Monday, November 22, 2010

Roadtrip to Catskill: Tracing Cumming and Heiser

I visited the Catskill Village Cemetery yesterday in Catskill, Greene County, New York.
For years, I have been searching for the parentage of Nellie, wife of Abraham Brewer Duryea.  Nellie died in Glen Ridge, Essex County, New Jersey at Mountainside Hospital on 5 December 1965.  (The certificate was acquired in person from Glen Ridge- back when you could just walk in to town hall and do this.  You can’t do this now.)  Her mother was listed as “unknown.”  Her father was listed as “? Commings.”  Her birthdate was 26 January 1879 in “Catskills, N.Y.”  She was cremated but not buried at Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, Essex County, New Jersey.  The location of her ashes is unknown.  The social security number on her death certificate is not listed in the social security death index.  I wrote to the Social Security Administration for a copy of her application for a number and included a copy of the death certificate.  I received a letter explaining that no such record could be found.
I was not sure if Nellie was born in the Catskills, which covers a vast region, or if she was born in Catksill, a town in Greene County, New York; or if she was born in a completely different location.  I spoke with the town clerk in Catskill, New York, who advised me that birth certificates were sometimes issued in the 1870s and 1880s, but there was no birth certificate matching Nellie.
No matches for baby Nellie in the 1880 census have been found.
Next I obtained the marriage certificate for Nellie to Abraham Brewer Duryea.  They were married in Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey on 9 October 1898.  Nellie’s parents on the marriage certificate appear to be Annie Hyser or Hysen and William Henry Cumming.  This was great.  I had names.  Bride and groom were living in Jersey City.  I found several families named Cumming or Cummings, and a few Hysers.  But none seemed to connect with Nellie.  By the 1900 census, Nellie and Abraham were living in Hoboken, Hudson County, New Jersey, with two babies and no extended relatives.
Following this couple into 1910, they were living in Jersey City with their two children and Beulah Miller, sister-in-law, and Ray Sprague, boarder.  Bingo.  Now following Raymond Sprague, he was in the 1920 census in Orangetown, Rockland County, New York with his wife, Beulah, two children, and the elusive mother of Beulah and Nellie:  Anna B. Brower, age 59, widowed.
Beulah Miller provided more information than Nellie.  Beulah’s birth certificate gives a date of birth of 18 August 1889 at 21 Henry Street in Jersey City; her middle name was Barton; and her parents were James L. Miller and Annie B. Hyser.

Tracking back from Beulah’s birth, I found a marriage certificate for Anna Bell Cumming, with Cumming crossed out and “Hyson” written above, to James Livingstone Miller in Jersey City on 18 June 1886.  His parents were Christopher Miller and Agnes M. Barton.  (Barton was probably the source of Beulah Miller's middle name at birth.  On Beulah's marriage certificate, she uses a middle name of Katherine.)  Anna’s father was Luman and her mother was Catherine Eckler.
Going back to Catskill, in the 1870 census we find Louman Hyser, his wife Catharine E., and their children, Katie, Charles L, Robert D., Hannah, and Nellie M.  I wanted to trace the Hysers back further.  They look German, but keep listing New York as their birthplace.  I also needed to trace Nellie’s father, William Henry Cumming.  I had a timeframe for William’s death:  he died after conceiving Nellie in 1878 but before Anna remarried in 1886.
1870 census, Catskill, Greene County, New York
"Hannah" is Anna Bell

I kept posting inquiries on message boards and was contacted by a Hyser cousin.  He has the last name, but with a variant spelling.  He sent me a compiled genealogy on the Hysers, The Transactions of the Rockefeller Family Association, by Henry Oscar Rockefeller.  This book provides several generations of the Heiser family, starting in the 1780s, when John Heiser married Margaret Rockefeller.  They were the great grandparents of Anna B. Hyser.  According to this book, the elusive Anna B. Hyser married William H. Cummins on 22 November 1877 and then James L. Miller on 18 June 1886.  No mention of another marriage to a man by the last name of Brower.  This particular branch moved to Jersey City in the 1880s or 1890s, but was buried in Catskill.
Sylvia and Reinhard Hasenkopf have transcribed the stones in the Catskill Village Cemetery and posted this information, along with a map, online.  I found potential matches for the Hysers and William Cumming.  So to Catskill Village Cemetery I went.  I don’t know why, but for some very helpful reason, a lot of the women buried in this cemetery have their maiden names on the stones.  I found the family stone for Louman Hyser, his wife Catherine Eckler, and their five children.  The stone to the right is Peter J. Hyser, father of Louman.  (Nellie Hyser, died 1875, is perhaps the source of the name for Nellie Cumming, born 1878.)

Peter J. Hyser, 1796-1877

In a neighboring section, I found a stone for William H. Cumming, 1856-1882.  A death date of 1882 would fit the timeframe for the death of Nellie Cumming’s father.  This stone is next to stones for the Grant family.  The Cumming connection is Annie Cumming, wife of John A. Grant, 1793-1876.  I can find the Grant family in Catskill, as well as possible Cummings families with William.  Are they connected?  Do I have the correct William H. Cumming?  I don’t know.  I must keep researching.
William H. Cumming 1856-1882
Annie Cumming Grant, 1793-1876

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Reburying the Ancestors

In researching John Frazee's death, I come across a little discrepancy.  His obituary appeared in the New York Times on 5 March 1852.  His wife sued to collect moneys owed to him for his designs, as detailed in this post, and a date of death of 26 February 1852 was given in the case, Lydia Frazee v. United States.  Some of his papers, now available online through the Smithsonian, provide a beautiful and unusual record of death and burial at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn.  (I don't know who drew the picture.  Obviously not John Frazee himself.)

The burial records for Green-wood Cemetery are online.  A search for John Frazee turns up some family members in the plot given in the drawing, 19577.  According to this online index, John Frazee was not buried here until 1870.

I found a picture of the grave at  Always check here for graves, even if your person of interest was not famous.  I expected to find John Frazee at findagrave because he is a little famous, though not as famous as the buildings he designed.

So now more questions:  is the John Frazee buried at Green-wood Cemetery in 1870 the same John Frazee who died in 1852?  If so, where was John originally buried, and why was he moved?  More researching needed.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

James Kittson, where are you?

I am still trying to track the Kittson family mentioned in the will of Herman Lutter, probated in 1924 and mentioned in a previous post.

Gussie Kittson was a niece of Herman Lutter.  Figuring that Gussie has long passed, I have been attempting to find any living descendants of hers.  In the 1920 census for Harrison, Hudson County, New Jersey, she has one son, James, five months old.  In the 1930 census, she still has only one child, James, aged ten years.  The 1940 census is not available yet.  So what happened to James Kittson, born about 1920?

In the online Social Security Death Index (available from various websites), there are two potential matches for James Kittson, born about 1920.

Social Security Death Index through
I favored the first James Kittson because of the New Jersey location.  I visited the Montclair Public Library for the obit from the local paper, The Montclair Times.  No mention of James Kittson.  (Thank you to the librarians for searching and searching for him- in several places!)  To be extra thorough, I manually searched the microfilm of the Star Ledger at Montclair State University.  No James Kittson.  Whether or not I have the correct James Kittson, I find it strange that I find no obituary.  (And if I am ever under surveillance, my watcher would find it strange that I go in and out of libraries, courthouses, and churches all day.)

Next I visited Trenton and found the birth certificate for James Kittson- under the name Kitzens.
The birth date, 11 August 1919, confirms that the first James Kittson in the death index is the James Kittson that I am looking for.  This person died 21 September 2003.  So where is the obituary?  Did he marry?  Have children?  Will I find living descendants?  The search continues . . .

Fatal Train Ride, part two

Intrigued by the brutal death of Michael J. Preston in the previous post, I went to Trenton and copied his death certificate.

The cause of death is listed as "accidental rail road injuries."  From this description, I would guess that no official and thorough inquiry was made into his death.  He was an employee of the Central Railroad and found on a train trestle severely battered.  From that, the death was concluded as accidental- the train did it.  These things happen.  If he jumped off the train and was hit, then that could have killed him.  But how did anyone know he jumped?  No witnesses existed, either in the newspaper article or in the family story.

I think this could have been a murder.  It's too late now.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Fatal Destination on the Evening Train

Michael Preston was the grandson of Irish immigrants, Michael Preston and his wife, Catherine Donnell, who arrived in Dutchess County, New York in the 1840s.  The family eventually migrated to Hudson County, New Jersey.  Many are buried at Holy Name Cemetery in Jersey City.  The Preston family plot has no headstone, so information concerning their burials is based on the burial cards of the cemetery, available at the cemetery or through the Church of Latter-Day Saints.
Plot card for Holy Name Cemetery, Jersey City, Hudson County, New Jersey
FHL microfilm #1412638

Michael Preston was buried at Holy Name Cemetery on 20 June 1918.  Like most of his immediate relatives, he had no obituary; however the circumstances of his death caused him to appear in the newspaper.  He was found almost dead on a train trestle at night and died shortly after arriving at Bayonne Hospital.  His injuries were not necessarily consistent with a train injury, but instead were perhaps caused by a physical assault inflicted by a human- not a train.  Further investigations were probably made, so I should have additional resources to consult.
This article may lend credibility to the family story of falling asleep on the train on the way home from work, missing his stop, and jumping out of the window, only to have been killed.  Or maybe that was someone else.  Railroad work was a common profession in the 1800s and 1900s and deaths and injuries were commonplace among the workers as well as the passengers.  This Preston family was no exception.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Researching in Millburn, New Jersey

Mary Drake was last seen in the 1920 census in Millburn, Essex County, New Jersey.  Her husband, John, was a widower in the 1930 census in Millburn.  I sought to find out when Mary and John died and where they were buried.

I visited the Millburn Library and went through the city directories.  The more recent directories sometimes list gems such as a date of death or a new husband.  Such was the case with John Drake.  The Price & Lee Millburn city directory for 1946 gives a listing for John Drake- his death on 2 November 1945.  With this date, I then went to the microfilm rolls for the local paper, The Item.  I located his obituary, which provided me with his place of burial, Saint Stephen's Cemetery, also in Millburn.  I visited the church office and was provided with a listing of the other burials in this plot: John's wife, Mary; and their two children and their spouses.  Sometimes, when you can't trace one family member, turn to a parent or sibling.  They might be buried together, providing you with dates of death for many people.

The Millburn & Short Hills Item
8 November 1845
page 12
In the meantime, The Millburn and Short Hills Item has been published online for certain years.  You may view the issues through the library's website.

After visiting the church, I headed to the cemetery for pictures of the gravestones.  On a confusing note, Edith Drake married John Wesley Bryant.  John Wesley Drake married Edith Knoller.  The use of the same first and middle names could indicate a further relation that must be further investigated.

John Wesley Drake, son of John Drake and Mary Duryea

Edith, wife of John Wesley Drake

Edith, daughter of John Drake and Mary Duryea

John Wesley Bryant, husband of Edith Drake

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pound Ridge Trip: following up

Following up on my excursion to Pound Ridge, New York, I ordered the book, “Images of America, Pound Ridge” by Richard Major and Vincent Manna.  Two items in the book are of particular help for clarifying my findings from my summer trip to Pound Ridge.
A map from 1906 was reprinted from “God’s Country” by Jay Harris, showing a plot owned by Mrs. Eyre.  Relaxing on my couch, instead of navigating the almost dirt roads straddling the New York and Connecticut border, I was able to study this map and the modern-day map of Pound Ridge and figure out where the property is.  I think I was in the correct place.  It appears that Conant Valley Road is either a newly made road or was just not codified on early maps.  That is what was throwing me off.  I was mistaking Conant Valley Road for the nearest cross street, when actually Eastwoods Road was the cross street, at least back around 1900.
The second useful item was an explanation of Southwestern Farms.  Mrs. Eyre sold the property to this entity in 1910.  According to Images of America, Southwestern Farms was owned by Artemus Ward for expansion of the reservoir, and “most of the land is underwater . . . .”  I don’t think that the area owned by Mrs. Eyre is underwater.  There are small ponds on the property, but it’s not underwater.  I find little online about this man and his Southwestern Farms, so I am glad to have found the explanation in this book.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Is Alice Rosemon the former Sarah E Jackson?

The marriage of Alice Rosemon to Cornelius P Rosemon occured in Manhattan on the 25th of December, 1876.  This marriage can be found in the index at  An announcement also appeared in the New York Herald.

The New York Herald, 29 December 1876, page 6, viewed at

The newspaper announcement provided needed clarification that Alice was a daughter of Coe Downing Jackson.  The problem is that a daughter named Alice does not appear in the 1860 and 1870 census entries for this family.  Instead, a daughter named Sarah E. Jackson appears to be the same age as Alice Rosemon.  Sarah is not seen after "Alice" marries Cornelius Rosemon.  If Sarah's middle initial had been A instead of E, I would be more comfortable with this switch.

1860 federal census, Newtown, Queens County, New York

1870 federal census, Hunters Point, Queens County, New York
Alice Rosemon lived for several decades after marrying and had a few children with descendants alive today.  She seems to be the only one of all of the children of Coe Downing Jackson to have had issue.  Ida E. Jackson, a sister of Sarah/Alice, married Sanford Soper, but it does not seem that she had any children.  The rest of the siblings remained unmarried, often found living together, and Sarah is not among them.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

New Images Online: Smithsonian Frazee papers

I previously wrote about discovering a connection between John Frazee to the Duryea line.  The actual link is John Frazee's second wife, Lydia Place.  John Frazee lived about 1790 to 1852 and was a sculptor and architect.  His papers were donated to the Smithsonian Archives of American Art.  Descriptions of the papers included genealogical information, which is exactly what I was looking for.  Copies were available through microfilm, but I had not gotten around to ordering them yet.  Yesterday was the day to order the microfilm.  I visited the website for the microfilm call numbers and poof!  The papers are now scanned and online.

As hoped, the papers provide some great genealogical information.

This information is of great help to my research on the Place/Frazee line.  I now have additional documentation that Lydia Place was the daughter of Thomas Place and Lydia Rogers- and she was their only daughter.  We have birthdates for both Lydia and John, plus their marriage date.  The diagram provides us with names and spouses of John Frazee's children.  Not only are these papers a wonderful resource, but their ready availability online makes them that much better.