Tuesday, April 17, 2018

A Few New Photos

I've been scanning some photos as I work on my manuscript for the Leatherman story and unearthed some rather old and less so (less so being the late 1960s.) There might be a few spacing errors here -- computer issues (but I don't think any of you read it anyway!)

J.P. and Minnie -- who knows where? Not me!
J.P. and Minnie wedding photo, 1911 (blurry but kind of cool!)
Iris and probably Eleanor with (probably) Jean
Definitely Iris, Eleanor and Jean (1919)

Martin and Grace, 1950
Jean, J.P. and Grace, probably 1953

J.P.'s birthday with David and Deet, probably 1953

Martin and Grace with Patty and David, probably 1957
David, Mutty, Jack, Patty, Anne, Deet (probably 1956-59)

Our gang -- Ken, Wendell, Iris, Jean Martin, Grace and Eleanor (adults, l-r) and Kids l-r -- Jim, Deet, David, Anne, Nancy, and John with Jack on Susan's shoulder in the back.

J.P. (1958)
Jim with Missy (in net) and Major -- 1967 or 1968
And, just in case you need a few cooking ideas, some recipes from Grandpa Wood's receipt book.

Friday, January 26, 2018

New Year, New Goals

I thought it might be useful to share with family and interested friends my goals for 2018 in terms of chasing down the family tree and provide an update or two.


  • To date I have collected birth/family information from all family members but one and will be entering this into the My Heritage family tree. 
  • Seven "Leatherman Tree" newsletters were sent to family updating progress and sharing stories.
  • My book on our family history is well along in its draft stage. So far, I'm at about 30,000 words with plenty of editing required and in terms of stories I have finally come to our parents' generation.
  • Most family photos in my possession are scanned and are now available on a family-only google drive by permission. 
  • I have found the graves of Elizabeth (Bessie) Wood, the two Leatherman babies and Junior Leatherman along with cemetery data for them.

  • Numerous documents have been scanned or downloaded including 1800s census data for Henry Leatherman, city directory information that traces the Wood and Leatherman lines, immigration data for Herman Bendler (second great grandfather), death and marriage information, and more.
  • Located and photographed the sites of Henry Leatherman's farm in western Michigan and approximate site of Herman Bendler's nearby farm.

  • Located graves of Angeline Leatherman and Herman Bendler. Henry may be in this cemetery in an unmarked grave.

  • Located and downloaded the commitment papers for Henry Leatherman for the Northern Michigan Asylum. 

  • Located Christening data for Elizabeth Granger (Grainger), Bessie's mother. (London, England)
  • My DNA has been submitted and awaiting results.

Goals for 2018

  • Complete writing on my book and go through editing process, including formatting for publishing, photos, etc. (This will include additional research, both historical and genealogical.)
  • Visit the Mennonite library in Waterloo, Ontario, for more research on Angeline Leatherman's line. 
  • Investigate Canadian cemeteries for additional gravesite information and/or death information on Angeline's line.
  • Visit the museum of the Northern Michigan Asylum in Traverse City, photograph as permitted.

  • Convert family tree to GEDCOM for uploading into additional family history sites.
  • Set up meeting with Anne P. to talk about Eleanor and what she can remember.
  • Visit Medina County, Ohio, to see ancestral Leatherman lands, graves and possibly connect with other Leathermans in this area.
  • Continue Leatherman Tree newsletters.
  • Search Lansing history sites for additional information on J.P. and/or his business.
  • Connect with all family members on specific questions related to their families to fill in information for the book. 
  • Publish and distribute book and related digital materials.

Guess I have my work cut out for me!

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving!

Usually here in Michigan, "fall" is October and November brings the bare branch trees, a distinct drop in the temperature and the nagging thoughts of what winter might bring. Yet this year in Lansing, we are still seeing large piles of leaves on lawns or tall brown paper bags waiting to be picked up. Everyone hopes for a beautiful day so they can rake before the snow falls or there is steady rain. Time is running out.

That's one reason why this picture of Mom and Junior frolicking in the leaves in front of 833 N. Capitol always makes me smile. They are carefree and happy, neither knowing that in a few years, the Leatherman family would be one less. (I think this is Mom/Jean and Junior, who were two years apart in age.)

I sometimes wonder what those Thanksgivings were like for J.P. and Minnie's families. I suspect J.P.'s were rather subdued and probably considered somewhat sacred, in thanks for the gifts of the year -- health, family, a good year for the crops. The Mennonites do celebrate holidays such as Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving. It is likely that the Leathermans would have gathered together, possibly with Angeline's father, Herman Bentler, and her stepmother and their children, who would be slightly older than J.P. and his siblings.

If they were getting together, one of the families would make a fairly long ride in a horse and buggy to the home of the other across the now-harvested fields of Western Michigan. No doubt the table would include food from the farm -- corn, a chicken or turkey, vegetables and pie.

I'm not sure when this photo of William and Bessie Wood, Minnie and one of her brothers was taken but it certainly looks as though it could be at Thanksgiving time with the bare branches on the trees.

The Woods lived in Buffalo, NY until 1905 when they moved to Lansing, Michigan. They knew all too well what the weather would bring, with deep, lake effect snow and frigid temperatures. Theirs was a city life. Perhaps Bessie's twin brother Stephen, her other siblings, Mary and James, and her parents would be invited. We know little of William's family. They would probably have dressed for the occasion as holidays required in that time period.

Our holidays now are far more spread out and much more relaxed. This year in Cleveland, Mary Krauss Elinsky will welcome the Krauss family, along with her husband Howard's family and all the children and cousins. Nancy Marzolf Taylor and Walt may well be celebrating with their kids Annie and John and their families (now both in Flagstaff) and brother Jim Marzolf and Tara Rose. Perhaps the whole gang will head to Tucson to spend it with Mary Taylor Miller and the Miller clan at Elkhorn Ranch.

John and Pat Marzolf's family is spread far and wide, but there is a better than average chance that those who can find their way to Colorado Springs will be celebrating together. Or perhaps, they'll take the show on the road to enjoy the holiday at the homes of Martha, Phil, Mike or Liz and their families. They'll be giving thanks for Liz's newborn daughter, Kenzie Elizabeth, who was born on October 26/

Ann Porter and Marty will probably be in Rochester, living in the beautiful apartment that Marty built over the garage of their new home as they remodel the main structure. Jack will be in China where he lives, perhaps introducing this very American holiday to his Chinese friends and colleagues.

And in Lansing, Jeanie and Rick will celebrate with friends on Thanksgiving and Rick's kids on the Sunday after. Because really, every day should be Thanksgiving. And multiple families make it complicated!

For a number of years, until travel became too complicated, the Croope/Krauss branches of the Leathermans would celebrate Christmas in Lansing and Thanksgiving in Cleveland. No year was more poignant that the year after Jean and Grace died. The suits were exchanged for jeans and sweaters, there were plenty of tears but we were together.

Our table was smaller -- and today that table would be smaller still. But there was such love, such caring, so many memories. David peeled potatoes and carved the turkey. We all wondered what the state of the bird might be without our mothers' experience. We made the turkey stuffing with the recipe our moms used (a can of cream of mushroom soup was the secret ingredient!) and together, we made it through.

This year as I prepare my gratitude list, I can say that I am especially grateful to have connected with so many of my family members through our genealogy project. I've received wonderful (handwritten!) letters from several of you and loads of emails. And I've discovered wonderful things about the men and women who were part of our family heritage that I look forward to sharing with you.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

The Trouble with the Woods and the Grangers!

Let's just say that trying to trace the lineage of a Wood or a Granger in England in the 1800s is no piece of cake. Or trifle, as the case may be.

Neither is trying to find a death certificate for William S. R. Wood or the death certificate and burial plot information on Bessie Granger Wood, our great grandparents.

It has been relatively easy to find info on J.P.'s family. They can be easily traced back to 1500s Switzerland. But census birthplace data for the Woods indicates England and so far I haven't been able to track immigration information on either side. Thanks to Mutty, we have a photo of William's mother.

Does it really matter? Well, sort of. At least to me. There's a whole chapter I can't write in the "Leatherman Story" unless I know!

About the only fact I have is that Bessie was a twin and through a stroke of luck, I was able to find a record of their christening in London. And I've also found a trail of information about the Grangers (or Graingers) in Buffalo, along with some information on William Wood.

William was an apothecary and confectioner and when I get them scanned, I'll post some of his recipes, including the opium lozenges. Nancy remembered stories of his shop shared by Iris. I also know that both Stephen and Elizabeth Granger worked for a confectioner in Buffalo. Was that Bessie or her mother? Is that how they met? We know a bit about their wedding reception from marriage records and a small newspaper clipping shared here before.

We know that by 1905 they had moved to Lansing with their daughter, Minnie Elizabeth and ran a grocery. And that in 1912, Minnie and J.P. were married and moved into the Wood home at 833 N. Capitol Avenue.

We  know that Bessie was alive until at least 1919 or 1920 as there are photographs of her with Jean as a baby.


And that's it.

I have two journeys planned in my head. One is to Ohio to check out some of J.P.'s relatives and gravesites in Medina County. The other is to Ionia County to check out information on his parents and if we can shed any light on how Henry Leatherman, JP's dad, was institutionalized. (And a matter of fact, that info has been found -- and it's quite a story!)

 Maybe I'd better head to the Ingham County Clerk and see what I can dig up on Bessie!

Saturday, October 21, 2017

A Canadian Mission

I eagerly anticipated my 2016 Canadian visits in September for three reasons. First, I would be able to see my good practically-since-kids friend, Suzanne and visit Stratford.  (Yes, I sort of buried this post and just getting back to it!) But I was also anticipating a visit to the Cambridge/Waterloo area where Rick and I were on a quest to learn more about my ancestors.

One of the surprises in my family history journey was that we had Canadians in our family tree. The other surprise was that we had many Mennonites in the tree as well. I knew little about that faith and was very curious. When I learned that the cemetery where my third and fourth great grandparents were buried wasn't far from our route, we decided to make a stop.

So, we went off to find the cemetery -- very small and very old. And very difficult to find (now in an area where there are more McMansions than historic homes). And somehow, we found them. The fourth-greats were easy -- they had a large stone that had been erected by descendants.

The third greats weren't so easy. We started out by looking at a lot of tombstones that resembled this or worse -- at least on this one you can read parts of the writing. Some were just covered with lichen.

And that wasn't getting us anywhere. It was just a fluke that by looking at names I saw the third great grandmother. I could barely read her husband's headstone.


So, word to the wise. If and when you are planning on having your descendants find you after you are long gone, make sure you are in a cemetery that will keep things in order or that you have a family member that does so. Otherwise, you'll be walking in the rain like we were, trying to read writing that doesn't show up at all! Otherwise, if you're going the cremation route, take good notes and pass them down!

From there we went to the small town of St. Jacob's and after a nice lunch and walk about, visited the "Mennonite Story," a historical center that told the history of this religious sect.

I learned that Mennonites, similar to Amish, fled persecution in Switzerland after the Reformation. They went to the Palatinate area of Germany and then came to America, most to Pennsylvania as part of William Penn's movement to populate his "plantation" (what is now the state of Pennsylvania.) Often you will hear the term "Pennsylvania Dutch" and this refers to groups like the Mennonites, Amish, Anabaptists and Brethern.

They continue to live by high principles, very simply and with a focus toward anti-war.

I felt very proud to be part of this heritage as I learned more about them. Whether one was interested or not personally, the center was very well done with excellent exhibits accompanied by video and audio features and contemporary media. I'd recommend it to anyone interested in learning about various religions.

From America, J.P. Leatherman's maternal ancestors north to the Waterloo, Ontario region of Canada. It is uncertain why but a possibility is that the Mennonites did not believe in war and many moved north to avoid the conflicts in this new world.

To think we came from a line where peace and non-violence were a critical part of the doctrine is powerful and resonates all the more today.

The town itself was very nice -- a bit geared toward the tourist, but the shops we went to had lovely merchandise (and the prices right now with the Canadian exchange rate are to the advantage of the U.S. traveler (see travel tips below).

And, the drive was picturesque as well. Wide stretches of farmland, lots of signs for maple syrup and produce. They have quite the quilt auction which we didn't see -- but a video was included in the center and it was pretty amazing! I'd recommend this part of Canada for a visit if you are in the region.

It's interesting to think that we came from people -- on both sides of J.P.'s family -- with great devotion of faith and very hard work. Seeing the farm country in Canada and learning more about the Mennonites certainly added to the depth of the family journey experience.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Searching for Henry, Herman and Angeline

Imagine you are riding through some of West Michigan's loveliest farm country on an unseasonably warm, late October day. Fields of corn are now dry, tan-colored stalks of gold at the end of the season, glinting in the late morning sun. Soon those fields will be empty, cleared for the winter and bare until spring planting begins.

Hardwoods, late in changing color this warm fall, arch over the dirt road, providing patches of shade to contrast the areas where the fields leave no room to rest in the shadow.

We are on a quest for the home of my great grandfather, Henry Leatherman, who owned 100 acres in this area of Campbell Township, Ionia County, in the 1870s and 1880s. (The 1900s are still a mystery.) He met his bride, Angeline Bentler, here in Michigan, perhaps at Bowne Church, in 1886 when she moved from Berlin (Kitchener) Ontario to Michigan with her father, Herman Bentler and his second wife, Catherine Schmitt, who had raised Angeline from the age of five.

The handsome young Mennonite farmer with a significant portion of land, 100 acres, was certainly a good catch for Angeline and by mid-1867, they were married and living on the land on a bluff overlooking Duck Creek in the northwest corner of his property.

On this gorgeous day in 2017, I journeyed west with fifth cousin Barb Swartz to see if we could find Henry's home or at least the property. We knew it was in Campbell township and Barb had found a map on a site that featured historical maps of Michigan that indicated who owned which plots in various townships, including Campbell, during a given year. Over 100 years later, the map was still spot-on.

This house is probably not his. Perhaps it was built on the bones of the original home and certainly is on the original site, but it is clearly a newer, more remodeled home. It sits on a hill just a few yards south of the creek.

One can easily imagine young John Philip and his brothers fishing in the creek, perhaps taking a well-deserved dip after a hot day working in the fields. You can almost hear his mother or his older sisters calling for supper and knew when you saw them they would be in their plain dresses with a pinafore apron and lace cap covering their hair.

Leaving the Leatherman property and heading north for several miles, we come to a large road (now 76th Street) and after taking a left-hand turn and venturing west over the county line into Kent County's Bowne Township, the Bowne Mennonite Cemetery and church is spotted. This is our next stop.

We are looking for the grave of Angeline who died of consumption (lung illness, possibly or even probably tuberculosis) on a warm July day in 1884. She left behind her husband, two teenaged boys and four children under the age of 12, one of whom was only a few months old.

We're also looking for the gravesite of her father, Herman Bentler, one of the earliest settlers in the county. We know both graves are there with headstones after a search on findagrave.com. We also know that Orvin and Henry's bodies were released to this cemetery, though no obvious grave was indicated.

Herman's grave is the first to be found, standing tall, a dignified obelisk marking his death and that of Catherine Schmitt, his wife. Barb has prepared cedar wreaths and we leave one behind for this man from Saxony in Germany who emigrated first to America (living in Buffalo, NY, for two years), then to Canada, where he married Lydia Bricker Kraft (or Croft) and fathered Angeline and her brother who died in infancy.

Angeline's grave, perhaps one of the earlier ones in the cemetery, is nearest the road in what one can imagine, based on the tombstones, to be the oldest area of the cemetery. Though the headstone was once standing, it is now flat and embedded in the ground, face up.

We trim some of the grass from the edges and leave behind a wreath for her as well. There are empty spaces beside her with no indication of burial. Might these be unmarked graves for Henry, who died in 1913 or little Orvin, who died at the age of 10 in 1894.

We will probably never know. What we do know is that it is a profoundly quiet and peaceful spot. We can imagine Henry and his children standing beside Angeline's grave at her funeral, dressed in their best on a hot summer day.

Henry's life, after Angeline's death and the subsequent death of two of his children, ten years later, just days apart, turned into one of tragedy. But as Barb and I sat under a sugar maple, enjoying an apple and grapes on this warm day, we could only think of the peace, quiet and beauty that was part of this quiet, gentle world, little changed in so many ways from the days 125 years before.

And I was profoundly grateful.