I learned his middle initial was “F”, and not “H”, through a birth register entry for my grandmother, Madonna (Donna).
I have also ordered a microfilm of another record regarding the birth. I am hoping it is a full certificate and not just the same image from the register. If you have never ordered a microfilm from Family Search and had it sent to your local Family History library, you should. It is a fantastic service and inexpensive — only $7.50/film for short term use. I’ll let you know the results when it comes in.
The exciting thing about learning his middle initial is “F” is that I’ve been unable to find anything about John H. Montran. Whenever I researched, I kept running into John F. Montran. If my John F. Montran is the same person as I’ve seen many times before, then Madonna (Donna) has at least one half sister, maybe two that we’ve never known about before.
I’ve begun researching the other two daughters of John F. Montran. Thelma M and Ruth Grace Montran. If I can find a descendant and can convince that person to have an atDNA test, I can prove that the two John’s are the same person.
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.”
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.
[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.
52 Ancestors # 14 – John Montran (c1874-bef. 1911)
John Montran is the most mysterious of my ancestors. My grandmother, Madonna, never spoke of him and I didn’t have the where-with-all to ask her about him before she passed over. I didn’t know his first name until I received a copy of Donna’s application for a Social Security number.
When Madonna was married in 1911, she listed her father as Robert Montran and indicated that he was deceased. So, I’m not really certain if his name was John Robert or Robert John.
When Madonna’s mother married Max Fisher in 1897, she indicated her name as Ida B Montran Barber and she had been married one time before although reading the entry, the clerk may have written Montrani or possibly Montram.
Assuming that Ida married Montran before Madonna was born, Ida and John were probably married in 1892. I also assume that John was a contemporary of Ida, that is to say about the same age, that would put his birth about 1874.
In 1900, Madonna’s step-father was Max Fisher. He was identified as having been born in Wisconsin and Madonna’s father is identified as having been born in Michigan. In 1910, Madonna’s father was again identified as having been born in Michigan. Because her stepfather at that time, Jos Holdsworth, was born in New York, I am fairly sure that John Montran was born in Michigan. However, the 1920 Census indicates that Madonna’s father was born in Pennsylvania. Madonna was on the road with the show “Chin Chin” at the time so the information was probably given by her grandmother, Sarah Barber, who may or may not have known for certain Madonna’s father’s birthplace. Madonna was out of the country for the 1930 census so that census adds nothing additional.In searching a bit more for John Montran, I found that he was father of bride for “Mae Donna Montran” who was married on 24 Nov 1915 to Thomas Valentine Rooney in Waltham, MA. This was a completely unknown marriage. It is interesting to note that it indicates that this was the first marriage for both. I guess Madonna was thinking it was her first US marriage or else she forgot about her 1911 marriage to Chester Fenyvessey in Canada.
Born about 1874, probably in Michigan (possibly Pennsylvania).
Married Ida Barber about 1892, probably in Michigan.
Died before 1911, probably before 1897.
Montran is an uncommon surname; so, when I do find something about Montran I get excited to investigate more. For example, in the 1920 San Francisco city directory indicates that a Maude Montran was living there and Maude was the widow of John F Montran. I didn’t find Maude in any earlier city directories or elsewhere. I certainly can do much more research in this area. As more and more birth, marriage, and death records, as well as newspapers come on-line I hope to find more about John Montran.