In Memoriam – Russell Erwin Kees (1927-2016)

By Don Taylor

Photo of Russell Kees in army uniform
Russell Kees c. 1952
Source: Don Taylor

When I was growing up, my Uncle Russ was always a mystery – almost a myth. He was a photo on the wall and a wonder, as in “wonder what happened with Russell.  I knew my middle name came from him. I had heard a few stories, about how he took care of his sister, my mom, a lot when they were kids.  He was five years older and quite protective. I knew that after his grandmother’s husband died, he live with his grandmother during high school.  He was just a tad too young for World War II, but he did serve in Korea during the Korean War. After his military service he came back home to Detroit to help take care of his grandmother again. in 1953, his grandmother Ida (Barber) Knight died then he decided to “go out west” to find his natural father, who he hadn’t seen since he was five.  Then, he vanished to us.
My mother married, changed her name, and moved to Minnesota, making it hard for anyone to find her. Her mother, Donna, lived with my mom and me throughout the 1950s into the 1960s and never had a phone in her name, so she was virtually impossible to find as well. Every once in a while my mom would see a telephone directory for another city and look to see if there was a Russell Kees listed. When she found one, she’d call, but none of them was her brother.

In 2002, I was involved with my genealogy, searching for my biological father, to no avail, and got to thinking, could I use some of my new-found skills to find Russell? I talked with my mom who indicated that Russell graduated from Southwestern High School in Detroit in 1945, but not with the other students, he graduated in January, an odd time of the year. I devised a plan. I went to Classmates.Com and contacted every person in the 1944 and the 1945 classes from Southwestern High School. I told them my story and asked if they knew Russell Kees and if they had any contact information for him. People were responsive, and many remembered Russell but none had contact with him in years. Finally, a person responded, she had a reunion list that included Russ’s current contact information. She gave me his email address.  I contact Russ first by email, then by telephone, it was great. I learned that he spent much of his adult life living on Kwajalein Island, in the Marshall Islands, which is about half-way between Hawaii and New Guinea. He had been married three times and had one daughter. He had just retired, was living in Arizona, and would love to reconnect with his sister again.  Super!  I helped coordinate where and when they would meet and booked my flight from Boston to Minneapolis, so I could be there when it happened.  I then wrote an email to Classmates.Com and let them know of my success in finding my mother’s brother and told them they hadn’t seen each other for 50 years. I told them the date they would be meeting and thanked them so much for the service they provide. few days later, I received a telephone call from “60 Minutes II.” They had been informed by Classmates of the reunion and would love to send a crew to film it.

Photo of Sylvia Matson, Vicki Mabrey, Russell Kees - 2002
Sylvia Matson, Vicki Mabrey, Russell Kees –
2002

A few days later, I received a telephone call from “60 Minutes II.” They had been informed by Classmates of the reunion and would love to send a crew to film it.

(A quick aside: “The 60 Minutes II” call occurred while I was at work. In talking to them I was late for a staff meeting.  When I got to the staff meeting, my boss asked why I was late, I told him that “60 Minutes” had called and I couldn’t really hang up on them. He said “WHAT!” and I said, it really wasn’t “60 Minutes,” it was “60 Minutes II.” My boss’ eyes were like saucers, and he asked, “what did they want.”  I said, “would you believe they wanted to know what it was like to work at DCMA.” The look on his face was priceless – he totally freaked out. Then, I told him, no, they actually wanted to know the particulars of my mother and her brother meeting for the first time in 50 years. My boss was so relieved. I don’t think he thought it was funny, but all of the other people at the staff meeting did.)

My mom and Russell’s first meeting in 50 years
was filmed by a crew from “60 Minutes II”

My mom and Russell met in the hospitality area at a local hotel and the crew was there to film it. Their reunion went wonderfully. A few weeks later, “60 Minutes II” said they needed more and flew my mother from Minneapolis and uncle Russ from Phoenix to Albuquerque, put them up in a five-star hotel and filmed an interview with Vicki Mabrey.  Unfortunately, another Classmates.Com story took precedence over mom & Russ’s meeting so most of their interview ended up on the cutting room floor.

Sylvia & Russ on a cruise.

Mom’s husband, Edgar Jerome Matson, died later in 2003, and Russell and my mom became great friends. The took a cruise to Alaska together and a riverboat cruise on a paddleboat on the Ohio River. They loved sharing their time together. It was great to see their relationship grow and them to become great friends.

Although I only saw Uncle Russ six or eight times, I miss him dearly and miss the way he made my mom so happy.

Russell Erwin Kees (1927-2016)

Russell was born in Detroit, Michigan on 29 August 1927 to Samson (Sammy) Clark Amsterdam and Donna Knight [1] as Russell Erwin Clark Amsterdam. As a young child, he traveled with his mother and father, who were in show business, around the country. He was with them on the ship to Panama in 1930. Sammy and Donna divorced in 1932; Sammy lived in New York, Donna lived in Chicago, and Russell lived with Donna in Chicago.

Photo of Sylvia and Russell Kees, circa 1937
Sylvia and Russell Kees, circa 1937

About 1937, Donna became involved with a man named Russell Kees and lived in Grand Rapids, Michigan with him. Both my mom and Russell adopted the surname Kees, although I don’t believe that Donna ever married Russell Kees and both my mom and uncle Russ are sure Russell Kees never adopted them.

The husband of Russell’s maternal grandmother, Ida (Barber) Knight, Harvey Knight died in 1942 and Russell went to live with Ida shortly after that to help out there. He graduated from Southwestern High School. In high school, he was noted as an excellent roller skater.

He enlisted and service during the Korean War.  Russell told me the story that while in Korea, a plane strafed the jeep he was driving. He said he got out and into a ditch real fast.

His name change to Kees not being legal gave him some problems in the 1950s when he applied for a Top Secret Crypto clearance for his job. (A problem I too shared with my Taylor/Larson/Matson name changes and my inability to identify my father’s name.)

In 1954, Russell married Delphine Ann Sieradski. That marriage was short-lived and ended in divorce quickly.

In 1958, Russell married Jacqueline R Wigfield; they divorced as well, probably in 1964.

In 1965, Russell married June Elsie Callaway. They soon had a daughter. Russell and June divorced in 1968.

Russell spent many years on Kwajalein Island in the Marshall Islands. While on “Kwaj,” community theater dominated his activities. Theater was his passion, and he starred in many roles while there.  He is known to be an excellent piano player, able to play the “Flight of the Bumble Bee.” In the 2000s he recorded playing “Beautiful Mother of Mine” a song written by his mother, Donna in 1923.

Photo of Russell Erwin Kees
Russell Erwin Kees
Probably c. 1948

He was an avid golfer, winning tournaments for his age group when he was in his 70s.

Russell Erwin Kees died on 16 March 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.
He is buried at National Memorial Cemetery of Arizona, in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona in Section H3, Row B, Site 39.

Russell is survived by daughter Dawn Milligan, sister Sylvia Matson, and two grandchildren.

If you knew Russell and have a story or two you can share, I would love to add your story about Russell to my family history.  Also, I’d like any photos you may have of Russell.  I will add them to a family album and possibly use them in a coliague  remembering Russell. Please use the comments below to share with me.  Comments will be considered as public unless you specifically state you would like the story kept private within the family.

Endnotes:

[1] This is the only record I have seen that indicates that Madonna Montran used the name of her stepfather, Harvey Knight.

Sources:

1940 Census – Michigan, Kent County, Grand Rapids, ED 86-156, Sheet 10B, Line 61, Age 12, attending school.  Ancestry.Com
Birth Certificate – State of Michigan – State File #: 121-582-0201178.
Cook County, Illinois Marriage Index, 1930-1960 – Ancestry.Com
Donna Montran Collection – Digital Scans held by Don Taylor
Email – Various between Don Taylor and Russell Kees & Don Taylor and Russell’s sister (Living).
New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 – Ancestry.Com
Find A Grave Memorial# 161134930 – Russell Erwin Kees

Barnett Surname

Surname Saturday

Brown/Manning/Barnett

I only have one known direct Barnett ancestor, my 5th great grandmother, Catherine Barnett (Ancestor #209) on the Brown line. However, I have some 35 other known Barnetts identified in my family tree. Several Barnetts married into the Mannin and Brown families in my research, so even though I only have one direct Barnett ancestor, the Barnett surname is important in my research.
  

Barnett Name Meaning

There are two major threads of discussion regarding the meaning of the surname Barnett.
First is that it is a habitational name, relating to where people lived. Once source suggests that the name comes from a town in Hertfordshire, and the name of several parishes in that county. It also suggests it refers to towns in Middlesex and Lincoln.[i] Another source suggests the name derives from Old English bærnet ‘place cleared by burning’.[ii]
A second thread indicates that the name is a variant of Bernard or “the son of Barnard”.[iii] Barnard was a popular name in the 13th century and the Cistercian monk, Saint Barnard, provided impetus to the name’s use. Other popular variants of Barnett include Barnet and Barnette.

Geographical

I do not know where Catherine Barnett or her ancestors came from. But a good guess would be from England. The New York Passenger Lists on Ancestry indicates that more than half of the New York Passengers with the surname Barnett came from England. My Catherine was probably born in Virginia about 1782. If that is the case, her ancestors never immigrated, rather they just relocated to the colonies.

In1840 there were 71 Barnett households in Virginia and another 119 in Kentucky.[iv] Although Catherine married Meredith Mannin about 1797, I’m sure she had plenty of Barnett relatives in the area. Catherine appears to have died in Kentucky sometime before 1862.           

My Direct Barnett Ancestors

#209 – Catherine Barnett (1782-c.1862) – Generation 8
#104 – Meridith Mannin (1801-1885) – Generation 7
#52 – Enoch Mannin (1819-1907) – Generations 6
#26 – John William Manning (1845-1888) – Generations 5
#13 – Mary Elizabeth Manning (1874-1983) – Generation 4
#6 – Richard Earl Brown (1903-1990) (aka Richard Durand, aka Clifford Brown) – G3
My mother – Generation 2
Me – Generation 1

My known relatives.

My records have 865 direct-line descendants of Catherine Barnett identified in my known Brown/Montran tree, which is about 19% of my entire tree are descendants of Catherine Barnett.

ENDNOTES

[i] Patronymica Britannica, written: 1838-1860 by Mark Antony Lower via Forebears http://forebears.io/surnames/barnett#meaning
[ii] Source: Dictionary of American Family Names ©2013, Oxford University Press via Ancestry http://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Barnett
[iii] ibid.
[iv] Barnett Family History, Ancestry; http://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=barnett

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Bio – Barney Brown (c. 1813-c 1865)

Brown

By – Don Taylor

Barney/Daney Brown is my third great-grandfather on my mother’s paternal line. I have not found much Barney or his life. In fact, I have only found him in two census records, which is barely enough to prove even his existence. But, this is what I think I know.

c. 1813 – Born in New Hampshire.
c. 1840 – Married Mary C. (Unknown).
c. 1842 – Son, William Henry born in Michigan.
c. 1845 – Son, Myron O. born in Michigan.
    1850 – Lived near Seline, Washtenaw County, Michigan
c. 1852 – Daughter, Alice C. born in Michigan.
c. 1855 – Don, David V. born in Michigan.
    1860 – Lived near Seline, Washtenaw County, Michigan
c. 1865 – Died (Probably near Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan

Discussion

According to the 1850 and the 1860 Censuses, Barney was 36 and 46 years-old respectively which indicates he was born in 1813 or 1814. Both censuses show that he was born in New Hampshire. Several other researchers suggest that his father was Odell Brown, and his mother’s name was Jane, however, I have not managed to confirm those names. Also, some researchers indicate that he had a brother, David, who was born about 1810.

In the 1850 Census he is named Barney; in the 1860 Census, he is called Daney. This name change leads to some confusion, which is why I call him Barney/Daney. When I find additional documentation, I will correct the name as appropriate.

I know nothing of his childhood, other than he apparently had an older brother.

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney in the 1840 Census. It is likely he was living with his family in New Hampshire, Michigan, or somewhere in between. The 1840 Census only names the heads of households, so if Barney/Daney was living with his father or another person, the 26-year-old would not be listed.

He appears to have left New Hampshire and located in Michigan sometime before 1842 because his oldest son was born in Michigan.

He appears to have married Mary C. (Unknown) about 1840. This marriage is based solely on my knowing his oldest known son, William Henry Brown, being born in 1842. It is not clear if he married Mary C. before he located to Michigan after he settled in Saline, Michigan, or elsewhere.

Barney/Daney and Jane appear to have had four children.[1]

They are:

William Henry Brown (1842-?)
Myron O. Brown (1845-?)
Alice C. Brown (1852-?)
David V. Brown (1855)

In 1850, Barney was living with his wife, Mary, and two children, William Henry and Myron O. Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan as a farmer[2].

In 1860, Barney was living with his wife, Mary, and four children, Henry W., Myron O., Alice C., and David V. Brown in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan as a farmer.[3] Living with the Browns was a Melvina Miller, age 17 who was a domestic and also attended school.[4]

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney in the 1870 Census. I did find his wife in the 1870 census living as a widow with Henry & Ann Davidson in Saline, Washtenaw County, Michigan. Because of that, I believe that Barney/Daney died sometime between 1860 and 1870.

I have been unsuccessful finding Barney’s burial location.

Further Actions:

Determine Barney/Daney’s preferred name, also the date and place of his birth.
Determine Barney/Daney’s date and place of death.
Determine Barney/Daney’s location during the 1820, 1830, and 1840 Censuses.
Follow the other children through the censuses.
Confirm that Odell and Jane Brown were his parents.
Determine Barney/Daney’s wife maiden name.

List of Greats

Arthur Durwood Brown
William Henry Brown
Barney/Daney Brown
Odell Brown?????

ENDNOTES

[1] The 1860 Census, Population Schedule, does not include family relationships. Consequently, identifying the relationships as parents/children from those records is speculative. William H and Myron O lived with Barney & Mary during the 1850 Census. “Henry W.” and the other children lived with Daney & Mary during the 1860 Census.
[2] 1850 Census; Barney Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Family Search; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MF8P-F8S
[3] 1860 Census; Daney (Barney) Brown – Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan; Family Search; Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan, Family 644; https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWDZ-DLM
[4] Ibid.
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Barber – Surname Lost?

Barber

Surname Saturday

Name Origin:

A barber cutting hair - Source: Pixabay Barber is an occupational name for a barber. Barbers of old not only cut hair and shaved beards, but also practiced surgery and pulled teeth.[i]

Today (2014 data), there are 86,641 people with the Barber surname in the United States, the most of any nation. In terms of rank within a nation, there are proportionally more people with the Barber surname in England, Wales, and Australia.[ii]

My Earliest Ancestor:

My earliest known Barber ancestor is my 2nd great grandfather, Franklin E Barber. Frank, as he was known, was born December, 1836 in Ohio.[iii]


In most of the census records Frank’s occupation was a painter. According to Ancestry.Com there were 147 Barber families enumerated in the 1840 Census. From the 1880 Census, we know his father was born in New York and his mother was born in Vermont.

I know nothing of his early life and only recently found him as Elisha F Barber in the 1870 Census living Trumbull county, Ohio. I need to confirm this finding though, because it appears that he and Sarah Blackhurst married in Albion, Michigan in 1869 and located in Ohio immediately after the marriage. Then they apparently moved back to Albion to be there during the 1880 Census.

Franklin and Sarah had two daughters, Ida Mae and Eva Louisa. With them the Barber name was lost from Frank’s descendants.

I still have not determined who Frank’s parents were. With only 147 Barber families in Ohio in 1840, I believe it may be possible to determine his family in Ohio. If I can, it may be that he will have siblings that carried the Barber name on.

Frank died on April 7, 1917 at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home. His is buried at the Grand Rapids Veterans Home Cemetery at plot 7, row 10, grave 13.

My Direct Barber Ancestors

#30 – Franklin Elisha Barber (1836-1917) – 2nd Great Grandfather.
#15 – Ida Mae Barber (1875-1953) – Great grandmother.
# 7 – Madonna Mae Montran (1893-1976) – Grandmother.
# 3 – My mother.
# 1 – Me.

My known relatives.


My records have 31 direct-line descendants identified over eight generations, which is less than 1% of my known Brown/Montran family tree. 

Endnotes

[i] Ancestry.Com – Barber Family History – http://www.ancestry.com/name-origin?surname=Barber
[ii] Forebears – Surname Meaning & Statistics, Internet website – http://forebears.io/surnames/barber | accessed 3 Apr 2016.
[iii] 1900 Census – Frank Barber – Inmate, Soldier’s Home, ED 148, Sheet 4A.
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It is all the rage – Birthplace Charts

It has become all the rage. Doing a birthplace chart.  I understand that J. Paul Hawthorne started the idea on Facebook of doing a simple pedigree chart indicating where your ancestors came from.  It has been picked up by many others, including Judy Russell, in her blog, The Legal Genealogist.  It was also suggested in Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musings  blog, so I just had to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try.
Don’s Birthplace Chart

There are several templates available, both Judy and Randy suggested one at on Google Drives.  I used it and filled in my entries with my own colors. 

My Birthplace Chart

It is clear, Michigan (light blue), with seven ancestors, is the most common state where my ancestors were born.  Next most common was Illinois (brown), with five ancestors born there.
There is a little bit of the Western Movement showing up in my chart.  New York to Indiana, Ohio to Indiana, but more so, I think, a northern movement shows up with Tennessee to Illinois to Michigan and Kentucky and Michigan to North Dakota. The unknown birth location for my maternal, great-grandfather’s parents jumps out like a sore thumb.  Trying to figure out those ancestors names and birth places is high on my list of tasks for my Brown/Montran research.
Rather than just saying England, I added the flag to show the birthplace of my 2nd great grandmother, my only known immigrant ancestor in four generations. 
My wife’s Birthplace Chart

Then I got to thinking, I really couldn’t do one of these charts without doing one for my wife’s family. We went to Easter dinner yesterday at one of niece’s homes. We enjoyed conversation with several family members. Needles-to-say, at some point anytime there is a family get together somehow the conversation turns to genealogy.  Anyway, I just happened to bring a hard copy of my wife’s birthplace chart.  It would be identical for her brother, except for the place of birth. Her brother, “J,” loved the chart and took it with him. 

I have really enjoyed the Saturday Night Genealogy Fun activity. Thanks for sharing the idea. Both my wife’s and my Birthplace charts are interesting to look at; they provide a visual representation of family lines and allows me to see things and notice things I might not otherwise notice.  Thank you J. Paul Hawthorn for the idea and thanks to Judy Russell and Randy Seaver for promoting it to be “all the rage.”

–       Don Taylor

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