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Family History Fragment


In the late 1820s, Timothy O’Brien and Mary Keys left Ireland for Ontario, Canada. Timothy soon developed a fever and died, leaving Mary with four kids, one of whom was William Timothy O’Brien.

In 1843, Patrick and Mary Cogley, along with their nine children, left Ireland for America. Two of the children didn’t survive the crossing and were buried at sea. One of the Children, Catherine, married William Timothy O’Brien in 1857.

The couple had three children, among them, Johanna O’Brien.

In 1888, William Timothy O’Brien went to North Dakota to visit his sister and do some business. On his return to Michigan he was carrying a considerable amount of cash. He disappeared. Some weeks later his body washed up on the shores of Lake Michigan. The money was gone.

At the age of 21, Johanna O’Brien met Edward Gilson in Saginaw, Michigan in 1884. Johanna was working as a cook in a hotel where Edward took his meals. They married and settled in Clare, Michigan, where Isabel was born in 1894, one of six surviving children. Born in 1853 in Norway, Edward Gilssness had come to America at the age of 17. He found work in Saginaw with the railroad. He operated a swinging bridge over the Saginaw River, which allowed the boats to pass on the river below, and the trains to cross above. He eventually changed his name to Gilson.

Around 1912, Ed Gilson opened up a pool hall in Clare, along with his son-in-law, Roy Besant. (“Roy was a pitcher for the Kent Mills baseball team which was the 1909 champions of Ontario. He sometimes pitched two or three games in a single day, and this eventually ruined his pitching arm.”)

“During the period of the 1920s and early 30s, Ed Gilson visited his children in Flint and Mt. Morris frequently. He always came dressed in a suit with a flask of whiskey in his breast pocket, and generally had an accordion with him. The whiskey was for emergency purposes only, as he was not alcoholic. It gave him a lift when he needed it. The accordion was for entertainment of the families and particularly the children of his daughters.”

Bill Gilson was the son of Johanna and Ed Gilson. In the first decade of the 20th century, he had homesteaded in Saskatchewan. He wrote back to Michigan, telling of the great opportunities, which led Ed and Roy to sell the pool hall and send Roy and Kate (Ed's daughter) to Saskatchewan with the proceeds. They came limping back to Michigan a few years later in a black 1913 Ford.

Bill ended up in a nursing home in Clare, where he died at 102 years of age.

Isabel Gilson went to Detroit with a girlfriend and found work with the Murphy Chair Co. “While in Detroit, Isabel took dancing lessons, and it was there that she met Otis Couture, who was also learning to dance.” They got married in 1916 and moved north to West Branch in the early 1920s.



Ice Cream and Gasoline

I like West Branch. It's like an oasis on I-75 during a long drive between Down-State and Up-North.


thats good that you know that much about your family. i'm a bit envious, beyond my grand parents i no nothing. i guess that comes from the english side, god forbid we talk about things.

Re: family

And I have pretty much forgotten anything I ever knew. I guess my buck stops here. If only they had blogs in the olden days.

Re: family

My brother found a document written by a distant relative. I cherry picked it for good anecdotes. Think about how complicated it gets. For every generation back, you have to multiply the number of ancestors by 2. This is merely part of the story of my paternal grandmother's branch. Of my eight great-grandparents, I can only identify two: Ed Gilson and Johanna O'Brien. It would be fun to learn about the other six.

December 2018



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