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

Alma and How She Got Her Name by Juana Martinez-Neal

My Children’s Librarian co-worker brought this lovely book to my attention when it was named a Caldecott Honor book this past winter. And it would fit right in to a family history storytime.

The title character thinks her name is too long and complains to her father. He sits her down to explain all her names and the family and friends that each one represents. Leaving her with a strong foundation in the past to take into her future. Like Tell me a Tattoo Story, it’s a parent sharing the family stories and relating them to a curious child in a way that the children can relate to and keep forever.

And it’s fun to talk about names and where they com from. To be fair, mine was one of the most popular at the time of my birth but my middle name is a strong older name to pair it with. Sometimes there are names passed down, sometimes names created. Those stories of why are worth adding to our files and keeping alive.

Thank you to Ms. Mari for bringing it to my attention!

Happy hunting,

Jess

GSMCLogoI’m honored to be presenting four talks at the Genealogical Society of Monroe County, MI’s 42nd Annual Spring Seminar on March 16th at Monroe County Community College.

I’m presenting:

  • The ABC’s of DNA & Genealogy
  • British Isles to Canada to Michigan
  • Scandalous Ancestors
  • Road Trip! No, really, it’s not all online!

I’m really looking forward to it and have had fun updating my slides! See that attached flyer for more details: 2019GSMCSeminarFlyer

Hope to see you!

Jess

It’s been a weather eventful winter here in Michigan and January and February felt like we were just hanging on for dear life. But in the background plans were being made. So, stay tuned for a number of event announcements, starting with this one (below) put on annually but my local library system, Capital Area District Libraries. There are sessions for all skill levels and time for discussion with fellow researchers. Follow this link for a pdf of the handout: Family History Open House 2019 Final.

Join us!

Jess

FamilyHistoryOpenHouse

I went looking for an ARC (Advanced Reading Copy) of this title after catching an exchange between @CleverTitleTK (Fight on #resistancegenealogy!) and the author. @weiss_squad and @PRHLibrary came through for me!

Cover ImageFamily secrets, DNA, nature and nurture…

As a memoirist Shapiro has written extensively on her family and relationships which no doubt made the results of her DNA test all the more disconcerting. In Inheritance she presents a heartfelt chronicle of the discovery of a non-Jewish 1st cousin in her results, the research to discover her surprise biological paternal family, and the initial correspondence with her genetic father, all alongside her anguish over what that meant for her relationships with her social father and mother—both deceased.

For me this was a bit close to home and I will admit to putting it down briefly as her pain and confusion came off the page. As a genealogist this isn’t a particularly new story to me but, given recent revelations in my own family, it was a timely and emotional read. As the popularity of commercial DNA tests grows it is obvious that stories like this will continue to come to light and Dani Shapiro offers here a thoughtful examination of her feelings, motivations, and fears that can be of comfort to people with similar stories.

Happy reading and hunting!

Jess