Monday, July 11, 2016

Crosborough Legends Revisited

Legend has it that Thomas Crosborough of Magna Doddington in Northamptonshire saved the life of the King and that the king proclaimed “Truly, thou art my veritable henchman.”  Thomas changed his name to Henchman and a line was started. By most accounts, the man was Thomas Crosborough who lived during the reign of Henry VII (1485-1509). However, some accounts state the man was John Crosborough during the reign of Edward IV (1461-1483). Nice story. Is there any truth to it?

In his book “English Ancestral Names: The Evolution of the Surname from Medieval Occupations,” J.R. Dolan indicates that the word hensman was derived from the Germanic words “hengst” and “mann” – meaning a horseman or groomer.  The meaning of the word “hensman” changed many times in medieval England. The name later was “applied to a young squire in training to be a knight.” Dolan indicates that at least one Hensman was a page of honor.

A problem arises when one finds that the Henchman spelling did not exist in Northamptonshire parish records until 1584, 75 years after the death of Henry VII (1485-1509).
This calls into question the statement made in historical books and monographs that place the Henchman family in that county “at a very distant period.”  Additionally, only the Hensman surname has been found linked to Crosborough. This combination was most concentrated in the town of Ecton, but was also found in some Great Doddington and Wellingborough records.  Crosborough (and Crosborowe, a variant spelling), was still being used in later generations in several locations, including Ireland and Australia. 

Because a Thomas Henchman is identified as a “Skynner” in the Bishops Visitation of London 1633-1634, a microfilm of Skinners Guild apprenticeship records was obtained.
Upon examination, the following presentment was found in 1574. 
“Thomas Crosborowe als Hensman the sonne of Thomas Crosborowe…of Wellingborowe in the county of Northampton has put himself in apr… for tenne years.”
This record shows that Thomas was a member of the Crosborough Hensman clan. Since boys typically completed apprenticeships at age 21 and Thomas was apprenticed for 10 years, it can be estimated that Thomas was born around 1663. It is the skinner Thomas Crosborough Hensman whose first three children were baptized with the surname Henchman in Burton Latimer between the years 1584-1588.

Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic of the Reign of Henry VIII show that the Crosborowe surname continued with Hensman as an alias into the reign of Henry VIII :
2218. GRANTS in MAY 1526. 2. John Crosborowe of London, ironmonger, alias of Wellyngborowe..., alias John Hensman, mercer. Special protection for one year, granted by the King in right of his royal prerogative. Del. Westm., 2 May 18 Hen. VIII.—S.B. “

The following example took place during the reign of Queen Elizabeth the First, 79 years after the death of Henry VII.
The “Northamptonshire Lieutanancy Papers and Other Documents 1580-1614” lists a Tho. Crosborowe as a soldier “vnder the leading of Captaine Niccolles. (30 July 1588]

There is an additional Crosborough Henchman legend - that all people with the Henchman, Hincksman, Hensman, Hinchman surname are descended from this ancestral Crosborough.  Family researchers have gone to great lengths to make those connections.

One story is that the Hincksmans and the Fiskes were old friends in Sussex County, England and came to Massachusetts together in 1637. Evidence shows that Rev. John Fiske and his family did indeed emigrate to Massachusetts in that year. They settled in the Massachusetts Bay colony, living first at Salem, then at Wenham, and lastly in Chelmsford.  
However, no people with a surname approaching Hensman were found in Sussex. An Edmund Hincksman died in Chelmsford in 1668. His widow married John Fiske in 1672. Since Edmund Hincksman’s name does not appear in Rev. Fiske’s Diary, he was not a member of Fiske’s church in Salem, Wenham or Chelmsford. An Edmund Hincksman appears in records at the town of Marshfield in Plymouth colony from 1652 to 1658.  Many family researchers believe him to be the same Edmund who died in Chelmsford. However, it is more likely that Edmund was from Martley, Worcestershire, not London. Most of his progeny settled in the neighboring town of Scituate.

Edmund’s widow joined the Chelmsford church in 1672, just before marrying Rev. Fiske.This legend is often stretched by stating that the Edmund Hincksman of Chelmsford was the Edward Henchman baptized in London in 1627 and was in the line of the Crosborough Henchmans. Some refer to him as Edward Edmund because they wanted him to be the ancestor they were looking for.

A few years ago, 8 purported male descendants of this storied line decided to have their DNA tested to verify their connection to Crosborough. Five different lines were identified.  Only one man had a Crosborough match. He was David Crosborough Henchman, living in Australia. The Australian branch has impeccable documentation back to the Crosborough Henchman line.

So, the Crosborough name has persisted over 500 years since that the surname change was supposedly made.

By the way, the two men who were most closely related to me were shown to be from the same line as Daniel Henchman of Boston. At least one of those men is confirmed as being in my line of descent through the John Hinchman of Flushing, brother of Daniel Henchman of Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, not Crosborough descendants.

Monday, September 29, 2014

"History of a House" revisited

During my formative years, I lived in an old house located at the corner of Conklin Avenue and Mary Street on the South Side of Binghamton, New York. The property consisted of two lots totaling about an acre of land. A house and a two story barn stood on that land. A search of Broome County deed records revealed an interesting history.

The area that became Binghamton was a part of a land patent deeded to William Bingham of Philadelphia in 1792. Bingham had extensive land holdings in northern Pennsylvania and the Southern Tier of New York. This land was first visited by troops of the Sullivan Expedition in 1779. The first settlers arrived in 1802 and they called the community Chenango Point, since it was situated around the confluence of the Susquehanna and Chenango rivers. The last will and testament of William Bingham was probated on 17 September 1805 in Philadelphia. A William Stuart bought the property from the estate of William Bingham on 12 July 1826 (Liber 9, p. 464).

In 1834, this area was a village in the Town of Binghamton. There were several transactions in the deed book between 1836 and 1846. 

The first platting of the land took place in 1850. The property had been purchased by an Englishman named Sackville Cox in 1849. He called the development Cox Place. According to the 1850 Census, Sackville Cox had been born in England and his wife, Mary in Ireland. Cox sold lots 6 and 8 to Henry Eldredge on 26 December 1849 who then tendered them to Hugh Hart on 30 September 1850. A subsequent land transfer took place in 1853, with the land going to William S. Beard.

According to an old Binghamton map, there was no house on lots 6 or 8 in 1855. The earliest town directory, published in 1857, shows a Darwin Felter, a millwright, living there at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street. Therefore, a house was built on the property sometime between 1855 and 1857. The land that my home stood on was identified as lot 6 of that plat. A two-story 3 stall barn was situated at the west edge of lot 8, facing Mary Street.

In the 1860 Census, Darwin Felter and his wife Sarah and children Nellie, Willie and Mary were enumerated at the corner of South Water Street and Mary Street.  In 1861, deed records indicate that Sarah Ann Felter bought the property from William S. Beard (Liber 58, p. 105). Apparently, the Felters were renting the property prior to that date. 

Binghamton became a city in 1867. The Felters were enumerated at the site in the 1870 and 1880 censuses. Darwin Felter was identified as Superintendent of the City Water Works. In 1890, according to the city directory, the address had changed from South Water Street to Conklin Avenue. Darwin Felter was still living in the house in 1900, as shown in the 1900 census. In that census, his wife of 10 years was listed as Margaret, indicating that Sarah Ann had died or that there had been a divorce before 1890. The house stayed in the family after Darwin's death. In 1910 and 1920, Nellie and her husband David Munro and her brother William were living at 30 Conklin Avenue. The Felter descendants owned the property until Nellie and William sold the property to Alexander S. Williamson on 28 November 1928. In 1936, according to the Binghamton City Directory, Charles Baker (non-owner) was living there. On 26 October 1936, Dr. Charles F. and Mary E. Hawley purchased the property (Liber 468, p. 298) from the Williamsons. Doctor Hawley establish his office on the first floor in the rear of the large house, with the rest of the structure devoted to living space for the family, which consisted of Dr. and Mrs. Hawley and their infant daughter. This was the Hawley residence and Dr. Hawley's office for nineteen years. In 1955, the State of New York confiscated the house and land to build the State Street Bridge across the Susquehanna River, a sad end to the life of a beloved old house. 
Family legend has it that the house was a stop on the Underground Railway during the Civil War. However, no records have been found to verify that claim.

Friday, August 29, 2014

World War I veteran, Louis Frank Reiss

Louis Frank Reiss (usually known as Frank), was born in October 19, 1894. He lived in the Williamsburgh section of Brooklyn. Frank registered for the draft on June 5, 1917. He was examined and adjudged qualified for military service on February 13, 1918. Frank was called into service that year as a member of  the  4th Infantry Division, 39th Infantry Regiment, 7th Infantry Brigade.

As evidenced by the Victory Ribbon he received after the Armistice, Frank was present at the battles of Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne. He also spent some time in the Defensive Sector. Reportedly, he was a messenger.


His unit was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with gilt star for the Aisne-Marne campaign.

From the early 20th century coinage found in Frank's private box after he died,  he was apparently in Belgium, Holland, France and Germany during his time in Europe. There was also a matchbox cover with a picture of the Cathedral in Cologne, Germany and the words Kolner Dom under the picture.

Here are some photos from his album. Unfortunately, he did not indicate the names of his fellow soldiers, except for one labeled as "Allie W." I hope that someone reading this posting might have information about the men who served with Frank.
"This is our happy home we are sitting on."

Frank Reiss

"Allie W"

Unknown person, reading unit newsletter

Photo dated 1919


Monday, July 28, 2014

Mystery # 19: Why did Francis and Flora, residents of Cleveland, Ohio go to Michigan to get married?

One of the many mysteries related to Francis A. Reed, MD is that, soon after graduating from medical school in 1890, he married a woman named Flora M. Pierce. Francis and Flora were identified in the marriage document as residents of Cleveland, Ohio (where Francis had attended medical school). The marriage took place in Detroit, Michigan. The witnesses to the marriage were Charles E. and Cora B. Fuller, also living in Cleveland. I initially surmised that Cora might be Flora's sister, but found no possible matches in census records. A marriage record indicates that Cora's maiden name was Garrett. The 1900 Census shows that Charles and Cora took in boarders - perhaps that's how Francis and Flora met.  But, why did Francis and Flora go to Detroit to get married? Were there no relatives of the bride and/or groom in or around Cleveland?

In the marriage record, Flora's father is listed as Albert Pierce but the box for mother's name says "unknown." Methinks - how can a mother be unknown? She gave birth to the child. Isn't it more likely that there would be an unknown father? Why no official birth record?

I searched available records for an Albert Pierce in Ohio. I found a Civil War veteran named Albert Pearce (aka Pierce) as a resident in the disabled volunteers' home in Dayton, Ohio. He was admitted to that facility in October of 1871 and died in December of that year. His birth location is listed as Henry County, Ohio.

The 1850 census records show an Albert Pearce, age 3, as the youngest of six children of Maria Pearce (widow) in Napoleon, Henry County, Ohio. The family group, reduced by the absence of the older children, was still living at that location in 1860.

I found several girls named Flora born in the same time frame, but none could be linked to the Flora I was looking for. There is a Flora M. with a John and Mary Pierce of Concord, Miami, Ohio in the 1870 census. The name of the head of household was different but it was possible that the girl could be living with relatives of her father. She was the right age, being 2 at the time. However, Ohio death records indicate that Flora M. died on 16 August 1876. There were no other girls named Flora listed in the Ohio Births and Christenings who were of the right age with the right father.There is a Flora, age 3, living with Albert's oldest brother, Josiah,  in Indiana in the 1870 census. However, her birth record indicates that she is the natural daughter of that couple. Another Flora Pierce with a similar birthdate was found with a Francis and Eliza Pierce in Millgrove, Indiana, identified as a niece - an interesting possibililty. In the 1880 census, she is living with a different family. Later records indicate that she married a James Graves and lived until 1956, dying in Florida.

Next, I concentrated on Albert's closest siblings. Brother Edward, who was 7 years older than Albert, married and moved to Breckenridge, Missouri. His other brother, Lewis,  age 6, two years older than Albert, was in La Salle Township, Michigan in the 1880 census. I looked up LaSalle on google maps and found that there is now a direct route from Cleveland through LaSalle to Detroit. Could that be the reason the couple went to Michigan to get married? Maybe Flora's uncle Lewis had no way of getting to Cleveland to attend a ceremony. That would have been a 256 mile round-trip journey for him. Although Lewis is not listed as an official witnesses at the marriage, the wedding party could have reasonably stopped there to pick him up. I wonder what type of transportation they used in 1890? Horse and wagon? Train? It's 175 miles from Cleveland to Detroit - quite a distance in those days.

Since I was unable to find any birth record for Flora M.and never found her anywhere in the 1870 or 1880 census, this mystery may never be solved. We do know that Flora M. Pierce Reed gave birth to one child, Calvin Albert, who lived only one year, and that Flora also died before 1900. Dr. Reed was enumerated as a widower in the 1900 census.

Do I have the right Albert Pierce (Pearce)? Only time will tell.

"Michigan, Marriages, 1868-1925," index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 Jul 2014), Francis A. Reed and Flora M. Pierce, 26 Aug 1890; citing Detroit, Wayne, Michigan, v 4 p 522 rn 6708, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2342489.
"Ohio, Marriages, 1800-1958," index, FamilySearch ( : accessed 28 Jul 2014), Charles E. Fuller and Cora B. Garrett, 23 Dec 1876; citing Lorain, Ohio, reference 2:3JNRVFL; FHL microfilm 0378293. U.S. National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938[database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2007.
Original data: Historical Register of National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, 1866-1938; (National Archives Microfilm Publication M1749, 282 rolls); Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs, Record Group 15; National Archives, Washington, D.C.
The National Cemetery Administration;  Dayton National Cemetery, Burial Ledger, c. 1800-1993. 1850 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2009. Images reproduced by FamilySearch.

Year: 1850; Census Place: Napoleon, Henry, Ohio; Roll: M432_693; Page: 6B; Image: 539.
Year: 1860; Census Place: Napoleon, Henry,Ohio; Roll: M653_985; Page: 342; Image: 204; Family History Library Film: 803985.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Concord, Miami,Ohio; Roll: M593_1244; Page: 323B; Image: 202; Family History Library Film: 552743.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Washington, Hendricks, Indiana; Roll: M593_322; Page: 518B; Image: 514; Family History Library Film: 545821.
Year: 1870; Census Place: Millgrove, Steuben, Indiana; Roll: M593_359; Page: 108B; Image: 222; Family History Library Film: 545858.
Year: 1880; Census Place: Columbia, Martin, Indiana; Roll: 298; Family History Film: 1254298; Page: 304D; Enumeration District: 151; Image: 0211. Florida Death Index, 1877-1998 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.
Year: 1900; Census Place: Cleveland Ward 21, Cuyahoga, Ohio; Roll: 1255; Page: 2A; Enumeration District: 0097; FHL microfilm: 1241255. Web: North Dakota, Find A Grave Index, 1850-2012 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2012.
Original data: Find A Grave. Find A Grave. accessed 18 January 2013.,+OH/La+Salle,+MI/Detroit,+MI/@41.8284951,-83.1501634,9z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m20!4m19!1m5!1m1!1s0x8830ef2ee3686b2d:0xed04cb55f7621842!2m2!1d-81.6943605!2d41.49932!1m5!1m1!1s0x883b7b0281daec3d:0xfcd450f278fbdff2!2m2!1d-83.4750241!2d41.863368!1m5!1m1!1s0x8824ca0110cb1d75:0x5776864e35b9c4d2!2m2!1d-83.0457538!2d42.331427!3e0

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mystery #18: Will the real Phillip Babb please stand up!

Phillip Babb is one of my early ancestors in the New World. He emigrated from England before 1652. In that year, he was made a freeman in Massachusetts. (Massachusetts Applications of Freemen, 1630-91) 

It is reported that he later moved to York, Maine. (Maine Pioneers, 1623-60)

He then settled on the island Appledore, Isles of Shoals, located at the border between Maine and New Hampshire. My ancestor Sampson was apparently born there in 1668.

A problem arises when most of the researchers of this family decided that the Phillip Babb, son of Phillip and Mary, baptized in Stepney on 6 April 1634 was the Phillip that emigrated to the Colonies.
(London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Dunstan and All Saints, Register of baptisms, Sep 1608 - Jan 1637/8, P93/DUN, Item 256.) 

This in itself should have raised some concern. That Phillip would have been 18 years old in 1652. Freedom was not granted until a man was at least 21 years old.

The other, more serious problem with choosing this individual is that Phillip, the son of Phillip and Mary, died and was buried on 15 November 1640. (London Metropolitan Archives, Saint Dunstan and All Saints, Register of burials, Jun 1622 - Nov 1644, P93/DUN, Item 277.)

So, where did our Phillip Babb come from? Who were his parents? Hopefully, further research will locate a baptismal record for this "mystery man.".

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mystery # 17: Three fathers, two mothers and two birth years?

During the past year, I have been researching a person of interest named Dr. Francis Albert Reed. According to two marriage records and a biography, Francis was born in Hartford, Connecticut on March 28,1863 (or 1867), son of Calvin Reed and Mary (or Katherine) Ward. A third marriage record indicated birth in New York State with his father being Joseph Reed (mother Mary Ward).

Francis does not appear in any census record until 1900, when he was living and practicing medicine in Burton, Geauga, Ohio, near Cleveland. That census shows March 1863 as his birthdate and Connecticut as his birthplace (

In the book, "History of Lake County" Dr. Reed is identified as born March 28, 1867, son of Albert E. and Mary A. Reed. His father is identified as a prominent physician in Hartford, Connecticut who bought property on the St. John's River, about 20 miles south of Jacksonville, Florida and built a "show place" winter estate there. Nothing has been found about such an estate. And, no such Dr. Reed could be found in census records in Connecticut or in Florida. The closest option was a John Reade, physician/clairvoyant in Hartford in the 1860 census ( According to the biography, Dr. Reed attended Leavenworth Institute and Hahnemann College. (Leavenworth Institute is located about 220 miles from Hartford, in Wolcott, New York near Lake Ontario.) His name was not found at two websites about that school. As for Hahnemann College, he is not listed as a graduate. Dr. Reed did indeed graduate from Cleveland Medical College in 1890 and was admitted to the Ohio Medical Society in that year.

So, where was Francis between 1863 and 1890? He is not enumerated in Connecticut or in New York State in 1870 or 1880 census records. One family story is that his father died and his mother remarried and that he left the home because he did not get along with his stepfather. But, who was his father? Was it Joseph, Calvin or Albert? It is likely that his mother's name was Mary, since three of the four documents agree there.

To be continued.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Louis Thomser of Goetzenbruck and Brooklyn

Louis Thumser was born in Goetzenbruck, Moselle on January 3, 1842, son of Jean and Marguerite Burgun Thumser. Jean was a miller in this glassmaking part of France. Jean's grandfather, Jean-Thomas, was a miller in Bohemia. Jean-Thomas and wife Anne-Marie Schneider, migrated to Werenfels, Bavaria, where Jean-Thomas became the town miller. Two sons were born there, Antoine and Willibald. In adulthood, both of the sons continued on to Moselle. Antoine settled in Siersthal and Willibald in Soucht.

In the glassmaking regions, you had to be a member of the family of a glassmaker enployed by that same company, to go into the business. Louis wanted very much to follow his godfather, Louis Reitz, into that profession. In order to do that, Louis had to leave Goetzenbruck and travel to New York. He traveled with an aunt and cousins. He arrived in New York in 1854 and moved in with his godfather who was already here and employed in a glass factory in Brooklyn. The family lived in the company tenement at 98 Meserole Street. Louis became an apprentice at the factory and, by 1860, he was a glass blower.

The Civil War cut short that career. He enlisted in the 68th New York Volunteers on 16 August 1861. The unit was also called the Cameron Rifles and the 2nd German Rifle Regiment. He rose through the ranks from private to lieutenant. He was injured in 1865 and later received a pension. By 1870, he was again working at the glass factory but now as a packer. He married a young woman named Appolonia Koferl, whose family also lived 1t 98 Meserole Street. The couple had two daughters and one son. The son died in infancy. Appolonia died in 1879, leaving Louis with two small daughters. He subsequently married Magdalena Zimmer and they had two children, a boy and a girl. He was still employed at the glass factory in 1880.

By the 1890s Louis Thomser was the president of the Ellsworth Social Circle. He and his family were then living on Scholes Street in Brooklyn. In a city directory, his occupation was listed as porter.

Louis died 4 September 1911.