Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Helpful Southern California Obituary Resource

Just wanted to let everyone know about a helpful obituary resource for Southern California that I discovered this morning. It is the SCORP (Southern California Obituary Resource Project). I have been doing some research on my new brother-in-law's father's family (which I will post more about later) who settled in southern California in the 1940s. There are also several of my mom's Pemberton cousins/aunts/uncles who moved to southern California between the 1930s and 1960s. Trying to determine where their obituaries may be located has been somewhat stressful since southern California is so largely populated and there are sooo many newspapers. Typically, the Los Angeles Times only prints obits for the rich and famous and only short little death notices for the not-so-rich-and-famous, so I have not found it to be very helpful over the years.

On the SCORP site, I clicked on "Research Process Tutorial." Clicking on Step #1 "Develop Your Research Plan" brings you to an obituary worksheet. This form asks for the decedent's name, date of death, source for the date of death, last known address, source for the last known address, other family members that may be listed in the obituary, geographic area to search (community of last known address plus surrounding communities), newspapers that could hold the obituary, libraries that have these newspapers, queries posted, and lookups requested. This is a great tool to help you record your research plan and results.

Going back to the "Research Process Tutorial," I clicked on Step #2 "Obtain a death certificate from vital records." I already had my brother-in-law's great-grandmother's death certificate, which told me she lived in the Los Angeles County suburb of Pico Rivera. If I hadn't had her death certificate already, this page would have given me several wonderful resources for obtaining it. This page gives the mailing addresses and website links of several county recorders in southern California, as well as the state office of vital records in Sacramento. The site also gives a link to an online description of policies and search fees for the Los Angeles County Recorder. In addition to the info for county recorders and state vital records office, there are links to online California death indexes and the SSDI, California city directories online, and online census images and transcriptions.

Going back to the "Research Process Tutorial," I clicked on Step #3 "Look at proximity." The Community Locator came up, and I looked up Pico Rivera in the "If your relative lived in" column on the far left. I found that Pico Rivera is in the San Gabriel Valley East region of southern California. Clicking on the link for San Gabriel Valley East gave me the names of all towns and cities in that region to help me determine which southern California newspapers to search. What a relief, since there are sooo many newspapers in southern California, and I'm not otherwise familiar with the regions of the area.

Going back to the "Research Process Tutorial," I clicked on Step #4 "Find newspapers." I then clicked on "View the newspaper listings." This brought up several holdings of newspapers from Southern California sorted by repository.

Going back to the "Research Process Tutorial," I clicked on Step #5 "Find a repository to contact." I then chose to sort the repositories geographically by town/city where the repository is located. The two repositories for Pico Rivera did not have any further information, but the Whittier Area Genealogical Society does perform free lookups of obits pertaining to Whittier residents or those of the surrounding area. I learned from Step #3 and a quick look at Google Maps that Whittier was the nearest town to Pico Rivera and was also in the San Gabriel Valley East region of southern California.

Going back to the "Research Process Tutorial," I clicked on Step #6 "Obtain an obituary." This gives links to several volunteer lookup services, such as RAOGK, as well as southern California message boards and CAGenWeb sites.

Overall, I thought this was a very helpful resource for determining your ancestor's region of southern Cailfornia and for the repositories and newspapers from that region.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


As posted yesterday, today was my birthday. To celebrate, we had a large family gathering at my uncle's house. My grandfather's younger sister (my great-aunt), Eva, was there, and I asked her where she got married. I noticed the last time I was at the St. Clair County Courthouse in Michigan that I had found most of her siblings' marriage records, including my grandfather's marriage to his second wife, but I had never found Aunt Eva's marriage record. She said that she and Uncle Karl had gone down to Angola, Steuben County, Indiana, to get married because they did not have to wait there to get married. They could get the marriage license and get married all in one day. Uncle Karl was working seven days a week at that time, so they did not have a lot of time. Based on their ages, I'm assuming this was in the early 1950's (forgot to ask the date). But this struck a bell. I remembered that my great-grandaunt, Alvina Florence Pemberton, had married her second husband, Arnold Frederick Distelrath, in Angola on 21 Jan 1956. I would not think this so strange if Angola were right on the border of St. Clair County, but it is several hours away. Then I found this article on the Albion, Michigan, website, which confirmed what my Aunt Eva said about couples flocking there to get married because of the no-wait marriage laws. I also know that my Uncle Jim's mother, Christine Elizabeth Chatterson, married her second husband, George Edward Mason, in South Bend, Saint Joseph, Indiana, on 21 Apr 1954. According to, the whole state of Indiana has no waiting period.

The point of this is that if you have Michigan ancestors and have exhausted your search for their marriage record in Michigan, maybe it is worth checking out the Indiana border counties. The border counties are LaPorte, St. Joseph, Elkhart, Lagrange, and Steuben. I'm not exactly sure how long the no-wait law has been in effect, but according to the Albion, Michigan, article, it was in effect at least as early as the 1930s.

Friday, April 24, 2009


These are some pics of my brand new engagement ring! We've been engaged for over 2 years now and are getting married in October, but my fiance finally graduated from grad school last May, so we put off getting a ring until he was done with school. We looked at rings back in January, but he decided to surprise me for my birthday (it's tomorrow) and buy it today! In the future, I am planning on adding two emeralds to the sides of the diamond b/c my birthstone is the diamond and his is the emerald.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Worldess Wednesday: William Harmon Proffitt

This is a picture of my great-great-grandfather, William Harmon Proffitt, the father of Hassie Cora Proffitt, my great-grandmother. He was born 12 Jul 1871 in Jefferson County, Tennessee, and died 3 Jul 1944 in Alva, Woods, Oklahoma. He married Emmer Link Baker on 17 Dec 1896 in Chestnut Hill, Jefferson, Tennessee. The family moved to Oklahoma, where six of their seven children were born, around 1899. He was a circuit-riding preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church. They lived in several different counties in Oklahoma, primarily in northwest and north central Oklahoma.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Research on the Currie Family

I first began researching the Currie's when I was 13 years old in 1994, but not having the resources to travel to Michigan, a lack of online digitized resources at the time, and a lack of money to do long-distance research, my search did not go too far beyond asking my grandmother questions about her dad, Archie Currie, and any relatives she could remember. All she could remember in regards to Archie's siblings were two brothers, Alex and William, and a sister, possibly named Rose. She said that William had run off as a hobo with the railroad and left a trunk of his things at her dad's house. She did not know of William ever being married or having children. Alex had lived in Melvin in Sanilac County on a farm and had a wife named Minnie and a son named Donald. Alex was the only sibling my grandmother really knew very well. My grandmother had never met Rose, but she knew Rose's daughter lived somewhere near Detroit and was married to a Polish man. They visited Archie frequently when my grandmother was a child to use his land for hunting, but she couldn't quite remember the name of Rose's daughter, and she wasn't entirely sure about Rose's name. My grandmother had never known her grandparents.

My grandmother had a copy of Archie's birth, death, and marriage records, but that was about all we had pertaining to documentation of the family. All I knew about Archie's parents from the birth record was that they were Alexander and Mary Currie, with no maiden name for Mary, and that they were both born in Ontario. The marriage record was not helpful b/c it was not the official one from the Ontario Registrar General. It looked like it was from the minister who performed the marriage, and it did not list parents' names. The death record did not help because my grandmother was the informant, and she did not know the names of her grandparents. My grandmother did have a picture of Alexander and Mary Currie that she inherited from her dad. On the back it said "Grandma and Grandpa Currie - Taken in studio in Lapeer, Michigan." Here is the pic below:

So this is where my research stagnated for over 10 years.

In August 2005, a kind person with access to census records looked up Archie and his parents in the 1900 U.S. Census in Sanilac Co, Michigan. Of course, this still did not give me a maiden name for Mary, but it did give the name of a sibling of Archie's that my grandmother had never met nor heard of: Archie's older brother, Ervin Currie, born Oct 1883 in Michigan. It also gave me possible birth dates for Alexander (Nov 1837) and Mary (Sep 1852) and a possible year of immigration from Canada (1882). In addition, it stated that Alexander's parents were both born in Scotland, and that Mary's parents were born in Vermont and England. It confirmed both Alexander and Mary's birthplaces as Canada, and stated that Mary had given birth to 6 children, 4 of whom were still living.

Using this info, I decided to search the 1881 Canadian census at FamilySearch. I found an Alexander and Mary E. Currie living in South Dorchester, Elgin, Ontario, but wasn't sure if this was them. They were close to the same ages as my Alex and Mary from the 1900 U.S. census. Archie was not born until 1889, so he wouldn't have been in this 1881 census. Their children were May G. (8), William E. (6), Nancy A. (5), and Alexander (2). Hmmm...Alexander and William were the names of the brothers that my grandmother remembered, though I didn't have ages or birth dates yet to corroborate with. And my grandmother's middle name was Mae, so maybe she was named after her aunt. We knew her first name, Violet, was after her maternal aunt, so maybe her middle name, Mae, was after her paternal aunt.

Then came Christmas 2005 when my parents bought me a copy of FamilyTreeMaker, which came with a free 1-year subscription to This is when I found Archie in 1910 working as a farm laborer in Sanilac County, Michigan, as was his brother, Ervin. They were both boarding with other families, probably their employers. I also found Archie's brother, Alex, living with his wife, Minnie, and their son, Donald, in Sanilac County in 1910. I still did not find Archie's parents, Alexander and Mary, in 1910. In 1920, I found Archie living with his widowed mother, Mary, in Sanilac County, so at least I could now narrow down his father's death date. In April 1930, I found Archie and my great-grandmother, Jennie, living in Flynn, Sanilac, Michigan, which is where my grandmother was born 6 months later in October 1930. I also found brother Alex with Minnie and Donald in 1920 and 1930 in Sanilac County. Mother Mary was not found in 1930, giving me a possible range of dates for her death.

In July 2006, a lookup volunteer looked up Alex and Minnie's marriage record in Sanilac County and found that Alex's mother was listed as Mary Brown and his father as Sandy Currie. Great...a name like Mary Brown! Alexander Currie was already a common name in Ontario, so I had been hoping that Mary's name was a little more unusual. But nonetheless, I was so excited that I had found a maiden name for Mary...or so I thought! Also, Alex's age on the marriage record matched the age of the Alexander found in Elgin County, Ontario, on the 1881 Canadian census with Alexander and Mary E. Currie. Hmmm.....

A year later in July 2007, the Ontario Vital Statistics Project transcribed marriage records from 1924 onto their site. Lo and behold, there was Archie Currie and Jennie "Jean" Plaine's marriage record from Lambton County, Ontario!! Archie's parents were listed as Alex Currie, born in Middlesex County, and Mary Raymond!!! Soon after this, uploaded the images of the marriage records from 1924 into their "Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1857-1924" database, so I was able to confirm the transcription was correct. So now I had another possible maiden name for Mary. Which was correct? I also had a possible birth county for Alexander.

Between July 2007 and December 2008, I looked for a marriage record for Alexander Currie and Mary Brown and Mary Raymond on's marriage database for Ontario but had no luck. I even searched in the Ontario births database at to see if I could find anymore siblings of Archie's, but again I had no luck.

In the spring of 2008, I found a birth record and marriage record for Archie's brother, Ervin, on the new FamilySearchLabs site in their Michigan births and marriages databases. As I was focusing on the Pemberton family at the time, I took note of them and filed them away for later investigation.

Then my grandmother passed away in December 2008, which inspired me to keep looking for the origins of her grandparents, Alexander and Mary. I posted a tribute for her on this blog, which caught the attention of Dianne, a fellow genealogist who was doing research on Currie's in nearby Huron County, Michigan. Fueled by my grandmother's passing and by Dianne's interest, I decided to switch my focus to the Currie family for the time being.

The first thing I did was revisit all the records I had on Archie, searching for more clues. Inside the marriage record I had for Archie and Jennie was a list of wedding guests! The only Curries in attendance were Mr. and Mrs. James A. Currie of Dresden. I found that Dresden was in Kent County, Ontario. Could James have been an uncle or cousin or even a brother of Archie's?

I also revisited the "Ontario, Canada Births, 1869-1909" database at in February 2009. This time I tried searching for all children named "Curry" (not just "Currie") with a mother named "Raymond." I was so shocked when I found four birth records, including one for Archie's brother, Alex! Here are transcriptions of the records I found below:

Record #: 4883
When born: 10 Oct 1872
Name: Geneva May
Sex: F
Father: Alex Curry
Mother: Mary Raymond
Occupation of father: Farmer
Informant: Mary Curry, Farmer's Wife, S. Dorchester
When registered: 4 Dec 1872
Physician: Oliver Smith
Registrar: Matthew Fullerton
Division: South Dorchester
County: Elgin

Record #: 4423
When born: 13 Apr 1876
Name: Nancy Alberta
Sex: F
Father: Alexeander Curry
Mother: Mary Ramond
Occupation of father: Farmer
Informant: M?? Margaret Curry, South Dorchester
When registered: 20 Apr 1876
Physician: No Doctor
Registrar: M. Fullerton
Remarks: Informant is Curry's sister
Division: South Dorchester
County: Elgin

Record #: 4710
When born: 11 Sep 1879
Name: Alexander
Sex: M
Father: Alexander Curry
Mother: Mary Raymond
Occupation of father: Farmer
Informant: Alexander Curry, Farmer, South Dorchester
When registered: 15 Oct 1879
Physician: Oliver Smith
Registrar: Matthew Fullerton
Division: South Dorchester
District: East Elgin

Record #: 5447
When born: 18 Sep 1881
Name: Mary Ellen
Sex: F
Father: Alexander Curry
Mother: Mary Raymond
Occupation of father: Farmer
Informant: James Curry, Farmer, South Dorchester
When registered: 8 Oct 1881
Physician: No Doctor
Registrar: M. Fullerton
Division: South Dorchester
District: East Elgin

I now had 3 previously unknown sisters and a a birth date of known brother Alex! I even had a new county (Elgin) for further research endeavors! There was even a sister or sister-in-law of Alexander's mentioned named Margaret Curry, as well as a probable relative named James Curry. To think I had missed these because I hadn't spelled "Curry/Currie" correctly. My fiance thinks it was my grandmother guiding me this time around, and maybe it was, but regardless, I was very excited for this find!!!! And now I could match the Alexander and Mary E. Currie on the 1881 Canadian census with my Alexander and Mary!

I then started doing in depth research on all of Archie's known siblings and posting individual posts about them on my blog throughout February and March. I did posts on Ervin, Alexander, and Bertha (formerly known as Rose). I am still looking for info on Nancy Alberta, Geneva May, Mary Ellen, and William. I suspect William will be the hardest since he ran away on the trains and never came back; not to mention that he has a very common name, and I have no birth date for him (just an approximate one based on the 1881 Canadian census).

Once I found the birth records and all the info I had on the siblings, I thought that was the most exciting part. But it wasn't! I found a message posted by a woman named Doris on an Elgin County message board looking for descendants of James Currie and Margaret McGill of South Dorchester, who had several children, including a son named Alexander, a daughter named Margaret, and a son named James. Could this Alexander be my great-great-grandfather Alexander and could James Currie and Margaret McGill be my great-great-great-grandparents?? As much as I had found on Alexander's other children besides Archie, I still had no clue who his parents were, only that they were possibly born in Scotland. Luckily, Doris' message was only about a year old, so I figured she would probably still have the same email address.

I did not have to wait very long. Doris emailed me back and said that the Mr. and Mrs. James A. Currie of Dresden who had attended my great-grandfather Archie's wedding in 1924 were her great-uncle James Alexander "Jim" Currie and his wife Maggie Estella Stevens. Jim was Archie's first cousin. Below is a picture of Jim Currie and Maggie Stevens.

James Alexander "Jim" Currie was the son of William Currie and Catherine Campbell. William and my great-great-grandfather, Alexander Currie, were brothers. Their parents were James Currie and Margaret McGill, both born in Scotland. This was definitely one of my most memorable genealogy happy dances of all time!! Of course, this does not signify an end to my research on the Curries, but rather a new beginning!

My Favorite Family Pets

I know the 13th Edition of Smile for the Camera is weeks away, but I tend to get busy the first two weeks of the month at work, so I figured I might as well do it now. I was really excited when I found out that it was about family pets. My maternal aunt had the coolest dogs when I was a kid. Pierre was a black poodle and Peppi was a white poodle. There was also Gidget, a female white poodle, though I haven't been able to find any pics of her lately. I believe Peppi and Gidget were brother and sister, and Pierre may have been their father. I can't remember exactly what Pierre's relationship was to them. The funny thing was that the dogs always seemed to be passed around the family. I know Pierre stayed with my aunt and uncle in Louisiana for most of his life, but I think that Gidget once belonged to my uncle's mother, and Peppi possibly did too. Then Peppi and Gidget ended up going with my other maternal aunt and uncle to Michigan to live in the early 1990s.

Pierre and Peppi with their Christmas stockings

Here is my profile picture of me and Pierre about 1983

My first cousin, Hope, and Peppi - Sep 1986

Hope and Pierre - abt 1987

Since my fiance doesn't have his own blog, I have to add this pic here. This is a pic of him and his beloved Dan, a wire-haired Vizsla that belongs to his mom. He loves Dan so much that I refer to Dan as his brother. Don't they look so cute? We will probably be getting our own Vizsla when we get married and buy a house so Dan can have a playmate.

Below is a pic of my future niece, Lindsay, and the beloved family min pin (miniature pinscher), Raven, who thinks she is a human. She has no clue she is a dog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: Pemberton Twins

Here are some pics of my mom and her twin brother.

Mark and Pam - abt 1960

Mark and Pam - Mar 1985

Mark and Pam - abt 2000

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy Easter!

Just thought I would share some family Easter pics from the last two years, and even a few from this year. Since I'm always writing about ancestors, I thought it would be fun to show these little cuties off. These are my first cousins once removed. Tomorrow I'll add some more pictures of them from this Easter.

Tyler - Easter 2007

Bryonna, Kennzie, and Tyler - Easter 2008

Blake, Kennzie, and Tyler - Easter 2007

Travis - Easter 2008

Landon - Easter 2008

Makayla and Blake - Easter 2009

Blake - Easter 2009

Makayla and Blake - Easter 2008

Friday, April 10, 2009

25 Random Things About My Family Tree

I was just reading my cousin's "25 Random Things About Me" posting on his Facebook page and thought I would do the same here, except about my family tree instead of myself. Of course, I took his random 25 things and pasted it into his notes section in my Legacy Family Tree database because I thought it was a really great introduction to who he was as a person. Anyhow, here are my 25 random things about my family tree and my genealogy research:

1) Four of my five grandparents were born and raised at least 600 miles from where I was born and raised and currently live. This has made it difficult to do research until the last five years or so, when so many records have gone up online.

2) I have five grandparents because I consider my "step-grandfather" as a real grandfather and really do not like to distinguish hm as a step-grandfather.

3) I did not cite sources for the first 10 years or so of my research.

4) My great-great-grandmother, Nellie May Reynolds, was born illegitimately in Oct 1890 in Sanilac County, Michigan. Her mom, Cora King, was 15 years old. Oddly, her father was actually named on the birth record as Douglas Reynolds, who seems to have died from tuberculosis in Aug 1890, just two months before she was born. He was 24 years old. Nellie was living with her mom's first cousin, William King, and his wife, Nancy Keys, at the time of the 1900 U.S. census. I wonder if they had legal custody of her. As far as I can tell, they did not have any children of their own.

5) My paternal grandfather was an only child, and so were both of his parents.

6) All three of my grandfathers served in the U.S. armed forces. One of them also served in the Canadian armed forces. None of my great-grandfathers served in the military.

7) My great-grandfather's name was Bienvenue. I think that's one of the strangest names I have in my tree.

8) My great-grandmother, Mabel Ellen Crysler, was possibly 5th cousins with Walter P. Chrysler, who founded the Chrysler corporation. I need to confirm the sources.

9) I found out that my good friend from high school is actually my 10th cousin twice removed. I was doing research on my mom's side and found one of my maternal 4th great-grandmothers was named Priscilla Demaray. Apparently, Demaray was previously Demarest. I then traced the Demarests back to Hackensack, New Jersey and New York. I knew my friend Stephanie's Demarest family was from Connecticut/New York. I found a book by the Demarest Family Association, which contained Stephanie's great-grandparents and my line as well. The funny thing is that both Stephanie and I grew up in Louisiana. Her dad grew up in New York or Connecticut, and my mom grew up in Michigan. My line was apparently the Loyalist branch of the family during the American Revolution who migrated to Canada and then to Michigan.

10) The families the Demarest's married into are my only Dutch ancestors that I've found. The Demarests were French Hugenots.

11) My family still owns the house my great-great-grandfather, Maurice Boneaux, built in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana. My third-great-grandfather, Dominique Boneaux, was the first one to own the land in our family. He was a French immigrant. Unfortunately, our family no longer lives on the land or in the house. It is leased and sub-leased out.

12) My 5th great-grandmother, Marie Marthe Mouton, was the sister of Alexandre Mouton, the 12th governor of Louisiana and U.S. Senator. He was the godfather of her daughter, my 4th-great-grandmother, Cidalise Elizabeth Dugas.

13) My most recently arrived immigrant ancestor to the U.S. is my great-grandmother, Jennie Grace Christina Plaine. She immigrated from Canada around 1924.

14) I used to think my third great-grandmother, Edmonia Domingue, was Cajun French like the rest of my Louisiana ancestors. After doing more research, I found that her family's name was originally Dominguez and that they were of Spanish ancestry from the Canary Islands.

15) My great-great-grandmother, Marie Alice Sonnier, only spoke French, although she was a fourth-generation American.

16) My most recently arrived immigrant ancestor to North America is my third great-grandfather, George Plaine, and his wife, Mary Ann Trumpass. They married in Norfolk County, England in 1850 and immigrated to Canada around 1857.

17) My 2nd great-grandaunt, Myrtle Lavina Pemberton, married her first cousin, Hayes Wheeler Finkle, twice and divorced him twice (or maybe he divorced her).

18) My third-great-grandfather, John Pemberton, fought in the Civil War alongside his younger brother, Stephen, who died from sickness during the War. John brought him all the way from Virginia to Ohio trying to get him to their mother before he died.

19) My third-great-granduncle, Charles Pemberton, had 4 daughters. Susanna was possibly in an industrial school for girls in 1900, married at least 5 times, and was hit by a car when she was 86 years old while crossing the street. Mary died from tuberculosis at age 30. Martha ended up in a mental hospital. Nellie married at least 6 times. Two of Charles' sons died in WWI, and another son died of tuberculosis at age 28.

20) My great-great-grandfather, William Harmon Proffitt, was a a circuit-riding preacher for the Methodist Episcopal Church in Oklahoma from 1900-1944. He lived in at least 6 different counties.

21) Going back to #19, Charles died at the age of 82 when his own dog, who had rabies, bit him and infected him with rabies.

22) Going back to #4 above, my great-great-grandmother, Nellie May Reynolds, who was born illegitimate, married at age 14 in 1904 to Ernest Crysler in Sanilac County, Michigan. She gave birth to 5 children and died at the age of 26 from ptomaine poisoning. I've looked this up and found that it was food poisoning. This was only 7 days after her last child was born. I'm wondering if her death was related to childbirth rather than food poisoning. My sister said that if the baby's blood was a different type than her mother's, it may have contaminated Nellie's bloodstream during the childbirth process. They may have just said food poisoning because of excessive vomiting, which the bloodstream poison would have also caused. Something I will have to investigate more.

23) My mother has a twin brother, and my future father-in-law has a twin sister. My first cousin, Jeff (on my mother's side), who gave me this idea on Facebook, has a fraternal twin brother, Joe. I have a set of fraternal twins who are second cousins, Brandy and Brenda, also on my mother's side. My great-great-grandmother, Florence Minnie Hillman, who was born 23 Jul 1867 in Alvinston, Lambton, Ontario, Canada, had a twin brother, Peter Hillman. My great-great-grandmother, Alvina Lesperance, had red-headed twin boys, James and Joseph, born in 1921, who died within 2 years of their birth.

24) It looks like my 3rd great-grandfather, Joseph "Numa" Sonnier, and my 3rd great-grandmother, Anna Wise, were living in the household of Eugene Richard in 1880 in St. Landry Parish, Louisiana. Numa was working as a farm laborer and Anna as a servant. Their grandchildren, Bienvenue Trahan and Beatrice Marie Boneaux, married in 1929 in Lafayette Parish, Louisiana.

25) Anna Wise is also one of the few non-Cajun French ancestors I have from Louisiana. Her father, Andrew Wise, immigrated from Germany to New York City and then to Louisiana. He fought for the Confederacy during the Civil War. He married Anna Grey of Ireland in a Catholic church in Mobile, Alabama, in 1862 while he was stationed there during the War. Anna Grey followed him to Chattanooga, Tennessee for the Battle of Lookout Mountain. Their son, Adam Wise, was born near Chattanooga in Feb 1863. I need to verify the sources on this, however, because the Battle of Lookout Mountain did not occur until Nov 1863.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Death Certificate Conundrum

As noted previously in my genealogy happy dance post about John Pemberton, my 3rd great-grandfather, I ordered his Civil War pension record from the National Archives. In the pension record file was a certified death record.

As one can clearly see, his parents are listed as Jeremiah Pemberton born in Pennsylvania (though I think this was really New York) and Susanna Jermyn born in Ireland.

I've been perusing the new Seeking Michigan site containing death records from the state of Michigan for 1897-1920 and happened upon one for John Pemberton. I knew I already had his death record from his pension file but thought I would check the state copy out. I figured it would be what I already had, but I had to check it out anyway. Good thing I did.

This record says John's parents were John Pemberton born in Canada and Mary Smith born in Canada. What?????

Everything else looks exactly the same. Even the informant is the same (his daughter, Myrtle).

Not knowing which agency issued the one from the pension file, I looked up the registrar, James E. Hull, in the 1910 U.S. census. He lived in Macomb County, Michigan, where John died, and was the county treasurer in 1910. Therefore, I'm assuming the death record from the pension file is the one on file with the Macomb County Clerk. I know that deaths in Michigan were recorded at the county clerk before a copy was filed with the state department of vital records. In fact, as I'm typing this, I'm actually even wondering if the copy from the pension file was from the township of Lenox, where John lived and died, and where James E. Hull lived in 1910. I believe that Michigan townships recorded deaths first before filing a copy with the county clerk.

I think it is safe to say that some serious transcription error happened when transferring the information from one clerk to another.

I'm 99.9% certain that Jeremiah and Susanna are my 4th great-grandparents because there was only one John Pemberton in the Wayne/Macomb/St. Clair County areas in his lifetime, and he was enumerated with Jeremiah and Susanna in the 1860 U.S. census. He even mentioned Jeremiah and Susanna as his parents in his pension file. He named my great-great-grandfather, Lovell, as his son in the pension file. Numerous associates and his children's associates were also children and grandchildren of Susanna and Jeremiah. I'm just glad I didn't find the state copy of the death record first and stop there. I think I will be ordering the Macomb County death records through my local FHC to see what they have on file.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

The Influenza Epidemic of 1918-19

I was talking to my recently married younger sister who now lives in northern California last night on the phone (yes, she is the girl featured here in her underwear). We were talking about family history, and I was excited that someone was enjoying my genealogy blog! It really reminded me of the importance of collaborating with others, especially non-genealogists since they see things from a different perspective. I think sometimes I get so caught up in the names and dates and places that I forget about the bigger picture. She gave me some great ideas and one of them was to check and see if any of our ancestors had died because of the worldwide influenza outbreak of 1918 and 1919. She had recently watched a PBS documentary on the outbreak and was really intrigued by it.

According to the National Archives, the influenza epidemic, also called the Spanish Flu, of 1918 killed more people than World War I and within one year dropped the average lifespan by 12 years in the U.S. The first outbreak occurred in spring 1918 and was not too severe. It was called the "three-day fever" and few deaths were reported. When it resurfaced in the fall, the disease was more severe, causing some victims to die within a few hours of getting their first symptoms. Young adults were among the hardest hit groups. My sister said the PBS documentary said that the reason was that this flu caused immune systems to be over-reactive, and since young adults already had very active immune systems (when compared to young children or the elderly), this put them in a worse position.

I did a search in my Legacy Family Tree database of all people who had a death date after 1917 and before 1920. I came up with one definite influenza victim and another possible one.

The definite victim was Louise Elizabeth (Plonkey) Kelly McNamara. Louise was the great-aunt of my uncle, James "Jim" Chamberlain. She was the older sister of his maternal grandmother, Alma Albertine Plonkey. Louise was born 16 Mar 1885 in either Wallaceburg or Dover Township in Kent County, Ontario, to Francois Xavier "Frank" Plonkey and Philomene Demers. She was the 7th of 11 children born to Frank and Philomene. She married Phillip Kelly, son of James Kelly and Bridget Walsh, on 26 Feb 1902 in Wallaceburg, at the age of 16. It seems that she and Phillip either divorced or he died, because she was married to James McNamara and living in Cleveland, Ohio, at the time of the 1910 U.S. Census. They had two sons, John McNamara, age 7, and Bart McNamara, age 5. It is hard to make out, but it looks like James worked as a huckster, which is someone who sells small articles, usually of cheap or shoddy quality, or one engaged in making bargains or haggling. Unfortunately, eight years later, on 6 Dec 1918, at age 33, Louise succumbed to the pneumonia brought about by the influenza epidemic. Here is a copy of her death record found in the "Ohio Deaths 1908-1953" database at FamilySearch Labs.

The possible victim was my great-great-uncle, Orville Joseph Pemberton. Orville was born 17 Apr 1918 in New Baltimore, Macomb, Michigan, to Lovell Hugh Pemberton and Alvina Lesperance. He was the younger brother of my great-grandfather, John Vital "Jack" Pemberton, who was born ten years earlier in 1908. Orville died 23 Mar 1919 at the age of 11 months in Marine City, St. Clair, Michigan. According to his death record, he died of spinal meningitis. I looked at a handwritten family history passed down to me from my maternal uncle and noticed that it had "five or six crosses - flu epidemic at St. Clair" written next to Orville's death date. So I have to wonder if the spinal meningitis was brought on by the influenza. I'm assuming the five or six crosses are a memorial to the deaths from the flu epidemic. I have put a query on the St. Clair County message board at Rootsweb to find out if this memorial still exists.

So there you have it! My family tree within the larger context of the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918.

Friday, April 3, 2009

RAOGK - Martha (Pemberton) Day

Yesterday, I received the death record transcription of Martha (Pemberton) Day from Alanna in Grand Traverse County, Michigan. Martha was my 1st cousin 4 times removed. She was the daughter of my 3rd great-grandfather's younger brother, Charles Pemberton.

Prior to getting her death record transcription, I had calculated that Martha was born about 1890, probably in St. Clair County, Michigan. Her birth date has been determined from her age of 4 on the 1894 State of Michigan census and her age of 18 on her 1908 marriage record. What's somewhat unusual is that she was only 10 years old in 1900 but is not enumerated with her parents on the 1900 U.S. census.

Martha married Carl Day, son of Jason Day and Alice Renslow, 10 Feb 1908 in Kalkaska, Kalkaska, Michigan. They had a son, Floyd A. "Forrest" Day, about 1910. Carl and Martha are found on the 1910 census in Rapid River, Kalkaska, Michigan. Carl was age 25 and was working as a farmer. Martha was age 20 and had given birth to one child who was no longer living.

In 1920 Martha was a patient at the Traverse City State Hospital in Traverse City, Grand Traverse, Michigan. After doing some Google searches, I found that the Traverse City State Hospital was founded in 1885 as the Northern Michigan Asylum for the Insane. It expanded greatly between 1887 and 1903 and became the city's largest employer. The first superintendent of the hospital, Dr. James Decker Munson, who was there from 1885 to 1924, was progressive for his time and did not believe in strait jackets or any of the traditional treatments in many mental hospitals at that time. He believed in "work therapy" and the "beauty is therapy" treatments. Here is a recent photo of the hospital. I found Carl Day, and son Floyd, age 9, living in Rapid River, Kalkaska, Michigan, in 1920. Floyd was probably named for Martha's younger brother, Floyd Wesley Pemberton.

In 1930 Martha was still living at the hospital. Carl C. Day and Floyd A. Day were still living in Rapid River township. Floyd was age 19 and working as a laborer. Carl was still a farmer, and this time his marital status was given as divorced.

I became very intrigued by Martha, considering she was the first ancestor I had found living in a mental hospital. I started searching for more records and found an obit on the Kalkaska County message board at Rootsweb for Forrest A. Day. It was from a 1938 edition of the Kalkaska Leader and said that Forrest Day, age 25, a farmer from Kalkaska County, had died when his car skidded on slushy pavement, hit a guard rail, and rolled down a 20 foot embankment. His father, Carl Day, age 52, had saved his own life by jumping out of the car just before it hit the guard rail. Forrest was survived by a wife and two children, Helen, age 2, and Carl, age 4. This Forrest must have been the same as Floyd. I'm not sure if Forrest was a nickname or the paper just misprinted the name.

Now I was really saddened for this family. Martha was insitutionalized, presumably for a mental illness, and now her only surviving child, Floyd (aka Forrest) had died tragically at age 25 in a car accident, leaving two young children behind. I really felt bad for Carl, who not only had "lost" his wife to mental illness, but had unexpectedly and tragically lost his son. I also remembered at this point that Martha's two younger brothers, Floyd Wesley and Jeremiah Pemberton had died in 1919 and 1918, respectively, due to injuries and illnesses contracted during their military service in WWI. This had to be somewhat close to the time that Martha was put in the mental facility (she must have gone to the hospital sometime between 1910 and 1920). Did she have a mental breakdown at this point? She may have been close to Floyd, as she seems to have named her son after him.

Some of my questions were answered when Alanna sent me this transcription:
Local file # 36
Died at Traverse City State Hospital, Traverse City, Grand Traverse County, Michigan, length of stay 36 years 4 months 2 days
Usual residence: Mancelona, Kalkaska, Michigan- Rapid River Township
Martha Day
died 22 Jan 1955 at 1219 am, female, white, divorced 64 years old
Occupation: housewife
b. 25 Jan 1890 in Michigan
Father: Charles Pemberston
mother Blanche Poole
husband Carl Day
informant- hospital records
Cause of death- deahydration, duration 4 days and gastroenteritis 8 days
contributing factors not directly related to death: arteriosclerotic heart disease unknown duration; dementia preaecox duration 40 years
no autopsy performed
burial 24 Jan 1955 Fairview Cemetery, Mancelona, Michigan
I looked up dementia preaecox on Wikipedia and found that it was the name of schizophrenia before the term "schizophrenia" was coined. What was really great info was the length of stay in the hospital: 36y, 4m, 2d. This gives her an entry date of September 20, 1918, into the hospital. This was 1 1/2 months before Jeremiah died in France on 3 Nov 1918 and a little over two months before the family heard of his death on 29 Nov 1918. It was well before Floyd Wesley Pemberton died in France on 7 May 1919. Assuming she truly was schizophrenic, this was probably the real reason she was institutionalized, and not a mental breakdown due to the tragic death of two brothers. But what a tragedy for the family to "lose" a daughter and two sons in such a short time frame. The family had also lost a daughter, Mary (Pemberton) Baker, age 30, in 1917 due to tuberculosis.

Again, I would like to thank Alanna for finding this death record for me. It has really helped me to understand why Martha was institutionalized. Now my mind can move on to other mysteries!

RAOGK - Elva M. (Pemberton) Harriman Lerch

In a previous post on RAOGK, I mentioned that I was eagerly awaiting the obituary of my 2nd great-grandaunt, Elva M. (Pemberton) Harriman Lerch. She was the older sister of my great-great-grandfather, Lovell Hugh Pemberton.

According to her father's Civil War pension file, Elva M. Pemberton was born 30 Sep 1873, probably in Almont, Lapeer, Michigan, to John Pemberton and Mary Ann Coombs. She married John Lawrence Harriman, son of James C. Harriman and Catherine Crandall, on 11 Sep 1895 in New Baltimore, Macomb, Michigan.

Lawrence and Elva Harriman are found living next to John and Mary Pemberton, Elva's parents, on the 1900 U.S. Census in New Haven, Lenox Township, Macomb, Michigan. Lawrence was working as a house painter. They had one son, Lynn Harriman, age 3, born Oct 1896 in Michigan. According to Lynn's birth record, he was born 12 Oct 1896 in Lenox, Macomb, Michigan.

In 1910, I found Elva living with her younger sister, Myrtle, and Myrtle's husband, Hayes Wheeler Finkle (who was also Elva and Myrtle's first cousin -- Hayes' mother was Eliza Jane Pemberton, sister of the girls' father, John Pemberton). They were all living at 2322 Forestdale Avenue in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. Also in the household were two of Hayes' brothers, Jerry and Roy Finkle, and Elva's sons, Lynn and Hayes Harriman. Hayes Harriman was presumably named after his uncle, Hayes Finkle. Elva's marital status was given as divorced. Lynn, enumerated as "Lind," was age 13 and Hayes was age 8. According to Hazen Jesse Harriman's (aka Hayes) birth record, he was born 4 Oct 1901 in New Haven, Macomb, Michigan.

In 1920, Elva was living at 136 Main Street in Toledo, Lucas, Ohio with both of her sons, "Linn" and "Haden." Lynn was age 23, and Hayes was age 18. Both were laborers for a bridge company. This time Elva's marital status was given as widowed. I know she was divorced from John Lawrence Harriman because I've found his second marriage to a woman named Charlotte Grinnell in April 1910 in Detroit. I wonder if Elva married someone else after Lawrence and became a widow. She was still enumerated as a Harriman on the 1920 census record, though, so it's possible the census taker made a mistake on the marital status.

In 1930, Elva was still living in Toledo, this time as a boarder in the home of widower George P. Lerch at 337 Canal Street. With further research, I discovered that George was the widower of Elva's first cousin, Cordelia May Fink (daughter of Jacob Fink and Elmira Pemberton, John Pemberton's sister). I could not seem to find a death record for Elva Harriman in either Ohio or Michigan, but I found a death record for an Elva M. Lerch from 1941 at the OHS's online death index. I ordered it for $7.00, and sure enough, Elva had married George P. Lerch, likely some time between her 1930 and her death in 1941. Here is the death record below:

This week, Mark from Ohio mailed me a copy of her obit that he obtained from the OHS library/archives in Columbus.

Mrs. Elva M. Harriman Lerch, 58, of 933 South Avenue, died today in her home following an illness of several weeks.

A resident of Toledo many years, she belonged to South Side Cassel Rebekah Lodge No. 675. Surviving are her husband, George P. Lerch; sons, Lynn Harriman and Hazen Harriman, Detroit; sister, Mrs. Myrtle Hendrickson, Cleveland; brothers, Lovell Pemberton, Lexington, Mich., and Burton Pemberton, Los Angeles, Calif.

Services will be at 2 p.m. Friday in the Bolander Funeral Home. Burial will be in Toledo Memorial Park Cemetery.
Mark also kindly found her death record for me and sent some info about her son Lynn's WWI service. I would like to thank Mark very much for his kindness.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wordless Wednesday: The Lesperance Family

Charles Lesperance (1840-1888), son of Antoine Lesperance and Marguerite Dufete
My great-great-great-grandfather

Alvina Mary (Lesperance) Pemberton (c. 1881-1961), daughter of Charles Lesperance (above) and Christine Goslin
My great-great-grandmother

L to R: Gilbert (1874-?), Alvina (c. 1881-1961), and Ignace "Enos" (1879-1968) Lesperance
Children of Charles Lesperance and Christine Goslin

Gilbert and Louisa Lesperance

Gilbert and Louisa Lesperance and children

Ignace "Enos" Lesperance and Elizabeth Groulx
Wedding Day - 11 Nov 1903
Note on picture says 17 Nov 1903, but marriage record says 11 Nov 1903

Thanks to Cousin Steve Frank for these pictures. Steve is the great-grandson of Enos and Elizabeth (Groulx) Lesperance.

UPDATE: As noted in the comments, I've been wanting to find more info on Gilbert and Louisa Lesperance. I knew Gilbert lived in New Westminster, British Columbia, when his sister, Alvina Mary (Lesperance) Pemberton died on 16 Jun 1961. His age of 7 on the 1880 US census suggested a birth year of 1872-1873, and family sources had given his birth year as about 1874. The only other thing I knew about him was that his wife's first name was Louisa. The first place I looked was the 1901 Canadian Census at I found a Gilbert and Louisa Lesberand with daughter Laura in Wetaskiwin, Alberta. Gilbert was born 12 Oct 1873 in the United States. Louisa was born 15 May 1881 in the United States, and Laura was born 21 Jun 1900 in Alberta. The family was Roman Catholic, spoke French, and Gilbert worked as a farmer. Gilbert had immigrated to Canada in 1898 and Louisa in 1899. This Gilbert was awfully close in age to my Gilbert, so I decided to look up a birth record for Gilbert in the "Michigan Births 1867-1902" database at FamilySearch Labs. Sure enough, I found a birth record for Gilbert L'Esperance, son of Charles L'Esperance and Catherine Gauslin [sic], who was born on 12 Oct 1873 in Ira, St. Clair, Michigan. I knew this was likely my Gilbert then in the 1901 Canadian census because I knew my Gilbert's parents were Charles Lesperance and Christine Goslin and that they lived in Ira Township! I tried searching the same birth records database for Louisa's birth record, but you can't search for an exact birth date; only a year. Without knowing her maiden name, there were too many results just for Louisa's born in 1881, and none seemed to match if I only searched St. Clair County, where Gilbert was born. I then found the British Columbia Death Index: 1872-1979 on I found a Gilbert W. Lesperance, age 87, who died 5 Aug 1961 in New Westminster. This gave an estimated birth year of 1874! And New Westminster was where my Gilbert lived in Jun 1961, just two months earlier, when his sister died! I also found a Mary Louisa Lesperance, age 94, who died on 5 Mar 1976 in Surrey, British Columbia, just across the Fraser River from New Westminster. This gave an estimated birth year of 1882! Again, close to my possible Louisa's age and in the approximate location of my Gilbert! The greatest thing is that these British Columbia death records have been microfilmed by the FHL, and even gave me the FHL (GSU) film number! Sweet! Now I will be taking another trip to my local family history center. Louisa's death record will hopefully reveal her maiden name. In the meantime, I'm going to keep trying to find them in the 1911 Canadian Census.