaving out a ton.

Happy hunting,

Jessica

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