Category Archives: Genealogical research

Probate Judge John McClellan

I am looking for any information on Judge John McClellan, who lived in Lansing, Michigan and worked for Ingham County Probate Court  for a book I am researching.

He was born in Springport, MI on the 5th March 1877. His parents were, he wrote in a brief biography, ‘from the north of Ireland.’  His father was a farmer called Robert, his mother was Eliza Ann, nee Adams.    They were born around 1840 and 1850 respectively and were reportedly married in Australia.

In all, Robert and Eliza had six children:  John was the youngest of three brothers; there was also Samuel who was four years older and Robert, eight years older and born in Australia .  There were also three girls: Catherine, Eliza and Martha who seems to have died before John was born, certainly before he turned three.


John McClellan went to high school in Springport, a small town about 30 miles south of Lansing, and graduated in 1896.  After spending a year teaching.  He then went to a college, only ten miles from his hometown of  Springport, called Albion College for his Bachelor of Arts degree.  This was a private college endowed by the Methodist church.  McClellan left in 1904 and went on to law school at the University of Michigan, graduating in 1907, by which time he would have been thirty years old.  Still a bachelor, he opened a law practice in Lansing but by 1912 he had moved into work for the city of Lansing as the City Clerk.  This was the start of his public life in Lansing and he held office as an alderman in 1918-19.

By 1921 he was the City Attorney and in 1922, on April 18th, he married a nurse called Mary Jane Maurer who came from the town of Potterville, another small town outside Lansing.  In 1928, until 1930, he entered the judiciary as a Judge of the Municipal Court and in 1937 he became Probate Judge for Ingham County until his retirement in 1957, shortly before his death.  By the time he retired he was nearly eighty years old, but the newspapers reported he was approaching seventy.

His interests were listed as golf and fishing.  He and his wife never had any children.

If anyone has information on John McClellan, was related to him in anyway through his sisters and brothers, or who had dealings with him through his work in Ingham County I would be most grateful.

I also wondered if this man was the same John McClellan who was the first Executive of the Michigan League for Public Policy in 1938.

I can be contacted through the comments below and I will reply in confidence.

Gaps and Questions

I have concluded that any life is full of them really, I suppose. I can’t even answer questions about things that have occurred in my own to any high degree of satisfaction. It’s not a bad thing as such and maybe it’s why we are drawn to packaged narratives, with plot and pace. Most real life is a meander through circumstance and environment.

That said, my trip is nearly over and this part of my research is nearly done. I am driving back up to this lovely spot that I left yesterday morning: Woodland Park, Newaygo County, Michigan to say goodbye to people. Then back to Shicargo (as my devoted little emailer Cassia calls it) and home on the big white bird.



Turning into my father

This post has taken a while to show up because some other stuff got in the way of me sitting down to do it. I wonder if that is not in itself one way in which I am turning into my father… the propensity for having too much on. I think I mentioned it on here before, but I will do so again, because it is apposite; on asking my father last year if he thought he took on too many projects at once, which I tend to do, he simply said,

I find three is too many.

Yes, that’s definitely one way I am turning into my dad. The other ways include:

being happy to live hermit-like communing only with a keyboard

being subject to being in the grip of mini-obsessions that are of limited, if any, interest to nearest and dearest

going deaf in one ear

being a bit rude to people, accidentally

being bad on the telephone

and, most recently, being unable to read

very small writing

without pulling the most squinty-face known to human or beast.


Father, I, and my daughter

Father, I, and my daughter

I have dug out this photo taken at my sister’s wedding in order that one might observe my genetic inheritance of a pointy head. That day, I recall, my mini-obsession was with showing my father the lattice method of long multiplication…

The Auriga

This is the ship that the children’s paternal grandfather came to Britain on, from Dominica.


He arrived in Plymouth on the 14th November 1955. The mystery is that he always said he supported Liverpool FC because that was the port he arrived in, we never looked at the passenger records until after his death. Funny how you rely on people’s memories, those most unreliable of things, in their lifetimes. His address in England was in Hanbury Street, E1 – nowhere near Anfield.

The children’s grandfather’s name was Joseph Junkere and he was 20. He was the oldest, we think, of eight or nine children, all boys, born to Louis and Olive Junkere. The family saved and borrowed to send him to England. He saved and sent back money to the family in Dominica his whole life. In due course, other brothers followed Joe over. A younger brother died young and Joe became the father figure for his young nieces and nephews as well as father to his son and step-father to a daughter. He was a patriarchal figure. He did not mince his words. He was well-loved.

His son, the children’s father, has memories of playing out in Penguin Street, Camden Town in the early 1970s. Turns out it was Penryn Street. It is evident that paper records are the most accurate, but personal reminiscences far more evocative. Memories are what elevates the life of man, woman and child off the dry page of the history book and into our hearts.

He left us many things, but apart from the memories and the genetic inheritance we have his bucket. It’s a galvanised metal bucket full of tools and tricks from his day as a tool machinist. He used to calibrate the machinery to make the right kind of screws and rivets and goodness knows what. The bucket smells of oil and grease. It smells of the life of a working man living in London for fifty years. Joseph Junkere is buried in Kensal Green cemetery. A cousin of his, also called Joseph Junkere, was buried there a few years later, a few rows along from Grandad.

It’s a very long way from the volcanic island of Dominica for them both.