Archive for the ‘Michigan history’ Category

This is the best image I have ever seen of my great-great grandfather Richard DeKorn, Kalamazoo mason and building contractor.

Notice that this portrait is signed. It seems to say L. C. Robinson ’27.

So who was L. C. Robinson? From a directory of early Michigan photographers:

Robinson, Leo Carey
Dowagiac student …………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1900
Grand Rapids student ……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….1910
Grand Rapids manufacturer of studio furniture for photographers ………………………………………………………… 1910-1911
Grand Rapids photographer for Carey B. Robinson ……………………………………………………………………………………..1912
Grand Rapids PHOTOGRAPHER at 115 ½ Monroe av ……………………………………………………………………… 1913-1921
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 414 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1923-1925
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Main st west ………………………………………………………………………….. 1926-1927
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 426 Michigan av west …………………………………………………………………… 1929-1931
Kalamazoo PHOTOGRAPHER at 346 Burdick st south …………………………………………………………………….. 1939-1942
Leo was the elder son of photographer Carey B. Robinson and Lettie Alena (Lewis) Robinson, was born on February
25, 1893, at Delton, Michigan, and became a tall man with light brown eyes and brown hair. Her father came from
Indiana and Alta was born at Plainwell, Michigan, in June of 1893, sixth of the nine children of Charles C. and Frances
Ardella (Nichols) West. She grew up on an Allegan County farm, and she married Leo in 1914. Their children were
born in Michigan: Chester in 1915, Doris in 1916, Rueben (later Richard) in July of 1919, Jack about 1924, Avis in
May of 1926, and Eileen in February of 1928. The furniture manufactured by C. B. Robinson & Sons was sold across
the nation and in several other countries. Though Leo, along with his brother Ralph and his father, was a principal of
this company through 1911, Leo and his mother operated the photograph studio while his father supervised the
furniture factory. Leo became the nominal proprietor of the Grand Rapids studio about 1913, though his mother and
father still were involved with its operation and finances. He called it Robinson’s Art Loft in 1917. Late in 1923 he
purchased the Spaeth Studio, located in its own building on West Main Street, and within a couple of years had
developed one of the largest portrait trades in Kalamazoo. Leo died at Kalamazoo in 1942.

This photograph has a strange sheen to it and a pattern that overlays it all–visible in certain formats on my computer screen. This must be a certain type of photography, but I don’t know what it is.

I do know that I am grateful for this photograph dated three years before Richard’s death.

Dated. But taken? Richard was born in 1851 in Kapelle, Zeeland, Netherlands. In 1927, he would have been 76 years old.

Did he dye his hair? Could those moderate “living lines” be from 76 years of living? I find this photo a little confusing if it’s meant to be from 1927.

What do YOU think?

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Although I started this blog five years ago next month, and that sounds like a long time, I’ve been working (on and off–mainly off while raising my kids and teaching) on family history, family photos, and genealogy since I was just out of college and beginning a master’s in history (which I did not complete and ultimately switched to English and creative writing).

I was blessed with many antique and vintage photographs and a grandfather with a great memory and a talent for storytelling.

But it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I got the idea of putting my research and knowledge of our family history together with my creative writing. Then I began to write lyric poems, prose poems, and a few pieces in a genre that was new to me–flash nonfiction, which is a form of very short prose–based on individuals from my family’s past.

Ultimately, I pulled these pieces together into a chapbook (44 pages) which has been published by Finishing Line Press and is now available, not only on their website, but also on Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites.

Kin Types looks at what the lives of my ancestors were like. The locales are mainly Kalamazoo (and other towns in southwestern Michigan), Elmhurst (Illinois), and the Netherlands. Using the fruits of my research, which included studying newspaper articles, documents, and the details of antique photos, I tried to “inhabit” the lives of some of the people who have come before me.

If you click through the link to the Amazon page, the book can be ordered for $14.99. To order through Barnes & Noble, try this link.

Here is a sample poem from the collection:



Tigers die and leave their skins;

people die and leave their names.  ~Japanese Proverb


The more relatives I unearthed,

the more Franks rose to the surface

like deer bones after a storm.

On the trails I could follow,

I found seven named Frank,

three Franz, three Francis.

Frans, Francois, and Franciscus.

Frances and Francisca,

the women peeking out

from under their fathers’ names.

The name passed forward

like a cross polished by many hands.

The verb frank means to allow free passage

for man or post. But these Franks

and Franciskas paid with their labor

and their babes buried along the way.

If you read this blog, some of the characters of the book might be familiar to you. And because the project is quite unique I think people passionate about family history, genealogy, history, and local history will probably be particularly interested. Some of the pieces have been published in literary magazines. Combined together, they tell a story of the history of “forgotten” women.

So what are you waiting for? 😉 Go to one of the links and place your order!  And thank you very much.


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I’ve written several posts about my grandmother, Lucille Edna Mulder (married name Zuidweg), who was born April 17, 1912, and her high school graduation scrapbook. She graduated from Caledonia High School (Michigan) in 1929.

In those posts, I mentioned that Grandma’s best friend Blanche was class valedictorian, Grandma’s older sister Dorothy was salutatorian, and Grandma–with the 3rd highest GPA–was class historian.

Visiting Mom, I recently found this photograph of Grandma and Dorothy. It’s a tinted photo, and it appears to be the right age to have been taken around the time they graduated high school. It shows the girls with movie star hairstyles.

You can see from the list below (from the scrapbook) who else graduated from CHS in 1929. Look at the proportion of girls to boys! Why was that? Were the boys working the farms and no longer attending school? If so, that’s a shame. What else could account for so few boys graduating? I trust the list because Grandma was, after all, class historian and quite meticulous about recording information.

Maybe this list will help out someone else researching their own family. Good luck!





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This past week I was back in Michigan for a visit with Mom who was having surgery. Surgery went very well, and Mom is doing great!

I came home with some vintage and antique photos. Eventually I will share some of them.

For now, I have to go through the process I use for all these photos.

  1. Scan each photo, using the scanner attached to my computer. I originally bought it for business, but it’s just a simple home scanner. I scan them into .tiff so that the best quality is preserved.
  2. The originals are then put into acid-free clear (plastic) sleeves and sometimes then into acid-free photo boxes for storage, preferably in a fire safe (locked file cabinet that can withstand fire up to a certain temperature).
  3. Then I use my zamzar.com account to convert the .tiff files into .jpg. Jpeg is easier to use as I wish because it’s a very accepted file type. Each new jpeg has to be downloaded to my computer individually. This takes a bit of time. Zamzar is the best program I have found for file type conversions, and it is well worth the subscription.
  4. I create appropriate folders and store the .tiffs and the .jpgs together in the folders.
  5. Photos from the 60s and 70s sometimes need a little TLC as they are already turning yellow or even brown. I use Picmonkey not because it’s better than photoshop (it isn’t), but because it is extremely user friendly and doesn’t take up too much time.
  6. I create another folder for each new folder. These use the same folder names, but add the term “watermarked.”
  7. Then I use Water Marquee to create a watermark for thefamilykalamazoo.com and watermark one full set from each “watermarked” folder.
  8. At this point, I have both watermarked and unwatermarked jpegs for sharing.

That’s it! Then I’m done. What is your process for saving old photos?

From a Joseph DeKorn glass negative

Adrian Zuidweg (Grandpa) on the right

The dog is Bobby

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I dug into the bottom of a file drawer and pulled out a book I forgot that I had. It was put together by the Kalamazoo Gazette and featured photographs sent in by individuals of Kalamazoo from the past up to the early 1960s.

My grandfather, Adrian Zuidweg, is listed as one of the contributors, so I went through and tried to find the photos he might have sent in.

Definitely these two photos. The little boy in the check dress and straw hat is grandpa himself. And the little girl on the hammock is his cousin Alice Leeuwenhoek.

Those are the relatives sitting on the front porch. Gosh, I own that photo! I didn’t realize that was Richard Remine (though I can see right now that it is, of course, him)–or his children Therese, Harold, and Jane either. It would fit that the two little girls are Alice (next to her grandma Alice Paak) and Therese. With Harold behind the children. But Jane doesn’t really look old enough in this photo. According to my records, Jane was 14 years older than Therese. Something is off here. That big gap in age between Jane and Therese bothers me, and it always has. And if you recall when I wrote about Frank and Jane Tazelaar, I had been confused for awhile about if there had been 4 Remine children and 2 girls of similar names.  This photo must be somewhere around 1901, based on the assumed aged of the 3 little children. Jane was born in 1881 and is not 20 here!

The known people: back row is Aunt Jen DeKorn Leeuwenhoek, Richard DeKorn, Richard Remine. Front row is Lambertus (Lou) Leeuwenhoek, Alice Paak DeKorn, and then the little girl next to Alice definitely looks like Alice Leeuwenhoek, Jen and Lou’s daughter. It would seem plausible that the three other children belong to Richard Remine, but Jane could not have been that small.

What else? Here is Harold Remine big enough to go fishing at Long Lake. The other photo is not from my family, but it does show off a great collection of hats!

This is the Ladies Library building that Richard DeKorn was the mason contractor for.

But I don’t think that is one of our family photos.

One of these photos could have been taken by Joseph DeKorn and been submitted by Grandpa. It is very similar to the ones that I own.

Take a look at the captions for the downtown views. Does it make sense? It doesn’t make sense to me for some reason.

Most importantly, Grandpa autographed this book!

Here is a bonus photo. It isn’t from my family, but isn’t it a cool reminder of the kitschy business architecture popular in those days?

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You might remember reading a post about Grandpa’s girlfriend before Grandma in “Grandpa’s Girlfriend.” I noticed a later entry in the Memory Book where he was asked if his mother liked Grandma. He wrote that she never liked any girls he dated, but that she “accepted” Grandma. As well she should. By then, Cora, Grandpa’s mother, was dying (the spindle cell cancer that was in her death certificate that I posted the other day) and he was devoting his life to taking care of her. He didn’t have a job at the time. When he married Grandma, she not only helped him take care of his mother, but she worked full-time as a teacher, as well, that first year.

Another person that was important to Grandpa was the person he identified in the Memory Book as his best friend: Clarence Pettiford. He wrote, “Clarence Pettiford had good values and was nice to be around.” When I was a little girl and Grandpa was still living in the same neighborhood–and had his Sunoco Station there, too–Clarence also still lived in the neighborhood.

The way I knew Clarence was that Grandma and I would walk “uptown” to the downtown bank with the service station deposits–or take the bus if the weather was rainy or too hot. We would always stop and visit the man I thought was the most important banker in the elegant bank at the corner of Burdick and Michigan. He was known to me as “Mr. Pettiford,” and he was always so very nice to me. I thought he was such a fine gentleman in both the way he acted and his tall distinguished appearance. When I got older, it was a little surprising to me to learn that he was in charge of security, rather than the head banker.

Grandpa wasn’t able to attend high school because he was blind in one eye, and it caused him a lot of distress. But Clarence did attend Kalamazoo Central High School, and I was able to find a  photo of him in the yearbook. I apologize for the quality of the photos–they are from the Delphian and not the best quality.


This photo comes from this page in the 1932 yearbook:

You can see that Clarence was quite the athlete. Grandpa also loved sports, but he would get sick from following the ball because of his bad eye. You can read what happened to his eye here. Clarence was about 3 years younger than Grandpa, but maybe the nearest boy who wasn’t a relative. Grandpa had about 7 boy cousins who lived nearby, but I imagine it was hard to be an only child and hang around with 7 boy cousins who were all brothers.

Back to Clarence: he lettered in football in 1930. He must have been 19 at the time. And in 1932, he must have been 21. The age is a little off, I know, but there might have been reasons that we don’t know. My other grandfather, for instance, immigrated from Europe when he was fourteen, and he was still playing football and declaiming in Glee Club for his high school when he was 21.

In this page, Clarence is the manager of the intramural team:

Oh my, did you read what it says about the Intramural Team? It’s for boys not talented enough for varsity or the reserve team. Yikes. Did they have to spell it out like that?

This blog post is a little tribute to the memory of Clarence Pettiford, a talented gentleman.

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The other day I posted Richard DeKorn’s death certificate from Kalamazoo and asked for help with the cause of death. Readers were very helpful, and I’m so appreciative.

I mentioned at the time that Richard’s daughter and Grandpa’s mother, Cora DeKorn Zuidweg (Mrs. Adrian Zuidweg), wasn’t in the register of deaths. Two readers kindly sent me Cora’s death certificate that they found on the Seeking Michigan website.

Cora is a particularly intriguing person to me because Grandpa and Grandma used to tell me that I looked a lot like her, especially with my hair pulled back. Cora always wore her hair up. The first time I saw this picture of Cora I was in my 20s and felt as if I was looking into a mirror.

Also, Grandpa’s stories about her included stories of her love for animals and her courage to defend them. I feel a real affinity in the area of love of animals and wish I had her courage.

Here are Cora and Adrian (senior) with Grandpa, Adrian (junior)

What I knew about Cora’s death was that she had cancer that had spread throughout her body and her brain became confused from the disease. I also knew that she was dying when my grandparents got married. That explains why they got married out of town and on their own. My grandmother moved into the house with Grandpa and his mother and took care of her until she died a few months later.

Now take a look at the cause of death on the certificate:

Exhaustion – debility from gen – metastatic sarcoma spindle cell – primary in left thigh, followed injury was removed 9-16-29 – had existed there 5 years.

I believe that it is what it says.

So cancer that started in her left thigh. Cancer that, according to Google, would be treated with chemo today. If caught in time, the results would probably be positive. Spindle cell sarcoma apparently is a connective tissue cancer.

I thought that was a little bit of a coincidence because it seems that Cora had the cancer since she was about 52 and when I was 50 I had a tumor in my foot. While my tumor turned out not to be cancer, it was a giant cell reparative granuloma, which means that it has some characteristics of cancer (possibility of metastasizing and also destruction and replacement of healthy tissue). My tumor is the type that also reacts to injury or pressure, as Cora’s did.

After checking out more on Google, I also learned that Giant Cell tumors can turn into cancer if left untreated–and sometimes into spindle cell. Notice that Cora’s original tumor wasn’t removed until 1929, about two years into her diagnosis.

All very curious. I know that I am lucky that I got 21st century medical care for my foot.

Cora passed away at age 57, never meeting her three grandchildren. My mother would be born less than two years after Cora’s death.


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