Welcome to my genealogy blog. Ancestors I Wish I Knew is a combination of genealogical information and stories about individuals in my family tree. The focus is on those from my Cochrane, Eitelbach, Merrett, Minarcik and Richards lines and their descendants.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

#125--Visiting Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn

Green-Wood Cemetery

When I was growing up, we lived near Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York.  That was in the era when families went for a car ride after Sunday dinner.  We often did that, and one of the places we visited was Green-Wood Cemetery, which was very close to where we lived.  Green-Wood was one of the first “rural” cemeteries, built in the mid 1800’s.  As a rural cemetery, it was constructed with lots of winding roads, trees, bushes, and several lakes.

Richards Lot
Cochrane Lot
We always visited out family plots.  First, we would go to the Hannah plot where my grand-parents were buried.  Often we would then go to the Richards lot.  My father always said you found it by driving down the outer drive of the cemetery, and stopping at the tomb of the vaudeville player with the banjo, parking the car and walking down the path to the right.  The Cochrane lot was on the other side of the road in a very quiet spot.    I think one of the reason I became interested in genealogy was because I was curious to know more about the people who were buried in those lots.

Two years ago I had the opportunity to take a tour of Green-Wood, which showed me aspects of the cemetery that I did not know about.  On one of the highest points in the cemetery, we saw the Altar of Liberty.  Here there is the Goddess Minerva, with her arm raised, facing the Statue of Liberty as if saluting her.

Slightly down the Hill is the monument to those who fought in the Civil War.  The monument is 35 feet high.  There are plaques on all four sides, which contain inscriptions.  Most impressive to me are the four life-sized statues of represent the four branches of the military:  infantry, cavalry, artillery and engineers.


As we drove through the cemetery we saw a number of mausoleums.  Some of them contain the remains of people you may know—like Charlies Feltman, the inventor of the hot dog or Henry Steinway, the piano manufacturer. Many of these mausoleums have stained glass windows, statues, and furniture in them.  One even has heat!

We also saw the graves of famous people like Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Leonard Bernstein to name a few.

I was particularly struck by the beauty of the statues that adorn various graves.  The ones that appeal to me the most of those of angels.  Here are three of my favorites.

Angel of Grief

Angel of the Resurrection

Our Boy

Should you ever be in New York City, I would highly recommend a visit to Green-Wood Cemetery.  They have regularly scheduled tours--you will learn a great deal about the cemetery, but also enjoy a beautiful setting.

Monday, April 23, 2018

#124--Revisiting the Blizzard of 88

This week’s theme is storms.  Two years ago, I blogged about the Blizzard of 1888 in New York City.  So I decided to go back this week and re-visit that blizzard.  For that blog, I used the New York Times as my source for information.  
As I wrote then, “The storm started as rain on March 12, 1888, but the temperature dropped during the night, heavy snow fell and the winds increased to 50 miles an hour.  While the measured snow fall was 21 inches, the winds created very large drifts, in some cases reaching to the second floor of houses.”  The city came to a total halt; 200 people died during the blizzard, either my freezing to death or being killed by falling objects and electric wires.   

Since my great grandfather, Abiathar Richards and his family, lived in Brooklyn, I wanted to look at that blizzard from the perspective of Brooklyn.  The Brooklyn Daily Eagle wrote about the blizzard on both March 13 and 14.  Obviously, the paper focused much more on what happened in Brooklyn and how its residents were affected. 

First, the river froze, which prevented the ferries from running between Brooklyn and lower Manhattan.  

To further complicate things, the Brooklyn Bridge was so deep in snow that it became impassible.  Consequently, many Brooklyn residents, who commuted to Manhattan in the morning of March 13,  were stuck in Manhattan and unable to get home. 

Second, there was so much snow that people could not walk down the sidewalks or use their carriages on the streets.  The newspaper urged people to shovel their sidewalks themselves or hire men to do so. 

I have this photograph of Fort Greene Place where the Richards's lived and been impressed with the amount of snow on that street.  
Third, the paper wrote about how many things which are delivered, e.g. milk, coal, etc. were stopped by the storm.  However, I was amused  to see that the paper was very clear that even if not delivered, the paper was written and printed.

I would really like to be able to talk to my grandfather about his experiences during the blizzard.  First, I would want to know who is in that picture.  Is it his daughter, Gertrude and his two sons, Chester and Bill? Are they shoveling the snow?  If not, who did shovel it? I would also like to know whether they were trapped in the house, and, whether Abiathar tried to go to work in Manhattan. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

#123--Taxing James Hannah

Pretty soon, it will be time to pay your taxes.  What an appropriate theme for this week’s challenge.  Several weeks ago I discovered that Family Search had the tax records on line for Brown County, Ohio.  Taxes were paid on land that was owned.  The records are accessed through the catalog.  While they are not indexed, the tax records are organized for each year alphabetically.

My 4th great grandfather, James Hannah lived in Brown County so I was anxious to see what I could find.  The records indicate not only what the person paid, but also the water course the land was on, and who the original owner of the land was.  With the exception of 1825, I was able to find him in the records from 1820 to 1827, the year before he died.  From 1820 to 1824, he lived on land originally owned by John Graham.  The taxes for 1820 through 1823 were $1.10, but in 1824, they were $2.40.  While the writing is not too clear, it looks like he lived on Bull Stream on the Ohio River.  Unfortunately, I cannot find Bull Stream on any map.

In 1826 and 1827, he lived on land that originally belonged to Callohill Minnis on Three Mile Stream.  The taxes for the first year were $.13 and $.33 for the second year.  An additional piece of information was that he owned 15 acres.  I do not know why his taxes for 1825 were missing.  I looked for his name several times as well as the names of John Graham and Calllohill Minnis.  My only thought was that he had sold his land on the Ohio and had not yet bought the land on Three Mile.

I wish I could ask him where that land was exactly and why there were no taxes for one year.  It also looks like I have a little more work to do, specifically looking at land sales for 1825 and finding out what happened to his land after his death.  Also finding a map of the original owners of that land would be helpful..

Monday, April 2, 2018

#122--Albertine Hannah--Not Your Typical Maiden Aunt

Albertine Hannah Head Ston

Maiden aunts, spinsters—often not used as a complimentary term.  When I think of a maiden aunt, I think of a little old lady, who stays homes, keeps house, and takes care of her other relatives.  In some ways that may describe my great great aunt, Albertine Hannah and in other ways it does not.

Obtaining information on single women is usually a challenge so I do not know a great deal about Albertine.  Some of what I know about, Albertine, comes from census date.  I know she was born in 1834 in Edgar County Illinois, near where Chrisman is today, was the seventh child of John M. and Charity (Mears) Hannah, and lived on her father’s farm.  Her mother died in 1842 when Albertine was 8 years old.  In 1850 she was living with her father, her three brothers, and two sisters.  In 1860 Albertine was living with her father, and her niece, Charity Conrey, the daughter of her deceased sister, Nancy.  When the Civil War began, both her father and her brother, John Wesley, enlisted.  Her father fought for about three months, and then returned home, due to illness.  He died in 1865.  So far, Albertine looks like a pretty typical maiden aunt—living with her father, taking care of her niece, etc.

Hannah Farm Land
However, in other ways she was unique.  When I think about land sales in that period of time, I think of men selling land to other men.  That was not true for Albertine.  Over a period of 11 years, Albertine bought land five times all in Ross Township.. On March 11, 1851 for $1.00 her father sold Albertine 80 acres of land in Ross Township.  In addition, by a mortgage on December 14, 1861 her father also sold Albertine an undescribed piece of land for $106.   In February of 1861, for $700 Albertine bought land from James R. Watson and a year later, for $1000 land Bushwood Herrick sold her more land.  In addition, in February 1861 Albertine sold land to James Watson.  That land was also in Ross Township.

Hannah Plot
I was able to obtain Albertine’s will.  Most notable is her request that her real estate be sold and that $1200 of the proceeds be used to purchase a lot in the cemetery in Paris Illinois and to erect a monument for her father, mother, sister, Mary Sayres, and herself.  The remainder of the money from her real estate and her personal property was to be divided between her brothers and sisters as well as her niece, Charity Conrey.  Albertine died in 1867.  Her wishes were carried out.  There is indeed a Hannah plot in the cemetery in Paris, Illinois.  There is a large obelisk with her father’s name on the bottom, and headstones for Albertine, her sister Mary, and her sister Catherine Hannah O’Hair.  For reasons that I do not know, the headstone for her mother is in the McKee cemetery.

I would love to be able to have a conversation with Albertine.   I would like to know why she remained single.  Did she, like many women of that time, have a man she loved who was killed in the Civil War?  Also during the Civil War, who ran the farm while her father was at war?  Did she?  Did her brother, George, or her brothers-in-law help out?

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

#121--Selling David Mears's Homestead

I thought a lot about how to approach this week’s blog on “The Old Homestead.”  I have written about Jonathan Fairbanks’s house in Dedham so I needed another place.  I recently was able to acquire some land records from Adams and Brown County Ohio.  The land was owned by my great time 4   grandfather, David Mears.  David Mears was born about 1765, possibly in Ireland.  He first appears in the records of Mason County Kentucky in 1792 where he lived until at least 1799.  He next appears in the records of Adams County, Ohio where in 1811 he bought 200 acres of land on Eagle Creek from James Scott.  The land is described as falling in the Military District Warrant #2268 and bounded by Thomas Groves’s survey #1041.  The land is further described in terms of existing landmarks, e.g. a number of poles south to a particular tree, then a number of degrees west to a certain stone, etc.  Over two hundred years later that is not much help in terms of an exact location except that the land is on Eagle Creek, which is now in Brown County, not Adams. 

David paid taxes on 200 acres of land until 1823 when he sold 50 acres to John Rice for $202.  He continued to pay taxes on that amount of land until his death in 1828. 

I was interested in figuring out what happened to David Mears’s homestead.  He and Elizabeth had 9 children, 7 of whom continued to live in Brown County.  The other two (Elizabeth Mears, who married Jonathan Shreve, and William Mears and his wife, Sarah) had moved to Indiana.  I started by reading the sale of the homestead by the Mears heirs—those that lived Brown County.  The 150 acres were sold to Jeptha Beasley for $1200 on February 13, 1830.  What I found puzzling was that John and Charity Mears Hannah received 5/8 of the proceeds ($750) while Jane Mears Stephenson, Mary Mears and her husband Samuel Sayres, and Elizabeth Mears, David wife’s each received 1/8, which would be $150.  I wondered why John and Charity would get such a large share, while others received none or 1/8. 

A little more detective work gave me the answer.  Each son or daughter that lived in Brown County along with his or her spouse inherited 1/8 of the land.  Then in various dates in 1829 John and Charity Mears Hannah bought the rights to the 1/8 shares from four of her siblings:  Catherine Mears and her husband Israel Sayres; Nancy Mears and her husband, George Newell; Samuel Mears and his wife, Sarah; and Sarah Jane Mears and her husband, George Fisher.  To each couple John and Charity Mears Hannah paid $100. 

I would be interesting in knowing why that happened.  If my math is correct, 1/8 of $1200 is $150, so selling the rights for $100 when you could have gotten $150 is a significant loss.  Maybe they did not believe the land could sell for as much as it did so $100 seemed like a good deal.  Maybe they needed the money then.  If I could talk to them, I would surely ask. 

Saturday, March 24, 2018

#120 Charles Cochrane--A Final Misfortune

Misfortune is the theme for this week.  As soon as I saw that, I knew immediately which one of my ancestors was most unfortunate.  That would be Charles Cochrane, my great time 4 uncle.  Charles was born on January 12, 1749 to Thomas Cochrane, the 8th Earl of Dundonald and Jean Stewart.  In 1770, he married Catherine Pitcairn, the daughter of Major John Pitcairn.

Coming from a family with a strong military and naval tradition, Charles joined the army at the age of 13.  Charles served as an Ensign in the 25th Regiment for six years, and a Lieutenant in the 7th Regiment for another 6 years. As a Captain in the 4th Regiment of Foot, known as the King’s Own, Charles came to Boston in 1774.   On April 19, 1775 Charles was on patrol in the countryside around Boston, but did not participate in the Battle of Bunker Hills.  However, his father-in-law was killed in that battle.

Charles continued to serve in the colonies until June of 1780, when he requested leave to return to England to see his wife and two children.  He then returned with them to New York.  In October, 1781, Charles was sent by Sir Henry Clinton to Yorktown, Virginia with orders for General Cornwallis.  The French Fleet had blocked the Virginia Cape, requiring Cochrane to sail ashore in a small boat while the French fleet fired at him.  Cornwallis was so impressed with Cochrane that he appointed him his aide de camp.

So far Charles Cochrane’s military career seems pretty good, but not for long.  His unfortunately event then occurred.  It is well described in The Fighting Cochranes by Alexander Cochrane, on page 162

 “…he did not long outlive his exploit or his appointment.  Ever the keen and enthusiastic soldier, a day or two after his arrival in Yorktown he went on to the besieged walls with the Earl of Cornwallis.  There he sighted a gun; fired it; then peered over the parapet to see the effect of his shot.  As he did so, against all the odds, he was killed instantly by an enemy cannon-ball.”

That was indeed a misfortunate for Charles Cochrane, who lost his life, but also for his wife, who lost both her husband and her father in the war.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

#119--Lucky Mary

The theme for this week is “Lucky.”  My first thought was “Did I have anyone whose nickname was Lucky.”  .But I did not.  My second thought was to find an ancestor who was in some way lucky.  I really did not find anyone who fit that category.  Then I thought about the ways I have been lucky in genealogy.  I immediately thought of one of the things that happened as I prepared for my trip to Salt Lake City at the Family History Library with the New England Historic and Genealogical Society.  Before I went, I spent a lot of time with their catalog figuring out what I wanted to look at.  There were more things that I wanted to see than I had time to do.  One of the items I wanted was the microfilm for the will boxes for Norfolk County, Massachusetts.  My Richards ancestors lived in Dedham, Norfolk County since 1634 and I was interested to see exactly what was in those boxes.  While most of the microfilms are in the library, sometimes you have to order them.  I had to do that for the will box microfilms as they were stored in at the Granite Mountain Vault.    So I filled out the form to have them available when I was there.  Several days later, I received an e-mail saying that they were now online.

I was delighted with my luck.  I had more time to devote to things that were only available to the library and could spent as much time as I wanted online at home looking at the will boxes.  So was I lucky in terms of what I could find in those will boxes?  I think so, perhaps luckier with some people than others.  Let me use Abiathar Richards, Jr., my great times 3 grandfather.  There are 38 items in his will box.  About half of them are pages with only his name and file number on them. However, others are a wealth of information.  First in the box is his will—that makes sense.  It was pretty straight forward.  He left $1 to all his children with the exception of his unmarried daughter, Catherine, who was to receive $100.  His wife, Elizabeth, was to have the use of his property and any income from it until his death or until she remarried.   His sons, Luther and Abiathar, were to split his clothing.  What surprised me was that his wife, Elizabeth, was appointed as the Executrix of his estate.  I do know think of women at that time playing that role.

I was most interested in the inventory of his estate as that gives me an idea of what the person did and was like.  Abiathar Richards was a farmer and his property reflects that.  The value of his real estate—2 ½ acres of woodland was $40 and his personal property was worth $299. There was really nothing too surprising in his property—he owned some livestock (hog and a cow) farm implements, and crops in terms of cider and winter apples, potatoes, rye, etc. I was more interested in the fact that he had two sets of fine china, 12 sets of sheets and pillowcases, blankets, and quilts  and of course, bedsteads, tables and chairs.  Too me that was a pretty well appointed house.  The expenses for the estate were pretty routine—payment of the legacies to his children, medical expenses ($6.00), taxes ($7.15), and funeral expenses ($14.50) and grave stone ($11.50).  However, the very best part of the expense report was at the bottom was Elizabeth Richards signature!

I was lucky finding that the will boxes are on line and the information in them.  I am always more interested in the lives of my ancestors than when they were born, married and died.