Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gillespie's in Ulster, New York

The LION'S SHARE of my NY research of Gillespie and Greer families has been in Orange County, because that is, after all, what the Michigan land patents acquired by our pioneers say, and Dutchess County, since that clue had been given in a Michigan county history that mentioned Greer's. I have obviously been up to my eyeballs in this research for a couple years now, and you'd think I would be smart enough to give Ulster County more attention. Especially since we discovered last year that the Greer's were living in Kingston, Ulster, NY when they had to register as aliens in the War of 1812, Ulster county should be more on my radar screen than it has been.

And here's another glaring fact to remember: several of the southern-most towns of Ulster were annexed to Orange in 1798. This included the town of Pine Bush, which today literally sits on the Orange side of the county line. And just up the road on the other side of the county line is Walkill, which I had thought was in Orange, but no it's in Ulster, and in fact Walkill is part of a town (what I call a township) called Shawangunk (pronounced sho-gum). All of these places were THE residential heart of what I have called "The Pine Bush Gillespie's" whose family elders were Samuel Gillespie and Esther Rainey, purportedly from County Armagh, and to whom we so far have not been able to connect.

The point here is that records pertaining to Gillespie's might have been recorded in and subsequently stored in Ulster County, even though certain family members may have later moved to Orange County, which might have been exactly what happened just before the family migration to Michigan. So I have decided to look more carefully at Gillespie's who were in Ulster County. As a heads-up, I am especially interested in a James Gillespie family who lived in Rochester, Ulster, NY (not to be confused with the bigger city of Rochester, NY) from 1810-1830. This James Gillespie was also probably the one in Hurley in 1800, just outside of Kingston, which is another clue for us. I have no documentation yet beyond census data, but I feel a little excited about the possibilities of a connection to this family. Here's why:
  1. From the looks of this James Gillespie's family makeup from 1810-1830, this family *might* have had a male who would qualify as our Thomas Gillespie Jr., the one in our family who later married Ellen McClung in MI and whose daughter Sarah married William McKinney; Thomas Jr. was also the one whose death certificate says his father's name was James Gillespie. There were also females in the household of James Gillespie from Rochester who were of the age to be Isabella and/or Mary Ann Gillespie, characters in our story who we have so far been unable to place.
  2. Another family in the exact area at that time was SLOAT. There was a Sarah Gillespie married to a Cornelius Sloat in New Hurley (Walkill area) and their daughter Elizabeth was christened at the church in Rochester, Ulster, NY. Suffice it to say, this is the area where Henry P. Sloat was born in 1816, his parents being James Sloat and Phebe Upright and his grandparents being Cornelius Sloat (different person from previously mentioned) and Elliner McKinney. Henry P. would later marry Mary Ann Gillespie and become the guardian of Thomas Gillespie Sr. when he was declared incompetent shortly before his death. 
The upshot here is this. We know with some amount of certainty that Thomas Gillespie Jr. was born in NY in 1816. If we assume that Thomas was still living with a Gillespie by the time of the 1820 census, there were four Gillespie households in Dutchess/Orange/Ulster, New York with a male under 10 years old:
  • Alexander Gillespie: Clinton, Dutchess, NY. This guy has showed up in my research previously. He was in the same area and church records as James and Jane Greer in Pleasant Valley, NY. I believe he moved to NYC from Dutchess in the late 1820s.
  • Mary Gillespie: Goshen, Orange, NY. She was the widow of James Gillespie who died 1817. To my knowing, their children included a daughter named Eliza (possibly Isabelle's full name), but no son Thomas. 
  • John D. Gillespie: Marbletown, Ulster, NY. This person is of additional interest because he appears to have had a wife named Sarah Smith. However, he was still living in Marbletown in 1840, after our Gillespie's migrated to Michigan, and the young male in his household still appears to be there. 
  • James Gillespie: Rochester, Ulster, NY. If our Thomas' father was named James, then this would seem the most likely possibility for the home of our young Thomas Gillespie. 
So I'm hopeful, but with plenty of reservations. What *I think* this would mean, if there is a connection to Gillespie's found in Ulster, NY, is that we might have more than one James Gillespie in play - one born about 1765 (Rochester, Ulster), one born about 1772 (1850 Michigan), one born about 1785 (1830 Newburgh). And because we know just how accurate was age reporting in early census' (not), any these might be the same guy.  Obviously we haven't run out of mystery yet.

We'll see what more research uncovers. The story of our Gillespie's in New York is still a very tangled web, but the trick is to keep looking for connections. One of these days, I feel confident we'll see the whole picture, or at least more of it. I think the story we learn about is going to be a good one.


  1. Excellent post - I have lots of Ulster County ancestors - alas, no Gillespies or Sloats. You might want to check out an old magazine called Olde Ulster: Olde Ulster

  2. After studying the Gillespie groups mentioned in this blog, I think I have concluded that they are probably not directly connected to my line of Gillespie's. See my article called Case Studies of Gillespie Families in Ulster County, New York, 1800-1850.