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  ————-
      

Bio – Ida Mae Barber (1874-1953)

52 Ancestors #11 – Ida Mae Barber (Montran) (Fisher)
(Holdsworth) (Knight) (1874-1953)

When I decided to look at Ida Mae’s life I realized that my
source work regarding Ida Mae was woefully inadequate.  Most of the work I did regarding Ida Mae was was done several years ago and I wasn’t as good about creating source
records that were complete and stood on their own. Some of the source citations were entirely in
my Family Tree Maker for Mac and were corrupted during various upgrades (FTM 4
Mac 2 to FTM 4 Mac 3 was particularly painful).
I decided to redo everything regarding Ida, that is to say,
pull together my physical copies/printouts, look through my computer for
relevant files, confirm sources in FTM & Ancestry, and build new source citations
and documents.
One thing I did realize in this process is that when you
attach media to a source, FTM allows you to link to existing media or to copy
the media into FTM.  I was inconsistent
in my approach.  I did both.  I found that over the years where I linked to
existing files the linkage was often broken. 
I know that copying it into FTM duplicates the file and my “duplicate
file finder” will spit out long lists of duplicates, but, it will be worth
doing so in the future.
After I cleaned up my sources for Ida, I did some new
research and found several items regarding Ida’s early marriages. 
– – – – – – – – – – – – – 

Bio – Ida Mae Barber (1874-1953)

Ida Mae Barber was born on March 24, 1874, in Michigan, the
first of two daughters of Franklin (Frank) and Sarah Blackhurst Barber.

Albion College, founded in 1835, 
would have been a influence on
 young Ida’s upbringing.
Woodcut in the Public Domain (via Wikimedia)
She grew up in Albion, Calhoun County, Michigan, which is a
small town about 100 miles west of Detroit which is the home to Albion College. In the 1880 Census she is six years
old living with her parents and her younger sister Eva.
I believe that sometime in 1892 Ida married John
Montran.  John is identified by name
several times and when Ida marries this second time she indicates that she had
been married before and that her name was Ida Barber Montrani.  The “Montrani” name is new in my research (I
had always looked for Montran and Montram previously) so, it gives me a new area
of research.) I had long believed that Ida had Madonna out of wedlock, but now
I suspect that she actually did marry John.
Ida’s daughter, Madonna, 
was born 20 Feb 1893.
Ida married her second husband, Max E. Fisher on 21 May 1897
in Detroit Michigan. The wedding was performed by Fred E. DeGaw, J. P.  and the witnesses were Frederick Mullau and
Herman Schcontt, both of Detroit. 
According to the marriage records, Ida was from Albion and Max was from
Detroit so their being married in Detroit makes sense.
Oddly enough, the 1900 Census shows Max, Ida, and Madonna
Fisher living at 374 Third Street. Manistee, Michigan.  I say oddly because Manistee is on the
opposite side of the state from Detroit; it’s on the coast of Lake Michigan. Google Maps does not
have street views of Manistee so I can’t tell if where they lived is still
there.  Also, Google Maps doesn’t
indicate the address in Manistee but rather that 374 Third Street is across
Manistee Lake in East Lake. 
The former Essex County Courthouse, built in 1855
it is where Ida & Joseph would have been married.
Photo by C Hanchey via Flickr – Some rights reserved.

Her husband, Max, apparently died because Ida married Jos
(Joseph) A Holdsworth in Essex, Ontario, Canada on 16 Aug 1904.  Essex is a small town about 20 miles across
the river from Detroit. The marriage information indicates that Holdsworth was
from Minneapolis.  The record shows Ida
as a “ditto” for where she lived, so it may be that she spent some time in
Minneapolis before they were married.  
The record also indicates that she was a widow.  (I’d like to find a death record for Max to
confirm that.)

Ida divorced Holdsworth before the 1910 census was taken in
April.  In the 1910 census, Ida was the
head of the household with 17 year-old daughter Madonna and her 62 year-old
mother Sarah Barber living with her.  It
appears that she wasn’t working but Madonna was a saleswoman at a dry goods
store.  Living with them was a “boarder,”
Harvey Knight. They lived at 418 Clay Ave, near Russell Street.  Detroit renumber many of its streets a few
years later so it is difficult to determine if the building they lived in is
still there.  Most likely not, The
intersection of where Clay and Russell would meet is now taken by the Chrysler
Freeway (I75).
Ida and Harvey Watson Knight were married on 27 Aug 1910 in Detroit.  It is interesting to note that the marriage
performed by Justice Fred E DeGaw, the same person who performed her
marriage  to Max Fisher. Frank G Schilling
and Winnifred Andrews both of Detroit as witnesses.
Ida & Harvey moved to new home at 628 Lawndale in
1914.  It is assumed that they built the
home and/or were the first owners.   
Harvey Milton Knight
died at 10 months from
mercury dichloride. 
Ida and Harvey’s only child together, Harvey Milton Knight,
was born on 20 November 1915.  Sadly,
Harvey Milton died at 10 months of age from accidental poisoning of mercury
dichloride. Oral history indicated that Milton died from getting a poison from
under the sink and ingesting it. His story is a reminder that children need to
be protected from access to dangerous chemicals.
In 1917, Ida’s only sibling, sister Eva, died from
tuburculous.  Now, Eva was married to Adelbert
Goff and lived in Farmington, MI.  Ida’s
grandchildren recall visiting an “Uncle Del” when they went to Walled Lake in
the 1930s and 1940s.  Farmington would
have been about a half-mile off the highway to Walled Lake.  Both of Ida’s grandchildren assumed that
“Uncle Del” was just a friend that was called “Uncle.”  I believe A-DEL-bert was “Uncle Del” as location,
names, and oral history all fit.
In 1918, Harvey registered for the draft.  That document shows still living at 628
Lawndale.
The 1920 census finds Ida and Harvey living along at the
Lawndale house.  Daughter Madonna is on
the road in the vaudeville comedy show “Chin Chin.” However, Madonna is listed
in the Census living in an apartment in New York with her widowed grandmother,
Sarah.
1456 Lawndale Today
Screenshot courtesy Google Maps
In February of 1923, Madonna, now “Donna” registers a song
with Variety.  In that registration she
indicates her address as 1456 Lawndale. 
I was at first confused by that as it is unusual for people to move  eight blocks up the street, particularly from
a new (only 9 years old at that time) home. 
A comparison of neighbors showed that the Knights had the same neighbors
in the 1920 and the 1930 censuses. Without a doubt, they didn’t move rather the
street was renumbered to fit a larger system sometime between 1920 and 1923. 
In 1930, the 47 year-old Ida was still living at 1456
Lawndale with her husband, Harvey. Ida and Harvey remained in that house until
Harvey’s death in May of 1942.  The 68
year-old Ida would have been left alone, except that her 14 year-old grandson
came to live with her and help out.
Marker for Knight Family
Harvey & Ida (Milton is on right side)
Photo by Don Taylor via Find a Grave
Ida died of an acute
coronary thrombosis at her home of nearly 40 years on 13 Oct 1953.  She was buried with her husband Harvey Watson
Knight and her son Harvey Milton in Plot 154, Oak Ridge Section, Woodmere Cemetery
in Detroit
Because this is my mother’s mother’s mother I carry Ida’s as well as her mother, Sarah Blackhurst, and her mother, Fanny Taylor’s Mitochondrial
DNA.  My sister’s daughter is the only
person who will carry their mtDNA (Haplogroup T2b) on to future generations.

Discover yourself at 23andMe
       [Disclaimer]

Areas for New Research

Search for Montrani instead of Montran in the usual places.
Search harder for Montran – Barber marriage records.
Research what may have been at 374 Third Street, Manistee.
Research actual date for street renumbering in Detroit.

Sources:

Ancestry.Com – Census Records 1880, 1900, 1910, 1920, 1930,
& 1940.
Ancestry.Com – World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,
Ancestry.Com – Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928 – Jos
A Holdsworth – Ida Fisher.
Ancestry.Com – Ontario, Canada Marriages, 1801-1928
Family Search – Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925 – Harvey Knight
Family Search – Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925 – Max E Fisher
Michigan, Department Of Heath , Certificate of Death, Ida Mae
Knight. Wayne county, Michigan, Detroit. (Personal copy in my possession)
Michigan, Department Of Heath , Certificate of Death (In my
possession).

Social Security Application – Donna Montran Kees, Form SS-5  (Personal copy of document)

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.]