The Washerwoman’s Genes

April 30, 2007

Surviving Jennet

Filed under: Story — by WWG @ 11:08 am

The “Letters of Administration” for Jennet’s estate indicate she died “intestate.”


The proceedings, in a sense, substitute for a will. All of her survivors are named:


“no husband but six children towit Josiah A. Burger your petitioner, E. J. Burger, William R. Burger, Rachel A. Davis and Josephine Davis, all of the City of Brooklyn, and Richard F Burger residing in the State of Penn.”

Cornelius—though he lives—is not among them. The wording is curious: she has “no husband” rather than is “widowed” or “divorced.” But who knows—perhaps this was standard locution rather than a clue that they are trying not to say “abandoned.”

Missing: First-born Benjamin—whose tombstone, next to his mother’s, indicates he died in 1876, “drowned.”

Missing: George, third-born in 1839, seen in the family in the state census of 1855, gone by the federal of 1860, and missing thereafter. No gravestone located.

Missing: Eliza, born about 1843, last seen at home in 1860, age 17, in “service.”

Missing: Jane, 1846, also seen last at home, and in “service,” in 1860. Possibly found a second time in 1860 in household of “engineer” David Jackson and family in Kingston, NY.

Found: Richard, born 1847, seen at home in 1860, a young boy “at school,” resident in Pennsylvania by 1884. No other records of him; searches of NY and PA censuses for 1870 and 1880 do not find him or any similar persons.

The five Brooklyn Burgers I know of are the family entire—except for the renegade Richard, except for any descendents of the deceased siblings who become hidden within stepfamilies or relocations.

This ad hoc census of the family in 1884 gives clues, or half-clues. Between leaving the family and 1884, George, Eliza and Jane are dead, or living. It leaves me searching back from Jennet’s death for graves, certainly, but also for the crumbs left by their brief lives.


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