22 June 2013

On the trail of the Bennetts

My paternal grandmother, Bonnie Jean Bennett, was the best grandma anyone could ask for.  There is a Bennett family reunion every year, and one of those years someone had a Bennett family history with them.  This was before I became very interested in genealogy, so I didn't pay too much attention to it.  However, once I was starting to get revved up a few years ago, my grandpa pulled it out and gave it to me.

I already knew my grandmother's family was from Fairgrove, Tuscola County, Michigan, and we had gone to visit and care for the family plot in the cemetery there many times while I was growing up.  She came from a large family of 11 children (though her twin brother, Bernard, had died at birth).

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.
Bennett Extended Family

According to the history, which is said to be written by my grandma's great aunt, my grandmother's father was William Perry Bennett of Fairgrove, who had married Ruby Mae Acker in 1911.  William's father was Laurence, a veteran of the Civil War (11th Michigan Infantry, Co. F).  He had been born in 1848 in Rose, Michigan, and then moved to Fairgrove with his family around 1853.  William was the third of five children of Laurence and his first wife, Hellen "Nellie" Jacobs.  Nellie died in 1882, and Laurence then married Mertie or Dela Nichols, and they had two sons.

Laurence, in turn, was the son of James Henry Bennett and his wife Lucinda Brown, both natives of New York.  The history written by his youngest daughter, Caroline "Carrie", stated that James was born in 1827 near Rochester, New York, and he married Lucinda at Highland, Michigan, in 1847.  They had 11 children.  She further stated that they had inherited "industry and love of fun and sports" from their father and "love of beauty, Christianity, and patience" from their mother.  Sister Ada, their fifth child, had a daughter Ethel Cookenmaster who also wrote of her grandparents.  She stated that Lucinda was a "tiny little person" and had to be strict with so many children.  Her mother, Ada, had told her that she remembered her mother coming to the school and making her come home, "tingling" her legs the whole way home with a switch, to do work she had neglected that morning before letting her return to school.  Ethel also believed the family had come from either Pennsylvania or New York.  She also said Lucinda had gone out to work at age 14 as a pastry cook at a hotel in Rose, Michigan (near Highland).

In her history, Caroline discussed James' early life and arrival in Michigan.  She stated that when he was 8 years old, his father sold the family home near Rochester and left his wife and 5 children to head for Michigan to look for land.  He was never heard from again and was supposed drowned.  James had to look out for himself after this, because it was difficult for his mother to care for the family.  He worked on the Erie Canal for a while and eventually found his way to Michigan.  After moving to Fairgrove, he became frustrated trying to make his home in the then wilderness and left to Bay City for some time to work in a sawmill.  She also wrote that Lucinda's mother had died when she was young and she was her father's housekeeper as well as looking after the other children.

So, this was an excellent starting point.  I was able to successfully trace James, then Laurence, then William through census, marriage, birth, death, and land records for their time in Tuscola county.  But what about James and Lucinda's early years?  This was a much more difficult task.

The 1880 census indicated that James' father was born in Ireland and his mother was born in Scotland.  The 1900 census stated both parents were born in Vermont.  His death record did not list his parents.  But my grandma had told me I had some Irish and Scottish ancestry, so perhaps there was something to it.  In 1880 James was the head of household, but in 1900 he was living with one of his daughters' family.  Perhaps the 1880 census was slightly more reliable.

I got another break when on one of James and Lucinda's children's birth records was stated that James was from Parma, NY and Lucinda from Kendall, NY.  Parma is near Rochester.  A further clue was connection with a 4th cousin, for whom James was also his 4x great grandfather.  He provided me with information from Ethel Cookenmaster (quoted above) that also stated John Brown had married a Whitehouse girl and had daughters Lucinda Brown and Lydia Brown, who married Mack Dunning and had no children.

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.
Lydia Brown Dunning


In the Bennett family history, Lydia had been incorrectly assigned as a sister of James.  There was also a Sarah listed as a sister of James who had moved to Nevada.  I wonder if Sarah was actually a Brown or a Bennett, but due to Nevada's laws regarding death records I've been unable to request one and while I've tracked Sarah to Nevada, I cannot find a listing of her parents anywhere or find her as a child in Michigan.  Given her birth year and place of birth as Michigan, I suspect Sarah was a Brown.  Working together, my cousin and I found that Lucinda's father was actually named Samuel Brown, and the two sisters had at least one brother, named John W., and potentially a sister named Charlotte.  Samuel's wife was Tammy Whitehouse (Tammy being Caroline's middle name).  The trail has run cold here for the time being.

Back to Parma.  We find a Laurence Bennett living in Parma in the 1830 census.  He has one son under age 5, which is a fit for James' age, and two daughters ages 5-9.  This is the only time we find Laurence Bennett.

I wondered if James had siblings who had moved to Michigan with him, so I did a search of death records.  A Phila Hovey died in Tuscola County in 1898 and had parents Laurence Bennett and Caroline Randall born in Ireland and Scotland respectively.  She had been born in 1824 in New York.  Further research showed she had married Sidney Hovey in New York around 1840 and later moved to Michigan.  A match to her was William Randall Bennett, who died in Muskegon, Michigan in 1913, had been born in New York in 1830, and had parents Laurence Bennett born in Ireland and Caroline Randall born in Maine.

While it seemed very possible that these two were siblings of James, there was no solid connection between Laurence, Phila, William, and James.  I was especially hesitant because there was only one son in the Laurence Bennett household in 1830, and while William was born in 1830 his death certificate indicated he had been born in March, which should've been early enough to be included in the census.

So, for me, it seemed like it was back to square one.  I discovered the Michigan County Marriages on Family Search and browsed Oakland County for James and Lucinda's marriage.  I didn't expect to find anything more than the entry and a date, but I was hopeful some sort of birthplaces or parents would be listed.

No such luck, but two witnesses were listed: Sidney Hovey and Ann Eliza Babcock.  Sidney Hovey.  Turns out this name was not common, at all.  In fact, the only Sidney Hovey I found in the 1850 census was living with Phila and family in Genesee County Michigan, close to their final home in Tuscola County.  Bingo.

With this information, my next steps are to continue pursuing the Laurence Bennett and Caroline Randall family and see if I can discover any additional information about them beyond the 1830 census and any additional connections between Phila, William, and James.

No comments:

Post a Comment