You know how it goes. You begin looking at various websites and run across something that grabs your interest. In this case it was a newspaper article located on the website GenealogyBank with the title Henry A. Hart Is Killed by Train.
Here’s the article.
(CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT)
Henry was 64 years old and was married at the time, to Marian Brewster Hart.
Of course I had to learn more about Henry.
Henry A. Hart is my half 1st cousin 3 times removed. He was the son of Hiram Harper Hart and Clarissa Curtis. Henry A. Hart was born (according to his death certificate) on 5 Oct 1854 in Michigan. He was the oldest of 5 known children of Hiram and Clarissa. I expect he was named after his grandfather, Henry Hart (ca 1785-1879).
This has been a tough family to trace and much of the information I began with came from an unverified cousin, named Judy. While this information was very helpful and gave me a great start, there were no sources attached. I’ve been hunting for sources every since.
Henry’s story spoke to me. As I found out more about him, I discovered that he jumped from job to job. All of them blue collar. He never moved away from Grand Rapids, Michigan. At least not that I could find. I didn’t locate any children born to Henry & either of his wives. He did have family in the area though.
Henry was first married to Mattie E. Arnold on 27 Dec. 1889 in Corunna, Shiawassee, Michigan.
I could not locate Henry & Mattie either together or by themselves on the 1900 census. However, I did locate their divorce record from 8 Jul 1902. He filed for divorce from Mattie for the reason of “desertion” and it was granted. I wonder what happened with this couple? I have not located any further records of Mattie.
Source: Michigan, Divorce Records, 1897-1952
In 1903 I located Henry in the Grand Rapids city directory. He is working as an Elevator Operator.
On 13 Aug 1904, Henry married Marian Brewster Kelly in Grand Rapids, Kent, Michigan.
The following year, 1905, he is still an Elevator Operator.
Then in 1907 I find him working as a Sashman for P M R R (a railroad company). I conducted a search for the definition of this occupation for the railroad and didn’t find it listed. For a list of railroad occupation you can click here.
In 1910 Henry is working at another occupation, Cabman for a steam railroad.
By 1912, Henry has yet another occupation, Car Repair.
In 1913 Henry is a Carpenter.
In 1914 he is a Yardman.
In 1916 he is listed as a Laborer.
In 1918 he is an Oiler for Bissell’s. (Remember the Bissell sweepers?)
In 1919, the year of his death, he is listed as an Employee for Bissell’s.
What comes to mind as you read all these different jobs from year to year? I wonder…..
- Why so many jobs?
- Why so many different occupations?
- Did Henry voluntarily change jobs or was he “let go?” Was Henry a drinker? Was he a fighter?
- Was he ill with an issue that kept him from showing up regularly?
- Or was he just a guy who was always looking for the next best thing?
- Was he a dreamer?
The next thing we know, Henry was walking home on the railroad tracks and gets hit and killed by a train. Why didn’t he hear or see the train?
I had wondered what P M RR stood for from the 1907 city directory listing for Henry. This death notice gives me the answer, Pere Marquette Railroad.
Here is Henry’s death certificate.
One of the first things I look for on a death certificate, is the informant. Knowing that, can help us to determine how accurate the information might be. In this case Henry’s brother, Arthur Hart was the informant.
Henry’s wife, Marian, died just four years later on 2 Aug 1923 in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There is no image available for her death certificate, although it should be available on both Family Search and Seeking Michigan. I have also not been able to locate any obituary for her.
Henry and Marian are buried at Fairplains Cemetery, located at 2056 Diamond Rd., N.E. in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
You can visit their FindAGrave Memorials here: Henry #21057459 and Marian #21057460.
Source for the various years and occupations is the Ancestry.com U.S. City Directories, 1822-1995. Those city directories can reveal a lot of information about your ancestor and family members in a certain time and place.
Please take a look at the two blog posts I’ve written about using City Directories in your research.
CITY DIRECTORIES - A Treasure Trove of Genealogical Information
TUESDAY'S TIP - Stree Guide Included in City Directories - Have You Used This Handy Resource?
I wonder if one day I’ll find a family member who has a picture of Henry A. Hart?
Most of our ancestors didn’t live exciting or famous lives, but just tried to make it from day to day. Much like all of us.
If you think you might be related to anyone mentioned in this blog post, please contact me.Happy hunting,
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