November 30, 2012

NY Town Clerk Register for Civil War = GOLD MINE

When Ancestry published these records a year or so ago, I found a few of them very helpful .. and some, not really helpful at all. It depended on the clerk in each village and how fully or carefully they completed the registration entries.

I had great success confirming that my ancestor James McDole of Ulster County had, in fact, been born in Northern Ireland (as suspected). Then I had great disappointment in the Delaware County registers that listed little more than name and company for many enlisting villagers.

Today I found detailed records for the village of Rushford, Allegany County. There had been confusion over the wives and sons of Norman Beecher. These CW records confirm that his oldest son Lyman was born to Norman and wife #1, Ann George and that other sons, including Chester, were born to his second wife, Lois George (Ann's sister).

If you had New York Civil War ancestors, be sure to check these records -- the local clerk may have recorded these details for your family too.

November 28, 2012

Why County Names Can Matter: Oswego or Owego?

Town and village names can be confusing, especially if there are similar ones in the same state. At times I wondered "why bother with the county name?", but realize it can be very helpful. A county name can help you locate a small village and track movement of your family group. It can also clarify a possible mis-spelling when two different places have very similar names.

An example that I encountered in New York are OSWEGO and OWEGO.  Family tree references were found for siblings in the Beecher family being born in both places.  They are about 100 miles apart.

Oswego is the larger of the two, in a county of the same name, north along Lake Ontario. While Owego is a smaller village in Tioga County, west of Binghamton. Of course, families move, but a distance of 100 miles in the 1870s for farmers would certainly catch my attention and cause me to double check.

November 27, 2012

Destruction at Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

Hurricane Sandy hit this beautiful, historic cemetery and felled many of its huge trees, destroying some monuments as has been reported in the NY Times and other New York papers. This cemetery is the final resting place of some very famous people like Leonard Bernstein, Louis Comfort Tiffany, "Boss" Tweed, etc. and lots of everyday people who were buried in this "rural" cemetery created in 1838.

If you, like me, have any ancestors buried at Green-Wood, please consider making a donation via their website . They estimate that 292 trees were downed and that clean-up will cost at least $500,000.  

If you can help, please do !

November 15, 2012

Who was Elisabeth Grafin Finck von Finckenstein ?

I have come to love pouring over legal notices for estate settlements, especially if the estate was large which brings all the long-lost cousins out of the hinterlands to grab a piece for themselves.

Unmarried Emily A. Watson died in Westchester County in 1924 at age 80 leaving an estate of $12 million ….. notice, that was in 1924 !!  She was the second-born daughter of “Colonel” John Watson and his wife Mercy Watson (who also happened to be his first cousin – turns out that was common with the Watson clan).  John had an extremely successful career in the leather industry and for some time was a partner with his brother-in-law Zadock Pratt.  John's older daughter, Mary J, had died in 1902, the childless widow of Evan T Walker.  Emily was the prime heir to both of those estates. 

A few first cousins whom Emily had never even met filed suit to get a share.  These were names I had not previously known from my family research:  Tennessee Taylor Watson Owen, Mary Rufus Watson Foster, Fannie Watson Carothers and Hattie Sanders, all born in Mississippi.  Really?  The Watsons were from Rhode Island and some of them ventured over to New York, but Mississippi ?? These were cousins on Emily’s mother’s side of the family. Two of Mercy’s younger brothers, Rufus and Asa, moved to Mississippi in the 1840s and evidently the families had lost contact.

While trying to figure out exactly who Tennessee Watson and others were and how they fit into the family, I broadened my newspaper searches once it became clear that the legal battles might wage on for a while. Yes, for quite a while.  I have found notices from 1924 through 1963 thus far. WOW ! Emily died in 1924.

But the New York Times article published 29 June 1932 listed two never-before-seen names:  Herwarth von der Decken and Elizabeth Grafin Finck von Finckenstein. 
Who were they?

November 1, 2012

Cousinology: Larz Anderson & Charlotte Higbee

I have come to learn that reviewing and identifying each person listed in a will and their relationship to the deceased can open a new world of cousins near and far.  One example is Larz Anderson who was found in a legal notice following the 1913 death of Charlotte Higbee in Binghamton, NY.The notice also stated "Cincinnati papers please copy". Why? Who lived in Cincinnati? The Higbees were from NJ and the Clarks from NY.

Charlotte was an only child born in NYC to Henry Higbee and Eliza W. Clark.  She never married.  After the death of her parents she relocated to Binghamton where she lived near or with the family of her mother's older brother Henry Clark. So how did Larz Anderson fit into the family tree?