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.

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.

Military Records for African-American Genealogy

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of speaking at the Afro-American Historical Society’s 2018 Black History Month Genealogy Conference in Laurel, Maryland. It was a great opportunity to reconnect with Alice F. Harris and Bernice Bennett, and to meet Marvin T. Jones, Erwin Polk, and others. All lecture handouts are available on the conference website. Much of my handout, Military Records for African-American Genealogy: Suggestions for Researchers, is applicable to all researchers regardless of color. I hope you’ll find it useful.

P.S. Any advertisements that appear on this website/blog benefit WordPress not me. Just FYI.

Women in the Civil War

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When we think of the Civil War, the image that likely immediately springs to mind is that of thousands of men in uniform clashing in epic battles, such as at Gettysburg.

Forgotten are the thousands of women who performed tedious, dirty, inglorious tasks–hospital matrons, hospital nurses, laundresses, cooks, and others. They were there, too, on both sides of the conflict.

Documenting their presence, identity, and contributions, is infuriatingly difficult, however, due to the paucity of records that were kept–or retained. A new article,
“Union Army Laundresses,” NGS Magazine, Vol. 42, No. 3 (July-Sept. 2016): 33-37, breaks new ground by outlining research strategies for documenting the service of hospital laundresses, fort and post laundresses, and camp laundresses.

Most of these women likely came from the poorer end of the economic spectrum. They included African-Americans as well as Caucasians. Their efforts deserved to be better remembered, and I hope this article will encourage research.

Civil War Chaplains

My colleague, John P. Deeben, recently published an excellent article on records in the National Archives about Union and Confederate Civil War chaplains. It is “Faith on the Firing Line: Army Chaplains in the Civil War,” Prologue: Quarterly of the National Archives and Records Administration, Vol. 48, No. 1 (Spring 2016).  Researchers will find it informative and useful.chaplains-cooke-l

Online Records – Carded Marriage Records

The images of the cards in the record series, “Carded Marriage Records, 1883-1916” are now online. This series, which is part of Record Group 94, Records of the Adjutant General’s Office, consists of cards with the following information: name of man, his rank or occupation, and unit to which he belonged; name of woman, her age and birthplace; date and place of marriage; name of medical officer who signed the report; and, sometimes, the date of report. Some of the marriages were performed at civilian locations off-post. If the woman was the daughter of an Army officer, his name, rank, and unit may also be noted. The information on these cards was copied by clerks from the original reports submitted by post medical officers. One of the clerks who wrote these cards had excessively ornate handwriting that is often difficult to interpret.

These records may help descendants of the 898 marriages included in this series locate an otherwise difficult-to-find marriage–for example, if their Regular Army ancestor married at an unexpected location.

These records have been placed online as a part of the continuing effort of the National Archives to make more records available online through its Catalog of holdings.