Here, gathered in our beloved South Dakota, are a few members of our Williamson / Mattson Clan. Charles and Luella are to be blamed (be kind, they didn't know what they were doing). We're generally a happy bunch and somewhat intelligent (notwithstanding our tenuous grasp on reality). I'm also proud to say that most of us still have our teeth.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

It's Easter! A Few Memories

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Everyone,
Had enough sugar for one day, or are you just beginning? I'm real old school when it comes to my candy of choice for Easter. You can have the jelly bean eggs. You can keep the Cadbury chocolate delights. I'll be your friend for life if you save me the marshmallow Peeps and the Brach's Easter Eggs with the colored candy shell and that white marshmallow interior. It's comfort candy to me - a reminder of my Easters in South Dakota as a kid.

My parents didn't put a lot of time into Easter, as evident in our traditional "Easter Egg Hunt". Every Easter afternoon my seven brothers and sister and I would be ordered to the basement after Sunday School to take off our church clothes and wait for the arrival and departure of the "Bunny". Maybe it was because we were the poor kids on the block, or maybe Rapid City, South Dakota was always the Bunny's last stop, but that darn Bunny didn't put a lot of effort into the hiding of our eggs. His haste always led to concussions and spilt blood.

Imagine eight children on a very narrow staircase, huddled with pillowcases (we couldn't afford the nicely woven, colorful baskets). We sat close to each other and waited for the upstair's door to open - the signal that the Hunt was on. My older sister and I sat at the bottom of the stairway on my parent's orders. Putting us at the end of the line was intended to give our younger siblings first dibs on the pickings. It never did and always led to disaster. Sometimes parents never learn.

We all jumped up and pressed forward when the door opened. Our hearts pounded in our chests, feeding off the thought of pure sugar.
"You can come up!" Suddenly the words we waited for were spoken. It was time to put brotherly love aside or go without the good stuff for another year.

First blood was always drawn on the rush up the stairs. It was usually the youngest's bloody nose. My sister and I, having had more experience at that kind of thing and carrying more mass, easily pushed and shoved the other six out of the to make it outside first.

The Bunny's haste usually meant most of the eggs were located in one central area on the back lawn.
"There they are!" was the shout we all listened for. Once the stash was located, it was like two football teams descending on a fumbled football. We all piled in, pushing and shoving, swinging and missing, swinging and hitting, biting and punching - it didn't matter. There were no rules in this evolutionary sport of survival of the fittest.

Now that I'm older I understand why our neighbors were always outside at their back fences. Watching the Williamson's Easter Egg raucous was better than anything on TV. Some of them joined in the fun by waiting until our collecting was finished and then shouted that we had missed a few. We watched while they threw several eggs by the tree. They laughed as the whole rugby scrum formed and fur, hair and teeth flew all over again. It was like tossing a whole piece of bread into a gaggle of ducks on the pond. Feathers flew and camera's snapped.

At the end, we four oldest had most of the candy eggs and Peeps while the youngest had the strangely colored hard boiled eggs we'd dyed the night before. Then came the tears and screams. The four of us knew that Mom would make us share the candy and Peeps if we didn't eat them right then and there. We ran to the side of the house and shoved them into our mouths as fast as we could (or rehid them for retrieval at 11:00 P.M when everyone was in bed).

The Holy Grail of our Easter was finding the one that got away. Remember finding that one candy egg or marshmallow Peep that escaped the search lights and blood hounds? There it quietly sat, hiding up high on the window ledge behind the living room curtain for a month or so until discovered. The thrill of finding the "One that Got Away" was intoxicating. The screaming would be followed by a parade through the house where the delicious morsel would be held out like a captive general of an opposing army. Your pride would swell from hearing "I can't believe it," said over and over again.

The Easter trophy would sometimes be eaten in front of everyone right after the parade. We believed that it's craftiness and cunning could be transferred into our own being through digestion. Other times the candy would be kept as a trophy to be taken out, dusted and shown to company for the next several months.

Yes, those are my Easter memories........ Happy days.......


Sir Thomas Gresham, Our 11th Great Uncle.

Sir Thomas Gresham, Our 11th Great Uncle

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
I'm hoping this post finds you all sugared up from your Easter celebrations. Things are quiet at the Fortress, leaving me a few hours of quality time to continue the search for our family's history.

I started my historical wanderings this morning with Selina Dandridge Jeffries, mother to our common ancestor George Matthew Williamson. I'm sad to say that after an hour or two I have nothing to report. Selina's ancestry remains a mystery, except for a few clues. From her name I know that her mother was probably a Dandridge, yet I can find no records of a Jeffries marrying a Dandridge in Virginia at the time her parents would have wed. What is more interesting is that George Washington's wife (Martha Washington) was a Virginia Dandridge. There may be a link then to the founder of our nation, if I can only find Selina's parents.

I gave the up search on the Jeffries line and jumped over to Matthew Williamson, father of George Matthew. You'll notice a "?" by the name of his parents on the family tree. That means I'm almost certain he ties into the Cuthbert Williamson family line - but don't have absolute proof. That being said, I decided to explore further up this Williamson line and have discovered some interesting things and people.

In our digital family gathering this Easter we shall learn about our Great Uncle, Sir Thomas Gresham (with the caution that I'm almost sure this is our line but, as in many cases of genealogy , I can only go on the evidence available if the smoking gun isn't present).

Sir Thomas Gresham

We begin with the Relationship Chart:

11th Great Grandparents Sir Richard Gresham and Audrey Lynn
Christian Gresham and Sir John Thynne (Sir Thomas was Christian's brother)
Dorothy Thynne and Sir John Strangeways
Grace Strangeways and Edmund Chamberlayne
Edmund Chamberlayne and Elanor Coles
Thomas Chamberlayne and Mary Wood
Rebecca Chamberlayne and John Williamson
Cuthbert Williamson and Elizabeth Allen
(?) Cuthbert Williamson and Susanna White
Matthew Williamson and Selina Jeffries
George Matthew Williamson and Margaret Ann Willis
Vennie, Ima Inez, Lillie, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice Williamson

Uncle Thomas was born in London and descended from an old Norfolk family. He was one of two sons and two daughters of Sir Richard Gresham, a leading London merchant, who for some time held the office of Lord Mayor, and worked as agent of King Henry VIII in negotiating loans with foreign merchants. He was given a knighthood. He attended Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. Either before or after this he became apprentice to his uncle Sir John Gresham, also a merchant, who founded Gresham's School in Holt, Norfolk in 1555: we have his own testimony that he served an apprenticeship of eight years.

The Gresham Coat of Arms

In 1543 the Mercers Company admitted the Uncle Thomas as a liveryman, and that same year he went to Belgium and the Netherlands where he carried on business as a merchant and worked an agent for King Henry VIII. In 1544 he married Anne Fernley, the widow of William Read.
In 1551 the English government entered a period of financial embarrassment due to the mismanagement of funds. The King called in Thomas to give advice, and then chose him to carry out that advice. He called for the adoption of various methods — highly ingenious, but quite arbitrary and unfair — for raising the value of the English pound sterling on the Bourse of Antwerp. This proved so successful that in a few years King Edward VI was able to pay almost all of his debts. The English government sought Gresham's advice in all their money difficulties after that, and employed him in various diplomatic missions. He had no stated salary, but in reward of his services received from King Edward various grants of lands, the annual value of which at that time amounted ultimately to about 400 pounds a year.

Another portrait of Thomas Gresham

In 1553 Gresham went out of favor for a short time when Henry VIII's daughter Queen Mary took the throne at her father's death. But soon Gresham was re-instated; and as he professed his zealous desire to serve the Queen, and manifested great abilities both in negotiating loans and in smuggling money, arms and foreign goods, his services were retained throughout her reign (1553 - 1558). In addtion to his salary of twenty shillings per diem, he received grants of church lands to the yearly value of 200 pounds. Under Queen Elizabeth he was made the Ambassador to the court of Margaret of Parma, receiving a knighthood in 1559 prior to his departure. The unsettled times preceding the Dutch Revolt compelled him to leave Antwerp on 10 March 1567; but, though he spent the remainder of his life in London, he continued his business as merchant and financial agent of the government in much the same way as formerly. Overall he made himself one of the richest men in England. (reigned 1558 - 1603).

Queen Elizabeth also found Gresham useful in a great variety of other ways, including acting as jailer to Lady Mary Grey (sister of Lady Jane Grey), who, as a punishment for marrying Thomas Keyes the sergeant porter, remained a prisoner in his house from June 1569 to the end of 1572.

The Royal Exchange Today

In 1565 Gresham made a proposal to the court of aldermen of London to build at his own expense a bourse or exchange — what became the Royal Exchange, modeled on the Antwerp bourse — on condition that they purchased for this purpose a piece of suitable ground. In this proposal he seems to have had an eye to his own interest as well as to the general good of the merchants, for by a yearly rental of £700 obtained for the shops in the upper part of the building he received a sufficient return for his trouble and expense.

The Gresham Grasshopper atop the Weather vane on the Royal Exchange

The grasshopper is the crest above Gresham's coat of arms. It is used by Gresham College, which he founded, and can also be seen as the weathervane on the Royal Exchange in the City of London, which he also founded in 1565. The famous Faneuil Hall in Boston, Massachusetts, later borrowed the emblem.

Gresham College Today, Still a Center for Learning

According to an ancient legend of the Greshams, the founder of the family, Roger de Gresham, was a foundling abandoned as a new-born baby in long grass in North Norfolk in the 13th century and found there by a woman whose attention was drawn to the child by a grasshopper. A beautiful story, it is more likely that the grasshopper is simply an heraldic rebus on the name Gresham, with gres being a Middle English form of grass (Old English grœs). The Gresham family motto is Fiat voluntas tua ('Thy will be done')

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Cornelius Melyn Our Tie to The Netherlands and the Settlement of New Amsterdam

The Signature of our 10th Great Grandfather Cornelius Melyn

From the Fortess of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello All,
Our Spring Vacation is nearly over. It was awesome to take a week away from the school to recharge. I noticed that our Park City Williamson cousins (Dan Williamson / Woody Williamson / Walt Williamson) took the occasion to visit Paris (I saw their posted Facebook pictures). I'm sure they had a great time.

In this Sunday's virtual family gathering we are going to learn about our famous Dutch 10th Great Grandfather, Cornelius Melyn. Of course, the line is available for all to see in detail on the family tree (link by clicking on the family tree picture near the top of the right side bar). Here is the quick Relationship Chart for reference:

10th Great Grandparents
Cornelius Melyn and Janneken Adriaens
Jacobus Schellinger and Cornelia Melyn (Amsterdam to New Amsterdam, N. America)
Catherine Shellenger and Nathaniel Baker
Mary Baker and Timothy Woodruff
Katherine Woodrull and Benjamin Haines
Hannah Haines and Matthias Spinning
Mary Spinning and Benjamin Morris
Isaac Morris and ?
Nancy Morris and Whitty Victor
Effie Helen Victor and William Jonathan Williamson
Vennie, Ima, Inez, Lillie, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles and Maurice Williamson

Cornelis Melyn - Patroon of Staten Island

Corneille (Cornelis) Melyn, a son of Andries Melyn and of Marie Ghuedinx-Botens, was born at the house called The Sack in the Rue du Sac (Zak Straat or Sack Street), Antwerp. He was christened September 17, 1600 at the Saint Walburga Church, Antwerp; died between 1662 and 1665 at New Haven, Connecticut.

Witnesses (godparents) at his baptism were Corneille Lobeyn and Sara Verreyken. Cornelis was orphaned at the age of six, and Jacques Melyn and Hans Salomons, his uncles, became his legal guardians. Cornelis was reared by his half-brother, Abraham Melyn. As a 12-year-old, he was apprenticed to Thierry (Dirk) Verschulder to learn the trade of tailor. Two years later, Cornelis was apprenticed to Artus van Hembeke. For the first four years of training, the masters are traditionally paid for providing training and room and board. Early in 1617, van Hembeke paid Cornelis 20 florins for his last year of working for the master tailor.

Cornelis left Antwerp in September 1618 with his baptismal certificate and testimonials of good character. He returned September 2, 1626 to settle his affairs and claim some inheritances from his parents, sister, and an uncle.

Amsterdam Harbor 1600's

He was married April 22, 1627 at Amsterdam, The Netherlands to Johanne/ Janneken/Jannetje Adriaens daughter of Adriaen Reyerson.

The couple had eleven children: Baptized in Amsterdam - Cornelia, Feb. 27, 1628; Joannes, April 27, 1629; Cornelis, Jr., Sept. 6, 1630 (d bef Oct. 4, 1633); Cornelis, Jr., Oct.4, 1633; Abraham, May 27, 1635; Mariken, March 29, 1637; Yzaak, Nov. 21, 1638 (d before July 22, 1646); Jacob, April 17, 1640; and, Baptized at the Reformed Dutch Church of New Amsterdam (now known as the Collegiate Church) - Sanna (Susannah), Jun3 14, 1643; Magdalena, March 3, 1644/5; and Yzaak, July 22, 1646.

Cornelis' occupation is listed as "dresser of fine and soft leathers" on his marriage license issued April 22, 1627. He was living on Elant Street, Amsterdam, at the time. The marriage license says Jannetje is "from Myert, 23 years, having no parents, living on the Lindegracht..." (Gracht means canal.) Myert is believed to be today's Hooge en Lage Mierde at Kempen Land in the Province of North Brabant, The Netherlands.

The Dutch Ship Half Moon, Similar in design to the ship's used by Cornelis

Cornelis made twelve known voyages across the Atlantic. His first was on his ship Het Wapen van Noorwegen (The Arms of Norway). He left his family in safety to sail from Trexel to New Netherland (today's New York) in May 1638. He arrived August 4, 1638 in the New World.

A fort had been built at the south end of Manhattan Island, and a small town, New Amsterdam, created for the farmers brought to supply a military garrison. Cornelis spent only ten days in New Netherland before he set sail, first to Newfoundland then to France. He arrived in France, where he sold the ship and its cargo in the spring of 1639.

Cornelis left for America again in May 1639 on the ship De Liefde (The Love). He arrived in late July and spent six weeks in New Netherland during that summer. In September 1639, he left for Holland, possibly on either Brant van Troyen or Den Harnick, arriving before December 9, 1639.

To increase immigration the Dutch West India Company had offered large land grants with feudal authority to wealthy investors (patroons) willing to transport, at their own expense, fifty adult settlers to New Netherlands. Impressed with his visits to the New World, Cornelis applied for and received a patroonship and Manoral rights for the domain of Pavonia Hall on Staten Island from the West India Company July 3, 1640. A month later, he set out again for America, but lost everything soon afterward when his ship De Vergulde Hoop (The Guilded Hope) was captured by pirates. He returned to Holland before February 1641.

Director General Willem Kieft

While Cornelis was in Holland, trouble was brewing in New Netherland because the Dutch colonists did not treat the native tribes well. Dutch farmers permitted livestock to forage freely in the woods where they often invaded unfenced native corn fields. In July 1640, Director General Willem Kieft sent 100 armed men to punish the Raritan Indians when some pigs disappeared on Staten Island. The expedition killed several Raritan, including a sachem (chief). On September 1, the Indians retaliated, killing four Dutch settlers and burning all the buildings, wiping out Staten Island's first settlement.

In 1641, before Cornelis ever took physical possession of his patroonship, he sold half of his interest in Staten Island to finance his next voyage. He then set sail with his family and about 40 colonists on the ship Den Eyckenboom (The Oak Tree). They departed about May 17, 1641 and arrived in New Netherland about August 14, 1641.

Cornelis immediately became involved in political affairs. He organized a group called The Twelve Men shortly after his arrival. On January 21, 1642, the group sent a petition to Kieft designating themselves as "selectmen on behalf of the Commonality of New Netherland," hoping to establish a voice in the affairs of the colony.

Despite the fact that Cornelis Melyn was a vocal political activist opposing Kieft's policies, Kieft asked him to build America's first whiskey distillery in what is known today as New Brighton. The settlers taught the local Indians to drink whiskey. Put simply, when the Indians got drunk, the settlers took advantage of them. The Indians became angry and killed many of the Dutch farmers and burnt their homes. Melyn's settlement was destroyed by Indians during this "Whiskey War" in 1642. Melyn and family fled to New Amsterdam.

From 1643 to1645, "Governor Keifts’ War" against about 20 tribes of local Indians rampaged around Manhattan and Staten islands. More than 2,500 lives were lost.

The Pavonia Massacre

Kieft had decided to exterminate one tribe to set an example to the other Wilden (wild men) near Manhattan. On the night of February 25, 1643, his men made two surprise attacks on the sleeping villages near Pavonia and, without regard for sex or age, massacred at least 110. As word of the "Pavonia Massacre" spread to the other tribes along the lower river, they retaliated with continuous attacks on the outlying Dutch farms and settlements.

In October, the Staten Island settlement was left in "desolate waste" after an Indian attack. Melyn again took his family to Manhattan Island, where he bought a home to be used as temporary lodging during the troubled times. In that year, Cornelis received a patent for 62 English feet along the road to the north and 88 feet deep to the river shore (now the end of Broad Street) and built a modest home.

In August 1644, he bought another house, paying 250 guilders for it. In December 1644, he bought yet another house, this time paying 950 guilders. That year, Kieft offered 25,000 guilders to the English in Connecticut for 150 men to help put down the Indian uprising. The combined forces crushed the natives.

Cornelis assembled with most of the inhabitants of New Amsterdam to meet Petrus (Peter) Stuyvesant, the newly appointed director general, when he arrived on May 11, 1647. Melyn immediately brought charges against Kieft, which Stuyvesant refused to consider. In turn, Kieft charged Melyn with sedition. Fearing the worst, Cornelis deeded his house to his oldest daughter, Cornelia Melyn Loper, July 11, 1647.

On July 25, 1647, Cornelis was found guilty of treason, bearing false witness, libel and defamation. He was sentenced to seven years of banishment and fined 300 guilders. In August 1647, a few months after Stuyvesant's arrival, the Princess Amelia sailed for Holland. On board were Kieft, Dominic Bogardus, minister at Manhattan from 1633 to 1647, victims of Kieft's and Stuyvesant's persecution - Joachim Pietersz Kuyter and Cornelis Melyn. An eyewitness account says they were "brought on board like criminals and torn away from their goods, their wives and their children". The ship was wrecked on the coast of Wales on September 27, 1647. Kieft and Bogardus drowned along with about 80 others including Cornelis Melyn’s young son (believed to be Johannes). The survivors, including Cornelis Melyn, built a raft from the wreckage and used their shirts as sails to get to the English mainland.

Cornelis arrived in Holland in late October. He wasted no time getting to the States General at the Hague, where all proceedings against him were suspended. With a letter of safety from William II, Prince of Orange (also known as William III, King of England), he returned to New Amsterdam, leaving Holland in May 1649. The ship is believed to have been the De Jonge Prins van Denmark. Presented with the court orders from the Hague and the safe conduct from William of Orange, Stuyvesant's council permitted him to reside in New Netherland.

Cornelis again returned to Holland, leaving New Netherland (possibly on the Prins Willem) in August 1649 to further fight for his case against Stuyvesant. He arrived in Holland on October 4, 1649. In a letter of December 17, believed to have been written in 1649, Janneken Melyn wrote from New Netherland complaining to Cornelis Melyn that "poor people have scarcely enough to eat, for no supplies of bread, butter, beef and pork can now be had, except for beaver or silver coin." The letter went on to say Stuyvesant, "promised the people either beavers or silver coin, or cargoes in the spring." She ended the letter with a final descriptive sentence of the hardships endured in the new land. "It is so cold here, that the ink freezes in the pen."

Although his case was seemingly never settled, Cornelis set sail for his home in America August 10, 1650 on the Nieuw Nederlandtsche Fortuyn. This trip, he brought more colonists with him. On December 19, 1650, Melyn returned to Staten Island and built farms again. His colony on Staten Island finally began to prosper.

Melyn was beginning to recoup some of his financial losses when on August 22, 1651 Stuyvesant arrested him on trumped up charges and had him thrown into a dark hole in the prison. Stuyvesant confiscated about two-thirds of Cornelis' property and sold it. Because of the pleading of Jannetje and her children, Cornelis was released following an Indian attack on Manhattan. Cornelis went directly to Staten Island.

One fall day in 1655, a man named Hendrick VanDyke, who lived on Manhattan Island, looked out his window and saw an Indian woman take a peach from a tree in his garden. Without hesitation, he shot her.

Soon, Dutch settlers found they had 200 angry warriors tearing the island apart looking for the culprit. They eventually found and seriously wounded VanDyke. After deaths to both sides, the warriors retired across the Hudson River and burned Dutch farms at Pavonia, Hoboken, and Staten Island. The "Peach War" cost the Dutch about 50 lives. Melyn's colony was destroyed and several of his family members were among those killed and injured. Cornelis and his remaining family were among 100 colonists who were taken hostage by the Indians. Stuyvesant ransomed them.

After the hostages were released, Cornelis gave up his patroonship and left Staten Island. He then moved to New Haven, Connecticut, "to put myself under the protection of the English." He and his son, Jacob, took the Oath of Allegiance to the English April 7, 1657.

Cornelis and his two surviving sons, Jacob and Isaac, returned to Holland, leaving in December 1658 and arriving February 13, 1659. They returned to America on the ship The Love on March 5, 1660, to their new home in Connecticut.

Cornelis was in and out of court in New Haven continually until his death. His background did not mix well with the Puritan way of life. Jannetje's name appears in records until 1674.

Borough Hall depicts Cornelis Melyn and the Dutch settlers trading with the Indians. The caption below is taken from a plaque describing the mural. For information on the paintings at Borough Hall, please visit The Staten Island History Murals Of Frederick Charles Stahr (1876-1946).

"Cornelius <span class=Melyn Trades with the Indians
Cornelius Melyn Trades With the Indians

Friday, April 15, 2011

Our Jennings Family History (Williamson Line)

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons,
I've spent many hours pushing through the ceilings at the top of many branches of our collective family tree. Today we will read about our Jennings line.

I came across the following Jennings Family History while researching this family line. The source is give at the beginning. I've taken the liberty to edit the piece for interest's sake. Enjoy reading about another previously unknown branch of our family.


P.S. Our Relationship Chart into the Jennings Family line is given at the bottom of the page.

This information came from the book, " Jennings, Davidson and Allied Families", By Lillie Pauline White, Pg. 7.

John, meaning the "Lord's grace," is the source of many patronymics-Jennings among them. The evolution is something like this: John, Jons, Johnson, Janson, Jennings. Other variations of the name are Jinnins, Jennins, Jenyns, Jenynges, Jannings, and Jenning, with Jennins, and Jennyns being found in the colonial records Gennequin is the French form and Gening is old German of the eighth century.

The family of Jennings is of very ancient origin and its history of interest to the families of that name in the United States. They seem to have settled in England before the Norman Conquest, being of Danish extraction, some say that the family originated in Carnarvonshire, Wales, from whence it spread over England following the eleventh century, and later into Ireland, France and Germany.

The first member who settled in the Kingdom of Great Britain appears to have been a Danish captain, brought into England between 1017 and 1025 by Canute. King of Denmark. Here Captain Jennings was baptised into the Christian faith, and was given certain manors lying upon the seacoast near Harwich by Canute as a reward for his former services for his father, Sweyne, King of Denmark.

Another interesting member of the family seems to have been another Captain Jennens, who, we are told, had the honor of bringing the body of Richard Coeur de Lion (Richard I or Richard the Lionheart) back to England.

The name was also prominent in Warwickshire, Yorkshire, Somerset, Middlesex and Straffordshire during the time of Henry VIII. One of Henry's favorites was a Robert Jennings who was presented, about 1545, by the King with a sword and belt, preserved by his descendants, who are, I think, still living on the estate in Berbyshire in the parish of Shettle, also a gift of the king to Robert Jennings. He held the appointment of chief warden, deerstalker, and ranger in Derbyshire.

An early record gives us Humphrey Jennens, ironmaster of Birmingham, who was living in the grace of the King in 1575. His daughter, Anne, married into the house of the Earl of Suffolk.

Then it is said that there was a famous British admiral, Sir John Jennings, Fifteenth child of his father. Philip, of Duddleston Hall. Shropshire. The admiral was at the capture of Gibralter, in 1604, and was knighted for gallant conduct. His seat was the Manor of Newselle, Hampden Court.

All the world knows of Sarah Jennings, First Duchess of Marlborough and mistress of the Queen's robes. To her must be given a considerable share in the Duke's advancement and rise to greatness. She was an imperious lady with a temper of her own, and when the doctor told her one time that if she weren't blistered she would die, she replied. "I won't die and I won't be blistered!" and for a time she kept her word.

A John Jennings was quartermaster under Cromwell and owned nearly all the land on which Birmingham, England, now stands. Here he established, about 1840, the iron works which were the foundation of the city's wealth. One of the grandsons of this John Jennings was William Jennings who became fabulously wealthy and died without direct heirs.

His carelessness brought about the greatest lawsuit the world has ever known. This century old suit involved more than five million pounds. It was upon this suit that Charles Dickenson based his "Jarndyee and Jarndyee" in "Bleak House," following the real incidents of the case closely, particularly the story of Richard Carslone and Wilkie Collins. "Women in White" is partly founded upon a phrase of this celebrated case, and other novels have drawn material from it.

This friendly suit would never have ruined and driven to madness scores of men and women and squandered hundreds of thousands of pounds if William Jennings had not mislaid his spectacles. William was born in 1700 or 1701 and lived to the age of 98, unmarried, during which time he had accumulated a vast estate. In 1798, having destroyed all previous wills, he wrote a new one and went to consult his solicitor before signing the document. He forgot to take his spectacles and , as the solicitor's pair did not fit him, he put his will in his pocket and returned home. In a few days he died and his unsigned will was found still in his coat pocket.

Several claimants to the estate immediately appeared, including among others Lord Curson; Mary, Viscountess of Andover; and William Pindar Lygon, the first Earl of Beauchamp. The Curson Family secured all the real estate, and Richard Penn Curson was created Earl Howe in 1821 at the cost, it is said of 24,000-the earldom having lapsed in default of male issue. The Beauchamps and Andovers consolidated their claims and secured L750,000 each. This was the last money ever paid out of the estate. Since that time thousands of pounds have been spent in searching church records, public documents, libraries, and even tombstones, with the object of establishing a line of descent for one claimant or another from the Jennings line. More than seventeen lawsuits have been before the court, and in 1934 one was started by certain members of the Jennings family of the United States. I understand that it was either thrown out of court or never allowed to be presented for want of sufficient evidence.

Later American echoes of the Jennings family's "Castles in Spain" include the publicity given the settlement of the estate of Edwin B. Jennings, recluse of Chicago, who died in 1926 leaving an estate of $5,000,000. which was divided among cousins, relatives of the fifth degree. A vast estate was left in 1889 by John Drake Jennings, Chicago Financier, but was undivided until it amounted to $12.000,000 in 1942. At that time it was to have been settled and distant relatives were being sought, as most of the immediate heirs had died.

Many Pilgrams of Jennings name and blood found homes in America. Who was the first is difficult to say, but we find that Nicholas of Hartford, afterward of Saybrook, came over in 1634 in the Francis of Ipswich at the age of 22, and a John-either his father or his brother, for we believe both came early-came over the next year and settled first at Hartford and later at Southampton, Conn. At about the same time, perhaps a year or two later, Joshua, who is believed to be another brother came and records show also Jonathan of Norwich, 1684; Richard of New London, 1675: Samuel of Portsmouth, R. I., 1655; and Stephen of Hatfield, who married Hannah Dickinson, widow of Samuel Gillett, who was carried captive to Canada by the Indians, where a daughter was born to whom was given the "Captivity."

Then there was Samuel Jennings of Aylesbury, Bucks, England, governor of New Jersey, who spelled his name with only one "n". Someone has said that "one "n" was airy enough for him." Another Colonial Jennings of importance was Edmund Jennings, who was secretary of Colonial Maryland. In 1728 he became third husband of Ariana Vanderhayden Frisby Bordley. Their daughter, Ariana, married John Randolph, attorney-general of Virginia. They became the parents of Edmund Randolph, Attorney-General under President George Washington, in the first Cabinet.

The American ancestor of this branch of the family-often called the New Jersey branch-is not certainly known although they are credited with having come from Suffolk Co., Eng. There is a family tradition to the effect that this ancestor was a Benjamin, who came in the ship "Caledonia" with his seven sons, but that the ship was wrecked near the coast of Perth Ambey, and the "seven brothers" were scattered and were never reunited. The log book was found or saved and is preserved in the New York Records. There is no record of the list of passengers landed, but tradition speaks of the "seven brothers", naming them as Joseph, Zebulon, Jacob, Benjamin, Jr., Jonathan, John, and David. Altho they are called "brothers," many think their relationship is not so close, some of them being not nearer than cousins.

While we have no positive knowledge regarding our English ancestry, I cannot but think, we are from the Sir John Jennings branch. We are told Sir John was a graduate of Oxford College in 1585, and our Joshna, we are led to believe, was a man of education. He married into one of the best families in Hartford, Conn., and was also one of the largest individual land owners of his day.

Sir John Jennings had twenty-one children only sixteen have been found. Leaving five unaccounted for by name - I believe our Joshua is one of the five.

The Jennings family were true friends of the first King James and the first King Charles of England; and they spent their large estate in supporting them. In later years when these two Kings' children and grand-children came to the throne, and tried to pay back the debt by giving position at court to Sir Richard's children, aomt tauntingly said, "They are only the daughters of a poor Hartfordshire squire". But their beauty, purity and loveliness with true thankfulness for favors, bestowed upon father and grandfather of the reigning families held them firm, and carried those "poor daughters" to the highest place next to the throne of England. So the Jennings blood flows through the veins of most all the titled families of England.

For my part I am glad Sir John Jennings did just as he did. King James the First was the means of getting us the best version or translation of the Holy Scriptures. We selected fifty-four of the most learned men in the world at-that-time, and in 1611 forty-seven of these men completed the task assigned them; and hence we have the King James translation of the Holy Bible today. Sir John died in 1642 but Sir Richard Jennings was in King Charles army with his troops and was taken prisoner by the Round Heads.

We made an effort to connect ourselves with the family of Humphrey Jennings of Birmingham, England, whose grandson Wm. Jennings died in 1799 leaving a large estate in iron mines and factories valued at about 40,000,000 lbs. sterling: but Humphrey Jennings was blessed with a number of beautiful daughters and their father being a rich man, they married into the titled families of England. One of these Lord Howe, administered upon the Wm. Jennings estate. So the heirs of Humphrey Jennings have the property today, but they bear other names than Jennings. The Sir Edmund Jennings family are another of the prominent ones at Yorkshire, England.

Ralph Jennings father of Sir John Jennings married the daughter of Sir Ralph Roulett and goldsmith of London. Sir John Jennings married Alice Spencer. He built the Water End House at St. Albans, a massive stone structure which is still standing and in good condition.

His grand-daughter Sarah Jennings married John Churchill a soldier in the English Army. She had him promoted until he was at the head of the Army as Duke of Marlborough.

There was also a prominent Admiral in the English Navy at that time by the name of Jennings.

In 1381 Matthew Jennings a gold-smith advanced money to King Richard 2nd.

Robert Jennings was prominent in Henry the Eights' reign.

John Jennings was Mayor of Guildford 1419 to 1435.

Bernard Jennings was Mayor of Guildford 1466 to 1475.

Robert Jennings the son of Humphrey Jennings was the correspondent and attorney of the Duchess Sarah. He was the father of William Jennings of Birmingham, who died a bachelor having a large estate which was referred to previously.

In Yorkshire we find in the 16th century Peter Jennens on his manor at Hebden Bridge b. ca. 1550. By Agnes ___ he had son William bapt. at H.B. Yorks 23 May 1577.

II. William Jennings of Hebden Bridge, bapt. Kilnwick Parish in E. Riding Yorkshire 23 May 1577, by wife Agnes ___ had three sons, 2 daus. John was bapt at Kilnwick 28 Oct. 1602; Robert bp. 13 Dec. 1607; Ambrose b. K. ca. 1610, d. London 1667, bur. St. Martin's 17 Feb. 1667; Mary b. at K. ca. 1615 d. London bur. St. Martin's 28 Dec. 1670; Agnes Jennings ca. 1618 buried St. Martin's 4 Mar. 1668.

III. John Jennings p. 146 of Kilnwick Parish, Yorks. bapt. 28 Oct. 1602, rem. Birmingham were he d. May 31, 1662, and was buried at St. Martin's, will rp. 10 Mar. 1663.

III. Robert Jennings of Kilnwick, 2d son of William, bp. 1607, m. 1640 Margaret Tillotson: had Edward bp 1655, William, John, Jonathan, Stephen

Children of JOHN JENNINGS are:

i. NICHOLAS2 JENNINGS, b. 1612, England; d. 1673, Saybrook CT.

2. ii. JOHN JENNINGS, b. 1617, Suffolk, England; d. September 21, 1686, CT.

3. iii. JOSHUA JENNINGS, b. ABT 1620, England; d. 1674, Fairfield CT.

Generation No. 2

JOHN JENNINGS was born 1617 in Suffolk, England, and died September 21, 1686 in CT. He married ANN YOUNGS ABT 1644, daughter of JOHN YOUNGES and JOAN JENTILMAN from there we get the following Relationship Chart:

Relationship Chart

Peter Jennens b. 1550 married ?
William Jennings and Agnes
John Jennings and Anne Smith
John Jennings and Ann Younges
Johanna Jennings and Benjamin Haines
Benjamin Haines and Lydia Jaggar
John Haines and Jane
Benjamin Haines and Katherine Woodruff
Hannah Haines and Matthias Spinning
Mary Spinning and Benjamin Morris
Issac Morris and ?
Nancy Morris and Whitty Victor
Effie Helen Victor and William Jonathan Williamson
Charles Williamson and Elda Vercellino and Elsie Jenson
Charles Williamson and Luella Mattson

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Laytons of Maryland (Williamson Line).

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
Tonight we will meet a few of our Great Grandparents that first settled in Virginia and then moved to Maryland. This is a new branch of the family with the name Layton.

Relationship Chart
8th Great Grandparents William Layton married Ursula ?
William Layton Junior married Rachel Nicholson
William Layton married Priscilla Lofland
Robert Layton married Rosannah Stafford
Heather Layton married Magor (Major) Victor
Elijah Victor married Unicy (Eunice) Hitch
Whitty Victor married Nancy Morris
Effie Helen Victor married William Jonathan Williamson
Charles Williamson married Elda Vercellino and 2nd Elsie Jensen
Charles Williamson married Luella Williamson

Of course, there is greater detail with dates on the official family tree (click on the family tree at the top of the right side bar to get to all the names, dates, birth and death locations).

Our 8th Great Grandparent William Layton first appears on records in Somerset County Maryland in 1667. We don’t know whether he came straight from England or from Virginia. One reason for his departure from Virginia into Maryland could come from a court case of January 16, 1666. William confessed to committing “fornication” with Sara, a servant of a so called “Mr. Wise”. On February 18, 1666 William was found guilty and given 20 lashes on his bare back with him also posting bond on good behavior and paying court costs.

On June 12, 1667 William Layton bought Carny’s Chance in Maryland, a 300 acre property. Later William left Carny’s Chance to move north. It’s possible that this move brought William into the company of his future bride, Ursula. There is no record of the marriage but on April 10, 1673 Ursula gave birth to their first daughter Ursula. Their son, our 7th Great Grandfather William was born on March 13, 1675.

William was back in Somerset’s Court in August 1677. Richard Higgenbothem swore that William, along with others,"abused" David Browne, a justice, and his family. This fight involved Brown, Thomas Jones and William Layton. While at Browne’s house Jones ”violently fell upon Higgenbothem to thrust him out of doores and did beate him several blowes”. They then threatened several of the neighbors with a rapier. Browne broke up the fight Jones allegedly “Laid up Browne rending his shirt in pieces and then called him a Scots Rogue," an ethnic insult that appears with some regularity in the Somerset records, indicative of the tension between the Scottish Presbyterians and English Anglicans.

On November 28, 1689 William Layton, along with many others, felt obligated to let King William and Queen Mary know that they remained their loyal subjects by signing an oath of allegiance. The paper also set forth their support for the Protestant religion and disavowed the French and other Catholics that “oppose and trouble us”.

Our story now moves along to William and Ursula’s son, our 7th Great Grandfather William Junior. William married Rachel Nicholson. One interesting character note in the Layton family is something written about our William’s brother’s wife. Thomas Layton, our 8th Great Uncle married Miss Rebecca Turpin. The following was written about her, "A few months ago she was one the height of fashion, but now sees the evil and folly of these things. She is a very happy young woman.” Rebecca was described as a “pattern of piety.” She was one of the holiest women of her age in Maryland; while she fasted, prayed and wept much she was seldom, if ever, seen to laugh. Though in good pecuniary circumstances, she was so self-denying and plain in her dress, that she "wore no other bonnet on holy days and Sundays, other then her white muslin bonnet.”

Remember, the purpose of this history is to introduce you to the people who's DNA operates and governs every cell of your body. The family tree gives you their names, but I'm also interested in their stories. Some of our ancestors have well documented lives, while others have nothing written that survived them. Yet there are many that have brief accounts and historical details that survive. These details may be a sentence or two in length - others longer. Whatever the case, my goal is to compile all these facts, stories and remembrances into one story that tells about our American Dynasty. I tell you this so that at the end of reading you don't ask, "What was the point of that post?" Even if the fact was small and almost hardly worthy of note, it is still a remembrance of someone in our past, someone we all share a kinship with.

Thank you for reading.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

More on David and Thomas Willis, Confederate Soldiers. Our GGG Uncles

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
One hundred and fifty years ago the Civil War started. Our family had ancestors fighting on both sides of the conflict. I've written and posted several articles on the war that can be easily found by using the search feature on the right side bar of this blog.

Today I'd like to add a few other items to our family Civil War history.

This is the record of GGG Uncle David Willis, the brother of our GG Grandmother Margaret Ann. He along with his brothers (except Thomas) served in Company D of the Virginia 54th Infantry Regiment (please read the article posted here on the blog on August 22, 2010).

This is Uncle David's continued pension request because of the war written in his own hand when he was 80 years old (click to enlarge).

This is the orginial flag the 54th Virginia Company fought under above. The reunion flag is below.

As far as we know, all the Willis brothers survived the war except for Samuel. He was 14 years old when war broke out. He died a few years later on a Union prison ship.

A Confederate Bugler

Our GGG Uncle Thomas Willis was the one brother who fought for the 1st Virginia Company, Stuart Horse Light Artillery Battery. He was a bugler.
The Bugler's job was to stick near the Battalion Commander to relay orders. The Bugler had to possess an instrument and the talent to play it well, and had to know all the necessary camp calls and, in particular, skirmish calls. The Bugler held the rank of Private. If more than one Bugler was recruited for the regiment, the second bugler was assigned to one of the flank companies and carried a musket and accoutrements in addition to his bugle. The bugler was posted twelve paces in rear of the file closers .

Artillery was pivotal to the war, and a battery of six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery. One driver was assigned to each pair of horses, riding the on (left) horse and holding reins for it and the off (right) horse. Skilled riders were required for this service, which combined the daring of the cavalry troopers with the precision teamwork expected of the artilleryman. Drivers were issued a leg-guard, an iron plate encased in leather and strapped to the right leg to prevent the limber pole from injuring them.

Our GGG Uncle's artillery battery participated in the following battles during the war and was present when General Lee surrendered to Gen. Grant at the end of the war.
  • Stuart's 1st Ride around McClellan [section] (June 13-15, 1862)
  • Seven Days Battles (June 25-July 1, 1862)
  • Gaines' Mill (June 27, 1862)
  • Operations against Union shipping on the James River (July 5-7, 1862)
  • 2nd Bull Run (August 28-30, 1862)
  • Antietam (September 17, 1862)
  • Union (November 2, 1862)
  • Fredericksburg (December 13, 1862)
  • Raid on Dumfries and Fairfax Station (December 27-29, 1862)
  • Kelly's Ford (March 17, 1863)
  • Chancellorsville (May 1-4, 1863)
  • Brandy Station (June 9, 1863)
  • Aldie (June 17, 1863)
  • Hanover, Pennsylvania (June 30, 1863)
  • Carlisle (July 1, 1863)
  • Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863)
  • Funkstown and Boonesborough (July 6-10, 1863)
  • Bristoe Campaign (October 1863)
  • near Brandy Station (October 11-12, 1863)
  • Mine Run Campaign (November-December 1863)
  • Stanardsville, Virginia (February 29, 1864)
  • Shady Grove (May 8, 1864)
  • Cold Harbor (June 1-3, 1864)
  • Trevilian Station (June 11-12, 1864)
  • Petersburg Siege (June 1864-April 1865)
  • Tom's Brook (October 9, 1864)
  • Cedar Creek (October 19, 1864)
  • Appomattox Court House (April 9, 1865)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Our Woodruff Ancestors (Williamson Lines)

From the Fortress of Solitude

Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
Today we gather in our digital reunion to talk about several of our Great Grandparents with the last name of Woodruff. This line springs from our Great Grandmother Effie Helen Victor then through her mother’s Morris line. You can follow this line on the family tree (click on the tree at the top of the right side bar).

Relationship Chart

14th Great Grandfather Thomas Woodrove
William Woodroffe
Robert Woodroffe and Alice Russel
John Woodruffe and Elizabeth Cartwright
John Woodruff and Ann ?
John Woodruff and Mary Ogden
John Woodruff and Sarah Cooper
Timothy Woodruff and Mary Baker
Katherine Woodruff and Benjamin Haines
Hannah Haines and Mathias Spinning
Mary Spinning and Benjamin Morris
Isaac Morris and ?
Nancy Morris and Whitty Victor
Effie Helen Victor and William Jonathan Williamson
Charles Williamson and Elda Vercellino and Elsie Jensen
Charles, Raymond, William, Kriss

We start with our 14th Great Grandfather, Thomas Woodrove, the first member of the Woodruff family of whom we have definite information. He first appears on record in the town of Fordwich, County Kent, England, in 1508. He died in 1552. In 1538 he was one of the magistrates who arranged for the conveyancing to some favored individuals of a portion of the possessions of the monastery of St. Augustine, which had been despoiled and desecrated by King Henry VIII. The family name has been variously spelled in different generations.

Monastery of St. Augustine Today

In 1535, Henry VIII dissolved all monasteries found to have an annual income less than £100. St Augustine survived this first round of closures, as its income was found to be £1733. But on July 30, 1538, the abbey's fate was sealed when it fell to the dissolution of Henry VIII. The abbey was systematically dismantled over the next fifteen years, although part of the site was converted to a palace, ready for the arrival of Anne of Cleves, from Germany.

Our 13th Great Grandfather William Woodroffe, son of Thomas, died in 1587. He was a jurat or magistrate of Fordwich in 1579.

...during its life time Fordwich, now freed from the restrictions imposed by the Abbot of St. Augustine, was encouraged to rebuild its Cort Hall, and the unpretentious little building of timber and plaster, on the banks of the Stour, remains to-day in much the same condition, both outwardly and inwardly, as when it was completed in 1555. William took an active part in municipal affairs, and became a Jurat. From his generally signing the minutes of the Court, he apparently presided, perhaps as senior Jurat, in the frequent absences of the Mayor. He was also a 'Key Keeper of the Town Chest', a very honorable office conferred upon 'the two best men of the Liberty'.

The 'Chest' was for the safe custody of deeds and other important records, fees being charged for the service. There is little further mention of him in the annals other than the entry in the Fordwich muster roll of 1573 that 'Willyam Wodruf the elder wt his men Robert Woodrufe and Edward Parker wt his furniture' is credited with 'one calyver furny shed one almon rivett furny shed'. (The caliver was a handgun that was fired from the shoulder, the heavier musket of the day requiring a rest).

Our 12th Great Grandfather, Robert, son of William Woodroffe. died in 1611. He and his brother William, whose family became extinct in 1673, were freemen of Fordwich in 1580, and Robert was church warden and jurat in 1584. He married Alice Russel at St. Mary, Northgate, in 1573.

Our 11th Great Grandfather John, son of Robert and Alice (Russel) Woodroffe, was born at Fordwich, in 1574, died in 1611. On reaching manhood he took up his residence in Northgate, where his uncle, William Russel, was church warden. He married Elizabeth Cartwright in 1601.

Our 10th Great Grandfather John Woodruff was the only son of John and Elizabeth (Cartwright) Woodroffe, was baptized at St. Mary, Northgate, in 1604, died in May, 1670, in Southampton, Long Island. In 1636 he was church warden at Fordwich, and a year or two later he accompanied his mother and step-father to America, being in Lynn, Massachusetts, and Southampton, Long Island, in 1639 and 1640. In 1657 his step-father deeded him his own homestead. He married Ann, conjectured to have been the daughter either of his step-father, John Gosmer, or of a Mr. Hyde.

Our 9th Great Grandfather John was the eldest son of John and Ann Woodruff, was baptized in the parish of Surry, county Kent, England, in 1637. He died at Elizabethtown, New Jersey, in April or May, 1691. He accompanied his parents and grandparents to Southampton, and April 30, 1657, is included in the list of arms-bearing men. May 1, 1663, he was elected constable, and between August 29 and September 7, 1665, he sold his Southampton lands, preparatory to removing to Elizabethtown, in which latter place he soon became one of the leading citizens, holding the offices of ensign, high sheriff, magistrate and one of the most prominent opponents of the lords proprietors. His only brother was, like himself, named John, a fact proven by their father's will, but as the latter remained in Southampton, where he inherited the bulk of his father's estate, the two lines have had distinct histories.

Our 9th Great Grandfather John Woodruff and wife Mary and John Ogden came from England to New Jersey, settling in Elizabethtown. He disposed of his property at Southampton in the summer of 1665 to Robert Voolley, husband of his sister Anne. On arriving at Elizabethtown he was accompanied by his two men and one maid servant, he purchased a town lot of one and one half acres on the corner of Elizabeth avenue and Spring street. He was granted a farm of three hundred acres in lieu of settling at Elizabethtown, which was later known as the Woodruff Farms. He also had extensive properties besides some six hundred acres, and was among the well-to-do of the settlement and a prominent factor in the government of the town. His land was next to Governor Carteret the largest landowner in the township.

Our 8th Great Grandfather John served as constable of Southampton from December 11, 1674, and was high sheriff November 28, 1684. He had a gallant career as an ensign. John Woodruff, gentleman, was commissioned ensign of the Elizabeth foot company under Lieutenant Luke Watson by Governor Phillip Carteret, August 4. 1668; commission revoked October 31, 1670. He was recommissioned an ensign of Elizabethtown militia under Captain Knipp by the council of war of New Netherlands during the Dutch occupation. On September 14, 1673-74, on recommendation of Governor Phillip Carteret, he was recommissioned ensign of same company.

Sunday at the Fortress

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Another Sunday without the sun. It appears the gray troubled clouds over the Fortress seem unwilling to surrender their tenuous grip on our pleasant valley's skies. And so we're held captive another day by a large storm front. Yesterday we experienced the full smorgasbord of weather, ending with snow. Today we expect the same but hope for better. Like all things natural - we know that this too shall pass.

Our Sunday at the Fortress begins with a hymn from one of our ancestral home countries. Please enjoy the English hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers"

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Johann Caspar Kieffer, Our 6th Great Grandfather (Williamson Line)

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
Snow in Utah County on April 9. I suppose it isn't unusual. It's that strange time of year when one day it is in the 70's and the other snow. One doesn't know what to expect next.

Today in our digital family reunion we learn about our 6th Great Grandfather Johann Caspar Keiffer. Although there is some disagreement as to the exact birth and death dates, there is uniform agreement on the fact that he was born in Waldmohr, Kusel, Rheinland, Germany around 1704. He died in York County Pennsylvania in the mid 1700's.

Relationship Chart

Johann Caspar Kieffer and Maria Glockner
Anna Kieffer and George Phlegar
Abraham Phlegar and Anna Goodykoontz
Arabella Phlegar and Jonathan Willis
Margaret Ann Willis and George Matthew Williamson
William Jonathan Williamson and Effie Helen Victor
Charles Williamson and Elda Vercellino
Charles Williamson and Luella Mae Mattson

Johann Casper traveled from Waldmohr Pfalz Germany to Port Rotterdam in the Netherlands departing Rotterdam aboard the ship "Two Brothers" on July 20, 1748 and arrived in Philadelphia, PA on Sept 15, 1748 with Abraham Kieffer (brother), Johan Nicholas Kieffer (brother's son) of St. Wendel's, Saar, Abraham Kieffer Jr.(son) of Breitenbach, Johan Peter and Johan Theobald Kieffer(brother's sons) of Zweibrucken. The Two Brothers Ship log listed his name as Casper Kiefer.

Caspar was listed as a communicant of the First Reformed Church (in operation 1744-1761 and was called Trinity Reformed at Hellam from 1745-1757) at Kreutz Creek, Hellam Township., York County on 1 Jan 1754. On 24 May 1763 he was listed as a subscriber for building of the new log church. The Old Kreutz Creek Cemetery lies east of the present Kreutz Creek Church. In it, about in the middle, on the eastern side, the first log church building was erected in 1745. He is also listed in the records of Evengelical Reformed Church, Frederick Co., MD.

The Kieffer History:
In the later days of the 15th century, about the year 1470, there was born in southern France a male child who was named Michel. Near the turn of the century, approximately 1500, this Michel had a son named Michel. This young Michel came to be occupied as a barrel maker in Orleans near Paris. It was about this point in time that it became the custom for people to take surnames, and as was a popular custom, Michel adopted the name of his occupation, becoming Michel le Tonnelier, for in France, a 'tonnelier' is a barrel maker.

Around the year 1540, Michel had a son whom he named Thibaud. This Thibaud grew up about the time reformation was taking place throughout Europe, and Thibaud became a Huguenot (French Calvinist Protestant). The name 'Huguenot' is believed to have derived from Bezanson Hugues, a Swiss religious leader. The Huguenots followed the teachings of John Calvin and were identified with the Reformed Church.

When Thibaud le Tonnelier left France in 1563 (nine years before the Saint Bartholomew's Day Massacre when Queen mother, Catherine de Medicis, allied herself with the Duke of Guise, and together, on August 24, 1572, they slaughtered 3000 Huguenots in Paris and tens to hundreds of thousands more over the next several months - six days after the wedding of the king's sister to the Protestant Henry of Navarre), he crossed into Germany in the area known, by the Germans, as the Pfalz. It is also called the Rhineland Palatinate.

Thibaud is said to have settled at Kettenheim which is a very small village near Alzey, a bit north west of the city of Worms. There at Kettenheim, Thibaud became engaged as a blacksmith, changing his name to the German equivalent, Theobald Küfer meaning a 'barrel maker' in German (Küfer is the correct German spelling). More familiarly, he was called 'Dewald' which was the popular nickname for Theobald.

Theobald married late in life and had only one son, Michael, born abt 1600. This Michael, in turn, was the father of three sons, Jacob, Michael, and Dewald who supposedly came to America in 1683 with Francis Daniel Pastorius to help settle Germantown, now a part of Philadelphia. But there is no mention of them in any records of the group who were with Pastorius. They may have been on the same ship, but not with the Pastorius party. They returned to Germany in the spring of 1684.

In the year 1688, Kettenheim was in the total destruction area of the French invasion. Everything in the town was destroyed except for one building, known as the 'firehouse' (the 'modern' town of Kettenheim was built up during the 1690s). The Küfers probably scattered to nearby communities. The eldest son of Michael, Jacob, had five sons, Michael, Valentine, Frederick, Leonardt, and Jacob. Michael and Valentine supposedly emigrated to Canada. DeWald supposedly returned to America in 1689. According to the 'Ohio document', a paper handed down through the years in the Michael Küfer family, DeWald Küfer, the youngest of the three sons of Michael, had four sons, Abraham, Caspar, Martin, and Michael. Church records however identify Abraham and Casper as the sons of Leonardt.

Although the area where our ancestors lived in Germany is now referred to as the Rhineland Pfalz, in the days when Thibaud le Tonnelier first moved there, it was known as Palatinate. About 1620, this area was separated into the Upper and Lower (or Rhenish) Palatinate. It is the lower Palatinate, of which Speyer was the capital, which is now the Rhineland Pfalz.

According to historians, great numbers of Palatinates emigrated during the 18th century to avoid further war, to enjoy economic improvement, or to obtain additional religious freedom. Those who came to America settled mostly in New York or Pennsylvania, probably because these two states were the most like the homeland they had known. At some point while in Germany Küfer became Kieffer.

Historical Reference of Palatine, Germany
Religious persecution, political oppression, and harsh winters drove thousands to Pennsylvania. They came from Germany, France, Holland, and Switzerland. The Germans began to abandon their homeland as early as 1606. Persecutions and murders spurred from the Reformation and Thirty Years War (1619-1648) between Catholicism and Protestantism, paralyzing the Palatines.

As the Palatinate was ravaged by wars, their boundaries were also unsettling. Wars, like the War of the Grand Alliance (1688-1697), and the war between Holland and France during (1674-1675) also negatively affected the Palatines.

As the devastation mounted so did the emigrations, resulting in approximately 100,000 Palatines to settle in Pennsylvania alone by 1750.

Why Pennsylvania?
William Penn traveled to Holland and Germany, in 1677, four years before obtaining a charter for Pennsylvania in 1681. A good reference to understand his philosophy and to understand why the Palatinates chose to follow him is explained in William Penn's Journal of His Travels in Holland and Germany, in 1677, first printed in 1694.

Genealogical Clues
From 1682 to 1776, Pennsylvania was the central point of emigration from Germany, France and Switzerland. Most of the 18th century German emigrants were from the Palatinate.

It was probably due to Penn’s tolerance for religious and political freedom that your ancestor emigrated to Pennsylvania. So, to connect this philosophy and the timing of your ancestor’s immigration, you may be able to pinpoint your ancestor’s homeland even closer.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Laura Ingalls Wilder. Our Cousin

Laura Ingalls Wilder

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!

I grew up in Rapid City, South Dakota. During the 1960's Rapid City's Public Library had a book mobile that stopped at the elementary schools to service our reading needs. It was in that bookmobile I discovered the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder. I remember seeing them up high on that shelve, nearly out of reach.

I remember their names and the simple artwork that graced each cover. I checked them out one by one. I read each one, and over time began to feel as if I was part of the Ingalls family.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was the creator of the much-loved children's series of "Little House" books that recounted her life as a young girl on the Western frontier during the late 1800s.

By the Shores of Silver Lake was one of my favorites. Laura Ingalls Wilder captured in writing the life and spirit of America's great prairies and the qualities of the people who settled them.

Laura Ingalls Wilder was our 9th cousin 2 times removed through the Morris line, then to the Harrisons (you can follow the line on the family tree - top of the right side bar of the blog). Our 10th Great Grandfather was her 8th.

Perhaps its time to once again rediscover the works of our cousin for ourselves and for our children. And if possible, try to find them in your neighborhood bookmobile - for old times sake :)


"All those golden autumn days the sky was full of wings. Wings
beating low over the blue water of Silver Lake, wings beating high
in the blue air far above it. Wings of geese, of brant, of ducks
and pelicans and cranes and heron and swans and gulls,
bearing them all away to green fields in the South"

Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Williamson Historical Footnotes

From the Fortress of Solitude
Pleasant Grove

Hello Williamsons!
It's snowing in Utah Valley as I type. If its light snow in Utah it will be blizzard and tornadoes the those of you living on the eastern side of the Rockies, Great Plains and East when the front hits you.

There's a section of the Fortress' Great Room full of pictures and documents of family history. So many in fact, that if I thought I had to organize them into one readable document I'd give up and go back to mind numbing television. That is why I've given myself permission to post everything in whatever order and leave it to later life, or another generation, to organize it into one great volume of family history.

In many instances I won't know where the information comes from, all I know is that I have the documents and trust that the memories are fairly accurate.

Enjoy these fragmented bits and pieces of family history.


From the First Document. Willis / Williamson
Jonathan Willis served in the Confederate home Guard during he Civil War. General Stoneman made a raid in Floyd County and camped for days on Anabella Willis' father's farm - even in the yard, and made extensive use of the farm house.

General Stoneman

General Stoneman and his Staff

Our Great Great Grandmother Margaret Ann Willis, first child of Jonathan and Anabella Willis was born March 1, 1835. She married George Matthew Williamson of Charlotte County Virginia. He was the son of Matthew Williamson and Lelina (Selina) Dandridge Jeffries who was from Lynchburg Virginia. Margaret Ann Willis and George M. Williamson married on July 17, 1856 and that same year moved to Birmingham, Schuyler County, Illinois.

Margaret's brother Hamilton Willis and his cousin Abraham Wade rode on horseback to Margaret and George's home in Illinois in 1857. The trip took three weeks. During the Civil War the two, still in Illinois, being with Union Territory , when into Oregon Territory to keep from being drafted to fight against the South.

Relationship Chart
Our GGG Grandparents Jonathan Willis. B. 1807 and Anabella Phlegar b. Dec. 12, 1809. d. October 15, 1865.

The Children of Jonathan and Anabella are:
GG Grandmother Margaret Ann Willis (b. 1835. d. 1921)
David Willis (b. 13 April 1836. d. 1925)
Hamilton Willis (b. 1837)
Bennet Willis (1839 - 1862 )
Lavina Willis (1841 - 1916)
Thomas Willis (b. 1842)
Samuel Allen Willis (b. 1843)
Simon Peter Willis (1845 - 1915)
James Willis (1846)
Mary Willis (1849 - 1850)
Martha Willis (1849 - 1875)
John Calvin Willis (1850 - 1935)
George Willis (1852)
William Henry Willis (1856 - 1932)

Margaret Ann Willis. Married George Matthew Williamson
William J. Williamson Married Effie Helen Victor
Vennie, Ima Della, Inez, Lillie Ethel, Josie, Emmett, Walt, Charles, Maurice.
(through Charles to his son Charles who married Luella)