The Washerwoman’s Genes

September 27, 2006

Oldest Vital Record

Filed under: Story — by WWG @ 7:55 am

Not long ago I sifted out of an on-line site that indexes marriages in New York City what seemed to be the name of my great-great grandmother—my first Josie. From the census, I knew that Josie and Walter’s first son was born about 1877, and so when I saw her listed as bride in Kings in 1876, I sent for the certificate. I believe it is my oldest vital record: December 12, 1876.

Much information was familiar: Josephine’s parents, with her mother’s name spelled “Jeannette.” The bride’s birthplace is given as “Rondout.” In all of the censuses, the family is recorded in Esopus. The town of Rondout is across the creek, and while it once was independent, it is now within the city of Kingston. In the 1870 census, Jeannette and family are recorded as living in Esopus with Rondout as the post office. So was Josie born across the creek in Rondout, perhaps at a hospital or other facility, or was she born at home, in what we now know as Port Ewen but which then was referred to as Rondout? Information makes questions.

At the time of her marriage,the document says, Josie lives on Huntington Street in Brooklyn. This address rang a bell: when I checked my records, I found the families of Josie’s brother E. James Burger and father-in-law John D. Quimby living on Huntington in 1878 (in the Lain Directory). The house numbers are different, but close, and it is possible that street renumbering accounts for that. The address is near the Gowanus canal, appropriate for two seamen.

Husband Walter’s address at this time is on Sackett Street—another name that ties into my family. Sackett is further north, and close to Degraw, which is where Josie and Walter will live after marriage. Also, in the 1897 Lain Directory, the youngest son of Josie’s brother E. James will live with his family on Sackett Street, not at the same address but nearby.

Walter puts down on the marriage certificate that he is an engraver. My other records indicate that early on he was a foreman in a mill—perhaps the mill had to do with metal work. (Later he becomes a policeman, but dies of lung disease—suggesting that perhaps the mill work was not the healthiest thing for him.)

The prize from this document is the names of Walter’s parents. Davis is such a common name, and I hadn’t been able to trace Walter’s origins. It turns out his father was William—not much help there. But his mother’s name! Kesiah Perry. I was so astounded to see this name. So completely unknown, so foreign, yet now mine. I am part Perry. And Kesiah—she is the equivalent to Jeannette, a great-great grandmother. My great-great-grandmother. One of the eight women in that generation whose genes mix in me.


1 Comment »

  1. Dear Washerwoman,
    I have been researching a line of John Duffield Quimbys in
    Marlborough, Ulster Co, and then across the river in Dutchess Co.
    Sometimes the D looks like an L on the census. If you will
    email me directly, we can exchange info. Quimby is not my direct
    line, but the first John was the son of a Mary Knowlton and a
    James Quimby (son of Levi). Mary’s aunt was Jerusha Knowlton who
    married John Duffield who apparently helped his inlaws.

    Comment by elizabeth — November 24, 2006 @ 3:15 pm |Reply

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