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The Man I Thought Was Grandpa
Column published: 10 November 2009
By: Shirley Gage Hodges   Biography & Archived Articles

Many of us have wonderful old pictures of people that we have inherited. Often these photos come to us with absolutely no identification. You can imagine how happy I was to have a photo of my grandparents Larkin and Sarah Williams. There was an inscription on the photo that said they were my Mother's grandparents.

That photo started me on a search for my grandparents that lasted for 38 years. Despite a lot of searching I had not been able to locate Larkin. I was finally able to find them after the 1880 U. S. Census National Index by the Family History Center of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was published.

I had always looked for Larkin in the Cass County, Michigan area, as that is where many of my other families have lived. Over the years my Tietsort, Hunt, Rucker and Williams families seem to have traveled to different locations. I later found that Larkin Williams was born in Richmond, Wayne County, Indiana. May 10, 1825. He went with his parents to Cass County, Michigan in 1833. He married Sarah Rucker there on November 16, 1845. So far, so good. I discovered that Larkin and Sarah moved to Iowa June 8, 1856.

My husband, Clarence, and I spend our winters in Arizona so Clarence asked me if I would like to go via Iowa and do some research on the way out. As you can imagine, I was overjoyed. By doing some further research I was able to discover that Larkin and Sarah were among the founders of the Lake City Baptist Church. Larkin also had one of three stagecoach stops in the county. When we arrived there we were able to find the building that the guests had stayed in. The foundation was still there for the stagecoach-stop building.

Lake City Baptist Church, Lake City, Iowa

We spent one afternoon researching at the local library. As it was getting close to closing time I asked the librarian if she knew where the Baptist Church was. She said that she wished she had known that I was interested in it because there had been a dinner at the church that evening. She encouraged us to drive down and see if anyone was still there. You can imagine my delight when we got there and found a couple of people just locking the doors. It happened to be the historian and her husband. They graciously went back in and let us go through the records. I even found the name of Sarah's parents in the minutes, in an entry that said that they would be leaving the church as they were going back to Cass County, Michigan.

I did a lot of work at the courthouse the next day and then went to the cemetery where I had a wonderful visit with Larkin. I did some further research to take care of a couple of red flags that had been raised. And lo and behold, I discovered that Larkin is not my grandfather! He is my uncle by marriage.

I am a firm believer that almost every cloud has a silver lining. When I came back to Michigan I typed up all of the information that I had gathered about Larkin and Sarah's family and put it out on the Calhoun County GenWeb page. Three weeks after I had put the information out there Larkin's real granddaughter from Texas contacted me. She wanted to know if I knew the names of our grandmother's parents. I called her up and told her "honey I can tell you the names of your grandmother's parents. I don't have a clue who mine are." I was able to send her a lot of information that was of help to her.

All of this came about because of the incorrect identification of a photo that had been given to my mother. Make sure that you don't do that to your descendants.

Incidentally, I have learned the names of my grandparents. They are David and Emma Hunt Williams. David's wife, Emma is a sister of my grandfather, John Hunt.

Sarah Rucker's sister, Elizabeth, married my great grandfather, John Hunt.

My family is complicated. We have been able to determine that some of the medical issues that we have in the family are the result of some of these relationships.

As you are doing your research I would encourage you to check each and every fact. Make sure that the information that you are passing along to your descendants is correct and verifiable.

By the way, Larkin has turned out to be a grand old gentleman and I would have been proud to call him grandfather.

Until next time :)

Shirley Hodges, biography & genealogy lectures; email:

Editor's Note: Shirley Hodges is the author of the popular Guide to United States Census, 1790-1930

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