Have you found the American Indian Yet? Monday, Jul 15 2013 

My dad asks me that question about once a week, and my response is always the same – “Not yet.”

In an earlier blog entry I wrote about some of the struggles I faced in researching my Native American ancestors.  I mean really, John Smith?  How is that fair?!  Research genealogy is challenging enough without throwing a “John Smith” into the mix.  Oddly enough, I’m not sure that our Native lineage comes from the line of Smiths; because my dear John was born in NY or CT, not Michigan as the family folklore tells our story.

Here’s what I know:

  • The Native American lineage passed down through my paternal grandmother’s side of the family.
  • Her family is strongly rooted in the Grand Rapids, MI area.
  • My dad and his siblings were told that our branch of the family is part of the Potawatomi tribe.
  • There is also a family story that one of our male ancestors was a chief,  but I don’t know what level.

Now comes the uncertain part.  My third great-grandfather, Jonathon Smith, was born in either New York or Connecticut, as I stated above.  His birth location varies according to the census record of the time.  That’s the first clue I had that my dad’s side of the family had any NE connection, other than Philadelphia on his dad’s side.  This new knowledge has made me skeptical that Jonathon Smith is our link to a Native American lineage.

On the other hand, Jonathon Smith’s son, Judson, married Jeannette McKenzie.  Jeannette’s father was Alexander McKenzie. Alex was  born in Scotland, lived in Canada and settled in Grand Haven, MI.  I’ve been busy tracing that line, especially the area of Canada that the McKenzie’s lived in.   They may turn out to be our Native American ancestor connection.

There’s a lot of data to sort through and just when I think I have it all sorted out I find another clue that leads me down a different path.  Regardless, a trip to Michigan and Canada is in the works.  I need to see these locations, get a sense of where my ancestors lived and hopefully, find some clarity.

All the best to you on your own family history search!

I Think I’m Native American, but I know I’m Irish! Monday, Jul 30 2012 

Do you have an ancestor named John Smith?  Well, I do! And trying to find him has been nothing short of a challenge.

There are stories told down the generations that shift and form with every telling. One family history story engrained on my father’s side was of a Native American lineage.  I never knew what tribe we were connected to or asked what kind of documentation he had.

I knew that my paternal grandfather had Irish roots and my grandmother Native American.  That was enough info to run with.  I had no problem identifying myself with either nationality.  In fact, I quite embraced both cultures.

Two years ago, when I started my foray into genealogy, I struggled with my dad’s ancestors.  The Irish spelled the surname multiple ways, even a generation after immigrating, and typically went by their middle names.  There are 3 generations of Michael Francis’ who all went by Frank.  So, was Frank Sr.’s father’s name actually Thomas or would his birth certificate show otherwise.  It definitely makes for  a challenging search.

However, trying to find a Jonathon Smith in the 1800s has me stumped.  I know that the Smith side of my family lived, and some still do, in Michigan but according to records John was born in NY or CT.  So I focused my attention on the women instead.  In doing so, I may very well have found the strongest connection to Native American confirmation.

I know that we come from the Potawatomi tribe and apparently my 2nd great-grandfather, a Smith, married a woman with the last name of McKenzie.  I’ve traced her family to Scotland then they moved to Canada where the Potawatomi tribe may have strong connections.

I never would’ve thought that’s where I’d find what I was looking for.  But that’s normally what happens!

NEXT WEEK:  Coal mining and trucking: Maternal side

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