Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Drowned Lands!

I've recently been going through the piles of research notes I'v written in the past several years. It's interesting to try to follow my own breadcrumbs! But it also has lead me to re-discovering some things. Like for example, an advertisement in an 1808 and 1810 NY newspaper called the Commercial Advertiser, which read like this:
"Pubic notice is hereby given to the owners or proprietors of the Drowned Lands in the County of Orange, that the Subscribers, Commissioners appointed by the Act entitled "an act to raise monies, to drain the Drowned Lands in the County of Orange," have, by virtue of the power in them vested, deemed proper fo Assess the owners or proprietors of said Drowned Lands, for the purpose of draining the same, the sum of thirteen thousand two hundred and fifty three dollars, to be paid within three months to the said Commissioners, which assessment they have apportioned among the said owners or proprietors, according to the proportions in the roll specified, which has been duly made and filed agreeable to law, by the Inspectors in the said act appointed, and is as follows:"

In the first column, the following names appear together, making me wonder if they weren't neighbors:

Jacob Smith: $20
Daniel Millspaugh: $12.50
James Gillespie: $13
David Millspaugh: $4.50

So first off, what in world are the Drowned Lands? Here is just some of the interesting reading on the topic.

Now here are the Gillespie-Millspaugh associations I can come up with:
  • Susannah Gillespie, daughter of Samuel Gillespie and Esther Rainey of the Pine Bush Gillespie's married Martinus Millspaugh at Dutch Reformed Church in Montgomery, Orange, NY. Supposedly, this Martinus was born 20 Feb 1769 in Walden, Orange, NY, son of Jacob Millspaugh and Elizabeth Bookstaver.
  • Then there was a Martinus I. Millspaugh born 1785, apparently the son of Jacob Millspaugh and Eva Crist, who married a Sarah Gillespie, with no suggestion as to where that Gillespie name comes from as the only source seems to be an SAR application. However, Martinus and Sarah are attributed as being the parents of a Wheeler Case Millspaugh, which caught my attention. When James Gillespie died in 1817, the executor of his estate was David Millspaugh, who together with somebody named Wheeler Case were appointed as guardians to James' children. One of those children had the name Sally, which is a nickname for Sarah. It is entirely worth noting that somebody named Rev. Wheeler Case was the first pastor of the Presbyterian church at Pleasant Valley in Dutchess County, from 1765-1791, which is a time before our family was known to be in that area and seemingly a huge coincidence. It's more likely that the Wheeler Case mentioned in the Gillespie will is the one born in 1791 in Goshen who was a lawyer and an Orange County surrogate, who married Betsy Wilkin and attended the First Presbyterian Church in Goshen. All of which to say is that it appears that James and Mary Gillespie did have a daughter named Sarah who could have married a Millspaugh.
At the end of the day, however, this is just another passing point of interest. As far as I can tell, the only Millspaugh to purchase land in Oakland County in Michigan Territory was from Seneca County, NY. If the Millspaugh family in Orange County, NY had any connection to our Gillespie-Greer line, it's not evident, at least to me. The only thing we do know is that a seemingly unrelated-to-us James Gillespie had the misfortune of owning property in the Drowned Lands.

Roundabout New Jersey

I like to use my blog to record my research questions and findings, even when the results appear to be negative. Here's one road I went down in the spring of 2013 but never recorded. I'll try to summarize what I did in the hopes that there might still be some viable clues.
  • Looking at 1850 census of Oakland County, MI has shown us a 78-year-old James Gillespie from Ireland whom we have never been able to place, living with an 11-year-old girl named Margaret Gillespie. I finally got the idea to look more at his neighbors on that census for clues. Living next door to James was a 37-year-old woman, presumed to be a widow, named Mary Fort, born in New York, along with 6 children, half of whom were born in New York, and half born in Michigan.
  • The Fort name rang a bell with some case studies I had just been doing of Gillespie names in New York. There had been a John Gillespie of Poughkeepsie, Dutchess, NY who died in 1833. His will mentioned his beloved wife Esther, and his minor daughter Margaret, as well as a house in Bloomfield, Essex, New Jersey. One of the executors was James Fort. Subsequent research tells me that James Fort died in 1842 in Poughkeepsie. A wife is not mentioned in the probate petition, but other Fort names mentioned (apparently heirs) do not include the name Mary nor the place Michigan. So given the evidence so far, we don't know if Mary Fort, the neighbor of James Gillespie in 1850 Southfield, MI, had any connection whatsoever to John Gillespie of Poughkeepsie, NY.
This exercise did, however, lead me to wonder about Gillespie connections in New Jersey. First, I looked for John Gillespie in Poughkeepsie in 1830, but he was not there. There was, however, a John Gillespie enumerated in Newark, Essex, New Jersey. As mentioned in my previous post, Newark is significant because:
  • the death certificate of one of Isabella Gillespie Greer's daughters said that her mother was born in Newark, New Jersey
  • Charles Lemon, who married one of the Greer immigrants, had a son from a first marriage (Stewart M. Lemon) who was purportedly born in Newark, New Jersey
  • the second wife of Charles Lemon, Eliza Jane Greer, had a brother, James Greer, who was a graduate of the College of New Jersey in Princeton in 1836
The 1830 John Gillespie household in Newark had two adults 30-40, 1 male under 5, 1 female 5-10, and 1 female 15-20. If this was the household of John Gillespie of Poughkeepsie, NY, the younger female would be about the right age to be the daughter, Margaret. While I loudly admit that I was completely reaching, I speculated that the other young female in the John Gillespie household would be just the right age to be Isabella Gillespie.

But then two things popped my bubble:
  • I found a marriage record in 1829 in Essex County, NJ between John Gillasbie of the island of Cuba and Esther Bergen of Bloomfield. Even if I could get my brain around the Cuba part, at best this would mean that if our Isabella Gillespie were the daughter of this John Gillespie, she was the daughter of a previous marriage.
  • The 1840 census of Newark shows the same John Gillespie household enumerated there in 1830, just 10 years later. So given that John Gillespie of Poughkeepsie died in 1833, this theory went officially out the door.
It was a good try though! And the clues we found in Michigan pointing to New Jersey still remain. What we really need is to find a good Presbyterian church in Newark with surviving records!

The Lemon Tree

First, I want to dedicate this post to Shirley S. Farrell who came before me with her incredibly in-depth research on the LEMON surname. If not for all her online inquiries and her subsequent correspondence with me, I would never have pieced together the Lemon connection to our Gillespie-Greer family. Wherever you are, Shirley, THANK YOU.

So let me briefly summarize how the LEMON surname does connect to us. James Greer married Jane Gillespie and came to New York from County Armagh, Ireland just before the outbreak of the War of 1812 with two of their children: John M. Greer and Eliza Jane aka Lizzie Greer. Lizzie married Charles Lemon, who can be found in the census' and deeds of early Oakland County, Michigan, and who was also mentioned as a friend in the court documents associated with the divorce of our Elizabeth Gillespie Gordon. But then Lizzie Greer Lemon apparently died early in her life, and Charles Lemon sold his land to Thomas Gillespie and moved away from Michigan with his family. The End.

Except not really. It's not really ever The End, is it? I have learned so much over the last 5 years (thanks in large part to people like Shirley Farrell), but maybe the most important thing has been to learn everything there is to learn about the BIG picture, and especially the collateral families. The truth of the genealogy is that I am not directly descended from anybody named Greer or Lemon, so why should I care? Because learning about the Greer's changed the entire picture of what we understand about our Gillespie family. And knowing about the Lemon's might still help us find some answers to questions that just keep hanging.

Like here's one. If the very large family of John M. Greer and Isabella Gillespie followed a predictable naming pattern with their 15 kids, then where in the world did the name of Charles come from when there was apparently nobody with that name in the family? Except there was. It just dawned on me. Charles L. Greer was born in 1840, which is around the time that his aunt Lizzie Greer Lemon is thought to have died (her death record and her burial site have never been located; we only know that in the 1840 census, Charles Lemon was the only adult in his household). What I realize now is that Charles Lemon was not only close to the Gillespie-Greer clan, he was loved by them. Almost certainly John M. and Isabella Greer named their fourth child for Charles Lemon.

So here are some other clues related to the LEMON family, and if we find any answers to these questions, we might indeed find more answers to what remains of our burning questions, the top of those being who were the parents of Isabella Gillespie Greer?
  • According to Shirley's notes, "Charles was born in 1800 and came to this country in 1817 and was in Orange Co N.Y. for a few years." Later census' of Charles Lemon's household indicate that he came from Ireland, and some references I have seen about the LEMON surname say the family could have been Scot-Irish. So where did Charles come from? And where was he in Orange County? There were Greer's in Montgomery, so it's logical to think Charles might have been there too, but can we actually place him there?
  • Charles Lemon had a first wife whose name was supposedly Mary Montgomery, and supposedly their only child, Stewart Montgomery Lemon, was born in Newark, Essex, New Jersey in 1827. Can we place Charles in Newark and is there any record of this first wife?
  • According to Charles Lemon's obit, he was early on involved with the Reformed Presbyterian Church. Does that clue give us a connection to a church in Newark or Orange County, and possibly with the Covenanters who we know the Greer's were involved with?
  • The death record of Isabella's daughter Jennie says that her mother's birth place was Newark, New Jersey. Were there Gillespie's living in Newark where Charles met and married Lizzie? Did they then move to Orange County to be part of the families making the trek to Michigan? 
Finally, here are a couple more questions which might be a little less important to answer, but which might still hold some interest:
  • The will of James Greer Sr, written in Michigan in 1850 had the name of James G. Lemon as a witness. Who was that?
  • Shirley's notes indicate that Charles had one or more brothers, one in particular named William. There are several trees that include a William Lemon, a son of Samuel Lemon who married Bridget and was a pioneer in Washington State. He was apparently born in Orange County, NY and moved with his family, briefly, to Michigan. Was this William Lemon related to our Charles Lemon; were they indeed brothers?
  • Shirley's notes also included this tidbit: Stewart Lemon's wife Luroncy (Lucy) appointed George E. Lemon of Washington D.C. as her attorney for the declaration of a widow's pension in 1894. I've done some amount of digging on this one, and though I don't doubt there must be some family connection, I haven't yet been able to establish it.
So there we have our Lemon connections, at least our known connections. And somewhere out there, the answers to these questions are still waiting to be found.  And those answers might just hold the key to better knowing and understanding our Gillespie and Greer families in early America.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Step Relations - Discovering Danish Family History

My grandmother, Eliza Jane Coquigne Gillespie, died in 1941 from a mysterious illness and too young by all accounts. In 1944, my grandfather, Howard Gillespie, remarried to Hilda Nielsen, herself a widow whose husband had also been a Coquigne. For the next 30+ years before her death in 1977, Hilda Gillespie became a quiet yet ever-present part of our family, and the only person I ever knew as Grandma.

And yet when when the family trunk got passed my way, and I ran into several boxes stuffed with things that had belonged to Hilda, I immediately put them aside. Well, I did thumb through the many many many snapshots long enough to see that not a single one was labeled. Knowing that Hilda had no other relations who might want these things, I made a mental note to either toss her stuff or find a historical society who might have some interest.  Hilda was, after all, not my blood relation.

I feel ashamed now to admit that I thought anything like that about Hilda because at that point in my family history research I thought genealogy was all that really matters. And yet as time has gone by and I have discovered and pieced together one family story after another, I was often reminded of Hilda either in family photos or in letters that she wrote to my mother signed "Love, Mom", or in just recognizing her handwriting on various items found in the trunks. She may not have been my Grandmother, but she was my Grandma, and I recently found a surge of resolve to discover more about her family.

Well, I've learned so much in the last month about Danish family history starting with the obvious challenge of patronymics. But thanks to Google Translate and many genealogical records being available online through the Danish Archives, I have slowly been able to piece together much of the story. Hilda's father, Jacob Nielsen, was the youngest child of Niels Hansen and Ane Rasmusdatter. Jacob and a sister and half-sister all emigrated to the Greenville area of Michigan in the late 1800s. There Jacob Nielsen married Hilda's mother, Dorthea Sophie Pedersen, who was the youngest child of Peder Jensen and Johanne Kirstine Jorgensdatter. At least two of Dorthea's brothers also emigrated to the same area of Michigan. So on both sides of Hilda's Danish family, there was no shortage of aunts and uncles and cousins nearby!

Slowly and with clues supplied by Hilda's now-83-year-old son, I have been piecing together the Michigan Dane families of Nielsen, Petersen, Jensen, Hansen, and Christensen, just to name the names associated with the first-generation immigrants. Just when I think I have surmised who is in one of Hilda's unlabeled photos, I make contact with somebody related to these families and find their snapshots don't always match mine. But we're all sharing what we have and looking together for the right faces to insert by the names and dates. I am not the only one with Danish roots.

So this part of my research journey was inspired by somebody who was not a blood relation but whose memories and stories are most definitely part of my family history. Hilda didn't just fill an empty hole in my mother's family, she couldn't. But she was nevertheless loving and energetic and involved in our family in every way even though she also had a remarkable family history of her own that none of us younger generations ever thought to ask about. Until now. I like to think it's not too late to include Hilda's story with that of the Gillespie's and Coquigne's in Genesee County, Michigan. Maybe the Danish influence to my Scot-Irish & French family was subtle, but it was there all the same, and I shall love telling the stories I learn as much as I am loving learning them for myself.

The Nielsen-Pedersen family tree I have pieced together so far is available on rootsweb.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Napoleonic Wars

In the introduction to our Gillespie Family History Cookbook (see previous post), the author introduces her own memory of Mary Gillespie Lerossignol Henderson:
My memory of Mary Gillespie Henderson is of a tall lady of some severity whom we would be taken to visit. She would tell us stories of her life. One was her memory of an uncle who had fought in the Napoleonic war. She had been born in 1840 in Canada, but her family lore went back to the beginning of the 19th century. I have always thought of it as an example of how oral history might be an accurate account. 
As excited as I was to receive the Family History Cookbook, the researcher in me jumped on the part about the Napoleonic War. We've so far never run into any family account, oral or written, that has ever suggested our Gillespie family was involved in that conflict. So now we have stumbled upon another curiosity begging for research attention.

First, when were the Napoleonic Wars? The UK National Archives lists the dates of these series of conflicts with the French Empire to be circa 1803-1815, mostly because there is no clear date between the end of the French Revolution and the start of the Napoleonic Wars. But for our purposes, let's just go with these dates which covers roughly 12 and a half years.

Now, let's consider who might be an uncle of Mary Gillespie. We know her mother was Mary Orr Jamieson, who was born in 1814 in Armagh, Ireland. If we assume that any brother of Mary Orr Jamieson was born around the same time, he would certainly not have been old enough to fight in a military conflict between 1803-1815. So perhaps the uncle Mary Gillespie referred to was the brother of her father, James Gillespie, who was born in 1810. For that to be true, the uncle would have to be a half-brother of James Gillespie, born of John Gillespie's first marriage which produced offspring as early as 1780 and possibly as late as 1795.

The thing that bothers me about the idea of a Gillespie in the Napoleonic Wars is that our family lore, even though essentially unconfirmed, tells us that the Gillespie's were involved in the Irish Rebellion of 1798. This is from the Gillespie Family Record written by Edith Gillespie:
John Gillespie, a farmer and a weaver, whose father came from Glasgow, Scotland, was well-known in the county and was instrumental in raising a company of volunteers for Lord Charlemont in the Rebellion of 1798. 
If this is true, it's terribly hard to imagine any Gillespie wearing a British uniform. But do you see what I just did? I have presumed that any Gillespie involved in the Napoleonic Wars fought for the British. But low and behold and entirely by accident, I fell upon this website, which describes how the L├ęgion Irlandaise which was at first formed in anticipation of an invasion of Ireland, was later manned by expatriots from the failed revolts. The Irish Legion wore distinctive green uniforms, and carried their own flag with a large gold harp and the motto "L'INDEPENDENCE D'IRELANDE". They fought quite valiantly for Napoleon in Holland, Spain, and Portugal although they did not participate in the Waterloo campaign where Napoleon was finally defeated. The regiment was disbanded shortly after Louis XVIII regained power in 1815.

So, this is all very interesting! It's hard to know where to look for records pertaining to Irish soldiers in the Napoleonic Wars, especially given that we don't know the exact name of the Gillespie who might have served. And then there's the additional possibility that the term "uncle" was used more broadly to include maybe a grand-uncle, in which case we could be looking for the surname WOODS, ORR, or RAINEY.

With so little to go on, it seems fairly unlikely that we might be able to chase this one down, but stranger things have happened, especially in the pursuit of family history.  And meanwhile it's exciting to learn something new about this particular time period. All thanks to one small comment made in a cookbook introduction!

Cookbook Family History

As much as I try to remember that family history is really about the stories of our ancestors, I often get lost in the investigation of details. But thankfully, the stories still pop up in their own delightful ways.

This time it came as a family history Christmas gift from my second cousin who has been doing an astonishing job of collecting the stories of our Gillespie family. He has connected with a family member from our Canadian branch who shared a document with us that was written by our third cousin once removed, an 87-year-old woman still living. This 22-page document is, of all things, a cookbook of family recipes!

This cookbook is remarkable in several ways. First it starts with a one-page introduction to the author's maternal line, which contains a few details we had not heard before (more on that in another post). And then she proceeds to present FOUR generations of women starting with Mary Gillespie LeRossignol Henderson (1840-1935). Each section shows a picture of each female ancestor, gives a short but wonderfully detailed account of her life, and then follows with recipes that she was known for. Recipes included were: Dark Christmas or Wedding Cake, Christmas Pudding (recipe originated in Ireland), Orange Cake, Scotch Shortbread, Date Bread, Queen Elizabeth Cake, Shrimp Tuna Casserole, Tortiere (French Canadian pork pie, traditional on Christmas Eve before midnight), Pineapple Marshmallow Dessert, Salad Dressing, Walnut Applesauce Cake, Marschino Nut Cake (good for Valentine's Day cooked in heart-shaped pans), Curried Shrimp, Tomato Aspic, and Candy Cane Ice Cream. Of these, I can tell you that the Scotch Shortbread somehow made it down my branch of the family, as my sister has made that recipe at Christmastime, just as our mother did during our growing-up.

The thing that really moves me about this account is how well-educated and talented all these women were. We already know that Mary Gillespie Henderson was a prolific letter-writer. But I did not know that her oldest daughter, who had TB of the spine, was an early woman graduate of the University of Toronto. Another daughter was among the first class of women at McGill University, which would also become the alma mater of Mary's granddaughters. Her female descendants were not only mothers and homemakers; one became a doctor, one a lawyer, another a business owner. One played piano, two had an arts degree, one joined the Red Cross and traveled overseas, several were known for their gardens. All were loved and fondly remembered by their families.

I must admit all this makes me a little sniffly. In our modern western world where genealogy is defined patrilineally, and even the names of our female ancestors seem to fade as quickly as a sunset, this cookbook arrives as an especially precious gift. That it came from my male second cousin who got it from a male third cousin, both of whom clearly love this family history cookbook as much as I do fills my heart. These are the stories that round out our rich family history and give us some personal insights that we otherwise might never have imagined. And of course, now I have a couple of new/old recipes to try!

Happy New Year!