Ancestor Biographies

The following sketches give the important dates and places of my ancestors that I don’t always include in my posts. They are arranged by Ahnentafel number. Feel free to ask me for any sources to this information or check out my sources page.

4. Ralph Edgar James, my paternal grandfather, was born 4 June 1905, in Council Bluffs, Iowa. He was the 7th child and the 4th son of Noah (8) and Martha Kelley (9) James. Ralph worked for the city of Council Bluffs through most of his twenties as an engineer. He married Gladys Hooker in 1931; they had one daughter. In 1940, he divorced Gladys and moved to Flint, Michigan. There, he met his second spouse, Mary Louise Romine (5). They had three children. Ralph passed away at his home in Flint, Michigan, on 25 May 1972, of pneumonia. He is buried in Sunset Hills Cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Ralph: The Smallest of Clues, Connecting with My Grandfather, Lining Up the Suspects, Baby-daddy.

For short fiction stories based on what I know so far about Ralph’s life: Get Well Soon, Angry Lily.

5. Mary Louise Romine Smith, my paternal grandmother, was born 22 May 1918, in Parma, Missouri. She was the oldest of the three children of Clayton (10) and Elizabeth Lewis (11) Romine. Mary and her sister loved to sing together to the radio. Mary Lou married Delbert Smith in 1936; they had three children. In the early ’40s, Mary Lou moved to Flint, Michigan, where she met her second spouse, Ralph Edgar James (2). There is a story that she left her children in Missouri to travel to Michigan to find her estranged father. Their meeting did not go well. Mary Lou and Ralph also had three children. Mary Lou was head chef at Higgins Restaurant; she always attributed her cooking skills to her mother. Mary Lou met a third spouse in the ’60s, James Harvey. She passed away on 15 November 1989, of complications from cancer at her home in Flint. She is buried in Thetford Township Cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Mary Lou: The Woman Who Died More Than Once.

For short fiction stories based on what I know so far about Mary Lou’s life: Erosion.

6. James Nelson Harburn, my maternal grandfather, entered this world in Hensall, Ontario, Canada on 7 January 1901, the second son and fourth child of William Mathew (12) and Jane Leary Harburn (13). In August 1919 he and his ten brothers and sisters emigrated to Flint, Michigan via the Grand Trunk Railroad. Nelson helped at his father and brother’s florist shop until he switched to working as a tool and die maker in the auto factory, which he did until he retired. A few months after he became a US citizen, he married my grandmother Bernice (7) in Angola, Indiana. They had three children. He was a member of the Baptist church and the Masons. He passed away on 12 December 1978, of pneumonia. He is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Nelson: Sandwiches Cut Diagonally, Grandpa’s Dabblings In Freemasonry, The Known and the Unknown, Grandpa Harburn’s Immigrant Intake Form, Crossing a River.

7. Bernice Ellen Wilson Harburn, my maternal grandmother, was the oldest daughter of Fred Wilson (14) and Ellen Zendler Wilson (15). She was born 29 September 1908, in Ratville, Michigan, a now-defunct village near New Lothrop. She was the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding at the age of 9. She attended Normal College in Flint and worked as an elementary school teacher in Beecher, a neighborhood in Flint, for a few years until she married Nelson Harburn (6) on 5 May 1934, in Angola, Indiana. They raised their three children in Flushing, where she was an active member of the Baptist church and did not approve of her husband’s membership to the Masons. She liked to shop in downtown Corunna as opposed to going into the city of Flint. She passed away in Flint, Michigan on 2 April 1982, of heart disease. She is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Bernice: Bernice (Rhymes With Furnace), The Younger Versions of Our Grandparents, Henry Ford’s Brain, A Terrifying End.

8. Noah Daniel James, my paternal great-grandfather, grew up near Cainsville, Missouri, where he was born 9 June 1869. When he was 12 years old, his parents, Josiah and Olivia James (16, 17) moved him and his seven brothers and sisters to Council Bluffs, Iowa. He met and married his wife, Martha (9), just six years later. Noah made a living for most of his life as a woodworker for a company that made cabinets. He died on the 19 Sep 1936 from an unclear cause. The coding on his death certificate suggests the cause was a neural disorder. He was buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

For more stories about the James family: Aunt Eva’s Hands, A Case of Bigamy, A Second Cousin of a Second Cousin, Dreams As Big As Canada.

9. Martha Ellen Kelley James, my paternal great-grandmother, was born in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on 23 July 1867. After the Civil War, her parents John and Eliza Hurd Kelley moved the family to the Council Bluffs, Iowa, vicinity where Martha spent the rest of her life. She married Noah Daniel James (8) across the river in Omaha, Nebraska, on 10 June 1888. She was a faithful attendant of the Methodist church. She raised seven children and helped raise 12 grandchildren and one great-grandchild before she passed away of heart disease on 19 April 1937. She was buried in Walnut Hill Cemetery in Council Bluffs.

For more stories about the Kelley family: Following the Kelleys to Iowa, Who’s the Daddy?, The Two John Kelleys, Telling Me What I Need to Hear, Bayliss Park.

10. Albert Clayton Romine, my paternal great-grandfather, was born in Stoddard County, Missouri, probably in the village of Risco, on August 15, 1898. His mother, Fannie Grace, is absent from all records after 1900, so I believe she passed away. Albert and his sister, Mary Cordelia, were raised by their father, Edward Tennessee Romine, and his second wife, Louella Cunningham. Albert married Elizabeth Lewis (11) on August 16, 1917 in New Madrid, Missouri. A newspaper article shows that the couple divorced in 1923 due to Albert abandoning Elizabeth and their three children. There is reason to believe he was not a part of their lives after leaving. He married Mellie Herndon on October 8, 1932 in New Madrid. The couple lived in several places before settling in Flint, Michigan, where Albert worked in the auto factories. Mellie divorced Albert due to abuse in 1945. Little is known about his life after this time. There are pictures of him working in a restaurant in the 60s. He died of lung cancer on 4 April 1967 in Detroit. He was buried in Sunset Hills Cemetery in Flint.

To read more stories about the Romine family: A Resurrection, And She’s Dead Again, Finding Finny Grace.

11. Elizabeth Lewis Romine Zint, my paternal great-grandmother, was born July 27, 1900, near Mt Vernon, Indiana, to Nathaniel and Lena Benner Lewis. She was the sixth child of eleven. At 17, she married Clay Romine in New Madrid County, Missouri, probably in Parma. They had three children, Mary Lou, Loretta, and Wilfred, before Clay abandoned the family, according to a newspaper article in the Sikeston Standard that ran on September 2, 1921. Elizabeth lives with her parents in Posey County until she married John Zint in 1926. She had a daughter, Betty, with John. She lived in Parma, Missouri, the rest of her life, often visiting her many family members who moved to the Flint, Michigan, area. She was known to be an excellent cook. She passed away on September 11, 1984, of heart disease and bladder cancer. She is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Dunklin, Missouri.

To read more stories about the Lewis family: Mysterious Poisoning, Wife and Baby Left By Husband, Jailed For Assault, My Longest Living Ancestor, Mr. Lewis’s Love Affair.

12. William Mathew Harburn, my maternal great-grandfather, was likely born on November 5, 1868, although documents vary widely on the exact date and year. This date is on his naturalization papers, and therefore, most likely a direct quote from him. His parents, James and Sarah Sadler Harburn, lived in Hibbert Township, Perth County, Ontario. Their first son was followed by four more. The Harburns were devout Wesleyan Methodists their entire lives. William married Jane Leary in Hibbert Township in 1894, moved near Hensall, Ontario, and had 11 children, most of whom survived to adulthood. Most records say William was a carpenter, but we know eventually he farmed flowers for florist shops in the area. When he immigrated to Flint, Michigan, on August 8, 1919 by Grand Trunk Railroad, he had his wife and younger children. Two of the older Harburn sons had come to Flint a year earlier to prepare for the large family’s arrival. In Flint, William ran another flower farm, this time for the Chevrolet plant in downtown Flint. The Teddy Roosevelt environmentalists were concerned about the factory polluting the Flint River. So the Harburns set up a farm along the river to prove the water was fine (Hindsight is 20/20). He then ran a store at 1411 Third Avenue, Flint, for many years. He retired in Flushing, Michigan, in 1935, and passed away on November 24, 1940, of heart disease. He is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.

For more stories on the Harburn Family: The Known and the Unknown.

13. Jane Lavina Leary Harburn, my maternal great-grandmother, came into this world on January 8, 1873, at Cromarty, Ontario. She was the fifth of six children born to George and Jane Crawford Leary. Her parents, immigrants from Lincolnshire, England, were the first to live on a parcel of land owned by her uncle, John Crawford. Jane married William Harburn in Hibbert Township in 1894, moved near Hensall, Ontario, and had 11 children, most of whom survived to adulthood. I cannot find much information on her as an individual, unfortunately. She helped her husband with the flower farms and later the store in Flint. She raised a large family, who by all accounts, were close-knit their entire lives. She retired in Flushing, Michigan, in 1935, and passed away at the home of her daughter, Jennie Bump, on September 26, 1946 due to a stroke. She is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.

I have no stories of the Leary family, but as soon as I spring for the international package at Ancestry, I’m sure some will bubble up.

14. Born to Ambrose and Lucy Thompson Wilson on August 4, 1882, Fred Newell Wilson, my maternal great-grandfather, was the middle of five children living in Hazelton Township, Shiawassee County, Michigan. The Wilsons had deep roots in the area as Fred’s grandfather Thomas used his Civil War pension to move his family from near Rochester, New York. He married Minnie Mae Porterfield on Christmas Day 1906. While at the wedding, his parents lost their barn in a fire. They had three children. Fred farmed for most of his life but worked at the Chevrolet plant in town in his 30s and 40s. Later in life, the Wilsons were friends and neighbors with the Harburns, their daughter’s husband’s family. He and Minnie celebrated their 60th wedding anniversary on January 4, 1967, and Fred passed away of a stroke on May 28 the same year. He is buried in Flushing City Cemetery.

For more stories on the Wilson family: Mr. and Mrs. Ambrose Wilson Suffer Loss By Fire, Foreshortening, Christiana Chamberlain.

15. Minnie Mae Porterfield Wilson, my maternal great-grandmother,