Thursday, June 9, 2011

Identifying the Goodrich Diary of Ganges : A Case Study

In May, the Van Buren Regional Genealogical Society (VBRGS) purchased from Ebay a 1940 diary written by an unknown author of Ganges, Allegan County, Michigan.  Since the location had been established and the price was affordable, VBRGS purchased it to add to it's manuscript collection housed in the Local History Collection of the Van Buren District Library.

In order to catalog it, work had to be done to identify the author of the diary.  Flipping through the pages brought no immediate answers, although there were some given names written here and there, along with a small booklet entitled "One Hundred Years of Methodism in Ganges, 1840-1940", and a brief family reunion notice from an unidentified newspaper for the Tiefenthal families.

There being no quick answers, the diary was turned over to Local History volunteer, Judy Grime, for further detective work.  Judy methodically began to read through the pages and made notes of any reference to a person or event.  Some of the individuals that were mentioned:

  • Lon Plummers
  • Julius Markey (funeral)
  • Esther McVea
  • Perry Wright
  • Art Grahams
  • Ira Bushnell
  • Emma Kiernan (wedding)
  • Lewis Bivay
  • Frank Wilson
  • Dr. Roberts
  • Frank G. Wright (pastor)
Using some of these names and the reference throughout the diary of a "Rena", Judy tried several combinations of names using the 1930 federal census, but still found nothing conclusive.  The real break came when Judy used the mention of the Goodrich surname in the reunion notice in combination with a mention of the death of an "Aunt Julia" on April 8, 1940.

Using the Van Buren County death records for 1940, a death record was located for a Julia Goodrich who died April 8, 1940, the daughter of C. B. Goodrich & Cornela [sic] Shedd.  Her birth, given as May 25, 1851, Ganges Township, Allegan County, led to searches in earlier census years to establish that C. B. Goodrich was in fact Chauncey B. Goodrich.  This also determined who Julia's brothers were in order to trace their descendants to come up with a nephew who referred to her as "Aunt Julia."  As it turns out, Julia had two brothers, Hannibal Henry & Arthur.

Employing death records and obituaries for these two brothers, Arthur was eliminated as a prospect as he had no sons.  Hannibal "Henry" had two sons, according to his 1907 obituary in the South Haven Daily Tribune, Neil and C. Lloyd.  Neil was a physician and his obituary was inconclusive.  The name "Rena" continued to trouble us and didn't show up in anything until a marriage record was located for a C. Lloyd Goodrich & Lorena L. Schumann, or we assume "Rena" for short.

C. Lloyd Goodrich was actually Charles Lloyd Goodrich and he had written in his diary about his daily activities including his fruit trees.  Using a circa 1930 plat book of Ganges Township, a parcel of property was located under the name of C. L. Goodrich in Section 8.

We are now confident that we have identified the author of the 1940 diary.  One of the reasons for sharing this with our readers is to demonstrate the array of sources that were used to solve this mystery:
 In all, Judy spent about five hours putting together a "case" for identifying the author of the diary as Charles Lloyd Goodrich.  This is a good example of how scrutinizing a source for all clues, no matter how obscure, can lead to answers to our ancestral questions.  Thanks to Judy Grime for spending her time to help us solve this mystery.