Saturday, January 29, 2011

SNGF: The Night You Were Born

It's time for Saturday Night Genealogy Fun again. Our mission from Randy at GeneaMusings is as follows:

1) What day of the week were you born? Tell us how you found out.

I was born on a Saturday. I found this out when I was a kid because my mom had a poster that she had ordered telling me about the day I was born and all the events that had happened on that day in the past, as well as famous people who shared my birthday.

2) What has happened in recorded history on your birth date (day and month)? Tell us how you found out, and list five events (I'm going to list more).

I was born 25 Apr 1981.

a) On the day I was born, President Reagan's daughter, Maureen, married her third husband, Dennis Revell. He was only 28, but she was 40 years old.
b) Ironically, Boris Yeltsin was elected on my birthday in 1993, and later had his funeral on my birthday in 2007.
c) In 1979, the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt went into effect, and in 1982, Israel completed it's Sinai withdrawal according to Camp David Accords.
d) In 1976, there were elections in Vietnam for a National Assembly to reunite the country. Also in 1976, Portugal adopted its constitution and still celebrates April 25 as Freedom Day.
e) The Guillotine was first used on my birthday in 1792. Yikes!
f) The St. Lawrence Seaway opened linking the Atlantic and the Great Lakes in 1959.
g) In 1898, the Spanish-American War was declared over Cuba.
h) In 1944, the United Negro College Fund was incorporated.
i) In 1933, the U.S. and Canada dropped the Gold Standard.
j) In 1956, Elvis Presley's "Heartbreak Hotel" hit #1.

I found all of this out from a combination of and Wikipedia.

3) What famous people have been born on your birth date? Tell us how you found out, and list five of them.

a) Renee Zellwegger b. 25 Apr 1969 in Katy, TX
b) Jason Lee (Earl from My Name Is Earl TV series) b. 25 Apr 1970 in Orange, CA
c) Hank Azaria (voice of Moe on The Simpsons) b. 25 Apr 1964 in Forest Hills, NY
d) Ella Fitzgerald b. 25 Apr 1917 in Newport News, VA
e) Al Pacino b. 25 Apr 1940 in East Harlem, NY

I also found out about these from Wikipedia and

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: Backus-Pemberton Land Contract

This is a document that I obtained while going through old papers at my maternal grandmother's house about a year before she died in 2008. It is a land contract that she and my grandfather entered into to purchase their first home. When I found this paperwork, I was not sure what the difference was between a land contract and a mortgage. Apparently, a land contract is one in which the seller agrees to finance the property, rather than a third party lender. The deed to the property remains in the seller's name until all payments have been made. It's similar to a rent-to-own agreement.

Below is a summary of the info contained in the land contract:

1) Entered into on 22 Sep 1956

2) Sellers: Thomas H. Backus and Bertha E. Backus of Carsonville, Sanilac, Michigan

3) Buyers: John P. Pemberton and Violet M. Pemberton, husband and wife, of 1828 Stone Street, of Porth [sp] Huron, Michigan

4) Selling price: $4,000 [Wow! Can't believe inflation!]

5) Location of land: Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan - The South Thirty-one (31) and five-tenths (5/10) feet of Lot Two (2), Block 5 Port Huron Northwestern Railway Plat of a part of the City of Port Huron

6) Down payment: None

7) Interest rate: 6%

8) Payment amount: $40/month, beginning 12 Oct 1956 [again, wow!]

I found a 1916 plat map at the University of Michigan's online local county histories and maps website. It does appear that they were purchasing the home at 1828 Stone Street, which is what I suspected. This is where my mom was born and raised until her middle school years. The contract mentions that my grandparents already lived there, so I take this to mean that they were probably renting the house for awhile before they entered into the land contract. The house on Stone Street is only two blocks away from the St. Clair River, which divides Michigan and Canada. I am really amazed at the price my grandparents paid in 1956...only $4,000! My mom said it was a 3-bedroom house. I checked on Zillow to see what homes there were selling for today. There was a 4-bedroom house built in 1917 (about the same age) at 2104 Stone St that has an asking price of $36,000. Of course, if Michigan were not suffering so much from the recession, I would expect this house to be closer to $50K. What I find interesting about this copy of the land contract is that it is signed by the buyers and sellers but not by the witnesses. I don't recognize the names of the witnesses, Mabel McLean and Betty Heberling. I also don't recognize the name of the sellers, Thomas and Bertha Backus.

Stay tuned for next Thursday's post that will showcase the warranty deed that was signed on this house after all the payments were made.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy 2nd Blogoversary to Me!

Me at 2 years old

Well, I can't believe it has been two years since I started this blog in 2009. I was inspired by the death of my maternal grandmother in December 2008 to start blogging about my research. If you look at my history of writing, you can see that I started off with zeal and then sort of fell off the wagon around August 2009. The following year, 2010, was definitely a slower year for my blog, but I think the partial year off has done some good. I feel that I have more energy to write now, so be expecting more in 2011.

Tombstone Tuesday: Lovell and Alvina (Lesperance) PEMBERTON

(Photographed by Don & Wendy McCallum - FindAGrave Volunteers)


My great-great-grandparents
St. Denis Catholic Cemetery
Lexington, Sanilac, Michigan

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Monday, January 17, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy & History: Cars

Week #3 – Cars

Week 3: Cars. What was your first car? Describe the make, model and color, but also any memories you have of the vehicle. You can also expand on this topic and describe the car(s) your parents drove and any childhood memories attached to it.

My very first car was a gray 1987 or 1988 Chevrolet Cavalier. My parents bought the car from a family friend in 1997, the year I turned 16 and got my driver's license. One funny thing about the car is that our family friend used to let her dog in there, and sometimes he would use the bathroom. So we affectionately called it the Peemobile. Below is a picture of a 1988 Chevy Cavalier (just picture it in gray):

The bad thing about getting my driver's license was that just two months after getting it, I had to leave home for boarding school. I attended a state-sponsored boarding school in Natchitoches, Louisiana, for my junior and senior years. We were not allowed to drive our own cars while staying at the school. We could only drive them to and from our parents' houses on the weekends. There was no gallivanting around Natchitoches allowed, except on prom weekend, and only then with a signed permission slip from our parents. If we wanted to go to the movies or Wal-Mart or out to eat on the weekend, we had to wait for the big yellow school bus to come pick us up, or we could walk downtown (in groups of three only) to the shops and restaurants on Front Street.

Despite not being able to use the car in Natchitoches, I used it quite a bit to go home on weekends. It was a 2 1/2 hour drive from my parents' house, so I went home every other weekend. It was always fun going home because I always brought along several friends who were also from southwest Louisiana. I was the only one of us who had a car. We used to jam to our nineties music that we burned on CDs (this is right when sharing music files online became popular, and it was not yet considered illegal)....Hanson, Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey, Weezer, Stone Temple Pilots, etc.

Of course, being ten years old, the car only lasted until spring break in 1999 (my senior year). My friend Beth and I were on our way home for a week-long spring break when the car started smelling funny on Hwy 171 near DeRidder, Louisiana, just an hour or so from home. We pulled over on the side of the road in front of a house, and the guy who lived there just happened to be mowing his lawn at the time. This was in the very early years of cell phones, and of course, being in the middle of nowhere, my phone didn't have a signal. The guy on the lawnmower came over and took a look under the hood. He told us we could go up to the house to use his phone. We called my parents and Beth's dad, and they determined that Beth's dad would come get us, since he had means to tow the car. So we waited on the porch (it was REALLY nice weather) and drank iced tea (some of the best tea I've ever had). The family that lived in the house were so hospitable. I think they even offered us dinner.

Finally, Beth's dad arrived just as it started to get dark. He brought his big truck and a tow rope. Now that was the scariest thing ever. Have you ever driven a car that is being towed? I will never do that again. It felt like I had no control of the car whatsoever. The rope finally broke on Hwy 27 by the skating rink in DeQuincy, about 30 minutes from home. I was sort of relieved. From there, we called a tow truck. I never saw that car again because it wasn't worth fixing.

Well, that was fun reminiscing about my car. Most of all, I think of all the fun trips to and from school with my friends.

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History is a series of weekly blogging prompts created by Amy Coffin of The We Tree Genealogy Blog to encourage researchers to write about their own lives. Details can be found at GeneaBloggers.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Amazing Find: 1930 Census Occupation Codes

As I was entering census records into my Clooz database tonight, I came across the 1930 census record of my great-great-grandfather's first cousin, Martin R. Pemberton. Martin lived on 24th Street in Detroit in 1930 with his wife and four daughters. I was trying to read the census taker's handwriting for Martin's industry name. I could read that he was a laborer, but the industry column left me befuddled. I could make out either Butler or Butter as the first word. The second word looked like Con't, which made no sense to me. Butler Construction? Butter Construction? The third word is Co., which I assume is an abbreviation for Company. I combed numerous city directories looking for a Butler or Butter Construction at, but had no luck.

Now, I have never paid attention to that lovely little column called Code (for office use only) to the right of industry. It has never had any use for me (or so I thought) in my genealogy research. I thought this was just something for the census office to use for who knows what. Then I found that, lo and behold, Steve Morse has a tool to decipher the 1930 census occupation and industry codes. Now, the limitation is that the code was added after the enumeration was complete and not at the time of enumeration. So, in this case, it seems that the employee at the census bureau may have had just as hard of a time as I did deciphering the industry for Martin R. Pemberton. In any event, the census bureau employee assigned it a code of 7812, which translates to a laborer in the butter or creamery industry. Hmm...I'm still not able to pinpoint a creamery that starts with the name Butter in the 1922 or 1923 city directories at It is possible this company did not begin until after 1923, which is the latest city directory available at I'm sure a 1930 city directory will be more helpful...I just need to get to Detroit for that. Oh, well. I still think Morse's tool is pretty neat!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

SNGF: Ancestral Name List Roulette

It's Saturday night and time for Randy Seaver's Saturday Night Genealogy Fun.

1) How old is one of your grandfathers now, or how old would he be if he had lived? Divide this number by 4 and round the number off to a whole number. This is your "roulette number."

My paternal grandfather, Benford Maurice TRAHAN, would be 75 years old today if he was still alive. If I divide this by four, I get 18.75, which rounds to 19.

2) Use your pedigree charts or your family tree genealogy software program to find the person with that number in your ancestral name list (some people call it an "ahnentafel"). Who is that person?

This person is my great-great-grandmother, Marie Alice SONNIER. She is actually the maternal grandmother of my grandfather above.

3) Tell us three facts about that person in your ancestral name list with the "roulette number."

1) Marie was born 7 Sep 1891 in Carencro, Lafayette, Louisiana to Numa SONNIER and Edmonia DOMINGUE.
2) Marie spoke French all of her life and never learned English.
3) Marie lived her later years in a little one-room house behind the house of my great-grandparents on Nelson Street in Vinton, Louisiana, just around the corner from where I grew up. I never met Marie because she died 11 years before I was born, but I always thought her little one-room house was the perfect playhouse when I was a kid.

Surname Saturday: PROFFITT

The PROFFITT line is that of my paternal grandmother's mother, Hassie Cora PROFFITT.

Hassie Cora PROFFITT
Born 26 Feb 1908 in Crescent, Logan, Oklahoma
Married Merlen Paris "Zack" MERTENA 14 Feb 1931 in Mulhall, Logan, Oklahoma
Died 07 May 1986 in Lake Charles, Calcasieu, Louisiana
Buried at Mimosa Pines Cemetery in Carlyss, Calcasieu, Louisiana

William Harmon PROFFITT
Born 12 Jul 1871 in Jefferson County, Tennessee
Married Emmer Link BAKER 17 Dec 1896 in Chestnut Hill, Jefferson, Tennessee
Died 03 Jul 1944 in Alva, Woods, Oklahoma
William was a circuit riding Methodist preacher who moved from Tennessee to Oklahoma around 1900 to minister to the Native Americans there.

Born 04 Jul 1838 in Jefferson County, Tennessee
Married Catherine Elizabeth DICKEY 11 Mar 1858 in Jefferson County, Tennessee
Died 05 Jun 1882 in Jefferson County, Tennessee

Born 13 Feb 1799 in Ashe County, North Carolina
Married Sarah WEBB 01 Feb 1821 in Jefferson County, Tennessee
Died 29 Nov 1876 in Chestnut Hill, Jefferson, Tennesse
There are some discrepancies in Samuel's birthplace. A lot of unsourced online trees say he was born in Elk Shoal, Yancey, North Carolina, but it appears that his father, James, was living in Ashe County, NC at the time of the 1800 census, just one year after Samuel's supposed birth date. James lived in Buncombe County, NC at the time of the 1810 census, so me must have moved there between 1800 and 1810. Yancey County was formed from parts of Buncombe County in 1833. From this information, it appears more likely that he would have been born in Ashe County and then moved to Buncombe (present-day Yancey) County as a young boy.

James Wesley PROFFITT
Born 26 Jan 1766 in Goochland County, Virginia
Married Mary CLAWSON about 1794 in Wilkes County, North Carolina
Died 20 Nov 1846 in Elk Shoal, Yancey, North Carolina

Born 28 Aug 1727 in Goochland County, Virginia
Married Susannah ARRINGTON 10 Mar 1757 in Goochland County, Virginia
Died 15 Nov 1813 in Wilkes County, North Carolina
He was an elder of the Old Roaring River Baptist Church in Wilkes County, NC.

Sylvester PROFFITT
Born abt 1698 in Perth, Scotland
Married Alice PLEASANT abt 1724 in Goochland County, Virginia
Died 10 Apr 1767 in Goochland County, Virginia
Sylvester was among the Scottish Jacobite soldiers captured by the English army in Nov 1715 at Preston, Lancashire, England. He was sent to America as an indentured servant and is found on the ship manifest of the Elizabeth and Anne, which landed at Yorktown, Virginia on 12 Oct 1716.

Monday, January 10, 2011

1/11/11: A Day For Firsts

Since it's a day of all 1's, I thought I would take some time to blog about some firsts in my life:

My first birthday: 25 Apr 1982

My first sibling: Kathleen

My first (and only) brother: Justin

My first cousins: Michael, Stacy, Troy, April, Andy, Ann Marie, Aimee, Stephen, Jeff, Joe, Billy, Travis, Amber, Hope, Paige, Taylor, Chad, Craig, Heather, Tony, Karlee, Tabatha, Justin, Mark Allen, Ashley, Josh, Kristina, Jesse, Jade

My first cousins once removed: Zach, Audrey, Cassie, Tyler, Nick, Travis, Landon, Sawyer, Lillian, Blake, Makayla, Connor, Tyler, Kennzie, Kennadi, Denni, Bryonna, Brynnum, Brynnlee, Christopher, Justice, Sebastian, Ian (I know I am leaving some people out b/c I don't have names for them)

My first love: Clayton in first grade

My first friends: Julia and Leslie

My first broken bone: I fell off the slide at a park when I was four and broke my arm.

My first grade teacher: Mrs. Duplechain

My first ancestor discovered in a library: Delphin Stainville TRAHAN, my great-great-great-great-grandfather

My first genealogy research trip: Port Huron, Michigan, Summer 2003 (well, this wasn't actually a research trip...I was really there to visit relatives...but this was the first time I snuck in some research at the courthouse)

My first job: Sales associate at Sears in Port Huron, Michigan, Summer 1999

My first kiss: July 23, 1995 (I'm not telling who...hint...where does it seem like I spend most of my summers?)

My first birthday party (that I can remember): My third birthday party at McDonalds

My first vacation to Michigan: 1981 (I was just a baby - My mom and I were sick for the whole drive from Louisiana to Michigan...can you imagine traveling 1,300 miles with a sick child AND being sick yourself???)

My first pet: My great-grandpa Mertena's dog Lena. She showed up on my great-grandpa's doorstep just a few days after my great-grandma died in 1986. My grandmother inherited her when he died in 1989, and then she was passed to us. She was a little white chihuahua mutt. She eventually got passed back to my grandma for some reason. I'm sure us kids didn't take care of her like we said we would, so my parents sent her back.

My first loss of a great-grandparent: Grandma Mertena (paternal grandmother's mother) on 7 May 1986. I had just turned five years old two weeks earlier.

My first loss of a grandparent: Mimi (maternal grandmother) on 15 Dec 2008. I was 27 years old.

My first date with Cade: 3 Sep 2004 to Pepper's restaurant in Lake Charles, Louisiana, and then to the movies to see Papparazzi (stupid movie)

Hope you have enjoyed my firsts! It was fun reminiscing!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Happy Birthday, Pip!

Clifford Robert Drouillard
(My maternal grandfather)
January 10, 1932 - September 7, 2009

Pip on the shores of Lake Huron

Me and Pip, c. 1981

Pip reading to Taylor, c. 1997

Pip and Paige, c. 1991

Hope and Pip, Dec 2008, just after Mim's funeral