The genealogy of Jean

The genealogy of Jean
 by PDG Ian Campbell, D1230 Scotland
Introduction, a letter to RGHF
Descendants' Family Tree- Generations One to Five
Descendants' Family Tree- Generations Six and Seven
Observations on items already posted on the RGHF
Alexander Thomson and the Thomson Family

I have done a little research into the position of Alexander Thomson but this is somewhat restricted in that most of the information would have to be based on USA records. As you will know, many of these are available on organisations such as Ancestry which can work out quite expensive, mainly due to the fact that with a common name such as Alexander Thomson there can be so many persons with that name.

I have found that the Ancestry transcriptions contain quite a number of errors (for example John Y(oungson) Thomson is recorded in one record as John S Thomson). They have therefore to be treated with caution.

The following may be of some assistance in relation to Alexander:

1. When I was researching Jean Harris I had some success with Alexander Thomson but as I was more interested in Jean than in him I did not pursue him to the full extent. One slight question mark remained and that was whether he definitely emigrated to Montreal with other family members on 17th September 1909. As you will see from Jean’s genealogy Alexander was shown as being a salesman.

The only thing that might help support this is the statement on pages 99 and 100 of James P Walsh’s book “The First Rotarian” that Alexander and James, together with their sister Annie, left for Canada about the turn of the century and that in 1907 or 1908 Alexander and James moved on to Chicago where they both obtained employment in the famous Marshall Field Department store. Perhaps Alexander was a salesman in Marshal Fields.

The timeline on this would fit in with a 1906 immigration to the USA. Unfortunately Walsh’s book does not contain any source references.

2. I have so far been unable to find any other sailing from Scotland to Canada that includes Alexander and certainly not in 1906.

3. As Alexander and James were said (see 1 above) to have moved to Canada together, I decided to carry out some further research and tried the USA Naturalization Record Indexes for 1791-1992 and have been successful in locating the naturalization entries for both James and Alexander. I am attaching copies of these hereto.

I make the following observations:

a). The address of both is 10501 Hamilton Avenue in the Morgan Park District of Chicago, a short distance from Paul and Jean’s home at Comely Bank.

b). James date of birth is shown in the index as 29th April 1884 whereas the correct date of birth was 29th April 1883.

c). James date of arrival in the USA is shown in the index as 29th November and what appears to be 1905 but on close reference to the item 3455 Pierce Avenue further down in the index entry, the last digit in the 1905 could be a 6 making the date of entry 29th November 1906 which would tie in with the travel date of 27th October 1906 shown in my previous article on Jean (this would take account of travel between Scotland and then from Canada to USA.

d). Alexander’s date of birth is shown in the index as 21st September 1879 whereas the correct date of birth was 23rd September 1879.

e). Alexander’s name is shown as Alexander Youngson Thomson whereas the name on his birth certificate is simply Alexander Thomson. It was not an uncommon thing for Scots people to add another family name into their birth name and as Youngson was his mother’s maiden name this would fit in appropriately

f). Both naturalizations were recorded at Cook County, Circuit Court, Illinois. Morgan Park lies in Cook County, Chicago

g). Considering that the two naturalizations took place in 1922 and 1921 respectively, it is not altogether surprising that the above mentioned minor discrepancies arose re the facts (perhaps through memory or even by incorrect recording) but I have little doubt that the two documents are the correct ones for James and Alexander. This would make Alexander’s arrival in the USA about 15th September 1909 at Port of Arrival x (which possibly stands for “crossing”).

This, apart from a minor discrepancy with the dates would tie in with a departure from Glasgow on 17th September 1909 (to Montreal and Quebec.). The ship arrived in Canada on 25th September 1909 (which date I cross checked by reference to the Canadian Arrival records). Brother John Youngson Thomson (incorrectly recorded by Ancestry as John S Thomson) was also on the same ship.

h). I have not previously seen any reference to any of the Thomson family being naturalized US Citizens. Would this be an appropriate area for further research into other members, for example, did Jean become naturalized or did that happen automatically on her marriage to Paul?

If we work on the basis of the 17th September 1909 date being correct travel date for Alexander then we may be able to follow it through by checking the Canada to USA Border Crossing Cards (also available on Ancestry under “All Border Crossings from Canada to US 1895 to 1956”) to see when he went from Canada to USA (Chicago). Although the content of the cards varied from time to time they usually showed the date of entry to the USA, sometimes the name of the ship on which they had sailed and sometimes whether or not this was the persons first time in the USA. Similar information (as appropriate) applied where a land border crossing took place.

The Border Crossing Cards are not always well kept and did contain quite a number of usually fairly minor errors but on the whole they can be very helpful but tracking the appropriate one down is not usually very straight forward. As Alexander may have travelled to Canada and then to USA with his brother James Youngson Thomson, perhaps a search of the cards under James’ name might be productive (in view of the more unusual name) as Alexander probably moved to the USA at the same time.

I would think the most likely border crossing ports, in order of likelihood, Buffalo, New York or Niagara Falls, New York.

The above still leaves a mystery to be solved - James P Walsh’s book states that Alexander, James and Annie moved to Canada at the turn of the century and that Alexander and James moved to Chicago about 1907 or 1908.

With reasonable certainty Annie and James can be traced as having gone to Canada on 27th October 1906 but there is no sign of Alexander’s travel until 1909 and this appears to be confirmed in his naturalization papers that also show 1909 as his date of entry to the USA. On the basis of that information Alexander could not have been in the USA in 1906 unless he made a previous trip that has been omitted or incorrectly recorded. This would then raise the question as to who, if anyone, travelled with James to Chicago in 1907 or 1908. Further investigation would be required.

4. I would treat the 1910 USA Census record with caution (particularly in respect of the immigration year of 1906 which probably only applies to one or more members of the family as some may have arrived at different times).

5. As mentioned above I have previously found a number of mistakes in Ancestry records and, for example, when I accessed the 1910 USA Census records on Ancestry the preview showed the head of the household as John G Thomson as opposed to the John Y Thomson shown elsewhere although it seems certain that it is the correct entry for the family.

416-414 W 60th Chicago, Illinois

I have nothing much to offer on this matter but would make the following observations -
a) The date of the marriage was 2nd July 1910. This is very close to 4th July 1910 (US Independence Day).

Perhaps this resulted in many people getting married at that time thereby creating difficulties in obtaining a church for the marriage;

b) The Second United Presbyterian Church in Chicago appears to have had strong links with the Church in Racine (Paul’s birthplace) so he may have been anxious that his wedding take place therein but for the reasons in a) or other he may not have been able to obtain the church itself.

c) Jean had probably been a member of the Secessionist Church in Scotland which may have had different views from the USA Presbytery that might have prevented them marrying in Church itself.

d) a) to c) is pretty much conjecture as there is no hard evidence but it was certainly very common practice in Scotland at that time for couples to marry other than in a Church, particularly at a holiday period (ease of work pressures etc) and such weddings usually took place either in one or other of the couples own homes or in the home of a friend or in the office of a Justice of the Peace or a Lawyer authorised to conduct marriages.

e) I have no definite answer and only further research to find the nature of the building and the occupants would be likely to throw up an answer. Perhaps Street Directories, Voters Registers or whatever other Registers as were available in Chicago might help with the answer.

Naturalization papers for Alexander Youngson Thomson

Naturalization papers for James Hay Thomson

Editors notes: These scholarly presentations were created in 2008 and in 2011, by RGHF member and past district governor, Ian Campbell, Scotland. In 2001, soon after what was to be Rotary Global History began, the founder, Jack Selway, received a question from a Rotarian, Maureen Bond, then of Zimbabwe. She inquired if we knew anything about Paul Harris' wife, Jean. Not much could be found either at RI or in our files.

Based on this request we created an entire website, the one you're visiting now, to gather everything that Paul Harris had written. Soon afterward, in searching for material, a young man in Scotland was discovered who had created a section devoted to Jean.

That was Calum Thomson (no relation) living quite near where Jean Thomson Harris was born. Calum's material became part of this section on Jean. He soon joined Rotary, became chairman of RGHF, president of his own club, and continues to work on Rotary Global History. Another Rotarian, the late Ed Lucas of Edinburgh, Scotland, provided much additional information.

Now PDG Ian Campbell has created a research document which will serve us for the ages. 

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