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. I am currently involved in Thomas MacEntee’s Genealogy Do-Over, so I will add more biographies as I go through the process. 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 June 4, 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 May 25, 1972 of pneumonia. He is buried in Sunset Hills cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Ralph: The Smallest of Clues (the first story in a series), Connecting with My Grandfather.

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

5. Mary Louise Romine, my paternal grandmother, was born May 22, 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). They 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 November 15, 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 January 7, 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 December 12, 1978 of pneumonia. He is buried in Flushing cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Nelson: Sandwiches Cut Diagonally, Grandpa’s Dabblings In Freemasonry.

7. Bernice Ellen Wilson, my maternal grandmother, was the oldest daughter of Fred Wilson (14) and Ellen Zendler Wilson (15). She was born September 29, 1908 in Ratville, Michigan, a now-defunct town 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 May 5, 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 April 2, 1982 of heart disease. She is buried in Flushing cemetery.

For more genealogy stories about Bernice: The Younger Versions of Our Grandparents

8. Noah Daniel James, my paternal great-grandfather, grew up near Cainsville, Missouri, where he was born June 9, 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.

9. Martha Ellen Kelley, my paternal great-grandmother, was born in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, on July 23, 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 June 10, 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 April 19, 1937. She was buried in Walnut Hill cemetery in Council Bluffs.

10. Albert Clayton Romine, my paternal great-grandfather,

11. Elizabeth Lewis, my paternal great-grandmother,

12. William Mathew Harburn, my maternal great-grandfather,

13. Jane Lavina Leary, my maternal great-grandmother,

14. Fred Newell Wilson, my maternal great-grandfather,

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

16. Josiah James, my maternal second great-grandfather,

17. Olivia/Levina James, my maternal second great-grandmother,