Sunday, January 15, 2012

Gillespie Most Wanted

Here is a list of Gillespie's that seem to have a part in my family story, but so far we can't quite connect the dots. These are people whose parentage cannot currently be established. I list them here from oldest to youngest.

  1. James Gillespie, b. 1772 Ireland, d. unk. This person appears on the 1850 census of Bloomfield along with all our other Michigan pioneers. He is living with an 11-year-old named Margaret. I have not been able to trace either character before or after this moment in time.
  2. Thomas Gillespie, Sr., b. 1777 Ireland, d. 1859 Michigan. He was the second husband of Nancy Gillespie, and quite probably a cousin to her. In 1855, when a petition was brought to have Thomas declared incompetent, it was stated that he had only a niece and nephew alive as heirs. My conjecture has been that would be Isabella and Thomas, Jr., who follow on this list.
  3. Isabella Gillespie, b. 1813 Ireland or NY, d. 1891 unk but buried in Michigan. Isabella was the wife of John Greer, and the mother of 15 children, one of whom was Belle Greer who married James H. Gillespie.
  4. Thomas Gillespie, Jr., b. 1816 NY, d. 1899 Michigan. His death certificate said his father was James Gillespie, possibly the first person in this list?
  5. Mary Ann Gillespie, b. 1816 Ireland or NY, d. unk. This person was the wife of Henry P. Sloat, who had property very close to our Michigan pioneers, and who was to become the guardian of Thomas Gillespie, Sr. when he was declared incompetent.
  6. James Gillespie, b. abt. 1820, d. 1866. This person has a gravestone with the other Michigan pioneers, although I've not been able to account for him in any other documentation. His gravestone has a flag carved into it, which implies he was a soldier (and in fact Franklin Cemetery lists him as a veteran but I haven't yet determined the source of their information). I have tracked down every James Gillespie from Michigan who served in the Civil War, and none seem to be this James Gillespie. So either he served with a different state (I've looked at NY, but had no luck there), or he served in a different war (the Mexican American War?).

All of these family groups seem to have come to Michigan from the Orange County, NY area, although I am trying to keep an open mind about that assumption (some might have come to Michigan directly from Ireland?). My current thinking is that the two older characters (James and Thomas, Sr.) were cousins to my John-Gillespie-First-Marriage-Children, who were Nancy, Thomas, Jane, and Elizabeth. This would mean we are now looking for a brother or brothers of John Gillespie. Could this get any more interesting?

Maybe it's time to look one more time at the Pine Bush Gillespie's (these are Gillespie families who lived in the Orange County, NY area but who seem to have arrived pre-Revolution and thus I have not been able to tie them to our Gillespie's who I believe arrived around 1810). On my website (see link on upper-right of my blog), there is a document in my library called "Early Gillespies" which talks about some of my research into the early NY Gillespie families. I have other notes on the subject so I'll try to compile and summarize that research in another post soon.

In the meantime, maybe I should offer a reward for information leading to the capture of my most wanted. What reward, I wonder, could possibly compare to the satisfaction in finally knowing the true story of those who came before?

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sharing Thoughts About Isabella Gillespie Greer

Happy New Year! Looks like I've been blogging for almost a year - woo hoo! I do like this way of tracking my notes, my questions, and my finds. It's been a great way to keep me 'publishing' even if in this minor way, and to get the info out where my cousins and others can find it. Yeah.

I want to give an update about my favorite brick wall whose name is Isabella Gillespie Greer. Since the day I discovered her nearly 3 years ago, I've not been able to determine who her parents were, and for this reason I have no idea really how she ties in to the Gillespie family if at all (and I hate to say that because it seems more than unlikely that she is not related to my Gillespie's in any way....).

Last week I was at my local FHC, and there was flyer taped on the door for the Broomfield Genealogical Society, and since I had not heard of them and since I live not that far away, I looked them up. There was a notice on their website by a member there, Diane Barbour, who is finishing her two-year study to become a certified genealogist and is offering once-a-month free consultations to members with brick walls. Well, just for fun I replied!

Of course it's hard to tell the whole story of a brick wall in 45 minutes. But Diane had asked for some details beforehand and had very kindly done a little researching on her own the night before. Here are the things she pointed out for me during our session:
  • There is no question that these Gillespie and Greer families are interconnected, and that the connection easily goes back to Ireland. I guess there's a pattern with families who know each other well, and our Gillespie/Greer's fall into that category.
  • Diane agreed that probably the only records to provide the parentage information I'm looking for, besides finding a letter or a Bible, would be a marriage or death record. A birth record, maybe, but we think that finding that for the time 1813 in early New York seems unlikely.
  • Diane agreed that there should absolutely be a death certificate for Isabella given a death year of 1891, and the fact that turning over every rock in Michigan has not produced one says that Isabella probably died some place else. Diane asked me to follow up with locations other than Michigan where Isabella's children lived at the time of her death. In going through that exercise, states other than Michigan where Isabella's children were known to be living include Illinois, Ohio, and Colorado. I think I have located death indices in Illinois and do not find Isabella there, which leaves Ohio and Colorado - states where it is apparently not so easy to find an index of deaths that occurred in the year 1891. A little more digging is required.
  • Finally Diane pointed out a huge difference in the real estate value for John Greer between the 1850 and 1860 census. I had not noticed that before and since I am going through all Michigan land records - yet again - it will be interesting to follow up on this. I don't think it will lead to Isabella's parents, but it's still something of note to look into more.
So, I want to start the new year by expressing my thanks to Diane, and to all genealogists who so kindly share. What I'm realizing is that sharing is a proactive thing. One doesn't just passively sit at home waiting for somebody to knock on the door and ask a question to which you might know the answer. There's a decision point where a choice is made to take some kind of action to reach out. I think as genealogists we realize that sitting on what we know defeats our purpose right out of the gate. None of us would be where we are without the help of others, and so along with being thankful, I look to my own resolutions about how best I can return the sharing. May 2012 be a good one for us all!