Power of Published Genealogy Queries

Genealogy researchers today are so blessed with a wealth of family data online that it is easy to forget the old-fashioned tool — queries published in genealogy magazines in print format. But I’ve just had evidence of the power of published queries.

As a member of the New England Historical Genealogical Society, I enjoy both the American Ancestors magazine and The Weekly Genealogist e-newsletter. I was fortunate recently to have a query published in American Ancestors, Volume 17, Number 3, Fall 2016, column titled Brick Walls, page 21.

It begins: “My persistent brick wall is my ancestor Permelia Church. Permelia married Benjamin F. Church, a carpenter, who came from Ulster County, New York, to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1835.” I’ve written about my search for the ancestry of Permelia, who, sources say was, born about 1815 in New Hampshire (1850 Census) and whose maiden name might have been Clemens (oldest daughter’s death record).

Remarkably, a long-time genealogy researcher from Milwaukee read the query and decided to look in records he had from his own family searches. What what he found and sent me was a treasure, if not a brick-wall break through. He found Permelia was admitted on 11 Sep 1842 to St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Milwaukee (St. Paul’s Episcopal Church records for communicants). The first Episcopal Church in Milwaukee, St. Paul’s was founded May 23, 1838. The congregation met in judicial chambers until January 1845 when the first church was opened.

Even more precious, he sent the page with the dates of birth and shared date of baptism for Benjamin and Permelia’s first two children:
> Hannah Maria Church born 21 September 1840 in Milwaukee
> Ann Augusta Church born 3 July1843 in Milwaukee
Sponsors for both girls were Royal P. Locke and Mary Jane Butler, likely the wife of T. D. Butler.

Hannah and Ann were baptized on 3 May 1846 in Trinity Chapel, an outreach from St. Paul’s on the east side of the Milwaukee River to serve those on the west side. Officiating was the now famous Rt. Rev. Jackson Kemper, missionary bishop to the Northwest Territory. He became provisional bishop of the new Diocese of Wisconsin, then its diocesan bishop until 1870. For context, Wisconsin gained statehood in 1848.

The St. Paul records also show that Permelia Church – with many others – was removed on 7 Jan’y 1847 from St. Paul’s and transferred to the new Trinity Church on the west side of the river. Trinity did not survive and by 1850 St. James Episcopal Church had been founded – also as an outreach of St. Paul’s – to serve the west side.

So a next step in research is to see if Permelia was transferred to St. James Episcopal Church, if her other children were baptized there, and if there is a record of her funeral.And then there is the possibility that the baptismal sponsors might be researched for clues. The ability to take more steps is due to NEHGS publishing my quest and the kind genealogist sending me the St. Paul’s records. To both I say thank you!

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Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part Four

The final phase of Robert and Fanny Gunyon’s story — in which Margaret also played a role — was the most dramatic and most complex.

Deaths and Wills of Robert and Fanny Gunyon
Forest Home Cemetery gravestones show that Robert and Fanny Gunyon both died in 1892. Reports in newspapers and legal journals about the complex legal cases involving their wills provide insights on Robert’s and Fanny’s deaths, and Margaret’s ancestry.

“Robert Gunyon, the testator, made a will February 10, 1892, and died within a few days thereafter, and… his will was duly probated April 12, 1892, in the county court of Milwaukee county. He left surviving him a widow and no children,” according to American and English Corporation Cases: A Collection of All Corporation Cases… Decided in the Courts of Last Resort in the United States, England, and Canada [1883-1894]. The volume also states that, after certain specific bequests, his property was to be “given and bequeathed to 15 relatives, whose names are given, share and share alike.”

The entry concerns a lawsuit by the Milwaukee Protestant Home for the Aged, seeking to have the executors turn over certain real estate willed to the home. The “residuary legatees answered, alleging that the devise to the appellant was void because made less than three months prior to the testator’s death.”

In Wisconsin Reports: Cases Determined in the Supreme Court of Wisconsin, Volume 85, we learn that Robert Gunyon died four days after making his will, thus February 14, 1892. He did not make specific provision for wife Fanny in his first will, because both of them were “ill unto death” and he assumed she would not survive him. He also made a nuncupative will upon learning that Fanny was getting her health back.

Fanny indeed rallied and appeared on the way to recovery, according to newspaper articles on the legal tangle over the wills. Thus she used the option provided by law to obtain her portion of his estate, on 25 Feb 1892. She made her will, but then died on 3 March 1892.
Margaret’s husband John Church was one of the executors of Robert Gunyon’s estate. But it was Margaret Church who had to go to court to fight having Fanny Gunyon’s will admitted into probate, in order to ensure that it was the instructions in Robert Gunyon’s will that determined the distribution of his estate.

Complicated Case in Probate Court
In March 1892, articles appeared in numerous Midwest newspapers about the Gunyon wills.
The Chicago Tribune carried an article headlined “Bad Tangle Over the Gunyon Wills” on March 13, 1892, page 11. It stated: “The litigation over the probating of the two wills made respectively by the late Robert Gunyon and his wife Fanny, whereby it is sought to dispose of an estate of $100,000 to separate sets of beneficiaries, promises to be one of the most complicated cases in the annals of the Probate Court in this county.” It added that the notice to contest the wife’s will is signed by Mrs. Margaret Church “who sets forth that she is his [Robert Gunyon’s] niece and heir-at-law.”

On the same day, The Inter Ocean newspaper from Chicago, Illinois, carried an article on the contested wills on page 3. It noted a “protest against the admission of the will of Fannie Gunyon to probate was filed in the Probate Court this afternoon by Mrs. Margaret Church. Mrs. Church says she is one of the children of Ann Craven Legard, deceased, who was a sister of Fanny Gunyon, wife of Robert Gunyon, and that she (Margaret Church) was the legally adopted child of Robert and Fanny Gunyon, both deceased.” The estate is valued at $65,000.

On March 12, 1892, the Milwaukee Journal published the same news under the following headline and subheads: “Fighting for Big Estate / Objections Made to the Probate of Mrs. Gunyon’s Will / Two Wills and Both Contested.” Margaret’s explanation that she is the daughter of Ann (Craven) Legard, sister of Fanny (Craven) Gunyon and the adopted daughter of Robert and Fanny is again explained. A summary of the “peculiarly interesting” details of the matter of how their wills were written was described.

The Legal Contest Concluded and Aftermath
The final outcomes of all aspects of these legal contests is beyond the scope of this genealogy article. We can report that the Wisconsin Supreme Court in its January 1894 term did rule that Robert’s bequest or devise to the Milwaukee Protestant Home for the Aged was void because it was made less than three months prior to his death.

More important for our story, the various legal and newspaper articles cited make clear the ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church. Our research is confirmed.

Following these court cases, Maggie and John had their sixth child, son Edgar Benjamin Church, on 18 March 1894. They lost their daughter Harriet Margaret Church on 29 May 1896. Maggie died in July 1909. Husband John Benjamin Church died on 25 June 1911. Maggie and John are buried at Forest Home Cemetery near Robert and Fanny Gunyon.

Author’s Note on Benjamin Church, Milwaukee Pioneer
Benjamin Church, a native of Ulster County, New York, arrived in Milwaukee in 1835. He was a well known pioneer carpenter and builder in the young city. He is the author’s 3rd-great-grandfather through his daughter Ann Maria [Hannah M.] who married Sherman Abernethy Bradley, a native of Connecticut. John Benjamin Church, husband of Margaret Legard Gunyon, was Ann Maria’s youngest brother.

SOURCES:
Queries from from Stephanie Legard asking about the link between the Legard family of Barnsley and Wakefield, Yorkshire, England and the Church family of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, USA. Her Legard genealogy traces to Margaret Legard Gunyon Church’s brother William W. Legard (wife Amelia); their son Frank (wife Elizabeth); and their son Leonard who married Ellen Wyman, Stephanie’s grandmother.
> http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CHURCH/2003-09/1063718531
> http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/CHURCH/2007-08/1186030828
> http://boards.ancestry.co.uk/surnames.church/70.1/mb.ashx

Correspondence with Allan Green, genealogist, who lived in Wakefield, Yorkshire, England at the time the research for this article was done in February 2015.

Various UK and US census records, ship’s passenger logs, city directories and Milwaukee history books found on Ancestry.com.

“Judge Derek Mosley’s 160-Year-Old Home: The municipal judge’s home is unique — just one of just 38 in town built before the Civil War,” by Michael Horne.
> http://urbanmilwaukee.com/2014/08/18/house-confidential-judge-derek-mosleys-160-year-old-home/

“Lisbon Plank Road History”
> http://www.slahs.org/history/local/transportation/lisbon_plank_road.htm
“Barnsley” – West Riding, Yorkshire, England
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barnsley
“Wakefield” – West Riding, Yorkshire, England
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wakefield
“Kirkcudbright, Scotland”
> http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kirkcudbright

“Fighting for A Big Estate / Objections Made to the Probate of Mrs. Gunyon’s Will / Two Wills and Both Contested,” Milwaukee Journal, March 12, 1892.
“Bad Tangle Over the Gunyon Wills,” Chicago Tribune, March 13, 1892, page 11, article with dateline Milwaukee, Wis. March 12
MILWAUKEE MATTERS. “Wills contested” article… in The Inter Ocean from Chicago, Illinois, Page 3, Sunday, March 13, 1892, dateline Milwaukee, Wis., March 12

And legal journals covering the lawsuits surrounding the wills of Robert and Fanny Gunyon including Reports of Cases Argued and Determined in the Supreme Court of the State of Wisconsin, Volume 87, Callaghan, 1894.

Fourth and final part of an article completed in February 2015.
See Part One and Part Two and Part Three

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Published in: on June 10, 2016 at 2:40 am  Leave a Comment  
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Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part Three

Robert Gunyon and Fanny (Craven) Gunyon in Wauwatosa
In the 1853-1855 period, a handsome Italianate stone and cream brick residence with some Greek Revival touches was built for Robert and Fanny Gunyon on a 160+ acre farm in the Town of Wauwatosa, west of the city of Milwaukee. Its location today is in the Arlington Gardens neighborhood, surrounded by other homes, at 7927 West Appleton Avenue, Milwaukee. The 1860 Census enumerated Robert, 43, and Fannie, 39, living in the Town of Wauwatosa where Robert was farming. His real estate was worth $9,500. Living with them was Elizabeth Whitehead, 31, born in Scotland, no occupation listed.

More about the Gunyons and their house appeared in an article, “Judge Derek Mosley’s 160-Year-Old Home: The municipal judge’s home is unique — just one of just 38 in town built before the Civil War,” published online as a House Confidential at UrbanMilwaukee.com. For example, Robert was described as owner of “a lumber mill and was cranking out 10,000 boards a day in 1850 for the construction of the Lisbon Plank Road.” In fact, Robert was one of five men who opened the sale of stock for Lisbon Plank Road construction, on 20 Dec 1849 at Chestnut Street House. There was a short-lived plank road craze, soon snuffed out by the arrival of the railroads for moving people and goods.

The Varied Careers of Robert Gunyon
Robert Gunyon is also recorded as a grocer with a store at 45 Chestnut Street, according to Milwaukee History, Vols 9-11, by Milwaukee County Historical Society. There is no date for his store in the book, but a 1865 Milwaukee Directory shows him at that address. So Robert had an enterprise in the general area of Benjamin Church home, west of Milwaukee River. Remember that it was Benjamin’s son John Benjamin Church who married Margaret Legard Gunyon on 10 Sep 1879 in Milwaukee.

As noted earlier, Robert and Fanny went back to Yorkshire some time in 1865, returning in August with Fanny’s niece Margaret Ledgar, later Legard, whom they adopted. The 1870 Census enumerated them together in Milwaukee, with Robert’s occupation lumber merchant. City directories show that his lumber yard was “on the point” at the foot of Cherry Street. One imagines that Robert met Benjamin Church, a pioneer carpenter, builder and father of John Benjamin Church, at this time if not earlier. The Benjamin Church house was on 4th between Cherry and Galena streets.

Robert had one more change in his active career. Between 1874-1878, he was listed in city directories with the business Gunyon, Cryderman & Pollow, tanners, 492 Canal. His partners were Jacob Cryderman, residence 753 7th Street, and John A. Pollow, residence 609 4th Street. Leather tanning was a big business in Milwaukee. How intriguing that Robert got into the leather industry, his father-in-law being a leather currier in Yorkshire.

After that, Robert apparently retired from active business. Milwaukee city directories show Robert and Fanny Gunyon residing at 710 Walnut Street, at least from 1874 until their deaths. Walnut is six blocks north of Cherry Street. John and Maggie Church lived at 714 Galena in 1891, three blocks south of the Gunyons.

Robert Gunyon in Politics
As we’ve seen, several Milwaukee history books mention Robert Gunyon. In another one, he is listed as Rob. Gunyon with men in new political party that had the motto “free soil, free speech, free labor, free men.” This was the Free Soil Party, active from 1848 to 1852, that opposed the expansion of slavery into the country’s western territories. This mention is in the 1871 book Milwaukee written in German by Rudolph A. Koss. The book also mentions the shop of Rob. Gunyon in Chestnutstraße or Chestnut Street.

The final phase of Robert and Fanny’s story — in which Margaret also played a role — was perhaps the most dramatic. We’ll tell it in the fourth and last installment of this family history mystery resolved, coming soon.

Third part of an article completed in February 2015… to be continued. See Part One and Part Two

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Ancestry of Margaret Legard Gunyon Church: Part Two

Why Margaret Came to America
That still left the question of why Margaret – the youngest of six children – would leave her large family in England for America. Here are some thoughts, steps toward unraveling her mystery.

A significant error in the 1900 Census, showing Margaret coming to America in 1877, led to initial confusion. That error made it appear that she left home at age 20, about the time her father died. Futher research in English and American census records, however, turned up the correct date. First, Maggie Gunyon, age 13, born in England, was enumerated in the home of Robert and Fanny Gunyon in Milwaukee in the 1870 Census [surname mistranscribed Gwnyer]. Then the 1871 Census for Yorkshire, England, has no Maggie in the William and Ann Legard household.

A search of ship’s passenger logs revealed that “Margt Ledgar,” born about 1858, age 7, female, nationality English, origin England, had arrived in New York on 7 Aug 1865. She was traveling with Robert Gunyon and Fanny Gunyon of the USA; their ports of departure were Liverpool, England, and Queenstown, Ireland, their destination the USA. Thus, in late July or early August 1865, Margaret Ledgar [later Legard] left her native Yorkshire, England, to live with Robert and Fanny Gunyon of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The Gunyons adopted her as their daughter, although we’ve not seen the documents.

Newspaper and legal journal articles concerning the wills made by Robert and Fanny in early 1892 state that the couple had no children of their own – and reveal the family connection. Fanny was the sister of Margaret’s mother Ann (Craven) Legard, and so was Margaret’s aunt. We surmise that the families thought good opportunities would be available in America for Margaret, and she could be a daughter and companion to Fanny. Robert Gunyon was a very active businessman as will be shown. Thus Fanny likely craved having a child in the house.

Adoptive Parents Robert Gunyon and Fanny (Craven) Gunyon

We know a good deal about Robert and Fanny who, the 1850 and 1860 U.S. census records tell us, were born in Scotland and England respectively. Once the sister connection between Fanny (Craven) Gunyon and Ann (Craven) Legard was understood, many records for the family were found in English and American censuses, passenger lists, city directories and much more.

Robert Gunyon: Robert was enumerated in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, in the 1841 Census, taken June 6. In the household were John Gunyon, 25, and Robert Gunyon, 20, both drapers, and Joseph Irving, 15, a draper’s apprentice. Their address was “back of Cheapside.’ All three were born in Scotland. John and Robert were perhaps brothers or cousins, we thought. Then a check of Pigot & Co.’s Directory of Yorks, Leics… , 1841, turned up a Wm. Gunyon under Grocers and Tea Dealers, his shop located on Cheapside, Barnsley.

That find of the three Gunyon men led to the discovery that Robert was born on 28 Sep 1817 in Kelton, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, the son of William Gunyon, a cooper, and wife Mary (Gullon) Gunyon. His brother William was born there on 11 Sep 1809 and his brother John Gunyon was born there on 5 Aug 1814. Kelton is a parish 10 miles (N. E. by E.) from Kirkcudbright, pronounced kirr-KOO-bree, a town and parish in Kirkcudbrightshire, within the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland. It is situated on the estuary of the River Dee in southwest Scotland.

Robert was recorded as a draper and son of William Gunyon when marrying Fanny Craven in Barnsley in 1841, a match with the Robert Gunyon in the other documents. A draper was originally a retailer or wholesaler of cloth used for clothing such as silk, linen and cotton. West Yorkshire, England, Marriages & Banns, 1813-1935, show that Robert Gunyon, a draper, married Frances Craven on 10 Sep 1841 in Silkstone with Stainborough, All Saints. His father was William Gunyon, farmer; her father was William Craven, a currier. Robert and Frances were both recorded as “of Barnsley” on their marriage record.

Frances “Fanny” Craven: Frances was baptized on 1 Jul 1821 in the parish Barnsley, St Mary. The church record shows her father was William Craven, a currier, and her mother was Mary Craven. Frances was born in the first half of 1821, based on her age in census and other records. She was usually called Fanny. She was enumerated in Barnsley, Yorkshire, England, in the 1841 Census, taken June 6. In the household were William Craven, 55, Mary Craven, 55, Mary Craven, 20, Fanney Craven, 20, Harriet Craven, 15, and Martha Craven, 10. Daughter Ann Craven was not there as she had married James Ledgar in 1840.

Father William Craven was a currier, suggesting how Ann met James Ledgar, also a currier. Mother Mary’s maiden name was Coe. William Craven, age 21, married Mary Coe on 23 Jan 1808 in Barnsley, Yorkshire.

Robert Gunyon and Fanny (Craven) Gunyon in Milwaukee: In late August of 1843, Robert and Fanny set off for America, departing on the ship Birmingham from Liverpool, England. On 9 Sep 1843, one day short of their second wedding anniversary, Robert Gunyon, age 25, and Mrs. Gunyon, age 22, arrived in New York City. Both were recorded as from Great Britain. His occupation is hard to read on the ship’s log. There is no evidence, but Robert and Fanny likely sailed north on the Hudson River, took the Erie Canal west to Buffalo and then sailed the Great Lakes to Wisconsin. They likely arrived in Milwaukee in late 1843 or early 1844.

Evidence of Robert Gunyon in Milwaukee begins in 1845-1846. Robert was one of eight men of Scots heritage who organized the first curling club in Milwaukee, and likely the first in Wisconsin. The game was played on the frozen Milwaukee River at the foot of Mason Street, according to Pioneer history of Milwaukee: from the first American settlement in 1833 to 1841, with a topographical description. That source says 1846 but another says 1845.

On 2 Jun 1846, Robert Gunyon was reported as having a letter remaining at the Milwaukee post office, according to a listing in the Milwaukee Sentinel and Gazette of this date. On March 24, 1847, Alexander Mitchell rallied the Scottish community in Milwaukee to raise funds for relief of famine victims in Scotland. Robert Gunyon was involved, according to the “Historical Messenger” of the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Vols 22-25.

The book Pioneer history of Milwaukee also mentions Robert’s involvement in early Milwaukee politics. On 11 March 1850, he was listed was one of three men to receive the highest votes for 2nd Ward assessor, and then, on 1 April 1850, he stood for election on the People’s Ticket for 2nd Ward assessor. He apparently did not win. The Milwaukee Sentinel on 2 April 1850 said he ran for assessor on the Law and Order Ticket for the 2nd Ward. Later, in 1879, he ran for the State Senate as a Greenbacker, but again did not win, according to the Blue Book of the State of Wisconsin.

The 1850 Census for Milwaukee lists Robert Gunyon, 33, a merchant born in Scotland, with wife Fanny, 29, born in England, in the 2nd Ward on the west side of the Milwaukee River.

Second part of an article completed in February 2015… to be continued. See Part One and Part Three

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Published in: on June 7, 2016 at 3:42 am  Comments (1)  
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Caleb Church, farmer and cooper

Map of Ulster County, NY, from Beers via Wikipedia

Map of Ulster County, NY, 1875, from Beers via Wikipedia. Find towns of New Paltz, Lloyd and Plattekill in the southeast corner.


52 Weeks,
52 Ancestors: Number 3
Caleb Church (1772-1856) of Ulster County, New York

Milwaukee pioneer carpenter and builder Benjamin Church, who arrived there in 1835, was the son of Caleb Church and Hannah Baker Church of Ulster County, New York. Born in 1807, he was one of ten or more children born to Caleb and Hannah between 1798 and 1819. Ulster County is located on west side of the Hudson River, opposite Dutchess County.

A vivid if brief picture of Caleb Church (1772-1856) emerges from several books and online resources such as land and probate records. Noteworthy is his brief profile in the book Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass. Rutland, Vt.: Tuttle Co., 1913 – in the section for Church families with unproven links to Richard Church.

That book says Caleb was born on 9 Dec. 1772, married Hannah Baker in Dutchess County N. Y., and settled “in Loyd Township, Ulster Co., N. Y., where he carried on farming and coopering. He was also his own lawyer, his favorite retreat when studying a case being the great garret, flat on his back, with his feet against the rafters. His wife was a Quaker preacher.”

Caleb was a substantial land owner having purchased 100 acres on 8 Dec 1798. Ulster County, New York Deeds, FHL# 944750, states that “Caleb Church of Newmarlborough, Ulster Co, NY, bought for 250 pounds etc land in New Paltz from Newman Waring.” This is consistent with his grandson Oliver B. Church’s biographical sketch that says Caleb bought land, built a log cabin, and raised large family. Neighboring landowners in Ulster County included the Terwilliger, Housbrouck/Hasbrouck, Ellis and Freer families.

The book’s entry for him – No. 2542. Caleb Church – and a listing of Caleb and Hannah’s children are online here.

Caleb is said to be of English Puritan ancestry, and was born in Dutchess County, New York, where he grew up on a farm, according to his son Samuel’s biographical sketch in the book Commemorative Biographical Record of Ulster County, New York: Containing Biographical Sketches of Prominent and Representative Citizens, and of Many of the Early Settled Families. This book also states that Caleb and his wife were members of the Orthodox Friends Church, and he was a Democrat in politics. See Samuel’s biography online here.

Samuel, perhaps with his father’s assistance, went to New York City in 1821, when he was 16, to learn the carpentry and building trades. There is no evidence that his younger brother Benjamin had this training, but if not, he surely learned skills from Samuel before heading west in 1834 to pursue a career as a carpenter and builder.

Who were Caleb Church’s ancestors? Mrs. Susannah B. Lefevre (Susannah Brodhead Church LeFevre), Caleb’s great-granddaughter, believed he was descended from Richard Church (lineage Caleb 5 , Nathaniel 4 , Joseph 3 , Joseph 2 , Richard 1) but this is unproven. Her submission was included in Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass. in the unproven section. This Richard Church came to America in 1630, became a freeman in Plymouth in 1632, and married Elizabeth Warren, daughter of Richard Warren who came on the Mayflower. More about him online here.

There were three Church families in the 1790 Census in Dutchess County, namely Benjamin Church, John Church and Thomas Church. The Church Family section in the book Little Compton Families from Records compiled by Benjamin Franklin Wilbour, Volume I, says there was a Benjamin Church born in 1732, married in 1773 to Johannah Wilbor, daughter of Joseph Wilbor, who went to Nine Partners, Dutchess County, New York. This Benjamin Church was in Dutchess County in 1785 when his father Joseph deeded him land from an Uncle Caleb. According to Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass., his father deeded on 18 Dec, 1785, to son Benjamin “of Nine Partners, N. Y., a 15-acre lot left me by my uncle Caleb Church.” The lineage of this Benjamin Church is Joseph 4, Joseph 3 , Joseph 2 , Richard 1.

For now, the ancestry of Caleb Church who married Hannah Baker is unknown, but there are theories and possibilities worth pursuing. In the meantime, we enjoy thinking of him up in the garret, his feet on the rafters, preparing for a legal case.

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Benjamin F. Church, Milwaukee public service

Benjamin_F_Church_Gravestone
52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors: Number 2
Benjamin F. Church (1807-1887)

Much is written about Benjamin F. Church, a Milwaukee pioneer carpenter and builder, whose small Greek Revival house built for his family in 1844 is today a pioneer museum open to visitors each summer. I have written for Wikipedia both a biographical sketch for Benjamin and an article on the Benjamin Church House that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. I have also photographed the house.

Here I briefly chronicle some of Benjamin’s public service and community leadership in the fledgling city, starting when Wisconsin was still a territory. Remember that Milwaukee was not incorporated as a city until 1846 and Wisconsin gained statehood in 1848.

One of the first records of his civic involvement is seen in the Milwaukee Daily Sentinel and Gazette of 2 Nov 1839 that reported on a meeting of 2nd Ward Whigs at Washington House. “On motion of Benj. Church a committee of Vigilance and Finance for the Second Ward was appointed, consisting of J A Phelps, L N Dewey and Wm Sanderson,” the paper states. Other news article show he was active locally in the Whig Party, but later was a Republican.

On January 1, 1844, Benjamin was elected one of five trustees of the West Ward, and was reelected in 1845. This was the area west of the Milwaukee River, originally called Kilbourntown, where he had built his family home. He, Byron Kilbourn and three others were the West Ward trustees at the historic first meeting on May 7, 1845, of representatives of all three wards of what would become Milwaukee on January 31, 1846. The meeting was during the infamous “Milwaukee Bridge War.”

After incorporation, Benjamin was 1 of 15 men chosen for a 2nd Ward nominating committee to develop a slate for alderman, assessor, constable and street inspector, as reported the Milwaukee Sentinel on 22 March 1847. During the 1850s, Benjamin Church was elected to represent his ward on the Board of School Commissioners and to serve as assessor for his ward. He also was a fire warden and election inspector for his ward. Later in his career, Benjamin was one of 13 men to serve as sealer of weights and measures, as per the History of Milwaukee (Andreas, 1881).

In other realms, Benjamin was one of 5 founders of Royal Arch Masons Chapter 1 in Milwaukee on 16 Feb 1844, as per Memoirs of Milwaukee County: from the earliest historical times. He filled several offices including, in 1844 & 1845, Junior Deacon; 1849-1853, Treasurer; 1853, Senior Warden; and then in 1860, Tyler. He was also a member of Milwaukee’s Old Settlers Club since he had arrived from New York before 1839. He was the son of Caleb Church and Hannah Baker Church of New Paltz, Ulster County, New York.

Benjamin F. Church was clearly a “builder of Milwaukee,” not only as a carpenter and contractor but also in helping establish governing structures and fraternal organizations for the city as it boomed in population from 5,605 in 1840 to 31,077 in 1850, soon after incorporation, to 138,537 in 1880, according to Populations of States & Counties of the U. S. (1790-1990), edited by Richard L. Forstall.

It is little wonder that many of his descendants to this day having noted with pride that Benjamin was among their ancestors.

Note: I am seeking the ancestry of Benjamin’s wife Permelia, full name perhaps Elizabeth Permelia. View the query here.

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Published in: on January 12, 2014 at 1:36 am  Comments (3)  
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52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks

Genealogy blogger Amy Johnson Crow has issued a challenge to all who blog about their family history: write about 52 of your ancestors in 52 weeks, or one per week. See her challenge here. A number of bloggers are taking up the challenge, and you can find their posts by searching the Internet with the phrase 52 ancestors 52 weeks.

This is a great way to make sustantial progress on writing one’s family history, and can also be a way to connect with unknown cousins who do web searches on names of shared ancestors. I have started 2014 with a posting — actually a detailed query – about my 3rd great-grandmother who was the wife of Milwaukee pioneer Benjamin F. Church. She is called Permelia and Elizabeth in various Wisconsin records. A maiden name of Clemens is given in one record, but is not confirmed.

I hope to continue this 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge. Thank you, Amy!

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Permilia, wife of Benjamin Church

52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors: Number One
QUERY for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, her name perhaps Elizabeth Permilia Clemens Church

I am seeking the parents, birth date and birth place for the wife of Benjamin F. Church, a pioneer builder who arrived in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1835 from Ulster County, New York. He spent time in Chicago in 1834 before coming on to Milwaukee. I would also like to know when and where she married Benjamin. Here is what is known about her from various records:

Given names: She is Permelia Church in the 1850 Census, Permilia Church in her first daughter’s marriage record [1859] and Parmelia Church in her 2nd daughter’s marriage record [1875]. In deeds in 1840 with husband Benjamin she is recorded as Parmelia H., Pamelia or Purmelia. She is recorded as Elizabeth Church, a married woman, in the 1856 burial records at Forest Home Cemetery where she is buried in the Benjamin Church Lot with infant Benjamin F. Church Jr. who died 1850. She may have been Elizabeth Permilia or Permilia Elizabeth.

Surname: Her surname of Clemens is given in just one place, her first daughter’s death record [1891] where she is listed as P. Clemens. This is unconfirmed, and could be Clements or other name.

Birth: She was born in New Hampshire in 1815 or 1816, as per the 1850 Census where she is shown as 34 years old.

Marriage: An 1838 or 1839 marriage date is estimated based on the apparent 1840 birth of her oldest known child, Ann Maria Church, recorded as 10 in the 1850 Census. No marriage record has been found for Benjamin and Permilia, either in Milwaukee [Early Milwaukee Marriages booklet] or in Chicago [Fink Index].

Meeting: We can only wonder where they met, whether in Buffalo, New York, the port where ships sailed to Chicago and Milwaukee, or in Chicago where Benjamin first settled in 1834 or Milwaukee. She would have been with parents or other relatives. Ulster County, New York, is on the Hudson River, so it is likely Benjamin went west to Chicago via the river, the Erie Canal and then a Great Lakes ship. He came overland to Milwaukee in the fall of 1835, and returned to Chicago to settle his affairs before settling in Milwaukee, according to his obituary [1887].

Children: Benjamin and Permilia had 6 known children: Ann Maria Church [1840-1891], Ann Augusta Church [1843-1876],  Charles B. Church [1847-1885], Benjamin Church Jr [1850-1850],  John Benjamin Church [1851-1911] and Susan Church [1855-1870]

Death: Benjamin’s wife died 21 Feb 1856, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, according to Forest Home Cemetery records for the Benjamin Church plot. Recorded as Elizabeth Church. No Church in the death index, Milwaukee Register of Deeds, 1852-1875.

I have found Clemens families in New Hampshire in census records of the right period, even some with females of the right age in their household. But I have not found a published genealogy or other source that puts Elizabeth Permilia into a family. This is a tough brickwall and any help would be appreciated.

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Published in: on December 28, 2013 at 7:17 pm  Comments (5)  
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Saluting Ancestors’ Labors

When we go back far enough in our genealogy and family history research, most of us will find ancestors — women and men — who labored as farmers. This Labor Day column explores a number of the diverse occupations followed by my ancestors, some quite surprising when I first learned of them. America is indeed the land of opportunity as seen in the changing careers down the generations.

My ancestor Caleb Church and his wife Hannah Baker lived in New Paltz, Ulster County, New York, where he was a farmer and cooper and she was a wife, mother of 10 and a Quaker preacher. Hannah, who lived from 1775 to 1843, is one of the first women in my family tree with a career that took her outside the home. Caleb also was his own lawyer, according to Descendants of Richard Church of Plymouth, Mass.

Their son Benjamin F. Church, my ancestor, went west to Chicago and then in 1835 to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he was a pioneer carpenter and builder. He was the “boss carpenter” for one of the first hotels in the nascent city and his Greek revival family home has been preserved as the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown House, a museum of pioneer life in southeast Wisconsin.

My Bruce ancestors, surname orginally Bruss, came to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1839 from the Baltic port city of Cammin, Kreis Cammin, Pomerania. The traditional male occupation was ship building and ship caulking, with the young men sailors until they married and settled down. Martin Friedrich Bruss and his sons Augustus, Martin and John all followed the family tradition, the first two in Milwaukee, son Martin near Pensacola, Florida, and John in San Francisco.

By the next generation, the sons of Augustus Bruce had careers in publishing (William George Bruce), tanning company executive (Albert J. Bruce), postal delivery (Augustus I. Bruce), and accounting and later Milwaukee Athletic Club secretary (Martin P. Bruce). The daughter of Martin P. Bruce and his wife Grace Booth Bruce was a teacher while their son was an attorney, both in Milwaukee.

An entrepreneurial tradition is found in my Bradley ancestors, starting with Aaron Bradley who enlisted twice during the Revolutionary War, then married Lorain Abernethy and two sons, two daughters and several different businesses. He was a blacksmith first, then added a tavern and grocery store at his location in Bradleyville or Bantam, Town of Litchfield, Litchfield County, Connecticut. I imagine it was a very busy place with farmers bringing oxen and horses for shoeing or tea kettles needing new bails or handles; travellers on the post road stopping for a meal and a drink; and students from Sarah Pierce’s Litchfield Female Academy and from the Litchfield law school coming to Mr. Bradley’s for a bit of entertainment. He also had a nail factory, Aron Bradley & Co., as shown by a 1798 ad, and was a selectman and a representative to the Connecticut Assembly.

Aaron’s great-grandson Sherman Abernethy Bradley came to Milwaukee in the late 1850s, appearing in public records first in the 1857-1858 Milwaukee Directory, listed as a carpenter. He later launched the Badger Pump Company of which he was the proprietor, pumps in those days made of wood. Then for a time he was co-owner of the Brockhaus & Bradley planing mill, and continued in the timber and lumber business throughout his life. One of Sherman’s grandsons was a banker and while his two great-grandsons had fine careers, one as an attorney and the other as an executive of the Wisconsin Telephone Company. Two of his great-great-granddaughters have had careers in public relations.

My Hachez ancestors came to New Holstein, Wisconsin, in 1854 from Bremen, Germany, where men of the Hachez family had been merchants for several generations. Even today the Hachez chocolate factory is an important feature of the City of Bremen. Ferdinand Hermann Hachez at first pursued farming as that was the natural occupation in New Holstein, a rural area between Lake Winnebago and Lake Michigan. He served as president of the German Agricultural Society there in 1867.

However, in 1870, Ferdinand Hachez Sr. and several other New Holstein men founded the Mutual Hail Insurance Company of Wisconsin and he became an insurance salesman. His son Ferdinand Hachez saw an opportunity when the railroad came to New Holstein in 1872. He left farming and for two decades operated the Farmer’s and Mechanics Saloon at the east end of the village of New Holstein, not far from the railroad station. Later, when grandchildren were born, he and wife Elise Boie Hachez returned to farming.

I found it fascinating to realize that some of my ancestors truly were “builders of Milwaukee,” my hometown. Many more stories of ancestors’ occupations await next year’s Labor Day for the telling. Until then:

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Family Found in 2 of 75

When the  Milwaukee County Historical Society celebrated its 75th Anniversary in 2010, the staff chose 75 items from the collections that they considered “both unique and enlightening” and told a story about Milwaukee County’s past or about the Historical Society. Imagine my surprise recently on discovering that 2 of the 75 items have a direct connection to my own ancestors.

First, you can view the entire collection of 75 items ranging from a red A. O. Smith Flyer to Christopher Bach’s violin to Increase Lapham’s bookcase to Arthur McArthur’s desk to Old Settlers Club albums. These items and collections help illuminate Milwaukee’s history and people. Each is worth exploring to learn more.

Second, as noted, 2 of the 75 items have family connections.

One consists of a pair of  daguerreotypes featuring Byron Kilbourn, one of Milwaukee’s founders, and his wife  Henrietta. The main connection is that these pictures for some years were on display at the Benjamin Church House or Kilbourntown house built by my ancestor Benjamin Church and now a museum. Another connection is that Benjamin was an early Milwaukee settler, arriving in 1835 and living in Kilbourntown on the west side of the Milwaukee River. He was a political associate of Kilbourn’s in early Milwaukee.

The other is the William George Bruce Collection featuring family chronicles from 1916 to 1948. A Milwaukee publisher, historian and civic leader, William George Bruce was the oldest brother of my great-grandfather Martin P. Bruce.

These two members of my extended family are featured in a recent blog post I did on writing and posting biographical sketches on Wikipedia about selected ancestors.

There are other family connections to 75 items in the anniversary collection, but they less specific. Benjamin Church was a member of the Old Settlers Club and may be mentioned in one or more of the Old Settlers Club Albums while several family members have documents in the collection of Naturalization Papers.

When working on your family history, keep a look out for materials from the historical society where they lived. You too may be pleasantly surprised!

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