Sunday, April 30, 2017

Pemberton One Name Study

I have recently decided to start a one-name study on the Pemberton surname. As many of you know, this is my mother's maiden name. I have always felt a closeness to this side of the family (moreso than others), and have always been curious where the name originated, how many different branches there are in the U.S., etc.

Of course, I'm not really sure that I have time for this one-name study, but I'm going to at least attempt it and see how it goes. I'm trying to focus on my Genealogy Do-Over, but I think I might dedicate certain days of the week to the Do-Over and certain days to the one-name study.

I had been reading Randy Seaver's posts over at GeneaMusings about his Seaver one-name study. That's what gave me the idea to do a Pemberton one-name study. I wasn't quite sure how to get started, so I found a webinar on Legacy Family Tree's website about one-name studies. It's called "Are You a GOON? What is a One-Name Study and Why Do One?" by Kirsty Gray. It focused on the seven principles as established by the Guild of One-Name Studies. The first principle is Data Collection, which is where I decided to start my study.

Kirsty mentioned keeping data organized using programs such as Excel, Word, etc. I decided to start with using Excel. She also said that some one-name studies choose to focus on a geographic area, while some focus on every single occurrence of the surname worldwide. I have decided to start my focus on Pembertons in Michigan, since this is where my family is from, though I plan to branch out later, starting with the neighboring states and eventually going worldwide.

My first data collection exercise was to search the "Michigan Death Index, 1971-1996" database at for all those with a Pemberton surname. I came up with 121 results. I also did a search on P*mb*rt*n and found two additional names (including my great-grandmother). I put all of the info into a spreadsheet.

My second data collection exercise was to search the "Recent Obituaries" database at for all Pemberton surnames in Michigan newspapers. I came up with 79 results, though some were duplicates. There were a total of 41 individuals listed there from 2000-2017. I added a second tab to my spreadsheet for this search and also saved copies of each obituary to a folder on my hard drive.

The death index did not give me any info at all on relationships, but the obituaries were a wealth of information. For the second principle, Data Analysis, I decided to start with the obituaries and focus in on the areas in Michigan where my Pemberton's lived. I began with Bay County, as it was the first alphabetically where I vaguely remembered one of my branches living.

The first obituary in Bay County was for a William J. Pemberton. His obituary was published 21 Mar 2007 in the Bay City Times. He died 19 Mar 2007 in Saginaw and was a resident of Bay City. He was born 8 Nov 1937 in Bay City to Albert W. and Fidelis C. (Toohey) Pemberton. I immediately recognized the name Fidelis, as it is an unusual name. I searched my RootsMagic database and found that I did have William already in my database, with source citations for the 1940 census and some city directories for Bay City. I only had an estimated birth date of 1938 and only the state of birth as Michigan. I also did not have Fidelis's maiden name, nor the name of William's younger sister, who was born after 1940. William is my third cousin twice removed. His father, Albert, was the son of William Henry Pemberton and Elizabeth Agnes "Abbie" Lattrell. William Henry was the son of Samuel Pemberton and Ellen McCoy. Samuel was the younger brother of my 3x-great-grandfather, John C. Pemberton.

The second obituary in Bay County was for Estelle (Pemberton) Hebert. She was more of a challenge because it was really more of a death notice than an obituary. It gave her age as 87 and was published 16 Oct 2007 in the Bay City Times. The only other piece of info was that she died 14 Oct 2007 and was a resident of Fairgrove and a former resident of Wisner Township, both in neighboring Tuscola County.

I decided to search for Estelle Hebert who died in 2007 and resided in Michigan on I found an entry in the "U.S. Social Security Applications and Claims Index" for an Estell Bell Hebert who died 14 Oct 2007. She was born 2 Apr 1920 in Pickford, Chippewa, Michigan, and was the daughter of Wm. H. Pemberton and Abbie Latterl. Bingo! This was the previous William J. Pemberton's aunt and my 2nd cousin 3x removed. I already had Estelle in my database, but I had her married name listed as Herbert rather than Hebert, which may have been why I had trouble finding her in the past. Her married name was spelled Herbert in her younger sister Ellen's obituary. She was the only one of William and Abbie's children for whom I did not have a death date. I also did a search at the Bay City Times website, and found an actual obituary there (not just the death notice), so I added her children and grandchildren to my RootsMagic database.

The last obituary I found for Bay County was actually more of an article about a house fire in neighboring Iosco County. Kayla I. Pemberton, age 23, and her fiance and their two young daughters were killed in the fire in 2014. It was very sad, and I cannot imagine what her family must be going through. At first, I could not place Kayla in my family tree, so I added her as a stand-alone person to my RootsMagic database. I then found her obituary online at the Iosco County News Herald's website, which listed her father's name. After adding him to my database, I realized that I had a man with the same name in my database. This man's mother, Sharon Gail (Kaercher) Pemberton Nowiski, died in 1994 and lived in the same town as Kayla. After doing a little more sleuthing in some public records indexes and marriage indexes published online, I feel comfortable that these two men are one and the same. This would make Kayla my 3rd cousin. Her grandfather, James Edward Pemberton, was the son of Lovell Henry Pemberton and Vera Delores Barnes. Lovell was the younger brother of my great-grandfather, John Vital Pemberton. I will definitely go to bed tonight thinking about the tragic loss of Kayla and her fiance and young children. It all too well reminds me of another house fire in the Pemberton family back in 1952, when the home of Leo C. and Madeline M. (Pemberton) Carnahan caught fire and two children died. Madeline was the sister of Lovell Henry and John Vital Pemberton.

And that's as far as I got today with the one-name study. I need to figure out how many hours a week I will work on this, as I do want to keep my focus on the Genealogy Do-Over. When I do get back to it, I will start with the obituaries from Flint, as I know some of my Pemberton cousins moved to Flint. Stay tuned!

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