Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell: A Union Documented in Death

With the collaboration of other researchers, we can answer the question I asked last year:  Who were the parents of Susan Long (1818-1882)?

They were Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell.  Estate records were the key in this mystery.

The Background

Susan Long of E Town [Elizabethtown] married Eliakim Marsh in Essex County, New Jersey in 1839.  No parents were listed, which is not unusual for such records in this time period.  Susan died in Elizabeth in 1882.  [Elizabeth was in the newly created Union County by this time.]  The death certificate listed her parents as Jonas Long and Elizabeth.

1839 July 4  Eliakim Marsh of N Y city [New York City] to Susan Long of E Town [Elizabethtown, New Jersey]

Online trees and webpages provided an unsourced marriage for Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell in 1816 in Piscataway, Middlesex County, New Jersey, and even provided birth and death dates for Jonas.  Nobody who answered my inquiries could tell me where this information was found.  This couple was also listed as parents of Richard Merrell, born around 1817 in New Jersey, who relocated to Virginia, married Elizabeth Culpepper, and died in 1861.  Nobody could explain why Richard carried his mother's surname of Merrell.

So my tree looked like this:

Susan's only connection to Merrell was in the 1870 census in New Brunswick, Middlesex County, New Jersey.  Phebe Merton, age 70, was living in Susan's household.  Phebe was a daughter of Richard I Merrell (1774-1864) and Nancy Ann Cole (1776-1861).

The Impetus

Chris G, a descendant of Susan Long and Eliakim Marsh reached out to me.  His DNA test at matched him to a descendant of Richard Merrell (1817-1861) of Virginia, the supposed brother of our shared ancestor, Susan Long.  [I will discuss the DNA in a separate article.]  He asked if I had made any progress on locating records to better identify the origins of Susan Long.

Well, no progress.  But I did visit the Merrell grave on November 1, 2015 in Edison, though when they were buried it was Piscataway.

I could not find Elizabeth Merrell, wife of Jonas Long, in this cemetery.  Among those buried here were Elizabeth's likely parents, Nancy Ann Cole (1776-1861) and Richard I Merrell (1774-1864).

The Strategy and Results

Richard I Merrell died after his wife and without a will in 1864.  His estate was probated in Middlesex County, New Jersey.  These papers are available (free) at  [Note that provides an index, but not for every page associated with an estate.  You need to go to and look at the court's docket and then locate the proceedings index, then locate all these files.]

At first I was disappointed because Elizabeth was not among the signatures of Richard's children.  Phebe "Murton" was.

Some more digging through the estate papers produced a big piece of the puzzle.  Elizabeth [Culpepper] Merrell of Norfolk County, Virginia, through her attorney-in-fact Abraham LONG of Elizabethport, New Jersey, petitioned for her three children to receive a part of Richard I Merrell's estate.  She stated that their father was Richard Merrell, deceased; he was the son of Mrs Elizabeth Owens, deceased, and she was the daughter of Richard I Merrell whose estate was in probate.

The family tree now looked like this:

Elizabeth Merrell had remarried to a Mr Owens after Jonas Long died.

Chris G located Mrs Elizabeth Owens not in New Jersey, but in Northfield, Richmond County, New York- Staten Island.

The oysterman, Abram Long, living with Elizabeth looks like the attorney-in-fact for the Merrell family in Virginia.  The 1850 census revealed Catherine Cook, another child of Elizabeth Merrell/Mrs Owens.  Why were Elizabeth's children not in the estate papers of their grandfather?

I needed the distribution of the estate to see if the Long children inherited anything.  This was not in the index, but I caught a mention of its location when carefully reading papers.

In the Releases and Discharges, "six of the children of Elizabeth Long a deceased daughter of Richard I Merrill late deceased" were listed:

Abram M Long
John M Long
Jacob V P Long
Susanna Marsh, wife of Eliakim Marsh
Catharine A Cook, widow
Letitia F Birch, wife of Edward Birch

Elizabeth Merrell's first son, Richard Merrell, who died in 1861 in Virginia, was not listed.  This omission could be why Richard's widow placed a claim in 1866 for her three children.

So Elizabeth Merrell and Mr Long were the parents of my Susan Long and she had six siblings!

Chris G again turned to Staten Island to provide some insight into Elizabeth Merrell's two husbands.

In 1860, Elizabeth filed in Richmond County, New York to administer the estates of her two husbands:
Jonas Long, who died August 13, 1837; and
William Owens, who died October 1, 1853.

Seven children are listed for both men.  Richard is listed as the first child of Jonas Long.

I don't know why Elizabeth waited to probate these estates.  She died sometime between the 1860 census and her father's death in 1864.

Future Research

Who were the parents of Jonas Long (died 1837)?  The discovery of five more of his children provide opportunities to uncover interactions with the Long side of the family.  If Jonas' son Jacob V P Long was named for Jacob Van Pelt, this could be a generation back on the Long line.

Where are Jonas Long and Elizabeth Merrell buried?  When did Elizabeth die?  Elizabeth's (second) husband, William Owens, is supposedly buried at the Merrell Cemetery in Bulls Head, Staten Island.  FindAGrave provides a date of death in 1852 with no picture of a headstone, while the estate index has 1853.

Why did Richard Merrell who died in Virginia in 1861 use his mother's surname and not his father's?  Why did he move to Virginia?  Were his children initially omitted from their great grandfather's estate?  Was contact lost because of the Civil War, or does their possible omission indicate that Richard Merrell was not a full sibling to the six Long children?

Thank you to the other researchers who helped bring this fractured branch together.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A More Detailed Divorce

Two years ago I shared the discoveries found in the divorce records of my great grandparents, Howard Lutter (1889-1959) and Ethel Laurel Winterton (1891-1962).  Howard filed for divorce on October 27, 1926 in New Jersey on the grounds that Ethel had abandoned him and their two children.  Ethel did not respond.

Howard remarried to Fiorita Lorenz in on October 28, 1928 in New York City.  Fiorita herself was newly divorced from James Winnie.  Howard boarded at the home of Fiorita and James in the 1920s.  Fiorita testified on Howard's behalf in his divorce case, omitting that her current address was not with her husband but rather with Howard's mother.

I wondered what really happened to end these two marriages.  Fiorita's divorce papers provided the expected details.

Fiorita filed for divorce in 1927 alleging that her husband, James Winnie, committed adultery with Mildred L Yunker in Newark.

James Winnie responded that Fiorita committed adultery with Howard Luther.

October 9, 1926 is the day of the break up claimed by Fiorita and James.  Howard Lutter filed for his divorce two weeks later.

In the 1930 census, James was living in Irvington with Laura M Winnie and stepson Clifford C Yunker.  I did not find a marriage record for them in New Jersey from 1928-1930.  [Note: Brocker was Mildred/Laura's former name.]

In 1930, Howard Lutter was living with Fiorita in Bloomfield with his two children, Clifford and Beryl, and one of hers, Rita.

You can read the divorce records for both couples at Dropbox.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

New York City Marriage Records: Application, Affidavit, and License for a Second Marriage

When the New York City Marriage Index was published online (thanks to Reclaim the Records), I requested copies of the Application, Affidavit, and License for two couples.  Records from 1928 for the first couple, Robert Paul Shaw and Jane Louise Sonntag, arrived a few weeks ago.  The genealogical gem contained in these records, and not contained on the marriage return, was that the whereabouts of the bride's father were unknown.

Records for my great grandfather's second marriage in 1928 just arrived, three weeks later than the first request, perhaps because more documents were included.

The Affidavit provided a line for the bride's occupation.  "Swimming instructor" was Fiorita's occupation.
(When she testified for her soon-to-be husband's divorce, her occupation was "the wire act on a bicycle.")
The marriage certificate did not ask the bride's occupation.

Howard Lutter and Fiorita Lorenz married in New York City on October 10, 1928.  This was a second marriage for both of them after divorcing their first spouses.  The packet from the New York City Municipal Archives included copies of the divorce decrees of both parties.

Howard Lutter divorced Laura (Ethel) Winterton in 1927.  The testimony of Fiorita Lorenz and other witnesses painted Laura as disinterested in her husband, children, and housekeeping duties.

Fiorita Lorenz was still married to James Howard Winnie when Howard Lutter and children moved into the Winnie home in Bloomfield, New Jersey.  In 1928, Fiorita divorced James for adultery.  The divorced was finalized September 6, 1928 in Essex County, New Jersey.  Fiorita sailed to France and returned to New York on October 9, 1928.  The next day she married Howard Lutter.

I still need to track down copies of the divorce testimony for Fiorita Lorenz and James Howard Winnie.  The divorce records for Howard Lutter and Laura Winterton can be found on DropBox along with the additional New York City marriage records.

Monday, June 27, 2016

An Exact Match for ODonnell Y-DNA

My ODonnell cousin has an exact match for his Y-DNA test at the 37 marker level at FamilyTreeDNA.

This surname of this Y-DNA cousin is not ODonnell or a variant.  FamilyTreeDNA provides a "Tip" report, estimating the chances that these two individuals share a common paternal line ancestor as we go back through the generations.  By the time we go back seven generations, there is a 95% chance that the lines will have merged.

This match can trace his direct paternal line back about two hundred years to the Isle of Bute in Scotland.  I can also trace back two hundred years, but land in Donegal, Ireland.  These two locations were near enough to be accessible around the year 1800.

If someone is knowledgeable about traveling in Ireland and Scotland in this time period, please weigh in.

Francis Patrick ODonnell was born about 1856 in Killybegs and came to New Jersey, United States, before 1880.  So the lines were separated by an ocean for three generations.  If they arise from the same ancestor, this merging will be found in the early 1800s or 1700s.

If this 37 marker Y-DNA match is related within seven generations, he may share autosomal DNA with any of my ODonnell relatives.  He has not done this type of DNA test, though.

My ODonnell cousin has thousands of matches in his Y-DNA results.  Even an exact match may not be a match at all because of convergence.  Markers change over time.  These two people may not be recently related, but rather their marker values could have mutated towards the same values and are now identical.

So far, there is only one ODonnell match at the 111 marker level.  This is the same person who was the initial top match at the 37 marker level.  Both testers upgraded to 111 markers and still match very closely, 106 out of 111 markers.  Two hundred years ago his ODonnell ancestors were in Boston, Massachusettes. 

Without other ODonnell cousins with similar Y-DNA markers, we cannot be secure in our placement as an ODonnell line based on markers alone.  In an upcoming article, I will demonstrate the necessity of using the markers of multiple distant cousins with my Duryea line.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Photographs in a Series Reunited

A cousin kindly sent me some more family photographs.  (Thank you D.W.!)

A snow scene caught my eye.  My aunt had given me a similar picture a few years ago of a couple standing in snow, the woman holding a snowball.

These people are still unidentified.  Based on who inherited these pictures, they come from the Walling and Winterton branches of the family tree.  They lived in the Keyport area of Monmouth County, New Jersey.

In an earlier article, I compared an identified photograph from a cousin to unidentified photographs I received years ago and determined that they are from the Walling and Winterton branches.

The pictures and heirlooms handed down through the generations are analogous to DNA.  Each child receives different bits of the parent's DNA and passes the different parts down to their descendants.

My branch received some tools from David Uhl (1834-1884), while a cousin received other tools, all marked with UHL to signify the common origin.