Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Greer's in Genesee County!

Well, I really can't say enough about the benefits that come from at least trying to be organized.  Every year about this time, I try to go through all the files that have been accumulating and make sure that I have looked them over carefully and know where to find them for the future.  This year, I came across the scan of an 1859 land abstract that cousin D. had sent me in March of 2010 (gosh, about when we were first discovering Greer's!)  Here is the surprise:
  • The abstract pertains to S-T-R 33-6-6, which is squarely in Mundy Twp in Genesee County. 
  • The names on the abstract include James M. Greer and his wife Mary, Robert Greer and William J. Greer.
  • This particular land is precisely the land that William A. Gillespie (WAG) [1869-1944] would later purchase from somebody named Cox.  It would be his first farm on Ray Road, just east of Linden.
Holy moly.  We've learned so much in the last three years, but there's no end to the Greer mysteries, so on it goes :-)  Here is the scoop about this document as I understand it today.

The Greer's mentioned are NOT "our" Greer's, and by that I mean the line of James Greer married to Jane Gillespie.  I believe this "James M. Greer and his wife Mary" must be the son of Joseph Greer who I believe was a brother to our James Greer, although I can't prove it (yet).  Nevertheless, Joseph is represented as such in my tree.  From everything I can tell, the Greer families emigrated to NY together (and in fact all 3 of the Greer's mentioned in this document were born in NY), and then they all made the move to MI together, so the ties were close whatever they were.  In any case, James M. Greer married Mary Hinman in Oakland County in 1853 - of that we have a record.  This James M. Greer also had brothers of the names William John (the oldest) and Robert, so I am guessing this is who we're talking about on this document.

What is a bit mind-boggling is that this land abstract should be found among things belonging to Genesee Gillespie's.  Did WAG save it when he bought his farm because he knew the connections?  Until now, the Greer story has been contained in Oakland County.  I have often wondered how Alexander Gillespie got to Genesee.  Could it be that, like in Oakland County, the Greer's were there first?  It's so interesting!  Well, I've never looked for Greer land documents in Genesee, but I'm sure going to now.

So thanks to cousins who faithfully send me things even when I don't have the time to really look or the knowledge to really understand what I'm looking at.  Eventually I do circle around and usually at a time when I'm focused and working with a more integrated picture in my mind.  There's such great value in always looking over what we THINK we know!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Probate Records for Isabella Gillespie Greer - 1915!

I really love the Oakland County Genealogical Society. Sometimes I think I will move to Oakland County just so I can be part of that organization! (if only they could terra-form some mountains...) Well, in any case, one of their recent newsletters came (Acorns to Oaks) and there they announced that some new Oakland County Probate Calendars have been digitized and are online at familysearch - which I jumped on because I recall that I was unable to look up John Greer's probate because the FHL does not have those particular records (yet, apparently). So this new info on familysearch is not yet searchable but since I know John Greer's death date and one can imagine that 15 children wanted their piece of the pie as soon as possible, it was easy to find his info. Unfortunately, the probate calendar is only an index really - it points to the actual probate books where the juicy details are recorded and those files are still NOT online. So even with a glimpse given by these probate calendars, still we wait, or plan a trip to Pontiac, whichever comes first :-)

It then occurred to me that maybe John's wife, Isabella Gillespie Greer (the one at the top of My Most Burning Questions lists) might also have a probate case, and that maybe her family of origin would be mentioned there (doesn't seem likely since her will simply stated divide everything equally among the kids, but who knows, maybe there is some clue). So sure enough, there IS a probate case for her and here it is:

There is a curious entry on Dec. 1, 1915. I *think* it says: petition for appointment of administrator W.W.A. Here's what I found about that:

When an executor or administrator dies, becomes ill, is otherwise unable to complete her duties, or does not properly perform her duties, she must be replaced. A successor or replacement is often named in a will. If the will does not name a successor, or if persons named in the will cannot or are not suitable to serve as executor, the court will name an "administrator, W.W.A.," or administrator with the will annexed.

Now my curiosity is really up. This date is long after John Greer's estate was settled on June 11, 1900 - and that had to have been where the big bucks were, given the amount of real estate he had. So who would petition Isabella's estate 24 years after she died and what did they want from it? This later petition was closed in Oct. 1916 just about a year before Isabella Jr. died in Colorado. Hmmmm.

I have assumed all along that the will I found for John Greer which was signed by both John and Isabella was the ONLY will - and that was frustratingly short and without detail (i.e. "divide my stuff equally between all my kids").  But perhaps Isabella did have a separate will. Hmmmm. And my only thought about WHY she would have a separate will is that she had something (land?) that she felt belonged on her side of the family - the Gillespie side. Hmmmm.; We should recall that half the land patents scored by John and Isabella when first arriving in Michigan were in Isabella's name. Maybe that's what it came down to in 1915 - somebody was trying to acquire land that was still legally in Isabella's name?

Stay tuned on this one. I think this will require a trip to Pontiac to unravel....

Missing in 1870

It has been bugging me for awhile that there is still no good explanation for why so many Greer-Gillespie's cannot be accounted for in the 1870 U. S. federal census.

Let's start with who I do find in 1870:  John Greer, Sr., age 64, is enumerated in Bloomfield with 6 of his kids and seemingly no wife.  Those named in his household were: Mary 57; Thomas 27; George 16; Adaline 14; Flora 12; Edward 11.  It should be noted that the age & occupation for Thomas does not really match for Thomas-the-son-of-John, so maybe a different Thomas Greer is residing in the household? (Note that I did check to see if 27 was just a misread of 21, but it does not appear so.)  Also among those NOT lost in 1870 is John's oldest son, James Henry, who was enumerated in Southfield.

So the following family members cannot be accounted for:
  • wife Isabella, 57 - hmmmm, it's curious, same age as Mary noted above. In 1870, daughter Mary Greer Parks was enumerated in Southfield!  So maybe Belle WAS home, although it's interesting that the name on the census is so wrong.
  • John Greer, Jr. 33, 4 years before marriage to Lucy
  • Charles L, 30
  • Jennie, no census, but she married William Wilkins in Oakland Co. 19 Jan 1870
  • Belle, 25 AND future husband J. H. Gillespie. JHG did purchase his father's land in Springfield in 1871.
  • Emma, 23
  • Nellie, 22 - she would marry Thomas Flinn 8 Oct 1873 in Bloomfield and then he died a couple months later
  • Robert, 20 - maybe was in White Lake, MI, but that might be a different Robert
  • Joseph, 18
OTHERS also missing in 1870:
  • Nancy Gillespie, wife of Thomas.  She was John's aunt, sister of his mother Jane.  She would have been 90 and she died in 1872 (according to gravestone).  Where was she?
  • Mary Greer Slater, 60, last seen in Bloomfield, shows up in Ludington in 1880.  It should also be noted that all 5 of her children living in 1870 are also not found on the census.
I have searched for these names in states other than Michigan, and come up empty.  I have also considered that perhaps there was a trip back to Ireland, so it is on my to-do list to look at passenger lists more carefully for this time period.  Also since there were Gillespie ties in Canada, there is some chance that some family members were there.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Information Wanted

This advertisement, I believe, is yet another potential clue pointing to the Irish origins of the Greer family:

Information Wanted
JOHN GRIER, a native of Ireland, county of Armagh, parish of Derrynoose, and townland of Roghan, who sailed from Londonderry on board the ship John Atkinson in July 1811, bound for Philadelphia.  Any person giving information of said John by a line addressed to his brother Joseph Grier, at Kingston falls, Ulster county, State of New-York, will be gratefully acknowledged. 

This ad comes from The Shamrock Newspaper of New York, Vol. II. No. 39, Sat. August 29, 1812.  (see 
Using the Alien Registrations mentioned in a previous post, this notice might well have been written by the older of the two Joseph Grier's, the one who arrived in August, 1812.

This notice is exciting for a several reasons. One is that the port of arrival for the ship mentioned was Philadelphia, which is good to know because I have been focusing almost exclusively on New York arrivals. Secondly, this article gives us a township in Ireland to check. So far, I've not been able to find much of substance, but I can say that Derrynoose appears to be not that far from Lisnadill, where we know one of our Gillespie relations was married.

And then, of course, there's the question of who was John Grier, and did his brother Joseph ever find him?


The Seventh Heir

Doesn't the title sound like something for the cover of a good mystery novel?   Well, that's what we have, novel or not.

Just when I think there is nothing left for me to find at the FHL on the subject of Greer-Gillespie, the next clue floats to the top.  In November, I found a deed dated 16 Aug 1873 from Jennie E. Greer (infant), represented by Jerome W. Robbins, her Special Guardian to George W. Slater of Mason County, MI.  There is reference to a circuit court case as well as a Commissioner's Report, both of which I must look up the next time I'm in Michigan.  Meanwhile, who the heck is Jennie Greer?
After much staring and scratching of head, the only thing that makes sense to me about the identity of this person is this:
  1. As we know, Jane Gillespie Greer had a sister Nancy Gillespie, who we think also married a Greer, my guess being Robert Greer.  Nancy and Robert probably had multiple children, but the only one we know who survived was named Mary Greer, born in 1810, probably just before her family emigrated from Ireland to America.
  2. Mary Greer married George Slater probably in NY and probably just before the migration to Michigan.  This is the Mary Slater referred to in the 1873 deed as the grandmother of Jennie.
  3. Mary Slater had 6 children, and her oldest daughter was named Agnes J. (probably Jane), who died young, only 20 years old.  To make things really complicated she had married a Greer, Samuel Greer, who I am guessing was her cousin (which happened more often in those days).  In any case, Agnes only had two children before she died, the oldest being Agnes Jane "Jennie" Greer, the other being Mary Elizabeth who died at the age of 6 and before the date of this deed (1873).  Hence at the time of this deed, Jennie was probably exactly 14 years old (an age mentioned in the deed), her mother had died and we don't know what was up with her father because it looks like he remarried but apparently did not keep Jennie with his new family.  Hence she had a Special Guardian, named in this deed.  The land was being transferred to Jennie's uncle (Agnes' brother), George W. Slater.
Now here is the really curious part.  The land in question in this deed is exactly the land that lead me to connect the Greer and Gillespie families in the first place!  It is the land description belonging to Elizabeth Gillespie who died in 1857 without a will, and all the various heirs came forward to claim their piece:  3 siblings, namely Thomas (who still resided in Armagh), Nancy, and Jane, and 3 half-siblings, namely James, Robert, and Sarah.

But all the later records I've found always referred to SEVEN heirs and I have never been able to figure out who the seventh heir was.  Now it appears that 7th heir might have been Jennie Greer.  How she could be considered an heir, I'm still trying to figure out as she was probably less than a year old when Elizabeth died.  There is so much still to unravel here, but I feel pretty sure this is a major clue to unraveling the complicated connections between Greer and Gillespie relations.

And I can't help wondering if Elizabeth Gillespie had any idea that we'd be sitting here 156 years later trying to figure out how she managed to own Michigan land in the first place, and then how her family would descend from all sides, effectively helping to document a family story we never even imagined we had.  May 2013 lead us to continued discoveries!

Happy New Year!

Greer Arrival in 1812

In looking over my old posts, it seems over a year and half ago I was speculating about whether our Greer relations might have arrived around the War of 1812.  Well, I think now that the answer is yes, and moreover, they arrived in 1812, just before the war broke out! 

In looking more closely at the source British Aliens in the U.S. During the War of 1812, compiled by Kenneth Scott, I realized the names listed in that source were not people who were deported (though at some point, some might have been).  Rather it is a list of people who registered with the Federal Marshall as required by law.  This source lists four Grier families who arrived between 1809 and 1812, including two families whom I presume to be the Greer-Gillespie brother-sister couples of our family mythology, namely Robert Greer, presumed husband of Nancy Gillespie who arrived with three children, and James Greer, husband of Jane Gillespie who arrived with four children.  Both couples arrived in May or June of 1812, only weeks before the United States declared war on Britain. 

It should be noted that the alien registration took place in Kingston, Ulster, New York near the end of October, 1812.  Both men were listed as weavers, which is consistent with what we know of Greer and Gillespie occupations back in County Armagh.  Subsequently located church records (Pleasant Valley Presbyterian Church) show that both couples very quickly settled in Pleasant Valley, Dutchess, New York. 

Of the three children arriving with Robert and Nancy, only one, Mary, is known to have survived.  It appears that Robert and Nancy had at least one more child in Pleasant Valley, a girl named Jane, who presumably did not survive.  And the fate of Robert Greer remains unknown.  We only know that by the time the Greer's migrated to Michigan in the early 1830s, Nancy was married to Thomas Gillespie, thought to be a cousin.

Of the four children arriving with James and Jane, only two survived, namely John and Eliza, as these were the two children naturalized with their parents in 1821.  It occurs to me it is also possible that the family brought over children from other Greer families in Ireland who were not necessarily their own, accounting for the other two children.  It's a possibility.  In any case, this couple had at least four more children in New York before making the trek to Michigan.

I am adding an article with more details in the library on my website, called Greer Arrival in America.  I welcome feedback and discussion.