Sunday, March 27, 2016

The Reubenites, part 2

William C. McNabb was the third son of Reuben and Mary (Ferguson) McNabb. Mary Ferguson, you will recall, was the great-granddaughter of James Callin, the granddaughter of John and Elizabeth (Simon) Callin of Ohio, and the daughter of James and Eliza (Callin) Ferguson.

In our last post, we talked about his two older brothers, George and James. William was born in Indiana on 21 November 1861. After the close of the War Between the States in 1865, he and his family moved to Michigan, and he grew up there.

He married Edna Hall (1872–1941) on 20 March 1889, and he worked as a machinist and a carpenter in Grand Rapids, Michigan. When William died, he was 56 years old, and had likely only seen two of his grandchildren born. His youngest daughter was only 10 at the time, and Edna was only 46.

Edna stayed in their house at 455 Delaware SE for a couple of years before relocating to 434 6th Street, where she ran a dry goods business. Her death record shows her name as Edna May Coats, so she must have re-married in the 1930s. (Her brother married a woman named Coats, so it's possible that Edna married someone from that family.) She died 21 July 1941 in Grand Rapids.

1. Leora McNabb (1889–1897) died at 8 years of age, causes unknown, and she was buried in the Fairplains Cemetery at Grand Rapids, where her parents and many others named in this post are also buried.

2. Charles McNabb (1891–1938) was born and raised in Grand Rapids, and was working as a cabinet maker when he married Chloa Wellman (1890–1933) on 16 September 1915. He worked his way up to being a stock clerk, and then moved his wife and infant son to Chicago for a few years, where the other two boys were born. By the end of the 1920s, they were back in Grand Rapids.

In 1933, Chloa died from unknown causes, and five years later, in 1938, Charles was hospitalized and quickly died from complications from cellulitis and septicemia. They were buried in Fairplains Cemetery.

     a. Warren Colburn McNabb (1917–2014) married Marion Elvira Renberg (1919–2008) in 1939 in Royal Oak, Michigan. Warren worked as a gear design engineer for 44 years and retired in 1979. During his career he published several technical books and manuals and also held several design and production patents. After his retirement they moved to Pentwater, Michigan, where they lived for 29 years. They moved to Florida and the Spring Haven Retirement Community in 2008, because of Marion's advanced Alzheimer's disease. She passed in 2008, they were married for 69 years.

Warren and Marion held a large McNabb family reunion in Lansing Michigan for 75 years. They had three daughters and a son, all of whom are still living. He died from congestive heart failure on 14 April 2014 at the Good Shepherd Hospice House, Auburndale, Florida.

     b. Charles Wayne McNabb (1919–1992) was known by his middle name, Wayne, and moved in with his aunt, Beatrice (McNabb) Blackall (she is #7, further down this post) after his father's death. He worked in an assembly plant in 1940.

Wayne enlisted in the U.S. Army 16 April 1941, and was inducted at Camp Haan in Riverside, California. He served throughout the war, and was discharged on 1 November 1945 at the rank of technical sergeant.

     c. Kenneth Earl McNabb (1920–2004) married Jeanne Ann Houman (1926–2015). Like his brother, Ken was a veteran of World War II and served four years in the Navy aboard the USS West Point. After the war Ken worked for Traveler's Insurance Company retiring after 32 years of service. He and Jean had two children, a son and daughter, both of whom are still living, and four grown grandchildren.

3. Ethel M Mcnabb (1894–1963) married Mark D Markham (1891–1918), and they had one son, Jack Markham (1918–1927), before Mark's untimely death in 1918. Ethel remarried, Edward Adolphus Mirandette (1887–1957) in 1922. Sadly, young Jack died five years later, but after that, Ethel and Edward had another son and daughter together.

   a. Elton Adolphus ("Al") Mirandette (1929–1997) married Rosemary M Breen (1929–2001). Al and Rose have three sons and two daughters still living, and as of 1997, 14 grandchildren.

   b. Marthajane "Marty" Mirandette (1937–2013) married and had three sons, two of whom are still living. According to her obituary, Martha held a Master Degree with the International Women's Organization, Beta Sigma Phi and was a long time member of the Faith Lutheran Church congregation.

     i. Bret James Stockreef (1958–2004) was the son of Marthajane (Mirandette) Stockreef; he died in Connecticut in 2004.

4. William Earl McNabb (1896–1956) married Marcia L Rushford (1891–1988) on 23 June 1917 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Marcia's father, Antoine (or Anthony) Rushford was born around 1820, and was a cousin of Napoleon Bonaparte. William served as a corporal in the U.S. Army in World War I.

They had three children, and their middle daughter is still living, as far as I can tell.

   a. William Earl Mcnabb Jr (1920–1969) married Barbara Ann Love (1921–1996) on 29 December 1945. They lived in Royal Oak, where William worked as a salesman until his death at the early age of 48. Barbara's last name at the time of her death was Barbara Ann Brunk, which would indicate that she probably remarried, but I have not been able to find any records besides her Social Security Administration application.

   c. Leila Joan McNabb (1932–1965) married John Thomas Carroll (1926–1998) on September 8, 1962, and she died just three years later.

5. Hazel I Mcnabb (1898–1987) married Charles Edward Peet (1898–1966) on 23 October 1918 in Frankfort, Michigan. The couple lived in the Grand Rapids area through the 1930s, and that is where seven of their eight children were born. By 1940 they had relocated to Battle Creek, where they had one more daughter. Their two youngest daughters are still living.

   a. Maxine Lorraine Peet (1920–2005) married Austin Alvin Collar (1918-1994) on 24 June 1941. Two years later, Austin entered the U.S. Army, and served from October 1943 through December 1945. They do not seem to have had any children, and they lived in Battle Creek for the rest of their lives.

   b. Jean Marie Peet (1922–1981) enlisted in the Women's Army Corps (WAC) in 1943 and served through her release in January 1946. Just a couple of months later, she married Kenneth Lee Stelma (1921-2009). Ken was also a veteran of World War II. They had three children, still living: two sons and a daughter. After Jean died in 1981, Ken remarried and moved to Florida; their children all moved to North Carolina.

   c. William J Peet (1923–2010) enlisted in the U.S. Army on 13 December 1941, less than a week after the attack on Pearl Harbor. He served until 10 November 1945. He married Doris Joyce Walton (1924-1998) of Paterson, New Jersey, probably in 1942 - as their eldest daughter was born not long after that.

The couple lived in Battle Creek, Michigan, and they raised four daughters and a son - all but one of whom are still living. They also left behind 12 grand children, and 23 great grandchildren.

     i. Nancy Carol Peet (1951–2008) was the fourth child of William and Doris. She was married and lived with her husband in Wayne county, Indiana.

   d. Charles M "Chuck" Peet (1928–2013) was only 13 when World War II broke out, and could not enlist when his older brother and sister did. But he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps on 23 January 1946, anyway, just a few months before his eighteenth birthday. He married Joyce Ann Gray (1931-1995) around 1949, probably just after his discharge from the Army, and he began a long career as a truck driver.

The couple raised two sons and a daughter; only their daughter is still living. But they also have six grandchildren and nine great grandchildren.

     i. Charles R. Peet (1950-2015) was born on July 11, 1950, in Jackson, Michigan. He was a lifelong resident of the area graduating from Harper Creek High School in 1968. Charles married in 1970, and he and his wife raised two sons and a daughter - all four of whom are still living. He worked as a carpenter and millwright for Carpenter’s Local 525, and he retired in 2009. When he died, he left behind six grandchildren, as well. He died Thursday, February 12, 2015, in Grand Rapids with his family by his side.

     ii. Dale E Peet was the other son of Chuck and Joyce; I know very little about him, other than the apparent fact that he died before his father and before his brother. He is mentioned only briefly in their obituaries. He also appears to have been named for his uncle, Chuck's younger brother.

   e. Dale Edward Peet (1930–1986) enlisted in the U.S. Navy on 22 July 1948 and served in the Korean War. After his discharge on 21 July 1952, he married Betty Jane Copenhaver (925-2003), and they lived in the Battle Creek area, where Dale worked as a machinist.

   f. Joyce I Peet (1931–1973) married Gerald Duane Lawhead (1922-1981) on 14 January 1950, and worked as a clerk-typist and a stenographer in the Battle Creek area throughout the 1950s. Duane worked his way up from a packer to a receiving clerk, and then in the late 1950s became an accountant. After Joyce died, he moved out to Clark county, Nevada, where he died a few years later.

The two youngest daughters of William Earl and Marcia (Rushford) McNabb are still with us, but the family lost one of their sons just a month ago.

  Louis Charles Monaweck (1954-2016) was one of four brothers, and leaves behind a wife and two sons of his own. Louis graduated from Harper Creek High School and then attended Michigan Tech on a wrestling scholarship. He later graduated with his Bachelors Degree from Western Michigan University and worked for Consumers Energy for 32 years prior to establishing his own company, Midwest Powerline Inc.

6. Frank Carmine McNabb (1901–1983) married Helen E Murray (1905–1998) on 23 November 1927 in Detroit, Michigan, and they had two children - a son and a daughter who are still living.

7. Beatrice J McNabb (1908–1992) married Lowell James Blackall (1905–1998) on 6 April 1929 in Grand Rapids. This is the family that took in Charles Wayne McNabb in 1940, after his parents died. Beatrice and Lowell had two sons, one of whom is still living.

   a. Robert Lee Blackall (1930–2004) married Beverly Sue Strohpaul (1932–2004) on 28 October 1950 in Grand Rapids. I have not been able to find any more information about them.

And that brings us up to date on this line. As you might be able to tell, there were a lot more descendants of William and Edna (Hall) McNabb for me to research than I originally expected. This post also seems to have more than the usual share of names of those who died recently - one, Louie Monaweck, who died between the time I started drafting this post in January and today.

As always, I do the best I can to tell their stories, but there are always details that I have to leave out in order to respect the privacy of the living. I often have more information from obituaries and public records than I can include here, but I won't post any of it in public without permission.

If you are one of the many children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren of this family, I'd love to hear from you how I did. If you have stories or memories you'd like to share here, I'm happy to host a guest post - and if I made any mistakes, I'd love to fix them.

Let me know what you think, and share this post with your family - and I'll keep digging for more cousins!

Friday, March 18, 2016

People of Color (Immigrants, part 2)

 I remember my granddad pulling me aside when I was around 12, telling me "you don't cross a brown horse with a white one." Being 12 and still kinda into horses, I said, "But that's how they get Appaloosas...and Appaloosas are awesome!" He sputtered at me that I didn't "get my meaning, son" - which was true - and it was only a few years later when I started dating a Catholic girl that the subject of what a proper mate is came up again.

Obviously, Grandpa had notions about our identity and about preserving that identity that he wanted to convey to me. The rest of my family either did not see things the way he did, or at least did not want to come out and say so, and as a result, I ended up figuring out for myself what his message was all those years before.

I did not like it, and in defining who I did want to be, I changed the way my family - my wife and my children - defines itself today.

When I started looking up our genealogy, I didn't know what to expect. It was possible that we might have descended from Nobility, or that I might discover cousins who were famous. Wrapped up in all of the unspoken assumptions about our family's identity, the one undisputed fact we knew was that we were "white people." And, in fact, every ancestor I have been able to trace has belonged to one of a handful of typical European groups that easily qualify as "white"; mostly British Islanders or Germanic folk, with the occasional Scandinavian thrown in. Depending on when they came to North America, they may have identified with a nation or religion that has since been absorbed into what is generally thought of as white - but along the way, I have also learned that there isn't really a solid definition for what race is.

In fact, I have learned that while there are still those who insist that there is room for debate, the notion that "race" is a biological concept is almost certainly false. Genetically, we're all one species, and insisting on maintaining artificial divisions within our species is not only pointless, but is also the ultimate in political correctness.

Now that I've been doing the family history for a couple of decades, I can see in thousands of documented cases just how quickly culture and identity can change. Because of our paternalistic naming traditions, we tend to lose track of where we come from - which can cost us anywhere from half to three-quarters of our cultural identity in a single generation if there is any kind of deep familial split or sudden migration. And despite this, we take for granted that we know what we think we know, and claim that our heritage is deeper than a generation or two. Making these claims that we take for granted has become ingrained in our identity - and this is particularly true for those of us in the ill-defined, ever-changing group that I find myself in.

We may treat our racial divisions as fact. But, as a researcher, if there is one thing that must never be left un-examined, that thing is an unquestioned "fact."

Ta-Nehisi Coates uses a construction in his book, Between the World and Me, where instead of simply saying "white people" he refers to "people who believe that they are white." He uses it to draw a distinction for his son that is very important, and that description serves to identify people who have chosen to be a certain thing. That construct seems more accurate to me, because if you accept that racial identity is not a biological phenomenon, then it becomes something more personal. A person's race is often thrust upon them, as it is what they are told they are from birth. But race is rarely about what a person actually is, and at best, it is more about what they aspire to be.

Before the American Revolution, people living in North America identified with the places they emigrated from. Benjamin Franklin, you may recall, considered himself to be English up until the moment that England and the United States became separated. He viewed the German settlers of Pennsylvania as distinctly different in culture, in character, and in all other ways that count. They spoke a different language, practiced different religions, and Franklin commented that they were attracted to different physical characteristics in their women than were Englishmen. (See his great biography, The First American.) And in truth, Germany as a nation did not exist until more than a century after Franklin described these German people, so it is doubtful that the German-speaking Pennsylvanians would have chosen to describe themselves quite the way he did.

But after the Revolution, you can see how quickly that changed. I see it in the way my German ancestors began moving across the continent, changing religions, marrying outside their traditional groups, and ditching the German language in favor of English. I see how my 5th great-grandfather, James Callin, went from being an Irish (or possibly Manx) immigrant fighting against the British to being an American farmer with land in Ohio. Whatever separate groups they had been before, they became something new in a very short time.

There is no question that those groups melded to create something uniquely American. And there is no question that the original notions of what it meant to be an American changed as these previously divided and distinct groups joined the dominant American culture. Despite some exceptions (notably the freed slaves, and immigrants from Asia, among others), America derived great strength from it's egalitarian "melting pot" ideals. And since the founding of the country, more and more different groups have been motivated to see themselves as "white."

It has certainly not been a perfect process. Today's debates about what immigration and what it means still tend to be motivated by racism - and every immigrant struggles to balance assimilation with preserving their own heritage. This recent Washington Post article documents just one way that different groups (in this article, people who used to fall solely into the "Hispanic" category) add themselves to the dominant group in American culture. That is not a new phenomenon, and in studying my genealogy, I've seen my own family do the same thing.

The pre-revolutionary idea of "white" would have been limited to men who were "Anglo-Saxon protestant and landed." Even my ancestors who could claim to be English may not have met those early definitions of "white." They may have been Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Manx...or simply poor. After the revolution, men like my maybe-Irish Callin ancestor would have been allowed into the club after acquiring land in Ohio. In that way, his family "became" white.

A large number of the descendants I have traced down from James Callin have been Roman Catholic. As recently as the election of John F. Kennedy, Roman Catholics were not generally included in the "white" culture, and while the first catholic presidential candidate was nominated in 1928, in 1960 it was still an open question whether JFK was electable. Catholics were still seen as dangerous outsiders, but now, that has changed. The pattern of widening the definition of "white" has been incremental, but steady. Think about that original definition again, and consider how many people on the modern Supreme Court meet that original standard. (Hint: there are six Roman Catholic, counting the late Justice Scalia, and three Jewish justices; and yes, that is a dig at originalism.)

It is interesting to see just how many people who would never have been considered "white" under the old rules now are. I heard someone on NPR recently describe themselves as "a white person - I'm Jewish, but I'm a white person." As I said, everyone has to struggle with melding these strains of their background, but it shows how fluid racial groups can (and probably should) be.

There is a flip side to this, of course, and it is more destructive. Consider how Ben Carson - a black presidential candidate - saying that President Barack Obama was "raised white" - challenged the "blackness" of the sitting president. He's not alone in voicing this kind of thing. I've heard that same argument about President Obama from dozens of my white friends since 2008 (particularly from Allen West supporters) and while it's offensive and ridiculous, it's an idea that says something about the validity of Ta-Nehisi Coate's construction: "people who believe they are white" are people who aspire to be something that they think it is important for them to be. It also perpetuates the idea that one group is for desirables, and the other is for undesirables.

The point I'm getting at is that your actual heritage is usually more complicated than a simple label can account for. Genetically, I am descended from people who are considered "white," so society says that's what I am. Even if I find evidence of ancestors who call my "whiteness" into question, it probably doesn't matter because of what I look like. And these days, if people as diverse as the people I have already described here as being "white" can be accepted as such - and if a black man with Obama's African name and documented heritage can be called "white" - then anyone can be. All they have to do is believe that they are white.

It's not all that new or radical to say that cultural pressures force people to fit themselves into a definition. If you question the rules about who actually meets the definition of the group, you quickly discover that there really is no such thing as a "white person" - if there ever was, it is just not defensible to say there is, now. When it comes down to being consistent, we're all actually "people of color" - it's just that some us us feel a need to be seen as white.

All of this is problematic. It is almost always harmful to place undue importance on these categories; especially when our culture so clearly mistreats those who it does not see as fitting into its arbitrary, shifting definition of "good." Personally, I'd rather celebrate who we are as individuals - as Mightier Acorns from the same tree - rather than make a big deal about what we think we need to be to fit in. Rather than bicker over fuzzy boundaries and who is "in" or "out" of the group, wouldn't it be easier just to be human?

And then maybe Ta-Nehisi Coates wouldn't have to warn his son to beware of "people who believe themselves to be white."