Christiana Van Syckel McLenahan

This week in #52ancestors, I traveled through multiple family census records to try and track the orphaned daughter of Christiana Van Syckel McLenahan. This was a good reminder that when you don’t find someone where you think they ought to be, look sideways along your family tree.  Chances are the individual did not get missed, they are just not where you are trying to put them.

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Grave marker found on Find A Grave

Christiana Van Syckel was born on 23 February 1828, the sixth daughter of Aaron and Mary Bird Van Syckel. She appears in early documents as Christy Anna and Christian but by the time of her marriage she is simply Chrissie.

Christiana Van Syckel married Robert Mills McLenahan on 16 December 1852 in Jersey City at the First Reformed Church of Van Vorst. They had one daughter, Elizabeth, born in 1856.  McLenahan was a prominent physician in Lebanon, NJ.

Christiana McLenahan died 8 March 1856 and is buried in Bethlehem Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg, New Jersey. Robert McLenahan married again almost immediately to Sarah Johnson on 1 February 1857 in Hunterdon County and in 1860 they reside in Lebanon, NJ with Elizabeth.

Sadly, Robert died in 1864 and daughter Elizabeth is placed under the guardianship of Daniel C. Titus (married Elizabeth Gertrude McLenahan). I found a very detailed accounting of the guardianship which was interesting but not very informative on her life experience. I also found interesting details through Find A Grave, as the person living in Dr. McLenahan’s house put up all sorts of interesting documents.

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Found on Find a Grave

Interestingly, Sarah and Lizzie do not appear to ever live together after the death of Robert.  Lizzie lives with Daniel’s family in 1870 and by 1880 she is living with her uncle Robert Killgore and his two daughters.  She married Paul A. Queen in December 1880 and lived the remainder of her life in Flemington, where Paul was a lawyer.

Bennet and Mary Elizabeth Sloan Van Syckel

Continuing on my journey through the siblings of Chester Van Syckel, this week in #52ancestors brings us to Bennet Van Syckel. Due to his having served on the state Supreme Court, Bennet is relatively easy to track.  His wife and children, however, were not documented as prominently.

yuw25wuy_originalBennet Van Syckel was born 17 April 1830 to Aaron Van Syckel and Mary Bird Van Syckel of Hunterdon County, New Jersey. He was something of a prodigy, entering Princeton at thirteen and graduating three years later with high honors. He then studied law under Alexander Wurts, of Flemington, but he was forced to wait to take the bar exam due to his being under 21 by some years. He practiced law in Flemington until 1858, when Governor Theodore Fitz Randolph  appointed him to the New Jersey Supreme Court.  At that time the Supreme Court was still a circuit court and Bennet covered Salem, Cumberland, Atlantic and Cape May, and I would be jealous of his shore time except I am pretty sure he was traveling by horse. When the districts were readjusted, he took over Union and Ocean counties. He was reappointed five times, retiring from the court in 1904 due to poor health. One of the more significant opinions he delivered had to do with race track gambling and this lead to a change in the state constitution.

Bennet married Mary Elizabeth Sloan (1839-1899) on 21 July 1857 in Flemington.  She was the daughter of William Henry and Caroline Imlay Sloan of Hunterdon County.  Sloan was a noted attorney in the area.  Bennet and Mary E. Van Syckel had five children:

  • William Van Syckel 1858-1939
  • Mary Van Syckel 1861-1882
  • Charles Sloan Van Syckel 1864-1963
  • Bessie Van Syckel 1871-1946
  • Bennet Van Syckel 1873-1873

William Van Syckel was an attorney in Trenton, New Jersey. He attended the Trenton Academy, Trenton Business College, and was a member of the Mercer County Bar Association.

Charles Van Syckel remained in Trenton, as well. According to a Princeton alumni publication “Charlie” prepared for Princeton at the Trenton Model School, entered college in the fall of 1882 and graduated in 1886.  After graduation he took a Continental trip and then became assistant superintendent of the Mercer Rubber Company at Trenton. By 1890, he was the treasurer of Greenwood Pottery Company and the Greenwood China Company. He was married October 11, 1888, to Isabel S. Stephens, of Trenton, and had four children: James Stephen Van Syckel, born September 5,
1889; Mary Elizabeth Van Syckel, born March 12, 1892, died August 24, 1910;
Isabel Van Syckel, born June 18, 1897, and Helen Van Syckel, born December
24, 1901.

Bessie Van Syckel lived for most of her life with William in their parent’s home on Greenwood Ave.  She was active socially in Trenton and involved with various heritage societies.

Emily Van Syckel Bonnell

This week in #52ancestors I am faced once again with a woman, Emily Van Syckel Bonnell, who existed long enough to create six children and barely rates an honorable mention in her husband’s obituary.  Can genealogists be feminists? Telling stories and giving names!

Emily may have lived a largely uneventful life but today she gets to be the star of her own blog post!  Emily Van Syckel was born on 5 April 1832 in Union township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.   She was the eighth child of Aaron (Jr., 1793-1874) and Mary Bird (1799-1863) Van Syckel.

Like many of her generation, Emily’s life was recorded either as daughter or as wife.  In 1850 she is living at home with her parents and the most surprising thing about that census record is that at 18 she is listed as attending school within the year.  And two years later, on 16 June 1852, she married Alexander Bonnell. I can find very little about Alexander, other than that he was a feed and seed merchant.  His obituary tells of his membership on the New York Produce exchange and his life as an exemplary citizen of Jersey City, NJ. I found traces of him in Newark and Bergen prior to Jersey City and I think he was in a part of Bergen that eventually just became Jersey City.

Emily and Alexander Bonnell had six children:

  • Sarah Bird Bonnell (1853-1914)
  • Catherine V. Bonnell (1855-1918)
  • Alexander Bonnell Jr. (1858-1888)
  • Frank Roe Bonnell (1860-1903)
  • Mary Deborah Bonnell (1862-1917)
  • Charles Van Syckel Bonnell (Feb 1864-Nov 1864)

Bonnell_Emily_VanSyckel_graveI don’t know whether complications from the birth of Charles lead to Emily’s death on 4 November 1864 but I think it likely there is a connection. Six children in eleven years in the mid 19th century would be a strain on anyone. She is buried in Bethlehem Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg, NJ, along with Charles.

Emily died so young and with such small children at home, she probably did not get to make many friends in Jersey City. As for Alexander, barely a year went by before he married Sarah Dumont of Interlaken, NY on 11 October 1865. She traveled with Alexander when he went down to the pines in North Carolina and died there as a result of a miscarriage 25 January 1878. By the 1880 census however, Alexander has married a third time to Sarah Jane “Jennie” Douglass, with whom he had a daughter Edith Bonnell. Alexander died 30 September 1886 in Jersey City but is buried back with his roots in Hunterdon County at Bethlehem Cemetery in Union, NJ.

This is often how it works: you start trying to document the life of a woman and end up finding stuff on the men.

 

 

Amanda Van Syckel Hoffman

This week in #52Ancestors and #52familyphotographs I start on the process of fleshing out the branches of the Van Syckel family tree.  I wrote about Chester Van Syckel last year and at the time did a bit of research on his siblings but not enough, never enough! So this blog is about Amanda Van Syckel (28 June 1834 to 28 September 1917).

I can find very little about Amanda prior to her marriage to Theodore J. Hoffman on 22 February 1855. There’s not that much available on her after that fact either.  She and Theodore had eleven children, seven surviving to adulthood. She does not even merit an obituary, although Theodore got special accolades for being the oldest alumnus of Rutgers when he died in 1922. He was a lawyer in Somerville, New Jersey and I suppose she occupied herself with eleven pregnancies and raising seven children:

  • Alletta Hoffman (1855-1941)
  • Joseph V. Hoffman (1857-1894)
  • Kate V. Hoffman (1859-1862)
  • Mary E. Hoffman (1861-1943)
  • Alexander B. Hoffman (1863-1864)
  • Louisa C. Hoffman (1865-1866)
  • Ann E. Hoffman (1868-1868)
  • Alice V. Hoffman (1869-?)
  • Clara Hoffman (1871-1949)
  • Frank C. Hoffman (1873-1943)
  • Ogden Hoffman (1876-1948)

Amanda Van Syckel died 28 September 1917 and is buried in the New Somerville cemetery in Somerset County, New Jersey.

Wife of Theodore J. Hoffman

Jean Van Syckel with Louise Tompkins

Apparently my grandfather was a genius at photographing children.  In both of these photographs you see the joy in each person for the other. #52ancestors #52familyphotographs

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Jean Van Syckel and Louise Tompkins

Jean Van Syckel was born on 28 July 1875, probably in Flemington, New Jersey, to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel.  She was the youngest of their four children and the Flemington, She never married but the Flemington, Jersey City and Detroit, Michigan newspapers tracked her visits with her brother and sister.  Louise Tompkins tells stories about the house and garden at 182 S. Main St. where she “vacationed” as a child.  Mary and Jean kept a large garden and small orchard in the back yard of that house.  Mary succumbed to dementia on Christmas day in 1952.

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Jean Van Syckel and Louise Tompkins

Mary Van Syckel and mom

This week of #52ancestors I want to give a face to a woman around whom there are many stories and #52familyphotographs gives me that opportunity.

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Mary Van Syckel and Anne VS Tompkins

Mary Van Syckel was born on 1 February 1867 to Chester and Mary Jane Mount Van Syckel. The family story says that she fell in love with a man whom her father would not allow her to marry.  He then married her best friend (the height of perfidy) and she she attempted to stab her father to death.  She does appear to have had a mental break, as in 1900 she is at the state hospital in Trenton, NJ.  Her hospital records are very sad and bewildering as the staff describe her as quite insane (babbling, harming herself and them, unable to function in anyway) until one day her father comes to talk to her.  After the visit she gets dressed and comes down to the dining room for mealtime and proceeds to act quite restored to her senses.  Her parents come for her and the hospital staff agree to send her home.  An astonishing recovery.  I wonder what he said.

Mary was artistic and is rumored to have attended the Arts Student League in New York.  Still working on documenting that.  But she did make things.  My cousin Susie grew up in a house where the rag rugs in the bathrooms were made by Mary.  And my Aunt Louise tells stories about the way Mary and her sister put up all sorts of fruit and vegetables from their garden in Flemington, NJ.

Mary lived her entire life (minus the brief stay in Trenton) in Flemington, NJ.  She died on 18 January 1953 at a nursing home in Chatham and is buried in Prospect Hill Cemetery up at the top of the hill in Flemington.

 

 

 

 

Chester Van Syckel

This week in #52Ancestors I am writing about Chester Van Syckel, a well educated and well connected attorney of Flemington, New Jersey.  I fear he may not have been well liked but I hesitate to cast aspersions on my great, great grandfather without actual data to back it up.

Chester Van Syckel was born on 6 June 1838 at Van Syckel’s Corners, a tiny burg in Union township, Hunterdon County, New Jersey.   He was the tenth child of Aaron (Jr., 1793-1874) and Mary Bird (1799-1863) Van Syckel.   An early letter from Chester to his brother Sylvester talks a bit about what life in Van Syckel’s Corners was like:

Lafayette College Pardee HallHe appears to have been sent away to school as a teen, first to Dr. John Vandeveer’s school and then to Lafayette College, both in Easton, Pennsylvania.  A bit of map-stalking will show that Easton is due west of Bethlehem, NJ, where the family was located in the 1850 Census.  Chester also benefited from having a famous and well placed brother: Bennett Van Syckel studied law at Princeton University, graduating in 1846 and he went on to serve as a justice on the NJ Supreme Court from 1869 to 1904.  This may have been what made it possible for Chester Van Syckel to attend Princeton, where he earned a Bachelors degree in 1862.

F._Childs_Lithograph_ca._1860_AC177_Box_1Shortly after graduation, Chester was admitted to the bar as an attorney and five years later in 1867 he was admitted as Counsellor at law.

For two years he was in business with his
brother Bennett, and afterwards was a member of the successive law firms of Bird, Voorhees & Van Syckel and Voorhees & Van Syckel, later practicing alone. He was a special Master in Chancery and a Commissioner of the Supreme Court. His legal opinions were very highly esteemed.  His obituary in the New Jersey Law Journal also mentions his active participation in affairs in Flemington, serving on the village board of trustees.

Chester married Mary Jane (Jane) Mount on 19 December 1865 in Hightstown, New Jersey.  The Mount family was an established Mercer County family but I have no information on how they met or courted.  Possibly, Chester was working for a client or on a case in the area.

Chester and Mary Jane Van Syckel had four children:

  • Mary Van Syckel (1867-1953)
  • Anne Van Syckel (1870-1938)
  • Emmet Van Syckel (1873-1955)
  • Jean “Jennie” Van Syckel (1875-1952)

Chester had settled in Flemington by 1860 and remained there after marriage to raise his family.  In December 1906, he traveled to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore for an operation and never recovered his health.  He died on 3 March 1907 and is buried in the family plot in Prospect Hill Cemetery.

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You may very well wonder why I might think that such a well respected man might not have been well liked.  There is a family story, one I am not sure I can corroborate with evidence, that makes me think he may have fit the bill of the late Victorian patriarch.  I have been told that one of his daughters tried to harm him at the dining room table one day as a result of her disappointment over a suitor her father turned away.  Other than this story, I have only the census record showing her stay in the state mental hospital in Trenton.  Whatever event put her there happened after 1895 (she is still at home in the 1895 NJ census) and before 1900 when she is in Trenton.  I would like to know more, if only to address the family memory.