Joshua Opdyke

The nineteenth century is my comfort zone. I can read the handwriting. I know the records one can use to track people in places from state to state. The colonial period, not so much. I end up using a lot of printed materials as the original records are not always available in digital form. And I like manuscripts. I like originals. I don’t always trust the extent of the transcriptions. Also the place names changed as the American colonies became states with counties and townships. It makes the whole search more complicated but it can also be fun. You discover new types of documents, you have to analyse data differently. 

Take Joshua Opdyke, for instance. He was the father of Catherine Opdyke, who married Aaron Van Syckel (1764-1838). He was born about 1713 and died in 1789, just as America was becoming, well, America. He was a farmer in Kingwood township in what is now Hunterdon County, New Jersey. What can I learn about his life, his family and his impact on his community?

Stone House of Joshua Opdyke_crop

Joshua Opdyke was the second son of Albert Opdyke. He married Ann Green (1717-) of Hunterdon in 1738. Between 1743 and 1774 he amassed considerable land holdings in and around Hunterdon County, in addition to the 298 acres he acquired from his wife’s father. The year he died, at the age of 76, he was a delegate to the Baptist Convention in Philadelphia. Apparently his father Albert Opdyke (1685-1752) broke with family tradition and became a Baptist. 

Joshua and Ann Opdyke have a number of children:

  • Richard Opdyke (1740-1825)
  • Luther Opdyke (1750-1838)
  • Sarah Opdyke (175?-?)
  • Elizabeth Opdyke (175?-?)
  • Margaret Opdyke (175?-?)
  • Frances Opdyke (1757-1809)
  • Hannah Opdyke (1760-1821)
  • Catherine Opdyke (1762-1851)

Much of this information I found in published books such as The Op Dyck Genealogy by Charles Wilson Opdyke and the Genealogical and Family History of Central New York by William R. Cutter. And some of the information in one source conflicted with information in another. Was Joshua the son or grandson of Albert? Was Joshua born in New York like his father or in Hunterdon County. My heart yearns for bible records, correspondence, and really anything with his signature or written in his hand. Yes, I know the assumption of literacy in the 18th century is dicey but still. The closest I have come is his will record.
Opdyke_Joshua_will_crop

I did find church records of a Baptist church in Bethlehem, near Kingwood. They mention Joshua as someone trusted enough to write letters of dismissal and to represent the community in various ways. But his relationship with the church was apparently contentious, as I find him being censured in 1772 for criticizing the preacher and, being unrepentant, he was excluded from the meeting. He was reinstated in 1787 but his death is noted two years later on 28 February 1789.

BaptistChurchreords_633_crop

Hiram Mount and Margaret Allen

The-Story-of-New-Jerseys-Civil-Boundaries-1608-1968-Snyder-NJSL-B7651969_0034_cropDo you have a county boundary nemesis? I do, in the form of New Jersey. I have yet to come up with a one stop way to figure out where the Windsor townships are in any given year. Legally, I know that Windsor Township split into East and West Windsor on 9 February 1797 while these were in Middlesex County. The townships were incorporated in 1798 and their boundaries changed when Hightstown borough formed in 1853 and Washington Township formed in 1860.

Cartographically, the townships do not appear on Tanner’s 1836 state map of New Jersey, the one which shows Hunterdon, Middlesex, and Burlington Counties coming to a mash up right at Trenton.  The 1845 state map shows the formation of Mercer County and shows Hightstown but now the mash up is complicated by the borders of Monmouth and Middlesex county changing to accommodate Mercer. And a call out to other New Jersey genealogists produced the suggestion from fellow researchers of John F. Snyder’s The Story of New Jersey’s Civil Boundaries 1608-1968. What a wonderful resource. Here is a chronology for East Windsor township:

  • 1797 Formed from Windsor twp. in Middlesex Co.
  • 1798 Incorporated.
  • 1838 Most set off to Mercer Co.; part to South Amboy twp., Middlesex Co.
  • 1853 Part to Hightstown bor. within twp.
  • 1857 Boundary with Hightstown bor. changed.
  • 1860 Part to Washington twp.
  • 1894? Hightstown bor. set off from twp.
  • 1913 Part to Hightstown bor.
  • 1915 Part to Hightstown bor.
  • 1927 Part to Hightstown bor.

When researching the early 19th century generation of the Mount family it pays to search in Monmouth, Mercer and Middlesex counties. I have already tracked my mother’s line back to my great-great-grandmother Mary Jane Mount, and I have written about Thomas Hiram Mount and his wife Catherine Fisher Mount. I wanted to flesh out some of the details of his parents, Hiram Mount (1786-1847) and Margaret Allen Mount (1790-1865). There are numerous Mounts in the area and figuring out which is which is proving complicated.

Hiram Mount was born on 10 August 1786 but where is proving difficult. The early census in New Jersey are missing or incomplete. The 1830 Census (Upper Freehold, Monmouth, NJ) is the first in which Hiram Mount appears and the household has the appropriate 5 people in the right gender/age groups. At some point before 1808 he married Margaret Allen, daughter of Thomas Allen and Mary Forman Allen. I have not yet found a marriage record for them. But in the one tax list I can find online, Iram (Hiram) Mount is paying taxes on two horses and two cattle and the column for “Single male with horse” is blank.

Mount_Hiram_tax_Monmouth_UpperFreehold_1808_part3_p492_crop

Hiram and Margaret had four children that I know of:

  • William Mount (1808-1817)
  • Thomas Hiram Mount (1812-1876)
  • Rebecca Ely Mount (1814-1892)
  • William H. Mount (1818-1877)

Mount_Hiram_Will_1847_p01_cropThe three living children are mentioned in Hiram’s Monmouth County 1845 will and there is a clue there about how this Monmouth County family came to be in Mercer County. Hiram divides his land holdings between his two sons, mentioning that he leaves Thomas the “plantation or farm” in which he currently lives. I matched that with a house history I uncovered in doing Thomas H. Mount’s essay and Voila!

Thomas H. Mount moved onto this site soon after his father Hiram (d. 1847) bought it in 1834.

Upper Freehold is less than 10 miles from Hightstown, which was probably one of the closest towns of any size at this point in history. Once again #52ancestors challenges me to add up all the facts and write them down.

Adventure comes in many forms

This week in #52ancestors the theme is Adventure and I decided to write about the farthest flung family on my tree: the Negus family.  The Negus line hangs off the Van Syckel line in Hunterdon County, New Jersey as one of Aaron Van Syckel’s grandchildren (by Daniel (1790-1861)) Isabella Van Syckel married James Engle Negus of Philadelphia.

Negus_James_Engle_theft_Arkansas_Washington_Telegraph_Wed__Jun_21__1854_James Engle Negus (1809-1884) starts out in Philadelphia where he is a wealthy merchant and chief weight clerk at the U. S. Mint in Philadelphia. However, in June of 1854, Negus is exposed for short weighting gold at the Mint. He made immediate restitution (for tens of thousands of dollars, if the newspapers are to be believed) and flees with his family to England. He later returns to the US and settles with his mother Susan, his wife Isabella and daughter Susan Engle in Somerset County, New Jersey where he owned a great deal of farmland. This may explain why I cannot find the family in the 1860 Census, and then find them in Franklin township, Somerset, NJ in 1870. James apparently saw the error of his ways, as he becomes a successful gentleman farmer in Franklin. His mother dies there, as do Isabella and Susan.

James Engle Negus and Isabella Van Syckel Negus have four children: Robert Patterson Negus (1838-1884), Susan Engle Negus (1840-1915), James Engle Negus (1842-1903) and William Shippen Negus (1844-1914).  William S. Negus appears to have been in finance. James E. Negus served with distinction in the Civil War and settled in Greenville, Mississippi where he was a banker. Susan Engle Negus never married but was active in many women’s organizations including the DAR. Robert Patterson Negus is the traveler and the one who caught my eye when the topic of adventure came up.

Negus_OxfordHotel_Masons
A group of Masons in front of the Oxford Hotel, Sydney, Australia. Robert P. Negus is in front with his right hand over his heart.

Robert Patterson Negus (1838-1884) was born and raised in Philadelphia. I have seen mention of his education in Europe as an engineer. He may have gotten the travel bug as the family flitted about England and Wales. He was in New Zealand in 1863 when he married Mary Ann Hargrave (1838-1881), daughter of Captain William Hargrave of Sandridge. They had seven children:

  • Mary Ann Isabella Negus (1864-1950) married David James Bardwell Smith
  • Susan Engle Emiline Negus (1866)
  • Charlotte Ernestine Negus (1868-1949) married Edward V. French
  • William James Hargrave Negus (1871) 
  • Selinda Parry Negus (1872-1959) married twice
  • Horatio Van Syckel Negus (1874-1966)
  • Virginia Louise Negus (1876-1956)

However, neither Robert nor Mary Ann Negus would live to see their 45th birthday. Mary Ann died in 1881 and Robert died 2 October 1884. This tragedy meant that four of the seven children needed a new home. Mary Ann Isabella Negus, while the eldest, could not take on the raising of her siblings. She married shortly after her father’s death, and was possibly courting David Smith when all this was going on. Courtship of a young woman is one thing, taking on a ready made family quite another. In any case, the four younger siblings are sent back to America to live with their grandmother Isabella VS Negus and aunt Susan Engle Negus.

Negus_will_1886_2_crop

Interesting side note: the guardianship proceedings distinguish between Charlotte who is over 14 and the three children under 14. Each is noted as having about $500 to their name. James Engle Negus seems to have helped manage some of these proceedings but by my reckoning he is settled in Mississippi at this time with a wife and three children. However, William Shippen Negus appears to have settled in Bound Brook and so he may also have been involved in retrieving the children. Possibly their adventure was travelling by steamer across the world without an adult!

This line represents a fascinating side trip and I want to thank cousin Melanie Ealey for bringing it to my attention. Her email to me was exactly what I was hoping would happen when I started this blog!

The Elliott family connection

Elliot_Helen_001
Helen Elliott (1902-1962)

I haven’t posted any photographs recently, so here goes! This weeks’ #52ancestors #52familyphotographs brings a breakthrough on the Wells family line. My great grandmother was a Wells from Burlington County, New Jersey.  However, her father’s sister Mary married a Lippincott and they settled in Cumberland County.

I had not ever been able to make the connection between the Mamie who wrote notes on the backs of these adorable postcards and my tree. Today I decided to conquer this line of the Wells family and low and behold, Henry and Mary Wells Lippincott had two daughters, Mamie and Abbie.

Mamie (or Margaret, she went as both) married Harry Bishop Elliott in 1901 and they had two children: Helen Elliott (1902-1962) and Walter Scott Elliott (1914-1999). I hope the Elliott family descendants find these images as interesting as I did. I love the look on Walter’s face, as I have similar pictures of my father with that “butter would not melt in his mouth” look.

 

Johannis Van Ryper becomes John Van Riper

I find it amusing that my genealogical Waterloo falls to a man who actually died near Waterloo (New York, that is). I have been working on building out my direct lines and making sure I had surnames for wives and other housekeeping. My Van Ripen/VanRiper line switches spelling mid 19th Century and I am not sure if this is universal to the Dutch or if something else was going on. I need to read more general history of the Dutch settlements in New Jersey. But I digress, let’s get back to John Van Riper.

The Van Riper clan landed in New Jersey very early (still working on that). John Van Riper is born into an established farming family. In the records of the Dutch Reformed Church, his name varies from Johannis Van Ryper to Jon Van Ripen with everything in between. And with a name like John…

VanRipen_John_baptism_1766_VitalRecords_crop

John Van Riper was born on 30 August 1766 and was baptized on 21 September 1766 in the church at Acquackanonk (now Passaic). On 11 March 1798 he married Geertje Doremus at Acquackanonk. Interesting side note: Geertje can Anglicize to Gertrude or Charity or Gitty and this Geertje did all at different times in her life.

VanRiper_John_marriage_GeertjeDoremus_1798_PassaicVitalRecords_p306_crop

Johannis and Geertje had many children and I am still working on the definitive list. This is what I have so far:

  • Antje Van Riper (1799-?) Not sure if she survives infancy, but I have a birth/baptism record. Is this the Anne who married Garret A Van Riper who is mentioned in John Van Riper’s will?
  • Peter Van Riper (1801-1881) Moves to Seneca County, NY and is mentioned in John’s will
  • Peggy Van Riper (1802-) Is this the Margaret mentioned in John’s will as Margaret Vreeland, widow of Michael Vreeland?
  • Elizabeth Van Riper (1803-1889) married Nicholas Vreeland (1789-1873) This is my great grandmother, married Nicholas Vreeland.
    VanRiper_Elizabeth_birth_Persepeney_Book68_P287_crop
  • John G Van Riper (1805-?) No birth/baptism but John’s will is full of this man and his son Henry Doremus Van Riper and his wife Sarah
  • Mary Ann/Polly Van Riper (1810-1890) no birth/baptism record but mentioned in John’s will
  • Emeline Van Riper (1812-1890) no birth/baptism record but mentioned in John’s will
  • Simeon Van Riper (1816-1910) birth/baptism record, not mentioned in will, lived in Iowa and died in California
  • Garret Van Wiper (1819-?) birth/baptism record, mentioned in John’s will (NOT Garret A Van Riper), does this Garret go off to Michigan?
  • Henry Van Riper (? – ?) no birth or baptism but appears in John’s will as “son”

VanRiper_Simon_birth_PassaicVitalRecords_274_crop

This one is truly a work in progress. I have scrolled through the Dutch Reformed church records online in Ancestry and have pieced together some of the children.  Other online family trees give me lots of names but no records to back them up. Due to some of the naming conventions, I do not want to make any assumptions about exact parentage, and so I have checked records for Acquackanonk, Passaic, Persepeney (now Montville).

I did get parent’s names to pencil into the tree but way more research needs done before I declare that information. Thanks to #52ancestors I am adding names to the tree and records to my files!

Joseph N. Gibbs and the Quaker connection

The Gibbs surname appears several times on my family tree, which is not surprising given that various portions of the family tree stayed in Burlington County, New Jersey for most of the 18th and 19th centuries. In the case of Joseph Gibbs (1781-1865) the intriguing part was reading the Quaker meeting records to get a better understanding of his family’s life and times.

MiddletownMonthlyMeeting_MinutesofFriends_p48_crop_Middletown
The Quakers were great record keepers, in part because you either joined the meeting or you had a “birthright” to belong. As New Jersey and Philadelphia became more settled in the 18th century, there was considerable movement of individuals and families between meetings.  This all had to be tracked through the monthly minutes as well as the committees. The commentary can be sometimes perfunctory, sometimes fascinating.

I first find Joseph Gibbs requesting permission in February 1809 to join the Upper Springfield Meeting. The record explains very little but much later in the year, Joseph Gibbs and Elizabeth Ellis begin the cumbersome process of requesting permission to marry.  The final marriage certificate states that Joseph Gibbs, son of Benjamin and Deborah Gibbs of Dedford in Gloucester County, and Elizabeth Ellis, daughter of John and Elizabeth Ellis of Upperfreehold, have declared their intention to wed. It is signed by those present, but I don’t understand why Benjamin Gibbs’ name is not listed while John Ellis and family are.

Joseph and Elizabeth Gibbs may have remained at Upper Springfield until 1817 but the membership records are lost. On 8 May 1817, they transferred to the Mount Holly Monthly Meeting and stayed until 9 May 1844. At the time they joined they had three children. Shortly afterward their family increased with the addition of two more girls:

  • Martha Dorsey Gibbs (1811-1885) married John W. C Evans MD (1809-1860)
  • Susannah Ellis Gibbs (1814-1837) married Richard Jones (1812-1890)
  • Rebecca Howard Gibbs(1816-1877) M1 John Corneau M2 Nathan Ellis
  • Elizabeth E Gibbs (1818-bef. 1850) married Owen Shoemaker (1816-1898)
  • Josephine Abigail Gibbs (ca 1829-1886) married Martin M Cox (ca 1814-1875)

This seems to have been a turbulent time for most of the meetings in the area, which seems reasonable given the rapid growth of the area and the introduction of new technologies. Joseph’s name appears in several records in the 1820’s and 30’s as he and several other men in the Meeting are cautioned, censured and dismissed for joining groups (the local grange would be such a group). Late in the 1830’s, Joseph seems to have made some bad financial decisions and occurs debt, which is a real problem for the Quakers. I could pair the monthly and men’s meeting records with newspaper notices which asked creditors to present themselves to Samuel Ellis by a certain date.

JosephGibbs_Debt_crop

In 1844, the Gibbs family requested that their certificate be moved to Middletown, Pennsylvania, in Bucks County, Joseph and Elizabeth were accompanied by their minor daughter Josephine and seem to have settled in Bristol for several years. They are there long enough to marry off daughter Elizabeth (to Owen Shoemaker) and to bury wife Elizabeth (death 15 October 1845), returning to Burlington County by 1849 when Joseph begins proceedings to join the Meeting there.  Fascinating sideways genealogy tidbit! In Quaker tradition all the Quakers at the meeting sign the marriage certificate: Richard Jones, Alice W. Jones, Benjamin Jones and Joseph G. Jones are all listed as signatures!

I need to do more research to find out what Joseph Gibbs does between 1849 and his death in 1865. On the census he is a gentleman (isn’t that just loaded with nuance) but I need to get into newspapers and other types of records to go beyond his acting as an elder in the Mount Holly meeting. Once again, if you have information, please share it!

I went looking for her parents and found a slave

Well, this essay was supposed to be about something completely different, about someone completely different. And then a simple check of the 1860 Census brought me up short: nowhere in my growing knowledge bank of New Jersey history was there a mention that slavery was legal in 1860.  No that’s not a typo: slavery ended in New Jersey with the passage of the 13th Amendment in 1865.

It began as a straight forward “fill in the missing ancestor” exercise. As I was verifying something in RootsMagic,  I noticed that I had never filled in the parents of my great grandmother.  In typical Squirrel fashion, I diverted for a moment to do a bit of research on the parents of Catherine Fisher (wife of Thomas Hiram Mount). I had a family notation that it was John Fisher but nothing further. Since this family was firmly settled in Mercer County, NJ by the middle of the 18th century, I started there and quickly found many references to John Fisher, born circa 1792, resident of West Windsor township. In bringing up the 1860 Census I was STUNNED to see the names and occupations of the people living in that household:

1860_US_Census_NJ_Mercer_WestWindsor_268_crop

Diana Updike, 76 year old female, black, Slave servant, born New Jersey.  Wait, what?!? Well, a deep dive into state history and I unearthed the fascinating fact (sarcasm much?) that although New Jersey had abolished slavery in 1804, that pertained to incoming or new slaves.  Resident slaves in 1804 remained slaves and their children served lengthy periods of indentured servitude and were freed at the will of their owners.  Slavery was abolished in 1865 in New Jersey the same way it was abolished in Kentucky, by the ratification of the 13th Amendment.

And that is where Diana/Dina fits in.  She is enslaved in 1804, she is enslaved and named in the 1860 Census and she is inherited by John Fisher’s wife Susan by deed of his will, probated after his death in 1863.

Fisher_John_Will_1863_p2_crop

I discovered that in 1865, upon the ratification of the 13th Amendment, New Jersey freed 16 slaves.  I have yet to find their names.  Diana/Dina, if you were one of those slaves, I would like to do you the honor of telling your story. I will continue to research this topic as I am able.

For now let me simply end the story with a bit of advice for anyone who thinks they have all the answers: you don’t know what you don’t know.