I have long known that my great-great-great-grandfather Aaron Van Syckel Jr. married Mary Bird but I had not done much research on her line. I took the #52ancestors challenge to see if I could complete the chain:
I had an untraceable reference from a Van Syckel family history that Mary’s father was Joseph Bird. Mary Bird was born 10 October 1799 and she married Aaron Van Syckel Jr. on 30 November 1816. I have yet to find a marriage record that names her father but in searching around online I found a family group sheet that outlined the Bird family and drew information from the family bible of Joseph Bird. I have not been able to find the actual bible, but I hope that it is still out there and that someone would be nice enough to send me pictures of all the vital record pages.
That family group sheet really was a treasure trove of information, outlining the seventeen children of Joseph Bird (1770-1830) and Elizabeth Dilts (1777-1853). I will have to spend some time at the New Jersey Genealogical Society collection housed at the Alexander Library at Rutgers University.
Joseph Bird, born 21 Dec 1770 and died 21 December 1830, lived his entire life in Hunterdon County and is buried in Bethlehem Presbyterian Church, near Clinton, NJ. His wife, Elizabeth Dilts was born 11 May 1777 and died 11 August 1853. Joseph appears to have been a farmer who died young. His will, made out in 1830, disposes almost everything to his wife and underage children. In an interesting side note, Joseph comments that having already given each of his adult children $400 to get them started in the world, the rest of the estate is to benefit the younger children and to provide for his widow.
So I have some clues and places to look, but I have confirmed that Mary is connected to Joseph Bird, and that will have to suffice for now.
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:
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.
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.
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!
I 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:
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.
Investigating women of the 19th century can be trying. Birth, marriage, children, death, burial are often all that can be found. This week in #52ancestors I continue with my quest to document each of the siblings of Chester Van Syckel.
Fanny Van Syckel was born 12 April 1824 in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, most likely in Van Syckel’s Corners, the fourth child of Aaron and Mary Bird Van Syckel. I do not know if she was formally educated. Really her life as documented by what was left behind starts on 11 January 1844 when she married John Taylor Leigh, a local farmer. Fanny and John produced seven children between 1845 and 1858, only two of whom died in infancy:
Sylvester V. Leigh (1845-1848)
Milton Leigh (1847-1862)
Bennett Van Syckel Leigh (1850-1929)
Mary V. Leigh (1852-1875)
Emily B. Leigh (1855-1937)
Charles W. Leigh (1857-1926)
John T. Leigh (1858-1888)
Fanny died of consumption shortly after the birth of her youngest son, on 8 March 1860, in Clinton, New Jersey where she and John T. Leigh had settled. I am not sure if she ever lived in the immense Leigh house John had built around 1860 but this is where her children grew up after her death.
John T. Leigh remarried after Fanny’s death to Mary Van Syckel, Fanny’s first cousin. They went on to have ten additional children bringing the total to seventeen. Again, two died in infancy.
Fanny is buried in Bethlehem Baptist Cemetery in Pattenburg, New Jersey.
This week in #52ancestors #52familyphotographs Minnie Arabella Hine takes center stage as a good example of incorrect information in a marriage record. Corroborate, double check and check again! Minnie was my great grandmother and figuring out her real mother set me a merry chase.
Minnie was born on 1 August 1866 in Orwell, Pennsylvania. Her father’s name was James Edwin Hine. Her mother’s name was Catherine Tyrrel or Terrell. She was the second of two daughters of this couple. Martha or Mattie, her older sister, clearly lists her mother on her marriage record as Catherine but Minnie lists her mother as A. E. Hine. James Hine married Ann E. Phillips in 1870 when Minnie was about 4, and she may not have had any memories of her birth mother. Luckily, I happen to have James’ bible which records Catherine’s death and his remarriage.
Minnie married George Cornell Prince on 9 July 1894 up in Bradford County. George was living in Philadelphia at the time, employed as a stenographer with the Philadelphia Typewriter Exchange. I am not sure when he went down to Philadelphia, but he appears in city directories from 1895 to 1904. The family lived in Philadelphia until 1897, when the directory notes that his home is in Rosedale, New Jersey.
Minnie and George Prince had four children, the first born in Philadelphia and the rest in Camden:
I don’t know much about her life in Camden. I know she went home to Bradford County occasionally as her visits are tracked in the local paper. Her father and step-mother had one son, Arthur Hine and she appears to have visited him and her sister.
Minnie Prince died at home on 23 June 1931 and is buried in Bethel Memorial Park in Pennsauken, NJ. Her obituary mentions her children and grandchildren but does not highlight any other activities.
This week in #52ancestors closes the loop on a previous post. I posted pictures of Mortimer Oldham Heath, first husband of Susan Emlen Jones and now I want to finish her story.
Susan Emlen Jones was the fourth child of Richard Jones and his second wife Alice Woodmansie Davis. She was born 8 December 1855 in Florence, New Jersey. After her first husband’s death she appears to have moved back to her father’s house at 1818 Delancey St., Philadelphia. In September 1901 the newspaper gossip columns in Philadelphia announced that Mrs. Mortimer Heath and George W. Carpenter, who had been visiting family in Ocean City, Maryland, had announced their engagement but not set a date for the wedding. Carpenter was almost 20 years her senior and had daughters by his first wife who were married and settled. Susan and George married at St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Germantown and then proceeded to travel extensively through Europe and the Caribbean.
Upon their return to Philadelphia, they resided at the Aldine Hotel. George Carpenter died in 1921 and Susan continued to live at the Aldine, where she died on 28 June 1925. She is buried at St. Andrew’s Churchyard in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
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)
I 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.