Within the past few years FamilySearch has made so many new collections available to the armchair genealogy researcher that it is just astounding! For those of you with Upstate New York ancestors (as well as anywhere else for that matter,) it has never been easier to look at images of original source documents that will allow you to find answers without having to rattle the bones of you deceased ancestors.
In the past few months I have been so busy going back and filling in all of that delicious data that is held in the 1855, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915 and 1925 New York State Census returns, which are all very nicely indexed on the LDS site. The 1865 NYS Census is there but it is not indexed (yet) however you may browse the communities where your ancestors lived and find them that way.
Lately I have been using Wills, Administrations, Guardianships and other official court records that are available online at FamilySearch. I have always recommended going to the county of record and obtaining photocopies of the “complete” file packet for any ancestor’s estate records as they will give you some of the best answers or clues to your hardest research problems. Actually I would still recommend this as not all of the estate files were filmed by LDS.
Abel HOWARD (c1770-1844) was my mother’s great great grandfather, born in Hebron, Connecticut and as an infant moved to Lyme, New Hampshire, ending up in the Cambridge, Greenwich and Jackson areas of Washington County, New York where he and his wife Hepsabeth (CURTIS) HOWARD (c1773-aft 1855) raised a large family of twelve children all of whom grew to adulthood and most had issue.
Abel HOWARD is buried in Battenville, a hamlet that is mostly in the town of Greenwich, but immediately across the river the cemetery is actually located in the town of Jackson. This old cemetery was the burying ground for local families and it at one time surrounded the church building of a Reformed Dutch Church that most likely was of the Presbyterian bent as many in the community were of Scotch descendancy. One thing that I need to do is to find the exact history of this church, its pastors and any possible church records that might exist. I have tried sporadically to work on this but have never nailed anything down on this project yet.
Abel HOWARD is found on the 1800 and 1810 federal census in Cambridge, Washington County, NY. He is listed in Jackson, Washington Co. in 1820, and Greenwich in the 1825 New York State census, he is also in Greenwich on the 1830 and 1840 census. All of these listings could have been in almost exactly the same place or within a mile or so from where he is buried. So for 40 years he is found on many census returns, however not once have we ever located him on any other type of document.
Abel HOWARD is not found on any deeds or land records of any type that we have ever found. I have gone so far as to extract five names on each side of him on each census listing and looked up the deeds or land records of all of those people in the hopes of finding Abel’s name shown in a survey description as a bordering property owner or occupant. No such luck.
Abel was never in any newspaper article that we have found, he never sued anyone, never was sued, and other than several family letters that we have that mention him or were written to him from the batch of kids that mostly went west, we have never found anything more about our Abel HOWARD.
As I have been at this for about 40 years and Miss Harriet Howard and her genealogist uncle Clarence HOWARD worked on him for about fifty years before I started, it is fair to say that we have beat many bushes with no positive results.
So here is my theory. Abel HOWARD left Lyme, New Hampshire as a young man and took the road up over the mountains out of Thetford, Vermont and came down into the Rutland, VT. area (which was really the only route that he could have taken at that time period,) and somehow or other worked his way down into Washington County, NY. This would be a fairly typical migration route.
My theory continues that he met Hepsabeth CURTIS somewhere along the way, probably in the Greenwich area, got married and started having kids. If he was not a farmer, then the only thing that would likely have sustained a large family such as his was to have a solid job in one of the many mills on the Battenkill River that came down through this area. Some mills are still in existence today in this community.
My lifelong research on the early “Families of the Old Cambridge District” led me to discover that the primary mills in the Battenville area were owned or operated by the McLEAN family and Daniel ANTHONY, the father of Susan B. ANTHONY (1820-1844.) Susan would have known my Abel HOWARD, seems to me.
This leads me to the reason for this blog post. By reading the will of Hon. John McLEAN of Jackson, it tells a lot about his immediate family and also breaks down some of the distribution of the mill property and equipment, that some day may lead me to some other type of business records somewhere that will help with our Abel HOWARD research. Surely Abel must have lived in a mill workers tenant house that the good Judge McLEAN owned, or so I would like to think.
So what follows is a demonstration of the types of things that you will find when you transcribe estate records and why it is so important to use them in your genealogy pursuit. Remember the McLEANs are not my kin, or not that I know of, but this sort of thing helps to build a better picture of the time period.
Folks, I have had to split this post into two parts as it is stopping my blog from working properly. I hope that it will start working well for everyone now. This post is continued in part 2.