Monday, November 17, 2014

52 Ancestors: #44 Anna Gregor Bennett (1858 – 1929), my greatgrandmother

Climbing My Family Tree: Location of Puslinch Township in what is now Ontario Canada, courtesy of Google maps
Location of Puslinch Township in what is now Ontario Canada
 Courtesy of Google maps
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.

I had been intending to write about someone else, and had found some fascinating things. But, I hit a snag, and figuring out how to untangle it is taking too much time right now. So I’ve decided instead to write up my great-grandmother, Andrew Bennett’s wife, for this week, especially since she leads to the person I have been researching (who I will post about in the future – so you now know you have something fascinating to look forward to). Finding and tracking Anna before her marriage to my great-grandfather was interesting to me as well --- and again proves the helpfulness of researching more than just my direct line into to find my people. I’m not going to repeat the historical information I put in Andrew’s post; please read his post as well.

Anna Gregor is my great-grandmother:  my father’s maternal grandmother. Anna was born on October 7, 1858 or 1859 to Benjamin Gregor (1824 – 1880) and Elizabeth Taylor (about 1832 – before 1880). She was probably born in Puslinch Township in Wellington County, in the British colony of the United Province of Canada (in what today would be Ontario, Canada today), as her mother grew up there and her father moved there sometime in the six years prior to Anna’s birth. Puslinch Township is  just south of the town of Guelph, which is  61 miles (99 km) west of where Toronto is now and in the peninsula east of Lake Huron, west of Lake Ontario and north of Lake Erie. (See map at the head of the post.) I’ll discuss its history more when I do posts on Anna’s parents and grandparents as some of them were among the early pioneers in the area.

In the 1861 Census of Canada, Anna was 2 years old and living with her parents and older brother James (he was 4) in Puslinch Township. Her father was a farmer. The census recorder spelled their last name as Grigor. By 1871, the family had expanded to include younger brothers George (9) & Benjamin (3) and younger sister Gracie (7). And, again the census taker spelled their last name as Grigor. I think Anna’s mother died in or before 1879, as I cannot find her in any census in Canada or the United States after that date. Hr father died on 15 March, 1880.* The children left Puslinch Township by or shortly after 1880 -- four of the five moving to Michigan. James moved to Michigan first, in or about 1878 and the others joined him in 1879.

Climbing my Family Tree: 1884 Michigan State Census (Goodland twp. Lapeer County, MI), found at SeekingMichigan.org
1884 Michigan State Census (Goodland twp. Lapeer County, MI)
Found at SeekingMichigan.org
Click to make bigger

I found Anna in the U.S. Census, in 1880, when searching for her brother James; she was living with him in Burnside Township in Lapeer County Michigan; she kept house for him as he farmed. Searching the surname “Gregor” at SeekingMichigan.org, I found James, Anna, and Benjamin in the 1884 Michigan Census (see above picture), living in the township of Goodland, in Lapeer County. James (27) worked in “lumber manufacturing”, Anna (24) was his housekeeper and Benjamin (17) attended school.  The census also indicated that a female of 18, who had previously lived in the household, had married Anson Bentley on August 18, 1884. I also found a marriage record for Grace’s marriage to Anson Bentley on that date. Between these three documents I felt I had enough information to confirm that this was indeed where my great-grandmother and her siblings had gone after the probable death of their parents, and to confirm this was my Anna (Anna Bennett is a very common name). The census form also asked the time of residence within the state, which is how I found out that that James moved to Michigan first. He reported he had been there 6 years and Anna and Benjamin reported they had been there 5 years.

I think Anna’s younger brother, George, remained in Canada when the others moved to Michigan, although I’m not certain of that.  The first record I found him in was a marriage record for 1888, in which he married Emily Janette Lamont in Puslinch; the record indicated that his residence was in Hespeler, Ontario which is 9 miles (15 km) west of Guelph. [George, and his wife subsequently moved to Manitoba Canada and lived out their lives there. Anna's sister, Grace, and her husband, Anson Bentley, moved to Kansas, then Wyoming, and then to Idaho where they were buried. Anna's youngest brother, Benjamin, married Maude Amelia Thompson, and they lived most of their life in Indiana. After Maude died, he moved to Illinois; he was buried in Newago, MI with Maude. Unfortunately, I lost James after 1884.]

I feel a bit sad for Anna, with her family scattered at long distances from her. My brothers are all at long distances from me, but I have telephones, the internet, cars, and airplanes, and Anna likely didn’t have any of them. While telephones had been invented by the late 1870’s, their use in homes wasn’t common in rural areas until into the mid-1900’s because it was so expensive to string the wires out to the farm homes. Brown City itself received telephone service in 1898, but long distance calls were expensive and not private, as many families in separate households would share a “party” line and could hear whoever was speaking if they picked up their receiver. The rural areas of Sanilac County were slow to receive telephone service, until Federal Funds were approved to help run electricity and telephone wires to rural areas in the Rural Electrification Act of 1936 – seven years after Anna died.

I wonder if her brothers and sisters ever visited her, or she, them? With railroad travel it would have been possible and a lot easier and less time than horse and wagons had taken—one could travel across the country in a week instead of the several months it had taken just a few decades before.

I bet letters from Grace, George, James, and Benjamin were like gold the rest of her life. I hope they were good correspondents.

Climbing My Family Tree: Postcard of Brown City MI  Main Street East in 1906
Postcard of Brown City MI  Main Street East in 1906
Off copyright and in the public domain, but
found at http://genealogytrails.com/mich/sanilac/citybrown.html (where there are more postcards)
Click to make bigger
Sometime after moving to Michigan, Anna must have met and gotten to know Andrew Bennett when he came home to visit family in Lapeer County (adjacent to Sanilac County – Brown City straddles both counties), from where he was working in Evart MI, as she married him on April 16, 1885. Anna and Andrew lived in Brown City, MI, on the Sanilac county side at least through their last child’s birth; the children’s birth records show a Brown City address. Their children were: Benjamin Gregor (born 15 February 1886, married Florence Short, and died 31 January 1970); William John (born 15 April 1889, married Mary Kalbfleisch, death date not discovered for certain yet); Elizabeth Grace (born 8 May 1891, married Arthur Bernard Martin, died 7 February 1920),  Blanche Maud (born in January 1894, married & divorced William John Huston, died 8 February 1948), Andrew Russell (born 26 January 1896, married Olive Gertrude Glover, died 23 July 1969), Anna Mae - my grandmother (born 16 May 1898, married Owen Carl Henn, died 12 September 1977), Margaret McFarland (born in August 1900, died 6 April 1935) and Thomas Edison Bennett (born 19 February 1906, married Lenore M. Griffen, died 1969). 

Climbing My Family Tree: 1900 Federal Census - Andrew and Anna Bennett Family
1900 Federal Census - Andrew and Anna Bennett Family,
found at Ancestry.com
Click to make bigger

By the time their youngest child was four years old, the family moved out to Maple Valley township, in Sanilac county and farmed until they retired. Then they moved back to a house in town in Brown City, leaving the running of the farm to their son William and his bride. Andrew died in 1925 and Anna followed three years later on April 18, 1928.


This is when I truly regret that I cannot find any Sanilac or Lapeer county newspaper archives online. When I can find historical newspapers online for where my ancestors lived, I can find out all sorts of things that help me build a fuller picture of them as a person as besides real news stories, the old time newspapers printed stories about who is going to visit who, who had someone over for dinner, church activities, school activities, legal notices, anniversary and reunion celebrations, as well as obituaries. But, try as I might, I can’t find any for any newspaper in Sanilac or Lapeer counties at any of the major (or minor) newspaper archive sites.

If you know anything about Anna Gregor Bennett and/or her family, and are willing to share, please contact me by leaving a comment below or by emailing me at the address provided in my Contact Me page.


Update: Anna's father, Benjamin Gregor, died 15 March 1880, according to the index of Ontario deaths on Familysearch.
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I truly wish I knew more about my great-grandparents. I wish I had pictures of them. I’ve seen pictures of one of Anna’s brothers and of her sister on other people’s trees on Ancestry.com, and that just makes me want to see her more (I can’t post the pictures of her siblings here for you to see as I haven’t reached out to the tree owners to ask for permission to do so yet).

I’d also like to know when, where and why her parents died. And where did her brother James go after 1884; did he have a family of his own? And more of what her life was like.

By the way, did you know that there are petroglyphs in Sanilac County that are 300-1000 years old?! Too cool! I'd also like to go see them! But until I do, here’s a link to a blog by a guy who did go see them, who has lots of pictures at the bottom of his post about his trip to the Sanilac Petroglyphs Historic State Park
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Canadian census of 1861; U.S. Federal Censuses for 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, and 1930; Michigan State Census for 1884; http://www.rurdev.usda.gov/rd/70th/rea-history.pdf; http://history.howstuffworks.com/american-history/early-twentieth-century-railroads.htm; http://amhistory.si.edu/onthemove/themes/story_48_1.html ; http://www.ci.brown-city.mi.us/history.php; http://genealogytrails.com/mich/sanilac/citybrown.html

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