Sunday, June 30, 2013

Estate Sale Photo Update

Back in April I described how I think I found a photo of a relative down here in Tennessee. (See: Is Estate Sale Photo A Relative?) I was telling my dad the story when he noticed one more detail in common between my estate sale find and the photo I already had of Fred Allion. The top button on the coat is different than the other button(s). While I'm sure people could argue over whether the deep-set eyes, mustache and nose look the same, the button difference is one objective point of comparison. While it is possible that having a different top button was a trend in the mid-1890s I suspect that wasn't the case. However, if anyone has evidence to the contrary, I would appreciate hearing about it.

The photo I found in Tennessee.

The photo I already had.

In an effort to identify any connection between the previous owners of the photo and myself I contacted the people who conducted the estate sale. The woman confirmed that the photo did come from the estate and that the family didn't know who any of the people in the photos at the sale were. I asked her if she would inform the family that I thought the photo was one of my people and that if they were interested we could try to identify the link. It has been a couple of months now and I have heard nothing. Consequently, I can only assume they don't want to pursue it or the estate sale people didn't pass along the information.

So, I did a bit of reverse genealogy to see if I could find anything that way. Using the address of the house as my starting point I was able to determine the names of the residents as they turned up on several people finder sites. Because ages were often included I guessed at their relationships to each other. I then looked for an obituary for the oldest male in the house who had an unusual first name. I found it and it confirmed the presumed relationships. Surprisingly, a 101-year-old woman was also living in the household (how current this age was I didn't know). I hypothesized that this was the elderly man's mother. A search in the 1940 census with both their names pulled them up in Nashville along with the sister mentioned in the obituary. So, armed with the names of both parents, I found a marriage license and a maiden name, though sadly no parents' names. Unfortunately, a quick search of census records failed to identify either of them in census records prior to their marriage. For one there were several possible families and for the other there were almost none to choose from. Clearly, tracking down a family connection will take more work, but at least I have enough information to start if I can ever find the time. Right now I have bigger genealogical fish to fry.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Three Rivers' Riverside Cemetery Map

Just today I received a map of the Three Rivers Riverside Cemetery so I thought I would share.  Before visiting Michigan last year I searched online for a map of the cemetery, but failed to find one.  I hope this helps someone else.  With about 10,000 burials, according to the city of Three Rivers website, finding a grave marker would be nearly impossible without knowing at least the section number.  If you plan to go this summer be aware that the signs indicating the cemetery sections are not currently in place.  They are being replaced and should be back up by the fall.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

It's Swimsuit Season

In honor of summer I am posting some swimsuit photos from my collection. 

Based on other photos in this collection it may be from the 1930s, but I'm not sure.

Possibly circa 1910-1920.

From the mid-to late 1930s.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Easiest Line I've Ever Traced Isn't Mine!

Just recently I decided to do a bit of sleuthing, just for fun, on my step-father's family.  Being from Kent county I knew I could find plenty of Michigan records to do my initial tracking. What I didn't count on was in a matter of hours to trace one line of the family back to Revolutionary War time using online records (Seeking Michigan and Family Search). A Google book search pushed it back three more generations with a published genealogy.

I ended up following the Farrington line from Michigan back to a man named John Farrington who was reportedly in the Americas at least by 1639. [1]  That's not bad for several hours work. It was certainly exciting for me to follow such a clear lineage and get so far with it (and no, I never looked at anyone else's tree, there really was no need to). Naturally, this is merely the scaffold upon which to build something more interesting than a list of names and dates, but it's a place to start. I only wish my family were so readily traceable. I'm not greedy; I'd be happy with just one line like the Farringtons.

Why is it that none of my family lines were this easy to trace? The luck of the draw, I suppose. In a little over ten years doing genealogy on my own family I have never been able to trace any one line this easily with census and vital records. I ascribe it mostly to luck. Michigan has reasonably good records, prior to requiring birth/death certificates. Massachusetts, because it has more history, has good records even further back (and they are online also). I actually found vital records (birth, marriage and death) for virtually all of the direct ancestors in this line. On top of this I was very fortunate to find parents' names (usually both) on the vital records I did find.

Now that I've done the hard/fun part, I anticipate I'll have a good Who Do You Think You Are moment for the family. Even if they know a little, I'm sure they have no idea they can trace their heritage to within twenty years of the Mayflower. While I didn't find any ancestors who served in the Revolutionary War, I didn't really look very hard. Besides, if I found out everything for them they couldn't have the satisfaction of finding a few of these treasures for themselves.

1. William Richard Cutter, editor, New England Families, Genealogical and Memorial: A Record Of The Achievements Of Her People In The Making Of Commonwealths And The Founding Of A Nation, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1914) 3: 1552-1553.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Did Your US Boys Fight For Another Country?

I'm sure any genealogist will tell you not to make assumptions when conducting research. I know this rule, but every now and then it's useful to be reminded of it. This happened to me recently when I discovered that my great-grandmother's brother, George Flynn, fought in WWI as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF).

I was searching the online Kalamazoo newspapers at the Kalamazoo Public Library website for my Flynn surname from 1910-1920 when I found an article about George. It reported that he was convalescing in a Liverpool hospital. I never expected that George, who grew up in Oshtemo, or any of my people born in the U.S., would have fought for another country, especially if they served in the U.S. military as George previously had. I don't know how common this was, but this was the first one (that I know of) in my family. Now I will remember not to assume my American boys only served in the U.S. military.

I looked at the date of the article and wondered if George had been wounded at the second Battle of Ypres (in Belgium) which would have been the right time frame. I looked for information about the battle and it was a doozie. It was the first battle that the CEF engaged in overseas. [1] The Germans attacked with chlorine gas, striking the Algerians (part of the French army). [1] The line shattered as the Algerians not killed scattered. [1] The green Canadian troops had to fill the four-mile gap and consequently sustained heavy losses, just over 6,700 killed, wounded or taken prisoner. [1] “Wow,” I thought, “it's no wonder George was in the hospital if he went through a battle like that.”

Naturally, I began searching for Canadian military records and found them at the Library and Archives Canada. After searching their website for soldiers in the CEF in WWI I found five George Flynns and was able to determine which was mine by examining the attestation papers for date and place of birth. I ordered George's file and waited. About three weeks later I received the digitized records. They confirmed that George had been recovering in a hospital in England. However, George was not engaged in the second Battle of Ypres as far as I can tell.

The details surrounding George's time in France are still fuzzy as there were, unfortunately, no descriptive accounts included in the file. However, after scrutinizing everything it appears he was diagnosed with rheumatic fever while on the field in France several days before the Battle of Ypres commenced. George presented with an acute case of rheumatism of the ankles and knees on April 12, 1915. [2, 3] A falling parapet may also have injured his back around the same time and he was reportedly invalided out of the trenches with rheumatic fever on April 26. [4, 5] One document in George's file listed the dates he was admitted to various hospitals and mentioned at least three casualty reports, but unfortunately, these are not were not among the papers in George's file. [3] George recovered, but was considered unfit for regular duty. Instead, he served as a batman (runner/valet) for an officer until he was returned to Canada several months later. [6] A medical board recommended that he be discharged on account of disability. [4, 7]

One last reminder about being careful when reviewing records is the following. There was a single document in George's file that described fractures of the right jaw and radius from a shell explosion, and noted there were symptoms of poison gas exposure. [8] However this was all crossed out. As I originally stated, I found five George Flynns listed as serving in the CEF. There was no mention of any battle-related injuries in George's file, including his discharge papers so I am confident it wasn't my man. [4] My best guess is that the information for another George Flynn was mistakenly included in my George's file and that's why it was crossed out.

There are at least three morals of this story. 1) Don't assume that because your man was born in the United States (and even served in the U.S. Military) that he didn't also serve elsewhere. 2) Never assume that your man was in a battle just because his unit was there (he could have been sick in the hospital or on detached duty elsewhere). 3) Beware of information that is inconsistent with everything else. It isn't necessarily wrong, but you should re-examine all available sources and then make a note of why you think it is correct or not so you don't have to re-trace your steps the next time you look at it.

  1. Essay on the Second Battle of Ypres, Library and Archives Canada. Online <>, accessed 12 May 2013.
  2. Document 18, Medical Report on an Invalid, 20 Oct 1915, Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Regimental No. 16621, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3161 – 45, Library and Archives Canada.
  3. Documents 30-31, Report of promotions, reductions, transfers, casualties, etc, during active service, (no single date), Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.
  4. Documents 6-8, Proceedings on Discharge, 26 May 1916 Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.
  5. Documents 14-17, Medical History Of An Invalid, 14 Mar 1917, Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.
  6. Documents 18-21, Medical Report on an Invalid, 20 Oct 1915, Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.
  7. Documents 10-12, Medical History Of An Invalid, 11 Jul 1916, Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.
  8. Documents 36-37, Medical History Sheet, 1 Jul 1915 Discharge Documents, George L. Flynn, Pvt., 7th Battalion, Soldiers of the First World War – Canadian Expeditionary Force, RG 150, Library and Archives Canada.