Saturday, May 18, 2019

New document = a bit of new information

This will be a short one as it's an addition/edit to one of my last blogs.  I bit the bullet and ordered the death certificates for the 5 great-grandparents that I was lacking them for.  It's silly that I haven't had them this long since they all died here in Kent County and I work 3 minutes from the Clerk's office but I have them now.  When I'm blogging about these ancestors I'm really analyzing the stuff I do have and trying to figure out what I could be missing.

So I blogged about my great-grandpa Nicholas Korstange on the 12th.  Some of what I wrote about his death was from my dad's recollection.  I wrote he was in the hospital a few days after his accident but the death certificate says it was 2 weeks.  It tells me he died of respitory (sic) failure and that 6 days prior to his death he had a "pulmonary embolus".  

Something that has always struck me as odd with Nicholas got even more odd upon reading this.  His funeral card lists that he was buried at Chapel Hill Memorial Gardens.  Since his obituary didn't list a place of burial I went there and scoured their records but of course, didn't find him there.  My grandpa ended up telling me he was at the church memorial garden.  The death certificate would have led me to believe he was at Rosedale Memorial Park.  I simply don't understand the confusion surrounding his final disposition but to find an official document that's incorrect and a funeral card that's incorrect (but in a different way) is something I've not run into before.

I hate how the county clerk puts it onto a "new" format death certificate instead of just printing a copy of the original but it's what I could get.  I was there once before for my wife's family and I took a photo of one on the microfilm with my cellphone and got my patty slapped.  It's clear they just want to make their money so it's their rules or nothing.  

Monday, May 13, 2019

DNA tests solving more mysteries?

I had no intention of blogging tonight but I have to document a follow-up to (2) ancestor blogs due to a new (beta) feature at  Ancestry has released ThruLines, which (in my layman's terms) appears to take your DNA matches and your online tree and match them together in a much easier way to interpret.  You click your ancestor and it shows you DNA matches and how they match your tree.  More on that a little further in the blog.

In the past, people that you matched DNA with in low amounts were very hard to find a connection.  Now they take those connections and shared ancestors and lay them out for you AND if there's a DNA match and you're missing an ancestor, they give you a "potential" to click on and compare.  Obviously this is only as good as the information in the DNA match's tree (and I've found a couple that are blatantly wrong).

Where I'm intrigued is a couple of brick walls on my paternal grandma's side.  I blogged at length about her great-grandfather Clarence Perkins and how his parentage absolutely mystified me.  I then wrote a follow-up blog that in my mind proves who his mother is but adds even more questions about his father.  And then ThruLines came along..........

I added Clarence's "potential" father into my tree as though he is the father, and his "potential" siblings and their descendants as well.  My grandma matches DNA with NINE, count them NINE descendants of William Lathrop!  If she only matched one or two, I'd be skeptical but nine?  I find it ridiculously difficult to believe that she's not descended from William at this point.

Another DNA ThruLines discovery that solves a potential mystery for me - my grandma's paternal grandmother was born out of wedlock.  When I blogged about her, I mentioned that when her mother married Bernardus Kock (Cook) she was "legitimized".  I then did a ThruLines for Bernardus and lo and behold, my grandma matches DNA with descendants of Bernardus' brother.  If Bernardus wasn't the father of Margaret, how is my grandma matching DNA with those descendants?

I still don't understand most of the science behind DNA testing but I do know that it is going to be a genealogy game-changer (if it isn't already) and it's proving it's worth quite regularly now.  I can't wait to see what else I stumble on as the testing/technology get better and more people test.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Nicholas Korstange's California adventure

I'm trying to keep all of the information about each ancestor in one blog but I figured posting the 15 pages of this journal in the last blog would have made it too long (it was already longer than I anticipated).

My grandpa's half-brother shared this journal with me and although it's nothing too exciting, it is his observations of his almost 9 month adventure that he took when he was 22/23 years old.

I find this journal interesting but I did find something potentially of genealogical interest.  On the last pages Nicholas has an "address book" of sorts.  On the last page he's listed a Florence Herrick with an address of 1752 Wood St in Muskegon Michigan.  The house at 1751 Wood St in Muskegon Michigan was built by Emil Burke, father of Anna Burke that Nicholas married.  He was carrying the name of the girl that lived across the street from his future wife, 3 years before their marriage.  I'm not sure what his connection to Muskegon is but that's undoubtedly how he met Anna.

Nicholas Korstange - I wish I knew more

When writing about my grandma's family I started with her parents and worked my way back.  I couldn't do that for my grandpa's family because I know very little about either of his parents.  Most of what I know about Nicholas comes from the "paper trail" I've found while researching, inserting little things my grandpa told me along the way.

When I was born I had 5 living great-grandparents.  My paternal grandma's dad and mom lived until I was 18 and 25 respectively, so I knew them quite well.  Both of my mom's grandmothers were alive, her mom's mom died when I was 5 and her dad's mom died when I was 9.  I remember her dad's mom (vaguely) and although I don't remember her mom's mom, there are several photos of us together.  I have photos with 4 of the 5 that were living when I was born........guess what one I don't have?  Yep, my grandpa Korstange's dad, who died when I was 5.  My dad remembers little of his grandpa and my grandpa said very little about his dad (and even less about his mom).  I'm not writing this to say that Nicholas was a bad guy because he wasn't.  Circumstances created a situation where there wasn't much contact and it saddens me how little I know about someone that could have been a huge person in my life.  I've asked my grandpa's half-brother to write his recollections and hope that someday he can do that for me and my children.  I want to know about him and I want my kids to know about him too.

So what do I know?  My grandpa told me that Nicholas was born at Lucas, Missaukee Co MI 19 Oct 1903.  He was the 4th of 5 children born to Jan Korstanje and Jeltje van der Ploeg.  In spite of Michigan birth records being available at after 110 years, I haven't been able to find his birth record to prove it.  I'm not in a hurry to drive to Missaukee County to look for a record that may or may not exist, especially given that it will probably be available online eventually.  He lists his birth as Cadillac (Wexford County) on his 1st marriage and as Wexford County on his 2nd.  Lucas isn't far from Wexford County so it's plausible.  I am confident he wasn't born in Kent County.

 I have a fair share of photos of Nicholas as a young man from the albums that his brother James had.  This picture was in my grandpa's possession and I'm glad I scanned it because I'm not sure where the original is.  This is from his 8th grade graduation - I don't know what school.  Nicholas is 2nd from the left in the 2nd row from the top.  The family picture on his dad Jan's blog shows Nicholas as a baby - this is the next photo of him chronologically by age.


He looks like a pretty typical teenager of that era to me.  In this 2nd photo he's in a plane that has a sign that says "JOIN THE NAVY", which is interesting because I find no record that he ever registered for WWI or WWII.  He'd have been too young for WWI but I would have expected one for WWII.

From 26 Aug 1923 thru 3 May 1924 Nicholas hopped a train and traveled to California, keeping a journal during the trip.  I'll blog that journal next in the interest of space for this blog.

Nick and Anna marriage - bottom entry

On 19 Dec 1925 at Grand Rapids Nicholas married Anna Burke.  I know nothing about how they met or where they married and there are no photos of their wedding.  To be honest, there's only one photo of Nicholas and Anna together, that appears to have been taken the summer/fall prior to their wedding.  There are no photos of them together with their son, my grandpa, who was born 25 Oct 1926 at Grand Rapids.

The city directories available at have Nick and Anna at 621 Fairview Ave NE in 1927 and 2687 Alpine Ave NW for 1928 and 1929.  My grandpa never mentioned either of these addresses (which makes sense given he'd have been 3 in 1929).  It would appear that both of these houses are no longer in existence.  These contradict the address my grandpa thought he was born at.

In the 3 Apr 1930 census of Plainfield Township, Kent Co MI, Nick, Anna and Morris are enumerated in house #75 (the census taker failed here and didn't write the street name down for the entire 1-76 that I looked at).  My guess is that they were living at 709 Rudy St NE, as that's where my grandpa said he was born and there are a couple of photos of him as a child with this written on them.  Nicholas is listed as a shipping clerk in a furniture factory, which I believe was Williams-Kimp Furniture Company, which my grandpa mentioned and who sent flowers to Jan Korstanje's funeral in '45.

Writing about the lack of pictures of Nicholas and Anna together and realizing that the photo above is the only photo of my grandpa with his dad as a child and that there are NO photos of my grandpa with his mom (at any age) just saddens me.  I know Nicholas and Anna did not have a happy marriage but they were married for 11 years so it's shocking to consider that nothing survived.  I get that both of them probably threw photos away (if they existed) but one would think that Anna would have kept photos of her and her son.  It was less shocking after I read their divorce papers, from their divorce 9 Aug 1937, which paints Anna in a not so flattering light.  My grandpa said very little about his mom, and I will blog about her soon, but even knowing he had virtually no relationship didn't prepare me for what I read about her philandering ways.  That may be a strong term given no actual proof of physical infidelity but given what's written here, that's my guess.  When I talked about circumstances and Nicholas, this man put up with 8 years of his wife drinking and running around with other men and ended up divorced with full custody of a 10 year old boy during the Great Depression.

For the record, I debated whether to post the divorce papers or not.  I decided that since nobody involved in the divorce is still living and nobody in my direct family has any memory of Anna that I would do so.  I've stated before that genealogy isn't just about the good and that sugar-coating stuff doesn't do anything any justice.  I will always respect privacy but in this case I don't believe there's a privacy case to make.

Nicholas found love again, marrying Lois Violet Rubringer, who was 12 years his junior on 3 Sep 1938 at Grand Rapids.  His brother James signed for him and her sister Dorothy for her.  I knew Lois and she was always sweet to me.  She had to have been a good woman, taking on an 11 year old stepson as her own.  She and Nick had 2 children together as well, giving my grandpa 2 half-siblings.  Given his age when his 2nd and 3rd children were born and his physical job combined with my grandpa being out of the house in WWII and coming home and marrying and starting a family it created a situation where there was a bit of a separation.  I only say this as an "outsider looking in" but I do feel that my grandpa's relationship with his dad wasn't what he would have wanted it to be.  Again......circumstances.
One great thing that came out of this is that my grandma was babysitting my grandpa's half-sister when he came back from the war, and that's when they met.

In 1940 Nick, Lois and Jerry are living at 451 Webster St NW, Nick still working as a shipping clerk in a furniture factory (again, I believe Williams-Kimp).

In 1942 Nick was a member of the Grand Rapids Police Auxillary Police Force.  In the missing steamer trunk that I've referenced several times this paperwork and certificate were there with the baton Nick carried.  It's not a flattering picture of me but it's a good photo of the baton. On the 1st page it references a picture ID but I don't recall seeing that in the trunk.  He lists his address as 451 Webster St NW, which jives with the city directories from 1940 and 1941.  The city directories from 1948-1954 list his address as 1534 Cole Ave NE and that jives with my grandpa's separation from the Navy 21 May 1946 in which he lists the Cole address.

Nick and Lois abt 1942

Jerry and Devonne, Lois and Nick 1955

Nick and Jerry w/Lois' brother Charles Rubringer

Nick and Lois late 50s?

Nick, grandson and Jerry 1967

Nick 1968

Nick w/great-granddaughter Amy abt 1971

Nick and Lois 1980

I don't know where Nick ended up retiring from or when and I don't know anything about what he did in retirement.  He passed away a few days after a car accident that he and Lois got into while on their way to their cottage on Hess Lake.  He was driving their Chevette and ran a stop sign and was t-boned.  He ended up at Saint Mary's Hospital for a few days.  My grandpa said he was bruised from head to foot.  My dad remembers being told that he was going to be coming home and then he passed away before he could be released, on 23 Oct 1981 at the age of 78.  My dad remembers that when my grandma visited him he said "you have to suffer before you die".  Perhaps he knew that he wasn't going to survive his injuries.   At the time of his death he and Lois were living at 2022 Melita Ave NE.  He was cremated and his ashes scattered in the memorial garden at his church, St. Andrew's Episcopal.  Lois survived him for 29 years, passing away at the age of 94 in 2010 and her ashes are also at the church.

I know I started this blog by stating I wish I knew more and then I wrote a lot.  I guess what I mean is that this ancestor is someone that hasn't been passed away that long ago.  I've written (and have more to write) blogs about people that there is nobody that I know alive that personally knew the subject of the writing.  In this case there are quite a few people that knew him and yet I had to put his life story together based on documents and a couple of snippets, as though he died in the 1920s or something.  As my direct Korstange ancestor I just wish I had more details about who he really was, not just what the paper trail says.  I hope that makes sense.  :)