Friday, November 30, 2007

Dear Sinterklaas...

Dear Sinterklaas,

I have been a good girl this year, truly I have. And you were very good to me this year. My wish list last year was "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!" You granted my wish, dear St. Nick, because I did uncover a few more family secrets (which I can't even reveal on my blog!), and I had many reasons to do the "genealogy happy dance" this year.

You didn't give me new branches for either my hubby's or my own family trees, but that's OK, because you gave me tons and tons of photos, documents, letters, and stories so that our family trees are really leafed out, blooming full, and bearing fruit. In fact, I've got envelopes and packages and totes full of things I need to scan, label, analyze and input into my much so, that I could have a Scanfest everyday and not be caught up for a while! You even sent me a copy of Elizabeth Shown Mills's new book, Evidence Explained, so that I could do a quality job of citing my sources!

So St. Nicholas, my wish list this year only includes two things: 1) time to get caught up on all these necessary duties; and because I know that as wonderful as you are, you can't control the rotation of the earth and make my days longer, I wish for 2) wisdom to use the time I have more efficiently, so that I can produce some quality family trees to share with my family members.

I'm putting out my klompen with great anticipation and stocking up on olie bollen for you and Zwarte Pieter, and I'm looking for the freshest, crunchiest carrots I can find for your dashing white horse. I'll be looking for what you've left me early on the morning of December 6th.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

World-Famous Bear Has a Name: Alice Teddy

You just never know what tracing your family tree will lead you to!

First of all, I was doing some searching this evening for more information on George Bayard CRAPSEY (see previous post). Mike Kirchmeier had told me that he and his wife, Carrie, had died in Oregon. So I went to Ancestry and searched the Oregon Death Index. I found both their deaths listed in Jackson County. Carrie died 16 Apr 1941, and George died 12 July 1943. It appears that George may have remarried in the two years between Carrie's death and his own, because there is also an Anna Mae CRAPSEY who died in the same county on 13 March 1985. Her birth date was 10 May 1890, and her spouse is listed as George. Since George and Carrie did not have any children, it is possible that Anna was George's much younger wife, rather than a daughter-in-law. I Googled to see if I could find more information on Carrie, and did find her listed as "CRAPSEY, Carrie L." in the Lincoln County, Wisconsin probate cases index. I'm fairly certain this was the same Carrie that George married, as the county seat for Lincoln County is Merrill, Wisconsin, and I had already found several pieces of information online about George residing in Merrill.

Seems like George's rollerskating bear really was a globe-trotting show! First of all, I found this family history website by Thomas J. DALEY, great-grandson of John AKEY. AKEY was a personal friend of George CRAPSEY, and he, too, trained a bear to rollerskate. On the website is a transcription of an undated newspaper clipping from what appears to be the Merrill Daily Herald:


John Akey, the Second street business man, has been quite busy the past ten days teaching his bear to roller skate. Mr. Akey has only had the bear for about three weeks and for the past ten days has been teaching it to skate at the Union Roller rink. From the progress that has been made in that time, Merrill will undoubted be made famous by being made the home of two roller skating bears. Geo. Crapsey has traveled for several years with Alice Teddy; and is known not only in this country, but has also exhibited for the crowned heads of Europe.

Here's another one from the same source:



The following article was clipped from a recent edition of the Portage Daily Register and will be read with interest by local people:

"The people who were about the streets Monday were given the unusual sight of seeing a bear driving an automobile. The sight was an unusual and much commotion was created to get a peek at this bruin at his new job. The animal was owned by John Akey of Merrill and is known about the fair and show circles as Foxey Queen. She drives a car us through the main streets, making all the turnouts and appears to be a cautious driver. Mr. Akey is seated with the bear on the front seat and she presides at the steering wheel absolutely, Mr. Akey pointing the direction she is to take.

"'Queen was captured, May 28, last, fifteen miles from Merrill,' said Mr. Akey, 'and we have been busy domesticating her since. She appears to take a liking to humans and performs roller skating stunts as well as other tricks. We are touring the state giving exhibitions with Queen and expect to give the people of Portage a chance to see her perform.'

"Akey has a large collection of wild animals at his place in Merrill, a bear, monkey, porcupine, coon, wild cats and ferrets mingle with the patrons of his place at the northern city.

"Akey is a personal friend of George Crapsey, who was here at the fair a few years ago with his world famous "Alice Teddy" the roller skating bear which is now exhibiting Manitoba and has netted Mr. Crapsey over $55,000."

I also found this newspaper article from the front page of the 1 Jan 1911 Greensburg [Pennsylvania] Morning Review at the Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania archives at RootsWeb:

Skating Bear A Wonder

Alice Teddy draws record breaking crowd at the big rink, will be here all week - one of the world's animal wonders.

Amid the enthusiastic applause of fully two thousand people, Alice Teddy, the wonderful skating bear, made her initial appearance and performance at The Big Rink carnival last night.

To say that this wonderful skating bear is one of the most unique animal wonders of the world is merely stating a fact and voicing the verdict of two thousand people who saw her performance last night. Following is Alice Teddy's history.

Alice Teddy, the wonderful roller skating cinnamon bear appearing here this week, was a tiny baby bear when captured in Oregon. Geo. B. Crapsy, her present owner, who also made the capture, says that at the time little Alice weighed four pounds. Today Alice is past two years old and weighs 215 pounds.

When Mr. Crapsy returned home to Merrill, Wis., he brought Alice along. Her remarkable intelligence prompted hi2m to spend his spare time in teaching Alice tricks. She readily learned to wear shoes, clothes, to walk upright and finally, after months of hard practice, to skate on ball-bearing rollers. Alice is the only bear in the world skating and dancing on skates.

So it appears that George found Alice in Oregon, and not Wisconsin, as Kirchmeier believed. Another archived RootsWeb source, DC Old News, has this article from a list of amusements on page 4 of the 4 April 1912 Washington Post:

Fourteenth Street and Park Road.
JOE TURNER, Champion Middleweight Wrestler of
the World, Will Meet All Comers.
Agreeing to Throw in 15 Minutes or Forfeit $25.
Turner will attempt to throw in 15 minutes be???
HARRY FIDDISO?, ?????????
and VINCENT COSIMANO, "Young Greek" Of Washington
ALICE TEDDY The Bear That Skates on Roller Skates
Tues., Thurs., Fri. also Sat. Afternoon at 4.

At Google Books, you can download a copy of The Vaudeville Theatre Building Operation Management by Edward Renton (New York: Gotham Press Inc. 1918). On page 257, you will find the following line:

Alice Teddy, roller skating bear, lobby stunts.

You can also view some of the flyers used to advertise the act at various theaters., The Online Encyclopedia of Washington State History (a fabulous site, by the way!) has an image of a flyer from the Pantages Theater in Seattle in the 1910s here. And a similar one, c. 1909, for the Empress Theater (location unknown) sold on Hake's auction website for $50.14 last year.

The Schuco toy company of Nuremburg, Germany, founded in 1912,

made a roller skating bear toy that was probably inspired by Alice Teddy, a real-life bear whose skating party trick wowed audiences in the United States before the First World War,

according to Christopher Proudlove at this online article.

I'm sure if I look at some newspaper database websites, I could find more. Isn't this fascinating? As I said earlier, you just never know what you'll find when you start digging through your family roots!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

CRAPSEY Photos...and a Rollerskating Bear

A week and a half ago, I posted some transcribed news clippings about my ROBBINS ancestors and their extended family who lived in Southbrook Township, Cottonwood County, Minnesota from the mid-1870s to the early 1880s. These were sent to me by Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota, who is working on a genealogical project of Southbrook Township citizens. He also sent me some photographs, as well as some genealogical information on these family members. I was very excited to get all of this. These have helped to "flesh out" some of the people in my family tree who were little more than names, dates, and locations to me.

First a little background: one of my paternal 4th-great-grandmothers was Lura Ann JACKSON (1826 - bef. 1900), whose earliest residences I've found have been in Potter County, Pennsylvania. She first married my ancestor, Nelson H. PECK (c. 1819 - 1849), and they had one child, my 3rd-great-grandmother, Viola Gertrude PECK (1848 - 1918). After Nelson died, Lura Ann married a widower, the Rev. John CRAPSEY (1816 - 1903), who had one child, Angelo M. CRAPSEY (1842 - 1864), by his previous wife. The family moved to neighboring McKean County, Pennsylvania, to land adjoining that of the ROBBINS family in Liberty Township. Angelo's best friend was Charles H. ROBBINS, and the two signed up together after Fort Sumter was fired upon, and served in Company I of the First Pennsylvania Rifles (a.k.a. the Bucktails). Angelo was captured during a battle and spent some time in Libby Prison, the infamous Confederate prisoner-of-war prison in Richmond, Virginia. Although released later, he was there long enough to lose his mind, and tragically committed suicide after several unsuccessful attempts, at the home of a family friend, Laroy LYMAN, in Roulette, Potter County, Pennsylvania.

Charles and Viola were wed at the war's end, married by her step-father, the Reverend CRAPSEY (see the photograph likely taken at that time, here). First, the ROBBINSes accompanied Charles' parents to Oceana County, in Western Michigan, but later removed to Cottonwood County, Minnesota, where Viola's mother, step-father and half-siblings were living. Angelo and his friend Laroy had purchased some land in Minnesota before his death, and that may have been what prompted the CRAPSEYs to move to that state. Charles and Viola lived about eight or nine years in Cottonwood County, on land neighboring her parents and also some of her adult half-siblings. By 1884, the ROBBINS had returned to the Oceana-Newaygo County area in Western Michgian. They named one of their sons Angelo, after their friend/step-brother. He is Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr., the father who is mentioned in the "Polar Bear posts" I have been writing.

Viola's younger half-siblings (John CRAPSEY and Lura Ann JACKSON's children) were:
  • *Alice (CRAPSEY) HANDY McBAIN (1855 - 1905)
  • *William "Willie" Merrick CRAPSEY (1858 - 1946)
  • *Harriet "Hattie" or "Suky" (CRAPSEY) HARDY (b. 1860)
  • *George Bayard CRAPSEY (b. 1863)
Below is a photo of Willie in 1940:

SOURCE: Crapsey, William "Willie" Merrick. Photograph. 1940. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Here is a photo of George and his wife Carrie [--?--]. She's the one in the skirt!

SOURCE: Crapsey, George Bayard with wife Carrie [--?--] and trained bear. Undated photograph. Digital image. Privately held by Michael Kirchmeier, Windom, Minnesota, 2007.

Mike tells me that George found this bear as a cub while living in Wisconsin. He trained the bear and used to travel all over the country--possibly the world--to feature him in shows. Now isn't this some fun information to add to my family history? Seems like the Robbins family and bears are destined to go together...first the rollerskating bear with my Great-great-great-grandma Robbins' half brother; then my Great-grandfather Robbins' experiences as a Polar Bear in Russia; and, oh yes! the bear that kept raiding my parents' Alaskan farm back in 1975...but that's another story...maybe even another blog altogether.

Civil War Hero Ancestor Makes Front Page

Imagine picking up your local newspaper and seeing your ancestor's photo on the front page in preparation for a monument of him to be unveiled in your community. That's exactly what happened to Grand Rapids, Michigan resident Patty Provot a few weeks ago.
She was staring at an old photograph of a Civil War veteran, who bore a striking resemblance to her great-great grandfather.

"I thought, 'Boy, those people looked a lot alike because that looks like Alonzo Woodruff,'" Provot said.

It was.

Read more at the Grand Rapids Press blog here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Back Home Again

I just returned a couple of hours ago from a visit to the west side of the state, where we were visiting my children's paternal relatives for a late Thanksgiving combined with their grandfather's birthday celebration. For most of Friday (after we started our trip) I didn't feel too well, but fortunately after a good night's sleep, I was back to my perky self.

We had a very pleasant visit with my children's grandparents this weekend, followed by a shorter, but equally pleasant, visit with their aunt, her husband, and daughters this afternoon before returning home. My children's cousin accompanied us on our visit, and was a big help in loading and unloading our vehicle, and especially in keeping our 14-year-old and 17-year-old from irritating each other (and thus, us) on our seven-hour-each-way journey.

We ate well: besides their taking us out to dinner Friday night, my children's grandmother cooked a delicious Thanksgiving dinner for us Saturday evening. My children's grandfather blessed us no end by loaning us a crate full of photographs from my children's father's childhood and ancestral photographs and family papers, including a huge stack of postcards that once belonged to my children's great-great-grandparents from c. 1908 - 1950s (thrill for me). As usual, my children's grandfather had plenty of stories to tell, and as I had brought my laptop along, I was able to add quite a few notes to the family tree.

I'm exhausted, of course, but I look forward to catching up on e-mails and reading my favorite blogs. I'll be sharing the genealogical treasures we've been loaned as I get the time to scan them.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Thanksgiving Hymn

Featured in the November 24th Edition of Terry Thornton's "Harvest from the Blog Garden" at Hill Country of Monroe County, Mississippi.

We Gather Together to Ask the Lord's Blessing

We gather together to ask the Lord's blessing;
He chastens and hastens His will to make known;
The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
Sing praises to His name; He forgets not His own.

Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
Ordaining, maintaining His Kingdom divine;
So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
Thou, Lord, wast at our side; all glory be Thine!

We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
And pray that Thou still our Defender wilt be.
Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
Thy name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

This hymn, traditionally sung during the Thanksgiving season, is an old Netherlands folks song translated by Theodore Baker. The tune that is used is "Kremser," an old Netherlands melody in The Collection, by Adrianus Valerius, 1625. It has been my favorite Thanksgiving hymn since I was about 6 or 7 years old, when my father explained to me the story behind the hymn, as a part of the Dutch heritage and cultural lessons he and my mother taught me at home. Those were the basis of my love for history and genealogy today. I remember singing this song a cappella for show and tell at school in second grade.

During the Eighty Years' War (a war of independence) between Spain and what would become the United Provinces of the Netherlands, the inland city of Leiden--among others--was besieged by Spanish troops from May through October 1574. People were starving, and although the Dutch had ships of food to relieve the citizens, there was no way to get the supplies past the Spanish troops. The Dutch then sacrificed their land by cutting the dikes, flooding the area outside the city along with the Spanish encampments, so that the ships could sail in and provide sustenance and relief to the city. The hymn above was written to give thanks to God for His Providence during this war.

Because of the cruel persecution the Calvinistic Dutch people suffered at the hand of the Catholic Spanish, the Netherlands became a place of refuge for the religiously oppressed. It says much of the tolerant Netherlanders that they did not become consumed with hatred for Catholicism, and thus did not become a country of violence and strife as we see in Northern Ireland today. Those southern Dutch provinces which remained loyal to Catholicism eventually--and peacefully--became the country of Belgium. The city of Leiden became a host for the English Separatists, who we know today as the Pilgrims. They lived there from about 1608 until the majority left for America in 1620. Some of the family members remained behind until the colony was established, arriving on later ships.

As we know with history, each event was inspired and created by many others. While there were many early European groups in North America that celebrated some sort of thanksgiving event, our modern Thanksgiving holiday is most closely aligned with the one that took place in 1621 by the Pilgrims. Their arrival on this continent was an important historical event in the timeline of our country. Yet if not for the city of Leiden, its successful stand against the Spanish in 1574, and its place as a haven for the religiously oppressed, we may not be celebrating Thanksgiving today.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

My Own Cabinet of Curiosities

As we approach the holidays, my life--like those of many of you, I'm sure--has been busier than ever. I had hoped to write something for the many fabulous new genealogy-related carnivals that have recently been created; have you seen them? Lisa, at Small-Leaved Shamrock, has an Irish Heritage and Culture Carnival, Jessica Oswalt from Jessica's Genejournal has started one for Central and Eastern European Genealogy, and Tim Abbott from Walking the Berkshires just posted the first Cabinet of Curiosities Carnival, a kind of show and tell of genealogical and historical treasures. I misunderstood when the deadline for the Cabinet Carnival was and just got too pushed for time; I'll have to submit a post next time around. However, several months ago, I was interviewed by a local reporter about my family treasures--which I hope to share one at a time in future Cabinet Carnivals--and today that article was published in The Spokesman-Review's Home and Garden section (online version here).

It was a lot of fun to share with the reporter and photographer (both delightful individuals!) the stories behind the antiques and mementos that have been handed down through the generations to me. I was pleased that what I had to say about the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society was published, and I hope that it will generate more interest in the society from the community. The only quibble I had with the article is that the reporter and I did not engage in a discussion about DNA long enough for me to explain that one does not need resort to exhumation of corpses to obtain a DNA match for a deceased ancestor. This is where genealogy is so handy: by tracing the family tree, you can find other descendants of an individual, and by attempting to match your DNA with theirs, you can prove relationship to the ancestor! While you can only view one photograph in the online version, the print article had many detailed shots of various family treasures, including my 4th-great-grandmother's cross-stitch sampler, my great-grandmother's baby picture, and a genealogy bumper sticker on my car! I purchased several copies of the newspaper to share with family and friends.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you'll take the time to talk to your own family about your traditions, tales, and treasures. Don't forget to write down what you learn to preserve those things for future generations!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Two Memes: 161 and Can You Top This?

There are currently two memes circling the genea-blogging world. The first is the 161 Meme, and I've been tagged by both Jessica Oswalt of Jessica's Genejournal and Chery Kinnick of Nordic Blue for this one. In this meme, you're supposed to go to page 161 of the book you're currently reading and list the 6th sentence on that page. Then you tag five other bloggers to do the same. Well, I'm not currently reading a book, really, which is very unusual for me...usually I have two to four books on my night table. I just finished up Bryan Sykes's The Seven Daughters of Eve, as I'm going through Blaine Bettinger's list of recommended books on DNA. But that title has been returned to the public library. My current reading material is the stack of letters my mother wrote from Alaska to her parents in Michigan from 1966 through 1978. I've just finished up 1970 and will start on 1971 tonight. I guess I could include Kimberly Powell's The Everything Family Tree Book, which I've been referencing since this summer. I'm using it as a guide and recommended reading material for my Intermediate Online Genealogy class coming up this winter, so I'm using it a lot as I write up my curriculum. Page 161 is the beginning of Chapter 13: Branching Out, but there are only four sentences on this page, which summarize the chapter. The last sentence reads, "Religious records, newspapers, obituaries, Social Security records, occupational records, and school records are examples of alternative records that can fill in missing gaps or verify information that you've already found."

For the 161 Meme, I then tag the following five people:
The other meme was started by John Newmark of Transylvanian Dutch, and is called "Can You Top This?" Its purpose is to list your most prolific ancestor. John's great-great-grandfather had 22 children with three wives. He gives you extra credit if you show a screen shot from your family tree program to illustrate your ancestor's feat.

Now, John doesn't mention how many children each of his Great-great-grandpa Every's wives gave birth to, but I'm betting that my Abigail FORD outdid his ancestor's wives, even though the total number of children was less than his male ancestor's. My 8th-great-grandfather, Elder John STRONG (c. 1605 - 1699), had 17 children with two wives. His first wife, Margery DEANE, died after giving birth to their second child, who probably died at birth:

His second wife, my ancestor Abigail FORD, gave birth to 15 children, including my ancestor, Samuel STRONG:

So I may not be able to top John's male ancestor, but can anyone out there top my female ancestor?

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Thanksgiving Special at is offering a special 20% discount off their regular annual membership price during and just after Thanksgiving weekend. This promotion will run from midnight Mountain Time on Friday, November 23 through 11:59 PM on Tuesday, November 27.

For those of you who are not aware of what the Footnote site has to offer, here are some details. Footnote works with the National Archives to scan historical documents and offer them to be viewed by the public. They have free content which include the Pennsylvania Archives, the American Milestone Documents (such as the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, etc.), the papers of the Continental Congress, and correspondence of George Washington. The newest paid content includes the following:

  • * WWII JAG Case Files, Pacific - Army
  • * WWII JAG Case Files, Pacific - Navy
  • * Naval Press Clippings
  • * Japanese Air Target Analyses
  • * American Colonization Society
  • * Admiralty Records, Key West
  • * WWI Military Cablegrams - AEF and War Dept
  • * Utah Territorial Case Files
Titles that they are adding to on a regular daily basis are:
  • * Civil War Pensions Index 60% Complete
  • * Navy Widows' Certificates 62% Complete
  • * Naturalizations - MA 95% Complete
  • * FBI Case Files 86% Complete
  • * Naturalizations - CA Southern 98% Complete
  • * Naturalizations - PA Eastern 78% Complete
  • * Naturalizations - PA Western 84% Complete
  • * Naturalizations - PA Middle 96% Complete
  • * Revolutionary War Pension Files 93% Complete
  • * Texas Birth Certificates (1903-10, 1926-29) 36% Complete
  • * Texas Death Certificates 4% Complete
These are just a sampling of what's available. The two main record groups I've used the most so far are the Historical Files of the U.S. Expeditionary Force, North Russia, 1918 - 1919 (because my great-grandfather Robbins was a part of this expedition); and the Civil War Pensions Index (because the pension cards have different information--and are clearer images--than the ones featured at

There's more to the Footnote site than just records, which of course are appealing to researchers, historians, genealogists, history teachers, and the like. They have some terrific technological features as well, which include zooming in on images with great clarity, adding transcriptions and notations to scanned documents, Spotlights (a way to highlight and write about interesting historical documents) and Story Pages (which can be used as a blog [web log, or journal] or a way to record in written form and then share anything that is of interest to the viewer--not just historical information).

If you live in the Spokane area and are a member of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, we will be offering a computer class on September 20th, 2008 to learn how to navigate and use this site, as well as to explore its content. It will be presented by yours truly. Meantime, I suggest you check out the many things Footnote has to offer, both the free content and the subscription materials, by clicking on the image below.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Robbins Family in the Windom [Minnesota] Reporter

Late last week I received an e-mail from Mike Kirchmeier of Windom, Minnesota. He has been working on a genealogical project on Southbrook Township of Cottonwood County of that state, and we've corresponded in the past about my Robbins family who lived there in the 1870s and 1880s for a brief time. Mike found mention of the family in the Windom Reporter, and e-mailed the transcription to me.

The "players" are my 3rd-great-grandfather, Charles H. ROBBINS; his wife's step-father, John CRAPSEY; his wife's half-sister's husband, Charles HANDY; and the husband of another half-sister of his wife, John HARDY.

Excerpts from the Windom Reporter of Windom, Minnesota:

March 19, 1874
Supervisors, Ole Rued, chm, John Kane, Chas. Robbins; Clerk, Chas. Vickers; Treasurer, M. McDevit; Assessor, Wm. Snure; Justices of the Peace, John Crapsey, John Vanbuskirk; Constables, Wm Secrest, Roswell Densmore.

October 1, 1874
Chas Robbins was the Southbrook representative to the County Republican Convention.

November 12, 1874
We under stand from Mr. Robbins that there was a pleasant party at the house of Mr. Lindquist, in the Talcott lake settlement.

January 14, 1875
County Commissioner Meeting - January 5, 1875

Charles Robbins, 40 miles travel making election returns town of Southbrook, $4 allowed.

October 1875
Representatives to the Republican Convention for Cottonwood, Jackson, Murray, Pipestone, Rock, and Jackson Counties included Chas. Robbins and F. H. Moon [both of Southbrook].

November 1875
Election returns of Southbrook:

Republican Ticket, 7; Democratic Ticket, 8.

January 6, 1876
Chas. Robbins of Southbrook called last week [at the reporter's office].

July 6, 1876
John Benson and Chas. Robbins of Southbrook called last week [at the reporter's office].

July 24, 1876
Chas Robbins, Southbrook, was over in Martin County looking to take a job breaking, but couldn’t find the man who wanted it done.

August 31, 1876
We last week mentioned the loss of Charles Handy's barn by lightning. Charles Robbins writes us: The barn of Chas. Handy was destroyed by lightning with all of its contents including two horses belonging to D. Hand(y), thirty bushel of shelled wheat, twenty tons of hay, harness etc. The loss was a severe one.

April 12, 1877
Charles Robbins of Southbrook will work this summer for Ross Nichols.

December 13, 1877
Charley Robbins has ploughed nearly 100 acres with ox team.

January 17, 1878
New Years - a social party at Chas Robbins. Had a good time and picnic supper.

August 25, 1878
The farmers have commenced threshing. Chas. Robbins and J. Crapsey’s wheat averaged 14 bushels per acre. Some of it has been ground and makes good bread.

May 22, 1879
Messrs. Robbins and Hardy will furnish farmers with a thrasher this season.

February 5, 1880
Dundee. Charlie Robbins recently had the misfortune to crush his hand in J. T. Smith’s hay press.

February 12, 1880
Charles Robbins of Southbrook, Cottonwood County, while working at Hersey, [Township, Nobles County] on the hay press, belonging to Mr. J.T. Smith, at this place, had his hand badly crushed, a few days ago. Dr. Force, of this place, was telegraphed for, but the freight train coming along about that time Mr. Robbins, in company with Jack Woolstencroft, and Eli McLaughlin, came to Heron Lake where they met, at the train, Dr. Force who took charge in the case. After carefully dressing the hand, stopping the flow of blood and removing the lacerated flesh and tendons. Mr. Robbins was removed to the residence of R. A. Nichols. --We are glad to learn from his attending physician that he is doing well, with prospect of saving the whole hand.

March 4, 1880
Charlie Robbins went home to Cottonwood County. He has been at the house of R. A. Nichols for 5 weeks.

April 29. 1880
Charlie Robbins, of Southbrook, was in town Tuesday.

July 7, 1880
Charles Robbins, Preemption Declaratory Statement No. 16836 for the E½, SE1/4, section 30,T.105, R.38W. made final proof in support of his claim. Witnesses to his continuous residence and cultivation of said land were listed as John Crapsey, Ole Rued, George Knott, and Peter Olson, all of Southbrook.

September 9, 1880
Messrs Robbins and Snure, two representative men from Southbrook, called Saturday together with J. H. Weldon of Highwater.

I knew Charles had smashed his hand in a thresher, because it was mentioned in an interview conducted near his death; and also appeared in some census information. It was interesting to get the details of the accident via this newspaper account.

The Nichols name leaped out at me, because Charles' brother, Benjamin Leander "Lee" ROBBINS, had a son-in-law named Benjamin J. NICHOLS. I'm wondering if there's a connection

Mike also sent me some photographs of the half-brothers of Viola (PECK) ROBBINS, my 3rd-great-grandmother, which I'll be posting later. He was able to give me some names and dates I was missing, and some sources, so I'll be able to look up the records myself and add them to the family tree. Very exciting, this!

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Loving Genealogy...For Over 30 Years!

This evening I was going through the box of letters that my mother wrote to her parents from Alaska during the years 1966 through 1978. I was looking in particular for letters written around Thanksgiving to see if I could find any that matched my earliest memories of that holiday, with the hope of writing something for the Carnival of Genealogy. I wasn't real successful; the letters Mom wrote about Thanksgiving didn't jar any particular memories, and the memories I do have must have been of years when she didn't tell Grandpa and Grandma about how we celebrated the holiday.

As often happens while doing genealogical research, as I was looking for one thing, I found another. I noticed one letter was dated March 20, 1977, the day after my 10th birthday, so of course I stopped and read through it. I had brought cupcakes to school to share with my class, and then my family put together a treasure hunt in order to find my birthday gifts. I was given the first clue, and each subsequent clue was on the gifts I found. This became a family tradition for many years for my siblings and me, and it appears to be the first time that it occurred. Because my mother mentions that my grandparents' birthday package had not yet arrived from Michigan, I am guessing that she thought up this treasure hunt as a way to keep me from being too disappointed that their gifts would be late (I remember that mail delivery, especially of packages, was not always reliable in Alaska). That evening, we had a nice ham (home-grown) dinner with mashed potatoes (probably also home-grown), ham gravy with raisins, coleslaw (again, home-grown cabbage), with "fresh, sweet goat's milk." Dessert consisted of butter brickle cake with chocolate frosting and egg custard. Yum!

What really caught my eye, however, was a paragraph near the end of the letter. The following evening, our family (my parents, my not-quite-three-year-old brother, and I) had sat and looked at my parents' wedding album, and also read through a typed copy of the Strong Family Tree (my maternal great-grandmother's family). We didn't have a television, so reading books, writing, drawing, playing games, or working on our stamp collection, etc. were our sources of entertainment. Mom writes:
We looked at our wedding pictures tonight and at the Strong family tree. Adriaen [my brother] said, "Mommy kissing Dad" and he was also impressed with the [photo of the wedding] cake we were eating! Miriam liked the old-fashioned names like Return, Experience, Thankful, Josiah, etc. [1]

So at ten years old, I was already interested in the family tree! I do remember being fascinated with all that information going back to Elder John Strong of Massachusetts. A few years later, we made a month-long Christmas trip back to Michigan, and Mom wrote down four pages of notes about my dad's family tree from a conversation with my paternal great-grandmother. I savored those, too! After over 30 years, I still haven't stopped enjoying learning about my ancestors and family history! I hope I have at least 30 more years of discovery and pleasure, research and fascination to look forward to!

[1] Letter from Faith (Valk) Robbins (P. O. Box 97, Klawock, Alaska 99925) to Adrian and Ruth (Hoekstra) DeVries (464 Kenwood St. NE, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49505), 20 March 1977; held in 2007 by Robbins (current address unpublished for privacy reasons).

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Resources: Museum Websites

There's been a number of recent posts in the last month or so written by genea-bloggers linking to various websites on the Internet that readers may not necessarily think of, at first thought, as genealogy resources. For instance, Tim of Genealogy Reviews Online did a series on state historical societies, Randy at Genea-musings linked to a list of the WPA's Historical Records Survey for California, Jimmy of Online Education Database posted his "250+ Killer Digital Archives and Databases," while back in February, I wrote about my discovery of a Global List of Repositories. Along the way, Denise from Family Matters has been busily bookmarking many of these sites at the Genealogy Research Resources group at Diigo, for our convenience and reference.

The thing is, most of the rich data we need to flesh out our family trees is not--and may never be--found online. Instead, it can be found in libraries, courthouses, archives, and repositories. That's why knowing where and how to find these holdings is invaluable. Many of these institutions do have websites, although what content they may have online pales in comparison to what they have on location. The content on the websites of archives, repositories, and the like is often not found using search engines such as Google or Yahoo!, and thus is considered part of the deep web of the Internet. This means you have to browse through the website and find the rich treasures hidden inside, whether they are images of photographs, newspapers, letters, or other documents, or tables and lists full of data that may help your further your family tree or understanding of the local history of your ancestral homes. Even for those websites that do not have actual content, just being able to access a mailing address, e-mail address, phone number, and perhaps the titles of their collections is a an aid to finding what you need. Many of these institutions will perform lookups in their holdings for reasonable fees.

Just this past week, I had a couple of serendipitous finds on museum websites, while looking for background information for a couple of posts I was writing. The first was the Muskegon County (Michigan) Museum, which turned up when I did a Google search for a World War I memorial mentioned in a letter my great-grandfather received from his father. While my search really didn't yield the information I was looking for, I did notice on the home page of the museum's website that they had 500 compiled and digitized images online as part of a joint project with the Hackley Public Library. I browsed through the images and realized at once that many of them will enhance my family's own history. For instance, in the Transportation collection, there is a 1918 photograph of a hearse in front of Balbirnie's Mortuary on Second Street in Muskegon. My great-grandfather, Bryan, met my great-grandmother, Marie, while driving the hearse for her Grandfather Wilkinson's funeral in Whitehall in 1917. Bryan lived in Muskegon Heights, and while I don't know for sure which mortuary he worked for, he very well could have driven this vehicle, or at least a similar one. There's also a photo of a group of fourth-graders assembled on the front steps of the Whitehall school in 1900 or 1901. These children would have been about a year older than Marie's oldest brother, George, and some of them may well have been his playmates. As I browsed through the collections of photos, I got a sense of "home" that I had not before experienced, as though I had been able to travel through time and see the houses, businesses, churches, vehicles, and parks that my Robbinses, Lewises, Wilkinsons, and Sayerses had seen and visited!

A few days later, I came across a collection of podcasts that my own local museum, the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture (MAC), has available for download from its website. I had been writing a post on my society's blog about the local Oral History Association, which archives and indexes its collection at the MAC. Besides many photographs, papers, records, and diaries of local historical interest in the museum's archives collection, there are currently five podcasts of lectures, photos, and a tour of the museum's collections available. I had hoped to find some of the oral history interviews available as well, but although I was disappointed in that regard, the other discoveries were worthwhile.

Last spring I stopped by the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum to leave some fliers advertising my next online genealogy class, and in turn, pick up some of theirs to distribute to my future students. The curator told me of the wealth of photos and records they had on hand of the Valley's farm and orchard history; resources which they have been happy to copy and send to descendants of the area's original settlers and farmers, many of whom now live out-of-area, at their request.

What does your local museum have to offer? What resources do the museums in your ancestral locations contain? Do their websites have content that would be useful to you, a long-distance researcher? Remember that museums are often repositories for local historical--and sometimes genealogical or ethnic--societies. I have found Virtual Library museums pages (global) and, more specifically, Museums in the USA, to be useful links for finding museum websites. You can also Google your ancestral location and add the word museum: "muskegon county" museum .

Monday, November 12, 2007

Thank You for Serving Our Country

While yesterday was the anniversary of the original Armistice (Veterans) Day--the "eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month"--today is the official day of observance here in the United States. I would like to say "thank you" to the veterans and active duty personnel in my life, who have guaranteed my freedoms and the freedoms of my family and millions of others:

First my family and the family of my husband:
  • *My cousin Chuck, U.S. Army and U.S. Air National Guard, veteran
  • *My cousin Matt, U.S. Air Force, active duty
  • *My cousin Beth's husband, Bryan, U.S. Army, active duty
  • *My grand-uncle Bill, U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Air Force, veteran of WWII, Korea, and Vietnam
  • *My children's paternal grandfather, Troy, U.S. Army, veteran
  • *My children's granduncle Norm, U.S. Army, veteran
  • *My children's cousin, U.S. Marine Corps, veteran
  • *My children's cousin, David, U.S. Air Force, veteran
  • *My children's cousin-in-law, Nathan, U.S. Air Force, veteran; and U.S. Air National Guard, active duty
  • *My children's step-cousin, Laura, U.S. Army, veteran
  • *My children's step-cousin-in-law, John, U.S. Army, active duty

My website contains a page with a list of military ancestors (and their brothers and sons) who have served from World War II back to the colonial wars. I also have a page with my children's paternal military ancestors and relatives, here.

I live in Spokane, which has a strong military history beginning with Ft. Spokane and Ft. George Wright (U.S. Army posts of the 1800's), continuing with Geiger Field and the Navy Depot Station in Spokane County and Farragut Naval Base in nearby North Idaho during World War II, and including Fairchild Air Force Base in the present. One cannot help but knowing active duty personnel and/or veterans in this area. I'd like to say "thank you" to the many friends and neighbors we have that are either currently serving or have served our country, including several of my children's teachers, and many of my colleagues at Spokane Public Schools. Thank you, too, to those military wives I work with, who teach all day, then go home to raise their families alone while their husbands are overseas.

And finally, although certainly not last in my thoughts, are the genea-bloggers, who bring their military background and perspective to our community and to our research:
If I have forgotten anyone, I sincerely apologize (please send me a note if you notice anyone is missing).

Thank you!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Little Girl

Happy Birthday, sweetheart! From your favorite mommy--shhh! don't tell Cindy! (private joke)--and daddy:

SOURCE: Various photos of Melissa Midkiff's birthday celebrations and Homecoming; Spokane, Washington. Photographed by Norman J. Midkiff and Miriam Robbins Midkiff, 1990 - 2007. Music video created at accessed 10 November 2007.

My Little Girl

Gotta hold on easy as I let you go.
Gonna tell you how much I love you,
Though you think you already know.
I remember I thought you looked like an angel wrapped in pink so soft and warm.
You've had me wrapped around your finger since the day you were born.

Your beautiful, baby, from the outside in.
Chase your dreams, but always know the road that'll lead you home again.
Go on, take on this whole world.
But to me you know you'll always be, my little girl.

When you were in trouble that crooked little smile could melt my heart of stone.
Now look at you, I've turned around and you've almost grown.
Sometimes when you're asleep, I whisper, "I Love You!" in the moonlight at your door.
As I walk away, I hear you say, "Daddy Love You More!"

Someday, some boy will come and ask me for your hand.
But I won't say "yes" to him unless I know, he's the half
That makes you whole, he has a poet's soul, and the heart of a man's man.
I know he'll say that he's in love.
But between you and me, he won't be good enough!

SOURCE: McGraw, Tim. "My Little Girl" lyrics. Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, album. Tim McGraw, 2006. Copyright 2006, Curb Records. Cowboy Lyrics ( accessed 10 November 2007).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

10. A Letter from Father - 7 Oct 1918

Hard to believe, but it's been two months since I've written a post on the series of my great-grandfather's service in Russia during World War I! On this Veteran's Day weekend, I thought it appropriate to add another.

Read more about the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces at

On 7 October 1918, Angelo Merrick ROBBINS, Sr. wrote a letter to his son, Bryan, stationed in Russia with the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces. Unlike the earlier letter Bryan received from his mother, Angelo's was chipper, cheerful, and patriotic:

Home in Muskegon, Oct 7 - 1918,

Dear Bryan,

Both your letters received today, that were written somewhere on the ocean. We were very much surprised to know you are going so far away, but we know that all will come out well at last.

You ask what news we hear of the war. Well, everything is panning out very well indeed and it is no longer anything of a question of time that the good old stars and stripes will wave over Berlin.

You know we keep posted as well as we can about the Great War. I have a fine wall map showing the lines of battle, sent by my company. You may rest assured that the U.S.A. is back of our boys every step of the way.

What a wonderful experience you boys must be having, and what a lot of the world you are seeing.

It is a great consolation to know that the "Devil-fish" of the seas has lost his grip, and his [power?] is rapidly passing away. Great honor and glory have been won by the Americans in France, and Lloyd's Co. was and is now, in the thick of it. Thank God, he has so far escaped injury. They have been cutting the Boche's lines to ribbons, and hurling the boastful Huns backward and every backward towards the Rhine. The crack Prussian guards have come to fear the furious attacks of the 125 and 126 Infantry of the good old U.S.A. And just as sure as God is in his heavans, just so sure the Germans will wish they had never been born, rather than to face a figure clad in khaki. And our armies on land and sea will be crowned by victory. During these times of world wide war, our hearts must not flinch, nor our courage falter. And, please God, the strife will soon be over, and our brave lads once more will hear the cheerful words "homeward bound."

Muskegon lays a memorial monument for its dead. The corner stone is to be placed next

Monday. You must know many brave men from Muskegon have already paid "the great price."

And, as Lincoln once said that "these honored dead shall not have died in vain, we hereby dedicate ourselves to the unfinished task."

Of personal matters, there is not much to write. I am still traveling. Money comes in slowly, and debts accumulate. But far be it from me to complain of the battle for bread, when you all are fighting for the freedom of mankind.

I have been able to sell the car, a little cash, and notes. I have been able to buy part of my coal for winter, so we will not freeze, at least. Money is always handy when one has a family, to be sure.

Donald grows, both in body and in mischief. He is a fine little chap. Angie is improving in health, and is doing well in his studies. He says little about our absent ones, but I note a vein of seriousness in him, which is strange in one so young.

The home is just as you left it. We have a collection of war records, which we often play, and which, perhaps, make us more lonely, than they cheer.

Reva is the same. Alas, Eternity will tell the story. However terrible the inexorable facts, we learn to carry our cross, as did He of olden times.

Your mother will write to you, so I will close. Be of good cheer. He who cannot bear to see a sparrow fall, sits watch and ward over the destiny of man, and will eventually bring about smiles in the face of tears and heart-ache.

Again. Be of good cheer, and some day you will relate to us your wonderful experiences, on the other side of the world.

With unceasing love,
Your father

P.S. Greet the lads of your Co. with a hearty hand grip and "God speed" from me.

Quite a different tone from Father than from Mother, to be sure! Angelo must have known how important to morale it was to send an upbeat letter, even though, as I note, there was little actual cheerful news about the home life to be sent. Angelo, Jr. (Angie) appears to have been ill; perhaps he also had come down with the Spanish Influenza. The mention of Reva has to do with her mental illness; she most likely was living at Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Grand Traverse Co., Michigan. The quote from Lincoln is from his Gettysburg Address, the scanned image of which is viewable for free at Footnote, here.

I've searched in vain online to find a mention or a photograph of the World War I memorial laid in Muskegon. If any of my readers can help me here, it will be much appreciated!

Other posts in this series:
1. A Polar Bear in North Russia
2. The Family of Angelo and Lula Robbins
3. Bryan and Marie - A WWI Romance
4. Bryan Gets Drafted
5. Basic Training at Camp Custer
6. Getting "Over There"
7. Bryan and King George V
8. To Russia, with Influenza
9. A Letter from Mother - 25 Sep 1918

Ancestors in the 1930 U.S. Federal Census - Part 13

I can't find her anywhere...and believe me, I've looked!

Trientje (ZIGTERMAN) BOS BARSEMA, also known as Catherine or Kate, is the maternal grandmother of my maternal (step) grandfather, Adrian DeVRIES. In other words, she is my step-great-great-grandmother. She was born 9 April 1857 in the Netherlands, probably in the northern Province of Groningen, and immigrated in 1879 with her husband Melle BOS--whom she married 29 November 1877 in Bierum, Groningen, the Netherlands--along with their first child, Gertrude, b. c. 1878. They appear in 1880 in Muskegon, Muskegon Co., Michigan as "John and Kattie Boos," child "Gertha," and her brothers, "Sear and Seca Seterman." They next show up in McBain, Missaukee Co., Michigan, where their second child, Johanna "Josephine" BOS, was born in 1885 (the seven-year gap between children makes me suspect there were some miscarriages or infant deaths between Gertrude and Josephine). Before Melle died c. 1888, they had one more child, Melle "Millard" BOS, born 17 July 1887 in Ottawa County. Millard anglicized his surname to BUSH. The family had relatives in Ottawa County; Coopersville is where Millard and Trientje's two brothers settled: Siert or Zigert (also known as Silas) ZIGTERMAN and R. (Sikke) SICHTERMAN.

On 16 October 1889, Trientje married Pieter BARSEMA in Lamont, Ottawa Co., Michigan. Pieter was born 14 March 1854, and his birthplace is also believed to be in the Province of Groningen. He immigrated in 1873 from Eenrum, Groningen, the Netherlands to Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan. At the time of his marriage to Trientje, he was a laborer in Muskegon, Muskegon Co., Michigan. Together, Pieter and Trientje had four children: Nellie (b. c. 1891), Sena C. (b. 26 March 1893), Jennie (b. 28 November 1895), and Peter, Jr. (b. 11 Aug 1898).

By 1927, Trientje, then known as Kate, was living with her son Peter and daughter-in-law Elsie at 1149 "E" Avenue, S.W. in Grand Rapids, and was widowed again. In 1929, I have a residence in Grand Rapids for her, but the next record I have is her certificate for her death on 28 January 1935, which states her residence was Livingston Boulevard, Rural Route 4, Grand Rapids Township, the home of her son, Peter.

So where was she when the 1930 U.S. Federal Census was being taken? I have no idea! I have looked at all of her children's 1930 census records, and can find every one of them, except Peter. Kate is not living with any of her other children during that census, or her brothers, for that matter. I've done all kinds of interesting searches, too: surname, first name, wild card, soundex, birth year, etc. Still no luck. Did their household get skipped? Were they moving? Were they gone for the day? Don't you just hate it when you can't find an ancestor on a census? :-)

Thursday, November 08, 2007

EWGS Wins Honorable Mention in RootsTelevision Contest! recently announced the winner of the Societies and Libraries Contest. The Friends of the Allen County (Indiana) Public Library won a $1000 prize for bringing the most visitors to the RootsTelevision site via their own website during the month of October. My local society, the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society, has won a $100 prize for honorable mention, along with three other societies, the Muskogee (Oklahoma) Genealogical Society, the Escondido (California) Genealogical Society, and the Village (Arkansas) Genealogical Society.

I think we did ourselves proud!

Robbins Reunion 2007

Sunday, November 4th was our annual Robbins Reunion/Thanksgiving Dinner/Fall Birthday Celebration that usually takes place at a buffet house in Spokane on the last Sunday of October. This year, due to scheduling conflicts for some of our family members, we moved it forward one week.

This tradition was started 14 years ago, when my son Matt and my niece, A, were babies. We have a unique family: my biological niece at four months of age, through the open adoption process, was placed with a wonderful, loving family who was able to care for and meet her needs in ways our own family was not. A's adoptive family asked my parents to continue to grandparent her, but also asked that they would include their older daughter, also an adoptee, as one of their grandchildren. My parents willingly complied. As it turns out, Matt and A were born nine days apart, and A's older adoptive sister is only four days older than my daughter, Missy. So several times a year, our extended families get together to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and what it means to be a family.

At our fall gathering, we celebrate the autumn birthdays, including my cousin's (when he can attend) and my sister's, both born in October. The November birthdays include Missy and A's sister. And since it's difficult to get everyone together at Thanksgiving, this Robbins Reunion has become our own Thanksgiving celebration. This year, I added a new tradition, one I was inspired by from a post at Dumb Little Man (hat tip to Denise at Family Matters), and something I wish I had started years ago: a thanksgiving journal. I purchased a nice snap-fastened, gilt-edged, lined journal and had everyone write a little something about what they were thankful for. Even my youngest nephew, age three, was encouraged to add his scribbles! The entries were heart-warming and humorous. In addition, I added information about where we held the reunion, who all attended, and some particular details about that evening that made it distinct from any others (hat tip to Becky of kinnexions, and her Phend-Fisher Family Reunion Ledger posts). I hope this journal will become a family treasure over time. In the photos below, you can see some of the family members writing their thoughts of gratitude in it.

SOURCE: Various family members at Robbins Family Reunion, Spokane, Washington. Photographed by Norman J. Midkiff and Miriam Robbins Midkiff, 4 November 2007.

While my parents were in town, they brought me a box of letters. From 1966 to 1978, my mother wrote to her parents in Grand Rapids, Michigan from various locations in Alaska where our family resided. My grandparents, as I've mentioned before, saved everything! These notes and messages are our family's history, and I've been enjoying reading a few every night before bed. I've been loaned these to scan and preserve, and perhaps, from time to time, I'll share some of them with my readers (after first receiving permission from my mother, of course). My posts on our "Alaska Adventures," as Mom has always called them, always generate the most viewers and comments on this blog!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Adrian DeVRIES Birth Certificate

The image below is a photocopy of the birth certificate of my maternal (step) grandfather, Adrian DeVRIES, and comes from a collection of documents from my maternal grandparents' estate, known hereafter as the DeVries-Hoekstra Collection:

Birth Certificate of Adrian DeVries, 1916

SOURCE: Michigan. Kent County. County Clerk's Office, Grand Rapids. Adrian DeVries birth certificate.

Certificate as to Birth

County of Kent }

I, LEWIS J. DONOVAN, Clerk of the Circuit Court for the said County of Kent, do hereby certify that upon careful examination of the original records on file in the office of the Clerk of said County and Court, I find the following record as to the birth of Adrian DeVries
Date of Birth June 10, 1916
Sex Male; Color White; Legitimate
Birthplace Grand Rapids, Mich.


Name of Father George E. B. DeVries Residence 1022 Caulfield Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Name of Mother Josephine Bush Residence 1022 Caulfield Ave., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Birthplace of Father Netherlands Eu Occupation Machine Hand
Birthplace of Mother Michigan

All of which appears as of record dated June 30, 1916 and the same being the whole of such original record of said birth as
Recorded in Liber 20 of RECORD OF BIRTH on page 523

IN TESTIMONY WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand and official seal, at the City of Grand Rapids, in said County, this 10th day of November A. D. 1941

Geo. Gruenbauer [signed] Deputy

My grandfather was actually named for his paternal grandmother, Adriaantje "Adriana" (WIERINGA) DeVRIES HOOGSTRA NIEMEYER. His parents followed the Dutch naming pattern of naming the first son after the paternal grandfather (Ben was named for Binnes DeVRIES) and the second son after the maternal grandfather (Millard--"Mel"--was named for Mille BOS). By the time Adrian came along, they probably despaired of ever having any daughters! Rather than following the pattern religiously and naming their third son Jarig--or George--Jr., they decided to name him after George's mother. Two years later, their only daughter, Catherine Josephine, was named for her maternal grandmother, Trienjte ZIGTERMAN BOS BARSEMA and her mother. Their last child, Calvin, was named for the then-current president, Calvin Coolidge. Coincidentally, Adrian "Ed" DeVries, my maternal grandfather, shared the same birth date (but not birth year!) as his son-in-law, my father.

On this document, my great-grandparents' anglicized names are given. From other earlier documents and indexes I've examined, I know that my great-grandfather was first named Jarig Egbert Binnes DeVRIES in the Netherlands, which was changed to George Edward Benjamin DeVRIES; while my great-grandmother, the daughter of Dutch immigrants, was originally named Johanna BOS. My great-grandparents owned a lot with two homes on it, a big one out front (1022 Caulfield Avenue), and a little one in the back (1024). The family generally lived in the larger house and rented out the smaller one, but on occasion, the situation was reversed, as in this particular case. You will notice, however, that my great-grandparents gave their address on my grandfather's birth record as 1022 Caulfield, even though at the time they were living in the little house. My uncle recently did some extensive research on the history of these houses in both Grand Rapids city directories and Kent County land records. I will be sharing those records and past and present photos of these two homes, as well as other ancestral Grand Rapids homes of the DeVries and Hoekstra families, in the future.

George is listed as a machine hand on this record. He worked for several Grand Rapids furniture factories for most of his life, including the John Widdicomb Company. Grand Rapids was once considered the furniture capital of the world, utilizing the rich natural resources in the area for this purpose, especially the great quantities of pine. Whenever I look for relatives or ancestors in federal censuses or city directories in Grand Rapids, many--like George DeVries--appear as furniture factory employees.

Birth certificates at that time and place were not created and made available to parents at the time of their children's births, as they are now. The births were recorded in large books, called libers, in the county clerk's office. This particular document is a certified copy of the record that appears in the birth liber; in other words, the deputy clerk carefully copied the information from the birth liber onto certificate paper, then sealed and signed the document attesting to its accurate reproduction. The date of the certificate, 10 November 1941, suggests that my grandfather obtained it perhaps to show proof of citizenship and age for his future enlistment with the Army (26 March 1942 was his enlistment date, according to his military record). Although the attack of Pearl Harbor was less than a month away at the time this document was certified, many young men had seen the writing on the wall as the war escalated in Europe and had begun to enlist.

Although Ed traveled extensively around the country and--during World War Two--the world, he lived his whole life in Grand Rapids, passing away there this last January.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Autumn in Spokane

In the past few weeks, genea-bloggers have been proudly displaying photos of local autumn colors. My brother-in-law and his family spent a day in the Greenbluff area about three weeks ago, just northwest of Spokane, well-known regionally for its orchards and small farms. Mike's taking a photography class, and snapped these calendar-worthy shots, capturing the brilliant colors that have since faded:

© Michael J. Midkiff, 2007. Used with permission.

© Michael J. Midkiff, 2007. Used with permission.

© Michael J. Midkiff, 2007. Used with permission.

Aren't they breathtaking? They're a great reminder of my favorite season! Now that November is here, the leaves have fallen off most of the trees and the bright hues are dulled. When the sky isn't overcast, the blue looks pale and cold, instead of the warm azure we saw last month. As I drove to the November meeting of the Eastern Washington Genealogical Society on Saturday and saw the wind scuttling the dry leaves through the downtown intersections, I realized that when I return for the next meeting, there will likely be snow on the ground!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Report on October Scanfest

I have been remiss not to inform my readers of what a fun and interesting time our Scanfesters had a week ago Sunday, October 28th. We had a group of six, including myself, that scanned and chatted using Windows Live Messenger for three hours that afternoon.

Lee Anders of I Seek Dead People was back after a hiatus, and it was a pleasure to "see" her again! She was busy scanning her Craddock collection: photos from her grandmother's accumulation.

Jasia of Creative Gene was scanning her mother-in-law's photo album of her growing-up years in the coal-mining West of Pennsylvania. Jasia is one of our regular scanfesters and the creator of the Carnival of Genealogy.

The footnoteMaven is another of our faithful attendees, and she was working towards a proposal for a book which I hope will soon be available to the public. I won't tell what the subject is--it's a carefully guarded secret--but I can tell you that if you love old photos, this will be a must-have for your home library!

Colleen from The Oracle of OMcHodoy is a fairly recent Scanfester, but she's been a regular ever since she joined us for the first time in August. While simultaneously chatting with us, she watched football and scanned her paternal grandparents photos from their years in the coal-mining East of Pennsylvania!

Our newest Scanfester was Lorine McGinnis Schulze of Olive Tree Genealogy. Lorine owns over 3,000 cartes de visite (photos from the Civil War era) and was organizing and archiving them while--get this!--her husband was busy scanning them for her! The rest of us Scanfesters agreed that he deserves some sort of award, such as "Best Genealogy Spouse"!

I scanned more of the Hoekstra, DeVries, and Valk documents that have been sent out West from the estate of my late maternal grandparents. There's quite a lot more to do, but I put a sizable dent in the "To Scan" pile.

It's always so interesting to get to know other genea-historians and genea-bloggers through Scanfest! I learn a little more about my online friends each time we meet, and I'm sure they can say the same about me. We come from diverse backgrounds and interests, yet share a common love for family history, genealogical research, and preservation of our precious family artifacts. We exchange resources and ideas, too. One resource that I shared was the free e-book by Sally Jacobs, the Practical Archivist, titled 8 Blunders People Make When Scanning Their Photographs...And How You Can Avoid Them All! You can download this from her website; it is a freebie bonus for signing up for her free newsletter. She also has a blog where she has begun to feature podcasts she's doing.

Due to the upcoming holidays, we will be taking a break from Scanfest until January 2008. Stay tuned!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

The 35th Carnival of Genealogy is Posted!

Blaine Bettinger, a.k.a. "Dr. DNA", a.k.a. "The Genetic Genealogist", is the host of the 35th Carnival of Genealogy, whose topic is, "Do You Have a Family Mystery That Might Be Solved by DNA?"

Nineteen bloggers submitted 21 posts with their questions regarding their families' ancestral mysteries--from finding Native American heritage to questioning how far we want to go, ethically, in uncovering family secrets--and Blaine answered each and every one.

In my husband's family, we have created the Midkiff Family DNA Project to determine whether all the Midkiffs found in North America have a common ancestor. Many of the various Midkiff family lines have "brickwalled" in the early 19th and late 18th centuries, including my husband's line, which "stops" with his earliest known ancestor, Franklin Preston MIDKIFF (c. 1800 - c. 1839) of Lincoln Co. (now Moore Co.), Tennessee. By testing various Midkiff men using the Y-DNA test, we now know of two other Midkiff lines that connect to Franklin, proving a common ancestor who lived sometime between 1700 - 1800, probably in Virginia. The two other lines are "brickwalled" at David MIDKIFF (c. 1769 - 1840s) and John MIDKIFF (b. c. 1740), both of Pittsylvania Co., Virgina. Our Family DNA Project is also in communication with the Metcalfe Family DNA Project, as we believe that "Midkiff" is an alternate spelling of that name.

If you are interested in learning more about DNA as it relates to genealogy, I suggest becoming a frequent reader of Blaine's blog, The Genetic Genealogist. He has a free e-book that can be downloaded here, which is called 10 DNA Testing Myths Busted, and Other Favorite Posts. It is available in .pdf format (read with Adobe Reader, a free program most of us have on our computers). He also recommends great books for those interested in learning more. There are five beginner books and 10 more scientific ones on his list, and I plan on reading every one! Currently, I'm reading The Seven Daughters of Eve: The Science That Reveals Our Genetic Ancestry by Bryan Sykes. It's a fascinating read involving many of my favorite mysteries that I used to love to watch on Nova, Unsolved Mysteries, and the like: Was Anna Anderson really the daughter of Czar Nicholas II? Are the Polynesians descendants of Asians or South Americans?

Another must-read blog for those interested in genetics is Megan's RootsWorld by Megan Smolenyak Smolenyak. Megan, a professional genealogist, coined the term "genetealogy" and has written, among many books, Trace Your Roots with DNA. Her expertise in both genealogy and genetics is often featured in magazines, newspapers, and television shows, including the Hallmark Channel's New Morning, where we see how Megan returned a photo album found in the trash to its rightful owner, halfway around the world!

I have been lucky that twice in the past year I've had an opportunity to hear experts speak on this topic locally: first, Ugo Perego from the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation spoke at the North Stake Family History Center's Family History Conference in March; and then Bernie Middleton, a fellow member of EWGS, made an excellent presentation, "DNA in Genealogical Reseach" at our April general meeting. The study of DNA as it relates to family history is not going to go away. It is a useful, fascinating tool that can aid us in our research, and it behooves us to educate ourselves on this topic.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Midkiff, Texas Receives Texas Historical Commission Mark

This morning at 10:00 am Central Daylight Time (which is, at the time of this blogging, occurring right now!), the community of Midkiff in West Texas is receiving a Texas Historical Commission Mark. Read more here.

There were actually two communities with that name, located in separate counties, but not too far from each other. The first was a general store and post office held in the early twentieth-century home of John Rufus Midkiff, on his cattle ranch in Midland County (the same county where George W. Bush retires on his vacations). John was the brother of my husband's great-great-grandfather, Charles Anderson Midkiff, Sr. Over time, this tiny community became a "ghost town," as recorded in the Texas State Historical Association's Handbook of Texas.

In the 1950s, the U.S. Postal Service was looking for a location in which to build a post office that could serve the rural cattle ranch and oil field areas. They picked a Upton County community, Hadacol Corners, and renamed it Midkiff in honor of the cattle ranching family that had pioneered in the Midland-Upton County area; the Midkiff zip code is 79755.

Mary Lou Midkiff, wife of a great-grandson of John Rufus Midkiff, recently wrote an interesting, well-researched and carefully cited book, Midkiff: A Texas Family, Town and Way of Life. Much of her material came from a trunkful of letters that was found in an outbuilding on the family ranch, which were written mainly by or to John's son Thomas "Oscar" Midkiff, Sr. By piecing together the family history with local history, Mary Lou has written a superb non-fiction account of the American West and of true cowboy history. Not coincidentally, the foreword was written by Western novelist Elmer Kelton, whose family history parallels that of the Midkiffs', as their ancestors knew each other and worked together. If you are interesting in purchasing this book, please visit Mary Lou's site.