Once again I select a name for my #52ancestors essay so unusual that I should have no trouble picking up the thread of his life story. And once again, I re-learn the lesson about common words in names and geographic location. This time I picked Francis Mumford Gibbs.
Francis was born on 17 September 1898, most likely in Burlington County, NJ but also possibly Monmouth as that is where the family is living in 1895, to Barclay White (1868-1957) and Elizabeth Watts Jones (1873-1900) Gibbs. He was the youngest of three children but the only one to see his thirtieth birthday. His sister Mattie J. Gibbs was born in 1892 but died in 1919 and his brother Elton Russell was born in 1894 but died in 1917. Their mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Jones Gibbs died in 1900.
The family moved to Philadelphia, where Barclay worked as a machinist and there Barclay married Jennie S. Greenwood on 12 November 1902. Ten years later the family is living in York, PA where Barclay Gibbs was employed by Gulf Gas and Oil as a manager. It is in York that the family lost both Mattie and Elton, Mattie to tuberculosis and Elton to a heart defect. Francis married York native Margaret Elmira Herman sometime around 1925. Francis also seems to have moved around a lot as each of their four children are born in different places:
William Bruce Gibbs (1926-1954) b. Philadelphia
Francis Mumford Gibbs Jr. (1930-2012) b. Michigan
Barclay White Gibbs 2nd (1933-2010) b. Camden, NJ
John H. Gibbs (1936- ) Trenton?, NJ
Francis eventually settled in Trenton, NJ where he worked for a company called Thermoid, which made rubber brake pads. The children all appear to have come of age in Hamilton township.
Francis died suddenly from a heart attack on 25 April 1959. He is buried in Ewing Cemetery and shares a headstone with William Bruce, who tragically died in an automobile accident in 1954.
The most complicated part of investigating this story was the family name: the Gibbs family is an old and fertile family in New Jersey and many of the branches named their children after other branches. The name Barclay, for instance, pops up all over the place, most likely because it too is a place name. Most concentrated in Burlington and Camden counties, which made parsing out this line more difficult than I expected. Also, I came to realize that Francis Mumford Gibbs may have gotten his name from his mother’s sister Susan Gibbs Jones, who married Francis Mumford, whom I know absolutely nothing about. But that is for another essay.
This week in #52ancestors I travel back six generations, which I am incredibly lucky to be able to identify, to Aaron Van Syckel, seventh son of Reinier Van Syckel. Again this is one of my Dutch ancestors but this line settled in Hunterdon County, New Jersey.
Aaron Van Syckel was born on 8 July 1764 to Reinier (1723-1803) and Maake “Mercy Longstreet” Langstraat (d. 1815) Van Syckel. Aaron’s generation appears to have been the one that started transitioning from the original “Van Sickelen” to the current “Van Syckel.” Of course, there are many variations currently, Van Sickel, Van Sickle, Vansickle, etc., but this branch seems to have settled on the “yckel” spelling.
Aaron married Catharine Opducke or Opdyke (1762-1851) in 1785 and the couple had eight children:
John Van Syckel (1786-1864)
Elijah Van Syckel (1788-1855)
Daniel Van Syckel (1790-1861)
Aaron Van Syckel (1793-1874)
Mercy Van Syckel (1796-1850)
William Van Syckel (1798-1859)
Alice Van Syckel (1803-1871)
Fanny Van Syckel (1805-1884)
Aaron Van Syckel inherited a sizable estate from his father totaling 240 acres, which he built into quite an empire. In 1800, he purchased a tavern owned by David Reynolds in Bethlehem township, which he made his home. There was also a store nearby which he ran with his son Aaron Jr. as well as a post office. The tavern is listed on both state and National Historic Registers and I remember as a child going to see the buildings at Van Syckel’s corner.
Aaron Van Syckel was active in local political affairs. The History of Hunterdon County notes that in addition to serving as a presidential elector in 1821, he was also elected to the General Assembly (1808-1814) and stood as Sheriff on several occasions (1803 and 1835). On 11 November 1803, as sheriff he was responsible for carrying out the execution by hanging of Brom, an African American slave accused of murdering another slave.
Aaron Van Syckel was a member of the Bethlehem Presbyterian Church and helped that congregation erect a stone church in 1830. It is no longer standing but there is a marker noting the construction and, of course, the cemetery is still there.
Aaron Van Syckel died on 28 November 1838, and is buried in the cemetery at Bethlehem. His will gives a clue as to the extensive holdings he acquired over his life.
This week on #52ancestors I am writing about Mary “Stella May” Jones. She was the ninth child of Benjamin (1833-1896) and Mary Elizabeth Carrell (1840-1922) Jones, born on 22 June 1881. My great grandfather Arthur Wells Jones was her older brother. I am not sure exactly why or when she became “Stella May” but that is the name she went by most of her adult life.
The first time I found her in the census was in the 1885 New Jersey state census, where she is called May. I thought it might have been a misspelling of Mary. But in the 1895 NJ Census, she is also called May. In 1900, She is living with her mother and two sisters and is identified as Stella Mae. Marriage notices in local papers used this spelling as well:
Stella Mae and Oscar lived most often in Freehold in Monmouth County but seem to have come back to Pemberton regularly. Oscar appears to have worked with his father as a monument maker but also is listed in various Census and military draft records as a clerk, railroad worker and as a motor delivery man for the Courier-News.
They had a little girl in 1909 named Mae Ayres, who died shortly after birth and is buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Pemberton. They do not, however, appear to have been active in the Methodist Church.
According to her obituary and other newspaper articles I found, Stella Mae does not appear to have been robustly healthy towards the end of her life. She may have suffered from complications from an appendectomy. Estella Mae Ayres died on 18 December 1946 at Seaside Park, NJ at the home of her nephew Arthur Rue after a stroke. She is buried in Mount Holly Cemetery.
Names can evolve over a person’s lifetime. This can present a challenge when trying to determine if the record you are viewing is, in fact, the person you are researching. The trick, I think, is being open to the fact that your ancestor may have used different names in different contexts. My own mother could slide fluidly back and forth from Anne Tompkins Jones to Mrs. Barclay G. Jones to Annebo, depending on the circumstances.