Friday, December 25, 2009

A Public Radio Christmas

As a single woman, I find the holiday season to be rather lonely. National Public Radio (NPR) definitely cheers the season up for me.

Today I caught the last part of Jonathan Winter's reading of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Accompanying me down the road to my mother's place was Jay Ungar and Molly Mason presenting The Pleasures of Winter. I greaty enjoyed hearing unfamiliar Christmas music, French Canadian and Appalachian shape note singing. You can go to PRX to listen to it or purchase the album recorded live in Poughkeepsie.

On the way from my mother's I was sorry to hear I missed part of A Car Talk Christmas Carol with the Magliozzi Brothers having irreverent fun with the holiday. You can go to their web site to hear the fun you missed.

After that I learned how the Christmas Price Index issued by PNC Wealth Management changed from Marketplace. Find out for yourself if it's still affordable here.

NPR also reports that some homeowners are giving up paying their mortgages because the value of their homes have plummeted. The mortality rate for the H1N1 virus among American Indians and Alaskan Natives is four times higher than for the rest of the American population.

We need some holiday cheer wherever we can find it.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Beman Brick Wall

Every person researching his or her family eventually does what we call hitting a brick wall. S/he finds a person for whom s/he can’t find information on parents or family. It’s not uncommon to have several brick walls. One of mine has been Lydia, the wife of Isaac Beman. Isaac was born 7 January 1755 in the Town of Kent, Litchfield County, Connecticut. His parents were Thomas Beman and Bethia Tracy. It is documented that his wife’s first name was Lydia, but I’ve been unable to find more information on their marriage or Lydia’s family.

This was a time when researching more than one family was helpful. I found my way to a genealogy board on Northeastern Native American genealogy that no longer exists and information on Zephaniah Wix and his family. I found some interesting coincidences.

Isaac Beman’s hometown of Kent, Conn., bordered on the west the Town of Cornwall, where the Wixes lived. Isaac first enlisted to fight on the Patriot side of the American Revolution in 1775 from the Town of Warren. Lydia’s brother Uriah, two years older than Isaac, also served. He first enlisted 12 June 1776. At one time he served under Captain Eli Catlin, the father of artist George Catlin. For almost a year Isaac and Uriah were stationed at the same place at the same time, including summer months in Berkshire County, just over the border from Northwest Connecticut. It seems reasonable since there was no fighting in the area that both men would take advantage and go home to let their families know they were all right. Later in 1777 both men participated in the defense of Philadelphia. After Zephaniah died by 24 January 1777 the family moved to the Town of Warren where Isaac already had contacts.

Isaac and Lydia settled in the Town of Chatham, Columbia County, N.Y. Isaac became active in the North Chatham Baptist Church. They had ten children:

Lydia Beman was born in 1780.
Jacob Beman, born 10 Mar 1780; married Achsah Conger, 7 Dec 1814; died 15 Feb 1868, Bennington, Bennington Co., VT.
Deborah Beman, born 1782; married Joseph Hicks Rider, 1799, Chatham, Columbia Co., NY, USA; died 1818.
Abigail Beman was born in 1784.
Elizabeth Beman was born in 1786.
Delilah Beman, born 18 May 1790; married Abraham Ashley, 1810; died 7 Dec 1853, Chatham, Columbia Co., NY.
Isaac Beman was born on 11 Mar 1792.
Esther Beman was born in 1794.
Melinda Beman was born in 1796.
Alexis Beman, born Jun 1804, , , CT, USA; married Mary Modher, abt 1825, Oakland, , MI, USA; died 1856, Highland Township, , MI, USA.

I have a feeling that my ancestors traveled a lot more than we think. I don’t know how my ancestor John L. Winchell who was born in northwestern Connecticut and lived in Dutchess County and Berkshire County met and married a Quaker woman from the Town of Chatham.

A few years ago I bought a portrait in a local consignment shop because the woman in it looked so much like my paternal grandfather. I wish the owner had a provenance for it, but I have the feeling it is my great-great-grandmother Winifred Olivia Ashley. Whoever she is, her features say she had Indian ancestry. I include a photo of the portrait and a photo of my paternal grandfather Earl Winchell with his daughter-in-law Cathy Collier Winchell.

Winifred was the daughter of Delilah Beman and Abraham Ashley Sr. My Aunt Kate said she was told that the Indian in the family was Pequot. I’ve found Mohican and Wappinger in the family so far, not Pequot. There’s also the possibility it was Paugusett since there were Paugusett people documented in the area and the first chief of the Schaghticokes in Kent was actually from that group. In addition last year I had my MtDNA tested by the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation. I found it was very close to that of the Wix family. I don’t understand how the testing works, but that was the result I found.

I think I have good circumstantial evidence that Isaac Beman’s wife was Lydia Wix from the Town of Cornwall, CT. I hope sometime in the future to find evidence that will prove this.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Forgotten Patriot Prisoners

Forgotten Patriots: The Untold Story Of American Prisoners During The Revolutionary War by Edwin G. Burrows is a fascinating but horrifying account of the British treatment of Patriot prisoners during the American Revolution. If I ever learned of this it was only in passing and not given much notice.

As a result of the Battle of Brooklyn on 27 August 1776, the British Army held 31 officers and more than a thousand enlisted men as prisoners of war and needed somewhere to house them. Nearby Kings County was rural and Loyalist, and the British needed their physical and political support. Officers were at first housed under a gentleman’s agreement in private homes there. To house the enlisted men, the British began to take over public buildings in New York City. Liberty House, Livingston’s and Van Cortlandt’s Sugar Houses, the Old North Dutch Church, Old City Hall, King’s College, the alms house, all non-Anglican houses of worship were all employed as military prisons.

Four hundred men were the first prisoners to be put on board the Pacific, Lord Radford, Mentor, Whitby, Grosvenor, Argo and Jersey ships. Some were moored in Wallabout Bay, surrounded by salt meadows and mud flats.

According to Thomas Stone of Connecticut, during the winter of 1777-8, seven to ten men died a day in his prison. Levi Hanford from the same state wrote later about his stay in Livingston’s Sugar House:
I have had men die by the side of me in the night, and have seen fifteen dead bodies sewed up in their blankets and laid in the corner of the yard at one time, the product of one twenty-four hours.
Every morning at 8 o’clock the dead cart came, the bodies were put in, the men drew their rum, and the cart was driven off to the trenches…. Once I was permitted to go with the guard to the place of interment, and never shall I forget the scene that I there beheld; they tumbled them into the ditch just as it happened, threw a little dirt, and then away. I could see a hand, a foot, or part of a head, washed bare by the rains, swollen, blubbering, and falling to decay.
The author summed up the prison experience:
[Andrew] Sherburne’s account contains particularly vivid and believable descriptions of four water, disgusting food, absurd overcrowding, vermin, disease, and grievous suffering (such as the man whose feet were so badly frozen that when the dressing were changed, “I saw the toes and bottom of his feet cleave off from the bone, and hang down by the heel.”) [Reverend Thomas] Andres writes convincingly about the terror he felt at night as a prisoner, confined in utter darkness with hundreds of other sick and desperate men—men fighting over scraps of food, men driven mad by ship fever, over dying.
The British government refused for a long time to acknowledge the wretched condition of its Patriot prisoners or to consider the exchange of any because it didn’t want to give any validity to the Patriot cause. It was only when it needed more men that any negotiations were undertaken. The overcrowding conditions were never reduced. It was only through the selfless spending by Lewis Pintard of tens of thousands of pounds of his own money that prison conditions were alleviated. Pintard was never fully reimbursed by the Continental government.

Patriot military and sympathizers were held until the end of the revolution. Burrows estimated that 11,000 died on board ships in Wallabout Bay, and between 15,575 and 18,000 in New York City, making a total of 24,550 to 30,000 dead Patriot prisoners. There were only 813,000 white males of fighting age in the colonies.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

1902 Skeeters Family Reunion, Indiana

This photo was provided to me by Sally Skeeters. Only one person in this photo has been identified. If you can recognize anyone in this photo, please contact me.

My great-great-grandmother was Mary Skeeters, who married William Harvey Wilson 24 January 1844 in Parke Co., Indiana. She was born about 1828 in Kentucky, the daughter of David Skeeters and Catherine Turner. William Harvey was born 3 December 1820, Greenfield Township, Licking County, Ohio, the son of William Wilson and Rachel Wells. He died 28 October 1862 in Parke County. Mary died 21 June 1890 in the same county.

Their children were

William Graham Wilson, born about 1845
Isabel Wilson born 1848 in Indiana. She married Samuel Haworth in 1866.
Pratt Wilson born 1851
Alice Wilson born 1853. She married James Collins.
Loretta Wilson born 1855. She married James Hiller.
George S. Wilson, born 30 December 1858 in Parke County. He married my great-grandmother Viola V. Hise 31 March 1882. He died 23 January 1901.
Clara Wilson born about 1862 in Indiana

I have never seen any photos of this family. If you are related and have some to share, I wish you would contact me.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Henry & Hudson & The Mohican Indians

Recently I attended Henry & Hudson: The Namesake Celebration at Hudson, New York. New York State and the residents of the Hudson River Valley are currently celebrating the 400th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s encounter of the river that now bears his name and its original inhabitants. In the Hudson area they were the Mohican Indians, who called the river the Muheconnetuk, the river that flows both ways.

The celebration was held at the new Henry Hudson River Park, created where once six large oil tanks stood. It is a lovely little park, a good reuse of the land. From there you can see the Athens Lighthouse and the Middle Ground Flats, now an island in the river between the cities of Athens and Hudson. To the south despite a hazy sky you could see the Catskill Mountains. The Mohicans called these the Blue Mountains.

Also present for the day was the replica ship of the Halve Maen, the Dutch ship that Henry Hudson sailed to the New World for the Dutch East India Company. Captain William Reynolds said there were long lines of people waiting to go on board since 9 a.m. that day. When I left at 4 p.m., there was still a long line. While people waited, they could view a display of native artifacts and antique navigational instruments, and listen to Dutch songs performed by Nanne & Ankie.

My friend Steve Comer and I had been invited to represent the Mohican people. Steve had a display on the Mohican Nation and its history. I prepared a binder with information on my father’s paternal family descended from Mohican and Wappinger people. I also brought my finger-weaving with me, giving people a brief insight into native technology.

It was a very pleasant day. The rain stayed away for most of it. I’ve always loved being by a body of water, whether a river, lake or ocean. I enjoyed talking to the people who came by. While waiting in line to board the Halve Maen (that unfortunately I didn’t do), I had an enjoyable conversation with a very nice Naval commander from downstate and his brother, who brought his family. They surprised me greatly by asking how to get to the bank of the “lake” in Philmont. They definitely asked the right person since I lived for 19 years in a house on the bank of the Philmont reservoir. I think it was the best view in town

Friday, July 24, 2009

African and Native American Family History Research

In Search Of Our Roots was a very interesting book, educating me on a topic that I knew little about. In some ways I find it difficult to identify with the subjects, because I have only one suspected African line from revolutionary-era Nansemond County in Virginia. In other ways I can identify, because my family history was not passed down either. All my grandparents were mixed European and Native American. In the same way African Americans didn’t talk about slavery, my family didn’t talk about their Native ancestry, and unfortunately their European ancestry as well. There was a lot to forget, too!

One day several years ago I happened to catch part of a radio program on western Route 66. It was focused on west Texas and Oklahoma. Someone said it w as all small towns and if you were Native and wanted a decent job, you didn’t tell them you were Native. The U.S. population was 90% rural before World War II. That means in the small towns they lived in, my most immediate ancestors didn’t tell their little children what their ancestry was so they wouldn’t tell others and start it on the small town grapevine. Add to that the European Christians’ need to dehumanize and demonize them to justify killing them or incarcerating them to take their land and you’re not going to find many families talking about their Native ancestors in the East. Some people still think the Native people were better off forcibly Christianized.

When I began researching my forbearers it became obvious that there were a lot of Native people in the East who evaded attempts to corral them and send them away. Instead they managed to live more or less independently in the larger American society. Especially in the earlier years of European settlement, Native people didn’t appear in vital records because they or the Europeans saw no need to add them. Native history was traditionally oral. Interestingly if you have a grand European gentlewoman in your background, it’s very likely she was Native. Likewise, there’s no such thing as an Indian, or Cherokee, Princess. Such stories are created about ancestors in a bid to gain acceptance by the families.

There is a percentage of White people in this country with what is called non-status Native ancestry. That is, they or their ancestors never lived on a reservation and never were put on a tribal roll. Since the history was so easily lost, it must have been a lot easier for them to pass as white. Some of us know we have Native ancestry and feel akin to that, yet we know little more.

There is a part of Native history that is akin to the stratification by shade and socioeconomic status in African American society. That is the status Native Americans’ reluctance to accept non-status Native people, lumping us with the non-native wannabees who have fallen for the European myths romanticizing Native people. In my experience it created people who were emotionally repressed, depressed and distant, spiritually and emotionally adrift, who having no seeming foundation to build on, have had trouble going forward.

We seem predisposed to look for differences between people. I’d think that one valuable lesson family history research should teach us is that there are more similarities between people than differences. We all have one thing in common, we live on Turtle Island and it's all our responsibility to save it.

Friday, July 17, 2009

In Search Of Our Roots

As previously mentioned, I devoured Dr. Henry Louis Gates’ book In Search Of Our Roots during a weekend marathon reading session. The book is derived from a PBS television series named African American Lives. It features the family history of nineteen African Americans, most of whom are widely known: Oprah Winfrey, Chris Rock, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Quincy Jones. Due to the oppressive way African Americans were treated, for the most part their backgrounds were eerily similar. The few exceptions stand out as the anomalies they were. Dr. Gates details the research done for each family line. Thus, he provides excellent examples to follow.

According to Dr. Gates, there were 3,953,760 slaves in 1860. Their ancestors came from many different ethnic groups in Africa, but were shipped from the western coast of Africa. In order to control them, the people who enslaved them did their best to rob them of personal identity. The information we take for granted, names and birth dates, was discarded. Family ties were broken, religion suppressed. Any relationships on this continent could be torn apart at a moment’s notice. Except for rare circumstances, information on slaves was rarely recorded. Most information on slaves comes from census records, slave schedules, runaway slave notices and wills.

As an epilogue, Dr. Gates instructs the reader on how to begin researching his/her own family tree. He provides invaluable printed resources for genealogy in general and for African American genealogy. Listed also are histories on slavery in America. In addition he recommends several sites with records pertaining to slavery and African Americans.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Mohicans (Stockbridge) In The American Revolution

Some researchers think that all Mohican (Stockbridge) Indian men served in their own regiment in the American Revolution at the request of General Horatio Gates. That's not true. In researching the allied Van Gilder and Winchell families, I discovered that many family members served in the American Revolution in different units, including the famous Green Mountain Boys. The only way a researcher would know this is if they knew the families of the soldiers involved.

Determining what unit a man served in is not easy. The military terms used in this period are rather cryptic. I have a vivid memory of pestering a friend at work, asking him about Revolutionary War terms in an attempt to understand them. Keith was a great Rev War buff at the time. I did not feel so badly later on when I discovered that he was also descended from the same mixed English-German-Mohican-Wappinger family that I am and we're cousins twice over since he is related to me by cousins who married. Once you read this list, you may understand it was fate that made him a Rev War buff. I teased him royally by email after I figured this out, and it was difficult for me to fall asleep that night. I kept laughing.

Mohican (Stockbridge) Van Gilder Descendants
In The American Revolution

Continental Army:
Andrew Van Gilder
Benjamin Van Gilder
Daniel Van Gilder
David Van Gilder
Ebenezer Van Gilder
Isaac Van Gilder
Jacob Van Gilder
James Van Gilder
John Van Gilder
Joseph Van Gilder
Matthew Van Gilder Jr.
Nathaniel Van Gilder
Nicholas Van Gilder
Reuben Van Gilder
Stephen Van Gilder
David Winchell
Joel Winchell

Green Mountain Boys:
Henry Van Gilder
John Van Gilder Jr.
Jonathan Van Gilder

Albany County Militia:
Andrew Van Gilder
Henry Van Gilder
Jacob Van Gilder
John Van Gilder Jr.

Other Service:
Daniel Van Gilder
Joseph Van Gilder
(Battle of Saratoga)
Matthew Van Gilder Sr
(Battles of Saratoga, Burgoyne’s Surrender)
Eliakim Winchell Sr.
(Battles of Saratoga, Burgoyne’s Surrender)
Hezekiah Winchell Jr.
(Battles of Saratoga, Burgoyne’s Surrender, Mount Independence)

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Ancestors Who Served

In the spirit of the Fourth of July holiday, here is a list of ancestors who served in the military.

Seven Years’ War
Hezekiah Winchell Sr.
Zephaniah Wix

American Revolution
Isaac Beman
William Berryman
Berryman Brown
Richard Brown
Samuel Brown
Frederick Buckalew
William Gragg
Noah Hayden
William Hayden
Edward Houchins
Christopher Peavler
Cornelius Vanderveer
Richard Wells
Sampson Wickersham
Nathaniel Wilson
Eliakim Winchell
Hezekiah Winchell Sr.
Zephaniah Wix

Civil War
Adam William Baker
Albert Galantine Gatton
Jesse Hise
John Winchell

World War II
Avery Kenneth Winchell

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Few Of My Family's Faces

This is a photo of my grandparent's cabin when they homesteaded in Douglas County, Wyoming. Judging from the age of the youngest child, it was taken 1917 or 1918. The woman in back is my grandmother Mary Myrtle Vandivier who married Frederick Everett Wilson. The children are from left to right Harvey George Wilson, Mildred Ruth Wilson, Florence Annette Wilson and Sidney Jesse Wilson.

Here's an image of the land claim:

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Frederick Buckalew in New Jersey

My marathon reading of Henry Louis Gates’ book In Search Of Our Ancestors has completely turned my body clock around, right after I had some success reorienting myself to daylight hours. It is rare for the local library to have something other than genealogy how-to books, so to have this collection of fifteen family histories to read was a joy. I’ll write more about the book later.

It did not help that then while still under the influence of Dr. Gates’ book I stayed up too late looking online for more information on my latest mystery, the Buckalew family of early New Jersey. I think some of the mystery is I live in upstate New York. It’s very helpful, though, that I can find a lot of information on early New Jersey using Google Books ( Granted the information is not primary, but it gives me a direction I can follow later. New Jersey doesn’t seem to be a large state until you suddenly have to start researching family there and then it can seem very big indeed.

I found a 17 Feb1750 marriage record for Frederick Buckalew to Mary Rose. They both lived in Perth Amboy. Was the marriage record for Frederick Buckalew (1676-1754) or his son Frederick (1711-1776)? Or was there a cousin named Frederick Buckalew? I know my early families liked to name children after other relatives and it certainly makes me extra careful.

I turned to one of my favorite tricks for trolling for information. I went to Rootsweb ( and searched for Frederick Buckalew on their web site. I was very surprised to find that eight Frederick Buckalews lived sometime during the 18th century.

1. Frederick Buckalew, son of William Buckalew born ca 1696 in Perth Amboy and Elizabeth Everson born 1700 Perth Amboy.

2. Frederick Buckalew, son of Richard Buckalew b. 1721 and Mary

3. Frederick Buckalew born 1746; son of Richard Buckalew born 30 Aug 1716 Cheesequakes Creek, NJ, and Mary Garret born 1729 Mecklenburg, Loudon Co., Va.

4. Frederick Buckalew born 14 Feb 1756 South Amboy, NJ; died 4 Mar 1836; son of John Buckalew and Isabelle Dove born 14 Feb 1794/5 Scotland; spouse Margaret Dove.

5. Frederick Buckalew, born 15 Sep 1764, North Brunswick, NJ; died 15 Feb 1825 North Brunswick; son of John Buckalew born 1717 North Brunswick and Mary Ann Allen born 1727.

6. Frederick Buckalew born 1681; from Cheesequakes; wife Mary.

7. Frederick Buckalew born 1765; son of Richard Buckalew of NJ and Mary born 1741.

8. Frederick P. Buckalew born 1692 Perth Amboy, died 1777; son of Frederick Buckalew, mother Mary; first spouse unknown, second Mercy, third wife Mary Rose.

Fortunately there’s enough other information to tell me that the eighth Frederick Buckalew listed is my ancestor. The multiple names tell me I have to be careful in interpreting records. Already the birth and death dates are inconsistent with my information and need to be researched.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Genealogy Software Tip

So far I've used three different genealogy programs. They all had one thing in common: the backup files were all stored within the Program Files directory of the computer. If you do that, if a PC tech tries to restore your PC and has to reimage it, you will lose your work as I did. The PC tech only saved My Documents. I highly recommend you create a file under My Documents to save the backup file. I also suggest that you regularly save your email address book and My Favorites under My Documents, just in case.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Family History Matters

I think of family history, aka genealogy, as putting a face on history. Enough history is written so generally that it can be difficult to see how it matters to you, especially if you don't know what people made up your family. If you start to find out what family members were involved in important events, then the events start to matter to you. I fail to see why some people aren't more interested in their family history. Doesn't everyone ponder "Who am I?" How can you answer that question without knowing about your family and its place in history?

Some family lines are easier to research than others, especially famous ones. I almost fell off my chair in the computer lab when I discovered that I was a direct descendant of John Alden and Priscilla Mullins. I guess I should be glad that Priscilla fell for John instead of Miles Standish. OK, that's only a legend, but it proves the point. I'm now a little more interested in what happened at Plimouth Colony.