Saturday, June 16, 2012

Surriners in Great Barrington

Here are some miscellaneous Surriner records I found in my notes:

Great Barrington Congregational Church Records, Records of St. James Church, Great Barrington 1770-1793.  Records of the Ministerial Offices of the Rev. Gideon Bostwick

p. 112  Surner Jacob d[died] 14 Noc 1807 aged 93 yrs.  Soldier War of 1812
Surner, Sarah, wife of Uriah d[ied] 9 Jan 1848 aged 29 (Uriah's first wife.  Henrietta was his second.)
Alonzo, d[ied] 21 Mar 1863, aged 20 yrs. 1 m[month] 5 d[ays] C[ompany]. A. Mass. 10th infantry
Edwin d[ied] 12 Mar 1853 aged 8 yrs. Son of Uriah and Sarah
Marcus d[ied] 7 Sep 1865 aged 14 yrs.

My great-great-grandfather John L. Winchell's sister married Uriah Surriner Sr. and they lived in Housatonic in the house below, just down the street from John's house.  The 1870 census gave Uriah's occupation as a carpenter.  I wouldn't be surprised if he had worked on the Searles Castle with his wife's nephew Henry Winchell.

Uriah and Lucinda had four children:  William, George, Uriah Jr. and Lucinda.  I'd like to find out what happened to them.  It's not easy researching this family because the spelling of the surname is always changing.  I don't know the origin of it either.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Other People's Trees

I have a big issue with family history researchers who cited other people's family trees that are posted on the web as a source of information for their work.  That information is not reliable.  Any researcher should strive to use records that were created by the person they're researching.  These are commonly called primary records.  I have a very good example why.

I am still trying to find the parents of my great-great-grandfather Albert Galatine Gatton.  Because of his middle name and that he enlisted to serve in the Civil War at the same place on the same day as Isaac Gatton, I think he may be related to the family of William Benjamin Gatton and Sarah Murffey.   Someone suggested that I look at the sons for whom no one has found children.   I thought that was a good idea.  There are two, Benjamin Gatton who married Isabel and Greenberry Gatton who married Sarah Robinson.

Several people have written that Greenberry Gatton married Sarah Robinson 8 July 1811 in Muskingum County, Ohio.  Those same people give Greenberry's birth year as 1801.  Problem No. 1 is that he would be ten years old at the time of the marriage.  Since I'm unemployed and living in upstate New York, for an original marriage record the best thing I could do was look for a Sarah in the marriage records for that time period provided online by the Latterday Saints.  I found a Sary LAWISON who married Greenberry CATON on that day.  Problem No. 2 is that Greenberry Caton was a completely different person and his parents are given as Theophilus and Catherine Caton.  At this point I'm not sure of Greenberry Gatton's birth year or location and his wife's name.

A researcher should also try to read the original record instead of the transcription.  This research also provides a good example of that.  The last name of Greenberry Caton's wife was LARISON, not Lawison.  Someone had difficulty reading the last name on the original record when transcribing it.


I've been looking for this woman's father and his father since 1995, seventeen years. This is Margaret Gatton, Albert's daughter.  He died serving in the Union Army during the Civil War, so there was no death certificate.  There were no parents listed on the marriage record.  I'm still not very close.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Legend of Margaret Gatton

Growing up, I was told that my great-grandmother Margaret Gatton immigrated by ship from Ireland during the potato famine. As I started my genealogy research, I questioned it. My grandmother Gertrude Baker, Margaret’s daughter, was born 10 Aug 1890 in Blue Creek Township, Paulding County, Ohio. She was the eighth child of Andrew Baker and Margaret Gatton. Even if Gertrude were the oldest child, it didn’t seem likely that her mother was born in the late 1840s.

One day my Aunt Kate asked me if I knew who the woman in an old photo might be. I was intrigued to see a stout woman in her sixties, with dark skin and hair. Her forehead was low, her eyes deep-set and her cheeks wide and high. Her age and the age of the photo indicated she might be Maggie Gatton. Later I received a photo of Andrew Baker and two of their sons. The shed in her photo appeared in his photo. Aunt Kate also told me that Gertrude made birch bark toys. According to Uncle Roy, my grandparents’ house in Kalamazoo was always full of Native Americans. My grandmother tamed wild birds and kept them as pets. It seems as though Maggie’s story was the opposite of that of a recent European immigrant. She was Native American.

Eagerly I researched Maggie and her family in available records. Maggie’s mother Emeline was the youngest daughter of William Berryman and Rachel Clawson, who lived in western Ohio. Emeline was born ca 1818, the youngest in the family, in Montgomery County, Ohio. When she was about seven, her family moved to present-day Logan Township, Auglaize County, Ohio. Emeline married her first husband Felix Devore 18 Sep 1836 in Allen County, Ohio. The couple had three known children, Bathshebq, Mercy and Abraham. Felix’s death has gone unrecorded so far.

Maggie's father Albert Galotine Gatton had been married previously as well.  On 15 Mar 1838 he married Hannah Wyckoff in Muskingum County, Ohio.  This is the earliest record I have for him.  He married his second wife Emeline Berryman on 10 April 1852 at Fort Amanda, Auglaize County, Ohio. It must have been recorded that way since the family farm was on the land once occupied by the fort. The family farm in Logan Township passed on to Russel Berryman, where the Gatton family lived. There Maggie and her siblings were born: Sarah Jane, 10 June 1853; Cornelia, 9 Feb 1855; Margaret, 1 March 1857; and Albert, 27 May 1859. On 22 July 1862 Albert Gatton enlisted in Company A, 81st Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry to fight in the Civil War. He died 13 Jan 1863 in Corinth, Miss., of pneumonia, leaving no death certificate.

Was there any additional verification of my impression that my great-great-grandmother had Native American ancestry?

On 24 Sept 1850 Emeline was listed on the federal census as living with her brother Russel and their mother Rachel. In the place of birth column there is a little check mark in the rows for Rachel and Emeline. Eight years after they married, Albert and Emeline Gatton are listed with their children in Amanda Township, Allen County, Ohio, with the post office of Acadia. For each family member except Albert Jr., there is a check mark in the column for color. Seven years after Albert died, on 13 June 1870, the family was found still living in Amanda Township, but their post office was Spencerville. The members listed were Emeline Gatton, her children Bashabq and Mercy Devore, and Cornelia, Margaret and Albert Gatton. Also in the household were grandchildren Inez and Emma Sunderland and Lena and Charles Dennison. There is a little check mark in the occupation column in Emeline’s row. At the bottom of the page is recorded “No. of colored females _1_.” The only possible person it can be is Emeline Gatton.

Five different people very experienced in genealogical and Native American research, including the manager of a National Archives facility and a researcher working on the Schaghticoke Nation’s petition for federal recognition, have verified that check marks in a person’s row on the federal census generally means that a person was not all White. Sometimes there is even a script “L” at the bottom of the page for mulatto and a check mark next to it. However, one has to be sure that is how the enumerator is marking people who are different.

Emeline’s brother Russel was born before her in 1815. People found it surprising that he played with the Native boys and knew their language: “[M]uch of his boyhood was spent with the youthful warriors of these savage inhabitants. He understood much of their language, and spoke it to a certain extent at that period of his life, and he related that he engaged heartily in most of their sports and pastimes.” The family in general seemed to get along well with the Shawnee in the Wapakoneta area. In 1828, after a 15-mile trip down the river, William Berryman and his sons Thomas and Russel arrived too late to have their corn ground that day. “Several Indians invited them to share their huts or lodges for the night – they accepted the hospitality of one of the leading ones” and the next morning they shared their breakfast.  It might not be all that surprising if William's wife Rachel was related to the Native people, either directly as family or indirectly by being from the Shawnee nation or another Algonkin group, and Russel had heard the language used in the household. 

It seems quite plausible that Albert Gatton was one of Russel’s acquaintances originally and lived in one of the two nearby Shawnee villages. He was not necessarily Shawnee, however, and he could have once lived farther to the east. He may have been born with the name “Albert Galotine Gatton” or he may have adopted it later in life. On an 1831 treaty signed at Wapakoneta in nearby Allen County, not all the Shawnee men signing it had English style names. I am still trying to find out who his parents were and what Native nation he came from.

I’ve had people question the check marks and say they never heard of any Native blood in their family. My aunt and uncle also seemed reluctant to believe the information I found on their grandmother (although my cousins accept it). That is not surprising. The U.S. federal government in the nineteenth century considered Native people a conquered people and doomed to extinction. They were rarely thought of as being human, intelligent or civilized, let alone of the same social class. Laws were passed to make Native people move west of the Mississippi River. People of mixed Native ancestry were afraid of losing their land. Men wanted to support their families. Parents wanted their children educated and didn’t want them tormented by other children. If they wanted to live a decent life, they suppressed the family history.

I don’t know what my grandmother or her mother would have thought about the information I found. After living over 50 years in Ohio, Maggie Gatton moved to Kalamazoo, Michigan, with her husband and family. There she died 1 April 1933.  Her daughter Gertrude married Earl Winchell ca 1919 and moved to New York State before 1933. My grandmother died 14 Sep 1960 when I was just over a year old. I’d like to think they’d be pleased with the effort I made to find the people who were important to them.

Grandmother Gertrude Baker Winchell

Confirmation is Sweet

Recently I was looking around Find A Grave to see if I could find any more family information.  I came across a photo of my grandfather's great-aunt Elizabeth Hise.  It is the very first photo I've seen of anyone in his family.  My mother said there were photos, but what happened to them is a mystery.  What was so very sweet is that it's clear the woman had Native ancestry.

Here is a photo of her great-nephew Frederick Wilson:

Family lore said that half of Fred's ancestry was Native.  I was able to confirm Native ancestry on both sides of his mother Viola V. Hise's family.  Viola and Elizabeth's father Solomon Hise was clearly marked as part-white on the census records, although some people didn't agree.  I don't think they liked what I found.  They planted doubt in my mind, though, so I was very happy to find confirmation that I knew what I was doing.

Elizabeth Hise married Enoch Whitted 30 Oct 1851 in Rockville, Indiana.  Their children were:

John Van Gilder's Character

In the course of investigating a crown court case between the two prominent and powerful landlords Van Rensselaer and Livingston, the following testimony on the character of the Mohican-Wappinger man John Van Gilder was obtained from Timothy Woodbridge in 1768.  Woodbridge was a teacher at the Stockbridge Mission in western Massachusetts. 

That he [Timothy Woodbridge] known and been acquainted with Joseph Van Gelder’s family his Father an Indian his Mother a White Woman and well behaved.  It is probable Joseph Van Gelder was baptized.  His father attended the publick Worship and was Christened as he told the witness  That he understood Joseph Van Gelder had been also christened  the Family lived in a Manner of the English and Dutch and were esteemed to be christians like the rest of the Neigbours  it is 27 or 28 Years since he instructed Joseph Van Gelder in Reading and the Catechism, he has seen the Family admitted as witnesses  Joseph Van Gelder was eight or nine Years old when he was at School with [me] he was there two Summers  Supposes all the Children of old Van Gelder and his wife when were baptized  that his father was put on the same footing with respect to the Laws as the Whites were  other Indians were not so considered.
Richard Moore further claimed:

he has known Joseph Van Gelder [John's son who was also interviewed for this case] he is Christian and baptized by a high Dutch Minister  Joseph Van Gelder’s Father’s Children was baptized and he himself  That he was Married by a Minister.  Joseph Van Gelder lives at Egremont on this side Howsitenack River to the Eastward of Tackannick Mountains  he his [sic] known him from a Child  he always bears a good Character  he would Venture to take his Oath at any time for the truth  The General Reputation is that he is a Christian.  He believes His father belonged to the Catt’s Kills 
This documentation can be found in the New-York Historical Society, Miscellaneous Manuscripts V, filed under John Van Rensselaer.