I just got a big package in the mail today from the Orange County Genealogical Society. Because of the problems I had not getting access to their reference library during my research trip in September, their volunteers have kindly been looking for anything having to do with Gillespie or Greer. It's all wonderful, but everything they sent falls into two categories: a) the Gillespie or Greer name they refer me to is somebody I have already eliminated or b) there's no telling - like a transcribed passenger list that simply says "James Greer" doesn't tell me anything. Big heavy sigh.
But then at the bottom of papers they sent (I think they purposely saved the best for last) was this: An Aliens Report with Intention Declarations. On 6 Sep 1821, James Greer listed his family this way: James Greer, 35, Jane Greer 35, John Greer 14, Eliza Greer 12. Birthplace of all is listed as County Armagh, Ireland. Their intended place of residence is Dutchess County, New York. It was filed and recorded in Newburgh, Orange County, NY (why not in Dutchess County, I'm not sure). And if you ask me, it sure looks like it has the signature of James Greer followed by "for self and family".
Wow - don't know about you, but I have chills. After all this time and effort, I haven't been able to find one primary source of documentation that this branch of the family really did live and breathe (and have kids!) in New York before coming to Michigan. And now here it is. I can hardly believe it.
So this document gives us several new pieces of information. First is that up to this point I don't believe we had any primary source that said the Greer's came from County Armagh. I pretty much know that the Gillespie's were from Armagh, but from my studies of these families on the Ireland side, the Greer's might have been located in a different county. This says they were all born in County Armagh. Thank you!
Second, we did not yet have any idea about whether Eliza was born in Ireland or NY, and since the next child of James and Jane that we know about was Mary Greer, born in NY in 1812, we knew that James and Jane came some time AFTER John's birth in 1806 and BEFORE Mary's birth in 1812. Now this new document says Eliza was born in Armagh and she was 12 years old in 1821, making her approximate birth year 1809. So NOW, we know this family came to NY between 1809 and 1812, which is a much narrower window when I'm looking through passenger lists. Thank you!
We might as well note that the Greer family had had at least three other children in the years between coming to America and filing this declaration of intent, those being Mary, James, and Joseph. Those names were not included in this document because they were born in America and thus citizens. And we can further note that at the time this document was signed, Jane was pregnant with her last child: Robert M. Greer who was born in March, 1822.
Finally, I wonder what we can presume from what was NOT in this package of information. I am assuming if there was any other GREER names in that index of declarations, the OCGS volunteers would have sent it to me. Sooooo, what about Nancy whose first husband was a Greer (thought to be Robert), and second husband was Thomas Gillespie? It seems to me, we could have at least two and maybe more scenarios for Nancy. Maybe Nancy came later, some time after James and Jane, and perhaps she was already remarried by the time she did come. Or maybe both Robert and Nancy came at the same time as James and Jane, but Robert served in the war and was killed? Or maybe Robert and/or his family was deported as enemy aliens and then Nancy made her way back again with Thomas? This family has been complicated from the get-go, I'll say that!
In the mean time, I can't even begin to imagine coming to a land (hardly a country at that point) which was in the middle of open warfare with the country you just left, finding a place to live and a way to feed a growing family, and wondering probably every second of the day and night whether you will survive at all, never mind be better off for the journey made. The more I learn about the place and times they found themselves in, the more I have to admire. And so my own declaration of intent becomes reaffirmed. I'll probably always keep wanting to know and tell this family's story.