Tuesday, May 31, 2011

In Search of the Right Hall

At the 2x great level, more maternal lines are added in and there is less information and more dead ends.  At the 1x great level I could still follow the additional maternal lines back into the mid-1700s---and some even further, but now when they split for paternal/maternal lines, I’m finding it to be much more difficult to be an armchair genealogist.

Today I’m writing about the Hall family.  Margaret Hall, my great-great-grandmother, was born in 1813 in Lycoming County.  She married a fellow Lycoming Countian, Jacob Klees.  Lycoming County is filled with ancestors from my mom’s side of the family.  Many Halls appear on the 1873 map I wrote about last month, near various members of the Gortner and Klees families.

The Halls were relatively easy to find in the censuses throughout 1800s.  Margaret’s parents, were Jonathan Hall and Mary Marsh.  In addition to finding them in the census, I found them in the Family Data Collection on ancestry.com.  I wasn’t familiar with this collection and researched it a bit only to discover some controversy with it.  Still, I may have picked up some potentially useful information, including Jonathan’s birth date in 1788 and marriage year of 1812, along with his parent’s names.  I also found a transcription of an 1812 marriage announcement for Jonathan and Polly Marsh.  That was when I found out Polly is a nickname for Mary.  Funny, I never knew that before.

According to the Family Data Collection, Jonathan’s father was Richard Hall and his mother’s name was Mary.  But, I received information from the Lycoming County Historical Society that indicates his mother was Sarah Burrows. But, information from two books on archive.org, indicate Jonathan was the son of Richard Hall and Margaret Rogers.  Well, I think I have to go with the Historical Society because they have Richard Hall’s will from 1849. It lists his wife Sarah (Burroughs), his sons, Jonathan, James and Joseph, and his daughters, Elizabeth, w/o Samuel Hall and Susannah w/o William Ramsey.  I’m guessing there are several Richard Halls I should sort out.

Wish me luck.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Doll Family Follow-up

I’ve already done one post about the Doll family, but I hadn’t yet received research results from the historical societies for the historical societies for Monroe and Northampton Counties in Pennsylvania. (Click on the Historical Societies tab at the top of the page for links.) 

I’ve received both packages and here’s what I got from Monroe Couty:

  • A copy of a typed family tree, compiled in 1976, with my great-great grandfather, Samuel Doll, his wife Sophia Boyer, his parents, Jacob Doll and Catharine Rustine and some relevant dates for each.  Interestingly, it states Jacob was born in Montgomery County.  I’d seen both Monroe and Montgomery Counties as possible birthplaces, so this might have been one of the sources for that.
  • A copy of a typed listing of marriages from the Monroe Democrat that included one of Samuel’s brothers, Charles.
  • A copy of a typed transcription of the 1850 census with Jacob and his family (I already had the information from a digital image from ancestry.com.)
  • A copy of typed “Doll Family Notes”, compiled in 1983, with various pieces of information from books, church records and court records.  The interesting bits I hadn’t picked up elsewhere were an indication that Jacob might have been a guardian for a relative from Ruchstein side, George Ruhstein, and notes pertaining to Catharine’s father, Friederich.  It is birth and baptism dates from the records of the Moravian Congregation at Schoeneck, PA for a son, Friederich, that indicate the Ruchsteins were living there by 1785.
  • A copy of a portion of a guide to burial grounds in Monroe County that referenced a graveyard on Jacob Doll’s property, but the location has never been found, but is likely in or near Jackson Township.

And from Northampton County:

  • Copies of typed transcriptions of various church records birth and/or baptism dates for Catharine and several siblings.  The new information here was her mother’s name, Maria Magdalene.
  • A copy of a compilation of birth and death records with information on some of Jacob’s children and grandchildren.
  • A copy of a typed transcription of records from the Hamilton Township Union Church with baptismal dates for many of Jacob’s children, but unfortunately, not my great-great-grandfather, Samuel.
  • A copy of a handwritten family tree with Jacob’s birthplace shown as Montgomery County with “Monroe?” written next to it. 
  • A copy of the same burial ground information that I received from Monroe.  (Monroe County was created from part of Northampton in 1836.)
  • And, finally, a suggestion that I contact the Montgomery County Historical Society because they felt Jacob might have been born there.
So, I really didn’t learn much new, and the sources were pretty far from the originals, but at least they were consistent with the other sources I’d found.  And I haven’t decided when I’ll contact the Montgomery Historical Society because I’m currently researching another line that appears to have links to Montgomery County.  I might as well send it all in at once.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Ditmars, Part Deux

You can read about my Ditmars frustration (or not) here.

So, I pored over archived Genforum mail lists, various Ditmars message boards, GenWeb postings and even contacted a few people who seemed to care about evaluating sources.  One person from the Dutch Colonies Rootsweb mail list recently recommended Dorland Enigma Solved by Barbara Barth as a good source.  (Clearly, I shouldn’t delay a trip to the Library of Congress any longer.)  I also spotted a Ditmars researcher, Doug Sinclair,  via a Google search last year and, after really struggling to sort it out on my own, I finally contacted him.

Doug provided some great information and I now have confidence I can pursue my Ditmars line without chasing bad leads.  I need to do primary research, but I’m feeling good about why and how Doug came to his conclusions.

Ellen Terhune Ditmars Hinds

But I’ll start with what I knew on my own---My great-great-grandmother, Ellen Ditmars, born in New Jersey in 1818 was listed in a family genealogy booklet.  I had already found Ellen,  married to Solomon Hinds, in the 1850 census in New York when I did my Hinds research.  In 1840, neither Solomon nor Ellen were a head-of-household, so I didn’t find them in that census, but while searching for Solomon, I came across a George Ditmars.  I speculated Ellen's family lived in the same area as the Hinds family, so I saved the record in case I needed it.  When I got started on the Ditmars, I looked for George Ditmars after 1840 and unexpectedly I found him with his wife Charity in Ionia, Michigan in the 1850 census.  I didn’t know quite what to do with that piece of information, so I saved that too.

Next in my trusted line-up was Google search, but it didn’t give me very much on Ellen.  I did find references to the Ditmars name all the way back to New Amsterdam.  (Coincidentally, around this time I made a trip to New York and saw Ditmars Boulevard among many other uses of the name in Brooklyn, so they obviously were a prominent family.)  On to Google Books where I turned up a book, The Van Voorhees Family in America, and it listed Ellen and where she was baptized in New Jersey.  It was only a preview of a few pages, but it was enough to know I needed that book--yet another reason to head to the LOC.  I found an older book at archive.org that was helpful: Genealogy of the Van Vorhees family in America, Elias W. Voorhis.  It listed Charity married to George Ditmars and Ellen was listed as the youngest child.  While I was intrigued by the move to Michigan, right now my focus was backward rather than sideways.  And now I had George to work with.

The next generation back is when I really needed assistance.  Doug was invaluable, not just in the explanation of Dutch naming traditions, but also in that he actually walked me back through my lineage so I could more easily understand how that tradition could be used to locate and evaluate possible ancestors.  What had seemed almost completely overwhelming to me began to make sense and I could see the line unfolding back to New Amsterdam.  Granted there is still speculation, and there are areas where I’ll want to do more research, but at least now I can do it with the confidence I’m following the right path.

I thought about paraphrasing Doug, but ultimately, if someone else is researching this line, almost all his comments would be useful.  Here’s what Doug wrote:
“…we can begin to use the Dutch naming tradition to identify parents. This isn't a rule for all families of Dutch descent, but it was very prevalent, and the Ditmars family used it extensively. [I]t was the practice of naming the first child after the father's mother or father, depending on the gender of the child. The next child was named for the mother's appropriate parent and so on. Using this method and the census information, George was born in 1773/1774 in NJ to John and Mary. Process of elimination makes this the Joris Ditmars bap. 20 June 1773 (probably, since the record isn't clear), son of Johannes and Maria, at the Harlingen, NJ, Dutch Reformed Church. I believe those records have been transcribed and were published in the Somerset Genealogical Society Quarterly, where I saw them. The only other Johannes Ditmars of this generation in NJ was the son of Rem Ditmars, son of Johannes and Jannetje (Remsen). His will, written in 1803, names only sons John and William. Both Johanneses were named for their grandfather in the Dutch tradition. Brothers Rem and Douwe (who m. Aeltje) were the progenitors of the Ditmars in NJ.

Johannes and Maria had children baptized at Harlingen, recording what was surely a complete list between 1762 and 1775. Douwe was the first born, followed by Maria, Aeltje, Douwe again (the first having died), Neeltje, Joris and Abraham. The naming tradition shows that Douwe and Aeltje were Johannes' parents, Joris and Neeltje were Maria's, although her surname isn't known as far as I've seen. Douwe and Aeltje had a son named Johannes, bap. 29 July 1739 at the Dutch Reformed Church at Raritan, NJ. As mentioned earlier, the only other male Ditmars in NJ who could have had children of this generation was Rem, and his son Johannes married a woman named Fytje/Fytie/Sophia, not Maria, and his didn't have a son Joris/George in his will.

Douwe had children baptized at Raritan and Rem had children baptized probably at Millstone, NJ (that would have to be double-checked). The naming tradition indicates their parents were Johannes and Jannetje. Douwe and Rem are sometimes left off the list of children of Johannes and Jannetje (Remsen) Ditmars, probably since all their other children have baptism records. The baptism records at Flatbush, NY, where this family lived, are missing for the years Douwe and Rem were likely born. This couple's first two sons would have been named for his father (Douwe) and her father (Rem). The first son of record was Jan, probably named for Jannetje's brother. The next and last son, Abraham, probably named for Johannes brother. The naming tradition usually meant naming other children after close relatives once the baby's grandparents' names were used. The first daughter of record was Marritje, which was Jannetje's mother's name. The second and last was Annetje - not the name of a Van Ditmarsen wife who could have had Johannes. Therefore the first daughter would have been Catryntje, although there is no evidence of her. She may not have survived to adulthood. Jan was baptized in 1718 when Johannes was about 28 and Jannetje was about 26-28. This was late for a couple's first child to be born at that time. My list of children leads with Douwe, b. abt 1712, Rem, b. abt 1714, Catryntje, b. abt 1716. These approximate birth dates are reasonable for what we know of Douwe and Rem in NJ. Given all the evidence, there really isn't any other reasonable alternative relationship possibilities among these generations.”
So from George & Charity to Johannes & Maria to Douwe & Aeltje to Johannes & Jannetje, I feel the links are pretty good.  Stepping back another generation, the documentation seems stronger as I reach my 7x great-grandparents Dowe Jansz Van Ditmarsen and Catryntje Lott.  Along this journey I have been seeing places like Jamaica and Flatbush, New Amsterdam and New Netherlands.  Another generation back and I’m at Jan Jansz Van Ditmarsen and Ariantje Lollensz when we have the first Ditmarsen born in the New World in about 1640.  And finally, the first Ditmarsen immigrant, Jan Jansz Van Ditmarsen, born about 1607, possibly in the German region of Dithmarschen, and who with his wife Aeltje, appears in a New Amsterdam court document as early as January 1639.

You know, I’ve been so fixated on solving the puzzle, I almost forgot to stop and ponder the idea that I descend from some of the original settlers of Manhattan.  Just think, they probably knew Peter Stuyvesant. 

Thanks for all the help, Doug.  And now I have to pay it forward big time.  

Friday, May 20, 2011

bad luck with National Archives

My first order with NARA was for the Civil War Compiled Military Service Record for Everett Gaskill.  I initially received a "Negative Search" response.  When I challenged this, a repeat search found the records and I eventually received it.  Not long after that I requested Everett's pension file.  I received a NARA package today with a pension file.  Unfortunately, it is for Michael White, not Everett Gaskill.  It's about 1/2" thick stack of files that should have gone to someone else.  And they probably got mine.  Frustrating, to say the least.

I'm wondering if this is typical.  Based on my experience, they have a 66% failure rate.  I know it's a small sample size, but it's still not good.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

I say Greenalch, you say…

Whatever you want, apparently.

The name is derived from Greenhalgh, but after looking at the many other variations of Greenhalgh, it’s a wonder I was able to trace anything at all.  Fortunately the change to Greenalch was fairly recent, genealogically speaking, and I was able to connect the two spellings.  And after seeing what the census did to it, I’m beginning to wonder if census-takers weren’t the ones who caused immigrants to change name spellings:

1870 census: Name?
My 3x great-grandfather:  Ellis Greenhalgh.
1870 census:  Huh?
My 3x great-grandfather:  Ellis Greenhalgh.
1870 census:  Alice Greenwald?
My 3x great-grandfather:  No.  Ellis. E-L-L-I-S.  Greenhalgh. G-R-E-E-N-H-A-L-G-H.
1870 census:  Allies Grinalsh?
My 3x great-grandfather:  Whatever.

But, before we get to Ellis, the first Greenalch I encountered in my research is my great-great-grandmother, Alice Greenalch, born in 1856 in Terrry Hill, Durham, England to William and Esther. According to my grandmother’s notes, Alice immigrated to the US with her widowed mother, nine siblings, and her uncle, John (Jack) Morris.  As I’ve learned over the past year, her notes are a mixed bag—factual information along with inaccuracies.  The difficulty is ferreting out which is which. 

I also had an undocumented Greenalch/Greenhalgh tree back to 1763 and information, both provided to me from a distant cousin and that were part of the oral history from her side of the family (some of this comes directly from her notes and some is paraphrased):  When Alice came to the States she couldn't understand why everything was draped in black as she did not know that President Abraham Lincoln had just been assassinated.  She said she was 11 when they arrived in the US and often talked about coming from Germany and that her Uncle Dutch worked in Germany before they came.  The family apparently went wherever they could find work. 

Lots of clues to investigate.  My go-to resource is the census, so I reviewed the above history and figured I’d use the Lincoln assassination and the age of 11 years to come up with the likely first census record for the Greenalches.  That gave me 1865 and 1867 as targets, so 1870 seemed like a good place to start.  Nothing.  By 1880, they were living where the next several generations would live, Cameron County, PA.   Alice had married and Esther had remarried to a Costello.  Esther’s remaining children in the home were listed as Greenwald.

So how could I track the family from England to 1880 in the US?  Perhaps with immigration information from the censuses.  Blank in 1910, but 1867 on the 1920 census.  Of course, by then Alice “knew” she arrived at the age of 11, so the immigration year she would give for the census obviously would be 1867. 

I started my search of immigration information.  I could tell this was going to be really difficult to track down.  With search parameters too tight, I found nothing and with them looser, there were too many records to review.  I even tried searching on Alice’s uncle, John Morris.   I eventually found a Greenhalgh family arriving in 1863, but not all the names made sense.  Still I saved the record, just in case.

I haven’t done much family research beyond US borders, mainly because there’s still so much to do here.  I made an exception in this case because I thought I might be able to locate the family in the English census.  That might help narrow down an immigration date and would also begin documentation of the family tree that had been provided to me.  Sweet relief (but still required determination, as the Greenhalghes of Lancashire, England clearly are not creative when it comes to first names—lots of repeats).  I found them in the 1861 census, but Alice’s father was named Ellis, not William, confirming what was in the family tree.  (I also found Alice’s grandfather, James, in both 1851 and 1861 and the marriage of Ellis and Esther in the Family Search Index of England Marriages, but for now I’m focusing on the family in the US.  Nevertheless, good clues for future research.)  I didn’t find the family in the 1871 census, so the immigration date of 1867 still seemed logical.

I went back to the US census, my stalwart friend.  I narrowed my focus to 1870 and broadened the parameters for the names.  Unbelievably, I found Ellis Greenhalgh (not dead in England after all) as Allies Grinalsh in Elk County, PA, not far from where the family would finally settle.  So I’m pretty confident they arrived mid-to-late 1860s, but I’ll keep working on it.  Who knows how the name might have been documented and transcribed from a passenger list?

Monday, May 16, 2011

My Ditmars Headache

I did some research on the Ditmars before I understood the dangers of online trees.  As I got back to this line to verify, elaborate and confirm, I began deleting the trees I had saved for future reference.  At one point I thought they would at least provide clues, but I’ve since learned that even clues might waste a lot of time. 

I’ve been unraveling information to eliminate obvious errors and to uncover information that will confirm the lineage.  Part of the problem stems from many online sites where researchers (one of them actually a Ditmars!) have confused a person in one generation with a person in another, effectively eliminating a generation.  With the Ditmars confusion is understandable—it seems as if every family after the original immigrant, had sons with the names Johannes or Jan and Douwe,  Dutch naming traditions can make things pretty complicated pretty fast.

To avoid the most obvious mistakes, there are a few general guidelines I follow each time I move back a generation.  First, if there is enough information, I look at the ages.  In the generational mix-up I encountered with the Ditmars, there was a Douwe born around 1642 confused for the Douwe born in about 1668.  This mistake was compounded in subsequent generations, not helped at all by the many sons named Johannes that I was sorting through.  But what really tipped me off was Douwe’s will written in 1752.  Hmmm…110 years old?  The second guideline is the birth date of the mother as it compares to her children.  In this generational mix-up, a mother born about1656 with a son born about 1752.

This is gonna take awhile.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Oh, Boyer

One of my great-great-grandmothers was Sophia (Sophie) Boyer, born in 1826, perhaps in Monroe/Northampton County, and died in 1895 in Cameron County, PA.  I haven’t been able to build the story of her life, except that, like her daughter Catherine after her, she had over a dozen children. And I really liked her taste in girls’ names—Savanna, Emma, Angeline, and Carolina among them.

I knew nothing of her parents, but the hint of a spelling difference in the last name—Boier.  As I started my search, I pinballed around the internet with no focus for a few hours with a noticeable lack of results.  Since that wasn’t much fun, I paused to come up with a plan.  First, I continue broad searching, but using Mocavo instead of Google, where I was getting either too may or too few results.  I hadn’t had much success with Mocavo in the past, but I knew they were continuing to make enhancements, so I went there first and then planned to move to more specialized searches.

Fortunately, among the eight results from Mocavo was a book on archive.org called American Boyers, by Charles Boyer.  I found Sophia Doll as the daughter of Valentine Beyer and Barbara Mengel.  I knew this was my Sophia because the author indicated she married Samuel Doll. 

According to the author, Valentine was born about 1757 and had emigrated from Germany in 1772.  The author’s source for this information was David Singer, grandson of Valentine.  Singer reported that Valentine lived in Northampton County (part of which later became Monroe County, was a forge man, and died in Philadelphia.  Singer very likely knew his aunt, Sophie Boyer, but she had moved several counties away and had been dead 20 years by the time the book was published.

I found a Valentine Boyer in the 1820 and 1830 censuses in Northampton County and this is likely my 3x-great grandfather, but in 1830, he is listed in the range “Of 60 and under 70”.  If the 1757 birth is accurate, the census is wrong—or vice versa.  However, I’m not overly concerned about that because the location is consistent with other information.  I found three Valentine Boyers to consider, but only one had a location that made sense.  Unfortunately, as soon as I drop back to 1810, the distinction is more difficult, so I haven’t confirmed Valentine in earlier censuses.

I also looked for immigration records to try to verify the year Valentine arrived.  On ancestry.com, I found two Valentine Beyers, one arriving in 1774 and one in 1792.  I also found a reference to a Valentine Bayer Oath of Allegiance in 1777.  It’s possible that that all of these could be my Valentine Beyer, but there are lots of pieces missing in this puzzle.  And I’m a little skeptical of the 1757 birth year.  Not that it can’t happen, but Valentine would have been 69 when Sophie was born.  If he was, his wife Barbara, must have been much younger than him.  I hope I’ll be able to track down some more compelling evidence in the coming weeks.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Treasure Chest Thursday: I say-Come in out of the rain.

I found this treasure while finishing up the last sorting of my mom's photo albums and scrapbooks.  It's a postcard sent Sept. 4, 1905 to my great-grandfather, Everett Gaskill with his photo as the image.  I wish I knew who sent it.  They both must have had a good sense of humor.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


I still have a lot of research to do on the Hinds (variations: Hines, Hindes).  Initially it seemed like I would be okay because I had family reunion documents, one from 1910 and one from 1933.  But the only dates were handwritten in the margins and there were no towns mentioned.  Still it was something to go on.

My maternal great-grandmother, Mary Etta Hinds, wife of Everett Gaskill, was born in New York in 1846 and died in Emporium, PA in 1897, so I at least knew which states to start in.  And I did know a few generations of names so that helped with the census research.  In 1865, Mary Etta’s future husband enlisted in the Union Army in Union, NY—her hometown in 1860.  It looks like the Everett Gaskill followed the Hinds family to Pennsylvania between 1870 and 1880.    So, when the Hinds showed up in the same geographical areas as the Gaskills, I felt I was headed in the right direction.  Because I'm so new to this, I always worry I’m going to rush off on a wild goose chase, but I was comfortable enough to target New York.

Mary Etta’s father was Solomon Hinds, who was supposedly born in Morris, NJ around 1816 and died in Cameron County, PA.  He's listed in the census and in the reunion brochures, but otherwise he is like a ghost.  Except I do have his photo! It’s from the late 1800s.  

Solomon's father, Joseph Hinds, was listed as the head of the clan in the reunion booklets and was married to Hannah Youngs.  I was able to locate him and his family in US census records, the earliest being 1820, in Danby, NY.  In later censuses, his place of birth, in around 1778, was listed as New Jersey.  Directing myself to New Jersey, further research led to the History of the First Presbyterian Church of Morristown, New Jersey on Google Books.  There I found a reference to Joseph Hinds marriage to Hannah Youngs on March 24, 1804.  I’ve been looking for Joseph in the 1810 census, but I suspect he might not have been a head-of-household at that point.

But what a lack of information, especially compared to what I found out about other branches of the family.  My blogging is catching up with my research, so I haven’t had the opportunity to contact the local historical societies in New York and New Jersey, but I hope to get to that soon.  I’ll keep my fingers crossed that I get some good leads.