Free Genealogy Sites. My Top 3 For Michigan.

Localized Research

One of the best research tips I have ever learned is to look local. If possible, pinpoint an area or region where your ancestors lived for a long time and focus on performing research in that area. Dig deep, look for those regional resources that don’t get picked up by the larger records databases.

I find a lot of great free genealogy sites by performing pinpoint research to discover what more is out there. A great many generations of various branches of my family have lived in Michigan. That has made me have to dig deeper to learn where to look for Michigan related genealogy sites.

My Favorites

Time after time I have often found myself turning to these three sites to further my research.

  1. Michiganology – This is the new manifestation of the retiring Seeking Michigan site. This site is great for locating copies of historic vital records from the state of Michigan. It has a ton of Michigan based historic information and access to the Michigan state census records. Some of the sections I love on this site include the land plats. Michiganology.org contains Michigan death records from 1897-1952 and of greater research importance the site has the Michigan state census for years 1884 and 1894 which is a great boon for anyone bemoaning that missing 1890 Federal census.
  2. Flint Genealogical Society – Flint is my hometown and the local genealogical society has been working over 50 years to help preserve the history of this proud industrial town. The site has great localized indexes of the cemeteries in the city with burial information for those interred. It has a searchable database of birth, marriage, divorce, and death records for the city for the years of 1867 – 1930. With a great deal of relatives who flocked to Flint during its heyday I find myself frequently needing information which is located on this site for free without having to sort through millions of records contained on some of the larger sites.
  3. Michigan Digital Newspaper Portal– Central Michigan University has created an amazing database of digital copies of historical newspapers from around the state. I have managed to locate some intriguing articles about some of my relatives in the state by digging through this treasure trove of information. I have realized that both my Great Grandfather and his Father were very noteworthy during some of their earliest years in the state. Not necessarily in the positive way. The digital copies of the articles are easy to search and provide great quality scans of the entire paper.

These are my top 3 favorite research sites when I am working on Michigan genealogy projects. Find these sites and more genealogical research resources on my research page.

Looking local can turn up a lot of free resources that can get lost in the noise of bigger sites. Whenever possible take the time to pinpoint research with local genealogy research sites. Keep an eye out for more of my favorite localized resources coming soon!

This article was obtained from the Digital Michigan Newspaper Library and Central Michigan University. It appeared in the Isabella County Enterprise in Isabella County, Michigan on October 30, 1925. My Great Grandfather, William Spence, had a run in with authorities for making liquor. 100 gallons of mash sounds like the start of quite a Halloween party! This is just one of several instances where dear old Great Granddad had run ins with authorities.

Honor and Valor: Military Service as a Family Tradition

It’s Just a Family Tradition

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All families seem to have their own set of traditions. In mine it seems to be military service.

My husband was in the military. My son is in the military. My son in law is in the military. My Grandfather was in the military. I had an uncle who was in the military. My husband’s Grandfather was in the military. He had an uncle who was in the military. It goes on and on.

I often joke that my ancestors showed up for every war. We don’t get along with anybody.

In reality, the reasons for military service have been various. For some of my relatives signing up for military service, even during times of conflict, was the safer alternative to the major industries in their hometowns. Coal mining I’m looking at you. Some I am sure were seeking adventure, while others were motivated by financial means. Others still were called to arms to support a vision of something bigger than they could imagine at the time in conflicts such as the American Revolution and Civil War.

A part of Something Bigger

Though the reasons were various, generation after generation, members of my family have been called to serve as part of something bigger.

With the approach of Veteran’s Day I thought I would take a look back at some of the relatives who have been called to serve.


Roll of Honor

In no particular order here is a list of some of the notable service members related to either me or my immediate family. For privacy issues it contains only deceased individuals.

Elden F. Shuck

Elden F. Shuck

Elden, my maternal Grandfather, was a Korean War Veteran of the United States Army. He served as a cook. The Shuck brothers were notable in their Korean War service because so many of the family signed up for service together. Elden signed up to look out for his younger brother who also joined to help appease his Mother. At one point in time 3 Shuck brothers were together in Korea at the same place and the same time, an event which was recorded in the newspaper of his hometown.

Coal mining was a main industry in the mountain region of West Virginia where he was born and raised. At the time it was safer to enlist in the military than it was to go to work in the coal mines. After the military Elden went onto work in the automotive industry in Flint, Michigan. He raised 6 children with his wife, Sally. Elden is buried in the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan.


Fred Jacobs

Frederick Jacobs has the noteworthy distinction of having served in both World War II and the Korean War. Fred Jacobs was my husband’s maternal grandfather. Fred and his brother Charles “Bud” Jacobs both served.

Fred’s service record was lost in the records fire so there are more gaps than information about his years in the service. It is known beyond a doubt that Fred was injured in combat. He carried the scars of his injuries for the rest of his life. Legend and lore states he lay injured on a battlefield for days presumed dead before being rescued. Fred received 3 purple hearts during his service. He married and adopted one daughter. Fred is buried in Parkhill Cemetery in Paris, Michigan.


Leming “L.J.” Eckler

L.J. Eckler was a paternal 3x great grandfather. This ancestor of mine has made the blog roll in the past for the amazing things he had to survive during his service in the Army during the American Civil War. It would be a farce to not mention him on a military honor roll.

Leming served under the infamous George Armstrong Custer long before that fateful battle where the general made his fated last stand. L.J. survived the worst of the Confederate prison camps. He spent time at Andersonville Prison. Amazingly, L.J. survived the war and went onto live a long life. He has many descendants and is buried in the Almer Township Cemetery in Tuscola County, Michigan.


Daniel E. Adams

Daniel E. Adams was another of my 3x great grandfather on my father’s side. Daniel is noteworthy for the fact that he claimed to have served both under Jefferson Davis during the Mexican War and against Jefferson Davis during the Civil War. The claim is dubious. Some suspect it could even be a tall tale.

It is beyond question that Daniel served in the Civil War but questions remain about this service in the Mexican War. He would have been a child soldier if he did indeed serve in the Mexican War under Jefferson Davis. Daniel E. Adams is buried in the Smith Hill Cemetery in Otisville, Michigan.


Dexter Adams

While Dexter Adams was not a direct ancestor, he left no descendants and a significant bit of family lore. Dexter was the brother of Daniel E. Adams. One undisputed fact about Dexter Adams is that he was a musician who played the drums in the Army during the American Civil War. A second undisputed fact is that Dexter played the drums in the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln.

The more questioned information? Who has the drum sticks that Dexter used to play his drum during the funeral procession of Abraham Lincoln. There are at least two different branches of the family that I have heard claim ownership of the drum sticks. Dexter is buried in the Aventine Cemetery in Flint, Michigan.


First Five

This list is the start of my military roll of honor. These are some of my favorite or more noteworthy past service members hanging around my family tree. My family has a long and remarkable tradition of military service.

Cousins Made Easy: Calculate Relationship with this Quick Video

We’re Related How?

I think anyone who has ever done any cousin fishing has asked or been asked the question about degree of relationship.

Are you my first cousin once removed, no maybe you are my second cousin. The waters get muddied pretty quickly. Here is a short video that will help you become confident with explaining cousin relationships.

Fascinating DNA Revelations. A Quick Look at Math and Matches

Genetic Puzzles

The cross roads of genetics and genealogy is a exciting new frontier right now. Individuals everywhere are quick to provide a DNA sample to one of the various testing companies. Then they sit back and wait. Anticipation builds waiting for the grand revelations that the sample will show.

Then the results come back.

When an overwhelming amount of matches and information is suddenly dumped into their laps after weeks of waiting a lot of people are chased off.

For those who actually dig into the matches and start to work out the various connections it can either be a fascinating new addiction or a confusing new version of trigonometry that will make your brain hurt. Often it can be both.

Puzzling it all out.

I went down the rabbit hole of genetic genealogy and quickly found myself hooked. Where traditional genealogy can often be questioned because people can provide incorrect information or people can be confused during records research, DNA doesn’t lie.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

I have been lucky in the aspect that many of my known relatives have tested with one of the various DNA testing services. It has provided me the opportunity to evaluate various connections and how genetics have passed down through different lines. There have been several revelations have have been interesting to me.

By the numbers.

I share more DNA with my maternal uncle than I do with my paternal half-sister. Both relationships match up for the correct range of shared centimorgans but I found it interesting that I share 300 more cm’s of DNA with an uncle than I do with my half-sibling.

By the chance of recombination in DNA my half-sibling and I both inherited vastly different portions of DNA from our shared parent. I share a heavy dose of DNA with relatives of our shared grandfather, she shares a heavy dose of DNA with our shared grandmother. Our shared DNA is approximately 1500 cm’s.

In fact I share so little DNA with some of the relatives that she matches up to that I would be left to question the validity of those relationships to me if not for her test results.

Final Thought

Don’t use just one test when coming to final conclusions. Just like with traditional genealogy research, it is important to build a case based on various pieces of information and not just one tiny snippet that fits a theory.

Have you had any interesting match math in DNA results?

What Do 2 Hangings, a Burned Body, and an Axe Murder Have In Common?

Odd Coincidences

Today I read the tale of Alice Lake.  I came upon the tragic story of Alice while researching my own family tragedy in the death of Rebecca Cornell and the subsequent hanging of her son Thomas Cornell II for her murder.  Rebecca and Alice both suffered horrible deaths.  Rebecca was possibly murdered and her body burned past recognition while her family ate dinner in the next room.  Alice was hanged for witchcraft after being plagued by haunting visions of her lost child.  Rebecca and Alice also shared one other detail in common; their daughter in law was Sarah Earle.

Continue reading What Do 2 Hangings, a Burned Body, and an Axe Murder Have In Common?

Legacy Family Tree Webinars : An Introduction to DNA Painter

Not sure where to begin with your DNA results? DNA Painter is one site that every genetic genealogist should have in their tool box. This site offers amazing tools which allow the user to take DNA results to the next level.

This free webinar from Legacy Family Tree is a great introduction to DNA Painter.

Legacy Family Tree Webinars : An Introduction to DNA Painter

Source: Legacy Family Tree Webinars : An Introduction to DNA Painter

Research Tip of the Week

Know what you are looking for before you start searching.

It is important to know what records exist for a given time and place.

In the genealogical world it is common knowledge that a vast majority of the 1890 United States census was destroyed. A seasoned researcher will not waste time looking for a record they know doesn’t exist.

Unfortunately, we all search for records that do not exist as a day to day part of the job but it is helpful to do a little pre-research homework and try to determine if the records you are looking for even exist. Work to understand the locale of your research subject. Did the courthouse burn? Did the location make any effort to record births before a certain date? Answering a few simple questions before searching can be a time saver.

Learning Mama

My daughter has recently started her foray into blogging. She is a wife and college student with 3 children of her own who lives several states away.

As part of family history month I asked her to allow me to post to her blog about family history month and requested she sit down with the oldest grandson and draw his first family tree.

I’m not going to lie…I hope I get it wrapped up as a holiday gift this gift giving season.

Head on over and check out my guest blog on Learning Mama on how to celebrate family history month.

Jackpot! 4 Easy Tips To Reach Your Family History Treasure

Two of my favorite things are newly discovered cousins and old photographs.

The name dusty roots and forgotten treasures is a subtle shout out to that. Most of my roots were dusty and forgotten until I set out to dig them up.

Every day I dig, and I am constantly rewarded with the discovery of amazing historic treasures. Not monetary treasures, I will never die rich, but I have a wealth that is incomparable to a stack of cash.

Recently I hit the lotto when it comes to the family history jackpot.

Patrick Lee Fulkerson

I connected with some cousins that I had never met before and not only has it been wonderful to connect with this newly reconnected branch on the family tree, I was also rewarded with being able to get copies of many priceless photographs.

Photographs I had never seen before. Photographs of people who have some of the same features that I do. Enough photographs to help fill in the gaps of photographs on one family line to the point that I now have a photographic timeline of NINE generations!

Amazing!

Loree Ashley

I’m always excited to connect with relatives because it gives me the opportunity to share the family history gold I find. On those instances where I find myself on the receiving end of such wonderful bounty it feels like karma is rewarding my genealogical good deeds. I get smiled on by the karma gods of genealogy a lot.

I have really been blessed.

To accomplish this great feat of 9 photograph generations it took a lot of people to share their treasures with me. I have had distant cousins mail me packages of photocopies from the opposite side of the country. I get emails from cousins filling my inbox full of priceless photographs decades old. I get text messages from relatives as they make road trips and can visit long forgotten family cemeteries that I may never get the opportunity to visit for myself.

L to R Wilma Ashley, Albertina Adams, Sarah Eckler, Emma Post, Nila Ashley

Often in various genealogical groups I see people that are upset that people are not sharing with them on sites such as ancestry. I have not run into that a lot. Most people are very generous with me.

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These are my 4 tried and true tips for breaking the ice with cousins and opening the door to sharing of information and photographs.

  • Approach newly discovered cousins with a gift of your genealogical treasure. Do you know some information that might not be common knowledge? Do you have an old photograph that you can share a copy? Can you share information about how you and the cousin are connected? Generosity often begets generosity. It is a great way to break the ice.
  • Be willing to let information simmer. If you send a message off to a cousin and get no response just let it go. There is no way to know what another individual has experienced. For some people family history can be a traumatic experience or information that you reveal might be shocking or confusing. Stalking an individual with repeated follow up messages will probably not make a new friend.
  • Show gratitude. If contact with a cousin results in nothing of use to you personally at least thank them for their time. They may not have any information for you currently but if you make a positive impression, they are more likely to recall you in the future if or when they encounter information or someone that has information.
  • Family photographs used to be rare and hard to copy. Today with great cell phone cameras in most pockets and handheld scanners available at affordable prices there is no reason to suggest ever taking possession of someone’s treasured original photograph. You want to irk Great Aunt Betty? Take her priceless heirloom photograph out of her site. Quietly get a copy if you can and thank her profusely for the privilege and then for goodness sake put it back exactly where and how you found it!

Do you have any tips and tricks for getting people to share their genealogical treasures?

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Shocking Secrets: Black-Market Babies of the Hicks Clinic

Genetic Genealogy is an exciting new frontier.

Most adoptees have questions. Few have questions like those who began life in the Hicks Community Clinic. The case of the Hicks Clinic babies is a powerful example of the information that can be discovered with the use of genetic genealogy technology.

Taken at birth – words to strike fear into the heart of any mother. That is the title of a 3-part series on TLC that aired on Oct 9 -11, 2019. The series is about a small community that straddles the Georgia-Tennessee state line and the dark history that gave the community infamy.

Jane Blasio, Hicks Baby on Taken at Birth on TLC

The town of McCaysville, Georgia was the scene of a secret black-market baby ring that operated for decades out of the clinic of a doctor named, Thomas Hicks, Sr. The town seems like any other quaint small town however, nothing about the small town is quite what it seems on the surface.

Dr. Thomas Hicks, Sr. was a respected family man and community doctor, he was a fine upstanding citizen in his community. Under the polished surface many layers of deceit festered.

Secrets

It was a poorly kept secret in the region that the doctor ran an illegal abortion clinic, drawing desperate women from all over the local region for his services. It was a poorly kept secret in town that the “good” doc was having affairs and fathering illegitimate children. A better kept secret was the fact that the doctor was running a black-market baby adoption ring, trading babies for cash in shady back door deals.

More than 200 individuals have been identified that passed through the back door of the Hicks Clinic.

No records have ever been found in the quest to learn the truth behind the Hicks Clinic adoptions. If any were kept, they have been either destroyed or have yet to be found. Extraordinary measures have been gone to in the search to locate any of Dr. Hicks records only to turn up nothing. It seems as if from beyond the grave, decades later, some of the townspeople of McCaysville, Georgia are more interested in the cover up than the truth. Even today Dr. Thomas Hicks Sr. is locally regarded as a man who did bad things with good intentions.

Complicated Legacy

The Hicks babies are all grown now and most of the biological parents who have been identified have died taking their secrets with them. Of some of the adoptees who have been reunited with their biological families, the reactions have been mixed. At least one adoptee was intended to be aborted and Dr. Hicks convinced the young woman to carry her child and put it up for adoption. Even with those truths revealed it still feels like there is more left unsaid to that story than has been revealed. Dr. Hicks plays the complicated part of both villain and hero in many of the babies of the Hicks clinic.

Nothing about the case is cut and dry even decades after the Hicks clinic closed.

Questions far outreach the answers and the web seems to grow ever larger. Powerful men in the town, the doctor, the mayor, and the chief of police all had knowledge of what was going on and indeed were involved in using the clinic to cover up their own private misdeeds in some cases.

How did the doctor eventually get shut down after decades running his abortion clinic? What led to him getting caught after so long in business? How did he manage to escape jail time for his illegal abortion ring? Have any of the Hicks babies DNA matched each other?

I have so many questions about this case. I cannot fathom the depths of frustration that is felt by the individuals who are trying to navigate this in their own lives.

There is no documentation about what happened behind the doors of the clinic.

Few living individuals who know what was going on at the time and of those…fewer are willing to speak. Even from the grave the “good” doc manages to keep a town quiet about some of its darker secrets

To really understand the case in perspective requires a broader view. Abortion was illegal. Women died in unsafe back alley abortions. Dr. Hicks at least as far as anyone can tell took good care of the women in his charge if not making the best medical decisions regarding the children they birthed. There were not safety net programs to support unwed mothers. Society held a negative view of unwed females. These were often desperate young women.

Was Dr. Hicks a villain or a hero? On some level perhaps he was both.

The doctor lost his medical license after his illegal abortion clinic was closed by the authorities in the 1960’s. At that time the black-market baby ring in McCaysville, Georgia ceased to operate. It would be decades more before anyone even realized what was going on at the back door of the clinic.