Aug 012017
 
Joseph Voisin (1858-1916)

Joseph Voisin (1858-1916)

My paternal great-grandfather, Joseph Voisin was probably born January 10, 1858. For twenty-five years I’ve tried unsuccessfully to discover where he was born and who his parents were. I turn now to genetic genealogy, to both autosomal DNA and Y-DNA testing. Hopefully it will provide the additional clues needed to solve this mystery once and for all.

I have written about my “brick wall” (Brick by Brick Part 1, Brick by Brick Part 2).  Here is a quick summary.

The names of Joseph Voisin’s parents are unknown, but his father’s name could also be Joseph Voisin. He perhaps lived for a time near St. Clements, which is near Kitchener, Ontario. There are several Voisin families in this area today. They are descendants of the patriarch Joseph Voisin (1805/7-1892). However there is no evidence yet that links our Joseph to these families.

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May 302017
 

Families of emigrants camped at the port of Le Havre, 1843

Johann Fuchs (1777-1847) and his wife Anna Maria (Schüller) Fuchs (1788-1860) immigrated to America from Langenfeld, Germany in the fall of 1840.  They probably made their way via the Erie Canal to Buffalo, New York, where they spent the winter of 1840/1841.  Johann wrote several letters home to his grown children, and his relatives and neighbors.  In these glowing letters he espoused the abundance and virtues of America in hopes of persuading them to make the same journey.

In the 1930s, researcher Joseph Scheben solicited letters received by families in Germany from their relatives in America.  He studied several hundred such letters to trace the origin and final destination of German emigrants in America.  One community he studied was Westphalia, in Clinton County, Michigan just west of St. Johns.  It so happens Johann and Anna Maria Fuchs settled in Westphalia in the spring of 1841.  Scheben studied at least one letter by Johann Fuchs and found it so endearing that he transcribed it in his book about the community.  He calls Johann Fuchs the Father of Immigration.

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May 232017
 

In a previous post I explored whether my great great-grandfather, Jacob P. Yuncker (1837-1905), served in the Civil War. Apparently he was drafted in August 1863, but I could find no record of him actually serving. I concluded he was probably granted an exemption to care for his sick wife Rosa. Or perhaps he had already left the area either coincidentally or to avoid the controversial draft. I have since discovered more of his story.

An 1855 plat map of Erie County, New York shows the house where Jacob’s parents lived, and no doubt where Jacob and his siblings grew up.  It is a nondescript community half way between Lancaster and Alden, just east of Buffalo, New York. The map indicates it is “Town Line” post office and it does straddle the boundary of both Lancaster and Alden townships.

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May 022017
 

Bird’s eye view of St. Charles

Sacred Heart Catholic parish has been a fixture of the Mount Pleasant, Michigan community for generations. You may not know that it began as St. Charles parish. In the late 1860s and early 1870s, a priest would come from a neighboring town like Saginaw, and several families celebrated mass held at various homes. About 1872 they decided to build a church. After obtaining the land and raising the money, construction started on January 25, 1875. The church was a wooden structure that measured 38 by 60 feet and was 24 feet high.

My great-grandparents, Joseph and Mary Ann (Yuncker) Voisin were married in this church on February 16, 1885. This was a few years after the church was completed about 1877. They were married by the first resident priest of the parish, Reverend James J. McCarthy. (Although Joe and Mary lived near Beal City, a church there would not be built until 1892.)

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Apr 112017
 
Three Generations

Mary (Bittner) Pohl, her daughter Ida Stewart, and her daughter Ruth Voisin (standing)

“Glück Auf” has been the traditional greeting used by miners. No doubt my ancestors, who were coal miners, used this expression daily. In German, it means “good luck.” Not only did miners wish each other luck in finding and extracting the minerals they sought, but it was a wish that they also come back alive.

Pécsbánya is a coal-mining district about three miles northeast of Pécs, Hungary. The area was also called Pécsbányatelep. Literally translated they mean Pécs-mine and Pécs-mine-settlement. Pécs was known as Fünfkirchen by the Germans. For 250 years, more than 35 different coal mines operated at one time or another and 40 million tons of coal were produced here.

The Danube Steamship Company (Dunai Gőzhajó Társaság, or DGT) was a large consumer of coal. In 1852 it expanded into ownership of coal mines. To house workers for its growing operations, DGT started a “colony” in 1855, named Colonia. It was located on Gesztenyés hill ridge near the András (Andrew) mine. The first settlers there were Hungarians, Germans, Czech-Moravians, Slovakians, Bosnians and Slovenians.

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Mar 112017
 
Stewart Blockhouse

Western Pennsylvania and the vicinity of Pittsburgh was a wilderness frontier at the time of the Revolutionary War and for years afterward. The few settlers who ventured into this area not only endured the hardships of pioneer life, but they also had hostile encounters with Native Americans.

In his work, History of Indiana County Pennsylvania: 1745-1880, editor Walter F. Arms provides a map of the county. He indicates the location of two blockhouses within Buffington Township.

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Jan 272017
 

Maria “Mary” Pohl, early 1940s

It happened again. This time Zsuzsanna Jácint contacted me with information about my ancestors. She lives in Hungary and it turns out we are distant cousins. My great-grandmother Mary (Bittner) Pohl (1867-1944) is the younger sister of her great great-grandmother, Julianna (Bittner) Szeidl (~1857-1916).

Zsuzsi even provided an image of the elusive marriage record of Mary to Albert Pohl, for which I’ve searched a long time. She provided Mary’s birth record too. There’s no doubt now about the parents of both Mary and Albert.

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Aug 212016
 
Ashby Williams

Lt. Col. Ashby Williams

I must admit I was not very familiar with World War I history.  I had studied it in school history classes, watched the old movies and read a couple books on the subject.  I never really appreciated the courage and bravery of those who served in that war until I investigated the life of my mother’s uncle, Private First Class Russell Stewart.  He served in Company M of the 319th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division.  He died at the battle of the Meuse-Argonne on November 2, 1918, just as the war was ending.

In reading the relevant regimental and divisional accounts of that battle, I found the most interesting and moving account of all.  It was written by Lieutenant Colonel Ashby Williams (1874-1944) in his book, “Experiences of the Great War” (Roanoke, Virginia: The Stone Printing and Manufacturing Company, 1919).  He started out as commander of Company E, 320th Infantry and was promoted to battalion commander, with the rank of Major, over Companies A, B, C and D, of the 320th.  Although he was an officer, he endured only slightly better conditions than his men.  He describes in great detail the experience of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

The 320th and 319th were in the same brigade, the 160th, and undoubtedly shared the same locations, movements and conditions.  Therefore his is probably the closest description of what my granduncle experienced.  I have included here the most poignant and eloquent passages from Lt. Col. Williams’ book.  His words describe the indescribable horrors of existence and death in the trenches.  It is something the world often forgets, as I did, in my generation.  But now I remember.

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Aug 082016
 

Curtiss JennyMy great-granduncle John Yuncker was a piano sales manager in Los Angeles during the early 20th century. Here he participated in aviation history by taking one of the first-ever commercial passenger trips on August 30, 1919.  As I describe in a previous post, he flew from Los Angeles to Santa Barbara to close on the sale of a very expensive piano.

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Aug 082016
 

Waco 10This is my grandfather Ernie Voisin standing with his daughter, my aunt Nora May as a little girl. This was taken at Houghton Lake, Michigan on July 4, 1927.  They went for a ride in this airplane, which appears to be a 1927 Waco 10.

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Aug 082016
 

Model-T CoupeMy granduncle George Voisin was my grandfather’s younger brother. He apparently owned a Ford Model-T Coupe, which is pictured in a few old family photographs from the mid- to late-1920s.  It appears to be a 1924 or 1925 Coupe. Here it is along with a montage of an unrelated, restored 1925 Coupe.

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Aug 082016
 

1917 DortIt was an automobile I had not heard about until I saw this old family photo. This is a snapshot of a 1917 Dort owned by my great-grandparents, Lorenz and Louisa Rademacher, who lived in rural Isabella County, Michigan.

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Aug 032016
 
Corp. Arthur Pollock

Cpl. Arthur Pollock

Corporal Arthur Nelan Pollock served in Company F, 320th Infantry Regiment, 80th Infantry Division during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive in World War I.  Amazingly, he kept a diary.  It so happens he got separated from his regiment and became attached to the 319th Infantry.  This was the same regiment in which my granduncle Russell Stewart served, as I describe in a previous post.

It is enlightening to read Corporal Pollock’s account of the battle.  Since both men were then in the same regiment, this is very likely what Russell Stewart also experienced.  Here is an excerpt of Corporal Pollock’s account from September 26 to October 2, 1918.  It was originally published in the Pittsburgh Press, April 20, 1919 and continued on May 18, 1919.  This excerpt was transcribed by Lynn Beatty and the full text is found at the Allegheny County, Pennsylvania USGenWeb.

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Jul 232016
 

newspaperWhat motivated my fourth great-grandparents John and Margaret (McFarland) Stewart to settle in the wilderness of western Pennsylvania near the end of the Revolutionary War?  There may be a very simple explanation:  They saw a newspaper ad.

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Jul 232016
 

VioletsThere once was a precious little girl named Violet who died at age 2. More than one hundred years later, it is she who helped me unravel a compelling mystery.

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Jun 302016
 
Russell Stewart

Russell T. Stewart

My granduncle Russell Thomas Stewart was my maternal grandfather’s younger brother. In a family tree published by my second cousin, Robert M. Stewart, there is a somber copy of a telegram addressed to my great-grandmother, Mary (McKee) Stewart, and dated December 5, 1918.   It was news that her son Russell Stewart was killed in action November 2, 1918.

Finding no other information, I decided to investigate the short life of my granduncle, who I had never heard about. I was able to find a little more about him, but his story is mostly the tragedy of World War I and the sad ironies of its end.

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Feb 162016
 

Mom RemembersAs a descendant I am of course detached from the ancestors I never met.  I’ve undoubtedly inherited their physical characteristics and probably even their mannerisms.  My history is somehow connected to them.  I am their future.  We also share a common future, one none of us has lived, or will live, to see.

Thus I think it’s fun to see what once was, and what it has become.  I inherited this sense from my mother, Ruth (Stewart) Voisin, who always took time to connect the present to the past.  Here she is as a twenty-year old standing with a friend in Pensacola, Florida and later, at the exact same spot, in her late fifties.  It is not the plaque she is revisiting, it is a particular moment from her past, a memory of who she was, and who she had become.  It is a connection in time at an ordinary place she went out of her way to revisit.

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Feb 152016
 

Yuncker BuildingIn another post I described the accomplishments of my great-granduncle, John E. Yuncker, who owned J. E. Yuncker Music Company in Los Angeles.  His wife Bessie (Zander) Yuncker was an accomplished pianist and music teacher.  She died in December 1962, a mere month after her husband died.

A couple years later, Bessie is mentioned in connection with a new American Red Cross Service Center.  In her will, she donated over $200,000 to the Red Cross for the express purpose of buying land, constructing and furnishing the new center.  That was over two-thirds of the project’s cost.  Today that would be about $1.5 million dollars.

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May 172015
 
Jacob P. Yuncker

Jacob P. Yuncker

An article in the August 12, 1863 edition of the Buffalo Daily Courier lists names selected for conscription in the federal army during the Civil War. Included was the town of Alden, near Buffalo in Erie County, New York. A Jacob Yuncker is listed among the 57 names selected in the previous day’s draft.

Since he was living in Alden, this is very likely my second great-grandfather, Jacob P. Yuncker. In the 1855 New York state census, 17 year old Jacob is listed as living in Alden with his parents Hubert and Barbara Yuncker. A few years later, several tax assessment rolls from the Internal Revenue Service show Jacob P. Yuncker paid taxes on boots and shoes, which were probably part of his shoe making business. These rolls span from September 1862 to June 1863 and they show his business was at Alden, New York. Jacob was a shoemaker like his father Hubert.

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May 062015
 

000665-01It’s been one hundred thirty-one years now. Proof enough that death does do us part, but that love lives on and never fails.

This story begins in 1881 when Mr. Jacob Yuncker purchased farm land near Beal City, Michigan. It happened to be across the road from a then 23-year old pioneer farmer named Joseph Voisin. Mr. Yuncker had a daughter, Mary Ann. She lived with her extended family on her grandparent’s farm down in Westphalia, Michigan near St. Johns.

Mary probably visited her father in Beal City and at some point she met Joe Voisin. They probably met a few times more. Joe played music at Indian dances and at square-dances. Mary attended some of these social gatherings, but since Joe was playing, they couldn’t spend much time together. This probably went on for some months.

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