April-May 2006

A Good Day for Genealogy

March 14, 2006 was a good day! It was one of those days when the unexpected happens and makes the whole day suddenly special.

You have heard me lament a couple times about being unable to learn what happened to Charlotte Joyner Douglass and her daughter, Felicia, after Orlando died. (See article from January 2003 Digests about Orlando in the Archives) Orlando died in 1856 and his will implied that an heir would be born following his death. I found the name of his daughter, Felicia, born in Lorraine, NY (seven months after he died) on The Joiner-Joyner Families of New England website but then the trail ended. I checked with others who were researching the Joyner family. No one knew what happened to them. The only lead I had came from the International Genealogical Index (IGI) which recorded that Charlotte Joyner, (the same Charlotte Joyner, dob 12/27/1832, Lorraine) married George Randall in Huron County, Ohio on March 3, 1871. What was she doing in Ohio, I wondered, and how did she get there?

I spent several fruitless hours looking for George and Charlotte in Ohio. There were many, many Randalls in Ohio and no George. I even found a George Randall in Rutland township, Jefferson County, NY. Rutland was not so far from Redfield. Maybe this was the George she married. A few years later I learned that Charlotte’s mother’s maiden name was Randall, so it kept me on that trail. She could have been in Ohio visiting relatives.

All this was before Ancestry and Heritage began making the various census databases searchable on the Internet. I know that I did a search for Charlotte on Ancestry when it put up the 1860 and 1870 census data, with no results. I do not know what made me think, that day in March, of searching the census database for Felicia instead of Charlotte, but I did a search for Felicia, born 1856, with no last name. I was not sure if her name was spelled Felitia or Felicia because her aunt’s names was spelled Felitia. My search on Felitia brought no results at all. So I tried Felicia; the search brought up only four possibilities, three in NY and one in Michigan. I almost did not open the one for Michigan, but one turns over all stones….

I laughed and I danced and I whooped and I hollered. There she was after all these years. Felicia had married Edgar Crooks and had two young babies. Living with them was Charlotte Douglass, 47, widowed, mother-in-law! They were living in Otisco, Ionia County, Michigan. Edgar was born in Canada, his parents were born in NY state. Moving back and forth across the northern border was common in the 1800s, especially in the eastern areas of the countries. And Michigan was easily accessible from Canada or the U.S.

So did Charlotte marry George Randall? I suspect not. She would not likely have taken back her Douglass surname if she had been married to Randall. So what about the IGI record? Well, this is the reason that some researchers look at the IGI with a jaundiced eye. Mormons are allowed to contribute information to the database of he LDS church, often without much documentation. The person who contributed the information about the Joyner-Randall marriage was Albert Randall. One can be less skeptical if one is accessing actual LDS films of old records. A primary source is most authentic, something recorded at the time of the event.

Did the Crooks-Douglass family stay in Michigan? They did not. Here comes the next mystery. Why did Edgar move from Michigan to Northampton, Massachusetts? He and Felicia are there in the 1900, 1910, and 1920 census. He was the general manager of a silk factory in Northampton. In 1900 and 1910 Charlotte Douglass continued to live with them. She was no longer with them in 1920, so it is presumed she had died in the interim.

Another mystery began to unravel with this new information. Orlando’s brother, Fernando, had moved from Jefferson County, NY to Steele County, Minnesota about 1857 and was still there in 1910. I had tried to get a death certificate for him, but the Steele County Clerk found no death record. Puzzlement. Then when I found their sister, Felitia Douglass Rockwood’s obituary, it said her brother, Fernando, survived her and was living in MA. Massachusetts? Was that a typo? I knew of no family member living in Massachusetts and Fernando was past 80. Who was he living with?

Now I have a candidate in answer to that question. And I have a place to query for death certificates for Charlotte Douglass and Fernando Douglass.

March 14th was a very good day.

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