Backgrounds of My Families

This is some background information for the eight families (mine and my wife’s) of my grandparents’ generation.


Our Harris family is of English decent. Their ancestry can be traced back to the earliest days of our country. John Earl Harris was born in Greenfield, Saratoga Co., NY in 1798. He married Nancy Ormsbee in 1820. The Ormsbee family originally came to America in the 1630′s, settling in Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. Nancy’s father Joshua fought in the Revolutionary War and travelled to Greenfield with his family around 1796. John Earl, Nancy and their descendents moved on to Pierpont Ohio, Town of Morgan Indiana, and eventually Cato, Manitowoc Co., WI. There, they engaged in the mill business. Related families include Seybold, Protz, Cleveland, Ormsbee, Benjamin, Newcomb and Bradford.


George Harvey and his wife Elizabeth (Louden) were married in England in 1859. Soon after, they came to America and settled in Leoni Twp., Jackson Co., Michigan. Their son and grandson farmed on Harvey Road in Waterloo Twp., Jackson Co., MI. Related families include Musbach, Louden, Notten and Kruse.


Came to America from Prussia in the early 1860′s. According to family stories, Wilhelm Hau was a land owner in Prussia. He settled in Russel Twp., Sheboygan Co., Wisconsin. He married Kathrine Tuepper in January of 1869. Her family was also from Prussia and settled in Marshfield Twp., Fond du Lac Co., WI, where they farmed. Wilhelm and Kathrine’s descendants remained in the county, with our family owning a restaurant in Fond du Lac. Related families include Fuhrmann, Tuepper and Michels.


Our Heim family came to America in the 1840′s. Damian Heim was born in Steinbach Germany in 1815. His wife, Regina, was from the same area. They settled in Sylvan Twp., Washtenaw Co., Michigan. Related families include Gage, Hoppe, Parker, Knight and Lombard.


Laurentius Hela, his wife Elizabeth (Fleming), and their five children arrived in America from Prussia/Poland in May of 1866. They settled in Princeton, Green Lake Co., Wisconsin. Their grandson, Francis (Frank) married Catherine Jackowski in 1905. Her family was also from Prussia/Poland. Frank worked in the granite quarry in Montello, WI. Related families include Jackowski, Soda and Swiderski.


The LeVan family was among the German-speaking French Huguenot refugees who fled from France to Holland, probably after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. Family tradition says they were manufacturers of brocade and taffetas in their native country, and that they were of considerable wealth.

Jacob LeVan was born about 1702 in Amsterdam. Records indicate he came to America around 1717. Jacob married Mary about 1725 in Maxatawny Twp., Berks Co., Pennsylvania. The family lived for many generations in Berks Co. They moved to Logan Co., Ohio and eventually to Waterloo Twp., Jackson Co., Michigan. Related families include Robison, Winner, Leymaster and Leidigh.


Our McConnell family can only be traced back to the early 1800′s. Charles Russell McConnell was born in New York in 1828. He married Sophia Laib in Kent Co., Michigan in 1859. She was born in Ohio in 1837. They farmed in Carmel Twp., Eaton Co., MI. Related families include Bradley, Laib, Blackmer, Kimball and Lankton.


Originated from the town of Essert in the Territory of Belfort, France. Charles Xavier (Jean Baptiste) Voiland, his wife Adelaide (Perrin) and their children arrived at Castle Garden in New York City in December of 1857. His son Joseph Voiland and wife Felicitée Marie (Sadie) Romond arrived in New York City in May of 1857. Sadie’s family was from the town of Urcerey, also in the Territory of Belfort. Joseph and Sadie traveled to Buffalo, NY, and then settled in Little Wolf Twp., Waupaca County, Wisconsin.

The family name was changed to “Weller” when their children started school in Wisconsin. Their German school teacher couldn’t pronounce the French name “Voiland” and so it was changed to reflect the German pronunciation “Weller”. Their descendants remained in Waupaca County, with our family living in Clintonville and owning a hardware store. Related families include Heinke, Romond and Eglin.

There was also a Voiland family that came from Cravanche, another small village in the Territory of Belfort, France, in the 1850’s. Thibeau (Tebo) Voiland, his wife Marie (Frossard), and their eight children arrived in America on October 15, 1852, and settled in Macomb Co., Michigan, just north of Detroit. The homestead was located a short distance west of Gratiot Avenue between what is now Fourteen Mile Road and Masonic Boulevard.

We are unable to connect the Michigan Voilands to our Wisconsin Voilands. Since both families came from the same region in France during the same time period, we are hoping to find a connection!


Wondering about Martha Lane

We have a weekly event at work called Reminiscing Thursday. Our seniors are invited to bring something from their past to share. There isn’t an agenda, and we have no idea where the discussions will lead. Since I am the ringleader, the pressure is on for me to bring something interesting each week. Even though I have a lot to choose from, I’m usually searching around the night before for that perfect item.

This week was more of the same, I was searching through a couple of boxes and came across a school register for my wife’s grandmother. It’s called the Welch’s System of Classification, Gradation and Close Supervision. Zella (McConnell) LeVan attended a one room school house in Kalamo Twp., Eaton Co., MI. This register shows the group of students as they proceed from one year to the next “to each succeeding teacher”. It contains class curriculum, as well as grades and teachers notes for each student.

Zella grew up to be a teacher. She taught in Charlotte, MI. I’m not exactly sure how she obtained this book. In 1913, Zella was in the 5th grade at Hinkley School. That school year is on the first page of the register, and it ends with the year 1920.  It may have been her love of teaching that prompted someone to give the register to her.


That year, Hinkley School had 19 total students in grades 1 through 8. Five of Zella’s  classmates were her cousins from nearby farms. Her teacher that year was Martha A. Lane. An interesting side note is that in each succeeding school year in the book, there was a different teacher.

Hinckley School with Martha Lane and her class – 1913/1914

As I was finding this register in the box, I also came across a formal portrait of Martha Lane. On the back of the picture holder Zella wrote , “Martha Lane. Our Hinkley teacher when I was 9 years old, in the 5th grade. Obviously she was a favorite teacher and a special person in Zella’s life. She may have even inspired her to become a teacher.

Martha Lane – c.1913

I wondered about Martha Lane. What had become of her? Where did she go after that one year at the Hinkley School? Was someone that mentored Grandma as she began her own teaching career?

I looked her up on Luck would have it, I found her. And, there was another picture. And there was something unexpected – a death date of April 7, 1919. According to Ancestry, Martha was born on January 27, 1894. This would have made her only 19 when she began teaching school that year at Hinkley. She also married a man named Victor Schinkez.

So, what had happened? How did she die? There is a great repository of Michigan death records called Seeking Michigan. I searched and up came her death certificate. She had died of tuberculosis at the age of 25. Martha is buried in Maple Hill Cemetery in Charlotte, MI.

I wish Grandma was still alive to ask more about Martha Lane.

Zella would have been only 15 when Martha passed away.

Tuesday Treasure | November 3, 2009

My wife’s grandmother, Zella (McConnell) LeVan, started this memory scrap book as she was graduating, in 1924, from Michigan State Normal College (now Eastern Michigan University) in Ypsilanti, Michigan.


The book contains pages full of well wishes from classmates and clippings of various school events. In later years, she added newspaper obituary clippings.




Zella taught 2nd grade in Munith, MI schools. She and her husband Elmo (Bill) lived in Waterloo Township.


Zella (McConnell) LeVan | May 11, 1904 - November 19, 1992