“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 wikimedia.org 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 (https://en.wikipedia.org/) “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, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

³”U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995″, database, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com), 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.


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, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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, Ancestry.com (https://www.ancestry.com).

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 (seekingmichigan.org), accessed 24 August 2018, entry for Elizabeth NOLAN, 80, 29 January 1900, citing Wales Township, St. Clair, Michigan, registered no. 15.