Ancestry’s DNA Communities: What Links my Dad to New Zealand?

For the most part the DNA tests my blood relatives and in-laws have taken have been consistent with our paper trail.  The current ethnicity estimates make sense, and everyone seems to match a lot of people they should match if our research is correct.  One line did have to be adjusted from an early New England family to an interesting Scottish family, but I got over it.

Besides the ethnicities, the geographical subgroupings and settler communities my relatives have been linked to also make sense.    All except for one:  I was surprised that my Dad was placed in “British New Zealand Settlers”.   As far as I knew his only connection to New Zealand was that Henry William Mackereth (1866-1933), a second cousin three times removed, sailed for Australia in 1907 and was living in New Zealand by 1914.  How could my Dad possibly have enough genetic similarities to New Zealand settlers for this community to pop up?

I looked at the three “Featured Matches” Ancestry provides for this community–all were fourth cousin matches who are somehow also related to British settlers in New Zealand.  Two live in the United States and one in England, but all three have ancestors from the area around Tralee in County Kerry, Ireland, and I am sure they are related in some way to my Dad’s great grandmother Mary Jane McCarthy, born in Blennerville near Tralee in 1850.

Did a large number of Kerrymen settle in New Zealand, so that people with some of the same DNA segments as my Dad are over there today?  Although it cost four times as much to sail to New Zealand as to America, it turns out that many did, some via assisted emigration programs.

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Advertisement from the Tralee Chronicle and Killarney Echo 14 May 1875, found on

According to Te Ara, the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, large numbers of Irish arrived in New Zealand between 1845 and 1900, with the heaviest influx during the 1870s and 1880s.  Over half a million New Zealanders living today have Irish ancestry.

Among the earlier arrivals were soldiers brought in to fight in the New Zealand Wars (1845-1872), and those who came to mine gold discovered at Otago (1861) and on the West Coast (1864).  Large numbers from Counties Kerry and Cork eventually settled on the West Coast, partly through chain migration, where earlier arrivals later sponsored their relatives’ immigration.  And some of these must be related to my Dad in some way.

More Salem Witchcraft Connections: Ambrose Gale and Charity (Gale) Pitman

When I wrote about my several direct ancestors who were involved in the Salem witchcraft trials of 1692, I neglected to include two of my mother’s ancestors:  Ambrose Gale (c. 1631-1708), a fisherman of Marblehead, Massachusetts, and his daughter Charity (Gale) Pitman (1664-1739).  Charity was a young widow at the time, her seafaring husband John Pitman having died in Barbados the previous year.  Both Ambrose and Charity testified against Wilmot Redd, a fisherman’s wife who, like some of the other victims, was not very well-liked.


Summary of Charity’s testimony of 14 Sep 1692, Salem Witchcraft Papers No. 114.10 available on the Salem Witch Trials Documentary Archive and Transcription Project website of the University of Virginia.

Charity deposed that five years earlier a Mrs. Syms suspected that Wilmot Redd’s servant girl Martha Laurence had stolen some linen from her.  Charity accompanied Mrs. Syms when she went to Wilmot’s house to demand the return of the linen.  The two argued about the matter, with Mrs. Syms finally threatening to involve the authorities.  Wilmot then cursed her, saying she wished that Mrs. Syms “might never mingere [urinate], nor cacare [defecate]” again.  Shortly after this incident Mrs. Syms did become constipated.  Charity’s father’s testimony merely confirmed that Mrs. Syms was so afflicted after the argument with Wilmot Redd.

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Map of Marblehead in 1700 with green dots on Ambrose Gale’s property, from The Essex Antiquarian Vol. 13, p. 135 available on

This is similar to other “cursings” recounted in the Witch Trial testimony, where someone said something like “I hope your cow dies” and then the cow did die, and this was then considered proof or at least strong evidence that the curser had used witchcraft to make their wish come true.  A cow dying would likely be mere coincidence, but this constipation may have been a psychosomatic response to the power of suggestion.

Though sadly Wilmot Redd was executed, Charity and Ambrose’s testimony was only the icing on the cake of her conviction.  The so-called “afflicted girls” had already accused her and displayed the usual fits and theatrics when she was examined in court back in May, so her fate was probably already sealed.  Formal depositions against her survive from Mary Walcott, Mary Warren, Ann Putnam and Elizabeth Hubbard, all describing how Wilmot Redd or her apparition had grievously tormented them.

Ambrose Gale’s house, built about 1663, still stands in Marblehead.  Wilmot Redd was exonerated by the Massachusetts legislature in 2001.


Wilmot Redd Memorial.  Photo by Keitei via Wikimedia Commons.


Bootstrapping in British Genealogy: Finding the Birth Name of Martha (Whitwham) (Smith) Peace

My relative James Peace’s first wife Alice Jackson died in 1869 after 31 years of marriage.  On 15 Mar 1871 he married again, to a woman named Martha Smith, at High Street Chapel in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, a Methodist New Connexion church.  (The New Connexion Methodists split from the Wesleyan Methodists in 1797, believing that Wesleyan ministers had been given too much authority over the laity.)

Normally in this period both the church and civil marriage records would provide the same significant information about the bride and groom, including their marital status and the names and professions of their fathers.  I don’t know what the civil record for this marriage looks like as I would have to order it and pay several pounds for it, but this is what the church record looks like:

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The marriage of James Peace and Martha Smith, found on

I have never seen a more incomplete record of this type, and we learn only that Martha was then living “near Holmfirth.”  Of course the surname Smith is also unfortunately very common.  So how can we find Martha’s family of origin?  Her birth name would be Smith if she had never married before, but we don’t even know whether she was a spinster or a widow in 1871.   However using the many resources on and this kind of problem can sometimes be solved fairly quickly.


Fulstone from Acre Lane.  Photo by Humphrey Bolton.

We do know more about Martha from her appearances in the 1871 and 1881 censuses as the wife of James Peace:  Both records say she was born about 1820 in Fulstone, Yorkshire.  One very helpful thing about the census of England and Wales beginning in 1851 is that it usually provides a fairly specific place of birth.

Googling it we find that Fulstone is very near Holmfirth mentioned above, and is within the parish of Kirkburton.  If Martha had been baptized as an infant the record would likely be in the parish church, Kirkburton All Hallows, or at a nearby Non-Conformist chapel.  Since many girls named Martha were baptized within the parish of Kirkburton between 1819 and 1821, this information will not be helpful yet.

We can guess that Martha’s surname may have been Smith for some time, either since she was born or since a first or later marriage.  Looking for Martha Smiths born about 1820 in Fulstone in the 1851 and 1861 censuses we find only one, the wife of John Smith, a cordwainer or shoemaker.  This couple lives in Fulstone and the eldest child living with them in 1851 is a son George born about 1840, meaning they likely married about 1839.

Looking for John Smiths who married women named Martha in the West Riding of Yorkshire within a couple of years of 1839 we find cordwainer John Smith marrying Martha Whitwham 26 May 1839 at St. John the Baptist, the parish church in Kirkheaton.  (Kirkheaton adjoins Kirkburton on its northern edge, and the record says that both John and Martha were then living in the village of Dalton within the parish of Kirkheaton.)

Never having seen the name Whitwham and wondering if this could be a mistake, I turned to A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames to find that this is in fact a real name, and that the earliest known bearer was a Richard Whitwham who lived in North Yorkshire in 1412.

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This book is well worth the investment if you have Yorkshire ancestors.

Martha was a spinster and a minor at the time of this marriage, and her father was a clothier named George Whitwham.  John Smith’s father was listed as John Firth Smith, and this will turn out to be his son’s full name as well.

Looking for Martha Whitwhams baptized around 1820 in the Kirkburton area we find one born 8 Jun and baptized 18 Jun 1821 at Kirkburton All Hallows, parents George and Amelia, father’s occupation clothier, address “Lane End, Fulston[e]”.  This birth date makes Martha only 17 at her first marriage, so she would have been a minor as the record indicates.  And when we look at the baptism of George Smith, the firstborn of “John Firth and Martha Smith,” we find that his full name is actually George Whitwham Smith, so he was named for Martha’s father.

Looking for the death of a John Firth Smith between the 1861 census and the 1871 marriage of his widow Martha to James Peace, we find him in the National Burial Index available on  He died age 52 (so born about 1818) and was buried 21 Oct 1870 at Christ Church, New Mill.  (New Mill is a village very near Fulstone.)  Martha lived until 1891 and is buried at Cumberworth St. Nicholas with her second husband James Peace.

I feel confident that the Martha Whitwham who was born at Fulstone in 1821 was the same person who married both John Firth Smith and James Peace, but I will look for further corroborating evidence.

Women Falling off the Radar? Look for Subsequent Marriages

Recently I had been trying to find death records for a couple, immigrants from Galway to Rosendale, Ulster County, New York who are ancestors of a genealogy client.  The husband passed away in 1887 but I could find nothing in the New York Death Index nor in any newspaper or other likely resource for his wife no matter how I spelled their last name, which was Reilly / O’Reilly.  She could have died elsewhere but before trying that angle, I decided to look for a subsequent marriage.

At her husband’s death, Catherine (Lynch) Reilly was approximately 47 and had given birth to 12 children over about 28 years of marriage.  Looking for a Catherine Reilly who married after 1887 in Ulster County, New York in the New York State Marriage Index 1881-1967 on I found an 8 Jun 1891 marriage to a Daniel Murphy in the town of Rosendale.  The index provides only the names of the parties, the date and town, not their ages or marital status or whether this is their first or second marriage, so we don’t know if this is the right Catherine Reilly. now has transcriptions of baptisms and marriages for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York which includes Rosendale.  This database contains a 7 Jun 1892 marriage for a Daniel Murphy and Catherine “Rully” which I think must be the same marriage though it is off by one year and also one day.  Unfortunately this record does not provide any new information except the church, St. Peter’s.

Lynch, Catherine 1900 Census

Daniel Murphy and the likely Catherine (Lynch) (Reilly) Murphy in the 1900 census found on

Looking for this couple in the 1900 U.S. census we find them in Rosendale.  Daniel is age 40 and Catherine is age 56, putting her birth within the range she has given in other records and lining up with her age on the 1867 passenger list on which she appears.  They have been married nine years, putting their wedding about 1891.  The 1900 census also asked women how many children they had had, and Catherine’s answer is the expected 12.  She also says she arrived in the U.S. in 1868, only one year off from the passenger list.

I feel fairly confident that Catherine (Lynch) Reilly married Daniel Murphy, and that she is likely the Catherine Murphy who died in Rosendale 21 Jan 1904.  I have not been able to find a church record for Catherine’s first marriage in Ireland in about 1859, but it would not be likely to name her parents.  However the civil record for this late marriage should provide us with that information, as should her 1904 death certificate, though the marriage data would likely have been provided by Catherine herself so is more reliable evidence.

It is a good idea to look for subsequent marriages for women who have “disappeared” even when their husbands are findable and claiming to be widowed–divorced people often list themselves as widowed, I assume because of the stigma of divorce.

For years I searched for the death of my relative Caroline Isabella Fuller, born 1856 in Dorchester, Mass.  She married Barnstable native Julius Bartlett Brown in 1878, but the 1900 census finds Julius “widowed” and living with his brother.  Naturally I assumed Caroline had died before the 1900 census, though I could never find a record.

Eventually I found her 1888 marriage to another Brown from Cape Cod, South Yarmouth native and railroad brakeman Peleg T.  The record does not indicate her marital status but does say this is her second marriage and provides her parents’ names and her birthplace.  Sadly Peleg died from “traumatic amputation of arm” after a workplace accident in 1909.

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Account of Peleg’s accident and death from the Boston Globe 23 Apr 1909 found on

Still finding no death information for the right Caroline Brown after 1909, I searched for a third marriage.  I found that Caroline married Charles Leander Webster in Provincetown in 1917 and died in 1924–almost a quarter century after her first husband listed himself as a widower–and is buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Dorchester with her second husband Peleg T. Brown.  Her gravestone gives her name as C. I. Brown Webster.


Ancestors–They Were (Sort of) Just Like Us!

There is an American tabloid that has a section in every issue entitled “Stars–They’re Just Like Us!” which consists of pictures of celebrities doing ordinary things–buying groceries, walking the dog, etc.  Researching my ancestors has taught me that people living long ago did quite a few things that most people do today, and that they were in many ways just like us.  Sort of.

They bought groceries and other sundries.  Except for the pig I have bought all of the things on the bill below.

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1831 bill from Rockland County, N.Y. for pork, potatoes, shoes, wine and a pig.

They occasionally got a new mattress, or at least the materials needed to make one.


1795 bill from Albert Oblenis to his newlywed brother Bernard for feathers, tape, fabric, bed cord and delivery to the ferry.

They built homes, remodeled and redecorated, though many were far more involved in the actual construction than most people are today.

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Peter Oblenis’ 1798 letter to his brother Bernard re  plans to build a house.

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1872 bill for fabric, fixtures and tassels for window treatments for the home of John Augustus Bogert (1845-1900).

They gardened, though apparently not in ancient shorts and t-shirts like I do.  Some of the apples listed below were probably intended for the manufacture of the local applejack known as Jersey Lightning.

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Dr. J. J. Haring working in his garden in Tenafly, N.J. 1911.

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Undated list of apple trees in a Bergen County, N.J. orchard.  I have heard of Pippins and Lady Apple but several, esp. Paramus Sweet, must have been local heirloom varieties.

They planned funerals, which used to include the gift of a pair of black kid gloves to the minister and each pallbearer.

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Bill for the funeral of the Rev. Dupuytren Vermilye in 1907.

They grieved.  In the letter below William House struggles with the loss of his wife, Wyntje Oblenis, referring to her as his “best and only Company.”  He is grateful for his three children’s health since “it has pleased [God] to take away their tender mother,” and he has not written sooner because of his great distress.


1797 letter from William House to his brother-in-law Bernard Oblenis, one month after the death of his wife

They advertised when they wanted to sell things.

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They joined groups, some of which still exist.

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Bernard Oblenis’ invitation to the Manhattan Farmers’ Society meeting in 1803.

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Bernard Oblenis Bogert’s 1926 election to the National Geographic Society.


Life in Manhattan 1812-1813: Bernard Oblenis’ Memo Book

Bernard Oblenis’ Memo Book for 1812-1813 lists transactions great and small, and shines light on both his work life and his personal business.  It was made of very thin sheets of paper sewn together, so that each page is 3 3/4″ wide and 4 1/4″ long, and I imagine he kept it handy in his pocket.  Most of the entries pertain to his duties as clerk of the New York City Police Office.


Southern Manhattan in 1811, with a blue dot at each end of Anthony Street, where Bernard Oblenis lived.  The 1810 census shows him in the Fifth Ward, and his house has a low number, so I think it was probably toward the west end of the street.

A good number of his notes record the collection of fines from offenders, and most of these fines were for breaking other people’s windows or, in a few cases, doors!  Why there was so much window breaking going on, and whether or not all of it was intentional I do not know.

Counterfeiting was another fairly common problem at the time, and on 9 Jan 1813 Bernard received $50 on behalf of a bank note counterfeiter named Seneca Page, “being money paid on his bond for leaving the state” of New York.  Page had been apprehended in New York City the previous April, when Bernard had paid two City police officers to escort him to Baltimore for his trial.

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Clipping from the New York Evening Post 11 Apr 1812 found on

In this period postage was paid by the recipient of letters, and Bernard made note of his outlays for incoming mail.  On 15 Dec 1812 he had to pay for letters regarding counterfeit British trade licenses, as well as one from Governor Tompkins pardoning one Moses B. Cowin, though I have not found out what crime he was alleged to have committed.

Naturally supplies for the Police Office are mentioned.  Items Bernard bought for his workplace included “locust watch clubs” or nightsticks, paper, stationery, a receipt book, quills, candles, firewood, fire tongs, a catgut cord for the door pulley (?), and a map of part of Canada.  He also paid a woman named Hannah Gouge to clean the premises, though I have not yet been able to determine exactly where the Police Office was at this time.

Newspaper notices were another common Police Office expense.  Bernard used newspapers to publicize the orders of the Police Magistrates and to advertise goods that were found and presumed to be stolen.  Proof that some things never change, in July of 1812 it was necessary to explain to New Yorkers that playing loud music late at night created a public nuisance.


Bernard’s notice re: loud music in the Columbian, found on GenealogyBank.

Like many people then and now, Bernard had a “side hustle,” taking in boarders at his home at 13 Anthony Street, though I am guessing his wife Gertrude (Sanders) Oblenis managed most of the work of this enterprise.  On 21 Dec 1812 he noted that “Mr. Dick a Teacher came to board and lodge at my house at the rate of $3 50/100 per week including washing.”


Bernard’s license to take in boarders, signed by Dewitt Clinton as mayor.

Bernard also made investments.  In late December 1812 he gave Resolvert Stephens $253.75 for a share in the privateer York-Town, a vessel carrying 20 guns and a crew of 116.  Newspapers reported in early July 1813 that York-Town had recently captured–in some cases recaptured–six prize ships from the British.

Unfortunately York-Town was soon after taken by the enemy, arriving 21 Jul 1813 in Halifax, Nova Scotia under British control.  Bernard noted that he had sold his share to Resolvert on 30 Jun 1813 for $100, and I am not sure whether either of them made money on this risky venture.

Some of the book’s entries show how dependent people were on a network of associates for credit when they were short on cash, writing promissory notes to one another, and sometimes giving their valuables to one another as collateral.  A typical example is Bernard’s note of 12 Feb 1813: “Recd $6 of John J. Deusenberry being part of $15 which he and J. B. Raymond borrowed of me on the [blank space] instant & put in my hands a gold watch as surety…”

There is another of Bernard’s memo books in the pile of documents I just acquired but I haven’t reviewed it yet.  I am glad that he and subsequent generations held on to these jottings which provide glimpses into his daily life in a world long gone.



Emanuel, a Not-Totally-Friendless Spanish Sailor in New York City 1810

On 13 Jun 1810 Bernard Oblenis of the New York City Police Office wrote to New York’s governor, Daniel D. Tompkins.  He asked Tompkins if he would pardon a Spanish sailor named Emanuel, who had arrived in the city aboard the schooner Rosa, recently anchored in New York Harbor but now departed.

Emanuel sat in jail because he had gone to a brothel, where he was involved in a “sudden affray among sailors about a girl.”  Emanuel was indicted for assaulting a man named William Thomas, and for assaulting a man named Abraham Davis “with intent to kill.”

Before setting sail, Rosa‘s captain had come to the Police Office, saying he did not want to leave without Emanuel.  He suggested that if the seaman would plead guilty to both assault charges, he would pay a fine of up to $250 for his release.  The court agreed to a fine of $200 as long as Emanuel would be leaving New York immediately.

Emanuel did plead guilty, even though he might have been acquitted at trial.  However the captain was then either unable or unwilling to make good his obligation, and sailed the next morning leaving Emanuel behind, imprisoned, with no way of ever paying the fine.  Bernard took the matter to the Spanish Consul, who not very helpfully informed him that this particular captain was “a man of no principle.”


Portrait of Daniel D. Tompkins (1774-1825) by John Wesley Jarvis.

Bernard closed his letter to Governor Tompkins in saying “I feel it is my duty to make this statement to you hoping that you will interpose your mercy and pardon the poor fellow–He is an entire stranger in the Country and totally friendless.”

I don’t know whether or not Tompkins pardoned Emanuel.


Off Sandy Hook, the entrance to New York Harbor.


Henry Oblenis’ Struggles at School in 1808

In 2017 I wrote Lost at Sea: Henry Oblenis 1797-1816 about my 5th great uncle who was lost overboard in heavy weather off the Cape of Good Hope while a young seaman aboard Rufus King.   In a recently discovered cache of documents I found a letter from Henry to his father Bernard dated 28 Jun 1808, written while he was a ten year old living away from home under the disapproving eye of schoolmaster Elias Starr.  Starr found Henry “inattentive,” with excessive “vivacity and fondness for novelties.”  As a result he had “subjected him to a rigid course of discipline.”

It is hard to believe Henry was a bad student given the excellent penmanship, large vocabulary, and solid command of the English language he displays in this letter.  Letters of his I had seen previously were dashed off before leaving on long sea voyages, but this one is carefully and beautifully written, and almost brings a tear to the eye in spite of its formality.  Here we have a young boy, under duress because his teacher believes he is lazy and easily distracted, who can write a fairly long, clear letter in perfect script using expressions such as “parental tenderness” and  “poignant regret”!

Henry writes that “Mr. Starr has sometimes been almost out of patience with me, & has often told me that he would inform you that I have been idle and spent too much of my time to no purpose, but to save him the trouble of doing this I have resolved, and promised him, that I will hereafter give him no reason to accuse me of negligence, and that it shall be the height of my ambition to merit his esteem.”

He then explains that he is studying (and learning) Latin grammar, and asks his father to send him certain books including a Latin dictionary.  He signs his letter “your dutiful son Henry Oblenis” with a postscript “Give my Love to Mama John & William”.

I really wish Elias Starr would have let up on poor Henry, who was clearly mastering some subjects, especially English, quite well!  I think Henry was telling the truth when he wrote at the end of his letter “I have not spent the whole of my time to no purpose.”

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Surprising Things Found Among Family Papers

I just got back from my Mom’s house in Los Angeles.  While cleaning out a closet there I discovered a box containing almost ten pounds of family documents ranging in date from the 1780s to the 1950s, with the majority from the first half of the 19th century.

These are all documents pertaining to the ancestors of my grandmother Elisabeth Oblenis Bogert (1906-1994), who was almost completely descended from the mainly Dutch and Huguenot immigrants who arrived in what is now New Jersey and New York in the 17th century.

So far all I have done is open out the folded papers to get an idea of what they are.  Most of the cache consists of the typical things people keep:  deeds, wills, other legal papers, certificates and significant personal letters.  However several items do not fit into the above categories and are a little surprising!  The following odds and ends were also sandwiched into the box:


A receipt for fertilizer from 1873.  It is hard to believe a receipt for “Soluble Pacific Guano” among other things has lasted almost 150 years!  But I guess I should be glad this branch of my family had some hoarder tendencies.


Gold leaf.  Maybe for picture frames?

stampsStamps. Apparently my Gramma’s Dad Bernard Oblenis Bogert (1876-1930) collected some when he was young.


A 1797 New York City Arrest Warrant.  Because my ancestor Barent / Bernard Oblenis (1771-1825) was clerk of the New York City Police for several years, I expect to find items pertaining to police business, though I have never before found a warrant.  This one is for the apprehension of a Charles Steed, accused of fathering an illegitimate child which was due soon and was likely to become chargeable to the City.


1885 Business Card of Chinese Diplomat Lew Yuk Lin (1862-1942).  Lew Yuk Lin was a translator at the Chinese Consulate in New York from 1882 to 1884, so that may be where someone in my family met him.  In 1885 he was named Acting Consul General at the Straits Settlements, a British Crown Colony on the Malay Peninsula which included Singapore.


Phrenological Assessment of Bernard Oblenis from 1864.  Bernard Oblenis (1826-1901) was a physician (and the purchaser of the above fertilizer) who had graduated from the medical program at the University of New York in 1849.  Given how unscientific the field of medicine was at that time, I am not sure whether he would have been a believer in phrenology or a skeptic.  The analysis begins “You are fine-grained and sensitive in a high degree” and then goes on for 13 handwritten pages.  Among other things it suggests he should gain weight!

Weaver Spotlight: David D. Haring

An article about my 5th great uncle. I am in the process of writing my own.

The McCarl Coverlet Gallery - Blog

When visitors stop by the McCarl Coverlet Gallery for the American Architecture in Coverlet Design Exhibit, a beautiful navy and natural coverlet is on display in the entrance. This double weave, seamless bed covering is just one example of the beautiful patterns coverlet weavers incorporated into their products. The coverlet has a grapevine border with leaves in the four corner blocks. The center depicts rows of building, alternating between eastern and western examples of architecture. This example was attributed to being woven in 1834 by David D. Haring in New Jersey


David D. Haring was the son of David A. Haring by his second wife. He was born on February 23, 1800 in present day Tappan, Bergen County, New Jersey. His father died within a year of his birth. His mother, Mariah Alyie, married Jacob Echerson in 1803. After David’s mothers’ remarriage, they moved to present-day Norwood with his grandfather.

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