The Christopher Mackin Problem, or Three Brothers?

Posted on: September 23rd, 2016 by
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My husband’s most distant ancestor in his surname line is Christopher Mackin. Christopher was born in Ireland 10 August 18211 and first appears in American records in Madison, Wisconsin, where he filed a declaration of intention in 1854.2

Christopher also left land, tax, and voter records before dying intestate 14 January 1867, aged 46 years.3

Unfortunately, none of Christopher’s records point to an Irish place of origin or name his parents. However, there are clues in his association with two other men named Mackin in the Madison area. If we can establish the relationship between Christopher and these other Mackins with some degree of certainty, we may be able to infer the identity of his parents and his Irish place of origin from theirs. Intriguingly, all three men named sons James. If they followed Irish naming conventions, this suggests that their fathers may have been named James.

In 1860 Christopher shared a household with a younger man named John Mackin, age 30, who was also born in Ireland. Also in the household was John’s apparent wife Ellen, age 19.4 Christopher and John owned adjacent land,5 and Christopher later purchased John’s land.6 Christopher’s probate file contains a receipt dated 16 November 1867 from George Blake for interest on a note of mortgage given by Christopher Mackin to John Mackin and “having the charge and keeping of the minor children of said John who is in California.”7 The cohabitation, neighboring land parcels, land sale, and payment for care of John’s children suggest that Christopher and John were related, perhaps as brothers, perhaps as cousins.

Christopher’s probate record names a second man named Mackin, also without specifying a relationship. James McKin of Madison posted $1500 surety for Mary McKin of Vermont, administratrix of the estate of Christopher Mackin deceased.8 In 1870, three years after Christopher’s death, three men named James McCan/McKin/McCann lived in Madison:

  • James McCann, age 40, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 1 with apparent wife Julia, also age 40, and apparent children John, Mary, James, Katie, and Fidelia.9
  • James McCan, age 37, tin smith, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Mary, age 35, and apparent children James, Frank, Peter, John, Mary Ann, and Thomas.10
  • James McKin, age 42, laborer, lived in Madison Ward 4 with apparent wife Kate, age 40, and apparent children Mary, Anne, Coleman, Anna, James, and Christopher.11

Of the three James Mackins in Madison, James who was married to Kate appears most likely to be the James who provided bond for Christopher’s widow, since he named a son Christopher the year after Christopher of Vermont’s death.

Six descendants of Christopher Mackin have taken autosomal DNA tests. Descendants of John Mackin and James Mackin have been traced forward in time, and efforts to find relevant DNA matches and recruit additional DNA testers are ongoing.

  1. St. James Cemetery (Town of Vermont, Dane County, Wisconsin; County Road F, south of Black Earth), Christopher Mackin marker; personally read and photographed by author, 2005.
  2. Wisconsin, Supreme Court, Declarations of Intention to Become a U.S. Citizen, 1840-1893, loose items arranged by year and thereunder alphabetical by name; series 1729, box 3, folder 2, 21 December 1854 declaration of Christopher Mackin; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
  3. St. James Cemetery (Dane Co., Wis.), Christopher Mackin marker.
  4. 1860 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Town of Vermont, p. 126 (penned), dwelling 760, family 802, Christopher Mackin household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 1404.
  5. John was issued a patent 15 May 1857 for 80 acres (the W1/2NE1/4 of section 21, township 007N, range 006E of the 4th Prime Meridian), and Christopher was issued a patent 1 June 1858 for 120 acres consisting of the E1/2NE1/4 and the NE1/4SE1/4 of section 21. Bureau of Land Management, “Land Patent Search,” database, General Land Office Records (www.glorecords.blm.gov/search/default.aspx : accessed 30 March 2011), entries for Christopher Machen, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 22599, and John Meckin, Dane County, Wisconsin, no. 24102.
  6. Dane County, Wisconsin, Deeds 59:313, John Macken to C. Macken; Register of Deeds, Madison.
  7. Dane County, Wisconsin, probate case files, box 28, McKin or Macken Christopher (d 1867), receipt of George Blake, 16 November 1867; Wisconsin Historical Society Archives, Madison.
  8. Ibid., bond of administrator filed 18 February 1867.
  9. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 1, p. 35 (penned), dwelling 266, family 266, James McCann household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
  10. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 29 (penned), dwelling 206, family 211, James McCan (indexed as McCaw) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
  11. 1870 U.S. census, Dane County, Wisconsin, population schedule, Madison Ward 4, p. 30 (penned), dwelling 212, family 217, James McKin (indexed as Mc hin) household; image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 September 2016), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 1708.
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Identity and Timelines–New Tools for Download

Posted on: September 13th, 2016 by
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I recently published an article called “Identity as a Research Tool” in The Septs, the journal of the Irish Genealogical Society International.1 In the article I used the case of two Iowa men with the same name to show how genealogists can build descriptions of the key characteristics of their research subjects and then use those descriptions to ensure that they are attributing records to the proper research subject. In the article I applied terms and methods described by Robert Charles Anderson in his book Elements of Genealogical Analysis: How to Maximize Your Research Using the Great Migration Study Project Method.2

Building on the ideas discussed in the Septs article, Shirleen Hoffman and I will teach a two-hour workshop called “Jumpstarting Your Problem-Solving” on Saturday October 1 at the Minnesota Genealogical Society‘s North Star Conference in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. The workshop will have two segments. In the first hour I will review a case study identifying the parents of a woman who lived in nineteenth-century Pennsylvania. The case study will show how to apply a variety of tools, including mindmapping, diagramming, timelining, DNA analysis, collaboration, and creating various kinds of tables in order to think differently and a stubborn genealogical problem. In the second hour Shirleen will lead an exercise in which workshop participants will create identity profiles and timelines for two same-name nineteenth-Century men, one in Minnesota and one in Wisconsin, in order to determine whether they are the same person.

I have uploaded Word templates for two of the key tools Shirleen and I will use in the workshop, an identity profile and a timeline, to the FreeDownloads page of my website. Please help yourself to the templates, and come see Shirleen and me at the conference.

  1. Lois Abromitis Mackin, Ph.D., “Identity as a Research Tool,” The Septs 37 (April 2016): 46-51.
  2. Robert Charles Anderson, Elements of Genealogical Analysis: How to Maximize Your Research Using the Great Migration Study Project Method (Boston: New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2014).
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Labor Day 2016

Posted on: September 5th, 2016 by
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The Legal Genealogist, Judy G. Russell CG, CGL, posted today about resources for researching our ancestors who belonged to labor unions. 1

Both my grandfathers, William Stephen Abromitis and Emerson Clinton Neifert, were union members; Pop-Pop Abromitis belonged to the United Mine Workers (UMW), and Grandpa Neifert to the Brotherhood of Railway Clerks. My great-grandfathers on the Abromitis side, William Abromitis and Anthony Sakusky most probably also belonged to the UMW or one of its precursors because they worked in the anthracite mines of northeastern Pennsylvania. One of my Neifert great-grandfathers, Roland R. Neifert worked for an electric railroad in Wilkes Barre/Scranton and belonged to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.

How do you tell whether one or more of your ancestors might have belonged to a labor union? Home sources and interviews with family members are a great place to start. Beyond personal knowledge, family tradition, and memorabilia, look for mention of labor union affiliations in newspapers–union affiliations are often mentioned in obituaries. Here, for example, are excerpts from Roland Neifert’s obituary: “Mr. Neifert… had been a resident of Wilkes-Barre for many years. He was employed as a trainman on the Laurel Line. Mr Neifert was… offiliated [sic] with the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen.” 2

The identification of Roland’s employer and his union led me to books, articles, and websites with information about the Laurel Line and the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen. I learned that in 1918 Roland was one of the key players in a street car strike. He even traveled to Washington, DC, to appear before the Railroad Wage Commission. 3 Google searches revealed that records of the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen, mostly dealing with the union after 1928, shortly before Roland’s death, are at the Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives at Cornell University. 4 I found digitized volumes of the union journal, The Railroad Trainman, on Google Books (http://www.books.google.com), and records of union lodges or locals in various archives. (For example, Washington State University Libraries’ Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections holds an attendance register for Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge 833 in Malden, Washington.) 5

Do sources such as census records or city directories tell you that your ancestor worked in an industry where labor unions developed? Besides railroads and mining, labor organizations were active in textiles, hatting, agriculture, and communications. Wikipedia is a great place to get an overview of labor history and develop a bibliography of books, articles, and website links for further research. Try reading “Labor History of the United States” 6 as a starting place, then follow the links and references. Also look for articles on industries (for example, coal mining in the United States), companies, and labor unions.

  1. Judy G. Russell, “Put in a Laboring Oar,” 5 September 2016, The Legal Genealogist, (http://www.legalgenealogist.com/2016/09/05/put-in-a-laboring-oar/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+TheLegalGenealogist+%28The+Legal+Genealogist%29 : accessed 5 September 2016).
  2. “Rowland R. Neifert,” “Rowland R. Neifert,” The Wilkes Barre Record,” 27 December 1934, p. 6, col. 3.
  3. “Talk of Strike on Laurel Line; Want Wage Jump,” Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, p. 2; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 17 February 2013). “Talk of Strike on Laurel Line,” The Scranton Republican, p. 1, col. 5, p. 2, col. 3; digital image, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 11 August 2014).“Talk of Strike on Laurel Line; Want Wage Jump,” Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, p. 2; digital image, GenealogyBank.com (http://www.genealogybank.com : accessed 17 February 2013). “Talk of Strike on Laurel Line,” The Scranton Republican, p. 1, col. 5, p. 2, col. 3; digital image, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed 11 August 2014).
  4. Kheel Center for Labor-Management Documentation and Archives, Cornell University Library, “Guide to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Records, 1883-1973,” Cornell University Library Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections (http://rmc.library.cornell.edu/EAD/htmldocs/KCL05149.html : accessed 20 January 2015).
  5. “Guide to the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen Lodge 833 (Malden, WA) Attendance Register 1927-1961 Cage 5057,” Washington State University Libraries (http://ntserver1.wsulibs.wsu.edu/masc/finders/cg5057.htm : accessed 5 September 2016).
  6. “Labor History of the United States,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Labor_history_of_the_United_States : accessed 5 September 2016).
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