I had the chance to head back to Rockford, MI on Saturday to meet up with some of the ladies I used to volunteer with at the Rockford Historical Museum as well as do a little research. I’ve mentioned it before but I have got to repeat… It is absolutely amazing what you can find in small local museum collections.

One of my goals on Saturday was to look at some of the society related holdings—like the membership ledger of Rockford’s Odd Fellows or the Rockford Garden Club—and a few of the old farm and mill ledgers. Both types of ledgers offer a snapshot of something important to the men and women involved.

With societies and fraternal  orders it shows you something they believed in the importance of—for humanitarian or social status reasons—enough to pay dues. And each comes with its own elements of bureaucracy, for example, in the case of the I. O. O. F. ledger, entries gave the occupation, age, and dates of advancements within the society for its members along with the credits and debits associated with tracking dues. The page below is for my 5th Great Uncle Embree Lapham.

The farm and mill ledgers give an interesting—if hard to read—look at the day-to-day commitments of this hardworking lot. The shot below is a random page that just happened to include a payment to Dr. Charles Holden (my 4th Great Grandfather) for medical attendance. As you flip through the pages there are a number of people mentioned but in 1867 alone there are a number of mentions of Dr Holden as well as his sons Horatio and Chapin (my 3rd Great Grandfather ).

What else might you find in those out-of-the-way and under promoted museums? Pictures, surname files, genealogies, cemetery records, artifacts, bibles, etc. Sometimes families want to pare down their collections, share their history, or promote their towns. All of that fabulous treasure has the potential to end up in community collections. So, it is totally worth checking them out, asking questions, and (dare I add) helping out at your local museum.

Happy hunting,


I’m finding that one of my major uses of ACPL collection is tracking down published articles on my allied lines using the Periodical Source Index (PERSI) in HeritageQuest.

I have taken huge steps forward in my research starting with clues found in articles I never would have tracked down if not for working with the database. And it’s not because I have famous family the someone has written about—though I’ve been occasionally lucky to find articles featuring relatives—but PERSI has been great for tracking down transcribed records and articles relating to places important to my ancestors. My most notable find were records leading to my Irish Cop in Detroit.

But this trip, I was focusing on family names—doing general searchers on a number of surnames. I located articles on the Lapham family included a multi-issues article on the descendants on John Lapham, my Smith’s 4th great grandfather. I located a number of articles on Rev. George Burroughs who may be an ancestor through our Holden line. Then in I tried a couple of different searches looking for clues to verify some researchers’ claims that his 2nd great granddaughter, Elizabeth Parmenter, by way of his daughter, Hannah Burroughs Fox married into the Holden family.

I didn’t find anything relevant on the Parmenter line—though in hindsight I didn’t try a variety of spellings. I found citations for a number of interesting articles on the Lawrence family—not all of which I had time to track down—as well as a few on the Whitney/Shattuck line that connect to all of the allied Holden families from Martha’s Vineyard.  But what I thought would be the most useful search, turned out to be impossible.

I had hoped that the Fox line would be well-documented enough that I would be able to track down more solid sources for the suggested connection. Hannah Burroughs had married Jabez Fox the son of an early Harvard Grad and the 2nd minister at Woburn, Massachusetts. And the family is intertwined in the histories of Cambridge, Groton, and Woburn in Massachusetts. So I first went to PERSI and typed in Fox in a Surname Search. I got the very annoying response, “No results were found that matched your request.” I couldn’t believe that no one had ever written about the family. So I tried again, same answer. And on a hunch I tried a couple of other 3-letter surnames, all with the same answer.

It would seem that you cannot do a PERSI surname search on 3-letter names—at least through HeritageQuest. I played with it for a while before approaching one of the ACPL librarians who came up with the same results. Now, on the plus side, she did come to me later to let me know that you can search PERSI through Ancestry fairly successfully. I was able to work with that for the remainder of my trip. But I have the ulterior motive of being a co-database trainer at my home library—and all library editions of Ancestry are not equal. PERSI isn’t available at all in my library’s version.

All that said HeritageQuest is a resource I use a great deal. What I couldn’t find in PERSI was almost made up for with what I found in the Books section of the website including genealogies on the Fox, Lawrence and Whitney families that give me a little more faith in the Burroughs claims. But the issue with 3-letter surnames seems to be a glaring error.

Happy hunting,


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!


Earlier this week I had a lovely conversation with a retired co-worker who has taken on a newspaper indexing project and she expressed how much she has enjoyed reading the detailed and fascinating articles that went into old weekly newspapers—from local gossip, to thoughtful discussions of current events, to poetry. I have had similar experiences over the years pouring over the oldest editions of The Rockford Register, held at the Krause Memorial Library in Rockford, Michigan. And while many of my family members have had important moments covered in The Register, none made such amazing use or were followed so closely as the Lapham family, credited as pioneers of Rockford (once Laphamville).

My co-worker, I think, was surprised by the poetry which is so very different from our modern sense of newspapers but the Lapham’s took time out for poetry and prose. Their contributions included a very long poem from the occasion of my 5th Great Grandparent’s (Smith and Katherine Lapham’s) Golden Wedding Anniversary by Smith, a tear-jerker on the death of one of their grandchildren at the age of 12 by her father (their youngest son, Judge Embree B. Lapham), or this short poem on the occasion of Embree’s 83rd Birthday:

Our Birthdays—My Eighty-third

Our birthdays come and quickly go
Exactly on the date.
We’re on year older—this we know
‘Tis ordered so by fate.

Time lingers not for youth or age
Nor does it favor me.
I turn and scan another page
To find I’m eighty-three.

Life’s river flows with restless face
On toward the unknown sea
Where all must end their earthly race
And make Heaven their plea.

If we can show our record clear
Or nearly free from flaws
There’s nothing then we need to fear.
For Christ will plead our cause.

He’ll say to us you’re welcome here,
You’ve done your very best
So banish every doubt and fear—
You’ve gained eternal rest.

Printed in the Rockford Register 23 March 1933. Judge Embree B. Lapham ran a confectionary, managed hotels, was co-creator and served as editor of The Belding Banner, among other endeavors. He also served as Mayor of Belding and served for more than 25 years consecutively as Justice of the Peace for Rockford, Kalkaska, and Belding—with two of those positions held simultaneously. He was born in 1850 and lived to the ripe old age of 94.

The photograph was printed in the Belding Banner on the occasion of his death in 1944.

This is just a quick post between packing and prep before I head out for FGS2011.

Tomorrow is Labor Day and that along with a lot of discussion on the GeneaBloggers sites (including GeneaBloggers Radio Episode 33) inspired me to look back through my family research at the jobs various family members have held. And while there have been many unique ones (such as saxophone maker, reflexologist, and tailor) I decided to focus on how my family has played their own role in the building of Michigan.

My maternal 5th great grandfather, Smith Lapham, was a pioneer, moving into the state after working on the Erie Canal, and eventuallyheading up the Grand and Rogue River until he settled in Kent County, there becoming a farmer and entrepreneur in a little town originally known as Laphamville, as well as serving as a State Senator in 1858.

My maternal great grandfather, Cornelius Shea, I believe moved in the 1880s from Upstate New York to Michigan with a few of his brothers to work in and around the lumber camps in Leelanau County, Michigan, then later moved down to Grand Rapids to work in the Furniture industry.

And finally, my paternal grandfather, Levie Trotter, was part of the Motor City, moving his young family from Arkansas to Detroit in 1951, and working for Chrysler Corporation for 32 years.

This is a small sampling of the generations of hard workers that I can claim as family—each very different but each part of an important time in Michigan’s economic development. And likely you’ll hear more details about all of them in blogs to come.

Happy Labor Day!