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Lawrence G. Robbins: Family Researcher to Author, Part II

In Part I of this blog series, Lawrence Robbins shared how his father, Robert M. Robbins, passed along the stories of his grandfathers Robbins and Theusen. Both these men came to America and made the long journey across the country: Robert W. Robbins, who came from Nova Scotia lived for a time in Michigan, but eventually continued on to Oregon. Matt Theusen, who immigrated to the U.S. from Denmark, traveled across the country to Wyoming, finally settling in Washington on the Puget Sound.

In Part II of this series, Lawrence digs more deeply into his Robbins ancestry and discovers the name of the ancestor who removed from Canada to the U.S.: Prince Robbins.

Julie: Tell us a bit more, if you would, about your father's memory of his Robbins forefathers.

Lawrence: "My dad’s recollections about his Robbins ancestors were less detailed. The general story that had been passed down to him from his grandfather, Robert W. Robbins, and his father, Robert L. Robbins, was that his grandfather had migrated to Michigan from Nova Scotia with his parents and siblings when he was 16 and had settled in Isabella County, Michigan, where they farmed and ran a lumber business. That was where his father, Robert L. Robbins, was born in 1885. My dad didn’t have many details about the Nova Scotia years except the story that the Robbins had originally come from Scotland and were involved in a seafaring life in Nova Scotia before they came to Michigan. The tradition of Scottish origins seemed very important to his father and grandfather and consequently my dad grew up with a fondness and reverence for all things Scottish.

"In the year following my trip to Denmark, I decided to take a trip to central Michigan to find out more about my Robbins family history. My starting point was the Isabella County Courthouse in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan. There I discovered several vital records pertaining to my great-grandfather, Robert W. Robbins, his parents and his siblings. Some records indicated that my Robbins family had come from the town of Yarmouth in southern Nova Scotia. Other records indicated that the Robbins farm in Isabella County was located in Gilmore Township and that several members of the family were buried at the Gilmore Cemetery. My next stop was the Gilmore Cemetery. There I located the gravestones of my great-great grandparents, Prince H. and Isabella Robbins, their daughter, Eva (Robbins) Seymour, and several Seymour family members. I could find no other Robbins buried there. I was later to learn that Prince and Isabella had two sons who survived infancy, my great-grandfather, Robert W. Robbins and his brother, Henry George Robbins, and that both of them had migrated to Oregon in the 1890s."

Prince H. Robbins


Julie: You must have been elated with all this new-found information. What was your next step?

"After the cemetery visit I returned to Mt. Pleasant and visited the Central Michigan University Library archives, which were recommended by Court House personnel as a good repository of local history data and older newspapers. The University Librarian was most accommodating and was able to gather several newspaper items on the Robbins families in central Michigan, the most important of which was an article on my great-great grandfather, Prince H. Robbins, and his death in a shingle mill accident in April, 1900. The article indicates that the accident had occurred at a mill he had opened up in Missaukee County the previous fall and that his body had been returned to Gilmore for burial beside his beloved wife, Isabella. A somber end to my visit to Michigan. Prince H. Robbins had died ten years before my dad was born. I never heard my dad mention that name in any conversation I had with him. Perhaps he did not know of him. As it turned out, Prince H. Robbins was to be the link to our Robbins ancestry in Nova Scotia and to our immigrant ancestor, Nicholas Robbins of Massachusetts and England."

Julie: It truly must have been quite solemn for you to learn about the circumstances of Prince H. Robbins' death so soon after finding his name on vital records and visiting his grave. My family research has led me to really appreciate the difficult work and danger people of the 19th century dealt with each day. That's part of the beauty of genealogy--the respect and admiration to be found from those who preceded us.

In the next installment, more research and a major find.

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