Bill's Genealogy Blog

Bill Buchanan is a long-time genealogy enthusiast, living in Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada. This blog will describe my experiences as I research my family history and help others.

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Location: Spruce Grove, Alberta, Canada

I am a retired online school teacher. I love family history. Since 2007, I have spent much of my time providing part-time support for the world's largest free family history site This is very rewarding. I have helped others with the Family Tree and related FamilySearch products.
Since April 2010, I have served in the Edmonton Riverbend Family History Centre. I have a FHC blog at Bill's Family History Center Blog For information the Latter-day Saints and family history click

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Saga of My Mysterious Steele Family

I love it when I receive an email from someone I have never heard of, but whom I can easily identify as a cousin. 

The Steele family were a mystery to me for a long time. Dad and his brother and sister knew very little about this aunt and uncle of theirs. Their information was basically:

"Frank died in a mill explosion, and Minnie died giving birth to twins." 

Since the rest of the George Watson family moved from Michigan to Alberta in 1903, I searched Alberta fruitlessly for years. Then when the internet became available, I found the George Watson family in the 1881 Canada census and I discovered that her name was actually Mary E. (Mary Elizabeth according to her birth record.)

1881 Census Place: Turnberry, Huron North, Ontario, Canada  April 1881
Source: FHL Film 1375909  NAC C-13273  Dist 175  SubDist B  Div 2  Page 17  Family 67
Sex Marr Age Origin Birthplace
George WATSON M M 39 Scottish O  Occ: Farmer       Religion:Weslyan Methodist
Jane WATSON F M 38 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
George A. WATSON M 10 Scottish O Religion:Congregational
Mary E. WATSON F 7 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
Margaret A. WATSON F 5 Scottish O Religion: Congregational
Richd.Joe. WATSON M 2 Scottish O Religion:Congregational
Eliza Jane WATSON F <1 span="" style="white-space: pre;">
Scottish O Religion:Congregational[Some years are off slightly, and Richd.Joe should be Richd.Jas, but plainly it is the correct family.]

This information helped me to find the marriage of Frank and Minnie in Michigan about 15 years earlier than I originally expected. 

Extracted marriage record for locality listed in the record.
Search performed using PAF Insight on 16 Oct 2006
Mary E. Watson; Female; Birth: , , Canada; Father: George Watson; Mother: Jane Watson; Spouse: Frank Steele; Marriage: 16 JUL 1891 Sault Sainte Marie, Chippewa, Michigan; Batch No.: M018016 Dates: Source Call No.: Type: Printout Call No.: Type: Film Sheet:

This led to finding older children that my family never mentioned. Some of them are listed in the 1910 census.

1910 US Census
name: Frank Steele birthplace: Wisconsin relationship to head of household: Self
residence: Raber, Chippewa, Michigan marital status: Married race : White
gender: Male immigration year: father's birthplace: Scotland
mother's birthplace: United States
family number: 76 page number: 4
  Household Gender Age Birthplace
self Frank Steele M 39y Wisconsin
wife Mary E Steele F 36y Canada
son William G Steele M 16y Michigan
son Robert G Steele M 14y Michigan
dau Lucy M Steele F 9y Michigan
dau Marth A Steele F 7y Michigan [Myrtle]
son Eal T Steele M 2y Michigan [Earl T.]
"United States Census, 1910," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 08 Dec 2012), Frank Steele, Raber, Chippewa, Michigan; citing sheet 4B, family 76, NARA microfilm publication T624, FHL microfilm 1374654.

By the 1920 census the parents are both tragically dead.
United States Census, 1920 Residence , Chippewa, Michigan
Household Gender Age
 William J Steele  M 26y
 Lacy M Steele  F 18y [Lucy M.]
 Myrtle A Steele  F 16y
 Carl F Steele  M 11y [Earl T.]
 Frank A Steele  M 9y7m

My family said "They had Nate, Nellie, and Jeanie, who were adopted by Uncle George Allan Watson and his wife Carrie. Then Carrie left and moved to Ohio with all of the kids but Ralph who was rather slow and could only do farm work."

In the Alberta Provincial Archives I found the parish register for the Millett Methodist Church. Well! Nate was the biological child of Allan and Carrie! He was not the child of Frank and Minnie. 

The pieces were starting to come together. But who were the twins? Obviously they were not Nate and Nellie, so they must have been Nellie and Jeannie. This document helped:

Border Crossing, July 31, 1913
Watson  George 70 Farmer      Canada     USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  $100
Watson  Jane     71 housewife Canada     USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta
- to join son Richard
Steel     Mary       4 mos          USA Mich  USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  
Steel     Elizabeth 4 mos          USA Mich  USA Mich  Raber Mich  Millet Alta  
- wards of grandparents Mr & Mrs Geo Watson
calls Nellie Elizabeth, so Jeannie is Mary.

Nellie died in Toledo of polio. 
Name: Nellie Watson Titles: Death date: 13 Dec 1926
Death place: Toledo, Lucas, Ohio Birth date: Estimated birth year: 1913
Birth place: Age at death: 13 years 7 months 27 days
Gender: Female Marital status: Race or color:
Street address: Occupation: Residence:
Burial date: Burial place: Cemetery name:
Spouse name:
Father name: Frank Steele Father titles: Father birth place:
Mother name: Elizabeth Watson Mother titles: Mother birth place:
GSU film number: 1984618 Digital GS number: 4024345
Image number: 332 Reference number: fn 75959
Collection: Ohio Deaths 1908-1953

Image requires sign-in:

Jeannie died some time prior to Nellie, and she probably died at Millet, Alberta, Canada as I cannot find her death in the Toledo Blade obit index or other Ohio records. 

What a sad story! Minnie died on 22 Jun 1913 of heart failure, apparently triggered by the birth of the twins. Frank died on 02 Jun 1918 in a massive boiler explosion in Bartlett's sawmill, at Shelldrake, Whitefish Twp, Chippewa, Michigan. They were both young. Frank was only 47. They had a large family, and some of the children were very young. The twins, baby girls that my family knew as Jeannie and Nellie, both died young. Nellie was only 13 at the time of her death and Jeannie would have been even younger. 

I have been helped by Watson and Steele cousins to fill in the gaps . Most recently, by the cousin who contacted me last week and was able to give me the names of Earl's descendants. In return I sent her a PDF copy of a Watson Family Tree book I created in 2007, where there is minimal information about the Steele family, but good information on most of the other Watson descendants. 

I invite any further information or corrections. 


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