Creating ancestor profiles using mixed methods
Using everything in your bag of tricks
The premise of this blog is to use the documents and heirlooms in your possession to create a profile and write a story about your ancestor. It’s about using items and artifacts you already have for one, to identify heirlooms, and two, to teach your children their past in story fashion. When I came across a couple of rare artifacts for one ancestor, and realizing it’s all I have on her, I wanted to supplement using available resources to flesh out her story. This post is about using a mix of documents and methods, to create a profile.
My great grandfather Elmer Hunt Butterfield was one of 10 children. Elmer was born ninth and Carl, younger by seven years, was the baby. I recall grandma mentioning “Aunt Edna,” but until I searched, I thought she was a Butterfield sibling. Turns out, she became a Butterfield through marriage; Edna May Hendrick was Carl’s wife.
I have some unique items. I combined them with various methods to create a profile for Edna’s story.
This is the only photo I’ve seen of Edna. I found none on the Internet.
NOTES ON A PHOTO.
Someone, grandma I presume, wrote a few notes on the back, for which, I’m grateful. The clues are fabulous.
- Found in grandma’s pile of photos, and that it says “Aunt” Edna, I assume Lalla (grandma) wrote on the back. Where you found the photo can provide clues.
- I recognize grandma’s handwriting in three places: in pencil where she writes the date received (5 Oct., 1956), and in both the lower left and lower right corners
- I’m not sure “Aunt Edna Butterfield,” and “Carl (youngest Butterfield)” were in grandma’s hand; no matter, it identifies Edna, and possibly suggests an association to Carl. Keep in mind that who wrote on the back may provide clues about the photo, not just what was written
- Grandma’s calculation (or memory) has Edna born in 1879 although other records point to 1877. Grandma tells us Edna’s birthday of July 30th
- The address (106 Kreb Street, Charlotte, Michigan) is written as Mabel’s back yard
- Grandma writes that Rod (my father) visited this home
Combined with memory and other written documents, we can begin to form a sense about Edna.
The marriage record tells us Edna married Carl on 6 April, 1898, in Eaton county, Michigan (the second entry in this record). Edna was a teacher. I hadn’t seen this information anywhere else.
Someone saved Edna’s funeral pamphlet and I happened to find it in the pile. I doubt grandma and grandpa traveled from Tacoma to Charlotte for Edna’s funeral; I presume these were mailed to grandma after the service.
Likewise, this was in the pile. I am grateful, as it provides details we would not otherwise have, anywhere. I did not find either the funeral pamphlet or obit on-line.
Have you tried to find a photo or document with a simple search in Google Images? This can be a fantastic, quick resource. In this case, I did not find anything of value I didn’t already have. Above is the page showing the Internet’s collection of Edna Butterfields. Any number of these photos can bring up Find a Grave images of people and families you may be able to connect to yours.
Using Google Books, I found a biography of the Hendrick family in Barry and Eaton Counties. I believe these are Edna’s ancestors.
Chapman Bros., Portrait and biographical album of Barry and Eaton Counties, Mich., Chicago, 1891.
Perhaps my favorite tool of all, I love having an address and using Google Earth to search for an ancestor’s homestead. If possible, I want to see their stomping grounds. I used the address grandma wrote on the photo and found a house old enough to have been standing in 1956.
A quick zoom-in reveals the house number to be 106 (Kreb Street, Charlotte, MI). While I could not retrieve an image of the back, I am guessing this is the home where Edna stood in the photo above, Mabel’s home. I’ll get back to the house.
Beginning to connect the dots
Back at Ancestry I found the likeliest Mabel, Edna’s niece.
Remembering that Carl was one of ten Butterfield children, the above shows a partial list of the siblings. The top three red arrows, from left to right, show siblings Lynna and Elmer (my great grandpa), and Edna (Carl’s wife). The bottom left, red arrow points to Mabel Todd, Lynna’s daughter. Another peek at my tree shows the following for Mabel, who lived in Charlotte, MI.
Mabel Dena Todd
Birth 17 MAY 1891 • Eaton, Michigan
Death 16 JANUARY 1986 • Charlotte, Eaton, Michigan, USA
MEMORIES AND STORIES.
Dad was an only child, but as a youngster, he visited the large, extended family in Michigan with his parents. I’m guessing this is the place grandma referenced with “Rod was here” on the back of the photo.
In the early 90s, my mother found an address for a Michigan family when looking through old letters. The address was for one of Mabel’s two daughters, GraceLynna “Sally” or RuthHollis “Peggy;” I don’t recall which. Hoping the sister still lived there, mom wrote a letter and to her complete surprise, received a reply. Both sisters were living and overjoyed to hear from Merle (dad), whom they remember visited as a young boy. When great grandma Orah and her daughters were living, they maintained regular correspondence with their Michigan relatives.
What followed were several years of correspondence between the sisters and my parents, a complete joy to my father, all of whose family members, by this time, had passed. We have most of those letters, included in dad’s memoir.
The photo above left is Elmer’s older sister Lynna Butterfield with her husband George Todd in 1937, and at right, their daughter and only child, Mabel.
I cannot stress enough the importance of studying photos, over and over if you must. It has proven to be extremely valuable to my ancestor profiling. Looking at a collection of photos from a 1956 family gathering, take a look and tell me what you see (stay with me; I’m getting back to Edna):
In the photo at right, Mabel (Lynna’s daughter) stands centered between her daughters and their husbands: Clyde and Sally Cooper at left, and Peggy and Ralph Jane at right.
I’m looking at four, specific things: the date (far right; June 1956), the identity of Sally (second from the left; note her unique dress), the siding on the houses with its wavy appearance, and the windows, door, and steps (they appear to be the same).
How about when we add in these two:
The June 1956 date appears again, and Sally is wearing the same dress in each of these photos. Unless they partied at two locations, I’m guessing they gathered in one spot, Mabel’s house. A close look and you can see the wavy-patterned siding on the top front and along the side in the view below.
I feel fairly certain Edna is standing behind this house in 1956, not at the party–I cannot find her in the group shots–but perhaps on another day in 1956.
Putting it together to create the profile
Information collected from: a photo, its notes, Ancestry, a funeral pamphlet, an obit, Google Images, Google Books, Google Earth, memories and stories, and photo matching
I searched and found Edna and Carl’s three children (Otto “Dale,” Sterling Leslie “Squig,” and Hollis D. Butterfield). For Edna, I found birth, marriage, census, city directories, death, social security records, and a gravestone photo.
I understand how lucky we are to have the funeral pamphlet, obit, and photo since they don’t appear elsewhere. Without them, however, using what I did find, I am still able to create a story about Edna and her life.
I am now ready to begin a profile for Edna. It can be a list of facts, a few short paragraphs, or even a timeline. In this case, there is ample information; for many ancestors, there is not.
Regardless, we have now collected the means to create a nice story for our children.
Happy profiling! ❤