Thursday, September 17, 2009

Mystery #5: Where was the bishop born?

Humphrey Henchman, Bishop of Salisbury, England in the 17th century, was the son of Thomas Henchman and Anne Griffith. Of this we are pretty certain since he mentions his brother Morris in his will and Morris was a son of Thomas and Anne, baptized in Burton Latimer, Northamptonshire, England in February 1597. Three of Morris' siblings were also baptized there - in 1584, 1587 and 1588. But three others, born between 1589 and 1596 (including Humphrey), are not in the parish register.
There was a debate raging for many years as to the birthplace of the bishop. Author A. Wood says Humphrey Henchman was born at the home of his aunt and baptized in Barton Seagrave as per notes made in the parish register by kinsman William Henchman who was rector of that church in the mid-17th century. The notation reportedly stated that Humphrey was baptized December 22, 1592 in that parish. However, this cannot be verified because microfilms of Barton Seagrave parish records are not available before 1609. Rev. Henchman stated that the early registers were in very poor condition.
Another researcher vehemently disagrees with Mr. Wood's claim because Thomas and Anne Henchman were living in Burton Latimer during that time frame. Anne's sister, Jane, was the wife of the rector at Burton Latimer, Owen Owen. Jane died 7 months before Humphrey was born. Rev. Owen died 3 months after Humphrey's birth. It would seem likely that, since Jane and Owen had young children, Thomas and Anne would remain in that town to help out. But, since three of their children were not listed in the parish register, one might wonder If the family was somewhere else during that time frame. Occasionally a baptism or marriage was missed, but three in a row for one family seems a bit of a stretch.
Since Thomas was originally from Wellingborough in that same county, it would seem likely that they might have gone there. However, the missing children are not mentioned in Wellingborough records. Anne was born in Wales. Could they have been visiting her family for an extended period of time? Records for Carnarvon are very sparse during that time frame since it was a very poor part of the country and paper and ink were expensive. No records were found for that area. Thomas was a skinner, a member of the Skinners Guild of London, so it is possible that they could have gone to London for a time and that the three missing baptisms could have been done there. Research is being done in the microfilmed records of the Skinners Guild to see if Thomas is mentioned there during that time frame. Since there are so many churches in London, it would be very difficult to search all of them for those records.
More to follow. Keep tuned.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mystery Solved!

With so many "brick walls," it is so satisfying to break down at least one. John Shoens of Camillus, Onondaga County, New York, had a wife named Rebecca. In the 1850 census, a Ruth Randall was living with the family. Unfortunately, in that census, relationships are not given. Oh, one might surmise, that must be Rebecca's mother and, therefore, Rebecca's surname must have been Randall. Many researchers have made that mistake and linked John to a Rebecca Randall who was born and married in Oneida County. She was born about the same time as the wife of John Shoens. Just one problem - she married someone else and died in Oneida County. A visit to the Shoens plot in Belle Isle Cemetery gives a valuable clue. The gravestone for John and his wife lists "John Shoens" and "Rebecca Fox his wife." Her birth year is 1800.

A search of indicated that a Ruth Randall applied for a widow's pension for Revolutionary War service by her first husband, Lemuel Fox. In order to prove her relationship to Lemuel, Ruth tore pages out of her bible and sent them with her application. Those pages are found among the digital images on Footnote. The bible pages showed the date of her marriage to Lemuel, the names and dates of birth of her children and the date of Lemuel's death. Rebecca Fox is listed as their first child, born 17 June 1800. Is that the Rebecca we have been looking for? The surname and date of birth match the information on the gravestone.

Ruth's application was denied because no record of Revolutionary War service was found for a Lemuel Fox in New York. Ruth subsequently remarried - to a John Clark, a proven Revolutionary War soldier. When John died, Ruth applied again under his name. That application was denied due to the previous application. Ruth remarried and her surname became Randall. Mr. Randall died, and, you guessed it, she tried once more. She was never successful in getting her pension. That might be one of the reasons she, as a widow, was residing in the home of her daughter and son-in-law in Camillus in 1850.

The 1855 New York State census states that John was born in Oneida County and Rebecca was born in Onondaga County, NY. Ruth Randall is living with them and is identified as "mother-in-law." The children of Ruth and Lemuel Fox were born in Onondaga County. Upon preponderance of the evidence, the wife of John Shoens was Rebecca Fox, not Rebecca Randall.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mystery #4: Julia Seeley

Little is known about the Julia Seeley who married Samuel Gordon in Bradford County, PA. Her gravestone inscription indicates that she was born in 1813 and died in 1899. According to the 1850 Census, Julia was born in Pennsylvania.

Reportedly, Seeley descendants still living in the Gillett, PA area have no knowledge of her parentage. There have been many guesses. One has her as the daughter of a William and Fannie Gray Seeley. But, that daughter was named Juliette and was born in 1812. Records of the Seeley Genealogical Society show Juliette being born in Sullivan County, NY. Another researcher of this surname believes that Julia was the daughter of one of the three James Seeleys living in Bradford County, PA in 1820, with the common ancestors, Nathaniel Seeley and Jemima Collins.

Mystery #3: John Shoens

According to the 1855 New York State Census for Camillus, Onondaga County, NY, John Shoens (aka Shones, Showens, Showan) was born in Oneida County around 1799. According to deed records, he started purchasing land in Onondaga County around 1829. At the time of his death in 1856, he was listed as 57 years old. The mystery arises because the surname Shoens does not appear in any census before 1830. The closest matches are two 'Shons' (Hendrick and Jerom) in Albany County in the 1790 Census. A John Shoenee was enumerated in Worcester, Otsego County in 1800. No variations of the surname were found in Census records for 1810 and 1820. Where was he in those years? Since the census records prior to 1850 only list the head of the family, it is possible that he may have been orphaned and/or was apprenticed and living with an unknown relative, friend or master.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Mystery #2: Margaret Rifenburg

According to the gravestone for Margaret and her husband John Beagle, Margaret was born on June 19, 1812. The 1855 New York State Census for the town of Walton, Delaware County, NY states that she was born in Otsego County, NY. According to the "Widow's Declaration for Pension" she signed on July 12, 1890 (for John's Civil War Service), she and John Beagle were married on May 27, 1836 in Worcester, Otsego County, NY by Rev. John Bangs.

With so much information, it looks like it would be really easy to find Margaret's parentage, doesn't it? Unfortunately, records for Otsego County are quite meager. Even a trip to the county courthouse and the historical society in Cooperstown, NY and to the Worcester Historical Society failed to give any clues. Census records are not very useful in the early 1800s because only the head of household is named and other people in the household may or may not be related to that person. I did check the 1810-1850 census records for Otsego County. The only Rifenburg who was in Worcester, Otsego County for the entire time frame was a Daniel Rifenburg. In 1820, there were two female children under the age of 16 in the household. In 1830 he still has a female child in the house between 15 and 20 years of age. In 1840 he is enumerated without children. This would seem to indicate that there was a good chance that Daniel was Margaret's father.

However, two factors come into play to question this connection. 1) In 1850 Daniel is 91 years old and his wife Christina is 84. His wife would have been 46 when Margaret was born. We do not know if Christina was Daniel's only wife. 2) A published family history written by her son-in-law states that Margaret's surname was Finkle.

So, was Margaret the natural daughter of Daniel? Or, was Margaret perhaps born a Finkle and adopted by the Rifenburgs? Hopefully, someday this mystery will be solved.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mystery #1: John Hinchman

John Hinchman's scenario is presented in family history as follows: John is the son of Edmund and Elizabeth Hincksman who emigrated from England in 1637 or later and lived in Marshfield and Chelmsford, Massachusetts. That John is traditionally identified as the husband of Elizabeth Emmons, with the marriage taking place on August 10, 1660 in Boston, Massachusetts. This marriage is listed in "Boston Births, Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths, 1630-1699." The story continues that Elizabeth died and then John moved to Long Island and married a Sarah. This is impossible for the following reason.

The following listing is found on page 364 in "New England Marriages Prior to 1790:
"HINCKSMAN, John & Elizabeth EMMONS, m/2 Joseph GRIDLEY 1675; 10 Aug 1660; Boston"
On Page 325 of that book we find this entry:
"GRIDLEY, Joseph (1629-1687) m; Elizabeth (EMMONS) HICKMAN/HINCKMAN, w. John; 24 Jun 1675; Dorchester."

If that John Hincksman is the son of Edmund and Elizabeth, he died sometime sometime between 1660 and 1675. So, he could not have been the John Hinchman in Long Island. The John Hinchman found on Long Island documents was in Oyster Bay, Long Island in 1659, as proven by a land transaction found in Oyster Bay records. That John is married to a Sarah (surname unknown).

A John Hinchman is listed in the "Valuations of Estates at Flushing," Oct. 9, 1675, and in the "Flushing Estimations" 29 Sept., 1683. He appears to be quite well-to do. After his death (circa 1687-88), his widow is still in possession of a large tract of land near Flushing Bay.

A John Hinchman appears in the 1698 Flushing Census with wife Sarah (obviously a different John and Sarah). In that census there are only two columns, "Dutch Inhabits" and "French Inhabits." John and Sarah are enumerated among the "French Inhabits," which would tend to indicate that he might have been a Huguenot. However, no surname similar to Hinchman appears in publications about the Huguenots in Long Island. One biographical writer has surmised that the surname 'Hinchman' is a corruption of 'frenchman.' Another hypothesis would be that it was Sarah who was of French extraction. One researcher stated that the "French" column was for anyone who was not Dutch.

This younger John and a Robert have been traditionally identified as the sons of John Hincksman and Elizabeth Emmons. However, no issue for John and Elizabeth was found in Massachusetts documents. One interesting document was the will of the mother of Elizabeth Emmons Hincksman. Elizabeth is not mentioned in the will but a codicil attached to the will makes it very clear that Mrs. Emmons was not happy with her son-in-law due to an unpaid loan. It is possible that the John who married Elizabeth Emmons was the John Hincksman who, with Kenneline Winslow of Boston, owned the Barque Return which apparently traveled up and down the east coast during the 1660s. He and Kenneline are found in official records on Long Island and in Virginia. I have not found any records of shipwrecks during the mid-17th century. I would think that there were many and that might be the reason that Elizabeth was a widow.

Where did the Long Island John come from? Who were his parents? For now, this remains a mystery.

Family Mysteries

Every person trying to trace a family comes across mysteries, what some might call "brick walls." Some of those mysteries involve missing data and some may relate to the way others have interpreted data.

When I started doing family research over 40 years ago, I was very happy to accept what others had written about my ancestors. I neatly filed away those donated family group sheets and figured I wouldn't have to worry about those lines. But, as time went on, I decided to at least send away for vital records. About 10 years ago, my Christmas gift to each of my children, now grown, was a binder filled with copies of those family group sheets and any records that I had collected.

Within the last few years, I decided to do more to "flesh out" my ancestors. I corresponded with cousins and joined message boards and mailing lists and subscription websites. I made two trips to Salt Lake City, went on a Genealogy Cruise, and attended several conferences. The more I looked, the more I realized I didn't know. I now have numerous mysteries to try to solve. Following posts will detail some of the mysteries.