Looking Back Through Time

Ahead to the Surname Index Page

This "book" started as daily notes, but has evolved into a story. The more I found out about my ancestors, the deeper my need was to "solve the mysteries." There is a thrill when a small clue arrives, and a lot of frustration waiting for emails and letters to get answered. But the clues come, and the mysteries prove to be far more interesting and challenging then expected.

As you begin to do genealogical research, you often meet with skeptics inside and outside the family who want to know what possible reasons there could be for this obsession (and it does become obsessive!). If you start listing relatives of relatives you soon realize that we are all related; there are only a few degrees of separation between you and anyone else on the planet. One relative told me he had 20,000 Baldwins listed in his data base. You will not find that many of any surname in my lists. I am not being critical of my distant cousin, I simply chose a different approach. I am only tracking male and female surnames of husband and wives. I am not tracking the aunts, uncles, cousins, etc. (only incidentally, or by request). I suppose what happens is that new genealogy researchers trace the direct surnames, while seasoned researchers, who have already fleshed in the basic lines, add additional relatives.

Okay, let's take a breath. I was wrong when I wrote the above paragraph. I was short-changing myself (not doing good detective work) and I was cheating other researchers who came to these pages. What changed my mind was an article by William Dollarhide in the Genealogy Bulletin (a supplement to Heritage Quest Magazine; Issue number 56, April 2003). The lead article was called "Five Essential Rules for Genealogy." I'll summarize these below.

Rule One: Treat the brothers and sisters of your ancestors as equals. This is the rule that changed my mind about only following my own direct line backward in time. The reason people get stuck in their research is that the evidence about a direct ancestor has dried up; there are no records. But most often there are five to ten siblings that did leave records. There are clues on the total family tree (the forest) that are missed when you are studying only one lineage. Death, marriage and birth certificates need to be collected for all the siblings.

Rule Two: Never accept just one document or just one source to prove something Build a case that would hold up in court. Collect a preponderance of evidence that proves the case beyond a reasonable doubt. A lot of evidence is contradictory, so the more documents collected, the better the case will unfold.

Rule Three: Never trust a published family history or genealogical compilation. Many amateur researchers fail to document their assertions, and too much is based on hearsay. Dollarhide writes "The fact that your family lineage was written up in a published family history does not make the information correct. You have to do the research yourself to verify the work of other family members. You have to locate primary sources.

Rule Four: Never trust secondary sources. Second hand sources are copied from originals. They are not always copied correctly. Only original records are valid. The original manuscripts must be studied. The original microfilms must be reviewed.

Rule Five: Prepare your genealogy so others can read it. Keep organized records that can easily be located and then shared with other researchers. Document where the information came from.


My answer to the question "Why do genealogy?" is complex and multiple. Here is why I do this:

01. I was told from a young age (probably since the first time I asked) that I was (all in one breath) "English/ Dutch/ Welsh/ Scottish/ and/ Irish." When I got older, I wondered "Yeah? How do they know?" And "Just who were the ancestors who came from these wonderful places?" I set out to prove or disprove the family lore about our history.

02. I love the unfolding of the mysteries. I love the challenge of the detective work. I love doing the research. I love the sudden interest in history, culture, and geography that is sparked by knowing that an ancestor walked through those historical, cultural, and geographic spaces. It's an excuse and a motivation to study history.

03. I love a good excuse to travel; to "find my roots." What great fun to watch your next adventurous trip slowly unfold as you trace the family tree to places farther and farther from your home. I love the imaginary escape from the domesticity of everyday existence.

04. I love meeting people who are searching for the same relatives you are. I love the excuse to locate and connect with relatives you might never have known.

05. I love finding out that I have relatives in Scotland, Ireland, England, and Germany (so far) and God knows what other charming (or not) place.

06. I also love making the little charts and printing them out to marvel at. Okay, so it's a sorry reason, but it's humbling to see the mass of people on that pedigree who had to exist for you to be here.

07. I love being the family historian; the guy in search of the Family Bible, the preserver and cataloger of the old pictures, the laminator of the old documents.

08. Genealogy research is also a way of honoring the past. It is an appreciation of your parents which leads to an appreciation of their parents and so forth. There is an element of "getting in the face of death." An awareness that the words and research do not belong to the author, but to generations to come who wonder about their ancestry. It is a form of acceptance of death and a refusal to forget or not honor the people who came before.

09. And last, and certainly not least in my case, I love to write. Give me any old excuse to "write a book" and I am ready. Writing is my hobby and my passion.


All justifications aside, it is powerfully important to keep in mind that living spouses and children come before any obsessions with long dead relatives. Stay in touch with the living! Maybe I'm just talking to myself (but I doubt it!).

That being said, carry on with the quest!


There are many ways to record the genealogical past. I am using three approaches: a software program called Generations, a Web site where you probably came across this document, and my hard copy "book" that I reproduce and hand out to relatives and others who show an interest (I just copy the web pages; you can do that also). These are the places where I record the "facts." What's more enjoyable though is the daily search; the contacts with unexpected people, the email that contains so much more than you had hoped, or the chance remark of a relative that clarifies part of a mystery.

I use a research template to help me remember where I have searched and where I need to search (this is new, as of October, 2002, so is quite incomplete). This is a helpful checklist for anyone starting their genealogy detective work.

A few notes about the following template: Birth, death, and marriage records can be found at the county or the state government offices. Genealogy libraries have also compiled lists that are available in books, in genealogy bulletins, and increasingly on the internet. Obituaries can be found in more than one newspaper and/or in church bulletins (funeral homes keep records). There may be several family bibles. Even if a relative did not serve in the armed forces, they might have had to register for the draft. Yearbooks started in the 1860's in some schools. The 1890 census was destroyed by fire, but Ancestry.com is compiling a census substitute based on surviving and other records.


Surname Title

Birth Record:

Marriage Record (announcement in the paper?):

Wife's name:



Death Record:

Obituaries (funeral home records):

Cemetery Record:







Wills and Probate:

Land and property owned:

Church Records/Religion:

Family Bibles:

Military Record/Draft Registration:


Educational Records (yearbooks, etc.):

Political Affiliations:

Groups/clubs/Society Records:

Pictures; Audio Recordings; Documents; Personal Notes:

Spelling Variations:

Addresses/Migration Record/Passenger Ships/City Directories:

Census Record 1890 records":

Census Record 1900:

Census Record 1910:

Census Record 1920:

Census Record 1930:

LDS Search:

Gedcom Search:

Gen Web Search:

Rootsweb Surname Search:

Ancestry Plus Search:

PERSI Search:

Location Descriptions (The places, political boundaries):

Time Line Descriptions (Culture, technology, conditions, major events of the era):

Current Focus:





This mystery began unfolding for me on Friday, July 5, 2002. It was 4:08 in the afternoon, planet Earth. I am Douglas Lee Baldwin, son of Douglas Wallace Baldwin and Grace Marie (Biddis) Baldwin. I am the husband of Katherine Louise (Jones) Baldwin, father of Noah (22 tomorrow, June 29th), Tyler (19 last April 10th), and Anna Baldwin (17 next Thursday, July 3rd). Noah is a new father. His newborn son is Jared (born 6:31 PM Tuesday, June 25th 2002… he's a fine, perfectly beautiful little boy. I love him already; Mandy Poignon is Jared's mother). This is my 57th year. I have lived a healthy and happy life and consider myself extremely lucky.

I was sitting on the back porch of my youngest sister's house in Fenton, Michigan, a few weeks ago (Peggy -Baldwin- Thenhaus), talking with my father, when the subject of genealogy came up. He said that my grandmother, his mother, Mabel Rutherford had a Scottish heritage. She was born in Lapeer County, Michigan, October 26, 1891. My father thought that her parents had come directly from Scotland (but wasn't sure). My sister Barbara (Baldwin) Robbins, says that she remembers my grandmother saying that she was embarrassed by her parent's accents (so, maybe they had come from Scotland).

It was that moment on the back porch of Peggy's house in Fenton, Michigan that I began to wonder about my ancestry. I thought maybe I would do a little research and see if my grandmother really was pure Scottish. Little did I know where that would lead.


Here's Our Surname Tree

(I'll add to this as the research comes in)
(last updated: December 1, 2002)

In the beginning my last name was: Baldwin

My two parents are

01. Baldwin (Douglas Wallace)
02. Biddis (Grace Marie)

Four Grandparents Surnames

01. Baldwin (Leo)
02. Rutherford (Mable)
03. Biddis (Alfred Charles)
04. Rockett (Rilla)

Eight Great Grandparent Surnames

01. Baldwin (Marquis La Fayette)
02. Bellinger (Mary)
03. Rutherford (Robert S.)
04. Wallace (Sarah H.)
05. Rockett (Charles Herbert)
06. Griswold (Sarah Melinda)
07. Biddis (Alexander Benjamin)
08. Small (Jane)

Sixteen Great, Great Grandparent Surnames

01. Baldwin (Daniel)
02. Baldwin (Susan; Daniel's cousin)
03. Bellinger (Solomon)
04. Morris or Mowers (Margaret)
05. Rutherford (Walter)
06. Johnson (Janet)
07. Wallace (David)
08. McQuinn; probably McEwen (Catharine)
09. Griswold (Harvey)
10. Hainer (Mary)
11. Rockett (Amos)
12. Bush (Joanna))
13. Biddis (William)
14. Biddis maiden name (Ann)
15. Small (Matheson)
16. Bell (Jane)

Thirty Two Great, Great, Great Grandparent Surnames

01. Baldwin (Theophilus III)
02. Sherwood (Martha)
03. Baldwin (John)…not verified
04. Bristol (Susanna)… not verified
06. Bellinger (Frederic)
06. Klock (Elesebeth)
07. Wallace (John)
08. Mair (Margaret)
09. Small (Thomas)
10. Sparrow (Elizabeth)
11. Bell (William)
12. McAllister (Sarah)
13. Rockett (John)
14. Newberry (Elizabeth)
15. Griswold (George)
16. Buckrell (Hannah
17. Rutherford (John)
18. Douglas (Isabella)

Sixty Four Great, Great, Great, Great GrandparentSurnames

01. Baldwin (Theophilus The Second)
02. Beecher (Jerusha)
03. Bristol (Richard)
04. Northrup (Mercy)
05. Bellinger (Johann)
06. Windecker (Margaretha)
07. Klock (Josh)
08. Krauss (Catherin)
09. Buckrell (James)
10. Maiden name Buckrell (Meriah)
11. Rockett (Caleb)
12. Maiden name Rockettl (Mary?)

Thursday, July 18, 2002:

I should be in bed because I am too tired to write, but there are some thoughts bouncing around my brain. Just got back from AER (Blindness professionals) International in Toronto where I was speaking. As I drove from Flint to Toronto, I became aware of some obvious things that I had overlooked. First, my Ontario relatives (ie. most of my heritage except the Baldwins and Bellingers; including: the Rutherfords, Biddis', Rockett's, maybe Wallace's etc.) must have landed eventually in the ports of Toronto/Hamilton area (Lake Ontario Ports), it's a no-brainer. From there they probably took the only road west. It goes through Oxford County to Port Huron to Imlay City to Flint. That is why my relatives are strung out along this road. Also, they obviously came from England (or sailed from England, and probably from London). I noticed that all the towns or county names (many anyway) are exact copies of English towns. In Ontario, we have Oxford, London, Stratford all in a line west out of Toronto. There is even another Oxford on the Michigan side. Anyway, it might be important to study the creation and development of that road (also, the railroad).

Ancestry magazine carried an article in the Nov/Dec 2002 issue about mythology and genealogy. A few of the common myths struck home. First, "family coats-of-arms were granted to individuals, not to families, and never to all possessors of a surname." So I guess I'll relax about finding coats-of-arms for every surname, as I started to do at the beginning of my searches. Commercial vendors like us to believe we all have symbols associated with our surnames; it isn't so.

Second myth is that there is royalty or nobility in the family line. I have been enjoying telling my sisters that we are almost related to William Wallace (I also like collecting the Scottish clan refrigerator magnets; don't try to discourage me). More likely we are related to hard working farmers from the agricultural age; that's noble enough (maybe one of them saw William Wallace ride by one day).

Third myth: relatives were involved in major historical events, like the gold rush, the Chicago fire, etc. I know we have a couple lines where relatives fought in major wars from the revolutionary war to both the world wars. Where and when they fought I don't know.

Fourth myth: relatives came from famous towns (that we should go back and visit) like Paris or Baden Baden, or Lyme Regis (well maybe from Lyme Regis), etc. They probably came from small farming communities and only passed through the magic places and the big cities.

Myth five: the family history has been mapped out completely (all the way back to Adam and Eve probably). However, "in just thirteen generations, we have more than 4,000 direct-line ancestors, not counting children. Surnames were an invention and about as far back as you can trace them is the year 500 (to 800); but you are doing really well to get back to the 1300's.

And my favorite myth, number six: Somewhere in the family history there is a fortune awaiting us, a will perhaps that was never carried out, a treasure map, antiques stored in a long forgotten warehouse, etc. At the moment, I am tracking my great grandfather's will because the family is pretty sure a lawyer tried to contact my suspicious grandmother who didn't answer the letters and probably there is a lot of money in a drawer someplace in Illinois with a fortune in antique government bonds and probably some jewels (I'm kidding, don't go hunting please; grandfather probably had debts, we might owe a million by now in interest payments alone).


Mysteries/Research Avenues/Stray Thoughts

1. Remember the Libraries have Ancestry PLUS for free. (I now have a subscription to Ancestry.com)

2. Are there immigration records for people coming from Ontario through Sarnia? Check with the Michigan Library genealogists. (I checked this. Since Canada is a commonwealth country, they did not keep elaborate records of immigrants coming from Great Britain. That is why there are wonderful documents showing who came to the United States from the British Isles, but very little if the relatives came through Canada.)

3. Does the State genealogy library in Lansing have researchers that will help look for leads? (No)

4. We are probably looking at ships coming in to Hamilton, via Montreal, via Quebec. How did these ships progress through the St. Lawrence Sea Way? And where are the Hamilton records? (They stopped at ports all along the St. Lawrence Seaway. The Rutherfords for example stopped in Northumberland ports)

5. What is the history of train development from Toronto/Hamilton to Sarnia? (There is a train history museum in Durand)

6. Remember that brothers of one family often married sisters from another family; or cousins married; etc.

7. Remember that parents died young (mothers often in childbirth) so there were a lot of orphans. Also, kids tended to leave home at very young ages, ten, eleven, twelve, for example.

8. Remember that families were huge because of no birth control; and there was a need for large families to tend farms.

9. Remember that illiteracy was the rule; as was hard to understand accents and dialects; so surnames got shortened or names were spelled phonetically or weirdly.

10. Figure out what things were like for each generation; what categories belong here (what did they eat, how did they travel, dwellings, education, health care, entertainment, songs, dances, what else?)

11. Put the search engine on the website (I did).

12. Because of all the variables (see above), the lists you get from other people are always suspect. Even the "facts" you gather from gravestones, birth records, etc. have many potential errors. Just looking at old County birth, death, and marriage records is enough to cause one to pause with caution. These recordings were done in various handwriting styles, some so elaborate it's hard to tell one capital letter from another. Sometimes the writing is so poor you can hardly make it out. There's a lot of guessing that goes on. Also, document recorders flat out wrote down erroneous information.

13. Profile the ships, trains, cars these people used (Ship Martin for example).

14. I need pictures for each person, each couple, each homestead, each street, each gravestone, family photos. (if you have pictures, please digitize them and email them to me; thank you).

15. The Mormons have an incredible database. Some of it is accessible through the web, but much of it is buried in the archives in Salt Lake City and at their regional centers.

16. The Census records are very important, if incomplete (the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire!).

17. The social security records are also great for finding "close" relatives; those who died after social security was created.

18. Charles C. Baldwin's genealogy records on the Baldwin Family; a main book and a supplement; I have the Sylvester book (read it; does it belong to me?)

19. Pioneer families of Lapeer Michigan; Hoyt has it; read it. (I have looked through it numerous times)

20. Genealogical history of the Rutherford Family; Silas Rutherford

21. Look at your sources from your earlier searches

22. The Port Huron Lake Michigan Railway was completed in 1870; find out about this and what it implies. How does it relate to Canadian railway development?

23. Sometimes the answer is sitting right in front of you; re-read your notes, re-think your assumptions.

24. This is important and probably should be up near the front of the document. You have to be very careful about what you find in your searches. There is a very great opportunity to pass along incorrect information that is then spread like fire across the internet and accepted as gospel. Here are two examples from my inexperienced hands. I found a reference to a Ben Biddis saying that he might have been a British Home Child. I filled out what I thought was an inquiry form for the Canadian National Archives. But the form turned out to be a system for registering known British Home Children. I found my own name listed later during a google search as the contact person for "Ben Biddis, British Home Child!" On another occasion, I emailed a fellow researcher that I had found a reference to a marriage in Cockburnspath, Scotland and that these people might have been my relatives (they still could be, I just haven't verified it sufficiently for my tastes). Later, on a professional, international website I found these same Scotland people listed as my relatives! My friend had gone ahead and assumed that they were in my line. The problem got worse when I realized that people used the same names over and over again, so it could very well be that these people in Cockburnspath were some other Walter Rutherford and Jennet Johnson! It does make you wonder how many other errors there are out there.

25. Remember that our ancestors often named their children in a deliberate manner. For example, in the 19th century a naming pattern became popular in Lowland Scotland where the first son was called after the father's father, the second son after the mother's father and the third son after the father; the first daughter after the mother's mother, the second after the father's mother and the third after the mother.


Documents Saved/Consulted

01. A copy of Rilla Rockett's death certificate.
02. A copy of Alfred Charles Biddis' death certificate.
03. The Social Security Index print out for Sadie Wallace.
04. Laminated originals and photocopies of Marquis Baldwin's two letters from Illinois to Michigan.
05. A picture of Mable (Rutherford) Baldwin and Leo Baldwin with aunts and uncles (labeled by Mabel).
06. A copy of Leo Baldwin's obituary from the Flint Journal.
07. The original and a copy of Mable Baldwin's letter to me (Douglas Lee Baldwin)
08. Original and copies of Dr. Morrish's letter to my father (Douglas Wallace Baldwin).
09. Jessie's pictures (3 copies) of Private Charles Biddis' tombstone.
10. The inscription (from a list) on the tombstone in the Anglican cemetery (Woodstock, Ontario?)
11. A 1901 Canadian Census print out for Ben Biddis.
12. A copied picture of the shoe repair store owned by Charles Biddis (Ben's brother).
13. A copy of the obituary for Sarah Melinda Griswold (Sentinel Review?).
14. A copy from a 1930 Woodstock City Directory listing A. Ben . Biddis (Jane) as a cement worker, and Charles (Emily) as a shoe repair person.
15. A copy of the Sentinel Review wedding announcement for Rilla Rockett and Charles Biddis.
16. A copy of the obituary for Charles Biddis' wife Emily Locke in the Sentinel Review, December 16, 1937.
17. A handwritten note (Jessie's) showing the children of Sarah Melinda Griswold and Charles Rockett.
18. The obituary (copy from the Sentinel Review) of Charles (husband of Emily Locke) Biddis.
19. Copy of a second, different obituary for Charles.
20. A copy of Charles C. Baldwin's book "Baldwin Family" written July, 1872.
21. The May 18, 1938 issue of The Bulletin: Genesee County Medical Society, Vol. 10, No. 10.
22. Original birth records and certificate for myself (Douglas Lee Baldwin).
23. A "typical" 1950's photograph of my family showing my parents and three sisters.
24. A picture (copy and enlarged) of Sarah Wallace.
25. A picture (copy and enlarged) of Mose (Charles Biddis) in military uniform.
26. A picture (copy and enlarged) of Mose Biddis and Rilla (Rockett) Biddis.
27. A picture (copy and enlarged) of Rilla Rockett.
28. Copied page from the 1870 census for David Wallace and family.
29. Copied page from the 1870 census for Marquis Baldwin Wallace and family.
30. Copied page from the 1870 census for Archie Rutherford and family.
31. Photocopied pages from Elmer Baldwin's book on La Salle County, Illinois.
32. A copy from the 1850 census from La Salle County, Illinois.
33. A copy (web link) to WW 1 sign up papers for Alfred Charles Biddis
34. A copy (web link) to WW 1 sign up papers for Charles Biddis
35. A picture of the five sons of Marquis Baldwin.
36. A picture of David and Sarah Wallace (? or is it Marquis and Mary Bellinger?)
37. Letter from the La Salle County Genealogy Guild.
38. Copy of Marquis La Fayette's obituary.
39. Copy of Daniel Baldwin's Will.
40. Familysearch copy of the 1881 census for Marquis Baldwin
41. Familysearch copy of the 1881 census for David Wallace
42. Copy of Leo's death certificate
43. Copy of Sarah Wallace's death certificate.
44. Copy of Robert S. Rutherford's death certificate
45. Copy of Marquis La Fayette's death certificate
46. Copy of Solomon Bellinger's death certificate.
47. Copy of Mabel Baldwin's death certificate.
48. A letter from the Michigan Department of Community Health saying there is no record of Leo Baldwin's birth filed with the state.