Wednesday, October 15, 2014

#52Ancestors (41) Virginie Richard Blanchette, Mother of Fourteen

This week's #52Ancestors is one of the women in my line who, while most likely Belgian, might actually be the genealogy alien dropped from outer space. I know a lot about her short adult life but little about her childhood and family.

Virginie Marie RICHARD is almost certainly from Belgium. Based on family lore and the cemetery records, she was born on 4 July 1849. Her adult children consistently listed Belgium as her place of birth on their own census records throughout their lives.

Blanchette family c 1887, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

I do have a cousin who has written a lovely book of family stories passed down about Virginie and her husband, Louis BLANCHETTE. The book covers their lives after they met in Oconto County, Wisconsin around 1865.

I used this book as a guide as I worked on this family. But I also did my own independent research. As I rather expected, my records led to a number of different conclusions. I'm sure the book has nuggets of truth but I have also surmised that some of the stories have the people, families, and locations mixed up. No doubt this will happen over 150 years. So the information regarding Virginie may or may not be correct. I'll continue to use it as a guide for reference.

My work on other records, including census and immigration, has come to a grinding halt. I focused primarily on the 1860 census, when she would be about 11 years old, and have almost searched northern Wisconsin person by person. There was a large Belgian population, as well as French-speaking Canadians. I cannot find a single appropriate match for Virginie.

So here is what I do know:

  • born 4 July 1849, possibly with a male twin, in Belgium
  • married Louis Blanchette about 1866 in Oconto County, Wisconsin
  • was the mother of 14 children, including two sets of twins
  • died about a month after childbirth, on 17 March 1888 outside Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

Virginie was only 39 years old when she died. The perils of her husband and children have been written about previously in my blog.

Virginia, wife of Louis Blanchard
Hope Cemetery, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin

She is one of my ancestors that I really feel is hiding on me. Sometimes you have a theory, or some inkling of a location, but with her I have nothing.

Do you have any experience with Belgian records? Ideas on a search I haven't thought of yet? Let me know!

Monday, October 6, 2014

#52Ancestors (40) Dallas Spencer, Born and Died Today

Today would be my grandfather's 100th birthday!

He also died in the wee hours of the morning on this day in 2000, which was his 86th birthday. He had been ill for some time and I always think he waited until his birthday to die.

Dallas Frederick SPENCER was born 6 October 1914 on his grandparent's farm in Locke Township, Ingham County, Michigan. He was the first child of Edward J. SPENCER and Lulu Gertrude FREDERICK.

The family moved to Lansing, Michigan when he was a young child. He attended the township school house as well as the Lansing public schools. He then attended the Agricultural College of the State of Michigan - which became Michigan State University in East Lansing. In 1936, he earned a degree in engineering, and was the first SPENCER to attend and graduate college. He was 'sponsored' by his uncle and aunt, and kept a detailed ledger book of every penny spent and every grade received, so as to properly pay them back.

college graduation photo, 1936

Dallas married in 1939 and in 1940, became a father. He then trained as a Naval officer and served in World War II, both in California and Japan. His engineering background helped him in his tasks as a SeaBee, lingo for the construction brigade.

After the war, he returned to Michigan, now with two daughters. He worked for the State of Michigan road and bridge department. In 1950, he accepted a position at Argonne National Laboratory, outside Chicago, and helped manage the site construction projects. Argonne was born as a scientific research lab after the Manhattan Project. He retired from Argonne in 1979.

family, 1955

My grandfather was very proud of his two daughters and six grandchildren. He did much to encourage us to attend college or learn a trade. Grandpa's signature look was a bowtie. He wore one to work every single day! And his hair was snow white for my entire lifetime. (I'm glad my younger brother inherited the early greying and not me!)

fishing in Michigan, his favorite getaway

Today is both a happy and sad day. I really miss him. Happy Birthday, Grandpa!

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

#52Ancestors (39) Caroline Papke Doerk: Travel Together, Settle Together

This #52Ancestors post now switches back to my old Prussian roots on my maternal side of the family. I'll share some information gathered about my great-great-great-grandmother Caroline 'Carrie' PAPKE DORK (or DOERK).

Carrie was born 2 June 1840 in (then) Charlottenwerder, Kreis Rosenberg, West Prussia, which is now Redaki, Poland. Redaki is a very small village about 90 miles / 140km south of Gdansk.

I wrote several posts of my search through maps and microfilms for my Prussian ancestry. Here are a few if you wish to read my process. Otherwise, I am skipping right along to the DORK's.

Seriously, genealogy is fun for me, but when I work on the DORK family, I cannot help but smile!

Carrie's parents were Gottfried PAPKE and Augustine or Augusta FETZKE. I have yet to get back farther on her parent's lines, nor do I know their marriage date. They did have at least three other children: Augustine, who married Carl WALDOWSKI in Charlottenwerder, and Gottfried and Wilhelm, who both died as young children.

Carrie married Carl DORK on 14 August 1859 in Charlottenwerder. Carl's parents were Gottfried DORK and Anna Maria PODANN. Carrie and Carl had all of their known children in Charlottenwerder:

  1. Carl Herman
  2. Augusta
  3. Wilhelmina
  4. Johanna
  5. Maria
  6. Otto Carl  *my line
  7. Rudolph
What became of husband Carl is a mystery I have not yet solved. I did not find his death record in any of the microfilms I have reviewed so far. I do know that in 1882 on the ship Braunschweig, Carrie and all of her younger children left West Prussia and landed in America.

I learned a lot and have more to learn:
  • Caroline is listed as the traditional head of this group, but no Carl is found
  • On the second page, there was a surprise: Auguste PAPKE, Carrie's mother!
  • I do not know who the 5-month-old Otto is
  • Carl her husband and Carl her son are not on this ship, but son Carl does end up with the family in America
Carl the younger would have been about 22 years old at the time of this emigration, plenty old enough to go on his own ahead of the family. I know that Auguste was obviously on the voyage but have no other records of her in America...yet. My supposition is that both Carrie's husband Carl and her father Carl died, so the rest of the family left for America.

On this ship list, I found three other family names that all settled in the same area of Lansing, Ingham, Michigan with the DORK's: RIEMANN, SCHIFRANSKI, and SZCZPANEK. This 'group migration' is a very interesting topic, one I hope to explore in later blog posts.

Carrie lived to see six of her seven adult children marry and have grandchildren. Carrie died on 15 March 1900 and is buried in Mount Hope Cemetery in Lansing.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Friday, September 26, 2014

#52Ancestors (38) More McWeeney's

Last week I wrote specifically about Mary Ann McWEENEY RILEY of Lockport, Will, Illinois. This post will share some more details about her family.

Patrick McWEENEY, her father, was the family's immigrant ancestor. He was born about 1815 in Ireland. His wife was Mary Ann last name unknown. Mary Ann had a sister Elizabeth who was married to Charles CLIFFORD, another Irish immigrant to Lockport.

Patrick and Mary Ann had the following known family:

  1. Ellen, born about 1840 in County Lietrim, Ireland
    1. married to John KANE in 1859 in Lockport
      1. Rose Anna
      2. Ellen
    2. married to Charles RUNYAN in 1864 in Lockport
      1. Mary Jane
      2. John
      3. James
      4. Francis
      5. Laura
      6. Andrew
      7. Elizabeth 
      8. Charles
      9. Edward
  2. Francis, c 1842 Ireland - 1850 Illinois
  3. Mary Ann, born 15 Mar 1843 in Montreal, Canada
    1. married Thomas RILEY in 1865 in Lockport
      1. Elizabeth
      2. James
      3. John
      4. Andrew
  4. Patrick, c 1844 - 1892 Illinois, no family
  5. Andrew, 1845 - c 1892 Illinois
    1. married Rose Anna STANNER in 1876 in Lockport, no children
  6. John, 1848 - 1920 Illinois, no family
The McWEENEYs and associated families moved between the parishes of Saint Dennis in Lockport, and Saint James at Sag Bridge in Lemont, Cook, Illinois. These towns were both stops along the Illinois and Michigan Canal.

Saint James at Sag Bridge church

Saint Dennis church
So many clues, so much more to find.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

One Lovely Blog Award... For Me? Thank You!

Today's post is my nomination from Cheri Passey of Carolina Girl Genealogy as "One Lovely Blog!"

Cheri, thank you so much for mentioning me and my lil' blog! I appreciate you and all of you out there in genealogyland who read and comment!

Here are the rules for the One Lovely Blog Award:

Seven Things About Me

  1. I have been researching my family for more than half my life! As a teenager, I took notes while talking with my grandparents about their families, long before the internet existed.
  2. I have two sons whose amazing running accomplishments are a huge source of pride. They have both run cross country and track since junior high, and now into high school and college, and have experienced success at the state and national level. Love them!
  3. I have lived in four states: Illinois, Iowa, Colorado and Michigan.
  4. Number One on my Bucket List is visiting Stonehenge.
  5. My camera memory card holds thousands of (backed up) photos from only two categories: running meets and cemeteries.
  6. I am "all in" with DNA as a genealogical tool. I'm even taking a free online genetics course to help understand it on a deeper level.
  7. I like my ancestors old and my music new: my current favorite band is Arctic Monkeys. It just adds to my weirdness!

My Nominations 

(in no particular order, and just a few highlights)

While this greatly appreciated shout-out shines a spotlight on me for a moment, I hope you all have a chance to support more bloggers using the various nominations. As I read through my list of followed blogs, so many seem to have slowly gone the way of our ancestors. Please keep your blogging and genealogy alive - you never know who might be looking for you!

Thanks to all of you who read along and share in this ancestral hunt we are all on!


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

#52Ancestors (37) Mary Ann McWeeney Riley

Mary Ann McWEENEY is a paternal great-great-grandmother.

Her parents were Patrick McWEENEY and Mary Ann, whose maiden name is still unknown. She was the third of six known children, including Ellen, Francis, John, Patrick and Andrew.

She was born in 1843 once her parents reached North America. But she was not born in the United States; she was born in Montreal, Canada. Based on US census records, her younger brothers were all born in Illinois. I know from their birth date ranges that they came to Illinois about 1845.

This past summer, I did a little digging in the local court archives in Will County, Illinois, and was able to uncover some probate files for this family. I learned that her father Patrick was from County Leitrim, Ireland. More specifically, I learned her older sister Ellen was born in something similar to 'Latham' in Leitrim. Well, that narrows down future searching! Patrick's wife, the unknown Mary Ann, had a childless sister and brother-in-law, Elizabeth and Charles CLIFFORD, who also were residing in Lockport, Will, Illinois.

Her father Patrick was a farmer and purchased at least 40 acres on the north side of the Village of Lockport in Will County. This part of the county was near the being-built Illinois and Michigan Canal. Patrick died in October of 1851. Shortly after, his property was transferred to his widow. And then Mary Ann died in 1862.

Their daughter Mary Ann married an Irish immigrant named Thomas RILEY in 1865. Thomas and Mary Ann had four children: Elizabeth, James, John, and Andrew. They lived in Lockport for the rest of their lives.

I am fortunate to have this three-generation photo of the family, taken about 1913:

Mary Ann is on the far left and Thomas on the far right. Mary Ann died in 1922 at age 79.

I have recently made contact with descendants of some of the other McWeeney children, so there is more work to be done and hopefully, more connections to be made, especially back to Ireland.

© 2014 Sally Knudsen

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

#52Ancestors (36) William McDonald and Nellie Thomas

Last week, I introduced my great-great-grandmother Anna Harriet McDonald. She was the middle of three daughters born to William McDONALD and Helen 'Nellie' THOMAS.

William McDONALD worked his adult life as a laundryman, owning his own shop for several years. He was born in Scotland. All records state November but the year varies from 1844 to 1848. When he came to America is another mystery: the 1900 and 1910 censuses are either blank or list 'unknown.' And based on his death certificate, he was born on November 31st!

The earliest record I do have is his marriage. By tracking him backwards in time, I found that he married Miss Nellie THOMAS in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio on 3 October 1875. William and Nellie then had three daughters:

Bessie, born 1877 in Ohio, married Perry STREETER in Lansing, Ingham, Michigan
Anna, born 1878 in Michigan, married first Lawrence HUMMEL in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan
Nellie, born 1880 in Michigan, married Harry BELT in Adrian, Lenawee, Michigan

His wife, Helen 'Nellie' THOMAS, was the daughter of William THOMAS and Hila Melissa HASKINS of New York. The THOMAS family was enumerated on the 1850 census in Buffalo, Erie, New York and in later years in Cleveland, Cuyahoga, Ohio. The information on Nellie's death certificate was extremely detailed:

This entire McDONALD family died amazingly young. Nellie died in 1904 at age 47 and William in 1911 at age 66. All three daughters followed shortly thereafter, each leaving young children:

Bessie Streeter, 1915, aged 47
Annie Abbott, 1915, aged 46
Nellie Belt, 1917, aged 47



© 2014 Sally Knudsen