Saturday, March 12, 2011

Gillespie's in New York

I've spent the morning writing a report summarizing my research of the Gillespie surname in NY before 1830. (The report is found in the Library on my research website.) The bottom line is that I am no closer to figuring out Gillespie connections in NY. Well, maybe I'm closer and I just don't know it; that happens sometimes..... I have chased most of the collateral surnames that also show up in the Michigan family, and even though they also appear sporadically in Orange County, NY - the actual TIES are nothing more than speculation. Ugh. Where to go when you think there's nowhere else to go?

I need a plan. I thought I had one, but when a plan yields zero results, a new plan is called for. Hmmmm.

1. Look for immigration and/or naturalization records.
2. Research what resources might be available at the NY State Archives.
3. Look again for land records in NY. The purchase of land in Michigan Territory was for CASH SALES ONLY. Only one Gillespie made a cash purchase in Oakland County, Michigan (there were other purchases by Gillespie's in other MI counties, but Oakland is here the focus), and that was Elizabeth Gillespie, whose probate record was found a year ago. On the other hand, there were no fewer than 19 purchases in Oakland County by Greer's all from Orange County, NY. They bought ALOT of land with ALOT of cash. So where did that cash come from? They either brought it with them from Ireland and saved it, it was given to them (sent or inherited), or they earned it, presumably in NY. I *think* I would be looking for Greer's who are selling land in Orange County, NY - and I did spend a fair amount of time looking at land deeds in my last trip to FHL. Maybe that's the next step - just to organize and analyze that information so I might better know where NOT to spend time in the future.

And so not all research is fun, right? Or maybe that's not exactly right. In the balancing act of choosing where to spend the hours of my energy, would I rather be spending time elsewhere? Nah, not really. Not unless it would be writing the book that tells how all this turns out.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The WORLD of Gillespie's

Inasmuch as I intend to use this blog to record my own research, none of it happens in a vacuum. Ever. So even though I have plenty to do in keeping track of what *I* am doing and sometimes even a little of what my cousins are doing, I also want to share my knowing of what other researchers are doing.

There is an amazing woman out there, most of the time in Canada methinks, whose name is Norma Gillespie. She publishes a regular newsletter which she is happy to send by email for nothing. Her research goal? Well, here is a quote from her email to me today:

"Yes, I appreciate any free advertising about what I am doing, especially regarding the development of a Gillespie Family History Library and Archives (I have about 500 genealogies of other researchers of Gillespies carefully preserved for them). My focus is preserving Gillespie records from across the world. I try to add something about Ireland and Scotland in each newsletter since Gillespies originated from there).

My goal in time is to have a location where I can open the library to the public, maybe a bed and breakfast situation as well as a pioneer farm.....some people drop by already from time to time. "

I can hardly get my brain around this kind of ambition, mostly because my little Gillespie branch alone must represent a small mountain of heritage all by itself. But all Gillespie's everywhere?

Norma, having applauded you privately, let me also do so publicly. I'm so happy to know you are out there with your enthusiasm and your vision. You add fuel to my fire every single time I hear about what you're up to. So thanks, and keep on going. You are a true Gillespie, to be sure.

NOTE: Norma's March 2011 Newsletter about Gillespie Family History is available for download from my website (follow the link located on this blog).

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Bloomfield, Michigan History

I just happened to run across a couple other sites that provide some interest for researchers in/around Bloomfield, MI:
Incredibly, this site has posted township records dating back to 1827!

Also, this group looks friendly :-)

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Birmingham Eccentic - Archives of Old Michigan Newspaper

OK - how much do we love librarians?  Seriously, can we all pause right now and applaud them one and all?

One of my brick walls is finding the parents of one Isabella Gillespie Greer, born 1813 in either Ireland or New York, died 1891, buried April 3, 1891 in Franklin Village Cemetery, Oakland County, Michigan.  Even though deaths were being recorded at that time in the state of Michigan, I have been unable to locate any official death record and thus any hope of a document that names her parents.

So what now?  The only idea I could come up with was that perhaps a local newspaper had published any account of her death, and if I am lucky, a mention of her parents.  I started with the Oakland County Library.  They do in fact have old copies of the Pontiac Gazette going back that far.  Would I give them a name and date and would I like them to do a look-up?  Holy cow.  Yes, please.  Well, sadly they did not find any mention of a Greer death in April 1891, but they suggested I should check the library for Bloomfield Township.  Well, ok, maybe I will.

Today in my email inbox is a short but pleasant email from Bloomfield Township answering my inquiry. Here is a link they sent me to access old copies of the Birmingham Eccentric, 1882-1929. There is no index and each page of the paper is its own PDF, but still, how terrific is this?

Sadly, I don't find mention of my Greer or Gillespie relations or even any other names I really recognize.  There is an occasional mention of Bloomfield, West Bloomfield, Southfield, Franklin, but most of the news seems to be about Birmingham.  Here is a map showing Birmingham, MI in relation to these other townships where my relations had settled:

View Larger Map

So the brick wall remains.  Nevertheless, it was fun to read these old newspapers and take note of all the churches, the businesses, the schools, the crops, the weather, the politics, and events happening elsewhere in the state and in the world.  It was a vibrant time and place to be sure.  If you are researching anywhere near this little part of the world during the decades just before and after the turn of the century, these newspapers will give you great insight.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Recent Discovery

I'm on a mission to be more organized.  How in the world does all this material pile up so fast?  And for me at least, the material lives in two dimensions:  paper and electronic.  It's one thing to have a paper filing system, and quite another to have electronic files.  On multiple computers.  Pause here to cross myself and pray they don't crash any time soon. 

So I've been trying to devote a small number of hours per week to some form of "organizing".  This last week I was going through files on ONE of my computers.  One by one, I am opening files and then trying to rename the file so it most accurately reflects the contents and then (possibly) moving that file to a folder where similar related things can be kept together. 

In the course of this task last week, I opened a PDF file that was simply named "Gillespie Family".  Well, the file contained scans of some Gillespie-related newspaper articles, some pages of the Gillespie Family Record, and what's this?  A two-page typewritten article dated August, 1917, titled "First Reunion, 1916" by Mary E. Jameson, Historian. 

Well all I can tell you is that some gremlin must have put this on my computer.  Seriously, if I ever saw this before in my life, the recollection is completely lost.  And so finding it now is like finding gold!  Especially after several years of intensive research with my Gillespie cousins trying to make sense of varying dates associated with our ancestors' arrival in the New World, this document leaps to attention!  In two pages, Ms. Jameson describes how Robert Gillespie arrived in Quebec in 1847 rather than 1838 as described previously in the Gillespie Family Record.  It describes how Robert arrived with his oldest daughter Mary Jane, and how they worked for 18 months before having the money to send for the rest of the family.  It then describes Elizabeth's voyage with her other young and some sick children, and how her arrival in Quebec became indeed a true family reunion.

There are no good words for how precious this piece of writing is.  It is written by a granddaughter 20 years after her grandmother Elizabeth Donaldson Gillespie's death, and so it is in time the closest description we have of Robert and Elizabeth's journey to the New World.  The piece contains other clues to wonder about as well as at least one clear mistake.  So we know it's not perfect.  But its value shines.  It glows.  It smiles quietly to be found again and pondered anew. Vive l'organisation!

Friday, March 4, 2011

OCGSNY - Yahoo Talk Group

I signed up awhile back to be on the yahoo talk group: OCGSNY, Orange County (NY) Genealogical Society.  There have been no shortage of emails flying through my in box for several months from people posting there.  Just when I think I should unsubscribe because I don't EVER see any info that looks applicable to my family history, here comes a posting from somebody with the surname SLOAT.  Hmmm, just a month ago in SLC, I found a marriage record for Mary Ann Gillespie to Henry P. Sloat in Oakland Co, MI in 1838. 

So I wrote to Mr. Sloat and he has lots of history about his Sloat family but nothing new about Gillespie.  Sigh.  But in the mean time, the message board has picked up with a lively discussion about why residents of Orange County migrated in some numbers to Michigan!  It was fun to join the discussion and share what I've learned in my recent reseach studies:   a) the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825 made travel to MI much easier and b) MI was having an all out land sale in order to populate the territory and become a state (MI became 26th state in 1837). 

In the course of sharing that info, I threw out the surnames of other Orange County residents with connections in Oakland, MI:  McKinney, Beattie, McClung, Rainey, and of course, Gillespie and Greer.  Now there is discussion going on about McKinney.  All very fun.  Who knows - maybe it will lead to somebody stumbling upon our Gillespie/Greers!

Today is the Day

Well, here is my first research report for the work I'm doing on my Gillespie ancestry.  There's always something new.  Here's hoping that this becomes a fun way to record for myself what I'm working on while letting others out there know about it too.   As for the ancestors, I hope they approve and send some not-so-subtle guidance.