Monday, August 17, 2015

Part 3: Genealogy is what I do; How did George Knight die?

      The night of October 21, 1899, George Knight, a laborer working in one of Holmes and Nicholson’s camps, was found lying by the track of the A & N Railroad line near Laroque, Michigan ( also called Hawk). At first the passing train men who saw him thought he was just resting by the track, because that was common, but when they passed again hours later they realized something was wrong, and Conductor McGarry stopped the train. They found him with his head bashed in, and he was recognized as George Knight who lived in Millersburg. He was still breathing when found. They took him on the train to transport  him into Laroque, but he died before arriving there. He was examined by a Doctor Sullivan and an inquest was held to determine the cause of death.
      This information was gleaned from three different newspapers that carried the story.
      My grandmother, who was twelve years old at the time, added that he was a logging boss in the camp and he was carrying the payroll that night.
      My grandmother, Edythe Georgiana Knight, was the third of five children born to George and his wife Delia. The youngest was born after his death. My dad’s first cousins all tell similar stories about that night. Their story is that he was murdered for the payroll he was carrying. My grandmother insisted that it was done by the Chinese Cook, who disappeared the same night. However, when the inquest was held, they brought in a different verdict.
      According to the newspaper account, the inquest gave a verdict of accidental death due to carelessness. Because of the nature of the head wound it was determined that George had most likely been walking on the tracks and stepped off to let a train pass, but he stepped back to soon, Since the train was completely passed, he was sucked into the side of the train by the intense motion and knocked aside.
      I was told the murder version of the story by my dad, as he had been told it by his mother. One of Dad’s cousins sent me copies of two of the newspaper articles. When I decided to investigate it, the third article was found, as well as the inquest’s version of the story.
      Although this took place in 1899, no death certificate has been found. I also have not been able to locate any record of George Knight’s marriage to Delia Ruger. The births of his children are all found down in the Arenac and Ogemaw area of the state along with a large number of land transactions.
      George was found with his parents in Fairgrove, Michigan in the 1780 census and by 1900 he was already dead. In the 1900 census his wife and children are living in AuGres.
      It still seems curious to me that, in spite of the inquest, the family passed on a story of murder. Could there be more evidence out there somewhere?

Part 2: What I Do is genealogy; finding Adam Price

    I wanted to find out where my Ancestor, Adam Price, and his brother, Jacob, lived before they settled in Utica, Michigan, so I did the usual basic land search and probate search.
    The land search was confusing at first because I did not know about government land records yet. Eventually I discovered that Adam got his land through a government grant and sent away for the complete file which really did not give me any new information.
    The probate search was immediately successful at the Michigan Archives in Lansing. I gleaned a lot of names (spouse and children) from the probate record, but nothing about where Adam came from. This is where frustration set in, so I went back to reading more about genealogical research and read about searching lateral ancestors for related information. It seems so obvious when you think about it, but I had not thought of it!
    By this time I knew some names of children and I had his brother’s name, so I went back to that old local history and hit the jackpot.
    Adam’s daughter, Sarah, married David Connor, and there was a biography for David Connor in  the book. In it the writer told about Sarah’s father coming to Michigan by steamboat and Ox cart and staying with his brother, Jacob, until his own house was built. It did not name where he came from, but gave me some clues since he came up the Detroit River. I was getting close…
Next I looked at a biography in the book that I had overlooked before, because I did not recognize a descendant of Jacob. This is where the information I was looking for was found. It told how Jacob had been born in Frederick, Maryland and the family had moved to Rush, New York and finally a few of the brothers had moved to Michigan after the Erie Canal was finished in the 1820s. Wow! There it was!
    Right away I called my Aunt who lives in New York and asked her if she knew where Rush was. Her answer was, “Yes, it is just down the road from where I live”. When I told her about what I had discovered she got excited, so my Aunt and her daughter (my first cousin) went looking. They found land records and they found a history written for a family reunion in the early 1900s.
    When I read this family history, I remembered a couple stories Dad told me. Sometimes family tradition gives a funny twist to what is really the truth. I got a good example of that from Dad’s story:
    Dad told me that one of his ancestors had owned some swamp land at the time of a war (he didn’t know which one). Because of the war, this ancestor wanted a horse so he could go and join the fight. He believed that if he owned a horse, he would automatically become an officer. So he traded the land for a horse and went off to fight. Later the land became very valuable because a major city now stand there.
    The story in the family history said that our ancestor owned horses and a man wanted to trade a piece of land for one of his horse, so he could join the war effort. My ancestor refused, because the land was swamp, but the land later became the site where Rochester, NY stands.
    Two different stories that sound so similar, but are either of them true?
    One thing Dad was right about, was the name of Adam and Jacob’s father. Dad guessed that his name was Philip, because he had a memory of his Great Grandfather being called Philip II. Since his father was Adam, he figured there must be another Philip back before Adam and he was right.
    Speaking of family tradition I came to realize that the family history written for a reunion in the early 1900s was not documented. It was tradition too, so my next goal was to prove or disprove what I found in it.
    Before I go there I have another story about family tradition in my next blog:

Saturday, August 15, 2015

What I do is genealogy! Here is how it all began.

In Grandma and Grandpa Price's backyard with Mom, Grandma, and my 4 siblings
Before I really begin telling my story, I want to tell you what the primary surnames are in my research. Price and Knight on my dad's side and Keith and Yocum on my Mom's side. Other names that come into it are Bannister, Burke, Adams, Schaffer, Layman, Ruger, Houghtaling, Hinson, Thompson, Hyslop, Sisson, Peak, McClure, Randolph, Davis, and others. Here is how my story begins:

I guess my interest in Family History goes back to the stories that both of my parents told about their own childhoods. I don’t remember a start or beginning; the stories were always there and I enjoyed them. I think it was a natural way for my parents to express the love of their families just as it is for me to tell about my own childhood. I remember my dad taking us on little excursions to see something: a place from his past. For instance, we would be going to see my grandparents and he would take a detour to go by a house where his family used to live. I don’t remember ever being bored with stories or pictures of family. It seems that I was always interested, but it was a passive interest. I did not actively do anything to stir it up or expand it until I was in my mid-thirties.
The next phase of my genealogical interest hit me when I took a job near where my ancestors had lived. I know that we had driven around the Utica area before and Dad had told me that his family came from this area. When I moved to Sterling Heights, Michigan to take a teaching job, Dad reminded me that our family history was in that area, then, when my parents visited we took a drive up to the Library and the cemetery. In the library, we were directed to a local history written in the 1800s, which named my ancestor, Adam Price and his brother, Jacob, as some of the first settlers there and told how they built a grist mill together. We scrounged around in the library for a while without finding anything else, which was not surprising with our lack of experience in this type of research, but my thirst to know was awakened. In the cemetery we found my great grandparents and their parents, so now I had some names and dates to take off with. This was several years before I owned my first PC. I had a computer in my classroom and knew how to do word processing, but the world of the internet was still an unknown realm. In spite of that I made some progress and I have to stay it probably gave me a better start in the long run, because I was not tempted to blindly accept what someone else put in their tree. I learned to find the evidence myself.
The next thing I did was to read a couple books about genealogical research and they gave me the good idea to talk to older relatives. About this time, I became better acquainted with my great Uncle Edgar Price, who told me stories of his childhood on the farm north of Utica. I also talked to my Grandmother, Alice Yocum Keith, who was my only surviving grandparent at that time. Both of them were able to give me names and dates that I did not have. Then my oldest brother heard of my interest and he gave me a copy of a family tree that he did as a school assignment in Junior High. The great thing about that was, that all my grandparents had been living and contributed information to the tree at that time.
Well now I had a bunch of names, dates, and stories passed on through memories and family tradition and there was more to come, but I knew that I needed to find documentation for all of this. I began visiting court houses, libraries, and historical societies on all my vacations and dragging my sister around to these places as well. Fortunately she is also very interested. Gradually I discovered vital records, land records, probate records, church records, and so on until I had overflowing boxes of stuff about the family. As I worked on organizing all this a few questions emerged and I hit some brick walls. Here are some of those early questions:
1.       Where did Adam and Jacob Price come from, before they settled in Michigan?
2.       What really happened to my great grandfather, George Knight? Was he really murdered by the Chinese cook?
3.       Where did my grandfather have a radio program?
4.       Did the family really own some swamp land where the city of Rochester, NY now stands?
5.       Grandma mentioned a family reunion in Steubenville, Ohio, so why was it there?
6.       How did GGG Grandpa Nathan Keith drown in the Ohio River-what was he up to?

And the questions go on. In my next blog I plan to begin to tell you about what I have and have not discovered so far.
This genealogy thing is an obsession you know. Once you start, there never seems to be a stopping place.