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Treasure hunting for family history

George and Bertha Rose

ESCANABA — October is Family History Month.

Who are you?

How did your people get to Upper Michigan?

Just look at the popularity of the DNA testing kits that so many people are trying.

Besides blood and bone, it is fascinating and educational to find and follow your ancestor’s paper records too. Genealogy records can be traced by computer searches, like on Heritage Quest, and many records like birth records, census records, cemetery records and obituaries are available at the library.

What skeletons or good ghosts might jump out of your family closet?

One branch of my family tree sprouted in the U.P. in 1919.

One hundred years ago, a tall, lanky Kansas lad stepped off the train in Cornell, Mich. This place sure didn’t look like the hot, dry, windblown fields back home! Crop failure had become the norm for many of the Kansas farm families.

After answering an ad in the “Farm Journal,” several families from Kansas loaded up all their possessions into a boxcar and headed to Upper Michigan. The I. Stephenson Company had logged off much of their 400,000 acres and offered land parcels for farming.

My grandfather, George Rose, was one of those transplants. Coming to the wilds of the north was quite a change for the southerners.

After doing a little family history at the Delta County Historical Archives, I found a document quoting George saying, “(he) never saw so much green land and observed so much beer drinking in local taverns as when (he) arrived in Delta County.”

My grandpa, his brother Henry and his sister Dora Rose-McFadden came to settle in the Cornell area along with good farming families with names like “Wolfe,” “Ford,” and “Knaus.”

From 1919 to 2019, a lot of cows, corn, potatoes and timber came down the Cornell roads.

The deed to my grandpa’s property dated 1919 is another paper record in family history. George would have to have timber removed from his place by Hunters Brook.

But here is where history took a twist: George never farmed his Cornell land. A school teacher staying up at his sister’s farm caught his eye. Bertha Martin was a saucy brunette from Gladstone.

George would be growing his corn in a huge garden in Gladstone along with six new Roses, including my dad, James.

Old photographs, old plat books and old family Bibles tucked away in attics and closets are wonderful paper records that can send you off on a journey going back in time.

Enjoy Family History Month by finding one old picture or document from your grandparent’s day. Have drawer or a file for “old family items” and share the family tree stories with the younger generation.

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Karen (Rose) Wils is a lifelong north Escanaba resident. Her folksy columns appear weekly in Lifestyles.

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