From Crowns to Coal Mines?

#52ancestors Week 3 – Long Line

This week the 52 ancestors in 52 weeks prompt is Long Line. For my ancestor this week I actually chose a branch of my family which has very long researched roots. This Claypoole branch has what is considered a gateway ancestor. Through him lineage has been tracked back to the Emperor Charlemagne.

The Virginia Branch

I have spent a lot of time lately working on some of my other family lines.  Recently I decided it was time to revisit some of my Shuck ancestors and see if I could get further with some of my loose ends.  I began working on the line of Malinda Claypoole.  Malinda was the wife of George Edgar Shuck and the mother of Perry Addison Shuck from which the P.A. Shuck Cemetery got its name.  That would make her my 4th Great Grandmother.

georgemalindashuck

Malinda was born in 1819 in Buchanan County, Virginia.  Her family had been in Virginia for generations.  Her Great Grandfather, James Claypoole, had come to Virginia from Delaware sometime prior to 1761.  He settled first in Augusta County and later Hardy County.

Malinda was the daughter of Ephraim Claypoole and Lucinda Arbaugh.  Ephraim (1763-1840) was the son of Joseph Claypoole and Abigail Osborn.  Joseph Claypoole (1735-1790) was the son of James Claypoole (1701-1789) and Jane Elizabeth.

The Three James

James, our Virginia settler was the 3rd of his line to carry the given name of James.  His father, James Claypoole II, was born in England about the year 1664.  James Claypoole II (1664-1706) came to the American colonies in 1683 aboard the ship Concord; also immigrating to the new world at the same time were his parents, James Claypoole I(1634-1687) and Hellena, and six of his siblings.  They were Quakers, and closely associated with William Penn.  James I was a successful merchant both in England and in the colonies.  The family made their home in Pennsylvania and Delaware region.

English Roots

As I started to research the origins of James Claypoole before he left England I quickly discovered that extensive research has already been done on the line from this point.  I’m still connecting all the dots but it gets interesting quickly.  It led to places I didn’t expect it to go.

James Claypoole was the son of John Claypoole and Marie Angell.  Sir John Claypoole (1595-1664), Knight of Latham, was a man of substantial means for his time.  During his lifetime he was both knighted and made a Baronet, he was a Member of Parliament, Justice of the Peace, and likely served as Sheriff for his county.  His family home was an estate called Northborough Manor which still stands today.

northborough-manor
Northborough Manor as it is today

John Claypoole was the son of Adam Claypoole and Dorothy Wingfield.  The Find a Grave memorial for Adam Claypoole (1595-1634) had an interesting fact that made me decide to work on the line of Dorothy Wingfield (1566-1619) first.  “Through her father’s lineage Dorothy was a direct descendant of King Edward I of England” the line reads.  Statements like that make me curious but I tend to take them with a huge grain of salt.  Mythology and genealogy can often be close friends.  Upon quick inspection it looks like the information could very well be legit but I’m reserving my grain of salt.

Chasing Royalty

Dorothy Wingfield was the daughter of Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Cecil.  Robert Wingfield (1532 – 1580) was the son of Robert Winfield I and Margery Quarles.  Robert Wingfield I (1491 – 1576) was the son of Henry Wingfield and Elizabeth Rookes.  Each generation the ancestors appear to have managed at least a relative amount of success in life although nothing extraordinary.

Sir Henry Wingfield (1440 – 1494) seems to have lived a noteworthy life.  He was the youngest of 11 children born to Sir Robert Wingfield and Elizabeth Goushill.  Henry fought for the House of York in the War of the Roses and both Henry and his brother, Thomas, were knighted by King Edward IV at the Battle of Tewkesbury in 1471.  At the end of his life Sir Henry served as Governor of Orford Castle.  Sir Henry and his wife were both buried in elaborate tombs that featured effigies.  The tomb and the effigies no longer exist.

At this point chasing the possibly royal link led me up the line of Sir Henry’s wife Elizabeth Goushill (1404 – 1466).  Elizabeth was the daughter of Sir Robert Goushill (1350 – 1403) and Elizabeth FitzAlan (1371 – 1425).  Sir Robert and Elizabeth FitzAlan, Duchess of Norfolk, were married about 1400.  Elizabeth was a widow and the couple married without license and as a result King Henry IV seized the lands belonging to Elizabeth.  Family connections helped smooth over the issue and the King granted them a pardon and restored her lands soon after.  Robert was knighted at the Battle of Shrewsbury by the king while still wounded on the battlefield.  According legend Sir Robert was murdered for his valuables on the same day her received his knighthood from the King.  He and Elizabeth had been married a few short years and only two daughters were born to the union.  Sir Robert and Elizabeth are buried in an elaborate tomb in St Michael’s Church in Nottinghamshire, England.

robert-goushill-elizabeth-fitzalan-effigies
Tomb of Sir Robert Goushill and Elizabeth FitzAlan in St Michael’s Church Nottinghamshire, England

Elizabeth FitzAlan was the daughter of Richard FitzAlan, Earl of Arundel (1346 – 1397), and Elizabeth de Bohun (1350 – 1385).  She is the connection of the Claypool family of West Virginia to the ancient Kings of England.  Through her father’s side she is the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England.  Through her mother’s side she is the 2nd Great Granddaughter of King Edward I, known popularly as Longshanks, and the 3rd Great Granddaughter of King Henry the III of England once again as her parents were distant cousins.

Royalty Found

So it does indeed appear that the modern Shuck family and connected lines indeed carry the blood of Kings.  Upon further digging I have discovered that James Claypool of Pennsylvania is already listed as an descendant of Charlemagne through genealogical societies that trace royal descendants which means that cousins somewhere along the line have even proved the information as accurate.  This just goes to prove you truly never know what genealogical research will turn up.  I expect to dig much further into this fascinating family line.

For what it is worth on the topic of Charlemagne…here is a great article that tackles the topic of his descendants. So you’re related to Charlemagne

See inside Northborough Manor and further details on the estate here

Daniel E Adams – Gunsmith, Soldier, Photographer, Attorney, Skunk Farmer

The Unbelievable Life of Daniel Adams

A gunsmith, soldier, photographer, attorney, and a skunk farmer – it sounds like the start of a joke where the next line should be they walked into the bar. Interestingly enough those are all job titles held at various times by Daniel E. Adams.

On the scale of interesting characters of genealogical research my third great grandfather, Daniel E. Adams, is a jackpot. For the last several weeks I have been slowly pecking away at research on him for this blog…but it seemed the more I dug the more I wanted to dig. His life took many turns that make him an intriguing research subject with countless sources.

Early Life

Daniel E. Adams was born in Canada on 23 February 1832. His parents, Erwin Adams and Charlotte Murray, were of American birth. Shortly after Daniel’s birth, the family moved back south to the United States. Over the next two decades, the family would reside in Illinois and Michigan where most of the family would settle for generations.

Daniel married his first wife, Rachel Hamilton, in Oakland County, Michigan on 23 Sept 1852. There are four known children born to the marriage Flora, Edward Dexter, Arthur Hamilton, and Elmer Eugene. Rachel passed away 5 July 1862 leaving Daniel a widower with four children under the age of 10.

After the death of Rachel, Daniel hired 17-year-old Sarah Ferguson to help care for his children. The two married on 20 September 1863 in Genesee County, Michigan.

American Civil War

On 7 September 1864, Daniel enlisted as a gunsmith in Company G 4th Michigan Infantry reorganized. According to information he provided at the time he was a veteran of the Mexican American War. During his term of enlistment, he would see combat action in skirmishes across northern Alabama.

On 14 May 1865 the train carrying Daniel’s unit derailed while traveling through Tennessee. The train car he was riding in became detached and jumped from the track. Daniel received injuries in the accident. The Army discharged him a month later in Nashville, Tennessee on 7 June 1865.

After the War

Daniel returned home to his family after his discharge from the Army. The 1870 census shows him at home with his young wife, Sarah, and their rapidly growing family. His profession at the time is listed as a photographer and records show he operated the first photograph gallery in Lapeer, Michigan. He would study law while operating the Mammoth Skylight Gallery. By 1872, he was a practicing attorney.

Daniel and Sarah continued to reside in southern Michigan and their family continued to grow. The two would have eight children together.

Eventually Daniel branched out from practicing law and started farming skunks.

Daniel passed away on 5 April 1906 in Genesee County, Michigan. He is buried in the Smith Hill Cemetery in Otisville, Genesee County, Michigan.

Research Tip of the Week

Tip Tuesday

Take advantage of family gatherings.

This week many families will gather together to celebrate the things they are thankful. These multi-generational events are an excellent opportunity to share the latest genealogical discoveries because the audience is captive at least until someone cuts the pie. Beyond the chance to share family lore though, holiday gatherings can often provide a great chance to preserve family history. Holidays are a wonderful time to do family interviews.

Personal interviews do not have be a formal affair. All you really need is a willing participant, your cell phone to record the interview, and a few questions. Pick a quieter area and have a casual chat.

people at dinner
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

The best idea is to start with the oldest member at the gathering if they are willing and able. Start the interview by turning on your cell to record audio and announcing the name of the interview subject and the date of the interview.

Try to guide the interview toward more positive memories but allow the conversation to flow. Family history interviews can provide some interesting genealogical tidbits, but only if you ask. After your interview make sure to thank the individual you interviewed and save your recording. Holiday season can provide many great situations for genealogical digging.

Get started with a few easy questions!

  • Where and when were you born?
  • What is your earliest memory?
  • Who is the oldest relative you remember?
  • What is your favorite childhood memory?
  • Who was your favorite relative growing up?
  • What were some of the holiday traditions of your childhood?
  • What was your childhood home like?
  • What were the names of their parents?
  • Did you have siblings?
  • What is the longest trip you have even been on?

UCLA Library has a center for Oral History Research. They have a great outline for a family history interview.

Family history is not only digging up old records. It is creating new records today to leave for future generations. Take the time to sit with an older relative this holiday season and record their memories for generations to come. It can add a great extra element for future generations to find and add a fun layer to your current holiday season.

Here is a great article from Family Search about how to easily capture audio with their app.

Research Tip of the Week

tip tuesday graphic

Last week, my tip was about keeping a research log. The research log is the document that will allow you to retrace your steps to find the document should you need to get it again. It is also important because it helps save time. Research logs save you from looking for the same record in the same place twice.

Research Plan

This week my tip is about creating a research plan. If the research log is the directions, the research plan tells you the destination. A research plan explains the purpose of your search.

Research plans can be broad or simple. It is a matter of preference. The important detail is that the research plan helps you focus your research so you accomplish your goals.

Most of my research plans have the same basic concept. I start out with an individual. The name of my research subject is my starting point. I want to know anything and everything I can find out about my subject. Each of the many things I search for become objectives toward reaching that goal. Standard objectives for any research subject are vitals such as birth, marriage, and death. I also attempt to locate the person at least every decade on census records possible.

An Example

As an example, let us say that I have a project that requires me to look up information about a man who lived Bay City, Michigan. This is just a random name I picked. We’ll say this person was my imaginary client’s grandfather. His name was Stanley Burton.

My research plan goal is learning about Stanley Burton. The events of his life then become objectives. The first aim on my list would be the first search on my research log. I used a broad search because I used a fictitious name. I wanted to get results. Here I used a general search of the name Stanley Burton and the city and state. The first fact I need to check off on my list is a record of birth. My imaginary client has a guess on his grandfather’s age but few concrete details.

The first result is a man named Stanley Burton born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1901. It is his birth record. If I had a family tree for my client, I could confirm or discard this record as a match based on the listed parents. Without further facts, I could sit this record aside and look further for information on this person later to determine if it’s the right or wrong person.

Tip Tuesday

There are a few results that come back in Ancestry.com that I might need to investigate if I lacked further information. For simplicity’s sake, I will say I know my research subject’s father was born in England. That gives me a strong clue that the birth record I found for Stanley Burton born in Detroit in 1901 is the target of my search. From that point, I would probably research this subject for further vitals. It might pan out to be the wrong individual after more digging. Or I could discover definite proof it is the correct person.

With the case of Stanley Burton born in 1901, my next step would be to locate the 1910 census. That would be aim two on the list. I’d hope to find Stanley, age 9, living with his parents listed on his birth record. I’d move on to the 1920 census, 1930 census, and so forth. Because of Stanley’s age, I would probably also check for military records from both the world wars.

Each record I searched for would become a new entry on my research log, and every detail I discovered would fill in a blank on my research plan. It might even add new objectives as I discover more information about his life. Perhaps Stanley served in the military during World War II.

With the use of a research plan and a research log, staying focused and organized becomes a much easier task.

**Disclaimer: I picked the name Stanley Burton out of a hat and just got lucky that he existed. I have done no research on this individual beyond a quick name search for a random name. **

Research Tip of the Week

Keep a research log.

Read that again. Keep a research log.

Keeping a research log is one of the most important things a genealogist can do. Hobby or expert, this is something that every family historian should be doing. There is no one item that goes further to organize research.

A research log is a simple document that allows you to make note of the places that you look for records. It helps prevent you from wasting research time by looking for the same document in the same place.

Each research session should begin with your research log and a research plan. With this strategy it will be easier to get the most out of every research session.

Here is a free research log you can use to get your started!

Research Log PDF.

Research Tip of the Week

Always check for local genealogical societies when you are doing research in a certain locale.

If there is an expert on local history this is a good place to try to find them. Genealogical societies often have records that aren’t available in other places or information on how to find them.

Members of local genealogical societies may know the location of long forgotten cemeteries and details of family histories that might not be published or widely known. It’s also a good place to stumble upon distant cousins!

Animals in Family History

We often think of and treat our pets as members of the family

Growing up part of my enjoyment in going to visit my grandparents was not just in seeing my grandparents but enjoying the chance to spend time with the giant collie dog, Tramp, they had the entire time I was growing up

He was a magnificent beast and I’m sure that when news finally went through the family grape vine that he had crossed over that rainbow bridge there were more than a few of us who shed a quiet tear over his loss.

He was not a pet he was family

As an adult I am animal lover. I have a house full of critters. My senior mini dachshund has traveled more than a lot of humans I know.

He’s 13, half blind and has trouble getting around but if he sees me packing a travel bag, he’s the first one at the car ready to go.

He has been a part of the family longer than my youngest child.

He is in countless family photos over the years showing how he’s aged as children grew.

Long after he is gone Oscar will still be a topic of family conversations and memories because he’s more than a pet. He’s family and has earned his place in the pages of family history.

My mother and her siblings and cousins will reminisce about their childhood and while I’m not sure anyone has agreed what type of dog “Tippy” was, I know each of those kids enjoyed that dog.

For the record while I consider Oscar my fur kid I will not be adding him to the family tree.

What do family pets have to do with family history?

Pets make a great topic starter.

If a family group had a beloved childhood pet, it’s a good place to break the conversation ice to get people strolling down memory lane for interviews.

Another way that family pets can be very useful in family history is when it comes to dating photographs.

Pets have shorter life spans so if you have a photo with a certain pet pictured then it can be a useful tool for narrowing down a date range.

Have any animals played an important part in your family history?

Nicknames: A Genealogy Speed Bump

One of the most common stumbling blocks in family history research can be nicknames

I encountered a recent research case where I was researching an individual who was referred to as “Nell”. Through research I was able to conclude that Nell was a nickname for several names…in this case Nell was a nickname for Helen.

I began to think about the countless nicknames I have come across in my research and how some of the names are common while others are less so and how both instances can cause research headaches.

In my immediate family I have a Desi, short for Desirae. There is a Sarah, and the grandmother she was named for who prefers to be called Sally. There are several named Joshua, two Joshes and one “J.J.” or “junior”. Every family seems to have a multitude of Williams who may go buy William, Will, Willie, Bill, or Billy. Robert is another fun one with several popular nicknames. A Robert could be a Rob, Robbie, Bob, or a Bobby. For women Elizabeth can be a fun one. Is it a Liz, Lizzie, Betty, Beth, or maybe a Liza?

Another fun instance where nicknames can derail research is when a relative uses a middle name instead of their first given name. My great grandmother was a Lily but if you find her in records for most of her life she went by Mae. I’ve had a friend since childhood who was named Randi Kristina, she prefers to be called Kristi in another case of the middle name preference.

Recently my first granddaughter was born. As with my other grandchildren she was given a heritage name from the family tree, Catherine. Right now, she is a little baby with a big name and only time will tell, will she choose to be known as a Catherine, perhaps she’ll become a Cathy, or maybe even a Cat.

Catherine

What are some common nicknames that you have run into?

Namesakes

What is in a Name?

A name is the first thing in life most of us receive that stays with us forever. Often times it has been a carefully selected after hours of deliberation by at least one parent and sometimes even larger groups of relatives. Siblings, aunts, uncles, grandparents all have suggestions when a new baby is born.

Genealogists get the rare opportunity to see how deep some names go in our families by looking at the broader family landscape. For instance, I have a cousin that is my Grandmother’s namesake. In the bigger picture, however her name is a much older family name. My Grandmother is her own Grandmother’s namesake. The earliest Sarah in that naming streak was born in 1861 and the latest in 1997, 136 years apart.

Carrie

I am a namesake for my mother’s paternal aunt, Carrie Jamison. She was the wife of my Grandfather’s half-brother. She lived in West Virginia where my Grandfather’s family lived in a rural mountain community and I only had a few opportunities to meet her as a young child. She passed away at the age of 76. I was 9 years old at the time. Despite the fact that Aunt Carrie and I shared no actual genetic material the fact that she gave me her name has made her a topic of research interest for me.

auntcarrie

Carrie was an interesting research project before I even looked for a single record. The few stories told about her typically present more questions than answers. Her early history seemed shrouded in mystery and shadowed heavily by whispered “scandal” even while I was a child. All these years later, she still presents many unanswered questions.

Origins Unknown

Carrie was born to Lula Lawson on 7 February 1912. Lula was a nineteen-year-old woman, recently divorced, living in Prince, Fayette County, West Virginia at the time of Carrie’s birth. Carrie was Lula’s first and only known child. The birth was more than a year after Lula’s separation from her previous spouse, David Brantley, and prior to her marriage to her second husband, Burk Adkins, by more than two years. Carrie’s biological father is currently unknown.

Chasing Records

carrie jamison bo critchley
Carrie with a nephew (Bo) est late 1940’s

Census records show Carrie, using the last name of Adkins, living with her mother and stepfather in 1920. She was living in Fayette County, West Virginia. Her stepfather worked on the railroad.

The census record for 1930 still eludes me but by 1940, she was again in the household of her mother and stepfather in Fayette County, West Virginia and she is claiming a marital status of divorced. A marriage license registered in Raleigh County, West Virginia in 1935 records her marriage to a cousin on her mother’s side, Fred Lawson.

 

 

Myth Meets Research

The 1940 census entry seems like a good time to broach the topic of whispered scandal. When I was growing up it was common knowledge that Aunt Carrie had been married before our Uncle and that she had children. According to family stories, Aunt Carrie’s own mother had assisted in her losing custody of her children. The details of the situation so long ago are murky.

The 1940 census shows Carrie living with Burk and Lula, a divorced woman at the time. She shows no children living in the household. I located a death record for a Vern L Lawson, son of Fred Lawson and Carrie Atkins, who was born 2 February 1934 in Fayette County, West Virginia. Vern died in Los Angeles, California on 29 April 1993. I am still seeking Vern’s location on the 1940 census. I hope to learn what family raised him and to identify the names of more of Carrie’s children if they are in the home with their brother. I believe she had at least one daughter and two sons.

Rumor has it she managed to reunite with at least one of her children but I am unsure who the child was and when in life they reconnected. By all accounts, the loss of her children was something that caused her heartache until her death and she collected dolls to help fill the void.

Carrie and Steward

I do not know at what age Carrie met my Grandfather’s half-brother, James Steward Jamison. I can only wonder if the fact that both of them grew up raised by a stepfather was one thing that drew them together. Whatever the case may be they were together as early as the late 1940’s and in 1973 they officially married in Alleghany, Virginia. The two never had children together. They are buried side by side in the P.A. Shuck Cemetery in Fayette County, West Virginia.

carrie and steward headstone from fag judy
Headstone of Steward and Carrie Jamison in PA Shuck Cemetery Photo Credit of FAG contributed by Judy

 

 

 

 

 

Was Grandma a Nazi?

Tracing a Legacy

Genealogy for me is more than just hunting up vital records and putting together a list of names and dates to show the passing generations of a family. It is something spiritual, a labor of love, often for people who came and went long before I existed. Eternal life to me is defined by how the world remembers you long after you are gone. That is our legacy.

Not everyone leaves a good legacy but we all leave a legacy. It is not dictated by wealth or power, both the poor and the emperors of the world leave a legacy. Genealogy is about discovering the forgotten legacy of people who can no longer tell their own story.

I am the storyteller. I breathe life back into names that exist only on records and cold stones in cemeteries. I give them eternal life by preserving those legacies no matter how simple. Sometimes it is a struggle to reconcile personal feelings with the obligation to tell the story of our ancestors as it is told by historic proof. That relative you liked as a child may later be revealed to be a convicted criminal in earlier life. The drunk uncle you disliked as a child may have once saved kids from a burning building when he was younger. As a genealogist, I feel it is my obligation to tell the story as the records tell it to me and when information conflicts with what I want to think of that person, I force myself to face that bias head on.

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My Great Grandparents

I write often about my Great Grandmother Lillie Mae Weatherspoon. She was probably my favorite female elder growing up and my house contains several items that she owned or made during her long lifetime. For me she was that rock. The person that I always felt I could run to for a safe place.

I was aware that not everyone thoughts she was as great as I did. She would often refuse to tell me too much about her early life with statements that “if anyone knew all the things she had done no one would like her.” We never had large family functions on my paternal side of the family and it was the world’s worst kept secret that my grandmother and my great grandmother did not like each other

In all my childhood years, I am not aware of one memory of both my grandmother and her mother in law in the same place at the same time. They both spent a lot of time with me growing up. Neither ever talked bad about the other in my presence. I was always aware of that quiet dislike between them lurking beneath the surface of my life. None of that mattered to me. I cannot fathom anything that would change the way I fell about the part she played in my life. The person she was to me as a child vanquished any skeletons that danced in her closet.

She has been gone a long time. I still miss her often and when I miss her, I delve into a world of records and work on preserving the legacy she left behind even the ugly parts. I started out with more missing links than I did concrete facts because of her hesitation to share information.

Grandma’s Skeleton in the Bottom of a Jewelry Box

Often the documents I do find confirm the scant facts she shared while expanding on a complicated life she tried to leave behind. Last year I discussed some of her early family life in my blog about the strange tale in Ripley County. Since that blog I have also managed to discover that when she married her second husband she used and alias…no doubt to hide the fact that she had failed to secure a divorce from her first husband. In her defense, her first husband was abusive and she did eventually get divorced. The details of her early life slowly reveal themselves over time and research and not one single thing has altered my perception of her legacy. However, she has presented me with my first heirloom conundrum.

When she died, she left her estate to the church and the church allowed family members to go through the house to collect sentimental items. I collected many items from her house that day. Plants, nick-knacks, old glassware, handmade afghans, and one old wooden jewelry box full of costume jewelry that looked like a pirate’s chest were all carefully selected not for monetary value but because they reminded me of her.

After the rawness of her loss passed, I finally went through some of those items in that old jewelry box. Buried under piles of beaded necklaces and clip-on earrings was an odd tarnished coin type medallion I had never seen before. The language was not in English but it was not hard to recognize the names on the medallion. Of all the things I have discovered in my research, of all the things I have learned about the history she wanted to forget that medallion has caused me the most distress.

I have no clue how my great grandmother came to be in possession of a piece of early Hitler memorabilia. Her husband at the time did not serve in WW2; he worked in the automobile factories in Flint, Michigan during that period. Her only child, a son, was not old enough for the military when the war ended.

Germany was on the other side of the world from Michigan. What did this medallion mean? She was never overtly racist from my recollection. I never heard anyone express anti Jewish sentiments in my family. Was my beloved Grandma Hon a closet Nazi sympathizer?

She has been gone for decades. I was a new Mom when she passed; today I am a grandmother in my own right. I have moved that medallion, buried in the bottom of a jewelry box out of sight but always in the back of my mind, from house to house and state to state. It felt wrong to get rid of it and buried in that box I could at least refrain from explaining it to others.

Still it haunted me. For all her flaws she may have had, this just did not ring true to her character. I have spent countless hours of my life wondering about that medallion.

Another Page out of History

Fast forward to today. I still have that medallion buried in a jewelry box. I came across it just the other day. While the pitter-patter of my own grandchild’s feet ring though my house. His father is from a Jewish family. I do not want him to wonder the same things I had to contemplate about my own beloved grandmother. More than that, it renewed my search for how my Grandmother came into possession of that dreaded heirloom.

In a moment of what some might call strange serendipity I discovered a blog about POW camps in Michigan during WWII. Indeed, it was a “gift basket from Michigan” as the url of the blog proclaimed. I grew up in Michigan. Michigan history is a major source of pride for locals and even small town communities get in on the local historic pride with annual festivals. Yet somehow, I had no clue the state once housed thousands of German POW’s during WWII.

It seemed more plausible that my Great Grandparents may have known someone who worked at a POW camp than it did that they were closet Nazi sympathizers. I decided to dig further to see if there may have been one located near where they lived. 30 miles from their home on Niagara Street in Flint to what is the present day Owosso Speedway was Camp Owosso. Camp Owosso housed hundreds of German POW’s.

I do not have definitive proof that my Great Grandmother was not a closet Nazi Sympathizer but it seems even less likely in the face of this new evidence. The proximity of the POW camp seems too much to dismiss. She was much closer to Owosso than she was to Germany…or even knowing German to understand what the medallion was commemorating. Discovering this odd chapter of local history added a new more rational reason behind the medallion.

I still do not know the story behind this medallion. I likely never will but now I have a story to put with it about how my home state, so far removed from the battlefields of Europe, served such a major role in the war effort.

By The Numbers:

  • Michigan had 32 POW camps by the end of WW2
  • An estimated 8000 German POWs were in Michigan by the end of 1945
  • The last camp closed in June 1946.
  • The POWs filled the shortages in local workforces while American men fought overseas.

 

Sources

http://www.lakeshoreguardian.com/site/news/283/The-Pioneer-Spirit-The-Beginning-of-the-Croswell-Pioneer-Sugar-Company—Part-3#.WgBmu3ZrzIU

Camp Freeland Prisoner Of War Camp

http://www.mlive.com/news/flint/index.ssf/2017/02/german_pow_camp_near_owosso_he.html

All Things Michigan The German POW camps of Michigan During WWII