Walls – Paper or Brick?
|Rice Paper Walls
Photo by Matt Litt via Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
We all have our genealogical walls. Often, we don’t know if a particular wall is a brick wall or a paper wall. It might be a wall surrounding a vault with steel plates or it might be just thorny bushes that create a labyrinth. Until we do a thorough analysis of what makes up a genealogical wall, we don’t know what kind of wall it really is.
My greatest genealogical challenge is my completely unknown biological father. Through DNA and other research, I think am slowly breaking chips out of that wall. I think I have a reasonable plan and direction to continue working that challenge. So, maybe it isn’t a brick wall, rather maybe it is just a complicated maze that I will need to find my way through.
My next greatest genealogical challenge is my great grandfather, John Montran. I know his name but next to nothing about him. So my goal this week is to try to understand what I know about John Montran and then be able to determine what kind of wall I’m dealing with so I can plan on how to break through the wall. Do I need a knife to cut through a paper wall or do I need a howitzer and a small army to shatter a medieval castle wall.
Until I have done an in-depth analysis of what I have and what I still need to determine, I don’t know what kind of wall I have.
John Montran – (b-186?/7? – d. bef 1911?) – Brown/Montran #14
|Marriage Register – Fisher & Barber
Source: Family Search – Michigan Marriages
“Montrani” – Any other opinions?
Name: John Montran
(Possibly John H Montran)
1897-05-20 – Ida Barber married Max E. Fisher. In the Marriage Register, her name is Ida Montrani Barber[i]. I am not certain that it is Montrani. I could be Montram or possibly Montrane. In any event, the Montran portion of the name is clear.
1911-10-01 – Madonna Montran Holdsworth married her first husband, Chester Fenyvessey. On the Marriage license, Madonna’s father is identified as Robert Montran and indicated that he was dead.[ii] This name is somewhat problematic. In all other documents, Madonna’s father is always listed as “John.”
|Source: Family Search
Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915
1915-11-24 – Mae Donna Montran married Thomas Rooney in Waltham, MA. In the City Clerk’s marriage log, Madonna’s father is listed as John H. Montran[iii]. Although I can’t disagree with the “H” identified by the indexer, I can’t be absolutely it is an “H.” Also, because this entry is in a log written by the city clerk, it only corroborates her father’s name as Madonna provided it.
|Parents of Donna Montran Kees from her Social Security Application.|
1937-09-07 – In Donna Montran Kee’s Social Security Application, her father is listed as John Montran[iv]. Her social security application, which is in her own hand, is the best source for her father’s name that I have, thus, I consider John Montran the preferred name.
Place of Birth
In the 1900 Census, Madonna Fischer’s father is identified as having been born in Michigan. Her stepfather, Max Fisher, was born in Michigan, so it is unclear if her father, in this census was Max or her biological father. Of further interest, is Madonna and her mother, Ida, are living in Manistee, Michigan. Because Ida grew up in Albion, Calhoun County, there had to be a reason for the move. Possibly, she was widowed there. A check of Ancestry.Com indicated that there were other people named Montran in that city — Definitely an area for further research.
In the 1910 census, Madonna Holdsworth identifies that her father was born in Michigan. With her mother divorced and her former stepfather, who was born in New York, suggests she was talking about John Montran being born in Michigan.
However, the 1920 Census gives more insight into a greater likelihood. When the census was enumerated, Donna was on the road with the stage production, “Chin Chin.” Her grandmother, Sarah (Blackhurst} Barber was the head of the household in New York City and must have provided the information. In that Census, Madonna Montran’s father was recorded to have been born in Pennsylvania. Of all the entries regarding John Montran’s birth location, Sarah is likely the only one who actually met John Montran, so I believe Pennsylvania being his most likely birth location[v].
In 1930, Donna was in Panama and thus not enumerated in the Census and the 1940 census didn’t include birth information on parents.
Ida was born in 1874 and she became pregnant with Madonna in 1892, when she was 18 years old. It is unlikely that her husband, John was much younger than 17, so, I suggest that John Montran was born something between 1860-1875, making him somewhere between 17 and 32 when Ida conceived.
|1911 Marriage Certificate indicating
“Robert Montran” as dead.
As I mentioned before, when Madonna married for the first time, in 1911, the license indicated that her father was dead. That suggests her father passed before then. However, because the name was different from all other records, it is possible that whoever added the information didn’t know and gave what they thought they knew. It is also possible that Madonna’s father was only “dead to Ida and Madonna” and that he lived many more years, started a new family. Although not as likely as having died, I remain open to the possibility.
I now see John Montran as:
Born: 1860-1875 in Pennsylvania (Possibly Michigan)
Married: About 1892 in Michigan (Probably Albion, Calhoun County)
Died: before 1911, possibly not.
Armed now with what I think I know, I can now check for the low hanging fruit and then determine if I really have a wall or is the wall just an illusion. Then I can focus my research on key events in his life.
[ii] Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928 (Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, 2010), Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Archives of Ontario; Series: MS932; Reel: 180 – Certificate: 015779. http://search.ancestry.com//cgi-bin/sse.dll?db=OntarioMarr1858-1899_ga&h=3477093&indiv=try.
[iv] Social Security Application – Donna Montran Kees, Form SS-5 – Application for account number. XXX-XX-XX79.