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?

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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.
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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Samuel and Sarah Lewis

This is going to be one of those “grrrr” blogs where I don’t have the answers I want but I am going to write the essay anyway.  I may never have all the information. But I am tired of waiting for the big genealogy balloon to drop.

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John Herr

I have this photograph of a man identified as John Herr. I have my father’s genealogy notes identifying him as the grandfather of Florence Lewis. Here is what I can piece together from other, incomplete resources:

Florence Lewis was the oldest child of Samuel Lewis and Sarah Herr.  She married Moses Wells and that story I have got a pretty good handle on.  Going back in time is the problem. Samuel Lewis appears with Sarah his wife from 1860 to 1885 in various state and federal censuses. As do their six children:

  • Florence Lewis (1859-1947) married Moses Wells
  • Pierce (Pierson) Lewis (1862-1926) married Clara Lamb
  • Josephine Lewis (1864-1936) married Harry Goodman
  • Ellsworth Lewis (1867-1890) married Keziah Platt
  • Colby Lewis (1869-1939) married Elsie Jackson
  • Clara Lewis (1875-1946) married William Marshall

I wonder: When did Samuel and Sarah get married? Was it a first marriage for both? Either? If Samuel is living next to John and Mary Herr (spelled Heers in the 1850 Census), why is his wife named Mary?  Is this the Samuel Lewis and Mary McKelvey who got married in 1842? Did she die and he remarried? Or is this actually Samuel and Sarah (name written WAY wrong) and they just waited 17 years to have their first child? And where does the family lore about the Herr’s potato chip fortune come into it? Wishful thinking? Or mixed up identities as there is a John Herr married to a Mary Ann out in Westmoreland County, PA. I’m pretty sure that’s not the same person.  But every family tree online seems sure that this is the case.

William Carrell and his three daughters

One intriguing find during my research/writing last year was more information about the Carroll family, as in the parents and siblings of Mary Elizabeth Carroll, wife of Benjamin Jones.  I was able to track so much more once I unraveled her complicated life but I have reached another brick wall and would love some help from the Burlington County genealogy hive mind.

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Cropped view of 1858 Burlington County map

First off, this case story is nowhere near the Genealogical Proof Standard, but I have starred notes, suppositions and geographical propinquity galore. And for the purposes of this essay I will use the spelling “Carroll” but know that there are so many different spellings in the records that it is extremely hard to be certain of anything. I found Carrell, Carrel, Curl, and Curel. Also, there are several family trees published on the web that have really sketchy information which completely disagrees with what I have found.  I am hoping that this generates some feedback. So here is what I think I know!

William Carroll was born 25 July 1805 in New Jersey, possibly Burlington County. He did not have any occupation I can find beyond “laborer,” however given his general location as Juliustown this could have meant worker in a tannery, railroad yard or other rural industry.  I rarely find him in the census.

Carrel_ElizaF_grave_1899Sometime around 1838, he married Eliza F. Cox.  She was born 6 October 1815 in New Jersey. Burlington County is rife with Cox’s but I have yet to find parents for her. The couple appears to have had three daughters: Anna P Carroll, Mary Elizabeth Carroll , and Martha Carroll.

I know a little bit about the daughters:

Anna P. Carroll was born 17 June 1839.  She married Joseph T Scroggy (1841-1904) and they appear to have raised Lillie Jones (daughter of Benjamin and Mary E. Jones).  Sadly this couple did not have any children before Anna died on 26 July 1902.

Mary Elizabeth Carroll’s life is pretty well covered in this previous blog.

Martha Carroll was born 12 September 1843 and married Thomas Cross on 29 May 1861.  They had five children: Ellsworth Cross (1861-1863), Eliza Fenimore Cross (1866-1919), Anna Cross (1869-1936), Gertrude Cross (1872-1873), and Lydia Cross (1868-?). Intriguing fact: Lydia Cross, who went by Lidie, married Joseph T. Scroggy after Anna’s death in 1902. She married her uncle. Not sure how legal that is.

One of the tricky bits about tracking daughters, especially ones who are born in the 19th century and who marry early, is that you often find out more about the husband than the woman you are researching.  The link is clearly there with Lillie living with Anna and Joseph Scroggy. And Eliza Carroll is listed with Lillie in the 1895 census within the Scroggy household. I think most of the spelling changes are likely due to pronunciation and the 19th century.  

Carrel_William_grave_1886I also know that both William Carroll and Eliza Cox Carroll are buried in the United Methodist Church Cemetery in Pemberton, near their children.  William died from a stroke on 1 May 1886 and Eliza died on 26 July 1899.

 

But I would love to know more: Who were William Carroll’s parents? Does the F in Eliza’s name stand for Fenimore?  Why did the family miss every census between 1840 and 1870?

John Van Syckel (1786-1864)

Rarely do I find a will which so clearly outlines family ties for two generations!  And details the location of the family graveyard on the homestead! This week’s #52ancestors find is a real treasure.

John Van Syckel was born 12 November 1786 in Hunterdon County, NJ. He was the oldest son of Aaron Van Syckel and Catharine Opdyke Van Syckel. On 20 October 1808, he married Rachel Larison (1791-1851). They had four children: Catharine Van Syckel (1809-1890), Keziah Van Syckel (1811-1884), Elijah Van Syckel (1814-1891), and Lucinda Van Syckel (1816-1895).

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from the Library of Congress: Cornell and Van Derveer, 1851.

He was a farmer with extensive land holdings in and around Bethlehem township. Three of his children settled nearby, and the reason for this appears to be that he loaned them the use of the farms on which they lived.

John Van Syckel died on 21 April 1864 in Hunterdon County, N.J. and is buried in Bethlehem Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg. His will (dated 1859, with codicils in 1864) is one of the best family tree outlines I have yet to see, showing once again that will records have many uses.

The will starts with the usual legal establishment of who the executors are: “Bennet Van Syckel and Joseph Van Syckel, sons of my brother Aaron.” The will goes on to distribute his land holdings, each time identifying the person and how they are related to him.  This is exceptionally helpful as the names are generously repeated through each sibling line: John Van Syckel my grandson, my son Elijah Van Syckel, my daughter Catharine wife of Adrian Kinney, my daughter Keziah Warn, my son in law Stephen Warn, my  daughter Lucinda wife of Peter S Sigler, my grandchild Hannah Phillips daughter of my daughter Keziah Warn, my grandson John Van Syckel, son of my son Elijah Van Syckel, John V Kinney and H W Kinney children of my son in law Adrian Kinney, Rachel Van Syckel and James Van Syckel children of my son Elijah, Rachel Sigler daughter of my daughter Lucinda, John V Sigler, son of my daughter Lucinda, and Phineas Van Syckel son of my son Elijah.

And then the piece de resistance: “I hereby except and reserve from that portion of my homestead farm devised to my son Elijah’s use all that grave yard in the orchard on said farm wherein my wife Rachel is buried…” Although now many of the family, including Rachel Larison Van Syckel, are buried in the Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg, clearly there may have been a grave removal project at some time.

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John Van Syckel Will, Hunterdon County, 1859, p. 43

A codicil dated 19 March 1864, states that Adrian Kinney has departed this life. Yet another clue to follow up.

Abigail Warner

Welcome to the family, Abigail.  I apologize for misidentifying you as Abigail Russell Davis and squirreling down rabbit hole after rabbit hole looking for you. I’m sure Abigail R. Davis was a perfectly nice woman but she’s not my relative. Lesson learned yet again about taking time to follow each lead to its natural end. #52ancestors or bust!

FamilytreeimageI have already written about my great, great grandfather Moses K. Wells. This post is about his mother and father: Abigail Warner Wells and Samuel Wells.  However, this is also a work in progress as I know very little about the Wells family and even less about the Warner line.

Abigail Warner appears to have been born in 1824, possibly in Atlantic County, New Jersey. She married Samuel Wells before 1853.  I have no idea how they met, as Samuel is living with his parents Samuel and Mercy Wells in the 1850 census in Southampton, Burlington County.  However, when the 1855 NJ state census is taken five years later, Samuel and Abigail have settled in Weymouth Township in Atlantic County and have two small boys, Michael and Moses, living with them. The complete list of their children is:

  • Michael M. Wells (1851-1937)
  • Moses K. Wells (1854-1925)
  • John H. Wells (1857-1920)
  • Samuel J. Wells (1859-1936)
  • Sarah Ann Wells (1861-1934)
  • Mary E. Wells (1863-1943)
  • Margaret A. Wells (1865-)

The family seem to have moved back to Burlington County by 1860 however, and stay there.  Although Abigail appears to have died in Cumberland County on 6 October 1884, she is possibly buried in Methodist Cemetery in Pemberton. Samuel Wells is living with son Michael and his wife Jennie Leeds Wells in 1900.  Samuel died shortly after that census on 9 October 1900 and is possibly buried in the Methodist Cemetery in Pemberton.

This was one of those essays I almost did not write. I know so little about these two and it would have been so easy to just put it off until later.  However, on the theory that people don’t know I am looking if I don’t tell them, I am putting this out there in the hopes that someone can help fill in the blanks.

 

 

#52Ancestors2018 is a wrap!

FamilytreeimageLast January 2018 I decided to try an experiment: from the birthday list generated by my RootsMagic program, I would make a list of ancestors and blog about one person per week for 52 weeks.  I knew that I would have trouble following the schedule and topics outlined in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks.  My job as well as various commitments would have derailed me if I had not been able to write the blogs ahead of time and schedule them to publish each week.   But the weekly inspiration from those who were following Amy were really helpful and when I could I tagged my blog with her topic.

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What I learned

  • It is really hard to write 52 fully researched, carefully prepared, fully documented and illustrated essays. But that’s not the point of the exercise, so please keep reading.
  • The birthday theme only goes so far.  Some weeks I just gave up on finding the perfect match and just picked someone I thought interesting.
  • My writing got boring. I found myself writing every post in chronological order: born, married, died, buried.
  • I really resented having to stop researching and just start writing.  I found myself saying “just one more source” way too often.  When this happened I had to remind myself that this was not “the end.”  I could always come back if I found more.
  • Some ancestors just aren’t that interesting.  “Lives of quiet desperation” aside, quite a few of my female ancestors, especially, just left me very little to work with.
  • You really can write 300-700 words quite easily if you just start writing.
  • You can have really interesting conversations with family members around what you got right and wrong (in their opinion) and learn new tidbits of information as you go.

What I want to do in 2019

  • 52 weeks of family photographs.  I am going to try to post a picture of a family member, group or dwelling place, write a short post identifying what I know and what I don’t.
  • I am also going to try to go back to all the folks I passed by on my birthday list.  This may not result in long essays but I really enjoyed giving a voice to these people, and I want to continue writing.Researchdeasktopimage