Friday, January 25, 2019

Genealogy Story – The Merrill Family

As I’ve mentioned before (*1), my grandfather, Harold Granger Pierpont, was the youngest of eight children of Wilson Pierpont and Annie Merrill in 1898. Annie passed away due to complications from childbirth. There has been extensive research into the Pierpont side of that family, but little written about the Merrill line. I’d like to make a small dent into that part of my family in this blog.

Annie’s parents were Nathan Frisbie Merrill (1823-1909) and Eunice Almira Hoadley (1822-1894). Nathan had the Frisbie middle name (which his father also had as a middle name) from his paternal grandmother, Sarah Frisbie (1756-1842). Sarah’s father was Elijah Frisbie (1717-1800). But Eunice’s mother was also a Frisbie – Alma Frisbie (1798-1880) and Elijah was her grandfather as well. Thus, Nathan and Eunice were 2nd cousins, and would have known that. But their ancestry is not the main point of this blog.

When you submit your DNA to, one of the features is what they call DNA Circles. These are where they collect a number of DNA samples that are linked because the people who submitted them all have a common ancestor. There are now nine people in the Nathan Frisbie Merrill DNA Circle, of which I am one.

Nathan and Eunice had four children – Charles (1848-1900), Mary Elvira (1850-1927), Ellen Taylor (1856-1927), and Annie (1858-1898). I have documented a total of 22 grandchildren attributed to these four children (3, 3, 8, and 8 respectively), with most of the DNA submissions being from the descendants of Ellen Taylor Merrill. These are primarily coming from individuals who would be my 3rd cousins since our common ancestor is our great-great-grandfather, Nathan Frisbie Merrill.

Ellen Taylor Merrill married William Leroy White (1857-1927). Their younger children were born in Waterbury, CT (which is where I was born as well), but around 1890 the family moved to the Midwest and their two youngest daughters were born in Wisconsin. By 1900 the family had moved to Chicago, then by 1910 they settled in Detroit. I have not traced all of them, but will concentrate on two of their children.

Alma Anna White (1890-1985) (note the carrying forward of the name Alma from a prior generation) married Robert Beauvais. One of their grandchildren is Jeanne Beauvais, a third cousin of mine who lives in Michigan and with whom I have an ongoing relationship through ever since our DNA connection was established a few years ago.

Recently Jeanne and I were both notified of a new DNA connection from a lady named Cheryl where the connection was a 2nd cousin of Jeanne and a 3rd cousin of mine. I contacted Cheryl through and found that the DNA sample was from her husband, Brian White. This led me to start examining yet another of the children of Ellen Taylor [Merrill] and William White.

Just like Alma [White] Beauvais was given her first name from an ancestor, her brother Merrill Washburn White (1887-1951) was given his first name from the last name of his mother. Merrill married Freeda Alexander (1899-1975) and they had two children, Betty Ellen (1921-1960) and Merrill Alexander (1923-2004). Note that their son was given his first name from his father’s (being passed down from his ancestors) and his middle name from his mother’s last name.

My new 3rd cousin, Brian White, was the child of Merrill Alexander White. In my initial conversations with Brian’s wife, Cheryl, who was maintaining their family tree in, she indicated that they were looking to find any information on Merrill Alexander’s sister (and Brian’s aunt), Betty White. I decided that I’d do a little of the genealogy work that I enjoy and help Brian and Cheryl out.

When working with more recent generations, one must use a variety of resources. and other genealogical sites can help with building a context, but information about living individuals is best found using other resources. I’ve honed my research skills over the past several years and know where and how to look (the latter being even more important than the former).

I’ll not bore you with all the details of my research (nor give away all my secrets as well as all the false leads that I had to follow before finding what I was looking for), but here are the results of my research.

Betty Ellen White married a man by the name of Harrison Graves. Betty died at the age of 39, having been ill for the last several years of her life. However, she and her husband had two sons early in their marriage – thus making them around my age. After she passed away, Harrison remarried a woman by the name of Yvonne Maresh. Harrison and Yvonne had several more children and grandchildren. Harrison passed away in 2000, but Yvonne was still living. I was able to locate a phone number for her as well as information on one of her sons-in-law (her daughter had been killed in an automobile accident in 2003). I called Yvonne and she was able to give me a little information about the two sons of Harrison and Betty, i.e. her two step-sons (noting that while all family members still live in MI, they are scattered and with several of these individuals being in their 70s, they do not see each other on a regular basis nor have regular communication). I then was able to locate one of the sons, David, as well as to communicate with him via Facebook (like many people from the north who are retired, he and his wife are “snowbirds” and spend the winter in Florida so calling them at home in MI would not have been fruitful).

While Yvonne is not a true relative, being the 2nd wife of the man who married my 2nd cousin, once removed, it was still enlightening to talk to her. But David is a blood relative, my 3rd cousin, as well as the 2nd cousin of Jeanne Beauvais and the 1st cousin of Brian White who wanted to locate him.

David’s reply on FB to me was interesting as it said (bracketed comments are mine), “I know very little, I was young [about 14] when my mom passed. I do remember Uncle Merrill. And grandma White [Freeda [Alexander] White] lived in Coral, Michigan with her mother and father. Their last name is Alexander.”

All in all it was a profitable day, with only an hour or so of investigation needed, plus a short phone call, a Facebook message, and this blog to write. And now I know quite a bit more about the Merrill/Frisbie/White part of my family tree that I didn’t know before. I may never meet any of these Michigan cousins since my wife and I do not travel there as much as we used to, but who knows…..


Saturday, January 5, 2019

Letter Mania

When I was in college (Michigan State), our living unit, like most of the others, had a spring dance/formal. But instead of decorating a dining hall, or renting an expensive venue, for a few years we did it one better. A former member of living unit ran a camp in Northern Michigan about 200 miles (3 hours) away. He graciously allowed us free use of the camp for a weekend, but in return we agreed to send a work crew a few weeks before to help get the camp ready for the season (clearing brush, trimming shrubs, general cleaning of the main building, etc.)

On the way home from one of these weekends, we were crammed into a car, probably 6 of us, and decided to play a game to help pass the time. Someone came up with the idea of an alphabet game. One person would say, “I went to the store and I saw a[n]” and then give an adjective and noun beginning with the letter ‘A’. The next person would repeat everything and then add an adjective and noun beginning with the letter ‘B’. This would repeat until the person couldn’t remember all the word pairs that came before or couldn’t come up with a new word pair. Being the competitive college students that we were, no one wanted to lose, so we managed to go all the way through the alphabet.

Since I’m a bit of a word freak myself, the list of what we came up with has stayed with me all these years later (this took place almost 50 years ago). Below is our list, together with a little bit of commentary.

Adorable Aardvark
Brown Bear
Kooky Cat (the first incident of allow sound-alikes and not being too strict on spelling)
Delinquent Dog (definite animal theme going on here so far)
Enormous Elephant
Fastidious Fish
Gouted Goat
Huge Heffalump (as Pooh knows, the heffalump is a real animal!)
Inquisitive Ibex
Jumbo Jet (finally, a non-animal)
Clean Kitchen (since we did sound-alikes for C, why not reverse it for K)
Lamentable Llama
Morose Moose
Nefarious Nodule
Opulent Opossum
Petoskey’s Pavement (Petoskey being the closest small city to where we had been)
Queer Quirk
Redundant Raccoon (what makes this raccoon redundant?)
Sterile Stegosaurus (hate to be the vet for this one!)
Tintinnabulating Tutor
Unforgettable Umbrella (I need one of those)
Voluptuous Vacuum cleaner (still can’t figure out what one would look like!)
Wonderful Wolverine (the town where the camp was located)
eXuberant Xylophone (close, but hard to think of words that start with X)
Yellow Yak
Xenophobic Zebra (ah, here’s that elusive X word, but pronounced like a Z)