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.