On April 17th, we left Ann Arbor after an early breakfast because we wanted to get to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, Michigan, when it opened at 9 a.m. Even with the early start and staying until it closed, we didn’t see all of it. The Museum was opened on October 21, 1929, and was originally called The Edison Institute in honour of Thomas Edison whom Ford greatly admired. It’s now the largest combined indoor-outdoor museum complex in the United States at 254 acres and has approximately 1.7 Million visitors each year. The Ford Plant that manufactures F150 trucks is also located onsite.
Henry Ford (July 30, 1863 – April 7, 1947) was raised on a farm near Dearborn, Michigan, now part of the Detroit Metropolitan area. As a young man, Ford worked as an engineer for the Edison Illuminating Company in Detroit. He began to collect Edison memorabilia and then just kept collecting all types of objects related to innovation and history. Ford was himself an inventor and held 161 U.S. patents. Of course, he’s best known for establishing the Ford Motor Company in 1903, making the first Model T in 1908, and then because of demand introducing mass production including the first motor assembly line. If you’re interested in an overview of the museum or more details of his life, here’s the site: https://www.thehenryford.org/
Some highlights on display: The Kennedy Car, the 1961 Lincoln in which President Kennedy was assassinated November 22, 1963; several artifacts from Chicago’s Century of Progress held in 1933-1934 which my Grandparents Lohr, Great-Grandfather George Lohr, and my Father attended; a diner hauled in from Hudson, Massachusetts where Doug and I enjoyed ‘real’ milkshakes; a history section on Women’s Rights, actually the lack of them; and, of course, more cars and contraptions than anyone could imagine and not just Ford vehicles. The highlight for me was the bus where Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white passenger on December 1, 1955, in Montgomery Alabama. Doug and I sat in Rosa’s seat on the bus as a guide talked about that event.
Then we went outside to Greenfield Village. It was a cool windy day so we had the area almost to ourselves. The guides stationed in the buildings were so glad to see someone that they told us numerous stories. The original Ford Home is there, along with the Wright Cycle Shop from Dayton, Ohio, where Wilbur and Orville Wright performed much of their research, design and construction of the first successful airplane, the Wright Flyer; the Heinz House (actually horseradish was their first item produced and ketchup came later) built in 1854 in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania; and, a reconstructed/replica building originally in Menlo Park, New Jersey, where Edison performed many of his inventions—1,093 U.S. patents plus more worldwide— including developing the light bulb and first phonograph. A guide demonstrated one of those first phonographs from 1878. Ford was very wealthy and quite eccentric: He actually had a crew collect as many of the boards from the original research lab as could be located, moved those to Dearborn along with dirt from around the original building because Edison and his workers threw failed experiments out the windows. The dirt was sifted through to get the broken treasures and put them back together. (Well, that was the story anyway!)
After the day at the museum, our plan was to drive to Toledo, Ohio, and stay in a historic bed and breakfast there. Well, we drove to Toledo but ended up at the best-rated hotel at 3-stars in Toledo, a new Renaissance. As the voice on the GPS took us into a very rundown area of Toledo, Doug wondered where I was taking him. We located the bed and breakfast which was historic all right, but not in a positive way. The innkeeper met us there and gave us a tour of the first two floors—the upper floors are still being redone and the place is for sale. We decided to pay for the room but stay elsewhere as we didn’t think it was a safe area. Skip Toledo if you’re in the region although we did have a good seafood meal at a restaurant along the Maumee River.
The next day, we drove to South Bend, Indiana. Our plan was to go the Studebaker Museum. When I planned the itinerary, there was no notice on the website that the museum closed for a few days every year in April so that the vehicles could be moved for a charity function. Today was one of those days. Here’s the website if you’re interested in what we didn’t see: https://studebakermuseum.org/
Doug was disappointed, but the receptionist told us that we could tour the Oliver House as the head guide was still at work. The Oliver family was famous for the invention of the chilled plow and the nearby plant produced farm equipment. Oliver solved the problem of soil sticking to a plow because the metal was cooled rapidly—chilled—so that the blade had a hard smooth surface. By 1900, the manufacturing plant was producing about 300,000 plows a year.
Built in 1895-1896, the Oliver Mansion is quite unique because the family left the house and almost all the furnishings to the museum. Apparently that was the easiest way to eliminate family inheritance arguments! The plus for the museum and tourists is that the 38-room mansion looks like it did when the last family member lived there. The family also left funds for the maintenance of the home and garden. If you want to see and read more details: https://historymuseumsb.org/see-do/historic-house/
After the tour, we got back into the rental car, set the GPS for our bed and breakfast and proceeded to drive almost one block to The Oliver House. This beautiful b&b with accommodating owners, Alice and Tom, was originally the home of one of the Oliver daughters—Josephine Oliver Ford and her husband George Ford. If you’re interested in the b&b or the history, please check https://www.oliverinn.com/
Next door to the Oliver House is a restaurant in the original 24,000 square foot home of the Studebaker family built between 1886-1889. The building is now called Tippecanoe Place: http://www.tippe.com/ We just walked across the lawn and up the short driveway next door for our dinner.
After a lovely breakfast on April 19th at Oliver House, we set out on the interstate on our way to Mount Carroll, Illinois. As we drove, we were surrounded by semis, the most we’ve ever seen on any highway. The traffic was heavy, but we arrived in Mount Carroll in time to meet extended family on the Lohr side for lunch.
My Great-Grandfather, George W. Lohr, was born in Centre County, Pennsylvania, and moved to Mount Carroll, Illinois, with his family when he was three years old. One of his older brothers, Solomon (Sol) Lohr, remained in Mount Carroll. The people we met for lunch and a visit are descendants of Sol.
Two of my Great-Grandfather’s brothers were killed in the Civil War. The photo on my home page shows a monument to the soldiers from the Mount Carroll area including Israel Lohr (May 6, 1841 - May 5, 1862), buried in Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, St. Louis, Missouri, and Jeremiah Lohr (1839 - August 1, 1862), buried at Columbus, Hickman, Kentucky.
My Great-Great Grandparents, Jacob Lohr (June 10, 1819 – July 3, 1904) and Margaret Anna Emerich Lohr (October 26, 1817 – August 25, 1905) are buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Mount Carroll. We visited their graves as well as those of several other extended family members.
Then we went to the home of one of my Mount Carroll relatives where we looked through photo albums and family history documents. They made copies of several obituaries, letters, and other print materials. As well, they gave me two photos that I had never seen before: one of my Grandfather Lester Lohr in his christening gown and one of my Great-Grandparents and their young family, including my Grandfather, before they left Illinois for South Dakota and then Canada in 1900.
In the late afternoon, Doug and I drove to Galena, about 45 miles northwest of Mount Carroll where we checked in at the Jail House Inn: https://jailhillgalena.com/ This luxury bed and breakfast has been totally renovated and is owned and operated by a cousin's son of my relatives in Mount Carroll, only on the other side of the family. Anyway, this building was used as a jail for 100 years, and the room we stayed in had initials of some of the prisoners still carved in the beams. We’ve stayed in many bed and breakfasts around the world during our travels, but that was our first time in jail! And, what a luxurious jail it was with every detail considered.
Galena is a resort town and although it was quiet because it was April and the weather was cool, we were told it gets very busy on weekends and holidays. We spent some time walking around the town the next morning after a three-course breakfast in jail and then drove to O’Hare Airport for our trip home.
Thanks for reading this travelogue.
Doug and I were travelling on a slushy Deerfoot Trail at 3:45 a.m. to catch the 6:20 a.m. departure on United Airlines to Chicago. It was the cheapest flight option that day, and we liked the idea of getting in early enough to gain another half day of sightseeing. Or, at least, we liked it until the alarm went off so early!
We arrived in Chicago at 10:45 a.m. (Central Time). After a lengthy line-up at the car rental, we set out to Lang Bed & Breakfast located in East Rogers Park in one of the northern parts of Chicago. There we met Bruce and Wayde who own and manage a charming bed and breakfast in a beautifully appointed house built in 1919. We stayed in the Stencil Room so named because of the hand-painted stencil patterns on the fine leather walls coverings. Check out the classy rooms: www.langhousechicago.com and a lively video of Chicago highlights: http://www.langhousechicago.com/page/gallery
The City of Chicago is the third most populous city in the United States at 2.8 million; however, the metro area is 10 million. Winter continued to be with us: wind, rain, with occasional sleet and snow throughout our three day stay. With the temperature hovering just above the freezing point, we walked along Lake Michigan where the waves—up to 16 feet in height—looked like we were experiencing a major storm on an ocean. We quickly learned why Chicago is called ‘The Windy City.’ Refuge, good food, and drink were found at the Public House, a pub near the Red Line L train stop at Jarvis Station, a couple blocks from the b&b.
Bruce and Wayde have transit cards which resemble a credit card that they give to visitors when they check-in at the b&b. Visitors are asked to leave approximately $20 on the card so that the next tourists can use it on the buses or trains until they become familiar with the system. This is a great idea, and we filled up the card at a station once we understood how to do that.
On the morning of April 14th we took bus number 147 which stopped just across the street from Lang House. The bus route runs along the lakeshore. The waves weren’t quite as high as yesterday, but it remained foggy and rainy with a moderate wind. We got off downtown and then walked to Navy Pier. Navy Pier is a 3,300 foot-long-pier, and we walked every foot of that pier from one end to another and back again. It was almost deserted outside with some families inside entering and leaving the Chicago Children’s Museum and a few people in the food court area. We didn’t go on the Centennial Wheel because of the weather. To see what Navy Pier is like in good weather, I checked the following link: https://navypier.org/support/about-us
We took the bus back from Navy Pier to the Red Line Train. Wrigley Field was a short walk from the train stop at Addison. I had purchased great infield seats for the afternoon Cubs baseball game. We lasted five innings and left when the Braves were up 10-2. Later, the Cubs came back and won the game 15-10. We wanted to see Wrigley Field—which we did—but that’s probably the coldest I’ve ever been. Not even the purchased Cubs blanket which I later had to add to the already full luggage helped. The locals were dressed in full winter gear.
We had decided to park the rental car in the b&b garage and use public transit so the trip to the museum on April 15th took about 90 minutes; however, we did get to see a great deal of the city. That morning we also saw the weirdness or uniqueness of a large city—depending on how you view a stoned young man doing his own rap version with all the jerky dance moves and vulgar words anyone could possibly know for about 15 minutes on the train. An announcement repeatedly said: “No gambling or soliciting on the train.” I felt like adding: “No more bizarre entertainment either!” Most people ignored him so Doug and I tried to do the same although his performance was more extreme than anything I had seen on my C-train trips when I worked in downtown Calgary. Doug and I were glad to get away from the racket when we disembarked to catch a bus.
There are so many museums in Chicago that we knew we couldn’t possibly tour all of them. So we selected the Museum of Science and Industry in south Chicago. We were told that is not a neighborhood to walk around in but we were surrounded on the bus and at the museum by people of all ages. This museum is almost beyond description with its diverse and detailed displays. A few notables: the Pioneer Zephyr Silver Streak (a diesel-electric streamlined train from the 1930s), a replica of the Wrights Brother’s airplane, a U-505 German Submarine captured off the West African coast in 1944, and on and on. If you’re interested in a preview of this amazing museum, here’s the link: https://www.msichicago.org/
We could have spent one, perhaps two days there. But, we had to leave because we had booked an Architectural Tour on the Chicago River. Before I leave the subject of the museum though, I want to mention a family history link. The building was originally built for the 1893 World’s Exposition and then opened as the Science and Industry Museum in 1933 during the Century of Progress Exposition. In 1933, Lloyd (my father, aged 12 at the time), my Grandparents Lester and Beula Lohr, and my Great-Grandfather G.W. (George) Lohr drove from Erskine, Alberta, to the Chicago World Fair. They also visited my Great-Grandfather’s brother, Solomon Lohr, and family in Mt Carroll, Illinois. Doug and I would visit descendants of that family later on this trip.
My grandfather was intensely interested in trains and had an elaborate model train set complete with a painted wall, tunnel, and other landscape features in the basement of their farm home. When I walked into the model train area at the Chicago museum, I was instantly a child back in my grandparents’ basement watching in fascination as the model train ran. I wonder if Grandpa Lohr got his ideas for his model train set from that visit to the exposition in 1933.
We took a taxi to the Navy Pier because of time limits. By this time, it was raining quite steadily so when we boarded the open boat, we were handed rain ponchos. Doug and I had rain coats so we actually sat on our ponchos. The tour was a chilly ninety minutes long, and a well-informed guide talked about all the buildings along the Chicago River including Willis (Sears) Tower (the top of which was totally shrouded in clouds), Old Post Office, 360 Chicago Observation Deck, Wrigley Building and others. My favorite was the Wrigley Building built 1921-1924, the Wrigley corporate headquarters until 2012. The website is informative with photos: http://www.thewrigleybuilding.com/
We left Chicago the next morning and drove to Ann Arbor, Michigan. Our goal was to visit the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn; however, there were no appropriate bed and breakfast locations in Dearborn. Ann Arbor is a pretty city, population 121,000 which may/may not include the total University of Michigan student population of about 45,000. We checked in at the charming Avalyn Garden b&b: http://avalyngarden.com/ Lee greeted us, showed us around, and then Doug and I walked through part of the campus and had dinner at a restaurant that Lee recommended.
On the walk back to Avalyn Garden, a man asked us for directions. He had recently moved from Beijing to attend university. Usually he took the bus but had decided to walk and was lost. His phone battery was depleted so with the maps on my iPhone and after a call to Lee at the b&b for assistance, we hope the fellow went in the correct direction. By then, Doug and I were on the wrong side of a ravine so we needed to call Lee back for directions as there didn’t seem to be a way across the ravine. When we got back to Avalyn Garden, Lee and Doug each had a Guinness and we visited until after 11 p.m. The interesting part about b&b owners and innkeepers is that they go the extra mile at all hours of the day and night for their customers.
There’s much more to this road trip story, but I’ll finish and post it another time. Thanks for reading.
When someone asks why we aren’t snowbirds and migrate to Arizona or California for the winter, Doug and I always reply, “We actually like winter.” Well, we had winter, have winter, and will continue to have winter as April approaches. With almost record snowfalls and no end in sight, we still like winter—perhaps just not so much of it!
The male gophers are out, running around on the snowbanks. Apparently, the male gophers come out of hibernation first to stake their territories. Doug and I saw several hawks yesterday on our drive to High River—unfortunately, we couldn’t enjoy the usual views of our beautiful foothills because of the fog, mist, light snow—pick your choice of late wintry conditions. Those hawks were scanning for gophers in their territories while the gophers were out trying to establish their territories. Conflicts in the non-human family as well as the human family are often about land!
Back at home, between 50-60 common redpolls frantically feed at and under the two bird feeders on our back deck. Usually they have left by now—returning to more northern climates in preparation for summer nesting. The chickadees, woodpeckers, and nuthatches take their turns at the feeders. They all scatter when the blue jays and magpies move in. I’ve even been letting those big birds linger longer than I usually do before chasing them away—they too have had a long, hard winter.
I know spreading seeds on the deck surface will draw rodents, but I do it anyway because not all the birds fit on the feeders. Besides, the rodents are already here—a brown squirrel, a black squirrel, and a black squirrel with a white stripe on its tail. They perform acrobatics in an attempt to get at the ‘squirrel-proof’ feeders if all the scattered seeds are gone. (Yes, I do know the difference between a black squirrel with a white stripe and a skunk—the latter may come up on the deck as well, I just don’t see it!) A weasel visits periodically, and a very large raccoon occasionally comes at night to tip the one feeder it can get to and drain it of all seed.
A young mule deer just walked along the sidewalk in front of the den windows, paused and looked in at me as if to ask what I was doing, or maybe how much longer winter would last. We’ve had three to four mule deer permanently move into our yard this winter while a large number of others are seen in the ravine. The deer watch us through the walk-out windows when we’re downstairs. Our grandchildren have enjoyed face-to-face encounters with the deer—only the glass in the windows separate. It’s almost as if the deer are asking to be invited into the house. I watched as the deer first ate any bits of surviving perennials, then munched on the mugo pines, trimmed the dogwoods, and so on. I don’t protest because the deer are hungry, but I know I will be saying some choice words as I scoop up the pebbles they leave behind before, or when, I kneel in those flowerbeds.
We haven’t seen the moose, but two of our neighbors report that the moose are on our back path and in our garden area. Last year we scooped up so much moose poop in the spring that when our daughter-in-law asked our granddaughter what she’d done at Grandpa’s and Grandma’s that day, she replied, “I found moose poop for Grandpa to shovel.” We also frequently reminded the grandchildren that although it might look like chocolate Easter eggs, those leavings definitely were not!
I saw several flocks of starlings yesterday, picking up what food they could along the edges of the roads where snowplows had created a narrow band of clearing. Our bird houses are waiting to be cleaned—usually we do them no later than mid-March in preparation for the return of the male mountain bluebirds “to check out the real estate,” as my father used to say. I read that it’s actually the female who makes the final choice. That explains why I see the flashy mountain bluebird males going from bird house to bird house and not moving in until the females arrive. “Make a choice before the tree swallows arrive,” I have often thought, but I know it doesn’t work that way. Out of the twelve birdhouses specifically designed for bluebirds on the fence posts on our acreage, usually one or two have mountain bluebird nests; the rest are tree swallows. Between the birds and the brown bats, we don’t have mosquitos in our yard!
You’ve probably figured out that the reason we haven’t cleaned the bird houses is that we can’t get to them. The snow is up to my knees—up to my hips in some places—and it’s snowing again as I write this Musing. I just hope the mountain bluebirds wait another week or so and that we have a slow, steady melt. The last thing southern Alberta needs is flooding.
The weather forecast is for more snow. The good part—and there’s always a good part when it comes to Canadians talking about the weather—is that it wasn’t minus 27 degrees Celsius here this morning like it was at Wakaw Lake, Saskatchewan, where our cabin will be still hunkered down for winter.
Happy Easter everyone even though it looks more like I should be saying Merry Christmas. I hope you don’t lose any chocolate Easter eggs in the snowbanks.
Our internet was down for a couple days so I really do have an excuse for this late posting. When you live in the country, choices for internet are limited. So, we keep putting up with outages in the hope that some provider will expand internet service to our side of the highway. (The residents on the other side have more options than we do.) In the meantime, I spend many hours talking with the Technical Support Team of our current internet provider. Although the customer service people are very pleasant and try to help, often the problem is beyond their control to fix.
Not only is our tower out of service, but, just before it went out of service, our emails started reloading again. Apparently what happened is that the messages were never really deleted from the server. So, in January, when we went into our email we had thousands of messages. First, we were told to manually delete them! The idea of manually deleting thousands of messages is ridiculous, but we started doing it to see what would happen. The problem was as soon as we deleted even a few, more were reloaded. Finally, after several calls and requests for help, a technician spent over an hour with me, and she was able to solve the problem.
Now, the same thing has happened again, and our ‘deleted’ email messages from months ago continue to re-load. It would be funny if it wasn’t so bloody annoying. I spent 45 minutes on the phone with Tech Support—no solution because first we have to regain connection to the tower before we can address the email issues.
After that venting, let’s move on to a happier topic. February was heart month, and I am blessed to have family and friends who are dear to my heart.
First heart story: Doug and I spent twelve days in Southern California where we enjoyed unseasonably warm weather—record of 32 Celsius/90 degrees Fahrenheit one day. Our granddaughter was with us for most of those days, and we helped celebrate her fifth birthday just a few days early. She knows the paths at the condo complex where we rent so well that she states, “Follow me Grandpa and Grandma, I’m the leader.” Hmmm…this is an issue as all three of us want to be leaders so no followers. However, she usually got to lead! She liked jumping the waves as they rolled in and playing in the sand. We spent a day at Legoland where we had to take turns on the roller coasters with her. She was very annoyed on a ride where the operators wouldn’t turn us upside down because she’s too short. She specifically wanted to go on the ride so she could be turned upside down. Maybe next year….
Second heart story: Most Fridays, our Calgary grandchildren spend the day with us. We enjoy watching them learn and grow. Last week we made ginger shape cookies. The challenge is to actually get the cookies on the baking sheet because they both love dough. It was warm enough in the afternoon that we played outside. The only problem was that the snow was so deep, it’s impossible to get to the playground. Then we tried tobogganing but the snow was too sticky. Thanks to Doug’s diligent shovelling and cleaning of the driveway, they were able to ride the tricycles.
I am very blessed to have caring family and friends. I appreciate that I’m able to do all the activities I enjoy, and even some domestic jobs that just have to be done. I’m also thankful for all of you who read my Musings. I will try to forget about annoying issues such as lack of internet service and appreciate all the good people and events in my life.
As I post this note now that the internet is working again, the snow continues to fall. If March is here, can spring be far behind?
An inquiry on my website contact page a couple weeks ago prompted this Musing. A woman who had attended one of my presentations asked me to call her to discuss the common question, “What can I do with all the family history information and treasures I’ve collected?” She had saved the files on an USB stick but wanted a hard copy of all the original material. What form should that hard copy take?
These are some of the ideas the two of us shared:
I had this entire musing written in my head while I was awake in the night. However, this morning, most of it has disappeared so I’ll try to reconstruct what I wanted to say.
Canada celebrated its 150th birthday July 1, 2017. I am fortunate to have been able to celebrate both Canada’s 100th and 150th birthdays. In 1967, some staff at the high school I attended in Stettler, Alberta, made arrangements for a trip to Expo 67 in Montreal. I very much wanted to go, had some of the money saved, but my parents wouldn’t allow it. I never did know the exact reasons why as they had no difficulty letting me go to Ottawa on two trips: one sponsored by the Alberta Motor Association in May 1965 when I was only thirteen, and the Rotary-Sponsored Trip in May 1968. I still resent the fact that I didn’t get to experience Montreal in 1967. I vowed that when I could make my own decisions I would travel as much as possible.
I’ve really been a traveller since I was a young girl. When I was in elementary school, my trips were mainly to the homes of girl-friends for what is now called a sleep-over. I was particularly appreciative of the indoor toilets, and I can still close my eyes and see the fuzzy pink toilet cover at one home. Our toilet was outside until I was twelve, and there certainly wasn’t a fuzzy pink cover on either of those two outhouse holes!
I also learned that even in our relatively homogenous community other people ate different foods. And, several mothers—because it was the moms that packed lunches in those days—actually sent homemade goodies and store-bought gooey chocolate and marshmallow concoctions in lunches. My mom didn’t bake which has served me well in adulthood as I don’t crave sweets, but, as a child, I envied those treats.
Even with such limited travels, the experiences of visiting the homes of others taught me that I enjoyed seeing how other people lived—their homes, foods, and traditions. I’ve been travelling as often as I can since and wherever I go, my favorite part is learning about the history, cultures, wildlife, entertainment, and food in other countries. I’m always proud to be a Canadian and glad to return home—even to the minus 30 Celsius weather outside today!
The main thing that travelling has taught me is that diversity is a positive thing. There is no one right way to live. How we live depends on so many factors—traditions, beliefs, values, and, of course, the physical surroundings including the weather. But, underneath all those differences is the core of being human.
In 2018, I wish everyone good health and happiness, but, mainly, I hope for peace.
My best wishes to everyone for a Merry Christmas and for health and happiness in 2018. Thanks for all your support of my books and for reading the Musings on my website.
Hello everyone. I’m presently on a cruise in Australia and New Zealand. Doug is at home looking after things. If you would like a copy of the travel logs that I’m doing, please leave me a note on the contact page on this website. Thanks.
Well, as it turns out, a great deal! A few months ago, I ordered the DNA test from Ancestry—and, no, I’m not on commission with them but this is an endorsement.
I spit into a small tube as per the directions and mailed it off in the enclosed box to an address in Ireland. Not long after, I received notification by email that the tube had been received, was being processed, and I would soon find out about my ancestral roots up to a thousand years ago.
The results were surprising in that such a large percentage showed ancestry from Great Britain and such a small proportion linked me to Germany: 67% Great Britain (England, Scotland, and Wales) and 14% Ireland (Ireland, Wales, and Scotland) for a total of 81%. Those percentages would be primarily from the Legge/Collings, Greenfield/Racher, and Beatty/North branches of the family.
Legge or Legg/Collings or Collins – Ancestors of my Grandpa Herman Collins
There has been a fair amount of research done through Ancestry on the Legge—sometimes spelled Legg—side of the family. My great-grandmother, Matilda Legge, was the eldest daughter of Moses Legge and Mary Ann Croft—both originally from England. I hope to expand on the information that I put in my first book about my great-grandmother’s family.
My grandfather’s surname was not originally Collins as we believed and as I noted in my first book. My great-great-grandfather’s last name was Collings. My sister and I located one of my mother’s cousins from Ontario, and he sent me a copy of Henry Collings’ obituary (1812 or 1813-January 23, 1894). Henry was born in England and came to Lanark County, Canada, at the age of six with his parents. (Lanark County is southwest of Ottawa.)
My great-great-grandmother was Catherine Brooks, born in Lanark County on August 3, 1824. Henry and Catherine were married January 28, 1845, and moved to Barrie and Collingwood and then to Lot 27, Concession 2, Arran Township. She died August 18, 1901. Henry and Catherine are buried in the cemetery in Tara, Ontario.
The eldest of their ten children was Edward, my great-grandfather, whom I suspect was the person who dropped the g in Collings so that the surname became Collins. So, I’m not as Irish as I thought I was, but certainly more British than I had predicted.
Greenfield/Racher – Ancestors of my Grandma Eva Racher/Rachar Collins
Most of my grandma's side of the family—the Greenfield/Racher branches—were British as well. Unfortunately, I haven’t obtained much information on the Greenfield side, but I’ll work on that branch at some point. My great-grandmother Ida Greenfield Racher/Rachar was the daughter of George Greenfield and Martha Parsons Greenfield. Both surnames Greenfield and Parsons reflect British ancestry.
Now that I have the family history information from the Racher side of the family, my plan is to further develop that family tree in my records. The information in my first book is limited because I didn’t know that the Racher/Rachar name had been changed by Nightingale Racher (born July 1, 1739, in Buckland, Hertfordshire, England; died March 25, 1803, in Cambridgeshire, England). His father’s first name was also Nightingale, but the last name was Redshaw. Further back, the name is recorded as Reshere. Even further back, the name is again recorded as Redshaw, so the surname Redshere may have been an incorrect spelling in the records. Whatever the exact surname and spelling, there is no doubt that the Racher/Rachar family has British roots.
Family history research would be so much easier if only ancestors—or the people recording their names—hadn’t changed the surnames and the spellings!
Beatty/North – Ancestors of my Granny Beula North Lohr
My granny’s ancestors—the Beatty and North branches of the family—are from Great Britain as well. My great-grandmother, Gertrude Beatty North, was a daughter of William Charles Beatty and Sarah Isabelle McCreight. The Beatty family was Scots-Irish, originally from Donegal County, Republic of Ireland. Ancestors of Sarah McCreight, my great-great-grandmother, have been traced to Glasglow, Scotland, and County Atrium, Northern Ireland.
There was a lot of movement between areas centuries ago—for example, John North was born about 1624 in England and went to Ireland in 1649. His grandson, Caleb North, is my direct ancestor, and Caleb sailed from Cork, Ireland, to Philadelphia in July 1729. He bought 69 acres of land in Gilberts Manor, Pennsylvania, in 1734. (William Penn had claimed land for himself in Pennsylvania which was later sold in auctions—part of that was Gilberts Manor.)
My Beatty and North ancestors were very early arrivals to the Northeastern United States. The spit test shows a significant number of my ancestors in Pennsylvania, New York, and Michigan from 1700-1800. Family history records concur with the results of the spit test.
Then, in the 1800s, their progress west is noted to South Dakota, California, and, in the case of my great-grandparents (John and Gertrude North) in 1903 to what would become Alberta, Canada. That information corresponds with the oral and written histories that have been passed down on my granny’s side of the family.
Hein/Lohr – Ancestors of my Grandpa Lester Lohr
My grandfather’s ancestors—the Hein and, particularly, the Lohr sides—were also early immigrants into the United States. They too liked to roam and moved repeatedly, mainly seeking better opportunities and land. The Paul Hein and Mary Dankoff Hein family emigrated from Lorraine—then a part of Prussia and now a province in France—in 1862. The records suggest they immediately struck out for, first, Wisconsin, and then made a permanent move to Alton, Iowa.
The Lohr side of the family arrived in the United States even earlier; in fact, so early that no one that I know of has been able to identify their exact arrival date and point. Seven or eight generations back from me, we think that Valentine Lohr came to Pennsylvania from Germany in the early to mid-1700s.
We do know that my great-great-great grandparents, Solomon and Mary Lohr, lived in Centre County, Pennsylvania. Based on my recent research at the historical building in Bellefonte, Pennsylvania—the seat of Centre County—they were on the tax assessment records in 1827 and 1828. We’re still working on that branch to try to find out where Solomon Lohr—probably accompanied by his brother or cousin named William Lohr—came from when they moved to Centre County. Some family research suggests they lived in South Carolina.
The Remaining 19% -- Some Ideas
If my ancestry is 81% from Great Britain, then what were the results for the remaining 19%?
The 8% Europe West (Germany, France, Belgium, Switzerland etc.) identified by the spit test would be the Hein/Lohr ancestors I assume. I expected this percentage to be much higher given the fact that my paternal grandfather was German/Prussian. Here’s an interesting oral family story that may explain why the percentage is not higher.
My great-grandmother, Kathryn Hein Lohr, maintained she was descended from Prussian Royalty, probably illegitimately if the research is correct. She stated that Frederick William III (1770-1840) of Prussia was her great-grandfather and that Prince Albert (1809-1872) was her grandfather on the Hein side.
So, if my great-grandmother was correct, there may have been some blending of European royalty in her father’s background given that royalty in different European countries tended to intermarry. That may account for the percentages being somewhat different than expected. When I find time, I’ll investigate this possible link more.
My spit test also showed 6% Scandinavia (Sweden, Norway, and Denmark). Now I know why a woman in Denmark insisted that I looked like a Dane and kept telling me that I should understand the Danish language. I don’t have any answers or theories on this percentage except to say that perhaps marauding Vikings were responsible?
The remaining percentages from my spit test included 2% European Jewish (perhaps on the Hein side?), 1% Italy/Greece (perhaps Romans who migrated north?), and 1% Europe East (Poland, Russia etc.). The final 1% was classified as perhaps West Asia.
So, is Ancestry’s DNA spit test accurate? Based on the family history that others have done and that I’ve tried to add to, I’d say a resounding “Yes!” Of the 313 fourth cousins and closer of mine that also had the spit test done through Ancestry, I know about ten of them. Those ten are close relatives—second, third, and fourth cousins mostly—since I don’t have any first cousins. (My parents were only children.) Almost daily, more cousins are identified on the Ancestry Site as additional people take the spit test. Now, my project—probably lifelong—is contacting those 313 cousins to try to figure out our relationships!
I know there is more detail in this Musing than most people want to read, but if I can get the facts out there for other family research fanatics to locate, then my chances of gaining information about my ancestors increase.
If anyone reading this is interested in finding out about their ancestors, the DNA test through Ancestry is efficient and probably reflects the largest data base available. You too can meet hundreds of your cousins online.
Hello everyone. I will be posting an entry at the end of each month. Please feel free to respond.