Sunday, February 23, 2014

#52Ancestors (8) Jacob Countryman, the Heir of Hairlines

Jacob COUNTRYMAN was my 3x great-grandfather. The Countryman line was one of the first lines I discovered early on in my genealogy quest, a line that my living relatives did not know.  Trying to learn more about him was an adventure in making message board connections and in renting microfilms. Ah, memories!

Jacob was born in New York about 1836. By 1840, his family was in Ingham County, Michigan. Jacob was a laborer on neighboring farms before his marriage to Amelia TENNEY in 1855 in nearby Livingston County, Michigan. They eventually moved south to Tompkins Township, Jackson County, Michigan near other Countryman families.

Jacob and Amelia did not have a child until my great-great grandmother May Genevieve was born in 1864. Four more daughters followed. The 1880 census is the only time the entire family appeared together: 1800 US Census, Michigan, Jackson County, Tompkins Township

  • Jacob, 44, farmer, born New York
  • Amelia, 41, keeping house, born New York
  • May G., 16, at school, born Michigan
  • Cora E., 12, at school, born Michigan
  • Francis (sic) E., 10, at school, born Michigan
  • Maggie, 7, at school, born Michigan
  • Jennie, 4, at home, born Michigan
Finding Jacob's parents was more difficult. With the expert work of many Countryman researchers, Jacob was determined to be a child of Peter COUNTRYMAN and Matilda AMES (more on them in a later post). Jacob also had a brother Daniel. Daniel first lived in Jackson County, then moved to Trego County, Kansas.

I finally got to see what Jacob and Amelia looked like after meeting with a cousin who held many family photos. This is a photographic reproduction of her original tintype:
Family photo of Jacob and Amelia, c 1875
Here are Jacob and Daniel together. Look at those hairlines! I know the copy of a copy of Daniel's photo is not the best, but you could not have shaped their heads to look any more similar.


These are the only photos I have of Jacob and any of his siblings. Of course, I would be curious to know what any of the others looked like, especially the men. 

Jacob died at the home of his daughter, May Genevieve COUNTRYMAN SPENCER on 20 July 1895 in Locke Township, Ingham County, Michigan. He is (most likely) buried next to his wife Amelia in Graham Cemetery, Woodhull Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan. I say 'most likely' because there is no stone for Jacob. There is, however, a dual mount missing a stone, so I am pretty comfortable knowing they are indeed buried together.
Countryman lot, Graham Cemetery, Woodhull Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan
(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen

Monday, February 17, 2014

#52Ancestors (7) Sarah Calkins Spencer

This week we venture into the 'black hole' that is pre-1850 New York records, in search of what little data there is about my 4x great-grandmother, Sarah CALKINS SPENCER.

Fact: Sarah died in Varysburg, Wyoming, New York on 1 May 1849 and is buried in the local Varysburg Cemetery. Sadly, she did not live long enough for an appearance on the 1850 census. Her headstone noted she was 59 years at death, so she was born about 1790.

And that's the only real 'fact' I have. The few records I have of her husband Asa SPENCER (to be blogged about later) were from a time when women had few rights - the land, tax and church records only have Asa's name. I have found New York to be a particularly difficult location to research (especially from my computer) because very few early records exist.

Sarah is likely the daughter of John CALKINS and Catherine DUSTIN of Arlington, Bennington, Vermont. Many years ago, I found tantalizing connections on message boards, but the Calkins Society would only reveal information upon membership, which I never followed through with at the time. Additionally, there were several of the purported Calkins siblings of Sarah also residing in Varysburg. The related names settling together in early New England are another good clue to pursue.

Sarah and Asa had several children, some of whom were kind enough to have Sarah's maiden name listed on their death certificates. The known children are:
  1. Waterman (1808-1882), married Russel GODFREY, died in New York
  2. Wright (1811-1899), married Sarah 'Sally' JOSLYN/JOSLIN, died in Michigan
  3. Infant (1813-1813), died in Vermont
  4. William (1816-1900), died in Michigan
  5. Catherine (~1820-1843), likely married Stephen THAYER, died in New York
  6. Mary (~1822-?), details unknown
  7. Sarah Ann (1824-1916), married Abram LONG, died in Kansas
  8. Melissa (1826-1917), married Amariah LINCOLN, died in New York
  9. Marcia (1827-1895), married Benjamin JONES, died in New York
  10. Charles (~1832-~1859), details unknown
So those are my Sarah clues to date. Any connections? Let me know!

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, February 8, 2014

#52Ancestors (6) Seraphin BLANCHETTE

My selection(s) for this week's 52 Ancestors post are the parents of Louis Blanchette. They are Seraphin BLANCHETTE and his wife, Marie-Edesse DIONNE.

I don't know a whole lot about Seraphin and Marie-Edesse beyond facts. I do have a lot of facts, though. Let's examine their marriage record, found in's digitized Drouin collection. Drouin Collection (1621-1967) le-Baie-du-Febvre, Co Yamaska, PQ, Canada, 1823

Got it? Actually this massive description of the 1823 marriage between Seraphin BLANCHETTE and Marie-Edesse DIONNE is filled with information. Below I have underlined some of the key pieces.

  1. La sept d'avril mil huit cent vingt trois (7 April 1823)
  2. Seraphin Blanchette (groom)
  3. Alexis Blanchette et Marie-Constance Mainville (parents of groom)
  4. Edesse Dionne (bride)
  5. Antoine Dionne (father of bride)
  6. Marie Marthe Morneau (deceased mother of bride)
  7. Paul Blanchette (witness and brother of groom)
  8. Antoine Dionne (witness and father of bride)
Clearly, there is considerably more detail but I have only selected the most important details to extract. Note the comment in the margin of the book to denote the 'marriage de Seraphin Blanchette avec Edesse Dionne.' The records contain so much genealogically relevant information. It does take some effort to translate, but locating the important words and phrases is the start to understanding what the record contains. They then open up more avenues of researching family relationships.

Seraphin and Marie-Edesse had the following known eight children:
  1. Seraphin (1824-1824)
  2. Marie Adele (1825-1909) married Louis Modeste BOURBEAU
  3. Victor (1827-1902) married Marie Domithilde LEFEBEVRE
  4. Joseph Seraphin (1831-1918) married Marguerite CHARPENTIER
  5. Julia S. (1832-1914) married Charles RICHARDS and Solomon HOUGH
  6. Rose de Lima Constance (1835-1835)
  7. Marguerite (1836-unknown)
  8. Louis (1838-1923) married Marie Virginia RICHARD
Only Julia and Louis left Quebec, based on my research to date. I have learned that Marie-Edesse died in 1881. I have not, after hours of reading records, found a death date for Seraphin. In the 1856 marriage record for their son Joseph Seraphin, Seraphin is noted as deceased. For now, that is my only clue.

Prowling through the amazing Drouin records has given me a very large French-Canadian branch of my family. Bonjour to you all!

The BLANCHETTEs are all paternal family members.

BLANCHETTE surname and variations in my database

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen

Saturday, February 1, 2014

#52Ancestors (5) Rena Blanchard Riley

Rena BLANCHARD RILEY was my great-grandmother. I was only a baby when she passed away, but I feel that I know a lot about her life without ever speaking to her.

Irene Clara, as she was known formally, was baptized Clara Regina BLANCHETTE in Chippewa Falls, Chippewa County, Wisconsin. She was known as Grandma Rena to most. Some of BLANCHETTE children anglicized their name to BLANCHARD.

The untamed woods of northern Wisconsin must have been difficult in the 1880's. Living is a hand-hewn home with your father and many siblings and no mother must have been extremely difficult. Rena was born 23 February 1882. Her French-speaking immigrant parents, Louis BLANCHETTE and Mary Virginia RICHARD, wed and started their large family in Wisconsin. Shortly after the birth of their 14th child, Mary Virginia died from complications in childbirth. Rena, the 11th born, and 8th surviving child, was only six years old and motherless. Louis worked hard as a lumberman, but when the closest homestead was over a mile away, and the closest village several more, raising eight children alone was nearly impossible.

Rena was sent to Illinois to live with Louis' sister, Julia BLANCHETTE RICHARDS HOUGH and her second husband, Solomon HOUGH. Julia helped raise and shelter Louis as a teenager after they left Quebec, and now she would become a surrogate mother to his daughter as well. Julia and Solomon lived most of their lives in Saugatuck, Allegan County, Michigan, but after her children were grown, they moved to Illinois to be closer to his children in Chicago. Solomon worked as a shoemaker in Lockport, Will County, Illinois, a bustling canal town.

Rena was sent to the Hough's about 1890. In Lockport, she took music lessons and graduated high school in 1900. She lived an idyllic life with her Aunt and Uncle. In 1902, at age 20, she married John Patrick RILEY. Now that Rena was off and settled, the Hough's moved back to Michigan.

photograph of a painting of the Riley family home, circa 1900

John and Rena Riley, circa 1935

Rena and John lived in Chicago for several years, but by 1915 they were back in Lockport where they lived the rest of their lives. No strangers to large families, Rena and John had 11 children of their own: John, Andrew, Virginia, Edward, Elizabeth, Irene, Joseph, Bernice (my grandmother), James, Joan and George. They had many grandchildren and often hosted family holidays and get-togethers on the large lot surrounding their home.

Easter 1946
Rena at far right, my dad at bottom right

In every photo I have of Grandma Rena she is smiling. If the photos are evidence, she lived a very happy life. She died on 7 February 1967, just a few days shy of her 85th birthday. She is buried with Grandpa John and several unmarried children in South Lockport Cemetery (a/k/a Saint Dennis Cemetery) in Lockport, Illinois.

The circumstances of Rena's early life were hard. If not for the selfless choice of her father to send her to live with her Aunt and Uncle for those childhood years, Rena would not have met John. The Blanchette's had no other connection to Illinois, and Rena was the only one of her siblings sent there. That little window in time that grew out of a difficult beginning was the twist of fate that begat my paternal family. Ah, coincidences.

Irene 'Rena' Clara Blanchard Riley was a paternal great-grandmother

Rena's page in my database

(c) 2014 Sally Knudsen