The Lost Son

A Note to My Readers:  Genealogists understand that researching entire families, siblings, in-laws, aunts and uncles and cousins more often than not reveal the human history of our ancestors and indeed are likely to break down brick walls.  In my nascent days of genealogical research, I called this kind of research “sideways”.  I believe the scholarly term is “indirect evidence”. I still say “sideways” out of habit, but I am finally channeling my instinctive and self-taught methods into developing a more academic approach to accepted standards set by the Board for Certification of Genealogists®

I may need more than a modicum of patience for myself and the discipline of BCG reportage.   Still I have learned a great deal from historians, archivists and fellow genealogists and the satisfaction of continuing to improve on my knowledge and skills keeps it all so very interesting.

And, pardon the pun.   Relative.

The Long Lost Son. Walter George Lounsbury (aka Downing).

For several years I was trying to find out what happened to Medorah Rogers, daughter of the prominent veterinary surgeon from the village of Cayuga and Rochester, NY and his wife Mary J. Downing.  Medorah had a son, Walter George, but due to a misspelling of her his last name (Longsby) an error in transcription in the 1875 New York State Census, I could not find her or her family. Today I discovered that the name was Lounsbury not Longby and with that I was able to create the life and circumstances of  Walter George Lounsbury Rogers Downing.

 

As is my practice, I often go back to enigmas and check to see if I might find a new source of information that has come to light.  This time it was to once again see if I could find out what happened to Medorah Rogers Longsby and her son Walter George.  Medorah is an unusual given name and using it and the advantage of Soundex, there might be hope for discovery.  I have been back to these individuals countless times with no luck, but if I have one trait, it is tenacity. Or maybe I am just a cock-eyed optimist.   It paid off when I found Walter’s death claim and the complicated research data came together.

U.S., Social Security Applications and Claims Index, 1936-2007

 

Name Walter George Lounsbury
SSN 565035802
Gender Male
Race White
Birth Date 28 Oct 1874
Birth Place Tonawanda, New York
Type of Claim Original SSN.
Signature on SSN Card WALTER DOWNING
Relationship of Signature Signature name differs from NH’s name.
Notes May 1937: Name listed as WALTER GEORGE LOUNSBURY
Household Members
Name Age
George Lounsbury
Medora Rogers
Walter George Lounsbury

It was time to work backward and sideways.  Create a timeline and analyze my research.   Still using my own wonky vocabulary as you see.

How and why did Walter George Lounsbury become Walter Downing?

According to his Social Security record, Walter was born in 1874 in Tonawanda, Erie county, New York.  His professional biographies state that he was born in Rochester, New York.  The confusion is understandable since Walter’s father, George, was from Tonawanda and his mother from Rochester.  Sometime shortly after his birth, his mother died. His father moved back to his hometown of Tonawanda, working as an Express agent or ‘cartman’ and traveled constantly.  He left Walter with his late wife’s parents, Dr. George G. Rogers and Mary J. Downing in Rochester, New York. Walter’s father continued on with his occupation and subsequently remarried and adopted a young German orphan girl, naming her Carrie after his sister. Walter was raised by his mother’s parents in Rochester, New York.

In the New York State Census of 1875 the infant boy was enumerated in his grandparents’ Rochester, New York household as their grandson, Walter G. (transcribed incorrectly as Longby which I have since reported to Ancestry.com).

Walter continued to live with his grandparents and was enumerated in the 1880 Federal Census in Rochester, New York as their 6 year old son “Walter G. Rogers”.   In the New York State 1892 Census, Walter was living with his now widowed grandmother in Rochester and still enumerated as her son, “Walter G. Rogers”.

When Walter G. Rogers married Katherine Ellsworth on October 15, 1897 in Rochester, New York, the marriage license listed his parents as George and Mary Downing Rogers and he was an insurance agent.  By 1900 Walter had relocated to Auburn, Cayuga, New York living on 87 East Genesee Street with his mother, Mary J. and a second wife enumerated as Mary, an actress. George continued selling insurance.

After  his mother Mary died in 1902, Walter G. Rogers left Auburn and I chased him by all three surnames all over country.  Born circa 1874 in New York State. Parents born in New York State.  Occupation: Insurance.  Wife: Mary who was an actress.  I found some promising information here and there, but nothing with that ‘slam dunk’ factor.

Since Walter’s social security records confirmed that he also used the surname of DOWNING, his maternal grandmother’s last name as his ‘stage name’, I went searching and found one Walter Downing. Actor. In Hollywood. With a wife named Augusta.  An actor that was in bit parts…mostly in ‘oaters’.

Working backward, in the 1930 Federal Census I found a stage actor named Walter Downing born in New York circa 1874 with parents who were born in New York , but with a wife, Augusta.  Just possibilities, so I went into industry sources to find more on Walter Downing.

 

Walter Downing’s IMDB bio states:

Walter Downing was born on October 28, 1874 in Rochester, New York, USA. He was an actor, known for Two-Fisted Sheriff (1937), The Hidden Light (1920) and One Man Justice (1937). He died on December 21, 1937 in Hollywood, California, USA.

The bio also indicates that he began his film career in 1915 though I found him in Broadway productions in the 1920’s.  So Walter was bi-coastal.

His brief biography in “The Stars of Hollywood Forever” by  Tony L.Scott fills in more information which indicated that Walter was in New York City performing.

DOWNING, Walter (b. October 28,1874 Rochester, NY d. December 21, 1937 Hollywood, CA-  Veteran western actor, Downing appeared in two Broadway productions: Taboo in 1922 starring Paul Robeson and Ruth Taylor and The 19th Hole starring Marion Abbott, Kitty Kelly and Howard Sidney.

Subsequent research into film titles in “The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion  Pictures;

Walter-Downing-as-newspaper-editor-Bill

Walter Downing as ‘Newspaper Editor Bill’ in “Kentucky Blue Streak”

Feature Films (1931 -1940)” include Walter’s listing in such films as “Helldorado“(1934),  “Kentucky Blue Streak” (1935), “Code of the Range“(1936),  “Two Fisted Sheriff” (1937) and ironically, “The Case of the Missing Man“(1935).  “Kentucky Blue Streak” is available to view online at no cost. Walter is cast as ‘newspaper editor Bill’.

In a 1920 Broadway show cast list, Walter Downing was cast as ‘Chief of Police’ in the comedy production of “Outside Looking In” starring James Cagney.

And what about “The Lost Son”?

New York NY Clipper 1890-1891 - 0671 E O Rogers display adWalter was never lost. He never ran away from home. He always lived with his mother’s parents and without much doubt spent time with his uncle, Edgar O. Rogers, the great showman and actor from Rochester, New York.   His father couldn’t have failed to know exactly where his son was. Dr. Rogers was prominent in his field of veterinary surgery specializing in horses and was listed in Rochester directories for all to see.  After the death of Walter’s grandmother,  it seems logical that the reason I lost track of him after 1902 was that he was offered a position with his uncle’s traveling emporium of actors and circus entertainment. Edgar’s wife who was a celebrated actress and his business partner died suddenly in 1903 and uncle and nephew found comfort together as a newly minted family and show business entity.  Goodbye, insurance and hello to the hurly burly of limelight and the romance of stage plays and life on the road.

All The Life’s A Stage

My favorite area to research is old newspapers. When I had nailed down the primary sources of censuses and death records and directories and noted secondary sources for further research, I settled down to the tried and true method of boolean searching for Walter George Lounsbury Rogers (on occasion Rodgers) Downing.  Two newspaper articles popped up concerning one George A. Lounsbury of Tonawanda who ‘found his long lost son’ in 1905. Walter would have been on the road with E. O. Rogers at most only three years at that time.
North Tonawanda NY Evening News 6 Oct 1905 Grayscale Walter Lounsbury gone 15years with E O Rogers

North Tonawanda NY Evening News 6 Oct 1905

According to the article, George thought Walter had died until one day in 1905 he read the posted bills of E. O. Rogers Repertoire Company that was posted in a public place with  the words ‘under the management of Walter G. Lounsbury’ and in a flash of recognition, found his long lost son.   What no doubt caught his attention was the fact that his son was listed as managing his uncle’s traveling acting troupe. George Lounsbury would have known his brother-in-law and putting two and two together and approaching his 60th year, he wanted to see his ‘long lost’ son.

Walter died in 1937 and is buried in Hollywood Forever Cemetery (formerly Hollywood Memorial Cemetery).   Walter’s wife Augusta died in 1944.  There is no evidence that Walter had any children from any of his marriages.
Author’s Note:  Mary J. Downing Rogers is the sister of my maternal 3rd great grandmother.   She and her husband, Dr. George G. Rogers are buried in Lakeview Cemetery in the Village of Cayuga.  The research is the ‘easy’ part.  The ‘fun’ part for me.  I travel the individual’s history with them in kind of a time machine and always with a sense of visiting family.   My imagination and my practical fact finder detective brain work that way together.  Note taking and citing are on autopilot.  It is when I have to abandon my time machine and report the work academically that I chafe.   All those citations.

Deborah J. Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

©May 2016   All Rights Reserved.

Asenath, Speedy, Zepheniah…Heritage with Poetry

Sometimes I have a rhyme AND a reason to research an ancestor. This time it was because her given name is so intriguing. ASENATH ROBINSON (1766-1847). She is my maternal 4th great grandmother and the daughter of Reuben Robinson and Esther Palmer of Scotland Society, Windham, Connecticut and a direct descendant of the Reverend John Robinson who was the spiritual leader of the Mayflower Pilgrims. Asenath had ELEVEN children including my maternal 3rd great grandmother SOPHIA GREENE (wife of DAVID CURTIS).

What a journey to follow all of the children of ASENATH and LEVI GREENE! AndZepheniah Greene what fun. The given names were a poetic blend of biblical and historical. Zepheniah Ripley, Aurelia and yes…Speedy Greene! I love Speedy Greene! Speedy married Scotsman Gerothman McDonald and they had eleven children of their own…with some pretty spiffy names. Gamaliel Barstow and (this one rolls of the tongue)…Beebe Galusha McDonald.  A lively and celebrated family from Livonia, Livingston county, NY.

ASENATH is a favorite given name and many of her granddaughters and great granddaughters were named after her including the granddaughter of Fanny and Orange Chapin. Because of that family affection for her, I have been treated to flowery obituaries filled with poetic family lore. It impressed me how many other descendants lived and died in Auburn, New York or the surrounding area.

I HAD to do a bit of research on the origin of ASENATH and found the story of the Egyptian woman who was given to Joseph as his wife by Pharoah. Biblical, Hebrew and Egyptian scholars alike have studied the saga of the pair…what her name meant…her Egyptian father’s priesthood. Her conversion and the perils that the two encountered.   What did her parents, Reuben and Esther Palmer think when they beheld their infant daughter and chose such a name?

Asenath met Levi Greene when he came to the Robinson home to Scotland, Connecticut to stay with his friend and fellow Revolutionary War soldier, Reuben Robinson – Asenath’s older brother.  She was just 18 years old when she and Levi married in Scotland, Connecticut in 1785.  The pair moved to Venice, Cayuga County from the Albany, NY area sometime around 1811 and eventually left Venice to establish themselves in Livonia before moving to Oakland county, Michigan with son Zepheniah Ripley Greene and his wife Zilla Gould (don’t you just love it!) leaving behind a large extended family in Livingston and Cayuga counties.

Like all naming trends…the descendants finally lost track of their ancestral names and heritage and “modern” names left the Asenaths and Aurelias and Zepheniahs and Beebe Galushas to the past.

Newspaper Auburn NY Democrat - Argus 2 Mar 1900 Asenath Robinson Chapin obitThe last Asenath I found was Asenath Robinson Chapin Benedict (1831 -1900). She was the daughter of Orange Chapin and Fanny Greene and born in Venice, Cayuga county, NY. Her memoriam in the Auburn NY Democrat, was her gift to me…her first cousin, 4 times removed. A grand life, well spent and a tribute to the earliest Cayuga County pioneers.Orange Chapin Tombstone

Asenath Robinson Chapin Benedict and her parents are buried in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, NY along with a great number of descendants.

 

 

 

 

Fanny Greene Chapin’s sister and my maternal 3rd great grandmother, David and Sophia Greene Curtis TombstonesSophia Greene Curtis is buried beside her husband, David Curtis in Oakridge Cemetery in Livonia, Livingston county, NY.  Oakridge, too, is the site of burials for a great number of ancestors including the wonderful Speedy Greene McDonald and her descendants.

 

 

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2015.  All Rights Reserved

A Family Tree Grows in Brooklyn

A Note To My Readers:  Yesterday I spent hours in Brooklyn, NY…via my laptop that is.  I have been haunted by the fact that I cannot determine the fate of my paternal grandfather’s mother.   I know I am not alone in the family secret category.  Dad’s family seemed to be one with all manner of voids.  Almost like a scatter of chain links.  There they are in front of me clearly related…isn’t the material of the same making?  And the fabrication distinctly of the same hand?  One by one I pick up the pieces and rebuild the chain, noting the beginnings and the endings…watching for the telltale scars and scratches to match the partners.  On occasion several links have stayed fast.   And inevitably I come to the link that fails to close.  Lillian W. Jennings, my paternal great grandmother is that link.

Henry A. Martin and Lillian W. Jennings

My paternal great grandparents, 26 year old Henry A. Martin and 25 year old Lillian W. Jennings,  left Henry marries Lillian Jennings 1884 news and DemocratAuburn, New York in 1884 within days of their July 16th marriage by the Trinity Methodist Church pastor and settled in what is now known as Clinton Hill.  They set up household in one of the old brownstones on Waverly Street and Henry went to work as a stenographer.  The Brooklyn Bridge had been completed in 1883 connecting the boroughs and Henry rode the trolley into Manhattan.

Sag Harbor NY Corrector 1910 Ernest Martin diesHenry’s brother, Ernest had married another Auburnian, Emma Grace Kilmer,  the year before and they, too, had made their home in Brooklyn where Ernest worked as a stenographer and then began selling typewriters in the New York Metro area.   Ernest became very successful and with Emma and their two daughters lived in a lovely building in Prospect Park.   A long life for Ernest was not to be.  He died suddenly on Long Island beside the train tracks after collapsing from a massive stroke.  Emma and her daughters, Edna Mae and Grace Harriett,  did not stay in Brooklyn, but rather packed up their household and moved to Hempstead, Long Island where the girls grew up and married.

And Henry?   And Lillian?

The research began with the Federal and NYS censuses supported by Brooklyn directories and newspapers.   Addresses were pinpointed in directories in 1887, 1888, 1890 and 1897 and the NYS 1892 census shows the family, Henry A., Lillian W., Al H. and George E. living on Halsey Street in Brooklyn.    By 1900 Henry was living in Brooklyn as a ‘widower’ with their four children, Albert, George, Howard and baby Lillian on Jefferson Avenue according to the enumeration in the Federal Census.

Just yesterday I found that Lillian had borne another child – a girl – in Union, Hudson, New Jersey (now West New York, New Jersey) on August 12, 1888.  My grandfather would have been just a year and half old.  But why New Jersey?  All the other children were born in New York.  Since the child was not in any subsequent census, I can only assume she did not survive.

By the 1905 NYS Census, Henry and his children, Albert “Bertie” (my grandfather), George, Howard and Lillian,  lived in another brownstone this time on 236 Reid Street.  Henry was enumerated as “head” and living with the family was the children’s caregiver “servant”, Henrietta Fischer, a 35 year German immigrant.  No marital status category was provided in that census.  Henrietta was as close to a mother figure as little Lillian would have.  The two travelled together periodically.

In 1907 young Howard died in Brooklyn at the age of 14.  I never sent away for his death certificate.  Perhaps the knowledge of why he died might provide a clue.  Or add to the mystery.

By 1910 Henry had finally set up a permanent residence at 691 Halsey Street and that year married widow, Mary Giddings.    The Martins attended the Janes Methodist Episcopalian Church on Monroe Street. Over the years Henry threw himself into church and civic organizations.  At the Janes Methodist Church Henry ran the men’s bible study and served in several capacities with The Valley Forge Council, Jr. O.U.A.M.  76 and the Janes Social Union.

George continued to live with his father and stepmother on 691 Halsey until he went off to fight in the 49th Infantry inBrooklyn NY Standard Union Wed 14 Aug 1918 George E Martin Over There WWI in 1917 at the age of 26.  Uncle George was in the parlance of the time “a perennial bachelor”.  I vividly remember his auburn hair…curly and topped with a jaunty beret…sipping tea with my mother and my father’s sister in the big farm kitchen in the 1950’s.   He visited…motored was the term at the time…from his Murray Hill home quite often.  Always quiet and shy, he was almost delicate.  And I thought exotic (he was from NYC!)  and kind.  After my father’s death, he sent me a set of oils and brushes because he knew that I like to paint.   He is pictured in the blog banner with my father and his mother’s sister,  Harriet Jennings White.  George is buried next to my grandfather, Albert, and sharing a headstone in Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn, New York.  His footstone is the only tender sign of affection I have found.

Beloved Brother.  Rest In Peace.

And baby Lillian?   She married Leo Franklin Leonard in 1922 and had three children – all before her father’s death in 1932.  She lived within walking distance of her father and stepmother and yet when Henry died in 1932, the only survivor listed in the Brooklyn Eagle obituary was his second wife.  No George.  No Lillian.  No grandchildren.   He was referred to as her beloved husband.  Odd and sadly detached.  And there is no stone marking his grave.

Not much mention about Henry’s central New York roots in his Brooklyn life.  No notices of visiting his family.  Except for a Brooklyn Eagle news article at the death of his first cousin, Will Cruttenden, in 1928 who Henry A Martin in will of W H Cruttenden 1928 cropleft him and his central New York cousins to share in a hoarded stash, he seemed removed.  Henry’s spinster sister, Harriett Cornelia Martin, kept the family ties together attending weddings and funerals as ambassador of sorts and she traveled to New York to visit her brother.    Henry’s daughter, Lillian,  was named in Harriett’s obituary.  Apparently Henry kept to Brooklyn.  And my grandfather, Albert,  didn’t.   In 1905, Albert Henry was sent back to Auburn to his Martin family and met and married my then 15 year old grandmother, Sarah Leona Penird.  In six years, the young father of three was dead by his own hand at the age of 24.  A troubled mind.

What happened to my paternal great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin?

Genealogists are accustomed to gaps in information the further we go back in our research, but there are occasions when a more recent generation has ‘mystery’ written all over it.  And family secrets.

Henry did not remarry until 1910, but relied upon two German sisters who lived in their building to care for the children while he went to work in Manhattan. Why was he single for so long a time? Is THAT a clue?  Was Lillian really dead? Did she run away? Was she ill in an institution? I found a Lillian W. Martin in a state mental hospital in the 1900 Federal Census and her statistics were fairly close.  The age was off by a very few years and this Lillian’s mother was born in Massachusetts and father in NY and my Lillian’s information was the reverse – mother was born in NY and father in Massachusetts.  Genealogists understand that a slight variance doesn’t constitute a wrong conclusion.  It just puts up a flag.  “Caution.  Proceed with Care.”    But proceed I must.  With Care.   I cannot ignore the fact that I know that Lillian’s maternal grandmother, Orinda Bennett James,  died in an insane asylum in Whitestown, Oneida County, NY in 1852 and my grandfather was so troubled that he took his own life by swallowing carbolic acid in 1911.  Pathology…hard as it is…might be this genealogist’s evidence.    HIPAA laws might get in the way of acquiring information and researching the Lillian W. Martin in what was Long Island State Hospital at King’s Park .  Still….

Earlier this year I sent a request out to the Vital Records Department that covers the NY metro area…and no death certificate is there for her…not before 1900.    I have poured over Brooklyn newspapers and Auburn NY papers for some kind of death notice for years now. Nothing. She is not listed in the Evergreens Cemetery in Brooklyn where Henry is buried. Alone. The North Street Cemetery in Auburn, NY has suffered from neglect and record loss…a shameful history story there…so I don’t know if her body was buried in the Jennings family plot.  But there were other Lillian Martins who died in the New York metro area and I dismissed them because the death date didn’t neatly fit into Henry’s statement of widowhood in 1900.

With this possible clue…this painful clue…the next step is to ascertain if there are burial records for the patients of Long Island State Hospital at King’s Park.

I will keep looking in every nook and cranny. It would be like abandoning her if I didn’t.

My education on Brooklyn is just beginning…I have two history books on the area since family members on both sides left central New York in the 1880’s to live and work in Brooklyn.   Just to get a feel for the Brooklyn of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.    But the personal history is as black and white as the old photos and so very full of shadows.     I knew my Grand Uncle George…my grandfather’s brother…and I own one of his lovely landscape oil paintings and my brother has one of his pastels…”The Three Cherubs”…that Uncle George created to celebrate my three brothers.   But so very little of his mother, Lillian W. “Lillie” Jennings Martin.

Bits and pieces.  Art and void.  And perhaps madness.

 

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

Becoming Smithsonian; Discovering Personal History

A Note to My Readers:  Victorian Advertising Cards. Chances are if your ancestor was a merchant during that period in history, they used this print method of advertising. My paternal great grandfather (Albert S. Martin) advertised his sewing machine business with several styles of this type of card.   I found one for sale on eBay and put in a bid to purchase it.  At a cost of a modest $5.99 plus shipping, it has taken its place in the family memorabilia.  Another set is archived in the Smithsonian.  Most of these cards were…in the parlance of advertising…a co-op item. Typically the manufacturer printed up thousands of them and the merchant bought them blank and had the back printed up by a local printer.  According to collectors some rare cards can be worth several thousand dollars.  

A S Martin Victorian Business Card FrontUp to this point I had only the digital images of scanned newspaper advertising -blurred and ‘muddy’ – to add to my research base and upon discovering the card set being archived at The Smithsonian, I kept an eye out just in case one might be ‘floating’ about some antiquarian or dealer’s hoard.  It was brought to my attention by someone on my hometown Facebook page that one was up for sale on eBay.  Quicker than a flash, I was on the site and put in a bid and held my breath for five days.  The email notice came in that I had won the bid.   I posted to my Facebook page that I was awaiting my treasure’s arrival with the hash-tag #dancing to the mailbox.    A S Martin Victorian Business Card Back

When it arrived, I was one happy genealogist.  The colors are bright and crisp and it appears the delicate paper has been stored carefully.

Out of curiosity I checked out other collectibles from my hometown area and found another piece available and put a bid of $3.00 in for it…again with bated breath awaiting for the bidding to close.  Once more I was a genealogist in waiting and for the next few days I was at the mailbox before the red, white and blue jeep could pull up.  It put me in mind of the childhood experience of sending away for a Captain Midnight secret decoder ring and the giddy sense of anticipation.

Trowbridge and Jennings 1876 Exhibition CardMy latest eBay treasure arrived in yesterday’s mail…an advertising piece for Trowbridge and Jennings of Auburn, New York. William H. Jennings is the brother of my great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin and her sister is Emily R. Jennings, wife of John J. Trowbridge. The brothers-in-law went into business with one another in 1869 when William was just 21 years old. William had opened an art store in Oswego when he was just 19 and when the partnership was formed, the pair moved the store to Auburn. They had great success and the business continued to operate and thrive until the death of John J. Trowbridge in 1926.

The photo on eBay was very low resolution and I couldn’t quite make out the detail…though it promised to be a beautiful piece. Inspecting it this morning, it is indeed a piece of art…and something more. It appears this might be part of the catalog and trading cards of the International Centennial Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.   There was nothing imprinted on the back as was the practice and that is a bit of mystery.

Fortunately for me, the Library Company of Philadelphia founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1731 has a wonderful collection of Exhibition materials including the catalogs and loose advertising materials and that fact calls for a day trip in to the city for me to view the collection and speak with the librarians about reviewing the David Doret Collection. A grand research adventure to learn about the experience of two young men from Auburn, New York who participated in The Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World’s Fair in the United States!

Under it’s official name – the International Exhibition of Arts, Manufactures and Products of the Soil and Mine, it attracted about 10 million visitors which was about 20% of the population of the United States at the time. Auburn was a growing city of over 18,000 souls. It must have been quite a heady experience for the two young men.

While a collector’s definition of treasure might be measured in dollars, my family finds have a different value scale for me as an historian and genealogist.  It is a sentimental bit of personal  family history and a priceless addition to my own Smithsonian effort.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

The Bones of Old John Cary

A Note to My Readers:   John Cary. “The Plymouth Pilgrim” as he was referred to in a monograph, is my maternal 8th great grandfather.   There is a great deal of written material available for this ancestor authored and published by descendants.  As is critical for the wise historian and genealogist, corroborating these published works with independent research of records is in order.  Thankfully this ancestor has a solid footprint in history and the challenge will be to keep it all straight.  How many of us scrounge for the littlest detail and celebrate tidbits as major victories?  But not for old John Cary.   The word ‘bountiful’ comes to mind.

According to John Cary descendant Samuel F. Cary in “Cary Memorials”:

The writer has had access to a manuscript more than one hundred years old, and written by a grandson of John, which says that John Cary, when a youth, was sent by his father to France to perfect his education, and that while absent his father died.  He compromised by receiving one hundred pounds as his portion and immediately sailed for America.

John Cary migrated to the New World in 1634 where he first joined Plymouth Colony.

“Tradition says that he was the first Latin School teacher in Plymouth Colony, and that he taught Elder Brewster the Hebrew,”  writes descendant Seth F. Cary in his monograph, “The Plymouth Pilgrim”.   He moved to Duxbury New Plantation where he was allotted ten acres of land.  In June of 1644 John married Elizabeth Godfrey, daughter of  Francis and Elizabeth Godfrey.  The couple went on to have 12 children – six sons and six daughters.  Their son Joseph (1663 -1722) is my seventh great grandfather.

Sachem's Rock

Sachem’s Rock

In 1649 John and a few other individuals purchased of Ousamequin, afterwards known as Massasoit, chief of the Pockanocket Indians, a tract of land about fourteen miles square.  The tract was called “Satucket” and the deed was purchased by Miles Standish, Samuel Nash and Constant Southworth as trustees on behalf of John Cary and fifty-six other settlers in exchange for seven coats, nine hatchets, eight hoes, 20 knives, four moose skins and ten and a half yards of cotton.  Although there were fifty-six individuals who owned shares only John and a handful of others settled there.   The purchase was said to have been signed on a small rocky hill called “Sachem’s Rock.”   The original document is preserved by the Old Bridgewater Historical Society.

On June 3, 1656 the General Court incorporated Duxbury New Plantation as Bridgewater.   Plymouth Colony Records, volume 3, page 99 for June 3, 1656, have the following entry:

The Cunstables of the seueral Townes’  Bridgewater  John Carew.

From the time of its incorporation in 1656 until his death in 1681, John was the Town Clerk and his detailed records of the formal activities of Bridgewater also account for the births of his children.

The History of Plymouth says that, “John Cary was a man of superior education, and had great influence in the Colony and as an officer in the Church.”  His death record reads as follows:  “John Cary Seniour inhabytant of the town of Bridgewater deceased the last day of october in the yeare of our lord 1681.”

“The Cary Family in America” authored by Henry Grosvernor Cary and published by Seth Cooley Cary in 1907 reveals

John Cary Cenotaph in Ashmont cemetery

John Cary Cenotaph near Ashmont Cemetery in Bridgewater, MA

The grave of John Cary cannot be located.  The oldest cemetery in town is that adjoining his former house-lot, but was not opened until 1683, two years after his death.  The first cemetery had no monuments of inscribed gravestones, nothing but large, flat field-stones to mark the head of the grave.  After the new cemetery was opened this one was neglected, the stones fell down and in the course of years were covered with earth, and for several generations the location was lost.  Mr. Howard (Fred E. Howard who owned the property), stated to the author that when he was a young man, his father, while working on his farm, found cavities in the earth into which the feet of the oxen sank while ploughing, and also found them when setting fence-posts; and on examination they discovered that there was a long lost graveyard, and that it extended under the road which had been laid out leading past Mr. Howard’s residence.  No attempt was made to removed the bones, but the rude gravestones were taken up and placed in the wall.  Mr. Howard has erected a granite obelisk by the roadside with these two inscriptions:

THIS STONE MARKS
THE CENTRE OF THE
OLD CEMETERY
———————–
THE ORIGINAL
MEETING HOUSE
STOOD BUT A FEW RODS
FROM THIS PLACE.

So old John Cary rests on Mr. Howard’s farm or under Howard street.

Not far from the Old Burying Ground in Bridgewater , a cenotaph was installed by the descendants of ‘old John Cary’ commemorating the Plymouth Pilgrim who was one of the original settlers of Bridgewater.    An ironic situation for John Cary, the town clerk, who noted so much detail of its early civics and citizenry so that historians could revel in his words.   In the hoopla of life and the verve of progress the next generation lost the bones of their pioneers, but they couldn’t lose the spirit of John Cary and his descendants.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

 

In Search of Honey

A Note to My Readers:  Brick Wall.  Head Scratcher.  Haunting Mystery.  

There are degrees of frustration that affect family historians as we search for answers about our ancestors.  Why did they move west?  When and why did they in particular change the spelling of their surname?  Why is this child living with a relative and not their parents?  What happened in the winter of 1878 when three children died?  Was THIS man or woman my ancestor or was it the individual with the same name and approximate age…living in the same town?  Why does one enumeration say they were from Massachusetts and another Connecticut.  Some questions are answered with official documentation while some conclusions can be made through analyzing available evidence.  And some clues come from interviewing family membersOr combination of the three.

One of the questions that is hard to deal with is “What happened to my grandparent or great grandparent?”.  We accept that before centralized record keeping or a diligent family historian’s accounting that some individual’s fate will remain a void in our information.  The closer we are in relationship and generation to a forebear, the more we are puzzled and driven to know.   Chances are…the disappearance…the lack of information regarding his or her death…is some kind of family secret.

I am working on one of those mysteries…my paternal great grandmother, Lillian W. Jennings Martin.  I have dug in with a significant number of resources…obvious and obscure…and spent a good amount of time parsing and analyzing.  To no avail.  Yet.   How much do I invest in finding out what happened to this young woman who died shortly after her daughter was born in 1898?  Or did she?  I kept a research worksheet for her and the scratch notes clearly show my hope rise at a possible lead…and the burn when it turns out to be fruitless.  No death certificate on record in the New York City area.  Every borough heard from.  No death notice or obituary…in the New York metro area….even in her hometown of Auburn, New York where her large Jennings family lived.  No record of burial in the myriad of the likely cemeteries.   The last documentation I have of her is the 1892 New York State census living with her husband, Henry and her two sons, Albert H. (my grandfather) and George E. in the 18th Ward of Brooklyn, New York.

1892 NYS Census  Brooklyn, Kings, New York

1892 NYS Census Brooklyn, Kings, New York

If I find the facts about her somewhere in my determined efforts and they are unpleasant, I can imagine there will some kind of closure for me.  Regardless.

I am reminded as I pursue Lillian in the void, the words of  French essayist, Joseph Joubert.

When go you in search of honey, you must expect to be stung by bees.

My parents’ generation had euphemisms or slick diversions in conversation about one individual or another.  “Never speak ill of the dead”.  “If you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.”  “Don’t air your dirty laundry.”   I am sure we have all heard one or more of those homilies as we have tried to elicit information from an elderly relative about the family history.  SOMEONE is always some kind of ghostly presence…acknowledged as a relative, but glossed over in a purposeful fashion.  Rarely casual.  Family secrets were hinted at, but in the interest of propriety and family pride nothing was said about a “black sheep” or mental illness.  Let alone the “D” word – divorce.  No feet of clay.  No unpleasantness.  Perhaps the words “tragic” or “unfortunate” might be expressed.  As children, we GOT it.  It wasn’t our business and the subject was closed never to be spoken of again.  On to the nice memories.

If anyone is like me, that leaves some serious gaps.  I never did get the courage to ask my mother about the “tragic or unfortunate” ones…or the ones that simply were glossed over.  My bad.  But then again, she had her own hardships and lived on a plane of pink clouds and only good thoughts with which to cope.  To pry at that in search of the truth would have been utterly cruel on my part.   My mother’s siblings…my aunts and uncle…were tender and adoring and the warmth and affection I received from them curbed my curious nature to probe their childhood.   I accepted the vague references and used them to work through the facts and found answers to their immediate family dynamic outside of sentimentally crafted memories of their childhood.  Some of what I found on my own was very revealing.  And a bittersweet reminder that we come from a family of human beings.  I still have some wonderful stories to embrace and I celebrate that sweetness.

Albert H Martin Ithaca Daily News Death 1911My father died when I was ten and we were not terribly close to his family.   We had picnics and summer visits along Cayuga Lake.  It was noisy with plenty of older cousins, but I forged no deep and personal familial bonding with them after my father’s death.   My uncle was a jokester with only the occasional approachable moment.  Unlike my mother’s family, my father’s sister was not a ‘warm fuzzy’ presence for me.  The secrets were almost palpable in my father’s family history and when I began my research,  absurdly public and easy to find.  His father’s brother, John C. Martin,  was publicly labeled as the Black Sheep in the devoutly Methodist family…stealing from his brother and father and making headlines in the local newspaper.    My father’s father killed himself at the age of twenty-four.  In front of my horrified grandmother and father who was five at the time.  It was a story my mother told me after Dad’s death, but with little detail and a rush to close to the subject.  We moved on with the business of daily life never to discuss it again.  Once again research revealed the real story was more horrifying and painful than I had ever imagined.   What happened to undo my grandfather so profoundly?  Drink…like his uncle John Martin.  Was there something more?

In my case a bridge generation is long gone so getting a clue as to why a young woman simply disappeared…’off the grid’ so to speak…is a reality.  Or why her son took his life…despondent.   In fact, I am now that bridge generation.  The one who can fill in blanks.  Some of them anyway.  But Lillian?   I still am haunted by what I don’t know.  Could she have been a victim of Tuberculosis…in an institution…or gone mad and been ‘sent away’?  Could her son have witnessed some terrible moment and visited his unresolved turmoil on himself and his young family?   My great grandfather was a serious bible-toting Baptist.  Divorce is highly unlikely.  OR.  If he had young children with an incapacitated mother, would he have been given permission by his church to move on?   He listed himself as widowed in the 1900 Federal Census and the 1905 New York State Census and remarried in 1910.

Even as I write this, the questions and facts swirl in my head…certain that IF I just think about what I know…and what I don’t…and where I might look, a clue might just emerge as to where to look next.

Or maybe…not.

It’s just good to remember the bees.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved

The Powers That Be

A Note to My Readers: It’s January and research for this Northeasterner revolves heavily around reading and analyzing and organizing the work….with some networking via emails thrown in to broaden my knowledge and my ‘helper’ base.  Most of us have a brick wall or two…or seven…and we all have those TBD (to be determined) lines to pursue.  

For the longest time I had the information that my 3rd great grandmother, Emeline Power Bowker (1806-1888), was born in Dutchess County.  The longest time.  It took the availability of some books online to help me trace her parents,  Ruth Roberts and her husband, Jacob Power, from Groton, Tompkins, New York back to Amenia, Dutchess, New York.  “The Powers Family of Dutchess County” compiled by descendant Benjamin Mather Powers and published in 1968 was the first break.  It was based upon the work of Alfred Le Grand Powers (1847-1933) of Preston, Chenango, New York who began the work about 1890 and collaborated with Benjamin to publish the small and obscure monograph on the Joest Power family history.  Along with the pedigree breakdown, background information..small biographies and the etymology of the family name from the southern German root of  Pauer/Bauer to the anglicized Power and to Powers…straightened the research path.

And so I am back in Dutchess County (reading) researching my ancestors…what’s with the Hudson Valley and my roots? I find myself back there so often almost like being pulled by an invisible force.  This time it is to document my 5th great grandfather, Palatinate immigrant John Joest (YOST) Power who came to Rhinebeck in 1752 from Berenbach, Germany where he was a linen weaver.  The 21 year old man overcame hardship along with his indomitable mother who was widowed when Joest was young during the tumult of religious, political and economic upheaval in their region known as the Palatinate.  It was told that his mother, Elizabeth Appolonia  went without in order to educate her children and provide them with the tools to better their lives.  Joest learned resourcefulness from Elizabeth and with her assistance paid for his passage to the New World in full instead of as a “Redemptioner” (one who sold his services for a certain number years in return for free passage).

First settling in Rhinebeck, Dutchess, New York, Joest met and married Elizabeth Maul, daughter of Jacob Maul and Dorothea Trombauer.

The place (Rhinebeck) was on the Hudson River and among its settlers were many German families, including a few from the Palatinate.  In 1757 or 1758 Joest married Elizabeth, a daughter of Jacob Mowl, Sr., a man of considerable property for an emigrant to the new land.  Having paid for his passage, Joest had but little left, and so we find that when he landed in his new home his material capital consisted of a mattock (a digging tool) and a grubbing hoe.

Eventually Joest and Elizabeth moved their family to Amenia where he “bought a small farm about two miles from the present village of Amenia, then merely a crossroads with a few buildings.”   He and Elizabeth were noted for their ‘tireless energy and efficient labors.”

She was a worthy helpmeet (sic) and much of the family fortune was due to her ability as a spinner in the manufacture of cloth for sale.  It is said that she was one of the few who were able to run two flax wheels at the same time, one with the right and the other with the left hand.

A critical bond for the immigrants revolved around their faith.  As I read through the Dutch Reformed Church records during those early days of settlement in New York,  many members were Mauls and Trombauers and Powers.  Marriage and baptismal records further defined the family names, dates and places.

Joest died in 1794 after exhausting himself caring for his son, John’s family and toiling on his little farm.  In the summer of 1794 Yellow Fever had spread along the Hudson River.

The neighbors care for the sick by day while Joest worked in the hay field.  He cared for the sick at night until about the time the two began to convalesce when he found himself coming down with the disease.   He started on foot for Amenia, distance about twenty miles.  He reached there in life but died soon thereafter.  This was September 15, 1794.

Many of his descendants have inherited some measure of his ability unflinchingly to bear pain and to work under the greatest of difficulties.  None of them, however, have possessed it to the degree of this one of their forefathers.

Joest and his wife Elizabeth are buried in the old Amenia Burying

Joest Power stele.  Amenia Burying Grounds

Joest Power stele. Amenia Burying Grounds

Grounds and their monuments still stand.

The Mauls and the Powers were Revolutionary War patriots signing the 1775 Articles of Association and providing goods and services to the Continental Army and records exist that indicate the families’ political leanings and indeed their commitment to the cause.  Jacob was only 16 years old when he signed his name.  Shortly after the young man declared his commitment with his signature, his father, Joest added his name to the document.

Harlem Valley Times 9 Sep 1926

Harlem Valley Times 9 Sep 1926

Joest and his son, Jacob Power (my fifth and fourth great grandfathers respectively) are well documented in Amenia, New York history. Today I found that Jacob’s name was listed as a Revolutionary War soldier on a memorial erected in Amenia in the  mid 1920’s.  Around 1807 Jacob had moved to the eastern shore of Cayuga Lake.  When he could apply for a military pension in 1833, he was 73 years old and his old friends in Amenia were long gone to corroborate his service. His pension was denied.

Ironically, today I find all manner of information on Jacob’s service…including anecdotal stories of him at 16 acting as a teamster…driving through British lines and challenging Tories feigning ‘simpleness’ when challenged. He was a good actor and very youthful in appearance and was never held so supplies made it through to Continental Army stores because of his pluck.

A “must stop” in spring of 2014 is Amenia to see if the monument still stands. I find references to Fountain Square Veteran’s Memorial, but it appears it is a more recent installation…circa 1991. Perhaps some of the original memorial remains. I hope so.

It’s the least a grateful nation could do for Jacob, a sixteen year old young man who took up the cause for independence and alone except for his own team of horses and a wagon full of supplies and at times Continental soldiers, risked it all with great courage and spirit.

Deborah Martin-Plugh

Author, Historian and Genealogical Researcher

(c) Copyright 2014.  All Rights Reserved