Part 1: Looking for Living Relatives

Blake Mortuary

Patrick Blake in front of his building in 1881.

Running season is starting up again. Still a little chilly in the Chicago area, but not cold enough to keep me on a treadmill. I finally committed today and signed up for my first marathon in September. I’m starting with a training group in two weeks. I’m sure by June or July I’ll know if this was a good decision.

This week I was frustrated by more brick walls on my Blake and Lindsay sides. I’ve taken a break from searching as far back in time as I can, and instead am searching for living relatives to build my tree to the present. This is proving to be harder than I thought without trusty census records to rely upon. I’m thinking that death indexes and obituaries may be my best bet since they will often list the next of kin. I’m also trying general searches on various internet sources because I figure nowadays it’s not too hard to find someone online. Any Blake’s or Lindsay’s on Facebook? I’ve found several leads, but it’s tough to determine for sure if it’s someone I’m related to. For instance, I found an obituary record for a Bernard Blake, who I showed as an ancestor who died in 2009. It referenced several family members that helped me locate the family in several census records. They did, in fact, live in Detroit, but the problem was that they left Ireland five to 10 years after my ancestors, and lived in Canada from the 1850’s until sometime around 1900 when they moved to Detroit. My ancestors also immigrated to Canada, but they came to Detroit in the 1840’s, so this family couldn’t be related. But then I found a Canada Border Crossing record for the Blake family in June 1928. They were traveling from Detroit to Ontario, Canada, and on the record, it said they were visiting a “summer cottage”. My Blake ancestors lived in Detroit and kept a summer home just across the border in Canada! I remembered reading a news article about my Third-great-grandfather Patrick’s death that said, just before his death, his son was planning a family reunion. Perhaps these were cousins that would have been invited to that reunion? It also said their Detroit address was on Abbott Street, which is where my ancestors had their undertaking business. These would be pretty large coincidences to not be true, but like a good genealogist, I’m proceeding with caution.

Another interesting find happened when I was looking back through a picture I’d found of Patrick Blake standing in front of his undertaking business. As I looked closer, to the left of the establishment was a home with an older lady and several children sitting on the front steps. Then I noticed the address (25 Abbott) and remembered that several sources said the business was at both 25 & 27 Abbott St., and the census records listed 25 Abbott as their address. So this was most likely a picture of both the Blake undertaking business and the Blake home, with potentially my Third-great-grandmother sitting on the steps. How could I have missed that!

Family Tree Firsts is an ongoing blog series featuring newbie genealogist Brian Parotto of Hampshire, Ill.

Here are some of the tools Brian is using to launch his genealogy education. Check them out:


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