“Do you mean to tell me that land doesn’t mean anything to you? Why, land is the only thing in the world worth working for worth fighting for, worth dying for. Because it’s the only thing that lasts!”–Gerald O’Hara, Gone With the Wind
“Oh pa, you talk like an Irishman.”–Scarlett O’Hara

I do not understand the land situation in Ireland at all. There, I’ve said it. I try not to be judgemental about the system, but it confuses me, which makes researching there more difficult. Who owns which property? How do you know who is living where? Farming where? Is the name I see in two different places in Griffith’s Valuation the same man, or different men?

If the Irish census records from the 1800s hadn’t burned in 1922, perhaps I wouldn’t have this problem. If I could see specific family groups, and then tie them to a particular parcel of land, it might start making sense to me. That’s not the reality, so instead, I do what I can to muddle through. I read articles, watch webinars, and wander around Irish websites in an attempt to figure out what’s what. It’s been slow going!

I can safely say I know more now than I used to, though that’s not saying much! Some pieces are starting to fall into place. My Irish research is all on Mike’s family, with the Nolan/[H]Alpine lines on the east side of the island, and the Carmodys on the west side. The Nolans emigrated from Clonegall, which decided to locate itself at the junction of Counties Carlow, Wexford, and Wicklow. That adds a level of confusion I’ve yet to tackle, so I’ll leave them for another time. We’ll head across the island to Ennis, in County Clare, for Mike’s Carmodys.

I’ve written about his Carmodys on both sides of the Atlantic. Most recently I wrote about the hotel disaster of the “maybe they’re related to us” Carmody line in Ennis. And I wrote about the three Andrews who were first cousins. I also wrote about their grandfather, Andrew, in Brick Wall. That post briefly discussed (complete with map) the land he lived on in The Borheen. At least, I think it was him. He was not, however, the only Carmody in that townland. Was there any way the land records could help me sort them out? Connect some to each other? I don’t know. Maybe. To recap, this was the listing I found in Griffith’s:

Griffith’s Valuation, page 169² (with the middle of the page clipped out). The red boxes point out the headings at the top, and Andrew Carmody’s entries: two as an Occupier (14 shillings owed for both), and one as the Lessor (landlord —8 shillings). So, Malony paid Carmody the 8 shillings, which he turned over to Gore? The green boxes point out other Carmody entries in the area: Margaret, Thomas, and Ellen. Parish of Drumcliff, The Borheen (heading missing in the snipped section). This is from 1855.

Brick Wall didn’t really dig into the details about the land. Many questions still lurked about, and I now realize there were things I misunderstood. I’ll try to tackle those, now.

First off: Francis Gore, the landlord. What’s his backstory? The Gore family first acquired the lease in Drumcliff in 1712, from Henry, 8th Earl of Thomond.¹ It was leased in perpetuity, for an annual rent of £60. One inflation calculator equates that to a current value of £6500. Of course that doesn’t take into account any increase in land value. A better consideration might be that most of Gore’s tennants paid less than £1 rent per year. The land managed by the Gore family extended beyond the Drumcliff parish in Ennis, with seven houses situated throughout their land holdings.

In late 1852, the lease for over 1,000 acres they managed near Ennis was listed for sale, yet a later descendant (another Francis) still maintained over 3000 acres in County Clare into the 1870s—in addition to land leased elsewhere. This family had control over (not ownership of, though!) a lot of land.

That brings up the next point. I’d been confused about why Andrew Carmody was a tennant, if he owned land that he leased to someone else. I didn’t grasp the idea the NO ONE owned the land except the 8th Earl of Thomond! Francis Gore was paying rent, subletting the land to lots of other people, with some of those people (like Andrew) subletting it yet again. Did subletting some of the land one was leasing indicate being “better off” than others? I don’t know. It’s certainly no surprise that North America, and the possiblity of land ownership, looked like a dream come true, to many Irishmen!

The Tithe Applotment Survey recorded another tax assessment based on land. In the Drumcliff parish, Lifford townland, I can find:

  • 1833: Jno Carmody, 1 3/4 acres (one of 6 names for that land!)³
  • 1833: Patt Carmody, 2½ acres³

Unfortunately, we get only a name; no family members and no maps accompany it. A name with a date and a vague general area isn’t terribly useful, so that didn’t really help.

A complication that cropped up when I looked back at Griffith’s Valuation was the map situation. located as many maps as they could for each area. For Ennis, they have four. Great! Well, not really, because none of the maps are dated. All the site says is that tinted maps (like below) are most recent. One map had very few parcels, and a very different numbering system, so I believe that one was the oldest.

Section of a Griffith’s Valuation map² showing what I believe to be The Borheen area. It is north of the River Fergus. The almost vertical lane to their right is The Borheen (“country lane or rural road”), now called Marian Avenue. I annotated this one with the names of the occupiers on their lot, to see relative locations. So, how far apart are they? From Ellen’s to Margaret’s is about 1 km (6 tenths of a mile).

The other two (below) showed numbers crossed out and new ones written in, matching the later numbers (above). That created a problem for me: which lot 24 did Thomas Carmody occupy? The one lower in the map (below Andrew’s garden), or the one that merged and became part of lot 10? Maybe the lots I labeled above are the wrong ones?

I took the 1855 valuation list, trying to match up the lot acreage to the relative sizes shown on the maps. Lots 23-27 have roughly the same area—10-11 perches. Is that consistent with the tinted map? Pretty much. On the black & white maps, old lot 24 is much smaller than old 23 (new 9) or old 25, which merged with 24 to become new 10. Andrew’s lot 29 on the tinted map (37 perches) seems proportionately larger than 23 and 24, but the old 29 (below the new 10) doesn’t seem to be the right size.

The one “problem” is lot 33, with only 7 perches. On the tinted map, 33 is fairly large—much larger than 7 perches! Old 33 was smaller, most of it “liable to floods.” It’s possible there were only 7 perches of “usable” land on that lot, but how do I resolve the area discrepancy? Which map should I use?Looking at the second page of the 1855 valuation list, I noticed there were 66 lots in The Borheen. The tinted map went only up to lot 59, so it must be after 1855. Both black & white maps have 76 lots. The valuation list needs a different map!

Obviously the lot changes did not occur all at one time. Unfortunately, there’s no time-lapse recording of how they occurred. Presumably they renumbered starting with low lot numbers, and I might be able to recreate the sequence, but I don’t really have time or energy for that. The Carmody lot numbers I need are low enough that I feel comfortable that I have identified them correctly on the tinted map.

For the sake of my OCD thoroughness, I checked FamilySearch’s database. It provides images of the handwritten ledger pages, though it claims to be an 1845 book. I could not locate a date anywhere on the images, and there are slight name differences, though the Carmodys all seemed to be in the same locations. Ancestry had the printed valuation list, and the earliest map, without the plot numbers.

As a hint, though, Ancestry pointed me to the “Ireland, Encumbered Estates, 1850-1885”4 database. What was that? Apparently, as a result of the potato blight and subsequent famine, tenants couldn’t pay their rents. Landlords couldn’t pay their rents, either, because not enough was coming in. The Encumbered Estates Court was created so lending banks could force the sale of land whose rents were in arrears.

It would be like selling an apartment building. That listing would detail how many units, what the monthly rent was for those units, what the current occupancy was, and so on, so a prospective buyer knew what to expect as potential income. Similarly, the Encumbered Estates records listed each tennant, what the property consisted of, acreage, annual rent, when the “Gale Days” (dates the rent was due) were, and the tenure of each tennant—when the lease was renewable. Some people had longer leases. Most were year-long leases, renewable on 25 March, and some were weekly, renewing on Saturday!

Similar to a personal possession auction, the properties were offered in “lots” of various sizes—both area and number of individual properties. A map accompanied each group of property listings, and there was always a definite sale date to identify time period. These were different maps from the Griffith’s ones, and varying dates! I decided a spreadsheet would be useful to sort out the assorted Carmodys with all the different years. I had 79 entries to process through. There wasn’t enough time to handle all of them, but I was able to complete about a third, which included Andrew, Thomas, and Margaret, who had shown up in the Griffith’s Valuation list.

All three were listed on the 29 June 1868 action that was held at the Ennis court house. As you can see from the map (below), these were different parcels than the ones on the Griffith’s map. They were “town properties” located in the the area now referred to as “The Borheen.”

Thomas’s property was up near the top point, with Andrew’s below that, near the 2nd “Lot 12” label. Margaret was across the street, and a bit more than half way down, on property 5 in Lot 10. Placing this map relative to the Griffith’s map, property 6 in Lot 15 (far left) is the parcel Andrew rented to Patrick Mahony (labeled 28 in the Griffith’s map).

On the Griffith’s map, this area wasn’t accounted for, though it was visible as the slightly angled road heading away from the “bump up” on the River Fergus, and continuing into the N/S road effectively bisecting the top half of the map. It may have been considered a different section in Griffith’s, so I may need to see if those properties were identified with other people, earlier.

I would LOVE to tie this last map to either Patrick or Michael, sons of Andrew. Both are listed in the 1901 census, but none of the forms list an actual address or lot number. The households were simply numbered in the order visited. The only street name is “The Borheen,” but the map above simply refers to the road as “County Road.” That’s not much help. There’s no map showing the census locations.

Still, I feel confident this was still Mike’s Andrew. It gives documentation that he probably died after 1868, six years after John Joseph’s (Mike’s grandfather) birth. If I have to make a page-by-page search for him in a death register, it gives me a starting date, at least. That’s better than I had!

We were supposed to be in Ennis a week ago, wandering the lanes, looking for these places, taking photos of the properties belonging (hopefully) to Mike’s great-grandfather, Andrew. Sigh. With those plans torpedoed, we’ll have to wait for another opportunity to travel there and explore his family’s ancestral town.

So, do I understand everythinng about land in Ireland? Not even close! I still have questions, but they are different than before. I guess I have more time to research answers before we go. S0, maybe half a win? Or only half a loss?


¹”Estate Record: Gore (Clonroad & Tyredagh Castle)”. 2020. Landedestates.Nuigalway.Ie., accessed 20 April 2020.

²”Griffith’s Valuation, 1847-1864″, database,, Ask About Ireland (, General Valuation, p. 169, for Andrew CARMODY, occupier, The Borheen, Ennis (town), Lifford (townland), Drumcliff (parish), Ennis (union), Islands (barony), County Clare, accessed 7 April 2019.

³”Tithe Applotment Books, 1814-1855″, database, The National Archives of Ireland (, Jno. CARMODY, 1833; citing Drumcliff, Lifford, Clare, p. 23, accessed 23 April 2020; also Patt CARMODY, 1833, no page given.

4“Ireland, Encumbered Estates, 1850-1885”, database, (, accessed 26 April 2020, entry for Andrew CARMODY, 1868, lot # 12, # on map 6, Lifford, Drumcliff, Islands, Clare; citing Landed Estate Records, The National Archives of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland.


“Water is the driving force of all nature.”–Leonardo da Vinci

Mike’s family members are thoroughly Michigander. Apparently there is a musical artist by that name. Not talking about him. With a few rare exceptions of family who moved out-of-state in the 1940s or later, the family has lived along the east “coast” of Michigan since the mid to late 1800s. My late mother-in-law was fond of bragging that Michigan would never run out of water, since it bordered four of the five Great Lakes!

None of Mike’s family was involved in the substantial water commerce taking place in Michigan. I’m not aware of any boat captains or merchant marine sailors. Nevertheless, it seems his family was repeatedly drawn to water, as evidenced by the few photos we have. Today’s blog has vignettes spotlighting some of the people, stories, and photos.

In Winter, I already wrote about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s maternal great-grandfather) drowning in the Black River, which flows through Port Huron. Water certainly impacted his life. Death. You know what I mean.

Not too far away, on the other side of the family, John Joseph Carmody spent time as the manager of the Lighthouse Park Tourist Camp, near the Fort Gratiot Lighthouse. He was the manager from at least 1928 (when his wife died), retiring in 1933.

1902 postcard of the Fort Gratiot lighthouse. The tourist camp would have been there after this photo was taken, on the far side of the lighthouse. In the public domain, original: Detroit Photographic Company. The original uploader to was Cbl62 at English Wikipedia.

It continued to be a tourist camp until at least 1949, and sported a beach, still popular today. The beach is the likely location of the photos of Mike’s parents, below, taken when they were dating. Even though both lived in Detroit, they regularly headed north to Port Huron. Both had family connections there, and it was an opportunity to get out of the city. Often they “double dated” with Pat’s sister, Sue, and Sue’s boyfriend (later, husband) Gene.

Probably mid-1950s. Mike’s parents, Patricia Kukler and Jerry Bauman. Location not certain, but likely to be the beach at Lighthouse Park or Lakeside Park (a short way further north), Port Huron, Michigan. Both beaches are at the southernmost end of Lake Huron, just before the beginning of the St. Clair River. I don’t believe there are beach areas like this downriver, in Detroit.

Earlier generations found themselves recreating near the water, too. The photos below all came from an album belonging to Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. We never saw it until after his mom’s death, and her mother had died 13 years earlier. The album was falling apart. It was too fragile to invert and scan, and I didn’t know (or think) to record how the photos were placed on the pages. My bad. I did have enough sense to write on the backs of photos whatever had been written below them on the pages, but many had nothing to identify them. While I was grateful for the names, dates and places would have really come in handy!

The photos below identified the people, but I didn’t know where it was. Initially I thought it might be Boblo—an amusement park I had heard of, on another island farther down the Detroit River. Mike said it didn’t look like that, and suggested Belle Isle, which I’d forgotten about. Searching online, I found postcards consistent with what I saw in these photos, including the bridge in the background of the first photo.

Frank C. Kukler was born and grew up in Detroit. A true city boy. He met his wife-to-be, Elizabeth Nolan, when she had moved from Port Huron for better job opportunities. Between 1907 and 1919, she worked as a telephone operator or in one or more private homes as a governess or domestic. Who was Tressa? My best guess is she was Theresa Krattenthaler, a 24-year old nursemaid in the Lawrence M. Goodman household upstairs at 67 Euclid Avenue West² in 1920. In the 1915 Detroit City Directory, however, I found both Theresa and Elizabeth, working as “domestics” at the same location in Grosse Point Park³—right across from Belle Isle. It’s not too surprising Tressa stored a canoe, and spent free time at Belle Isle!

Another popular water hole for Mike’s family was Houghton Lake, smack dab in the middle of the “mitten,” about 2/3 of the way up. Mike’s Uncle Gene (Sue’s main squeeze, remember?) inherited his parents’ summer cottage on the lake. I don’t know exactly how much time they spent up there, but Uncle Gene had a pontoon boat (much tamer than the speed boats he used to race as a young man!) on the lake, so I presume they made good use of it. Even Elizabeth (his mother-in-law) went out for a spin on the lake in 1984, when she was 93!

1984. Elizabeth Nolan Kukler, age 93, out for a ride on Houghton Lake.

When Mike’s family decided to hold a reunion, we commandeered most (if not all) of the rooms of a nearby strip motel, not far from Gene & Sue’s cottage. There were two buildings of motel rooms running perpendicular between the road and the lake, with a beach, grassy area, and dock between them. It was the perfect place for Elizabeth’s kids (below), grandkids, and great-grandkids to hang out together for a week.

19 August 1989. Five of the six Kukler siblings alive at the time: Pat, Sue, Marge, Bob, Mary. Three are still with us.

We swam, played in the sand, got boat rides, played putt-putt nearby. Everyone enjoyed the week enough, that we repeated it in 1993. Unfortunately, coordinating the schedules of 20+ families is complicated, so it’s been limited to those two times. Better two than none . . .

Water has been called the universal solvent. It breaks apart more things than anything else.

But sometimes it just pulls everything together.


¹Wikipedia ( “Belle Isle Park (Michigan),” rev. 31 March 2020, at 09:08 (UTC). 

²1920 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Wayne, Detroit, Ward 2, e.d. 85; Page 2A; dwelling number 19; family number 23; line 12; Lawrence M. GOODMAN household; accessed 5 April 2020. Theresa KRATTENTHALAR, age 24; NARA microfilm publication T625, roll 802; digital image, (

³”U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, (, citing R. L. Polk’s Detroit City Directory, 1915. Entry for Elilzabeth NOLAN, p. 1814, and Theresa KRATLENTHER [misspelled], p. 1450, accessed 5 April 2020.


“What’s that mean?”–Far Field Productions end credit (“Bones”)

Halloween is creeping up, again. While I like skeletons as much as the next person, I don’t like the people in my family tree to be skeletons. They can have skeletons to their heart’s content, but I prefer to put some meat on their bones, when I can. I put on my “Joe Friday” hat (“All we want are the facts, ma’am.“), tracking down name, birth and death dates, possible marriage date(s) and spouse(s). If I stop at the basic facts, though, I’m shortchanging them. As I discover more details, I round out their lives, personalities, and relationships within the families. I learn the context surrounding the events in that person’s life. It starts to make more sense.

CONTEXT: noun: the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed.

“Definition Of Context | Lexico.Com”., 2019, Accessed 10 Oct 2019.

So do I really need to find

  • each census?
  • each city directory?
  • their work history?
  • all their kids (even the ones I don’t descend from)?
  • all their siblings?
  • what land they owned? Or didn’t own?

Not necessarily, but the more I know, the better I can assess new records I may come across. Does that record really belong to my person, or is it just a similar name? The more details I can match to existing information, makes being the right record/person more likely. I can also better understand their life. Did they move around a lot? Why? Was it due to job changes? Changes in fortune? Did they move in with children as they aged? Without that context, ancestors remain 2-dimensional, rather than moving toward 3-dimensional.

How does that play out in real life?

Finding the lawyer’s bill in Patrick Nolan’s probate documents at the courthouse in the early 2000s (Naughty) left me with more questions (Did he and Alice actually divorce? Who filed?) than answers, until I was able to locate them in the divorce register.¹ Their entry had been lined out, but the newspaper article detailing his death provided better context (Alice moved back home, it wasn’t due to Patrick’s death). An earlier article³ (at the time she filed for divorce) provided additional context to the situation and their relationship.

For me, newspapers seem more helpful than many other resources. Most of the time, my ancestors and relatives don’t make the front pages (thankfully!). The local news columns (AKA gossip columns!) gave insight to the minutia of their lives. Who visited them? Who did they visit? What clubs did they join? Were they an officer? These “inconsequential” details move them from the “caricature” end of the spectrum more towards the “portrait” end.

Lots of mundane events prove more interesting with the passage of time. My mom, at age 97, doesn’t recall her 2nd birthday party, but I learned she invited her cousins over:

Little Ardyth Meintzer, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, celebrate and [sic] delicious hot chicken dinner with Florence and Howard Moeller, Edlyn Mueller as guests. A big birthday cake was enjoyed and the little hostess was congratulated.

“Northbrook Section,” 11 April 1924, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 20, col. 5, The Daily Herald, Chicago, Illinois, online archive (

An earlier paragraph that same paper mentioned her cousin, Howard, started school. April seems an odd time to start, maybe he was out sick and finally able to return to school? I might need to look up an earlier issue to shed further light on that. Mom also never told me that just before her 2nd birthday

While playing and running, little Ardath [sic], daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Chris Meintzer, bumped into the kitchen cabinet, and cut her head quite badly.

“Northbrook Section,” 4 April 1924, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 4, col. 1, DuPage County Register, Bensenville, Illinois, online archive (

Thankfully, the party still went on without a hitch!

Mom had also talked about vacationing with Florence & Howard and their parents (Uncle Frank had a car!) when she was a kid. She didn’t remember the details, but thanks to The Daily Herald 29 March 1929 (p. 8, column 3), I learned that, “The Meintzer and Frank Moeller families are on their way home from Virginia and Washington, after several days motor trip.” While I didn’t think Mom was making up that story, it’s nice to be able to pin it down better. And I’ll be able to assign more a more accurate date to some photos I think are from that trip.

Health (or lack thereof) featured predominently in the columns. When Mom’s cousins experienced complications from a vaccine (not sure which one!), the whole town (as well as neighboring towns) knew . . .

Helen Meintzer and her sister, Bernice, have missed several days from school on account of being vaccinated. Little Jeanne was also vaccinated. We are glad to report that they are improving daily and will be back to school real soon.

“Northbrook Section,” 1 April 1927, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 2, col. 5, Arlington Heights Herald, Arlington Heights, Illinois, online archive (

Their brothers weren’t mentioned. Were they not vaccinated? Or did they simply not miss school?

Of course, we already knew my grandfather (Christoph Meintzer) liked fishing, but putting it in newsprint made it official!

Mr. Christ Meinzer and Jack Mayer of Deerfield had a pleasant time catching fish at Lake Elizabeth, Wisc., and brought 60 fish home with them.

“Northbrook Section,” 13 Augutst 1926, accessed 4 June 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 17, col. 5, Palatine Enterprise, Palatine, Illinois, online archive (

Will I ever find everything? No. But it pays to slow down from hurried harvesting, and look for the juicier strawberries hiding under the leaves, instead of just picking the ones easiest to find.


¹”Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952″, database, (, accessed 5 March 2018, citing Michigan, Divorce Records. Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. St. Clair, state file # 348-9. Patrick Nolan and Alice Nolan.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (

³”Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (


If you ask many writers or actors, frequently they say they prefer writing about or playing the part of a “bad guy.” Those characters tend to be more complicated and interesting, compared to “nice” ones. Think Scarlett O’Hara vs. Miss Melanie, or Rhett Butler vs. Ashley Wilkes.

Family history isn’t much different, in that respect. It is much easier for me to find someone who did something “naughty” somewhere in their life, than to declare someone “nice.” To begin with, I don’t know personally the earlier ancestors, to know what they were like. While I may find newspaper articles or court documents about the transgressions of an ancestor in the mid-1800s (documenting “naughty”), “nice” really doesn’t show up with proof.

Back in Strong Woman you met my husband’s maternal grandmother, Elizabeth Nolan Kukler. She was the sixth child (of ten) of Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham, who you’ve been reading about the last couple weeks. In that earlier post, I described Elizabeth as

  • strong
  • feisty
  • resourceful
  • ready to have a good time

Another major characteristic, though, was that she was nice. Even with the little amount of time I was able to spend with her, I could see that. It wasn’t a superficial, sugar-coated “nice.” She was just a good person, plain and simple. What evidence do I have of that?

  • she named her oldest son William–the same name as the older brother who had died at age two. She never met that brother, yet she did something to remember him.
  • if she saw a stray dog, she’d put out some scraps for it. She was not an animal hoarder by any stretch of the imagination, but she did what she could, when she could.
  • similarly, if a stranger was walking by the house, in need of a meal, she would find something for him. With seven children to feed, it probably wasn’t much, but she would help out a little.

I never got the impression she did any of this with a lot of fanfare or attention. That wasn’t her style. But, yes, she was nice, and I am honored to have known her.



Before Jerry Springer, there was the newspaper . . .

celebration christmas cup dogs Photo by Pixabay on

Last week you heard about Patrick Nolan’s (Mike’s great grandfather) death from falling into the Black River in Port Huron, Michigan. The initial article¹ had many other details, not necessarily connected to his death. Let’s back up a bit, first.

Patrick married Alice Needham 4 November 1879, in Kenockee, St. Clair, Michigan. When we saw his 1880 Agricultural Schedule (On the Farm), they were newlyweds. Twenty five years later, they are the parents of ten children (“ages 10 to 25” according to the article—though the youngest was actually only 4, and the oldest born 18 October 1880, so only 24), one already having died (William, age 2). Some time in the 1990s, while interviewing my mother-in-law and her sisters, they mentioned their mother (Elizabeth) said her mother (Alice) “was a saint” as far as what she put up with from her husband. They didn’t elaborate, and I don’t know if it was a case of them not knowing details, or being reluctant to share them with me.

In Where There’s a Will I briefly mentioned looking at Patrick’s probate record. Among the bills submitted to settle up the estate was one from a lawyer, for the paperwork for a divorce filing. Oops. There was trouble in paradise. Or at least Smiths Creek. Ancestry has a “Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952” database, which has images from the county registers. I found an entry dated 17 August 1904 for the two of them, but lined out. Alice had filed, charging cruelty, but apparently changed her mind.

So, back to the article¹ about Patrick’s unfortunate untimely death. We discover that my in-laws probably weren’t exaggerating about him. The subtitle of the article was “Made Round of Saloons Sunday Night and Fell Into Black River While Drunk.” Oh, my! We are also told he’d been in the city for 2 or 3 days, and had been busy on Sunday:

  • he’d been at Dan Conway’s Atlantic house at Quay and Michigan for most of the day, leaving there Sunday night
  • he’s somewhere after that, finally ending up at Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street around 11 pm.
  • he leaves Cahill’s alone (time unspecified), intoxicated, looking for a man named Woods
  • the presumption is he “became muddled and walked off the dock.”¹

I love how the saloons get free advertising, with the address and all! The next paragraph adds other juicy details:

There had been trouble for some time between Nolan and his wife, and not long ago it culminated in their separation. Mrs. Nolan went to live with her mother and it was at that time she would ask the courts for a divorce. About a week ago their differences were patched up and the two started living together again. It is thought that this attempt at reconciliation was not successful, however, as Nolan has been spending most of his time in Port Huron.

That corroborates the probate packet and the register. We get a general description of him that becomes not very flattering:

The place [his farm] was run down, however, as Nolan, in his love for drink, neglected everything.

This whole thing is going from bad to worse! The former justice of the peace (Mr. Frink) was apparently interviewed and painted the following picture:

Nolan’s love for drink, which was his worst fault, and which caused his death, often resulted in his being brought before Mr. Frink. After every drunk Nolan would take a solemn oath not to touch a drop of liquor for six months. At the expiration of that time Nolan would become intoxicated again and then go through the same pledge procedure. Mr. Frink says that Nolan kept this up for several years, always steadfast in his oath, but unable, nevertheless, to break himself altogether of the habit.

I then found a newspaper article (“The Mean Man”²) printed when Alice filed for divorce, containing even more details:

Whenever she left home to purchase supplies, Mrs. Nolan alleges, she would be accused by her husband of having left for the purpose of meeting other men. His insane and jealous disposition, she avers, has deprived her of society and has required her to confine her visits to her mother and brother. Unable to put up with this alleged domestic torture Mrs. Nolan left home on August 7 last. She charges her husband with

  • having lighted a fire in the kitchen stove and removing the lids, causing the smoke therefrom to be carried to the room occupied by herself and children.
  • It is also claimed that he removed articles from the various room in the house and piled them in a heap on the floor.
  • He also removed eatables from the house,
  • dismantled the stove so it could not be used to procure meals,
  • and to cap the climax he overturned a churn she was working at, allowing its contents to spill all over the floor.

I don’t know about you, but I think I’d put attempted asphyxiation above the spilled churn! Hopefully the children went with her when she left—neither article mentions anything about that. While the 3 oldest were out of the house by the 1900 census, 6 were still home in 1904.

Nor do I know if the details above list all of her charges against him. But with the divorce suit withdrawn, would the original paperwork have been destroyed? Maybe I need to check on that. I’m also struggling to figure out why Alice decided to move back home.

Obviously I don’t know exactly what was going on with him or between him and Alice—or how long it had been a problem. Presumably they had good years together, too. It’s all rather sad, though.

Lest you think Patrick and Alice were particularly unusual, not so. I noticed other couples with similar laundry being aired in public. With no TV or social media, the newspaper was the best source of local gossip.

But yeah, based on the descriptions found in the newspaper, it seems Patrick qualifies as naughty.



¹”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (

²”The Mean Man,” 24 August 1904, Last Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (


“Now is the winter of our discontent.” —William Shakespeare


Black River, Port Huron, Michigan, 1905. Image posted by u/michaelconfoy on the Reddit site in 2015. Likely not a winter image, but gives a sense of the area.

My husband’s great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan (you met him in On the Farm), died in the winter. Well, not technically winter, but almost. He died 13 November 1904, in Port Huron, St. Clair, Michigan. Born on or before 4 May 1851, he was 53 years old at his death.

Winter doesn’t arrive until 21 December. Even if you go with “meteorological winter,” that doesn’t start until 1 December. However, Port Huron is an hour north of Detroit, so by mid-November, it can start to feel pretty wintry! I’m giving myself little leeway.

Patrick’s death record¹ states his cause of death is “shock by falling in river.” Specifically, it was the Black River, which was listed at the top of the certificate as the place of death. The article in the Port Huron Daily Herald the next day (14 November 1904)² provided more details:

The body . . . was found shortly after seven o’clock this morning floating in Black River in the rear of the Port Huron Light & Power Co’s plant . . . The coroner believes that Nolan’s death by drowning was accidental and the facts of the case all point that way.

The end of the article notes other details from the coroner:

Coroner Falk and Dr. Patrick held a Postmortem over the remains . . . Serious heart trouble was found and Dr. Patrick gave it as his opinion that the man died from the shock of falling into the water as he was dead before the drowning took place. There were no signs whatever of foul play.

The family, however, wasn’t satisfied with that conclusion. In his dealings selling cattle, Patrick frequently carried large amounts of cash with him. His wife, Alice, thought perhaps he’d had cash on him at the time, and had been attacked, robbed, and pushed into the river. According to the 19 November 1904³ paper:

. . . the family has demanded an inquest. This morning Sheriff Davidson, Coroner Falk and Dr. O. H. Patrick went to Smith’s Creek to exhume the body and make an examination.

The results were reported two days later, on 21 November 1904.4 No change to the verdict was made. The three officials mentioned above were

met by Dr. Brock, two sons of the deceased and about 25 friends and neighbors . . . The body was placed on top of the box . . .

Dr. Brock, the local doctor, didn’t want to examine the body, but told them his charges would be $20. The coroner couldn’t authorize an additional expense for the county, so the two sons covered the cost.

Dr. Brock then cut into the scalp and rolled back the flesh, but was unable to find that the bruise on the side of head amounted to anything. He announced himself satisfied without further examination.

WOW! I can’t imagine doing this, in the cemetery, with over two dozen gawkers (not to mention two children of the deceased) watching. The newspaper then gives a detailed description of the entire proceeding! It was a pretty exciting Saturday.

I’m not really sure why the family was so concerned about the cause of death. Was there an insurance policy that would be impacted by those findings? Did they believe law enforcement should investigate and try to recover the cash they felt was stolen? The initial article² reporting his death mentioned he’d been in

. . . Pat Cahill’s saloon at 405 Quay Street. The bartender gave him 30 cents worth of drinks. Nolan had no money but as he was a good customer of the place nothing was said about pay.

When Nolan left Cahill’s he was intoxicated. He went away alone and said that he was looking for a man named Woods.

While he had no money at the bar, if he was transacting business with “Woods,” perhaps money was exchanged then? There are many question that probably will never have satisfactory answers. The person who knew best what happened was the unfortunate victim. 

There is more to Patrick’s story, but that will have to wait until next week . . .


¹; accessed 8 December 2018.

²”Paddy Nolan was Drowned,” 14 November 1904, Last Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 4-5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (

³”Exhume Body,” 19 November 1904, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 5, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (

4“Only a Farce,” 21 November 1904, Monday Edition, accessed 24 August 2018, record number: not given; citing original p. 1, col. 6, The Port Huron Times Herald, Port Huron, Michigan, online archive (

On the Farm

After over 100 years, part of the farm is still there!

1985 11 29 NOLAN farm in Smiths Creek_0001
Farmhouse of Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham, in Smiths Creek, St. Clair, Michigan. It is on the north side of Smiths Creek Road, just east of Palms Road. Photo taken 29 November 1985 by Christine Bauman.

Mike’s grandmother, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler, grew up in this farmhouse in Smiths Creek, Michigan. And no, there’s no apostrophe! Mike’s mother and her siblings would spend part of their summers with their Aunt Mary when they were young, so this was a familiar place for them.

It’s not the best photo, but by 1985, my mother-in-law had no idea who lived there, so pulling into the driveway for a better one was not possible. The 2-lane road also had no place to pull over and stop. Drive by! But the Google Street View of the Patrick Nolan House shows it was still there in August 2013 at 7890 Smiths Creek Road, looking better than than it did thirty years earlier. The V-shaped tree remains, along with the utility pole. An addition has been built on the side.

It’s now surrounded by the Leaning Tree Golf Club, so I’m not sure if it’s owned by the golf club, or if it’s still in the extended family, as an internet search seems to indicate. This property was not, however, part of the original land acquired by Patrick’s father, John Nolan. That parcel is on Yager Road, between Wales Center Road and Fitz Road:

1855 NOLAN John b 1807 land patent.JPG
“South West quarter of the South East quarter of Section Thirty three in Township Six North of Range Fifteen East in the District of Lands subject to sale at Detroit Michigan containing Forty acres.” 

The 1897 plat map¹ for Wales Township shows the relative locations of various Nolan properties. Patrick’s are outlined in red, (an arrow for the house location) others are outlined in blue. The John Nolan listed on this map is Patrick’s younger brother. Their father passed away in 1886, but his youngest son took over that farm.

Nolan properties, southern Wales Township, St. Clair, Michigan. John Nolan’s original property is in blue along lower boundary. Son Michael is east of him, Patrick has 2 properties north and east. Red arrow identifies location of Patrick’s house (above).

John Nolan was born in Ireland (possibly Clonegal, County Carlow, like his children) around 1807². He married Elizabeth Mary Halpin[e]/Alpin[e] (her spelling is very flexible!) and had their first three children: Mary, Ann, and Patrick; before moving everyone to Michigan in 1855. Michael & John were born in Wales Township in 1856 and 1860.

In 1870, Patrick² was 19 and still in his father’s house. By 1880, he was married³ and living on his own—sort of. His father, John, was still on the original property. Newlyweds Patrick and Alice are living in a house with a slightly older couple. Both men are “farmer,” rather than one being “farm laborer.” The other wife is “House Keeper” instead of the more typical “Keeping House.” The agricultural census4 that year tells us about Patrick’s farm (I don’t see the other man on that schedule):

  • Patrick owned (not rented) it
  • 25 acres were tilled
  • 0 acres were in permanent meadows, pastures, orchards & vineyards
  • 28 acres woodland and forest
  • 0 acres otherwise unimproved
  • The farm land and building were worth $1000
  • His farming implements and machinery were worth $25
  • The livestock was worth $250
  • He spent $0 building and repairing fences in 1879
  • He had no hired labor the previous year
  • The estimated value for his total farm production was $240
  • There were 3 acres mown, and 0 acres not mown grasslands and 3 tons of hay, 0 bushels clover seed, 0 bushels grass seed
  • On 1 June 1880, he had 2 horses, and 0 mules, 0 working oxen, 2 milch cows, and 1 other cattle. Two calves were born.
  • Regarding cattle, in 1879, he purchased 0, sold 0 living, slaughtered 0, and 0 died, strayed, or were stolen and not recovered.
  • Zero gallons of milk or butter were sold or sent to butter or cheese factories in 1879, and 200 lbs butter, 0 lbs cheese, were made on the farm in 1879, with 0 on hand 1 June 1880.
  • In 1879, he had 0 lambs, purchased 0, sold 0 live, slaughtered 0, with 0 killed by dogs, 0 dying of disease, and 0 dying for stress of weather.
  • In spring 1880, he had 0 shorn fleeces weighing 0 lbs.
  • There were 1 swine on hand 1 June 1880, as well as 9 barnyard poultry and 0 others.
  • 40 dozen eggs were produced in 1879.
  • His 1879 crop production was:
Crop Area in Acres Bushels
Indian Corn
Oats 6 214
Wheat 4 60
Canadian Peas
Flax seed Tons of straw Lbs. of fiber
Sorghum Lbs. of sugar Gal. of Molasses
Maple Sugar Lbs. of sugar Gal. of Molasses
Broom corn
Hops Lbs.
Potatoes (Irish)
Potatoes (sweet)
Apples 1 No. of trees Val. Of orchard products sold $0
Peaches No. of trees
Vineyards Lbs. grapes sold Wine made
Value of Market Garden Produce sold
Bees Lbs. honey Lbs. wax
Wood Cords cut Value of products Sold or consumed

That’s a lot of detail for one page! Only 10 farms were reported per page, with it broken into 4 sections to hold the information. Obviously the form was created for farms all over the country, so not everything applied to Michigan. Patrick also had a lot of blank sections. Either he

  • didn’t have anything to report in those areas
  • didn’t have records to know how much to report for those items
  • didn’t trust the government, so played dumb, anyway.

He was a fairly young farmer at the time, just getting started, so any of them are possible. I know from his 1904 obituary that he was considered a livestock dealer. We get a slight foreshadowing of that from this snapshot. While his livestock holdings aren’t huge, this farm is definitely not concentrating on grains or other crops! I think most of what he grew was used for the livestock he did have, with some for their own use.

Some time between 1880 and 1897 Patrick expanded his holdings around the house and acquired the 70 acres farther west. I’d need a road trip to go camp out with the land deeds to figure out when those pieces came together. In the meantime, we get this little glimpse into the early workings of his farm. It’s also nice to see the house still there all these years later.


¹”U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918″, database, (, citing Standard Atlas of St. Clair County, Michigan (Chicago; Geo. A. Ogle and Co., 1897), plate 49, “Wales Township”. Entry for John NOLAN, accessed 5 March 2018.

²1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township; Page 33; dwelling number 266; family number 272; line 25; John NOWLAND [NOLAN] household; accessed 30 September 2018. Patrick NOWLAND, age 19; NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 699; digital image, (

³1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 393; Page 32 (written); dwelling number 309; family number 315; line 31; William MATTHEWS household; accessed 22 August 2018. Patrick NOLAN, age 28; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 605; digital image, (

41880 U.S. census, “Agriculture schedule”, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales, e.d. 393; Page 25 (written); line 10, Patrick NOLAN; accessed 24 August 2018. Population schedule page [ ], line [ ]; NARA publication; T1164, roll 55.


Unexpected glimpses of our ancestors’ private lives.

Most people are familiar with the U.S. Census. It rolls around every 10 years counting us all. Genealogists love the Population Schedule because it gives us a snapshot (hopefully!) of our ancestors’ families. Few realize other census documents also get created. Those are the Non-Population schedules.

They aren’t talked about as much, and in the past weren’t easy to access. While a State Library may own the entire Population Schedule on microfilm, they may not spend additional funds to acquire Non-Population reels. The internet—and genealogy databases—has changed that, making them readily available. Non-Population schedules rarely solve “who belongs to whom” problems, though they can help sort out same-named people in an area. Mostly they provide interesting details about our family members.

I looked in Michigan for Mike’s Nolans, expecting to find an Agricultural Schedule. I did, but I also found his 2nd great-grandmother, Elizabeth Mary Alpin Nolan (Betty) on the “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes Schedule.” Oh! . . . Deep breath . . . Not a very friendly—much less politically correct—title, is it?

The 1880 census had a Health section, asking in column 15, “Is the person [on the day of the Enumerator’s visit] sick or temporarily disabled, so as to be unable to attend to ordinary business or duties? If so, what is the sickness or disability?” Most answer “No.” Five check boxes follow, in case the answer is “Yes”:

  • blind
  • deaf and dumb
  • idiotic
  • insane
  • maimed, crippled, bedridden, or otherwise disabled

Not politically correct, remember? So Betty had “yes” and a slash in “insane.”¹

1880 MI census merged 2
1880 Michigan census, John Nolan, wife Betty, sons Michael & John, and Michael’s wife, Theresa.

That created an entry in the other schedule. I found that record image:²

1880 MI census insane
1880 Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes Schedule. Betty Nolan, line 12.

The form has a top (“insane”) and bottom (“idiots”) section. It’s interesting that they wanted the two categories separated. The form also advised the enumerators to talk to the physicians within their district boundaries to obtain names for those individuals, to make sure they were included. Furthermore, the category of “idiot” had instructions to limit it to persons “whose mental faculties were arrested in infancy or childhood before coming to maturity.” Those with dementia, mania, melancholia, epilepsy, etc., needed to be on the other list.

Why am I explaining all that? The instructions are quite specific about who to include or not. It’s important to know the rules that applied in order to understand what we see in the record. I couldn’t just tell the enumerator my husband’s insane—he would have to meet the criteria in the eyes of the enumerator.

So back to Betty.  How do I know this is her? The Non-Population schedule ties her back to the Population Schedule: page 35, line 25. Betty is living “at home” and suffers from melancholia. That doesn’t sound “insane” to me. We have to be careful, though, not to impose our modern interpretation of a word on an older document. So I searched and found:

Melancholia: noun–³

  • deep sadness or gloom; melancholy.
  • dated: a mental condition marked by persistent depression and ill-founded fears.

For an 1880 document, the “dated” definition would seem appropriate. Continuing on, we find the duration of her melancholia has been 20 years, she’s had only one attack, and it occurred at age 40. To me that implies it’s been continuous. It also correlates to her age 60 on the population schedule.

Reading that leaves me a little melancholy! On the other hand, the last three columns end on a somewhat positive note: she does not need to be locked up or restrained (for her own or others’ protection), and she has not been hospitalized or institutionalized. All good news!

Again, you have to consider that era. None of the treatments available now to someone experiencing mental health issues were available then. Problems of the mind were not understood, and people outside the “norm” (particularly women) frequently were locked up, away from their families and the world. It was certainly worth looking for this extra document to clarify what the “insane” mark signified in the Population Schedule.

I will probably never know more about the difficulties Betty experienced, or what might have caused her depression, but I can draw some tentative conclusions:

  • this was a long-term issue for her
  • she didn’t pose a danger to herself or others
  • she was stable enough to remain at home
  • her husband, John, must have loved her—shipping off to an institution was a convenient way to deal with an unpleasant wife/bad marriage—but he didn’t

So, what became of Elizabeth? Well, her husband, John, died 11 January 1886. Elizabeth died 29 January 1900, before the 1900 census was taken. While her death certificate4 doesn’t specifically state where she was living, her youngest son, John, provided the information. It’s likely she was living with him. If she was institutionalized, I’m pretty sure its name would have been on the certificate.

Also, her cause of death was “burnt to entire surface.” I hope no one living in a hospital or institution would have access to open flames! Death by burning (from clothes catching on fire) was not uncommon in earlier times, since fire was used for cooking and heating. There’s no indication this was anything but accidental, so I’m giving her the benefit of the doubt.

Finding a notation in the health section of the census is a bit awkward. It’s easy to gloss over it, think “crazy lady/guy,” and move on. But if we ignore the follow-up records, we do our family members a disservice. This is their story, not ours, so we owe it to them to delve a little deeper into the facts, doing it with care and respect. We come away with a much clearer picture of them than we get from a generic pigeon hole label.

Even if misunderstood in life, we can try to do better for them after death. Looks like I need to go back through my census records and see who else I need to follow up on!


¹ 1880 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, Saint Clair, Wales, e.d. 393; Page 34B; dwelling number 324; family number 330; line 25; John NOLAN household; accessed 22 August 2018. Betty Nolan, age 60; NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 609; digital image, (

² 1880 U.S. census, “Defective, Dependent, and Delinquent Classes schedule”, Michigan, Saint Clair, Wales, Insane Inhabitants, e.d. 393; Page 313742-A (written), line 12, Betty NOLAN; accessed 22 August 2018. Population schedule page 34, line 25; NARA publication; T1164 digital image, (

³ Google Dictionary (using the Oxford Pocket English Dictionary, supposedly, but you know how Google likes to change things up!)

“Michigan Death Records, 1897-1920”, database, Michigan Historical Society, Seeking Michigan (, accessed 24 August 2018, entry for Elizabeth NOLAN, 80, 29 January 1900, citing Wales Township, St. Clair, Michigan, registered no. 15.

Strong Woman

Small, but mighty!

You already met Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan briefly in Valentine. She was born 10 June, 1891, in Smiths Creek, Michigan (west of Port Huron). She was one of 10 children born to Patrick Nolan and Alice Needham–sandwiched right in the middle. I met her at age 88, and knew her only 8 short years. She was the only “grandma” I could lay claim to, since mine died before or just after I was born.

Elizabeth was an itty-bitty thing, Irish through and through, and from what I could tell from the little bit of time I spent with her, pretty feisty. At that time she was living alone in the house at 809 Pingree, in Detroit (it’s still there–Google Map it!), until the dementia that developed in the last few years of her life required her moving to a nursing home, where she could reside safely.

Elizabeth finished the 10th grade. Her father died in 1904, and her mother in 1907. That may have been the event to end her education and propel her to Detroit, working as a governess from 1907-1919. The 1910 census shows her oldest sister, Mary, as the head of household¹ back at the farm, with five of the younger siblings residing with her. I don’t know if Elizabeth sent money back to help with farm expenses, but it’s possible. Living in Detroit no doubt provided the opportunity for her to meet her husband-to-be, Frank, but I don’t know how or where.

He was NOT Irish–rather, Bohemian (a nice catch-all that could include Hungary, Czechoslovakia, that whole region) and some iteration of Germanic (his mother’s maiden name was Schmitt–definitely not Irish!). According to Mike’s mom and aunts, Frank’s parents (Frank and Magdalena) were not particularly happy he was marrying an Irish girl. Consequently their kids did not see much of that side of the family. But when his parents celebrated their 50th anniversary with a big party, the family attended, and Elizabeth made sure the kids all had new outfits (a rarity) for the event. Sue the youngest) had a pink, lacy dress. The occurrence was unusual enough to still be a vivid memory for the girls 60 years later!

Elizabeth had seven children in eleven years; 5 girls and 2 boys. Feeding and clothing that many, especially through the Depression, can’t have been easy. Nevertheless, she managed the children and household, doing the best she could. All the stories I’ve heard of her painted a portrait of a very resourceful woman.

While 1967 may have been “the summer of love” in San Francisco, it wasn’t quite like that in Detroit. Riots were taking place about a mile from the house on Pingree. Elizabeth’s concerned adult children encouraged their parents to pack a couple of bags and come out to one of their houses until the situation settled down. They refused, making for very unhappy children! But they, and their house, survived the unrest.

For all the hard work in her life, she nevertheless knew how to have a good time. Her living room and basement were the site of numerous family gatherings, as evidenced below. I don’t know what holiday this was, in the 1940s or 1950s, but she was certainly living it up! That didn’t really diminish as she aged. The colorful blur in the lower photo (not taken by me!) is her at age 88, dancing the night away with two of her grandsons-in-law–barely keeping up with her.

1950 KUKLER Elizabeth party

Undetermined party–maybe on a New Year’s Eve?1979 08 Denise wedding

August 1979, Elizabeth Gertrude Nolan Kukler (age 88),  dancing at a granddaughter’s wedding with grandsons-in-law!Living 6 1/2 hours away, my opportunities to get to know her very well were limited. But never was there any question in my mind of her strength–not necessarily physical (especially in her late 80s and 90s)–but certainly of spirit. Hopefully some of that has passed down to my daughter and granddaughter (her great- and great-great-granddaughters)!


¹1910 U.S. census, population schedule, Michigan, St. Clair, Wales Township, e.d. 125; sheet 10B; dwelling number 226; family number 229; line 74; Mary NOLAN household; accessed 5 March 2018. Mary NOLAN, age 25; NARA microfilm publication T624, roll 673; digital image,

Where There’s a Will

I really haven’t done much with wills. Well, I’ve written two (though the “sound mind” clause always makes me a little nervous!), but as part of my genealogy research, not so much. That’s due to a combination of reasons:

  • I didn’t have a specific research question that a will would have helped answer
  • I come from a long line of peasants–no money to speak of, so mostly no wills
  • Not living near the places where I would need to look up a will
  • Not having other family members particularly interested in genealogy and wanting to make a research trip with me
  • Having a limited budget (i.e.: fairly non-existent) for either the trip or hiring someone local to the will to look it up

In fact, I’ve come in contact with only two wills in all this time, both on Mike’s side. One was for a maternal great-grandfather, Patrick Nolan. The paperwork from his probate packet was microfilmed, but unfortunately, the microfilm printer at the courthouse was broken, so all I could do was read and take notes. It was before digital cameras, so that wasn’t an option either. It was interesting reading, but no amazing revelations, either.

The other will is a photocopy of the actual will for his father’s adoptive mother, Anna Carmody Bauman. It provides the only documentation of the in-the-family adoption that took place. I never met my father-in-law. He died while Mike was in college. Mike and I knew each other, but hadn’t started dating, yet. After Jerry died, his 2nd wife packed up his paperwork & memorabilia and gave them to Mike, as the oldest child. The 1940 will was included in that.

Jerry was the youngest child of John Joseph Carmody and Mildred B. Fitzgerald. It was a 2nd marriage for both. John’s first wife had died, and their 8 children were mostly grown, when he and Mildred married. Mildred was 29 years younger than he, and had two young children. I haven’t determined if her first husband, Gordon Marshall, had died, or if they had divorced. Regardless, John and Mildred went on to have a “2nd family” of three boys: Michael, Joseph, and Jerry. Even though Mildred was only 37, she somehow developed a lung infection in the weeks after Jerry’s birth. She was hospitalized and never recovered.

That left John, age 66, with a 6-year old, a 3-year-old, and a newborn (plus two step-children)! I don’t think it was an era of a lot of hands-on parenting for men back then. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure he hadn’t changed diapers or done 2 A.M. feedings–and probably didn’t want to start. In fact, by the 1930 census, John is living without any children, managing the Port Huron Lighthouse travel camp. I’m not sure where the others were living.

Jerry’s baby book was mostly empty, but had an entry in the “Baby’s First Outing” section:

“Baby went out for the first time on the 12th day of September 1928, with Mrs. Hart when Millie was taken sick and stayed there until after the Funeral of Millie the 16th of Sept. and then Nano took[e] him Home for always.”

I don’t know who Mrs. Hart was–my guess is a neighbor–and I assume “Nano” was a nickname for Anna. We have no adoption paperwork, but at least the entry corroborates what Mike had heard from his dad. The 1930 census also lists him as “adopted son” for Frank & Anna. I’m not sure how adoption by a family member would have been handled then in Michigan. My guess is that it would still be considered closed, with records unavailable.

1930 CARMODY John J Michael Jerry
John Joseph Carmody with sons Michael (left) and Jerry (right). Despite being raised by Anna & Frank, he apparently saw them on occasion. I estimate this to be in 1930 or 1931, based on Jerry (age 2 or 3?). This is the only photo we have of his dad.

Anna’s husband, Frank, died in 1936 from colon cancer. Anna died 4 years later, in 1940, with Jerry’s birth father, John Joseph Carmody, having died in January that same year. Fortunately, Anna’s will survived, giving confirmation that Jerry was born a Carmody:

” . . . I give, devise and bequeath all my estate, real, personal, or mixed wherever situated to my beloved son (adopted) Gerald Bauman (formerly Gerald Carmody) . . .”

I’m extremely grateful she made the effort to leave a clear trail to the Carmody surname. I’m not sure we would be able to find it out, otherwise.