The Mystery of the Marriage of James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR

Discover more about your own family living in the Emerging America historical period of 1880 – 1920.

One of my long-term goals in genealogy is to research in depth the lives of each of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents’ generation. With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist of all the records I hope to find for each of them, the information from which I try to weave into comprehensive and comprehensible biographies for my AnceStories website.

I’ve been able to obtain marriage records for every ancestral marriage through my great-great-grandparents’ generation, with the exception of two couples, James L. YORK and Mary “Mae” E. McARTHUR (on my dad’s side), and Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT (on my mother’s side). I do have a year and place of marriage for Charles and Mary (1873; Fairfield, Town of Candor, Tioga County, New York), which was discovered by a cousin of mine; I just haven’t obtained a document verifying this. But for James and Mae, I have nothing: no date or place of marriage.


James L. YORK, c. 1880s


Mary “Mae” E. (McARTHUR) YORK RANDELL, c. 1920s – 1930s

Here’s what I do know: James L. YORK was born 7 October 1867 in Goodrich, Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan to John H. YORK and Anna CROTHERS, the youngest surviving child of their seven children. Mary E. McARTHUR was born 28 January 1875 in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Her parents were Daniel J. MacARTHUR (a Civil War veteran) and Martha JOHNSON. She was the fifth child, also of a family of seven children.

How this couple managed to meet each other is still a mystery to me. Gratiot County is two counties west of Genesee and Lapeer Counties, where most of the Crothers and York families had settled. Anna had two siblings, Nancy Amanda (CROTHERS) PHELPS and Moses CROTHERS (not verified he is a sibling) who lived in Clinton County, which is bordered by Gratiot County on the south; however, the Clinton County townships that these two lived in were not near Washington Township. I do know that James’ first cousin, Jennie Mae EBLER (daughter of Wilhelm D. EBLER and Elizabeth June CROTHERS) married Mae’s brother, Daniel Thomas McARTHUR, but they appear to have married after James and Mae did, sometime around 1907 or so.


Ernest, Howard, & Hazel YORK, c. 1900

James and Mae had three children: Ernest Lee (1894 – 1976); Hazel (1895 – 1967); and Howard Merkel YORK (1898 – 1945). Howard was my great-grandfather. Since Ernest was born on 12 April 1894, I can make an educated assumption that James and Mae were married by 1893. Ernest and Howard both gave their birthplace as Goodrich on their marriage records; and indeed, the family is enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. However, none of the children’s births are found in Genesee County birth records as confirmation. Goodrich is a village in Atlas Township, which sits in the southeast corner of Genesee County, which is bordered by Hadley Township in Lapeer County on the east, and Brandon Township in Oakland County on the south. The children’s births aren’t recorded in those counties, either. And Howard’s obituary states he was born in Ortonville, Brandon Township, Oakland County; although I’m sure the information was given to the newspaper by either his second wife or a family friend, neither of whom probably knew for certain where he’d been born. James and Mae’s marriage was not recorded in Genesee, Lapeer or Oakland County marriage records, either. The lack of vital records available for this family has been frustrating and puzzling, and hasn’t lent itself to uncovering when and where the couple was married!

About a year ago, I discovered that the Family History Library had a microfilm of Genesee County Marriage Records that I had never viewed (FHL microfim 14,815) which included delayed recordings from 1892 – 1929. I sent off for it at once, but for some reason, the film was not allowed to be sent to a Family History Center. I then paid a $4.00 fee to have a FHL volunteer search the index on site for the surnames York or M(a)cArthur to see if the record was contained in that film. The answer came back that the marriage was not listed.

So, do I know if James and Mae were ever actually married? Yes, I do. Years ago, I sent off a request to see if I could find a divorce record for this couple from the Genesee County clerk in Flint. I had obtained a divorce record from this same source for their son Howard and my great-grandmother Mary Jane BARBER, and had found well-detailed information on the divorce which included a marriage date and place. I hoped to find similar information for James and Mae. But instead of receiving a copy of the original divorce certificate or a transcript of the court proceedings (both of which I’ve obtained from other ancestral divorce records) I received the following document:

I’ve had this document for several years, and wasn’t too sure what it was, other than understanding that it gave a date for the divorce and thus was secondary evidence of a marriage. I asked law professor and fellow genea-blogger Craig Manson if he would mind taking a look at this and explaining it to me. Here are his comments:

This appears to have been an uncontested divorce based on the the terms in the document. First, the document itself appears to be the court clerk’s file index or case index for this case. Court clerks keep track of each document presented to the court. The notation “4299” on the top left is likely the case number. The notation “Fees paid in full” along the left side indicates that all the court fees were paid. The name to the right of James York is that of his attorney, Daniel Heims. Heims was a prominent Flint attorney in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, who among other things, helped organize the Genesee County Bar Association. (An aside: Heims, who handled divorces, seems never to have married!)

(Daniel Heims)

Here’s the sequence of events in 1904:

March 21—Heims files the divorce action on behalf of James York. That same day, a subpoena is issued to demand the presence of Mary York at a hearing set in April.

April 7–The subpoena is returned to the clerk of the court with proof that it was served on Mary York (or that after a diligent search she could not be found within the jurisdiction of the court).

April 12–This was probably the date set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Nonappearance” is either Heims’ or James York’s declaration that despite having been lawfully served, Mary York failed to appear at the date and time set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Regularity” follows the nonappearance affidavit in that it recites that the defendant was served with the subpoena; states the manner of service; and declares that the plaintiff (James) believes the defendant (Mary) to be in default. It requests the court to proceed with the matter in the absence of the defendant.

May 18–The court issues an “Order Pro Confesso.” This is an order that states since the defendant has failed to appear, the facts alleged by the plaintiff will be taken by the court “as if the defendant had confessed” them. The court also issues an Order of Reference; that is, an order appointing a referee to determine the parties’ rights in property (and sometimes other duties).

June 2–CCC Report filed. This is no doubt the report of the referee, although I do not know what “CCC” stood for in 1904 Michigan practice.

June 3–The divorce decree is issued. “Ch. De. Bk.” may stand for “Chancery Decree Book.” In 1904 in most states, divorces were heard in the chancery courts, not the law courts. (The location and people in the chancery courts were often the same as those of the law courts–the distinction goes back many centuries to England and is too long a story to explain here!)

July 9–The decree is final.

Here then is evidence that James and Mae were married. I still will need to do some digging to obtain the actual full court records of this divorce, which should then provide me with the date and place of marriage. Mae remarried very soon after this divorce–on 27 August 1904–to the love of her life, Evan J. “Dick” RANDELL, whose family’s farm was just down the road and across the Genesee-Lapeer county line from the York family farm. Because of how quickly Mae remarried, I have often wondered if she and Dick fell in love before the divorce. When I mentioned that to Craig, he responded with:

What you tell me about Mary’s quick remarriage is consistent with a thought that I had–they [husband James and his lawyer] had worked this all out ahead of time and intended to get it done quickly. That’s why Mary did not show up [for the hearing].

That might explain James’s hiring a prominent attorney to handle the divorce. He may also have been wishing to protect himself from accusations from Mae’s attorney about his own behavior. Decades later, when one of Mae’s granddaughters was divorced, she made a comment to the granddaughter, saying her granddaughter’s ex-husband’s actions reminded her (Mae) of her “first husband.” This comment was unusual, because Mae rarely spoke of her first marriage. In fact, one grandniece that I spoke with who knew Mae well had never heard of Mae being wed before her marriage to Dick Randell! Only after digging through family papers and finding some labeled photographs of Mae with her sons Howard and Ernest York, was the grandniece convinced that there indeed had been an earlier marriage. According to these family members, James (who later married his housekeeper) retained custody of Ernest and Howard, while Hazel remained with her mother, who had two more sons with Dick Randell. This divorce changed the course of this family and the lives of their children adversely. Hazel seems to have been the most well-adjusted and lived happily with her husband and daughter in the thumb area of Michigan. Ernest and Howard had several marriages each; Howard was in and out of prison a couple of times. I can’t help but wonder if the boys’ childhoods spent without their mother were the foundation of their difficult lives.
————————————————–
I’ve since thought of another place where I could look for a marriage record. Brides were often married in their father’s homes in those days, and Mae’s parents were living in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. So if the complete divorce record cannot be found or doesn’t yield a marriage date and place, that is another option. Genealogy is full of mysteries. Figuring them out can be, by turns, frustrating, exciting, disappointing, and thrilling!

This post was originally started with the intention of submitting it to the 33rd Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic was “Weddings!” Due to illness, I ran out of time to fully research and write it before the deadline.

Browse news and town records, photos, and military records.

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The Mystery of the Marriage of James L. YORK and Mary "Mae" E. McARTHUR

Discover more about your own family living in the Emerging America historical period of 1880 – 1920.

One of my long-term goals in genealogy is to research in depth the lives of each of my ancestors through my great-great-grandparents’ generation. With that in mind, I’ve created a checklist of all the records I hope to find for each of them, the information from which I try to weave into comprehensive and comprehensible biographies for my AnceStories website.

I’ve been able to obtain marriage records for every ancestral marriage through my great-great-grandparents’ generation, with the exception of two couples, James L. YORK and Mary “Mae” E. McARTHUR (on my dad’s side), and Charles Frisbe STRONG and Mary Lucy WRIGHT (on my mother’s side). I do have a year and place of marriage for Charles and Mary (1873; Fairfield, Town of Candor, Tioga County, New York), which was discovered by a cousin of mine; I just haven’t obtained a document verifying this. But for James and Mae, I have nothing: no date or place of marriage.


James L. YORK, c. 1880s


Mary “Mae” E. (McARTHUR) YORK RANDELL, c. 1920s – 1930s

Here’s what I do know: James L. YORK was born 7 October 1867 in Goodrich, Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan to John H. YORK and Anna CROTHERS, the youngest surviving child of their seven children. Mary E. McARTHUR was born 28 January 1875 in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. Her parents were Daniel J. MacARTHUR (a Civil War veteran) and Martha JOHNSON. She was the fifth child, also of a family of seven children.

How this couple managed to meet each other is still a mystery to me. Gratiot County is two counties west of Genesee and Lapeer Counties, where most of the Crothers and York families had settled. Anna had two siblings, Nancy Amanda (CROTHERS) PHELPS and Moses CROTHERS (not verified he is a sibling) who lived in Clinton County, which is bordered by Gratiot County on the south; however, the Clinton County townships that these two lived in were not near Washington Township. I do know that James’ first cousin, Jennie Mae EBLER (daughter of Wilhelm D. EBLER and Elizabeth June CROTHERS) married Mae’s brother, Daniel Thomas McARTHUR, but they appear to have married after James and Mae did, sometime around 1907 or so.


Ernest, Howard, & Hazel YORK, c. 1900

James and Mae had three children: Ernest Lee (1894 – 1976); Hazel (1895 – 1967); and Howard Merkel YORK (1898 – 1945). Howard was my great-grandfather. Since Ernest was born on 12 April 1894, I can make an educated assumption that James and Mae were married by 1893. Ernest and Howard both gave their birthplace as Goodrich on their marriage records; and indeed, the family is enumerated there in the 1900 U.S. Federal Census. However, none of the children’s births are found in Genesee County birth records as confirmation. Goodrich is a village in Atlas Township, which sits in the southeast corner of Genesee County, which is bordered by Hadley Township in Lapeer County on the east, and Brandon Township in Oakland County on the south. The children’s births aren’t recorded in those counties, either. And Howard’s obituary states he was born in Ortonville, Brandon Township, Oakland County; although I’m sure the information was given to the newspaper by either his second wife or a family friend, neither of whom probably knew for certain where he’d been born. James and Mae’s marriage was not recorded in Genesee, Lapeer or Oakland County marriage records, either. The lack of vital records available for this family has been frustrating and puzzling, and hasn’t lent itself to uncovering when and where the couple was married!

About a year ago, I discovered that the Family History Library had a microfilm of Genesee County Marriage Records that I had never viewed (FHL microfim 14,815) which included delayed recordings from 1892 – 1929. I sent off for it at once, but for some reason, the film was not allowed to be sent to a Family History Center. I then paid a $4.00 fee to have a FHL volunteer search the index on site for the surnames York or M(a)cArthur to see if the record was contained in that film. The answer came back that the marriage was not listed.

So, do I know if James and Mae were ever actually married? Yes, I do. Years ago, I sent off a request to see if I could find a divorce record for this couple from the Genesee County clerk in Flint. I had obtained a divorce record from this same source for their son Howard and my great-grandmother Mary Jane BARBER, and had found well-detailed information on the divorce which included a marriage date and place. I hoped to find similar information for James and Mae. But instead of receiving a copy of the original divorce certificate or a transcript of the court proceedings (both of which I’ve obtained from other ancestral divorce records) I received the following document:

I’ve had this document for several years, and wasn’t too sure what it was, other than understanding that it gave a date for the divorce and thus was secondary evidence of a marriage. I asked law professor and fellow genea-blogger Craig Manson if he would mind taking a look at this and explaining it to me. Here are his comments:

This appears to have been an uncontested divorce based on the the terms in the document. First, the document itself appears to be the court clerk’s file index or case index for this case. Court clerks keep track of each document presented to the court. The notation “4299” on the top left is likely the case number. The notation “Fees paid in full” along the left side indicates that all the court fees were paid. The name to the right of James York is that of his attorney, Daniel Heims. Heims was a prominent Flint attorney in the late 1800’s/early 1900’s, who among other things, helped organize the Genesee County Bar Association. (An aside: Heims, who handled divorces, seems never to have married!)

(Daniel Heims)

Here’s the sequence of events in 1904:

March 21—Heims files the divorce action on behalf of James York. That same day, a subpoena is issued to demand the presence of Mary York at a hearing set in April.

April 7–The subpoena is returned to the clerk of the court with proof that it was served on Mary York (or that after a diligent search she could not be found within the jurisdiction of the court).

April 12–This was probably the date set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Nonappearance” is either Heims’ or James York’s declaration that despite having been lawfully served, Mary York failed to appear at the date and time set for hearing. The “Affidavit of Regularity” follows the nonappearance affidavit in that it recites that the defendant was served with the subpoena; states the manner of service; and declares that the plaintiff (James) believes the defendant (Mary) to be in default. It requests the court to proceed with the matter in the absence of the defendant.

May 18–The court issues an “Order Pro Confesso.” This is an order that states since the defendant has failed to appear, the facts alleged by the plaintiff will be taken by the court “as if the defendant had confessed” them. The court also issues an Order of Reference; that is, an order appointing a referee to determine the parties’ rights in property (and sometimes other duties).

June 2–CCC Report filed. This is no doubt the report of the referee, although I do not know what “CCC” stood for in 1904 Michigan practice.

June 3–The divorce decree is issued. “Ch. De. Bk.” may stand for “Chancery Decree Book.” In 1904 in most states, divorces were heard in the chancery courts, not the law courts. (The location and people in the chancery courts were often the same as those of the law courts–the distinction goes back many centuries to England and is too long a story to explain here!)

July 9–The decree is final.

Here then is evidence that James and Mae were married. I still will need to do some digging to obtain the actual full court records of this divorce, which should then provide me with the date and place of marriage. Mae remarried very soon after this divorce–on 27 August 1904–to the love of her life, Evan J. “Dick” RANDELL, whose family’s farm was just down the road and across the Genesee-Lapeer county line from the York family farm. Because of how quickly Mae remarried, I have often wondered if she and Dick fell in love before the divorce. When I mentioned that to Craig, he responded with:

What you tell me about Mary’s quick remarriage is consistent with a thought that I had–they [husband James and his lawyer] had worked this all out ahead of time and intended to get it done quickly. That’s why Mary did not show up [for the hearing].

That might explain James’s hiring a prominent attorney to handle the divorce. He may also have been wishing to protect himself from accusations from Mae’s attorney about his own behavior. Decades later, when one of Mae’s granddaughters was divorced, she made a comment to the granddaughter, saying her granddaughter’s ex-husband’s actions reminded her (Mae) of her “first husband.” This comment was unusual, because Mae rarely spoke of her first marriage. In fact, one grandniece that I spoke with who knew Mae well had never heard of Mae being wed before her marriage to Dick Randell! Only after digging through family papers and finding some labeled photographs of Mae with her sons Howard and Ernest York, was the grandniece convinced that there indeed had been an earlier marriage. According to these family members, James (who later married his housekeeper) retained custody of Ernest and Howard, while Hazel remained with her mother, who had two more sons with Dick Randell. This divorce changed the course of this family and the lives of their children adversely. Hazel seems to have been the most well-adjusted and lived happily with her husband and daughter in the thumb area of Michigan. Ernest and Howard had several marriages each; Howard was in and out of prison a couple of times. I can’t help but wonder if the boys’ childhoods spent without their mother were the foundation of their difficult lives.
————————————————–
I’ve since thought of another place where I could look for a marriage record. Brides were often married in their father’s homes in those days, and Mae’s parents were living in Washington Township, Gratiot County, Michigan. So if the complete divorce record cannot be found or doesn’t yield a marriage date and place, that is another option. Genealogy is full of mysteries. Figuring them out can be, by turns, frustrating, exciting, disappointing, and thrilling!

This post was originally started with the intention of submitting it to the 33rd Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic was “Weddings!” Due to illness, I ran out of time to fully research and write it before the deadline.

Browse news and town records, photos, and military records.

A Little Observation

T.K. at Before My Time wrote a summary of her week of organizing in her post “A Sorted Past, Week 1: A Commencement Program.” Clever word play, there, T.K.! She asked if any of us who have joined her in her organizing challenge of “Tidy Your Documents Month” had rediscovered anything while sorting.

I did. Before I share my (re) discovery, an aside: I actually have not gotten very far in my organization. This has been a very chaotic week, punctuated by a bored son getting into mischief; a seemingly-endless drive to and from Driver’s Ed, driving instruction, and driving practice with my daughter (yes, those are permanent scream marks etched into my face!…I don’t recall yelling the word “brake!” so many times in my life!); intense heat into the 100s, and–Tuesday–a migraine (brought on, no doubt, by stress). It’s amazing that I can think, much less analyze or organize. Real life genealogy…studying family history, despite the family!

But this I did notice: the time frame from when my paternal grandmother’s parents were divorced until she started Kindergarten–a year early–in the community of her foster (later her adoptive) parents was only nine months. Backing up, my paternal grandmother and her brother were taken by their father from their rural home in the Flint area, across the state of Michigan and left in Blodgett Home in Grand Rapids. On 7 January 1928, my great-grandfather, Howard Merkel York, had been court ordered to pay their mother, Mary Jane Barber, $5 a week per child until each arrived at the age of 16. It’s my understanding that when he dropped them off at the Home, he stated their mother was not fit to raise them. He refused to tell her where they were. They were fostered out to two families in the small Western Michigan community of Coopersville. Grandma–Jane (later renamed Jeanne) was 3; her brother Harry (later renamed James–or Jimmy) was 2. Grandma knew he was her brother; Jimmy Erwin did not know she was his sister–until she told him, at school one day. He went home and told his adoptive parents that Jeanne Holst kept telling him he was her brother. And that’s how he found out he was adopted.

Anyway, somehow I had it in my head that Grandma had been at the Home for quite a long time (maybe a year) before the Holsts became her foster parents. I did recall my dad saying that the Holsts lived next door to the elementary school, and my grandmother would attend Kindergarten before she was actually old enough. They couldn’t keep her out of the school building (she’s known for her stubbornness!), so they just decided to enroll her.

My grandmother and one of my aunts put together a box of papers and things that mostly had belonged to my late grandfather about a year ago. Included in this box were all of Grandma’s report cards, from Kindergarten (both years) through 10th grade (she later got her high school diploma in 1988). This week I put the report cards in order and placed them in acid-free archival sleeves, ready for scanning at the next Scanfest. I also began a Timeline for her, and that’s when I noticed it. Her first marks for her first Kindergarten year (Fall 1928 – Spring 1929) started in the second 6-week session of the first semester. Figuring the school year started in late August or early September, and looking at the number of days she had attended that session (28 out of approximately 30), I figured she had started school in early-to-mid October 1928. Her 4th birthday would have fallen during that period. So first of all, I got confirmation of oral history that she had attended Kindergarten early; and secondly, I got evidence that she was living in the Holst home only nine months after her parents divorced.

Looking further into it: I can’t imagine anyone traveling across Michigan in the winter months on the roads of the late 1920s with two small children. My guess is that Howard, their father, didn’t actually remove them from their mother’s care and place them in Blodgett Home until the Spring of 1928, at the earliest, say April or May (the roads would likely be still snowy and/or muddy in March). If the Holsts starting caring for my grandmother in September, that means Grandma was in the Home no longer than five months…which is much less than I had estimated before, but I’m sure seemed like an eternity for a scared little 3 1/2-year-old girl. I’m not sure when the Erwins started fostering Jim, but the oral history I recall says he was fostered out first. I know that must have been traumatic for both of them, to be separated like that…especially my grandmother, who apparently was old enough to remember bits and pieces of it all later.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have the whole story. Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several months ago, and it’s apparent that she’s had it for at least a year. She was never one to want to discuss her background, anyway. What I know has mainly come second-hand through my dad and aunts, and later–after I had found them–the long lost cousins on her biological mother’s side. I’m also not sure if Blodgett Home’s records are available to the public. I will have to do some hunting in that area.

It’s just interesting putting all the bits and pieces into some semblance of order. You never know what you’re going to discover.

A Little Observation

T.K. at Before My Time wrote a summary of her week of organizing in her post “A Sorted Past, Week 1: A Commencement Program.” Clever word play, there, T.K.! She asked if any of us who have joined her in her organizing challenge of “Tidy Your Documents Month” had rediscovered anything while sorting.

I did. Before I share my (re) discovery, an aside: I actually have not gotten very far in my organization. This has been a very chaotic week, punctuated by a bored son getting into mischief; a seemingly-endless drive to and from Driver’s Ed, driving instruction, and driving practice with my daughter (yes, those are permanent scream marks etched into my face!…I don’t recall yelling the word “brake!” so many times in my life!); intense heat into the 100s, and–Tuesday–a migraine (brought on, no doubt, by stress). It’s amazing that I can think, much less analyze or organize. Real life genealogy…studying family history, despite the family!

But this I did notice: the time frame from when my paternal grandmother’s parents were divorced until she started Kindergarten–a year early–in the community of her foster (later her adoptive) parents was only nine months. Backing up, my paternal grandmother and her brother were taken by their father from their rural home in the Flint area, across the state of Michigan and left in Blodgett Home in Grand Rapids. On 7 January 1928, my great-grandfather, Howard Merkel York, had been court ordered to pay their mother, Mary Jane Barber, $5 a week per child until each arrived at the age of 16. It’s my understanding that when he dropped them off at the Home, he stated their mother was not fit to raise them. He refused to tell her where they were. They were fostered out to two families in the small Western Michigan community of Coopersville. Grandma–Jane (later renamed Jeanne) was 3; her brother Harry (later renamed James–or Jimmy) was 2. Grandma knew he was her brother; Jimmy Erwin did not know she was his sister–until she told him, at school one day. He went home and told his adoptive parents that Jeanne Holst kept telling him he was her brother. And that’s how he found out he was adopted.

Anyway, somehow I had it in my head that Grandma had been at the Home for quite a long time (maybe a year) before the Holsts became her foster parents. I did recall my dad saying that the Holsts lived next door to the elementary school, and my grandmother would attend Kindergarten before she was actually old enough. They couldn’t keep her out of the school building (she’s known for her stubbornness!), so they just decided to enroll her.

My grandmother and one of my aunts put together a box of papers and things that mostly had belonged to my late grandfather about a year ago. Included in this box were all of Grandma’s report cards, from Kindergarten (both years) through 10th grade (she later got her high school diploma in 1988). This week I put the report cards in order and placed them in acid-free archival sleeves, ready for scanning at the next Scanfest. I also began a Timeline for her, and that’s when I noticed it. Her first marks for her first Kindergarten year (Fall 1928 – Spring 1929) started in the second 6-week session of the first semester. Figuring the school year started in late August or early September, and looking at the number of days she had attended that session (28 out of approximately 30), I figured she had started school in early-to-mid October 1928. Her 4th birthday would have fallen during that period. So first of all, I got confirmation of oral history that she had attended Kindergarten early; and secondly, I got evidence that she was living in the Holst home only nine months after her parents divorced.

Looking further into it: I can’t imagine anyone traveling across Michigan in the winter months on the roads of the late 1920s with two small children. My guess is that Howard, their father, didn’t actually remove them from their mother’s care and place them in Blodgett Home until the Spring of 1928, at the earliest, say April or May (the roads would likely be still snowy and/or muddy in March). If the Holsts starting caring for my grandmother in September, that means Grandma was in the Home no longer than five months…which is much less than I had estimated before, but I’m sure seemed like an eternity for a scared little 3 1/2-year-old girl. I’m not sure when the Erwins started fostering Jim, but the oral history I recall says he was fostered out first. I know that must have been traumatic for both of them, to be separated like that…especially my grandmother, who apparently was old enough to remember bits and pieces of it all later.

I’m not sure I’ll ever have the whole story. Grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several months ago, and it’s apparent that she’s had it for at least a year. She was never one to want to discuss her background, anyway. What I know has mainly come second-hand through my dad and aunts, and later–after I had found them–the long lost cousins on her biological mother’s side. I’m also not sure if Blodgett Home’s records are available to the public. I will have to do some hunting in that area.

It’s just interesting putting all the bits and pieces into some semblance of order. You never know what you’re going to discover.

Happy Canada Day!

To my Canadian relatives, friends and readers, I wish a Happy Canada Day!

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My ancestral connections to Canada are as follows:

  • My father was born in Edmonton, Alberta while his father and uncle were stationed there with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II (back in the day when being born in a U.S. military hospital on foreign soil did not automatically qualify you for American citizenship). Dad became a U.S. citizen when he was 16. When I was a kid, I used to tease him that he could never become the President of the United States. I don’t think that was ever a disappointment for him…! Dad also had many Canadian ancestors.
  • On his father’s side, Richard John WILKINSON, b. c. 1815 in Yorkshire, England, immigrated to Canada and lived in what is now Whitchurch, York Co., Ontario. His wife, Mary TERRY, a.k.a. Mary LAMOREAUX, may have been French-Canadian…or she may have been born in New Brunswick…or she may have been born to a Loyalist family from New Jersey. It’s one of those vague family stories that I would love to focus on and get documented and clarified!
  • Richard and Mary’s son John WILKINSON married Mahala SAYERS, who was the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants, John Henry SAYERS and Mary CAHOON. John SAYER’s family came to Athol Township, Prince Edward Co. (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland in the mid-1830s, in several trips. Mary CAHOON’s father was Preston CAHOON, and our line dead-ends there. John and Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON immigrated around 1880 – 1881 to Musekgon County, Michigan along with many of her siblings, thereby missing both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census (they were sneaky like that!). Mahala was alive when her great-grandson Robert Lewis ROBBINS (my paternal grandfather) was born, and he had a few memories of her to share with me.
  • On dad’s mother’s side, her paternal YORK and SWEERS ancestors took advantage of offers of homesteading land that were provided by the Canadian goverment during the early 19th century. We know that the SWEERS family emigrated to Chippewa Creek, Welland County, Ontario from Worcester, Washington County, Vermont in May 1809, and that the YORKs from Bath, Stueben County, New York were there around the same time. This became a problem for these American citizens when the War of 1812 broke out. Ancestor Daniel SWEARS, III, escaped across the Niagara River to join up with a New York regiment. Ancestor Jeremiah F. YORK (Daniel’s future son-in-law) and his brother Stephen VanRensselaer YORK were pressed into the 3rd Regiment of the Lincoln Militia of the British army, but also managed to escape to Canadaigua, Cattaraugus County, New York to join Captain Justus P. Spencer’s militia there. The SWEERS and YORK families eventually settled in the Town of Clarence, Erie County, New York, and later Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan.
  • Grandma’s paternal great-grandfather, Daniel J. MacARTHUR was born in Glengarry County, Ontario in 1827, a grandson of immigrants from Kenmore, Perthsire, Scotland. He emigrated to Montcalm County, Michigan in the mid-1840s. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company I of Berdan’s Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters (Michigan), rising to the rank of sergeant. Taking ill within weeks of the close of the war, he returned home on leave, and apparently never reported back for duty, disqualifying him for a veteran’s pension years later, although he made several applications.
  • Grandma’s maternal grandfather, Orlando BARBER, was born in Ontario in 1868, and the household is found in Amabel, Bruce County in the 1871 Canadian Census. The family emigrated to Lapeer County, Michigan around 1876. Orlando’s father, James, was born “in England” in 1839. His death record gives no clues as to his parentage. Orlando’s mother, Elizabeth A. “Betsey” COLE, was born in South Dorchester, Elgin County, Ontario to parents James COLE and Lavina WILLIS who were a first-generation Canadian (James’ parents were from Vermont) and a direct immigrant from New York, respectively. It is likely they came to Canada for the same reasons the YORKs and SWEERs did.

My husband has two lines that also hail from Canada:

  • His great-great-grandmother, Rachel HUBBY, was born somewhere in Ontario in 1832 to John HUBBY from Scotland and Hannah JONES from New York.
  • Henry LYTON was born as George TURK in Ottawa around 1841. He, like 10,000 other Canadian men, immigrated to the U.S. during the Civil War expressly to join the Union forces. He served from Iowa.

So as you can see, Canada may not be my home, or my native land, but it is one of my ancestral homelands!

Happy Canada Day!

To my Canadian relatives, friends and readers, I wish a Happy Canada Day!

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My ancestral connections to Canada are as follows:

  • My father was born in Edmonton, Alberta while his father and uncle were stationed there with the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II (back in the day when being born in a U.S. military hospital on foreign soil did not automatically qualify you for American citizenship). Dad became a U.S. citizen when he was 16. When I was a kid, I used to tease him that he could never become the President of the United States. I don’t think that was ever a disappointment for him…! Dad also had many Canadian ancestors.
  • On his father’s side, Richard John WILKINSON, b. c. 1815 in Yorkshire, England, immigrated to Canada and lived in what is now Whitchurch, York Co., Ontario. His wife, Mary TERRY, a.k.a. Mary LAMOREAUX, may have been French-Canadian…or she may have been born in New Brunswick…or she may have been born to a Loyalist family from New Jersey. It’s one of those vague family stories that I would love to focus on and get documented and clarified!
  • Richard and Mary’s son John WILKINSON married Mahala SAYERS, who was the daughter of Scots-Irish immigrants, John Henry SAYERS and Mary CAHOON. John SAYER’s family came to Athol Township, Prince Edward Co. (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland in the mid-1830s, in several trips. Mary CAHOON’s father was Preston CAHOON, and our line dead-ends there. John and Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON immigrated around 1880 – 1881 to Musekgon County, Michigan along with many of her siblings, thereby missing both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census (they were sneaky like that!). Mahala was alive when her great-grandson Robert Lewis ROBBINS (my paternal grandfather) was born, and he had a few memories of her to share with me.
  • On dad’s mother’s side, her paternal YORK and SWEERS ancestors took advantage of offers of homesteading land that were provided by the Canadian goverment during the early 19th century. We know that the SWEERS family emigrated to Chippewa Creek, Welland County, Ontario from Worcester, Washington County, Vermont in May 1809, and that the YORKs from Bath, Stueben County, New York were there around the same time. This became a problem for these American citizens when the War of 1812 broke out. Ancestor Daniel SWEARS, III, escaped across the Niagara River to join up with a New York regiment. Ancestor Jeremiah F. YORK (Daniel’s future son-in-law) and his brother Stephen VanRensselaer YORK were pressed into the 3rd Regiment of the Lincoln Militia of the British army, but also managed to escape to Canadaigua, Cattaraugus County, New York to join Captain Justus P. Spencer’s militia there. The SWEERS and YORK families eventually settled in the Town of Clarence, Erie County, New York, and later Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan.
  • Grandma’s paternal great-grandfather, Daniel J. MacARTHUR was born in Glengarry County, Ontario in 1827, a grandson of immigrants from Kenmore, Perthsire, Scotland. He emigrated to Montcalm County, Michigan in the mid-1840s. During the Civil War, he enlisted in Company I of Berdan’s Regiment, U.S. Sharpshooters (Michigan), rising to the rank of sergeant. Taking ill within weeks of the close of the war, he returned home on leave, and apparently never reported back for duty, disqualifying him for a veteran’s pension years later, although he made several applications.
  • Grandma’s maternal grandfather, Orlando BARBER, was born in Ontario in 1868, and the household is found in Amabel, Bruce County in the 1871 Canadian Census. The family emigrated to Lapeer County, Michigan around 1876. Orlando’s father, James, was born “in England” in 1839. His death record gives no clues as to his parentage. Orlando’s mother, Elizabeth A. “Betsey” COLE, was born in South Dorchester, Elgin County, Ontario to parents James COLE and Lavina WILLIS who were a first-generation Canadian (James’ parents were from Vermont) and a direct immigrant from New York, respectively. It is likely they came to Canada for the same reasons the YORKs and SWEERs did.

My husband has two lines that also hail from Canada:

  • His great-great-grandmother, Rachel HUBBY, was born somewhere in Ontario in 1832 to John HUBBY from Scotland and Hannah JONES from New York.
  • Henry LYTON was born as George TURK in Ottawa around 1841. He, like 10,000 other Canadian men, immigrated to the U.S. during the Civil War expressly to join the Union forces. He served from Iowa.

So as you can see, Canada may not be my home, or my native land, but it is one of my ancestral homelands!

Ancestors in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census – Part 9

April 1st was Census Day for the 1930 U.S. Federal Census. In honor of that census day, throughout the month of April I posted lists of my known direct ancestors and where they were residing during that census. I am continuing this series into the subsequent months. I’ll also list who’s missing; for us family historians, missing individuals on census records can be the most frustrating and intriguing challenges of genealogy!

In Part 3 of this series, I presented census information on one of my paternal great-grandmothers, Mary Jane BARBER. This post looks at the household in which her widowed mother, Mary Jane FREDENBURG lived in 1930. I refer to my great-great-grandmother as Mary Jane (the Elder) in this post, to differentiate her from her daughter, whenever it is necessary.


Mary Jane (Fredenburg) Barber, c. 1902

I had a great deal of difficulty finding Mary Jane (the Elder) in the 1930 Federal Census at Ancestry.com. I knew that her husband, Orlando BARBER, had died in 1910 in Lapeer, Lapeer County, Michigan. I found her (again, with much difficulty) in the 1920 U.S. Federal Census, married to a man named Fred SMITH and living in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. A map of Michigan shows that Genesee and Lapeer Counties are adjacent, and this family emigrated back and forth frequently between counties. In both the 1920 and 1930 Censuses, I had to look for Mary Jane’s children in order to find her. Alexander “Red” BARBER, Mary Jane’s middle son, was living in Fremont Township, Tuscola County, Michigan in 1930, and that is where I found Mary Jane. I had to do some creative searching, as the household was indexed under “Barter.”

The household, enumerated in E.D. 20, sheet 5A, consisted of:

  • Alexander BARBER, head of the household and owner of the home, which was located on a farm. There was no radio listed, indicating the house probably did not have electricity. He was a male, white, 25-year-old single person, not in school, able to read and write, born in Michigan, as were his parents. Able to speak English, he was employed as a farmer in general farm work (self-employed), but not a veteran.
  • Mary [Jane] BARBER, mother, female, white, 54 years old, Widowed [“Divorced” has been crossed out], age 16 at the time of her first marriage, not in school, able to read and write, born in Michigan. Her father is listed as having been born in Pennsylvania, and her mother’s birthplace is stated as Scotland. The correct answers should have been New York and Michigan, respectively. She was able to speak English.
  • Levi KELLER, Lodger [“Servant” has been crossed out], male, white, 51 years old, Widowed [“Divorced” has been crossed out], age 25 at the time of his first marriage, not in school, able to read and write, born in Michigan. His father was born in the “U.S.” [“not known” is crossed out], mother was born in New York. He was able to speak English, and employed as a farm laborer (no doubt on Alex’s farm), working for wages. He also was not a veteran.

What is interesting here is that my family oral records state Mary Jane and Levi married in 1922. I haven’t gotten their marriage record yet to verify or discredit this statement. I do know they did marry, as I have Levi and Mary Jane’s obituaries, and Mary Jane’s death record; these three documents show secondary source evidence of a marriage. Another interesting fact is that in 1939, Mary Jane’s daughter, Mary Jane BARBER (my great-grandmother), married Levi’s son from his first marriage, Archie KELLER (they divorced in 1946).

This was a third marriage for both Levi and Mary Jane (the Elder). Their children who married each other were both from their respective first marriages, and it appears that they were both widowed in their first marriages and divorced from their second spouses. Levi died in 1945, and Mary Jane never married again.

She had had eight children with Orlando BARBER; the first three had died in infancy between 1894 and 1901. The five surviving children were Clara May, James Albert, Alexander, Arthur, and my great-grandmother, Mary Jane. So far, I have only found Alex and Mary Jane in the 1930 Census. Mary Jane (the Elder) did not have any other children with her subsequent husbands, Fred SMITH and Levi KELLER.

(Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 10, Part 11, Part 12)