Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Surprise! Response from distant Billings cousin

     One thing I love about the genealogy community is the sense of "community". Everyone is always willing to give another researcher a hand. A perpetual pay it forward kind of  group of people. I heart them. <3

     I plan on making a "Family History" wall in our living room. Portraits of people and occasionally places. I've been spending time picking photos, searching for others, and fixing them up in Lightroom so I can get them printed. I had none of print quality from the Billings line. (My mother's biological paternal line).
     So I was on the hunt. I went back to the OP of the digital pictures I had found of some Billings grandparents. I didn't want to be a pest, but I explained my need for portraits, and asked if she possibly had the original size scans she could email me. There's a lot of people on ancestry.com who really "aren't on" ancestry.com anymore. I figured this would be no different, but it was worth a shot! I clicked send and figured that would be the last of it. Some time passed. Nothing new. Forgot about it.

    Sometime after I was looking for a different email in my inbox, so I typed "genealogy" in the inbox search to try and locate it. Low and behold, there was the reply to my Billings' picture request. I saw the little paperclip icon.....there were attachments.... then the excitement just boiled over. My husband had to, like any good husband of course, come see what was wrong with me, and why I was bouncing and making all these strange noises. Possibly he feared his beloved wife had become an epileptic. Maybe I spilled my coffee on the computer and had electrocuted myself? No. None of the above. I had just gotten a huge picture load of dead relatives. And I was very...VERY.... excited.

    This wonderful woman had sent me the original scans of the pictures I had seen. And not only that, but she attached others that I had never seen before and some genealogy of her family to add to my tree.... How grateful I was!!! Panic set in when I thought of how I had missed that email, and only found it among the hundreds because it happened to have the word "genealogy" somewhere in it. I was searching for something else. I had no idea it had arrived... a while ago.....and I made a resolution to clean out my inbox and check my email more often.....

    Some of the pictures she included in that email were awesome. My favorite happened to be.....

A picture of the Billing brothers, sons of Henri Billings (b.17Mar1839/d.1Jun1908), goofing off. 

  It's the little details I love in pictures like this. Things like the pipe, the hat sitting casually on the head, or the sleeves of the dress shirt rolled up... I'm a sucker for old pictures.
   At first I assumed the two were dancing. Then I thought, what peculiar thing are they staging here with two boys dancing, one timing it with his pocket watch and the other two exchanging money? hmmm. 
Ok, So they probably weren't dancing. 
I'm not sure from the picture who's who, but based on the look of their ages, one of them is probably  my great great grandfather, Arthur Billings,  (b.14Mar1867/d.31Dec1926).

         The family of Henri Billings has a colorful history involving many different places, both in the U.S., and in Canada. The email I received speaks of how Henry and his 8 children left Canada, and moved to Manistique, Schoolcraft, MI during the logging boom that took place there in 1887.  He settled in Manistique for a while, where his children were encouraged to become skilled in different trades. My great great grandfather, Arthur became a painter. Henry E a carpenter, Antoine a printer. And Henry Billings Sr himself along with his two sons Onesime and George became bakers. Two of his children were married and stayed in Manistique; Emma in 1889 and Arthur in 1890. Both siblings remained there the remainder of their lives.
         Their father Henry, though, left Manistique with Marguerite, and their children Onesime, Felix, Antoine and Henry, and went back to Granby in Canada around 1894. George did not accompany the family on this move, and chose to remain in Manistique with his brother Arthur.
          At 57 years of age, Henry bought a two story home in Rue Principale. He moved his family into the second story and used the first story to open his own bakery, H Billings Bread & Pastry Co. His sons took part in the family business often making deliveries in the Billings delivery cart. The trade of Baking remained in the Billings family for several generations.

 Above: H. Billings Bread Pastry Co.

I'm so grateful to the researchers that have come down these lines before me, and their willingness to share their research and treasures. There are a few family lines I have that have very little to no information to follow. It's a very hard road, and sometimes takes years to get a tiny tid bit fact that can open a few more doors and move you on to the next little bit. And sometimes that little bit opens the door to a whole wealth of information. but often the former rings truer. So my level of gratitude towards those wonderful family researchers that paved the way first, clearing out all the brush and debris, runs very very high. Thank You!


  1. Hi. I'm a descendant of Arthur's brother Onesime and I have some of those photos too. I've never been in touch with any descendants of Arthur so I was interested when I stumbled onto your blog.

    If you are interested in a few corrections, I found original baptismal records for the father Henri, he was born March 16, 1838 in Henryville, and Arthur was born Edouard Arthur Billings in Granby on March 15, 1866. If you are interested in a further photo exchange I can be reached at farrelljm1122 *at* hotmail *dot* com

  2. Hi, thank you for the update, and sorry for the late reply. Spring and summer have kept me outdoors. :) yourname wouldn't happen to be Jason, would it? Ive seen that name around a lot of the other Billings boards. If so, then nice to meet you! And if not, well, then, still... nice to meet you! :)
    In a couple of weeks I amheading to The U.P. for a Billings "reunion", so id love to get in touch with you before and after I go. Ill try to shoot you an email in the next couple of days. Thanks for the info!!!!