Saturday, November 28, 2015

Heavy Historical Research Using Deeds

It occurred to me this year that if we use deed information we can more closely estimate where my Mohican-Wappinger ancestor John Van Gilder lived.  It all has to do with the split rock in a legal deposition in 1768.  I haven't been happy with the estimate I made previously. If we can figure out where the rock was, we’ll know approximately where John Van Gilder lived.  I just realized rereading the deposition that John lived there before he was married, since about 1707. His father Awansous and his mother must have moved there with him and his siblings.

I was chasing those deeds down, but I don't know if I'm done.  It looks like different areas of the Town of Egremont were divided and parceled out to the proprietors at different times. Then at least some people bought and sold land to consolidate what they were given. Unfortunately, after the proprietors divided the land up, they didn’t put survey information in deeds.  They started doing it again sometime in the 1800s.  I can't remember if the oldest deeds mentioned the bounding owners. I hope they do, especially if the deeds I currently have don't bring the area into focus. I might be in for a long spell of studying deeds in Great Barrington, but not until my arm is better.

I suffered for my historical research this past week.  I went to the Registry of Deeds twice in Pittsfield and once in Great Barrington.  Lifting those heavy books hurt my arm and my shoulder healing from a sprain.  The old deed books are very heavy, I'd say at least fifteen pounds, much more than one of my cats.  This was one time I was not happy that researching deeds in Berkshire County is self-serve.  I always found the staff friendly and helpful, though.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

John Van Gilder Home Site

A while ago I realized that I might be able to use deeds to more closely locate where my Mohican-Wappinger ancestor John Van Gilder lived.  There's a court document from 1762 with testimony from his son Joseph, his son-in-law's brother Samuel Winchell Jr and others about whether a large split rock with a sapling in it was the same as a pile of rocks called Wawanaquasick that marked a boundary between the Mohicans and the Wappingers.  There's a lot of discussion about what people lived near the rock and how far.  Most tantalizing is this statement about John Van Gilder's home site: "his Fathers Land was near the flat Rock, the Rock fifty or sixty Rods to the East of his Fathers Land."  

I just grasped the meaning of another phrase:  "His father lived there better than fifty Years as his Mother and father told Schnapk."  John died in 1758.  That means he was living in the Egremont area about 1708, when he was about ten, eleven years before he married his wife.  I hadn't realized that before.