Saturday Night Genealogy Fun – Good Genealogy Luck

Randy Seaver says, “It’s Saturday Night – time for our weekly Genealogy Fun!”

John Milton originally said “luck is the residue of design” (and Branch Rickey is often credited with the saying). However, the definition of “luck” is “the chance happening of fortunate or adverse events.”

I saw a post on the Genealogy Insider blog by Diane Haddad about Ways I’m Genealogically Lucky. I thought to myself “old Rand, that would be a good SNGF topic.” Thank you, Diane, for the idea:

Here’s the directions (and would you all please follow the directions? Thankfully, these are easy to follow):

1) When have you had a dose of good genealogy luck? What document or resource did you find just by happenstance or chance? By being in the right place at the right time? By finding a family history treasure in your family’s attic or basement? By finding a helpful document or reference without even looking for it?

2) Tell us about it in Comments to this post, in Comments on Facebook, or in a blog post of your own.

All that said, here is my stab at this week’s Saturday night fun!

Good luck can be a result of diligence, and that is how I had this “stroke”. Papa’s unsourced family tree came to us by way of a cousin. It seems that everyone had a typed copy of the results of this cousin’s research. I started the usual way, verifying each fact as much as I could.

According to the tree, Papa’s great grandparents, John P. Fenton, 1851-1891 and Susie Melissa Burdick, 1856-1931, were the parents of 6, including one adopted daughter, Nellie Fenton, original name “Helen Millard”. I never found much information on Nellie, but she was with the family for some censuses, and she married in Iowa shortly after John P. Fenton’s death.

The roots of both of our families run deep in Wexford County, Michigan, so I undertook to review all the records I could find for that location. On FHL US/Can film Film 966387 item 2, Probate Court index (to packets) v. A 1869- (dates not given) I found a record of the adoption!

I was at the local FHC, and I actually hollered out loud. No one there could believe my luck any more than I could. Here is the transcription:

State of Michigan
County of Wexford}SS

At a session of the Probate Court for the said County held at the Probate office in the Village of Sherman. On the Sixth day of Dec. in the year of our Lord one Thousand Eight Hundred and Eighty

Present Alonzo Chubb Judge of Probate. In the matter of the adoption and change of name of Helen M Stackhouse minor. On reading and filing the application duly executed and acknowledged of John Fenton and Susie Fenton his wife declaring that they have adopted Helen M. Stackhouse, a minor child of Sate Stackhouse and intend to make such child their heir at law, and that they desire the name of said child to be changed from Helen M. Stackhouse to Nellie Fenton & on reading and filing the consent in writing to the adoption and change of name of such child as aforesaid of Sate Stackhouse, being the mother and also the consent thereto of said child – she being an orphan and above the age of Seven years and it appearing satisfactory to the Court that such application is made in good faith the persons making the same are suitable and proper persons to have the charge, care & control of said child. It is therefore Ordered that the name of said minor be and the name is hereby changed from Helen M. Stackhouse to Nellie Fenton and that said John Fenton and Susie Fenton his wife to stand in the place of parents to said Nellie Fenton with all the duties, rights and privileges as pertaining to that relationship. And that the said Nellie Fenton be the child and heir at law of said John Fenton and Susie Fenton his wife will all the duties rights & privileges conferred by law. The same as if she was in fact their child Alonzo Chubb Judge of Probate.

I was not sure why the cousin thought Nellie’s name was “Millard”. Wondering about the discrepancy, I searched for the Stackhouse family on the 1880 census of Wexford County, Michigan. I found them as follows:

1880 United States Federal Census (Images on line at, Year: 1880; Census Place: Cadillac, Wexford, Michigan; Roll: T9_609; Family History Film: 1254609; Page: 535A; Enumeration District: 252; Image: 0799, SD 20 dwelling 225, family 737:

Stackhouse, David, white, male, 51, keeping saloon, born Ohio, both parents born Ohio.
Hellen, white, female, 35, wife, married, keeping house, born Ohio, father born Pennsylvania, mother born Vermont?
Sarah, white, female, 23, daughter, widowed or divorced, at home, born Michigan, father born Ohio, mother born Michigan.
Millard, Hellen, 5, grandchild, single, born Ohio, father born Ohio, mother born Michigan.
Stackhouse, Burthey?, white, female, 11, wife’s daughter, single, at school, born Michigan, both parents born Ohio.

So, there is is, perhaps Nellie’s father’s name was Millard, or perhaps not, but Helen/Nellie went by that name, at least on one census.

I would have never search early probate records for an adoption, but by wishing to check all of the records I could find for Wexford County, Michigan I found priceless information.

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