Monday, July 17, 2017

DNA Discoveries: Rediscovering John Muir (1905-1978)

John Muir was born on 24 November 1905 in Hamilton, Scotland, to James Muir and his first wife, Janet Lees Syme. James was a coal miner and grandson of my three times great grandfather, Robert Muir (c1800-1869). James and Janet had two more sons -- Hugh Syme in 1908 and Thomas in 1910.

When Thomas was three months old, the family boarded the Allan Line's RMS Pretorian on 31 December 1910 in Glasgow and arrived in Boston, Massachusetts, on 11 January 1911. Their destination was Mystic, Iowa, to join James' brother, John, and his uncle, also named James Muir, who was my great great grandfather. Mystic was in the Walnut Valley area of Appanoose County and was described as "one continuous mining camp." The Mystic coal seam was on the surface and drift mines were opened and abandoned so often the place looked like a honeycomb.

Mystic, Iowa, in 1909; photograph source unknown

Less than two years after the family's arrival in Mystic, James' wife, Janet died on 29 September 1912. She was buried in a local cemetery two days later. James decided to return to Scotland and traveled to New York with his three young sons, boarding the Anchor Line's SS Cameronia bound for Glasgow. They arrived in Scotland on 11 May 1913.

James joined the Gordon Highlanders regiment in 1914 but was released within 90 days. He remarried in 1927 and died in 1967. His eldest son, John, returned to the United States at the age of 20, arriving in New York on 16 January 1926. He was an iron molder and was headed to Detroit for work. On 19 January 1926 he declared his intention to become a U.S. citizen at the district court in Detroit.

He must have traveled back to Scotland some time after settling in Michigan because on 20 October 1928 he and his brother, Hugh, boarded the Anchor Line's RMS Transylvania in Glasgow.[1] He returned to Scotland the next year as well, returning aboard the Anchor-Donaldson Line's SS Leticia. He arrived in Quebec on 31 August 1929 and crossed the U.S. border on 3 September. His appearance was described as being 5' 7" tall, of medium build with brown hair and green eyes. He lived at the YMCA in Detroit and worked as a clerk.

Detroit skyline as seen from Windsor, Canada, in 1929; photograph courtesy
of the National Photo Collection held by the Library of Congress

When the 1930 census was enumerated, John lived at 80 Vernon Street in Mount Clemens, Michigan. He rented a room from the Alore family and worked as a laborer in a refrigerator factory.

On 4 February 1933 John married Roselyn K. Malcolm in Detroit. She was the daughter of William and Margaret (McCartney) Malcolm, and was a bookkeeper. She was born in Queens, New York, to Scottish immigrants. The year after their marriage, the couple lived in Buffalo, New York, at 995 Lafayette Avenue. Eventually, they settled in Hamburg, New York.

John Muir died in April 1978; Roselyn died on 8 August 1989. They had two sons.

I rediscovered John Muir because of a DNA match who had two people in his family tree -- himself and his father, who was deceased. Using the death date and place of the father, I was able to find an obituary, which included his parents' names and then an obituary for his father's mother, Roselyn K. (Malcolm) Muir. Once I knew her maiden name, I found the marriage license and realized I already had her husband, John Muir (1905-1978), in my tree but had had not yet spent time researching him after he returned to Scotland with his father and brothers in 1913.

[1] I am suspicious about this UK outward bound passenger record as his brother Hugh's age is listed as being older than John rather than being three years younger.

"Not Likely to Become an Efficient Soldier"
Anchor Line: Scottish Ships for Scottish Passenger

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