Saturday, July 16, 2016

Researching Michigan Roots

I often tell people I have Michigan roots, but I think it’s often not conveyed as to how deep and wide those roots grow. I am the first generation of my family in five full generations and eight partial generations to not have been born, married, lived a significant part of my life, and/or died in Michigan, although I have had extended (months’ long) visits. Here are some statistics about my Michigan roots:

  • Both my parents grew up and married in Michigan. My mom was born in Michigan; my dad was born in Alberta, Canada only because his dad was stationed there during World War II.
  • All four of my grandparents were born, married, and lived most of their lives in Michigan. My paternal grandfather was the only one of the four who died in a different state (Texas). He and my paternal grandmother were Michigan-Texas snowbirds for much of their retirement years. Grandpa and Grandma Robbins are two of only five of my ancestors buried west of the Mississippi River, in Texas.
  • All eight of my great-grandparents were Michiganders. One of my maternal great-grandfathers was the only one not born in Michigan; he was born in Illinois and his family moved to Michigan when he was three. All of my great-grandparents married, died, and were buried in Michigan.
  • Of my 16 2nd-great-grandparents, all lived a significant part of their lives in Michigan. Six were born in Michigan, 12 were married in Michigan, 14 died and were buried in Michigan. The two ancestors of this generation who did not die in Michigan are another two of my five ancestors buried west of the Mississippi River, in Oregon.
  • Of my 32 3rd-great-grandparents, 24—all (16) of my dad’s ancestors, and half (eight) of my mom’s ancestors—lived a significant part of their lives in Michigan, with two actually living their entire lives in the state. This is about 72% of that generation.
  • Of my 64 4th-great-grandparents, I have been able to identify 62 of them. It’s not likely the two unknown ancestors of this generation lived in Michigan, but it’s not impossible. Of the 62, 17 of them lived in Michigan for part or most of their lives. They were all my dad’s ancestors, and none of them were born in Michigan, but were immigrants from other states or countries. This is almost 27% of that generation.
  • Of my 128 5th-great-grandparents, I can identify 88 of them. Of these 88, seven—all my dad’s ancestors—were known to have lived in Michigan in their elder years. This is 5% of that generation. The earliest ones came around the time of Michigan statehood with their adult children to pioneer.
  • When I tally the number of direct ancestors from my parents to my 5th-great-grandparents, I get 78 out of 254 people in seven generations who lived all or part of their lives in Michigan, or about 31%.
  • None of these figures include my grandmother’s adoptive family, or my mother’s step-father’s family, both of which I research as if they were my own. It doesn’t include hundreds of collateral families, which include thousands of individuals who are other children, brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, step-parents, step-siblings, in-laws, and second (or more) spouses of my direct ancestors.
  • Michigan counties in which my direct ancestors live include (in alphabetical order): Allegan, Antrim, Clinton*, Genesee*, Gratiot*, Houghton, Ingham*, Kalamazoo*, Kent*, Lapeer*, Lenawee, Macomb*, Muskegon*, Oakland*, Oceana*, Ottawa*, Newaygo*, Saginaw, Sanilac, St. Clair*, Tuscola, Washtenaw*, and Wayne. I’ve marked the counties with an asterisk if I had more than three direct ancestors living there at one time or another. The top six counties with the most direct ancestors who lived in them are Kent (21), Ottawa (15), Lapeer (13), Muskegon (12), Genesee (10), and Newaygo (9). Some ancestors are counted more than once, because they may have lived in more than one of these counties.
  • Of my 57 ancestors who came to Michigan from another state or country, the highest number were born in New York State (18), the Netherlands (12), and Canada (7). Four each were born in New Jersey and Pennsylvania; three each were born in Ohio and Vermont; one each was born in England, Connecticut, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota.

Because of all this, I've learned a lot about Michigan genealogical resources and historical records over the years. There's always more to learn, however!

Do you have ancestors from Michigan? Or do you have numerous ancestors from another state or province that causes you to be an “expert” in genealogical research in that location? Tell me about it in the comments below, or write a blog post and link it here.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Birthplace Pedigree Fun

Yesterday on Facebook, my genealogy friend, J. Paul Hawthorne, posted a cool birthplace pedigree chart, using Microsoft Excel. I created one as well, and posted it on my Facebook timeline:

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I created a blank pedigree chart in Excel which I uploaded to Google Docs. You can download it, edit it, create a screenshot from it, and post it to Facebook or your own blog. Here are the instructions:

1) Go to Google Docs to view the blank template.

2) Once the template is loaded, click on File, choose Download As, then choose Microsoft Excel (.xlsx).

3) Use Microsoft Excel to open the template after it is downloaded to your computer. If you don't have Excel, you can do several things:
  • You can sign into (or create and the sign into) your own Google Account, and then use Google Docs to upload the template you just downloaded.
  • You can use a free spreadsheet program, like OpenOffice's Calc. 

4) In Excel (or your spreadsheet program) use the bucket tool to fill each cell with your color choice, then edit the text.

5) Go to the View tab and uncheck Headings, Formula Bar, and Gridlines to make full use of your screen.

6) If you need to zoom out a little to capture the whole image in your screenshot, go to View, Zoom, and reduce the size (I used Custom to reduce to 80% on my laptop).

7) Hold down your FN (function) key and your PRTSC (PrintScreen) key to create a screen shot. Paste the image into Paint or any photo editing program on your computer and save as a .jpg or .png file.

8) Upload to Facebook or your blog.

9) Some ideas to use:
  • Color the cells according the the state, provincial, or national flag colors of where the person was born.
  • Make a chart to show where your ancestors died.
  • Make a chart to show the causes of death for your ancestors (good medical info!).
Have fun!

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Saturday, January 30, 2016

What Do I Know About Mary (CLARK) WRIGHT? A Journey Through Federal and State Censuses, Part I

Just before Christmas, I received an email from a man who said he might have more information on the family of one of my brick wall ancestors, William Parker WRIGHT (1830 - 1915). The gentleman wanted to know what information I had on William's mother, Mary CLARK.  My response was:
All I have on Mary Clark is that she was born c. 1800 in Orange County, New York. Her husband may have been Peter or David Wright, born c. 1800 in New York. They were living in 1840 and 1850 in Minisink, Orange Co., NY. In 1870, Mary was living with her son, Samuel Youngs Wright, and his family.
I decided that I had no excuse for not knowing more about my 4th-great-grandmother, especially with all the great records now available online. New York State did not start keeping vital records until 1880, and even then, many counties were not in compliance. So I thought I would look a little harder at the federal censuses in which I had found Mary, as well as look for her in state censuses.

First of all, I must explain that I originally learned about Mary from my maternal grandmother's first cousin, Avis (STRONG) RUSSELL, who worked on the family tree for many decades in order to prove our Revolutionary War ancestry in the STRONG line, into which the WRIGHT family married. Avis probably discovered Mary's name from our ancestor William's Michigan death certificate, which I accessed at in 2009.[1]

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You can see that William's parents are named as Peter WRIGHT and Mary CLARKE, both born in New York, as William was. The informant was Mary Lucy (WRIGHT) STRONG, William's daughter, and my great-great-grandmother. Mary Lucy was born in 1859.[2] We shall eventually see that this date is significant in why William's parents were listed this way on his death certificate.

The first time Mary is named individually on a census was the 1850 Federal Census, the first census that listed every member of a household. Because of this, I am starting with the 1850 Census and working forward through time until I can no longer find Mary on either federal or state censuses. The I will work backward from 1850 into earlier censuses.

Mary was living with her husband David (not Peter) WRIGHT and sons William P. and Samuel Y. in the Town of Minisink, Orange County, New York in 1850.[3] I know that this is the correct Mary, because in the Family Record book of my Hoekstra great-grandparents, my great-grandmother, Lillian Fern (STRONG) HOEKSTRA, names her grandfather William Parker WRIGHT and his brother, Youngs WRIGHT.[4] Also, cousin Avis had told me that Youngs was really Samuel Youngs WRIGHT. Notice that the household enumerated right before David's is Lucinda (WRIGHT) SHERWOOD and Wesley SHERWOOD, Mary's daughter and son-in-law, confirmed by Lucinda's descendant, Lucy (SHERWOOD) SOPER.

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New York state censuses were taken for some time in years ending in 5, so my next stop was the 1855 state census. I was in luck, once again, this time in the Town of Nichols, Tioga County, New York:[5]

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As you can see, Mary (now widowed) and her son Samuel Youngs are living with her daughter and son-in-law, Lucinda and Wesley, who now have three children: William H., Thomas, B., and Evangeline. You will note that all of them, with the exception of the youngest two grandchildren who were born in Tioga County, state they have lived in this county for four years, showing that they would have immigrated from Orange County around 1851. Did David die before their move or did he immigrate with them and die in Tioga County? I have checked probate records for both counties, and have not found him listed, but then again, in 1850 he had no property and was a laborer. He probably had no estate to distribute after his death.

Son William is married and living with his wife Ann and daughter Celia in the nearby Town of Candor,[6] enumerated just before the household of his father-in-law, Peter ROCKWELL, Sr., whose household continues on to the next census page:

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So what have I learned about Mary (and her family) from the 1850 U.S. Federal and 1855 New York State censuses?
  1. Mary was born about 1800 in Orange County, New York.
  2. Her husband, David WRIGHT, was born about 1800, also in Orange County.
  3. They were probably married by 1825, perhaps in Orange County. This is based on the approximate birth year and birthplace of their oldest known child, Lucinda.
  4. Daughter Lucinda was born about 1826 in Orange County, New York.
  5. Son-in-law Wesley was born about 1825, in Orange County, New York.
  6. Lucinda and Wesley were probably married by 1847, probably in New York. This is based on the birth year of their oldest known child, William.
  7. Grandson William H. SHERWOOD was born about 1848, in either New York or New Jersey.
  8. Son William Parker WRIGHT was born about 1829 in Orange County, New York (1850 census); although in 1855, his birthplace is shown as New Jersey.
  9. Son Samuel was born about 1840 in Orange County, New York.
  10. Given the gaps between the ages of the sons, it is likely that Mary and David had other children, who either died young or are living elsewhere, as yet unidentified.
  11. David was a laborer and did not own any real estate in 1850. 
  12. Sons William and Samuel were minors in 1850 and still living with their parents. William appears to be unemployed. Samuel was a schoolboy.
  13. Son-in-law Wesley was a blacksmith in 1850 and in 1855, but also did not own any real estate in either year. He also was listed as a native voter and citizen in the Town of Nichols in 1855.
  14. Although the census day for 1850 was June 1st, the family was probably still residing in the Town of Minisink on August 20th.
  15. By June 1, 1855, David had died. It is not known if he died in the Town of Minisink, Orange County, or in Tioga County. It is even possible that if he immigrated with his family c. 1851, he could have died along the way. My theory is that he died before immigration, and his death was the "push factor" that caused the family to immigrate. However, I will keep looking for documents that mention his death.
  16. The family immigrated from the Town of Minisink, Orange County to Tioga County (the Town of Nichols and the Town of Candor) around 1851. The family would have consisted of at least Mary, Wesley, Lucinda, grandson William, son William, and Samuel. David may have immigrated with them and died along the way or in Tioga County. There may have been as-yet-unidentified other family members who also immigrated.
  17. Daughter Lucinda and son-in-law Wesley had at least two more children by 1855: Thomas B., born c. 1852 in Tioga County; and Evangeline, b. c. 1854, also in Tioga County.
  18. Mary and son Samuel are living with Lucinda and Wesley and the three grandchildren in 1855. The home is frame and worth $200. Paying $200 in 1855 was the equivalent of paying $5133.94 in 2015 (home values don't necessarily translate the same way).
  19. The census day for 1855 was June 1st; the enumerator visited the Sherwood-Wright household on June 25th.
  20. Son William was married probably by 1852 to Ann E., possibly in Schenectady or Tioga County.  From other family records and documents, we know she was Ann Elizabeth ROCKWELL. The date and place of marriage are estimates based on the approximate birth year and birth place of their daughter Celia, as well as the probable residence of Ann around 1852.
  21. In 1855, son William, daughter-in-law Ann, and granddaughter Celia were living in the Town of Candor, Tioga County, enumerated just before Ann's parents' household. Their home is log and no value is given for it.
  22. Daughter-in-law Ann was born around 1829 in Schoharie County, New York.
  23. Granddaughter Celia E. was born around 1853 in Schenectady County, New York. Celia's birthplace may have been a temporary residence for her parents (such as on a visit), since she is shown as having lived in Tioga County for two years, her father for four years, and her mother for 20 years.
  24. Son William is a mason, a native voter and citizen, but does not own real estate in 1855.
  25. Mary had four grandchildren by 1855: two grandsons and two granddaughters.
At least 25 facts were gathered and several theories formulated from just two documents! There seem to be New Jersey connections, and son William and daughter-in-law Ann appear to have traveled a bit early in their marriage. Next time, we'll take a look at census records from the 1860s.


     1. Michigan Department of State, death certificate no. 1450 (1915), William P. Wright; digital images, State of Michigan, Seeking Michigan ( : 2009).
     2.  1900 U.S. census, Kent County, Michigan, population schedule, Grand Rapids Ward 11, ED 87, p. 5A, dwelling 93, family 102, Charles F. Strong household; digital image, ( : accessed 30 January 2016); citing NARA microfilm publication T623, roll 723. Mary L. Strong, born Feb. 1859.
     3.  1850 U.S. census, Orange County, New York, population schedule, Town of Minisink, p. 523/263A (both stamped), dwelling 299, family 322, David Wright household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 December 2015); citing NARA microfilm publication M432, roll 574.
     4. Family data, John Martin and Lillian Fern (Strong) Hoekstra, Family Record Book, (Chicago, Illinois: S. B. Shaw, 1902); citing pages 50 (William Wright) and 128 (Youngs Wright); original owned by Miriam Robbins, [ADDRESS HELD FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2016.
     5.  1855 state census, Tioga County, New York, population schedule, Town of Nichols, E.D. 1, p. 26 (handwritten), dwelling 18, family 19, Wesley W. Sherwood household; digital image, ( : accessed 21 December 2015); county clerk offices, New York; citing FHL microfilm 816,364.
     6.1855 state census, Tioga County, New York, population schedule, Town of Candor, E.D. 2, p. 83 (handwritten), dwelling 115, family 130, William P. Wright household; digital image, ( : accessed 13 January 2016); county clerk offices, New York; citing FHL microfilm 816,364.

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Friday, December 11, 2015

Friday Finds and Follows: 11 December 2015

Articles and posts that caught my eye:

My New Genealogy Follows at Twitter:

@CousinDetective, @ExtremeGenes, @My_History, @mycanvas, @FrugalGenealogy, @HistoricEngland, @FamilyHistoryUK, @OGSHamilton, @Omega_DNA, @asnjaart, @GSMD, @RootsBid, @familyhist2DAY

Genealogy Facebook Pages I've "Liked":
  • No new likes this week (I'm taking a hiatus from Facebook until after the New Year). Be sure to check out Katherine R. Willson's incredible Genealogy on Facebook list for more genealogy pages and groups.

Follow Me

Check out my websites:

Online Historical Directories 

Online Historical Newspapers

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

More on the Family of Isaac and Rebecca (HEWITT) LUKE

Click photo to enlarge
The Family of Isaac and Rebecca (Hewitt) Luke, c. 1888. Unknown location, possibly Avon, Bon Homme Co., South Dakota. Original photograph privately held by Dennis R. Luke, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Oregon.
This wonderful photograph I posted yesterday on Wordless Wednesday was sent to me via email by a distant cousin of my children, on their paternal grandmother's side of the family. It features their 3rd-great-grandparents, their 2nd-great-grandmother, and her siblings.

Isaac LUKE was born 1 April 1831 in Mt. Vernon, Wayne Co., Ohio. His wife, Rebecca HEWITT, was born 2 May 1836 in Meadville, Crawford Co., Pennsylvania. Married 20 February 1851 in Sun Prairie, Dane Co., Wisconsin, they had 14 children, two who died as toddlers, and one who died at about 18:
  1. William Alonzo LUKE (1852 - 1919); the ancestor of the cousin who shared this photo
  2. Robert Thomas LUKE (1853 - 1932)
  3. Orville Isaac LUKE (1855 - 1943)
  4. Melissa Rachel LUKE JENNINGS (1856 - c. 1937)
  5. Lydia J. LUKE (c. 1859 - c. 1877)
  6. Orin Azel LUKE (1860 - 1932)
  7. Julia Elizabeth LUKE  LUKE (1862 - 1916); yes, she married a cousin!
  8. Simeon Wesley LUKE (1863 - 1947)
  9. Angelia Rebecca LUKE MARTIN (1866 - 1941) - my children's 2nd-great-grandmother
  10. Mary Amanda "Mandy" LUKE McDONALD (1868 - 19e8)
  11. Clara LUKE (c. 1870 - 1877)
  12. Lucy LUKE (c. 1872 - 1875)
  13. Eunice Rebecca LUKE CARSNER (1874 - 1918)
  14. Alice Viola LUKE HAWKEY JONES (1878 - 1955)
The eleven children who survived childhood are pictured with their parents, who sit on either end of the front row. Seated in the front row from left to right, and numbered in birth order are: Isaac (father), Mandy (10), Simeon (8), Alice (14), Eunice (13), and Rebecca (mother). Standing in the back, left to right are:  Alonzo (1), Melissa (4), Robert (2), Julia (7), Orin (6), Angelia (9), and Orville (3).

This photograph was probably taken about 1888, likely in Avon, Bon Homme Co., South Dakota, the LUKE family's home at that time. Isaac was a private in the 16th Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War. He outlived at least three wives (out of four) and six children of his 14 children, dying 18 January 1920 in Avon. Rebecca died 4 July 1911 in Brookings Co., South Dakota. They are buried in Hitt Cemetery, in Avon. Their children lived and died in South Dakota, Washington, Oklahoma, Texas, California, and Wisconsin.

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Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: The Family of Isaac and Rebecca (HEWITT) LUKE, c. 1888

Click photo to enlarge
The Family of Isaac and Rebecca (Hewitt) Luke, c. 1888. Unknown location, possibly Avon, Bon Homme Co., South Dakota. Original photograph privately held by Dennis R. Luke, [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Oregon.

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Monday, December 07, 2015

The Short Life and Tragic Death of Maria "Maggie" HOEKSTRA (1878 - 1890)

It was a typical evening; nothing out of the ordinary. Twelve-year-old Maria Hoekstra was heading home with her father and two neighbor boys from a visit to a family friend. Likely it was chilly that evening of December 7, 1890 as they made their way toward their home on Thirteenth Street near Market (now Central). Their route took them where the Chicago and West Michigan Railroad tracks crossed Tenth Street between Fish and Land Streets (now Columbia and Lincoln) on what was then the eastern edge of Holland, Michigan, just a couple blocks east of Hope College. In their way was a parked train. Not to be deterred, 15-year-old Jerry Dykstra and 22-year-old Peter Van Dyk jumped over the couplings between two freight cars. What happened next is unclear. One version says Maria's father was helping her over the couplings. A more detailed account said she was attempting to scramble over by herself. But then, the train started to move....

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Historical map of Chicago and West Michigan Railroad crossing at Tenth Street, Holland, Michigan. Digital image from page 41 of Standard atlas of Ottawa County, Michigan...., compiled and published by George A. Ogle & Co., 1897. Loutit Library Local History Resources. : 2015.
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Modern map of Amtrak Railroad crossing at Tenth Street, Holland, Michigan. Digital image. Google Maps. : 2015.

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She had to have been brave; perhaps a bit of a tomboy. Skirts wouldn't have held her back. Can't you see her trying to keep up with the two older boys? She had to have had spunk, that girl. Yet her short life and tragic death were not given much note in the Family Record book of my maternal great-grandparents, John and Lillian Hoekstra. On page 94, in the section titled "Husband's Uncles and Aunts - Paternal," John had written just a few lines regarding his paternal aunt, who died two years before he was born:

Full name: Maggie Hoekstra
Place and date of birth: Holland Mich. about 1877
Language: Dutch
Date and cause of death: Accidental death when 13 years old.
Where buried: Pilgrim Cemetery, Holland Mich

Click image to enlarge
Hoekstra, John Martin and Lillian Fern (Strong). Family Record Book, Chicago: S. B. Shaw, 1902. Privately held by Miriam Robbins, Spokane, Washington. c. 2000.

Like much of the information in this book, the details of Maria's life are a bit off from the facts, mainly because it was written down from memories and oral history, rather from researching records. But I immediately recognized an untold story. What was the accident that killed young Maggie/Maria? Could I find more? How? It's difficult enough to locate records and stories of ancestors that lived long lives; unfolding the details of a short life would be even more challenging.

1852 painting of the Arnold Böninger. Palmer List of Merchant Vessels. : 2003.

On a late spring day in 1867, a weary middle-aged man boarded the Prussian sailing ship Arnold Böninger in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. Accompanying him was Geertruida, his 15-year-old daughter, the only survivor of three sets of twins that Jan Martens Hoekstra and Pieterke VanTil had borne. Pieterke herself had died only two years earlier; this move to America was Jan's chance for a new life. He and Geertruida had made their way south from their home in Ulrum in the northern province of Groningen. Their destination was Holland, Ottawa County, Michigan, a city of Dutch expatriates seeking religious freedom and a better economy who had settled the area under the leadership of Pastor Albertus C. Van Raalte of the Christian Seceded Church, of which Jan was a member. After arriving in New York City on June 11th, the Hoekstras made their way to Holland, where Jan found work as a servant.

Only eleven days earlier, the British steamship Iowa had arrived in New York City from Glasgow carrying another widowed Dutch immigrant, 35-year-old Grietje (Jonker) Dekker, her twelve-year-old daughter, Cathrena, and nine-year-old son, Freek. Like Jan, Grietje had known her share of sorrow. Within five years she had buried her husband, a son, and her parents. Her orphaned younger brothers, Willem and Henderikus, ages 25 and 15 respectively, were traveling along and looking forward to a new beginning as well. Grietje also became a servant and her brothers found jobs as carpenters in nearby Spring Lake Township.

By late October, Jan and Grietje were married. Neither the short four months between immigration and marriage nor the twelve-year age difference between the couple were surprising; Grietje's home town in the Netherlands was Kloosterburen, situated a mere seven-kilometer (4.3-mile) walk northeast of Ulrum. It was very likely the Hoekstra, Jonker, and Dekker families knew each other prior to immigration. Even if they hadn't, Holland was a small town. Jan and Grietje may have worked in the same household and likely attended services together, probably at the Ninth Street Holland Christian Reformed Church. Besides, marriage in those days was as much about necessity and survival as about love.

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Michigan. Ottawa County. Birth Records. 1878. Digital image., "Michigan Births, 1867-1902." : 2014.
Maria's birth is record 190; the 10th entry on these pages.

Jan and Grietje added more children to their blended family. Their first child was my great-great-grandfather, Martin, born in 1868. Then came the first Maria, born in 1870, who died shortly before her third birthday from liver cancer. Fonytje ("Finnie") was born in 1874, and the second Maria, the subject of this story, was born 4 April 1878. In addition, the Family Record book states that two sets of twins were born to Jan and Grietje and died in infancy. In those days, families generally had children every two years, a natural cycle of pregnancy, nursing (which usually suppresses conception), and weaning; it's possible those sets of twins were born in the years 1872 and 1876. A burial of 10 September 1874 for "a child of Jan Hoekstra" has been found in the Pilgrim Home Cemetery records; whether that is one of the twins born c. 1872 or a possible twin of Finnie is up for speculation. Perhaps it is a different family altogether. Although Michigan kept birth and death records beginning in 1867, until 1897 (deaths) and 1902 (births) they were done annually census-style, and thus many individuals were missed. Regardless, we know from the 1880 Federal Census that only three children survived the very dangerous years of infant and early childhood mortality: Martin, Finnie, and (the second) Maria.

Click image to enlarge.
Michigan. Ottawa County. 1880 U.S. census, population schedule. Digital image. : 2007.
The Hoekstra family is enumerated on lines 16-20.

Typical of many of my Frisian-Dutch immigrant family members, Maria was known by several names. She is recorded as Maria (misspelled "Maia") in the county birth record. But we know from a later newspaper account that she generally went by "Maitje," which to the ears of English speakers probably sounded a lot like "Maggie." While the official recorders of that time were probably familiar with Dutch names, they may not have been as familiar with Frisian spellings and name variations. These English, Dutch, and Frisian variations and spellings create challenges when attempting to locate individuals in official records. For instance, I have yet to find this family enumerated on the 1884 Michigan State Census, even after scrolling image by image through the online pages at Seeking Michigan.

With these difficulties, could I find the complete story of Maria? I was able to locate her record in the Return of Deaths for Ottawa County that gave me an important detail: the cause of death was a railroad accident.

Click on the images to enlarge.
Michigan. Ottawa County. Death Records. 1890., "Michigan Deaths, 1867-1897." : 2015.
Maggie's entry is record 275; the 11th entry on each page. The date of death is incorrect; according to a newspaper article published on 13 December 1890, she died on the 7th (not the 17th) of December.

In 2006, I created a memorial page for Maria at Find A Grave, after discovering her burial while searching for other family members in the Pilgrim Home Cemetery tombstone transcriptions on microfilm. In 2013, a Find A Grave volunteer kindly took this photograph for me of the tombstone Maria shares with her mother (the birth and death years are off):

Click image to enlarge.
Grave of Maria Hoekstra, Block M, Lot 35, Pilgrim Home Cemetery, Holland, Ottawa County, Michigan. Digital photograph by Find A Grave volunteer "Scout" and privately held by Miriam Robbins, Spokane, Washington. 2013.

But what was the story? Attempting to locate online newspapers or city directories for further information on the family proved futile. However, one day in April, a Find A Grave volunteer contacted me and informed me that the Saline Observer from Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan, had an online article about the accident:

“State News Condensed,” Saline (Michigan) Observer, 18 December 1890, p. 8, col. 2; digital image, CMU Online Digital Object Repository ( : 2015), MDNP-Washtenaw-Saline Observer.

When I posted my find on Facebook, an Ottawa County genealogy friend of mine volunteered to look in the Holland City News archives at the Herrick District Library in Holland. She hit pay dirt:

“A Tragic Death,” Holland (Michigan) City News, 13 December 1890, p. 4.

So now I have the rest of the story. Ironically, in 2000, my family took Amtrak from Spokane, Washington back to Grand Rapids, Michigan. We would have crossed the very site of Maria's tragic death, shown here in Google Maps Street View:

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Amtrak Railroad crossing at Tenth Street, Holland, Michigan. Digital image. Google Maps Street View. : 2015.
View looking west on Tenth Street.

What remains to finish my research and honor the life of young Maria? I hope to access the original inquest report and perhaps discover church records for this one whose life was cut much too short. Someday, I'd like to visit Holland again, find the home (or site) where the Hoekstra family lived, visit this railroad crossing, and lay a flower at Maria's grave.

(Coincidentally, today marks 125 years since Maria's death. I did not even realize this until I opened the draft, written months ago, to add citations and put in the finishing touches. She has been "haunting" me to tell her story all year. I hope she rests in peace.)

*     *     *     *     *

I could not have fleshed out the skeleton of Maria's story without help from a number of people. First of all, thanks to Find A Grave photo volunteers "genealogymaster1" and "Scout" for taking photos of Maria's grave. Secondly, to Find A Grave contributer Pat Harney, who discovered the Saline Observer article, and took the time to contact me. Huge thanks is due to genealogy Facebook friend, Mary Raper, who went to the Herrick District Library and found the detailed article in the Holland City News and verified the publication date, which clarified Maria's death and burial dates (there were conflicting dates in various records). Finally, I thank my cousin Michelle "Missy" (Hovenkamp) Alkema, who is a descendant of Finnie Hoekstra VanTil, sister of my Martin and of Maria. Missy researched and provided evidence of Grietje's immigration on the ship Iowa through a very incorrect passsenger list and a number of vital and immigration records in online Dutch collections. It is so fun to have a co-researcher on our mutual Hoekstra line!

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