Blackhurst Family Reunion – 1923

Amanuensis Monday
By Don Taylor

Photo of Don Taylor with cat Nasi.I don’t recall ever finding a newspaper article about a family reunion for my direct ancestors. I found an article on Ancestry.Com that mentioned my third great-grandparents, Stephen and Fanny (Taylor) Blackhurst. The article was from 1923. Stephen died in 1869 and Fanny died 1889, so a first family reunion taking place over 50 years after Stephen died and over 35 year after Fanny died was a surprise. It showed the pride the family felt to be a part of each other.  The article was in the August 12, 1923 edition of the Evening Chronicle (Marshall, Michigan).[i]

Transcription

Social News
Reunions
Blackhurst

Evening Chronical (Marshall, MI) 12 Aug 1923

The first annual reunion of the Blackhurst family occurred Sunday at Victory park, Jackson, and was attended by thirty-five members of the family. Descendants of Stephen and Fannie Blackhurst, who came to this country from England, settling first in Auburn, N.Y., and in 1869 coming to Albion which was their home during the remainder of their lives.

Officers were elected during the afternoon following the picnic dinner as follows:

  • President, Mrs Flora Sears of Marshall
  • Vice-President Owen Brownell of Eaton Rapids
  • Secretary and Treasurer, Mrs. E. W. Banks of Albion

The after dinner hours were pleasantly occupied with recitations and speeches by the guests and by the reading of letters and telegrams received from those not able to be present. Relatives and friends were in attendance from Big Rapids, Eaton Rapids, Spring Arbor, Battle Creek, Marshall, Detroit and Albion.

[Note: formatting above is mine.]

Discussion

My research did indicate that the Blackhurst did first settle in Auburn, N.Y. However, they were in Sheridan Township before the 1860 Census.[ii] They were in Auburn during the 1855 New York Census,[iii] so they appear to have moved to Albion between 1855 and 1860 and not in 1869.

People

President Mrs. Flora Sears of Marshall:  I don’t have a clue who that could be.  Apparently from a family line I haven’t traced yet. It is interesting to note that next to the Blackhurst farm near Hall’s Lake was another farm owned by J.W. Sears. Nearby farms also included Sanders, Brownell, and Clough names known to have married into the Blackhurst family.

Vice-President Owen Brownell of Eaton Rapids. Must be Charles Owen Brownell (1870-1962), who was a grandson of Stephen and Fanny.  I learned that he lived in Eaton Rapids in 1923.

Secretary and Treasurer, Mrs. E. W. Banks of Albion, is Phebe Ann (Eslow) a granddaughter of Stephen and Fanny. I learned she lived in Albion in 1923.

In 1923, my 2nd great-grandmother Sarah (Blackhurst) Barber was 76 years old.  In 1920 she was living with my grandmother in New York City. In 1928 she was living with my great-grandmother Ida (Barber) Knight in Detroit. So, Sarah and Ida, could have been there as the “relatives from Detroit.” Donna’s whereabouts are unknown during August 1923 so she could have been there as well. Donna, Ida, and Sarah all lived in Albion at various times so they would have known the people and could well have had a desire to be a part of the first family reunion.

Conclusion

My direct ancestors (Madonna, Ida, and Sarah) left Albion and Calhoun County before 1900, and they never spoke of Blackhursts or Albion. It wasn’t until my research that we learned that Madonna was born in Albion, she always said she was born in Detroit. When queried, my mother and uncle said that Ida was born in Detroit. And neither of them recall ever hearing the surname of Blackhurst in their family history.  That make me wonder what made them apparently abandon the Blackhurst family and totally lose contact.  Maybe I’ll be able to find the Blackhurst Family Reunion of 1923 and learn more.

Albion (MI) Historical Society

There is hope on that front. This article shows many Blackhurst family members remained in Calhoun County and the Albion/Sheridan township area. Their having a family reunion in 1923 is evidence they wanted to keep their family in touch. Albion is about 1-1/2 hours west of Detroit and the Albion Historical Society is open weekends from mother’s day until September. I think it would be a great excursion to visit the Historical Society during my next trip to Detroit and see what they might have.

Sheridan Township (MI) Map showing Blackhurst and related family locations

I wish I lived near Albion. Next door to the Blackhurst farm was a farm owned by J. S. Sears. (Possibly somehow related to Blackhurst Reunion president, Mrs. Flora Sears?) One farm beyond that was a farm owned by T. Sanders. Just south of that a farm by W. Brownell.  It is like half the names of the Blackhurst spouses came from these neighbors.  I would be a fun exercise to look at all of the relationships.

In my wanderings, I have found other people for whom The Blackhurst legacy was a big deal. They spoke about the family going back and forth between Chicago and Albion and sharing stories about when Stephen and Fannie left England and came to America and lived in the “wilderness of Michigan.” Maybe they will share those stories with this black sheep Blackhurst descendant.

Followup

  • Reach out to other Blackhurst researchers.
  • Visit the Albion Historical Society.
    • Research – Any records showing John F. Montran or any Montran surnames.
    • Research – Any records regarding the Blackhurst family of Albion particularly prior to 1900.
  • Determine who Flora Sears of Marshall is and how she related.
  • Do a neighbor study of the Blackhurst family and the relationships of Stephen and Fanny’s children’s spouses.

ENDNOTES/SOURCES

[i] Evening Chronicle (Marshall, MI) (Marshall, Michigan, ), Ancestry.Com, 1923-08-12 – Social News / Reunions / Blackhurst.
[ii] 1860 Census, Family Search, Stephen Blacklin – Sheridon, Calhoun, Michigan – Line 7. Accessed 25 August 2013.  https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:MWDJ-W8X.
[iii] 1855 New York Census, Family Search, Stephen Blackhurst – Auburn, Cayuga, New York. Accessed 25 August 2013. https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:K675-B3M.

Walls – Paper or Brick | John Montran – (b-186?/7? – d. Bef 1911) – BM-14

Walls – Paper or Brick?

Rice Paper Walls - by Matt Litt via Flickr - ShareAlike 2.0 Generic - https://www.flickr.com/photos/smorked/2096018330
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.

Birth

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. 

Death

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. 

[i] Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925, Family Search, Max E. Fisher and Ida B. Barber Montrani, 20 May 1897 (Accessed 07 Mar 2014). https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N3XV-7TB.
[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.
[iii] Massachusetts, Marriages, 1841-1915 (Massachusetts, State Archives, Boston), Family Search, FHL microfilm 2411236, p 650 no 312. – Thomas Rooney & Donna Montran. https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.1.1/N4XD-X3L.
[iv] Social Security Application – Donna Montran Kees, Form SS-5 – Application for account number.  XXX-XX-XX79.
[v] 1920 United States Federal Census 3, Ancestry.com, http://www.Ancestry.com, Year: 1920; Census Place: Manhattan Assembly District 13, New York, New York; Roll: T625_1209; Page: 24A; Enumeration District: 958.
————-  DISCLAIMER  ————-
      

Madonna’s Birth – 20 Feb 1893

Madonna’s Birth

There is an adage about always considering sources closest to an event as more accurate than others.  The age of my grandmother, Madonna/Donna is a perfect case of that policy.  
Donna was born 20 Feb 1893 in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan, to John F and Ida Montran [Montrau]. The 1900 (Madonna used a step father’s name) and 1910 censuses are consistent with that birth year. 
Donna went into show business. In the 1920 census her occupation was “actress” and her age was 23, although she would have been 26. During the next seven years Donna only aged three years being only 26 years old when her son was born in 1927.
Donna doesn’t show up in the 1930 census, due to travel during the census. However, she does show up in an April 1930 Passenger List, returning from Panama, as only 25 years old.  She kept that 1905 birthdate through her daughter’s birth in 1932. Sadly she kept to the 1905 birth year when she applied for a Social Security Number in 1937, a mistake which cost her in later life (twelve years of benefits).
In the 1940 Census she reported that she was only 36, although she was 47, aging 11 years in the ten years between censuses.  I’ll be very interested in seeing what she reported when the 1950 census comes out.
Year    Birth 
1893    1893
1900    1893
1910    1893
1920    1897
1927    1901
1930    1905
1932    1905
1937    1905
1940    1904
1976    1893

I should note that in all records the date, February 20th, was always the same, only the age or year changed. As Donna’s life shows, records closest to the event are typically the most accurate.

23 & Me – Blackhurst line exploration


My 23 & Me DNA results put me (and my mother) into contact with a couple people with whom the only surname we shared was Blackhurst.  One of them suggested that their ancestor, William Stephen Blackhurst had a sister who was twelve years younger named Sarah Blackhurst.  He also indicated that their parents were Stephen and Fanny (Taylor) Blackhurst.  He provided several sources which provided a place for me to look much more closely at my Sarah and his suggestions.
I dove in and found lots of new information regarding Sarah that I didn’t know before. 
I learned that Sarah’s husband was Franklin (I had Frank) Barber. They were married in Calhoun County, Michigan. Sarah’s father came to the states about 1848, then Sarah’s mother and kids came to the States two years later (1850).  They settled in Auburn, Cayuga, New York, USA.   Somewhere between 1855 and 1860, they moved to Sheridan Township, Michigan (near to Albion). Sarah and Franklin were married in Albion (I’m ordering their marriage certificate) and their two children, Ida and Eva were born in Albion, which I knew previously. 
Stephen and Fanny are buried in Albion as well.  All the pieces connect and I’m certain of the relationship.  
So, the 23 & Me connection provided the impetus and the clue that opened up a family line I knew nothing about previously.  I am definitely looking forward to what additional connections the 23 & Me results will provide.  I’ll be writing more about the Blackhurst line after I finish a deep dive into those ancestors.
[Disclaimer:  The links to 23 & Me are connected to an affiliate program which provides a small reward to me if you purchase a DNA kit from them.  Although I receive a reward from them for a referral, my comments regarding 23 & Me are based solely upon my experiences with 23 & Me.]