Guests for Dinner

Mr. Joseph Josiah Robbins
Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan

Mrs. Mary “Polly” (Wyckoff) Crothers Chappel
Millington Township, Tuscola County, Michigan

Mr. Franklin Preston Midkiff
Lincoln (now Moore) County, Tennessee

Mrs. Berber J. “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk
1315 West Leonard Street
Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan

You are cordially invited to attend a dinner
held in your honor at the home of your descendants,
Norm and Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff,
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington
at 6 o’clock in the evening
on Friday, February 1st,
in the Year of Our Lord, 2008.

What a fascinating opportunity I would have if it were possible to invite these four ancestors to dinner! We would undoubtedly sit long into the wee hours of the night while I enjoyed their tales of the past and amazed them with the technology of the present. Here’s what you might overhear me say, if you could also be present at the meal:

Joseph, my fourth-great-grandfather, I know your father’s name was George, but was he one and the same as George Washington Robbins who married Abigail Hicks? And that other George Robbins in Oceana County, was he your brother or some other relation? Tell me more about your first wife, Joe, Emeline C. What was her maiden name? Why, no one in the family had even heard about her until I obtained your pension record! And speaking of your Civil War days, did you really get captured by the Confederates and spend time in Andersonville?…because I can’t find any evidence of that. I’m thinking your son Charlie was a bit of a tale-teller, or perhaps was a bit confused in his old age when he was interviewed by a reporter about your military experiences. He said you served in the War with Mexico and then started off to California during the Gold Rush but decided to come back home. Is this true? By the way, was Grandma your cousin? I mean, a woman named Marinda Robbins marrying a man named Joseph Robbins…it does make me wonder. And what was up with her surly old man, Uzza the blacksmith with the black temper? Sounds like he was a bit mentally unstable: poisoning his second wife with arsenic in her bean soup, and caving in the head of his son with an anvil, it appears. That surely must have been a scandal, and no wonder none of us for several generations had heard about it…until my friend Google helped me uncover the story! Good grief, what is with your obsession with the name Ben? Five sons, and three of them named Ben, Benjamin, and Benson! Did your daughter-in-law Viola ever tell you what she knew about her father Nelson H. Peck? Because he’s another brick wall for me. Brick wall. It’s kind of hard to explain. Yes, I know I’m being a pest, but just one more question: what happened to your daughter Evaline? Did she marry Joseph Lyttle, or was that another Evaline? If it’s the same one, I need you to sign an affidavit, because the Oceana County Clerk has Evaline’s maiden name as Stewart, not Robbins. You could really help me out here, Joseph, and I’m so glad you came for dinner! Now, let me show you how this TV works. TV…it’s short for television, and it’s quite amazing…”

Grandma Polly, it’s so nice to meet you at last! You’re my fourth-great-grandmother, you know. I’ve admired your needlework for many years now. Yes, I’m the one that has your lovely cross stitch sampler that you made nearly two centuries ago. I’ve been taking good care of it, and I hope that it remains in the family for many more generations! Polly, I do need to know more about Grandpa John Crothers: can you tell me more about his life? When and where he was born, who his parents and siblings were, how you met, and yes, please tell me the sad story of his death. I heard he drowned in the Erie Canal, but that might be hearsay. It must have been so difficult being left with seven children, or is that number correct? I do know you had seven in 1840, but I only know five of their names for sure. Was Moses one of your sons? I’ve been checking into him and I’ve long suspected he was yours! How did you meet your second husband, William Chappel? And what became of daughter Euphema? I can’t find her after 1860. Goodness, I don’t even know what happened to you and William after 1880! I’ve looked online in death and cemetery records for Millington Township and you’ve been very elusive! Did you go live with one of your children in a different county in your elder years? I can’t find a death or burial place for you anywhere! You know, you come from a long, proud line of Wyckoffs who trace their roots back to New Netherlands and your immigrant ancestor, Peter Claesen Wyckoff, who came over in 1637 on the ship Rensselaerwick. But your mother’s line (sigh)…I can’t find much. Tell me more about her, that Elizabeth Mainard. I see that Cornelius Mainard is buried in the same cemetery as your parents; isn’t he your uncle? Wait, Polly, you can’t put a metal spoon in the microwave…”

Frank, I honestly don’t know whether to shake your hand or just shake you. Why when you died so young, you left your poor widow Ellender (yes, I know you always called her Nellie) with at least five little ones to raise. Yes, I know there were two other girls, but there’s no mention of them after 1840. I don’t even know their names. When Nellie died later on, your kids were still pretty young and had to do a lot of fending for themselves. Except for Ann, they all took off for Texas. You’d be proud of them. After all, your descendants founded the little community of Midkiff, Texas! And who in the world were your parents? Someone tried to tell me they were John Midkiff and Cathy Miller, but your sons’ names are full of clues to family surnames, I think: William Franklin, John Rufus and Charles Anderson. I kind of figured you all came from Virginia, seeing how Isaiah and Hasten Midkiff, your neighbors, hailed from there. You see, we have this DNA Project going (hang on, I’ll explain later) and it shows that all the Midkiffs we’ve tested so far are related. Well, maybe that’s obvious to you, but not to us here in 2008. We’re still trying to figure out how these three and four different lines connect and how the Midkiffs came over to this continent. Do you have any family stories to share? I mean, it’s kind of odd that we can trace your wife’s Oliver ancestry back two hundred years or more, but yours kind of deadends. Norm, let’s get a picture of you with your great-great-great-grandfather. Now, Franklin, that there is a remote for the stereo, and you need to be careful with it. You’re increasing the volume and if you hit the “mute” button, our ears are going to get AAAAHHHHH!…give me that!”

“Hello, Barbara, I’m your great-great-granddaughter. Of all the guests tonight, you are the only one I’ve had an idea of what you looked like before we met. See these family photos? I’ve also had the pleasure of standing at your grave, and that of your husband and mother-in-law…the first ancestral graves I ever visited, back in 2000. I’d love to hear the stories of your growing up years in the Netherlands and how you came over to the U.S. in 1882 with your fiance’, James. I actually found your names on the Surrey‘s passenger list, and even found a photo of the ship. Now, Barbara, I really need to know when and where you were born for sure, and the names of your parents. See, I’m guessing you were born in the municipality of Ferwerderadeel, Friesland like your husband was, probably in the village of Westernijkerk. But I think someone forgot to turn in your birth information to the authorities, and it never got written down! I know your father’s name was Sjoerd deJong, but who was your mother? Let me guess…Janna (Jennie) or Grietje (Gertrude). See, I know how the Dutch name their children, and you kept naming your girls Catherine (for your mother-in-law), Jennie and Gertrude; even when one of your little girls died, you’d give the next one the same name. I’m sorry you and James lost so many children. It must’ve been so hard. You know, I’ve seen lists of deJongs at the Westernijkerk church yard online, and even one named Sjoerd, but he would have been too old to be your father…was he a grandfather? “Online” means on the Internet; let me show you this computer. It’s like a window to the world. No, it’s not black magic. There’s nothing evil about it! Trust me…”

Oh, it would be an interesting evening for sure! Who would be more fascinated, more thrilled, more excited, we or our guests? Too bad we’ll never know!

Guests for Dinner

Mr. Joseph Josiah Robbins
Newfield Township, Oceana County, Michigan

Mrs. Mary “Polly” (Wyckoff) Crothers Chappel
Millington Township, Tuscola County, Michigan

Mr. Franklin Preston Midkiff
Lincoln (now Moore) County, Tennessee

Mrs. Berber J. “Barbara” (DeJong) Valk
1315 West Leonard Street
Grand Rapids, Kent County, Michigan

You are cordially invited to attend a dinner
held in your honor at the home of your descendants,
Norm and Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff,
Spokane, Spokane County, Washington
at 6 o’clock in the evening
on Friday, February 1st,
in the Year of Our Lord, 2008.

What a fascinating opportunity I would have if it were possible to invite these four ancestors to dinner! We would undoubtedly sit long into the wee hours of the night while I enjoyed their tales of the past and amazed them with the technology of the present. Here’s what you might overhear me say, if you could also be present at the meal:

Joseph, my fourth-great-grandfather, I know your father’s name was George, but was he one and the same as George Washington Robbins who married Abigail Hicks? And that other George Robbins in Oceana County, was he your brother or some other relation? Tell me more about your first wife, Joe, Emeline C. What was her maiden name? Why, no one in the family had even heard about her until I obtained your pension record! And speaking of your Civil War days, did you really get captured by the Confederates and spend time in Andersonville?…because I can’t find any evidence of that. I’m thinking your son Charlie was a bit of a tale-teller, or perhaps was a bit confused in his old age when he was interviewed by a reporter about your military experiences. He said you served in the War with Mexico and then started off to California during the Gold Rush but decided to come back home. Is this true? By the way, was Grandma your cousin? I mean, a woman named Marinda Robbins marrying a man named Joseph Robbins…it does make me wonder. And what was up with her surly old man, Uzza the blacksmith with the black temper? Sounds like he was a bit mentally unstable: poisoning his second wife with arsenic in her bean soup, and caving in the head of his son with an anvil, it appears. That surely must have been a scandal, and no wonder none of us for several generations had heard about it…until my friend Google helped me uncover the story! Good grief, what is with your obsession with the name Ben? Five sons, and three of them named Ben, Benjamin, and Benson! Did your daughter-in-law Viola ever tell you what she knew about her father Nelson H. Peck? Because he’s another brick wall for me. Brick wall. It’s kind of hard to explain. Yes, I know I’m being a pest, but just one more question: what happened to your daughter Evaline? Did she marry Joseph Lyttle, or was that another Evaline? If it’s the same one, I need you to sign an affidavit, because the Oceana County Clerk has Evaline’s maiden name as Stewart, not Robbins. You could really help me out here, Joseph, and I’m so glad you came for dinner! Now, let me show you how this TV works. TV…it’s short for television, and it’s quite amazing…”

Grandma Polly, it’s so nice to meet you at last! You’re my fourth-great-grandmother, you know. I’ve admired your needlework for many years now. Yes, I’m the one that has your lovely cross stitch sampler that you made nearly two centuries ago. I’ve been taking good care of it, and I hope that it remains in the family for many more generations! Polly, I do need to know more about Grandpa John Crothers: can you tell me more about his life? When and where he was born, who his parents and siblings were, how you met, and yes, please tell me the sad story of his death. I heard he drowned in the Erie Canal, but that might be hearsay. It must have been so difficult being left with seven children, or is that number correct? I do know you had seven in 1840, but I only know five of their names for sure. Was Moses one of your sons? I’ve been checking into him and I’ve long suspected he was yours! How did you meet your second husband, William Chappel? And what became of daughter Euphema? I can’t find her after 1860. Goodness, I don’t even know what happened to you and William after 1880! I’ve looked online in death and cemetery records for Millington Township and you’ve been very elusive! Did you go live with one of your children in a different county in your elder years? I can’t find a death or burial place for you anywhere! You know, you come from a long, proud line of Wyckoffs who trace their roots back to New Netherlands and your immigrant ancestor, Peter Claesen Wyckoff, who came over in 1637 on the ship Rensselaerwick. But your mother’s line (sigh)…I can’t find much. Tell me more about her, that Elizabeth Mainard. I see that Cornelius Mainard is buried in the same cemetery as your parents; isn’t he your uncle? Wait, Polly, you can’t put a metal spoon in the microwave…”

Frank, I honestly don’t know whether to shake your hand or just shake you. Why when you died so young, you left your poor widow Ellender (yes, I know you always called her Nellie) with at least five little ones to raise. Yes, I know there were two other girls, but there’s no mention of them after 1840. I don’t even know their names. When Nellie died later on, your kids were still pretty young and had to do a lot of fending for themselves. Except for Ann, they all took off for Texas. You’d be proud of them. After all, your descendants founded the little community of Midkiff, Texas! And who in the world were your parents? Someone tried to tell me they were John Midkiff and Cathy Miller, but your sons’ names are full of clues to family surnames, I think: William Franklin, John Rufus and Charles Anderson. I kind of figured you all came from Virginia, seeing how Isaiah and Hasten Midkiff, your neighbors, hailed from there. You see, we have this DNA Project going (hang on, I’ll explain later) and it shows that all the Midkiffs we’ve tested so far are related. Well, maybe that’s obvious to you, but not to us here in 2008. We’re still trying to figure out how these three and four different lines connect and how the Midkiffs came over to this continent. Do you have any family stories to share? I mean, it’s kind of odd that we can trace your wife’s Oliver ancestry back two hundred years or more, but yours kind of deadends. Norm, let’s get a picture of you with your great-great-great-grandfather. Now, Franklin, that there is a remote for the stereo, and you need to be careful with it. You’re increasing the volume and if you hit the “mute” button, our ears are going to get AAAAHHHHH!…give me that!”

“Hello, Barbara, I’m your great-great-granddaughter. Of all the guests tonight, you are the only one I’ve had an idea of what you looked like before we met. See these family photos? I’ve also had the pleasure of standing at your grave, and that of your husband and mother-in-law…the first ancestral graves I ever visited, back in 2000. I’d love to hear the stories of your growing up years in the Netherlands and how you came over to the U.S. in 1882 with your fiance’, James. I actually found your names on the Surrey‘s passenger list, and even found a photo of the ship. Now, Barbara, I really need to know when and where you were born for sure, and the names of your parents. See, I’m guessing you were born in the municipality of Ferwerderadeel, Friesland like your husband was, probably in the village of Westernijkerk. But I think someone forgot to turn in your birth information to the authorities, and it never got written down! I know your father’s name was Sjoerd deJong, but who was your mother? Let me guess…Janna (Jennie) or Grietje (Gertrude). See, I know how the Dutch name their children, and you kept naming your girls Catherine (for your mother-in-law), Jennie and Gertrude; even when one of your little girls died, you’d give the next one the same name. I’m sorry you and James lost so many children. It must’ve been so hard. You know, I’ve seen lists of deJongs at the Westernijkerk church yard online, and even one named Sjoerd, but he would have been too old to be your father…was he a grandfather? “Online” means on the Internet; let me show you this computer. It’s like a window to the world. No, it’s not black magic. There’s nothing evil about it! Trust me…”

Oh, it would be an interesting evening for sure! Who would be more fascinated, more thrilled, more excited, we or our guests? Too bad we’ll never know!

Digital Show and Tell

Lisa Alzo, the Accidental Genealogist, suggested a Digital Show and Tell. She is featuring a photo of her grandmother’s trunk on her blog, which was brought to the U.S. from Slovakia when she immigrated in 1922.

What a fantastic idea, Lisa! I’ve decided to feature my most precious (and oldest) genealogical treasure, the cross stitch sampler created by my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary “Polly” (WYCKOFF) CROTHERS CHAPPEL (c. 1805 – aft. 1880):


(click on the image above for a magnified view)

As a cross stitcher myself, looking at the difficulty of the stitches, I figure Polly probably made this when she was no younger than 10; and since her maiden name is stitched on it, it had to be made before her marriage c. 1824 – 5 (her eldest known child was born 11 Dec 1825). Therefore, it was probably made c. 1815 – 1825, making it around 182 – 192 years old!

Because this sampler was made by an ancestor from the biological line of my paternal grandmother (an adoptee), this item is especially precious to me. I researched my grandmother’s biological line for several years before finding living relatives for her to reunite with in 1997. The previous owner of the sampler, related by marriage only, corresponded with me for a while and was able to provide many details on the family history. Out of the kindness of her heart, she gave this sampler to me, mailed in a cardboard(!) envelope. The day it arrived in the mail, it was pouring down rain all day. The tape holding the envelope shut had come unsealed, and it was a miracle the sampler hadn’t fallen out during delivery!

Now it is safely wrapped in an undyed cotton sheet until I can find a local textile expert to advise me on how to best preserve it (and possibly clean and display it) for future generations.

Digital Show and Tell

Lisa Alzo, the Accidental Genealogist, suggested a Digital Show and Tell. She is featuring a photo of her grandmother’s trunk on her blog, which was brought to the U.S. from Slovakia when she immigrated in 1922.

What a fantastic idea, Lisa! I’ve decided to feature my most precious (and oldest) genealogical treasure, the cross stitch sampler created by my 4th-great-grandmother, Mary “Polly” (WYCKOFF) CROTHERS CHAPPEL (c. 1805 – aft. 1880):


(click on the image above for a magnified view)

As a cross stitcher myself, looking at the difficulty of the stitches, I figure Polly probably made this when she was no younger than 10; and since her maiden name is stitched on it, it had to be made before her marriage c. 1824 – 5 (her eldest known child was born 11 Dec 1825). Therefore, it was probably made c. 1815 – 1825, making it around 182 – 192 years old!

Because this sampler was made by an ancestor from the biological line of my paternal grandmother (an adoptee), this item is especially precious to me. I researched my grandmother’s biological line for several years before finding living relatives for her to reunite with in 1997. The previous owner of the sampler, related by marriage only, corresponded with me for a while and was able to provide many details on the family history. Out of the kindness of her heart, she gave this sampler to me, mailed in a cardboard(!) envelope. The day it arrived in the mail, it was pouring down rain all day. The tape holding the envelope shut had come unsealed, and it was a miracle the sampler hadn’t fallen out during delivery!

Now it is safely wrapped in an undyed cotton sheet until I can find a local textile expert to advise me on how to best preserve it (and possibly clean and display it) for future generations.

My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria’s Secret? Never!

The other day, my 16-year-old daughter and I were watching television together when a commercial for Victoria’s Secret aired during the break. The gist of the message was “every woman wants Victoria’s Secret for the holidays.” I rolled my eyes and said to Missy, “Not this woman. Give me death certificates or census records any day!”

As I thought it over, I realized that there were actually a few Secrets I’d like, none of them having to do with women named Victoria, however. For instance, there’s Mariah Emily DAILEY and her daughter, Emma Alice LYTON, my husband’s 2nd-great- and great-grandmothers, respectively. Just exactly where were they when the 1880 Federal Census was being taken? They should have been in Iowa, specifically in Thurman, Freman County. Mariah’s first husband, George TURK, assumed the name Henry LYTON, and immigrated to the U.S. from Ontario to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. After his death, Mariah married German immigrant John KLINDER in 1875. By 1880, Mariah and John had two children, Nancy Florence and Laura Luella, as well as Emma and Agnes LYTON from her marriage to Henry. Mariah’s Secret or Emma’s Secret would be great gifts for Christmas!

And in my own ancestry, I have yet to figure out Mary Jane’s Secret…Mary Jane FREDENBURG, that is. My 2nd-great-grandmother was 8 years old in 1880, yet she and her six-year-old brother, George Franklin FREDENBURG, are missing from the Greenwood Township, St. Clair County, Michigan home of her widowed mother Cornelia (McCLELLAN) FREDENBURG, younger brother William Anthony FREDENBURG (age 3 1/2), older half-sister Sarah E. FREDENBURG (12) and paternal grandparents Anthony and Hannah (FOX) FREDENBURG. Can’t find them anywhere in Michigan, or the U.S., for that matter.

I did get Helen’s Secret and Rena’s Secret for Christmas last year. Norm’s paternal grandmother, Helen Mary WESTABY, and her mother, Rena (LERFALD) WESTABY, went missing, along with father George Rice WESTABY, III, during the 1920 Federal Census. I thought I had figured it out when I read George’s obituary a few years ago. It stated that he had come from Montana to Washington State in 1920. “Aha!” I thought. “That’s why I couldn’t find them…they were moving, en route across the Northwest.” I was right…sort of. I was given some significant missing details by my father-in-law during our 2005 Christmas visit. He told me that his grandfather George had been employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in Montana, along with George’s father and brothers. Seems George and his brothers made a little extra on the side by selling brass they stole from the railroad. George apparently sold to the wrong person, and managed to discover his mistake shortly before his impending arrest, making a midnight move with Rena and little Helen west to the Yakima Valley, where they likely hid out at the home of George’s cousin, Charles WESTABY. If they weren’t exactly in transit when the census was taken, it is certain that neither Charles nor his wife would have divulged to a government employee (i.e. census enumerator) that they were harboring a fugitive from the law!

And I did uncover another Mary Jane’s Secret this year…I think. Mary Jane BARBER, my great-grandmother and daughter of Mary Jane FREDENBURG mentioned above, was married many times. In fact, she apparently was married so many times, even her family members may not have known the exact count. My records show she first married my great-grandfather, Howard Merkel YORK, when she was only 14 years old, in 1924. That unhappy union ended three years later. Mary Jane later married her step-brother, Archie Louis KELLER, when both were in their thirties. After that divorce, Mary Jane married what we had believed to be her third husband, Jay DUNLAP. It was my searching for Mary Jane in the 1930 Federal Census that led to my theory that there was another husband between Howard and Archie. Since I couldn’t seem to find Mary Jane, I looked for her older brother Jim. I found a man with his name, the right age, birthplace and parents’ birthplaces in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Coincidentally, there’s also a Mary Jane KUPSH in Manitowoc, age off by only one year, born in Michigan, parents born in Michigan. Ordering Arthur KUPSH’s marriage record to Mary Jane should clarify if this is my great-grandmother. Interestingly, I asked Uncle Jim’s widow if she had ever heard that her late husband and sister-in-law had lived in Wisconsin. She said no; however, Jim’s widow came late into the family, as a second marriage for both Jim and herself. She may not have known Mary Jane’s Secret.

So a few Secrets uncovered…yet many more to be found! So put away those laces, satins and silks…give me dusty documents, faded photographs (but not too faded!), or samplers stitched with my ancestress’ maiden name instead:

My genealogy gift list for myself (and for you!) is to uncover a few more family secrets in 2007…a few more surprises, a few more times exclaiming “so THAT’S where they were!” and many more genealogy happy dances to jig!

Merry Christmas!

P.S. When I originally published this post at my old blog site, Lee left the following comment on December 18, 2006:

Love your post! Who has a need for Victoria Secret when there are juicier secrets out there just waiting to be uncovered?

~ Lee

My Genealogy Gift List: Victoria’s Secret? Never!

The other day, my 16-year-old daughter and I were watching television together when a commercial for Victoria’s Secret aired during the break. The gist of the message was “every woman wants Victoria’s Secret for the holidays.” I rolled my eyes and said to Missy, “Not this woman. Give me death certificates or census records any day!”

As I thought it over, I realized that there were actually a few Secrets I’d like, none of them having to do with women named Victoria, however. For instance, there’s Mariah Emily DAILEY and her daughter, Emma Alice LYTON, my husband’s 2nd-great- and great-grandmothers, respectively. Just exactly where were they when the 1880 Federal Census was being taken? They should have been in Iowa, specifically in Thurman, Freman County. Mariah’s first husband, George TURK, assumed the name Henry LYTON, and immigrated to the U.S. from Ontario to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. After his death, Mariah married German immigrant John KLINDER in 1875. By 1880, Mariah and John had two children, Nancy Florence and Laura Luella, as well as Emma and Agnes LYTON from her marriage to Henry. Mariah’s Secret or Emma’s Secret would be great gifts for Christmas!

And in my own ancestry, I have yet to figure out Mary Jane’s Secret…Mary Jane FREDENBURG, that is. My 2nd-great-grandmother was 8 years old in 1880, yet she and her six-year-old brother, George Franklin FREDENBURG, are missing from the Greenwood Township, St. Clair County, Michigan home of her widowed mother Cornelia (McCLELLAN) FREDENBURG, younger brother William Anthony FREDENBURG (age 3 1/2), older half-sister Sarah E. FREDENBURG (12) and paternal grandparents Anthony and Hannah (FOX) FREDENBURG. Can’t find them anywhere in Michigan, or the U.S., for that matter.

I did get Helen’s Secret and Rena’s Secret for Christmas last year. Norm’s paternal grandmother, Helen Mary WESTABY, and her mother, Rena (LERFALD) WESTABY, went missing, along with father George Rice WESTABY, III, during the 1920 Federal Census. I thought I had figured it out when I read George’s obituary a few years ago. It stated that he had come from Montana to Washington State in 1920. “Aha!” I thought. “That’s why I couldn’t find them…they were moving, en route across the Northwest.” I was right…sort of. I was given some significant missing details by my father-in-law during our 2005 Christmas visit. He told me that his grandfather George had been employed by the Northern Pacific Railroad in Montana, along with George’s father and brothers. Seems George and his brothers made a little extra on the side by selling brass they stole from the railroad. George apparently sold to the wrong person, and managed to discover his mistake shortly before his impending arrest, making a midnight move with Rena and little Helen west to the Yakima Valley, where they likely hid out at the home of George’s cousin, Charles WESTABY. If they weren’t exactly in transit when the census was taken, it is certain that neither Charles nor his wife would have divulged to a government employee (i.e. census enumerator) that they were harboring a fugitive from the law!

And I did uncover another Mary Jane’s Secret this year…I think. Mary Jane BARBER, my great-grandmother and daughter of Mary Jane FREDENBURG mentioned above, was married many times. In fact, she apparently was married so many times, even her family members may not have known the exact count. My records show she first married my great-grandfather, Howard Merkel YORK, when she was only 14 years old, in 1924. That unhappy union ended three years later. Mary Jane later married her step-brother, Archie Louis KELLER, when both were in their thirties. After that divorce, Mary Jane married what we had believed to be her third husband, Jay DUNLAP. It was my searching for Mary Jane in the 1930 Federal Census that led to my theory that there was another husband between Howard and Archie. Since I couldn’t seem to find Mary Jane, I looked for her older brother Jim. I found a man with his name, the right age, birthplace and parents’ birthplaces in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. Coincidentally, there’s also a Mary Jane KUPSH in Manitowoc, age off by only one year, born in Michigan, parents born in Michigan. Ordering Arthur KUPSH’s marriage record to Mary Jane should clarify if this is my great-grandmother. Interestingly, I asked Uncle Jim’s widow if she had ever heard that her late husband and sister-in-law had lived in Wisconsin. She said no; however, Jim’s widow came late into the family, as a second marriage for both Jim and herself. She may not have known Mary Jane’s Secret.

So a few Secrets uncovered…yet many more to be found! So put away those laces, satins and silks…give me dusty documents, faded photographs (but not too faded!), or samplers stitched with my ancestress’ maiden name instead:

My genealogy gift list for myself (and for you!) is to uncover a few more family secrets in 2007…a few more surprises, a few more times exclaiming “so THAT’S where they were!” and many more genealogy happy dances to jig!

Merry Christmas!

P.S. When I originally published this post at my old blog site, Lee left the following comment on December 18, 2006:

Love your post! Who has a need for Victoria Secret when there are juicier secrets out there just waiting to be uncovered?

~ Lee

Week of July 23 – 29, 2006

Saturday, July 29
Diana Wilkes, a Find A Grave photo volunteer, blessed the socks off of me by not only taking many photos of my Robbins ancestors’ graves at Hesperia West Cemetery in Hesperia, Michigan, but also submmitting a cemetery map with all the Robbins’ graves marked! In addition, she will be mailing me a CD with all the photos. The photos she submitted to Find A Grave were for Joseph Josiah Robbins, Marinda (Robbins) Robbins, Charles H. Robbins, and Viola Gertrude (Peck) Robbins.

Sent a link to my Robbins Family Page to the McKean County, Pennsylvania GenWeb site.

Found info online about the Wyckoff House Museum, which my ancestor, Pieter Claessen Wyckoff, built c. 1652 on Long Island. It is the one of the oldest standing wooden homes in North America, and New York City’s first Landmark.

Friday, July 28
Andrew Whitlock, a Find A Grave submitter, e-mailed to say he had updated my Civil War ancestor Benjamin Henry Kimball’s information, which I had sent him a few weeks ago.

Thursday, July 27
Requested photos of my Higby ancestors graves in Old Westfield Cemetery in Middleton, Connecticit from Norma Unger.

Matt and I went to Holy Cross Cemetery and took photos of the graves of George Ogden and Dessie Lola (McCready) Purviance for a requestor. It was my first time there, and I found it to be a beautiful, well-laid-out cemetery with easy-to-find graves. It is a newer cemetery (built 1931).


Wednesday, July 26
Added details to a memorial page on Find A Grave, which I created for my grandaunt, Mary Louise (Hoekstra) Glashower.

Heard back from Judy Zenge, a Find A Grave photo volunteer who is looking into taking a photo of the grave of my infant brother, Aaron James Robbins. She talked to an individual in Metlakatla, Alaska who said his parents are buried right next to Aaron, and he and other Metlakatla citizens continue to tend the grave out of loving respect and memory of all my parents did as Salvation Army officers to that village over 30 years ago. He also stated that the cross Dad made for Aaron’s grave was still intact. Judy is hoping to get over to Metlakatla on Annette Island from Ketchikan soon, to take a photo. This news was very touching to me.

Tuesday, July 25
As pre-arranged, I received a telephone call from Laurie Perkins, Education Historian at the Michigan Historical Museum in Lansing. She is in charge of developing and overseeing the Future Historians program for 9 – 15 year olds at the Museum. She told me about the program and answered my many questions. She also gave me contact information for the person in charge of the Genealogy Sprouts Day Camp program through the Library of Michigan. I am hoping that my local genealogical society can develop (a) similar program(s) in the Spokane area, with the help of the Spokane Public Library and/or the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture.

Monday, July 24
My son, Matt, and I went to Greenwood Memorial Terrace to take a photo of the grave of Allene Eugenia (Castlio) Castlio for someone who requested it through Find A Grave. We stopped first at the cemetery office, and were informed that Allene was not buried there; she was buried at Fairmount Memorial Park. Greenwood and Fairmount are both owned by the Fairmount Memorial Association, which also owns Riverside Memorial Park, Spokane Memorial Gardens, and Woodlawn Cemetery, so they have all the records at the central office at Greenwood. I was given the locations of some more Castlio burials; two at Greenwood (Edwin Sparks and Dora A. Castlio) and two at Spokane Memorial Gardens (Raymond W. and Alma L. Castlio). Since I was already at Greenwood, I went and took the photos; then I went to Fairmount and, after a little help from the office there, found Allene’s burial place (her grave is unmarked, except for a curbstone family marker off to the side). After adding Allene’s photos to her memorial page at Find A Grave, I created pages for the other Castlio individuals at that site. I used information from the Washington State Death Index at Ancestry to fill in some unknown information.

Sunday, July 23
I worked on my friend Bev’s family tree website, and I now have three pages up. Once I get it complete, I’ll put a link here for my readers, so that they, too, can read it. Bev is a great writer; a professional journalist who writes for many genealogy magazines, and her family stories on her new website will warm your heart and make you feel like you’ve known these people all your lives!

One of the ladies from the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society contacted me; she recently ordered a copy of the GenSmarts software by phone. She talked to Aaron Underwood, the owner of the program, and suggested that he donate a copy as a door prize for our October workshop. He agreed, and I think that this will make a wonderful addition to a great program (Michael John Neill will be our guest lecturer)!

I’ve agreed to be the coordinator for the EWGS’ educational program for 2007. We offer free computer classes for members each month with a different topic. So far, we covered Using the Boolean Search Method, Using Ancestry.com, Placing Queries for (and Finding) Surnames Online, Using FamilySearch.org, How to Fix Broken Links (see my blog entry of July 16th), Patriotic and Lineage Societies Online, and Using GenSmarts Software. My job will entail signing up people for the classes (there’s a limit of 15, due to the amount of computer stations in the computer lab), of which we hold three each program day.

I also started adding a lot of cemetery information from various sources to the Goodrich Cemetery (Atlas Township, Genesee County, Michigan) listing at Find A Grave…kind of an outgrowth to my work on The Atlas Project.