This is the house that Jack built

As part of a photo challenge that I’m participating in, I posted these pictures and story to my Instagram feed today. And I thought I’d share the same here.

Today is Day 12 of this month’s #genealogyphotoaday challenge and the word is “neighborhood”.

“The house that Jack built” in 1935/1936 at the corner of 7th and Davis in Helena, Montana.

This is the house my grandfather Jack Blacker built after the 1935 earthquake that destroyed my grandparents’ home. (I’m in the process of writing a more detailed blog post about this event, so stay tuned!) The house sits at the corner of 7th and Davis in Helena, MT.

“The house that Jack built,” as my mother lovingly refers to it, is located in Helena’s east side neighborhood, just around the corner from the much larger home my grandfather grew up in, located at 335 No. Rodney.

The house my grandfather grew up in, located on No. Rodney.

The house on Rodney was built in the mid 1880s by his parents Ada and David Lyman Blacker.

My mother jotted down this memory regarding the neighborhood . . .

[My father] used to take all 5 of us [my mom, her 2 brothers, and 2 sisters] over to a neighborhood bakery at 11:00 p.m. at night on weekends and get two loaves of fresh bread. Warm, right out of the oven. And then we would go home and butter it and eat all of it.

Follow me on instagram @8roads2montana for more photos and stories!


Photo attribution: both photos were taken by the author.

Share This:

The question of the left-handed plow

Browsing the newspaper collection at the Library of Congress Chronicling America website, I came across this tongue-in-cheek article1 from an 1899 issue of The Daily Inter Mountain, a Butte, Montana, newspaper.

Here are a few excerpts:


During a temporary lull in business a Helena lawyer discovered that the plow on the great seal of the State of Montana is a left-handed contrivance, and raises the question as to whether such a thing as a left-handed plow ever existed. Several graduates from various agricultural colleges were cross-examined, but as they had never seen a plow they could not settle the question. A Dutchman who had plowed the raging main on his trip from the Faderland refused to give expert testimony, and finally the editor of the Helena Herald volunteered the information that a corn plow would throw dirt in both directions, being ambidextrous, so to speak, and possibly the designer of the great seal was right after all.

The Montana Territory Coat of Arms (illustrated, 1876), by Henry Mitchell. Restoration by Godot13 [Public domain or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
The article continues, laying out the argument for one opinion, then the other. And finally concludes that left-handed plows may be found in the Alleghney mountains . . .

. . . where the horses’ legs grow longer on one side so they can walk around the hills with impunity, and where the farms are fastened onto the mountainsides with stakes driven into each corner. If such plows are not found in that part of the country, the Inter Mountain will suggest that Governor Smith loses no time in abolishing the great seal of the state of Montana. What is the use of having a right-handed seal with a left-handed plow on it?2

  1. Daily inter mountain. (Butte, Mont.), 08 July 1899. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
  2. There is a discussion of the various versions of the State Seal at the Montana Secretary of State’s web site but there is no reference to the “left-handed plow” controversy.

Share This:

On this day in 1917 | Montana in WWI: “rounding up the draft duckers”

From The Butte Daily Post on this day in 1917 comes this article on men called for examination for the “national army”.1

I’ve transcribed some excerpts from the article, which began on page 1 of the paper that day, and continued on page 9.

“Here are some interesting figures gleaned from the
first two days’ examination of men for the national
army, as taken from the figures in the hands of the
county exemption board:

Out of 488 men called for examination in the first two
days, 104 failed to report at the courthouse for exemp-
Out of the first 150 men given preliminary examina-
tion on eyesight and hearing only four men failed to
come up to the necessary qualification on these two
Out of the 198 men examined on Monday by the phy-
sicians but 37 returned to the county board’s offices
to make inquiry concerning exemption claims
Tentative figures on the 198 men examined Monday
are that but 22 will fail to qualify physically.
A majority of physical disqualifications will be on the
grounds of hernia or chronic stomach trouble.
Only six men have been suspected of trying to “fake”
in the examination of the first 198 me.
It takes an average of 1.4 minutes to examine a man
at the hospital where the examinations are conducted.”

[continuing on  p. 9]

“Consideration of the cases of 104
men who have not reported or ex-
amination will not be undertaken until
Thursday morning, when the board
members will officially check over the
names of those who have reported for
examination. A few of the missing
men, it is known, have enlisted since
registration day. Two men named in
the first two days’ call have died since
registration day.2 Two men have been
officially reported sick and uanble to
reach the courthouse. A few did not
report because of insufficient knowl-
edge of draft rules, although the law
provides no leniency for men who ab-
sent themselves from examination by
their ignorance.

As fast as the missing men are
checked off as failing to report and
as having no excuse for absence, the
board will turn the names, descriptions
and addresses over to the federal gov-
ernment. Federal court trial or court-
martial will be in store then for the
missing ones. As soon as the exami-
nations are finished over the country,
the government will start a systematic
campaign of rounding up the “draft

Said He Was Sick.

One amusing incident happened at
the courthouse this morning. A young
foreigner, standing in a group of his
friends, was the subject of much
“He say him sick,” said one of the
companions. “He tell the men his
stomach bad and he can’t fight. He
could eat nails and not be hurt.”
A young native American stepped
into the group.
“Look here,” he told the young for-
eigner. “If you are trying to fake
sickness I’m going to knock your block
off and make you really sick. Some of
you fellows who ran away from your
own country come over here for free-
dom are trying to duck your duty. But
we fellows are going to see that every
one of you does his bit for the country.
We are certainly not going to go to
war and fight for a bunch of foreigners
who have come over to enjoy our coun-


  1.  The Butte daily post. (Butte, Mont.), 07 Aug. 1917. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>
  2. Sadly, some of the young men who registered for the draft on June 5th died in the Granite Mountain Speculator mine fire on June 8th. In all, 163 men died that night or in the following days. Here is a card that was filled out by Harry H. Sangwin. “United States World War I Draft Registration Cards, 1917-1918,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 7 August 2017), Harry H. Sangwin, 1917-1918; citing Butte City, Montana, United States, NARA microfilm publication M1509 (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.); FHL microfilm 1,684,100.

Share This:

” . . . it was none of our business . . .”

If there’s one saying that applies to a particular branch of my family tree, it’s this one . . .

It’s None of Your Business!

Which is particularly ironic . . . because that’s the same line that’s my biggest brick wall.

I can remember both my mother and my aunt telling us over and over again that their father’s oldest surviving sisters, Zetta and Kate, would never really discuss the family with them or answer any of their questions. “It’s as if,” my mom said, “it was none of our business.” Which is a real shame because we feel pretty sure these women had a lot of information to share.

We can’t really blame it completely on the sisters, however. Apparently my great grandmother and my grandfather were also silent on the subject of the Blacker family.

In spite of their efforts, however, I’ve recently had a bit of luck making what I think is another crack in that big brick wall. And I hope Grandma Ada, Aunt Zetta, and Aunt Kate won’t mind too terribly much if I share what I’ve learned.

Great Grandma Ada
David Lyman Blacker (1829-1911)

Our family is fortunate in that we know a great deal about my great grandfather DAVID LYMAN BLACKER – after he settled in Montana in 1864. Prior to that, however, we know very little.1

And his parents, LEWIS BLACKER2 and MARGARET REBECCA (LOURY)3 BLACKER, are the source of the big brick wall.

I thought it might be helpful to begin by breaking down the steps I took to get to where I am today.

Step 1: Reviewed previously obtained records and information

I reviewed the records I already had and then made a list of what I knew – or thought I knew – about LEWIS and MARGARET:

  • 1806 – both were born in Germany (or perhaps Prussia?)
  • 1825-1840 – the couple had 14 children, the first seven or so were born in Pennsylvania and the last seven in Ohio
  • 1850 – the couple lived with two of their daughters and the husbands of those daughters in Dayton, Ohio
  • 1870 – MARGARET lived with daughter ELIZABETH and her family in Macomb, Illinois
  • 1890 – MARGARET died in Macomb, Illinois

Step 2: Made a list of questions to be answered

The big questions I’ve been tackling for quite some time are:

  • Where were LEWIS and MARGARET born?4
  • And who are their parents?

Step 3: Research, research . . . and more research

The best record I’ve located is a cemetery record for MARGARET that states:

  • she was born in 1806 in Germany;
  • her maiden name was LOWER;
  • her mother’s name was MARY ULLERY;
  • she had at least 3 siblings: “CHRIS, KATE (SMITH), LYDIA and others”; and
  • she had a total of fourteen children, including my great grandfather DAVID.

For more information on this valuable cemetery record, click here.

And so armed with all this great information, my research for the last year or so has been centered on DAVID’s thirteen siblings . . . hoping to run into a descendant of one of those siblings who might have information to share.

I started by looking for the BLACKER family in as many census records as I could locate. To recap those research efforts . . .

1830 The family probably lived in Pennsylvania, because it appears several of their children were born on either side of that census year, one in Huntingdon County and one in Franklin County. I have searched electronically and manually through both counties but to no avail.

1840 According to a few birth dates I have for subsequent children, they should have been living in Ohio by 1840. And after much searching, I finally located what might be a record for the family in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio.5

Family of Lewis Blicker (or Blieker?) in the 1840 U.S. Census, living in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio. Could this be Lewis Blacker??

For those of you who are familiar with the 1840 U.S. Census, you know that only the name of the head of household is listed. All other family members (or occupants of the household) are shown as a tick mark in a column that indicates whether they are male or female and in which age range they fall.

So for instance, it appears there are a total of nine individuals living in the BLICKER or BLIEKER household, as follows:

  • Three males: one boy under the age 5; one boy between the age of 5 and 10; and one adult between the age of 30 and 40; .
  • Six females: three girls under the age of 5; two girls between the ages of 5 and 10; and one adult between the age of 30 and 40.

Given what I know about the family, i.e., the number of children and when they were born, I felt it was possible this census record could reflect the family of LEWIS and MARGARET. Please note the emphasis on possible.

1850 Many years ago, my mother and I located a census record of a small portion of the family living in Dayton, Ohio: LEWIS, MARGARET, their daughters, ELIZABETH and SARAH, and ELIZABETH’s husband NATHAN E. PIERCE, and SARAH’s husband ALONSO FORD.6

Family of Lewis Blacker in the 1850 U.S. Census, living in Dayton, Montgomery County, Ohio.

1860 In spite of the fact that I have located several of the children of LEWIS and MARGARET in the 1860 census records, I have to date been able to locate a record for either LEWIS or MARGARET.

1870 I located MARGARET living with her daughter ELIZABETH and her family in Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois.7 There is no indication as to whether MARGARET is married or a widow.

Family of N.E. Pearce, including his mother-in-law Rebecca Blacken [sic], in the 1860 U.S. Census, living in Macomb, McDonough County, Illinois.
1880 I have not yet located a census record for either LEWIS or MARGARET.

1890 Again, no record for either LEWIS or MARGARET. But then again, there are very few census records for anyone in 1890 since those records were destroyed in a fire in 1921. However, I do know from the cemetery record that MARGARET died in September 1890 and is buried in Macomb, Illinois.

Step 4: Think Outside the Box

Before concluding my review of the somewhat questionable 1840 U.S. Census record for Elizabeth Township, I took a quick look at the neighbors to see if there were any other surnames that stood out. Such as LOURY or LOWER (MARGARET’s maiden name) and ULLERY (MARGARET’S mother’s maiden name according to the cemetery record). But no luck.

And then, even though I have an 1850 U.S. Census record for LEWIS and MARGARET showing that they had moved on to Dayton, Ohio, I decided to take a look at the 1850 census record for Elizabeth Township – just to see what was going on in that same area 10 years later.8

LEWIS and MARGARET were nowhere to be found. But that wasn’t a big surprise. But I did discover a man named CHRISTIAN LOWER, living in the same area where LEWIS and MARGARET had lived in 1840.9

Family of Christian Lower in the 1850 U.S. Census, living in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio.

Step 5: Repeated Step 3 (more research!)

And so I began researching CHRISTIAN. Because don’t forget, I have the cemetery record for MARGARET that states her maiden name was LOWER – and she had a brother named “CHRIS”.

And what I learned is that before CHRISTIAN lived in Ohio, he lived in Pennsylvania. And in some of the same areas where LEWIS and MARGARET had lived.

Continuing my research, I found CHRISTIAN in several Ancestry Member Trees . . . and discovered that the people researching this family seemed to have a great deal of information, not only on CHRISTIAN but on several of his siblings.

The most interesting record I located in these Member Trees was the record of a ship arriving at the port of Norfolk and Portsmouth, Virginia, in 1821, containing a list of passengers.10  Six of those passengers are as follows:

  • Christian Lauer, male age 27
  • Joseph Lauer, male age 13
  • Dorothea Lauer, female age 26
  • Maria Lauer, female age 20
  • Catherine Lauer, female age 17
  • Margaretta Lauer, female age 15
1821 passenger list, showing Lauer siblings emigrating from Germany to the United States

Be still my heart. Could MARGARETTA (born about 1806) be my MARGARET (born about 1806)??

And there were other reasons to be excited about this discovery:

  • In addition to “CHRIS”, the cemetery record states MARGARET had a sister named “KATHERINE” (see “Christian” and “Catherine” in the ship record image above);
  • According to several Ancestry Member Trees, CHRISTIAN’s son DAVID was born in Johnston, Franklin County, PA, in 1931 (and my great grandfather’s sister ELIZABETH was born in Chambersburg, Franklin County, PA, in about 1833, and he was born in 1829 in Huntingdon County, PA, just north of Franklin County);
  • The cemetery record also states that MARGARET’s mother’s name was MARY ULLERY (and several Ancestry Member Trees associated with CHRISTIAN and his siblings state that CHRISTIAN’s mother’s name was MARIA CATHARINA ULRICH).

Step 6: Took action

And so I quickly sent a message to the administrator of the Ancestry Member Tree with the most information and sources.

Step 7: Patience and persistence!

Time passed.

No response.

And then one day – several months later – the crack in the wall got just a little bit wider.

Drum roll, please . . .

While reviewing my mom’s recent Ancestry DNA matches, I noticed she had a “New Ancestry Discovery” with the following message –

DNA evidence suggests that you [my mom] is related to a group of Joseph Christian Lauer descendants. And because her DNA matches people in the group, there’s a good chance she’s also related to Joseph Christian Lauer.

JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER is the “Joseph” listed on the ship record and a brother to CHRISTIAN LOWER . . . the man I had been researching.


Step 8: Repeated Step 7, more patience and persistence!

Armed now with the research and DNA matches, I tried again reaching out to the Ancestry Member regarding her tree.

More time passed.

No response.

Step 9: Performed the Genealogy Happy Dance!

And then . . . after several weeks – I finally heard back from someone regarding my attempts to reach out. Apparently the owner of the Ancestry tree, who is a descendant of JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER, passed my name on to another descendant of JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER – and she in turn contacted me.

Since then, we have been exchanging emails and information. And a few days ago, I began to examine her very carefully sourced timeline for JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER.

And that’s when the really big crack in the brick wall finally came.

It turns that JOSEPH CHRISTIAN LAUER also lived in Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio, in 1840. And here’s the best part – he lived right next door to LEWIS!!!11

LEWIS BLICKER (BLIEKER?) and JOSEPH LOWVIN (LOWER?) in the 1840 U.S. Census, Elizabeth Township, Miami County, Ohio

Step 10: Rinse & Repeat

To be sure, there’s still a great deal of work to be done, and questions to be asked and answered, but I do finally feel like I might be on the right track with this family.

In summary, here are the steps I followed . . .

  • Reviewed the records and information I already had, and made a timeline of what I already knew.
  • Determined the questions I wanted to answer.
  • Performed lots of research!
  • Did some thinking outside the box.
  • Followed up on new leads, which led to . . . more research!
  • Practiced patience and persistence!

All of which leads to . . . the Genealogy Happy Dance + More questions = Rinse & Repeat!

Genealogy Happy Dance!

What steps have you followed to break down some of your brick walls? I’d love to hear from you!

Copyright (c) 2017, Lark M. Dalin Robart


Photo attribution: the featured image was uploaded to by azamshah72 on January 2, 2012. All other photos are part of the author’s collection.
  1.  If you’re curious, I did write a short biographical sketch about him and you can read it here.
  2. For the benefit of my BLACKER cousins, don’t freak out yet! But my recent research indicates the BLACKER surname was most likely spelled BLEIKER. Click this link to hear what that name sounds like in German. There’s a little speaker icon in the bottom left corner of the box on the left. Just give it a click for the pronunciation. I think you’ll agree that it’s really not hard to imagine that once the German accent fell away, the name sounded like BLACKER. I’ll cover the details on that research in an upcoming blog post – but for now, you’ll just have to trust me on this. Insert smiley face here.
  3. MARGARET’s maiden name is also a bit of a mystery. I have only two records on this account. One is the death certificate of my great grandfather, dated 1911, which states her maiden name was LOURY. And the other is a cemetery record created at the time of MARGARET’s death in 1890 which states her maiden name was LOWER.
  4. The few records I’ve located state either Germany or Prussia. But if you’re familiar with German research, you know that’s not very useful information.
  5. “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 Aug 2017); entry for Lewis Blicker, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth Township; image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  6.  “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for Lewis Blacker, Ohio, Montgomery, Dayton, ward 1; image 16 of 32; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  7. “United States Census, 1870,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for N.E. Pearce, Illinois, McDonough, Macomb, ward 3, image 1 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M593 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  8. And these are the moments on which genealogists look back and wonder if someone from the past is leading you to a particular record. I know, it sounds a little creepy. But I swear, this has happened to me on more than one occasion. And who knows, maybe Ada, Zetta, and Kate have finally had a little pity on all of us.
  9.  “United States Census, 1850,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 August 2017), entry for Christian Lower, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth, image 35 of 35; citing NARA microfilm publication M432 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).
  10. “U.S., Atlantic Ports Passenger Lists, 1820-1873 and 1893-1959,” database with images, Ancestry  ( : accessed 5 Aug 2017), entry for Joseph Lauer. Citing original data: Records from Record Group 287, Publications of the U.S. Government; Record Group 85, Records of the Immigration and Naturalization Service “INS” and Record Group 36, Records of the United States Customs Service. The National Archives at Washington, D.C.
  11.  “United States Census, 1840,” database with images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 5 Aug 2017); entry for Joseph Lowvin, Ohio, Miami, Elizabeth Township; image 3 of 16; citing NARA microfilm publication M704, (Washington D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration, n.d.).

Share This: