The Last Will and Testament of John Hodgkinson, Sr.

I am positively giddy with excitement over here, after a huge breakthrough with my Hodgkinson research! Over the past several months, I’ve been researching and blogging about the family of my great-great-great-great-great-grandfather, John Hodgkinson (c. 1750–1832), a United Empire Loyalist who served with Butler’s Rangers and settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada (present-day Ontario). I summarized known data on his family here, and discovered a baptismal record for Ellender Hodgkinson, a daughter whom I’ve not seen mentioned in any online Hodgkinson trees to date. I discussed some theories about the family’s origins here, and warmed up to the hypothesis that John, William, and Mary Hodgkinson might all be children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, although further evidence is needed in order to be confident in that assertion. I began searching for records relating to Ellender’s godmother, Mary Hodgkinson, and discovered evidence that she was married in New York in 1772 to Ralph Miller/Meller, a Loyalist who served in Jessup’s Rangers, and settled with him in Dunham, Quebec. I suspected that Mary was a sister to John and William Hodgkinson, but had no evidence to prove that.

Until now.

I’ve been doing further searches in indexed databases on Ancestry to turn up additional records for Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller/Meller. The other day, a search result came up that left me speechless (which is hard to do). It’s shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Ancestry search result for Mary Miller in the database, “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749–1999.” Click image to view larger.

Mary Miller—Mary Hodgkinson Miller—was named as the daughter of John Hodgkinson in a probate file from Vermont, with John and William Hodgkinson both named as sons, and Samuel Hodgkinson named as a grandson?! No. Freaking. Way. You could’ve knocked me over with a feather!

I, and many other Hodgkinson researchers, have been looking for traces of this family in historical records for decades. How could this document have remained hidden until now? Clicking over to the “Source” tab indicates that this database was copyrighted by Ancestry relatively recently, in 2015. Nonetheless, for more than six years, despite all my countless searches for John Hodgkinson and William Hodgkinson, employing every search technique in the book, this document failed to turn up. Prior to 2015, one would have had to search those probate records the old-fashioned way, browsing through microfilm from the Family History Library, and I can certainly excuse previous generations of researchers for not guessing that the Hodgkinsons were originally from Vermont! Who knew, or who would have suspected, especially in light of the red-herring evidence that caused many to believe they were from Burlington, New Jersey? Maybe we’re all victims of tunnel vision. As I’ve said before, what we see depends on where we look.

At the end of the day, it was only by searching for Mary Miller that the curtain parted and the document was exposed. Mary Miller—a name which you’d think would be so much more common, that it would produce all kinds of irrelevant search hits and very few relevant ones. I’m still scratching my head to know how the search algorithms could’ve missed this one. “Hodgkinson” isn’t even misspelled here! How did this record not turn up before now?

In any case, here it is, so let’s dig in!

Clicking the document shown in the Ancestry search result takes you to a page in the middle of the will (where Mary Miller was mentioned), so I had to scroll back a few pages in order to begin at the beginning. The whole thing consists of four images, chock-full of rich genealogical detail. These pages must have been recopied at some point, because the dates in the various records appear out of sequence relative to the original page numbers. That’s a shame, because having original signatures would have been the icing on the cake, but I’ll take what I can get, and I’ll discuss the pages in chronological order.

The will itself starts on pages 191–192, shown in Figure 2a, and continues on pages 193–194 (Figure 2b).1

Figure 2a: First two pages of the will of John Hodgkinson, Sr. Click to view larger.
Figure 2b: Continuation of the will of John Hodgkinson, Sr. Click image to view larger.

The transcription is as follows, retaining original capitalization, spelling, and punctuation, but converting all the instances of the old “long s’” into standard modern forms.

“In the Name of God Amen. I, John Hogkinson of Pownall and State of Vermont, Yeoman, being very weak in body, but of perfect mind and memory, Thanks be given to God, calling to mind the Mortality of my Body, and knowing that is appointed to all Men once to Die: Do make and ordain this, my last Will and Testament; That is to say,

Principally and first of all, I give and recommend my Soul into the hand of Almighty God that gave it, and my Body I recommend to the Earth to be buried in a decent, Christian Burial, at the discretion of my Executors herein after mentioned, nothing doubting but at the general Resurrection I shall receive the same again by the mighty Power of God. And as touching such worldly Estate wherewith it hath Pleased God to Bless me with in this world. I give, demise, and dispose of the same in the following manner and form.

First, I give and Bequeath unto Mary, my dearly and well beloved Wife the Houseroom in my dwelling House with a Sufficient Garden Spot to raise necessary Garden Fruit for her:

Also,

p. 192

Also, seven pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Estate and paid to her Yearly in Grain or such other necessaries as she may stand in need of for her natural subsistence. Also the keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep): Also her firewood to be drawn to her door, all which shall be done out of my Estate during the time she remains my Widow: Also I give to my well beloved Wife, one certain Grey Mare that is called here Mare, and all the Household Goods she brought with her when she came to me to dispose of at her own Will and Pleasure, all which I give to my said Wife in lieu of her Right of Dower.

Also I give to my well beloved Son, John Hodgkison Junior, that part of my Homestead Farm lying in Pownall aforesaid that lies west of the Brook that Runs thro. The Farm (if he can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same) and if the circumstances of my s. [said?] son John Hodgkisson should be such that he can never enjoy the same by any means whatsoever, then I give it to my well beloved GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson.

Also I give unto my Well beloved Son William Hodgkisson all that part of my said Homestead lying Eastwardly of the S. Brook (if he can come and freely enjoy the same himself). But if neither of my two Sons abovesaid can come and enjoy The Lands or Estate above given or bequeathed to them, or either of them, and the other Son above dis???? [?] cannot come to enjoy his part: then I give the whole of my Homestead Farm to that Son that can enjoy the same: My true intent and meaning is, that ^if either of my two sons cannot enjoy The Farm as aforesaid or otherwise they Choose not to Live upon it, that it be sold, and each one of them or either of them so ??? [choosing?] not to live upon it to have his equal part of what it shall sell for: And that part of the Farm lying westward of the Brook be made equal as to the improvement with the East Side of The Farm.

                                                                                                         And

p. 193

               And if either of my two Sons or both of them can never enjoy my said Homestead Farm as hath been before described by any circumstances whatever, by Death or otherwise; then I give the same to my well beloved Grand-Son Samuel Hodgkisson to be delivered to him when he arrives to the full age of Twenty One Years, and the Profits arising from the Rents and Profits of my said Homestead Farm to be equally divided between all my Grand-Children both Male and Female.

               Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Dorothy Deal, three pounds fifteen shillings Lawful Money, to be raised out of my personal Estate, and paid to her by my said Executors herein after Mentioned.

               Also I give to my well beloved Daughter, Ann McKenna, seven pounds, ten shillings L[awful] Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate, and to be paid to her by my said Executors.

               Also I give to my well beloved Grand Son Thomas Miller three pounds, ten shillings Lawful Money to be raised out of my Personal Estate and paid to him, or his Lawful Guardian, by my said Executors.

               Also I give to my aforesaid GrandSon, Samuel Hodkgisson, that certain Lot or Farm of Land Lying in Bennington containing Fifty Acres of Land that I purchased of Col. Samuel Robinson to be delivered to him by my said Executors or their Successors in Administratorship, when he arrives to the age of Twenty one Years; and the Profits arising from T. Farm, until that time is expired, after paying the Legacy to my said Wife and other Necessary Charges, to be equally divided between my said Grand Children.

                                                                                                         Also

p. 194

Also I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her Daughter Ann, GrandDaughter Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer and keeping for it, on my said Farm until it becomes a Cow (if it Lives).

Also I give to my aforesaid Sons, John and William Hodgkinson, the use of all my moveable effects that hath not herein before been disposed of, after my just Debts and Funeral Charges be paid, until my aforesaid GrandSon Samuel Hodgkisson comes to the age of Twenty one Years with their paying unto my well beloved Daughters, Mary Miller and Martha Pember, five shillings each, and when the term aforesaid is expired, to pay the value of these moveables to be divided equally amongst all my Grand Children.

Likewise, I make, Ordain and Constitute David Goff and Basteyon [sic] Deal, both of Pownall aforesaid the Sole Executors jointly and severally of this my last Will and Testament, and I do hereby utterly disavow, revoke, and disannul all every other former Testament, Legacies, Bequests, and Executors by me in any wise named Willed and bequeathed. Ratifying and confirming this and no other to be my last Will and Testament.

               In Witness whereof I have hereunto set my hand and Seal this nineteenth day of August in the year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty Two. [signed] John Hodgkinson

Signed, Sealed, Published, Pronounced, and declared by the said John Hodgkinson as his Last Will and Testament In presence of us, who in his presence, and in the presence of each other, have hereunto Subscribed our names

[signed] Paul Gardner

              Abraham Bowdish

              Joseph Briggs”

John Hodgkinson of Pownall, Vermont

There’s no doubt in my mind that the Hodgkinson family described in this will is the same family as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons. This will offers evidence that the father, John Hodgkinson Sr., also immigrated, and this fact alone is significant, because I’ve never seen it asserted or referenced in any other Hodgkinson resource. Moreover, the fact that the father’s name was John is consistent with the hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were children of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield. We have no idea how long John Sr. lived in Vermont, and this document alone offers no indication that John was born in Colonial America. So, this piece of evidence does not necessarily contradict the existing hypothesis that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons were born in Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

According to this document, we have John Hodgkinson, Sr., making his last will and testament in Pownal, in the State of Vermont, on 19 August 1782, during the final year of the American Revolutionary War, which would end with the Treaty of Paris on 3 September 1783. Pownal is a small town situated about 27 miles southeast of Schaghticoke, where Samuel and Ellender Hodgkinson were baptized in 1776 and 1778, respectively (Figure 3). The “State of Vermont” mentioned in the will is not a U.S. state, but rather a reference to the Vermont Republic, which was an independent state that existed from 1777–1791.2 Prior to that, between 1764 and 1777, “Vermont” did not exist: the land west of the Connecticut River was declared by King George III to belong to New York, while New Hampshire lay to the east of that river.3 So, if John settled in Pownal prior to 1777, and his children were living in the vicinity of Albany, then they all would have been residents of the Province of New York.

While I know nothing about John (Sr.)’s personal politics, all of his children discovered to date were Loyalists, so John Sr. may have been one as well. Were they all living in Schaghticoke originally, and then John Sr. moved to the independent State of Vermont after the British lost at Saratoga, while his sons continued to serve with Butler’s Rangers until they disbanded in 1784? Certainly it would not have been possible for him to continue living in New York State as a known Loyalist after the New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act, was passed on 22 October 1779.4 This Act identified 59 prominent Loyalists by name, confiscated their land and personal property, banished them from the state, and gave them death sentences, without benefit of clergy, should they ever be found within the State of New York. It made further provisions for indicting additional Loyalists—such as the Hodgkinsons—besides those 59 named individually. John Sr.’s death in 1784 came seven years before Vermont was admitted to the union as the fourteenth of the United States, yet perhaps it was uncertainty over Vermont’s future that led John to word his bequest of his land to his sons so carefully, declaring that each son would inherit his portion of the farm, “if he can be at Liberty to come and Freely enjoy the same.

Figure 3: Map showing locations of Schaghticoke, New York, where John Hodgkinson (Jr.)’s oldest children were baptized, and Pownal, Vermont, where John Hodgkinson (Sr.) wrote his last will. Image courtesy of Google Maps; click to view larger.

His Dearly Beloved Wife, Mary

John’s wife was named as Mary in this document, not Sarah, but she appears to have been a second wife. This hypothesis is supported by the statement, “I give unto my beloved Wife, one certain two year old Heifer, and to her [emphasis mine] Daughter Ann Gardner, a certain Yearling Heifer…” This suggests that Ann Gardner was Mary’s daughter by a previous spouse. It’s unclear whether Gardner was Ann’s maiden name, or her married surname. If the former, then it would also have been Mary’s surname from her first husband. I’ll have to look for a death record for Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson in records from Vermont or Mansfield (England), as well as a marriage record for John and Mary in Vermont. One of the witnesses to the will, Paul Gardner, is likely to be another relative, and research into this family is also on my to-do list.

The current value of the money that John bequeathed to Mary—seven pounds, ten shillings, paid annually—is estimated at £645.78 using the currency calculator here, but the estimate ranges from £898.60 to £87,520.00 using the more nuanced currency value calculators at MeasuringWorth. This was not all that he left her, however, since there was also the matter of the houseroom, the garden, the “keeping of a Cow, Winter and Summer (if she has one to keep),” the firewood brought to her door, and the gray mare “that is called here Mare.” (My ancestors were perhaps not the most creative folk in naming their livestock, but I find this phrasing charming nonetheless!) Later in the will, he also bequeathed to her a two-year-old heifer—so she clearly does have a cow—and all the household goods that she brought with her into their marriage.

His Sons, John Jr. and William, and Grandson Samuel

John Hodgkinson bequeathed his farm to his sons, John Jr. and William, with John getting the western half of the farm and William receiving the eastern half, based on the location of a brook that divided the farm. The phrasing in the will suggests that John Sr. truly hoped that one or the other of his sons might be able to use and enjoy the farm, which was undoubtedly the fruit of much of John Sr.’s labor. On reading this, my first thought was that I need to find land records to locate this farm in Pownal and view the title history, to see who eventually owned it. Both John Jr. and William ended up in Grantham Township on the Niagara Peninsula in Ontario, as did John Jr.’s son, Samuel, so it may be that all the heirs to the farm elected to sell it. Samuel Hodgkinson would have been six years old at the time his grandfather wrote his will in 1782, and when he turned twenty-one, he was to receive an additional 50 acres of land in Bennington.

His Daughters, Mary, Martha, Dorothy, and Ann

Although the bequests and descriptions of John’s assets are fascinating, what’s really jaw-dropping about this document is the list of previously-unknown daughters. The will names his daughters as Dorothy Deal, Ann McKenna, Mary Miller, and Martha Pember, and identifies Thomas Miller as another grandson. This information provides further confirmation that the Hodgkinson family described in this document is the same as the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham. The records of St. Mark’s Anglican Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake show that, on 14 May 1815, a number of children of William and Mary (Jones) Hodgkinson were baptized, including “William, Thomas, Dorothy, John Pember, Rockaway, Martha, Eleazer Alexr [sic], and George.”5 It seems obvious now that William’s daughters, Dorothy and Martha, were named after his sisters, Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember, and that his son John Pember’s middle name was inspired by Martha’s married surname. All of this is fertile ground for growing the Hodgkinson family tree. The executors, David Goff and Basteyon Deal, are also worthy research subjects, as are Abraham Bowdish and Joseph Briggs, who were the other witnesses to the will in addition to Paul Gardner. In particular, “Basteyon” (Sebastian?) Deal is most probably a relative by marriage of Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal.

The Plot Thickens

Immediately following the last page of the will (page 194), there is a pair of entries on page 195 in the court records, shown in Figure 3.6

Figure 3: Decisions and Orders of Judge Jonas Fay, Bennington Probate Court, 7 April 1783 (top), and 24 March 1785 (bottom). Click to view larger.

These decisions and orders by Judge Jonas Fay, Judge of Probate Court, are transcribed as follows:

“195

At the Probate Court holden in in Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 7th day of April AD. 1783 by Virtue of a Legal Citatation [sic], Personally appeared the within named Mary Hodgkinson, and alledged [sic] that the within Will does not make such Provision for her, as the Law in such Cases Allows, and therefore pray, the Court to disapprove the same, the several persons named in the Citation being present and having nothing to offer (in the opinion of the Court) sufficient to approve the Will, the Court does therefore disapprove thereof, that Administration to be taken out, and that the same be Recorded.  [Signed] Jonas Fay Judge Probt.

At a Probate Court holden at Bennington in the Probate District of Bennington on the 24th day of March AD. 1785 Mary Hodgkinson Widow of the within Testator being personally present, and relinquishing her former objection to Probating the within Will, and John Hodgkinson one of the Legatees named in said Will being Likewise present in behalf of himself, and Peter McKenna, Adam Deal, Ralph Miller, William Hodgkinson and Philip Pember as appears by writing under their ^names and Seals, and Registered in this office, and praying in their several capacities that the within Will may be Probated, the same is hereby approved and allowed. By Jonas Fay, Judg. Probt.”

So, John wrote his will on 17 August 1782, and on 7 April 1783, while her husband was still alive, Mary Hodgkinson petitioned the court to disapprove of the will. But then, after John was deceased, she turned around and relinquished her objection to probating the will on 24 March 1785. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of that situation, and determine the implications. I might be able to gain some insight through deeper investigation of these probate records, as there are other entries in this same probate book that are relevant (i.e. page 190). However, I won’t make a long blog post even longer by discussing them today.

What’s exciting about these two decisions and orders by Judge Fay, though, is that John Hodgkinson’s sons-in-law are identified by name. Now we know that Dorothy (Hodgkinson) Deal was married to Adam Deal, Ann (Hodgkinson) McKenna was married to Peter McKenna, and Martha (Hodgkinson) Pember was married to Phillip Pember—information which will facilitate research into these families.

Coming full circle now, back to Mary (Hodgkinson) Miller, one final question occurred to me. If she was married to Ralph Miller in 1772, and this same Mary was godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778, then she should have been recorded in the baptismal record as Mary Miller, not Mary Hodgkinson. So might the godmother have been the other Mary Hodgkinson, John Sr.’s second wife. and Ellender’s stepgrandmother? Maybe so. Nonetheless, a precedent exists for referring to Mary Miller by her maiden name after her marriage, in that she was recorded as “Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham” in her death record.7 So, it’s still possible that the intended Mary Hodgkinson was Ellender’s aunt, and the truth of the matter may be lost in the mists of time. However, when it comes to knowing the truth about the origins of the Loyalist Hodgkinson family, the mists of time were just blown away by the discovery of John Hodgkinson’s will.

I’m blown away, too.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Selected Sources:

1 “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), John Hodgkinson, Last Will and Testament, 19 Aug 1782, probated 15 June 1784, Bennington, Vermont; citing Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812, Vol. 1, pp 191-194. The featured image for this blog post is a detail from p 191.

2 “Vermont Republic,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_v._New_Hampshire : 14 January 2022).

3 “Vermont v. New Hampshire,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vermont_v._New_Hampshire : 14 January 2022).

4 “The New York Act of Attainder, or Confiscation Act,” Provincial Archives of New Brunswick (https://archives.gnb.ca/exhibits/forthavoc/html/NY-Attainder.aspx?culture=en-CA : 14 January 2022).

5 Ontario Genealogical Society Niagara Peninsula Branch, Paul Hutchinson, editor, St. Marks’ Anglican Church Baptisms, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1792–1856 (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada: Ontario Genealogical Society, 1998), p 22, “14 May 1815, All (the following) were baptized at the 12-mile creek on the same day…William HODGKINSON, Thomas/Dorothy/John Pember/Rockaway/Martha/Eleazer Alexr/George }of William and Mary”.

6 Vermont Probate Court (Bennington District), Vol. 1, 1778–1792, p 195, Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 7 April 1783; Decision and Order of Judge Jonas Fay, 24 March 1785, imaged in “Vermont, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1749-1999,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), path: Bennington > Probate Records, Vol 1-5, 1778-1812 > image 107 of 909.

7 “Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 14 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

Whatever Happened to Mary Hodgkinson?

Recently, I wrote about some new discoveries into the history of my Hodgkinson ancestors—Loyalists who settled in Grantham Township, Upper Canada, after the American Revolutionary War. Both John Hodgkinson and his brother, William, were privates in Butler’s Rangers, and there is ample evidence for both of them in historical records from Upper Canada (what is now Ontario). However, the Hodgkinson brothers are commonly reported to have a sister, Mary, based on baptismal records from Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England, who is absent from the narrative in Upper Canada. Some believe that Mary never emigrated, pointing to a marriage record for Mary Hodgkinson to Samuel Holehouse in Mansfield in 1774.1 However, this marriage record does not include parents’ names, so further evidence is needed before concluding that this is the same Mary Hodgkinson who was the sister of the Loyalist Hodgkinsons.

Even if Mary never emigrated, that mystery godmother remains, Mary “Huskinson,” godmother to Ellender “Huskinson,” daughter of John “Huskinson” and Mary “More.”2 If you believe, as I do, that the family described here is likely to be the family of John Hodgkinson of Grantham, then we have evidence of some female relative named Mary who was named as godmother in 1778. Does her role as godmother necessitate her physical presence at the baptism in Schaghticoke, New York? That’s unclear. While it’s possible in some faiths and circumstances to have proxy godparents, who stand in when the godparents are unable to be present at the baptism, I have no idea what rules might apply to an 18th-century Dutch Reformed baptism of the child of an Anglican father and a mother whose religious faith is unknown. But if we admit the possibility that Mary Hodgkinson was present at the baptism of Ellender Hodgkinson, and if we agree that she was almost certainly a relative and quite probably a sister, then it begs the question: what happened to Mary Hodgkinson, and why did she not end up in Grantham with her brothers?

The Search for Mary Begins

If Mary Hodgkinson was personally present at the baptism of Ellender in 1778, then there should be some evidence of her existence in historical documents from New York. A quick search of indexed records at Ancestry produced a marriage record from the “New York, Marriage Index, 1600–1784,” for Mary “Hodkisson” and Ralph Mellor on 29 January 1772 (Figure 1).3

Figure 1: Index entry for marriage record of Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor from Ancestry.

Clicking over from the “Detail” to the “Source” page provides additional information about the original records from the New York State Archives from which the index information was taken, and includes a caveat that they “are limited in availability and additional informational value” due to the New York State Capitol fire of 1911 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Source information from Ancestry regarding original records used in the creation of their “New York, U.S., Marriage Index, 1600–1784” database.

Hope dies last, so I emailed the New York State Archives anyway, just to see if there was any chance for more information. Their reply stated,

“Thank you for contacting the New York State Archives with your inquiry. I’ve checked A1893, marriage bonds executed by persons obtaining marriage licenses, and the corresponding book regarding these documents, New York Marriage Bonds (947.7 S427n) but neither the name Mary Hodkisson or Ralph Mellor were found. Both this series and the book are about those documents that did survive the 1911 Albany fire, but it appears this marriage record did not. I would suggest you check the local newspaper at the time or a local church for an announcement of this marriage. This may be the only record you will find now.” 4

Finding a newspaper announcement of the marriage is a long shot, given the extremely limited number of newspapers that were in publication in New York in January 1772. A church record might be found in time; although this record does not state precisely where in New York the couple was married, we can perhaps assume that it was in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, since that’s where Ellender Hodgkinson was baptized in 1778. (A marriage record for Ralph and Mary is not found in that same collection of Dutch Reformed Church records which contained Ellender’s baptismal record, because that would be too easy.) Even in the absence of any detailed information, this marriage record is still an important discovery, because it offers further evidence for the existence of a Mary Hodkisson/Hodgkinson/Huskinson living in Colonial New York, and it provides her married name.

A further search at Ancestry turned up a death record for Mary “Hotchkisson” Miller from the Drouin Collection (Figure 3).5

Figure 3: Death record for Mary Hotchkisson Miller (blocked in red) from Holy Trinity Anglican Church in Frelighsburg, Quebec.

The record states,

“Mary Hotchkisson, widow of the late Ralph Miller of Dunham, deceased in the eighty fourth year of her age, died on the fifteenth day of June one thousand eight hundred and thirty two, and was buried on the seventeenth day of the same, in the presence of the subscribing witnesses by, James Reid, Min’r [Minister], [Witnesses] Robert Aitken, John Pickering.”

Mary’s age at the time of her death—84 years—suggests a birth year of 1748. For reference, Mary Hodgkinson, daughter of John and Sarah (Godley) Hodgkinson of Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, was baptized on 6 April 1755. Now, it could be that her age at the time of death was reported inaccurately, and it’s also possible that the Hodgkinsons were a bit lax in baptizing their children promptly. In fact, this discrepancy between Mary’s suggested year of birth and her documented date of baptism fits the pattern I noted previously with John and William Hodgkinson, since existing data for John indicate that he was born in 1750 but baptized in 1753, and that William was born in 1751, but baptized in 1759. If you think it’s also possible that I’m way off base, and these aren’t necessarily the same family at all, I don’t blame you, because I’m not convinced yet, either.

But wait, there’s more.

A search at Find A Grave produced memorials for both Ralph Miller/Mellor/Meller and Mary (Hotchkisson/Hodkisson/Hodgkinson) Meller. They were laid to rest in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec. Ralph’s memorial indicates that he died 8 March 1822 at the age of 81 years, suggesting a birth circa 1741.6 Mary’s memorial states that she died 12 June 1832 at the age of 83 years, which is sufficiently consistent with the death record from Holy Trinity Anglican Church as to leave no doubt that these records pertain to the same person.7 What’s interesting is that, in that same cemetery, one John Pickering was also laid to rest.8 You may recall that name because John Pickering was a witness to the death of Mary Hodgkinson Miller—he was a member of the Hodgkinsons’ FAN club (Friends, Associates and Neighbors). The memorial states that John was born 29 March 1797 and that he died on 6 May 1844, which makes this John Pickering of an appropriate age to be the same John Pickering mentioned in that burial record. Moreover, the memorial includes a photo of his grave marker, which states specifically that John Pickering was born in Collingham, Nottinghamshire, England, and that he died in Dunham—the same village in Quebec mentioned in the death record as the home of the Miller family. The village of Collingham is only 25 miles from the town of Mansfield, where the Hodgkinsons were said to originate, lending credence to the hypothesis that Mary Hodgkinson Miller was also from Nottinghamshire.

Ralph Miller, Loyalist

So who was Mary Hodgkinson’s husband, Ralph Miller? A little digging into historical records suggests that he, too, was a Loyalist, which tracks well with the the Hodgkinson family tradition. A search in the database, “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764–1841,” turned up land petition no. 346, “Alex. Taylor and many other Loyalists, praying for land,” which was filed about 1783 (Figure 4).9

Figure 4: Detail from Lower Canada Land Papers showing petition 346, filed by Alex. Taylor “and many other Loyalists.”

The petition includes a list of claimants’ names, their present place of abode, the Loyalist corps in which they served, and their time of residence (i.e. date of arrival) in Canada. Ralph Miller is included in this list (Figure 5).10

Figure 5: Ralph Miller in Lower Canada Land Petitions, no. 346, filed jointly by Alex. Taylor “and many other Loyalists.”

Circa 1783, when the petition was filed, Ralph Miller was noted to be living in “Caldwells M.,” which is a reference to Caldwell Manor, an early Loyalist settlement located in present-day Noyan, Quebec.11 The notation regarding his immigration to Canada states that he arrived in 1780, and was “now in Canada.” The document also states that he served “in Jessop’s Corps S. R.” It’s unclear to me what the “S.R.” stands for, but Edward Jessup’s Rangers were a Loyalist militia unit that functioned from 12 November 1781 until 24 December 1783.12 The corps was created from the remnants of smaller military formations, including the King’s Loyal Americans—a militia group led by Edward and his brother, Ebenezer, which took part in the battles of Saratoga in 1777.

Next Steps

I think at this point, we have some idea of what became of Mary Hodgkinson, godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson in 1778. She was married to Ralph Miller/Meller in New York, probably in the vicinity of Schaghticoke, in 1772, and was likely still living in that area at the start of the Revolutionary War. Her husband may have joined Edward Jessup as early as 1777, and been one of the participants in the Battles of Saratoga, but by 1780, the Mellers were living in Quebec. Ralph and Mary lived in Dunham, where he died in 1822, and she passed ten years later, in 1832. Both are buried in Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery in Frelighsburg, Quebec.

Additional research can still be done to discover more about their family. A quick search for other Meller graves in the same cemetery reveals a grave for a probable son, also named Ralph Meller, who died in 1871 at the age of 84 years, as well as a grave for his wife, Sarah (VanAntwerp) Meller.13 Broadening the search to Meller graves in the Monteregie Region of Quebec, where Frelighsburg is located, produces additional graves of probable relatives, and census records, vital records, and other genealogical documents can be used to help sort out the relationships. However, further evidence is still needed before we can be comfortable with the assertion that Mary Hodgkinson Meller was the sister of John Hodgkinson, U.E., and William Hodgkinson, U.E.

That said, I think I’m onto something, here. Stay tuned!

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2022

Sources:

1 “England and Wales Marriages, 1538–1988,” database, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodgkinson and Samuel Holehouse, 14 February 1774, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, England.

2 “U.S., Dutch Reformed Church Records in Selected States, 1639-1989,” database with images, Ancestry (https://ancestry.com : 07 January 2022), Ellender Huskinson, baptized 23 November 1778; citing Holland Society of New York; New York, New York; Deer Park, Vol II, Book 11. This document is the source of the featured image for this blog post.

3 “New York, U.S., Marriage Index, 1600-1784,” Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor, 29 Jan 1772, citing New York State Archives, Names of Persons for whom Marriage Licenses were Issued by the Secretary of the Province of New York, Previous to 1784. State of New York, 1860, Record Number: M. B., Volume: XVIII, OSPage: 23.

4 New York State Archives Researcher Services, Albany, New York, to Julie Szczepankiewicz, e-mail dated 28 October 2021, “RE: Marriage record for Mary Hodkisson and Ralph Mellor.”

5“Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968,” database and images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 07 January 2022), burial record for Mary Hotchkisson, died 15 June 1832; citing records of the Anglican Church, Holy Trinity, in Frelighsburg from Institut Généalogique Drouin; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; Drouin Collection; Author: Gabriel Drouin, comp.

6 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258423/ralph-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown-8 Mar 1822), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258423, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).

7 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258431/mary-meller : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for Mary Meller (unknown-12 Jun 1832), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258431, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702).

8 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/119277256/john-pickering : accessed 07 January 2022), memorial page for John Pickering (29 Mar 1797–6 May 1844), Find a Grave Memorial ID 119277256, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Stephen Payne (contributor 47327291) .

9 “Land Petitions of Lower Canada, 1764-1841,” no. 346, Alex. Taylor & many other Loyalists praying for Land, p. 91105; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng : 07 January 2022), item no. 61500, image 10 of 36, citing Lower Canada Land Papers, RG 1 L3L, Vol. 190, pp 90996-91013, Taylor, Alex – Taylor, James.

10 Ibid., p. 91106, line 8, Ralph Miller, image 11 of 36.

11 “Caldwell Manor Plaque,” United Empire Loyalists Association of Canada (https://uelac.ca/monuments/caldwell-manor-plaque// : 07 January 2022).

12 R. Arthur Bowler, “JESSUP, EDWARD,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, (http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/jessup_edward_5E.html : 07 January 2022).

13 Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258440/ralph-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Ralph Meller (unknown–16 Aug 1871), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258440, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702); and

Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/169258452/sarah-meller : 07 January 2022), memorial page for Sarah VanAntwerp Meller (unknown–7 Nov 1882), Find a Grave Memorial ID 169258452, citing Bishop Stewart Memorial Church Cemetery, Frelighsburg, Monteregie Region, Quebec, Canada ; Maintained by Graceti (contributor 47177702) .

14 1825 census of Canada, Bedford County, Lower Canada, population return, Dunham Sub-District, Vol. 2, page no. 843, Ralph Millar household; digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://bac-lac.gc.ca/ : 07 January 2022), Item no. 11282, image no. 004569586_00477, citing Reference MG 31 C1, Lower Canada/Canada East census returns, Microfilm C-717.

Should Auld Ancestors Be Forgot: The Year in Review

2021 is on its way out, and we’re about to get a fresh start with 2022. It’s traditional to reflect on the past year and consider our accomplishments, as well as our goals and resolutions for the new year, and this practice seems to be no less relevant to genealogical research. With that in mind, I’ve been taking stock of my genealogical triumphs and tribulations from 2021, and creating some research resolutions for the new year.

Connecting the Dodds

In 2021, I furthered my understanding of the history of my Dodds family. As of 2020, I had traced the family of Robert and Catherine (Grant) Dodds to 1871, when they were living in Yarmouth township in East Elgin, Ontario. I knew the fates of the parents, Robert and Catherine, after 1871, as well as the fates of their oldest three daughters, Hannah, Isabella, and Margaret. I also knew what became of their youngest two children, Martha Agnes (my great-great-grandmother), and Warner Howard. However, three of their sons—Alexander, John H., and Gilbert M.—disappeared from Canadian records after 1871. Thanks to clues gained from DNA matches, I was able to discover a second marriage which produced two children for Alexander Dodds, prior to his death in Buffalo in 1899. I was also able to discover the record for Gilbert’s death in Buffalo in 1898. Furthermore, DNA was instrumental once again in determining that John H. Dodds migrated to Pennsylvania, where he and Gilbert were working as day laborers in 1880. Although Gilbert eventually moved on to Buffalo, where other family members were also living, John remained in Pennsylvania, married Lena Frazier in 1892, and settled in Pike Township (Potter County) to raise a family.

Archival Acquisitions and Album Assembly

In the spring and early summer, researching my roots gave way to other demands on my time as I dealt with the task of cleaning out my parents’ home in preparation for sale. I’ve been slowly working my way through that pile of boxes in my basement, finding new homes for all their books and furnishings with sentimental value. However, I have yet to start scanning all the family photos and documents which I acquired. Similarly, I’m still chipping away at the process of filling my daughter’s baby album—never mind that she graduated from high school in June. I took a break when I realized that, having waited this long, it makes more sense to do the job right by organizing all the materials first, rather than grabbing the first box of photos from the time of her birth and hoping that additional photos from that era don’t turn up in other boxes. I think if I can get all the family photos and documents scanned and organized, with physical copies stored in archival boxes or albums, and digital images edited to include meta data, I will be satisfied. It may take the rest of my life to accomplish that, but it would mean that my kids could inherit a manageable, accessible family history collection.

DNA Discoveries

Autosomal DNA testing has been a consistent theme in my genealogy research in 2021. DNA Painter has allowed me to coordinate my research across test companies through ongoing development of my ancestral chromosome map. Over the summer, I was able to connect for the first time to living descendants of my great-great-great-great-great-grandparents, Wojciech Słoński and Marianna Duras. I was thrilled to be able to add them as a new ancestral couple to my chromosome map, bringing the total to 16 ancestral couples from whom I can now verify my genetic descent. Of course, there are still some ancestral lines where DNA has not yet shed any light, due to a small number of “close” (3rd-5th cousin level) DNA matches. This is often because the families were small, with few living descendants, or because those descendants live in countries such as Poland, where DNA testing is relatively uncommon. Lack of available data on living individuals in Poland—for example, from newspaper obituaries, or public records databases such as we have in the U.S.—makes it difficult to identify living individuals for target testing, but perhaps this can be a focus of my research in 2022.

Honing in on the Hodgkinsons

In October, I spent some time researching my Hodgkinson ancestors, a well-researched family of Canadian Loyalists. I was especially excited to discover a baptismal record for Ellender “Huskinson,” whom I believe to be a previously-unknown daughter of John Hodgkinson and his first wife, Mary Moore. I examined a number of hypotheses regarding the origins of the Hodgkinson family, based on assertions made by family trees online, and discovered that these hypotheses ranged from “possibly true,” to “patently false.” I also started some research into the history of Mary Hodgkinson, who was named as godmother to Ellender Hodgkinson, and who was (I believe) a sister to John. I hope to write about this in another blog post early in 2022.

Caus(in) for Celebration

Of course, the biggest discovery of the year for me was the identification of the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts, and their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. This discovery was made through identification of the family’s FANs—specifically, a godmother named Anna Maria Hensy, who was mentioned in the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ—combined with evidence from family trees of DNA matches who descend from that same godmother, Mary Ann/Anna Maria (Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze) Schneider. Even though my process was not perfect, this breakthrough has had a profound impact on my research. Although I haven’t blogged about all the individuals I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result, I can now state definitively that Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts was born in Buffalo, New York on 14 August 1832 to Joseph Antoine Cossin (“Gosÿ”) and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, who were married in the village of Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, on 8 September 1829. Marie Agathe was the daughter of Dionisÿ Hensÿ and Agnes Antony, while Joseph Antoine was the son of Jakob Cossin and Barbara Maker from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas (or Niedersept, in German). Figure 1 summarizes the ancestors in my direct line that I’ve been able to add to my tree as a result of this breakthrough.

Figure 1: Pedigree chart for Mary Magdalene (Causin) Roberts suggested by data gathered to date from the records of Pfetterhouse and Seppois-le-Bas. Click the chart to view a larger image. Research is ongoing and some of these conclusions remain tentative, pending discovery of additional evidence.

Everything Else

Rounding out the year, I was able to locate some ancestral signatures in Detroit probate records for my Roberts ancestors, Michael Roberts and Frank M. Roberts. I wrote about the Martin-Opitz-Bibliothek as a source for vital records, particularly for those with ancestors from the Warmia historical region. Finally, I analyzed Ancestry’s newest ethnicity estimates for a family group (mine!) consisting of four children, their parents, and both sets of grandparents. All in all, 2021 presented ample opportunities for me to do what I love to do: research my family tree using all the tools, technologies, and resources I can muster, discover the stories of my ancestors as told in historical documents, and share my findings.

A Look Ahead

As I think about what I’d like to accomplish in the new year, a few research projects stand out, listed below, in no particular order:

  1. I’d like to continue my research into the Hodgkinson family, both in North America and in England, to see if I can convince myself that the Loyalist Hodgkinsons of Grantham, Upper Canada were really born in Mansfield, England.
  2. I’d love to be able to leverage DNA and FAN research to identify the parents of Catherine (Grant) Dodds and their place of origin, in the same way that I was able to answer those questions in the case of Mary Magdalene Causin.
  3. I hope to further my research into the Causin/Cossin and Hentzy/Hensy families in records from Haut-Rhin, Alsace.
  4. On my mom’s side, I’d like to resume the search for the elusive Antonina (Naciążek) Zarzycka, my great-great-grandmother, in the hope of being able to find a birth, marriage or death record for her that would reveal her parents’ names. Failing that, I would like to explore alternative historical sources for evidence of her origins, such as Księgi Ludności Stałej (permanent population registers).
  5. I’d love to utilize that same magic combination of FAN plus DNA research to discover the origins of my Murre/Muri ancestors, who immigrated to Buffalo, New York in 1869 from somewhere in Bavaria.
  6. I’d like to invest more time in learning to decipher German handwriting, and gain proficiency in translating German records, so that I can independently research my German and Alsatian ancestors, as well as my husband’s ancestors who were Poles from the Prussian partition.

This is just a modest sample of my research aspirations. If I ever did manage to succeed in accomplishing each of these goals, I could try to discover the origins in Ireland for my Walsh ancestors, identify the maiden name of Christina Hodgkinson, and plan another trip to Poland for onsite research in the ancestral parish of my Zieliński ancestors. The supply of research questions is endless, as is the fascination that accompanies the search for answers, and the satisfaction when victory is attained. Nonetheless, these six items seem like a good place to start, and I’m itching to get started. So, how about you? What are your genealogical goals, hopes, and dreams for the new year? Whatever they may be, I wish you success, prosperity, and joy in the journey.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Would’ve, Should’ve, Could’ve: Lessons Learned from the Search for Magdalena Causin

In my last post, I wrote about my recent confirmation of the parents of Mary Magdalene (Causin/Cossin) Roberts and the discovery of their place of origin in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France. Although this was a thrilling breakthrough for me, in hindsight, I’m frankly amazed that it took me this long to find them. Let’s unpack the process and see what can be learned from it.

1. Thorough Documentary Research is Always Key

Although this was definitely a stubborn research problem, it’s probably overstating the case to call it a “brick wall” because the documentary research was far from complete. The Genealogical Proof Standard requires “reasonably exhaustive” documentary research, and it’s up to the researcher to identify all collections that are potentially relevant to the research problem and add them to the research plan. Although I’ve been chipping away at research in onsite collections in Detroit as time and money (and the pandemic….) permit, I had not yet examined all of the relevant birth, marriage and death records from the Roberts’ parish in Detroit, Old St. Mary’s, either in person or by proxy. Similarly, my local Family History Center has not been open for quite a while due to the pandemic, making it difficult to research digitized collections with restricted access, such as the church records from St. Louis in Buffalo, where I might have found death records that offered a transcription of “Cossin” that would have been more recognizable. So, it’s entirely possible that this problem could have been solved solely through documentary research, given enough time and focused effort.

2. Don’t Overlook Online Family Trees

Even if I had accepted immediately that the Maria Magdalena Gosÿ who was baptized at St. Louis church in Buffalo, was my Maria Magdalena Causin, I would have had to rely on FAN research for the identification of their ancestral village, since the baptismal record did not mention the parents’ place of origin. So, finding those family trees that mentioned Anna Maria/Maria Anna Hentzi was a critical clue. One of the things I find most surprising is that searches for “Anna Maria Hensy” did not turn up results for Anna Maria/Maria Anna Hentzy Schneider, given the number of family trees in which she appears. Even now, when I repeat those searches to see if I can tease her out of the database, using only the search parameters I knew previously (before the trees from the DNA matches gave me her married surname), she is not readily found. I like to think I’m not a rookie when it comes to database searches, and I certainly tried a variety of search parameters, based on what I knew for a fact, and as well as what I could speculate.

Assuming that the godmother was actually present at the baptism of Maria Magdalena “Gosÿ,” I knew that “Maria Anna Hensy” was living in Buffalo in 1832, was most likely born in France, and was probably between the ages of 16 and 60 when she served as godmother, suggesting a birth between 1772 and 1816, although I suspected that a narrower range from 1800–1816 was more likely. I guessed that she was also probably living in Detroit by 1857 when Maria Magdalena was married, so I set up parallel searches with either Buffalo or Detroit specified as her place of residence. I tired varying the specificity of the search, leaving out some information, such as approximate year of birth, and I also tried making the search more restrictive by specifying “exact search” for some parameters, such as her place of birth in France. I used wild card characters to try to circumvent problems with variant spellings in the surname, and I performed all these same searches at FamilySearch, since they offer a different assortment of indexed databases. Despite all that, no promising candidates emerged for further research until DNA matches permitted me to focus on particular family trees.

Why might this be? Good question. One thing I did not do was try drilling down to the Public Member Trees database, specifically. It’s standard research practice among experienced researchers to drill down to a particular database where the research target is expected to be found, e.g. “1870 United States Federal Census,” or “New York, U.S., Arriving Passenger and Crew Lists (including Castle Garden and Ellis Island), 1820-1957,” especially when the desired results don’t turn up readily in broader searches of all the databases, or within a sub-category of databases, like “Immigration & Emigration” or “Census & Voter Lists.” So, although I searched for “Maria Anna Hensy,” in specific historical records databases (e.g. 1840 census, 1850 census, etc.), my research log indicates that I never drilled down to the Public Member Trees to look for clues. I suspect this reflects some unconscious bias on my part—mea culpa! I’m so accustomed to frustration over all the inaccuracies that I find in so many online trees, that I failed to give these trees the consideration they deserved in generating good leads. When I repeat those searches for Maria Anna Hensy in the Public Member Trees database, the correct Maria Anna/Anna Maria Hentzy Schneider shows up in the first page of search results.

3. Analyze the Surname Hints from DNAGedcom

Had I also dug deeper into Aunt Betty’s DNA matches using some of analytical tools out there, I might have found my Cossins sooner. Several weeks ago, I ran a Collins-Leeds analysis at DNAGedcom on all of Aunt Betty’s matches at Ancestry that were within the 20–300 centiMorgan (cM) range, and the results included an enormous cluster with 36 members, whom I realize now are all related through the Hensy line (Figure 1). I’ve written a little previously about DNAGedcom, and more information can be found on their website. However, the purpose of autocluster analysis tools like this is to sort your autosomal DNA match list into clusters of people who are related to each other through a common line of descent.

Figure 1: Detail from Collins-Leeds analysis of Aunt Betty’s Ancestry DNA matches ranging from 20–300 cM showing Cluster 7. The pink/green shaded squares to the right are part of a supercluster between this group and the adjacent Cluster 8 (colored in green, not shown in this image), indicating matches in common between these two clusters, which implies related lines of descent.

The really cool thing about DNAGedcom for these analyses is the amount of information that is provided—assuming you take the time to dig into it, which I had not done previously. For that cluster shown in Figure 1, you’ll notice that some of the pink squares are marked with a green leaf. Those leaves mark the intersections of two DNA testers who have family trees linked to their DNA tests, and hovering the cursor over those squares will reveal the names of individuals found in both trees. You can even go one better and tap on any colored square (marked with a leaf or not) to see the option to “View Cluster,” or “View Chromo[some] Browser,” as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: The “View Cluster” and “View Chromo Browser” options that appear for viewing more information about a particular cluster identified via autocluster analysis at DNAGedcom.

The data used for this autocluster analysis came from Ancestry, and much to the dismay of pretty much everyone interested in genetic genealogy, Ancestry does not offer a chromosome browser or any sort of segment data. So, the “View Chromo Browser” option will not work here, although it would work if these data were gathered from another source like 23&Me. However, clicking on “View Cluster” brings up the chart shown in Figure 3. Names of testers have been redacted for privacy.

Figure 3: Details about Cluster 7, obtained by selecting “View Cluster” option in autocluster matrix generated at DNAGedcom.

Clicking on the name of anyone in that list will take you to the DNA match page for that person at Ancestry. Tree icons on the left indicate those matches with linked family trees. Nice information, but if you keep scrolling down, it gets even better. After identifying the individuals with whom DNA is shared in each cluster, DNAGedcom goes one step further, identifying individual ancestors who appear in the family trees linked to those matches (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Ancestors mentioned in family trees linked to autosomal DNA tests for individuals from Cluster 7, as identified by DNAGedcom.

The names of the DNA matches who own each family tree are listed in the column on the far right, and have been redacted for privacy, but the chart indicates that Nicolaus, Johann Anton, and Servatius Thelen all appear in 4 different family trees of individual members of Cluster 7, as do Anna Maria and Andrew Schneider and Peter Simon. As it happens, the most recent common ancestral couple between Aunt Betty and these matches—Dionisy Hentzy and Agnes Antony— is not mentioned in this top part of the list. However, if we were to scroll down a bit, we would find them (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Dennis (Dionisy) Hanzi in ancestor list generated by DNAGedcom for ancestors identified in family trees of DNA matches in Cluster 7.

Admittedly, this is still a “Some Assembly Required” type of tool. The ancestor list for a given cluster identified by DNAGedcom does not immediately identify the most recent common ancestral couple. However, in conjunction with a list of ancestral FANs, and with guidance from the public member trees, which explain the relationships between individuals mentioned in the list, this is a powerful tool, indeed.

4. Use All the Information in Each Historical Record

The mistake that galls me the most in all of this is that I failed to fully examine the death record for Mary M. Roberts until I sat down to write that first blog post about this discovery. (Actually, had I blogged about my “brick wall” with Maria Magdalena earlier, I might have found my answers faster, since writing about something always forces me to review, organize, and reanalyze my information.) When I looked at my evidence for her date of death, I noticed that I had her probate packet and cemetery records, but I was still citing the index entry for her Michigan death certificate, which I had obtained years ago, and not the original record, which is now readily available online. Duh! One of the cardinal rules of genealogy is to always go to the original source, rather than trusting the information in an index, because so often there is additional information in the original, or there are transcription errors that are caught after viewing the original. Such was the case here, as well. The index entry, shown in Figure 6, only states that Mary M. Roberts was born “abt. 1833.”1

Figure 6: Index entry from Ancestry’s database, “Michigan, U.S., Deaths and Burials Index, 1867-1995” for Mary M. Roberts.

However, the entry from the death register contains more information than was indexed regarding her precise age at the time of death.2 The death register states that she was 61 years, 6 months, and 10 days old when she died, as shown in Figure 7.

Figure 2: Detail of death record for Mary M. Roberts, showing age at time of death as 61 years, 6 months, 10 days (boxed in green).

When I ran this through a date calculator (such as this one), it points to a birth date of 17 August 1832. This is almost an exact match to the birth date of 14 August 1832 that was noted on the baptismal record for Maria Magdalena “Gosÿ” from St. Louis Church in Buffalo.

Facepalm.

Had I made this connection sooner, I would have been much more confident in accepting that baptismal record as the correct one for Mary Magdalene Causin/Casin/Curzon/Couzens. I guess this is why we have Genealogy Do-Overs. All of us start our research by making rookie errors, so at the very least, it’s important to periodically step back and re-evaluate the search to see what is really known, and to make sure that nothing has been overlooked. Better still, consider a full-blown, Thomas MacEntee-style Do Over, which I have never yet had the courage to do.

Not all breakthroughs are the result of elegant or sophisticated methodology. Sometimes, you just keep hacking away at a problem, and you get to the answer in the end, and that’s what happened here. While the origins of the Causin family could possibly have been discovered, in time, using thorough documentary research in church records from Detroit and Buffalo, the process was expedited when the focus switched from the Causin surname to the Hentzy surname of one of their FANs. With the addition of insight gained from examination of DNA matches, the process was expedited still further. The combination of cluster research, autosomal DNA matching, and standard documentary research, is so powerful that it can even overcome a flawed research process. So, while this may not have been a pretty victory, it was a victory nonetheless. I’ll take it.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Sources:

1 “Michigan, U.S., Deaths and Burials Index, 1869-1995,” database, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 17 November 2021), Mary M. Roberts, died 27 February 1894, citing Family History Library film no. 1377697.

2 “Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995,” database and image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHH5-3XW : 17 November 2021), Mary M. Roberts, 27 February 1894, citing Wayne, Michigan, Deaths, v. 13-17 1893-1897, no. 3598.

From Curzon to Gosÿ: Finding Maria Magdalena Roberts

Recently, a long-standing “brick wall” came tumbling down, and I’m still reveling in the victory. I was finally able to definitively identify the parents of my great-great-great-grandmother, Maria Magdalena (Causin) Roberts, and establish their place of origin. This has been a research problem for nearly a decade, so it’s an especially sweet victory. Here’s how it unfolded.

Introducing Mary Magdalene Roberts

Mary Magdalene (or Maria Magdalena) Roberts has been quite the mystery for me, but it’s not as if she left no traces whatsoever in the historical record. On the contrary, her life is well-documented from the time of her marriage until the time of her death. I knew that Mary was born in New York about 1833–1834 and that she died on 27 February 1894 in Dearborn, Michigan.1 She married Michael Roberts (formerly Michael Ruppert), a German immigrant from the village of Heßloch in Rhineland-Palatinate, and together they became the parents of eight children, four of whom outlived her. However, her family’s origins prior to her marriage were considerably less clear. The record of Mary’s marriage to Michael Ruppert from St. Joseph’s (Roman Catholic) Church in Detroit is shown in Figure 1.2

Figure 1: Marriage record for Magdalena Causin and Michael Rupert from St. Joseph’s Roman Catholic church (Detroit, Michigan) 12 May 1857.

The record is in Latin, and states that Michael Rupert married Magdalena Causin on 12 May 1857, and names Michael’s brother, Arnold Rupert, as a witness, along with Maria Brant (?). Unfortunately, the record does not provide the names of the parents of the bride and groom, and neither were Maria Magdalena’s parents identified on her death record.3 However, the death record stated that her parents were born in Switzerland, and the 1880 census reported that both her parents were born in France.4

Mary’s place of birth was identified as Buffalo, New York, on baptismal records for her children from Old St. Mary’s, and these records provided additional evidence for her maiden name. Figures 3a and b show the baptismal record for Franc. Henricus (Franz Heinrich, or Francis Henry) Ruppert in 1866.5

Figure 3a: Left page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church showing baptismal record for Franc. Henricus Rupert boxed in red.

In this image, the mother’s name in the column at the far right, slightly cut off in the photo, appears to be “Magdalena Causin.”

Figure 3b.

Figure 3b: Right page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church, showing baptismal record of Franc. Henricus Rupert boxed in red.

The first column on the left in Figure 3b is the mother’s place of birth, which was identified as Buffalo, New York. The godparents, recorded in the next column, were Franciscus (Frank) Rupert and Catherine Rupert, the baby’s paternal grandparents.

Similarly, Buffalo was identified as the Mary Magdalene’s place of birth in the baptismal record for her son, Franz Georg, in 1871 (Figure 4b), but the mother’s name looks more like Casin or Cosin than Causin (Figure 4a).6

Figure 4a: Left page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church in Detroit, showing baptism of Franz Georg Rupert, boxed in red. The mother’s name, Magdalena Casin, appears in the column on the far right.
Figure 4b: Right page of baptismal register from Old St. Mary’s Church in Detroit, showing baptism of Franz Georg Rupert, boxed in red.

The godparents noted here were Franz Rupert, again, and “Charl.” (presumably Charlotte) Braun, and again, Magdalena was reported to have been born in Buffalo.

To further complicate the issue of Mary Magdalene’s maiden name, it was recorded as Couzens on the death record for her daughter, Katherine “Kitty” Hecker (Figure 5).7

Figure 5: Death certificate for Katherine “Kitty” Hecker, reporting mother’s name as Mary Couzens.

Moreover, Mary’s maiden name was reported as Curzon in the brief biographical entry about her son, Frank M. Roberts, which appeared in the Buffalo Artists’ Register published in 1926 (Figure 6).8

Figure 6: Detail from entry for Frank M. Roberts in the Buffalo Artists’ Register.

The Search for Causins in Buffalo

With no hard evidence for her parents’ names, but pretty good evidence for a birth in Buffalo, New York, circa 1833, my Aunt Carol and I hoped to find a baptismal record for Mary Causin/Casin/Couzens/Curzon in the church records from St. Louis parish in Buffalo. St. Louis was the only Roman Catholic church in Buffalo at that time, having been established by immigrants from Germany, France and Ireland in 1829, and records are available from the Family History Library, originally on microfilm (currently digitized).9 Aunt Carol had a chance to review them first, and was disappointed to discover no good matches for a baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Causin. Her best guess was an 1832 baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Krauter, daughter of Matthias Krauter and Anna Eva Knab, but she conceded that this was a shot in the dark. I took a look at the film myself, and similarly struck out. Broad searches in indexed databases at Ancestry and FamilySearch for “C*s*n” living in Buffalo in 1832 produced plenty of results for Casin, Cassin, Cushion, Cousin, etc. but many of the individuals identified were Irish or English, arrived in Buffalo too late, or were ruled out for other reasons. A History of Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, New York, published in 1898, contains a list of the German heads of household of St. Louis parish in 1832, but there were no surnames similar to Causin.10 We had no knowledge of any siblings that Maria Magdalena might have had, and no evidence for the family’s whereabouts from the time between her birth in Buffalo circa 1833, and her marriage in Detroit in 1857. Whoever Mary Magdalene’s parents were, they seemed to have left no trace of their time in Buffalo.

Hoping to get some new perspective on the problem, I posted in the Facebook group for the Western New York Genealogical Society back in 2013, wondering if there might be some other places besides St. Louis church that Mary might have been baptized.11 Admin Nancy Archdekin came through with an interesting suggestion: a birth record from St. Louis parish that Aunt Carol and I had overlooked, for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, daughter of Joseph Antonius Gosÿ and Maria Agatha Hensy (Figure 7).12

Figure 7: Baptismal record from St. Louis church in Buffalo, New York, for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, 14 August 1832.

According to this record, Maria Magdalena Gosÿ was born on 14 August 1832 and baptized (“renata vero”) the same day, with godparents Joseph Lang and Maria Anna Hensy. I was intrigued. I could see how “Gosÿ” might be a phonetic approximation of “Causin,” if the latter were pronounced with a nasal French ending. Could Gosÿ be the “correct,” original version of the surname, and all the subsequent records got it wrong? Searches for Gosÿ in Buffalo in 1832 were negative, suggesting that the name was a misspelled version of something. Could it be Causin?

I put that record on the back shelf, thinking that we had not yet exhausted documentary research which may still produce some leads or insights. I searched the 1840 census in both Detroit and Buffalo, the Buffalo, New York, Death Index, and Buffalo city directories, chasing down every Cousin, Cossin, Causin, Cassin, Curson, Cozzens, and any other surnames that seemed remotely similar phonetically. I checked probate records from Wayne County, Michigan, for any references to Mary as an heir, and although Mary was not mentioned specifically, I came up with one promising reference to “Pierre Casson (Coussin),” that was at least close to the right name. However, subsequent searches suggest that he may have been French Canadian rather than Alsatian. Still, it was a lead that I could have pursued further. I checked probate records in Buffalo, as well, but found nothing. Church records from St. Joseph’s might still be revealing. Perhaps they have records of premarital investigations, which sometimes provided more information about the bride and groom than is found in the actual marriage record? Furthermore, church records (deaths, in particular) from both St. Louis in Buffalo and St. Mary’s in Detroit had not yet been examined. There was—and still is—work to be done.

I also had some nagging doubts. What if Mary was never baptized? There was some evidence that the Alsatian community in Buffalo in the 1820s was “not unduly devout;” might her parents have omitted that rite?13 This hypothesis might have been more likely had Mary been born in Buffalo prior to 1829, but if a Catholic church was already in existence by about 1833 when she was born, it seemed probable that she would have been baptized there. But then another concern presented itself. In my research experience, many immigrants approximated their place of origin to the closest big city. What if Mary was not born in Buffalo, but near it? I’d found evidence in my research for Alsatian families farming in rural communities throughout the Western New York area, from Buffalo to Rochester. Maybe she was born in one of those communities?

Clues from the Causins’ Cluster

Since cluster research (also known as FAN research, research into an ancestor’s Friends/family, Associates, and Neighbors) has been so fruitful for me in the past, I decided to take a closer look at Maria Brant (or Brandt) and Charlotte Braun, two of the Roberts family’s FANS who were noted on church records, and were not known family members. Again, nothing jumped out at me; surveys of indexed records did not produce any good candidates who were born in France, Alsace, or Switzerland and who might have been connected to Mary. I kept coming back to that baptismal record for Maria Magdalena Gosÿ: the mother and the godmother had the same surname, Hensy, and I suspected that they were at least cousins, if not sisters. Searches for “Hensy” in Buffalo and Detroit suggested that this surname, too, may have been misspelled, and I quickly discovered a plethora of German surname possibilities from indexed records, including Hintse, Hantz, Hense, Hentzi, Hentz, Hentzy, Hans, and even Hohensee. There were no obvious matches for Maria Anna Hensy, however. Something more was needed to shed light on this research problem, and I hoped that something would be DNA.

DNA to the Rescue

Although I could have used my own DNA match lists, I have in my arsenal DNA match lists for both my Dad and his paternal aunt. Aunt Betty is two generations closer to Mary Magdalene Roberts than I am, and she should have inherited roughly 12.5% of her DNA from this particular ancestor. With so much “Causin” DNA, I expected that it would not be too difficult to identify matches in Aunt Betty’s match list that are related to us through Mary Magdalene Causin. Nonetheless, it took some time to get to the point where I had identified enough matches that were probably related through the ancestors of Mary Magdalene Causin—and not one of our other German or Alsatian ancestors—that I could try to compare family trees and look for common surnames and places.

And that’s when it happened.

I was looking through Aunt Betty’s DNA matches one evening for something completely unrelated to Causin research. I was examining the public tree associated with one of her matches, when a name jumped out at me: Anna Maria Hanzi, who was married on 8 October 1838 to Moritz Schneider at Old St. Mary’s church in Detroit. It suddenly dawned on me that this must be the Anna Maria “Hensy” of the baptismal record! Shared matches for this person included people I’d previously identified as having probable Causin ancestry, and several of them had public trees. All of them had Mary Ann (Anna Maria) Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze in them, and Ancestry reported that this same Mary Ann (Anna Maria) Hanses/Hanzi/Heinze appeared in 326 trees, quite a number of which cited a birth in 1814 in “Vaterhunn,” Alsace, France—information which was supposed to have come from the church record of Anna Maria’s marriage at Old St. Mary’s. Furthermore, Anna Maria’s parents were identified as Dionysius/Dennis Hanzi and Agatha (__), both of whom also immigrated to Michigan. The fact that this Mary Ann/Anna Maria had the same name as Mary Magdalene’s godmother, was also married in Detroit, and was showing up in the family trees of multiple DNA matches to Aunt Betty, could not possibly be a mere coincidence. This was the key to the whole problem!

A quick internet search revealed that “Vaterhunn” does not exist. It may have been a phonetic misrendering of whatever village name was provided orally to the priest, or it may have been a mistranscription by whomever tried to decipher the handwriting in the church record, or a combination of these. My first thought was that I needed to write to the church to request a copy of the marriage record. Although these records have been microfilmed and are available for research as part of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, the Collection is temporarily unavailable (as of this writing) due to major renovations at the library. Obtaining the record from the church so I could see the handwriting myself seemed like the fastest way to discover what the real village name ought to be.

In the meantime, I decided to take a shot at guessing what the town name should have been. Lacking a good gazetteer for Alsace, I approximated one by searching the FamilySearch catalog for “France, Haut-Rhin,” and then drilling down to “Places within Haut-Rhin” for a list of about 400 locations for which FamilySearch has microfilmed/digitized records. I have no idea how complete this coverage is, but it seemed like a good start. Since many vital records for Haut-Rhin are online, I started searching for a civil birth registration for Maria Anna/Anna Maria Hentze in 1814, to confirm the location. I thought perhaps that the “-hunn” in “Vaterhunn” might be “-heim,” instead, so I checked records from Waltenheim, Wettolsheim, Battenheim and Bartenheim for a few years around 1814, but did not find Anna Maria’s birth, nor even evidence for the existence of the Hentze surname in these locations.

Not feeling especially patient at this point, I switched gears and searched the Alsace & Lorraine Genealogy Facebook group for “Vaterhunn.” If there are 326 family trees out there that mention Anna Maria Hanzi in them, and a large percentage of them repeat this information about “Vaterhunn,” then I figured it was quite possible that someone before me had sought help in trying to identify this village. Lo, and behold, I discovered an old post from 2014 in which a group member (whom I’ll call “OP”) had asked about this very same question, for the very same reason.14 The comment thread was incomplete; it looked as though some comments had been deleted, but it appeared that a baptismal record had been located by a member of the group. A second search of the group’s history for OP’s name produced a second thread in which she requested a translation of a birth record which had been found by a group member previously—a birth record for Anna Maria Hentze.15 The record came from a collection of civil birth registrations for the village of Pfetterhouse—the elusive “Vaterhunn” mentioned in the oft-cited marriage record for Anna Maria Hentze. I quickly looked up the original birth record, which confirmed that Maria Anna Hensÿ was born 29 April 1814 to Dionisÿ Hensÿ, a 34-year-old laborer, and his wife, Agnes.16 Having nailed down the location, I started searching marriages records for Pfetterhouse for the marriage of Joseph Antoine “Gosÿ” and Maria Agatha Hensÿ, and voilà! I discovered their civil marriage record on 8 September 1829 (Figures 8a and 8b).17

Figure 8a: First page of the marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agathe Hentzÿ from the civil registry office in Pfetterhouse, Haut-Rhin, Alsace, France, 8 September 1829.
Figure 8b: Second page of marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy, showing signatures of groom and witnesses.

My transcription is as follows, with thanks to Margaret Fortier, CG, of the Genealogical Translations Facebook group who volunteered a bit of editing.18

“No. 6, Cassin, Joseph Antoine Avec Marie Agathe Hentzÿ, Le 8 Septembre 1829

L’an mil huit cent vingt neuf le huit septembre à quatre heures après midi pardevant nous Jacques [Hemis?], maire et officier de l’etat civil de la commune de Pfetterhausen, canton d‘hirsingen, arrondissement d’altKirch département du haut-rhin, sont comparus le sieur Joseph Antoine Cossin, cordonnier né le douze thermidor l’an neuf de la republique constaté par l’extrait de naissance de la commune de Seppois le bas domicilié à Pfetterhausen fils majeur légitime de feu Jacques Cossin cultivateur et de feu Barbara Maker en leur vivant domicilié à Seppois le bas, le père décedé le dix avril mil huit cent quatorze constaté par l’extrait mortuaire du dit lieu, et la mère décedé la quatorze germinal an onze de la republique constaté par l’extrait de décé de Seppois le bas, et quant aux aieuls, le dit Cossin s’est présenté avec quatre habitans de la commune de Seppois le bas, les nommés François Joseph Wendlinger cultivateur âgé de soixante sept ans, Joseph Waller cultivateur âgé de cinquante sept ans, Moritz Cossin cultivateur âgé de cinquante six ans, et Antoine Martin marschal ferrant âgé de cinquante trois ans tous les quatre nous ont déclaré qu’ils n’ont point de connaissance et ne savent pas ôu les aïeul du dit Joseph Antoine Cossin sont décedés et d‘aprés la lettre de M. le maire Colin de Seppois le bas qui est àjointe, il parait et justifie qu’ils ne sont pas no plus inscrits dans les archives de la commune, et la demoiselle Marie Agatha Hentzy journalliere née le vingt sept mars mil huit cent onze constaté par l’extrait de naissance de Pfetterhausen fille mineure de Thienisy Hentzy cabaretier et d’Agnoise Antony ses père et mère tous les trois domiciliés au dit lieu à présent et consentant les quels nous ont requis de procéder à celebration du mariage projété entre eux, dont les publications ont été faites devant la porte principale de notre Maison commune, savoir, la première le dimanche vingt trois aôut et la seconde le dimanche trente même mois de la présente année, chaquefois à l’heure de midi, et aucune opposition au dit mariage ne nous ayant été signiffiée [?], faisant droit à leur requition et après leur avoir donné lecture de toutes les pièces ci dessus mentionnées du chapitre six du titre cinq du code civil intitule du mariage, nous avons demandé aux future Epoux et Epouse, s’ils quelent se prendre pour mari et pour femme chaqu’un d’eux ayant repondu séparement et affirmatisement Déclarons au nom de la loi que le sieur Joseph Antoine Cossin et la demoiselle Marie Agatha Hentzy sont unis par le mariage, de tout quoi nous avons dressé acte en presence des sus dits quatre habitans de Seppois le bas témoins, dont aucun n’est pas parentes ni alliés de l’un ni de l’autre des deux Epoux, les quels aprés lecture et interprétation en allemand faites, ont signé avec nous et les parties contractantes, dont aite, la mère Agnoise Antonÿ a déclaré ne savoir écrire. [Signed] Joseph Antonÿ Cossin, Frantz J. Wendlinger, Joseph Waller, Moritz Cossin, Antonÿ Martus, J. Hemis [?], maire.”

I’ve translated the record below:

“The year one thousand eight hundred and twenty nine on the eighth of September at four o’clock in the afternoon. Before Us, Jacques [Hemis?], mayor and civil registrar of the commune of Pfetterhausen, Canton of Hirsingue, District of Altkirch, Department of Haut-Rhin, appeared Mr. Joseph Antoine Cossin, shoemaker, born on the twelfth [day of the French Republic month of] Thermidor of the year nine of the Republic, according to the birth record of the commune of Seppois-le-Bas; residing in Pfetterhausen, son of legal age of the late Jacques Cossin, farmer, and of the late Barbara Maker in their lifetime residing in Seppois-le-Bas, the father deceased on the tenth of April eighteen hundred and fourteen according to the mortuary extract of the said place, and the mother died on the fourteenth [day of the French Republic month of] Germinal [in the] year eleven of the Republic, according to the extracted death record of Seppois-le-Bas, and as for the grandparents, the said Cossin presented us with four inhabitants of the commune of Seppois-le-Bas, by name, François Joseph Wendlinger, farmer, age sixty-seven years; Joseph Waller, farmer, aged fifty-seven; Moritz Cossin, farmer, aged fifty-six years, and Antoine Martin, blacksmith, aged fifty-three years; all four declared to us that they have no knowledge and do not know where the grandparents of the said Joseph Antoine Cossin are deceased and according to the attached letter of Mr. Colin, the mayor of Seppois-le-Bas, it appears and can be judged that they are no longer registered in the archives of the of the commune; and the Miss Marie Agatha Hentzy, [female] day laborer, born on March twenty-seventh, eighteen hundred and eleven, as verified by the extract of birth of Pfetterhausen, minor daughter of Thienisy Hentzy, cabaret owner, and of Agnoise Antony; her father and mother all three domiciled in the said place at present and consenting, who have required us to proceed to the celebration of the marriage planned between them, of which the publications were made in front of the main door of our common House; namely, the first one on Sunday, August twenty-third, and the second one on Sunday, the thirtieth [day of the] same month of the present year, each time at the hour of noon; and after no opposition to the said marriage [was found], and after having read them all of the documents from Chapter Six of Title Five of the Civil Code pertaining to marriage, we have asked the future spouses, if they want to take each other as husband and wife [and] each of them having answered separately and affirmatively, We declare in the name of the law that Mr. Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy are united in marriage, of which we have drawn up an Act in the presence of the above-mentioned four witnesses of Seppois-le-Bas, none of whom is related to either of the two Spouses, who after reading and interpreting in German, have signed with us and the contracting parties; the mother Agnoise Antonÿ declared [that she does] not know how to write. [Signed] Joseph Antonÿ Coſsin, Frantz J. Wendlinger, Joseph Waller, Moritz Coſsin, Antonÿ Martus, J. Hemis [?], Mayor.”

The groom’s name was recorded as Joseph Antoine Cossin, with a “long s,” (Figure 9), and the names of the bride and groom are an exact match to the names of the parents of Maria Magdalena in the baptismal record from St. Louis church in Buffalo, eliminating any further doubt that the “Gosÿ” of the baptismal record was intended to be something closer to the “Causin” more commonly found on records pertaining to Mary Magdalene Roberts.

Figure 9: Detail from marriage record for Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzy showing Joseph’s name written with a long s.

Joseph’s parents were identified as Jacques Cossin and Barbara (née Maker) Cossin, both deceased—a brand-new ancestral couple for me to research! I even got a bonus ancestral signature on the second page, where Joseph himself signed the record. The record is packed with genealogical gold, including the dates of birth of both the bride and groom and the dates of death of both of the groom’s parents. Some of the dates are given according to the old calendar of the French Republic, created after the French Revolution. Steve Morse offers a handy tool for converting old French Republic dates into their modern Gregorian calendar equivalents, and after conversion, we see that Joseph Antoine Cosson was born 28 July 1804, and his mother, Barbara, died 1 April 1806, when Joseph was just two years old.

The Cossin family was from the nearby village of Seppois-le-Bas, shown on the map in Figure 10, and the two villages are just a stone’s throw away from the Swiss border.

Figure 10: Locations of Pfetterhouse and Seppois-le-Bas within France. Google Maps.

The marriage record tells the story of Joseph Cossin’s process of fulfilling the legal requirements of the Napoleonic Code for marriage by rounding up four witnesses to accompany him to the mayor’s office. The Code specified that, in cases where the parents of a bride or groom of legal age for marriage were deceased, the permission of the grandparents was nonetheless required, until the age of 30 for grooms and 25 for brides. Article 155 further states,

“In case of the absence of the ancestor to whom the respectful act ought to have been made, the celebration of the marriage may be proceeded in, on producing a judgment given declaring absence, or in default of such judgment that which shall have directed an inquiry, or if such latter judgment shall not yet have been pronounced, an act of notoriety delivered by the justice of the peace of the place where the ancestor had his last known domicil. This act shall contain the deposition or four witnesses officially summoned by the justice of the peace.”19

So, in order to avoid possible fines and imprisonment, Messieurs les maires of the communes of Seppois-le-Bas and Pfetterhouse had to carefully document that Joseph’s grandparents were deceased and that he had no family members whose consent was required for the marriage. Although the record states that none of the witnesses were related to either the bride or the groom, the fact that one of the witnesses, Moritz Cossin, shares a surname with the groom and was from the same small village, suggests that he may, in fact, have been a distant relative, although they were apparently unaware of any relationship.

On the bride’s side, the record states that she was the daughter of “Thienisy” Hentzy, cabaret owner, and of Agnoise Antony, which are reasonable phonetic matches to the Dionisy and Agnes Hentzy who were reported to be the parents of Maria Anna Hentzy Schneider, according to numerous family trees on Ancestry. This confirms that Mary Magdalene’s godmother, Anna Maria Hensy, was in fact, her aunt.

While many genealogical research questions remain, this is such a satisfying breakthrough for me, and I look forward to growing my family tree in this fertile ground of records from both the U.S. and France. From Causin to Curzon to Gosÿ and back to Cossin; from Pfetterhouse to Buffalo to Detroit to “Vaterhunn,” this has been quite a journey of discovery. And yet, in hindsight, I’m frankly amazed that it took me this long to find them. In my next post, I’ll share all the missteps I made, the things I wish I had done differently, and the lessons I’ve learned along the way.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2021

Selected Sources:

Featured image: The author at the grave of Mary Magdalene Roberts, Mt. Elliott Cemetery, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit, Valerie Koselka.

11860 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 6, page 142, dwelling no. 1066, household no. 1148, Mary Roberts in household of Michael Roberts; digital image, Ancestry (http://ancestry.com : 6 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication M653, roll 566 of 1,438 rolls; and

1870 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, Detroit Ward 6, page 476B, dwelling no. 998, household no. 1114, Magdalena Robert in household of Michael Robert; digital image, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 6 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication M593, roll 713 of 1,761 rolls; and

Wayne County Probate Court (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan), Probate packet no. 19856, Mary M. Roberts, died 27 February 1894; digital images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 28 June 2021), “Probate estate packets, 1797-1901,” FHL Film no.967194, path: Wayne > Probate packets 1894 no 19805-19856 > images 975-984.

2 Roman Catholic Church, St. Joseph’s parish (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, USA), “Marriages, 1835-1866”, 1857, no. 15 (?), marriage record for Michael Ruppert and Magdalena Causin, Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32A, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan, USA. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

3 “Michigan Deaths and Burials, 1800-1995,” database and image, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:FHH5-3XW : 31 October 2021), Mary M. Roberts, 27 February 1894, citing Wayne, Michigan, Deaths, v. 13-17 1893-1897, no. 3598.

4 1880 United States Federal Census, Wayne County, Michigan, population schedule, city of Detroit, Enumeration District 298, page 123A, dwelling no. 92, household no. 92, Mary Roberts in household of Michael Roberts; database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 1 July 2021), citing NARA microfilm publication T9, roll 613 of 1,454 rolls.

5 Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary’s parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA), “Baptisms, 1866-1919,” 1866, no. 194, Franc. Henricus Rupert, born 29 August 1866, Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

6 Roman Catholic Church, St. Mary’s parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan, USA), “Baptisms, 1866-1919,” 1871, line 188, Franz Georg Rupert, baptized 8 October; Burton Historical Collection microfilm no. 1286, reel 32, Detroit Public Library, 5201 Woodward Ave, Detroit, Michigan. Photo credit Valerie Koselka.

7 “Michigan, U.S., Death Records 1867-1952,” database with images, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 30 October 2021), Katherine Hecker, died 13 June 1942, file no. 293521, citing Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics; Lansing, Michigan.

8 Lee F. Heacock, The Buffalo artists’ register : a general review of the activities of representative organizations of Buffalo, N.Y. … related to … the creative and interpretive arts (Buffalo, New York: Heacock Publishing Company, 1926), pp 381-382, Buffalo and Erie County Public Library, 1 Lafayette Square, Buffalo, New York.

9 “St. Louis Roman Catholic Church,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Louis_Roman_Catholic_Church : 1 November 2021).

10History of Germans in Buffalo and Erie County, New York (Buffalo, New York: Verlag und Druck von Reinecke & Zesch, 1898), p. 38; e-book, Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com/ : 1 November 2021).

11 “Western New York Genealogical Society (WNYGS) Discussion Group,” discussion thread from post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 23 November 2013, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/WNYGS/posts/10152032075711041 : 1 November 2021).

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Louis parish (Buffalo, Erie, New York), Church records, 1829-1910, Baptisms 1829-1881, 1832, unnumbered entries in chronological order, Maria Magdalena Gosÿ, 14 August 1832.

13Andrew P. Yox, “The Parochial Context of Trusteeism: Buffalo’s St. Louis Church, 1828-1855,” The Catholic Historical Review, vol. 76, no. 4, Catholic University of America Press, 1990, pp. 712–33; JSTOR (http://www.jstor.org/stable/25023400 : 1 November 2021).

14 “Alsace & Lorraine Genealogy,” Facebook Group, Facebook, discussion thread from post on 26 October 2014, poster’s name omitted for privacy, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/alsace.genealogy/posts/10152755337639754 : 4 November 2021).

15 Ibid., discussion thread from post on 28 October 2014, poster’s name omitted for privacy, Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/groups/alsace.genealogy/posts/10152760909764754/ : 4 November 2021).

16 Officier de l’état civil (Pfetterhouse, Altkirch, Haut-Rhin, France), “Naissances, 1793-1862,” 1814, no. 6, birth record for Maria Anna Hensÿ, 29 April 1814, accessed as browsable images, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin, (https://archives.haut-rhin.fr/ark:/naan/a011455803237L7WIvz/e408e21f4f : 4 November 2021), image 194 out of 391.

17 Officier de l’état civil, Pfetterhouse, Altkirch, Haut-Rhin, France, “Mariages, 1793-1862,” 1829, no. 6, Joseph Antoine Cossin and Marie Agatha Hentzÿ, 8 September 1829; browsable images, Archives départementales du Haut-Rhin (https://archives.haut-rhin.fr/ark:/naan/a0114558031560HCYzb/5e563166a7 : 4 November 2021), image 192 of 338.

18 Genealogical Translations Group, Facebook, discussion thread from post by Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz, 29 October 2021 (https://www.facebook.com/groups/GenealogicalTranslations/posts/908406220105478/ : 3 November 2021).

19 “French Civil Code, Book 1: Of Persons, Title 5: Of Marriage,” The Napoleon Series (https://www.napoleon-series.org/research/government/code/book1/c_title05.html : 4 November 2021).

Migrations, Then and Now

For me, migration patterns are one of the most fascinating elements of family history. So many of our European ancestors made trans-Atlantic migrations, enduring difficult journeys to arrive in North America and begin new lives among people whose culture and language were foreign. But there are other relocation stories I’ve discovered through my research, too. What prompts a shoemaker in Podlachia to move 150 miles away from his place of birth, and settle in a small village in Mazovia circa 1800? And why does a young girl working as a domestic servant in 1900, leave her job, home, and family in St. Catharines, Ontario, and move to Portland, Oregon? Financial considerations and work opportunities seem to be logical answers, but there are probably other, more personal answers as well. A sense of adventure? Love? A desire to escape difficult circumstances?

I’ve made moves like this myself, both actively and passively. My first home was on Grand Island, New York, but I have no memory of it. When I was about 2, my Dad took a new job and we moved a thousand miles away, to Omaha, Nebraska, where we lived for about a year, until he was transferred to another office in Cincinnati, Ohio. When I was 10, we moved back to Western New York, where I finished my schooling and obtained my bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo, before moving on to graduate school at the University of California, Berkeley. Primed by those early moves, I felt confident in my choice to move 2,600 miles across the country, and I remember the feeling of excitement as I stepped onto the airplane, bound for California, ready to claim my future. Did my ancestors share that sense of hope and eagerness, or were their moves made in a spirit of resignation, bitterness, or sorrow at what they were leaving behind? Certainly we sacrifice less today than they did, given the ease with which we can stay in touch with our loved ones via Skype, Zoom, and texting, not to mention airline travel.

Or do we? It seems that nowadays, our moves are more solitary. My then-fiancé, now husband came with me to California, also intending to obtain a graduate degree, but it was just the two of us there for five years. There was no chain migration, no steady flow of friends and family from Buffalo coming to join us in Berkeley and establish a new community there. When our oldest son was born, and I was an exhausted, anxious young mother, confronted with the reality that I didn’t know a thing about taking care of an infant, I didn’t have my mother or mother-in-law there to comfort and guide me. Despite their supportive phone calls, we were on our own.

I think that “big moves” of more than a few hundred miles help us understand and define ourselves. Living in California, Bruce and I discovered that our identity derived, in part, from our origins in Buffalo. Buffalonians are like an ethnic group, Bruce observed on one occasion, bound together by our shared experiences and common culture. Moving to a new place forces us to choose—whether consciously or not—the elements of our original culture that are preserved, and the elements that are left behind. Unable to last five years without Buffalo’s famed “beef on weck,” Bruce learned to make his own kummelweck rolls. Unable to find a good Polish deli locally, I ordered kiełbasa from Redliński’s Meats in the Broadway Market and paid an arm and a leg for shipping, despite our impoverished graduate student status, because it was unthinkable to not have kiełbasa for our Święconka celebration at Easter.

Although we chose to preserve these elements of our Buffalo culture, other elements were discarded. The Seven Churches Visitation on Holy Thursday is a lovely custom, but it’s not universally practiced in Catholic communities throughout the U.S., so it was absent from our family culture as we moved from California to Illinois to Massachusetts. Czarnina, or duck’s blood soup, which was popular in Western New York’s Polish community and a favorite of both our mothers, has been jettisoned from the family’s culinary legacy. Although I’m saddened by the fact that our family no longer speaks Polish or German, the languages of (most) of my ancestors, I’m guilty of making the same kinds of cultural choices, keeping what works and what we like, and letting go of the rest.

As family historians, our ability to understand our ancestors’ culture, history, and environment is often the key to breaking through brick walls. By studying their FANs (Friends, Associates and Neighbors), we gain insight into our ancestors’ motivation and thought process. Can’t find documentary evidence for great-great-grandpa’s hometown in Germany? See where his FANs came from. Can’t determine which port he sailed into? Even details such as specific travel routes were often repeated by immigrants from the same villages. In earlier times, people retained their social connections, recreating whole communities on the other side of an ocean. Today, not so much. Nowadays, when people move across the country or across the world in isolation, it can be harder to guess their motivation. Unless, of course, they write a genealogy blog.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2020

 

Hot on the Trail of the Walshes: Determining Place of Origin in Ireland

In a previous post, I wrote about some progress I’ve made toward identifying potential parents for my 3x-great-grandfather, Robert Walsh. Thomas Walsh and Bridget Maria Walsh McNamara may or may not have been his siblings, but it’s clear that they were some kind of close family members to Robert, and that they were also full siblings to each other, since marriage records indicate that both Thomas and Maria were children of James Walsh and Catherine Cavanagh. Knowing the name, approximate date of birth, and parents’ names for an immigrant ancestor could potentially provide enough information to start looking for that ancestor in records from the Old Country, if the surname is relatively uncommon. However, the surname Walsh is the fourth most popular surname in Ireland today, and Cavanagh (or Kavanagh) is ranked at number 53 for popularity, with both surnames found throughout Ireland.1 For this reason, it makes sense to try to determine a precise place of origin for my immigrant Walsh siblings, rather than trying to leap into Irish records prematurely.

So far, this has been an uphill battle. Most of the strategies that have been successful when determining place of origin for my Polish ancestors have not worked here. Robert Walsh was already in Canada by the time of his marriage to Canadian-born Elizabeth Hodgkinson circa 1843. There are no surviving passenger manifests for immigration to Canadian ports prior to 1865, so we can’t hope to find a passenger manifest which states his birthplace or last residence within Ireland.2 Although a passenger manifest might be found if he arrived first in a U.S. port and then made his way to St. Catharines, I have no reason to believe that this was the case, and no identifying information that might help me to distinguish my Robert Walsh/Welch/Welsh from the scores of Irish immigrants by that name who immigrated via U.S. ports. Since Canada and Ireland were both part of the British Empire prior to Canadian confederation in 1867, naturalization was not necessary for Irish immigrants to Canada, which eliminates the possibility that a naturalization record will state place of origin.3 Neither have any of the church records provided any clues, since available baptismal records and marriage records for my known Walsh relatives do not specify immigrants’ place of origin, and burial records are not available. However, cluster research might help with this question, just as it did with identifying potential parents for Robert Walsh.

Chain migration is defined as “the process by which migrants from a particular town follow others from that town to a particular destination,”4 and it’s a phenomenon that many of us family historians have documented. In my own research, I’ve discovered that many of the Polish immigrants to North Tonawanda, New York in the period from 1900–1918 were from Sochaczew County, and many of the German immigrants to Detroit in the 1830s–1850s were from the area around Neustadt in the Marburg-Biedenkopf district. Could there be a similar, common place of origin for many of the Irish immigrants who chose St. Catharines as their destination? More importantly, can we identify that place of origin using existing data?

The cathedral parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria was established to serve the Irish laborers who built both the first Welland canal which opened in 1829, as well as the second Welland canal which was built in the 1840s.5 This work on the canal may have been a factor in Robert Walsh’s decision to immigrate. Although he was a merchant tailor rather than a laborer or canal worker, it may have been that Robert decided to leave Ireland for Canada to serve the clothing needs of this growing Irish community. Moreover, it is perhaps significant that Robert emigrated prior to the Irish Potato Famine of 1845–1849. In times of major crisis such as that famine, one might suppose that emigrants would be less particular about their destination. However, since Robert was a pre-Famine immigrant, his decision to go to St. Catharines may have been made in light of more ordinary considerations.

Of course, it’s too much to hope that all of the Irish immigrants to St. Catharines came from one location in Ireland, but it could potentially direct future research if I were to discover that, for example, most of the immigrants turned out to be from one or two counties within Ireland. Unfortunately, it’s not possible to examine church records from St. Catharines dated prior to the Great Famine. The earliest available records start in 1852, which suggests that any early chain migration patterns which may have existed will likely be obscured by the sheer volume of Irish immigration to Canada after the Great Famine. Nonetheless, desperate times call for desperate measures, and at this point I can’t think of any available genealogical data sets which might be more useful than church records in providing clues about migration patterns from Ireland to St. Catharines. To borrow an aviation cliché from my dad, I’m running out of altitude, air speed, and ideas.

So, here’s the plan:

  • Analyze the data from the earliest available collection of church records from the cathedral parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, the parish in which my ancestors settled, to see if any trends emerge regarding specific place of origin of Irish immigrants.
  • Pay special attention to data from any records of individuals known to be associated with my Walsh ancestors.
  • Use this information to prioritize searches for my ancestors in records from Ireland.

I’m planning to use John Grenham’s Irish genealogy site, Irish Ancestors, to identify the various collections which might be useful in tracking down my Walshes, and I purchased a short-term subscription to RootsIreland, which offers a number of databases of indexed records. (Spoiler alert: I’ve searched both these sites for “low-hanging fruit”—easily-found indexed records relevant to my research—and come up empty.) John Grenham’s site has a helpful feature which allows one to search by a surname (e.g. Walsh), and then cross-reference with a second surname (e.g. Cavanagh) to identify civil parishes in which both surnames were found in Griffith’s Valuation (1847–1864). Unfortunately, the Irish Ancestors site identified close to 200 parishes in which both surnames, Walsh and Cavanagh, were found. Given my research background in Polish records, that number seemed ridiculously high to me. I thought there had to be a better way to narrow the focus before attempting research in Irish records. However, after chatting about this research with Irish genealogy expert, Donna Moughty, at the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium (NERGC) conference in Manchester this past April, I learned that refinement might not be possible here. In Donna’s opinion, finding specific place of origin for pre-Famine immigrants from Ireland is generally so difficult that she thought my best bet under these circumstances would be that “brute force” method, systematically going through all the parishes identified at John Grenham’s site in which both the Walsh and Cavanagh surnames were known to exist. So be it.

Did I mention that I’m also in a race against the clock? I have an opportunity to follow my husband to Dublin on a business trip in a few weeks and it would be wonderful if I could squeeze in a day trip to the birthplace of Robert Walsh while I’m there. Of course, real life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of genealogy, so it’s not possible for me to devote myself full-time to the pursuit of the Walsh Ancestral Village. The unfortunate reality is that there’s a good chance I will not be able to identify the birthplace of Robert, Thomas, and Bridget Maria Walsh prior to setting foot on the Emerald Isle. At least I want the satisfaction of knowing I gave it my best possible shot.

So, I made a careful study of the available marriage and baptismal records for St. Catherine of Alexandria parish. The earliest available records are found in the collection Baptisms, marriages 1852–1860, and I focused on these primarily since the marriage records from this book typically mention the specific place of origin of the bride and groom. This is in contrast to the later book of Marriages, 1858–1910 in which only the immigrant’s country of origin is typically specified, although there was a span of years (images 12–16, with a few additional entries on images 10, 20, 23 and 27) when some thoughtful priest recorded the county of origin for Irish immigrants as well. I did not observe any examples of baptismal records where the place of origin of immigrant parents was noted. In the interest of time, I did not include the data regarding county of origin when it was mentioned in the book Marriages, 1858–1910. Instead, I focused only on the earliest records.

As the title suggests, the book Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860 contains both baptismal records and marriage records, intermingled on the same pages through 1857, when the parish began recording marriages in a separate book. I began by making a spreadsheet indexing all the baptisms which mention surnames Walsh/Welsh or Cavanagh in any capacity (mother, father, godmother or godfather). I did the same with the marriage records, indexing all those records in which the bride or groom was a Walsh, one of the witnesses was a Walsh, or the maiden name of the mother of either the bride or groom was Walsh. I also included all the marriage and baptism records that mention the known godparents of the children of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh. By doing this, I gained some interesting insights into the Walsh family’s network within their parish community in St. Catharines. However, it’s impossible to say which of these relationships were forged after immigration and which, if any, might stem from a common community in Ireland.

Among the potentially relevant discoveries were the following:

  • Thomas Walsh’s wife, Maryann Cronin, had a full brother named Michael Cronin who married Jane Alcox in 1856. Their marriage record stated that Michael was from County Limerick, while Jane was a native of St. Catharines, like Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh.6
  • Michael and Maryann Cronin had another full sister, Margaret Cronin, who married Robert McNamara in 1861.7 One of the witnesses to the marriage was John Fitzgerald—probably the same John Fitzgerald who served as godfather to Elizabeth Walsh (daughter of Robert Walsh) in 1854.
  • In 1858, Margaret Cronin was named as godmother to Thomas Cronin, son of John Cronin and Winifred Walsh.8 It’s tempting to speculate that this is the same Margaret Cronin who was sister to Michael and Maryann, and that Winifred Walsh might be related to “my” Walshes. However, there’s not enough evidence at this point to support that conclusion, and in any case, no marriage record for John and Winifred was found which might indicate her specific place of origin within Ireland.
  • Patrick McNamara, the husband of Bridget Maria Walsh, had a brother named John McNamara, who married the widowed Margaret (née Battle) McBride in November 1854.9  Margaret was the godmother of Elizabeth Walsh (Robert’s daughter) in May 1854.10 John McNamara was noted to be a native of Killuran, County Clare, while Margaret Battle was born in County Sligo. It’s not clear if Patrick and John McNamara were related in some way to Robert McNamara, husband of Margaret Cronin. However, it’s clear that any relationship that might have existed was more distant than siblings, since Patrick and John were reported to be sons of Timothy McNamara and Catherine Sullivan, while Robert was the son of Michael McNamara and Mary Gleeson.
  • Thomas Coil (or Coyle) and Jane Parks, who served as godparents to Nellie Walsh in August 1857,11 were married to each other in February 1857,12 exemplifying the priest’s tendency to record women under their maiden names, or under both married and maiden. Thomas Coyle was noted to be a native of County Tyrone, while Jane Parks was native to St. Catharines.
  • Although there were a couple baptismal records for a child of a Cavanah/Cavanagh mother or father, as well as a couple of baptismal records in which a Cavanagh served as a godfather, there’s no evidence that the individuals mentioned in those records were connected with each other, or with my Walsh/Cavanagh relatives.
  • There seems to be a connection between the Walsh family and the O’Driscol family, but the significance of that connection is unclear. Robert Walsh (presumably “my” Robert Walsh, since he was the only adult by that name living in St. Catharines in the 1861 census) served as godfatber to Helena McGuire in 1854, daughter of Daniel McGuire and Mary O’Driscol.13 In 1858, he was named as godfather to Edward O’Driscol, son of Michael O’Driscol and Catherine O’Driscol.14

 

To recap, the individuals mentioned above were the closest FANs (Friends, Associates and Neighbors) of Robert, Thomas, and Bridget Maria Walsh for whom I can identify some place of origin. The diversity of locations in Ireland associated with them underscores the difficulty in the task of locating my Walsh ancestors in Irish records. While it may be possible that one of these individuals happens to be from the same hometown as my Walshes, it may also be that all of them met in St. Catharines and were brought together by the common bond of being couples in which one spouse was a native of Upper Canada (in the case of Jane Parks, Jane Alcox, and Elizabeth Hodgkinson) while the other spouse was an immigrant from Ireland. In any case, my starting point in Irish records will be the locations mentioned in the records for these FANs of the Walshes: County Limerick, County Sligo, County Clare, and County Tyrone.

Sources:

1 “Top 100 Irish Surnames & Last Names (Family Names Ranked),” Ireland Before You Die (https://www.irelandbeforeyoudie.com : 7 June 2019).

2 “Passenger Lists, 1865-1922,” Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 7 June 2019).

3 “Canada Naturalization and Citizenship,” FamilySearch, (https://www.familysearch.org : 7 June 2019).

4 “Chain Migration,” Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/ : 7 June 2019).

5 “History of Our Parish,” Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria—Diocese of St. Catharines (https://www.thecathedralinstcatharines.com/history : 7 June 2019).

6 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1856, “Marriage Mich’l Cronin ac Jane Alex,” 19 August 1856, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 59 of 104.

7 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Marriage Register, Jan. 19, 1858–May 11, 1911, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1861, Robert McNamara and Margaret Cronin, 10 January 1861, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” Family Search (https://www.familysearch.org : 7 June 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 9 of 48.

8 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1856, “Baptism Thomas Cronin,” born 1 November 1858, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 86 of 104.

9 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, 1854, unnumbered pages, “42nd marriage, John McNamara and Margaret Battle,” 23 November 1854, accessed as browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 7 June 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860, image 36 of 104.

10 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1854, “88th Bapt. Elizabeth Walsh,” born 21 May 1854, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 28 of 104.

11 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1854, “Baptism Ellenor Walsh,” born 24 December 1856, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 72 of 104.

12 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, 1854, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, “Marriage Thos. Coyle and Jane Park,” 19 February 1857, accessed as browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 7 June 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860, image 66 of 104.

13 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1854, “9th Baptism Helena McGuire,” born 11 December 1853, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 22 of 104.

14 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Baptisms & Marriages 1852–1860, unnumbered entries, unnumbered pages in chronological order, 1858, “Baptism Edward O’Druscol [sic],” born 9 May 1858, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org/ : 7 June 2019) path Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 81 of 104.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Walshes of St. Catharines: Digging Deeper with Cluster Research

Every spring year my thoughts turn to my Walsh ancestors, from whom I inherit my very tiny bit of Irish ancestry. Finding the place of origin of the family in Ireland so that I can attempt to research them in records there has been an elusive goal for me and I often think how much easier it is to research my Polish ancestors, despite the language barrier, rather than this brick-wall Irish-Canadian lot. However, I’ve been able to gain some insights through cluster research, focusing especially on two individuals, Thomas Walsh and B. Maria Walsh, who were reported to be living with the family of my great-great-great-grandparents in the 1861 census. Through insights gained from research into Thomas and B. Maria, I may be inching closer to answering my research questions, “Where in Ireland was (my) Robert Walsh born, and who were his parents?”

Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh, who have also been recorded with the variant surnames Welch and Welsh, were my 3x-great-grandparents. I’ve written about them a few times, including, most recently, here. To quickly recap, Robert was born in Ireland circa 1808-1816 and was an immigrant to St. Catharines, Ontario. He married Elizabeth Hodgkinson circa 1840, but due to the loss of early church records for the parish in which they probably married, as well as census records for St. Catharines for both the 1842 and 1851 censuses of Canada West, the first glimpse we get of the Walsh family comes from the 1861 census. The 1861 census of Canada is one of those censuses which does not specify the relationships of each individual in the household to the head of the household. The entry for the family of Robert Walsh in St. Catharines, Ontario is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: Robert and Elizabeth Walsh family of St. Catharines, Ontario, in the 1861 Census of Canada.1Robert Walsh Family 1861 census

These data tell us that Robert Walsh was a married Roman Catholic tailor, born in Ireland circa 1816. His wife, recorded here only as Mrs. Robert Walsh, was also noted to have been born in Ireland and Roman Catholic. However, the bulk of the evidence pertaining to her indicates that Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh was actually an Anglican native of Upper Canada. Her age here, 40, suggests a birth circa 1821. So far, so good.

Thomas Walsh or Welsh, merchant tailor of St. Catharines

The following entries are where it starts to get interesting. The next two individuals who were mentioned in this family group are “Thos.” (Thomas) Walsh and “B. Maria” Walsh. Thomas was reported to be 30 years of age and B. Maria was reported to be 20 years of age, suggesting birth years circa 1831 and 1841, respectively. Both were single. It’s pretty clear that this Thomas cannot be the son of Robert and Elizabeth, since they would have been just 15 and 10 years of age when he was born. Moreover, their youngest son was also named Thomas, and it’s unusual (though perhaps not unheard of) to have two children in the family with the same name while both are living. The elder Thomas was noted to be a member of the family, rather than an unrelated resident in the household, but his exact relationship to Robert Walsh is unclear. Was he a younger brother? Nephew? Or perhaps cousin?

The fact that he was some close relative of the family is indisputable. Not only was Thomas living with the family in 1861, he was also living in the same house with them at 34 Lake Street in St. Catharines as of 1878 (Figure 2).

Figure 2: Partial listings for Welch in Gazetteer and business directory of Lincoln and Welland counties for 1879.2

Welch in St. Catharines City Directory 1879 crop

By 1878, Robert Walsh Sr. was probably retired from his previous occupation as a tailor, since no occupation was given. However, Thomas was noted to be a merchant tailor, so perhaps he inherited the family business from Robert. Robert’s son, James George Walsh, had apparently branched off into the sewing machine business, while Robert Jr. was noted to be a partner in Rogers and Welch, a local livery service.

Thomas’s close relationship to Robert Walsh’s family is underscored by the proximity of their graves in St. Catharines’ Victoria Lawn Cemetery. Figure 3 shows the location of the graves of Thomas Welsh (sic) and his wife and son, relative to the graves of Robert Walsh Jr. (buried under the spelling “Welch”), his wife Caroline, and their daughter, Frances Maria.

Figure 3: Location of Walsh family graves in Victoria Lawn Cemetery, section H. A = grave marker for Robert and Caroline Welch (sic). B = ground-level grave marker for Francis (sic) Marie Welch, daughter of Robert and Caroline.  C = grave marker for Thomas Welsh (sic), his wife Mary Ann Cronin, and their son, Robert Francis Welsh. Photo taken circa August 2006 by Carol Roberts Fischer, used with permission.Location of Welch and Welsh graves in Victoria Lawn

A closer view of Thomas Welsh’s grave marker is shown in Figure 4.

Figure 4: Grave marker for Thomas and Mary Ann Welsh, Victoria Lawn Cemetery, Section H, Division 19, Lot 2. The marker reads, “In/Memory Of/Thomas Welsh/died/July 17, 1900/Aged 68 Yrs/May his soul rest in peace/Mary A. Cronin/Beloved wife of/Thomas Welsh/October 28, 1907/Aged 65 Yrs/May she rest in peace.” Photo taken circa August 2006 by Carol Roberts Fischer, used with permission.Thomas and Mary Ann Welsh grave marker

The marriage of Thomas Walsh (or Welsh) and Mary Ann Cronin was found in the records of St. Catherine of Alexandria parish. (Figure 5).

Figure 5: Marriage record for Thomas Walsh and Maryann Cronin from the cathedral parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Catharines, Ontario, 9 May 1861.3

Thomas Walsh and Maryann Cronin 1861 marked

The ages reported in the record for Thomas and Mary Ann suggest birth years circa 1834 and 1841, respectively. These are reasonably consistent with the years of birth suggested by the grave marker for Thomas (1832) and for Mary Ann (1842). Moreover, there is no evidence from census records to suggest that there was another Thomas Walsh/Welsh/Welch married to a woman named Mary Ann/Marianne/Mary and living in St. Catharines contemporaneously. The fact that “our” Thomas Walsh was reported to be single in the 1861 census doesn’t contradict the information found here because the census was taken 14 January 1861 and the marriage took place later, on 9 May 1861. Therefore we can be certain that this is the correct marriage record for the couple whose grave is shown in Figures 3 and 4, and that this is the same Thomas who was living with the Robert Walsh family in the 1861 census, despite the minor discrepancies in age and surname spelling.

The marriage record revealed that Thomas was born in Ireland to “Jas.” (James) Walsh and Catherine Cavanah (sic), while Mary Ann was the daughter of Patrick Cronin and Catherine Shea. Witnesses to the marriage were Michael O’Laughlan and Maria Walsh, both of St. Catharines. Might “Maria Walsh” be the same as our “B. Maria” from the 1861 census? What evidence can we find for B. Maria Walsh, and what is her relationship to the family of Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh?

B. Maria Walsh of St. Catharines, Upper Canada

If the relationship between Thomas Walsh and Robert Walsh is unclear, then the relationship between B. Maria Walsh and Robert Walsh is even more murky. Her age in the 1861 census (Figure 1) makes it reasonable to believe that she was the oldest child of Robert and Elizabeth, since they would have been about 25 and 20 years of age, respectively, when she was born circa 1841. Moreover, she’s only about 3 years older than the next person listed, who was Robert and Elizabeth’s son, James, which is a reasonable spacing between siblings. For many years, I and others researching this family have believed she probably was the daughter of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh. The problem is the lack of evidence that she was their child. All the other members of the household—James George, Henry, Mary Ann, Robert, Elizabeth, Ellen, Thomas John, and Peter Joseph—are documented children of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh. For each of these children there is abundant direct and indirect evidence which establishes their relationship to Robert and Elizabeth, but this is not the case for B. Maria.

Additional evidence for B. Maria Walsh which might elucidate her relationship to Robert Walsh was initially scarce. No civil marriage record was found for her, but this is perhaps unsurprising since civil vital registration began in Ontario in 1869, and a woman born in 1841 may well have been married by that point. Although newspaper research can often provide evidence for a woman’s married name, there were no promising matches for “B. Maria,” “Maria,” or “B.” Walsh/Welsh/Welch in the local names index compiled by the St. Catharines Public Library, based on local newspaper notices of births, marriages, deaths, adoptions, anniversaries, etc. Similarly, she was not found in a search of Ontario death records. However, analysis of baptismal records for the children of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh offered a glimmer of insight. I’ve written previously about my obsession with tracking godparents as a particular subset within our ancestors’ FAN clubs (Friends, Associates and Neighbors) since they were often family members, so I took a look at the godparents that Robert and Elizabeth Walsh selected for their children. Surviving baptismal records from St. Catherine of Alexandria parish begin in 1852, so the only records that exist for this family pertain to the youngest four children, and the data are summarized in Figure 6.

Figure 6: Known godparents for children of Robert and Elizabeth (née Hodgkinson) Walsh.Godparents of Children of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh

While all of these individuals are worthy of further exploration, a few names from the group stand out immediately. Michael O’Laughlin, godfather to Peter Joseph Walsh, is likely to be the same Michael O’Laughlan who was a witness to the marriage of Thomas Walsh and Mary Ann Cronin. Thomas Walsh, godfather to Thomas John Walsh, is almost certainly the same Thomas Walsh whose history we’ve been exploring thus far. Since he did not marry Mary Ann Cronin until May of 1861, the Maryann Walsh who was godmother to Peter Joseph Walsh cannot be Thomas’s wife. However, it’s possible that this godmother was actually Peter Joseph’s older sister, Maryann Walsh, who would have been about 12 years old at the time of his birth. Most significantly, Thomas John’s godmother was noted to be Bridget Walsh. Could Bridget Walsh be the B. Maria Walsh of the 1861 census?

Before we can answer this question, we must determine whether there was another Bridget Walsh who was living in or near St. Catharines at the time of Thomas John’s baptism in 1859, and who would have been old enough to be his godmother. The 1861 census may be informative here, since it was taken just two years after the baptism. Therefore, searches of the Lincoln district (which includes St. Catharines) of Upper Canada in the 1861 census for B* Wal* and B* Wel* were performed. These search parameters should produce results for anyone with a given name starting with B, with surnames starting with Wal- or Wel-, so that all the usual variants of Walsh (Welch, Welsh) as well as any less-common versions (Walch, etc.) would be returned in the results. The only relevant result was the B. Maria Walsh living with Robert Walsh’s family, which supports our hypothesis—albeit weakly—that B. Maria Walsh was Bridget Maria Walsh. However, we can’t rule out the possibility that the godmother was a different Bridget Walsh who was married, died, or moved away in the time between the baptism on 13 March 1859 and the census on 14 January 1861. At this point we lack sufficient evidence to claim that Bridget Walsh, godmother, was necessarily the same as B. Maria Walsh, member of the Robert Walsh household.

Although civil marriage records do not exist which might inform us about B. Maria’s parentage, church records from the cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria may be helpful. Accordingly, marriage records from 1852-1910 were examined for any bride named Bridget, Maria, or Mary Walsh/Welch/Welsh. A total of five marriage records were discovered and results are summarized in Figure 7. A larger version of the table can be viewed here.

Figure 7:  Brides married in St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, St. Catharines, Ontario, between 1852-1910 with given name Bridget, Maria or Mary and surname Walsh/Welsh/Welch.Walsh Bride Data

Although her age was not provided in her marriage record, the Mary Walsh who married in 1856 is not likely to be our B. Maria, because B. Maria (born circa 1841) was only 15 years old in 1856.  Similarly, all three of the Bridgets were too young to fit the description of our B. Maria. However, the Maria Walsh, born 1839, is a good fit in terms of age—and guess who her parents were? None other than James Walsh and Catherine Cavanagh, which means she was a full sister to Thomas Walsh!

Maria’s marriage record, shown in Figure 8, confirms that she was born in Ireland. Her husband, Patrick McNamara, was a resident of Thorold, born in Ireland circa 1838 to Timothy McNamara and Catherine Sullivan. The only witness to the marriage was C. Hanigan (?), but there is a notation, “Dispensat from 2 calls” which suggests that the marriage may have taken place under somewhat hurried circumstances, since three calls (announcements of the banns) were customary prior to the marriage.

Figure 8: Marriage record for Patrick McNamara and Maria Walsh from the cathedral parish of St. Catherine of Alexandria, St. Catharines, Ontario, 8 August 1867.13Patrick McNamara and Maria Walsh 1867 cropped marked

Now a clearer picture begins to emerge, and it appears that the given name used by Bridget Maria Walsh was dependent on the timeline. In 1859, siblings Bridget Walsh and Thomas Walsh served as godparents to Thomas John Walsh, son of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh. In January 1861, Thomas and B. Maria were living with Robert and Elizabeth, and in May of that year, Maria Walsh witnessed the marriage of her brother, Thomas.  In 1867, it was still Maria Walsh who married Patrick McNamara. The timeline suggests that while she may have used her first name, Bridget, early on—soon after her arrival in Canada, perhaps?—she eventually abandoned it in favor of her middle name, Maria. This propensity for reversing first and middle names seems to have been a Walsh family trait, since a similar phenomenon was noted with Robert and Elizabeth’s son, James George Walsh, who was noted as “James G.” in sources such as the 1869 baptismal record for his sons, Henry Thomas and Robert James, but was known as George James by the time of his death in 1924.15

So now we understand the relationship between Thomas Walsh and Bridget Maria (née Walsh) McNamara, but their precise relationship to Robert Walsh, husband of Elizabeth Hodgkinson, remains unclear. My original thought was that Robert, Thomas, and Maria  might be full siblings. However, the disparity in ages between Robert and Maria is problematic. Existing data for Robert suggest that he was born circa 1808-1816, while data for Maria suggest that she was born circa 1834-1841. Assuming Robert was the oldest child in the family and that he was born in 1808, and assuming that Maria was the youngest child, born in 1841, then their mother must have borne children over a period of 33 years, which is beyond the biological limits for childbearing. However, if Robert and Maria were born in 1816 and 1834, respectively, then it becomes more conceivable that the three of them might be full siblings. Moreover, onomastic evidence supports the hypothesis that Robert is Thomas and Maria’s brother. Irish naming traditions dictate that the eldest son in a family should be named after his paternal grandfather, and since Robert and Elizabeth Walsh’s oldest son was named James George, we would expect that Robert’s father was named James, assuming the family followed this tradition. It’s also entirely possible that Robert was a half-brother to Thomas and Maria, if Robert’s mother died and his father James then remarried Catherine Cavanagh.

Even if we assume that there is a more distant relationship between Robert Walsh and siblings Thomas and Maria Walsh—for example, they were Robert’s nephew and niece, or his first cousins—knowing their parents’ names could potentially give us enough information to seek records in Ireland, if only we knew where in Ireland to find them. That’s another topic for another day, but for now, we’ve made some good progress. By examining the crucial evidence in church records from St. Catherine of Alexandria parish, we’ve been able to determine that B. Maria Walsh, who was living with the family of Robert and Elizabeth Walsh in 1861, was not their daughter, as is generally assumed. Rather, she is most likely Bridget Maria Walsh, the same individual as the Maria Walsh who married Patrick McNamara in 1867, and the Bridget Walsh who was godmother to Robert and Elizabeth’s son, Thomas John Walsh. Moreover, she was evidently a full sister to the elder Thomas Walsh, a merchant tailor who was also living with Robert Walsh’s family in 1861. Finally, we’ve been able to develop a new hypothesis for further testing, that Robert Walsh was the son of James Walsh, husband of Catherine Cavanagh, possibly by a first wife, if not by Catherine herself. All in all, that feels like a good day’s work.

Sources:

1 “Census of 1861,” St. Catharines, Lincoln, Canada West (Ontario), household of Robert Walsh, born 1816, accessed as digital image, Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 22 April 2019), image no. 4391560_00231.

2 William W. Evans, Gazetteer and business directory of Lincoln and Welland counties for 1879 (Brantford, Ontario, Canada: William W. Evans, 1878), entries for Welch, Henry; Welch, J.G.; Welch, Robert; Welch, Robert Jr.; and Welch, Thos. J, pages 150-151, accessed as browsable images, “Canadian Directories Collection,” Library and Archives Canada (https://www.bac-lac.gc.ca : 22 April 2019), path: Southwestern Ontario Counties > Gazetteer and business directory of Lincoln and Welland counties for 1879 > e010780629_p3.pdf, page 23 of 28.

3 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, 1861, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, record for Thomas Walsh and Maryann Cronin, 9 May 1861, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 9 of 48.

4 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1854, #88, baptismal record for Elizabeth Walsh, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860, image 28 of 104.

Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1857, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, “Baptism Ellenor Walsh,” 2 August 1857, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org: 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines, > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria, > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 72 of 104.

6 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1859, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, baptismal record for John Walsh, 13 March 1859, , accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, Marriages 1852-1860, image 88 of 104.

7 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” Baptisms 1860-1906, 1861, p. 2, baptismal record for Peter Joseph Walsh, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms 1860-1906, image 4 of 177.

8 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1856, record for Francis DeYoung and Mary Walsh, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms, marriages 1852-1860 > image 63 of 104.

9 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1867, record for Patrick McNamara and Maria Walsh, 6 August 1867, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 18 of 48.

10 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1876, record for Thomas Wilkins and Bridget Walsh, 7 February 1876, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 23 of 48.

11 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1876, record for Felix Roony and Bridget Walsh, 9 October 1876, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 23 of 48.

12 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), Parish Registers, 1852-1910, Marriages 1858-1910, unnumbered pages, unnumbered entries in chronological order, 1877, record for William Smith and Bridget Walsh, 19 September 1877, accessed as browsable images, “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” FamilySearch (https://www.familysearch.org : 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln > St. Catharines > Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria > Marriages 1858-1910 > image 25 of 48.

13 Ibid, marriage record for Patrick McNamara and Maria Walsh.

14 Fiona Fitzsimons, “Traditional Irish naming patterns,” Find My Past blog, post on 29 November 2018 (https://blog.findmypast.com : 23 April 2019).

15 Roman Catholic Church, Cathedral of St. Catherine of Alexandria (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), “Parish Registers, 1852-1910,” 1869, unnumbered entries in chronological order, sequential baptismal records for Henry Thos. Walsh and Robert James Walsh, baptized 30 December 1869, accessed as “Ontario, Roman Catholic Church Records, 1760-1923,” browsable images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org: 22 April 2019), path: Lincoln County > St Catharines > Cathedral of St Catherine of Alexandria > Baptisms 1860-1906, image 59 of 177. Baptismal records note that Henry Thomas and Robert James were the sons of James G. Walsh and Jane Lawder. Also,

Victoria Lawn Cemetery (St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada), marker for George James Welch and Jane Lauder Welch. “George James/WELCH/Born/ Nov. 9 1844/Died/June 18, 1924/His Wife/Jane Lauder/Born/May 15, 1844/Died/April 16, 1927”.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019

 

 

 

Still Searching For Antonina Naciążek: Some New Insights into Old Data

Sometimes I find that it pays to take a break from my research on a particular family line. When I come back to it, I notice clues in the data that I missed the first time around. This happened recently when I returned to the question of the parentage of one of my Brick Wall Ancestors, my great-great-grandmother Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka, who was born circa 1828, married Ignacy Zarzycki circa 1849, and died after 1904. I’ve written about her in several posts previously, and she continues to haunt me. The crux of the problem is that all her children were baptized in Rybno parish, Sochaczew County, but she herself must have been from another parish, since there is no birth, marriage or death record for her in the records of Rybno.

The Search for Antonina, Revisited

My strategy thus far has been to search vital records in the popular database Geneteka in order to identify the families that were living in the vicinity of Rybno with the surname Naciążek, or with one of the known variant forms of this surname, Maciążek and Raciążek, to discover potential parents for Antonina. However, the effectiveness of this strategy is limited by major gaps in the indexed records in Giżyce and Sochaczew, which are the two local parishes where this surname is most prevalent. Records for Giżyce are especially limited, since there are no records for this parish in the diocesan archive in Łowicz. Moreover, the only vital records from Giżyce from the relevant time period that are in possession of the state archive in Grodzisk Mazowieckie are from 1810, and 1823-1825, all of which are indexed in Geneteka. This suggests that most of the records for Giżyce are at the parish itself, where they can only be accessed onsite, at the discretion of the parish pastor.  The situation for Sochaczew is somewhat better, since marriage records are available from the diocesan archive in Łowicz with no gaps from 1802-1842, although there is a large gap after that, from 1843-1861, which is when Antonina Naciążek would have been married (circa 1849).

Search results in Geneteka point to two couples who emerge as most likely candidates for Antonina’s parents. The first couple, Francizek Naciążek and Marianna Kowalska, married in Sochaczew in 1826. The entry noted that the groom was from the nearby parish of Giżyce, so it’s quite possible that they moved back there after their marriage. Since Geneteka contains no birth records from Giżyce after 1825, it’s impossible to identify any children that Franciszek and Marianna might have had without onsite research. My great-great-grandmother Antonina may have been one of those children.

The second couple was Mateusz Naciążek and Petronella Trawińska, who were already married by 1824 when their daughter, Marianna, was born in Giżyce. The data suggest that they subsequently moved to Sochaczew parish, where they had sons Michał in 1826, Stanisław Andrzej in 1832, and Ignacy in 1834, and a daughter, Florentyna Marianna, in 1836. Notice the 6-year gap in the births to this couple after Michał’s birth in 1826?  Such a large spacing is unusual in a family, and as luck would have it, Antonina’s birth circa 1828 would fall right into that gap. This gap in births can’t be explained by any gaps in the available records for Sochaczew, since birth records from this parish are indexed during this entire time period. However, these data are consistent with the hypothesis that Mateusz and Petronella moved back to Giżyce after 1826. Since birth records from Giżyce are not available after 1825, it’s entirely possible that Mateusz and Petronella were the parents of Antonina, circa 1828, and possibly even an additional child born circa 1830 whose births would not show up in Geneteka.

So the focus is presently on Giżyce, whose records might hold a birth record for Antonina, as well as her marriage record. Her death record remains elusive, however. Antonina was still noted be living in 1904 when her son Leonard married, but her husband, Ignacy Zarzycki, died in 1901.1 As a 76-year-old widow, one might expect Antonina to continue living in her own home with assistance from her children, or to move in with one of her adult children. Unfortunately, the former hypothesis does not bear up, because there is no death record for Antonina Zarzycka in the parish records of Rybno or the civil records of the gmina (a gmina is an administrative district smaller than a county, similar to a township). Nor have I been able to find a death record for her in the civil records of gmina Iłów, to which the parish of Giżyce belongs, or in the civil records of Sochaczew. However, the search is frustrated by local registry offices claiming that some books were transferred to the regional archive in Grodzisk Mazowiecki, while that archive asserts that they don’t have the books, so therefore they must be in the local registry offices. Moreover, if Antonina fled her home during the confusion and chaos of World War I, it’s entirely possible that her death may not have been recorded.

Research on the families of each of Antonina’s children is still a work in progress which needs to be completed in order to identify every location where Antonina’s death may have been recorded if she was living with one of her children when she died. Of Antonina’s 11 children, six survived to adulthood and married, four died in childhood or as young unmarried adults, and one is thus far unaccounted for. The six who married included daughters Marianna Gruberska, who was living near Łowicz as of 1887, Paulina Klejn, who was living near Sochaczew as of 1880, and Aniela Gruberska, who was living near Młodzieszyn as of 1914, as well as sons John Zazycki, who was living in North Tonawanda, New York, until his death in 1924, Karol Zarzycki, who was living in Warsaw as of 1908, and Leonard Zarzycki, who was also living in Warsaw as of 1905. No promising match for Antonina’s death record is found in the indexed death records in Geneteka, and there’s no evidence to suggest that she emigrated. Since Łowicz and Warsaw both contain multiple Catholic parishes, finding Antonina’s death record without knowing her exact date of death will be challenging.

The Search for Marianna Kowalska, Revisited

That brings us back to the search for Antonina’s birth and marriage records, which might be easier to locate than her death record. Previously, while gathering clues about Antonina’s early life, I noted an interesting set of records pertaining to the family of Marianna (née Naciążek) Kowalska, whom I hypothesized might be Antonina’s sister. I discovered Marianna by reasoning that one might expect to find other Naciążek relatives of Antonina’s in the records of Rybno, since family members often settled near one another. In fact, this surname was generally not found in Rybno, with one exception: the 1903 marriage record of one Roch Kowalski mentioned that he was the son of Marianna Naciążek and Aleksander Kowalski.2 The record indicated that Roch was born in Giżyce, and further research revealed four additional children of Aleksander Kowalski and Marianna Naciążek, all of whom married in Giżyce, Sochaczew, or Iłów, underscoring the importance of these parishes— especially Giżyce and Sochaczew—to my quest for the origins of my great-great-grandmother. In addition to these records pertaining to her children, a second marriage record was discovered for Marianna Naciążek herself following the death of Aleksander Kowalski. Marianna married Stanisław Marcinkowski in Giżyce in 1881, and the record indicated that she was born circa 1837 in Czerwonka, a village belonging to the parish in Sochaczew.3

As noted in that previous post, birth records from Sochaczew are available for the period from 1819-1841, but there is no baptismal record for a Marianna Naciążek during this time. The closest possibility is the birth of a Florentyna Marianna Naciążek in 1836, to parents Mateusz Naciążek and Petronela Trawińska, and I believe that this Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk is the same person as Marianna Naciążek Kowalska Marcinkowska. It’s a bit unusual that she seems to have been called “Marianna” and not “Florentyna” in her adult life, but I believe this may have occurred because she had an older sister named Marianna who died young. There is a birth record in Giżyce in 1824 for Marianna Naciążek, daughter of Mateusz and Petronela, and if this theory is correct, we should expect to find her death record between 1824 and 1836. Although no death record is presently available, this doesn’t mean much, since indexed death records are only available from 1823-1825. Once again, it seems that the records of Giżyce may hold the key to unlocking these genealogical mysteries.

As I looked at this research with fresh eyes, it dawned on me that there was another small piece of evidence I had overlooked previously, which was the fact that Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka gave her daughter the name Florentyna, and that this child’s godmother was Marianna Kowalska (Figure 1).

Figure 1: Birth record from Rybno for Florentyna Zarzycka, born 5 June 1861. Text underlined in red translates,  “….was given the name Florentyna, and her godparents were the aforementioned Wincenty Zarzecki and Marianna Kowalska.” 4

Florentyna Zarzcyka birth 5 June 1861 marked

Yes, I’d analyzed the godparents of all the Zarzycki children previously, and I realized that despite the popularity of the Kowalski surname, this Marianna Kowalska was most likely Marianna Naciążek Kowalska of Giżyce. But somehow I’d failed to make the connection with Marianna Kowalska being named as godmother to this particular child, Florentyna, rather than any of the other children of Antonina and Ignacy Zarzycki.

Although it was not de rigueur in Polish culture to name a child after the godparent of the same sex, this practice was not unheard of. Indeed, Ignacy and Antonina Zarzycki named their second daughter Paulina, presumably in honor of her godmother, Paulina Jagielska.5 So it’s quite possible that little Florentyna Zarzycka was also named in honor of her godmother. This suggests that I’m definitely on the right track with my reasoning that Marianna Kowalska is, indeed, Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk Kowalska, who was pretty clearly some relative of her mother’s. However, at this point we still have too little evidence to conclude that Florentyna Marianna was necessarily Antonina Naciążek Zarzycka’s sister, rather than a cousin.

But wait, there’s more!

In reviewing the chart I made previously showing each of the Zarzycki children and their godparents (Figure 2) and rereading my notes, I noticed a careless supposition. That is, that the surname of Józef Zarzycki’s godmother, Jadwiga Bugajka, was necessarily rare. While this exact surname is rare, I realize now that I was thinking too narrowly, since the surname is merely a variant of the common surname, Bugaj. Given the lack of standardization of surname forms in the 19th century, it’s quite possible that this same Jadwiga Bugajka might be recorded as Jadwiga Bugaj in some records.

Figure 2: Summary of Godparents of Children of Ignacy Zarzycki and Antonina (née Naciążek) Zarzycka. Source citation numbers correspond to sources cited in original blog post.figure-1

So what does that do for us? Why do we care if she’s Jadwiga Bugaj or Jadwiga Bugajka? Well, more recent digging suggested an interesting possibility regarding her relationship to the Zarzycki family.  Figure 3 shows Geneteka search results for Jadwiga Bugaj in Sochaczew.

Figure 3: Geneteka search results for birth records which mention Jadwiga Bugaj in Sochaczew.Bugaj results in Geneteka

In 1851 and 1854, there were two births to children of Maciej Bugaj and Jadwiga Krzemińska. Then there is a gap, and in 1861, there is the birth of Józefa Bednarska to Józef Bednarski and Jadwiga Bugaj. Now, the timing there is rather curious, and might almost suggest a scenario in which Jadwiga Krzemińska married Maciej Bugaj and had two children with him before his death between 1854 and 1861, after which she remarried Józef Bednarski and had 7 more children. (Note that double entries for children with the same name in the same year represent different records for the same event.) However, it was customary in these records for the priest to record the mother’s maiden name, not her first husband’s surname, in the case of a woman who remarried. I think it’s unlikely that the priest would have misrecorded the mother’s maiden name on 10 different birth records, and wrote her surname from her first husband instead. So in absence of evidence to the contrary, I believe that Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj is not the same person as Jadwiga (née Bugaj) Bednarska. But at this point, I’m not fussed about whether she remarried or not, I’m just excited to find evidence of the Krzemiński surname, because it just so happens that Ignacy Zarzycki’s mother was Joanna Krzemińska, who was born circa 1806 in Lubiejew, as evidenced by her death record (Figure 4).

Figure 4: Death record from Rybno parish for Joanna (née Krzemińska) Zarzycka, 30 April 1857. Text underlined in red translates as, “Joanna Zarzycka, wife, tenant colonist, daughter of Jan and Zofia, the spouses Krzemiński, already deceased; born in the village of Lubiejow [sic], having 52 years of age.” 6Joanna Zarzycka death 1857 crop

To answer the question of how Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj is related to the Zarzycki family, we need to find the record of her marriage to Maciej Bugaj and hope that it states her parents’ names. If her parents were Jan and Zofia, we know that she was Ignacy Zarzycki’s aunt. If they are something else, then further research is needed to determine the connection. Maddeningly, there is a gap in existing marriage records for Sochaczew from 1842-1861, according to information from the diocesan archive in Łowicz about their holdings for Sochaczew. Since Jadwiga’s oldest child was apparently born in 1851 based on information found in Geneteka, Jadwiga most likely married circa 1850, right in that gap in the records.

The Krzemiński Family of Bielice, Lubiejew, and Szwarocin

What do we know about the family of Jan and Zofia Krzemiński, and how likely is it that Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj and Joanna (née Krzemińska) Zarzycka were sisters? My 4x-great-grandfather, Jan Krzemiński, was born circa 1782 in either Czerwonka or Czyste.He married 17-year-old Zofia Bielska on Valentine’s Day in 1802 in Sochaczew.8 (The birthplaces of Jan and Zofia are uncertain because their marriage was recorded on a page pertaining to vital events from residents of the villages of Czerwonka and Czyste, but no indication was made regarding which individuals on the page were from which village.)  On 19 July 1802, their oldest son, Jakub, was born in the nearby village of Bielice.9 A gap in birth records from Sochaczew exists from 1803-1809, so it’s not possible to find the birth record for my great-great-great-grandmother, Joanna Krzemińska circa 1806. However, Joanna’s death record (Figure 4) states that she was born in the village of Lubiejow [sic], about 7 miles northwest of Bielice. Since couples had children every 2-3 years, typically, we might expect additional births to Jan and Zofia circa 1804 and 1808, but there are no indexed marriage or death records in Geneteka that identify any children born to this couple in those years.

By 1810, the Krzemiński family had moved to the village of Szwarocin, some 3 miles west of Lubiejew, where their son Błażej was born on 2 February and baptized in Rybno parish (Figure 5).10  Jan Krzemiński was described as a gajowy, which was a forester or gamekeeper. On 21 July 1812, a daughter, Magdalena, was born.11 Two years later, another daughter, Zofia, was baptized on 9 May 1814, and was probably born a day or so before that.12 On 25 February 1816, little Magdalena Krzemińska died of smallpox (ospa, in Polish) at the age of 3 1/2.13 Just nine days after her daughter’s death, Zofia Krzemińska gave birth to another son, Józef.14 Although no death record has been found for this child, it is likely that he died some time before 1821, because Jan and Zofia conferred the name Józef on their next son, born 17 March 1821.15

Figure 5: Map showing locations of places mentioned in records pertaining to the Krzemiński family. The towns of Sochaczew and Rybno, where the parishes are located, are underlined in red and the villages of Czerwonka and Czyste where Jan and Zofia were stated to have been born are similarly noted.Map of Krzeminski villages

After this, the family disappears from the records of Rybno. Justyna Krogulska, who performed the onsite research at St. Bartholomew church in Rybno for me in 2016, noted, “In the years 1826-1860 [there was] no record [of the] deaths of Jan Krzemiński and Zofia Krzemińska. Probably the family moved to another parish. In the years 1826-1846 [there was] no record [of any] marriage on the name Krzemiński / Krzemińska.” 16 

Consistent with the observation that the Krezemiński family moved out of Rybno, a death record for a 75-year-old widow named Zofia Krzemińska was found in the records of Sochaczew in 1843. At the time of her death, Zofia was living in Lubiejów [sic], and her age suggests a birth year circa 1768. Although “our” Zofia was only born circa 1785, based on her age at the time of her marriage, it’s nonetheless possible—likely, even—that the Zofia mentioned in the death record is the same woman, since priests frequently approximated people’s ages when this information was not known precisely. As a smallpox survivor who had already buried a husband and at least two children, Zofia may have looked much older than she actually was when she died.

Zofia Krzemińska was only 36 when her son Józef was born in Szwarocin in 1821, so it’s entirely possible that she might have had a few children after his birth, including, perhaps, Jadwiga (née Krzemińska) Bugaj. Geneteka contains a birth record for a Maciej Bugaj who might be the same as Jadwiga Krzemińska’s husband, and who was born in Sochaczew in 1823. If Jadwiga Bugaj was approximately the same age as her husband, she would have been born exactly two years after Józef Krzemiński was born in Rybno in 1821. However, birth records for Sochaczew are indexed with no gaps from 1819-1841, and there is no record of Jadwiga’s birth. However this lack of evidence for her birth in Sochaczew does little to disprove my theory about Jadwiga Bugaj’s parentage, given the extent of parish records in this area that are unindexed and can only be found in the parish archives. So at this point, we still don’t know precisely who Jadwiga Bugaj(ka) was, and what relationship she may have had to Antonina and Ignacy Zarzycki that would have inspired them to ask her to be godmother to their son, Józef. Present evidence suggests that she may have been Ignacy’s aunt or possibly a cousin through his mother’s Krzemiński family, but the frustrating difficulty with access to records makes it impossible to state anything definitively.

Despite the difficulties inherent in research in this area—or perhaps because of them—it’s fun to examine every minute detail of the precious data that have been found for my family. Knowing that Marianna Kowalska was actually Florentyna Marianna Naciążęk Kowalska Marcinkowska may not bring me closer to knowing whether she was sister or cousin to my great-great-grandmother, Antonina Zarzycka, but somehow, it’s satisfying to find yet another small consistency in the data. At this point, without knowing what’s contained in those records from Giżyce, I’m betting on Team Mateusz and Petronella as the parents of Antonina and Marianna, but there’s really no compelling reason for it. It may be that Antonina was the daughter of Franciszek and Marianna instead, and that Mateusz and Franciszek Naciążek were brothers. That would make Antonina Zarzycka first cousin to Florentyna Marianna, and it’s certainly plausible that a first cousin might be asked to serve as godmother. As evidenced by the new discovery that Jadwiga Bugajka was most likely Jadwiga Krzemińska Bugaj, a maternal relative of Ignacy Zarzycki, but definitely not his sister, anything is possible.

Perhaps, in time, I’ll be able to gain access to those records from Giżyce, and the answers to all these mysteries will be revealed. Maybe I’ll even get to know who the heck Weronika Jaroszewska was, and why she was named as godmother to three Zarzycki children. Hey, I can dream, right?

Sources:

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga ślubów 1888-1908, 1904, no. 15, marriage record for Leonard Zarzycki and Maryanna Majewska, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019); and

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga zgonów 1886-1903, 1901, no. 44, death record for Ignacy Zarzycki, accessed as digital image, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

“Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Rybnie,” (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Ksiega slubów 1888-1908, 1903, no. 1, marriage record for Roch Kowalski and Anastazja Blaszczak, 2 February 1903, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki.Genealodzy.pl (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

3 “Akta stanu cywilnego parafii rzymskokatolickiej w Giżycach” (Giżyce, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga ślubów 1856-1891, no. 9, marriage record for Stanisław Marcinkowski and Marianna Kowalska, 21 February 1881, accessed as digital image, Polskie Towarzystwo Genealogiczne, Metryki, (http://metryki.genealodzy.pl : 28 February 2019).

4  Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1855-1862, 1861, #36, baptismal record for Florentyna Zarzecka.

5 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księga urodzeń 1845-1854, 1853, no. 60, baptismal record for Paulina Zarzycka.

6 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), “Księga zgonów, 1853-1868,” 1857, #21, death record for Joanna Zarzecka.

7 Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Sochaczew, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi małżeństw, 1802-1825, 1802, no. 2, marriage record for Joannes Krzemiński and Sophia Bielska, 14 February 1802, Archiwum Diecezji Łowickiej, 99-400 Łowicz, Stary Rynek 19 A. “[Towns] Czerwonka et Czyste, [Number] 2, [Month] February, [Day] 14, [Marriage Statement] I, Sebastian Richter, (expositus?) of Sochaczew, after three banns. and without discovering (? “adinvento”) any Canonical impediments, blessed the marriage between the honorable Joannes Krzemiński, young man, and Sophia Bielska, virgin, “inetum” (?) with additional witnesses Jacob Skokoski and Florian Stolarek, Under column heading “Young Man with Virgin,” indicating that it is a first marriage for both the bride and the groom, the age of the groom is given as 20 and the age of the bride is given as 17.

8 Ibid.

Roman Catholic Church, St. Lawrence parish (Sochaczew, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), Księgi urodzonych, 1781-1802, 1802, no. 69, birth record for Jacobus Krzemiński. 19 July 1802, Archiwum Diecezji Łowickiej, 99-400 Łowicz, Stary Rynek 19 A.

10 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1810, births, no. 5, record for Błażej Krzemiński, 2 February 1810.

11 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1812, births, no. 46, record for Magdalena Krzemińska, 21 July 1812.

12 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1814, births, no. 26, record for Sophia Krzemińska, baptized 9 May 1814.

13 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew’s parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1816, deaths, no. 9, record for Magdalena Krzemińska, 25 February 1816.

14 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1816, births, no. 13, record for Josephus Krzemiński, 5 March 1816.

15 Roman Catholic Church, St. Bartholomew Parish (Rybno, Sochaczew, Mazowieckie, Poland), 1821, births, no. 17, record for Josephus Krzemiński, 17 March 1821.

16 Justyna Krogulska, “Krzemiński Family,” report to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA, 18 May 2016, original held by Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, USA.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2019.

The Final Clue: Tracing the Wagners Back to Germany

As dead people go, Joseph Riel wasn’t even all that interesting to me. He was just an in-law, the husband of my great-great-great-grandaunt, Gertrude Wagner Riel. He was not even a blood relative, much less a direct-line ancestor, and he and Gertrude died without issue, so I cannot hope to find Riel cousins among my DNA matches. And yet it was Joseph Riel’s grave marker that gave me the final clue to the German place of origin of my Wagner family. Before I explain what was on the grave marker and why it mattered, let me introduce you to my Wagners and summarize the evidence for their place of origin in Germany up to this point.

The Henry Wagner Family of Detroit, Michigan

My great-great-great-grandfather was Henry Wagner, born circa 15 December 1829 in Germany.1 According to the 1900 census, which was recorded when Henry was living as a widower in the household of his son of his son, John, Henry arrived in America in 1855 (Figure 1).2

Figure 1: Excerpt from the 1900 census for Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan, showing Henry Wagner in the household of his son, John Wagner.2

Henry Wagner 1900 census crop

On that census, Henry reported his own date of birth as September 1827, and no baptismal record from Germany has yet been obtained to verify the correct date. Henry Wagner’s death certificate reveals that his father was also named Henry Wagner, and his mother was Mary Nau (Figure 2).3

Figure 2: Death certificate for Henry Wagner, 6 February 1907.3Henry Wagner death certificate

Further digging revealed that Henry (Jr.)’s parents, Henry and Mary (née Nau) Wagner also immigrated. The family can be seen in the 1860 census (Figure 3), living in Detroit.Henry himself was already married by that time and living separately.

Figure 3: Excerpt from the 1860 census showing the family of Henry (Sr.) and Mary Wagner with sons John and August, son-in-law Joseph Riehl (sic), and daughter Gertrude Riehl.4Henry Wagner family 1860 census Detroit

Henry Wagner (Sr.) is noted to be a “gentleman”, born circa 1810 in Hessia, whose personal estate was valued at approximately $5,000. Mary, his wife, was also born circa 1810, and their sons John and August were born circa 1832 and 1834, respectively, and were both employed as carpenters. Son-in-law Joseph Riehl was noted to be a blacksmith and he and his wife, Gertrude, were both born about 1835.

The passenger manifest for Henry Wagner (Sr.) and family does not reveal where they were from in Germany, unfortunately (Figure 4).5

Figure 4: Passenger manifest of the S.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, which arrived in New York 29 September 1853, showing the family of Henry Wagner (Sr.).5

Henry Wagner fam Passenger List

The manifest shows the family of Henry Wagner, a 50-year-old male farmer from Germany traveling to the U.S. Henry’s age suggests a birth year of 1803. The name of the passenger below him appears to be “Cath.;” however, the passenger is marked as a 24-year-old male. No trace has yet been discovered in U.S. records for a Catherine Wagner born circa 1829 who belongs to this family, and “Catherine’s” birth year is approximately correct for Henry Wagner (Jr.) who is missing from this manifest. This suggests one of two possibilities: either (a) Henry Wagner (Jr.) immigrated separately from his family, which would explain his absence from this manifest, and Catherine Wagner is a real sibling for whom evidence may yet turn up in U.S. records with further digging, or (b) the name “Cath.” was recorded in error, and the 24-year-old male passenger listed with the Wagner family was actually Henry (Jr.). The names of the other passengers listed below “Cath.” — August, Johnny and Gertrude — are consistent with the known children of Henry (Sr.) and Mary Wagner, although their ages appear to be 20, 22 and 28 (?), suggesting birth years of 1833, 1831, and 1825, which are a bit off from what was reported in the 1860 census. Interestingly, the family matriarch, Mary (née Nau) Wagner is not mentioned with the family group, although there is a good match for her at the bottom of the page — 50-year-old Marianne Wagner. Since she was separated from the family on the manifest, the possibility existed that perhaps Henry (Jr.) was similarly separated, perhaps on the next page after Marianne’s name. However, all pages of the manifest were checked and there was no match for a Henry Wagner of the appropriate age.

The Search for Henry’s Manifest

To examine the possibility that Henry Wagner (Jr.) traveled separately from his family, another search was made for a manifest for Henry Wagner, born circa 1827-1829 in Germany, arriving in the U.S. circa 1855. A possible match was discovered (Figure 5), which shows a single Henry Wagner who arrived on the S.S. General Jacobi on 3 May 1854.6

Figure 5: Excerpt from manifest for the S.S. General Jacobi, arrived in New York on 3 May 1854.6

Henry Wagner passenger record

According to this manifest, 27-year-old Henry Wagner was a German carpenter who was traveling to Buffalo, New York. His age suggests a birth year of 1827, and his occupation, carpenter, matches the occupation reported for John and August Wagner on the 1860 census. While I was excited to see his place of origin reported as “Fritzlar,” I recognized that this information would not help me unless I could be sure that the passenger described here is “my” Henry Wagner. And his destination, Buffalo, is somewhat problematic, since the Wagner family was not known to live in Buffalo. So although this could be the correct manifest, it’s also possible that this passenger was a different Henry Wagner, since the surname is so common.

At this point, we have two hypotheses to evaluate: (a) this is the manifest for “my” Henry Wagner, and he stopped in Buffalo briefly before moving on to Detroit, or (b) this manifest is for a different Henry Wagner who traveled to Buffalo and remained there. If (b) is correct, we should expect to find evidence of a German immigrant named Henry Wagner who matches this passenger, living in Buffalo or thereabouts. Accordingly, census records for Buffalo, New York and adjacent counties were checked, and there is evidence of a Henry Wagner, born in Germany circa 1830, who arrived in the U.S. circa 1852 and lived in Clarence, New York, which would at that time have been farm country on the outskirts of Buffalo. This suggests that perhaps the Henry Wagner who arrived on the General Jacobi is not my Henry after all. So perhaps my Henry really did arrive with his family on the Erbpring Luidrich August in 1853 and was misrecorded as “Cath.”? I think it’s possible, maybe even likely. But with such a common name, we may never know for certain.

Church Records to the Rescue

Since the Wagners’ place of origin in Germany could not be determined from the passenger manifest, other sources had to be checked. In this case, as it often happens, church records proved to be very helpful. As noted on his death record (Figure 2) Henry Wagner (Jr.) and his wife Catherine (née Grentzinger) had only two children, John and Mary (my great-great-grandmother). Both of them were baptized at Old St. Mary’s parish in Detroit, and their baptismal records revealed the place of origin of both their parents.  Shown here is Mary’s baptismal record (Figure 6).7

Figure 6: Extract from baptismal record for Maria Wagner, born 10 July 1860 in Detroit.7

Maria Wagner 1860 page 1 marked

All names in this record are written in Latin. Although the column headings are cut off in this image, the record indicates that Mary Wagner was born 10 July and baptized 15 July 1860, and that she was the daughter of Henry Wagner of “Roßen ChurHessen” and Catherine Granzinger of Oberelsau. Godparents were named as August Wagner and Maria Wagner, and they were probably the baby’s uncle and paternal grandmother.

The baptismal record for Henry and Catherine’s son John (Figure 7) indicates that he was baptized with the name August, although this is the only record discovered to date in which he was referred to that way.8

Figure 7: Extract from baptismal record for Augustinus Wagner, born 3 May 1856 in Detroit.8Augustinus Wagner 1856 p 1marked

The date of birth for “Augustinus” is approximately consistent with dates of birth reported for John Wagner, and since this was the only other birth record discovered for a child of this couple (and since they were known to have only two children), it’s reasonable to conclude that “Augustinus” is really John. It’s customary in parts of Germany to name a child after the same-sex godparent, and since August Wagner was named as this child’s godfather, that might explain the priest’s error in recording the child’s name, if perhaps the priest was from one of those regions. In any case, this record tells us that Henry Wagner was from “Roßdorf, Chur Hessen” and Catherine Grenzinger was from “Steinsolz, Alsatiae.”

“Chur Hessen” in both these records is a reference to Kurhessen, properly called Kurfürstentum Hessen, the Electorate of Hesse, a German state which existed from 1814-1866, at which time its territory was annexed by Prussia. The territory was also known as Hesse-Cassel or Hesse-Kassel. Although the Meyers gazetteer does not reveal any places called “Roßen” that were located in this area, “Roßdorf” turns out to be a better clue, since there were two places by that name that were in Hesse-Cassel. One of these was located in Hanau County, about 2 km north of Bruchköbel, while the other was located in Kirchhain County,  about 5 km southwest of Amöneburg. Based solely on this information, I had no way of knowing which Roßdorf was meant, so I put the Wagner research on the back burner.

The Final Clue

Fast-forward now to last weekend, when I had the opportunity to visit Detroit and present two lectures for the Polish Genealogical Society of Michigan at their annual fall seminar. While in Detroit, I was able to visit Mt. Elliott Cemetery in person. This cemetery is the final resting place of all my immigrant Wagners, as well as some of their descendants, so I was eager to get some photographs. I was somewhat disappointed to find that only two monuments for this family are presently visible, although I was very pleased that one of these was for my great-great-great-grandparents, Henry and Catherine (née Grentzinger) Wagner (shown on the right in the featured image at the top of the page). The other monument is for Gertrude and Joseph Rhiel (sic). As I mentioned in the beginning, I was pleased to find this monument, but not overly excited about it, until I got home and took a closer look at the inscription on it. The inscription states that Joseph Rhiel was “geboren in Mardorf, Kurhessen.” A quick check in Meyers reveals the existence of a village called Mardorf that was located in Kirchhain County. This village is apparently too small to be shown on modern maps, but can be seen in relation to Roßdorf and Amöneburg on this old map of the Kassel region circa 1906 (Figure 8).9

Figure 8: Map showing relative locations of Roßdorf, Mardorf, Amöneburg, and Neustadt, Hesse-Kassel, circa 1906.9Map of Rossdorf and Mardorf

Of course, Meyer’s gazetteer identifies a second location called Mardorf that was in Kurhessen, in Homberg County. How can we be sure that Joseph Riel wasn’t from that Mardorf instead?

Cluster research in genealogy (also known as FAN research, research which focuses on our ancestors’ Friends, Associates, and Neighbors) is based on the principle that our ancestors did not live their lives in a vacuum. One person in a village would decide to move and settle in a new area, and he would be followed by others from the same village — a phenomenon known as chain migration. So it’s more logical to suppose that the Riel and Wagner families were from the same part of Germany, and continued that association in Detroit, rather than supposing that they came from villages that were relatively far apart.

While in Detroit, I also had the opportunity to attend Mass at Old St. Mary’s church — the parish to which my Wagner ancestors belonged. After Mass, I had the good fortune to chat with Randy Bowers, operations manager and archivist at the parish. He gave me a draft of a parish history by John D. Little which states, “In 1830 the first German immigrants — all Catholics and mostly farmers — arrived in Detroit from Neustadt, a small country town of about 2,100.”10 This statement offers further evidence that we’re on the right track in identifying the locations of Roßdorf and Mardorf, since the town of Neustadt can be seen on the map in Figure 8, about 22 km (13 miles) from Roßdorf.

Although the evidence looks pretty good at this point, the identification of the Wagners’  ancestral village must be considered tentative until we find mention of them in the church records for Roßdorf.  There is also a great deal more research that can be done to document the Wagners in Detroit, especially in church records. Unfortunately, I had no time during this visit to utilize the vast genealogical resources of the Burton Historical Collection at the Detroit Public Library, so that research remains on my to-do list for the time being. However, I’m fairly confident that I’m on the right track, since all the clues regarding place of origin for the Wagners and their FANs are pointing to the same location. Joseph Riel may have been just an in-law to my family, and it’s true that he left no descendants. But in retrospect, it turns out that he was a pretty interesting guy after all.

Sources:

1 Mt. Elliott Cemetery (Detroit, Wayne, Michigan), Grave marker for Henry and Katherina Wagner, photographed 27 October 2017. Inscription: “Hier Ruht in Gott/Henry Wagner/Geboren/D. 15 Dez. 1829/Gestorben/D. 6 Feb. 1906/Katharina Wagner/Geborene/Graenzinger.”

2 1900 U.S. Federal Census (population schedule), Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, E.D. 23, sheet 24B, John Wagner household, http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

Death Records, 1897-1920, Michigan Historical Center, Seeking Michigan (http://seekingmichigan.org), 1907, #735, certificate for Henry Wagner, died 6 February 1907 in Detroit, Wayne, Michigan.

1860 U.S. census (population schedule), 3rd Ward Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, page 173, Henry Wagner household, https://www.familysearch.org, accessed 3 November 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry, Cath., August, Johnny, Gertrude, and Marianne Wagner, S.S. Erbpring Luidrich August, arrived 29 September 1853 in New York,  Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 132; Line: 12; List Number: 1010,  http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1957 (image and transcription), record for Henry Wagner, S.S. General Jacobi, arrived 3 May 1854 in New York, Microfilm Serial: M237, 1820-1897; Microfilm Roll: Roll 138; Line: 19; List Number: 406http://ancestry.com/, subscription database, accessed 3 November 2017.

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1860, #148, p. 359, record for Maria Wagner. “[Record number] 148, [date of baptism] Julii 15, [date of birth] Julii 10, [child’s name] Maria, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßen ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Cath. Granzinger, Oberelsau [Oberelsass], [[godparents] August Wagner Maria Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Nagel.”

Roman Catholic Church, Old St. Mary’s Parish (Greektown, Detroit, Michigan), Baptisms, 1856, #116, p. 219, record for Augustinus Wagner. “[Record number] 116, [date of baptism] 4 Maji, [date of birth] 3 Maji, [child’s name] Augustinus, [father and place of birth] Henricus Wagner Roßdorf ChurHessen, [mother and place of birth] Catharina Grenzinger, Steinsolz, Alsatiae, [[godparents] Augustinus Wagner et Gertrudis Wagner, [residence] Detroit, [minister] P. Beranek.”

Map, “Kassel” circa 1906 from 3rd Military Mapping Survey of Austria-Hungary, Elte Department of Cartography and Geoinformatics, http://lazarus.elte.hu, accessed 4 November 2017.

10 John D. Little, The History of Old St. Mary’s, p. 4; photocopy to Julie Szczepankiewicz, Hopkinton, Massachusetts, 2017; original held by Randy Bowers, Detroit, Michigan.

© Julie Roberts Szczepankiewicz 2017