I like this theme from geneabloggers and I think I’ll keep it as a regular. I know with my research I will run into many blocks so this can become my way of putting it down, organizing my thoughts, and possibly getting help from others.
One of my goals in researching my family tree is to find out where the WITHERELL’s come from, the rumor being that they are from Scotland. I did find a Scottish name in my 3rd great-grandmother who is Lillian McLEOD. However, she is a mystery and was my first (and still remaining) brick wall. Here’s her story:
According to her obituary (1), Lillie (Lily, Lillian), was born in Bruce County, Ontario. She moved to Saginaw, Michigan as a child with her parents. She died young, at 34 and had been sick for a few years before she passed. With that, I do take this information as first hand or at least a good place to begin more digging. So I go with recent information and work backwards: her death record.
I made a trip to Saginaw County’s courthouse in Saginaw, Michigan to search for her death record. Her death record is in a register book (no actual record is there anymore) and is listed as follows: death on 8 June 1895; name Witheral, Lily; Married; 32; death from Paralysis of bowels; from Canada, parents unknown. Her husband is who I assume would tell the information but nothing is given so the information is from an unknown source. (2)
Here I was a bit saddened (unknown parents!) and confused. She died young, at age 32 according to the book but 34 according to her obituary’s birth date. How did Gard not know her parents? I can assume they must have been dead before they married and they never spoke about them. Either that, or he was so bereft after her death, that he was not the informant and the person who was had to guess. I do wish I could see the original record!
With that in mind, I had hoped to find some information on Lily in the census records and possibly with her parents as she supposedly came with them to Saginaw as a young girl. 1890 doesn’t exist and she would have been with Gard anyway, so I go to the 1880 census. With help from the Hoyt Library in Saginaw, Michigan, she was found living as a servant with a family by the name of Munson. They are Louis L. Munson and Amelia Munson with two children and a few other servants. Lily here does state that her parents were both born in Scotland (3) – that was a nice hit for me! Part of my Scottish family tradition could be from that, not the actual WITHERELL line. Now, Lily is 18 here so I think I can assume a few things: 1) either her parents weren’t well-off enough to support Lily at home until she married or 2) her parents had already passed away. The Munson’s are from New York originally so I’m not positive on the connection or if Lily just happened to find a job there. I can’t find Lily in any other census.
I tried city directories next. (4) I wanted to know when Lily began working for the Munson’s and for how long. So I checked the city directory for 1881 (she is still with the Munson’s) and the later 1870′s. She isn’t listed with the Munson’s. In fact, I can’t find Lilly in any of the earlier city directories – under either McLEOD or McCLOUD or other variations I could think of.
Going back for vital records, I checked marriage records. The County Court House had her marriage listed in a bound volume, so again not the original.(5) When I asked about the original they stated that this was all they had now for the earlier records. I found them listed, August 18, 1881. His name is Gerard (his name doesn’t get any simpler as I go further into his records), and she is Lilly M. McLeod. They were married by EHE Jameson, a Baptist minister and the witnesses were Lewis and Amelia Munson. I assume that they must have been close to Lilly to witness this wedding and acting as her next of kin in a way. Sadly there isn’t an area listed for parents in 1881. Since this wasn’t the original record, I went to the church but the church is no longer in operation in Saginaw. I contacted another Baptist church to see if maybe their files had been moved but I’ve had no luck on them finding older records. My next move on this would be to see if I can find the minister’s personal records or even see if the Baptist archives would have records. HOWEVER, there is a snag. While searching for other information, I came across another familysearch.org record. This is from the Michigan, Marriages, from 1868-1925 records (6). This was sent to the Secretary of State for all Michigan marriages. This record is identical to the County’s except for who officiated the marriage. This one states a Conrad Fey, Justice of the Peace, was their officiate. I’m not positive on why this would be.
Now, that is all I can find on any records of Lily McLEOD. I can’t find her parents anywhere where I can prove that she is related to them. McLEOD is a popular name and there are many from Saginaw that came from Canada who were born in Scotland but I cannot connect Lilly to them. I also cannot find birth records in Canada. She was born in 1861, right after the census, and right before they started keeping birth records (in 1865).
On a whim, thinking I may be at an end, I decide to go to her cemetery records. According to her obituary, she was buried in Oakwood Cemetery. I see that Gard was also buried there. Saginaw has their cemetery records online so I can do a quick search for where their plots are. (7) There are four WITHERELL’s listed for Oakwood. Two of whom I recognize from a different branch and two I didn’t know. They are Charles Witherell – buried Sep 4 1915 and Gardener Witherell buried Jun 10 1895.
Here, I can only make guesses. I believe Lily is buried under Gardener. As I’ve seen, her husband’s name gets butchered many a times from Gard to Gerard and even Gardener. This Gardnerer was 34 (same age as Lily) and died of stricture of intestine (same as Lily). Although it’s listed as a male, because of the similarities in death and the first name the same as her husband’s, I think this is Lily. Here’s another clue – it’s an unmarked grave near the McLeod plot. There are many unmarked graves in this area and although the names I did find there I already knew weren’t her parents, I still found this to be a good find, nonetheless. I would like to take this clue and see what other McLeod’s are buried here to see if maybe her parents are here in an unmarked grave.
Now to Charles. I believe this is Gard Witherell. Gard and Lily had two boys: Gard and Ostrom. In later records, the older Gard goes by Chas (I can confirm this with census records where he is living with the younger Gard and is listed as the younger Gard’s father and his death certificate he is listed as Chas). Chas is short for Charles. So, Gard (Chas) Witherell died in 1915 in September, same as this unmarked grave that is next to Gardnerer’s. Both my Chas and this Charles died of heart disease as well and were the same age. I do believe I can safely assume that these two unmarked (and one very incorrect record) are my 3rd great-grandparents: Lily and Gard Witherell.
My tale ends there with so many unanswered questions:
Who are Lily’s parents?
When did they die?
Why is she without relatives in Saginaw?
Why is her grave unmarked and incorrect (and how could I change that if my proof would be sufficient)?
When did she move to Saginaw and where?
Lily McLEOD is my ongoing mystery and one I plan on continuing to pursue as I dive deeper and deeper into becoming a professional. In fact, the Home Study Course I’m taking talked about that in my current lesson. I’m in lesson 7 which discusses church records. I did not know that there was a Baptist archives so now I have a new place to begin searching for Lily’s marriage records. I feel that is my best course to finding her parents names besides looking into who else is buried in the McLEOD plot.
Footnotes (for practice – so please, if you see an error, let me know!)
1. Lillie Witherell obituary, Saginaw Evening News, Saginaw, Michigan, 10 June 1895, page 7, column 4.
2. Lily Witheral entry, Death Book D 1895-1898: 43, no. 921, County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw, Michigan.
3. 1880 U.S. Census, Saginaw County, Michigan, population schedule, Saginaw City Ward 4, SD 3, ED 317, sheet 107D, Lily McCloud; digital image, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 9 July 2013), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 0602.
4. R.L. Polk and Company’s Saginaw and East Saginaw Directory 1881-1882 (Saginaw: American Directory Publishers, 1882), 272
5. Lily McLeod and Gerard Witherell, Saginaw County Marriage Records Book B: 90, no. 1339, County Clerk’s Office, Saginaw, Michigan
6. Lilly M McLeod and Gerard Witteral, Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925, index and images, FamilySearch.org (http://familysearch.org : accessed 13 July 2013), mircofilm no, 4207676, frame 509, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
7. City of Saginaw Cemeteries Search, the Public Libraries of Saginaw, online <http://cemeteries.saginaw-mi.com>, accessed 10 July 2013.