Donna Forms an Act in April 1918 — Or Not?

My understanding of the early career of Donna Montran is filled with holes. We know that she married Thomas Rooney on November 23, 1915.  I have only found one event in her life during 1916 and one in 1917. Both of these events took place in Massachusetts. It appears that she was still in Boston on January 27, 1918, but by the following month (February 1918), she had located to New York and began appearing on the “United Time.

It is the April 10th issue of the New York Clipper[i] which gives us an indication that she probably had a bad experience. It reported:


            Dinna Montran[ii], of musical comedy fame, and George Kennier, principal with “Very Good Eddie,” have framed a singing and dancing act for the Moss and Lowe Circuits.

NY Clipper, 10 Apr 1918, Pag6 6, Column 4.

Likewise, the April 17th issue of the New York Clipper[iii] reported:

George Kennier and Dinna Montran will put on a new singing and dancing act within the near future.

N Y Clipper – 17 April 1918, Page 19, Column 2.

Then silence for over a year, from the New York Clipper, until October 22nd, 1919, when it reported:

Dora Montran opened with “Chin Chin” in Omaha last week.[iv]

What happened with Donna and her career from April 1918 until January 1919? It appears that her association with George Kennier was short-lived and went nowhere. My searches for George Kennier found nothing about such a show and I found nothing about him in the vaudeville news after it.


I think I need to add two in-depth research tasks.

  1. I need to know more about Donna’s second husband, Thomas Valentine Rooney.  He married Donna in 1915 directed her in 1919. He also did scenery and other functions for Donna in 1920.  He seems to fade away from Donna’s life in late 1920.
  2. I also need to add an in-depth research task to research George Kennier.  There was a George Kennier who lived in Boston in 1915.  Is this the same person?  Donna was in Boston in 1915, so it is possible that they knew each other there and then started to put together a show in 1918. We will see what the research finds.


[i] New York Clipper – 10 April 1918, Page 6, Column 4, Paragraph 6 – “Montran and Kennier Unite.”

[ii] I have little doubt that “Dinna Montran” and “Donna Montran” are the same person. I don’t know if she was trying out using Dinna or if the paper got here name wrong. However, the Montran name is so unusual and another Montran who was known for musical comedy is very unlikely.

[iii] New York Clipper – 17 April 1918, Page 19, Column 2, Paragraph 10 – Kennier & Montran….

[iv] That report is just a little off. She joined “Chin Chin” on October 30th in Decatur, Illinois. “Chin Chin” didn’t play in Omaha until November 7th. Also, there never was another Montran with the “Chin Chin” show besides Donna.


Halverson’s Arrive in the States

Blanchard Project


I love Henry Louis Gates’ television show, “Finding Your Roots.” In the show, he takes a famous person and leads the person on a genealogical journey through a “Book of Life,” where he shares that key, or important, findings with the individual. Invariably he has a place where his guest turns a page which reveals an important document. Often, he says something like, “I’d like you to meet your third great grandmother.” <pause> “How does it feel to learn of them…” Finding that one key document which introduces the individual’s ancestor is always an amazing part of the show and thoroughly enjoyable.

Typically, when I research someone, there are no great documents that open the heavens and releases the sound of angels singing. Usually, it is grueling work sifting through various census and vital records. Each finding adds just a little more information about their life.  In my recent work on my Blanchard Project, I was going through dozens of City Directories and various logbooks of the First Lutheran Church of Portland, Maine.  Each finding was just another small bit of information that added to the story of the Halvorsen’s immigration to the United States. Then, suddenly, I came across one of those documents which made me say, “Oh my.”

Public Domain,
Cunard Line – SS Bothnia & SS Scythia Class

The document was a passenger list of the S.S. Scythia which arrived in Boston on 23 August 1884. On the ship was my Blanchard project’s 18-year-old, great-grandmother, Hannah Halvorsen, and Hannah’s mother, Dorothea.  With them were five other siblings. The list was a treasure trove of information.  That passenger list represents the exact moment that much of her family arrived in America. Her 2nd-great-grandfather, Thomas, had come to the States earlier and established himself in Portland, Maine to prepare the way for his family’s arrival.

Additionally, this is the only document we have that shows that Dorothea made it to the United States. All other records, beginning less than three years later (June 1887) indicate she was deceased. Until I found this passenger list, I thought Thomas’ wife may have died in Norway and that he brought the kids to the United States by himself. I still need to learn how and were Thomas arrived in the States, but it will come.



Happy Saint Patrick’s Day

My Irish Ancestry


My Ancestry – 18% Irish, 82% “Great Britain”

I grew up being told I was English, Irish, and French. And modern DNA testing results have confirmed that.  Ancestry indicates that I am 18 percent Irish and the rest “Great Britain” which included England, France, Belgium, The Netherlands, Luxembourg, and part of Germany.

I have discovered very few immigrant ancestors among my Ancestors. Only two that I know of were born in Ireland.  The first one is a sixth great-grandfather on my Brown line.

John Maben (1753-1813) was born in County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 1753[i]. He came to America and fought in the American Revolution. He served with Capt. Abner Hawley and Col. Peter Van Ness in the 9th Regt., Albany County Militia[ii]. In 1781, he married Sally Pierce in Connecticut. He died in Lexington, Greene County, New York in 1813.

Interestingly enough Slemish, in County Antrim, is the location that Saint Patrick was a slave for seven years.

Descendants of John Maben include:

My second Irish ancestor is a seventh great-grandfather on my Roberts line.

James Scott (1719-1783) was born in Northern Ireland in 1719. His wife’s name was Ester and he died in Virginia in 1783. I have not researched him in depth, consequently, I know little else about him.

Descendants of James Scott include:

  •             William Jarvis Scott (____-____)
  •             John Scott (1784-1855)
  •             Samuel Kinkade Scott (1809-____)
  •             William Hunt Scott (1834-1903)
  •             Samuel Vaden Scott (1863-1931)
  •             Clora Dell Scott (1883-1945)
  •             Bert Allen Roberts (1903-1949)
  •             Hugh Eugene Roberts (1926-1997)
  •             Me

Today, Saint Patrick’s Day, 2019, I raise a glass and toast my Irish ancestry.


[i] It is possible that John Maben was born in the town of Antrim in County Antrim.
[ii] Daughters of the American Revolution, “Ancestor Search”, DAR, Maben, John – Patriot: A072838.

Death Date found in a City Directory

Blanchard Project

Sometimes the information you are looking for just doesn’t exist. I had been looking for a death record for Oscar William Utterström and had looked everywhere. Pretty much every death record source and death index source I know about.  No success.  I knew he had died before 1973 as his brother’s obituary said that Oscar had preceded him in death. I also knew he was living during the 1940 Census in Portland, Maine. But, I just don’t feel right about entering a person’s death as “between 1940 and 1973.”  I just had to do better than a 33-year span.

Then I thought I might be able to narrow his death to a year or two by reviewing the City Directories. I used Ancestry, as they seemed to be the most complete, and searched for Oscar Utterstrom. I quickly saw that Oscar was in many of the directories. The most recent one was in 1960. I looked at the directory and found that he owed/paid taxes, but he wasn’t listed in the people part of the directory.  So, I went back to the 1959 directory. He was listed there and the entry had his death date – Dec 2, 1958.  Wow—Question answered by an unlikely source.  I still don’t have a clue why he doesn’t appear in any of my death record sources, but I now have a date for his passing.  With that date, I may be able to find information about his death in the newspapers near his death date the next time I visit the Maine State Library.

Utterstrom entries in the 1959 Portland (Maine)  Directory

During my searching for Oscar’s death, I also found that his sister, Dorothea Christine (Utterstrom) Cassidy passed on 18 Feb 1933. Those two findings filled gaps in my research in the Olaf Utterstrom family of Portland, Maine.





Cleanup Week – Mary Elizabeth (Mannin/Manning) Brown

This week was a clean-up week. I updated and corrected the sources I had supporting facts in the life of Mary Elizabeth (Manning) Brown (1878-1983).  “Grandma Brown” was the oldest ancestor that I recall ever meeting. She was born 72 years before I was born and was well into her 80s when I remember first seeing her. She is also my oldest known ancestor, having lived to be 105 years old.

Besides updating her sketch on my website, I updated and added many sources about her life facts to her entry on Family Search. I also added a couple of photos and a few documents, and a story I recalled about her.

If you have photos of Mary Brown you can share, I’d love to see them. Please send to me or share them on Family Search.