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

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

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

Packer & Jones GirlsI’ve been hanging out over in this side of the family with my research for the last few weeks.

This is my 2nd Great Aunt Grace Packer and, I believe, her two oldest nieces Alexia and Edith Jones. There’s only a five or six year  gap in age between Grace and Lexie. This was probably taken around 1914 just before or after her next niece, Doris Jones,was born. The Jones girls were the daughters of Pearl (Packer) and Raymond Jones.

Everyone looks thrilled in this shot!

Happy hunting,

Jess


Cora Helena (Packer) SheaI’m hoping to get back  on track soon but I’m  just unpacking from move. 

Here’s a more formal picture of my Great Grandmother Cora Helena (Packer) Shea.

Happy hunting,

Jess

 

I got back on track!

The Packer Family

Happy 150th birthday to my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer! He looks so thrilled!

Here with my 2nd Great Grandmother Cora and their daughters—I’m guessing—Aunt Ethel and Aunt Pearl.

Happy hunting,

Jess