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. Continue reading

” . . . 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.).

As Time Goes By

Inspired by an article entitled “Then and Now Photos Show People as Young Adults and at 100 Years Old”, I took a look at some of the family photos in my own collection to see if I could assemble a similar group.

The results were somewhat surprising. Most noteworthy . . .

  • In many cases, I found pictures where the poses were quite similar, even though many years had passed in between.
  • And of course it was fun to see how some facial features never change!

Here’s my collection . . . Continue reading

I love Google – again!!

I’ve been having fun lately using the Google Earth overlay feature to map where my ancestors lived in various townlands in Ireland during the 19th century. By referencing Griffith’s Valuation records, it’s possible to determine with a great deal of accuracy where they lived and what land they were leasing.

While doing U.S. research last weekend on my great great grandparents Lewis Blacker and Margaret Rebecca (Loury/Lower) Blacker, I wondered if it might be possible to map where they lived in 1850.

Here is the family in the census record – Lewis and Margaret living with their two daughters Elizabeth and her husband Nathan Pierce and Sarah and her husband Alonzo Ford – living in Ward 1, City of Dayton, Miami County, Ohio.

I started by searching Google for an historic map related to that location and time period but the closest I could find was this 1875 map from

Looking again at the 1850 U.S. Census record, I was hoping to find some reference to an address, or at least a street name – but was quickly disappointed when I realized there were none. The only reference is the “dwelling house” number (column 1) and a number indicating the order in which each family was visited (column 2).

Never one to give up easily, however, I wondered if maybe, just maybe, there might be some other notation or reference to a landmark that might give me a clue. So I decided to go through the record, page by page.

Luckily, I didn’t have to go far. The very first listing on page 1 was for a group of people who lived in a hotel. A rather large group of people – 27, to be exact. That could be good, right? A rather large hotel possibly owned by the first person listed – a “hotel keeper” by the name of Francis Ohmer.

Next, I searched Google for Mr. Ohmer’s name, plus a few additional identifiers like “Ohio” and “1850” – and soon came across the American Antiquarian Society web site, with a reference to the Richard P. Morgan Indexes. Included there is a searchable database of the “Ohio Name Index, 1796-1900”, which includes “Odell’s Dayton Directory and Business Advertiser, 1850”. And Mr. Ohmer is in that database.

It appeared at first that the directory was a listing of business people so I began by searching the database for other individuals listed in the 1850 census that looked like they might have owned a business . . . a distiller, a moulder, a grocer, and a cooper. By mapping the addresses of those businessmen, I might be able to ascertain the direction in which the census taker was moving, which would ultimately help me determine where the Blackers lived.

And my idea seemed to be working. And then, quite by accident, I realized there were some “laborers” listed in the directory.

Since Lewis Blacker was listed as a “laborer” in the census, I searched his first and last name in the database but nothing came up. Remembering that “Blacker” is often misspelled, I tried searching on his first name alone – and I got lucky. There was only 20 names in the result, one for a “Lewis Blicker“. A laborer who lived at “Third North Side East of Old Canal, Dayton, Ohio”. And since “Blicker” is an alternate spelling that comes up over and over again (which will be the subject of a blog post in the near future), I believe this is my guy!

I was unable to find a digital image of the directory online but did discover several locations where I could order a reproduction, at a very reasonable price. So I placed an order – and it came in the mail yesterday. Hooray!

Here’s an image of the page where Lewis Blicker appears.

And so now I know he lived on the “north side of Third east of old canal.” Well, at least that’s where he lived according to the Dayton directory.

As a double-check, I decided to continue mapping some of the other folks referenced in and around the Blacker family in the census and it actually appears they lived in a different location at the time the census was taken in October of that year. If my calculations are correct, they lived on First Street between Madison and Sears – just a few blocks north of the Third Street location – at the time of the census.

I still believe the “Lewis Blacker” in the census record (October 1850) and the “Lewis Blicker” in the Dayton directory (published in August 1850) are likely the same individual, as it seems entirely plausible that the family might have lived in two different locations in the same year.

Shown below are the two different locations on the historical Dayton map . . .

And here are those same two locations shown on a current Google map . . .

Obviously, none of this information answers my ultimate brick wall question, which is . . .

Where in Germany were Lewis and Margaret born??

But while driving in my virtual car up and down Third Street, I noticed a church in the block just on the other side of Madison St. I zoomed in on the church sign and saw that the name was St. John’s United Church of Christ. I then located the church website and learned the following:

  • St. John’s was established by a group of German Evangelical Protestants in 1840 as the “German Evangelical Congregation”
  • The original meeting location was in the old courthouse located at 3rd Street and Main
  • The East 3rd Street site was built in 1865
  • That building was destroyed by fire in 1899 and construction on the new church was completed in 1901

So that’s some good information. The church was not in that location in 1850 when the Blacker family lived down the street, but it was in existence at another location. So that’s definitely worth further investigation for possible records.

And once again, you never know what you’ll find on Google!!

Copyright (c) 2017, Lark M. Dalin Robart

Featured Image attribution: By Google Inc. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons