Some days, today, for instance, I wish I could do the absolutely impossible. I wish I could shake people who were in charge of creating records and say in very firm tones: “watch the way you are writing. Someone in the future may need to read this.” Of course it can’t be done, and the records we have are, well, the records we have. I am attempting to figure out what brought a family from Arenac County, Michigan to Detroit. In fact, more than that, am trying to figure out who it was that they exchanged visits with in Detroit for several years before relocating there in the very early 20th century.
I know that the immigrants in the family I’m tracing came from Europe in the years between 1875 & 1885. Other members of their extended family came around the same time, and all of these settled in areas where they could supply goods to the lumber and fur trades. Ultimately my target family opened up dry goods stores. They married, raised families, and then, in what appears to me to be sudden moves, they were visiting with people back in Detroit and ultimately moved to Detroit between 1914 and 1920.
Today, looking for some clarity, I went looking for everyone in Detroit with the same surname in 1910. Of the 5 families with that surname in Detroit in 1910, I eliminated 2 families that appear to be of a different ethnic background than my target. That left 3. I started looking to see if I could find immigration records for a person in one of these families who apparently came over as an 8 year old in 1871. It looked like I found only one family that would be a candidate – a woman and her 2 children with that surname on a ship in 1871 – one of the children had the same first name as one of the people on the 1910 census. The only problem was that he birth year would make her 10 years older than her son according to the transcription. No, the transcriptionist wasn’t at fault in this case – that’s actually what it looks like the person who wrote the information on the manifest wrote. Of course the handwriting is really less than clear.
Like I said, I’d like to go back in time and give very clear instructions to the people filling out these forms.