In-Laws: Eli & Maria Roberts

I have a lot of fun dwelling “on” the past but sometimes I wish I could dwell “in” the past. This is especially the case where Eli Roberts and Maria Quance are concerned. I wish I could go back to 1979 and resume my place at Aunt Elaine’s dining room table, pen in hand and many more pages of notes to write. I’d certainly have more questions for her about the Bretts, but this time I would also ask more probing questions about her mother’s side of the family. (Why is it still so easy to overlook the female side?) Other than basic information, like names and birthdates, my notes from that era provide almost no details that would help me to paint a memorable picture of the Eli Roberts family. Thankfully, Ancestry.ca has been helpful in fleshing out some of the facts, but it can’t tell the stories that Aunt Elaine could have.

In any case, here’s what I know…

Born on September 17, 1865 near Pontiac, Michigan, Frances Lillian Roberts, my great-grandmother, was the daughter of Eli Roberts and Maria Quance. According to Aunt Elaine, her name was pronounced Mar-i-a (phonetically represented in the only graphic I could think to include in this post), not Mar-e-a. This was considered an important point of distinction.

From various accounts, it is clear that both Eli Roberts and Maria Quance were natives of New York State. The 1901 and 1911 census returns for the town of Essex show that Maria Roberts, residing at that time in the R.R. Brett household, was born on January 1, 1822. Her obituary published on January 5, 1912 in the Essex Free Press, states that she was born in Oneida County, New York, and had five brothers and two sisters. She was pre-deceased by all of them and died on December 28, 1911 at the age of 89 years, 11 months, and 28 days.

In the 1970s, Aunt Elaine recalled clearly that Eli Roberts was born on October 22. The Michigan vital records for Oakland County show his year of birth to be 1818 but no record confirming his day of birth has been located. Maria’s obituary reports her husband’s year of death as 1885.

From Maria Roberts’ obituary we know that she was married in 1846 to Eli Roberts. This information is confirmed by the Oakland County vital records, which further indicate that they were married in New York State. Their first four children were born in Rome, New York.

In 1855, Eli and Maria moved to Pontiac, Michigan, where they resided until they moved to Charlotte, Michigan in 1876. Eli was a farmer. By the time of his death in 1885, they had moved back to Pontiac.

From 1893 until a few years before her death, Maria Roberts lived both in Amherstburg and Essex in the R.R. Brett home. At the time of her death, however, she was residing with her daughter, Mrs. Isaac N. Jackson (Etta/Henrietta) of Jackson, Michigan. Her death certificate identifies the cause of death as cerebral hemorrhage.

The children born to Eli and Maria Roberts and their place of residence upon Maria’s death were as follows:

Sarah – Born about 1848 in Rome, NY. Married George Landers; named her two daughters after her sisters, Addie and Effie. Predeceased her mother and died in Charlotte, Michigan.

Elizabeth “Libbie” – Born about 1849 in Rome, NY. Married Frank L. Woodford. Predeceased her mother and died in Chicago, Illinois.

Emma – Born about 1851 in Rome, NY. Married Richard F. Lalonge of Amherstburg. Was residing in Amherstburg when her mother died.

Henry V. – Born about 1853 in Rome, NY. Living in Tacoma, Washington when his mother died.

Georgiana Estelle – Born about 1855 in Pontiac, Michigan. Married Orlo Blodgett in 1877 and had 3 children, Eva, Earl (a dentist), and Estella. Died May 29, 1909 in Eaton Rapids, Michigan.

Adeline “Addie” – Born about 1858 in Pontiac, Michigan. Predeceased her mother.

Henrietta “Etta” or “Effie” – Born about 1860 in Pontiac, Michigan. Married Isaac N. Jackson. Died on 31 Jan 1931 in Jackson, Mich.

George A. – Born about 1862 in Pontiac, Michigan. Living in Warren, Indiana when his mother died.

Frances Lillian – Sometimes called “Frankie.” Born 17 Sept 1865 in Pontiac, Michigan. Married R.R. Brett and was living in Essex when her mother died.

Although I know very little about the Roberts, I did collect one story about Earl Blodgett from Aunt Fran (Brett) Knipe. They both lived in and around Tacoma, Washington. In an email exchange about family history, Aunt Fran wrote in the spring of 2001:

I had forgotten about the relatives in Tacoma. Aunt Elaine had told me about them when I first came out here, but I didn’t look them up until I got a toothache nearly fifty years ago. Earl Blodgett was a Dentist in Tacoma and a nephew of Grandma Brett. He extracted my aching tooth, packed the cavity with gauze and got so carried away talking about “Aunt Frankie”, he forgot to remove the gauze. It was several days and much pain later that I removed it myself and it began to feel better and heal. He also passed the time by proudly showing me his collection of extracted teeth that had some peculiarity about them. It was pretty gross, and not exactly what I wanted to be looking at right at that time. When my Mom came out here for a visit, she called the Blodgetts (I believe that was an order from Aunt Elaine) and met them for lunch and they spent the afternoon together.

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