Saturday, July 28, 2018

Richard V. Robbins of Pennylvania and Michigan: Is He Related to One of My Robbins Ancestors?

Michigan Department of Community Health, “Death Records, 1921-1947,” database with images, Seeking Michigan (, entry for Richard V. Robbins, 20 May 1921, certificate no. 41 355.
(click on image to enlarge)

One year ago today, I made a discovery on one of my Robbins lines (I have two).  I have known from one of my cousins that there was a land transaction between Richard Robbins and my 4th-great-grandmother, Marinda (Robbins) Robbins in Oceana County, Michigan in the 1880s.  I have been trying to figure out if Richard was a relative of Marinda, or of her husband/my 4th-great-grandfather Joseph Josiah Robbins.

As I've mentioned often, my 4th-great-grandparents both had the last name Robbins.  They married each other.   They don't seem to be related, or if so, not closely. Joseph was born in Otsego County, New York and his father's name was George.  Marinda was born probably in Broome County, New York or Susquehanna County, Pennsylvania (they border each other), and her father was Uzza Robbins.

So one year ago, I took another look at Richard's death certificate.  He was young enough to be Marinda's son, so it was doubtful he was her brother (we haven't identified all her siblings).  Perhaps he was a nephew?  I saw his parents were Stephen Robbins and Sarah Wright, and he was born in Pennsylvania.

Looking through old notes and family tree info that was exchanged between myself and other Robbins genealogists, I saw that Stephen Van Rennselaer Robbins married Sarah Wright, and was a son of George Washington Robbins and Abigail Hicks, the couple I am 99% sure are also the parents of Joseph.  Although most of George and Abigail's children moved directly from the Town of Westford, Otsego County to the Town of Carroll, Chautauqua County, New York, Stephen followed the same migration trail as my Joseph:  living first in Elkland Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania, then Liberty Township, McKean County, Pennsylvania, and then probably on to Oceana County, Michigan (I say "probably" because I don't know if Stephen did for sure...but his son Richard definitely did!).

Stephen also joined the same unit that Joseph did during the Civil War:  the 58th Pennsylvania Infantry.  In their forties, they both would have been considered "old men" at that time.

Joseph and Marinda's son Charles, my 3rd-great-grandfather, once declared in an newspaper interview before he died in 1934, that the family moved from Pennsylvania to Hesperia, Oceana County, Michigan near "where his aunt was living near Martin's lake in Newaygo county."  I have long been trying to identify this aunt. Was she Sarah (Wright) Robbins?

Also, Stephen's brother, George Robbins, Jr., bought land in Oceana County, and lived in Newaygo County, Michigan (the counties border each other, with the village of Hesperia lying on that border).

It looks likely that Richard V. Robbins was Joseph's nephew, not Marinda's.

The indirect evidence is mounting that Joseph Josiah Robbins was the son of George Washington Robbins and Abigail Hicks.  I haven't found the direct piece of evidence; I may never find it.  But the puzzle pieces are fitting together better than ever.  It's time to find a direct male descendant of George and Abigail and (Y-DNA) test him against my dad!

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Seven Generations

Theo lovingly pets the polar bear that belonged to his
Great-great-great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, Sr.
4 July 2018
Taken at the home of his Great-grandfather Robbins in Stevens Co., Washington.

Earlier this month, I spent time with extended family and friends at my parents' place for their annual Fourth of July barbecue.  My 20-month-old grandson, Theo, attended with his parents, my daughter and son-in-law.  It was Theo's second Fourth of July at his Great-grandpa and Great-grandma Robbins' property high in the Selkirk Mountains, and this time he was big enough to run around.

And run around, he did.

They say it takes a village to raise a child.  It took almost that many to keep an eye on a busy toddler that loves to explore: his parents, his three cousins, and me.

Occasionally, he would come across something that would capture his attention, and he would hold still for a few minutes.  One of those items was the polar bear statue of my great-grandfather, William Bryan Robbins, Sr.

I have written about Bryan's service with the American North Russian Expeditionary Forces in a series on this blog, and it is the statue I reference in the first post in that series. When my dad was a boy, he and his father came across this statue at a nursery.  Grandpa decided it would make the perfect gift for Great-grandpa, as a way to honor his military service.

When Great-grandpa died, the statue became Grandpa's.  And after Grandpa died, my aunt brought it out West from Michigan to deliver it to Dad on one of her visits.  Now it sits on the covered front porch of my parents' log home, up in the pine forests of Eastern Washington....

...where Theo discovered it.

I wish I could have captured the look on Theo's face when he spotted Great-grandpa's polar bear.  His eyebrows rose, his mouth opened wide (so that his binky fell out!), and then he ran to squat and pet the bear.

In that moment, I felt the pages of history turn.  I had met my great-grandfather a couple of times when I was very little (too young to remember, unfortunately).  And here was my grandson, admiring and loving something that had belonged to an ancestor five generations before him, a man his Mimi (grandma) had met.  A man his Mimi will tell stories about to him, when he is old enough to understand, just as my father and grandfather told me stories about their grandparents and great-grandparents....

...the stories that motivated me to begin genealogical research; the stories that motivated me to write down my ancestor stories, or AnceStories.

When my great-grandfather died in 1972, he had known seven generations of Robbins in his lifetime, from his great-grandparents, to his grandparents, parents, siblings and cousins, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. It was a span of knowing people who had lived over the course of 152 years, from 1820 to 1972!

My grandfather also had known seven generations of Robbins in his lifetime when he passed in 2003; people who had lived over a course of 159 years, from 1844 to 2003!  My dad, at nearly three-quarters of a century old, has known seven generations of Robbins, too; even though his great-grandfather Robbins died before he was born, he knew his great-grandmother.

I have known six generations of Robbins.  And if I'm lucky, someday, I'll be a great-grandmother, and know Theo's children.  Who knows how many generations Theo will know in his lifetime?

In Pacific Northwest Native cultures, there is an inter-tribal value of "Seven Generations," in which the impact of decisions on the next seven generations is considered.  As genealogists, have we considered how we are passing on the stories, photos, heirlooms, traditions, and culture that we have learned and inherited from the ancestors within memory to our descendants?

How many generations have you known?

Friday, March 16, 2018

Her Name Was...Anna?

Nellie May Concidine, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)

Last night, I was lost in thought, looking toward my dining room wall, which I call my "Ancestor Wall," since so many of my ancestors' portraits grace it.  My eyes fell on the portrait of my adoptive great-grandmother, Nellie May (Concidine) Holst (1883 - 1953).  Nellie...hmmm.  Was her first name really Nellie, or was it Eleanor?  Maybe I needed to double-check her birth record to see how her name was originally recorded.  Then I realized that I wasn't sure I had her birth record.

Nellie May (Concidine) and Alfred Henry Holst, c. 1905.
Unknown location, probably Grand Rapids, Kent Co., Michigan.
Original photo privately held by Miriam Robbins,
[ADDRESS FOR PRIVATE USE,] Spokane, Washington, 2018.
(click on photo to enlarge)
A little background:  Nellie was born in Byron Township, Kent County, Michigan.  She was the second child and first daughter of half-Irish, half-Scots John Dennis Concidine (1854 - 1925) and Anna "Annie" Matilda Higby (1861 - 1903), a woman whose roots go back into colonial New England.  After teaching for a few years, Nellie married a German-Swedish immigrant, Alfred Henry Holst (1882 - 1952) in 1905.  They had a set of twins, Earl and May, who died in infancy in 1909.  Then they had my grand-aunt, Lucille, in 1918.  Hoping to enlarge their little family, they fostered and later adopted my paternal grandmother, born Jane Marie York, whom they named Jeanne Marie Holst.

I looked in my family tree software, RootsMagic, and the only sources I had for Nellie's birth were family records, census records, and her death certificate.  I looked in my electronic files and did not see a birth record for her.  So off I went to FamilySearch to look in their Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection.

It took some creative searching to locate Nellie's birth record.  A search for "Concidine" with the Exact Search box unchecked (because Considine and Constantine are common alternate spellings) yielded results for Nellie's siblings, Ethel, Loid (Lloyd), and Manly (Manley), along with 151 other results, but no Nellie.  After several unsuccessful other searches, I finally settled on leaving the name field blank and searched  the birth location Byron (exact) and the birth years 1883 - 1883 (my family records stated Nellie was born 23 December 1883 in Byron Township).  This yielded a list of all babies born in Byron Township in 1883, a total of 31.  And one of them was an "Anna Corcadine" born 16 December 1883 to John and Anna:

"Michigan Births, 1867-1902," database with images, FamilySearch ( : 10 March 2018), Anna Corcadine, 16 Dec 1883; citing item 2 p 344 rn 1287, Byron, Kent, Michigan, Department of Vital Records, Lansing; FHL microfilm 2,320,696.
(click on each image above to enlarge detailed area)

Her name was...Anna? What in the world?

You need to understand how birth records in Michigan were created, prior to birth certificates being issued in 1905.  The town supervisor or a city clerk would canvas his area once a year, going door-to-door to record all the births and deaths that had occurred in that township or ward the previous year.  Remind you of anything?  Yes, the census.  Vital records, births and deaths, were recorded census-style in Michigan, from 1867 to 1895 (death records) and 1905 (birth records).  After 1895/1905, death/birth certificates were issued.

So all the issues we have with people going missing or having incorrect information recorded on censuses applies to birth and death records in Michigan from 1867 to 1895/1905.  To add to the rates of error, we're not exactly sure what happened to these original recordings.  The information was copied into the county birth and death libers, many of which have been microfilmed by the Family History Library.  Then the information was further copied and sent off to the secretary of state, and recorded in the state birth and death libers, also microfilmed by the Family History Library and now digitized and available online as the Michigan Births, 1867-1902 collection. I have not been able to find what the town supervisors or city clerks did with those original records they made when going door-to-door.  They do not seem to be in existence.

So the record viewed above is actually the third recording of the information of Nellie's birth, copied from the county record, copied from the door-to-door record, which was recorded in May 1884, five months after Nellie's birth.  We also do not know who gave out this information to the recorder: her mother...her father...a relative living in the home...or a neighbor?

I am now more stumped than ever.  Was Nellie originally named Anna (after her mother), but then the family decided to call her Nellie?  Was Anna a recording error made by the town supervisor, or did it get mis-copied from the original (for instance, did one of the recorders glance at the mother's name and write it as the child's name)?  Also, our family records state Nellie was born on 23 December 1883, but this record says 16 December.  Sometimes, finally being able to access the record generates more questions than provides answers!  In these cases, careful comparison and analysis between multiple records that contain similar information must be made, and a reasonable conclusion must be drawn, understanding that more than one reasonable conclusion can be made.

What I am sure of is that Nellie was born to John and Anna (Higby) Concidine in Byron Township in December 1883. I will look for other sources to which to compare the birth record and come up with the best reasonable conclusion about her name and her birth date.

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Sunday, January 07, 2018

Book Review: The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition

Recently, I was given an opportunity to review the latest (fourth) edition of the classic The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy by Val D. Greenwood, published by the Genealogical Publishing Company of Baltimore, Maryland in 2017.  I had been hearing exclamations of elation about the newest edition being published from various professional genealogists with whom I am friends on Facebook, so I jumped at the chance to review it.  Also, who doesn't like free genealogy books?

Ironically, when I first heard that this book had been updated, I didn't consider purchasing it.  I have at least four comprehensive genealogy guide books in my home library, so why did I need another one?  I've been doing this thing called genealogy for 30 years now, have taken a professional course, and taught classes.  Was there anything this book could tell me that I really didn't already know...anything of enough additional value that it would warrant a purchase of a generalized topic such as "American genealogy"?

As usual, when I received the new book in the mail, I took a look at its format and contents.  This is a one-and-a-half-inch-thick, six-inch-wide by nine-inch-tall 778-page paperback book.  Besides the Table of Contents, it contains a list of the illustrations and charts, along with a preface by the author , with a detailed 39-page index at the back.  The book is divided into two parts; below are the chapters within each part:

Part 1:  Background to Research

      1.  Understanding Genealogical Research
      2.  Language, Terminology and Important Issues
      3.  Surveying, Analyzing, and Planning
      4.  Evidence
      5.  Libraries and the National Archives (NARA)
      6.  Reference Works
      7.  Organizing and Evaluating Your Research Findings
      8.  Successful Correspondence
      9.  Computer Technology and Family History
    10.  Family History on the Internet
    11.  Family History:  Going Beyond Genealogy

Part 2:  Records and Their Use

    12.  Compiled Sources and Newspapers
    13.  Vital Records
    14.  Census Returns
    15.  Using Census Records in Your Research
    16.  Understanding Probate Records and Legal Terminology
    17.  What About Wills?
    18.  The Intestate, Miscellaneous Probate Records, and Guardianships
    19.  Government Land:  Colonial and American
    20.  Local Land Records
    21.  Abstracting Probate and Land Records
    22.  Court Records and Family History
    23.  Property  Rights of Woman as a Consideration
    24.  Church Records and Family History
    25.  Immigrant Ancestor Origins
    26.  Military Records:  Colonial Wars and the American Revolution
    27.  Military Records:  After the Revolution
    28.  Cemetery and Burial Records

As you can see, this is quite an exhaustive lineup of background resources and records.  Much of the first seven chapters reminded me of what I learned in my ProGen class.  For instance, Chapter 3 specifies excellent strategies of "pre-search":  determining what research needs to be done and how to approach it.  The following chapter on "Evidence" explains proof and evidence, details the Genealogical Proof Standard, types of evidence, and types of sources.  Chapter 7 offers different methods of note taking and the recording of research results, as well as how to analyze the information found therein.  For these reasons, I have to say this content makes an excellent reference for both the beginning and intermediate genealogist, to provide and maintain the fundamental steps of good research.

One chapter I felt could have been stronger was the one titled "Computer Technology and Family History."  For one, the title is redundant and should have "computer" removed.  For another, DNA is discussed in this chapter, which seems completely out of place (the following chapter, "Family History on the Internet" is a better fit).  Also, there is a list of computer-related terms and their definitions that are not put in context with genealogy, and thus appear unnecessary.  An example is the term "https" found at the beginning of many web addresses.  While the term is defined to explain that websites with this in their address are secure, giving the reason as to why that would be important to a genealogist is lacking; i.e., making an online purchase of genealogy materials, subscribing to a major genealogy website, or accessing DNA results online.  Finally, no modern book on genealogy with a chapter on technology should ignore mentioning the importance, availability, and substantial number of genealogy apps on smartphones and other devices.

In Part 2, I was particularly impressed with the content of Chapters 16 through 23, encompassing probate, land, and court records.  This meaty section is full of legal definitions, the processes involved in probate and purchasing and selling land, resources spelled out by state, tables of figures, and sample documents.  In these eight chapters, my question about whether a purchase of yet another genealogy guidebook would be warranted was satisfactorily answered!

Finally, throughout the book, as I've browsed and skimmed, delved and devoured, I have discovered little gems; things that were new to me, a seasoned researcher.  These include descriptions of various library classifications systems, notes about Virginia's independent cities, and a link to the Family History Guide (  

My takeaway is that this book does belong in your home genealogy library.  It also requires some in-depth study.  DearMYRTLE will be offering a six-month online book study and discussion on Google Hangouts beginning February 28th (you can register here).

The Researcher's Guide to American Genealogy, 4th Edition, by Val D. Greenwood, is available at the Genealogical Publishing Company or Amazon for $49.95.

Disclosure: I received a free book from the Genealogical Publishing Company (GPC) for review.  As a GPC Associate and an Amazon Associate, I receive a small percentage of the purchase price when readers purchase a title through the GPC or Amazon links above.

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Monday, July 03, 2017

Was My Ancestor a Deserter?

On a weekend when we're celebrating the birth of our country and honoring ancestors who served in the American Revolution, it seems ironic to be writing about an ancestor who may have deserted. Recently prompted by some DNA matches that appear to connect to my elusive PECK line, however, I have determined that I need to share a records discovery that may pertain to my brick wall ancestor, Nelson H. PECK.

Very, very little is known about my 4th-great-grandfather. To begin with, I have no primary source material, so I am relying on secondary or tertiary source material, at best.  Here's a timeline I have put together for him:
  • About 1819: born in New York, Pennsylvania, or England. His birth date comes from a newspaper extract about his death, filed with the Potter County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society, which states he was about 30 years old on 15 April 1849. His possible birth locations come from his daughter's census record information: 1875 Minnesota State Census (Pennsylvania); 1880 Federal Census (New York); 1884 Michigan State Census (England); 1900 Federal Census (England); 1910 Federal Census (England). The thing is, we have no idea who supplied this information to the enumerators. Was it his daughter Viola, or her husband, Charles Robbins? They were not witnesses to his birth, obviously; so how did they know this information? Did Viola learn it from her mother? Again, Viola's mother would only have had second-hand knowledge, even if she knew her husband's family well.
  • About 1847: married Lura Ann Jackson, probably in Coudersport, Potter County, Pennsylvania. This is based on the date of their daughter's birth; obviously, they could have married earlier...or even later, if Lura was "in the family way" when they got married. I have listed Coudersport as the probable marriage location, since it was typical in those days for a woman to be married at or near her family home. I do know from the Jackson family genealogy, census records, and the county history that her family lived in Coudersport at the time. There is also a possibility they married somewhere else. Regardless, neither Potter County, nor the state of Pennsylvania, nor the bordering counties and state of New York kept vital records at that time.
  • 1848: resident taxpayer and carpenter/joiner in Coudersport. Both the History of the counties of McKean, Elk, Cameron and Potter, Pennsylvania....which was compiled by Michael A. Leeson and published in 1890 by J.H. Beers & Co. of Chicago, and Early History of Coudersport; Pioneer Families of Coudersport, published in July 1949 by the Potter County Historical Society in Coudersport, Pennsylvania mention Nelson briefly on pages 11 and 1057, respectively.
  • 14 April 1848: daughter Viola Gertrude Peck is born in Coudersport.  Her 18 February 1918 Oceana County, Michigan death certificate provides her date and specific place of birth, which aligns with all the state and census information during her lifetime.
  • 15 April 1849: died. This date comes from a newspaper extract about his death, filed with the Potter County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society, the entirety which reads: "Nelson H. Peck of Coudersport, died Apr. 15, 1849, age abt. 30 years. He was a carpenter."  There is no reference to the title, date, or page of the newspaper. Note this date was a day after his daughter's first birthday.

As you can see, only the years 1848 and 1849 provide definitive events in the life of Nelson. Over the years, I've looked closely at the other PECK families in the area, but have been unable to come to a conclusion about whether they are related, especially since they were adults born after Nelson's death and came to Potter County later in their lives.

Recently, provided me with some hints about a Nelson Peck who could possibly be my ancestor.  He served in the War with Mexico, and was listed as a deserter. Below, I have created a timeline of this man:

  • 31 May 1847: enlisted at Galena. From, "U.S. Army, Register of Enlistments, 1798-1914"; 1847 Jan - 1849 Jun, Mexican War enlistments: Nelson Peck; age 25 [b.c. 1822]; blue eyes, light hair, fair complexion, 5 feet 5 inches tall; born in Hume, New York [in Allegany County, which borders Potter County, Pennsylvania on the north]; laborer; enlisted 31 May 1847 at Galena by Lt.[?] Hall; 1st Infantry [U.S. Regular Army], Company A; deserted 29 November 1847. No other information is given, including under the "apprehended" column. Galena is not identified further. Was this Galena, Illinois?  Or was it the village of Galena, which is in Chenango County, New York?
  • 14 September 1847: Transfer to Fort Leavenworth from Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. From, "U.S., Returns from Military Posts, 1806-1916"; Missouri Jefferson Barracks, 1840 Jan - 1851 Dec.
  • 22 September 1847: Arrived at Fort Leavenworth, Missouri [as it was known then]. From, "U.S. Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, 1821-1916"; 1st Infantry 1844-1848.
  • 29 November 1847: deserted from Fort Leavenworth, Missouri. From, "U.S. Returns from Regular Army Infantry Regiments, 1821-1916"; 1st Infantry 1844-1848.

Assuming my ancestor Viola was a full-term baby, conception for her 14 April 1848 birth would have had to occur around July 8, 1847.  If Nelson-my-ancestor and Nelson-the-deserter were the same person, how much time would it have taken for him to travel from Coudersport, Pennsylvania to Jefferson, Missouri?  Was it possible for him to leave Coudersport in early July 1847 and arrive at Jefferson Barracks before he then transferred to Fort Leavenworth on September 14? Train travel in 1847 was very limited; between east coast cities, mainly. "Swift" travel in those days meant river travel, and a likely route would have involved the Ohio River to the Mississippi River and then to the Missouri River.

I've tried to find Nelson-the-deserter in records after 1847, such as the 1850 and later Federal censuses.  I haven't been able to come to come to any strong conclusions that he is or is not any of the men I find.  I realize his birth year given at the time of his enlistment doesn't quite match the birth year given for Nelson-my-ancestor; but then again, my ancestor's birth year is also an estimate.

I've also looked for every Nelson Peck in the 1840 Federal Census, and have come up with exactly six. One of them--and the most likely, given the distance to Potter County--was living in the Town of New Berlin, Chenango County, New York, which borders the Town of North Norwich, where the village of Galena is located. There are three people in the household: a man age 20 to 29 [b.c. 1811-1820], a woman age 20 to 29 [b.c. 1811-1820], and a female child under the age of 5 [b.c. 1835-1840]. This man could be Nelson-my-ancestor with a first wife and child, rather than my ancestors Lura Ann Jackson (b. 1826) and Viola Gertrude Peck (b. 1848). It could also be Nelson-the-deserter.  Finally, it could be both Nelson-my-ancestor and Nelson-the-deserter.  There are no adult Nelson Pecks in Chenanco County or adjacent counties in 1850.

It would be easy to dismiss Nelson-the-deserter as not being Nelson-my-ancestor, except for one detail: family lore has a story about a Mexican War serviceman who "took off." In the early 1930s, Nelson's son-in-law, my 3rd-great-grandfather, Charles H. Robbins, was interviewed about his life, and specifically his Civil War years. Charles talked a little about his father, Joseph Josiah Robbins, who also served in the Civil War. One of the things the article stated was that Joseph had also served in the Mexican War:
His father, Joseph Josiah Robbins, was a veteran of the Mexican war in which he had been an artilleryman.  He came home in 1849 after having started to California during the big gold rush but decided to come back to his family.

The thing is, I have never been able to find evidence that Joseph enlisted during the Mexican War. I can't find Mexican War-era service records for him or locate him in lists of Mexican War veterans in New York or Pennsylvania. He did draw a pension for disability from his Civil War service.  His pension application and related records never mention service from an earlier time prior to the Civil War.

The interview of Charles is full of inaccuracies, probably due to the ramblings of an old man with dementia. In every case where the information is inaccurate, there's been evidence that it was touching on an actual event, and a plausible explanation of the inaccuracy can be given.  The part of the Mexican War service has been the only exception. Or has it?

Could Charles have been confused and been talking about his father-in-law, rather than his father? Could the "going off to the Gold Rush" have been a "cover" for Nelson's desertion?  It could not have been an actual cause, as Nelson deserted on 29 November 1847 and the Gold Rush at Sutter's Mill started in early January 1849.

There's a lot more research and analysis that need to go into both Nelson-my-ancestor and Nelson-the-deserter before I can come to a reasonable conclusion about either one of them, much less determine if they were one and the same. But I wanted to publish my theory and get it out to the public so that I can reference it while working on Nelson-my-ancestor and my PECK DNA results.

Are you a PECK descendant? Were your ancestors from Upstate New York or Western Pennsylvania, particularly the Twin Tier Counties? If so, please contact me at

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Sunday, June 04, 2017

New Facebook Group: Historical City Directories

I've just created a new Facebook group, Historical City Directories, for those genealogists and historians who are interested in learning about and sharing resources for historical city (and other types of) directories.  It is a closed group, and I encourage you to join. You must have a Facebook account, of course, and you will be asked a question before being admitted to the group. This will help cut down on spammers.

The reason for the creation of the group is to give more interaction for those following my Online Historical Directories site than its companion blog allows.  It's a great way to learn about and share resources, both off line and online.

I look forward to "meeting" you over there!

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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Anthony Fredenburg: Civil War Veteran?

Anthony Fredenburg, my 4th-great-grandfather
This Memorial Day weekend, I want to focus on a man that I recently learned was likely my ninth Civil War soldier ancestor.  Each one of my direct ancestors who fought in the Civil War is on my dad's side, as my mother's ancestors were either too young or too old to serve in that conflict.

In February 2014, I visited Salt Lake City, Utah for my very first genealogical research trip there.  It was part research trip, part conference, as I was attending RootsTech, an annual event focusing on information technology as it relates to genealogy.

Sylvester Fredenburg, my 3rd-great-grandfather
I had several ancestors whom I had "targeted" to be the focus of my research while in Salt Lake City, and one of them was my paternal 3rd-great-grandfather, Sylvester Fredenburg.  He did several "tours of duty" during the Civil War, enlisting first in 1861 in Company A, 50th New York Engineers; then in both the spring and fall of 1862 in Company I, 33rd New York Infantry; and finally re-enlisting in the 50th New York Engineers in 1864, this time in Company L. In 1998, I ordered his pension file from the National Archives, which gave me the above enlistment information, as well as his death information: 20 March 1879 in Riley Township, St. Clair County, Michigan. A now-obsolete website on the 33rd New York Volunteers provided me with a burial location in Romeo, Macomb County, Michigan.  I contacted the webmaster to determine the source of this information, but never heard back.  I also have had several volunteers try to track down exactly which Romeo cemetery Sylvester is buried in, without success.  Although he has a memorial page listed on Find A Grave, I have yet to see any record or other documentation that actually lists his grave as being in that particular cemetery.

Before leaving on my trip to Salt Lake City, I searched the Family History Library catalog for books and films that might provide answers to where Sylvester was buried. One of them was Indigent Soldiers Burial Records, Volume I and II, Abstracted from the Original Books in the Lapeer County Clerk's Office, Lapeer, Michigan.

As I paged through the book, my eye caught the name "Fredenburg." But it wasn't Sylvester listed on the page.  It was Anthony, his father!

Private, Co. L?, Heavy Artillery Regiment, New York; also enlisted in -----(?) -----(?) New York Volunteers
Died: 15 June 1891 in the 1st district, Lapeer city
Buried: 17 June 1892 in Mt. Hope cemetery
Expenses: casket - $30.00, undertakers attendance - $2.00, hearse & ice - $5.00, sexton's charges - $3.00
Occupation: laborer; No property real or personal; Had been for sometime previous to his death partially supported from the county poor fund
Record dated at Mayfield, 13 June 1891 [sic - probably 23 June 1891, given the death and burial dates]
Signed: Oscar A. WILLIAMS

While I never did find Sylvester's burial information in this book, I did gain a new Civil War soldier ancestor!  When I returned home, I looked through my notes and records of Anthony.  This had been staring me in the face for years, and I never recognized it.  Long before the 1890 Census of Civil War Veterans or Widows was available online, I had copied a page from a book with a printed index that listed:

Fredenburg, Anthony, Mi, Lapeer [County], Lapeer

Of course, at that time, I had no easy way of determining if this was my ancestor. Now that I had more information, I looked him up on Ancestry:

1890 Veterans Census
(click to enlarge)

Detail from above page
(click to enlarge)
Unfortunately, the regimental information given about Anthony does not coincide with that found in the Indigent Soldiers Burial Records.  I believe this may be an error made by the enumerator; if you look at the entry directly below Anthony's, for Robert White, it is nearly identical to Anthony's.  There is no information given for Post-Office Address, Disability Incurred, and Remarks, for any entry after line 34.  This suggests that entries 35 through 37, including Anthony's, may have been written in later, and could explain why his regimental information is basically a duplicate of Robert White's.

I have done multiple searches in Ancestry's military databases with a variety of spellings of Fredenburg(h) and Vredenburgh (the original name), and cannot find Anthony listed anywhere.  I did find an Andrew Fredenburg serving in Company L, 2nd Regiment, New York Heavy Artillery, but other searches lead me to believe this was a young man, born 1844 in Broome, Schoharie County, New York, who originally enlisted in Eldrige in 1863 in the 9th New York Artillery.  I have also looked through lists of pension records, but it seems that Anthony did not apply for a pension.  His wife, Hannah (Fox) Fredenburg, died nine months before he did, so there is no widow's pension application.  This makes sense, given that Anthony was living off the county poor fund in the months before he died (why weren't his eight or nine surviving children supporting him?  Hmmm....).
So, what we have is a bit of a mystery: did Anthony actually serve in the Civil War? I believe he did.  Besides the two documents above, this family photo is telling:

Some of the Fredenburg family, c. 1861
(click to enlarge)
On the left are Anthony and his wife, Hannah.  On the right is my ancestor, Anthony and Hannah's second son, Sylvester, with probably his first wife, Mary Jane [--?--] behind him.  In the middle is Abram, Anthony and Hannah's oldest son, with his wife, Myra (Chidsery) Fredenburg behind him.

This photo is significant, because it appears to show the Civil War soldiers in the family, although Anthony is not in uniform, as Abram and Sylvester are.  If Anthony did enlist, it was likely after 1861, when Abram and Sylvester enlisted in the 50th Engineers.

Meanwhile, I'll keep digging until I can find out for certain when and in what company Anthony enlisted.

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