24 November 2012

A Meeker Summary and Searching for a Breakthrough

The Meeker line has always been tough to follow.  I started out knowing the name Frances Maybelle Meeker, my 2x great grandmother, from my Grandma Smith's family Bible.  We also had a couple pictures of Grandma Meeker.  Another photo, addressed to one of her children, was captioned to be from "Uncle Frank Meeker".  Presumably, this was her brother.

I was able to find Frances (who often went by Maybelle or Belle) in the 1870 census living with a brother, Thomas F., a younger half-sister Nancy van Rheeden, and parents Sophronia and William van Rheeden.  They were in Polkton Twp, Mich (or Coopersville), and the Meeker children were born in Michigan.  An internet search revealed transcripts of emails stating that her obituary (she died in 1939) did not list her parents and stated she was born in Coopersville on 4 July 1856.  The same site stated her death certificate gave parents Mr. Meeker and Sophronia Durand (click here to access).

The first step was to follow the family members.  It appears the entire family settled in Wexford Co.  Sophronia died in 1900, so her death certificate was available on the seekingmichigan.org website.  Here her parents were listed as Joseph Durham and Minerva Collins.  So we had two potential maiden names for Sophronia: Durand and Durham.

Her brother, Thomas, disappeared after his 1881 marriage in Cadillac to a Rachel Felton.  Before this, in 1880 he is likely in the census at Haring (Wexford Co.) working in a logging camp.  The only other document related to Thomas that I have found, aside from his 1860/1870 census listing with his family, was his listing as living at the Ottawa County Poor Farm from 11 Dec 1867 to 6 Feb 1868.  The only note with this listing is that he ran away on 6 Feb, along with "Good By Tom".  He was listed with his family in 1870, so it's hard to say what he was doing at the poor farm.  It could be his family was having trouble providing for him, or he had gotten into some kind of trouble.

After 1880, Frank Meeker begins appearing in documents.  I could find no trace of him before his marriage to Linda Elsworth on 3 Mar 1887 in Cadillac.  He was married again in 1897 in Hamilton Mich to Theresa Cole, with whom and where he was living at the 1900 census.  I found Linda Meeker in Cadillac in the 1900 census, so I assume they were divorced sometime in the ten years between his marriages.  The only other document I have for Frank Meeker is his death certificate.  He died at the state hospital of senile insanity, which makes me wonder if he was stricken with Alzheimer's or dementia.  Though he was never living with the van Rheeden family in 1860 or 1870, he is most likely a Meeker sibling.  His second marriage record listed his parents as Horace Meeker and Sophronia Dunman/Durman, and his death certificate listed his parents as Horace Meeker and S. Van Raider/Raiden.  Not a terribly common combination of names, plus I had the "Uncle Frank Meeker" photograph.  These records gave him a range of possible birth years of 1840-1853, compared to Thomas born 1855 and Frances born 1856.

So I had parent names of Horace Meeker and Sophronia Durham/Durand/Durman, a missing sibling Thomas, and a magically appearing sibling Frank.  Horace was out of the picture sometime between 1856 and 1859, as Frances was born in 1856 and Sophronia was remarried sometime within the year of the 1860 census.  I have been unable to find any marriage record for Sophronia and William van Rheeden.  I had two theories for Frank and Thomas.  One was that Thomas, with middle initial F., was in fact Frank and began going by Frank rather than Thomas sometime after 1881.  Frank's death certificate was filled out by his state hospital physician and a birthdate of 1840 was simply incorrect.  Sophronia's death certificate stated she had only three children (Thomas/Frank, Frances, and Nancy).  The other theory is that Sophronia was young when she had Frank and he somehow was separated or otherwise disowned from the family, but followed them as they moved.  Her death certificate states she was 14 when first married, which would have been in 1840, one of Frank's birth dates.  Frank's second marriage index states he had only been married once previously, but if Frank and Thomas were the same it would've been twice, first to Rachel Felton and second to Linda Elsworth.  As I continued searching for Horace and Sophronia's origins, I began leaning towards the first theory, though I'll need to find additional evidence on either brother to prove one or both theories wrong.

This is where I remained for a long while until, in an attempt to revive the hunt, I googled some of the Meeker names and came across this post by my second cousin Georgia, wondering if the Durhams in Coopersville originally from Waterloo, Seneca, NY could be related to our Sophronia Durham Meeker van Rheeden.  I got the idea to search the 1850 census for Waterloo, then, and found a Horace and Sophronia Mickle living with a Joseph Duram and his family.  This Joseph Duram family had then moved to Coopersville a few years later.  Although not 100% conclusive, it is such an unusual combination of names and close enough to Meeker that I was quite certain it was them.  Although Joseph's wife's name was Mary, more research revealed this to be his second wife and his first wife Minerva was found in the nearby cemetery, with children of J.W. and Minerva Duram also buried there.  Although Collins was listed on Sophronia's death certificate, after researching I've determined that J.W.'s first wife was Minerva Higley, daughter of Revolutionary War patriot Seth Higley (strong evidence of the Duram marriage in his pension application records).  Not only was it exciting to determine Sophronia's parentage, but linking to a Revolutionary War patriot has always been a wish of mine.  The Durams/Durhams are a Scots-Irish line, which is traceable to the mid 1500s (although I'm still waiting to hear back from the researchers I've contacted) and the Higleys are an old, well-researched colonial family.  Although I don't have a birth certificate to link Sophronia with J.W. Duram and Minerva Higley, I'm quite convinced this is an accurate relationship and Sophronia was simply a previously-unknown child to Duram researchers.  My line for Sophronia is open and waiting to be documented.

So that left Horace as a continued brick wall, until yesterday when I checked my DNA results and saw my mother was matched as potential 4th cousins with a man whose lineage included a William Meeker of Chenango Co. NY, originally of NJ.  Horace's 1850 census stated he was born in NJ around 1820, although his children usually listed him as being born in NY, and the area this William Meeker family lived was close to Waterloo, where the Durams lived.  So as of now, I'm working on two theories.  First, Horace is a previously-unknown child of William Meeker.  Second, Horace is from the Meeker family of Lodi, Seneca County, which is near Waterloo.  Both of these Meeker lines are of NJ and two Tichenor sisters married into them, which could be the source of the close 4th-6th cousin match my mom received and the Meeker relation is further back in time.  I was matched more distant with this potential cousin, 5th-8th.

So I'm still working on collecting info on these two Meeker families, but my interest in connecting my Horace with them has definitely resurfaced.

Note on photos:  I don't mind if you wish to save a copy of the photos on this blog, but as most of them are original scans of personal family photos I would appreciate if you credited the source.

Belle Meeker Smith Frank Meeker

1 comment:

  1. Here is a thought on Thomas F Meeker: When he married Rachel N. Felton, she was about 19 years older than he was. I was not able to find her after the marriage any place. May be some thing happened that he wanted to put out of his head. Her became Frank changed his birth. His marriage to Linda would then been his first as Frank. Then his marriage to Theresa would then been # 2.
    Just a thought,