The Washerwoman’s Genes

June 20, 2007

Revision Alert

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 7:52 pm

I’ve just added a new page (Brklyn101) to provide more details and pictures of my Brooklyn trip. And I’ve written some more on the Strickly page, having made some discoveries recently about my paternal grandfather’s family.


February 2, 2007

Washboard: My Captains

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 11:40 am

The bits I found in the Brooklyn Eagle Online about my great-great-uncles, Captains Josiah and James, piqued my interest in them, and reading George Matteson’s Tugboats of New York helped me feel closer to the lives they lived. Shipping is a manifestly physical occupation, and Matteson unpretentiously and without melodrama conveys the arduousness and extremity of the work involved. I am so struck by the concert of humanity that brought about the operation of the harbor, by the cooperativeness and dedication to the perfection of the routine, by the spare poetry of a crew working silently for an hour or more under the direction of bells and hand signals.

I think of my father, the grand-nephew of James and Josiah, who also was an entrepreneur and a master, not of marine trades, but in building. He had every skill necessary for building, from drafting to roofing and everything in between. He had the physical strength of a laborer, the hands of a craftsman, and the nuanced know-how of the long practitioner.

I remember him once telling me, in showing me how to make something (I no longer remember what), that there were three sides to a line: the right side, the left side, and the middle, and you had to decide where you were going to cut, and stick to it. That bit of instruction has stayed with me, as an example of the esoteric-practical often obscured by the humbleness of the tasks involved.

I savor these terms that would have been daily vocabulary of James and Josiah: hawser, shifting, bitts, capstan, catenary, manila rope.

Reading Tugboats of New York drove me back on the web to find out more, if possible, about the Brooklyn waterfront. I thought I had milked out all there was online about my captains, but when I started searching web-wide I came across some additional information.

Selections from the Nautical Gazette, a source frequently cited by Matteson, are online through the Tugboat Enthusiasts of the Americas, and Capt. James comes up several times.

On Nov. 26, 1891, his boat is listed as “Up for inspection:” EDWARD ANNAN, E. J. Burger, of Brooklyn.

On November 1, 1906, the boat is listed again: “Atlantic Docks have a large number of tugs hauled up overnight awaiting good weather. They are . . . Also the tugs ANNIE R. WOOD, CASTOR, EDWARD ANNAN, HENRY D. McCORD . . .”

In April 25, 1907, the Gazette again reports, “Laid up at the Atlantic Basin: Capt. Burger’s EDWARD ANNAN, Carroll Bros. SEVEN BROTHERS, and Peter Cahill’s O. L. HALENBECK.”

Finally, on May 23 of that same year, when Elisha James would have been age 66, the Gazette reports: “Capt. James Burger has retired, selling his tug EDWARD ANNAN to his former agent, Wayne Knight, Jr.” By the 1910 census, James and Elsie are living in Esopus, on his “own income.”

So, James did indeed raise the tug after its sinking at its pier in 1898 and returned it to duty, Matteson’s reports of scant profitable work for tugs notwithstanding. (There is, in these transcriptions at least, no mention of the sinking.) Capt. James worked the tug for almost ten more years.

One more note about the EDWARD ANNAN: The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum has on its site a list of all the boats that ever worked the lake and the canal linking it to the Hudson, and a boat called the Edward Annan is on it. A researcher upstate has informed me, however, that this Edward Annan was a canal boat with a distinct history of ownership from my tugboat. He provided me with some instructions on how to trace my boat at the National Archives. I am going to ask him, though, about the name. Is there a particular reason why these boats are named after this man?

September 29, 2006

Thoughts from July: State Census Revelations

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 9:51 am

I have made so many assumptions–so many mistakes–about Jannette. Instead of identifying her, putting some flesh on her bones with all this research, it turns out I didn’t know her at all.

I have complained of my uncertainty about what she was called, but I have been certain of one thing: it began with a “J.”

I haven’t been able to identify her family of origin. I have searched throughout the records of Ulster for Quimbys who might be her relatives. The Burgers were rooted firmly in Ulster, until the grown children migrated to Brooklyn.

On Hurley Stone House Day (in July), I spent my first two hours in the Genealogical Society, where the historican handed me the extant New York State censuses for nineteenth-century Esopus: 1855, 1865, and 1875. They are hard to come by and haven’t been indexed, meaning one must page through any towns of interest. But Florence herself has transcribed and indexed Esopus, surely saving me tons of work.

The state censuses are terse, but the data is there. In 1855, everyone goes by initials; so the entry begins, “Burger, CH 42 mason.” His wife is initial “G” not “J.” Her birthplace is Sullivan County—not Ulster at all. In fact, the two older children—“B” (for Benjamin) and “J” (for Josiah) are born in Sullivan also. The third is born in Ulster. For each “alien,” a length of residency is given. There seems to be a mix-up, in that B. is said to have resided in Ulster the longest, longer than his mother. What makes sense is if she has resided in Ulster the 19 years attributed to him, and he sixteen, and J. fifteen. This would put the family relocating back to Ulster in about 1839, in time for George’s birth.

In 1865, the head of household is “Genetta.” Perhaps, she did spell her name with a G, and the ”Genet” on her tombstone is more correct than not. Again, it confirms: “bSull.” It says she’s “md”–since Cornelius has remarried, this may be disingenuous, in the least. But it does suggest that the notation “D” on the 1880 census is a red herring. Then, “11 ch.” I knew of ten: those that lived to show up in the censuses. But I did discover the infant twin brother of Josephine who is buried in Terpenning Ground.

In 1875, the family head is called “Jennet.” Here she is listed as “wid.” For the third time, it indicates she is “bSull.” Only “Wm” is at home; he’s a “boatmHdsR. Here we learn that the house they live in is “frame,” that is, a house framed with wood beams and covered by boards; the census reports that most others in the area are also frame, but there are also “brick,” “concrete,” or “stone” houses. Ironic—the stone mason’s family lived in a frame house. By examining the neighbors, I can see that the family did reside throughout the period in the same neighborhood and thus most likely the same house, going back to Cornelius’ time.

Sullivan County: I know there’s a Fallsburg connection. Cornelius is living there in 1880. Some of the adult children reside there briefly, in retirement. Is that the place where Genet was born?

Genet: she is buried with that name. Perhaps I should call her by it.*

*It’s now September and I know her will was filed, a few weeks after her death, with the name Jennet.

July 19, 2006

Washboard: Death of CHB

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 7:27 pm

Months ago, I requested two death certificates from New York State, having a hunch I might not find them in local jurisdictions. I had begun to despair that the state was a black hole for archive searches. Then, at last, my SASE appeared, and it wasn’t flat. Inside, a form indicated that one search—for the record of Jannette Quimby Burger—was fruitless, but a second had yielded a document: the death certificate of Cornelius H. Burger.

He died in New Paltz, in the home of Moses Schoon, his son-in-law, on February 23, 1899. This indicates that, at the end, at least, he had returned from Fallsburg, where, in 1880, he had lived on the Darius Depuy farm as a laborer, and that he had been reunited with Hannah, his second wife. The 1900 census puts her in the home of her daughter Mary and husband Moses in New Paltz.

The chief cause of death is listed as exhaustion; the contributing cause is senility. Cornelius was 86 years, 10 months, 29 days, putting his birthday at April 25, 1812. The certificate also reports some well-known facts: he was a stonemason and was born in Esopus. His parents are listed as unknown. I would have enjoyed a verification of Zachariah and Elizabeth as his parents, but presumably Moses was the informant, and he didn’t have a clue.

The undertaker is T. J. Pine and Son, of New Paltz.

June 27, 2006

Washboard: Tidbits from the New York State Censuses

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 8:56 pm

1855: Son George H makes an appearance. He is in the federal censuses for 1840 and 1850, but he is the only child missing in 1860, the first year Cornelius is absent from the family. Now I know George was still in residence in 1855. In 1865, there is a married George W. in Esopus District 1, but he is aged 30 and born in Washington DC. Jannette’s George would be about 25-27. I still don’t know what happened to him by 1860.

1865: Genetta has had 11 children, according to this census. Only ten lived to be counted in a census, though: Benjamin, Josiah, George, Elisha, Eliza, Jane, Richard, Rachel, Josephine and William, and for a long time I thought that was all. Who wouldn’t? Isn’t ten enough? The eleventh died in infancy: Josephine’s twin, who lies in a grave in Terpenning Family Ground next to his grandparents Zachariah and Elizabeth. He died after six months. Eleven, imagine. Raised in the country, they thrived and swarmed to Brooklyn.

1865: “Genetta” is head of household, and listed as “md.” In 1875 “Jennet” is listed as “wid.” The explanation: the NYS censuses do not have a means of specifying “div.” I got a hold of the blank forms.

1875: Jennet’s house is listed as “frame,” value $800. Other houses in the area are worth $2000, $1500, $1000, $3000. Most are frame; one or two are brick.

Finally, by comparing the neighbors in the three censuses, I can tell the family lived in the same neighborhood for the thirty years. Apparently Cornelius and Jannette raised their nine kids in a little house on the Turnpike, a frame house. Like a shoemaker whose kids have no shoes, stone mason Cornelius had a wooden house.

Washboard: County of Origin for Jannette

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 6:11 pm

Details in the 1855 New York census entry for Burger, C H (this census uses initials instead of first names), give me pause. Wife “G” (Jannette) is said to be born in Sullivan County and a resident of Ulster for sixteen years. B (Benjamin) is said to have been born in Sullivan but to have resided in Ulster for all of his nineteen years. These two facts are incompatible, unless Jannette remained in Sullivan while infant Ben and father Cornelius lived in Ulster, rather unlikely. Then, son J A, (Josiah A.), is also said to be born in Sullivan, but resident of Ulster for only 14 of his 16 years. The rest of the children, starting with G H, for George H., are all born in Ulster.

I make of this that Jannette and Cornelius resided in Sullivan and had their first two children there. It is either a mistake or misreading that Benjamin has resided in Ulster all his life. If Jannette moved to Ulster sixteen years before the census, that puts them in Sullivan until 1839, possibly late 1838. Undoubtedly they were married there.

But where in Sullivan County? The town of Fallsburgh keeps coming up. Cornelius lives there, apart from his second family, in 1880. Also, Elisha James’s wife Elsie, of the same surname as Jannette, lives there apart from her husband and older son, also in 1880.

At this point it looks to me that Cornelius goes to live with the Darius Depuy family in Fallsburgh because his sister Rachel or his cousin Rachel (daughter of Zachariah’s brother William C) married into the Depuy family. Darius Depuy is that Rachel’s grandson. How long he remained there is unknown. I do know now that he was back in New Paltz at the time of his death.*

In 1880, Elsie Q. B. lives with the James Gardners in Fallsburg and is a sister-in-law of the head of household in 1880. The wife, Celia L., would then be her sister.

Later, in 1920, after her husband E. James has died, Elsie and son E. James go to live in Fallsburg again, on the “Centerville Road.”

Mamakating, Sullivan County, is another possibility. I have found Elsie’s father, John D. Q. in 1850, living there with Elsie, age 1, and Cecilia, age 4, and wife Harriet L. He is a boat builder, age 26, and Harriet is 22.. This is clearly Elsie’s birth family. I cannot find them in 1860, however. By 1870, her father and mother are living in Brooklyn.

I need to take another look at the censuses for Fallsburgh and surrounding area. And, perhaps I need another go at church records from LDS, concentrating on Sullivan county. (Originally, Sullivan was part of Ulster County, until, I believe, 1809.)

*As per his death certificate, issued from New Paltz in 1899.

Washboard: Facts do a wild dance

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 4:14 pm

Jannette’s birth was in Milton, Ulster County, New York, according to Elsie, wife of Jannette’s son Elisha James, who died in 1912. Elsie, a non-blood-relative, would not be a particularly reliable informant—although women do tend to be more attentive to such details than men. (Jannette’s grandson, son of William, put down her last name as Quimbo on his father’s death certificate.) Also, Elsie shared the same last name: I haven’t figured out this mystery but her father may have been a cousin (hopefully not a brother!) of her mother-in-law. Elsie therefore may have been an especially reliable informant—or not, if she just put down Jannette’s birthplace as the same as her husband without knowing if it were so.

Milton, a hamlet in the town of Marlborough, Ulster County, is a place where there were Quimby families in the early 1800s, so it is a plausible birthplace. The death certificate mistakenly sent me by NYC when I requested that of Elsie’s father, John D.,–was for a John L., born in Marlborough also (and therefore possibly a relative, or even perhaps my man, father of Elsie, if my notion of his middle initial is incorrect.)

Here’s the new problem. The New York State censuses I just read all take information on birthplace county in New York. In all three, Jannette’s birthplace is Sullivan County! I have to presume this is correct: it’s her self-report over three decades. How to reconcile it with Elsie’s report? I don’t know. Possibly, Jannette was born in Sullivan County but the family soon moved to Milton. Or, she was adopted by the Milton family from her original one, a situation which, of course, puts her last name and her heritage in question.

Or, Elsie was just wrong.

June 15, 2006

Washboard: Quimbys Married by Esq.

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 11:42 am

The marriage records of Ulster County 1847-1850 are informative about the customs of the time. They consist of the date, the two persons’ names and sometimes their ages, their residence, and the name of the marrying official. In many cases, this latter is a “Rev.” But sometimes, and usually in the case of the few Burgers noted, the official is a man with “Esq.” after his name: presumably a justice of the peace. Such marriages would not be found, in all likelihood, in the church records of the time. Such non-church marriages were quite common, if these records from Ulster are typical:

Town of Marlborough:
Dec. 25 Charles Quimby 28 Milton by ___ Lake, Esq. of Lloyd
Maria Muldoon 33 Milton

This item was interesting especially since John L. Quimby, who is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn and who may or may not be the John “D.” Quimby who is the father-in-law of E. James Burger (son of Cornelius and Jannette and older brother of my g-grandmother Josephine), was born in Milton, NY. I recently acquired his death certificate from Brooklyn. Milton is a hamlet on the Hudson, somewhat north and east of Marlborough town center and jurisdictionally within Marlborough today.

This Charles Quimby would have been born in 1820, which puts him the right age to be a brother of the John Quimby I seek.

(Weirdly, this same couple is reported married in the records of the town of Lloyd on December 24. The groom’s name is there listed as “Quinbly” and Maria is lised as Mary. It is possible that the officiating justice, here noted as “Stephen” Lake, Esq., reported the marriage to the clerk in his town, with some errors in the details, and it was recorded there as well as in Marlborough. Never having encountered this couple before, I am nevertheless pretty sure the guy’s name was Quimby not Quinbly.

There is another Quimby marriage reported in the records of Wawarsing:

John Quimby 23 Napanock by Mr. Newman of Ellenville
M. Frantz 24 Napanock

This John Quimby would have been born in 1825 (mine is born in 1823, most likely, from census records). His wife, again from the censuses, is variously Susan or Louisa or Harriet, not “M.” so I don’t think this is him.

Pathos of Infant Death Records

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 11:32 am

Reading the scant Ulster County death and marriage records from 1847 through 1850 was useful, although I found no references to any definite relatives. The records are available in a typed transcription.

The death records contain the date, name of the deceased, age, occupation, and cause of death. On nearly every page were references to infants who either died unnamed or whose names were not recorded. Likewise, there were several instances of children whose last name, incredibly, was not put in the records. The transcriber either writes “no name, ” “infant” or puts in a dash in place of a name, and other omitted information is likewise indicated with a series of dashes.

August 25 “no name” 1 day — — —
December – “no name” 24 days —— inflammation of lungs
December 23 “no name” 4 days — — — malformation of cardus

June 19 “infant” 1 day —- —–

In Hurley, the records contain this notation:

August 19 Twins — —- stillbirth

And in Marbletown, the clerk seems to have skipped surnames:

July 31 Mary 2 . . . whooping cough
Aug 14 Warren 4 . . . . drowned
November 24 Sally Jane 5 . . . Croup
October – Lorenze 3 . . . .Dysintery [sic]

It seems that it was quite possible for a family to have a child which is unnamed at its death a few days or weeks later, or even for a child of some years to die without its full identity being recorded. It seems likely that many of these poor short-lived babes are truly “non-persons,” having had no name, or none of record, having lived the briefest of lives, and possibly having an unmarked grave for a final resting place. Even in the case of older children, it seems possible that their lives were sometimes only barely recorded.

April 21, 2006

1891 Title Page

Filed under: Washboard — by WWG @ 11:45 am

Yesterday I figured out how to get better scans of pages in the microfilm rolls. Up to now, the scans have been near useless: faint, overly gray, un-crisp. I learned I have to lower the brightness about 5 clicks below max, and scan at 200 dpi (the default is 300).


This is the title page of the Hoes transcription of one of my important sources.

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