Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Best Laid Plans ....

As you may have noticed my plan to catch up the 52 Ancestors challenge  in one week didn't work. Life again got in the way, and I needed my sleep. So I've now modified my plan to catch up. I've decided that a more realistic approach will be to try to do two Ancestor bios a week  until I'm caught up, and it's okay if the two a week isn't in consecutive weeks. I think this will work better.

I'm going to try to get two done this week, not including this one. But I'm not starting tonight, as I keep nodding off, and going to  bed sounded wonderful,

Have a great day tomorrow, every one,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Do You Find All That?!

I post all of my Ancestor Bio posts to Facebook for family and friends to see, and today, after posting Andrew’s story, I had a couple friends ask, “How do you find this stuff?!” I tried to answer on Facebook but apparently it’s currently not letting me comment on my own or anyone else’s posts for some unknown reason. But it is letting me post from outside sites to Facebook, so I thought I’d do a post answering the question. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my compulsive quest to catch up on the 52 Ancestors challenge (I’ve four more posts planned – not written yet --this week and then I should be caught up and go back to one a week, so I can sleep, too – coming up are posts on GGG-grandfather Francis “Franz Joseph” Henn and GGG-grandmother Katharina Phillipine Blank, #24 & #25; GG-grandfather John “Josephat” Henn #26; GG-grand aunt Rosa “Generosa” Henn #27; and, #28, a transcription of a newspaper article describing the inquest into the death of Rosa’s son, Henry Strauss, jr (the latter is not my normal style of post but I found it fascinating and hope you will too. In fact, each of these people had fascinating bits in their stories, just wait and see!)

This post is not my normal sort of post either because I still consider myself a beginner doing basic research, solely online, on a few sites, so far. I know there is more on other sites online, and far more to find offline, but what I am doing now is a first pass through both sides of my family. At the end of this year (I think) I’ll be going back through, slower, looking for the harder to find things. Anyway, while I consider myself a beginner, I realize I have friends who are just starting that might find what I do in my searches helpful in developing their own search style.

I discovered in thinking about writing this post that I have already developed basic search patterns that I apply to each person, with varying levels of success.  So I’m going to talk about this in steps. (Problem: I don’t know how to do screen shots, so I can’t show you exactly).

To begin with, I’m lucky enough to have some family research / written memories passed down to me on both sides of the family. More on Dad’s side than Mom’s but both tending to the “born, married, begat, and died" dates and names. My interest is in filling in the between spaces so I do more societal background research and injecting into my bio posts than you may be interested in. In any case, even though I have helpful family documents like this, I consider them clues, not gospel. I’m sure they did the best they could in their research/ interviewing (in terms of interviewing, probably better than me as I don’t do enough, because I’m shy and busy.) But I don’t know them & thus don’t know what they did for research, as most did not attach source documents or cites, and I don’t know how they think. I know me. I know that I have had over 20 years’ experience in assessing credibility of evidence as an Administrative Law Judge, and I’m fixated on being able to document a fact. True, I work in a small, extremely niche area of the law and I haven’t done a lot of historical research since college but the principles of analysis carry over, I think, as well as the application of logic and common sense.  (Some things that drive me nuts from other Ancestry trees: even if the offered person has the right name, if they don’t have the right kids (or parents if you know them), it’s not the right person. If the kid is born before the mother’s child-bearing years --or existence –they aren’t related; if someone is born in Illinois/Indiana Territory in the early 1800s one month after the mother documented as being in Maryland, the baby is not that mother's child as no one could get from Maryland to Illinois/Indiana Territory in a month in the early 1800s – think horses or walking – let alone an 8 month pregnant woman!)

I. My first step always starts with My working tree is there, I have the International Membership, which is quite helpful now that I’m starting to have ancestors on the other side of the pond, as some records from other countries show up in my shaking leaf hints. I have to be careful in looking at the hints because not all of them apply to my family. This is where my non-straight line approach helps. I don’t just look up straight line ancestors but all their siblings and their kids too (I usually stop two generations down on this sweep through) as that provides me with more facts to double-check against others, as how I think my Oswego Andrew Henn is right because of the newspaper notice about his sister Rosa’s death. If I were doing straight-line I wouldn’t know about Rosa (who has a tragically fascinating life story, btw; coming soon.) I also note neighbor’s names in censuses as I’ve noticed that people seemed to move west in groups of people they know and the same names showing up as before might confirm that I’ve found the right William Erwin or Elizabeth Bixler Wolfington Moore.  

II. My second step is also but I click the link to “search records” just above the “overview tab” and go see what else I might find. You can alter the search parameters, look in all the searchable records at once or one at a time [there are records that are only browsable not searchable, that I’d have to look at page by page, but I’m saving them for a different pass.]  I look past the point where Ancestry says the records are no longer likely to be my ancestor for a few pages. Sometimes I find stuff that way: directories, yearbooks, land records, etc.

III. My third step is’s record search. I don’t have a tree up there yet, but with a free membership I can search all the records I want. Mostly there though I look for death certificates and marriage records as they often have them when Ancestry doesn’t, or when Ancestry might have given me the info off a document but not let me see the original, FamilySearch often has the original. ALWAYS LOOK AT THE ORIGINAL of any document when you can, it has so much more information than is in the index! (And sometimes the transcriber transcribes something incorrectly in the index version.) If I find them, I download them and take notes (lawyer here – we take notes on everything).

IV. If Ancestry has shown me a draft registration, or my ancestor is alive during a war, I check (subscription site), which has historical military records. Lots of them. Not all of them, but more are added weekly so check back. I found a boatload of information from Mariah Bailey’s application for a Mother’s pension against her son John’s death in the Civil War. Again, you’ll have to sort through and make judgment calls as to which records belong to your family. But you can set the search parameters to help limit what you find.

Next, or if you already know your ancestor was in the Civil War, look for him in the National Park Service’sSoldier’s and Sailor’s database to find out what he did in the War, plug in his name & perhaps other details, then sort out who is yours, then click on the battle unit to get to a description of what he went through. Some states have good archives of military info (e.g., Indiana, Missouri & Illinois are good, Pennsylvania is difficult to navigate) that extend beyond the Civil War. This cheat sheet helps you figure out what war your ancestor may have fought in: 

V. Next I go to Google Play,Books, and search for old e-books on the places my Ancestor has lived. A lot of counties did histories around 1880 – 1905, some with biographical sketches. Most are free and most are searchable within the e-book: plug in the relevant surname and see what pops up. Sometimes it’s a lot (Judge Erwin), sometimes it’s just a list of who enlisted in what (Andrew Henn) & sometimes I get nothing – except interesting background information about the area he lived.

VI. My sixth step is to look for local historical newspaper articles about my ancestor. Small town newspapers used to do stories or one line squibs on everything: who visited who, 50th anniversary parties, reunions, obituaries, hospital entrance and release, legal notices, plus regular news. This step requires patience as the search capabilities on each site are based on scanning and sometimes on old newspapers it scans wrong, or you ancestor decided to go by their middle name for a while [names used to be very interchangeable, I’ve found]. But when you find something it’s a delight. The main pay sites I’ve used are NewspaperArchive,com,, and;the free sites have been the Library of Congress and, for New York, only, the Fulton Post Card site.  and when I don’t know where to look, The Ancestor Hunt site has an excellent section on where to find archived newspapers in any state. Newspaper mentions can really humanize and bring a person to life as they did for Myrtle Bailey and for Mabel Erwin Snyder.

VII. My seventh step is to Google the person’s name and lifespan, and perhaps a key factor about him . Somebody else might have done research you want to see. If you’re using the info for your own tree/personal use, you can just use it probably under fair use, just keep the cite so you can find it again – there is apparently a “proper” way to cite for genealogical purposes: I don’t know it -- I’ve got the book but haven’t read it yet so i'm not using it yet. I figure it works if I can find it again. If you’d like to use part of what is written on the site or a photo in a blog or book, email the person or entity and ask permission first or if you think you’ll be using their phrasing. While FACTS can’t be copyrighted, how one writes about them can be, unless it’s old enough to be off copyright.  I’ve links on copyright issues for family historians in my Resources page, others can explain that a whole lot better than I can. It is not my area, so nothing I write here should be construed as legal advice.

VIII. My eighth step is to google background things for general info & understanding. Curiosity is one of the best traits a family historian can have. For the post on Clarence Snyder I googled "Plumbrook munitions" and "teachers in the Great Depression" among others. For the post on Andrew Henn I googled: “Germans in Syracuse NY Oswego” – there’s bunch of info on that; “German emigration passenger list” – there’s a website or more, plus Ancestry has some; “Ship Radius 1850s”, “Ship Schiller 1850’s” – that was a bust but it’s worked before; “Baden emigration 1800s” – there turns out to be a lot on that, a good bit in German (I used Google Translate), including lists of people who left Baden with details as to the port used & whether they were steerage or not; I googled “emigration 1850s Bremen”  and “emigration 1850s Le Havre” – fascinating stuff; “Coopers 1850s” “Baden History” – got birth record index that had a bit more info than Ancestry’s – in German, thank you Google Translate; “1800s Germany why do children’s birth registration change religion in the same family” – that one will be used in a later post; and probably other things I’ve forgotten now. I do list sources at the bottom of my ancestor bio posts. I tend to use Google a lot in prepping for a blog post, and I Google anything I can think of that I’m curious about, even though sometimes 2-3 hours of research results in one sentence by the time I write it up. But each search gives me more knowledge with which to find out more, and it carries over from ancestor to ancestor. The irony of any information search is that you must know something to find out more. It helps you form the questions to ask.

And last, if I’m blogging the person, I look for images, pictures, You Tube videos, etc., to illustrate and explain the story. Reading a big block of text without pictures is intimidating to a lot of people in our video age and people won’t read or finish it no matter how interesting it is. I LOVE having pictures of the person, but I don’t have many (actually I don’t have any more further up the tree on Dad’s side of the family than I’ve already put up – if you have some and are willing to share I’ll be forever grateful!). Sometimes I use images of documents, full or cropped. Sometimes images of old ads (pre-1923 is off copyright) that I've found through a Google search. I've bookmarked websites that connect me to photos/art which are under the creative commons license (which allows me to use it under certain conditions and with proper credit) or in the public domain. I love,, Creative Commons Search, and Wikimedia Commons. There are other sites too. I’m concerned about making copyright violations because even though this isn’t my area and I know virtually nothing beyond what I’ve read on the Legal Genealogist’s blog (excellent blog, btw) and/or linked to in my Resources page, I’m afraid I’d be held to a higher standard because of the J.D., and I can’t afford a screw up in that area. So I try to be careful..

I hope this helps someone. If you’ve got questions, leave a comment; I’ll try to answer. If I know you on Facebook, well, it’s got to let me comment again someday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: #24 Andrew/Andreas Henn (1832 – 1911), First to the U.S.A.

Climbing My Family Tree: Gravestone of Andrew Henn (taken by Frank K for
Gravestone of Andrew Henn (taken by Frank K for
Click to make bigger

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

As those who follow my blog know I have some notes and research done by some of my ancestors on both sides of my family that I have used as clues in doing my own research, and occasionally quoted in this blog. Those notes and such have usually turned out to be partially accurate, some more accurate than others. Most often there’s a few grains of truth that help me confirm what I find belongs to my family (for an example see my post on Elizabeth Manley Bixler Wolfington Moore) then decided to check Great-Aunt Lucille’s book, Members of the Flock, to see if she ever talked about Andrew. Yikes! Yes, she reports a memory of my grandfather’s about an "Uncle Andrew" but he doesn’t sound remotely the same as the man I researched! I was then up ‘til 3:00 AM last night double-checking my trails and trying to find our Andrew in the places mentioned in Lucille’s book. I gave up. I don’t know if the book references the same man or if there is another Uncle Andrew that I haven’t found yet. I decided to tell you what the book said (it’s brief) and present what I found and if any can give me any further information/stories about Andrew that help resolve this, or even if they don’t, I’ll welcome you and them with open arms! Please leave a comment below or email me at the address on the “Contact Me” page. I will respond as quickly as I can.

My grandfather, Owen Carl Henn, remembered the following brief story about Uncle Andrew Henn, who “was an Immigration Officer on Ellis Island, New York City. Later he returned. I mean, retired, and lived in Florida. Mom and Dad visited him one time, and Dad was challenged by the sight of a checkerboard. Dad always prided himself as a fairly good checker player, and thought it a good way to pass the time. But Uncle Andrew proved himself to be a checker champion. Dad couldn’t do any good at all.”  

Andrew Henn is my 2nd great grand uncle on my father’s father’s side. He was born to Franz Joseph and Katharina Phillipine [Blank] Henn on January 20, 1832 in Baden, Germany; he was baptized/christened, Andreas Henn, as a Catholic on January 23, 1832 at Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Germany. His siblings were Genevieve “Genofera” [Scheer] (1827-1916), Serena Mary [Dick] (1828-1918); Dorothea “Dorothe” [Snyder] (1830-1896); Rosa “Generosa” [Strauss] (1836-1908), Edmund (1838-1861), John “Josephat” (1842-1919), Frank “Franz Joseph” (1843-1928), and Josephine “Josepha” [Schueurmann] (1849-1876).

I know nothing personal the first twenty years of his life. But mid-Century Germany was experiencing upheavals, with the failure of the revolution in 1848 to bring Democracy to the country, economic uncertainty, and, in some cases, religious persecution, that were encouraging a boom in emigration to the United States for the chance at a new and better life.  In addition, better communication and travel meant that Germans in the interior knew more about emigration and found it to be more of a possibility. Those that left were generally small farmers, not rich, but also not the poor. These mid-century immigrants had enough resources to finance their trip, but not enough to make them want to stay in Germany if there were other opportunities. When they hit the American shore they went west looking for fertile farmland.
Nearly 1 million Germans emigrated to the U.S in the 1850’s, and among them was Andreas Henn. In taking ship for Germany he would likely have not only had to pay his passage, in steerage, but also bring all of his own food for the trip, which would have lasted approximately 30-45 days.  (See here for a collection of letters describing the voyage from Germany to the USA.)   I don’t know why he struck off on his own at age 20 but we know that he arrived here in 1852, one year before the rest of the family followed. I’ve found two possibilities for the ship he arrived on.  The first is the ship “Schiller” which left from the port of Bremen, and arrived at Castle Garden NY (it was before Ellis Island existed) on April 1, 1852; the passenger list shows “Andreas Hen”, male, age 20, from Baden, was aboard. The other possibility is the ship “Radius” which departed from the port of Le Havre, France and arrived at Castle Garden on October 14, 1852; the passenger list shows “Andreas Henn”, age 20, female, from Germany was aboard traveling steerage. Even though Bremen is a lot closer to Baden than Le Havre, I lean towards the Radius as the correct ship. I think the “Female is a misprint because Andreas is not a female name in German. I lean towards Le Havre because the next year the rest of the family left out of Le Havre and I would think that they would follow in his footsteps if he were successful. I might be wrong though. In any event, he arrived in 1852 and made his way to Syracuse NY (Onondaga County) initially, where there was a large German community.
Climbing My Family Tree: Passenger List for Ship "Radius"
Passenger List for Ship "Radius"
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Climbing My Family Tree: Passenger List for Ship "Schiller"
Passenger List for Ship "Schiller"
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By 1855, though, he and the rest of the family had moved up to West Monroe in Oswego County, NY. As the Erie Canal and the Oswego Canal met in Syracuse, it was easy to get there and back to Syracuse as necessary. Andrew worked as a cooper [Here is a You Tube video demonstrating a Cooper at work - it's interesting!]. In 1859, he married Sarah Deacon, and by the time of the federal census the next year, they had a one month old son, Charles (1860-?). Two years later they had a daughter, Hattie [Baum} (1862-1931), and two years after that another daughter, Ida (1864-1884).

On February 9, 1864, he enlisted as a private in Battery G of the 3rd NY Light Artillery, for a three year period. It was commanded by Capt. David L. Aberdeen [duty at New Berne and other points in North Carolina till March, 1865. Campaign of the Carolinas March 1-April 26. Southwest Creek March 7. Battle of Kinston or Wise Forts March 8-10. Occupation of Goldsboro March 21. Bennett's House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. Duty in the Dept. of North Carolina till June], and was mustered out under Capt. William A. Kelsey, July 7, 1865, at Syracuse.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1st NY Light Artillery
1st NY Light Artillery
out of copyright

He returned to Oswego County and took up farming. He reported on the Non-population farming Censuses in 1870 and 1880. His farm was a bit bigger in 1870 (15 acres improved 10 acres woodland) than in 1880 (8 acres tilled, 5 acres permanent meadows, and 7 permanent woodland), and valued about $300 more. I’m wondering if he could no longer maintain the bigger farm, since he filed for a civil war disability pension on December 9, 1979; it was granted.  He indicated later, in 1890, on a NY Veteran’s schedule that he had chronic diarrhea and spinal difficulties. In both non-population schedules he indicated he had 1 horse, 2 cows, 2-3 sheep, 2 swine and 2 poultry. Between 1870 and 1880 he went from producing 120 bushels of Indian corn to 40 bushels and 95 bushels of oats to 40, but his production of buckwheat doubled in that time frame, and his production of Irish potatoes and butter remained the same.

The local paper, The Baldwinsville Gazette Farmers Journal reported that Andrew and Sarah had a fairly active social life over the years with many friends and family visiting, and Sarah being very active in the Ladies’ Aid Society. They also knew tragedy. Their youngest daughter, Ida, died in 1884 at age 20, and the local paper reported that Andrew Henn’s sister Rosa died on August 31, 1908. In fact, Andrew outlived three of his siblings.  Andrew continued farming at least through 1910, per the census, and probably to the end, as he died the next year, on April 21, 1911, at age 79.

I’d like to find out whether I have the wrong “Uncle Andrew” or who my grandfather was speaking of when he described “Uncle Andrew” as working at Ellis Island (that would also be a fascinating story) and retiring to Florida.
As always I’d like more detail about his life, and a picture or two. Perhaps there is more in the land records or probate records.
------------------------------------------------------ Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Germany, Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.;;,_New_York;;;;;; NY Find A Grave Memorial# 34893720;; NY census for 1855, 1892 & 1905; US Census for 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1010, including non population surveys for 1870 & 1880. And NY Veterans Report for 1890.

Monday, July 14, 2014

52 Ancestors: #23 John Philip Henn (1855-1930), He Came To Dinner

Climbing My Family Tree: Syracuse NY to Burnside NY (Google Maps)
Syracuse NY to Burnside NY (Google Maps)
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

After writing about my great grand parents Owen James (#21) and Myrtie Mabel (Wilcox) Henn (#22), I became curious about Philip Henn, who came to dinner in 1927 and didn’t leave until he died three years later -- as I wrote about in Myrtie’s story.

John Philip Henn (hereinafter “Philip”) was born in 1855 to Owen James’ sister, Serena May Henn.  In great-Aunt Lucille Henn Robson’s book, Members of the Flock,  Lucille, My grandfather and his brother Lowell discuss a family rumor that that Philip may have been born out of wedlock. No one knew for sure, as it was something that wasn’t talked about in Philip’s lifetime. They weren’t even sure who his mother was, but noted that Philip never spoke well of her. Considering he arrived as a teenager, that could be teenage angst that got stuck.

I cannot confirm or deny whether Philip was born out of wedlock, although the evidence tends toward saying he was. In the New York State Census of 1855, taken June 21, 1855, he is listed as John P. Dick, age 1/12 (1 month old) and the relationship to head of household was indicated as “child.” Serena Mary Henn married Jacob Dick in 1855 and this was the first census they appeared on as a married couple/family. Jacob Dick was five years younger than his wife, and both were born in Germany.

Climbing My Family Tree: Dick 1855 NY Census
Dick 1855 NY Census
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In 1860, Serena May and Jacob Dick are listed without children on the Federal Census. That doesn’t necessarily mean that baby died. It could confirm that the child was not Jacob’s. In the 1800’s, out of wedlock children were frequently raised by other relatives and he might be living with someone else. However, I haven’t been able to find much of the family on the 1860 Census; those I have found, don’t have him. But, in 1870, I found John Henn, age 15,  living with his 65 year old grandmother [both are mis-transcribed as  “AHeen”] at the Henn farm.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1870 Census: Phillipine & John Philip Henn
1870 Census: Phillipine & John Philip Henn
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My grandfather recalled, in the reminiscences recorded by great-aunt Lucille that John Philip Henn came to New York to work with John Henn, his uncle, when John Philip was about 15. Since there would have been two John Henns, John Philip began going by Philip.
Philip arrived before John was married and initially helped him in his cooperage business, making and sending barrels to Syracuse, NY for the salt industry.  After John married Elizabeth O’Brian in 1873, Philip lived with John and Elizabeth. Until John bought him a farm (as he eventually for did all of his children) in approx. 1880.

Climbing My Family True: Burnside Twp Land Property Map (Lapeer Cty MI)
Burnside Twp Land Property Map (Lapeer Cty MI)
Owen James' land is between and below the N & the S in BURNSIDE
Philip Henn's land is kitty cornered to Owen James'  and just below and to the right
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Phil’s farm was ¾ of a mile east of Owen James’ farm on M-90 east of Burnside Michigan. Great uncle Lowell recalled: the first year they cleared ten acres and burned off the brush and planted wheat: forty bushels to the acre were harvested, and that was their first crop as farmers. Later, Elizabeth’s father, a carpenter, built a house for Phil in about 1885.

According to Aunt Lucile’s book, and the censuses, Philip never married. For many years he went with Ella McIntosh of Burnside, MI, who also never married. She visited him at Owen James and Myrtie’s house after he was bedfast.

After John’s children became adults and had families of their own, Owen James moved into the place of caring for Philip when he needed it, because Phil had “rheumatism” and “was bent” (likely Rheumatoid arthritis) per Great-Aunt Lucille. Philip used to go visit in his horse and buggy nearly every day. Lucille recalled that the kids looked forward to his visits, despite his cheek squeezes, because he gave them each a wintergreen candy, which he kept in his pocket.

He often visited at dinnertime and would stay for dinner. In the Spring of 1927, Phil got quite sick and didn’t get better. On June 30, 1927, Phil came to their home, and Myrtie put him in her and her husband’s bedroom to care for him until he got better. He didn’t leave the room , or the bed, for three years.  In 1930, he died in his sleep.

According to Great-Aunt Lucille, Philip had never been a practicing Catholic, but Owen James’ brothers and sisters’ insisted he be buried a Catholic. So they had the funeral in the West Burnside Church and buried him in St. Mary's Cemetery, Burnside. Great Aunt Lucille wrote in her book, Members of the Flock, “There were several prayer cards for him and after 2 or 3 months they began to run out, and I remember Dad’s  [Owen James’] sisters sot of insisted that Dad pay for a prayer card too. “What for?” Dad asked. “Why, to get him out of Purgatory, of course.” Dad, not being a Catholic, was sort of ‘ruffled in his feathers’ and he told them, “Well, if he can’t jump across, he can go to H__.”  The girls wouldn’t speak to him for quite awhile, but things got patched up later.”

Philip was survived by two half sisters, Mrs. Rose Johnson of Syracuse, New York, and Mrs. Emma Behr of Oneida, New York.

If anyone has more information about Philip Henn and would be willing to share it with me, please email me at the address on the "Contact Me" page or leave a comment here. I look forward to hearing from you!

Climbing My Family Tree: Philip Henn Gravestone (shared to by Reckinger)
Philip Henn Gravestone
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NY Census 1855; Federal Census, 1870, 1900; Members of the Flock by Lucille Henn Robson


I really want to find digitally archives for Michigan newspapers so I can find more detail for Phil's life.
I'd also like to find out who he lived with in his younger years--before he moved to (ran away to?) Michigan.
I'm pessimistic about it being possible, but I'd like to find out for certain who his father is.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Taking a Break

I'm going to take about a five week break, maybe 6 weeks. I still intend to write up 52 ancestors this calendar year & so 52 ancestors in 52 weeks, just not one each week. I'll have to play catch up later, but I will catch up.

June has turned into a really busy month for me. This past weekend I met up with my family for a long weekend in Niagara Falls (Canada), which was a lot of fun! And it was just great to see them all (even if I did confirm no one -- other than my parents -- from my immediate family is reading this blog. Ah well. It will be here whenever they might get the desire and the time, in the same moment of time. I understand the time pressure issue -- ergo this hiatus!). We're all spread out across the country and it is rare to to see this many of us at one time. We missed those that were unable to make it, and enjoyed those who did. I hope we can make this sort of thing happen again.

Next weekend I am going to the out-of-state wedding of a very good college friend (& former roommate) and am looking forward to seeing a bunch of my college friends there. Again, we're spread out all over the country and get-togethers are rare. It will be so good to have the time together in a celebration of love and joy.

And, ....I am moving to a smaller, but nicer apartment not too far away at the end of the month and I have sorting and packing to do. Lots of it. And not a lot of time to do it in.

It takes 8-16 hours to put together one of my ancestor posts and I just haven't got the time to do that each week until at least July, maybe mid-July (I have to un-pack too!).  So I'll "see" you again in 5 or 6 weeks. I hope everyone who reads this has a great summer!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

52 Ancestors: #22 Myrtie Mabel Wilcox, (1879-1953) - A Woman's Work - Whew!

52 Ancestors: #22 Myrtie Mabel Wilcox Henn (1879-1953)

Climbing My Family Tree: Myrtie Mabel Wilcox, 1899
Myrtie Mabel Wilcox, 1899
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Myrtie Mabel Wilcox Henn, my great-grandmother on my father’s paternal side, was born on November 13, 1879 in Burnside, Michigan to George Butler and Mary Jane (Currier) Wilcox. She was the ninth of eleven children. Her siblings were:  Emma  Messer (1864-bef 1930); Annetta Sharp (1866-1928); George C. (1867-1897); Charles (1868-1904; Frank E. (1870-1894); Bertha Crippen (1872-1894); Adeline “Addie” Sutphen (1875-1903); Arthur H. (1877-1955); Arthur H.  (1877-1955); Russell (1883-1961) and Ethel G. Wilcox (1885 - ?). Her parents had emigrated from Canada and settled in Michigan in about 1867. 

Myrtie attended the local school in Burnside, Michigan as she grew up, and she obtained a teaching certificate, and was working as a teacher when she married my great-grandfather Owen James Henn (he went by "Owen" but I use both his first and middle names because there is an "Owen"  all but one of the Henn generations I know of so far, and it will be less confusing in the long run). Their fathers’ farms were kitty corner across the road from one another, and it is likely that she knew Owen James her whole life before deciding to marry him. Perhaps she’d seen him perform with the Burnside Cornet Band. They went to Romeo MI to get married on September 2, 1901. The marriage register indicates Myrtie  (21) was a teacher and Owen James (22) was a farmer. One of their witnesses was Addie Sutphen, Myrtie’s next oldest sister, who lived in Romeo. The document also includes the names of both fathers and the maiden names of both Myrtie's and Owen James’ mothers.

Climbing My Family Tree: Myrtie Wilcox and Owen J Henn Marriage record, 2 September 1901
Myrtie Wilcox and Owen J Henn Marriage record, 2 September 1901
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Myrtie and Owen James lived to share 52 years together and had eight children: Ervin John (1902-1992), Hazel Annette McArthur (1902-1962), Earl Owen (1904-1904), Lowell Floyd (1905-1984), Owen Carl (1906-1988), Irma Jane Sutton (1911-2006), Frank Elwyn (1913-1995), and Lucille Elizabeth Robson (1915-1993.) Early in their marriage, they had to deal with the death of a child. It was normal then to give a deceased  child’s name to another child, particularly if the dead child was named for someone the parents still wished to honor. So the name “Owen” was also given to the next son born after the baby died, my grandfather, Owen Carl Henn.

Normally, I couldn’t give much more information about the life of an ancestress who was a farmer’s wife, that wasn’t heavily drawn from her husband’s record, if she didn’t make the local newspaper, and  I’ve been unable to find any newspaper articles about Myrtie (which probably has more to do with the fact that I haven’t found archived editions of the local papers).  But Myrtie’s youngest daughter, Lucille Henn Robson, wrote and compiled a book of her own and her siblings’ memories about her parents and grandparents, her husband and his parents , and the community in which she and her siblings grew up, called “Members of the Flock.” In it she includes, throughout the book, descriptions of some of her mother’s daily life, to the point where I began to wonder whose job was harder in that family: Owen James’, as farmer, or Myrtie’s as farmer’s wife  (even though it was  listed on all the censuses as “none”)!

In the early years of their marriage not only did Myrtie have eight children in thirteen years, but she cared for them; made most, if not all, of their clothing; cooked for her children and her husband -- on a wood stove and without a refrigerator; cleaned the  house and washed the laundry – without indoor plumbing or electricity; and did farm chores. Irma, the 6th child, was the first child in the family to be bottle fed.

There was no indoor plumbing in Owen James and Myrtie’s home until after the children had left home. Halfway between the house and the barn was a windmill largely used for pumping water to the barn for the horses and the cattle.  Water for the house was carried by bucket load from the windmill mostly by Myrtie. As they grew up, she was helped by the children.  Later the windmill was replaced by a loud gasoline engine, and, in about 1935, by a quieter electric engine, when the county finally ran electricity out to the house and property.  After the children got married and moved out of the home, in about 1936, Owen James put plumbing in the house. For Myrtie, to have running water in a sink and to have a real bathroom were dreams come true.

During most of the years the kids were home, Myrtie did laundry using tubs and washboards and water she had carried from the well and heated on the kitchen stove. (I doubt the job was as bucolic as the picture below looks, as with 11 -12 people in the household, laundry would be a constant chore: hot, without air conditioning in the summer, and in a Michigan winter, getting the water from the well would be a very cold onerous task.)

Climbing My Family Tree: Ad for laundry soap, approx 1910
Ad for laundry soap, approx 1910 (in the public domain)
Click to make bigger

Even something as simple today as ironing, if we do it at all (– permanent press, anyone?), was a major production before electricity. Lucille described the ironing process, explaining that this was before the luxury of an ironing board, and that the ironing was done on the kitchen table. A set of three irons – small, medium, and heavy were put on the cook stove to heat. One detachable cool handle fit all three irons and would clip on.  Myrtie would  test the iron’s readiness with a wet fingertip, and, if it was hot enough to sizzle, iron the garment. When the iron cooled, she took it back to the stove and set it on the stove to reheat; she then opened the stove lid and added more wood, and clipped the handle to another iron. Lucile said, “On hot days, she perspired, but with a large family, she ironed for hours.”

Climbing My Family Tree: Ad for clip on handled irons, 1911
Ad for clip on handled irons (in the public domain)
Click to make bigger

Myrtie's husband worked his Uncle Phil ‘s farm because Phil  had “rheumatism” (likely Rheumatoid arthritis).  They also cared for him in other little ways throughout the years, and he often visited at dinnertime. In the Spring of 1927, Phil got quite sick and didn’t get better. On June 30, 1927, Phil came to their home, and Myrtie put him in her and her husband’s bedroom to care for him until he got better. He didn’t leave the room , or the bed, for three years.  Myrtie fed him, and cleaned him, and took care of the bed pans.  At some point, because of the extra laundry, Phil and her husband bought her a Maytag washer with a gas engine to run it, but she still had to carry in water for the washing machine and two rinse tubs and heat it on the stove (to see how the washer worked, click HERE for a short demonstration on YouTube).  On July 9, 1930, Phil died in his sleep.

In addition to caring for the family and keeping house, there were farm chores to be done.

The farm had about 18 cows that needed to be milked twice daily. The milk was put into a separator,  a multi-piece contraption that Myrtie had to wash every morning. Once milk was poured in, the cream came out of one spout and the skimmed milk came out of the other. The milk was given to the animals (calves being weaned, pigs, and chickens), while the cream was put in milk cans and taken to the store once a week to be traded for groceries and other supplies. Some of the fresh cream was set aside to make butter in a big barrel churn that sat on a frame with handles that pushed the barrel over and over, thus churning the butter. The kids and Myrtie churned the butter, occasionally stopping to peek in the glass on the top to see how it was doing. When it turned into butter Myrtie drained all of the buttermilk into a pail. Then she tipped the butter into a large bowl and kneaded it to get out all of the buttermilk. Lucille said they then added yellow food coloring, which didn’t make sense to me so I looked it up and discovered that homemade butter can vary from very pale, almost white, to yellow, depending on what the cows eat, and, apparently, societal pressure had already declared that butter should be yellow. 

Climbing My Family Tree: End over End Butter Churn, photo by EFG, CC3
End over End Butter Churn, photo by EFG, CC3, found at Old and Interesting

Every year Myrtie raised hundreds of baby chicks in the basement, starting with eggs in an incubator powered by a kerosene lantern. It had regulators to keep the water temperature within a ½ degree of 103. Sometimes she set up two incubators. In front of the machine was an insulated glass door which was kept closed to preserve heat. Before the eggs could be put in the incubator they had to be tested to see if there was an embryo, by holding them up in front of a light in a box to see through the shell. Then the eggs were carefully put in the trays, and after 10 days they were tested again to see if there was a chicken inside. Only if the egg showed a chicken inside was it put back in the incubator.  For the next 21 days Myrtie had to take each rack out and turn each egg over halfway and then put the tray back in the incubator. At the end of 21 days, the little chicks would peck their way out of the shell, wet and exhausted. After a bit they fluffed up and regained their energy. In 4 to 6 hours the incubator would be full of live chicks hopping around. They would then be transferred to the brooder house in the back yard, which was heated by stove.

CVlimbing My Family Tree: Ad for kerosene lamp powered egg incubator, 1911
Ad for kerosene lamp powered egg incubator, 1911 (in public domain)
Also, you can still buy one from Lehman Bros (CLICK HERE)
Click picture to make bigger

Her life was not all work. Both Myrtie and her husband, and most of the children were musical, and she played piano and organ. On many Sunday afternoons the family gathered around the piano and sang song after song. [Now I think I know where the Henn tradition of gathering around the piano on Christmas and singing several books of Christmas carols, for hours, came from!]  She and her husband liked to listen to the radio as well: first, powered by car batteries brought into the house, and later by electricity. They never got a TV although they occasionally watched one at someone else’s home.

On November 5, 1953, after a short illness, Myrtie Mabel Wilcox Henn, age 73, died in Marlette Hospital. She was buried in the South Burnside Cemetery.  

If anyone knows more about Myrtie and would like to share with me, please leave a comment, or contact me by e-mail. My e-mail address is at the "contact Me" tab above. I would so love to know more!

I would love to find online archives of local newspapers to see if there are any stories that would bring Myrtie more to life (it will be several years before I can make a research trip to Michigan). 
I'd also like to find more pictures of Myrtie and Owen James.


U.S. Federal Censuses: 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920,1930, 1940; 1851 Census of Canada East, Canada West, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia; "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 May 2014), Owen Henn and Myrtle Wilcox, 02 Sep 1901; citing Romeo, Oakland, Michigan, v 3 p 523 rn 187, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; "Members of the Flock" by Lucille Henn Robson; http://www.oldandinteresting.com

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

52 Ancestors: #21 Owen James Henn (1878-1962) of Burnside, Michigan

Climbing My Family Tree: Owen James Henn, 1899
Owen James Henn -1899
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

Owen James Henn, my great-grandfather on my father’s side, was born November 14, 1878 to John and Elizabeth (O’Brian) Henn in Burnside Michigan. He was the middle of five children, born five years after his parent’s marriage.  He had two brothers and two sisters: Otto Henn (1875-1946), Ella May (1876-1942), Floyd O. (1880 – 1943), and Olive “Ollie” E. (1884-1938). By the time Owen was born his father was a farmer, although the property to become known as the Henn Family farm (one mile south of Burnside, MI) was not bought until the next year.

I am going to refer to him as “Owen James” even though he went by “Owen” throughout his life, and even though it's clunky, because there appears to be at least one “Owen” per generation in the Henn family, albeit with differing middle names. Using both his first and middle names will help us keep track of what generation we’re speaking of in the long run.

On August 11, 1896, C. J. Dandel organized the Burnside Cornet Band and Owen James and his brothers Otto and Floyd became charter members of the band, which traveled around to local communities playing concerts through 1904. Owen became the leader of the band.  (He’s wearing his Burnside Cornet Band uniform in the photo above.)  On August 10, 1901, they played at Novesta Corners, MI, and Cass City, MI.  Thereafter, though they had stopped practicing and regularly playing concerts, the band members met annually at least through 1931 (as per the Cass City newspaper), and I get the impression from family references that they continued to meet annually for life.

Owen lived at home and worked on his father’s farm until he was 22, when he married Myrtie Mabel Wilcox (21), whose relatives farmed the property kitty-corner to Owen’s father’s farm.  Myrtie was a teacher. Owen James and Myrtie attended the Brown City Baptist Church. They lived to share 52 years together and had eight children: Ervin John (1902-1992), Hazel Annette McArthur (1902-1962), Earl Owen (1904-1904), Lowell Floyd (1905-1984), Owen Carl (1906-1988), Irma Jane Sutton (1911-2006), Frank Elwyn (1913-1995), and Lucille Elizabeth Robson (1915-1993.) In 1904, they had to deal with the sorrow of the death of a child when baby Earl Owen died. It was normal then to give a deceased child's name to a later born child, particularly if the dead child was named for someone the parents still wished to honor. So the name “Owen” was also given to the next son born after the baby died, my grandfather, Owen Carl Henn ["Carl"].

As they started out their married life, Owen James continued to work as farm labor on his father’s farm. But by 1915, he had his own farm (see land record  for Burnside Township below); his father had bought each of his children a farm, to be paid into the estate after his wife died.  Over the course of his lifetime, Owen James became known as one of the “big” farmers in Burnside. He owned 200 acres and worked his uncle Phil’s 140 acres and his brother Otto’s land (115 acres), and along with his brother Frank, he pastured “Uncle Tony’s land” (perhaps Anthony Esper, husband of Ella Mae Henn, Owen James’ sister).

Climbing My Family Tree: 1915 Land Record for Burnside Township Michigan
1915 Land Record for Burnside Township Michigan
Owen's land is just below the space between the 'N' & 'S' in BURNSIDE printed across the middle of the page.
Click to make bigger

When he registered for the draft for WW1 in 1918, at 39, Owen James was described as being of medium height and medium build, with brown eyes and black hair.

During WW1, emotions -- and paranoia (manifested via the Espionage and Sedition Acts of 1917 and 1918 and vigilante groups reporting every perceived disloyalty to government enforcers) -- were running strong in this country against Germans and other non-Americans and recently immigrated Americans,  and most immigrant families in this country were being particularly careful of how they acted and spoke. Owen James and Myrtie were first generation Americans: Owen James’ father had emigrated from Germany and Myrtie’s parents had emigrated from Canada. Richard Rubin, in “The Last of the Doughboys” describes an America where immigrant Americans and their families had to prove their loyalty repeatedly in many ways. There were several Liberty Bond campaigns focused directly on immigrant Americans, including one campaign wherein the posters were loaded with patriotic symbols and the words: “Are You 100% American? Prove It! Buy U.S. Government Bonds.”

It was in this atmosphere that Owen James sold some cattle and took the money to the bank and bought some Liberty bonds, and when, a month or so later Dolph McNary canvassed the neighborhood selling Liberty Bonds, he told McNary that he didn’t want to buy any, instead of saying that he had already bought some, because he didn’t think it was anyone else’s business whether he bought any or not, according to my grandfather, as told to Grand-Aunt Lucille. McNary told the whole neighborhood that the Henns were pro-German, and his son repeated it all over school and started calling the kids the “Kaisers”. Later that was shortened to calling my grandfather “Ki” and the nickname stuck far longer than the memory of why it was imposed did. Fortunately for the family, the threat of being accused of being disloyal did blow over eventually.

Owen James was one of the last farmers to give up farming with horses and start using a tractor.  My grandfather told a story to Grand-Aunt Lucille, that when a Moline Tractor dealer opened up in Brown City, the dealer wanted to sell Owen James the first tractor as it would be a huge boost in sales if he could say Owen James bought a 2-wheeler tractor, or walking tractor, from him (which, as I found out, is a single-axel tractor, self-powered and self-propelled, which was used to pull and power other farm implements while the driver walked along side it or rode on the attached piece of equipment– see picture below).  Owen James didn’t want it and said so, but the dealer kept pushing the price lower until he finally said he’d take it. After he paid for it outright, Owen James took it across the street to the International dealer and traded the Moline for an International, and took the IMC tractor home. I guess he really didn’t want to be used as anyone’s advertisement! I didn’t have enough of a description to find a picture of the IMC tractor but the Moline tractor was likely the one pictured here.

Climbing My Family Tree: Moline Two-Wheeled Walking Tractor, 1920
Moline Two Wheel Walking Tractor, 1920
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Although he farmed all his life, Owen James also had a teaching certificate.  Additionally, he served as the Burnside Township Clerk for ten years and at some point was justice of the peace, according to his obituary.

You have to remember that when Owen James and Myrtie started their life together they didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing, or even a car.  They used to tell their daughter Lucille that when cars were first on the road, whenever they heard one coming, they’d go outside and watch it go by. One day there was a car coming from each direction and they were going to have to meet! This was such a big event that they remembered it until they died.  Can you imagine?

On January 20, 1923, Owen James bought his first automobile, a  1922 Chevrolet Touring Car (see picture below); Grand-Aunt Lucile remembered it as having curtains that were put in or taken down depending on the weather (she still had the receipt!). About four years later he bought another, more beat up, ’22 Chevy Touring car for parts. The beat up one is the car all his kids learned to drive with. His 1931 driver’s license describes him as age 53, white, male, 5’5”, 150 pounds, with black hair and brown eyes.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1922 Chevrolet Touring Car Advertisement
Advertisement for 1922 Chevrolet Touring Car
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[Note: In 1922, $1 was worth $13.05. The average wage in 1922 was $991 (today's equivalent $12,930), a gallon of gas cost 25 cents (today's equivalent $3.26)  and the average house cost $8024 (today's equivalent $104,691); in 1925, a pound of bacon was 47 cents, a pound of bread was 9 cents, a pound of coffee was 50 cents.]

In 1927, Owen James took in a sick uncle, Philip Henn, who had never married, to help him get well, and he and Myrtie gave up their own bedroom for him. He never left the bed again, until he died three years later, still in their care.

When radios started being sold to the public, those in rural areas with no electricity would buy them and power them with car batteries brought into the house, and it was listened to with headphones as the radio didn’t come with speakers at the beginning. Myrtie’s uncle Albert had one of those. Grand-Aunt Lucille recalls that her father, Owen James, eventually got a radio after they came with speakers, but it was still hooked up to car batteries in the living room of the house. She said that “Dad and the boys all had to be home by 7:00 PM each night to hear the Amos and Andy show", a popular radio comedy that ran live shows nightly from 1928-1943. (Here’s a six minute sample of The Amos ‘n Andy show, recorded on the eve of the 1928 election – mislabeled 1929:; there are recordings of other Amos ‘n Andy radio shows on YouTube as well that run about thirty minutes each. And here’s a short, interesting article on the show:

Owen James and Myrtie didn’t get electricity until 1935. All of their children were nearly grown by then.  The first four had homes of their own and the youngest three would be married with a year. It was a time of changes and of losses.  In 1938, Owen James’ youngest sister died, at age 53, only five days after contracting pneumonia.  It had to be hard a hard time for him.

When he registered in the Old Man’s Draft for WWII, in 1940, Owen James was 62 years old. He did not get called up in either World War.

His wife, Myrtie passed away in 1953, after a short illness. Owen James lived 9 years longer. He was active until the end, when he, too, died after a short illness. Approximately a month before he died he wrote a letter to his daughter Hazel, who was in Chicago at the time, explaining that he was going to Lucille’s to watch the Rose Parade on television and would stop by Hazel’s house to water the plants. He died on February 8, 1962, at age 83. Funeral services were held Saturday in the Carman Funeral Home, the Rev. Erwin W. Gram, pastor of Brown City Baptist Church, officiating. Burial was in Burnside Twp. Cemetery.

Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book (Members of the Flock) says that she and he watched John Glenn orbit the earth together just before he died but that happened two weeks afterwards. However, ten months before, the Russians had sent Yuri Gagarin into orbit around the earth. Just think, in his lifetime he used horses to farm, then the first tractors, saw the first cars, got electricity for the first time in his home at age 57, saw airplanes cross the skies for the first time, and just before his life ended saw a man go into space.  Wow!

[P.S.: I just noticed that Owen James' father, John, was the Census enumerator for the 1900 census! Dolph McNary was the enumerator for the 1910 Census, and Owen James Henn was for the 1930 Census.]

I’ve discovered, to my dismay, that either not as many historical Michigan newspapers are online as I found in Ohio for Mom’s side of the family, or they are more difficult to find. I’d like to find local newspaper stories on Owen James. I figure he had to have made the paper through the Cornet Band and through being Town Clerk, at minimum.

I’m shy on stories and records after 1940 and would like to fill in the last 22 years of his life better.


Federal Census  1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930, 1940; draft registrations for WWI & WWII; CASS CITY CHRONICLE, FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 1914, p. 1 & FRIDAY, AUGUST 28, 1931., p.1 (Rawson Memorial Library Collection.; "Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 27 May 2014), Owen Henn and Myrtle Wilcox, 02 Sep 1901; citing Romeo, Oakland, Michigan, v 3 p 523 rn 187, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2342519;;;; "The Last of the Doughboys", by Richard Rubin; “Members of the Flock” by Lucille Henn Robson