Saturday, June 30, 2012

Getting Grandpa Out of Prison

I am sorry to say, but in my last blog post about my grandfather, Edwin D. Brown, I transcribed his prison entry record, and left him there while I went off to investigate all the interesting facts that were brought to light. With the dates and place given, I was able to find several accounts of the burglary, arrest, and conviction in the Gladwin County Record newspaper at the Library of Michigan. The first article was published in the January 10, 1896 edition and was titled "Bold Burglars". It gave full details of the crime, arrest, and evidence of several previous burglaries by Edward (sic) Brown and Charles Stockford.

In the next weekly newspaper another article titled "Robbers Roost" told of late developments in the case including new depredations committed by Brown and Stockford, but the most interesting part of this article for me was the following; "Mrs. Clark, of Vassar, mother of Brown, was in Gladwin Saturday, and took Brown's two children to her home. Brown's mother is a minister of the gospel, and is connected with the Free Will Baptist church, having charge of a circuit in Sanilac county."

My next step was to revisit the Tuscola county records. I did find death certificates for Grandpa's first wife, Clara (Mosher) Brown and his mother, Wealthy Ann (Whitmore) (Brown) Clark. Both of them died in 1897 while he was still in prison. Clara would have been 21 years old, but as she was an inmate of the county home, there was no one to speak for her and the rest of the record was marked "unknown". Her parents names were on the marriage certificate so I looked at their Death certificates and both had already died of T.B. I suspect that was also the cause of Clara's death.Until I can get into the birth records of Tuscola County I cannot find the children of Edwin and Clara. The only one that I know about is Curtis who, according to the records I have,was born about 1893. If Edwin's mother picked up his two children, one of them disappeared before Grandpa was released from prison.

Yes, he was paroled and I have his parole certificate signed by Governor Hazen S.Pingree. My next post will explain what I learned from the certificate that solved the big problem I had about how my grandfather from southern Michigan met and married my grandmother from West Prussia in who immigrated to the Houghton-Hancock area in the Upper Peninsula.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

What I Did On My Spring Vacation

Every once in a while I need a vacation from genealogy. It reminds me that there are other things going on in my life like a husband, three daughters, six grandchildren, two sons-in-law, three step-grandchildren, and one step-great-grandchild. Does that qualify my husband and me for being great-grandparents?

I also took time to prepare for our semi-annual move to our cottage on the beautiful shore of Lake Huron where, on a clear day, we can see the Mackinaw Bridge and watch the lake freighters go by. Because we face north, we also can see the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises, and occasionally, the northern lights.

All three of our daughters and one of their girlfriends decided that their "elderly" (their definition-not mine) parents needed help moving. Because it happened that the only time they could all get away was Mother's Day weekend, I had the rare treat of having all three of my girls with me to celebrate the day. And, I have to admit they were a big help in moving. They even ran the vacuum cleaner and dusted and, of course, cooked a few meals. They are all Food Channel fans.

I couldn't resist looking myself up on the 1940 Census. Since I remembered my address in Detroit, Steve Morse's one step gave me the ED number so I didn't have to wait for Detroit to be indexed. I did some genealogy "pay back" by doing a few pages of indexing through the Family Search program. I also wrote an article for Vintage View (our Rochester Hills senior newspaper which publishes quarterly and reaches about 2,000 people). The article was not about genealogy this time but about the Rochester-Avon Historical Society new website that uses a Google map to show locations of many historical sites and their history.

I confess, I also played numerous games of Spider on my computer. Then I took some time for recreational reading. We have a wonderful library in Cheboygan and if they don't have the book you want, they can usually find it in their consortium and have it for you, often within a day or two. Since I went on vacation, I have read at least seven books--none of them having anything to do with genealogy. Now, however, I have decided I have ignored my blog for too long and it is time for me to get back to my grandfather's story.

Friday, April 20, 2012


It was at a Brown family reunion in August of 1996 that my Cousin Richard showed the letter to the rest of the cousins. He had found it in an old desk that had been passed down to his father, my Uncle George, and when my uncle died, to my Cousin Richard. When he carefully pulled it out of the small, faded envelope and unfolded it we were all astonished to see that it was written on birch-bark. Not only that, but the date it was written was a little over 100 years ago. Here is a copy of page one of four using both sides of two sheets of birch-bark.

The first bombshell hit in the address of my grandfather. I have transcribed the whole letter and the top two lines read:
"Gladwin Mich  March 20th 1896
To Edwin Brown Regd. No 2354 S.H.of C & R."  I can't believe how long it took me to figure out what the initials meant, perhaps because the thought never entered my mind that my grandfather was ever a number in the State House of Correction and Reform. As soon as I figured it out, I called the Archives of Michigan because I knew they had an extensive alphabetized card file of prisoners in the state correction facilities from 1839 to 1980. They looked but could not find a card for Edwin, Eddie, or Ed Brown.

The next time I was in Lansing, I headed for the Archives and found the record book of the S.H.of C.& R at Ionia. It is a ledger, arranged by registered number, of entrances into the reformatory. Here is a transcription.

  2354   Edward Brown. 7 years. Burglary   2/12/6
             27 years of age.  Born Mich.  Married. Carpenter.
             Parents living. Father George Brown. Gladwin Mich.
             Home with father. Separated from wife. R.W.C. Temperate.
             First conviction.
             Complexion fair; deep sky blue; brown hair tinged with grey;
             round receding forehead; medium nose; small mouth; square
             sharp chin. King William star on left breast, Sc cut both sides 
             second finger right hand. Sc cut right thumb. Does not use tobacco.
             Wgt 147#                 Hgt 5 ft 10"

There are certainly a lot of interesting facts about my grandfather in the above, but I was left with a lot of questions. The cousins all knew that he had a son before he married my grandmother in 1900, but he had never said anything about his previous wife. Another little bombshell, also brought out in the above letter, was that he was living with his father. Since we knew that his mother had married Nathan Clark in 1892, she was either a bigamist or there must have been a divorce.  I do know that R.W.C. meant that he could read, write, and cipher. I have, so far, been unable to find out what a King William star is. If anyone knows, please tell me.  Another thing I need help with is how to preserve the original birch-bark letter which is now in my possession.   
Grandpa's story will be continued.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Lessons about Grandpa Edwin Brown

When I first started on my genealogy research in the early 1990s I read a lot of "How To Do Genealogy" books and they all agreed on one thing--"Talk with your oldest relatives." Unfortunately all of the next older generation were already gone. Except for one living aunt on my father's side of the family, I was in the oldest living generation. Fortunately, when my Brown family grandparents married it was a second marriage for both of them and altogether I had 15 cousins, and three of them had also died. My mother was very good about keeping records and I have her birthday book with a space on each day of the year where she recorded, not just birthdays of family and friends, but also death dates next to the birthday and marriages on the appropriate day. With that information I was able to fill in quite a few details on the family group sheets I was compiling.

My next step was to send a family group sheet with all the data that I had for each of my aunts and uncles and another for each cousin. I asked each cousin to fill in any blanks that they could and also to make any necessary corrections. I also asked them to write down any remembrances that they had of our extended family. I was pleasantly surprised to get answers from all of them with quite a few additions and corrections for my genealogy.

I have continued to keep in touch with them and let them know about new discoveries as I made them and they have continued to send me information as they found it. We also have continued to have yearly Brown Family reunions, although they are not as well attended as our family is getting scattered and many of the cousins are no longer able to make the trip. My first letter with the family group sheets went out in 1993 and in January of 1994 I visited my cousin Mary Jean and asked her to get out all pictures, documents, etc. that she had. She did not have the reunion pictures that I thought she did, but she did have a photo of my great grandmother, Grandpa's mother, and my uncle had written on the back information that unlocked several family secrets and sent me to a different county in which to research. Among other things he said Grandpa's mother was buried in Vassar under the name of Clark who she married after her husband died.  You will hear more about that after I finish Grandpa's story.

It was cousin Richard that found what I call the BOMBSHELL LETTER in an old desk that his father had inherited from his father, Grandpa Brown.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Mother Was A Leapling

My mother was one of the relatively rare people (one in 1500) who were born on February 29th. Had she lived, she would be celebrating her 26th birthday today and she would be 104 years old. She was the fourth child of  six born to Edwin and Augusta Zabel Brown.

Here is her birth certificate and a picture of Mother with her three older siblings:

Unfortunately, Mother died at age 67 of pancreatic cancer just a month before her 15th birthday. She is buried close to the graves of her mother and father and several of her brothers and sisters in East Cemetery, Grass Lake, Michigan. She is still missed by all who knew her, particularly on her special day.


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Genealogy Lessons Part Three, Continued

I apologize for being so late in posting the conclusion to Part Three as the other part of my life (family, an attempt to organize my piles of research, general housecleaning, and a few doctor appointments) got in the way.

As you may remember I was comparing the two birth certificates for Edwin Brown, both with wrong information. In order to find his correct birth date, I decided to go back to the old fashioned preponderance of evidence. Remember the first US Census in which I found Edwin was taken in 1880 and his age was 11 years. After many years I finally found him in the index of the 1870 Census with the same parents in Shiawassee Co., thank you to, and his age was listed as 1 year. Other censuses I have are the 1910 in Saginaw Co., 1920 and 1930 in Jackson Co. All agree his year of birth must have been 1869.

Other records I had collected from courthouses were his first marriage in Tuscola Co. on 23 Jul 1892 his age 23, his second marriage to my grandmother in Houghton Co on 4 Aug 1900 his age 31, and his mothers divorce papers. Since all records and his family agreed that his birthday was February 15, I would say his birth year was 1869.

Happy Birthday Grandpa!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Genealogy Lessons Part Three

   In Part Two of some of the lessons I learned while researching my grandfather's life, I told of finding him, age 11, as the oldest son in the family of George R. and Anne in the 1880 US Census in Conway Township, Livingston County, Michigan. Since, at the time, this was the only record I had of my grandfather, I started searching Livingston County for more data. This time instead of going to the courthouse, I went to the Family History Center in East Lansing where they have all the available vital record films from Michigan.There was an index film of birth records for Livingston, but the only two of the five children listed were Curtis (with a note that he was registered in Livingston but born in Shiawassee Co.) and my grandfather Edwin, who had filed a delayed birth certificate in 1945. Here is a copy:
All of a sudden my grandfather seems to have aged 10 or 11 years. His birthday of February 15th stayed the same on all documents. It is just the year of birth that changes quite dramatically. I can remember his telling his children that he hadn't wanted my grandmother to know that he was 10 years older than she was. There are a few other mistakes such as his father's age and his father's and mother's place of birth. Also his only proof was affidavits from two acqaintances who probably said whatever he told them to say. By this time, I had collected enough other information about the family to know the above certificate was false. So I picked up the clue about Grandpa's brother Curtis being born in Shiawassee County and made a trip to the County Courthouse in Corunna, definitely not the friendliest Clerk's office in Michigan. They would not let me look at the ledger books myself, but a lady took my list of names and birth dates I was looking for and disappeared into the back room. Fairly soon she came back to tell me that she had found Ethel Mae and Edwin, but my dates were wrong. In order to see the records I had to order a certified copy for $20. As Ethel Mae's appeared to be correct, I only ordered Edwin's and here it is:
Please note that Edwin's middle initial has changed to "W" but his birthday is still on February 15th. The year, however, has changed to 1873 which means he was born approximately 3 months after his sister, Ethel Mae, who, according to Shiawassee records, was born in November of 1872.