Skipped blogging last weekend because I was consumed by work from my other job – lots of teaching units were cut in my district and I was tasked with making new schedules for students. Planned on blogging yesterday and got attached by wasps so my hand is swollen and I’m typing with only one hand now so this will be short!
Did the Tombstone Cake work in helping me find new info on my brick wall ancestors? Sort of! I ended up selecting Hannah Byrd, one of my paternal 4th great grandmothers, who was born in New Jersey and died in Ohio.
With all the way to spell Byrd – Bird – Burd – Berd, it’s always made the search difficult.
My mistake was thinking that she was born in Sussex, New Jersey as that is where her husband’s family was from. I decided to research the only other Bird that lived in Trumbull County, Ohio at the same time she did and discovered he was born in New Jersey but not Sussex. Looks like his father was born in Sussex but moved shortly after marrying to southern New Jersey. So I’ll be following the trail to see if I can connect the two as they are about the same age and could be siblings or cousins or not.
Funny, though, I decided to randomly pick a Kindle free book for October and chose Spellbreaker, a fiction story about a young witch in London who does not cast spells but breaks them. Sort of like a female Robin Hood who helps the peasant farmers when the Baron claims they never paid rent and have to repay. Had to laugh as one of the main characters just happens to be from Barbados. My goodness, those Hollingsheads just won’t let me move on!
I am pleased to announce that I have linked my Daniel Hollingshead to the Hollinshead family in the New Jersey Colony! If you’re a Genealogy At Heart follower, you’ve experienced (remotely) the twists and turns of this family saga, along with the intermarriages with the Duers, who have their own family drama. Upfront, I want to apologize for the length of this blog, please bear with me!
I’ve written frequently about the odd happenings that occur when I research these lines that I can’t explain. As blog follower Linda Shufflebean commented on Synchronocity and my Roots “I love Hank Jones’s Psychic Roots series – I’m even mentioned with my own weird experiences. I think the ancestors are up there pointing the way for us at times.” I so agree, Linda!
If you’re a new reader and have no idea what I’m talking about or you need a refresh, you can read some of the backstory here, here and here. The ancestors may be giving us a nudge from beyond but it’s up to us to take that tidbit and go with it. It’s also about connections in the here and now. Today, I want to give a shout out to some very special people who went above and beyond to answer my questions, give me suggestions or furnish a copy of a paper document that hasn’t been digitized. None of them had to do this, especially not during these difficult times.
I realize my requests were not important to anyone but me and a few descendants of the Hollingsheads. When the world is falling apart, finding a source in a locked archive is definitely a low priority. Regardless, the following folks stepped up and helped me and I am so very grateful for their positive character, work ethic and dedication. What I’ve learned from them can help every genealogist be better! The list is in alpha order by first name as they all are equally important:
BARB WALKER TERRONES, Ancestry.com Tree Owner Have you ever messaged someone about more info on Ancestry and never gotten a response? Duh, every genealogist has! Barb is not one of those people who never respond. In fact, Barb, who has a private tree, not only quickly responded she volunteered to help me find the missing Hollingshead Bible that Daniel brought with him when he left England about 1704. Barb would be my 7 times removed step cousin. Regardless of being that distant, Barb stopped her own research to help me and shared what she found. Barb, I thank you for your quick replies and I know we’re going to find that Bible someday. Please continue to keep me in the loop of what you discover as I’ll do the same.
BRYAN MULCAHY, Reference Librarian Ft. Myers Regional Library Nothing like needing to find a 300 year old will transcription that’s not online and was made out of the country. Even in normal times it’s a feat. The volume I needed was 140 miles from my home. Back in the day, I would have requested it be sent to my local library or perhaps I would have even made the drive because I love Ft. Myers but now, those options weren’t possible. I completed the form filler request Ask a Librarian and Bryan responded within two hours with a scan of what I needed. Bryan, you are awesome! Your information helped me trace extended family and led me to further documents that I would no way have known existed if I hadn’t uncovered the relationships that were mentioned in the will you provided. My deepest appreciation to you!
ELIZABETH PEARSON, British Genealogist I’ve attended lectures Liz has given locally a few times and have always been impressed with her wealth of knowledge. The area and locations I was researching are not in my comfort zone so I contacted Liz for direction. Liz gave me insight into British world view from the time period, reminded me of boundary changes, and provided me recommendations and direction. Liz, I cannot thank you enough for your help. Your insights helped me understand what I was discovering and your recommended methodology was what cracked the case! Tracking Daniel’s relatives was definitely the direction to go.
GAYLE MARTINSON, Reference Librarian, Wisconsin Historical Society Nothing like needing to review a collection of family information (circa 1800) from South Carolina that was donated to a historical society in Wisconsin when I could not possibly travel from Florida to review the information. Add that the organization was closed and that the automatic reply I received when I inquired about availability said it would be at least 12 weeks before I could get a response. I told myself, what’s 3 more months as the man I’m researching has been dead for nearly 300 years so patience, Lori, patience. I was so pleasantly surprised to receive an email from Gayle the next day asking for more information about my request. She placed me in the queue and was responsible for someone to go into a locked archive to look for a manuscript last cited in 1853. Unbelievable to me, not only was this accomplished, a scan of what I needed was emailed to me at 5:11 PM a few days after my request was made. In these difficult times, I am in awe of this librarian taking my request seriously and getting me answers to my questions so expediently. Gayle is a tremendous asset to her organization and I hope they realize how fortunate they are to have her on staff. Thanks, Gayle!
GUY GRANNUR, Archivist with the National Archives of Great Britain I have zero experience with the record sets in Guy’s archive. Guy was the presenter of the online class last month called Caribbean Connections and I couldn’t have been happier with his presentation that I needed. After his conclusion, he responded to questions via the chat box and he was most helpful. His expertise enabled me to find a connection on another site mentioned to show that a close relative of Daniel had gone to Barbados in 1690. Who knew?! Well, those that did know are all dead but because of that record I had my “Caribbean Connection.” Thanks, Guy, for your interesting and informative presentation.
HULYA TASCI-HART, Translator What can I say about a multi lingual educator who is so dedicated that she’ll stop what she’s doing to translate from English to German for me in seconds?! This smart workaholic took the time to clarify what I meant so that she could be as accurate as possible with the translation. Now I know you’re wondering, why would I need a German translation when I was researching England, Barbados and New Jersey. It appears that my Daniel served in the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704, along with his unnamed brothers. No records exist in the British Archives so I decided to see if there were any records left near Blenheim aka Blindheim, a Bavarian village where the battle was fought. I reached out to Hulya to translate my request and she came through as always. I so greatly appreciate Hulya, not only as a genealogist but as an educator.
JIM LYNCH, Caribbeanavenue.com I always seem to find what I need in a place my ancestor never lived and it has happened again! Jim Webster had used a resource he owns, the 1715 Barbados census, to help me pinpoint where my family was living on the island. I have been in search of that information for YEARS! I’ve reached out to many and no one ever told me that the information was published in a 1980 book. I had to have a copy! Jim Webster linked me to Jim Lynch who responded to a form filler I completed almost instantly. It was a Saturday and Jim mailed the book early Monday morning when the post office reopened. It’s probably stuck in customs but I’m eagerly anticipating its arrival. If you are doing Barbados research you must have this important work. All it takes is contacting Jim for a copy – he uses PayPal. Jim, thanks so much for answering my questions on a weekend and being so prompt in responding to my request. I’m impressed with your business ethics!
JIM WEBSTER of BajanThings.com If you’re researching Barbados this is a site you need to explore. I was confused when I found a sugar planter listed in 1680 and 1715 with a similar name to what I was researching and questioned if it had been mistranscribed. Jim responded in minutes to a contact form I filled out on the website. Seriously, who does that?! I’m so glad Jim does because he shared his knowledge and pointed me to where I could find a 1615 census of the island (none online!). Jim, because of you, I discovered that my Mary was being cared for by her aunt after her mother’s death and my Daniel was living separately with an 18 year old youth. I’m still trying to determine who that might be. Thank you so much for your dedication to Barbados history.
KAREN STOKES, South Carolina Historical Society What to do when you need to check a reference and it’s no where?! Beating your head on the desk is not the answer. Turning to Worldcat, I located a copy of Richard Yeardon’s History of the Circular Church in South Carolina. Why would I need that when my Daniel was never in South Carolina? Yeardon was a source for a bio on Daniel’s grandson, William, who was a Presbyterian minister in South Carolina after the Revolution, according to a William B. Sprague (1857). Sprague cited Yeardon so I needed to find where Yeardon got his info. A day after my request, Karen responded that she had looked through the book and no reference was given. In fact, there was no information about the family at all in the book. Karen, I greatly appreciate your checking the source and recommending that I look at another work by a different author, David Ramsay, who Yeardon extensively quoted. You were unaware that I had already reached out to another archive to check Ramsay’s notes. This speaks volumes about your knowledge of research process as you would have no way known what the other obscure sources were pointing toward. Kudos to you!
PAUL DAVIS, Collections and Research Assistant, Historical Society of Princeton I was looking for a reference made to confirm my Daniel was a pioneer in Princeton, New Jersey. Everything I had found at that point was for other areas. Although Paul couldn’t enter the locked society, he made great suggestions and provided links for me to check out. Thanks, Paul, I appreciate the direction you provided; you were very helpful.
TOM DREYER, NEHGS genealogist In Boston, during a pandemic, Tom found a book on a shelf in a closed archive and provided me the information I was seeking. Seriously, I am overwhelmed by this man’s dedication to a fellow genealogist. We discovered that I’m distantly related to his wife who is from the New York Duer family while I’m from the New Jersey Duer line. I love the reminder that we are all connected – we’re all family. Tom, next month when I get my first paycheck, I’m making a donation to your organization of which I am a member in your name. The document you supplied was vital as it was the missing link to connecting a newer and older source. Thank you!
TODD THULL, Ancestry.com Tree Owner Like Barb, Todd responded to a message I sent him about a document he had posted about his Hollinshead line. I was trying to locate a copy that I couldn’t find online. Todd responded quickly and lo and behold! it was online although the copy was incomplete. As could only happen with this family, the paragraph I needed was the last paragraph showing on the scanned book. I don’t even know how that’s possible! Thanks, Todd, for helping me link my line to yours. I will be sending you a copy of my paper so you can see how the Quaker Hollinsheads are related to the Church of England Hollingsheads. I couldn’t have made the connection without your wonderfully sourced online tree.
VICKIE URBAN, Ancestry.com Tree Owner I have consulted with Vickie over the years as we are Duer cousins and I greatly appreciate that she ALWAYS uses sources on her tree. She shares her findings and always responds to messages. Thanks, Cuz, you are most appreciated!
Last but not least, my wonderful family who puts up with my obsession. None of them have been bitten by the genealogy bug, yet they put up with me and in their own way, try to relate to my interest. My husband, bless him, even attempted to do some online research for me and help me decipher handwriting from the 1600s as I was transcribing. My son suggested I watch an episode of the Sarah Connor Chronicles that might help me with a research path. My daughter who listened attentively while I drone on about my findings. Both my kids risk their lives daily trying to put an end to this awful disease and make the world a better place. For them to care about my finding a christening record from 1686 is touching to me. Thanks guys, all my love!
Yep, it’s all about love and connections. In these crazy times I think it’s more important than ever to share some love so this week, thank someone who helped you with your research. They deserve the recognition and appreciation. Stay safe and happy hunting!
It’s Independence Day here in the U.S. and this one will be like none I’ve previously spent. Got a 3 part text from the Surgeon General of our state notifying us to “Avoid the 3 Cs Closed Spaces, Crowded Places & Close-Contact Settings.” Kind of catchy! Later that day, the bureaucrats came out stating the typical spin that this will poof be gone so no worries. The disconnect would be funny if it wasn’t so sad for the millions who are suffering because of the disease or its side effects, such as unemployment, eviction, food shortage, and so on. We plan on staying home and hubby has ventured out to the grocery store WITH HIS MASK to get our traditional picnic dinner that we usually have with family in the park right before the fireworks display. This year, we’re eating it for lunch in our backyard on a quilt our daughter made to commemorate the times. We’ll use the quilt every year from now on and perhaps next year will be different, perhaps not. Like the immortal lyrics sung by Janis Joplin, “Freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose.” My family and I realize how privileged we are and this temporary loss of our freedoms to go where we want with no restrictions is a small price to pay to insure our community stays safe. Others aren’t so fortunate now or in the past. The past week I have been heavily into researching my Daniel Hollin[g]shead to prove or disprove he was the only Daniel from Leicestershire, England that went to Barbados and became a real estate mogul in the Eastern New Jersey colonies. I’m at the point I can say I have strong evidence but I want to make sure I haven’t made an error somewhere so I await a few more documents to examine. Those records – the Bible he brought with him from England, a manuscript donated by family of a Presbyterian minister in South Carolina to an archive in Wisconsin, and a list of military men who died in the Battle of Blenheim in August 1704 would add further support or not. The “or not” is key to the previous sentence and it’s what I love most about genealogy. We think we know, we think we’ve found everything, we think we understand until a new document is discovered that throws us for a loop. In the past three weeks I’ve been on an emotional roller coaster ride with my findings. I’ve had to face the facts and process that my gateway ancestor wasn’t the pious Quaker that I always thought of him. Family legend stated that he was indentured to Barbados, possibly as a tailor, since he was the oldest son and his father, a tax collector, had died. There was the issue that some of the money collected didn’t get turned in to the King’s treasury. I guess my interpretation of that information says a lot about my personality. I was fine with the religion – I’m pretty much a nonconformist myself. His “career” choice was okay, too. I love to sew and once had my own costume business so maybe that was how my skill came about. The missing tax money I attributed to an error or the sudden death of Daniel’s father but it all got resolved at the end so life was good. I never realized that I tend to make excuses for my ancestors actions and try to rationalize their behavior turning it into a positive explanation. Until now. In early June, I took every document I had on Daniel and his purported father, Francis and reviewed them. I then asked a member of my local genealogy society who is a Brit and experienced with the time period I was working with to examine them for her suggestions. She pointed out that the son of a tax collector at the time would not have been indentured as a tailor so that story, with no documents, was probably untrue. Britain had a rigid class system I hadn’t considered. There was a Daniel who was a tailor in London but he was of an older generation than the Leicestershire Daniel. There was also an indenture record for a different Hollingshead line but it was also for a much later time period than Leicestershire Daniel. Perhaps, she suggested, that the family story got muddled over the past 300 years. Heck, if we can’t even have our government officials in the same day have the same story, a 300 year time span certainly would have some errors. She suggested I search for more records and then reanalyze the findings. Great advice! Now I’ve looked for documents on this family for years and years and I can’t explain why I happened to find so much in just 3 weeks. What I discovered is disturbing to me and altered my perspective of Daniel’s life and my own. I still am working through it. I discovered some conflicting evidence based on bios in old books. One source stated he was born in Lancashire; the others all stated Leicestershire. That was the first of my sick to my stomach feelings – I had put out the wrong info and so many other’s trees blindly accepted it as fact. If that turned out to be correct, I didn’t even know how I could fix the problem. I took a break, cleared my head and then began to research Hollin[g]sheads in Lancashire and found two families in two different parishes but he wasn’t there. I examined the citations for the Lancashire book and hunted down the first source, another old book. That book provided a different source so I searched for it and surprise, the initial source DID NOT HAVE LANCASHIRE – it didn’t name a location. I’m still waiting to see what the second source states – that’s possibly the documents in Wisconsin. I’m seeking a manuscript written before 1800 in Charleston, South Carolina. Daniel never even visited South Carolina (or Wisconsin) so my theory of looking where they never lived seems to be supported again. I also wanted to find the Bible to see what was recorded there. Until I found the old bios from the 1800’s I didn’t know it even existed. The last record of it was October 1882 in Chicago. I’m grateful to a genealogist from the New England Genealogical and Historical Society who provided a look up for me this week. That immensely helped me move forward with finding the Bible. The person who owned the Bible never married and had no children. She predeceased her two brothers. A sister, ironically, moved to a few miles from where I currently live with her husband and died there in 1939. She had no children. I suspect the Bible was given to a cousin from a different line who had received some other family memorabilia. He was living in Manhattan at the time the Bible owner was and he had three children. My theory is it was passed down to one of his children. So I spent a day trying to locate the living of those lines. I emailed 4 individuals and received a response from one. Doesn’t say if she has it or not but that, to her knowledge, the Bible never contained genealogical information. I laughed, that would be my family! They never notate on photos, keep records, etc. I’m not giving up hope that the current owner comes forward to verify that. I also was trying to think of reasons why Daniel would leave Leicestershire. Several old books mention he, as did several of his brothers, served in the Battle of Blenheim which was in August 1704. My Brit friend stated that the brother who had died there as a Captain under the Duke of Marlborough (who Winston Churchill is descended from) would have been in the class of a tax collector so that further supports I have the correct Daniel. She suggested finding proof of their military experience. The National Archives of Great Britain doesn’t have it. I’ve reached out to a few military societies in England hoping someone somewhere has the info. I then theorized Daniel went to Barbados because he was in the military and I began to read up on the history of that island. The history is not pretty! I knew there sugar plantations; his second wife, Thomasine Hasel’s father was an owner of one. I knew there were slaves but I didn’t think much about them over the years. I now know a lot and it is relatable to our current times. I was astounded to learn that Lord Cromwell placed many Scotts and Irish men into slavery. How had I missed that? I never knew how far back slavery went. I do remember learning in school that the Romans had slaves but I thought they were prisoners of war. I didn’t know that Africans were taken as slaves because of their religious convictions. I never thought about the Spanish and Portuguese using and abusing African slaves before settling the “new world.” I was astounded to read an archaeological study that explored a former sugar plantation in Barbados and determined that economic power brokers in London had made the decision to exploit so they could become richer. The evidence was buried in the soil, untouched for 400 years. I’m still coming to terms with the picture posted at the top of this blog. Daniel died intestate in 1730 in Somerset County, New Jersey. You can see from the inventory that he owned slaves. I am sickened at the thought. My mantra has always been I identify with the underdog as I am one of them. I have been discriminated against because I was the only child in my parochial school whose parents were divorced at a time when divorce was frowned upon. I was repeatedly called a carpetbagger because I was a northerner who had relocated to the south. Some of my husband’s family would not accept me because my grandparents were immigrants. They made negative comments about my religion. I had a relationship severed by a friend because she hated my religion, too. Those experiences and my interpretation of my ancestry made me wrongly believe I was the great grand daughter of an indentured servant of Caribbean. I thought that made me linked in kinship and someone who understood the hardships of African Americans. Geez, I even grew up in Gary, Indiana so I certainly understood the black experience, right? WRONG! Growing up, even though I was at the lower rungs of the social economic ladder did not take away my white privilege. I never asked for it but I inherited it. As I reflect, I could have and should have done more. Coming out about my family’s involvement in slavery is not easy for me to accept but it is necessary. My blog today is my first step in this journey. Who were “Tippeo, an old negro-man, Jack, Lelia, Jack, a boy, Bellinda and Dido?” What became of them? Were they related? I don’t know but intend to try to find out. This Independence Day I am reflecting on the past and trying to make plans for the future. My people had freedom and took away others’ freedom so that they could prosper. I’m not sure how to make amends but I will work it out going forward. I hope you will join me if you are at the same point in your life that I am. Being embarrassed, sorry and ashamed isn’t enough. Black Lives Matter – always have and always will. It’s time for change and I will be a positive force in that.
I have blogged extensively about my mysterious Duer family that I connect with DNAwise but can’t prove a firm document relationship between son Thomas, who died in 1829 and his purported father, John, who died in 1831. Thomas’ family lived next to John in Trumbull County, Ohio but none of Thomas’ children were mentioned in John’s will. John’s will only mentioned 1 grandchild and named all of his other living children. The 1 grandchild was the son of his deceased daughter and was easily recognizable by his last name, Hazen.
I’ve theorized that none of Thomas’ children were named because Thomas had already been given an “inheritance” of land adjoining John’s. I also thought John might have been slightly put off by Thomas’ widow, Hannah, quickly remarrying another neighbor who was a widower, James Preston. That marriage didn’t seem to last as both Hannah and James can be found in 1840 living with their adult children.
The land that Thomas lived on remained with one of his son’s until the mid-1800’s when he sold it to what I believe would have been a cousin who had come to own John’s property. Of course, there was nothing to show the connection between the two listed in the deed transaction so I can’t prove that relationship, either.
I’ve been told repeatedly to give up the search but I will admit I’m obsessed with this line. So, every few months, I recheck to see if any new records are uploaded, a new DNA match can be found that might hold the key in their basement or attic, or a donation is made to an archive in the areas the family lived where someone drops off records that will be the proof I need.
Yes, I already have DNA proof. There have been several descendants of John’s children who have tested and we all relate but I want a document! Or do I?
Last month, I found 2 documents online that gave me promise. I was hoping they would lead me to the smoking gun record; this is what I discovered posted on Ancestry with no citation:
Although I found this posting just two days after it was done, when I reached out to the poster, her response was she couldn’t remember where she found it and would get back with me. I love her dearly because she wrote back the next day and said she found it from another Ancestry poster named John Shivers. She though it came from Revolutionary War Patriots from Ohio. She gave me a link to an archive in Ohio but they didn’t have it.
I found a John Shivers on Ancestry and emailed him but he hadn’t been online in over a year so I wasn’t hopeful I would get a response. I wasn’t even sure he was the John Shivers that originally posted it as I couldn’t access the private tree.
Then I reached out to a colleague in my locale who is a member of the Trumbull County Genealogical Society to see if he could check the membership roster and give me contact info for John Shivers. There was no info but he sent me a new member who was interested in the Duers. I emailed them but the email address wasn’t working.
I then searched Worldcat and Google for the title but only found a SAR pdf that wouldn’t open.
Going to the national SAR website, I found no new info; the Ancestor # 150827 is the number assigned by that organization so I decided to reach out to the Mahoning County, Ohio Chapter hoping that they might have a file with the relationship I was seeking that wasn’t submitted to national.
The local chapter’s website is under construction. Their Facebook page has no contact info. I reached out to a Trumbull County local who had given me info several years ago – she had tripped over Thomas’ fallen gravestone when she was conducting a cemetery clean up and loves to kid me that he almost killed her. She found two email addresses for local SAR members.
I emailed both. One never responded. The other said he’s no longer in that area so isn’t a member but he kindly forwarded my query to the current president. The president said the chapter reactivated 4 years ago and has no old files in their possession (who knows what happened to that stuff!?) so he forwarded my email to the organization’s state genealogist. That gentleman gave me the heartbreaking news – the real citation is from Roster of Revolutionary War soldiers buried in Ohio. Wilbur R. Branthoover, compiler. Veterans Affairs, Ohio. Reprinted by OHSDAR. 1929.
The SAR doesn’t even use it any longer because the info has been found to be incorrect. That is true – my John Duer who is buried in Ohio served in New Jersey and not Pennsylvania, that was my John’s cousin also named John.
So, another dead end here. Then I found another posting that stated that Thomas had been in the War of 1812. That was news to me as I had checked online and in the National Archives and could never find him involved in that conflict. The posting had a citation (hurray!) and when I followed up this is what I found:
It was a John Duer and not Thomas that served. Someone had misindexed and then hadn’t checked the original source. And the John named to have served in the War of 1812 was my John’s grandson but not descended from Thomas. You have to laugh at this – I discovered the mistake on November 2, 2019, 107 years to the day that this cousin John left the service.
Yes, I’m deeply disappointed that the newly found leads led to nothing but I’m not giving up. Several people have told me that I’m never going to find what I’m looking for but I don’t agree. I’m thinking boots on the ground might be my next action. Unfortunately, that will have to wait a while.
In the meantime, I’m moving on to other lines. Oh, Duers, why doth disappoint me so?
The universe has made some odd Duer connections for me lately and I just have to share!
For my new readers, I’ve been enamored with my Duer lines for the past several years after I received an out of the blue email from a Duer genealogist who informed me I had wrongly recorded the surname as Dure in my Ancestry.com tree. Edgar sent me an electronic version of his work which went back generations and within two weeks, he died. The good news was that he got the information out before he passed; the bad news was I could never ask him questions or collaborate on further research with him. The odd thing about that email was that it did not go through Ancestry but Edgar had somehow gotten my personal email. I never learned how he tracked me down. It also was received at a time I was extremely busy with family matters that strengthened the Duer connection.
The weirdest occurrence at the time I received the information was to discover one of my children had followed the same path as the Gateway ancestors. My child had spent a college term in Cambridge, England, decided to live in Grenada, West Indies upon graduation and then relocated to Morristown, New Jersey. Seriously, who follows that migration? Apparently, others in my family.
The Gateway ancestor, Thomas Duer, had married Mary Ann Hollingshead who had been born in the West Indies and with her father, relocated to Sussex County, New Jersey. Her parents were from Great Britain, as were Thomas’. My child was following the same immigration routes as her ancestors 250 years before. The problem was I only had 2 weeks to research as the dear child was once again relocating and I would have no reason (or place to stay for cheap) in Morristown. During breaks in the packing, I’d planned to visit the library which contained the oldest remaining records of the area. The night before my arrival, there was a gas explosion and the library was off limits. I was beyond disappointed. I did check out several other research facilities around the area but discovered nothing. (And yes, I did make a trip back later to visit the library when it reopened and I mined it for some small tidbits of info.)
Although researching in the Sussex County area had been disappointing I found another way to gather information. Edgar had not made his work public which I promptly did and that has opened the universe to many connections that have enabled me to put together the family’s dynamics over centuries. To me, it’s a very interesting family who never backed down from their beliefs which were way ahead of the society in which they lived. That character strength led to records, mainly court, which have been fascinating to read.
For the past 2 years I’ve been trying to connect Revolutionary War Patriot John Duer to his son, Thomas. Thomas died intestate before John so he wasn’t named in John’s will. Records from New Jersey are scant but last month I did find a document through FamilySearch.org that placed John, his wife, Susannah, and Thomas, all in the same place at the same time in Sussex. They had witnessed a will of a widow of the town’s physician. I learned that Susannah was illiterate, John had wonderful handwriting and Thomas, not so much. Thomas would have been 18, of legal age to testify in court that he had witnessed the widow’s wishes.
The record I wished to view was only available at a Family History Library so I trekked to one, accessed the microfilm, and promptly saved it to a thumb drive. I checked the thumb drive before I left the facility. All good. Until I got home and tried to open it. I can’t explain why but only half of the first page of the will was visible and it was the part that didn’t have the Duer signatures. The facility was now closed and wouldn’t reopen until the following week so I sought out another library location. My husband offered to go as it was quite a drive. We made it through a violent rain storm and I again found the record quickly (thanks to clearly writing the citation down) and triple checked that the document was saved intact. This time, I was successful. It seems I must work extra hard on this line to move forward!
I know from land records that the family relocated to what is now West Virginia/southern Ohio shortly after the will was written. I’m still trying to hunt down those deeds. I have found 2 clues to their existence but have been unable to locate the exact location. I decided to spend the summer working on that project.
I began by reading up on various companies that sold land during the late 18th century in the U.S. and track down where the land grant records were held. John is not listed in Bounty Land records held by the government so I decided to pursue private collections, such as the Ohio Company, whose records reside at Marietta College.
I got a beep on my phone that an email had come through so I checked as I was anticipating a response from Marietta College. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised to have received 3 photos of the grave of Thomas. I had placed a request on Find-A-Grave and Billion Graves several years ago but no one picked it up, probably because the cemetery is so remote. The sender was a gentleman I had met once at a local to me genealogy meeting. In the twisted Duer way I discover information about the family, I had signed in and put my current area of research was Trumbull County. At the conclusion of the program about Cuban genealogy, the gentleman asked who I was. I waved and he said he wanted to have a word with me. After the meeting concluded he informed me that he was from Trumbull County, Ohio and he had never met anyone else in our area that was researching that location. We exchanged contact info and I asked him if he knew of anyone I could reach out to to obtain a picture of the gravestone. He said he would try his friend. I was not surprised when a week later he told me his friend had become ill and would not be able to visit the cemetery. So again, out of the blue, nearly two years after we met, the gentleman, also named Ed, remembered my request while visiting the area and surprised me with the photos.
I decided to share them with the only other person I had ever connected with who has Trumbull County roots – a former genealogy society member who still lives in that area but due to age, can no longer drive. I forwarded the pictures to her because when we first connected two years ago, she told me that Thomas had almost killed her. I was understandably confused since he died in 1829 and she was still alive but she went on to explain that she was doing a cemetery clean up and had tripped and fallen over his stone. She and other genealogy society members had righted and replaced it.
A few days went by and while I was outside speaking with the house painter I had hired, my cell rang. I excused myself as I saw the area code was from Trumbull County. Sure enough, it was the dear woman who had righted Thomas’ gravestone and we talked about my latest findings and where I was headed with the research. Hanging up, I explained to my painter how excited I was to receive the photos and to collaborate with someone so knowledgeable who lived in the area I was researching. The painter, who had gone to high school with one of my children, asked where I was researching. When I told him he laughed and informed me that his family had first emigrated from Greece to Trumbull County and he had spent the last 10 years living in the area as he still has family there who are bridge painters.
I was speechless. The universe was clearly making connections and the discovery was in my own backyard. Very weird! Even stranger, I had planned to visit Cuba for the first time 3 days later. I had only attended the local genealogy meeting where I met Ed because I wanted information in preparation for a trip to Cuba. We had had a tropical storm the previous day of that meeting and I debated whether I should drive across bridges to get there as the wind was still strong. At the end, the genealogy bug won and I made the trip. I’m so glad I did!
Patience is a virtue I have trouble possessing. Maybe that’s the lesson the universe is trying to teach me. The Duer seeds were planted a few years ago and the universe, in its own time, are maturing them and now I’m reaping the fruits. I can’t wait for the final harvest – that missing document that clearly shows that Thomas is the son of John. People have told me repeatedly I won’t find it but I believe it’s out there somewhere. The search continues.