The Washerwoman’s Genes

Cornelius H. Burger

Cornelius Burger was born April 25, 1812, in Esopus, according to his death certificate: aged 86 years, 10 months and 29 days at his death on February 23, 1899. He was the son of Zacharias Burger and Elizabeth Winfield. Although I have found some baptismal records for children of this couple in church records (Dutch Reformed), Zach and Elizabeth are not found after 1800. However, in the cemetery where Zach and Liz are buried, the stone of Edgar Burger, son of Cornelius, deceased at six months in 1852, is just to their left, suggesting he was their grandson. Most convincingly, though, is Zachariah’s Revolutionary War pension file. There, Cornelius H. is listed along with his many other children.

Cornelius first shows up in records in the 1840 census, which collects only head of household; family members are represented by slashes under age and sex. The Cornelius Burger family appears on page 9 of 23 census pages for Esopus, NY. There’s one male, age 30 to 40, presumably him. He would have been 38 at that time. There are three young boys under 5. One female, between 20 and 30: that would be Jeannette Quimby, b. 1817, age 23.

The census in 1850 gives us more: names and ages of everyone in the household. We learn the names of the three boys born before 1840: Benjamin, b. about 1837, Josiah, b. 1838, and George, b. about 1839. Then more children: Elisha J, b. 1841; Eliza C?, b. 1844, Jane H? b. 1846, Richard. B. 1848, and Rachel S., b. within the year. The census was taken in July, and ages not birth years are reported, so all birth dates could be off by half a year.

I learn Cornelius’s occupation for the first time: “Mason.” His real estate property value is $300. Not the highest on the page, not the lowest. He was born in NY. That I knew.

The New York State census for 1855 lists everyone by initials. Cornelius is C.H., mason. This census is the last in which we find Cornelius and Jeannette together. But it’s only a piece of paper, a mere bookmark in their lives that go on together for a few more years:

In 1852, Josephine is born, in 1856, William R., according to the 1860 census, as well as later censuses and the death certificates I have acquired.

In 1854, Cornelius Burger’s land is mentioned in a land sale occurring in St. Remy, an area within the larger town of Esopus at that time, but inland, to the west along the Rondout Creek: Eddyville and Rifton are two other points along the Rondout in that vicinity.

“Received from Warren Pierce to Jonas Van Aken, Con $275 Re SE corner of small wood land from Cornelius Burger to Pierce 09 Mar, 1854, filed L88 10 March 1854.” The location was noted to be from “stake on East side of road from Eddyville to Arnolds’ factory (Rifton) to several other points marked by surveyor’s notations (n883; s14w; s88w, n14e . . .)

In the late 1850s, there is upheaval in the Burger household. Jeannette is nearing 40; her oldest children are getting ready to leave.

But it’s Cornelius who goes. In 1860, he’s living in New Paltz, to the south a bit, with a new wife, Hannah J. She’s 19. He’s listed as a laborer, with $100 worth of property. A sibling (I’m guessing) of Hannah’s lives with them: Harriet (?) Benjamin, age 6, listed as a male. Benjamin is Hannah’s original surname. I can find her back in 1850, a girl of 10, with her parents Eli and Mary Ann and many other siblings, in Marbletown, another area of Esopus.

By 1870, Cornelius and Hannah are living in Plattekill. He’s a stone mason once again. They have children; Mary Ann is ten, suggesting Hannah was pregnant in 1860, and that perhaps her sibling was with her as a help. There’s also Emma, 6, Alida, 2, and Minnie, 1.

Ten years pass, and there is more upheaval. In 1880, Cornelius and his second wife are no longer together. He’s in Fallsburgh, a town to the southwest of Esopus, inland, along the route of the canals that went south to Pennsylvania, Once part of Ulster County, Fallsburgh is now within the newer county of Sullivan.

At age 67, he’s a “servant” working as a “farm laborer” in the household of farmer Darius Depuy (wife Susan A, sons Ira and Darius, ages 15 and 12, and daughters Hattie, Jona, and Grace, all under age seven). Everyone in the area is a farmer.

It takes some doing to find Hannah J. Burger in 1880. She turns up back in New Platz as “Jane,” age 40, with daughter “Jennie,” age 17 (who must be Emma J.), both working as servants in the household of Henryson Bancher, a 48-year-old immigrant of unspecified occupation, born in Cassell, presumably Germany, and his wife Mary, b. N.H. It’s a large household, four daughters, three adults “teaching,” and a male servant as well.

Cornelius’ first wife Jeannette dies in in the early 1880s, still in the same house in Port Ewen, Esopus, where they had their family.

Cornelius fades from view. There is no extant 1890 census. He lives almost two decades more. He dies, just before 1900, of “exhaustion” and “senility,” in the home of his daughter Mary and his son-in-law, Moses.

His grave is in the New Paltz Rural Cemetery. He is not alone: Hannah is there, buried more than ten years later. Many of their daughters are there, in the plot, or in a nearby one, with their husbands; Jennie Burger, with George W. Jones, Alida Burger with Charles Decker, and Mary M. with Moses Schoonmaker.

Hannah makes the 1900 census, indexed as Hannah J. “Bunce,” and listed as “grandmother” in Moses and Mary’s household in New Paltz. In 1910, she’s still there, now identified as “Jane Berger,” mother-in-law, soon to pass on.

That’s Cornelius’s life, such as we know it.



  1. I am in the midst of researching my family roots on I couldn’t help but notice similarities in the names in your post: My great great great grandfather’s name was William Clark Winfield Burger (born in Esopus, NY). I noticed that Cornelius wife’s maiden name was Winfield. Do you know if this is just a coincidence?

    Also, you mentioned an Eliza C. If this is the same person that is in my family, it would be Eliza Catherine Burger, William C.W. Burger’s wife (perhaps second).

    Right. Before I go rambling on any farther, I will end it here. Maybe you can bring some clarity. If not, we’ve both been made witness to some very curious similarities.

    Comment by Harry SCOTT — May 1, 2010 @ 9:29 pm |Reply

    • If you’ve come across any, I would like to get any info on William Clark Winfield Burger, my 4th great grandfather. His daughter Sarah Catharine married John L. Pough.

      Comment by Dot — April 9, 2013 @ 7:50 pm |Reply

  2. I have discovered the obituary of George H. Burger (Corporal in Confederate service), born in NY abt 1840. He was executed 4 Oct 1862 on Sullivan’s Island, SC. He had just turned 21. The newspaper gave an account of his trial for dessertion and also stated his parents still lived in the Rondout, NY area. The newspaper gives great detail of this event even stating where he was buried. Could this be the George on your census above? I wonder if the paper up there would have something about this! I am researching a cemetery on the island and hope this is where George H. Burger is buried.

    Comment by Linda Smith — June 8, 2010 @ 11:06 pm |Reply

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