Welcome to the History Corner!
Celebrating the rich history of Port Byron, New York, an old Erie Canal village in the Town of Mentz. This site is dedicated to the legacy and heritage of our community as well as a variety of regional historical tidbits. I hope you enjoy your visit and will stop by again.
Showing posts with label Genealogy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Genealogy. Show all posts

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Culver Family History

It was a pleasure to present for the Sterling Historical Society, the history and ancestry of my ancestor Rev. Solomon P. Culver.  For anyone that was not able to attend, here is a recording of our evening together:

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Palatine Migration

It is enjoyable to hear from others that contact me in response to my articles. Recently I was contacted by distant relatives in Canada to share that they are doing well.

The descendants of the 1709/1710 Palatine movement have called New York home for more than two centuries.  Some of their off spring found their way to Canada.  The recent contact made me take another look at my ancestor Anna Maria Hoffman who married Johann Nicholas Traver, ancestors to many of the Port Byron Traver families and their various off branches.

To recap, Anna Maria lost her husband and most of her children on the voyage to America.  Upon settling in New York, she married a man named Joseph Reichardt who also made the voyage.  Establishing a family unit was critical for this time period, as it reduced the chances of her small children being removed from the household to be placed to work.  The family not only stayed together but flourished with the addition of two additional sons from this union.

In researching what became of Anna Maria Hoffman Traver and her second husband Joseph Reichardt, I found the land deed at Rhinebeck:

"New York, Land Records, 1630-1975," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1942-32717-7704-71?cc=2078654&wc=M7HT-W3D:358133801,358565401 : accessed 26 April 2015), Dutchess > Deeds 1718-1761 vol 1-3 > image 300 of 769; county courthouses, New York.

"New York, Land Records, 1630-1975," images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/pal:/MM9.3.1/TH-1971-32717-7313-75?cc=2078654&wc=M7HT-W3D:358133801,358565401 : accessed 26 April 2015), Dutchess > Deeds 1718-1761 vol 1-3 > image 301 of 769; county courthouses, New York.

There is allot of information about Joseph Rikert at the website titled Descent by the Sea.  It includes useful information about the Reichardt land in Rhinebeck and how it would later be in the possession of Zachariah Traver.  The article also states that the land was later acquired by Col. John Jacob Astor in 1905.  Astor was a casualty on the Titanic disaster in 1912 and his connection to our ancestors land is very fascinating.

Around the time he acquired the farm, Astor was buying as many farms as he could to add acreage to his Ferncliff Estate.  How Astor used the Reichardt/Traver farm is unclear, as I was not able to access the deed online for that date range.  However, the land transaction is not unusual as the Traver family also had a unique connection to Astor, being officers at the same bank where Astor was a trustee.  

In 1905, officers at the Rhinebeck Savings Bank included Augustus M Traver, President and Thaddeus A Traver, Secretary.  Both Traver men along with others, including John Jacob Astor were Trustees.  Given this connection, the relationship could have aided the purchase of the family farm.

To learn more about John Jacob Astor, read a short bio at the New Netherland Institute

Friday, March 29, 2013

Our Little Woman Connection

Louisa May Alcott
Today's post is dedicated to our very own Joni Lincoln.  I never get tired of the many twists and turns from our historic past and who they connect us with.  Joni, a long time supporter of the performing arts in our community, holds a special bond with the publication of Little Woman, having directed our drama club's performances of the timeless classic.

In the Alumni directory for Bowdoin College located in the Town of Brunswick, Maine is the following entry:

ALVAN HYDE SMEDLEY, b. 6 Oct. 1835, Port Byron, NY.  Med. Sch. 1862, Physician, New York City, 1863; Boston, Mass. 1863-72, d. 10 Oct. 1872.

Dr. Smedley while practicing at Boston had a patient by the name of Amos Bronson Alcott, being none other than the father of Louisa May Alcott, author of Little Woman.  In the book Little Woman Abroad: The Alcott Sisters' Letters from Europe, 1870-1871 by Louisa May Alcott, Dr. Smedley cured her father's hearing loss.

History of the Military Company of the Massachusetts Now Called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts
page 70

Name: Alvan H. Smedley Alvan H. Smedley(1868), physician, was the proprietor of the Tremont Eye and Ear Institute, at No. 129 Tremont, corner of Winter Street. He was also the principal and consulting physician in that Institution.

He was the son of Dr. James Smedley and Lucy Bridges.  The family did not live long in New York; by 1850 they returned to Williamstown, MA where his parents are buried.

While I have always been a fan of Little Woman, I am grateful to learn we share an unexpected attachment to the Alcott family via Dr. Smedley.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rev. David Wilson of Hebron, NY

Here's a nice bio of Rev. David Wilson who briefly resided in Mentz. Many of his family are buried at the Wilson-Dixon Cemetery. While Rev. David did have a will drawn from Cayuga County, he moved back to Hebron, Washington Co., NY just before his passing.

Source: The Congregational Quarterly, Volume 6, by Revs. Henry M Dexter, Alonzo H Quint and Isaac P Langworthy, 1864

Monday, February 18, 2013

Port Byron Nurse in the Civil War

Here's an interesting article I found today.  Katherine Adelia Baker, reported as a Port Byron native and married Pvt. John L. Crane, a soldier of the 9th Heavy Artillery who enlisted at Auburn.

The article goes on to say that she followed her husband to the battle field and served as a nurse.  Her husband was commissioned Captain of Co. H of the same regiment on September 8, 1862.  Capt. Crane was discharged on Nov. 12, 1864.

There are two head of household of the Baker surname in 1840, being G. Baker and J. Baker as well as Rachael Baker.

The Clyde Herald
Wednesday May 31, 1933


Port Byron Native, She Went To Civil War as a Nurse With Her Husband 

Death claimed Oalen's oldest resident Mrs. Kathleen Adelia Crane at her home at Caroline and Reese Streets shortly after midnight Saturday night.  She was 95 years, two months and 26 days of age.  She had been ill in recent weeks.

A native of Port Byron, March 1, 1838 Mrs. Crane as a young woman married John L. Crane, a Captain in the Civil War, and went with him to act as a nurse in that conflict.

They lived in a camp on the Potomac with Mr. and Mrs. Lape and Delia Lape and Mr. and Mrs. Wadley and James Wadley, all of whom have died. Tunis Conklin,

a nephew of the late Hiram Burton, did errands for them in Washington. Soldiers came to the camp to receive supplies from Captain Crane. A baby girl was born at
the camp to a wife of a general and she is believed to be residing in Auburn now.

For many years after the war Mr. and Mrs. Crane resided in Clyde. Mr. Crane practicing law in partnership with the late Charles T. Saxton, New York State's lieutenant-governor, 1904-1906.

Mr. Crane died in the west many years ago. An only daughter, Nellie, an accomplished musician, died at the age of eighteen. She would have been over 60 now.  Mrs. Crane maintained the homestead until her death, Mrs. H. B. Exner caring for her in recent years.

Mrs. Crane is survived by one sister Mrs. Lura O'Neil and one brother, Home Baker, both living here and both more than 80 years of age.  Several nieces and nephews survive her.

Funeral services were conducted at 2 O'clock Wednesday afternoon at the Gelder and Lacey home by the Rev. R.F. Smithson.  Burial was in Maple Grove Cemetery.


Maple Grove Cemetery at Galen, Wayne County, NY records the following burials:
Crane, Adelia C. wife Capt. John L. 1838-1933
Crane, Nellie dau John L. & Adelia C. 1867-1887

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Nyram & Nelson Armstrong

To complete the history of the Armstrong Brothers, Nelson W Armstrong from an on-line biography was educated at Auburn. When the news of gold at Pike’s Peak surfaced, he headed west in search of his fortunes. By 1859 he had reached Salt Lake City. The following summer he did some mining in Nevada. In 1862 it was reported that he enlisted in the Civil War, serving 5th California Vol. Infantry in Co. H. In 1865 he returned home to Port Byron where he engaged in the business with his brothers. The business was very profitable as the bio says they also owned and operated their own boats for the coal and grain side of the business. It also says that they sold horses as well. Nelson would later move to South Dakota where he married Kitty Brink. There he would once again engage in the grain business as well as raise hogs. He served as Post Master in his community and his bio says there was later a cheese factory on his land for which he was a stockowner of that business.

Nyram J. Armstrong married Sarah Williams. He was listed as a boatman in the local census and is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery in Port Byron, his headstone engraved as N. J. Armstrong (1835-1918). His wife Sarah died at Cobleskill at the home of her son Professor Charles W Armstrong. Her son was employed at the Cobleskill High School. The obit goes on to say that Nyram and Sarah were intending to go to New York City to visit other children when she took ill. Their son William A Armstrong was President of the Knickerbocker Paper Company in New York.

There is another Nelson Armstrong buried at Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn. In researching for our family, I stumbled across this Nelson and will include the info as he has an interesting background that effected local law:

This other Nelson Armstrong was a tallow chandler by trade, which is candle making from animal fats. He received several citations for raising pigs within the Auburn city limits. In 1897, he was involved in an incident with Michael Kennedy of Montezuma. Kennedy owned a steam yacht and his boiler being in need of repair had ventured to Auburn. On the journey his wagon found Nelson Armstrong on the same route with materials for his candle making. The newspaper reports that due to the smell, he didn’t want to stop or yield to Armstrong and the passing wagons collided, resulting in minor damages to Armstrong’s wagon. Kennedy left the scene and Armstrong followed in hot pursuit. Even a local express man joined in the chase.

Kennedy turned the chase back to Auburn where he overturned his wagon on the corners of York and State Street, the boiler destroying the bed of his wagon. Kennedy then fled on the horse with a companion back to Montezuma. Bicycle riders had congregated at the scene and due to the odor on Armstrong’s wagon, he was asked to move on. He vowed he would take the matter to police headquarters.

He must have because another landmark lawsuit was the result. This time it was over the jurisdiction of the justice in Auburn as to if he could legally serve Kennedy at Montezuma:

.Armstrong Vs. Kennedy

The Auburn Nelson Armstrong died in 1917 and is buried at Fort Hill Cemetery with his wife Delia. His relationship, if any, to the Port Byron Armstrongs is not known.

Armstrong History

There is no doubt that the Armstrong family made valuable contributions to the history of Port Byron. They were a spirited family with allot of passion and with that they were sometimes in the center of excitement.

The eldest Abner Armstrong was born about 1782 and was the son of Asahel Armstrong and Elizabeth Nelson of New York City. He married Nancy Curtiss, daughter of Josiah Curtis and Ann Ford of Danbury, CT. Much of what is known about this couple comes from the Genealogy of the Curtiss-Curtis Family of Stratford, CT.

According to the Curtiss genealogy, Asahel and Elizabeth Armstrong lived at Poughkeepsie, and Newburg, NY followed by the City of New York. It says that in 1829 Seth & Sarah Couch of Kingston, NY sold to Abner Armstrong of New York for $4,860.00 land at Port Byron, being 3 parcels near land sold to Peter Roosa, Philip King and Jacobus Cole with one quarter acre being reserved for a cemetery. Abner died in 1841 and is buried at King Cemetery.

Abner & Elizabeth had several children, one of which was Abner A Armstrong (Jr) b. 1806 at Newburgh, NY who married Mary Jane Stevens. Abner Jr. was a major player in the temperance movement at Port Byron. He also erected the coal & grain warehouse on Main Street. Abner Jr. died in 1889 at his home on Nauvoo Road and is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. His sister Hannah Armstrong was a school teacher in Port Byron.

Around 1863 or 1865, Abner Jr. deeded the warehouse to his three sons Nyram, Nelson and Abner who operated the business under the name of Armstrong Brothers. It is likely that the trespass suit with Dr. Hiram Eldridge involved his father, as Abner III would only have been 16 years old in 1859. However, I suspect that the cherry tree lawsuit in 1864 was Abner III who was born in 1843. Much excitement would come to the village with Abner III and his sister.

When the telephone company was first established and raising poles to connect the service, Charles Weston, President of the phone company and Claude Taylor, Superintendent of Construction, had trouble completing the work near the home of Josephine White, wife of James V White and sister of Abner Armstrong III. She attempted to stop the installation of the pole but when unsuccessful, after the hole was dug climbed into it and ordered her hired hand to fill it back in. This proved difficult with Mrs. White standing in the hole, so he helped her out and the work continued.

Her brother Abner then came to her defense with an ax and was prepared to cut down the pole. President Weston then called his attorney Arthur E Blauvelt who came to the scene with a written notice to Mrs. White to not interfere with the phone company’s property and ordered the linemen to string the phone lines. This not being pleasing to Abner, he set after Blauvelt with the ax!

However, Blauvelt used his horsewhip to keep Abner at bay, creating enough distance to leave. That didn’t stop Abner, as he later chopped down the pole anyway and a lawsuit followed. Mrs. White claimed that she was acting under the direction of her attorney from Elmira when her brother chopped down the pole. Surveyors were employed and the pole was not within ten feet of her property line. The line was later completed with no alterations to the route.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Abner Armstrong

My post about the lawsuit over Dr. Hoffman's cherry tree made me do some additional research on his neighbor Abner Armstrong.

Abner was no stranger to litigation. He was involved in a trespass suit with Dr. Hiram D Eldridge in 1859. This I found to be a bit strange as both cases involved local doctors. What are the odds?

Then I happened to notice that in 1859, Dr. Eldridge just happened to own the same parcel of land that Dr. Hoffman did in 1864, so both physicians owned property that was adjacent to the Armstrong Brother's place of business along the Erie Canal Route in the village.

The 1859 map shows the Armstrong's building as a Grocery but by 1875 the building is listed as being used for coal and grain.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Building of a Webb

To continue the story of the Webb family who was featured in my May 10, 2009 story about the Oregon Trail, they are an old Colonial family. Zachariah Lewis Webb descends from Richard Webb who was born in England and appeared at Stamford, CT in 1651 when he purchased a house near the mill that he would later operate.

There continues to be controversy over the origins of Richard Webb of Stamford. The 1916 Genealogical Record of the Saint Nicholas Society suggests that Richard was the son of Richard Webb of Norwalk, CT, making him a possible brother of Christopher of Braintree, MA. This connection would link the Stamford Webb's to the Royal descent of Sir Henry Webb. However, George Creighton Webb was a member of this society and he listed that Richard Webb of Stamford was the son of Thomas Webb and Margaret Howard (page 58). There is currently a DNA Test group trying to prove if this connection is true or false.

The earliest land deeds in Upstate New York are found about 1799, making the Webbs early settlers of what is today known as Cayuga County, NY. They would reside in the townships of Locke and Genoa. The deeds clearly show that when Stephen Webb purchased his land here in NY, he was a resident of Stamford, CT.

Zachariah was born at Scipio, NY per census analysis as his parents are recorded at Scipio in 1800 as well as 1810. He was baptized at Genoa in 1805 at the church where his maternal grandfather, Caleb Lyon Jr., served as one of the first elders.

In the 1830’s Zachariah was for a short time an Agent at the Auburn Prison. He also had a business venture with George Curtis Williams, who married his wife’s sister. George was a son of Ezekiel Williams who was a trustee and inspector at Auburn Prison. Zachariah and George held a contract at Auburn Prison for Shoe Making, with 41 men employed. Their contract expired May 1, 1835. The same year he married Polly Hoffman, a daughter of Matthias & Eve Huffman. Matthias was likely born in the State of Pennsylvania and lived many years at Aurelius before the family settled at Auburn. The Huffman descendants would marry into Auburn’s most prominent families, such as the Nye, Stewart, Williams and Metcalf families.

The Webb’s then moved to Moravia where Zachariah was a merchant. His store Z.L. Webb & Co. was a recognized Agent for the sale of Vegetable Healing Balsam. By 1850 the family was living at Marshall, Michigan where Zachariah was elected as Grand Scribe for Michigan’s Royal Arch Masons. He was back in New York by 1854 where he was elected King of Royal Arch Masons at Addison, NY. In 1860 he was listed at Corning, NY as a Justice of the Peace. He was also a founding member of the Church of the Redeemer at Addison, NY where he was the first Junior Warden of that church.

Zachariah would father only a single son, who gave his life defending our Country. Lewis Hoffman Webb was in the Civil War, serving NY’s 3rd Light Artillery, Company Batty I. He died of yellow fever at Newburn, NC.

His remaining children would be girls and following them was a journey. To my knowledge, his daughter Catherine, who is my ancestor, is the only one of his children buried at Port Byron. Catherine married John Dunham who served the 3rd Reg. Co. H, NY Cavalry and shot while on picket duty at Newburn, NC. He survived a horrendous surgery to remove the conical ball, resulting in his left arm being shortened by 3 inches. Another daughter Ellen married Dr. Frederick Nash Dick, a Confederate Officer with North Carolina’s 44th Infantry, Co. G. I often thought how awkward it would have been if the families ever came back to visit Auburn, with having son in-laws one defending the Union and another defending the Confederacy.

Another daughter married William Star Pensiton as mentioned in the Citizen article. Both Anna and Ellen would make their way to North Platte, NE. Dr. Dick was North Platte’s first Doctor. He was appointed surgeon for the Union Pacific Railway in 1870, for the division from North Platte to Ogden, Utah, and east to Omaha. He was also a County Physician and Coroner and owned the Drugstore F. N. Dick Company.
Mr. Peniston was appointed United States Commissioner and afterwards was a representative in the territorial legislature of Nebraska. He also served as County Judge, County Treasurer, and Justice of the Peace. His ranch along the Oregon Trail was part of the Pony Express Service for that territory. Both families are among the notables buried at North Platte City Cemetery. An interesting tidbit involves the cemetery association, where they purchased land from Mrs. William F. Cody, wife of Wild Buffalo Bill.

Zachariah’s wife Polly died in 1865 and is buried at Soule Cemetery. He later married Mrs. Caroline, widow of Stephen Snook. They would have two more daughters named Nettie and Mattie Webb. Their last known residence was Troy, NY, so if there are any descendants of Nettie & Mattie out there, I would love to hear from you.

Zachariah died in 1878 at Auburn. He must have been prominent enough in the City of Auburn as the Historical Society announced his passing at their annual meeting. Zachariah was buried at North Street Cemetery with Masonic Honors, being one of the oldest Knights Templar connected with Salem Town Commandery. To date, I have been unable to confirm his exact burial location from the caretakers of North Street Cemetery. It appears he now rests in an unmarked grave.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Alexander Millener Myths

To continue the April 2009 story of Alexander Millener, in searching his history I ran into some possible myths. Many have reported that Alexander Millener was the inspiration behind the old man featured in the famous painting "Spirit of 76".

The history of this famous painting is on file with the library of Congress. The artist was Archibald Willard, who first called the painting "Yankee Doodle", having featured his creation at the first Centennial Exposition held in Philadelphia. The painting would later be renamed Spirit of '76, being an 8 x 10 mural.

According to the Library of Congress, Willard's mural began in the upstairs bedroom of his home in 1875, which is 10 years after Alexander Millener's death. The file reports that the studio was moved and after relocating to Cleveland, Ohio, inspired by his father's death, Willard used his father Samuel as the model for the old drummer.
Click here to see the Library of Congress information on the Spirit of '76

Archibald Willard would go on to do several different versions of the Spirit of '76 in much larger sizes. According to the Herrick Library, the fifer was based on Hugh Moser, and the young drummer boy was Harry Deveraux.

Click here to see the Herrick Library detail on the Spirit of '76. Be sure to click on the upper right hand corner, to see all 3 images full size, it is a good example of the several variations made on the original mural.

If anyone has any information on the painting that is supposed to be based on Alexander Millener, please contact me.

However, not all is lost. American Folk Painter Sheldon Peck did in fact do a painting of Alexander's daughter in-law Fannie Root Millener, wife of his son George W Millener of Port Byron. She was painted with her young daughter Francis Millener, who would as an adult be the wife of Gamaliel Thomas. Sheldon Peck once lived at Jordan, NY and must have struck a friendship with the Port Byron Millener family.

This painting had survived in the family of Nellie King Waterman and donated to the Cayuga Museum in Auburn, NY. The painting was later sold at Auction in 2003.

The location of the Fannie Root Millener painting with her child Francis is not known. It is not know if the painting is housed in another museum collection or if it is in the hands of a private collector. Lets hope the painting has found a wider audience and continues to be well cared for.

It is wonderful that some of the artifacts of such a prominent family can be found, such as Alexander Millener's Drumstick that is part of the collections at the Rochester Museum & Science Center:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Philo Hamilton - Builder of Steamers

It really is a small world!

For several years idle conversations with a co-worker in Syracuse would commonly turn into short chats about the Erie Canal. The conversations would usually end with mutual admiration that both of our families worked on the canal. Then one day Carol Kruger mentioned that she thought someone in her family was born at Port Byron. That prompted me to take a closer look. It turned out that her family did in deed have a connection. That connection would involve the Tanner Dry Dock.

Her ancestor Philo Hamilton was born in 1832 at Chemung County, NY, son of James Hamilton and Sophrona Durham. The family would live in Seneca County before moving to Cayuga County. Philo married Sarah Garling and became a well known builder of steamboats.

Philo designed Syracuse’s "The William B Kirk", a steamboat built for the picnic season and capable of transporting over 100 passengers. Cayuga County Historian Sheila Tucker wrote several articles in the 1970’s that included information on the Hamiltons. One such article was about the steamer "The Lady of the Lake", which was unveiled with great fanfare, having been christened by General William H. Seward Jr., which had a 23 year run on the Owasco Lake.

Philo’s son Joseph married Orpha Crofut and he also followed his father’s footsteps. Joseph owned the steamers “Ada” and “Agnes”. He also built a tugboat at nearby Ludlowville. Father and son appeared in another article that focused on their boat being docked at Tanner's Dry Dock at Port Byron. It was very surreal to find a photo of her ancestors in my hometown knowing all these years have passed and today we work together.

Joseph’s son Gilbert Everson Hamilton is buried at Mt. Pleasant Cemetery. Gilbert married Emma Louise Blaisdell, a daughter of Delazon Blaisdell and Mary Kern. Port Byron had become home for part of this family.

Many locals worked at Tanner’s dry dock, performing a variety of tasks such as caulking, painting, and repairing the many boats that traveled the canal. This photo of the Hamilton’s at Tanners Dry Dock is just a reminder that many families have ties to our town and village.

Photo of the Hamilton's at Tanner's Dry Dock

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Last Men of the Revolution

Did you know that Port Byron has a connection to one of the last six surviving soldiers of the Revolutionary War?

Photo of Alexander Millener

The fifth oldest survivor was Alexander Millener, a drummer boy in the Revolution and some of his children moved to Port Byron where they were boat builders.

Alexander Millener was born in 1761 at Quebec, Canada. His mother had married a second time to Florence Maroney, a Sergeant in the Life Guard of General Philip Schyuler. It was claimed that Alexander was to young to serve in the troops, so his stepfather enlisted him under the name Maroney as a drummer boy. There was also a claim that Alexander was of a young age when discharged because his discharge was issued to his stepfather Florence Maroney.

The only muster rolls I could find was for Alexander’s service with the 1st NY Continental Line. However, his pension says that he served about 3 ½ years in Capt. Grahm’s, Col. Peter Gavensvort’s NY Regiment. He then transferred into the 1st NY Continental Line in Capt. Cornelius Johnson, Col. Goose Van Schaick’s Regiment. When looking closely at these muster rolls, it is clear that Alexander served several Captains within Van Schaick’s Regiment. During the period of August to December 1780 he served in both Capt. Nicholas Van Renssalaer and Capt. Benjamin Hick’s Companies and was discharged in 1781. However, he had witness testimony that he served as late as 1783.

Alexander is on record describing his time at Valley Forge, having met General George Washington as well as “Lady Washington”. Valley Forge served as Washington’s Headquarters during his winter encampment from Dec 1777 to June 1778. The website valleyforgemusterroll.org has an Alexander Milliner stationed there for the entire winter encampment period, serving from the State of PA. However, the 1st NY Cont Line served in the Second Division, 1st PA Brigade at Valley Forge, having arrived in June 1778. This Alexander Milliner was a drummer, so this is likely the service record of the same soldier.

I can add from my own ancestor that many soldiers of Col. Goose Van Schaick’s Regiment served at Valley Forge. Joseph Rooker was in Capt. John Copp’s company and his muster roll shows he was in the Hospital at Valley Forge, having recently been promoted to Fife. It would be a romantic notion to think that perhaps these two soldiers met while stationed at Valley Forge, but we may never know, but chances are good that the musicians knew one another.

One interesting thing to note is that Alexander’s step father also collected Alexander’s wages during the time he served with Van Schaick, which by 1780, he would have been 19 years of age. Why his stepfather was collecting his military pay is not known but it is unlikely because of Alexander’s age as other soldiers of that age received their wages directly. It is obvious that Alexander had a long period of service as a drummer in the Revolutionary War.

In 1855 Alexander applied for bounty land while a resident of Homer in Cortland County, NY. At that time he was listed as being 94 years of age, giving him a consistent birth year of 1761. He was awarded 160 acres in Cayuga County. His son James Millener provided testimony. Another unexpected name in the file was Porter Wethey of Port Byron.

You can read more about Alexander’s history from the following articles:

Last Surviving Soldiers of the Revolutionary War

Alexander's Obituary

Alexander is buried at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Rochester, NY

Story to be continued....

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Genealogy and DNA

The field of genealogy is reaching new heights. The quest to search and find your roots is reported by some magazines as the second most popular hobby in the United States, just behind gardening. Many people who follow the hobby will be the first to tell you that it is addictive. There is so much to discover and learn. Eventually most families will find events in their background that coincide with National History. However, for many the trail grows cold and can often be an undertaking to make the link from one generation to another. Many are turning to DNA testing in the hopes of unlocking their past.

I was leery of the idea when I first learned that DNA was being used for this purpose. I already have a pretty good handle on my origins, granted there are always branches to be researched as every generation introduces a new set of surnames and each of them had parents. Thus the addiction, the job is never done but it is a very enjoyable pastime.

Even with years of experience as a genealogist, I questioned if DNA would have anything significant to offer someone like myself, considering the number of years I had already been researching. Little did I realize that I would have the shock of my life ahead of me!

Eventually I took the plunge and found a reputable lab to proceed. The results were astonishing, revealing my deep maternal ancestry. The test revealed that my maternal ancestor was a genetic cousin to Oetzi the Iceman. Oetzi, his name representing the mountain range where he was found, was determined to be about 5000 years old. When he died, he was frozen in time providing a glimpse into the past. What is unique about Oetzi is that he was found in the same state in which he died, having never been buried. He was simply frozen in time. He is the oldest complete mummy to be preserved by ice.

With him were remains of his clothing as well as several of his tools. Of the items found, his copper axe was a surprise. Considering that his age was confirmed using carbon dating, this indicated to scientists that the copper age started much earlier than previously thought. He also had arsenic in his hair follicles, a direct by-product of smelting copper.

The DNA test utilized on Oetzi was a study of the genes that he inherited from his mother, known as Mitochondral DNA, abbreviated mtDNA. This is a series of genes that every human inherits from their mother but only the females pass it on to the next generation.

What the testing does NOT tell you is HOW you are related to your deep ancestor. Therefore, at some point in my distant past, it could have been 500 years ago or 3000 years ago, I had a female grandparent from Italy, who was a relative to Oetzi. Maternal DNA does not change but slight mutations are found and can be traced backwards. Considering that Oetzi is in the neighborhood of 5000 years old, no modern human has an exact DNA match to him as slight mutations have occurred over time.

I will not be devoting much to this site on genetic genealogy but considering family history is one of the most common requests received as a Historian, many may find the story interesting. It is amazing that Central NY has genetic cousins of this ancient and famous mummy. Katie Couric of NBC News is another genetic cousin of Oetzi’s.
National Geographic info on Oetzi

Don Hitchcock's Photo Archive of Oetzi