William H Van Alstine, a question about my data

04Jan08

A Van Alstyne relative posted a question on my guestbook, wondering about the sourcing of the information about the William H Van Alstine and Martha (Johnson) Van Alstine family.

Jerry, I think there are errors on the Van Alstyne Family Tree section. Compare my family tree to yours: I think the death reports of William Henry Van Alstyne and Martha A Johnson may be incorrect. The Wm Van Alstine in the newspaper article from alcona.org could be referring to another William, perhaps born in 1833, who lived near Detroit also. What source docs do you have for Martha’s death during the childbirth of Earl? Thanks, -Mark Van Alstyne

This is exactly the kind of question I am hoping for, where people double-check my data against theirs, and we fix any mistakes. This is the reason that I made my data publicly available, and why I am now trying to add source information to every data point I have. So cool!

He has a William Van Alstine with a wife of Martha Johnson moving to Portland, OR in the 1900s, and raising a family.

I have both William and Martha dying in the 1880s in Alcona County, Michigan, and their children getting split up and sent to multiple relatives in many states.

As I responded to him, I am fairly certain of my main data, with sources including census, books, photos, newspapers, and talking to descendants. Here is an abbreviated version of what I sent him:

Mark,

Much of the basic information on my site was collected by my great grandfather Milo Johnson in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

He spent years collecting family information from public records and by writing family members for first-hand information on family history.

I have much of the distilled information he collected, but not much of the original source materials. There were squirrels in the attic that got most of it. I have maybe 300 pounds of paper left, but a lot is missing. And this was in the days of mimeographs and typewriters and carbon paper, so much of his primary source documentation was copied down by him, and not photocopied.

He wrote a book on the family history, but I have yet to find a copy of that book. There is rumored to be a copy at a library in West Virginia, but I have not yet been able to visit. “Jane Mary Storey and Robert Johnson: Milo N. Johnson, no date.”

What I do have is the index he wrote for the book, that lists eachindividual named in the book, and their vital information, and family members. That index I have scanned and placed online as a PDF (warning, it is huge, like 10MB)

Since Martha Johnson was Milo’s aunt, and he was born on the same farm Martha lived on (the Johnson homestead, from what I can tell), I would think he would have known about her death, even if he was only 3 at the time.

Alcona County is a very small community, and everyone was
inter-related (to a startling degree, it turns out). It is about 180
mile from Detroit, so there would not have been much chance of a
mistake about W H Van Alstine’s information, and the farm he died on
is the farm of a relative of Milo (archie campbell), and the thresher
was owned by J M Fettes, who was the father of Florence Van Alstine’s
husband.

The Alcona County Review was a very small paper, which was the main source of information for the town. It recorded births, deaths, and even trips to visit relatives, as well as spelling bee winners, arrests, and the purchase of a new horse.

  • Here is a mention of Martha, just after Earl’s birth, in the hospital, not looking good, and labeled as related to her death.
  • Here is a mention of Martha, and her death
  • Here is the article on William’s death in the thresher

Both William and Martha are buried in Mt Joy Cemetery, in Haynes Twp, in lot 79 of the original section (Mt Joy Cemetery Book, Robert and Donald Ferrett, First Edition, March 2003, page 96)

As for children, I think the names, dates, and numbers I have are correct.

So I feel fairly confident of this family.

Does this sound right to you?

Jerry Milo Johnson

I have not heard back from Mark yet, but I am looking forward to his response.

This really highlights, though, why slow and steady data entry, with good sourcing as I go, is the only way to manage growth to this tree.

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