Register NOW for the virtual NGS Family History Conference

Your NGS Virtual Family History Conference registration features two components: NGS 2020 Live! on 20 May at 11:00 a.m. and NGS 2020 On-Demand! that will open July 1, 2020. Three different options are offered: (1) 5 live and 20 on-demand sessions; (2) 5 live and 45 on-demand sessions; and (3) 5 live and 10-on demand sessions.   Details at https://conference.ngsgenealogy.org/registration-packages/  #NGS2020LIVEScreen Shot 2020-05-13 at 10.10.55 AM

Record Book of Ebenezer Ferguson, Justice of the Peace, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 1799-July 1800

Updated 26 March 2020

The National Archives recently digitized the Record Book of Ebenezer Ferguson, Justice of the Peace, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, December 1799-July 1800 (National Archives Identifier 155501037). This is an unusual item for NARA to have as the repository of the permanently valuable records of the U.S. Government, either records created by it, or received by it.

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Mr. Ferguson chronicled actions taken by him in his official capacity from December 1799 to July 1800. It may be his rough draft (often referred to as a “day book” or “waste book”) since the front cover is annotated with the letters “E & F” which suggests that the contents of this volume were subsequently recorded in permanent volumes E and F that would have been written in a neatly in a “fair hand.” The handwriting in this volume is “sloppy” and he “crossed out” many entries that may either indicate they were either resolved or copied to the permanent record book.

As justice of the peace, Mr. Ferguson was empowered to receive allegations of criminal activity that violated state law; charge suspects and require bail bond to ensure appearance at trial; require bond of prosecuting witnesses to ensure they appeared at trial to give evidence; and so forth. Most of the cases recorded in this volume are for assault and battery or for theft, but there are a few for runaway slaves or apprentices, or failure to support a wife. For example, on page 21, Benjamin Chase [Chane?], Jr., alleged that “George Harden was a Slave of his father Benjamin [illegible word] & that He has been Run away some [?] time.” George Harden was committed to jail in lieu of a bail bond. (See image below.)

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Also on page 21, Geraldus Stockdale charged Demsy [?] Bauns [?] “with Leaving his wife a Charge on the Publick” funds.

Each entry is headed “CommonWelth [sic] vs. [name of defendant], and includes the date, name of person making the complaint, nature of the alleged criminal act, name of defendant(s), name of witness(es), and amount charged each defendant or witness as bond. Page numbers are written in the lower right corner of odd numbered pages.

This record book is in the custody of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as part of the Post Revolutionary War Papers, 1784-1815, in Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. (It has not been researched whether there is a “copy” of some kind in Philadelphia.)

Why can this local record book be found in the U.S. National Archives? That’s a good question for which there is no definitive answer at this time. Philadelphia was the national capital from 1790 until about May 1800. Colonel Ebenezer Ferguson commanded an artillery regiment in the Pennsylvania militia during the War of 1812. (See J. Thomas Scharf and Thompson Westcott, History of Philadelphia, 1609-1884, p. 554 (Philadelphia: L. H. Everts and Co., 1884). Perhaps this volume became accidentally mixed in with federal military records at either time, or perhaps it was purposely submitted to the War Department for a specific reason that is not currently known. In either case, it’s an interesting window into the problems and activities of ordinary Philadelphians at the turn of the 19th century.

The National Coalition for History Requests Your Support for NARA and NHPRC

MESSAGE QUOTED IN FULL FROM THE NATIONAL COALITION FOR HISTORY:

“Ask Your House Member to Sign Letter in Support of Increased Funding for NARA and NHPRC

The National Coalition for History (NCH) has worked with Congressmen John Larson (D-CT), Don Young (R-AK), and Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) to seek support for additional funding in the upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget for the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

They have circulated a “Dear Colleague” letter to their fellow representatives urging them to show their support. The letter will be sent to the chair and ranking member of the House Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee which has jurisdiction over NARA and the NHPRC’s budgets. Please click on this link to see the letter which has already been sent to House members.

We are requesting the House Appropriations Committee to provide at least $395 million for NARA’s operating expenses in FY21 and at least $7 million for the NHPRC. NARA’s operating expenses budget in constant dollars has remained stagnant for over a decade, even as its responsibilities have increased. When adjusted for inflation, NARA’s budget has decreased by 10% since 2012. NARA today has fewer employees than it did in 1985.

We need you to contact your representative and ask them to sign on to the letter in support of additional funding for NARA and the NHPRC. We have prepared a one-page briefing paper that summarizes the funding challenges facing these two agencies that are so vital to historians, archivists and other stakeholders. Click here to access an on-line version.

The simple truth is Members of Congress are unlikely to sign on to the NARA “Dear Colleague” letter unless they are asked to do so by their constituents! Please help us in this effort by reaching out to your representatives to seek their support.

How to Contact Your Congressperson

To contact your representative, you can use one of these two options. No matter which means of communication you choose, please personalize your message as to your background or interest in history. If you are employed in the field, mention the institution where you work in your congressional district. You can also use the Dear Colleague letteras talking points.

  1. Send a pre-written message directly to your House member. Our colleagues at the National Humanities Alliance have created a concise letter that goes directly to your House member. You can add additional language if you want, however we have made it as easy as possible for you to have an impact. Click here to go to the letter, fill in basic contact information, hit send and your message is on its way. When you enter your zip code the system directs your letter to the Member of Congress from your district automatically.
  2. Make a phone call. All Members of Congress can be reached through the U.S. Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121. If you feel comfortable doing so, make a phone call. If you speak to a staff member, be sure to get their name and email address so you can forward them a copy of the National Archives/NHPRC Dear Colleague letter. If you get voice mail leave a message and ask them to support the Larson/Young/Pascrell letter and increased funding for NARA and the NHPRC.

To sign on or for more information, tell them to contact Michael Dunn with Rep. Larson Michael.Dunn@mail.house.gov, Dylan Sodaro with Rep. Pascrell Dylan.Sodaro@mail.house.gov, or Kem Crosley with Rep. Young Kem.Crosley@mail.house.gov. PLEASE DO NOT CONTACT THESE STAFF PEOPLE YOURSELF!”

 

–(End of message from the National Coalition for History.) Thank you.

Some Americans in Canada: The Record Book of Joseph Edwards, Niagara, Upper Canada, April 1812-January 1813

In the years after the American Revolution, an unknown number of U.S. citizens or residents moved across the generally unregulated northern border to continue their lives – perhaps to seek opportunities or cheap land – in the country we now call Canada, whose sovereign was the British monarch.

And then things changed. The U.S. declared war on Britain on June 18, 1812: the war that we know as the War of 1812, and which is sometimes called the Second War of Independence.

War forces choices, sometimes unpleasant ones.

The Upper Canada (Ontario) Provincial President’s order of November 9, 1812, directed Joseph Edwards, William Claus, and Thomas Dickson to serve as a board “for examining into the pretensions of those persons in the Niagara, London, and Western Districts, who shall report themselves to be subjects of the United States, and, as such claim exemption from military service and will thereby become liable to be sent out of the Province with passports….”

As a consequence of that order, an examination was conducted of the following 65 persons whose U.S. state of origin is indicated:

  • (1) William H. Biglow, Massachusetts [reproduced below];
  • (2) Jonas Brooks Wood, New Hampshire;
  • (3) Jared Rice Tyler, Connecticut;
  • (4) Joseph Howel, New Jersey;
  • (5) John Lawson, New York;
  • (6) Andrew Lawson, New York;
  • (7) Joseph Coleman, Pennsylvania;
  • (8) Samuel Scott, New York;
  • (9) John Height [?], Vermont;
  • (10) Elijah Judson, Connecticut;
  • (11) Arah Osborn, Vermont;
  • (12) Daniel Waters, New York;
  • (13) James Colton, Massachusetts;
  • (14) Nathaniel Wilder, Massachusetts;
  • (15) Alonso Lockwood, Vermont;
  • (16) Chauncy Colton, Massachusetts;
  • (17) Joseph Gray, Pennsylvania;
  • (18) Job Haxsey, New York;
  • (19) Albert Hill, New York;
  • (20) Calvin Houghton, New Hampshire;
  • (21) Israel Aber, New Jersey;
  • (22) Benjamin Aber, New Jersey;
  • (23) John Peters, Maryland;
  • (24) Seneca Thomas, Massachusetts;
  • (25) Dennis Spencer, New York;
  • (26) Jacob Parse, New York;
  • (27) Peter DeWitt, New York;
  • (28) Paul Drinkwater, Gloucestershire, England, to the U.S., June 1811;
  • (29) Alvin Dunbar, Massachusetts;
  • (30) John Osborn, Connecticut;
  • (31) Phineas Tinkum, Connecticut;
  • (32) Isaac Augustus Bullard, Massachusetts;
  • (33) William Bartman, Pennsylvania;
  • (34) William Pound, New Jersey;
  • (35) Ephraim M. Cummings, New Hampshire;
  • (36) Susan Doty, New Hampshire;
  • (37) William Coan, Jr., New York;
  • (38) Noah Gilbert, Massachusetts;
  • (39) Danforth Fuller, Massachusetts;
  • (40) Eli Ruggles (also known as Eli Reynolds), New York;
  • (41) Jeremiah Guest, New Jersey;
  • (42) Abraham Lazalire [Lazabre?], New Jersey;
  • (43) John Kelsy, New York;
  • (44) Jacob Hendershot, New Jersey;
  • (45) William Kelsy, New Jersey;
  • (46) Luther Willis, New Hampshire;
  • (47), Asa Coltrein, New York;
  • (48) Aron Lloyd, New Jersey;
  • (49) George Dorland, New Jersey;
  • (50) Asa Brook, New York;
  • (51) Simon Stevens, Connecticut;
  • (52) Peter Snider, Pennsylvania;
  • (53) Silas Clark, Vermont;
  • (54) John Dorman, Connecticut;
  • (55) Even Thomas, Pennsylvania;
  • (56) Elias Emmons, Connecticut;
  • (57) Samuel Washburn, New York;
  • (58) Joseph Moyer, New York;
  • (59) Jacob Hendershot, Pennsylvania;
  • (60) William Dunnan, New York;
  • (61) James Pollock, native of Ireland and naturalized U.S. citizen;
  • (62) Thomas Weeks Baker, New York;
  • (63) Josiah Linton (or Denton), New York;
  • (64) John Pittinger, New Jersey; and
  • (65) Joseph B___ [surname not indicated], Pennsylvania.

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Some of the persons listed above accepted a passport to depart, such as William H. Biglow, shown in the image above, while others who had property in Upper Canada took the oath of allegiance to the Province. Each entry may indicate the person’s occupation, place of residence, property ownership, employer, other relatives, whether he has taken the oath of allegiance, or whether he wanted to take the oath of allegiance or return to the United States.

The above records, and more, come from a single volume entitled the “Record Book of Joseph Edwards, Justice of the Peace, Niagara, Upper Canada, April 1812-January 1813 [and] Receipt Book of Major William Johnson, Inspector General’s Office Headquarters, Fort George, Upper Canada, July-September 1813” (National Archives Identifier 158587783), which has been digitized and can be accessed online in the National Archives Catalog.

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This record book is in the custody of National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) in United States, as part of the Post Revolutionary War Papers, 1784-1815, in Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office. (Whether there is a “copy” of some kind in Canada, I have no idea.)

Why can this information be found in the U.S. National Archives?

Fort George (at modern Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) was captured in May 1813 by the U.S. Army and subsequently retaken by the British Army in December 1813 after U.S. forces abandoned the British (Canadian) side of the Niagara River. Joseph Edwards, Esq., Merchant and Justice of the Peace, was one of the noncombatants ordered into custody at Niagara, Upper Canada, by U.S. Major General Henry Dearborn, June 19-21, 1813. (See Niagara (Ontario) Historical Society Publication No. 28, Family History and Reminiscences of Early Settlers.) It is likely that this record book came into the possession of the U.S. Army at that time (June 1813), and it was very soon repurposed as a receipt book by the Inspector General’s Office at Fort George.

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Thus, this volume has five parts:

(1) The first part (Joseph Edwards) consists of the inside front cover and the unnumbered front end paper, which are annotated with information dated from January to August 1813. Both pages also have “Vol. 11” written in blue crayon upon them.

(2) The second part (Joseph Edwards), pages A1 to A13, contain records of Justice of the Peace Joseph Edwards from April 27, 1812 to September 29, 1812. Some entries are of a judicial nature while others are warrants for the impressment of wagons, horses, and other supplies from civilians that were employed in efforts to strengthen Fort George. Page A13 mentions that Jacob Langs (commonly called Links) formerly of Northumberland County, Pennsylvania, had resided in the province for two years and had taken the oath of allegiance “last May.”

(3) The third part (Joseph Edwards), pages 1 to 44, contains records relating to U.S. citizens in the Province of Upper Canada, including, on pages 1 to 32, the 65 persons mentioned above. Pages 33 to 44 primarily contain a record of U.S. citizens who took oaths of allegiance to the Province, U.S. citizens who were allowed to remain without taking the oath of allegiance but pledged to keep the peace and be of good behavior, and (3) aliens (U.S. citizens) who were given passports to travel to another location. These include Mahlon Willson, Willson Doan, Isaac Swayze, Joseph Smith, Jesse Turner, Samuel Moore, William Smith, James Halsey, Jacob Parce, Alvin Dunbar, William Hartman, and Peter DeWitt. There are also two records relating to itinerant ministers of the Methodist Episcopal Church (pages 37-39) with their geographic areas of work in the Province of Upper Canada in January 1813: Henry Ryan, Thomas Harman, Isaac B. Smith, Andrew Prindle, John Roads, David Culp, John Reynolds, Silas Hopkins, Thomas Whitehead, Augustus Jones, Levi Lewis, John Willson, Silas Smith, James Gage, Peter Boughehala, John Smith, Philip Hous, Elias Pater, and George Lawrence.

(4) The fourth part (U.S. Army), pages 1 through 131, along with a receipt pasted on the unnumbered page opposite page 1, contain the record copy of receipts issued by Major William Johnson, Inspector General’s Office, Headquarters, Fort George, Upper Canada, July 13, 1813, to September 1813. These receipts were given for supplies or services furnished to the U.S. Army. These include the date, the service or product rendered, the amount paid, the signature of the person to whom payment was given, and signatures of witnesses to the payment if the payee was unable to sign his name. For example, at the top of page 77, “Insptr Generals office, Hedqtrs F George, Septr 9th 1813. Received of Major Johnson, Inspt Genl the Sum of Eight Dollars for one stand of Arms taken from the Enemy. Ruben Wiley [his mark], Witness Edmund Foster, 1st Lt. & Adjt 9th Regt.” (Some punctuation added; see below).

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(5) The fifth part (Joseph Edwards), pages B1 through B9, March to May 1813, were written by Justice of the Peace Joseph Edwards upside down relative to the rest of the volume, beginning on the final end paper, consist of financial notes, form language for various legal documents, and oaths of allegiance. On the inside back cover, he wrote the cost of this volume and its date of purchase, December 18, 1811.

Online access to this volume will hopefully enable researchers to discover relatives who went to Canada before June 1813, as well as provide information about others who supplied goods or services to the U.S. Army at Fort George in that narrow window of time from July to September 1813. Happy hunting!

It’s Almost Time … Come to FGS!

It’s not too late! You can register on-site beginning Tuesday, August 20, at 3 p.m. for the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2019 Family History Conference, Washington, DC – August 21-24, 2019 – at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Whether you come one day or all four, EVERY day is packed with presentations by nationally-known experts on genealogical research. You won’t want to miss it! You’ll be sure to learn a lot. Go to FGS 2019 Conference for details.

Come Home to Our Washington, DC!

For the first time in more than two decades, there will be a major genealogy conference in Washington, DC – August 21-24, 2019 – at the Omni Shoreham Hotel. It’s the Federation of Genealogical Societies 2019 Family History Conference. Whether you come one day or all four, EVERY day is packed with presentations by nationally-known experts on genealogical research. You won’t want to miss it! You’ll be sure to learn a lot. Register NOW! at https://fgs.org/annual-conference/.

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That Pesky Issue of Spelling

As citizens of the 21st century, we often expect “precision” in names, dates, places, geographic locations, and many other things. For our ancestors, however, precision in such details was not as important as things like, “How many eggs did the chicken lay today?”

Although we ‘live by the clock’ our ancestors did not, or not so much, and a Norwegian island wants to try to go back to that during their longest days. (See New York Times article here).

But back to the name thing. Today’s blog post by Damian Shiels, “Leaving Off the ‘O'”: Insights into Irish Emigrant Name Changes in 1860s America” gives good food for thought regardless of your ancestors’ nationality.

As always, superior genealogical research requires an understanding of our ancestor’s perspective and worldview. It makes understanding the records a tad easier.

A is for …. accurate authentic ancestors.

A is for ancestors…. As family historians, we research our ancestors to know more about the past and, more importantly, something about who we ourselves are.

A is for accurate…. As family historians, we should strive to be accurate…. to collect correct information about the correct ancestors (avoid the similar name problem, eh?) and to interpret that information correctly.

A is for authentic…. Accurate information that is properly interpreted leads to an authentic telling of that ancestor’s story. Sure, we will never know our ancestors the way they knew themselves, or as their neighbors knew them, but we can strive to do justice to their memories by striving for authenticity.

If these thoughts seem rather basic, well, yes, they are.

Many things can get in the way of accuracy and authenticity:

  • Cherished family legends that are actually mostly legend.
  • Assumptions about the past that are mistaken.
  • A preferred version of history, even if not grounded on facts.
  • A desire to avoid acknowledging historical facts that are ugly and unseemly in the 21st century. (They were probably were ugly and unseemly at the time of the historical events in question, too.)
  • Poor research skills.
  • Incomplete or unavailable records.
  • Any number of other factors.

Some time ago I was part of a conversation about a researcher’s cherished family documents that weren’t quite what they purported to be. I will never know the full story behind the documents. It was a little sad and troubling.  It involved accuracy and authenticity being deliberately thrown under the bus. Was the truth “too dull”? Was the family legend (if there was one) too cherished? How many family history researchers prefer fiction to reality?

If you want legends, read mythologies. If you want to know your ancestors, read and study real records pertinent to them and their time and place. You may be pleasantly surprised that “truth” may be just as interesting as fiction.

 

Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History

Finding a great archival record whose significance has not been recognized is one of the things that makes working with archival records a joy. Although the 1863 Gettysburg Address audience photo in this story had never been forgotten, it was clearly under-appreciated until Josephine Cobb made the effort in 1952 to examine it closely and with thoughtfulness. Great archivists have curiosity and a deep understanding of history and their subject specialties. Hurrah, Josephine Cobb, and may there continue to be more like you.

Follow the link below to read the full story!

March is Women’s History Month! Visit National Archives News to see how we’re celebrating. Today’s post comes from Michael Hancock in the National Archives History Office. According to the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words. But in the case of Josephine Cobb and her 1952 discovery in a Civil War–era photograph, it’s worth…

via Josephine Cobb’s Discovery of a Lifetime — Pieces of History

Lots of Fires

The destruction of records by fire and other disasters ranks among the genealogist’s worst enemies. These are some of the most famous ones, but there were undoubtedly many others:

Sometimes, you have to think that we are lucky that records have survived at all.