The Adventures of a Bergen County Kas

A kas or kast is a large Dutch-style linen cupboard, and the one pictured here is one of my favorite heirlooms.  It was made sometime in the 18th century in Bergen County, New Jersey of native red gum, probably for a member of the Zabriskie family.  American kasten are difficult to date because they were made in essentially the same style by many cabinetmakers over a long period, from the later 1600s to the early 1800s.  Furniture historians ascribe this conservatism to the relative cultural isolation of rural Dutch-American communities in New York and New Jersey.

Zabriskie Kas

Also kasten were often made for future brides to store up the linens they would need when setting up their own households.  Like a Norwegian wedding chest, they were not only cultural emblems but were also bound up with traditions surrounding marriage and proper housekeeping.  A newfangled one might be good for storing linens, but it wouldn’t make the same cultural or value statement.

When my mother decided to send it to me, we had a hard time figuring out how to ship it from Los Angeles to Cincinnati.  I thought one of the carriers whose trucks I often see would be a possibility, since their slogan is “We ship anything, anytime, anywhere,” but it turns out that “anything” does not include antiques.

We turned to a well-established furniture moving company, and had it shipped directly to Professional Furniture Service, Inc. in Amelia, Ohio for restoration.  They have done work for the Cincinnati Art Museum, so I trusted them to do a sensitive job.  Unfortunately the kas was only a small part of a larger load headed for New York City, and the furniture restoration shop was not open when the truck first came through Cincinnati, so the driver had to keep going.

It took a full month for the kas to make it back to Ohio, and though the moving company seemed to know approximately where it was most of the time, it was nerve-wracking for us to think of our precious, ancient heirloom wandering the country by itself, possibly getting bumped and bruised.  It spent some time in a warehouse in Brooklyn, closer to its place of origin than it had been since 1959.  Finally it arrived at the restorer and did not seem to have any new damage.

I mainly wanted the restorers to reattach one of the drawer knobs and make appropriate feet.  Almost all kasten have large, bulbous feet, and though you could see where they had originally been attached, ours had lost its feet at some point.  To figure out the correct shape and proportion for a Bergen County kas, I read American Kasten: The Dutch-Style Cupboards of New York and New Jersey 1650-1800, a publication of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  Page 22 of this book shows a photo of a kas nearly identical to ours so I knew that similar feet would be appropriate.  The restorers did an excellent job of turning and finishing copies so that they look almost original.

Usually the cornice of a kas juts out at a 45 degree angle but the cornice on ours is more vertical.  The shapes of the moldings used on ours exactly match the diagram of typical Bergen County cornice moldings in the MMA’s book, but they have been mitered to form a less dramatic, less baroque crown.  I am not sure why that is, but a member of the Bergen County Historical Society told me that this was sometimes done so that the piece would fit within a particular spot in the home.   The cornice seems to be a slightly different color than the rest of the piece, and I wonder if it is not original.  Someday I would like a kas expert to examine it and tell me what they think.

In spite of this quirk we really enjoy having it in our home.


Top Five Favorite Old Photos

My computer was in the shop this week, so I had my early mornings free for other projects.  I began to clean my old photos and to put them into protective sleeves I ordered from Archival Methods.  I made great progress and also really enjoyed looking at the pictures.  These are my five favorites.

Thurber, James Milford 4

This is a picture of my great-grandfather James Milford Thurber (1865-1958) taken in his 90s, probably somewhere in Vermont.  He was a tinsmith and, according to my Dad, fairly stern, so I like this picture of him in extreme old age–perhaps having mellowed–holding a posy of hollyhocks.  Also his pants are hiked up old man style, and the scenery is pretty.

Zabriskie, Adelia

This is Adelia Zabriskie (1834-1869) the wife of William Sickels Banta of Bergen County, New Jersey.  Even though I am not a fan of Victorian style, this picture reeks so strongly of the period that there is something appealing about it.  You can almost hear her silks rustling.

Thurber, Robert Maybury 1939

I like this picture of my Dad–the boy on the far left–in Burlington, Vermont circa 1939 with his second grade classmates.  One of his report cards actually says “Bobby is bothering the other children less” than before, so he got into quite a bit of mischief and I think he looks mischievous in this picture.  Plus he has an amazingly bad haircut.  On the back of the picture he wrote all the children’s names, noting that sadly the boy second from the right died in the Korean War, and then wrote “Dad was my barber!”  My grandfather saved a little money during the Depression by cutting my Dad’s hair himself, always with disastrous results but this is the worst example I have seen.

Haring, Children of John A. and Elizabeth (Haring)

I like this picture from about 1900 even though most of the people in it look fairly crabby.  One amazing thing about it is that I was able to figure out not only who but also where they are.  I also found that this Revolutionary-era house still stands in Rockland County, New York.  They are all siblings, the children of John A. and Elizabeth (Haring) Haring and this is the Abraham D. Haring House, also known as Scotland Hill Farm, built in 1783.  The lone gentleman is Jacob Eckerson Haring (1836-1915) who was somewhat famous as a breeder of racehorses.

Aguilar and Thurber Children

I like this picture taken September 1968 in La Crescenta, California even though the sewer pipe portends the upcoming overdevelopment of the Los Angeles basin.  It reminds me of all the fun my sister and I had with our cousins who lived in La Crescenta.  (We lived in Eagle Rock, part of Northeast Los Angeles.)  It also reminds me of how much time we spent barefoot.  I am at the top left and my sister is next to me.  Standing behind us is our cousin Marty.  At the top of the pipe is our cousin Sherry and second from the bottom is our cousin Scott.  We played very often and for hours at a time with Sherry and Scott especially.  If this picture had a soundtrack, the music would be by The Monkees.

A Great Uncle: Regis Zabriskie Bogert (1904-1978)

My maternal Gramma’s brother Regis was the only other member of her family we saw on a regular basis, most of them living in New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania while we lived in Los Angeles.  By the time I was born in 1962 Uncle Regis lived in the beautiful hills near Sebastopol in Sonoma County, California. For quite a few years we visited him in August for a week or so, after meandering up the coast, usually stopping at one or two of the California Missions and at scenic places like the Monterey peninsula along the way.


Gravenstein apple orchard near Sebastopol, California.  Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons.

He had 18 rural acres and a house filled with books and family heirlooms, including a few very old large bibles.  Once we decided to defrost his refrigerator while he was out and we broke his hammer.  When we told him we had broken his hammer he said “Well of course it broke, it’s over 200 years old.”

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 6

My sister, Uncle Regis and me in 1973.  From that picture window above you could watch the fog roll into the valley.

The quiet there astonished me.  Often the only sound was the wind in the evergreens up on the ridge or the lowing of the neighbors’ cows.   Thick fog rolled in almost every evening and the weather in August was always cool and pleasant.   His long driveway was lined with rain lilies which were always in bloom during our visits, and the air smelled of sweet grassland.

He grew an enormous quantity of ‘Seneca Chief’ corn every year, which he said must be cooked for eight minutes within twenty minutes of harvest.  (I still cook corn for eight minutes.)  My sister and I shucked the corn and sometimes gave the shucks to the neighbor’s cows who relished them.  We picked Gravenstein apples from his trees and made sauce with uncle Regis.  He also grew red potatoes and showed us how to dig them.  I don’t remember any  dinners there that did not consist of good beef, mountains of corn on the cob, salad and mashed potatoes but we must have eaten other things.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 1953 Holland Society

He knew a tremendous amount about his ancestors and had a lot of ancient family papers–a few dates I have only because my mother copied them down from papers at his house, the church records being lost.  He never married.  He never held a regular job as far as I can tell, living off of investments for his entire life.

Bogert, Regis, Alice and Bob

From left to right, Regis, his older sister Alice, friend Hugh Masterson, and brother Bernard Oblenis Bogert II who was known as Bob.  Bob became a geology professor.

He stood about 6’4″ and was very kindly, and used the word “certainly” when most people would have said “yes.”  He was a practical person who didn’t understand why I would waste my energy jogging when I could have used it to accomplish something.  I never asked him much about his own life, though now of course I wish I had.  As a kid and a teenager I was more interested in enjoying the rural wonderland and perusing his many interesting books.  Here is what I have been able to piece together.

Bogert, Regis, Beth, Alice

Regis is seated second from the left and my Gramma is just to his right.

Uncle Regis was born 30 Sep 1904 in Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey to Bernard Oblenis Bogert and Eliza Pell Vermilye, the second of their five children, my Gramma Elisabeth being the third.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 7

With his parents at his Columbia College graduation.

He went to Ridgewood High School and then to Columbia College, graduating in 1929.  By the 1930 census he was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico with my Gramma and their sister Lida, known as Lee, though all three are also listed in the same census as being in Paramus with their parents.  The siblings rented a house at 1204 Central, which seems to have been torn down since.  Regis remained in Albuquerque after his sisters had left, earning a Masters Degree in Political Science from the University of New Mexico in 1934.  He was always interested in history and politics and was a lifelong Republican.

In 1935-1936 he traveled quite literally around the world, visiting the South Pacific, the Middle East and most of the countries in Europe.  He posted letters home fairly often.  He wrote from Algeria, saying that it was so much like New Mexico, that that is where he would have thought he was if he didn’t know better.

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Envelopes from letters Regis wrote home while traveling the world in 1935-1936.

From 1936 to 1938 he studied law at Stanford University but did not graduate.  Afterwards he went back to Bergen County, New Jersey and became active in civic organizations and in local politics.  He was a Councilman for the Borough of Paramus 1940-1942.

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On 15 Aug 1942 Regis joined the U.S. Army and entered basic training at Fort Dix, 16 miles southeast of Trenton, New Jersey.  He spent three years in the Pacific Theater as a Special Agent in the Counterintelligence Corps and was honorably discharged 21 Aug 1945.  He was awarded the Philippine Liberation Ribbon, the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, the American Campaign Medal and the Victory Medal.  I am sure he had a few adventures during this time and I need to ask living relatives if they remember him saying anything about his time in the Army.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 8

Regis in uniform.

After the war he settled back into life in Paramus, serving on various municipal committees and as Secretary-Treasurer of the Bergen County Welfare Board.  He was involved with several clubs and organizations, including the Rotary Club, which he would support for the rest of his life.  In 1953 he joined the Holland Society, “a historical and genealogical society founded to collect and preserve information respecting the early history and settlement of New Netherland by the Dutch.”  Like most of his ancestors, he was a member of the (formerly Dutch) Reformed Church.

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Regis and my grandmother were descended at least nine times from early New Jersey settler Albrecht Zabriskie (1638-1711).

In 1959 Regis made the big move to Sebastopol.  I am not sure why he uprooted himself and settled on the opposite coast.  In Sebastopol he continued his heavy involvement with Rotary, tended his large vegetable garden and graciously entertained his relatives and friends.

Uncle Regis died 1 Mar 1978.  Though his obituary says he was to be interred at the Chapel of the Chimes in Santa Rosa, in the end he was cremated with his ashes spread over his corn field.

Bogert, Regis Zabriskie 2

Regis in 1929.




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.

The Peace Family of Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England

My great-grandfather Vernon Linley Peace was born 2 Apr 1873 in Denby Dale, Yorkshire, England.  Though he left for America before he turned 20, his direct ancestors had generally stayed put, living in the West Riding of Yorkshire as far back as I have been able to research.  I have traced all of his lines back to at least 1750, and a few well into the 17th century.

Vernon’s ancestors are some of my favorites to work on.  The records for Yorkshire are rich and often easy to access even from the U.S., and the region’s culture and language are interesting, with the dialect retaining quite a few words from the Old Norse of the Vikings.


Portion of the West Riding in 1659.  Sheffield is in the lower right corner, Barnsley in the center right.  Denby is west of Barnsley by the paper fold and Cumberworth, where the Peaces were buried for a few hundred years, is a little northwest of it.  Shelley, where the earliest known Peace ancestor lived is just a little northeast of Cumberworth.  From the Fondo Antiguo de la Biblioteca de la Universidad de Sevilla via Wikimedia Commons.

The history of the West Riding is interwoven with the history of wool production, and the Peace family’s fortunes generally rose and fell with this industry.  At first a cottage industry, with many farmers keeping sheep and working on handlooms in their homes, production became increasingly mechanized and factory-based in the 19th century. Some in the Peace family became fairly large-scale manufacturers of fine yarns or fancy woolens at this time.  My fourth great uncle Aaron Peace exhibited his firm’s fabrics at the Great Exhibition in London in 1851.

Cousins of mine in Yorkshire still run the wool-spinning firm of Z. Hinchliffe and Sons Ltd.  Founder Zaccheus Hinchliffe (1835-1902) married Vernon’s aunt, Hannah Horton Peace, and their son James Peace Hinchliffe was knighted for his service to the British woolen industry.  Vernon himself worked as a “boss weaver” or woolen mill supervisor in New England throughout his adult life, probably having learned much of what he needed to know while growing up in Denby Dale with a father, Henry Horton Peace, who manufactured fancy worsteds.


Teeswater sheep produce lustrous, long staple wool and have been raised in northern England for centuries.  They were likely one of the breeds raised by some of the Peaces.  Photo by Paul Buckingham via Wikimedia Commons.

A Dictionary of Yorkshire Surnames by George Redmonds tells us that the name Peace is more common in Yorkshire than any other county, and that it first appeared in Ossett near Dewsbury in the 13th century, but that the modern spelling only began to appear in the late 15th.  The original meaning is unclear, but may relate to the Middle English word for a pea, pese.

The earliest Peace ancestor I can name is John Peace, born about 1640.  He and Alice Hepworth were married 20 May 1662 in the parish of Kirkburton.  (A researcher looking for this marriage could find images of the original parish record at, and of the Bishop’s Transcript or copy at  Both sites have extensive records for Yorkshire.)

John Peace was listed in the Hearth Tax roll of 1672 at Shelley, a village in the parish of Kirkburton.  “John Peace of Shelley” described himself as a yeoman in his will dated the “fifteenth day off December in the first yeare off the reigne off our Sofferine Lord and Ladye William and Mary kinge and queene over England and in the yeare of our Lord godd 1689.”  He mentioned his “loveing Wiffe” Alice and all of his living children by name.  The inventory includes two looms “in the chamber over the house” as well as wool and combs.

Peace, John 1690 Will RPWil1006161-page-2 (2)

The signature portion of John Peace’s will.  I obtained this beautiful color scan from the Borthwick Institute, which holds the vast majority of probate records for Yorkshire before 1858.  These are indexed on, with a handy link to the Borthwick order form.

John’s son William (1667-1729) married Elizabeth Dyson in the adjacent parish of Kirkheaton 18 Aug 1697.  Though their four previous children were baptized in the parish church of Kirkburton, their last was baptized at Cumberworth St. Nicholas, a chapel in the village of Upper Cumberworth which sits on the border between the parishes of Kirkburton and Emley.

A chapel had existed on this site since about 1255, so it is not the case that a new church in a more convenient location was built causing the switch.  It seems more likely that William and Elizabeth moved closer to Cumberworth in between the birth of Lydia in 1708 and Mary in 1710.  In any event, the majority of my Peace ancestors from 1710 forward were baptized, married and buried at Cumberworth.

Cumberworth St. Nicholas 2

Two generations after William another John Peace (1727-1772) was the only one in this line who did not follow a wool-related occupation.  John is listed as an Innholder in every record I have found, though I have not been able to figure out which inn he kept.  He was among those in Denby who were licensed to run an alehouse in 1771.


West Yorkshire Alehouse Licenses 1771-1962 found on

Every Peace from the innkeeper’s son James down to Vernon’s father Henry Horton Peace (1832-1902) was a  manufacturer of woolen cloth.  Henry was apparently doing  well in 1874, living at Inkerman House in Denby Dale.  He declared bankruptcy in 1887 however, and by 1891 was living apart from his wife.  I think the loss of the business and resulting (or underlying) family problems probably factored into Vernon’s decision to leave the country around this time.

Peace, Vernon Linley

Vernon Linley Peace in Vermont about 1925.





Slavery and Emancipation in Bergen County, New Jersey

Before I got started in family history I thought that with few exceptions only Southern  people had ever held slaves in colonial America, the United States and its territories.  Once I began reading their wills, I soon found that there were slaveholders among my colonial New Jersey Dutch ancestors.  I did not find any references to slaves in Post-Revolutionary wills, and at first assumed slavery did not persist into the Federal period in New Jersey, at least not among my people.  Surely they were better than that.

I now know that New Jersey was the last northeastern state to abolish slavery, that slaveholding was always disproportionately common there among those with Dutch ancestry, and that some of my direct Jersey Dutch ancestors held slaves as late as 1840.  New Jersey officially apologized for its role with regard to slavery in 2008.

The 1804 Act for the Gradual Abolition of Slavery in New Jersey made abolition so gradual that 16 people remained enslaved there in 1865.  The law stated that people born to enslaved women after 4 Jul 1804 would be “free” except that they were required to work as indentured servants until adulthood, meaning to age 25 for males and 21 for females.  And that people born before that date would remain enslaved unless otherwise emancipated.


New Jersey in 1850.  Bergen County forms the most northeasterly corner.

The 1850 Federal Census Slave Schedules list 236 slaves remaining in New Jersey, down from over 12,000 in 1800, with 65 of these in Bergen County.  Though none of the 1850 slaveholders is a direct ancestor of mine, the majority are at least distant relatives, having the same surnames that appear repeatedly in my grandmother’s tree:  Ackerman, Blauvelt, Haring, Terhune, Vanderbeek, Westervelt.

Looking carefully at my ancestors’ 1830 and 1840 census records however, I now see several households with one or two slaves.  Some also contain “free colored persons,” though many of these may actually be indentured servants under the 1804 law.


Sample of the first page of the 1840 census, from New Barbadoes Township in Bergen County showing columns for free colored persons, from



Second page of the same census form showing columns for slaves, from

Unfortunately the 1790-1820 U.S. Federal Censuses for New Jersey are lost except for Cumberland County in 1800, so there are no decennial “snapshots” of  households available for those years.   The 1820 census form was the first with several columns for both slaves and free colored persons, broken out by age and gender, which would have been helpful to many researchers.

I first learned of latter day slaveholding in my family from an article in the Hackensack Republican of 20 Jul 1890, reprinted in 2007 in the newsletter of the Bergen County Historical Society.  Marginalia from Ancient Almanacs describes the events recorded by some of my Bogert ancestors in the margins of several almanacs between 1785 and 1840.

These events include births, marriages, deaths, relatives sailing for distant ports, and extreme weather.  (In the winter of 1820-1821 it was possible to cross between Jersey City and Manhattan on the frozen Hudson River.)  Many notes pertain to farm activities and household chores—“sowed buckwheat,” “left the red cow go dry,” “begun to mow hay,” “knitted our socks,” “made candles.”

Interspersed among these entries are records concerning the family’s slaves.  On 2 Oct 1796 my 5th great grandfather Casparus Bogert (1758-1826) noted that he had “Sold Susan.”  The 1804 law did not make buying and selling slaves illegal, and several later transactions are recorded, the last in 1818.   Mink, first mentioned in 1798, was sold in 1813 for $275, after he had been part of this household for at least 15 years.

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The Zabriskie Tenant House, from the website of the Bergen County Historical Society.  Unfortunately efforts to save the structure failed and an ugly McMansion now occupies the site.

I realized there must have been relatively recent slaveholding among my Zabriskie ancestors as well when I read of the effort to save the Zabriskie Tenant House in Paramus from demolition in 2012.  The Tenant House was built about 1786 by my ancestor Andrew Zabriskie (1728-1819) as a home for his son Christian.

By 1830 the Zabriskies had moved out and descendants of their slaves had moved in.  A small but vibrant African-American neighborhood known as Dunkerhook developed around this house, persisting into the 1930s.  Many people worked together to try to save the house, including descendants of both the Zabriskies and of Dunkerhook’s black residents, but unfortunately developers prevailed.

I need to do more research to document the lives of the people who were unfree members of my ancestors’ households, and to find out how those who finally obtained their freedom fared afterwards.

Zabriskie House

Jacob J. Zabriskie House, Paramus, New Jersey, from the Library of Congress website.



Rare Given Names from Aloysius to Zerubbabel

Genealogists often wish ancestral parents had been more adventurous in naming their children.  Did we really need another Bridget Walsh or John Clark to try to distinguish from all of their peers with the same name?

There is the occasional couple who did get creative, for example naming their children for continents—Africa, America, Asia, and Europe.  Some English Non-conformists and Puritans did choose obscure Biblical names, and this list would have at least a hundred of those if I had included them all.  The Puritans also invented quite a few names like Recompense and Hate-evil.

But many families simply recycled common names, often because they were following culturally determined naming patterns:  first daughter named for the mother’s mother, etc.  The result is that there are a lot of Johns and Marys across the board.  (Or, in my New Netherland branch, Jans and Marritjes.)

So, in honor of all the parents who helped their children to stand out in census and vital records, here are the most unusual and interesting given names in our tree.

Aloysius.  This is the only unusual name I have found among my father-in-law’s Irish relatives, and then only as a middle name.  If an Irish Catholic man has a middle initial F, it almost always turns out to stand for Francis.  A middle initial A often turns out to stand for Aloysius, after the Italian saint Aloysius Gonzaga (1568-1591).

Albreda.  This name evolved from Germanic root words meaning “elf counsel.”  My cousin Albreda Peace was born in 1868 in Yorkshire.

Archelaus.  From the Greek for “master of the people,” this name was popular among my Putnam ancestors who lived in Salem and Danvers, Massachusetts.  Several mythical and many historical figures have borne the name, and I am not sure why it was originally chosen by this family.  The only Archelaus in the Bible was the cruel and licentious son of Herod, so no one would use it for that reason.

Asenith or Asenath.  Meaning “devoted to the goddess Neith,” this was the name of Joseph’s Egyptian wife (Genesis 41:45).  It seems to have been most popular in the 19th century in the U.S., and I have seen it in both North and South.  My mother-in-law’s ancestor Asenith Fair Noble was born in 1810 in Georgia.

Azubah.  This Biblical name belonged to the wife of Caleb the son of Hezron (1 Chronicles 2:18).  Meaning “forsaken” in Hebrew, it was sometimes shortened to Zuba.  My ancestor Zuba Wickham was born about 1780 in probably Connecticut.

Buena Vista.  Buena Vista Jameson was born in Red River County, Texas 25 Feb 1847, two days after the Battle of Buena Vista, in which U. S. forces repulsed the Mexican army at Buena Vista in the state of Coahuila, Mexico.   She used the nickname Bunnie.

Cherry.  Not counting Neil Diamond’s “Cherry, Cherry,” I have only seen this girls’ name in my Maybury family of County Kerry, Ireland.

Deliverance.  A Puritan name for girls, with a nice nickname, Delie or Delia.  My probable ancestor Deliverance Gifford was born 1727 in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.

Dupuytren.  My ancestor Dupuytren Vermilye was the son of a Francophile physician, and was named for the French surgeon Guillaume Dupuytren (1777-1835).

Electa.  A girls’ name meaning “chosen,” most often seen in 18th and 19th century New England.

Elvie.  My aunt, named for her father’s initials, L. V.

Freelove.  A Puritan girls’ name referring to God’s love.

Junius.  Like Lucius, this boys’ name had a surge in popularity after the American Revolution, probably in reference to Lucius Junius Brutus who founded the Roman Republic.

Lafayette.  Another post-Revolutionary boys’ name, after the Marquis de Lafayette.  Sometimes shortened to Fayette.

Melangton.  From the last name of Lutheran reformer Philip Melanchthon (1497-1560).  My relative by marriage, Melangton Wetherwax, was born about 1837 in upstate New York.

Narah.  I have only seen this girls’ name in the West Riding of Yorkshire.  My ancestor Narah Horton was born in 1810 in Kirkheaton.

Orange.  Both a color and a fruit, this boys’ name could be revived by modern celebrities.  I see it most often in 19th century Vermont, and I don’t know what the significance is—could it have something to do with the House of Orange?

Osanne. French form of Hosanna, from the Hebrew for “deliver us.”  Osanne Planchet  was the mother of my ancestor Louise Faure who left France for Quebec before 1668.

Parmelia or Permelia.  Possibly an alteration of Pamela, I have seen this name in the 19th century in both the U.S. and England.

Paskey.  A girls’ name I have only seen in Yorkshire, probably derived from the Scandinavian Paske meaning Easter.  Heavy Viking settlement in Yorkshire influenced the language and vocabulary of the region.

Pleasant.  This boys’ name was fairly popular in the 19th century Southern U.S., but the only one in our tree is my mother-in-law’s ancestor, Georgia-born Baptist minister and Texas pioneer Pleasant Barnett Chandler.

Resolved.  A Puritan boys’ name, which became Resolveert in New Netherland.  My ancestor Resolved Waldron was born 1610 in Amsterdam to English parents.

Rheuby.  A girls’ name seen occasionally in the 19th century in both the Northern and Southern U.S.  Often misspelled Ruby or mistranscribed as Rhenby.  I am not sure of its origin or significance.  My Dad’s aunt was named Rheuby Mae Thurber.

Sazine.  Sazine Tillman was born 1852 in Mississippi and her parents may have invented this name.  She married John Collier Robertson whose diary was one of the four explored by historian Stephen V. Ash in his book A Year in the South: 1865.

Silence.  A Puritan name for girls.  There must have been more than one Silence who was a cranky baby or a loud person, which probably led to some jokes.  Sila is the typical nickname.  I have two direct ancestors named Silence.

Sophronia.  A feminine form of Sophronius, derived from the Greek sophron meaning  “prudent and sound-minded.”  Though this name is rare today, it was somewhat popular in the middle of the 19th century in the U.S.

Tamar.  Biblical girls’ name from the Hebrew for “palm tree,” more popular in England than in the U.S.  I have only seen it in my Yorkshire research.

Tedbar.  A very rare boys’ name found only in Yorkshire, probably a corruption of Theobald.

Tennessee.  You don’t see Northern girls named Massachusetts or Connecticut, but you do see Southern girls named Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Tennessee and Texas.  Most girls named Tennessee used the nickname Tenny.

Theodate.  A girls’ name meaning “God’s gift.”  My ancestor Theodate Batchelder was a daughter of the scandal-plagued and much-married minister Stephen Batchelder of colonial Hampton, New Hampshire.

Unity.  A girls’ virtue name.  Unity Croshaw is my mother-in-law’s ancestor who arrived in Virginia in 1608.

Vrouwtje.  This now obsolete Dutch name is just a diminutive of the word for woman, so it means something like “girl.”  I have two direct ancestors named Vrouwtje.

Zerubbabel. A Biblical name meaning “seed of Babylon.”  My ancestor Zerubbabel Kemp’s relative of the same name petitioned a Massachusetts court for a change—after 1816 he was known as Henry Kemp.


The Battle of Buena Vista by Adolphe Jean-Baptiste Bayot via Wikimedia Commons.