Maria Oblenis (1852-1877)

Maria Oblenis was the daughter of Bernard Oblenis, a physician and later a manufacturer of woolen yarn and cardigan jackets, and his wife Elizabeth Haring.   Everyone in my family pronounces her name the same way Mariah Carey pronounces hers, and I assume that is correct.  Her parents were from Rockland County, New York, where they were members of the True Dutch Reformed Church.  The True DRC broke away from the mainstream DRC in 1822, believing in a stricter and more traditional Calvinism.

Oblenis, Maria

Portrait of Maria Oblenis by an unknown artist.

Though Maria was born 1852 in Rockland County, New York, her younger sister Elizabeth was born 1856 in adjacent Bergen County, New Jersey, and this is where we find the family in 1860.  Living with them are Maria’s grandfather John Oblenis (1800-1874) and great-grandmother Gertrude (Sanders) Oblenis (1774-1869) who was a friend of Martin Van Buren.  By 1870 Maria’s father had given up his medical practice and was listed as a “Mill Operator,” having gone into the woolen yarn business.  Her grandfather still lived with the family.


Painting by Maria Oblenis.

Maria had artistic gifts and may have painted a portrait of her grandfather Oblenis as a girl.  She definitely painted two charmingly naïve paintings I have in my dining room, and possibly also a series of botanical illustrations.

Maria Oblenis

Maria as a young girl.

She played a march and accompanied herself singing the Star Spangled Banner on the piano at her school’s benefit for Union soldiers in 1863.

Saddle River Benefit

Maria married John Augustus Bogert (1845-1900) 10 Oct 1872 at the Paramus Dutch Reformed Church.  A marriage notice appeared in the New York Herald and the event was also recorded in the journal of local diarist Maria Ferdon.

On 23 Dec 1876 Maria gave birth to her only child, my great-grandfather Bernard Oblenis Bogert.  She died 9 days later from postpartum sepsis.  Maria Ferdon’s journal entry says simply “Jan 4th Mrs Maria OBlenis Bogart died aged 24.”  Her gravestone includes the phrase “Though lost to sight to memory dear.”

Oblenis, Maria

Maria’s gravestone at the Valleau Cemetery in Ridgewood, New Jersey.



Painting by Maria Oblenis.


Oblenis, John

Portrait of John Oblenis possibly painted by Maria.




Ship’s Captain John Pell (1728-1782) of New York City

“Johannes” the son of Samuel Pell and Margrietje Wessels was baptized at the Dutch Reformed Church in New York City 28 Jul 1728.  His father, grandfather and great-grandfather Pell had all been shipwrights.  His great-grandfather Samuel had plied his trade in London, England before arriving on Manhattan about 1673.

At some point while growing up in the thriving subculture of New York City shipwrights and mariners, John must have decided he would rather sail ships than build them.  By 1751 he captained the sloop Three Brothers which left for Jamaica that January.


Ruins of Trinity Wall Street’s original building, destroyed in the fire of 1776.

By 1753 he commanded the sloop Mary, making frequent trips to and from the Virgin Islands, presumably for molasses, sugar, rum, cotton and indigo, the products of the slave plantations there.  He married Sarah Byvanck on Christmas Day of the same year at Trinity Church on Wall Street.

John obtained Letters of Marque in 1756 during the French and Indian War, papers which allowed him to act as a privateer.  He could legally attack and commandeer enemy vessels, auctioning their contents for profit.  Dramatic accounts of his capturing French ships, being captured by others, and having his ship “shot to pieces” appeared in newspapers in 1756 and 1757.


A typical mid-eighteenth century snow.  During the French and Indian War John was captain of the snow Revenge.  Charles Brooking via Wikimedia Commons.

Though the war continued until 1763, by 1758 John seems to have returned to making regular runs to the Caribbean rather than chasing prize ships.  He may have had enough adventure for one lifetime, not that seafaring was ever a safe occupation in the 18th century.  He appears regularly in the shipping news in the early 1760s, sailing various vessels to and from the Turks Islands, Jamaica, Curaçao and Saint Croix.  He seems to have branched out to European ports in 1766, when he sailed the ship Grace to London.  In 1767 he brought butter, oats and indentured servants from Ireland.  He also sailed for Madeira in that year.


Goods and people “imported” in the brig William announced in the New York Journal 18 Jun 1767 found on

 On 8 Oct 1770 John joined the Marine Society of the City of New York, newly chartered by King George III “to improve maritime knowledge and relieve indigent and distressed shipmasters, their widows and orphans.”  His son William was born in 1763 and also become a ship’s captain, joining the Society in 1789.  William’s twin sons John Bogert Pell and William Watson Pell were born in 1800 and followed the same occupation, joining the Society in 1838 and 1839 respectively.

In the 1770s John seems to have retired from sailing and become a merchant, selling foodstuffs and household goods largely imported from Europe, including butter, wines, and cheeses.  His shop was located on Queen Street opposite Beekman’s Slip, and I believe the family lived above the store, and that this space had been rented to an apothecary shop before the Pells began using It themselves.

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Map of Lower Manhattan in 1776 with blue dot showing the approximate location of John Pell’s house. From the New York Public Library’s digital collection via Wikimedia Commons.

The New-York Gazette of 28 Apr 1782 reported that John Pell died “a few Days ago at his House in this City” and that he “always supported the Character of an honest Man, and a good Citizen.”  His will mentions his “beloved wife Sarah” and all of his children by name.  He is buried with Sarah at Trinity Church on Wall Street, where I was able to find his gravestone though it is mostly illegible today.  He is my 5th great grandfather.

Pell, John 1

John Pell’s gravestone at Trinity Wall Street, with his wife Sarah Byvanck’s stone to the right.



Reasons to Love Genealogy Conferences

I just made my lodging reservation for the 2018 Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS) conference in August in Fort Wayne, Indiana because I know the hotel will sell out early, and I am already a little too excited about the event.   The Allen County Public Library there is the second largest in the U.S. in terms of the breadth and depth of its genealogical holdings, so I will definitely make  new discoveries there.

Also I know I will enjoy the lectures and other events because I have enjoyed every national and regional genealogy conference I have ever attended, even the one where I had to drag our sons along, then 15 and 13, because my husband had to take a work-related trip at the last minute.

These are the top reasons I love them:

The lectures improve your research whether you are a beginner or an expert.  My first conference was the 2006 FGS conference in Boston.  I went partly because several experts in Irish research were speaking, but I had barely begun researching my father-in-law’s Irish ancestors.  It was there that I learned the basics, and there that a gentleman from the South Mayo Family History Research Centre told me that the Willises were probably from the parish of Robeen, which turned out to be true.

The class schedule will indicate whether a talk is at the beginner, intermediate or advanced level, and there will be several tracks for different areas of interest–different ethnicities, places, periods, records.  There is usually something for everyone.  In fact there is often more than one thing going on at the same time that appeals, so that it is hard to choose between them.  Conferences are for all researchers, not just professionals, so don’t be intimidated or think you will feel out of place if you are a beginner.

Everyone there has been bitten by the bug.  I don’t have any genealogy buddies living nearby, and most people’s eyes glaze over if you talk about it unless you are helping them with their family.  But if you strike up a conversation with a person at a conference, it is likely to become animated on both sides and you are likely to learn something and/or help someone.  I am fairly reserved but I become outgoing and ready to talk to strangers (including genealogy “stars”) at a conference.

There is usually an amazing library or other repository nearby.  Often the problem at a conference is figuring out how much time to spend in the library and how much time to spend going to lectures.  When you can roll out of bed and be at either in a few minutes on foot, as is the case in Fort Wayne, it’s a tough decision.  Usually research facilities will have extended hours, sometimes late into the night.  This doesn’t help me because I am an extreme morning person, so by 6 PM I am ready for a nice dinner and some Law & Order, but if you are able to focus at night it would be great.

The keynote.  These vary of course, but are often both inspiring and entertaining.  The most inspiring one I have heard was “The Healing Power of Genealogy” by Dr. Andy Anderson.  The most entertaining was at the 2010 FGS conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, sponsored by both the Kentucky Historical Society and the East Tennessee Historical Society.  For the keynote, J. Mark Lowe and Kent Wentworth argued over which was better, Kentucky or Tennessee.  It was as funny as a good special by a talented comedian.  (I have to say the Knoxville conference really stands out in my memory, especially the special events which included a shape note singing demonstration and a trip to the Museum of Appalachia.)

The exhibit hall.  Here is where you have to try to keep a grip on yourself–a sea of vendors selling things you “need.”  Right before the hall opens a large and impatient crowd forms at the door.  There is usually a chance to win prizes from the vendors using tickets you get free with your registration.  Many of the booths are staffed by experts who are more than happy to answer your questions, so you can learn there too.

The SWAG.  Not only do you get a big identification badge, lanyard, and some sort of tote bag, there are always useful freebies that come with your registration.  The most important thing is the syllabus on a thumb drive, which contains key information from every talk, so that if you missed one you can still learn something about the topic.  Obviously you can make use of the syllabus at home, long after the conference is, sadly,  over.


Asa Fuller (1787-1868): A New England Mystery Man and his Ex-Ancestors

Massachusetts farmer Asa Fuller was not a brick wall when I began researching.  Family notes said that his parents were Asa Fuller and Meletiah Metcalf of Dedham, Massachusetts.  I had already spent a few years researching this couple and their ancestors when I realized that although they did have a son named Asa, he died in Medway, Mass. in 1872, four years after “our” Asa had died in Cambridge.  In a very aggravated state of mind I deleted Asa and Meletiah and all of their ancestors from my tree and began looking for Asa’s real parents.

The other set of parents some people assign to him are yet another Asa Fuller and his wife Elizabeth Winchester, originally from Newton, Mass.  At first this seemed plausible since our Asa was living in Newton when he married in 1818.  However I found that this couple had moved to St. Albans, Vermont by 1800, and that there was no tick mark for a son of the right age to be Asa in their 1800 census record.  I then determined that none of their six children were named Asa.

Fuller-Howe Descendants

Our family papers did contain a handy chart of Asa’s descendants made by William Embrey Curtis (1906-1984), the husband of my first cousin twice removed via Asa Fuller.  This shows all seven of his children who lived to adulthood and some of their descendants.

Fuller-Howe 1818 Marriage

Baptist minister Joseph Grafton married 30 year old Asa and 15 year old Sarah Elizabeth Howe 23 Feb 1818 in Newton, Massachusetts.  Sarah was the youngest child of widowed Roxbury housewright David Howe, age 67, who applied for a Revolutionary War pension in that same year citing “reduced circumstances.”  His daughter’s early marriage is unusual but may have made financial sense.

I believe Asa was either brought up a Baptist or became one as young adult, and that that is why there are no baptismal records for his children.  Asa and Sarah lived in Newton in 1820 but moved to Roxbury about 1825, and while the deaths of two of their children were recorded at the congregational churches of Roxbury, I have found no baptisms recorded there or in Newton.  Sarah died in 1845, after which the children were scattered from Ohio to Quebec.

While Asa seemed to believe he was born in Massachusetts, several of his children’s records state that their father was born in Maine.  I think his parents may have been from Maine, or may have moved there during his childhood or youth.  His death record says he was born in Newton, and the spaces for the names and birthplaces of his parents are blank.


Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor, once the site of the hospital where Albert Fuller died.  Photo by Doc Searls from Santa Barbara, USA via Wikimedia Commons.

The children who lived to adulthood were:

Albert Fuller (1820-1877), who was somewhat of a mystery himself until I realized he moved to Quebec and lived much of his life there before relocating to Burlington, Vermont in his later years.  His 1852 marriage to Aurilla G. Yates took place at the Granby, Quebec Anglican Church.  The record describes him as “Albert Fuller of Roxbury eldest son of Asa Fuller of Canterbury Mass. U.S. Farmer and Sarah his wife maiden name Howe.”  At first I was confused by “Canterbury” but this turned out to be the neighborhood in West Roxbury where Asa’s small farm was located.

Albert died of diabetes at a hospital on Rainsford Island in Boston Harbor.  Death records indicate he was a farmer living in Burlington, Vermont.  It also says his parents were Asa  and Sarah E. Fuller, and that Asa was born in Maine.

Edwin A. Fuller (1821-1879) who was a shoemaker or shoe factory worker for most of his life.  He married Harriet Kimball West in 1849 at Nashua, New Hampshire, somewhat of a “Las Vegas” for marriages at the time, and there is no formal record that I can find.  The only evidence I have is Harriet’s affidavit in Edwin’s Civil War pension file, and she could not remember the exact day.

Edwin had served in the 1st Massachusetts Heavy Artillery, and was seriously wounded in the thigh at Spotsylvania Courthouse.  His pension file has no clues regarding his father, but one paper refers to Edwin as Andrew and I wonder if that was his middle name.  His death record says his parents were “Asa and Lois,” confusing his mother-in-law Lois (Putnam) West with his mother, and the space for their birthplaces is blank.


Buildings in Dorchester that were formerly part of the Walter Baker & Co. chocolate factory, where both William and Caroline Fuller worked.  Photo by Marc N. Belanger via Wikimedia Commons.

William F. Fuller (1826-1886) was a blacksmith living in Walpole, Mass. when he married Maria Boyd in 1851, but from at least 1860 on he worked at the Walter Baker & Co. chocolate factory in Dorchester, Mass.  His 1880 census return says that both his parents were born in Mass., but his death record says that his father was born in West Roxbury and his mother was born in Maine.  Since his mother was born in what became West Roxbury, I think the birthplaces somehow got reversed in this record.

Sarah Elizabeth Fuller (1829-1913) who worked in Lowell, Mass. cotton mills for most of her life.  She married widower Isaac Peabody in 1867.  Her census records consistently say both of her parents were born in Massachusetts.  She moved in with her sister Susan after a hip fracture in 1904, and Susan was the informant on Sarah’s death certificate and gave their father’s birthplace as Newton, Mass.


Zachariah B. Porter’s Hotel in Cambridge, Mass., where Susan Clark Fuller lived and worked before her marriage.

Susan Clark Fuller (1831-1917) who in 1850 was living and working at Porter’s Hotel in what is now Porter Square in Cambridge, Mass., but was then surrounded by cattle yards.  She married Vermont-born Sylvanus Morgan Parsons in 1854.  Susan consistently gave both her parents’ birthplaces as Massachusetts.  Asa lived with Susan and Sylvanus for the last several years of his life, and her death certificate gives his birthplace as Needham rather than Newton, Mass.  Her middle name may be a clue.

Mary Jane Fuller (1836-1909) who was farmed out to Ohio after her mother’s death.  I cannot find her there in 1850, but she was said to have lived in the area 60 years at her death.  She married English immigrant Henry Lucas in 1857 in Montgomery County, and was a member of Dayton’s Central Baptist Church.  Her 1880 and 1900 censuses say that both her parents were born in Massachusetts.  Her husband was the informant on her death certificate and did not know the names of her parents but said they were both born in Massachusetts.

Caroline M. Fuller (1838-1914) who was farmed out to Bath, Maine.  In 1850 she lived with Levi and Huldah (Whitmore) Chadbourne, in 1860 with John and Annie (Humphries) Kimball.  In 1870 she lived in Dorchester, Mass. and worked at the chocolate factory with her brother William.  In 1880 she married Ira Avery Shaw in Bath, with a Baptist minister officiating.  She says her father was born in Maine in the censuses of 1880, 1900 and 1910, when she and Ira lived in Richmond, Maine, but her death certificate says her father was born in Newton, Mass.  The space for the informant’s name is blank.

I think the best way to figure out Asa’s parents would be to look at all census records for Fullers in Maine and Massachusetts in 1800 and eliminate those with no one in their household who could be Asa, then research the remaining families.  My mother and her sister have some interesting AncestryDNA matches with people who have Fuller ancestors, some of them from Maine, so I need to try that angle as well.  I believe there is only one living male descendant with the Fuller surname, and I have written to him to see if he would do a Y-DNA test but received no response.  I am very curious to know to which of the several Fuller families in early New England he belongs.