My greatest genealogical discovery (so far)

Little did my 8th grade social studies teacher know that when he assigned a family tree project he would start a nearly 20 year passion in genealogy.  During those 20 years, I have become known as the "family historian" and part of the genealogy and history community in Grundy County Illinois where nearly all of my ancestors resided.  I have uncovered many great discoveries over the years including a 9 brother baseball team (known as the Enger Nine), deep pioneer roots in Morris, Illinois and even had heard rumors about a mysterious family fortune in Scotland that our family was supposedly swindled out of.  This fortune was talked about for years and mostly regarded as myth.  There was reference to it in the Morris Daily Herald in 1909 and accounts from relatives, but nothing to actually confirm its existence. 
Recently, I had been working on my Ferguson roots as they have been largely ignored while researching other branches that yielded what seemed like endless information.  I  had a hit a brick wall with my great great grandfather, William Ferguson, the first of the Fergusons to come to America from Scotland.   Our family wanted to travel to Scotland and were relying on me and a third cousin who has also been researching this line to provide the information we needed. 
Much of my research conducted is done so through, a genealogical website that provides access to millions of records and users tracing their roots.  Every so often I will look at family tress who have relatives that have married into the Ferguson family on the off chance that they will have some small piece of information I can use.  This typically has not provided much, but even the smallest details have been exciting because of the lack of information we currently have.
Last November, I emailed one of these members and did not immediately get a reply.  I had put it out of my head and continued to research other avenues.  However, in March I received a reply from a woman who lived in Morris named ____________ (waiting for her permission to use her name).  She mentioned that she did have some information on my Ferguson family and revealed she had a box belonging to my great great aunt on the Ferguson side! She had descendended from this aunt’s husband’s side of the family.  I was thrilled, thinking there were probably a few pictures and maybe even information about where our Scotland roots were located.  As we continued to communicate over email, she told me that there were many photographs, cards and a letter or two as well.  I arranged to meet her the next weekend, hardly able to wait to see what was in this mysterious box. 
 When I arrived we talked a bit and  ___________ bought out a banker’s file box FULL of pictures, cards and other personal items.  I asked her how she obtained this box seeing as our connection was quite remote.  She told me that a neighbor of hers had recently helped someone move out on Benton Street.  As they were finishing up he asked them if there was anything in the attic.  The family moving said they never had gone up there, but the man was curious and asked if he could go up to look around.  When he did, he saw a box sitting there.  He started looking through it and called a friend of his he knew was researching the Kay family.  This man took the box and forgot about it for a couple of years, but as he was cleaning things up came across it again and called his cousin Bette to ask her if she would like it since it was more of her side of the Kay family that was being researched.

As I looked through the box, I realized that this was more than just a box belonging to my great great aunt Elizabeth Ferguson Kay.  This was a box that contained her belongings, her sister’s belongings that had died before her as well, as the belongings of my grandparents Alta and Chet Ferguson! There were personal cards to each other from before they were married as well as some pictures and letters from the other side of the family too.  The house that the box must have come from was the house my father had lived in at 404 E Benton St.  The family had moved when he was just 3 months old.  During the move, the box must have forgotten in the attic and had sat there for over 60 years just waiting to make its way back to me.  I was simply blown away, by how this box ever found its way back to me.
Additionally, I noticed a letter in the box that appeared very old.  It was dated 1909.  As I read it, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  It was a letter detailing the names, dates and details regarding the fortune that we had always heard about as kids.  As soon as I got home, I googled some of the names and found that this family fortune was quite famous.
My journey with genealogy always surfaces new surprises.  I’ve discovered that often the genealogy comes to you when you truly seek it out.  While we did not discover the origins of William Ferguson and where our Scottish ancestors came from, I know that some day those details will surface. 
I'll be posting more information about the contents of the box in the upcoming weeks.

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Mary Jane Ferguson Espley

Besides, John, who died at the age of 4, Mary Jane Ferguson is probably the child I know the least about.  She was born April 12, 1869 in Saratoga Township.  She is first listed at age 2 in the 1879 census with her family.  Next, she appears in the 1880 census at age 12 "in school".  She later went on to meet James Thomas Espley (born in England).  They were married October 1, 1891.  He was the son of James and Ellen (Phillips) Espley.  They had a daughter in 1896, but her birth place is not known.  Thomas (which is what he went by) was a coal miner.  The witnesses to the marriage were Minnie Gilbride and Will (her brother presumeably) Ferguson.  The marriage was conducted by the REv. Magner from the Presybertian church.  No marriage record could be found due to missing microfilm at the Morris Library.

We know Mary died sometime in 1895.  Her grave says Jan 29, 1895, but there are conflicting records regarding her burial and funeral home records.  Funeral records say February 2, 1895 and a death certificate cannot be located.  Cause of death was listed as consumption.  We also know from a probate record of Mary Steel Ferguson's that she has a child Mary Ellen Espley.  The death certificate is from Pendleton Lancaster England where presumeably Thomas and his daughter were visiting his parents because Ellen Espley is listed as the informant.  The child died August 1, 1897 and the year is listed as 3 years.  Mary Jane must have died very shortly after he daughter's death.  More research is needed into this case. A birth certificate for Mary Ellen Espley is a start and possibly restarting the search for Mary Jane's death certificate and probate record.

 This is just a guess, but this may be Mary Jane.  She looks like Isabelle, and its the first picture in the photo album owned by Aunt Lizzie Kay.  It seems fitting that her sister would be the first picture in the album. 
 I still feel this is a picture of the Ferguson family.  The far right one would be Mary Jane
 This is also a guess, but because this picture is from England, it could be Mary Jane and her daughter.  I need to find out what happened after Thomas and Mary Jane married.

James went on to Mary another and in his obituary (in 1917) mention of his previous family was nowhere to be found.

Update: Jean Kenney Interview

I'm taking a break in updating the different children entries to give some information regarding a meeting I had with Jean Kenney mentioned in the last entry.  It was unsure how Jean was related and that was clarified.  As mentioned earlier, Jeanette Ferguson was married at least 3 times and I have speculated that she was married a fourth time because of an entry I found in the marriage index of a Janet Ferguson, but I have to investigate this further another time.

To review Janette was married first to Martin Murray and had no children, then to Herbert Le Pla.  It was also Herbert's second marriage.  They had Isabelle, Herbert Jr. and Florence.  Later, Jeanette suppossedly married Sanford McNabb.  However, no marriage license was found and Jean herself said she wasn't sure they were ever married.  Jean said she was the daughter of Sanford McNabb and a woman in Ottawa she never met or had anything to do with.  Jeanette and Florence essentially raised her.  The children of Jeanette and Sanford were: Harry, Edwin, Hazel, Glen and Dorothy.  When mentioning these people she would often say: I would consider them a brother/sister, but I have no idea who their parents are.  She stated her brother Edwin was still alive in Morris, yet he was a year younger than her and Jeanette would have been in her late 50's at the time.

On to the pictures that Jean had at her house!
This was a very large picture (didn't get all of it because it was very long).  But it is believed to be Sanford McNabb.  He was a stock dealer and traveled a lot, not sure who the woman in the picture is.

This is a picture of Jeanette McNabb.  At the end of her life she had no one to care for her.  When Jean and John got married they took Jeanette in to their home until the end of her life in 1946.

Hazel McNabb: Jeannette and Sanford's daughter

Herbert Le Pla (I assume Jr.)

Glenn McNabb.  Remarkably, we have this photo in an old album with pictures that we had no idea who the people in the photos were!  Sadly, this was the only photo she could identify.

Hazel McNabb holding Jean.

Florence worked in glass cutting factory in Morris.  Jean inherited her collection, shown here!

These are photos of a carving set that Herbert Le Pla sent to his mother (Jeanette McNabb) during WWI from Paris, France!  You can see they are engraved McNabb above.

Funny point in the interview.  Jean asked if I wanted to know something really bad about Aunt Lizzie.  I said Okay....and she said she remembers going there as a little girl and there were cockroaches in her house!

Jennette Ferguson Murray LePla McNabb

Jennette Ferguson was born Dec 27, 1865 in Morris, Illinois.  Much has been discovered of Jennette recently and she seemed to stick out a bit from the rest of the children in this way.  She first appears in the 1870 census listed as "Jennet" at the age of 4 years old.  In 1880, she is listed as Jennie, 14 years old and "at school" at the time. She married Martin Murray January 8th, 1884 who lived in Morris but was born in London, England. He was an Engineer.   He was 21 years old at the time.  Jennette was listed as Jennie Ferguson and was just 18 years old.  It is unknown what happened to the marriage whether or not it ended in divorce or Martin had passed away.  However, Jennette married again on November 20, 1888 to Herbert Le Pla of La Salle, Illinois, born in England.  Herbert was 27 and Jennette was 22. Herbert was a tailor and has been married before.  However, his first wife Elizabeth Clare had died likely from childbirth and he had Elizabeth and J. Harry were living with relatives in Will County in 1900.  The marriage certificate claims that this was Jennette's first marriage, but it has been confirmed it was indeed the 2nd marriage.  Witnesses to the marriage were Jennette's sister Mary Jane and James Bell, perhaps a friend of the groom?

The 1900 Census is a very strange document.  It shows three heads of the household: Martin Murray, Mary McMollimet, and Jeanette LePla.  The Martin Murray is not the same as her first husband because his age is listed as 70 years old and birthplace was in Ireland.  Jennette's first husband was much younger and born in England, however, it is a strange occurrence regardless.  Beyond the 3 heads of the household there were 3 children listed: Isabelle 10, Herbert 8 and Florence 5 all children of Herbert and Jennette's.  Jennette is listed as widowed, but it has not been confirmed that Herbert died at this point.  He does not appear in the 1916-1950 Illinois death index and the online Pre-1916 death index is not complete and further research is warranted.  Also living in the household was Sanford McNabb listed as a boarder.  Sanford was quite a bit younger than Jennette (by 8 years) and his profession is listed as Teamster. The location was in the Morris 4th ward.  November 15, 1909 an article was posted in the Morris Herald about Jeanette and cousin Joe Steel going to Scotland to claim an estate.  The article says that a fortune worth 15 million pounds that is located in Scotland.  The estate was said to be in litigation for 50 years.  Apparently Jennette had a cousin in London (possibly a Steel) who looked up the fortune and claimed that Steel and Ferguson families were some of the rightful heirs from an uncle or great uncle.  Later it was reported when they returned that the relative had no died yet and she would rarely ever speak of it.   It was never discovered what happened to the fortune or its true whereabouts.  There were many family tales about a lawyer trying to hoodwink the family or the lawyer being murdered.  Stories of a family bible with a page missing were also tossed around, but no documentation besides the Morris paper could confirm the fortune actually existed.  By the 1910 Census, 1203 Kiersted St. was there home and Sanford and Jennette were listed as married!  A marriage certificate was never found for Jeanette and Sanford, but it has been searched for. Children listed were Hazel, Harry, Dorothy, all McNabbs and Herbert and Florence Le Pla.  It is listed that Jenette and Sanford were married 10 years and the oldest child Hazel was 8 years old.  It also states that Jennette had 6 children with only 5 living.  Sanford was listed as a stock dealer and Herbert Jr. was a milk dealer.

The 1920 census indicates the family was living at 1203 Kiersted still and Hazel, Harry, Dorothy (McNabb) and Herbert and Florence (Le Pla) were all living there. The 1930 census shows them living in the same home with Hazel still at age 29 who was single and now Glen McNabb and wife Marie and listed as granddaughter, Jean.  However, Jean Kenney is still alive and when contacting her she said that Jeanette had raised her as her own daughter.  Jean is 86 and it is difficult to get her to answer questions, so it hasn't been determined how she is related to Jeanette. Jennette died Dec 4, 1946 in Morris, Illinois. It lists her as divorced, but no documentation has proven that.  She was 80 years old at the time of her death.  Cause of death was listed as cancer on the right side of her head and Pneumonia for the past 2 days.  Her obituary states that she was in the home of her daughter Mrs. John Kenney when she died.  She has been in failing health for two years and bedfast for the past six months.  UC Davis and Sons was the funeral home and burial was in Evergreen cemetery.  She was the last member of her family and her husband had died before her in 1942.  Nine children were listed Isabelle LePla Brook, Herbert Le Pla, Mrs. Leonard Fosen, Mrs. William Ott, Harry, Glen adn Edwin McNabb, Mrs. Melvin Olson and Mrs. John Kenney.  Two stepchildren also were surviving including J. Harry Le Pla and Elizabeth Salfishburg.

We believe this to be a picture of Jeanette, but aren't positive.  We will get a confirmed picture, hopefully thiis weekend!

We are fairly sure Jennette is on the left.

John Ferguson and Elizabeth Agnes Ferguson Kay

Pictures Added
The next children in order would be John and Elizabeth.  I combined two children into one entry because John died very young.  John Ferguson was born April 11, 1860 and died April 19, 1864.  The cause of death was Measles in Morris.  Death certificates were not filed until 1877 in Grundy County, so no further information can be found about John.

Elizabeth Agnes Ferguson was born April 5, 1863 in Morris.  She first appears in the 1870 Census listed as Age 7.  She is also listed in the 1880 Census as "Lizzie" at age 17 and he occupation was "at home", apparently she did not attend school like her sister Jeanette who was 14 at the time.  She married Harry Kay on February 14th, 1884.  They both appear in the 1900 Census.  Harry listed as 44 years old and married for 16 years. Harry was born in England, as was his parents and came to this country in 1879.  His current occupation was listed as Saloon Keeper.  At the time, they had rented their home listed as 747 Liberty St.  Elizabeth was listed as 37 years old with no profession.  In their home also lived their two children, William F. Kay born Dec 28, 1884 in Morris and Robert LeRoy Kay born October 2, 1887 in Morris.  Both were attending school at the time.  Also living with them was Harry's brother John born in England August of 1876 and only 24 at the time.  He was single and came over in 1882.  He worked as a Day Laborer.  I am unable to locate Elizabeth and Harry in the 1910 Census.  It is well known that Harry and Elizabeth helped run the Kay House.   It appears that they were probably at the Kay House at this time and that is not in the census.  Harry died February 14, 1916.  In his probate it listed several pieces of property on prominent corners down liberty street.  All property and money went to Elizabeth.  Elizabeth also can't be located in the 1920 census.  She is not at the Kay House, however, because her son Robert had taken it over at this point with his wife, Florence and family.  Additionally, Isabel her sister, her brother and my great grandfather Thomas Ferguson and my grandfather Chester Ferguson ended up living there with them in 1920 (along with his siblings, Isabel and Thomas).  I suspect that she likely did live there, but was no listed in the census.   Again, she is missing from the 1930 census as well. Her son William died young in 1941 in Minneapolis.  Her son Robert died in 1930 at the age of only 43. Her son William also died young in 1941 in Minneapolis. Several postcards from Lizzie to Chester were recently found around that time indicating he had been ill for sometime and she had gone out to see him. 

She was a member of the WBA (Women's Business Assocation?)  She died July 20, 1944 in Morris, Illinois. Her address at her time of death was 404 E. Benton St.  She lived there here for years with Chester, but it is unknown for how long.  She was 81 years old when she died.  The cause of death was Hypostatic Pneumonia with an additional diagnosis of light paralysis for the past two years.   At the time of her death, only Jeanette was still living as well as three grandchildren and 2 great grandchildren.  The services were held at Davis Funeral home and she was buried in Evergreen cemetery.  The pallbearers were Thomas, Chester Russell and Erwin Ferguson as well as Glen McNabb and Lincoln Kay.

Upon looking up the probate of Elizabeth, several interesting things were noted.  The probate itself was in the amount of $6455, a few thousand of which was cash.  Additionally, there were postal savings certificates, stocks and bonds. Because both of her sons and husband and died previously the money went to her grand children  Robert Kay Peterson, Dortothy Sparks, and June Kay.  The furnishings and personal items went to Chester.  However, Florence Kay (Robert's wife and helped run the Kay House) was given just $1.

Stone in Evergreen Cemetery

Elizabeth Kay in the middle of her two sisters.

Elizabeth Kay with presumably one of her three granddaughters.

Isabelle Ferguson Allan

It's been awhile since a blog post, but that's because I've been doing quite a bit of research.  Almost too much research to post in one entry.  Since some of the items of information are unrelated, I will likely do two different posts.  I started this out as all the children in one post, but with all the information decided to tackle one child at a time.

In order to understand some of the research, it's important to explain the histories of the children of William and Mary (Steel) Ferguson. To review here is how I am related to William Ferguson.

William Ferguson----->Thomas A. Ferguson----->Chester Ferguson---->Thomas C. Ferguson---->Sarah Ferguson Potter

Here are William's children in birth order.

1. Isabelle Ferguson 1858-1923.  She first appears in the 1860 census living with her parents and brother, John.  It states she was 2 years old and born in Illinois.  She is again found in the 1870 census living at home.  I have yet to find her in the 1880 census because she wasn't living with the family.  Of course the 1890 census is missing so she doesn't reappear until 1900.  Isabelle did not marry until later in life.  Before she married she worked as a housekeeper for a wealthy man in town named Frank Hall.  She worked there for nine years before she met her husband.  She was 39 years old when she married David T. Allan in 1896.  The wedding was held at his home and for a honeymoon they traveled to Racine Wisconsin, where afterword they would move to La Salle, Illinois.  David Allan was well known in La Salle County of Illinois.  He ran his own coal mine while they lived in La Salle.  William Ferguson was staying with Isabelle since the 4th of July, when he suddenly died on July 23, 1898. On the day he died, Isabelle went to the train station to pick up her sister Jeanette.  Both of them traveled back to her home in La Salle and found William dead.  He was alone in the house at the time, except for some of her step children who were in the home.  In the 1900 census, David and "Isabella" are listed living with 8 of the children at 1025 5th St. in La Salle.   In 1903, he sold his business and bought the Alta Hotel in Denver Colorado.  Recently, two pictures were found of Isabelle.  One in a book about the Allan Genealogy and another in my Aunt Debbie's basement.  We knew it was Isabelle and her sisters because you can very faintly see in the corner and background of the picture the word "Alta".  It was a very strange coicidence to learn about the David and Isabelle purchasing the hotel and then find a picture of them in front of the hotel the very same day!
Isabelle is the one on the right, her sisters Elizabeth is next to her, while her other sister Jeanette is on the end.  This picture would have been taken sometime after 1903.

This is a picture of David T. Allan and his second wife Isabelle taken in Denver around 1910.  David was married previously to Jesse Barr who later died.  The couple had 11 children and Isabelle helped raise many of them as she is listed with them on the census during various years.  In the 1910 census, the couple appear again in Denver Colorado.  They are listed with one daughter and 3 boarders, assuming at the Alta Hotel.  David Allan died of "heart trouble" in 1915 and shortly after Isabelle returned home to live with her sister Elizabeth at the Kay House in downtown Morris.  In the 1920 census she is listed living there with  head of the household,  nephew Robert Kay (Elizabeth's son) along with several roomers including Harry McNabb (a nephew), Thomas Ferguson (her brother and my great grandfather), Chester (my grandfather), Isabelle, and Thomas Jr. both children of Thomas Ferguson.  She died in 1923 of carcinoma of the face, the first sibling to be born and to die (besides a childhood death) in the family.  Her death certificate also listed her first name as Belle.  She was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

Because Isabelle had no children she had no descendants to contact for further information.  However, there were step children who may have had descendants to help with finding out further information.

Next entry: John Ferguson and Elizabeth Agnes Ferguson