Saturday, January 31, 2009

Weekly Genealogy Blogging Prompt #4

From Genea-Bloggers Group on Facebook:
Week #4: Take a genealogy day trip and blog about it. Discover the local history and genealogy in your area. Take a trip to a cemetery or other historic location. Describe the day, what you learned, where you went, how it looked, how it sounded. Armchair genealogists will love the mini travelogue.

Well, I haven't taken a trip lately. The last major genealogy trip that I took was in August 2007. It was a visit family/genealogy trip to Port Huron, Michigan. My mother, Pamela Sue Pemberton, grew up in Port Huron. She met my dad, Michael David Trahan, in 1977 when he was stationed there on the USCGC Bramble in the U.S. Coast Guard.
They married in 1977 in Port Huron, but they moved about 1979 to Vinton, Louisiana, where my dad grew up. Because I've always been distanced from those Michigan records, I always try to make a research trip out of my family visits. It's quite convenient, actually, because my cousin and my aunt both work right next door to the courthouse and library.

I started my first day of research in the St. Clair County Public Library in Port Huron. I mostly spent my time looking at newspaper articles and obituaries. The library has The Times Herald going back to 1872 and quite a few other newspapers from the surrounding communities. I had a list of obituaries to look up and got right to work. In the obituary of my great-grandaunt, Madeleine Marion (Pemberton) Carnahan, who died in 1961, there was a reference to two previously deceased children who died in a fire in 1952. I remembered about a year or so before, I had asked my grandmother why Aunt Madeleine's family had moved from Michigan to California. She said that she didn't know, but she remembered that they moved after their house caught on fire. However, my grandmother could not remember when their house caught on fire. From the year given in the obituary, I went to the St. Clair County Courthouse that afternoon, and found the death records of two Carnahan children who died within 8 days of one another in April 1952. From there, I was able to find the newspaper articles on the fire. It amazed me how the community came together to raise money to help the family build a new house and pay for medical expenses.

I love the state of Michigan because all marriage and death records are open to the public. None of that crazy paranoia about identity theft. Anyhow, there is a genealogy room at the county clerk's office. All you have to do is tell the deputy clerk at the front desk that you want to do genealogy research, and she will take you to the genealogy room with all the death, marriage, and some divorce records. She will also retrieve birth records for you, provided the records are over 100 years old. The staff is very friendly and will take the time to describe the records to you if you have never been there before. I had a list of the records I wanted prior to going there, but of course, I also found some while browsing. I mostly spent my time there transcribing marriage records after 1925 and death records after 1904. The records prior to these years are available on FHL microfilm, which I can borrow at my local Family History Center, so I did not want to waste time with the older records. My most exciting find at the courthouse was the confirmation of my potential 4th-great-grandmother's maiden name: Jermyn. From census records, I had a hunch that my 4th-great-grandparents were Jeremiah Pemberton and Susanna. According to census records, they had immigrated from Canada to Michigan. A fellow researcher had found an online transcription of a marriage in 1836 in Toronto for Jeremiah Pemberton and Susannah Jermyn. This was about the correct time frame, considering my great-great-great-grandfather, John Pemberton, appeared to be their oldest son and was born around 1839. At the courthouse, I found death records of two of their children that both stated Susanna's maiden name was Jermyn/German. So I had solved at least part of the mystery. All that was left was to confirm that Susanna really was my 4th-great-grandmother, though this did not come until months later when ordering John Pemberton's pension application from the National Archives.

I also visited Omard Cemetery, Elk Township Cemetery, and Zion Cemetery in Sanilac County, Michigan, just north of Port Huron, and found the graves of three great-grandparents, my great-aunt that died as a child, my great-great-grandparents, and my potential great-great-great-grandparents.

This is the photo of the grave of my great-aunt who died well before I was born in 1948. I find it odd that she died just one day before her birthday and that her birthday was on Feb. 29. There was actually a Feb. 29 in 1948, so that would have been really strange had she died on her birthday. According to her death record, she died of adema of the lungs and continuous epileptic seizures.

Well, that was my research trip in a nutshell. I really look forward to the day when I retire and can have a summer house in Port Huron.

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