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.


  1. Wow! I am impressed!I am one of those people who couldn't tell you where the info came from, just someone else told me. My children's line goes through Richard (Long) Merrell. It is their father's line (his mother was a Merrell). Still don't know why Richard was Merrell rather than Long. Always wondered if his grandparents raised him and he just became Merrell, or if he wasn't actually Jonas's child. Thank you so much for sharing your wonderful research!

  2. Thank you for all this, can't believe I finally found something to go on. My line does not share yours as I am on William Owen's line, but I have tried hard to fill in the children of my 5th great grandfather William Owen. I do have a note on the actual death of William Owen. His brother, Calvin W Owen kept a diary and his entry of Sept. 5, 1853 states that he has received a letter from his brother's wife Elisabeth of Staten Island saying that brother died on the first of Oct 1852 after about 1 week of sickness. Calvin had no idea and was quite surprised by this and he had been contemplating a visit. Why she would have waited a year I have no idea. Do you happen to know if the actual wills are online or if I can order the one for William Owen? His brother Joseph was my direct but like I said, I really would like to fill in all the family if I can. Also, if James Jonas Long passed away in 1840, Elizabeth must have married William after that so I don't think she was the mother of 7 children by him, but that will take more research. I am thinking he had a first wife who fathered the children but I now have names to go on thanks to you. In Calvin Owen's diary he states that brother William has a large family and lives at Staten Island. Two families coming together certainly would have made for a large family! Thank you so much for sharing this online. Wonderful research! Janis

    1. Great to read about the ripple effect.
      No probate papers have been located yet in New York or New Jersey for the two husbands of Elizabeth Merrell. Still looking.