The Search of his parents - Daniel and Eliza (Harvey)

In late October I was contacted by researcher Steve Shaffer who was looking into the ancestry of his grandson.  He had recently visited Pine Tree Cemetery in Shiawasee, Michigan where Betsey Ann (Peters) was laid to rest.  The daughter of James Peters and Marguerite (Wait) of Halfmoon, Saratoga Co., New York, Betsey was born in Johnstown, Fulton Co., New York in 1818 and at the age of seventeen, married Charles Rhodes.

Of the eleven children born to Betsey and Charles, their son-in-law J. Harvey Phipps piqued my curiosity.  After  spending  more than twenty years researching the ancestry of myself and my husband, I am always intrigued by those who present me with a greater challenge, forcing me to intricately piece their life together through more indirect avenues.
Oakwood Cemetery - Fenton, Michigan
I began with the headstone Steve had provided.  Interred at Oakwood Cemetery in Fenton, the inscription simply read:” J. Harvey Phipps, 1837-1930.”  I first searched the Federal Census Records, of which there are few Phipps and many errors and various spellings of this surname.  Despite the difficulty of the name, I was able to locate him in the 1880 census.  His household included his wife Fanny (Rhodes) and their daughter Edith.  They were residing in the Village of Fenton, Genesee Co., Michigan where he was working as a photographer – and living only a few houses down from Benjamin Bangs whose house he had been listed in at the time the 1870 census was taken, his occupation then recorded as a photograph artist.  In 1900 his name is recorded as “Harvey” and he and Fanny are listed as married 28 years, she the mother of one child.

Since the records consistently  – and surprisingly – listed his father as having been born in England the search would typically yield fewer results, making things easier.  With these few notes at hand, I proceeded in searching the online death records at SeekingMichigan.org and found three Phipps (Daniel, Ellen and Charles) all recorded as the children of Daniel Phipps of England and Eliza Harvey of Vermont .  Adding to my information, I was then able to locate Daniel in the 1860 census residing in Oakland Co., Michigan.  He was listed as a 54 year-old house carpenter who was apparently widowed.  His household in White Lake included Ellen, age 16 and Charles, age 8 – which matched the names and dates I had found on their death certificates.  
From their dates and places of birth, I was able to determine that the family had arrived in Michigan from New York by at least 1852, when their son Charles was born.  I could also be certain that Daniel’s wife Eliza had died prior to 1860, and that  J. “Harvey” Phipps had likely been given his mother’s surname.

Hoping the family had resided in White Lake ten years ealier, I viewed every one of the 1850 census images for that town, and although I found familiar surnames such as Rhodes and Vorhees, I did not locate Daniel with his wife Eliza.  Not knowing where in New York they had resided, locating them with all the various and erroneous spellings of their surname would be difficult.  Instead, I took a necessary detour; and after locating information on J. Harvey’s siblings, I searched Find A Grave for any Phipps who might have been buried in Oakland County, Michigan.  I found – much to my delight - the beautiful old headstone of Daniel and Eliza.  Although worn and difficult to read, it appears that Eliza died on 17 Feb 1859 at the age of 48 years,  5 months, and 17 days; and that Daniel died on 19 Feb 1867 at the age of 60 years, 11 months and 18 days.
I confirmed these dates with Leslie Odell Ousnamer who had photographed the headstone photo and contributed it to Find A Grave.  After contacting her with additional information, she provided me with a date and place of birth for their daughter, Ellen Elizabeth, who had been born in Elba, Genesee Co., New York in 1844.  Perhaps, I hoped, this would be my lead to locate the family in the 1850 census prior to Eliza’s death, and therefore confirm them as the parents of J. Harvey.  
Extracted Image of 1850 Fed Census
After viewing  each of the census images in Elba, New York, I came up with nothing.  Once again I  resorted to a more creative search.  This time when I visited FamilySearch.org I entered a search for: Daniel, born in England, residing in Michigan between 1845-1855 and FINALLY there they were!  I had located them in Highland, Oakland Co., Michigan – enumerated as Thipps. Browsing through the pages, and seeing the name of a "Phebe Tucker," I realized the enumerator had written the letter "P" almost exactly as he had written his "T" – so not even a soundex search would have yielded anything close to Phipps. 

So now finally the search comes to an end.  I have successfully indentified and located the parents of Joseph Harvey Phipps, photographer and husband of Fannie (Rhodes), and hope my findings assist others who have been unable to locate this family.
As always, any additional information on the Phipps family is welcome – as are your emails and comments.  Many thanks to Steve Shaffer and Leslie Odell Ousnamer for the headstone photos.

Wishing you all Happy Holidays, and a joyful 2012.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I enjoyed your blog.
You are a very talented, competent and resourceful writer and researcher. I am very proud of you.
Happy Valentine's Day!
Love, Uncle Gary. 02-14-2012