What does genealogy have to do with a door?

Some internet research years past led me to a page published by Evelyn Sawyer in 2003 on the Kent County Genweb site. “22 James street” is mentioned in a transcribed article from a scrapbook among the collections in the Grand Rapids library’s local history department. There is no date on the article. From clues in the content, it’s likely to date from about 1905.*

The full transcription is online at: http://kent.migenweb.net/schools/stonesch.html

Since you can read the article yourself, I’ll summarize by providing just the key statement that piqued my interest:

Hon. At S. White will be there and will bring with him the key to the great lock of the big front door of the old school house. The front door itself of the old school now forms the chief entrance to the residence of Mr. White at 22 James street, and other doors and timbers of the old building were used in the building of his residence”

So here is this locally significant architectural element from the early stone schoolhouse built in the village of Grand Rapids (pre 1850) – the actual door – almost literally in my back yard.

Fast forward to December 2008 – four years later – I ran across the note I made to myself to check this out someday. Reckoning and hoping that the door might still exist, I knew from my experience in Grand Rapids research my first step would be to check the 1912 city directory to translate the old address of 22 James street to the current day address scheme. I did that today. 222 James street was the answer!

There is no 222 James street.

Give up? I thought about it- seriously. It’s not that big a deal if I don’t know. No, wait. Now this gap in my knowledge has me hooked.

Who is “Hon. At S. White?” That’s an angle. I quickly found Arthur S. White in the 1900 census at 68 James street.** He was still at the exact same address in the 1910 census.***

Then in the 1920 census, the address for Arthur White is 306 James street****. Since this was after the change in address scheme that occurred in 1912, it just may be the house to look for. And Mr. White’s daughters lived at 302 James street. I’ll now need to get up, venture outside (where it’s very cold) and walk around the block to see if I can discover the DOOR.

A “knowledge gap” is what drives most people with an interest in researching family history. We genealogists can’t settle for not knowing that great grandmother’s maiden name. Then once we find out her name was Jones, the next question immediately materializes – which John Jones was her father? Etc. etc.

Once one is aware of the disorder, one can perhaps decide whether or not to enter a 12-step program to deal with the compulsive behavior. If the answer is not, try your local genealogy society as a support group instead.

By the way, why does the scrapbook article give an address that does not seem to exist? I’ll let you know once I find out. (Read my follow-up Comment)

D. Bryant

*Lawrence C. Earle mentioned as a non-resident. Earle returned to Grand Rapids in 1909 and lived here until his death in 1921. Mention is made of the 1854-55 school records and the subject of the article is a reunion-quite possibly a 50 year reunion.
**Year: 1900; Census Place: Grand Rapids Ward 3, Kent, Michigan; Roll: T623_721 Page: 16A; Enumeration District: 54.
***Year: 1910; Census Place: Grand Rapids Ward 3, Kent, Michigan; Roll: T624_656; Page: 12A; Enumeration District: 61; Image: 845.
****Year: 1920;Census Place: Grand Rapids Ward 2, Kent, Michigan; Roll: T625_778; Page: 17B; Enumeration District: 61; Image: 348.