Saturday, May 18, 2019

Pieter and Maria: Part III

(Part I and Part II)

In mid-to-late 1872, Pieter and Maria (Van Klinken) Ton moved from Cincinnati to Grand Rapids, Michigan with their three daughters, Nellie, Mary, and Jennie (my ancestor), who were about 11, 8, and 5 years old, respectively.

Left behind in the area were Maria's oldest daughter, Cornelia "Kate" Van Klinken and her husband Joseph Meyers, who settled across the Ohio River in Newport, Campbell Co., Kentucky. They eventually had two children, neither of whom married or had children themselves.

Also left behind were Maria's sister, Adriana Van Klinken and her husband Leendert "Leonard" Klinke, who lived in Cincinnati. They eventually had four children, none of whom married or had children, either.

Finally, Pieter's widowed brother-in-law, Izak Pape, and his son Jacob also remained in Cincinnati. It's unknown at this time if Jacob had any descendants. It's likely Pieter and Maria never saw these family members again.

In Grand Rapids, they were joined by Maria's brother, Johannes "John" Van Klinken, who apparently immigrated about 10 years after they did. It's not clear where he lived, or with whom, until he appears in the same neighborhood as them in the 1873 Grand Rapids city directory. That year, John married Barendina "Dena" Lendering. They had two boys who did not survive infancy.

Pieter continued to work as a laborer in Grand Rapids. He and his family attended First Christian Reformed Church, located then at 58 Commerce Ave., SW. On 17 June 1874, he died of consumption. While that term was used most frequently to describe tuberculosis, "an infectious bacterial disease characterized by the growth of nodules (tubercles) in the tissues, especially the lungs" (Wikipedia), it's quite possible it may have been lung cancer caused by his exposure to white lead. We do not have a burial location for him, as the city did not start recording burials until about three months after he died.

Without a husband, Maria had no means to support herself and her three young daughters. A year later, she married a widower who lived down the street, Dirk Bijl (Byle), who had a ten year-old son, and a five-year-old daughter. Sadly, Maria herself died 22 April 1878 of dropsy, an old term for edema, "a condition characterized by an excess of watery fluid collecting in the cavities or tissues of the body."

Maria was buried in the Potter's Field of Valley City Cemetery, now a part of Oakhill Cemetery. It's very likely that Pieter had been buried there, too. There are no plot maps for this area, and few tombstones. Across a path from Potter's Field, Maria's brother John Van Klinken is buried in a identified plot. When I planned my trip to Western Michigan for early May 2019, I put Oakhill on my list of places to see.

Potter's Field, Southeast Corner of Oakhill Cemetery, Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan
Taken for me by Chris Korstange, 2007

Dirk Bijl remarried shortly after. Not wanted in their step-father and step-mother's home, the older girls, Nellie and Mary, worked as maids, living at those homes or in boarding houses. Nellie eventually married Martin Huisman (Houseman) and had six children. Mary married Charles Jerome Cleveland and lived in Muskegon, Michigan. They had one daughter.

Jennie went to live with her Uncle John and Aunt Dina Van Klinken. She had no more than a third-grade education. For a time, she lived with Mary and Charles in Muskegon. Eventually, she became a laundress, and that is probably how she met my ancestor, Martin Jans Hoekstra, who was a teamster, driving a delivery wagon for the American Steam Laundry Company in Grand Rapids.  A laundress' life was hard, hot, dirty, muggy, and dangerous work in commercial laundries.  Google has a historic book about what it was like:  She was probably glad to give up the life of a laundress and start her life as a housewife.

Martin and Jennie married in 1886 and had four children, including my great-grandfather, John Martin Hoekstra. His daughter, my grandmother Ruth, had many fond memories of Jennie, who died when Grandma was 24.

I have a precious scrap of paper written by Jennie, with a few short memories of her parents scribbled on it: "I, remember when my mother was kind to me, and took the long walk, with her. Sundays after-noon. and her Love. I, remember the walk, my Father and I, took one evening. in Cincinnati Ohio: the Father's day. and mother's days are a blessing. Sunday Feb 14 - 1943."

I get emotional every time I read Jennie's note. She was not quite 7 when her father died, and almost 11 when her mother died. You can tell by her writing she was not well educated, but I'm so glad she took the time to share the few memories she had of her parents.

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Pieter and Maria: Part II

(click image to enlarge)

"Ohio, County Naturalization Records, 1800-1977," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 1 May 2019), Hamilton > Declarations of intention 1860-1873 > image 150 of 306; county courthouses, Ohio.

(Part I can be found here.)

Life for Pieter and Maria in America as Dutch immigrants was very hard. While they had arrived in New York City, it was not their ultimate destination; rather, it was Cincinnati, Ohio. It's not clear why they and the others from the Netherlands that they traveled with went to Cincinnati, which was not a typical Dutch immigrant settlement location, like Western Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, or Washington State were. However, Cincinnati was a growing city with a growing economy. River commerce was high and spurred many industries, such as steamboat construction. It was well-known for its pork packing center, and many German and Irish immigrated there in the years before the Civil War.

The Ton family lived in a succession of boarding houses, and Pieter worked as a laborer. They likely worshiped in the homes of their fellow Seceders, for although Christian Reformed Church history states a congregation started in Cincinnati in 1867, no church by that denomination (called Holland Reformed Church in those days) was found in the city directories until long after they had left the city.

They faced grief many times. In March 1860, Pieter and Maria had a second son, Louis, likely an Anglicization of Leunis, named for Maria's father. He was not listed with the family in the 1870 Federal Census, so he likely died young. Pieter's sister Suzanna (Ton) Pape died 10 October 1860 from "confinement", probably after giving birth to a son Jacob. Her daughter, Neeltje, has not been found in records beyond the ship's passenger list, indicating she also died young.

Pieter's work as a laborer was probably quite dangerous. One of his employers was Wood & McCoy's Eagle White Lead Works. A history of the company can be found at this link, with information about the various toxic products their employees were exposed to over a century-and-a-half:  It is entirely possible that Pieter was familiar with processing white lead, used in those days as paint. There was a well-known method of processing called the "Dutch method" and it could be that Pieter had worked with this process in the Netherlands ( We shall see how working with this product may have affected his quality of life in the next post.

There were also celebrations. Pieter declared his intention to become a citizen on 22 January 1862 and was naturalized by 1870. By 1867, three daughters were born to him and Maria: Neeltje "Nellie"; Marina "Mary"; and my great-great-grandmother, Adriana, also known as "Jana" (YAH-nuh) or "Jennie". Maria's sister Adriana married Leendert Klinke in 1864, and Maria's daughter Cornelia married Joseph Meyer in 1874.

(Part III)

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Pieter and Maria: Part I

(click image to enlarge)

Manifest, S. S. E. C. Scranton, 7 December 1857, 6th page (unnumbered; contains passengers numbered 271-324), lines 29-32 (passengers 299-302), Peter Ton household; "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957," digital images, Ancestry ( : accessed 8 March 2014); citing NARA microfilm publication M237, roll 181.

On December 7, 1857, my maternal 3rd-great-grandparents, Pieter and Maria Modena (Van Klinken) Ton disembarked from the E.C. Scranton in New York City at the Emigrant Landing Depot at Castle Garden, America's first official immigrant center, 35 years before Ellis Island opened. They had left the port of Rotterdam on October 31, 37 days earlier.

With them were Maria's six-year-old daughter, likely from a previous relationship, Cornelia Van Klinken; Maria's almost-26-year-old single sister, Adriana Van Klinken; Pieter's married sister Suzanna Ton, her husband Izak Pape, and their two-year-old daughter Neeltje Pape; and about a dozen other Dutch immigrants heading to Ohio, along with many other European passengers headed to various U.S. destinations.

The Tons, Van Klinkens, and Papes were Seceders: a religious group who had split from the official state church of the Netherlands, the Dutch Reformed Church, both in the Netherlands and the United States. The Seceders would form what became the Christian Reformed Church. They were not unlike the Separatists, whom we know as the Pilgrims, who separated from the official state church of England, the Anglican Church, in the early 1600s.

They were also poor laborers from the municipality of Nieuwerkerk (New Church) in the Province of Zeeland (Sea Land); my only non-Frisian immigrant Dutch ancestors. Frisians are an ethnic minority in the northern provinces of the Netherlands and western areas of Germany, who are ethnically and linguistically closer to the English than the Germanic peoples of Western Europe. The Ton, Van Klinken, and Pape families were ethnically Dutch.

Pieter and Maria had been married only a year, and had had one son, Adriaan Ton, named for Pieter's father. Adriaan had been conceived before they were married; not unusual in a time and place where the marriage fee to the church was prohibitive for the lower classes. Many couples co-habitated and had several children before they could afford a church wedding. Maria's daughter Cornelia was five years old when her mother married, and there's little evidence that Pieter was actually her biological father. Baby Adriaan died at four months old; three months before his parents and extended family arrived in New York City.

For a drawing of a similar ship to the one the Ton and Van Klinken families traveled on, see

(Part II)

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Saturday, September 29, 2018

Proving the Generations 4: Robert Louis Robbins

In the first post of this series, Proving the Generations, I wrote how my goal is to use the Genealogical Proof Standard to show my ancestry through my great-great-grandparents' generation.

In this fourth post, I will be proving that my paternal grandfather, Robert Louis Robbins, is the son of William Bryan Robbins, Sr. and Marie Lewis.

My grandfather, Robert Louis Robbins (holding the kitten), with his parents, Marie (Lewis) and William Bryan Robbins, Sr, and his younger brother, William Bryan Robbins, Jr.
Taken c. 1924-5, probably in Muskegon Heights, Muskgeon Co., Michigan.
Digital copy held by Miriam J. Robbins, Spokane, Washington, 2018.

I was personally acquainted with my grandfather, as well as my great-grandmother (I met my great-grandfather at least once, maybe twice, but I was so young I don't remember him).  My grandfather told me that he was born on 21 September 1920 in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon Co., Michigan.  However, none of us are expert witnesses of our own births, since although we were there, none of us can remember the event!

Besides my own memories of my grandfather and his mother, my dad, aunts, uncle, and a great-aunt all have shared their memories of my grandfather and his parents.  Additionally, I have original and digital copies of many photographs of my grandfather with his parents.  Most importantly, my grandfather's birth to his parents has the following documentation:

  1. A Certificate as to Birth issued by the County of Muskegon on 3 July 1942*, certifying "upon a careful examination of the original records on file in the office of the Clerk of said County and Court" a record as to the birth of Robert Louis Robbins, born 21 September 1920 in Muskegon Heights, whose parents' names were Wm. S. [sic] Robbins and Marie Lewis (maiden), the latter of Muskegon Heights.  It also states the original record was recorded with the county on 1 November 1920 in Liber 10, page 40.[1]  I have a copy of the index page of the liber, microfilmed by the Genealogical Society of Utah, which corroborates that his birth was recorded in Liber 10, page 40.[2]  You can view the Certificate as to Birth in this post.  The liber record is not yet available to the public, and will not be until 2020 or later.[3]
  2. A birth announcement published in the local paper, The Muskegon Chronicle, on 2 October 1920, stating: "ROBBINS--To Mr. and Mrs. William B. Robbins, 1134 Hoyt street, September 21, a son, Robert Louis."[4]
  3. My grandfather appears with his parents, three younger siblings, and a paternal uncle during the enumeration of the 1930 U.S. Federal Census.  They were living on East Broadway in an unnumbered house (but not a farm) in Norton Township, Muskegon County, Michigan and were enumerated for the official census day of 1 April on 6 May 1930.[5]
  4. My grandfather appears with his parents and four younger siblings during the enumeration of the 1940 U.S. Federal Census.  They were living on a farm in Wright Township, Ottawa County, Michigan and were enumerated for the official census day of 1 April on 11 April 1940.  Unfortunately, the enumerator did not mark who provided the information at each household that day, as required.[6]
*At the time of all four of my grandparents' births, the law regarding birth registrations that was in place in the state of Michigan was Public Act 330 of 1905, which required the attending physician or midwife to file a certificate of birth with the local registrar within 10 days of the birth.[7]  Now filing a certificate of birth and issuing a copy to the family are two different things.  It's apparent that my grandfather did not have a copy of his birth certificate until he was almost 22 years old.  The date of 3 July 1942 coincides with his registering for the draft for World War II, for which he would ask a deferment due to his daughter's (my aunt's) impending birth in August[8], after which he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 13 October 1942.[9]

Additionally, DNA tests results from FamilyTreeDNA for my father and me show matches consistent with the degrees of relationship to a Robbins cousin who is a descendant of my great-grandfather's youngest brother, Don.  Also, my test results from AncestryDNA show a match consistent with the degree of relationship to another descendant of Don Robbins, as well as to a Lewis cousin who is a descendant of my great-grandmother's younger brother, Percy.

My grandparents, Robert Louis Robbins and Jeanne Marie Holst, on their wedding day,
12 October 1940, Coopersville, Ottawa Co., Michigan.
Original photo held by Miriam J. Robbins, Spokane, Washington, 2018.

Finally, I am providing some information on my grandparents' marriage, even though I am not using it to prove my grandfather's parentage.  My grandparents' Marriage License/Certificate of Marriage[10] states my grandparents obtained their license and married on the same day, 12 October 1940.  The license would have been obtained at the Ottawa County Courthouse in Grand Haven.  They married in Coopersville in the Methodist parsonage[11], and my grandfather's best friend, Ray Adams, and the minister's wife were the witnesses.  I know that my grandmother's best friend, Geneva Parrish, stood with her[12], but like my grandmother, was underage, so she would not have been able to sign the Certificate of Marriage.

Marriage License and Certificate of Marriage of Robert Louis Robbins and Jeanne Marie Holst.
See footnote 10.

Family stories and photographs, documents created at or near the time of birth or referencing an original record created shortly after birth, and DNA test results all provide conclusive evidence that my paternal grandfather, Robert Louis Robbins, was born 21 September 1920 in Muskegon Heights, Muskegon County, Michigan to William Bryan Robbins, Sr. and Marie Lewis.

  1. Muskegon County, Michigan, Certificate as to Birth, citing county birth liber 10, page 40 (1920), Robert Louis Robbins; Muskegon County Clerk's Office, Muskegon; original document held by Miriam Robbins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
  2. Muskegon County, Michigan, Index to births L-Z, 1867-1949 continued: 1920, Robbins, Robert L.; FHL microfilm 1,320,091, item 1.
  3. Carol McGinnis, Michigan Genealogy: Sources & Resources, Second Edition (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 2005), 50.
  4. "Heights Births," birth announcement, Muskegon (Michigan) Chronicle, 2 October 1920, p. 14, col. 3.
  5. 1930 U.S. Federal Census, Muskegon County, Michigan, population schedule, Norton Township, enumeration district 42, p. 21A, dwelling 416, family 442, William Robbins household; digital image, ( : accessed 26 November 2008); citing FHL microfilm 2,340,750.
  6. 1940 U.S. Federal Census, Ottawa County, Michigan, population schedule, Wright Township, enumeration district (ED) 70-45, p. 5B, dwelling 97, household of William Robbins; digital images, ( : accessed 6 March 2013); citing NARA microfilm publication T627, roll 1809. 
  7. McGinnis, Michigan Genealogy, 49.
  8. Bryan H. Robbins, interview by Miriam Robbins, undated (between 1996-2018).  Bryan stated that his father had received a deferment to enlist until after his daughter was born; at which time, he persuaded his brother, William Bryan Robbins, Jr., to go to Kalmazoo to enlist with him.
  9. Access to Archival Databases, "World War II Army Enlistment Records," database, U.S. National Archives & Records Administration ( : accessed 22 Apr 2005).
  10.  Ottawa County, Michigan, Marriage License and Certificate of Marriage, no. 527, Robbins-Holst, 1940; duplicate document held by Miriam Robbins [ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
  11. Robert Louis Robbins, interview by Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff, 1989.  Bob stated that he and Jeanne were married at the Methodist parsonage.
  12. Bryan H. Robbins, interview by Miriam (Robbins) Midkiff, 1990.  Bryan stated that at Bob and Jeanne's 50th anniversary celebration which he attended, Ray Adams and Geneva Parrish, who were introduced as the best man and maid of honor, were also present.

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Sunday, September 16, 2018

Proving the Generations 3: My Mom

In the first post of this series, Proving the Generations, I wrote how my goal is to use the Genealogical Proof Standard to show my ancestry through my great-great-grandparents' generation.

In this third post, I will be proving that my mother, Faith Lillian Valk, is the daughter of William Valk, Jr. and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.  Because my mother is living, I will not be providing as many details or citations in this post as I will in the posts where all the ancestors are deceased.

My mother, around 3 1/2 years of age.

My mother was born in Michigan during World War II.  Her father was serving in the U.S. Army, and so was not present at the time of her birth.  My grandmother told me her memories of my mother's birth, and I have numerous photos of my mother with her mother from infancy through adulthood.  Because my grandparents divorced when my mother was 22 months old, I have not seen photographs of my mother in infancy or young childhood with her father.  However, I have in my possession professional photographs taken of my mother in infancy and early childhood with "To Daddy, from Faith" captioned on the back, which I received from my grandfather's widow and son after his death.

The following documents were created at or near the time of my mother's birth:

  1. A Certificate of Birth issued by the Michigan Department of Health, Bureau of Records and Statistics, stating my mother's full name, date of birth, place of birth (hospital and city).  It lists her parents as "William Jr. Valk" and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra, their ages, and their birthplaces.
  2. A Notification of Birth Registration issued by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, stating my mother's full name, date and place of birth, and listing her parents as "William Jr. Valk" and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.
  3. My maternal great-grandmother, Lillian Fern (Strong) Hoekstra, mentioned my mother's birth and her parents' names in two places in her Family Record book.  This information would have been written between the time of my mother's birth and 10 September 1967, when my great-grandmother passed away.  Although this information may not have been written close to the time of the event, it was written by her maternal grandmother who lived in the same city and would have had personal knowledge about the birth of my mother, her first grandchild.

Additionally, my mother's DNA matches her parents' biological relatives on both sides of the family.  Her paternal cousin shares 758 centimorgans (cM) of DNA, which is consistent with a first cousin relationship.  She also shares DNA with numerous 2nd - 3rd cousins on both her father's and mother's sides, consistent with the estimated relationship ranges.

Finally, I am providing some information on my parents' marriage, even though it is not used to prove parentage.  My parents' Marriage License/Certificate of Marriage document states my parents' full names, age at the date of the license (issued four days before their wedding), residences, full birth places, and names of their parents: Robert Lewis [sic] Robbins, Jeanne Marie Holst, William Valk Jr., and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.  The license half is signed by the deputy county clerk.  The certificate half is signed by the officiating minister, best man, and matron of honor, and gives the date and location of their marriage.  I have in my possession professional and informal photographs of the event, an invitation to the wedding from their scrapbook, and copies of articles from the local newspaper regarding their engagement and their wedding.

My mother is the daughter of William Valk, Jr. and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.

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Sunday, September 09, 2018

Proving the Generations 2: My Dad

In the first post of this series, Proving the Generations, I wrote how my goal is to use the Genealogical Proof Standard to show my ancestry through my great-great-grandparents' generation.

In this second post, I will be proving that my father, Bryan Henry Robbins, is the son of Robert Louis Robbins and Jeanne Marie Holst (born Jane Marie York).  To begin, I must clarify that my paternal grandfather's middle name was often spelled Lewis, for his mother's maiden surname, and it is likely that his middle name was misspelled on his birth certificate.  I must also clarify that my paternal grandmother was an adoptee, born Jane Marie York, whose name was legally changed at adoption to Jeanne Marie Holst when she was 16, although she had been using the latter name as a foster child since she was three years old.  More details on my grandmother's birth and adoption will be provided in the fifth post of this series.

My dad at five years old.

Because my father is living, I will not be providing as many details or citations in this post as I will in the posts where all the ancestors are deceased.  My father was born in Canada during World War II to American parents.  My grandfather was stationed at a U.S. Army Air Corps base in the Province of Alberta, and my grandmother and my aunt, not quite two years old, were living on base with him.  My grandmother had followed my grandfather quite literally around the continent to the various bases he was assigned at.  These are the stories told to me by my grandparents and aunt (who has a few early memories of these times), and they are backed up by a photo album my paternal great-grandmother put together as a birthday gift for her son, my grandfather.  Additionally, I have a photo of my expectant grandmother walking down the street of the city where my father was born, holding my toddler aunt's hand; this photo was taken by a street photographer, a common occurence during World War II.  I also have numerous photos of my father with his parents, from infancy to adulthood.

My father was named for his grandfathers, William Bryan Robbins, Sr. and Alfred Henry Holst (my grandmother's adoptive father), showing indirectly that he is related to his parents, and thus grandparents.

There were several documents created at or near the time of my father's birth which state his birth date and location of birth:

  1. His Certificate of Birth issued by the Province of Canada, stating his birth date, city of birth, his parents' names (Robert Louis Robbins and Jeanne Marie Holst) and their respective birth places (Muskegon Heights, Michigan, U.S.A. and Goodrich, Michigan, U.S.A.).
  2. A baby announcement in his baby book stating his birth day of the week, birth date (month and day, but interestingly, not the year), time of birth, "U.S. Station Hospital" and the city, province, and country, and signed by the attending doctor and nurse.  It appears this baby announcement may have been provided by the hospital where he was born.
  3. Within a few weeks of my father's birth, my grandfather submitted a Report of Change of Status and Address to the War Department.  This report gives my father's birth date and birth location, my grandfather's full name, Army serial number, grade, and military mailing address, and allowed for an upgrade in my grandfather's family allowance from the military.
  4. Although it was created when he was 16 years old and not at or near the time and place of birth, my dad's Certificate of Citizenship from the Department of Justice, Immigration and Naturalization Service gives his date and country of birth, and his current residence, which was known to be the same residence as my grandparents.  Citizenship is issued in the United States by the federal government only after careful examination of documents and the participating parties.
  5. While the Certificate of Citizenship does not list my father's parents' names, the Summons for Interview for Certificate of Citizenship, dated a couple of weeks previous to the certificate date and mailed to the residence where my father and grandparents lived, stated my father had to appear at the Office of the County Clerk with both parents.  Since my grandparents had to attend the interview, it stands to reason that the information on the certificate would be accurate.

Additionally, my father's DNA matches his parents' biological relatives on both his father's and mother's sides of the family.  His aunt shares 1,842 centimorgans (cM) of DNA with my father, which is consistent with an aunt/nephew relationship.  Dad also shares 325 and 255 cM with a paternal second cousin and maternal second cousin, respectively, which is consistent with a 1st-3rd cousin relationship.

Finally, I am providing some information on my parents' marriage, even though it is not used to prove parentage.  My parents' Marriage License/Certificate of Marriage document states my parents' full names, age at the date of the license (issued four days before their wedding), residences, full birth places, and names of their parents: Robert Lewis [sic] Robbins, Jeanne Marie Holst, William Valk Jr., and Ruth Lillian Hoekstra.  The license half is signed by the deputy county clerk.  The certificate half is signed by the officiating minister, best man, and matron of honor, and gives the date and location of their marriage.  I have in my possession professional and informal photographs of the event, an invitation to the wedding from their scrapbook, and copies of articles from the local newspaper regarding their engagement and their wedding.

My father is the son of Robert Louis Robbins (a.k.a. Robert Lewis Robbins) and Jeanne Marie Holst, (a.k.a. Jane Marie York).

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Sunday, September 02, 2018

Proving the Generations: My Parents and I

For some time now, I've been following the genealogy blog of a Dutch Facebook friend and accredited genealogist, Yvette Hoitink, who is using the Genealogical Proof Standard to attempt to prove that she is descended from Eleanor of Aquitaine, her supposed 26th-great-grandmother.

As I've been reading these fascinating posts which Yvette publishes once a month, going back one generation at a time, I've been thinking, "I should be doing something like this to show that I've accurately traced back my ancestry!"  My goal at this time is to work all my lines through my great-great-grandparents' generation, which will be a total of 31 posts.

So this is my first post in this series, which proves that I am my parents' biological child.  Because my parents are both living, I'm not going to provide the full details that I would in a post where all ancestors are deceased.

A photo taken of me at one week old, held by my mother.

I have five documents that were created or published at or close to the time of my birth which list my parents as Bryan Robbins and Faith (Valk) Robbins and give my birth place and birth date.  These documents include:
  1. My official birth certificate from the State of Alaska, with the signatures of my mother and the attending physician. This certificate also gives the age of my parents at the time of my birth, and their general birth locations.
  2. The Certificate of Birth from the hospital in which I was born, signed by the attending physician. It also has my footprints and my mother's thumbprints, and gives my parents' birth dates and specific birth locations (cities of birth).
  3. The certificate from my parents' church enrolling me in the Cradle Roll of the church, at the time of my Dedication to God at one week old (a religious event similar to christenings in other churches).
  4. A birth announcement published in the local newspaper of my mother's hometown of Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
  5. Birth announcements handmade by my mother and mailed out to family and friends, one of which is in my baby book.

In addition, there are a couple of photos of my expectant mother taken during the time she would have been pregnant with me; many photographs taken of me at a very early age with my parents (I was the first child and first grandchild!); many cards of congratulations about my birth kept in scrapbooks and my baby book by my mother; a letter my dad wrote to his parents shortly after my birth; stories my mother told me about the day I was born; and my own earliest memories of my parents dating back to when I was 18 months old (yes...I remember seeing the local school on fire and hearing the town siren!) and 27 months old (accompanying my father to the local airstrip to pick up a wreath of flowers someone had shipped to be placed on the grave of my infant brother).

My parents and me, when I was about three weeks old.  I believe my maternal grandmother took this photo, as she had come to Alaska from Michigan to help my mother care for me.

However, documents, photographs, and memories do not provide 100% proof of biological  parentage.  After all, there are many stories of secret adoptions, babies being switched at birth, and other examples of Misattributed Parental Events (MPEs) that one occasionally reads about. While I truly had no doubts about my parentage, I did want to have my parents test their DNA for genealogical purposes, especially since my paternal grandmother was an adoptee.  My parents agreed to test through FamilyTreeDNA, and the results show my parents and I each share 3,384 centimorgans--or 50%--of our DNA, which is consistent with the amount of DNA shared in a parent/child relationship.

So there you have it:  I am my parents' biological daughter! 

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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?