An Independent Man: John WILKINSON, Jr.

When Jasia called for posts for the 51st Carnival of Genealogy, I had a little trouble coming up with someone in my family tree who would fit this description AND who was deceased:

With the upcoming July 4th holiday, there is no more perfect time to honor someone from your family whose life can be summed up in one word – INDEPENDENT! Do you have a relative who was feisty, spoke their own mind, was a bit of a free spirit? Anyone who most people might consider a “nut” on the family tree but you know they really just followed a “different tune?”


I can think of a number of independent individuals in my family, all living, and all women–people I truly admire. So I got to thinking, “Were there any men in the family that could have been described as independent or a free spirit?” Well, I don’t know for certain, but I think that John WILKINSON, Jr. might have fit the bill. Here’s an opportunity for me to highlight another single person in my family tree; too often, it’s the direct ancestors, or the relatives who married and had children that get featured in family stories. But those single men and women have their place, too, and contribute to our family histories in diverse, and often profound ways. They often had more freedom to travel, pick up and settle multiple times, and try new experiences than those who had families to support.

The history of John WILKINSON, Jr. begins on 25 March 1879 in what was then Northumberland Co., Ontario, Canada, probably in or near the unincorporated community of South Monaghan, situated halfway between the cities Peterborough and Port Hope in present-day Durham County. He was the fourth of seven children born to John WILKINSON, Sr., a carpenter, and Mahala SAYERS, and the last of their children to be born in Canada before they immigrated to Muskegon County, Michigan in late 1880, successfully avoiding both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census!

There may have been something in John’s upbringing that caused him to be independent. His siblings, for the most part, all seemed to be a bit unusual. His oldest sibling, Mary J. WILKINSON, my great-grandmother, seems to have been the most traditional, marrying her husband and having 13 children, a not-so-surprising number in those days. Then came Manley, who married a German immigrant and had 11 children. Not one of those offspring married, except for the youngest, Alvin; and he waited until both his parents were deceased! What was the deal behind that? Next came William James, who moved out west to Washington State for a while. The family history always showed him as single, but I found him in a census with a wife and several children. However, he returned to Michigan to live with his sister until his death. No spouse or children were listed in his obituary. Did he divorce? Catherine seemed fairly typical, but like her brother Manley, married an immigrant from another country (Sweden). She outlived him to marry again. After John came Frederick, who married a woman with a similar name, Fredericka. They moved to Washington State, like William, and lived for quite some time in the community of Freeland, which was started as a utopia for those with socialist sympathies. Ella contributed to the ethnic diversity of the family by marrying an Italian street vendor. And poor little Jennie died young.

We know that John migrated around quite a bit. He homesteaded in the Peace River area near Ft. St. Johns, British Columbia, although my attempts to locate his land have been futile, John Wilkinson being a fairly common name. He also lived in Monroe, Snohomish Co., Washington for a while, with a SAYERS cousin, relatives on his mother’s side. I had an opportunity to meet the daughter of this cousin when she was elderly, and she told how she, her siblings, and her cousins loved Cousin John: how they would get into water fights with him when fetching water from the well! My paternal grandfather, a grandnephew of John also had fond stories to tell about how he used to play with the youngsters in the family. He may not have had children of his own, but John apparently loved and was beloved by the little ones in his extended family!

While in Washington State, John enlisted with Co. C. of the 35th Regiment of the U.S. Volunteer Infantry to serve during the Philippine Insurrection, which occurred at the end of the Spanish-American War. Did he become naturalized as part of his enlistment? I don’t know. I do think it fits his independent personality that he did not serve in a well-known war, but served in a smaller military venture, instead. When he returned to Michigan, there was no local military fraternal organization specifically for that operation, so he joined the Guy V. Henry Post, Camp 3 of the United Spanish War Veterans in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

During the Depression, he worked as a teamster, and owned a farm in Paris Twp., Kent Co., Michigan, which was worth $9,000–a tidy sum in those days! Paris Township was nowhere near any of his siblings, so unlike many single men of his day, he did not live with a sibling or elderly parents. In the 1940s, he lived in Rothbury, Oceana Co., Michigan, another community away from his siblings. However, he is mentioned in his siblings’ obituaries as a survivor, suggesting that although they may have lived apart, there were still good relations between them. These many locations show a man on the move, but a prosperous and apparently happy one.

I have seen one photograph of John. He could be described as handsome, on the shorter side, with dark hair and a mustache. He is standing outside his automobile, dressed in a suit, hat, and long coat. The photograph was taken during the 20s, probably during a visit to his widowed sister and her daughter, who may have taken it. (I wish I still had a copy of it; I scanned it back in my preScanfest days, when I was ignorant of digital storage, and it’s now irretrievable. The original in a borrowed scrapbook seems to now be in Texas.)

At this time, I do not know his death location, but he died 6 August 1955 and was buried in the Wilkinson family plot in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan.


Source: Tombstone of John Wilkinson, Jr. Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan. Digital photograph taken at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff by Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness volunteer Toni Falcom. Digital copy in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2002.

What do you think? Was John WILKINSON, Jr. an independent, free spirit? I am certain of it!

An Independent Man: John WILKINSON, Jr.

When Jasia called for posts for the 51st Carnival of Genealogy, I had a little trouble coming up with someone in my family tree who would fit this description AND who was deceased:

With the upcoming July 4th holiday, there is no more perfect time to honor someone from your family whose life can be summed up in one word – INDEPENDENT! Do you have a relative who was feisty, spoke their own mind, was a bit of a free spirit? Anyone who most people might consider a “nut” on the family tree but you know they really just followed a “different tune?”


I can think of a number of independent individuals in my family, all living, and all women–people I truly admire. So I got to thinking, “Were there any men in the family that could have been described as independent or a free spirit?” Well, I don’t know for certain, but I think that John WILKINSON, Jr. might have fit the bill. Here’s an opportunity for me to highlight another single person in my family tree; too often, it’s the direct ancestors, or the relatives who married and had children that get featured in family stories. But those single men and women have their place, too, and contribute to our family histories in diverse, and often profound ways. They often had more freedom to travel, pick up and settle multiple times, and try new experiences than those who had families to support.

The history of John WILKINSON, Jr. begins on 25 March 1879 in what was then Northumberland Co., Ontario, Canada, probably in or near the unincorporated community of South Monaghan, situated halfway between the cities Peterborough and Port Hope in present-day Durham County. He was the fourth of seven children born to John WILKINSON, Sr., a carpenter, and Mahala SAYERS, and the last of their children to be born in Canada before they immigrated to Muskegon County, Michigan in late 1880, successfully avoiding both the 1880 U.S. Federal Census and the 1881 Canadian Census!

There may have been something in John’s upbringing that caused him to be independent. His siblings, for the most part, all seemed to be a bit unusual. His oldest sibling, Mary J. WILKINSON, my great-grandmother, seems to have been the most traditional, marrying her husband and having 13 children, a not-so-surprising number in those days. Then came Manley, who married a German immigrant and had 11 children. Not one of those offspring married, except for the youngest, Alvin; and he waited until both his parents were deceased! What was the deal behind that? Next came William James, who moved out west to Washington State for a while. The family history always showed him as single, but I found him in a census with a wife and several children. However, he returned to Michigan to live with his sister until his death. No spouse or children were listed in his obituary. Did he divorce? Catherine seemed fairly typical, but like her brother Manley, married an immigrant from another country (Sweden). She outlived him to marry again. After John came Frederick, who married a woman with a similar name, Fredericka. They moved to Washington State, like William, and lived for quite some time in the community of Freeland, which was started as a utopia for those with socialist sympathies. Ella contributed to the ethnic diversity of the family by marrying an Italian street vendor. And poor little Jennie died young.

We know that John migrated around quite a bit. He homesteaded in the Peace River area near Ft. St. Johns, British Columbia, although my attempts to locate his land have been futile, John Wilkinson being a fairly common name. He also lived in Monroe, Snohomish Co., Washington for a while, with a SAYERS cousin, relatives on his mother’s side. I had an opportunity to meet the daughter of this cousin when she was elderly, and she told how she, her siblings, and her cousins loved Cousin John: how they would get into water fights with him when fetching water from the well! My paternal grandfather, a grandnephew of John also had fond stories to tell about how he used to play with the youngsters in the family. He may not have had children of his own, but John apparently loved and was beloved by the little ones in his extended family!

While in Washington State, John enlisted with Co. C. of the 35th Regiment of the U.S. Volunteer Infantry to serve during the Philippine Insurrection, which occurred at the end of the Spanish-American War. Did he become naturalized as part of his enlistment? I don’t know. I do think it fits his independent personality that he did not serve in a well-known war, but served in a smaller military venture, instead. When he returned to Michigan, there was no local military fraternal organization specifically for that operation, so he joined the Guy V. Henry Post, Camp 3 of the United Spanish War Veterans in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

During the Depression, he worked as a teamster, and owned a farm in Paris Twp., Kent Co., Michigan, which was worth $9,000–a tidy sum in those days! Paris Township was nowhere near any of his siblings, so unlike many single men of his day, he did not live with a sibling or elderly parents. In the 1940s, he lived in Rothbury, Oceana Co., Michigan, another community away from his siblings. However, he is mentioned in his siblings’ obituaries as a survivor, suggesting that although they may have lived apart, there were still good relations between them. These many locations show a man on the move, but a prosperous and apparently happy one.

I have seen one photograph of John. He could be described as handsome, on the shorter side, with dark hair and a mustache. He is standing outside his automobile, dressed in a suit, hat, and long coat. The photograph was taken during the 20s, probably during a visit to his widowed sister and her daughter, who may have taken it. (I wish I still had a copy of it; I scanned it back in my preScanfest days, when I was ignorant of digital storage, and it’s now irretrievable. The original in a borrowed scrapbook seems to now be in Texas.)

At this time, I do not know his death location, but he died 6 August 1955 and was buried in the Wilkinson family plot in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan.


Source: Tombstone of John Wilkinson, Jr. Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall Twp., Muskegon Co., Michigan. Digital photograph taken at the request of Miriam Robbins Midkiff by Random Acts of Genealogical Kindness volunteer Toni Falcom. Digital copy in the possession of Miriam Robbins Midkiff, Spokane, Washington. 2002.

What do you think? Was John WILKINSON, Jr. an independent, free spirit? I am certain of it!

Locations of my (Scots) Irish Ancestors


I’ve been lucky enough to know the exact location where my SAYERS family originated in Ireland before they emigrated to Canada in the 1830s. Letterkenny is the largest town in County Donegal, in the province of Ulster, Ireland, and apparently was the home of many Ulster Scots. I’ve mentioned before that I really haven’t done much Irish research on my family, mainly because they lived in Ireland during a period of time for which it is difficult to access records, if they still exist. Many of the records that were kept when the SAYERS lived in Letterkenny were later destroyed, or are only accessed onsite.

I enjoyed reading through Wikipedia’s descriptions of the place names I mentioned above. I also did a Google image search for Letterkenny, Donegal and Ulster, and by clicking on these links, you should be able to see some beautiful images as well.

When the SAYERS family came to Canada in the mid-1830s (the family immigrated in several stages over the course of about five years), they settled in Prince Edward County (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario, particularly Picton and Athol Township. Some of the siblings and cousins moved into Hungerford Township in Hastings County, while my direct line traveled further to Cavan Township in Durham County and Port Hope in Northumberland County. I’m still studying the rather complicated histories of the locations and residences in which this family lived, backtracking bit by bit over time. As more and more information is available online (I haven’t been able to find many resources for these areas at my local library), I’ve been able to educate myself further. There’s much more to learn, and I’ve been keeping myself occupied with researching these lines after they came to Michigan.

I’d love to have the opportunities to visit all these locations and see the places where my Irish immigrant ancestors lived, worked, and worshiped. Until then, I’ll be satisfied in being an armchair traveler using the amazing technology of the Internet!

Locations of my (Scots) Irish Ancestors


I’ve been lucky enough to know the exact location where my SAYERS family originated in Ireland before they emigrated to Canada in the 1830s. Letterkenny is the largest town in County Donegal, in the province of Ulster, Ireland, and apparently was the home of many Ulster Scots. I’ve mentioned before that I really haven’t done much Irish research on my family, mainly because they lived in Ireland during a period of time for which it is difficult to access records, if they still exist. Many of the records that were kept when the SAYERS lived in Letterkenny were later destroyed, or are only accessed onsite.

I enjoyed reading through Wikipedia’s descriptions of the place names I mentioned above. I also did a Google image search for Letterkenny, Donegal and Ulster, and by clicking on these links, you should be able to see some beautiful images as well.

When the SAYERS family came to Canada in the mid-1830s (the family immigrated in several stages over the course of about five years), they settled in Prince Edward County (not to be confused with Prince Edward Island), Ontario, particularly Picton and Athol Township. Some of the siblings and cousins moved into Hungerford Township in Hastings County, while my direct line traveled further to Cavan Township in Durham County and Port Hope in Northumberland County. I’m still studying the rather complicated histories of the locations and residences in which this family lived, backtracking bit by bit over time. As more and more information is available online (I haven’t been able to find many resources for these areas at my local library), I’ve been able to educate myself further. There’s much more to learn, and I’ve been keeping myself occupied with researching these lines after they came to Michigan.

I’d love to have the opportunities to visit all these locations and see the places where my Irish immigrant ancestors lived, worked, and worshiped. Until then, I’ll be satisfied in being an armchair traveler using the amazing technology of the Internet!

Obituary of Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON – 1937

VENERABLE LADY IS SUMMONED BY DEATH AT LUCHINI HOME

Mrs. Mahala Sears [sic] Wilkinson, 89 years old, died at the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Luchini, 115 Walnut street, at 2 o’clock Wednesday [2 Jun 1937] morning, following a critical illness which began with a heart attack last Saturday.

The aged lady had been in precarious health since July 8, 1936, when she was found to be suffering from a serious heart malady. She got along quite comfortably, however, until last week when the sudden heat wave brought on the condition which resulted in her death.

The body was taken to Whitehall [Muskegon Co.], Michigan, Mrs. Wilkinson’s old home, Wednesday morning, and the funeral and burial will take place there beside her husband, and among loved friends and scenes.

Mrs. Wilkinson was born July 8, 1847, at Prince Edward [County], Ont., and came to the States many years ago. She is survived by Mrs. Floyd Luchini, Alma; Mrs. George Lewis, Mrs. A. L. Ainger and John Wilkinson, all of Whitehall, and Fred Wilkinson, of Kelso, Wash. Mrs. Luchini has the sympathy of many Alma friends in her loss.

–from The Alma Record and Alma Journal, Alma, Gratiot Co., Michigan, Thursday, 3 Jun 1937, unknown page.
————————
Mahala was my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, a Canadian immigrant, herself the child of Ulster Scot immigrants from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. My paternal grandfather fondly remembered her from his early childhood. She used to run her finger down the slope of his nose and say, “Love is like this,” then run it back up, saying, “but marriage is like this!” I had some digital scans of photos of her with my grandfather and his younger brother taken around 1923 in Whitehall, and she appeared rather frail even then. Unfortunately, I did not know enough about re-writable CDs at that time, and those digital scans have been lost. The originals remain with my paternal grandmother in Texas.

This obituary gives me more detailed birth information (date and location) and a complete death date, than what I originally had. A photo of her tombstone in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall, Muskegon Co., Michigan can be found at Find A Grave here.

Obituary of Mahala (SAYERS) WILKINSON – 1937

VENERABLE LADY IS SUMMONED BY DEATH AT LUCHINI HOME

Mrs. Mahala Sears [sic] Wilkinson, 89 years old, died at the home of her son-in-law and daughter, Mr. and Mrs. Floyd Luchini, 115 Walnut street, at 2 o’clock Wednesday [2 Jun 1937] morning, following a critical illness which began with a heart attack last Saturday.

The aged lady had been in precarious health since July 8, 1936, when she was found to be suffering from a serious heart malady. She got along quite comfortably, however, until last week when the sudden heat wave brought on the condition which resulted in her death.

The body was taken to Whitehall [Muskegon Co.], Michigan, Mrs. Wilkinson’s old home, Wednesday morning, and the funeral and burial will take place there beside her husband, and among loved friends and scenes.

Mrs. Wilkinson was born July 8, 1847, at Prince Edward [County], Ont., and came to the States many years ago. She is survived by Mrs. Floyd Luchini, Alma; Mrs. George Lewis, Mrs. A. L. Ainger and John Wilkinson, all of Whitehall, and Fred Wilkinson, of Kelso, Wash. Mrs. Luchini has the sympathy of many Alma friends in her loss.

–from The Alma Record and Alma Journal, Alma, Gratiot Co., Michigan, Thursday, 3 Jun 1937, unknown page.
————————
Mahala was my paternal 3rd-great-grandmother, a Canadian immigrant, herself the child of Ulster Scot immigrants from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. My paternal grandfather fondly remembered her from his early childhood. She used to run her finger down the slope of his nose and say, “Love is like this,” then run it back up, saying, “but marriage is like this!” I had some digital scans of photos of her with my grandfather and his younger brother taken around 1923 in Whitehall, and she appeared rather frail even then. Unfortunately, I did not know enough about re-writable CDs at that time, and those digital scans have been lost. The originals remain with my paternal grandmother in Texas.

This obituary gives me more detailed birth information (date and location) and a complete death date, than what I originally had. A photo of her tombstone in Oakhurst Cemetery, Whitehall, Muskegon Co., Michigan can be found at Find A Grave here.

Meeting a SAYERS Cousin

A couple of weeks ago, I checked my old e-mail address at Juno. I had it for years, and when I switched to Gmail, decided against closing my Juno account, as I had done online genealogy for so many years using that e-mail address. Every few weeks or so, I’ll check on it, delete the piles of spam that have accumulated, and find a few messages from people that were unaware of my address change.

One such person was my cousin, Beverly (STRACHAN) STRONG, a fifth cousin, once removed and fellow descendant of William SAYERS, Sr. (1758 – 1860) and his wife, who we believe had the maiden name of GILLESPIE. Scots-Irish they were, from Letterkenny, County Donegal, Ireland. We know they had at least five children: William, Jr. (Bev’s ancestor); Catherine, who married Stephen MARTIN; Henry; Gillespie; and John (my ancestor). We know from a history of the Martin family that some of these Sayers children came from Ireland c. 1830 with a group to the Bay of Quinte and settled in what is now Prince Edward County (not to be confused with P.E. Island), Ontario, Canada. A year or so later, they sent for their widowed father along with wives and children they had left behind in Ireland. Imagine being around 80 years of age, leaving the only home you had known, and boarding a wooden ship in order traverse the stormy Atlantic! Perseverance and luck played out, and William, Senior lived to the ripe old age of 102 before passing away in 1860 in Hungerford Township, Hastings County, Ontario.

William’s descendants multiplied, as descendants will do, and today they can be found not only in Ontario, but in Alberta and British Columbia. Some of them crossed the border from Western Canada and resided in Western Washington. My particular ancestors, children of William’s son John, headed southwest from Prince Edward County and settled in Muskegon County, Michigan. I’ve done a great deal of research in Muskegon County vital and cemetery records and found all sorts of branches of the SAYERS and related families, piecing them together and adding them to the family tree that Bev had begun to build.

I connected to Bev years ago (I just checked my files and it was in 1997) through another SAYERS descendant, Marge (DAINARD) McARTHUR, who had seen my information online (probably on a message board) and had called me from B.C. to tell me there was a whole tribe of Sayerses out there! Bev and I, and Marge and I, began corresponding and sharing information in earnest, along with a few other Sayers descendants we picked up along the way. For a while, we had a Sayers Family Website at MyFamily.com that was fairly active, until it became a subscription site (no one wanted to pay the high cost of storing all the family photos on that site).

Bev (my dad’s age and generation) and her husband, Ron, were for years directors of their local Family History Center in Alberta. While volunteering there, she went through roll after roll of microfilmed Ontario vital records and extracted names, dates, and places not only of the SAYERS family life events, but also those of other Bay of Quinte ancestors she was researching (DAINARD, WANNAMAKER, WESSELS, McCAMON). She and Marge and quite a few of the Sayers are descendants of many pioneers of this colony; I am not. Bev, out of the kindness of her heart, looked up my WILKINSON surname and extracted what little she could find out of those microfilms for me (William, Senior’s granddaughter, Mahala Sayers, was my last Sayers ancestor, and she married John WILKINSON).

A few years ago, Ron and Bev applied to serve a mission for the LDS church, and fortune most certainly smiled upon them, for they were called to do a two-year mission at…the Family History Library in Salt Lake City!!! Now on leave, they are traveling around visiting family and friends, and it was Bev’s message in my Juno inbox that I found not long ago, asking if it would be an imposition if they dropped by on Labor Day. Of course I jumped at the chance of finally meeting her after 10 years of correspondence, and I’m so glad we did! What fun we had visiting! Their descriptions of serving in the FHL were truly amazing! The logistics of coordinating thousands of volunteers for the Family History Library and Church history archives must be staggering; yet the FHL runs like a well-oiled machine. As we covered everything from genealogy to the latest matter concerning Ancestry.com, we ended up discussing a topic we had in common: working with the disabled. It seems that the LDS Church accepts their developmentally impaired members for missions as well. Paired up with a non-disabled person, these missionaries are able to contribute to their community and church and help further the cause of genealogy. According to Ron and Bev, the library is also well-equipped to handle disabled patrons, no matter what their needs may be.

After visiting for a few hours, the Strongs took us out to dinner. We had an enjoyable meal together, then wished them well, as they continued their journey. Such a sweet and pleasant couple, so interesting and entertaining…it was nice to make new friends that were also family!