I was able to take a day last week to do a daytrip to Kent County, Michigan to visit another one of my favorite collections—Grand Rapids Public Library’s History and Special Collections Department at the Main Library. It’s been years since I’ve been there to research and took me a little while to get oriented but I was able to answer some of the questions I’d hoped to. For example—and this is for Denise and Gran… Aunt Pearl (Packer) McComb was buried at Rest Lawn Memorial Park according to her Grand Rapids Press obituary—which for some reason I’d missed looking up before. I was also able to work with the Grand Rapids Directories and a few other resources.

I spent the afternoon at the Kent County Probate Court to look at family probate records. As I had used this courthouse before I had gotten a fair explanation of how things worked form their website. And I was pretty well prepared when I arrived. I didn’t know what they might have so I used their indexes to look up a few family names and picked one to work on for the afternoon.

I spent the remainder of my time looking at the very detailed and long probate packet for my 3rd Great-Grandfather George E. Porter, who died without a will. What followed was a very detailed process in which George’s heirs nominated my 2nd Great-Grandfather Charles E. Porter to act as agent in settling his father’s estate. There were pages of material—I couldn’t afford to print it all at $2 per page. But Idid get a great sampling with lists of surviving heirs, property information and value, and lists of debts—from a line by line of the costs of treatment for George’s illness to the burial. I worked with bits of probate packets before but this was my first experience seeing a large detailed packet without someone choosing bits to show me. It was fascinating!

Happy hunting,

Jess

And for your viewing pleasure on this Wordless Wednesday… This is my Great Grandfather Robert Shea, my 2nd Great Aunt Grace Packer, and my Great Grandmother Cora (Packer) Shea. It was probably taken in the early 1920s before Grace married Harold Elliott in 1925.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Today is the 165th Anniversary of my 3rd Great Grandparents wedding. On 25 April 1847 Joseph Packer married Harriet Vaughan at St. Margaret’s Church in Rainham, Kent, England witnessed by Joseph’s brother, Charles and sister, Mercy. The couple lived to celebrate 59 years of marriage. They were the parents of at least seven children: William James, Thomas William Horton, Joseph Malcolm Ross, Sara Maria, Charles, Cornelius, and Albert A. The family lived in Kent; Ontario, Canada; and finally in the United States.  The couple completed their lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

I’ve had lots of long conversations with my Gran and Great Aunt about our families but I have this growing list of questions inspired by research done for these posts and new finds. As an example, I spent hours this week flipping through census pages for Grand Rapids, MI trying to track them down in 1940. I had started with my latest directory locations for the family—which placed them living with my 2nd Great Aunt Pearl in 1937. When I couldn’t find any relatives there I called Gran and she told me they lived on Quimby.  I used Morse and Weintraub’s One Step Enumeration District finder from (http://stevemorse.org) which narrowed the list down to 3 EDs. Then Gran called back and said… maybe it was Union St. Either way she wasn’t sure of the number. So, I entered Union in the finder and it narrowed it down to 30 districts. Needless to say, I found them at 306 Union Street… eventually.

In 1940 Great Grandma Cora was the head of household including my Gran and her siblings and Cora’s youngest sibling Grace (Packer) Elliott and her family—including her husband, Harold, and six of their children. Cora was working at a paper box factory and Harold at an auto plant. I was so thrilled that I posted to Twitter as soon as I found Gran, and almost immediately got a phone call from my mother and Gran because Gran wanted to know what I’d found. It all just leads to more interesting questions: about Cora’s job (which I can’t quite decipher), the moving, all the family they lived with at different times, and really just how Cora managed as a widow with 3 young children.

I think it’s past time for a lunch date with Mom, Gran, and my Aunts!

Happy hunting!

Jess

Another miss in my sequin haze… Saturday marked the 185 Anniversary of my 3rd Great Grandfather Joseph Packer’s birth. I introduced a bit of his story on the occasion of his wife, Harriett Vaughan’s birthday back in January. To give you a little more on Joseph, he was born on April 7, 1827 in Rainham, Kent, England. He was the son of Thomas Swissenton Packer and Hannah Ross. He and Harriett married 1847. In the 1851 Census he was listed as a brickmaker in the Village of Gillingham at Kent. The family lived at Malcomb Place in Sittingbourne during the 1861 Census. By 1871 they were settled in Ontario, Canada. Around 1891 the family came to Michigan. Joseph died February 19, 1911 in Grand Rapids, Michigan in the United States.

Happy hunting!

Jess

P.s. Denise, If you see this before I get my act together! I fully intend on writing back. But until then: Yes, I’m still happily tracking our Packers and Masseys!

Today is the 12oth Anniversary of the birth of my Great Grandmother Cora Packer Shea.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

Harriet (Vaughan) Packer This is my 3rd Great Grandmother Harriet (Vaughan) Packer and today is the 186th Anniversary of her birth. Harriet was born in 1826 in England to John and Frances Vaughan. She married Joseph Packer at St. Mary the Virgin at Upchurch, Kent in 1847. The couple had at least seven children: William James, Thomas William Horton, Joseph Malcolm Ross, Sarah Maria, Charles, my 2nd Great Grandfather Cornelius, and their youngest child Albert. In 1871 the whole family immigrated to Canada and my Gran and Aunt June remember being told about Albert being young and active enough that they were afraid he’d go overboard during their journey. They settled first in Hamilton, Ontario near her siblings but moved quickly on to Woodstock, Ontario until the early 1890s when Joseph, Cornelius, Charles, and Albert eventually moved their families to Grand Rapids, Michigan.  Harriet died in Grand Rapids and is buried in Fairplains Cemetery.

This photo is from the collection of my Great Aunt.

Happy Hunting,

Jess

This week’s research included a pair of trips to the State Archives of Michigan to look at the patient records of my Great grandparents, Cora Packer and Robert Shea from the Michigan State Sanatorium (MSS) in Howell, Michigan where, according to family story, they met as Tubercular patients.

Now, this is a set of restricted records accessible by patient or by researcher with death certificate of patient in hand. Additionally, the records are not totally indexed and are in order by case file (roughly admission date). And, going in, I was only certain that my Great-grandfather was a patient during the 1920 Census and that my Great-grandmother was a patient sometime.

The Archives staff, on first pass, was only able to find my Great Grandmother as a patient—for a grand total of nine months in 1916—four years prior to when I knew Robert was there. But they couldn’t find Robert in the index. Luckily, the staff was very helpful. They checked 1916 on the theory that Cora and Robert met during her time at MSS, and then 1919 and 1920 based on what I told them about the 1920 Census and my pictures of Robert at the facility. When none of that worked they graciously consented to check 1917 and 1918 and let me know if they found anything. Within a couple of days they had gotten back to me—they had found Robert. He had been admitted in late 1918 and discharged in 1920.

So, what did I find out? I’m still working through my copies of the files but for all MSS patients there should be a detailed set of forms filled in on entry to the facility which included a family health history section. It asked questions such as occupation, name of a close relative, and it requested information about grandparents, parents, and siblings. For Robert, in particular this was interesting because the facts might not support my theory about the identity of Robert’s grandparents. But with Cora it also noted that one living and one deceased sister were also diagnosed with TB.

This set of forms also has updates on dismissal from MSS. So it corroborated the story that Robert had had some kind of surgery for his TB. Interestingly enough, he had an operation called pneumothorax in which they temporarily collapsed some portion of his lung allowing it to rest and hopefully prevent TB lesions from spreading to healthy lung tissue. If Robert had a lobectomy, as his daughters were told, it wasn’t during his time at MSS.

The files also each had at least one other bit of treasure. For Cora the standout item was a handwritten letter sent to MSS advising them of her arrival when she was accepted into the Sanatorium. For Robert, it was a detailed letter about his movements from the time he was dismissed from military service due to his health to the time he was accepted at the Sanatorium—for insurance purposes. It included a list of jobs he attempted, but was too weak for, such as working in a basket factory in Traverse City, Michigan and cutting wood for the Antrim Iron Company in Mancelona, Michigan.

If you have a tubercular patient from this period it’s worth trying to track down the patient files. The information in them is fascinating.

Happy hunting,

Jess

Note: I also just finished, A History of the Michigan State Sanatorium and An Evaluation of It’s Role in the Anti-Tuberculosis Campaign by Marjorie D. Parsall (1991). This is a fascinating Masters of Arts thesis for Oakland University available at the Kresge Library at Oakland. It was very useful to have gone through this ahead of looking at the patient records because it gave me a better idea of what medical practices were for the time in which my Grandparents were at MSS.

So it took years before I realized that the Salvation Army was a religious denomination… and I’d been driving by a church for years in Lansing, Michigan. The above photograph is from a photo postcard taken by William H. Spinks and currently held by my Great Aunt. It’s the Salvation Army Brass Band of Woodstock, Oxford County, Ontario, Canada. My Great Great Grandfather Cornelius Packer is in the front row, third man in from the left with, what I believe is, a euphonium. The photo was taken sometime between 1881—when the Packers previously identified as Primitive Methodists and 1892 when my Great Grandmother was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Just based on his age in this picture and another family shot by the same photographer, I suspect this is mid to late 1880s.

I still have Robert Shea on my mind…

My great grandfather, Robert James Shea, was a tuberculosis patient at  the Michigan State Sanatorium, in Howell, Michigan, around 1920. It’s there that he met my great grandmother, Cora Helena Packer who was also a patient. This shot is from one of the men’s dorms. Robert is the second gentleman from the right. None of the other men are identified. Within the family we have a number of group shots from the Sanatorium. The originals reside with my great aunt.

Happy Hunting,

Jess