Michigan Tech Archives Reading Room Open by Appointment

Beginning Monday, July 27, the Michigan Tech Archives will reopen to patrons on an appointment basis. Appointments may be requested through a form available on the library website, by emailing copper@mtu.edu, or by calling (906) 487-2505. Please note that all appointments must be confirmed by an archives staff member via telephone or email at least 24 hours prior to the requested appointment time. Any appointment requests for Mondays must be confirmed by the close of business on the preceding Friday.

Appointments will be available Monday-Friday from 12pm to 5pm daily, subject to patron capacity limits and staff availability. During this time, the Michigan Tech Archives will require a mask or similar face covering to enter the reading room for your appointment, unless you have a medical reason which prevents you from safely doing so. Patrons are also required to wash their hands before entering the archives. To provide space between researchers, reading room capacity will be limited. Each patron must complete Michigan Tech’s COVID-19 symptom tracking form before arriving for an appointment.

Please direct any questions about our services, hours, and procedures to (906) 487-2505 or copper@mtu.edu, or contact University Archivist Lindsay Hiltunen at lehalkol@mtu.edu. We look forward to assisting you in your research.


Flashback Friday: The Girl Who Lived

Image of girl in black seated on chair
Margaret Fazekas, fourteen years old.

Margaret Fazekas welcomed the new year of 1913 as an ordinary teenage girl, one of hundreds residing in the Copper Country. She saw the year out as a symbol of a fight and the survivor of a near-death experience.

Labor disputes had occurred in the mining communities of the Keweenaw Peninsula before, but the strike that began on July 23, 1913 ushered in an unprecedented era. Following years of fledgling effort to organize disgruntled workers–dissatisfied with their long hours, low rates of pay, and other concerns–the Western Federation of Miners (WFM) took root in the Copper Country. The key to their sudden appeal lay, in part, in the introduction of the one-man drill. This new device allowed a single worker to perform the tasks that he had once done with a partner. To his employers, this meant fewer men to be paid for equal production, increasing profit and redirecting productivity. To the laborer himself, it represented a loss of the companionship and assurance that working with another man provided. Many mine accident reports documented the rescue of injured men from rock falls or other serious incidents by their partners. Although having another man present could not always prevent a fatality, laborers likely felt more confident in their survival when working in tandem. If nothing else, a miner operating a one-man drill could easily find himself lonely, stranded with his own thoughts and the overwhelming clamor of the machine for hours at a time. Taken collectively, the new list of grievances found appeal in the hearts of skilled and unskilled blue-collar workers alike.

The strike began with passion that spiraled into violence on the part of both pro-union and pro-company sympathizers. Calumet & Hecla, Quincy, and other mining companies ceased operations for a short time, banking on a supply of copper already processed and available for sale, as well as the assumption that tensions would cool in the weeks that followed. Strikers harassed and bruised up men leaving their jobs. James MacNaughton, general manager of Calumet & Hecla, enlisted the support of the local sheriff to protect C&H’s interests, and the Michigan National Guard arrived soon thereafter to ensure law and order. In the words of historian Larry Lankton, “an uneasy calm held over the mines in the coming weeks.” The calm lasted until the Guard began to withdraw in mid-August and as a group of recently-deputized men opposed to the strike and private security guards assumed additional policing responsibility. Some of the new deputies took their duties seriously and performed them well. Others blundered, spilling blood. On August 14, 1913, two unarmed men died from gunshot wounds following a confrontation at a boarding house in Seeberville, just outside Painesdale. Six deputies and guards hired from the Waddell-Mahon Company had been the ones responsible. The Seeberville deaths of Steve Putrich and Alois Tijan galvanized supporters of the WFM, and the tensions of the strike escalated.

A little over two weeks later, fourteen-year-old Margaret Fazekas was shot in the head.

Image of house surrounded by snow
The Seeberville house where Putrich and Tijan were shot.

Like many Copper Country children in 1913, Margaret’s roots lay overseas. On August 5, 1902, she arrived in New York City with her mother, Julianna (Julia). Julia gave her place of origin and that of her two-year-old daughter as Rudabanya, Hungary, a small village near today’s border with Slovakia. They planned to reunite with John Fazekas, Julia’s husband and Margaret’s father, at Kearsarge. It had been two long years of separation, and several children joined the family in the years after Margaret and Julia settled in Houghton County. A number of clues indicate that life in the Fazekas house, however, was not peaceful. In 1910, the census taker found John residing at 99 Albion Street in Houghton, then the address of the county jail. Margaret later stated that her father had abandoned the family in mid-1913. Reconciliation was a long time coming.

John’s departure left Margaret to help her pregnant mother look after siblings ranging from infancy to ten years of age. Her education had ended in the sixth grade, perhaps to assist with family responsibilities or to bring in a little extra money in the face of her father’s instability. The coming strike added another degree of turbulence to Margaret’s teenage life. She turned fourteen the same month of the Seeberville incident. One wonders what the future felt like to her on her birthday, with violence and anger seemingly around every corner of her community and her family’s financial situation bleak.

Group of men, women, and children marching with American flags
A typical strike parade that included a number of women and girls.

September 1, 1913 marked Labor Day, which had become a federal holiday less than twenty years earlier. The labor situation in the Copper Country had not improved. A number of men who had walked off the job in July felt that the time had come for them to return to work at the mines, which reopened. To compensate for the absence of strikers, companies like Calumet & Hecla hired men from outside the Copper Country. WFM advocates denounced the arrival of the imported men, whom they called “scabs” willing to break the strike on the backs of workers. A number of skirmishes followed, many involving pro-union women. Women–especially ones from Croatian, Slovenian, and Hungarian backgrounds–played prominent and vital roles in the early days of the strike in particular. Female supporters of the WFM marched in frequent parades and attended rallies. More ardent ones hurled rocks and insults at men walking to work. The wife of one union man even allegedly set fire to timber at the Isle Royale mine’s No. 1 shaft, according to files kept by Calumet & Hecla.

A band of women gathering near Kearsarge early on the morning of Labor Day, then, was nothing unusual within the context of the strike. That day, Margaret Fazekas joined them. “September 1 I went on picket duty with the other women,” she said later, according to transcripts of an inquest held before the United States Congress. “My mother didn’t send me out… some neighbors knocked at the door and they called me.” It was about five in the morning when the ladies arrived to ask Margaret to come along. As a relative of a striking worker, whose relationship to her she did not disclose to Congress, she agreed to join in the morning’s parade and, with her mother’s permission, stepped out in the fresh Copper Country air.

Mine operations in the winter
North Kearsarge No. 1, circa 1915.

Margaret and her neighbors fell in with a group that eventually swelled to some two hundred participants, including a handful of other young girls. She found herself at the front of the marchers as they processed through Kearsarge, eventually passing by “the property road going toward the Kearsarge mine and the back road there.” Their sheer numbers effectively, though perhaps unintentionally, prevented the morning shift from reaching the Kearsarge. About a dozen deputies on either flank of the parade spoke up with a protest of their own. “They told us to go home for breakfast,” Margaret recalled, although “we weren’t doing any harm at all.” The women objected. “We said we had just as much–” Margaret began when telling the story to Congress before correcting and gentling her speech. “We can stay there just as well as they can. We weren’t doing anything at all. Some of the ladies told them to go for breakfast, and they turned back, and we thought they were going home for breakfast.” The confrontation seemed poised to end.

“But when they turned back toward us,” the teenager said, “they had the revolvers in their hands and they started shooting.”

Realizing immediately how dangerous her position at the front of the parade had become, Margaret turned to run. As she fled the fusillade of bullets, one deputy’s shot struck her in the back of the head, right below her left ear. “I don’t know anything afterwards,” she told the inquest. She collapsed, unconscious. According to historians Gary Kaunonen and Aaron Goings in their Community in Conflict: A Working-Class History of the 1913-1914 Michigan Copper Strike and the Italian Hall Tragedy, fellow marchers carried Margaret to “a little storm shed at the back of a neighborhood house.” There, physician Andrew C. Roche from the local hospital attended her and quickly called for an ambulance to take her to the public hospital in Calumet. For four or five days afterward, Margaret struggled to regain consciousness. Dr. Roche felt skeptical that she would ever return to her right frame of mind, if she even survived the harrowing injury.

Image of wood-framed building with large porch
An early version of the Calumet Public Hospital.

Word of Margaret’s shooting rapidly spread throughout the Copper Country and across the United States. In its edition the next day, the Calumet News, which generally favored the mines’ interpretations of the strike, argued that evidence pointed to paraders being equal participants in the violence but conceded the severity of Margaret’s state and her pitiable status as daughter of “a widow.” Within two days, newspapers in Billings, Minneapolis, Natchez, and other towns had picked up the story. The Star-Tribune of Minnesota told its readers that Margaret’s wound would likely prove fatal. Indignantly, it noted that none of the deputies who participated in the shooting had been arrested. Outrage in the community about the grievous assault on a child eventually led to just one man, John Lavers, being charged for his participation in the “Labor Day disturbances” at Kearsarge and pinpointed as the man whose bullet had wounded Margaret Fazekas.

The legal consequences of the day were still to come. That first day of September, Margaret lay in a hospital bed, fighting for her life and likely to lose the battle. In Hancock, WFM members met with President Charles Moyer, who declared the morning’s actions nothing short of murder. As the week wore on, Dr. Roche assessed Margaret’s state again and determined that the best course of action was to operate. His instincts proved correct: the procedure started Margaret down the road to eventual recovery. “Dr. Roach [sic] said some of my brain came out,” Margaret told the Congressional inquest, describing the physician’s age-appropriate summary of her injury, “but he put it back in again and he took a bone out of it–a small bone.” His prognosis for her future mental abilities remained guarded, but Margaret proved stronger than her injury. Four and a half weeks later, despite all odds, she left Calumet Public Hospital and went home to Kearsarge. Early in 1914, she was well enough to testify confidently before the Congressional inquest, remove her hat, and show the assembled men where her hair had grown to cover scars left by the bullet.

Headline reading, "Young girl fatally shot in clash at North Kearsarge."
Headline from the Calumet News, September 2, 1913, before Margaret’s successful treatment.

Margaret Fazekas became a symbol and a point of rhetoric of the strike for both sides. To those unsympathetic to the union’s arguments and who found their tactics reprehensible, she represented the innocents maimed by violence they deemed the WFM to have sparked. For supporters of the strike, she stood as another example of unchecked abuses that the mines levied out on the Copper Country’s people. In December, when a grand jury declared that insufficient evidence existed to indict John Lavers, she demonstrated to newspapers outside the futility of obtaining justice and answers about culpability in the strike.

Her father’s absence, the strike, and her shooting led Margaret to grow up quickly. In July 1915, a month before her sixteenth birthday, she and Joseph Dorko, age 21, filed an application for a marriage license. They left the Keweenaw Peninsula, settling in New Brunswick, New Jersey by 1917. Other members of the Fazekas family soon joined them: Julia Fazekas and Margaret’s siblings all resided in New Brunswick as of the 1920 census and apparently spent the remainder of their lives there. Margaret and Joseph had two sons, Joseph and Stephen, and a daughter, also named Margaret. Their marriage may not have been a happy one, however: in 1940, the couple resided separately, and Margaret’s 1952 obituary did list her husband among her surviving family, although Joseph outlived her by more than twenty years.

The life of Margaret Fazekas was an eventful and tumultuous one. By the time she reached an age that we associate today with proms and college applications, she had left her native country behind, experienced the loss of an absentee father, marched in a labor dispute, survived a harrowing injury, and testified to the strike that shook the Copper Country. Her story is one of many that can be told of strong Upper Peninsula women enduring the unimaginable–and one that ought never to be forgotten.


Discovering Cousin Jacks and Cousin Jennies

Group of well-dressed men in a line
A meeting of the Sons of St. George, an English fraternal organization to which many Copper Country Cornishmen belonged.

They crossed the ocean, and with them, they brought years of mining experience, spirited hymns, and pasties. 

Countless Copper Country residents and descendants of former residents trace their heritage to one of the innumerable Cousin Jacks and Cousin Jennies–allegedly so named because the miners always spoke of myriad relatives by these names–who came to the region beginning in the mid-1800s. Copper and tin mining in the United Kingdom dated back to prehistoric times, and production soared to new heights following the Renaissance. By the time the 19th century dawned, generations of Cornish children had grown up in families whose subsistence depended on the mines. They watched their fathers take up lunch tins and walk down to jobs swinging hammers or holding drills underground, to occupations as carpenters or blacksmiths supporting mining operations. When they grew enough to be helpful, often at very young ages, boys and girls alike joined their family members in mining work. As men deftly removed rock from the ground, women skillfully processed it. No wonder, then, that when the newborn mines of Michigan sought capable workers, they looked to Cornwall. An exodus from that region began in earnest in the 1860s and continued for decades thereafter: every ten years from 1861 to 1901, according to the BBC, some 20 percent of men in Cornwall sailed away to seek opportunities elsewhere. Many of them chose the Copper Country as their next home, inviting other relatives to join them in the difficult but rewarding task of carving out life in a strange land. In its mines, in its communities, and in its kitchens, the new arrivals would leave a lasting impression. 

Materials at the Michigan Tech Archives–including newspapers on microfilm, employment cards from major mines, naturalization records for certain counties, and other documents–can help to fill in the details of what happened to Cornish ancestors after they arrived in Michigan. What if you’re looking to go further back, however, and learn about your forebears’ lives before they crossed the Atlantic? A few resources can assist you in making significant strides forward in researching family members from Cornwall.

Fresh hot pasties on a cookie sheet
Pasties. Need we say more?

United Kingdom Census Records
Like the United States, the government of the United Kingdom compiled data about the sovereign’s subjects on a regular basis. Census taking in England began in 1801 and continued every ten years through 1931; the schedule for enumeration shifted somewhat in the face of World War II. For the first four censuses, data collected consisted primarily of the number of inhabitants in a given parish or place, their breakdown by gender, the number of dwellings, the types of industries or occupations the residents were engaged in, and other general demographic information. 

Fortunately for genealogists, in 1841, the decennial census expanded to incorporate more personal details, such as the name of each resident, his age (rounded down to the nearest multiple of five if he were older than 15), the occupations of those working, and whether each inhabitant was residing in his native county. The 1851 census added more details, like marital status, specific places of birth, and relationships among household members. Subsequent censuses varied in the questions posed and may have expanded information about the size of a dwelling, length of a marriage, self-employment, etc.  

Many future Cornish immigrants to the Copper Country will have been captured in at least one of the census records, and these documents can be tremendous assets in establishing family relationships and potential home parishes for further investigation. Likewise, in observing when an individual appears to vanish from British censuses, the astute researcher can sometimes narrow down when that person emigrated. 

The valuable UK census, however, is also the expensive UK census. Access to its contents without charge requires a visit to either the National Archives in Britain or a LDS Family History Center, neither of which is particularly feasible under current conditions. Subscription services, including Ancestry and FindMyPast, can offer remote access for a membership fee. If you anticipate spending a great deal of time researching in England, FindMyPast also provides a number of digitized British newspapers available for keyword searches.

UK General Records Office (GRO)

The census constitutes just one portion of the government-produced records available for Cornish genealogy. In 1837, England established a system to register births, marriages, divorces, and deaths civilly–that is, not strictly within ecclesial records. Civil registration gained traction somewhat slowly, especially in the case of births; some parents failed to appear before the appropriate governmental authority to report a child’s birth, instead preferring the traditional practice of presenting the newborn for baptism. Laws imposing a fee for late registration of births took effect in 1874, boosting compliance. If your ancestors were born before 1874, it is still extremely worthwhile to check the civil records!

As with modern American birth records, the typical civil registration of an English birth gave the child’s name, gender, date and place of birth, and parents’ names, including the mother’s maiden name. It noted which parent had provided the information to the registrar, as well as the date of registration and which official took down the data. Death records likewise captured the essential information about the deceased–name, age, gender, occupation–along with his place of death, cause of death, and particulars of the person making the registration with the government. 

Sample birth record that can be ordered from the UK GRO.

By creating an account with the UK General Records Office (GRO), genealogists can peruse indices of birth and death registrations; these, along with similar resources for marriage records, can also be found at FreeBMD, an open transcription project. The information available through the indices includes only the essentials–the mother’s maiden surname only, for example, rather than the full names of both parents–but researchers interested can place orders through the GRO for scans of the original documents in exchange for a modest service fee.

Cornwall OPC Database
For those specifically researching in Cornwall, the Cornwall OPC Database represents arguably the most powerful resource available–and it is entirely free. 

Before the introduction of the civil registration system, the Church of England constituted the primary means of capturing the major events of life, including births (via baptism records), marriages, and deaths (via burial records). The state church continued to be an important producer of these records after 1837, as well; it was joined by an increasing number of Methodist and other “non-conformist” Christian faiths as revivals pulled Cornish laborers away from the established denomination. Through the dedicated efforts of parish volunteers, the Cornwall OPC Database presents transcribed, searchable versions of ecclesial records stretching from the 1500s into the early 20th century. Beyond vital records, the website also incorporates some special indices, such as the names of certain institution inmates, agreements between supervisors and apprentices, and a selection of paternity suits. 

Although chronological coverage fluctuates by parish, the database truly unlocks decades, if not centuries, of family histories throughout the county of Cornwall. In general, it is reasonable to expect some sort of parish records from the 1800s (when most Cornish emigrants to the United States departed) to be available. Copper Country genealogists can then thoughtfully work backward from their known immigrant ancestors to their mysterious predecessors. 

Keep in mind that, when searching this or other British databases, the spelling of both given names and surnames can vary dramatically over the years. Avail yourself of the “Include similar surnames” feature on the Cornwall OPC Database to check for records that may have been filed under a variation of the family name. Also remember the important of broadening your search: if you’re looking for “Rosemergy,” try searching with just “Rosem” to capture potential misspellings; if you seek “Johanna,” try just “Jo” in the event that someone spelled her name as “Joanna” instead. 

And there you have it: a few resources, both free and paid, that can help make your genealogical journey across the pond easier. Do you have any tips or websites of your own to recommend? Please feel free to leave a comment here or on our social media! If the Michigan Tech Archives can at all be of service, please do not hesitate to e-mail us at copper@mtu.edu

Group of people standing in front of a crenellated church
The Methodist church at Central Mine offered just one iconic example of Cornish culture in the Copper Country.


Researching a Death in the Mines

Group of men in breathing masks carrying a man on a stretcher
A group of men trained in mine rescue techniques demonstrating the retrieval of an injured worker.

A job in the mines of the Copper Country could mean much to a man. It might have placed him working alongside his brother or his father; it might have been his first time employed as an adult. It might have offered him a toehold in a nation he hoped to claim as his own; it might have been merely a way to earn money and return to life in the old country as quickly as possible. Yet while working in the mines offered economic opportunity, it also carried a substantial cost. At the height of the industry, a man died every week while on the job, leaving a hole in the family that he was trying to support and better.

Genealogists often come to the Michigan Tech Archives in hopes of learning more about relatives who met tragedy in our local industry. In some cases, these men perished; in other instances, they were gravely injured and carried the scars of the accident for the remainder of their lives. If you have an ancestor whom you believe to have died in the mines, how can you go about verifying your hypothesis and learning more about his death?

Let’s consider an example from my own research. Samuel Henry Broad was born in Cornwall in 1856. By 1880, he worked as a miner at Central; in 1881, he married a fellow immigrant, Elizabeth Ann Hosking. From the 1894 state census, I saw that they remained in Keweenaw County for at least another decade. The 1900 census recorded Elizabeth Broad as a widow in Hancock, residing with her five children and her own father. What had caused Samuel’s death?

Since I knew from the 1880 census and from his marriage record that Samuel had spent at least part of his life working as a miner–and because it was obvious that he died young–I considered the possibility that he had died at work. To investigate this, I started to connect the dots with documents.

Looking for a death record. From the records I already had, I knew that Samuel’s death must have occurred sometime between 1894 and June 1900, when the census for that year was conducted. Although Michigan required deaths to be reported from 1867 on, consistency in documentation did not emerge until the introduction of death certificates in 1897. That meant that finding Samuel’s official death record could prove difficult, if not impossible, to locate.

In this case, I was fortunate. I found a scanned ledger of Houghton County deaths on Ancestry that stated that Samuel had lost his life on May 19, 1895; his cause of death was “killed in mine.” My suspicions were correct.

If you’re looking for someone who passed away after the introduction of death certificates in 1897 through 1952, you can also search for them for free on Michiganology, an online portal to the Archives of Michigan.

Death record of Samuel Henry Broad

If you can’t locate a death record. What if I hadn’t been able to retrieve Samuel’s death record? Other resources could help to fill in the gap. FamilySearch has a large number of probate files from Copper Country counties, especially Ontonagon and Keweenaw, that can provide an individual’s date of death. Although more common for individuals who had property to bequeath, these documents can help to supplement gaps in death records. In the absence of a probate file, try checking cemeteries or narrowing the possible years of death through other records. A man who appeared in the 1900 census and whose wife remarried in 1904 may well have died in the intervening years.

Finding the details of the accident. Some researchers may be satisfied just to know that their ancestor died in a mine accident. If that’s you, once you’ve verified the death through some means, you are all set! In my case, I wanted to go deeper. What had happened in the mine to kill Samuel? In which mine had he met his demise?

How you go about ascertaining the details of an accident will depend on the particular circumstances of your ancestor’s life.

If you know where your ancestor lived or what company he worked for already, try to find an employment record. Calumet & Hecla faithfully documented the deaths of its workers, and the employment card of an individual killed there will usually include a brief summary of the accident. C&H maintained an interest, as well, in laborers who had left its employ and occasionally would note on the appropriate men’s records if their deaths had occurred at rival companies. If you suspect that your ancestor worked at C&H at any point in his career, his record would be well worth locating, if possible. The Michigan Tech Archives can help with that.

Keep in mind, however, that collections of employment records are not always complete. In Samuel’s case, I saw that he died in Hancock, which made me suspect that he worked at the Quincy Mine. Unfortunately, employment cards from Quincy are largely nonexistent before 1900, and I didn’t have any luck finding Samuel among them. Records from other mines near Hancock–such as the Pewabic or Franklin–also have not come down to us.

Quincy No. 6 shafthouse in disrepair

If you have the date of death (exact or approximate), check the newspapers for an obituary or a news report of the accident. With a few gaps, newspapers held by the Michigan Tech Archives cover the period from 1868 to the present. A man’s death in the mines may have been documented in the local news, especially if his demise transpired in a particularly violent way. Although newspapers often presented the news with a bias toward the company, the details of where an accident occurred and what occurred are often accurate.

While the archives are currently closed to the public, newspaper articles can be retrieved by staff upon our return to the office. Through the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America project, some local titles can be browsed from home, including the Copper Country Evening News from 1896 to 1898 and the Calumet News from 1907 to 1914.

To my surprise, I found the report of Samuel’s death in the Quincy Mine in a place other than what I expected. The Copper Country Evening News picked up the story of his demise in its March 21, 1896 issue, explaining that the unfortunate man had died just two days earlier.

Justice Finn impaneled a jury yesterday morning and held an inquest into the death of Samuel H. Broad, killed in the Quincy Thursday afternoon. The jury was composed of Joseph Malberbe, Henry O’Leary, D. Lanctot, John Doyle, James Sullivan, and Joseph Wareham. William Gross, a partner of the deceased, told the story of the accident. They were working in a stope at the 38th level, north of No.6 shaft. A blast had been fired, and the two started to climb up about 10 feet to the face of the stope, one on each side. A piece of hanging fell, burying Broad and some of the flying pieces struck Gross. The latter got the fallen rock off his companion as quickly as possible, but the unfortunate man died a few moments after. The jury returned a verdict in accordance with these facts. Mr. Broad’s family consists of five young children, and they are left in not too comfortable circumstances.

This added detail and color to my understanding of Samuel’s passing, and it corrected the death record I had found previously.

If you know that your ancestor died in Houghton County, but you aren’t sure when. The Mine Inspector for the county prepared annual reports summarizing men who were killed or seriously injured on the job that year. Although these documents may have also been produced by other counties, the Michigan Tech Archives has not received any such publications for places outside of Houghton County. For those seeking information about accidents at the heart of the Copper Country, these bound volumes are easy to skim for information–though the information itself may be brutally difficult to digest.

May we help you to search for ancestors affected by mining accidents? Although staff have not yet returned to the Michigan Tech Archives, we would be happy to consult with you on your search options and to add your request to our queue. Feel free to e-mail copper@mtu.edu to move forward in your search.


Flashback Friday – Our Boy With The Deer

Archive Image

This Flashback Friday has me, on a deeply personal level, feeling a little wistful and missing the daily routine of welcoming the morning, my colleagues, and the collections at the Michigan Tech Archives. I’m a creature of habit and one of my morning rituals was to say a quiet good morning to David.

For those familiar with our public reading room and the reference desk, they will recognize the picture featured today as it hangs proudly, and has for many years, on the wall adjacent to the main archives doors. Each morning I turn the key in the lock, cross the threshold, and as the heavy wooden door closes itself, I glance up at David to wish him good-morrow before heading to my office.

David, the precocious subject of this beloved photograph from May 1958, is a favorite of many archives staff members past and present. David Roche Murphy, a Keweenaw native and brother of Terence Roche Murphy (longtime friend of the archives), passed away in March 2017 after a life rich with travel and a love of nature.

Born of two families prominent in Calumet, Laurium, and Eagle Harbor, as a very young boy David found a swift and sincere love of nature, as evidenced by the photograph of him and a young deer ankles-deep in Lake Superior at Eagle Harbor. Having spent many youthful hours at the shores of the Big Lake it is perhaps of little surprise that David, after earning multiple degrees from Michigan State University and stints as a reporter and intelligence officer in New York and Southeast Asia respectively, found his true calling at sea. He spent most of his active career as a Senior Logistics Officer (Chief Purser with Commander rank) in the Merchant Marine. He served on U.S. Naval Service vessels and elsewhere in close collaboration with U.S. intelligence services from Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, North Pacific waters during surveillance of North Korean nuclear weapons activity, and was an officer decorated by the U.S. Navy for at-sea support of the battle fleet in 1990-91 Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

Upon coming ashore at last for his retirement years, David returned to the Copper Country where he found comfort in community, creative pursuits, and the great outdoors. He was a longtime volunteer with Little Brothers, Friends of the Elderly, read voraciously, and was proud to be a lifetime “Eagle Harborite.” His initial home in retirement was in Eagle Harbor where Lake Superior remained within sight and sound.

One of the things they don’t teach professional archivists and librarians in graduate school are the lively friendships you’ll forge with patrons and partners, nor the myriad of losses you will experience over the course of your career. I was grateful to be a guest of the Roche Murphy family at David’s Celebration of Life in Summer 2017 at Saint Peter’s-by-the-Sea in Eagle Harbor. I also take comfort in knowing that the Michigan Nature Association has dedicated “Mariner’s Preserve at Silver River Falls” in Commander Murphy’s permanent honor.

The current situation and the stay at home order has kept me from some of the things I love most about being an archivist, but I find peace in being able to take this time to reflect on why I find such satisfaction in the act of remembering, preserving, and sharing about the past. The stories we find in the stacks enrich us and make us who we are. The lives and memories of others remind us what it is to be human. As a native of the Copper Country and an alum of Michigan Tech, I take great pride and care to serve as one of several stewards and keepers of memory of this most magical place. I will never forget what it means to be a part of this, nor what it means to be home. And I will forever say good morning to our “boy with the deer.”


Breaking Down Brick Walls When You’re Stuck Behind Walls

Image of brick wall emerging from a hillside

Another week has gone by, and you’re still stuck at home. If you’ve been working on your family history, it’s possible you might be getting stuck in a different way, too. Every genealogist will eventually encounter a relative who poses a problem of some sort or another: a great-grandparent whose origins are opaque, a cousin who disappears into thin air, a person named John Smith who seems indistinguishable from a thousand other men by that name. These brick walls can be extremely challenging to overcome, sometimes requiring years of research or special visits to make inroads. What can you do to break down a brick wall when you’re not able to visit archives or head off to the county clerk?

As a genealogist and an archivist, I’m happy to share a few tips that I’ve picked up in my personal efforts to knock down brick walls and in assisting patrons with doing the same. These are all tactics that you can use from your own home–no visits required!

1. Take the last name out of the equation. As someone with a Finnish surname, let me assure you: people can come up with an infinite number of ways to misspell a name. This problem isn’t unique to last names, but it appears more commonly there, in my experience. If you’re not finding someone by searching his or her full name, try removing it. Use other details, like dates or the names of immediate family, to help narrow down your quest instead. For example, I knew from walking through Lakeview Cemetery that a relative named Francis (Frank) Stanfel had died in 1925, most likely in Houghton County. I wanted to find his death certificate, but I had no luck when I searched for either Francis or Frank Stanfel. Given this dismal track record, I decided to try a different approach. I searched just for men named Francis who died in Houghton County in 1925, and that led me to the right death certificate–filed under Francis Stanfil.
2. Try variations on a given name. Francis Stanfel from tip #1 is a good example of someone who could be located under either his full first name or his nickname of Frank. One of his grandchildren, Alben Kovachich, was challenging to research under Alben–but I found him under Benny. If you have a relative who had a two-part name, like Mary Catherine, try looking for her under Mary, Catherine, Kate, Katie, etc. It may be that one moniker was used at a particular time in her life or on certain documents, while another appeared on materials prepared at a different period.
3. Searched there already? Give it another shot. I spent many years trying to find a birth or baptism record for a certain ancestor, Jane Broad. This information was available for siblings both older and younger than Jane, and I could find no obvious reason for her absence. I continued to search the same database on an intermittent basis, and one day Jane appeared. Volunteers added data from various sources to the website periodically, and one of the new sources contained Jane’s record. Persistence paid off.
4. On the other hand, try a new source. If you’ve been checking Ancestry fruitlessly, maybe it’s time to give FamilySearch a try. If you’ve been relying on censuses to piece together family relationships, see if you can find digitized probate files instead. Maybe you haven’t considered the value of religious records available on Ancestry and other sites. City directories on Google Books can be powerful tools. A change of scenery in sources, so to speak, can conquer a number of challenges.
5. Expand your geographical horizons. Maybe you know that the person you’re seeking came from a certain town, but you haven’t been able to find him in local records. Try searching nearby settlements, too, to capture relocations of people and adjustments in geographic boundaries. I couldn’t locate a certain family in Kaustinen, Finland, before a given date in parish records; they just seemed to vanish as I went back in time. When I expanded my search to Lestijarvi and Toholampi, parishes not far away, their tree filled in with incredible speed.
6. Consider the value of searching for friends, associates, and neighbors. Renowned genealogist Elizabeth Shown Mills popularized the term “FAN Club” to describe a technique of researching ancestors by looking into those connected with them: friends, associates, and neighbors. Information about these persons can inform your knowledge of your ancestors. For example, a man immigrating through Ellis Island listed one of my relatives as the person he planned to join in America. Although I haven’t yet been able to piece together just how the two were connected, obtaining the name of the new arrival’s home village has helped me to target my search in the old country more effectively. You can also use names of FAN Club members to assess whether a certain document pertains to your relatives or others by the same name. Want to know whether the Mary Collins who married Michael Sullivan in 1857 was really your third cousin? If parents’ names aren’t listed, see who witnessed the marriage. You might find the same names listed in sources that you’ve already tied to your relatives, such as census documents.

Hopefully, these tips will help you make inroads as you continue your research! If you have any advice of your own to add–any insight that has let you overcome challenges–please feel free to leave a comment on this post or on our social media. We would love to learn from you, as well!


Flashback Friday: Anna Brockway Makes Her Own Way

Image of woman's portrait surrounded by men
Anna Medora Brockway, center, in her graduation photograph. Image courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Author’s note: In 2018, we published a piece on three remarkable women from the Brockway family. The tale concluded with an allusion to Anna, the youngest Brockway daughter, and the promise that her story would be told on another day. That day is today.

Anna Brockway Gray believed in living boldly and without a moment wasted.

This, at least, is the impression created by the documentation left of her life. She did, she thought, she moved with great enthusiasm. She made choices and mistakes with decisiveness. She forged a path of her own in education, in medicine, and in publishing.

Of course, for those acquainted with Copper Country women, Anna’s determination was hardly surprising.

We have no official record of what February 1, 1851 was like at the tip of the Keweenaw. Likely, the day dawned like most Upper Peninsula mornings: cold, with a thick blanket of snow and the great hush of winter surrounding the Brockway residence. Nestled in the snug warmth of their home, thirty-four-year-old Lucena Brockway brought her fifth child into the world. She and husband Daniel christened their newest daughter Anna Medora, a name shared by a picturesque lake not far from their home. By name and by inclination, the newest Brockway would enjoy a deep and lifelong connection to Michigan.

Image of ruined
Ruins at the Northwestern Mine, where Anna was born in 1851.

Although the Brockways were pillars of Michigan’s northernmost communities, they also wandered. In those days, the Copper Country had just begun to boom; mines broke ground, flourished, faltered, failed. The family went where opportunity beckoned. Anna claimed the Northwestern Mine, where her father acted as agent, as her birthplace; she spent portions of her early years in Copper Harbor, in Eagle River, at the Cliff Mine, and downstate in Kalamazoo County, where the census taker found her and her parents in 1870. Anna became intimately acquainted with the roadways and waterways of the state, and perhaps the constant relocation helped to inspire a fascination with her homeland. As a young woman, she moved yet again to enroll in Albion College, where her uncle William Hadley Brockway served as an administrator.

Opportunities for women’s education beyond the offerings of local public schools increased in the mid-19th century, but Albion was still something of an outlier. Both sexes could partake in the degree-granting collegiate program as of 1861, an option available at few other institutions in the United States; the school also offered a preparatory curriculum for those seeking to ready themselves for further studies. A catalog from the 1859-1860 academic year asserted Albion’s convictions about women in the classroom: “the question of the ability of the female mind to contend successfully with that of the more favored sex has been too long settled to require discussion.” To the students of advanced classes, Albion promised “a thorough and systematic course of study; equal at least to the scientific course pursued in many of our Colleges.” Anna more likely than not attended preparatory lectures, based on a list of degree recipients published in 1910. If, by the time she arrived in the late 1860s or early 1870s, the curriculum remained comparable to that offered in 1859, her studies might have included trigonometry, algebra, chemistry, anatomy and physiology, logic, grammar, rhetoric, and history. The time at Albion helped to form an Anna Brockway who was ready to take on her greatest challenge yet.

The first woman received a degree from the University of Michigan Medical School in 1871. Dr. Amanda Sanford collected her diploma while male classmates showered her with spitballs to show their disapproval. Seventeen other women joined the medical course in the first year it had been opened to pupils of their sex. Emma Call, one of the inaugural female students, recalled that her peers were “naturally the objects of much attention critical or otherwise (especially critical) so that in many ways it was quite an ordeal” to study there. Most instructors treated the women fairly and with reserve, despite insisting that their lectures be conducted separately from those offered to male students. In chemistry class, however, instruction was coeducational, and certain men shouted and stomped their feet when women walked into the room. The “antiquated professor” who taught the course told “coarse, ribald stories” to his pupils, as Adella Brindle Woods recalled from her 1873-1874 studies. He “looked upon us women students as monstrosities.” Another instructor “was just and often said we were good students, always adding he doubted if we would ever become successful practitioners.”

The women showed how wrong his doubts were.

Image of people in auditorium attending a medical demonstration
Students attend a Michigan Medical School anatomy demonstration, circa 1893. Photo courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

Anna Brockway arrived at the University of Michigan in about 1880 to follow the trail that Amanda Sanford and her peers had blazed. The medical school itself was in flux at that time. When Michigan had first begun to educate doctors, the course of study consisted of a cycle of six to nine months of scientific and practical lectures that each pupil experienced twice. In 1877, the medical school expanded its curriculum to include a three-year option, which became mandatory in 1880. Clinical rotations in hospitals and laboratory work enjoyed new prominence in these studies. Anna’s training as a physician likely mirrored the late 1880s curriculum presented by Michigan historian Horace Davenport in his educational history of the medical school. In the company of a handful of other women, she spent the next three years doing dissections, conducting urinalysis, studying tissues under microscopes, and attending courses on physiology, obstetrics, pediatrics, medical jurisprudence, surgery, and physical diagnostic techniques, among others. The years of hard work and diligent study honed her mind and sharpened her practice, and Dr. Anna Medora Brockway joined the ranks of physicians upon her graduation in 1883.

Composite image of medical school graduates
Medical graduates of the University of Michigan Medical School, 1883. Anna Medora Brockway appears fourth from the right in the fifth row of students. Courtesy of the Bentley Historical Library.

The new Dr. Brockway’s heart remained in Michigan, but her medical career took her to a different Lake Superior town. She hung out her shingle in Duluth, Minnesota, shortly after leaving Ann Arbor. Her pioneering place in Duluth soon attracted the attention of some of America’s most famous suffragists: Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Matilda Joslyn Gage noted her medical practice as groundbreaking in their 1886 publication History of Woman Suffrage, Volume III.

As her fledgling practice began to take flight, so did another new avenue in her life. She became acquainted with a local attorney, Willard Gray, and the two married in Superior, Wisconsin, on April 15, 1884. Five years later, they relocated to the Keweenaw to advance their professions closer to Anna’s home and her aging parents. A son, whom Anna and Willard named Perry Brockway Gray, was born in Lake Linden on November 17, 1889.

While Perry flourished, the Grays’ marriage rapidly disintegrated. Anna filed for divorce, citing cruelty on Willard’s part, in January 1900. Her parents had passed away the year before, and she and her son ventured south to Grand Rapids. By 1910, they had relocated again to Detroit, where the University of Michigan mailed Anna a copy of the University Bulletin bearing the name “Mrs. Willard Gray.” A letter back to the college, now maintained with Anna’s necrology file at the Bentley Historical Library, captured the doctor’s spirit and autonomy in her own words:

“I have just received the University Bulletin addressed to Mrs. Willard Gray. I wish to ask that the address be… as I wrote it, Mrs. Anna Brockway Gray. Another woman writes herself Mrs. Willard E. Gray. Moreover not even Mr. Gray ever wrote me in that way nor has any one ever done so. My friends would hardly know that I was meant.”

Perceiving in her own misaddressed letter a broader problem, and bespeaking her deeper opinions on how women ought to be known in the world, she continued:

“Moreover I would suggest that each lady alumnus be recorded by the name under which she graduated plus her married name. Mrs. Willard E. Gray would mean nothing to those who [were] with me at the University, but Mrs. Anna Brockway Gray would identify me at once.

Kindly make the correction.”

Anna lived another twenty years after sending that letter, and she filled them with the same sort of independence and keen intellect. She joined the Daughters of the American Revolution on the basis of her descent from Ephraim Brockway, who had served in militias at Saratoga and West Point during the war. As her marriage broke down in the 1890s, she had begun to write prolifically and to collect historical documentation of Michigan. Naturally, the Copper Country proved to be her chief interest. By 1926, the personal diary where she stored her compositions spanned over sixty-one volumes, a remarkable output for any author or diarist. She contributed extensively to “Michigan History” magazine and compiled reminiscences of her early days as a pillar of Copper Harbor. In the moments when she wasn’t occupied with her historical work, poetry for young readers came tripping lightly off her pen.

If passion alone could sustain a life, the world would not be deprived of great minds and vivid souls so early. Anna’s heart began to trouble her as she turned eighty. No doubt she noticed the problem early; perhaps she suspected the diagnosis herself, her medical training having become second nature. No doubt, as well, that she recognized when there was no hope. When Dr. Anna Medora Brockway Gray died on March 29, 1931, a life of independence and distinction came to a quiet end. She returned to be buried to the only place that made sense: to the Keweenaw Peninsula, to Lakeview Cemetery in Calumet.

A remarkable Brockway woman could not be laid to rest anywhere but the Copper Country.


Getting Started on Genealogy While Stuck at Home

Image of family members gathered around a chair, reading a newspaper

While there’s been no shortage of ideas about how to spend the abundance of at-home time, permit the staff of the Michigan Tech Archives to offer one more. Many patrons come to us with genealogy questions, often as they’re just beginning their family history research. While our employees are not able to be in the office and retrieve documents at this moment, we’re still here to help as much as we possibly can! As an archivist and as an amateur genealogist for many years, I’ve found that these tips can make a big difference in getting family history work off the ground. This way, you’ll be ready to hit the ground running when we reopen!

Tips for Beginning Your Family History Research (When You’re Stuck at Home)

  1. Write down what you know. For most people, this will generally include the names of parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles. If you can go as far as great-grandparents–or even further–that’s all the better. Next to each person’s name, try to list their dates of birth and death, where applicable. If you know where a person was born or where they lived, add that.
  2. Notice what you don’t know. Are you missing dates of birth or death for people in your list? If someone asked you where your maternal grandfather came from, would you be able to give an answer? Do you know your paternal grandmother’s maiden name?
  3. Figure out what you want to know first. Of course, it’s natural to want to fill in as many blanks as possible over time. Starting with such a broad goal, however, will probably overwhelm you pretty quickly. Give yourself something more particular to focus on first. For example, you might say, “I want to know when my great-grandmother Ethel was born.”
  4. Consider your resources at hand. You might not need to go straight to the internet or call your favorite archivist to get the search started. For example, Bibles often include pages where individuals wrote down the names of their immediate relatives. A family tree in my mother’s childhood Bible–with information provided by her own mother–gave me a starting point for my research when I was nine.
  5. But remember to be a little skeptical. One of the most difficult lessons in genealogy is that not all sources are accurate. My mother’s Bible misspelled a few names, which made my search a little harder at first. In time, you’ll develop a sense of what documents got the information correct and which ones missed the mark. For now, it’s good enough to remember that, over the course of your research, you will probably need to update the information you compiled in step #1. Be open to changing your assumptions!
  6. Take a little time to learn about documents. We’re in the midst of collecting data about our nation for the 2020 federal census, and you’ve probably heard about the community purposes for this year’s census. These documents have great value to genealogists, too! The federal census has been taken every ten years since 1790, and the names of all residents in a household were recorded beginning in 1850. Because of privacy restrictions, the most recent census open to the public is from 1940. Now would be a great time to learn about what you can find on a census form and what you won’t expect to find. What census year, for example, is considered to be lost? You can find helpful tips on various genealogical blogs, on the National Archives and Records Administration website, and many other online nooks and crannies. Knowing what you can expect on different types of documents and what’s available will make it easier for you to navigate documents.
  7. Get ready to search! I’m a big fan of Ancestry because of how easy it is for me to organize what I’ve found. For a beginning genealogist, however, it’s a significant financial investment, and you may be better served by free resources. FamilySearch (www.familysearch.org) is a great example. Although the service requires registration, accounts are free. Materials available on FamilySearch are comparable to those on Ancestry: federal censuses, birth records, and marriage records, among others.
  8. Keep track of what you search! Before you even start searching, figure out a way to keep track of what places you’ve already checked for documents and what you’ve found; that way, you can reduce your confusion down the road. For some people, this organization is all done online. For others, it might be best to print out materials and file them in a binder or banker box. It’s all about what works for you and your style of thinking!
  9. Hit the ground running. There’s no time like the present!

If you’re a little further along in your quest, we’ll have a post soon about tips for overcoming brick walls–those trouble spots where you just can’t seem to go further–and making genealogy searches more powerful. Whether you’re a beginner or an old hand, the staff of the Michigan Tech Archives would be happy to assist you in any way that we can while we’re also stuck at home. Please feel free to e-mail copper@mtu.edu or leave a voicemail at (906) 487-2505.


Flashback Friday: Exploring the Copper Country with J.T. Reeder

In the Copper Country, we know the four seasons: almost winter, winter, still winter, and mosquitoes. All joking aside, Yoopers take our seasons seriously. We ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile in the winter–and in the spring. We turn our ski lifts into color tour rides for brilliant autumns and spend cold mornings in deer blinds. In the summers, we trek up Brockway Mountain on our mountain bikes, gather for evening concerts along the Portage, and listen to the waves lapping against golden-lit rocks as the sun plunges into a luminous Lake Superior at the end of the day.

Some of these activities are ones that our neighbors in Wisconsin or Minnesota might enjoy or hobbies enabled by new technologies, like snowmobiles or four wheelers. But there is one all-season pursuit very particular to the Copper Country, something that is timeless and cherished by residents, tourists, old, and young alike. This is, of course, the exploration of ghost towns and mine ruins.

As the ice begins to peel away from the frames of abandoned buildings and the snow reveals traces of workings that came to naught, Flashback Friday presents a selection of images by one local photographer who knew how to wander the Keweenaw’s ruins. J.T. Reeder had an eye for capturing family life, daily activities, celebrations–and, most of all, the wistful beauty of nature reclaiming the mining landscape.

Image of stone ruins with collapsed roof timbers and a placid lake beyond
Stamp mill foundation and ruins at Lac La Belle, undated.
A shaft house at the abandoned Cliff Mine toppled by wind, undated.
Smokestack and ruins at the Cliff Mine, November 1915.
Petherick Location near Copper Falls, October 1929
Shop at Central Mine in disrepair, June 1930.
Copper Country cruising to the housing location of Ontonagon County’s Nonesuch Mine, August 1921.
The old Huron boiler house with Isle Royale Copper Company operations in the background, undated.


From Our Kitchens to Yours

They say food brings people together. A shared meal between friends or family can knit us together in the best of times and the worst of times; it can tell us about where we came from and our current situations. Right now, many folks are feeling very disconnected, both physically and socially, which is why we couldn’t think of a better post for Flashback Friday than one that highlights something that always makes us feel connected: food.

Copper Country, what are you cookin’ up for yourself and loved ones right now? While we sadly can’t smell or taste your delicious cooking, we want to see what you’ve been making at home that makes you feel connected! Dish it up and share away! We’ll get started with a couple of bites from our Van Pelt and Opie Library staff.

Erin Matas (Faculty Engagement and Research Support Librarian) and Cécile Piret

As a Belgian, chocolate is my core comfort. Sharing chocolate with my family during the 4 pm goûter is the bright light of my day. – Cécile Piret


Lindsay Hiltunen (University Archivist)

In these times of uncertainty and isolation, some of us turn to classic comfort food to fuel the soul and calm the heart. This dish is so special to me because it is one that I always made for others. Each time I cook it I think of the long afternoons cooking this slow cook dish, drinking wine with friends and family, blasting records, chopping veggies and sharing stories. 

Season with salt and pepper, then lightly coat with flour of your choice, then sear 2-3 lbs of stew beef (usually in two batches) in a big pot or Dutch oven on the stovetop. I use a butter and olive oil combo to serve as the fat to sear the beef in. About 4 tablespoons butter and olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot. You can add a little more to sear the second batch if needed.

Remove the meat, lower temp to medium high and add a bottle of red wine, deglaze the bottom of the pot to get all the good bits. Add meat back to the wine, add a quart of beef stock, 1 and a half teaspoons of ground cloves, 8-12 smashed garlic cloves (depends on how much you like garlic), 10 fresh thyme sprigs (or dry thyme is fine – not sure about conversion), two bay leaves, and salt and pepper to taste.  Then simmer the beef on medium or medium low (depends on your equipment) for three hours (first twenty minutes uncovered, the rest covered.) In the last hour I add a small bag of baby carrots (or chop up 6-8 regular carrots), 10-12 quartered yellow potatoes, and chopped mushrooms of your choosing. I like button or cremini mushrooms. In the last half hour I add a bag of pearl onions. Sprinkle with parsley or chives before serving. Enjoy with crusty bread and red wine, or all on its own!

Feeds a crowd or makes a lot of lefties for a couple and it tastes better the next day.

Allison Neely (Archivist)

Irish Potato Pie

While I would classify myself as an adventurous eater; I’ll always be a Midwestern girl at heart. The fact that I’m always that person scouting out the weirdest, wackiest food at the MN State Fair says a lot about my food preferences. That said, what could be more Midwestern than a dish containing meat and potatoes?! 


This Irish Potato Pie is a new recipe to my family and definitely a keeper. We pulled it out of the Internet ether to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day this year as a nice way to celebrate the day and enjoy some good old fashioned comfort food. Layers of golden potatoes, the saltiness of the bacon, and sweetness of the sauteed onion complemented the flaky puff pastry and the rich heavy cream drizzled above; making for a very hearty meal. Definitely one that will stick with you!

Chefs’ Notes

Times like this call for simplicity and creature comforts; for sharing knowledge and gifts with one another. We hope that these anecdotes from our kitchens and homes brighten up your day and give you some cooking inspiration. What are you cookin’ up this weekend?!

Stay tuned for our next installment of From Our Kitchens to Yours!