52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 2 of 2022 – Favorite Find

For me this is difficult because I have quite a number of “favorite finds”. I will start my very first favorite find in the early years of my research. When I was a child I asked my Grandfather, Everett Smith, where he grew up and he said “Roanoke, Indiana.” So logically when I started my research for my Smith Ancestors, I started looking in Roanoke. He had a picture of his High School and it was indeed in Roanoke.

I spent six months or more researching and they all came up as dead ends. It just did not make since. Little did I know that they were hiding all of 8.6 miles away in another county. They lived in Nine Mile, Indiana which is located in Allen County, Indiana. When you are researching “Smith’s” , 8.6 miles away in a different county is like being a world away! Roanoke was a good size community in Huntington County compared to Nine Mile which was a crossroad farm community with a couple of churches.

When I began my research I was living in Illinois. Every fall I would take a few days off from work and go visit my Grandchildren who were living in Michigan. On this day I decided to take a more rural route to Michigan by way of a side trip to the Fort Wayne area. I took a US Highway 30 through northern Indiana from the southeast suburbs of Chicago to Fort Wayne. The fall leaves were beautiful. The sun was shining and I traveled the whole distance with the window rolled down absorbing every second of the fall ride. My first stop was at the Methodist church at Nine Mile, Indiana. I had found records which indicated that my Smith Family had likely lived nearby and that the father, James and some of the children maybe buried in the cemetery at this church.

I found a section of the cemetery in the northwest corner which seemed to have the oldest stones. There was a pile of broken stone pieces stacked on a base. When I moved them, I was thrilled to discover that they were the Smith stones I was searching for.

Broken stone of James and Susannah Smith, Kisiah, Charles and Barberry in the cemetery located in Nine Mile Indiana next to the United Methodist Church of Nine Mile.

I would learn later that all these pieces are actually one stone. The church burial records which I would later obtain from a cemetery trustee would show that James, Charles, Kisiah and a baby name Barberry are all buried in this plot and listed on this stone. Susannah is also on the stone but the church has no record of her being buried here.

I later had the stone fixed

Mary Ann , wife of Jonathan Kimble and daughter Susanna

The remaining Smiths’ buried in the Nine Mile Cemetery are in the plot to the south of the broken stone. I noticed the stone that day but I did not record it. I noticed it because the stone looks like it is growing out of a tree. I thought to myself, “what a shame” that a tree has grown in that woman’s grave. I took a picture of it and read the name on the stone but thought nothing of it. After returning home and obtaining burial records from the trustee of the cemetery, I realized that Mary Ann Kimble and her daughter Susanna, who are buried in this grave are the daughter and granddaughter of James and Susannah Smith.

I had been wandering this cemetery for nearly two hours now and I needed to get back on the road again to get to Michigan for my visit with my Grandchildren. I decided I would stop again on my way home and see if I could find out anything more.

When I returned from Michigan after my visit, I had the better part of an afternoon to see what I could find out about my these people who seemed to be related to me. After arriving at Nine Miles again, I knocked on the door of the the house directly across the street from the church. I hoped that it was the parsonage but now days you just can not be sure. I hoped that maybe I could talk to the minister about church records. It was a nice brick home much like the homes that my Grandparents had lived in while Grandpa Everett was a minister. The brick looked like the same as the bricks the church had been built with.

A lovely middle aged woman answered the door. She was dressed in a nice pair of dress slacks with a very pretty blouse. I explained who I was and what had brought me to Nine Mile Indiana. The reaction on her face showed a bit of surprise followed by a large warm smile. She offered her hand to me in a warm welcome. We chatted about the church a bit but she did not know much about its history. At this point in my search I could not be certain if this was my family or not. I had hoped the find out that the church had lots of old records and they would be able to answer all my questions! For a Family historian this is the equivalent of hitting the lottery!

She was a very nice lady and as it turned out she was the minister. It brought a smile to my face. Oh much had changed since the days that Grandpa Everett was a minister. In their day, Grandma Lillian would have been answering the door. She would have had a dress on with her apron wrapped around her waist careful to wipe her hands before opening the door and inviting you in. The parsonage door was always open to visitors.

My sensed that she was on her way out the door when she answered the doorbell and that turned out to be true. She was headed to the hospital to visit with a church member. She asked if I wanted to see the church. “I’ll unlock it for you and when I return in an hour or so I’ll close it up then.” I told her that would be wonderful. We walked across the street chatting about the church and the quaint cemetery which surrounds it. She unlocked the door and opened it for me. Inviting me in, she said “enjoy your visit and I hope you find what you are looking for.” “I’ll be back in an hour or so to lock up”, she said. I went into the church and she walked back to the parsonage getting in her car and driving away. I thought to myself that it is a shame that we must lock our church doors these days. In Grandpa’s day, the church was always open. You never knew when someone would need to have a few minutes with God.

The church looked very much like the churches of my childhood. In the vestibule there were stairs leading up to the sanctuary or down to what I imagines were Sunday school rooms and a nursery. As I walked into the sanctuary, my thoughts turn to Grandpa Everett, wondering if he had ever been here. Could this have been his church? As I sat in the back of the church in the pew, I took in the beauty of this sanctuary. It is arrange much like a Theater, the pews fanned out with the focal point being the alter. It was not large but very warm and inviting.

I sat there in the peace and stillness of this beautiful church, with God, Grandpa Everett and other family members who I had not met yet but was certain that I would meet them soon. I was disappointed to find out that there were no Church records to speak of. “Oh we have a dusty old box in the corner of the Office downstairs which might have a few things in it” the minister had stated, “but probably nothing that will help you much.”

I decided that a trip to the wash room downstairs would be necessary before I got back in the car and headed to Chicago. The basement was dark. They had a nice fellowship hall, a kitchen, a nursery and restrooms. When I came out of the rest room, I was thinking about the church as I walked toward the stair way to leave. To the right of the stairway hanging on the wall, was a quilt. I was at first startled but soon intrigued by it. It become the most exciting find for me in my family history search in my early years of research. It was my winning lottery ticket!

Crazy Quilt made by the Ladies Aid Society in 1906

I snapped on the lights so I could see it better. This quilt was made by the Ladies Aid Society in 1906. It was a turn of the century Crazy Quilt block design. On each of the pieces of fabric, a family member embroidered a name of each family member who belonged to this church. In 1906, my Grandfather and his parents still lived in the area at that time. I was certain that there would be family members names on this quilt, if the man named James Smith who is buried in the cemetery was indeed my 3 times Great Grandfather.. So I quickly took a picture of the quilt as a whole and each of the blocks thinking that I could have family members on this quilt. There were so many names and I did not have time to write them all down. I had no idea when I would get back her again.

I returned home to Chicago and spent the next few weeks (after work) trying to transcribe the names correctly from the embroidered names on each block into a spreadsheet. Then I spent some time researching the names in an effort to verify them. There are 313 names of church members in the Nine Mile United Methodist Church in 1906 listed on this quilt. This is a Genealogist’s Winning Lottery Ticket. My Great Grandparents and my Grandfather were not among the families listed but several cousin were..

One Quilt block

I have not looked at these names for a while. Now that there is so much more data available online and I am retired, I need to resurrect this project and work on it ! This was part of the reason that I started Blogging when I did. It has been a long time since I have looked at these families. This was the first of my many favorite finds! Oh I might add that my other hobby is quilting!

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 1 of 2022 – Foundations

Steeple Ashton in Wilshire, England

When I saw the word “Foundations” as the prompt for the first week of January, it did not take me long to decide what to write about but the question was who? As Genealogist, we are always looking for our foundations. We are looking for those people who came before us to create this ever evolving family that we belong to.

This week I was casually looking at DNA matched on Ancestry when I came along a Silverthorn connection. In the Ancestry Thruline, I had a potential 5th Great Grandparent, George Silverthorn. At the 5th Great Grandparent level, you have a foundation of 128 Grandmothers and Grandfathers or 64 sets of Grandparents. So far in Ancestry, at this level in my tree, I have 83 of the 128 Grandparents identified and DNA matches associated with these grandparents. They are not all verified but Ancestry has found data to indicate that these people could be a part of my foundation!

This week with the Silverthorn couple I decided to work on verifying them. My first known Silverthorn was Dorothy Emeline Silverthorn who was born in Ontario in 1834. She married John Landon Best in 1851 in Ontario. They are my 3rd Great Grandparents. Dorothy’s parents, my 4th Great Grandparents are William Silverthorn (1793) and Anna White (1809). They were married in Bayham, Ontario. William’s parents are George Silverthorn (1760) and Anna Morgan (1763). They lived in New Jersey and married there but later left with George’s parents and other members of his family for Canada when it became obvious that the Revolutionary War was going to break out. They were Loyalist. George and Anna are my 5th Grandparents. I have a lot of Canadian Loyalist in my foundation!

My 6th Great Grandparents are Thomas Silverthorn (1717) and Johannah Newman (1718). Thomas was born in Amesbury, Wiltshire, England in 1717. They had ten children. That is a lot of Silverthorn families to look at this week. My 7th Great Grandparents are Oliver Silverthorne (1686) and Mary Champion de Crespigny (1688). This couple had three sons, George, Thomas and William. Oliver and his three sons were the first Silverthorne Family to come to America in the early 1700’s. They came with 97 other Quaker families and settled in Hunterdon County, New Jersey. The family name seemed to change from Silverthorne to Silverthorn at about the time they emigrated.

My 8th Great Grandparents are Oliver Silverthorne (1655) and Margaret Mist (1661). Oliver was born in Netheravon, Wiltshire, England in July of 1686. This family is documented in the United Kingdom for six more generations to my 14th Great Grandparents, John William Silverthorne who was born in 1450 and his wife Aussie who was born in 1460. All generations of this British Silverthorne family were known to come from Ashton, Wilshire, England. There was a Silverthorne Family Association who has thoroughly documented this family in England and documented some of the Silverthorn Family in America. It has since disbanded but their website is still visible on the internet. The UK Findagrave site has very accurate and complete data on this family also. I have spent several days comparing it. Steeple Ashton is the Anglican parish where the Silverthorne family records can all be found. The cemetery is where generations the Silverthorne families are buried.

I would say that 14 generations is a pretty firm foundation for the Silverthorne / Silverthorn family!

Happy Hunting, Jan

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2021 – Week 2 – Family Legend

Our Family Legend is about John Densmore. He was born in Darlington, Ontario on the 8th of November, 1839. He married his wife, Sarah Louise Reynolds in Malden, Ontario on June 16, 1856. They were married by Rev Johnson a clergyman from the ME Church in Malden. They remained in Ontario until 1861 at which time they crossed the border into Michigan and settled near Marine City Michigan. John was a carpenter who worked on sailing ships. John served in the 11th Michigan Infantry, Company K during the Civil War. He enlisted on February 25, 1865 and mustered out on September 16, 1865.

Our Family legend involves John’s body twelve years after he died. John died on February 15, 1906. I have located his death record from the State of Michigan. He died in Cottrellville, Michigan at his home. He was laid to rest in Smiths Cemetery in Cottrellville, Michigan. I had half heartedly attempted to find this cemetery with no luck. I did locate the cemetery on findagrave.com. So when the weather breaks (here in wintry Michigan) I’ll go look for it again.

Michigan State Certificate of Death – John Densmore

As you can see from his death record, he died from Addisons Disease which we know today is an Adrenal Insufficiency Disease. His Civil War pension file seemed to indicate that he was having heart issues and “piles” as early as 1880. He was requesting disability benefits in 1890. I see no indication that he received disability until 1904 though there were many request from 1890 until 1904. He was sick for three years prior to his death according to affidavits from John’s Civil War Pension files later made by his wife and close family friends. His place of burial is listed as Smith’s Cemetery, Cottrellville, Michigan on his death certificate.

Sarah Reynolds Densmore was eventually able to get his pension after his death. She lived with several of her son’s and their families after John died until her death twelve years later. She was living in Marine City at the time of her death with her son, Harvey Densmore. She was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City. I do not know why she was not buried in Smiths Cemetery. I do not have a copy of Sarah Death Certificate.

So the legend goes like this….

One night Charles Densmore and two of his nephews, Wesley Densmore and Harold Densmore, decided that John Densmore needed to be buried next to his wife in the Woodlawn Cemetery. . So they hitched up a wagon with a couple of horses and went to get him. They made their way from Marine City to Smiths Cemetery which was about five miles away.

It was a very dark night. They found his grave and dug him up. They loaded him onto the wagon with his tombstone and headed back to Marine City. At Woodlawn Cemetery, they dug a grave for him and laid him in the ground next to his wife. According to Harold, John’s remains had deteriorated as expected but his clothing especially his shirt and tie had held up really quite well! The box was very deteriorated beginning at the feet end of the coffin. They brought his military stone with them. In their haste to finish the job before dawn they installed the military tombstone backwards. (and it still is today!)

I made a couple of phone calls. Woodlawn Cemetery looked through their records and they have no burial record for John Densmore. According to the secretary, “ No we have no John Densmore buried in our Cemetery! “ Humm, that is interesting! Yet here he is in their cemetery.

John Densmore – Co K 11th Michigan Infantry

John is listed in the Woodlawn Cemetery on Findagrave. Those entries are entered by volunteers based on finding a tombstone and transcribing it. I have visited his grave so I know it is there. It was hard to find since the stone is backwards but I found it. Actually I found Sarah’s first….then his.

I called Smith’s Cemetery. They had no record of his burial either. They said they had a fire in the township office and all the records were destroyed. They stated that if the Michigan State Burial record indicated that he was buried in Smiths Cemetery than he was but they have no way to prove it. Now the township just go by the accuracy of tombstones transcriptions for burial information prior to fire in the township office. They have records for the burials after the fire. It is an active cemetery.

So now I need to see if I can find out who ordered the Civil War stone, when it was placed and where? I know that there are very specific placement rules for military stone. Backwards is not one of those requirements. I believe that this stone is also placed too far into the ground. So now I need to look those requirements up. I am told by the local undertaker that the family orders the stones. Was that the case in the early 1900’s too? There must be a database that has this information in it. I have looked thru John’s Pension file and there is no information about the Military stone in it. Wonder if the National Archive could tell me who order his stone ? When it was order? And where it was placed? That would tell me where he is suppose to be.

Charles Densmore, ironically, became the Sexton of the Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City from about 1925 until his death in 1943. So I will keep trying to solve this family legend. So far the evidence makes it looks like it could be accurate. I’ll keep you posted.

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – 2021 – Week 1 – Beginnings

I began my journey when I was thirteen, though the teenager in me would not allow myself to realize it. I was too busy doing teenage age stuff. I could not be bothered with this “family stuff” .

My Grandparents had moved from their home to a retirement home, where my Grandfather, who had Multiple Sclerosis, could get the care that he needed when my Grandmother could no longer help him. She was a tiny 120 pound woman and Grandpa, after years of living in a wheel chair, had ballooned the well over two times her size. He was always a big man and she was always tiny.

Now they are in a split apartment, a small space for Grandma and Grandpa during the day and a hospital type room for Grandpa at night. They went thru all their belongings as they downsized. They lived in the heart of Detroit which was not ideal for our family but it was where they needed to be. My father and our family would visit them regularly. On holidays and during the summer, my father would go get them and bring them to our home. It was for them a very needed change of scenery.

Boulevard Temple Methodist Retirement Home -1967

My “beginning” happened on one of these summer events when my Grandparents visited soon after their move. Grandma Lillian had obviously been going thru things and had dusty box of photos that she was going to go through while she was visiting. They were seated at the picnic table in the back yard as I ran out the back door. I was on my way to go do my most important thing of the day, hang out with my friends. I had made plans and nothing was going to get in my way!

After eating our picnic lunch, Dad went back to work at the dime store, Mom went off to do dishes and Grandma brought out the box! As I was headed to my friends, she called me over to the picnic table to see this old box. I had more important things to do that afternoon but it was my Grandmother. She needed my help she told me. She had this job that she wanted to complete at the picnic table and she needed my help. I moaned and groaned with all of the drama that my teenage self could muster but it was to no avail, she had nominated me to be her scribe and that was that!

For the next hour or two, I sat at the picnic table with Grandma Lillian and Grandpa Everett and we sorted through old photos. The Photo’s were of people from a long time ago. They were of Grandpa’s Dad and Mother, their parents, his Uncles, Aunts and assorted cousins. It was almost like a game. Grandma would show Grandpa the photo like a flash card and he would tell us who it was. It was my duty to write the name on the back of the photo. So I wrote the names that I heard; McGoogan, Wert, Sparks, Meeks, Crites, Jackson, Smith and Denney. I wrote them on the photos in my 13 year old hand writing. Some were misspelled. I wrote them as I heard them. I had not time to ask them about the correct spelling because I was after all in a hurry! I had better things to do, you know!

John Henry Crites and Amanda McGoogan Crites

Grandma took those pictures back home with her and some time later, she went thru the photos again and wrote notes on the back trying to describe the family relationships. Notes like Grandpa Crites’ sister, Everett’s favorite Cousin, Grandma Crites’ mother. All added to assist someone to understand who these people were many years from now when she and Grandpa were long gone and someone decides to look at the old photos in this dusty box.

Fast forward 30 years, I now live in Illinois and my husband works regularly on his family history and I am mildly interest in what he is doing. He is using an DOS/ Gedcom based tool that I thought just looked too complicated so for Christmas I bought him Family Tree Maker. It was new and a Windows based application. Since I was a Computer Support Analyst by trade, I installed the application for him.

I found it interesting and decided to enter just the people that I “know” ! My father had died the year before so I no longer had anyone to ask where our family came from. Grandpa Everett Smith told me that he was born in Indiana, I remembered that much. I talked to my Mother and she tells me that she has this dusty old box of photos that were Grandma and Grandpas. During next visit to Michigan, we got the photos out. As I search through the dusty box, I am startled by handwriting on the back of the first photo. Chills ran up and down my back and tears began to well in my eyes. Suddenly I am flooded with the memory of the afternoon at the picnic table with Grandma and Grandpa. I am in awe as I notice that Grandma wrote on the photos too. Grandma was talking to me loud and clear.

She sent ME research hints to find years later. Some of the hints sent me on wild goose chases and some goose chasing were of my own doing when I spelled the name wrong but each stoke of her pencil and mine gave me a place to start. After spending an hour or so with the box, I realized that it was much smaller than I had remembered. And there weren’t THAT many photos! Oh what I would have given to be able to ask Grandma and Grandpa some questions now. I was so lucky to be able to spend “that time” with my Grandparents that day. It was a gift that I will always cherish.

If you are the keeper of your family history, make sure you find someone to share it with a generation or two younger than you. Even if they do not seem as interested in it as you would like. It is important for these memories live on. Label your photos and make sure the young children in your family hear the family stories so they can understand and experience the joy of keeping the memories of their ancestor alive.

How my Grandmother knew that I was the one who would take on this mission, I’ll never know but she knew. Thank you, Grandma Lillian! I love you too!

Everett and Lillian Smith -1974

I am still at it Grandma Lillian and have met a lot of really wonderful family a long the journey!

Love, Jan

Dropped Off the Face of the Earth

Not really, my PC has been in the shop getting fixed.. (with my Family Tree Maker data on it so I had limited access to the data that I regularly use…) The first place ( a well-known big box store) could not fix it after having it for nearly eight weeks but today I got it back after 4 short days from my small town Office Supply store! Support your local stores. They need our support more than ever now. Had I supported them in the first place I would never have skipped a beat. I got plenty of other things done in the last eight weeks but almost no blogs! Small business to the rescue!

I will be back to blogging soon. Hope you have all been doing well, staying healthy and blogging on.


52 Ancestor in 52 Weeks – Week 48 – Gratitude

This is a blog that I wrote ten years ago and published on a different site. It still rings true today! Somethings have changed and many things have not so today I have edited it a bit and added pictures that it did not previously contain but the message is the same….

“Lord, could we talk for a few minutes? ”

“I knew you would say yes!  You are such a good listener.  Wish I knew how to listen as well as you.  Feel free to jump in here anytime, especially if I start to ramble!  I just have a few important things to talk to you about today.”

“First things first, do you remember those explorers you sent out? You gave them the courage to sail all over the world. They were men who sailed day and night, day after day, month after month. They left their homes not knowing if they would ever return. I can not imagine the fear that must have built up in those brave souls, not knowing where they were or where they might end up. They had no itinerary, they were sailing blind! Nor can I imagine the joy and excitement they must have felt the day that they finally did see land on the horizon.”

 ” Thank you, Lord, for them, their courage, their safe travel and their discoveries!”

“Remember all those brave people who left Europe and came to America when it was a wild settlement. They left their known world for an unknown world. Their courage to me is incredible. They left everything they knew with the hope of having something better in the “New World”. They hoped for a “New World” that they had the power to create! “

“Thanks, Lord, for their safe travels and their determination to make America the land of the free.”

Siege of Yorktown from the National Archive

“You gave them courage to stand tall and fight for the freedom of democracy that we have today. They thanked you on the first Thanksgiving and we thank you today on our Thanksgiving of 2020. You provided them with food for their first Thanksgiving and the first brutal winter in the New World and you do the same for us today.  “

Clipart by Clipartpal.com

“You provided us with people who are civic minded and focused on America and making it the Democratic country that we love.  You gave us people who are courageous enough to become members of our military, leaders, governors, senators, congressmen and judges. You have guided their decisions and our country has most often flourished. The road is bumpy today and has been bumpy in the past but with your guidance you have always pulled us through. We, as a people, do not always agree on every thing but we do agree on the importance of our freedom. It is a critical part of our Democracy! So once again today we say Thank You.”

Everett and Lillian Smith on the left and Addie and Andrew Anderson on the right and of course my parents on their wedding day on May 27, 1950.

“You gave me wonderful Grandparents who loved me and whom I adore. It was many years later when I finally understand their importance, how much they taught me and the influence that they had in life. You gave me parents who loved me, encouraged me and had the courage to let me spread my wings and fly when the time came. They “cheered me on” when I flew and were there to help “pick me up” when I fell! It takes courage to let your child fall. Thank you, Lord!”

All the Smith kids – Our trip to Demark and Norway – September 2010

“You gave me the world’s best siblings with whom wonderful memories have been created. You taught us to love, to share, to encourage, to champion, to support, to listen, and to enjoy! Thank you Lord and incase you are wondering, we have just gotten started with a new bunch of memories. So stay tuned!”

Shawn, Jan, Kyle – 1991

“You gave me two sons, whom I love. You gave me the courage to raise them when I was just a child and to set them free when they became adults. You helped me through the smooth sailing and the rough seas and for that I am grateful. Thanks so much for teaching me balance, know when my role in their lives should be in the foreground and when it should be in the background. Your guidance is most appreciated when the line is fine. I am still listening.”

“And then for my second chance in marriage, thanks so much for sending my husband across my path first as a friend and then as my companion for life.  Help us to learn to sail through the still waters and the rough seas enjoying the adventures which it brings.”

Four of my five grandchildren and my first of two Great Grandsons – Elizabeth, Jacob, Caleb, Matthew, Landon – 2015

“Thanks for my Grandchildren, help me to know what they need to learn from me, as my Grandparent knew what I needed to learn from them.  Please give me the right time and place to teach them the lessons. They are so very special and carry our family on into the future.”

“Then there are nieces, nephews, cousins and friends who you orchestrated into my life at the exact times they should be there. They have blessed me with their gifts and I thank you for these blessings.”

“You have given me the opportunity to peek into the lives of my family members who have come and gone long before me and I am grateful. You have blessed me with the ability to get to know wonderful people who I will never met or who are related to me through these early settlers that you brought to America and I am grateful.”

“On this Thanksgiving, and each day of my life, I have been blessed! THANK YOU, LORD!”

“You let me ramble, you have this listening thing down to a science, don’t you? Have a Great Day!”

Love, Jan

Tombstone Tuesday – November 24, 2020 – Maritie (Mary) Ackerman Ogdon

Maritie was born on May 5, 1688 in New Amsterdam, New York. She is the daughter of David and Hillegondt (Ver Planck) Ackerman. David and Hellegondt had four children as far as I can determine; David (1681), Johannes (1682), Geyln (1686-1688), Maritie(Mary) (1688).

Mary married Swain Ogden on May 5, 1711 in Hackensack, New Jersey. Mary and Swain had ten children; Elizabeth(1711) David (1714), Samuel (1716), Hellegondt (1719), Hulda (1719), Nathaniel (1722), Abraham (1724), Sarah (1724), Mary (1726), John (1729).

Two hundred and sixty four years ago, Mary Ackerman Ogden died in Hackensack, New Jersey. She is buried at the First Presbyterian Churchyard in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey with her husband and several of her children.

Rest in peace, Mary!

Love, Jan

Maritie Ackerman Ogden is my second cousin nine times removed.

52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 46 – Different Language

Dad, Me, Pam, Sue, Sharon, Grandpa – 1962

Each summer my parents would load up the station wagon and we would go camping for a week. Grandpa Anderson always came along with us. Grandpa (Andrew) Anderson was my Mom’s Dad. His wife, my Grandma Addie, died in April of 1955, a few short months before I was born. Once my parents moved to Romeo from Lapeer, he came and visited us often. He would drive from Marine City to Romeo and stay with us until he need some peace and quiet and then he would return home. He was a huge help for my mother and kept all of us kids occupied. He loved to sit on the beach and keep an eye on us when were were swimming.

Grandpa’s afternoon paper reading power nap

When I was seven our family camping trip was an exploration of the lower peninsula or the Mitten! We camped in several locations along the way including a stop in Tawas, Rogers City, Mackinaw and Orchard Beach as we rounded the upper part of the lower peninsula before making our way back to Romeo where we lived.

A windy day at the beach in Rogers City. Michigan

When I was eight years old, our camping trip was in the upper peninsula which included a trip to the Soo Locks. Today when you go to the Soo Locks you can time your visit to be there when you are certain that a freighter is traversing thru the locks. Visit www.saultstemarie.com/finding-freightors-sault-ste-marie-mi or Marinetraffic.com. Marinetraffic has an app for your phone. But in 1963 you just took your chances and somehow we timed it just right

Soo Locks – 1963

Not only did we see a ship go through the locks but it was a Norwegian ship headed northbound to Lake Superior. My Grandfather, who was a gentle, quiet, reserved man, became very excited. Grandpa Anderson had arrived in Michigan from Norway fifty nine years ago in 1904 and never had an opportunity to return to his homeland. Until this day I had never heard my Grandfather raise his voice much above a whisper. My Grandfather yelled out a greeting to a sailor on deck in a language I had never heard him speak. This loud outburst from such a quiet man was a happy lively greeting. I was startled and surprised! I walked with him the full length of the lock as the ship navigated thru it. For the next twenty minutes or so, Grandpa and the young sailor yelled back and forth. My grandfather showed me a full range of emotions from laughter, dismay, surprise and eventually several tears which he quickly wiped away all the while having what appeared to be a eager, informative conversation with this sailor. I was so excited to hear him speak, I took in every thing he said but did not understanding a word. I could not wait for him to be done talking so I could ask him what they said.

Eventually the water level had risen which brought the ship to the correct height in the lock for entering Lake Superior, the horn blew, the gates began to open and the freighter began to leave the lock. As it sailed away, Grandpa and his new sailor friend waved…said their “goodbyes” and it was all over. I was so excite, I said, “Grandpa, Grandpa what did he say?” He looked down at me with his gentle smile and said in his calm reserved voice, “Oh nothing child”. “Wait, what do you mean nothing?” I implored. “You just talked to him for the whole time that we have been walking, he had to say something?”, I asked. He said, “its OK child, it was nothing!” I never heard him speak his native language again.

I have often thought of that day with my Grandfather. Was the conversation something that an eight year old should not heard? I just can not imaging my always gentle Grandfather having that kind of conversation. You know “the mouth of a sailor” type because after all he was a sailor for many years when he first arrived in America. Or after 59 years of not using his native language, did he struggle to have a conversation with the sailor on deck. Did he no longer understand everything that had been said. I never sensed frustrated, only excitement so I don’t think that is it either.

My Grandfather has been gone a long time but my memories of that day are vivid and very special. That day, I heard him speak in his native language. In our lives there are many events which will establish a permanent place in our hearts. A memory you will always cherish, that will always be special to you. This is one that my Grandfather and I share forever. Never underestimate the impact that you can have on another person. Take advantage of making these seemly small and insignificant events a lasting memory for those around you, those that you care about, be they family or friends.

Love you Grandpa!


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 43 – Quite the Character

Harold Smith – 1974

There is no other person in my life that fits the phrase more than my Dad! Harold Smith was indeed quite the character. I remember being a little girl riding in the car with my Dad and he would wildly start honking the horn when he saw birds lined up on an electric wire. HONK, HONK, HONK and the birds would all fly away. He would smile and laugh as he watched the flock bursting into the sky before circling back to land on the wire….as if to say ” what the heck?” . He got the biggest kick out of it.

When he saw cows standing along the fence, he would honk and wave at them as if they were long, lost family. I remember asking him one time who he was waving at when I was small. “Mr Ludkey’s cows!” he replied. As we drove along in route to ANYWHERE, it was often time to sing a silly song. Row, Row Row your boat and 100 bottles of Pop on the wall…(no beer in our house) were two of his favorites. We thought all kids sang in the car with their Dad.

My Dad was known to follow fire trucks….he learned that from his Dad who also did it. He followed safely behind but he thought he “needed” to know where the fire was. My Mother used to scold him for it. I learned as a teenage that when he was seven or eight year old he was playing with matches in the field behind his house and he started the field on fire. My Grandma told me that story. He was a preachers kid and you know what they say about that! As a young adult, I was told, that just after he got his drivers license, he drove his Dad’s new car out on frozen Lake St. Clair so he could “do donuts” on the ice. Thanks goodness it was frozen solid! He got his drivers license taken away for a bit!

He loved to disobey signs….if the road said unimproved…he had to find out what was wrong with it. He loved a good logging trail or a garbage pit road. You never knew what kind of animals you would find; bear, deer, elk, porcupines…you just never knew.

When they were first developing Algonac State park, my father decided to drive around a road close sign and see what the park was going to be like. It was a Sunday afternoon and we were on our way home from visiting Grandparents in Marine City. So he went around the barrier. “It will be OK, there is no one around.” , he told my mother. “We will just see what it’s like! “. He got our station wagon full of six kids (two of which were toddlers in diapers) stuck in sand up to the axles. He hiked out and got a tow truck but it took over an hour to find one. In the meantime, it was hot, it rained, became humid and the mosquitoes swarmed us so bad we had to close all the windows. There we sat in the closed station wagon waiting for him to return.

Matt and Mark getting a breath of fresh air – 1966

In the mean my two year old brother pooped his pants and we I spent the rest of the time trying to not gag. And the older kids, myself included, complained loudly. My poor mother was beside herself when my Dad arrived back at the car with the Tow Truck. I heard the driver scold him for taking his family back there. The Tow truck guy pulled us out and we were back on the road again but not before Mom did a diaper change on my youngest brother.

My Dad and his friends from church wrer in charge of the Methodist Youth Fellowship meeting on Sunday evenings. They came up with the goofiest games….Like passing a life saver from person to another person while on a tooth pick! That was so embarrassing to a preteen!

I do not remember when my Dad started our birthday song tradition. It seems like we have just done it for ever. He would begin the birthday song out normally in his best singing voice but as it continued he got more and more off key. My Mother would beg him to sing nicely and that made it all the worse. It wasn’t too long when all of the kids got into the act too. I remember his mother (Grandma Smith) just smiling when he got started. We sing off key in restaurants, on trains, in churches, and at other peoples’ homes….anywhere that we are celebrating a birthday we sing the “Smith version” of the Birthday song.

My mother always sheepishly tried to sing nicely while we belted out our most outlandish version of the song. For her eightieth birthday party at our church in 2008…we sang to her nicely with the crowd who had gathered…but then we broke into Dad’s version of the Birthday song and she finally joined in. The rest of the party gathers were caught a bit off guard by our performance but they all seemed to enjoy it as we “Smiths” all carried on our tradition. My Mother died the following year.

Look closely and my Granddaughter is covering her ears…

My Father has been gone twenty four years now but we still honor him with his birthday song for every birthday celebration. We have learned that there are other family members and friends who have taken up the same tradition.

My Father was indeed…quite the character! Love you Dad! Miss you Dad!

Happy Hunting,


52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks – Week 44 – Favorite Cemetery

Charles Densmore 1864-1943

Charles Densmore was my Great Grandfather. Charles was sexton for the Woodlawn Cemetery in Marine City, Michigan for 18 years. I believe that I have acquired my love for cemeteries from from him. I have a hard time picking one favorite cemetery. I love them all.

When I was a little girl, I often visited our local rural cemetery in Washington, Michigan. As you can see from the photos, there are now houses built all around it but when I was a girl it was surrounded by farm fields. It was located just down the road from my house on 29 Mile Road and our road was still a gravel road. You would see cows or sheep grazing in the nearby fields with an occasional horse tossed in the mix. It was a peaceful place. I did not know anyone who was buried there. I knew it was an old cemetery because when you looked at the tombstones the years began with 17XX and 18xx and I was living in 1964. I was fascinated by it.

I can still recall riding my bike down the gravel road as fast as I could. I would ride up the sloping entrance of the cemetery into the center of the graveyard, jumping off my bike and dropping it in the middle of the grass.

For the next 30 minutes or so I would wander the cemetery reading the names and dates on the gravestones. In my mind I would create thrilling stories about these people and their lives. There was a Frost Family buried in the cemetery and I was sure that they could all write poetry like their famous relative, Robert Frost.

When I found a child, they would become my playmate. One day we might play marbles and the next it might be tag or hide and seek, hiding behind the tombstones.

A young woman would transform into a mother or a local farmer’s wife helping to milk cows, gathering eggs in her apron or hauling water to the kitchen.

When I saw a military stone, I would imagine soldiers in their uniforms marching off to war and fighting in battles. Old men became like Grandpas letting you sit on their lap while they tell you about the old days, the really old days….

Older woman became Grandmas that let you help make cookies and pies and a little mess once in a while. I wish I had written some of the stories down now.

I came from a fairly large family and this was something I always did when I was alone. It was not a conscious thing as I recall but in a large busy family each member needs some alone time and this was mine.

Sometimes it was fun to lie in the grass and watch the clouds as they formed, dissolved and reformed. I would lay there with my friends who had been laying there long before me and have remained there long after I was gone.

Think that I am strange if you like but there are very few places on earth that I like better than a cemetery!

Happy Hunting,