Saturday, July 28, 2018

Richard V. Robbins of Pennylvania and Michigan: Is He Related to One of My Robbins Ancestors?

Michigan Department of Community Health, “Death Records, 1921-1947,” database with images, Seeking Michigan (, entry for Richard V. Robbins, 20 May 1921, certificate no. 41 355.
(click on image to enlarge)

One year ago today, I made a discovery on one of my Robbins lines (I have two).  I have known from one of my cousins that there was a land transaction between Richard Robbins and my 4th-great-grandmother, Marinda (Robbins) Robbins in Oceana County, Michigan in the 1880s.  I have been trying to figure out if Richard was a relative of Marinda, or of her husband/my 4th-great-grandfather Joseph Josiah Robbins.

As I've mentioned often, my 4th-great-grandparents both had the last name Robbins.  They married each other.   They don't seem to be related, or if so, not closely. Joseph was born in Otsego County, New York and his father's name was George.  Marinda was born probably in Broome County, New York or Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (they border each other), and her father was Uzza Robbins.

So one year ago, I took another look at Richard's death certificate.  He was young enough to be Marinda's son, so it was doubtful he was her brother (we haven't identified all her siblings).  Perhaps he was a nephew?  I saw his parents were Stephen Robbins and Sarah Wright, and he was born in Pennsylvania.

Looking through old notes and family tree info that was exchanged between myself and other Robbins genealogists, I saw that Stephen Van Rennselaer Robbins married Sarah Wright, and was a son of George Washington Robbins and Abigail Hicks, the couple I am 99% sure are also the parents of Joseph.  Although most of George and Abigail's children moved directly from the Town of Westford, Otsego County to the Town of Carroll, Chautauqua County, New York, Stephen followed the same migration trail as my Joseph:  living first in Elkland Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, then Liberty Township, McKean County, Pennsylvania, and then probably on to Oceana County, Michigan (I say "probably" because I don't know if Stephen did for sure...but his son Richard definitely did!).

Stephen also joined the same unit that Joseph did during the Civil War:  the 58th Pennsylvania Infantry.  In their forties, they both would have been considered "old men" at that time.

Joseph and Marinda's son Charles, my 3rd-great-grandfather, once declared in an newspaper interview before he died in 1934, that the family moved from Pennsylvania to Hesperia, Oceana County, Michigan near "where his aunt was living near Martin's lake in Newaygo county."  I have long been trying to identify this aunt. Was she Sarah (Wright) Robbins?

Also, Stephen's brother, George Robbins, Jr., bought land in Oceana County, and lived in Newaygo County, Michigan (the counties border each other, with the village of Hesperia lying on that border).

It looks likely that Richard V. Robbins was Joseph's nephew, not Marinda's.

The indirect evidence is mounting that Joseph Josiah Robbins was the son of George Washington Robbins and Abigail Hicks.  I haven't found the direct piece of evidence; I may never find it.  But the puzzle pieces are fitting together better than ever.  It's time to find a direct male descendant of George and Abigail and (Y-DNA) test him against my dad!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Seven Generations

Theo lovingly pets the polar bear that belonged to his
Great-great-great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, Sr.
4 July 2018
Taken at the home of his Great-grandfather Robbins in Stevens Co., Washington.

Earlier this month, I spent time with extended family and friends at my parents' place for their annual Fourth of July barbecue.  My 20-month-old grandson, Theo, attended with his parents, my daughter and son-in-law.  It was Theo's second Fourth of July at his Great-grandpa and Great-grandma Robbins' property high in the Selkirk Mountains, and this time he was big enough to run around.

And run around, he did.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  It took almost that many to keep an eye on a busy toddler that loves to explore: his parents, his three cousins, and me.

Occasionally, he would come across something that would capture his attention, and he would hold still for a few minutes.  One of those items was the polar bear statue of my great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, Sr.

I have written about Bryan's service with the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces in a series on this blog, and it is the statue I reference in the first post in that series. When my dad was a boy, he and his father came across this statue at a nursery.  Grandpa decided it would make the perfect gift for Great-grandpa, as a way to honor his military service.

When Great-grandpa died, the statue became Grandpa's.  And after Grandpa died, my aunt brought it out West from Michigan to deliver it to Dad on one of her visits.  Now it sits on the covered front porch of my parents' log home, up in the pine forests of Eastern Washington....

...where Theo discovered it.

I wish I could have captured the look on Theo's face when he spotted Great-grandpa's polar bear.  His eyebrows rose, his mouth opened wide (so that his binky fell out!), and then he ran to squat and pet the bear.

In that moment, I felt the pages of history turn.  I had met my great-grandfather a couple of times when I was very little (too young to remember, unfortunately).  And here was my grandson, admiring and loving something that had belonged to an ancestor five generations before him, a man his Mimi (grandma) had met.  A man his Mimi will tell stories about to him, when he is old enough to understand, just as my father and grandfather told me stories about their grandparents and great-grandparents....

...the stories that motivated me to begin genealogical research; the stories that motivated me to write down my ancestor stories, or AnceStories.

When my great-grandfather died in 1972, he had known seven generations of Robbins in his lifetime, from his great-grandparents, to his grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It was a span of knowing people who had lived over the course of 152 years, from 1820 to 1972!

My grandfather also had known seven generations of Robbins in his lifetime when he passed in 2003; people who had lived over a course of 159 years, from 1844 to 2003!  My dad, at nearly three-quarters of a century old, has known seven generations of Robbins, too; even though his great-grandfather Robbins died before he was born, he knew his great-grandmother.

I have known six generations of Robbins.  And if I'm lucky, someday, I'll be a great-grandmother, and know Theo's children.  Who knows how many generations Theo will know in his lifetime?

In Pacific Northwest Native cultures, there is an inter-tribal value of "Seven Generations," in which the impact of decisions on the next seven generations is considered.  As genealogists, have we considered how we are passing on the stories, photos, heirlooms, traditions, and culture that we have learned and inherited from the ancestors within memory to our descendants?

How many generations have you known?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Her Name Was...Anna?

Nellie May Concidine, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)

Last night, I was lost in thought, looking toward my dining room wall, which I call my "Ancestor Wall," since so many of my ancestors' portraits grace it.  My eyes fell on the portrait of my adoptive great-grandmother, Nellie May (Concidine) Holst (1883 - 1953).  Nellie...hmmm.  Was her first name really Nellie, or was it Eleanor?  Maybe I needed to double-check her birth record to see how her name was originally recorded.  Then I realized that I wasn't sure I had her birth record.

Nellie May (Concidine) and Alfred Henry Holst, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original photo privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)
A little background:  Nellie was born in Byron Township, Kent County, Michigan.  She was the second child and first daughter of half-Irish, half-Scots John Dennis Concidine (1854 - 1925) and Anna "Annie" Matilda Higby (1861 - 1903), a woman whose roots go back into colonial New England.  After teaching for a few years, Nellie married a German-Swedish immigrant, Alfred Henry Holst (1882 - 1952) in 1905.  They had a set of twins, Earl and May, who died in infancy in 1909.  Then they had my grand-aunt, Lucille, in 1918.  Hoping to enlarge their little family, they fostered and later adopted my paternal grandmother, born Jane Marie York, whom they named Jeanne Marie Holst.

I looked in my family tree software, RootsMagic, and the only sources I had for Nellie's birth were family records, census records, and her death certificate.  I looked in my electronic files and did not see a birth record for her.  So off I went to FamilySearch to look in their Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection.

It took some creative searching to locate Nellie's birth record.  A search for "Concidine" with the Exact Search box unchecked (because Considine and Constantine are common alternate spellings) yielded results for Nellie's siblings, Ethel, Loid (Lloyd), and Manly (Manley), along with 151 other results, but no Nellie.  After several unsuccessful other searches, I finally settled on leaving the name field blank and searched  the birth location Byron (exact) and the birth years 1883 - 1883 (my family records stated Nellie was born 23 December 1883 in Byron Township).  This yielded a list of all babies born in Byron Township in 1883, a total of 31.  And one of them was an "Anna Corcadine" born 16 December 1883 to John and Anna:

"Michigan Births, 1867-1902," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2018), Anna Corcadine, 16 Dec 1883; citing item 2 p 344 rn 1287, Byron, Kent, Michigan, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,320,696.
(click on each image above to enlarge detailed area)

Her name was...Anna? What in the world?

You need to understand how birth records in Michigan were created, prior to birth certificates being issued in 1905.  The town supervisor or a city clerk would canvas his area once a year, going door-to-door to record all the births and deaths that had occurred in that township or ward the previous year.  Remind you of anything?  Yes, the census.  Vital records, births and deaths, were recorded census-style in Michigan, from 1867 to 1895 (death records) and 1905 (birth records).  After 1895/1905, death/birth certificates were issued.

So all the issues we have with people going missing or having incorrect information recorded on censuses applies to birth and death records in Michigan from 1867 to 1895/1905.  To add to the rates of error, we're not exactly sure what happened to these original recordings.  The information was copied into the county birth and death libers, many of which have been microfilmed by the Family History Library.  Then the information was further copied and sent off to the secretary of state, and recorded in the state birth and death libers, also microfilmed by the Family History Library and now digitized and available online as the Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection. I have not been able to find what the town supervisors or city clerks did with those original records they made when going door-to-door.  They do not seem to be in existence.

So the record viewed above is actually the third recording of the information of Nellie's birth, copied from the county record, copied from the door-to-door record, which was recorded in May 1884, five months after Nellie's birth.  We also do not know who gave out this information to the recorder: her mother...her father...a relative living in the home...or a neighbor?

I am now more stumped than ever.  Was Nellie originally named Anna (after her mother), but then the family decided to call her Nellie?  Was Anna a recording error made by the town supervisor, or did it get mis-copied from the original (for instance, did one of the recorders glance at the mother's name and write it as the child's name)?  Also, our family records state Nellie was born on 23 December 1883, but this record says 16 December.  Sometimes, finally being able to access the record generates more questions than provides answers!  In these cases, careful comparison and analysis between multiple records that contain similar information must be made, and a reasonable conclusion must be drawn, understanding that more than one reasonable conclusion can be made.

What I am sure of is that Nellie was born to John and Anna (Higby) Concidine in Byron Township in December 1883. I will look for other sources to which to compare the birth record and come up with the best reasonable conclusion about her name and her birth date.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Book Review: The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition

Recently, I was given an opportunity to review the latest (fourth) edition of the classic The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood, published by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, Maryland in 2017.  I had been hearing exclamations of elation about the newest edition being published from various professional genealogists with whom I am friends on Facebook, so I jumped at the chance to review it.  Also, who doesn't like free genealogy books?

Ironically, when I first heard that this book had been updated, I didn't consider purchasing it.  I have at least four comprehensive genealogy guide books in my home library, so why did I need another one?  I've been doing this thing called genealogy for 30 years now, have taken a professional course, and taught classes.  Was there anything this book could tell me that I really didn't already know...anything of enough additional value that it would warrant a purchase of a generalized topic such as "American genealogy"?

As usual, when I received the new book in the mail, I took a look at its format and contents.  This is a one-and-a-half-inch-thick, six-inch-wide by nine-inch-tall 778-page paperback book.  Besides the Table of Contents, it contains a list of the illustrations and charts, along with a preface by the author , with a detailed 39-page index at the back.  The book is divided into two parts; below are the chapters within each part:

Part 1:  Background to Research

      1.  Understanding Genealogical Research
      2.  Language, Terminology and Important Issues
      3.  Surveying, Analyzing, and Planning
      4.  Evidence
      5.  Libraries and the National Archives (NARA)
      6.  Reference Works
      7.  Organizing and Evaluating Your Research Findings
      8.  Successful Correspondence
      9.  Computer Technology and Family History
    10.  Family History on the Internet
    11.  Family History:  Going Beyond Genealogy

Part 2:  Records and Their Use

    12.  Compiled Sources and Newspapers
    13.  Vital Records
    14.  Census Returns
    15.  Using Census Records in Your Research
    16.  Understanding Probate Records and Legal Terminology
    17.  What About Wills?
    18.  The Intestate, Miscellaneous Probate Records, and Guardianships
    19.  Government Land:  Colonial and American
    20.  Local Land Records
    21.  Abstracting Probate and Land Records
    22.  Court Records and Family History
    23.  Property  Rights of Woman as a Consideration
    24.  Church Records and Family History
    25.  Immigrant Ancestor Origins
    26.  Military Records:  Colonial Wars and the American Revolution
    27.  Military Records:  After the Revolution
    28.  Cemetery and Burial Records

As you can see, this is quite an exhaustive lineup of background resources and records.  Much of the first seven chapters reminded me of what I learned in my ProGen class.  For instance, Chapter 3 specifies excellent strategies of "pre-search":  determining what research needs to be done and how to approach it.  The following chapter on "Evidence" explains proof and evidence, details the Genealogical Proof Standard, types of evidence, and types of sources.  Chapter 7 offers different methods of note taking and the recording of research results, as well as how to analyze the information found therein.  For these reasons, I have to say this content makes an excellent reference for both the beginning and intermediate genealogist, to provide and maintain the fundamental steps of good research.

One chapter I felt could have been stronger was the one titled "Computer Technology and Family History."  For one, the title is redundant and should have "computer" removed.  For another, DNA is discussed in this chapter, which seems completely out of place (the following chapter, "Family History on the Internet" is a better fit).  Also, there is a list of computer-related terms and their definitions that are not put in context with genealogy, and thus appear unnecessary.  An example is the term "https" found at the beginning of many web addresses.  While the term is defined to explain that websites with this in their address are secure, giving the reason as to why that would be important to a genealogist is lacking; i.e., making an online purchase of genealogy materials, subscribing to a major genealogy website, or accessing DNA results online.  Finally, no modern book on genealogy with a chapter on technology should ignore mentioning the importance, availability, and substantial number of genealogy apps on smartphones and other devices.

In Part 2, I was particularly impressed with the content of Chapters 16 through 23, encompassing probate, land, and court records.  This meaty section is full of legal definitions, the processes involved in probate and purchasing and selling land, resources spelled out by state, tables of figures, and sample documents.  In these eight chapters, my question about whether a purchase of yet another genealogy guidebook would be warranted was satisfactorily answered!

Finally, throughout the book, as I've browsed and skimmed, delved and devoured, I have discovered little gems; things that were new to me, a seasoned researcher.  These include descriptions of various library classifications systems, notes about Virginia's independent cities, and a link to the Family History Guide (  

My takeaway is that this book does belong in your home genealogy library.  It also requires some in-depth study.  DearMYRTLE will be offering a six-month online book study and discussion on Google Hangouts beginning February 28th (you can register here).

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition, by Val D. Greenwood, is available at the Genealogical Publishing Company or Amazon for $49.95.

Disclosure: I received a free book from the Genealogical Publishing Company (GPC) for review.  As a GPC Associate and an Amazon Associate, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price when readers purchase a title through the GPC or Amazon links above.

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