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Week 5: Plowing Through: John W Hall

The fifth prompt offered by Amy Johnson Crow in the 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge is “Plowing Through”.   In response to this prompt I’d like to introduce you to my farmer kin, John W Hall.

1 print : lithograph. | Print shows a farmer carrying a bundle of hay on his back to feed some cows huddled under cover outside a barn during winter. Contributor: Currier & Ives - Palmer, F. (Fanny) Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings   Date: 1864 http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2001706219/

1 print : lithograph. | Print shows a farmer carrying a bundle of hay on his back to feed some cows huddled under cover outside a barn during winter.
Contributor: Currier & Ives – Palmer, F. (Fanny)
Original Format: Photos, Prints, Drawings Date: 1864

I confess, sometimes when researching family I play favorites. It may be that a particular ancestor’s experience relates to something in my own life, or that I deeply admire a particular ancestor. It’s really difficult for me to identify what it is about the John W Hall family that places them on my favorites list but they are without a doubt there. I’ve enjoyed researching the Halls and have had the chance to visit the hometown of John W Hall.

John W Hall was a lifelong resident of Charleston, Montgomery County, New York. (Part of Charleston was portioned off to give rise to the new town of Glen) It is likely he was born there, son of William Hall and Jannetje Covenhoven. (For more on the parents of John W. Hall please see footnote 1)[i].

In 1825, John and his siblings transacted land left to them in their father, William Hall’s, will. At the end of these transactions, John remained with 64 acres of the original family farm and his older brother Peter retained about 250 acres. Two years later, John sold his 64 acres to his brother-in-law Nicholas, and purchased a farm of about 70 acres at the Charleston/Glen border. About 5 years later he bought another 50 acres of land adjacent to his farm. Census records indicate the farm increased in size and by 1850 it was a total of about 220 acres. The land was partly in the town of Charleston and partly in Glen, and often John W Hall can be found in both towns.

Clipped map from Ancestry.com, annotated to show area of J.W. Hall farm at Charleston/Glen border. [Ancestry.com, U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, Collection Number: G&M_9; Roll Number: 9. Record for J W Hall.]

Clipped map from Ancestry.com, annotated to show area of J.W. Hall farm at Charleston/Glen border. [Ancestry.com, U.S., Indexed County Land Ownership Maps, 1860-1918 (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2010), Ancestry.com, Collection Number: G&M_9; Roll Number: 9. Record for J W Hall.]

Census records give clues to the type of farm John owned. The agricultural schedule of the 1850 US census shows he had a farm of 160 acres of improved land and 60 acres unimproved. His sons Peter and John and daughter Mary lived on the farm with John and his wife. The farm was worth about $4400, and the equipment about $200. Though John did not have the largest farm in the area, the majority of the neighboring farmers had a smaller properties valued at a lesser amounts. The New York State Census also gives us information of the production of farms in the area. In 1855 there was a drought that decreased far production, in some cases by as much as 75%.

By the 1860 census, John W was farming a total of 140 acres of land. The 1865 NYS census agricultural schedule shows the farm was worth $5470 (land, stock and tools) and consists of 110 improved and 10 unimproved acres. The farm is also the same acreage in 1870; it is likely parts of his farm were given or leased to his sons as the years went by. On the farm, he grew grains including wheat, oats, rye, barley, buckwheat, Indian corn, and potatoes. There were also apple orchards and sugar maples from which molasses are made. Animals on the farm included cattle (primarily dairy), horses, swine, sheep and poultry. A main product of the farm was butter. Even as the size of the farm decreased, production of butter increased.

John raised his family on his farm. He likely married his wife, Maria, about 1811, record has not been found. Their first two children were born in Cayuga County in 1812 and 1815; Maria’s presumed parents had moved from Montgomery County and lived there at the time. It appears that John and Maria stayed close to her parents for the very first years of their marriage and then returned to Montgomery County by the time their third child was born in 1816. In total, John and Maria had 11 children between the years 1812 and 1839. The 1840 census was the first to ask about agriculture and at that time it was reported 5 people in the household of John W Hall were employed in agriculture. Census records do not show farm laborers lived on his farm; it appears the farm was family-run and maintained.   As his sons married, they also became farmers of their own properties in the same area. Youngest son, John P Hall remained at the family farm. Upon John W Hall’s death, the farm was left by his last will and testament to his sons, and legacies were paid to his daughters. John P. Hall purchased the shares from his siblings and stayed there until 1924 when he sold the farm.


“1875 NYS Census,” Charlestown, Montgomery, New York, digital image, Family Search, Family History Library, Salt Lake City, Utah., familysearch.org, Sept 2011, Schedule III, Deaths, Charlestown, ED 02, [image 13 of 20] p 6, line 1.

In late September 1874, John W Hall died. Record of his death was found in the 1875 New York State Census, Death Schedule. It reports he died on 21 September at the age of 89 years old from old age and general infirmary. There was also a death notice published in the newspaper, The Albany Argus.

“Mohawk Valley Notes,” The Albany Argus, Monday, September 28, 1874, [digital image online], Albany, New York, Vol XLVIII, Issue 18115, Page 4, Genealogybank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com).

“Mohawk Valley Notes,” The Albany Argus, Monday, September 28, 1874, [digital image online], Albany, New York, Vol XLVIII, Issue 18115, Page 4, Genealogybank.com, (http://www.genealogybank.com).  [Although the obituary says Green, actually the town is Glen. The town of Green is not in Montgomery County.]

John W. Hall was buried in Wyckoff Cemetery. The cemetery is in a sad state of disrepair and it is likely any headstone that existed is now damaged, destroyed or missing. A photo was taken of his wife’s tombstone; it is likely she was buried near John.

I’ve had the opportunity to visit the towns of Charleston and Glen in Montgomery County. New York. I’ve driven the road to the old farm. I’ve walked the cemetery where John, his wife Marie and some of his children are buried. I’ve also been to the cemetery where some of his brothers and grandchildren were buried. Although geographically, the area where he lived is not terribly distant from my current home, it was still a very moving experience to be where they were. The area is still predominantly agricultural, lending to the experience. Sadly, many old farms had been abandoned or neglected as people moved out of the business of agriculture. In recent decades, the area has seen an agricultural renewal and is now home to a large Amish community. Driving on roads shared with horses and buggies as well as horse drawn wagon teams helped me to imagine in some small part what it must’ve been like for my ancestors who lived there.

Current Zillow information on the former John W Hall farm.


[i] John W Hall was born about 1785 in Charleston, Montgomery, New York. To discover the parents of John W Hall is challenging, as there are several candidates in the area.

Land records, used alongside probate records have proven useful in determining the likely set of parents of John W Hall.

In the record of baptisms of the Reformed Dutch Church at Caughnawaga (Near Fonda), Montgomery, New York there is a baptism of a Johannis Hall, 10 February 1787, no birth date specified. Parents are William W Hall and Jannetje Covenhoven.

In the record of baptisms of the Reformed Dutch Church at Schenectady, Schenectady, New York, there is a baptism of a John Hall, 20 Nov 1785, born 14 Oct 1785. Parents are William Hall and Annatje Barheyt. This birth date is closest to the date I’ve calculated from the date and age listed on John’s tombstone. However, the other children born to William and Annatje do not match the names in the last will and testament of the William Hall that left land, which was later transacted.

The will of William Hall, probable father to John W Hall, names son John Hall Junior. It has been found that there is another John W Hall in the area. This older John W Hall is married to a woman named Catherine. Records have shown this John W Hall is in the town of Mohawk, Montgomery, NY. Junior did not necessarily denote the son of a John W Hall, but could be any relation, eg the older relation could be a grandfather or uncle.

The will listed above that names John W Hall would suggest that the parents of John W are WIlliam and Jean (Jannetje). The names in the will are more consistent with the baptisms of William Hall and Jannetje Covenhoven. In addition, the land that is bequeathed to the children is in the area of Montgomery County that John W Hall is known to have transacted.   John W Hall is involved in several land transactions regarding this and the farm on which he will ultimately reside. The siblings, who then sold all their shares to brother Peter Hall, inherited the land. John buys back a portion from Peter consisting of 64 acres. John W Hall later sells these 64 acres to Nicholas Clute. On the same day and time that transaction is recorded, another land transaction, a purchase of land is recorded. This land purchase is the land later bequeathed to John W Hall’s children in his last Will and Testament, and described in later land transactions between and among those children.

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Week 4: Closest to your birthday: Harriet Vitty

The prompt for week 4 from Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks challenge is – Closest to Your Birthday.  Though I’ve not yet found a direct ancestor with my exact birthday- my 3rd great grandmother’s birthday is pretty close.


Harriet Vitty was born on the 19th of May, 1821 in Canada.   Harriet’s parents, Joseph Vitty and Mary Ann Shaw, were both immigrants born in England. Harriet was baptized at St. Stephen’s Anglican Church in Quebec on 24th of June 1921. Per the register, her father was unable to attend the baptism, I wonder why?  I do know he remained with his family so whatever kept him away must’ve been temporary.


Quebec, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1967 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2008. Original Data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.

Harriet’s family remained in Quebec for a number of years before immigrating south to the United States, specifically to New York. Evidence suggests that they immigrated about 1825.

Harriet Vitty married Thomas D. Smith, likely in New York City. Record of the marriage has not yet been found. It is likely they married before the birth of their son Edwin in 1842.  Records show Edwin was born in Ulster county; the next three children in the family are reported to have been born in New York County (Manhattan).  It appears they then moved back to Ulster.  Harriet’s parents appear to have been consistently in Manhattan throughout this time.  I wonder if they had, but have not found any evidence of, other family connections in Ulster county.

Thomas, Harriet and their 4 children were enumerated in the 1850 US Census in Ulster County, New York.  By 1855, the family had grown with the addition of 2 more children. Harriet and Thomas’ seventh child, my 2nd great grandmother Mary Louisa Smith, was probably born in mid-late 1855 or early 1856, also in Ulster county. By 1860, the addition of another daughter brings the number of children in the family to eight . (I have found record of nine children, Harriet is reported to be mother to 11 in the 1910 census, so there are two whom are, as of yet, unfound). By 1860, Harriet’s family had also moved back to the city from Ulster County.

Sometime before the 1875 Census, where she was reported as a widow, Harriet’s husband Thomas likely died. Research into the exact date and place of death is ongoing. I hope to learn and share more about what happened to them in the 15 years between 1860 and 1875. In 1875, she along with her daughter, Mary Louisa, and her grandchildren are boarders in the home of Edward W.C. Clarke. In 1880, enumerated with Harriet was a daughter, Jane, born about 1864. They were enumerated on the lines directly following Mary’s family. The whereabouts of Jane and the other children in 1875 are unknown.

I can imagine being with family must have been important to Harriet.   She was enumerated in the census with Mary in 1875, 1880, and 1900 census, and with George in 1910 (George was in the household immediately following theirs in 1900).  In the 1910 US census, Harriet reported that 2 of her 11 children are still living. These would have been George and Mary.

1910 US Census

Ancestry.com, 1910 United States Federal Census (Provo, UT, USA, Ancestry.com Operations Inc, 2006), Ancestry.com, Year: 1910; Census Place: Union, Tioga, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1422; Page: 3B; Enumeration District: 0165; FHL microfilm: 1375435. Record for Harriet Smith.

Harriet died in 1911 from the “effects of age”.  She was about 90. (The birth date recorded on the death certificate is 1 year earlier than the date reported at her baptism.  Because it was created when Harriet was an infant, I believe the baptism record to be the more accurate date.)  The exact place of death is not noted on the certificate; it is probable that she lived with her son George as she had in 1910.

1911 Smith Harriet death copy

Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Bureau of Vital Statistics, 36186, “Certificate of Death,” filed 22 Apr 1911, “Harriet Smith,” image online, Ancestry.com.

Harriet is buried at North Union Cemetery in Tioga County, Pennsylvania. Her son George and several of Harriett’s grandchildren are also buried there. FindAGrave memorial # 130333657


FindAGrave Photo by: Susan Barrow Spaulding (Permission given in contributor’s profile to use credited images)


Week 3: A Tough Woman – Christina Merkel

When I looked at this week’s prompt, Tough Woman, from Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors, several people came to mind. Would I write about the woman that was tough for me to research- because although her parents and siblings are “known” on numerous online trees, I cannot find one shred of evidence that connects her to anyone other than the man she married and the children they had?? Or do I write about the woman who had it tough? Looking at the lives many women led in the past, from the lens of my own experience, there is no shortage of hard luck stories in my tree! Large families lived in small quarters and had to make do with little of anything. Even some of the modern conveniences of the time were out of reach of many of my forefathers and foremothers. Thinking about those women, one person in particular came to mind, both as a woman who led a difficult life and as someone tough to research. My grandmother, Christina Merkel Serviss died more than a decade before I was born. I never had the opportunity to meet or to get to know her. Through the documents, and limited memories of things my late mother told me, I am attempting to tell some of Christina’s story. Christina was born in Brooklyn, NY in 1889 to German immigrant parents. I always thought she was the first child born into the family, but her birth record states otherwise. It tells that she was the third child born to her mother. She was the first child born tough enough to survive, both others had died. She is the oldest child in the family as they are listed in the 1900 US census. That document reports her mother to be mother to 8, 6 of whom were living, confirming that there were actually 2 more children that had died.

1900 Census for the William Merkel Family.  The circle denotes mother of how many children and how many living.

1900 Census for the William Merkel Family. The circle denotes mother of how many children and how many living.

In total, there were would be 11 children in the family, 8 would live. Christina would be 15 when the youngest was born, in such a large family, it is likely that assisting with care of her younger siblings would be part of Christina’s responsibilities. Her parents spoke mostly German. Her father was a hard working carpenter. About 1910, Christina married Frank Serviss. Frank’s father, who had died before they married, had also worked as a carpenter, perhaps that is how they met. When Christina and Frank first married, they lived with Christina’s family. From 1910-1933, Christina spent much of her time pregnant and having babies. That’s right, 22 years and 14 to-term pregnancies. Physically, Christina was a tough woman. Of the 14 children Christina gave birth to, only 10 made it to adulthood. One of the most heartbreaking to imagine was the death of 19 months old, Frederick in March of 1918.

Frederick Serviss Death 27 Mar 1918.

Frederick Serviss Death 27 Mar 1918.

He died at the age of 18 months from broncho-pneumonia. Contributory cause: exposure. As a parent myself- and looking through a 21st century lens, I can’t even imagine the pain Christina must have felt.   Frederick was her 5th child, and 3rd son. Christina wouldn’t have been able to dwell on her feelings too much, at that time she had a 7 year old girl, a 5.5 year old girl, a 4 year old boy and an almost 3 year old boy at home.   She was also pregnant with her 6th child. Two years later, she lost another child. Another baby, John died in the late spring of 1920, also from pneumonia. He was 10 days old. Then on New Years’ Eve, 1924, daughter Ella, age 5, died of diphtheria. In 1938, Christina’s 17 years-old son Arthur died of heart failure caused by rheumatic heart disease. To many of our ancestors, living in small apartments with many people was the customary way of life. Tenement housing was common for immigrants and in largely-immigrant neighborhoods. Older style tenements were dark and poorly ventilated. Even the newer style buildings were cramped, and filled to the brim with inhabitants. Disease and illness often thrived in these close quarters. tenement yard Yard of tenement, New York, N.Y. Courtesy: Library of Congress digital file from original http://hdl.loc.gov/loc.pnp/det.4a18585 Christina’s own health was also poor. She suffered from diabetes and progression of her disease resulted in amputation. Through all this, Christina was able to raise some truly wonderful children that grew up to be really important people in my life. My mother was able to tell me stories of fun that she had growing up. The family remained close-knit through adulthood. I wish I could have known her some. She died at the age of 65 in November 1954.

Christina has also been a tough woman to research. Finding her birth record was a challenge- it was “fact” that she had been born on the 10th of February, 1890. This fact was known by family and confirmed by both her death certificate and the funeral home memorial card my mother had saved.  In actuality, when I did find the record, it was for a female child, last name Merkel, born 10th February 1889. The birth was registered in 1889.  It’s funny that I am accustomed to taking dates with a grain of salt usually, but I think because she was such a close ancestor, I took the date I “knew” as set in stone.  Which, technically, it is set in stone: FindaGrave memorial # 30910553 (click for link)

Birth registration for the female child Merkel.  This was a year before the expected date and the date noted on the death certificate and funeral card.

Birth registration for the female child Merkel. This was a year before the expected date and the date noted on the death certificate and funeral card.

Despite her being a relatively recent ancestor, I have had a hard time finding information on her. (Perhaps it is not actually despite her recentness but more due to it and due to privacy barriers ). I have been told that there were actually 17 children of which 14 lived; I have not been able to find or confirm the existence of the additional 3. The longest gap between births comes at the end- her two youngest children are about 3y 2m apart, all others seem to between 1-2 years.  The births of Christina’s children are almost all less than 100 years ago, thus they can be difficult to search. Though I have checked enumeration districts page-by-page for Christina’s family in 1910, I have not been able to locate her, her parents and siblings, nor her husband in that census.  I’ve also not found them in either 1905 nor 1925. The marriage for Christina and Frank is estimated from the birth of their first child, and Christina’s reported (1930 census) age at first marriage of 21yrs.  A marriage certificate does not seem to exist, neither in the NYC nor NYS archives for Christina Merkel and Frank Serviss.

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Week 2: King: James Wombwell

The opener suggested for Week 2 of Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is “King”. In the spirit of six degrees of separation, I would like to introduce you to James Wombwell.  For those of you that have read about last week’s ancestor, Jane Taylor, James was her father-in-law.

No, James was not royalty. Nor was he reminiscent of either the King, Elvis Presley, or Dr. Martin Luther King. But I can link him to a King of England in less than six steps. Actually, I only need 4.

  1. James Wombwell was the son of Zachariah Wombwell and Mary Webb.
  1. Zachariah’s parents were James Wombwell and Sarah Rogers
  1. James and Sarah had other children, including a son, George Wombwell.
  1. George Wombwell was a famous managerist. He exhibited his menageries to a royal audience, including, but not limited to, King William IV of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, predecessor to Queen Victoria. (Much has been written about my famous 5 times great uncle George Wombwell. As he is not an “ancestor” of mine, I won’t be telling his story here- links to some stories written by others about George Wombwell can be found at the end of this post. He really was a fascinating fellow and I encourage you to check out some of his stories.)

Early Life

James Wombwell was born 12 October 1821 to Zachariah Wombwell and Mary Webb and baptized in the parish of Stoke Newington 19 March 1823[i]. James’ father was a cow keeper. When James was twelve years old, his father, Zachariah, died. James had two adult brothers and he was one of four minor children that his mother, Mary raised. She supported the family as a dairywoman. James is found in the 1841 England Census with his mother Mary and several of his siblings. In this census, James’ age is reported as 15. (This was correct according to the instructions given to enumerators.)[ii] James Wombwell, age 20, appears in the 1841 Scotland Census, traveling the country with the Wombwell Caravans. While not certain it is the same James, it is possible that he is; many of George Wombwell’s kinfolk worked in the menagerie, at least for a time.

[i] Wombwell entries extracted from Stoke Newington Parish Registers. Information provided courtesy of M. Hardy, researched and complied by S.W. Jones, 2008.

[ii] Children under 15 were to be recorded by exact age- for persons over 15 the age was to be rounded down to the nearest 5. So a person who was over 15 and under 20 at the date of the census would be reported as 15. On June 6, James was about 19y 8m so he was correctly marked as 15. The “rounding down rule” was used inconsistently. It is likely the enumerator of the Scotland census rounded up. Enumerators were also told not to enumerate every household member, but only to enumerate those that spent the night in the household the night of June 5. Again, compliance was erratic; some travelers were double counted- both in their usual home and where they actually were.

Marriage and Family

James married Sophia Trigg, daughter of James and Ann Trigg, at St. Leonards Church, Shoreditch parish on 3 June 1842. James was employed as a porter at the time of marriage.


Londonstleonardshoreditchimage courtesy of http://www.ancestryimages.com

James and Sophia quickly began a family; just 9 months and 9 days after their marriage their first son, George Zachariah, was born. They had several more children including another boy Alfred, and at least 4 girls: Mary Ann, Helen Sophia, Fannie and Elizabeth.

1854 was undoubtedly a difficult year for James. He lost his youngest daughter, Elizabeth, and his wife that year. They are both buried in Abney Park Cemetery, Stoke Newington, as their daughter Mary Ann had been a year earlier in 1853.

Leaving England and Coming to New York

Four years later, in 1858, James married Matilda Powell, daughter of Thomas Powell. James’ occupation on the marriage record is laborer. Their marriage took place in Stepney, on the third of May. Immediately, they headed to America. They probably left London that same day for the (about) seven-hour train ride to Liverpool. They traveled from Liverpool to the United States on the ship Columbia, departing 4 May 1858.   James Woombwell [sic] age 37, his wife Matilda, age 21, and child, Ellen, age 7 (possibly Helen Sophia- it is unlikely Matilda at 21 is the mother, it is more likely Ellen is his child from his marriage to Sophia), are found on a passenger list of arrivals to New York on 9 June 1858, traveling in between decks (steerage).

Traveling in steerage would not have been much of a honeymoon! Conditions for those traveling in steerage were difficult; food rations were meager, privacy was practically nonexistent due to crowding and seasickness was rampant.

They traveled to America with family. William Chapman and his wife Charity are listed on the passenger list directly above the Wombwell family. A William Chapman was one of the witnesses to James and Matilda’s marriage. Charity Chapman, William’s wife, was a Powell before marriage, and Matilda’s sister.  Later that year, in November, more family joined them in America. James’ nephew Thomas came to America, also through Castle Garden.  He settled in upstate New York near Rochester.

Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851 Courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum In Steerage Steerage passengers slept, ate, and socialized in the same spaces. They brought their own bedding. Although food was provided, passengers had to cook it themselves. On rough crossings, steerage passengers often had little time in the fresh air on the upper deck. If passengers didn’t fill steerage, the space often held cargo.  Courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History

Illustrated London News, May 10, 1851
Courtesy of the Mariners’ Museum
In Steerage
Steerage passengers slept, ate, and socialized in the same spaces. They brought their own bedding. Although food was provided, passengers had to cook it themselves. On rough crossings, steerage passengers often had little time in the fresh air on the upper deck. If passengers didn’t fill steerage, the space often held cargo.
Courtesy Smithsonian National Museum of American History

James is not found in the 1860 US census, however it is possible he had settled to Rochester, New York by then; the William Chapman family is found there. Interestingly, James and William’s father-in-law, Thomas Powell, was from Rochester, Kent, England.

1863, James is found in the Rochester, NY city directory living on Chapin St. The directories at that time only listed head of household, usually the males. He remains on Chapin Street in Rochester for the next decade; his son Alfred is also found on Chapin Street the first year he is listed in the Rochester city directory. In the 1865 New York State Census, James indicated he was a widower who had been married 2 times.

It is unknown when exactly between 1858 and 1865 Matilda died, and it is also unknown what became of the child Ellen. Records of Mount Hope and Riverside cemeteries (two of the largest in Rochester, NY) were searched for them, no Matilda Wombwell was found, and the only Ellen Wombwell listed was a stillborn child. Nearby Brighton Cemetery records were also searched with no luck. James later moved to Frost Ave, perhaps to be near to Tremont St where his son, Alfred and young grandchildren lived.

Moving West


James moved about 1000 miles southwest to Missouri sometime after 1877, when he is last found in the Rochester city directory and before 1885 when he married his third wife, Martha Ann Ricketts, in Linn, Missouri. It is likely that he had moved there by about 1882, as that is when the first child he fathered with Martha was born. James fathered 5 children with Martha: Susan, James, John, Charles and William.

Why James removed from Rochester is unknown. His son, grandchildren and nephew stayed in that area. James has not been found in the 1880 census, neither in New York, nor in Missouri. Martha was born in Missouri. It is unknown if he had met Martha prior to moving to Missouri and moved there to join her, or if they met after the move. James’ occupation remained laborer through much of the years he is found in Rochester, perhaps employment was his reason to move.

James Wombwell remained in Missouri for the rest of his life. He predeceased his third wife in 1898. He is buried at Rose Hill Cemetery.

Links to information about George Wombwell and the Wombwell Menagerie:

A web search for George Wombwell will bring up numerous hits.  He really was quite remarkable in his time.  Although not directly descended from George, he is my very legitimate claim to “circus folk”.

I like Terrence Ruffle’s site. It is very informative and very readable.



Shaun Everett has also done a great history about George Wombwell and the Menagerie. http://www.georgewombwell.com

Wikipedia also has a page on GrGrGrGrGrUncle George. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Wombwell


Week 1: A Fresh Start: Jane Taylor

Amy Johnson Crow’s optional theme for the first week of 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks is A Fresh Start.  The ancestor who I’d like to introduce you to is my second great grandmother Jane Taylor.

Jane was born on the 19 of May, 1845 in Saffron Hill (sub-district of Hackney) near London.  Jane was most certainly not born in the lap of luxury.  In his 1938 novel, The Adventures of Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens introduces the reader to the slum of Saffron Hill:

Near to the spot on which Snow Hill and Holborn Hill meet, there opens: upon the right hand as you come out of the city: a narrow and dismal alley leading to Saffron Hill.  In its filthy shops are exposed for sale, huge bunches of second-hand silk handkerchiefs, of all sizes and patterns; for here reside the traders who purchase them from pickpockets.  Hundreds of these handkerchiefs hand dangling from pegs outside the windows or flaunting them from the door-post; ad the shelves, within, are piled with them. Confined as the limits of Field Lane are, it has its barber shop, its coffee-shop, its beer-shop, and its fried fish warehouse. It is a commercial colony of itself: the emporium of petty larceny: visited at early morning, and setting-in of dusk by silent merchants, who traffic in dark back-parlours; and who go as strangely as they come. Here, the clothesman, the shoe-vamper, and the rag merchant display their goods, as sign boards to the petty thief; here, stores of old iron and bones, and heaps of mildewy fragments of woolen stuff and linen, rust and rot in the grimy cellars. (Dickens 194)

Cunningham: Handbook of London, p436

Cunningham: Handbook of London, p436

Peter Cunningham’s 1850 Handbook of London also describes Saffron Hill as a “squalid” and poor neighborhood.

Jane’s parents were John Taylor and Elizabeth Stanley.  She was the seventh known child born into the family, two more children would be born after her.  John’s occupation is listed as laborer on both Jane’s birth certificate and later on her marriage certificate; the family likely struggled greatly to support itself.  Why they resided in Saffron Hill at the time of Jane’s birth is unclear, in both the 1841 and 1851 Censuses the family is found on Caroline Street in Stamford Hill.  However, Jane’s birth certificate clearly states that she was born at 10 Benedict Pl, Brook Street in Saffron Hill.  The informant, her father John, also states the same as his residence. Jane’s baptism, performed June 15, states Clapton.   Perhaps an unfortunate change in fortune found them on Saffron Hill for a time.

By the 1851 UK Census, the family had moved (back) out of the slum of Saffron Hill to Caroline Street in the Stamford Hill sub-district of Hackney.  Stamford Hill was a once highly-desirable area; that desirability had faded by the mid-nineteenth century, largely due to overcrowding.  Interestingly, in this census, the children are all purported to have been born in Clapton, another district of Hackney, a far more respectable area than Saffron Hill.  Parish records show that the home to be Clapton as well, adding further evidence that the time in Saffron Hill was short.  It appears that the family chose to make a fresh start and leave the slums behind, not just by moving from them, but also by ignoring the recent past connection to them.

In the 1861 census John and Elizabeth are still living on Caroline Street with 3 of their children.  Jane is among those not enumerated with the family.  There is a Jane Taylor, enumerated as a visitor in the home of John and Susan Taylor.  Although it is uncertain if this is the correct Jane, the ages for this Jane Taylor as well as for John Taylor are likely matches to be “my” Jane and her married brother John.

On the 28th of October, 1867, Jane Taylor married Alfred Wombwell.  Her residence is again listed as Caroline Street.  Jane and Alfred’s first child, Alfred John, was born about one year later in October of 1868.  Soon thereafter, they must have decided to make a new life in America.

  •  “Leaving old England for America”  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA.  Illus. in: Harper’s weekly, v. 14, 1870 Jan. 22, p. 61.

The exact date and ship of the Wombwell’s immigration to America has not yet been found.  Jane and Alfred Wombwell are not enumerated in the 1871 England census, nor are they in the 1870 United States census.  In that decade the US census date was in June.  Although it is possible the enumerator missed this family,  it is also likely that they had not yet arrived in America as of June.  A daughter, Sophia, was born to them 27 December of 1870, in Rochester, New York, so it is likely they arrived sometime between June and December of that year.  It is also likely that Jane was pregnant when she made the trip across the Atlantic.

Why Jane and Alfred Wombwell decided to immigrate to the United States is also unknown.  Alfred’s cousin, Thomas, had come to NY a decade earlier, it appears Alfred’s father also came to NY in the years before he and Jane made the journey.  Perhaps they sent word of a new life to be had in the relatively less crowded upstate New York.  Although not quite a rags to riches story, by 1875 they were owners of land in Rochester, Monroe county, New York.  Before the end of the decade they had welcomed a second boy, George, into their family.

In 1884, Alfred died and Jane became a 39 year old widow, and a single mother to two teenagers and a young boy.  She again needed to make a new start on life.

Four years after the death of Alfred Wombwell, Jane Taylor Wombwell became Mrs Edward Concannon.  Edward moved it the home Jane had lived in for the previous thirteen years.  Within the next year, they moved to a new home around the block, where Jane will live for the rest of her life.  Jane and Edward had no children of their own, and her two eldest children were soon out of the family home to start their own families.  Youngest son, George, lived with his mother and stepfather and was enumerated with them in the 1900 United States Census.

Jane buried her second husband and became a widow again in 1907.  She lived alone for the next few years, then in 1914 she married for the third time.  At 69 years old, Jane became Mrs. Bushman, married to the widower Ward Bushman.  Ward was a widower with two grown children.  Nine years later, Jane will be a widow for the last time.  She will spend her last years living with her now grown grandchildren and with her daughter, Sophia. Another nine years will pass before Jane herself died in September 1932.  She is buried at Mt Hope Cemetery in Rochester.  Her memorial # is 31752566.


Starting the Challenge

The 52 Ancestors Challenge

I am going to attempt to take part in Amy Johnson Crow’s 52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks Challenge.

I have been researching my family history for many years and have found alot of names and dates. I want to look at this data I’ve collected and try to tell the stories that these facts suggest.  This challenge looks great to motivate me to write and share; Amy Johnson Crow has provided optional weekly themes, I plan to begin the challenge using these themes.  Some stories may be very short, others more lengthy.  I hope reading them will be as enjoyable as writing them.

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