A Note to My Readers: On May 1st of this year, I sent a request in to the New York State Vital Records in Albany for the death certificate of John R. Case, my 3rd great grandfather. It is now September 1st and I have put patience aside and a phone call to the department on Tuesday is on my “to do” list. This isn’t the first time the seven weeks wait advisory on the form turned into months…seven months to be exact…and two of the four documents were not my requested information. At that point, I made my way through the frustrating automated phone message maze and happily found a real live person who was incredibly helpful. I had the correct documents within a week. I kept her direct phone number in my contact database. I learned to ask for that kind of information in my career. Networking with helpful and knowledgeable people is a must have tool for anything we do and genealogists can certainly benefit from developing a contact database…an address book for you non-marketing people. And make sure you say PLEASE and THANK YOU.
I do think I know why my second and third requests are bogged down though. The first time I ordered from the NYS Vital Records Department, it was for ONE death certificate. It arrived within a month. The second time it was for four. That took seven months. And this time…two. I have a feeling that ordering multiples puts a wrench in the research process for some reason only the folks there know. So the next time, I will send separate requests in…in separate envelopes with separate checks. I will let you know if my theory bears fruit.
Working Around the Edges
In the meantime I have been working around the edges of my 3rd great grandfather John R. Case with what I do know. John was born in New Jersey in 1809. At some point he arrived in the area of Summerhill, Cayuga County, New York where he met and married Sarah Learn, daughter of John Learn and his wife, Elizabeth Freece. The Cases had three sons, William J. (my 2nd great grandfather), James Henry and Adam A. and a daughter whose name is unknown to me at this time.
John and Sarah Case ran a farm in Locke, New York on what is now Route 90 just past the Summerhill line. Sarah died in 1851 and must have been ill for some time because her 11 year old son James was living with her parents in 1850. Sarah was just 41 years old when she died and most likely was the victim of consumption…a disease that plagued families in the area for decades. She is buried in Miller Cemetery on Breeds Road in Locke and just a row away from where her parents were laid to rest.
After Sarah’s death in 1851, John married again to the spinster Huldah A. Loomis from nearby Groton. Huldah was 22 years his junior. In 1860 James Henry Case was living with his father, John and his second wife, Huldah on the farm where she had stepped in to mother the young man who was just 8 years younger than she was.
During the 1850’s William and Adam continued to live with their father John and helped run the 45 acre farm. They plowed the rich fields above Cayuga Lake with a pair of oxen to sow the crops of barley, corn, winter rye, peas, beans and potatoes. In spring they tapped the maple trees and made maple syrup for market. The small apple orchard of about 75 trees produced about 20 bushels a season and the five milk cows on the Case farm produced about 400 pounds of butter every year. Holsteins were the favored breed of milk cow and it is easy to imagine the big black and white “bossies” dotting the rolling hills above the lake. It is still one of my favorite sights when I drive through the central New York country side. Seven chickens produced eggs for market that brought in a neat $500 in the year 1865. There were two horses and pigs for meat and sheep for wool. In fact, the Cases produced flannel for market as well. Large stands of woods were part of John’s farm…large enough for deer to inhabit. In fact the farm that is there today still is thick with trees.
Before 1860 William and Adam had married and were off their father’s farm. Twenty-six year old William was farming in Lansing with his maternal grandfather, John Learn and living with his first wife, Mary and their daughter, Sarah and infant son John J. Case. Adam was a new bridegroom at twenty-three, working as a farm laborer in Genoa and living with his nineteen year wife, Lucy Boyce.
William J. Case had lost his wife, Mary in 1861 leaving him to raise their daughter, Sarah and newborn son, John J. In 1862 William married Sarah D. Bowker, my paternal 2nd great grandmother. Sarah was barely 14 years old when she became 28 year old William’s wife. The young teen bride barely out of her girlhood took over the duties of his household and became a mother to his 7 year old daughter and 3 year old son. Sarah’s parents, Jonathan and Emeline Bowker, owned one of the largest farms in the Groton, New York area and were descendants of Revolutionary War soldier Silas Bowker who had settled the area after the war for independence. Before she turned 15 years old, Sarah bore a son, William J. Case, Jr. followed by a daughter, Emma Lillian, my great grandmother in the winter of 1865. Sarah was a capable girl. She was the youngest child and had after all seen to her aging parents household on their large farm.
And in the fall of 1869 Sarah became a widow when she was nineteen years old. Like so many in the area, 36 year old William had succumbed to consumption.
Though Sarah was a strong girl and had an extended family of Bowkers and Powers, she could not care for her stepson, John, her own children and manage the large farm in Summerhill. It fell to his grandfather, John R. Case to take in the 10 year John and see to his upbringing. Huldah was now mothering her stepson, James and her step grandson, John. And the farm needed the extra hands. John R. was aging and son Adam had just lost his wife, Lucy in 1865 and was newly remarried and they were raising his young ones, Alice, Katy and Samuel. Martha died in the 1870’s leaving Adam once again without a mother for his children.
Will’s widow, Sarah remarried to a local farmer, Sylvester Johnson, and together they raised Will’s children, Will, Jr. and little Emma. Sarah and Sylvester moved on to the Bowker farm where she could help her parents and where Sylvester could care for the Bowker farm business.
The Road to Jersey…is through Albany?
With his son, Will, gone and his son, Adam with troubles of his own, John and Huldah increasingly turned to James and little John for help on the farm. When John R. Case died in 1890 at the age of 81, he had owned and run his farm for over 50 years. Every morning of those 50 some years John rose to milk the cows and turn them out to pasture. He had hitched up the oxen and turned over the fields and sowed the crops for endless seasons. And in the spring he walked among the tall maples, his breath sending wisps of clouds into the air, crunching through the snow and finally driving the taps into the trunks to catch the amber sap. In the autumn with the geese honking overhead and the shortening days, he harvested the crisp apples from the orchard. The Jersey boy had fought the hard winters, managed through the difficult years of the Civil War, buried his wife and son and his daughters-in-law and raised his grandson, John. He was a good neighbor, father, husband and grandfather and part of the Cayuga lake pioneer community that rings with the names Learn and Bowker, Boyce and Powers, Miller, Robinson and Freece. He lies among them in Miller Cemetery next to his wife, Sarah Learn. In the middle of the glade stands the obelisk, encrusted with tufts of mold and a skim of lichen, but tall and straight among his extended family members.
And yet unlike the others I have not found him among his own. I believe Mariah Case who married Jefferson Learn to be his sister…and perhaps Isaac Case of nearby Genoa…and another Jersey boy… to be his brother. But I am guessing…a good guess with reason to believe I am right…but with no documentation or direction…except to Albany…where for six months someone is “processing” my request for his death certificate. Enough time to sow and harvest a crop or two. Pick some apples. Churn some butter.
Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher
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