Thanks to Gertrude Barber

Introduction to Gertrude Barber’s Records of Sullivan County, NY

By Geoffrey Brown, Between the Lakes Group LLC

Astonishingly few records exist today of people who lived in Sullivan County in the old days.  Consequently, genealogical and historical research has been difficult at best — and impossible at worst —  in all of Sullivan County.  Gertrude Barber was, almost single-handedly, responsible for much of what we do have today.

Many factors – too many to discuss here – contributed (some still contribute) to this lack of record keeping and record retention.  However, due to the shortage of records, those of us who seek to research in Sullivan County are frequently driven to accept not what we would want or expect, but what is available, regardless of deficiencies.

Enter Gertrude Barber

We really do not know what motivations inspired Gertrude Barber, nor do we actually know much about the woman, who died in Brooklyn in 1974.  The staff of the Department of Genealogy and Local History of the New York Public Library described her as a Brooklyn resident, who began around 1929  to collect cemetery inscriptions and church records in Sullivan County, and who continued from there to collect elsewhere in New York State.

During the summers, Ms. Barber would travel to her current locale of choice, visit the graveyards and record what she could make out of gravestone inscriptions.  Soon, she expanded her project to include capturing such church records and records of wills as she was able to locate and gain access to.

It appears that she collected within Sullivan County mainly for two summers, those of 1929 and 1930.  During the following winters she typed up her notes, in six carbons, in her home in Brooklyn, bringing a copy to the librarians at the New York Public Library and disseminating the other copies to other libraries that indicated an interest in them.  One of the older librarians at the New York Public described to this writer her wintertime visits bringing her typescripts for them.

We first became aware of her transcriptions at the New York Public Library, and it is to them – and, of course, to Ms. Barber — that we owe a massive debt of gratitude that we have the information she transcribed in an easily accessible form today.

You can read more about Gertrude Barber and get a sense of the other New York State locations she visited and transcribed in this article about her HERE.

As grateful as we are to Gertrude Barber today for her huge contribution to genealogy in Upstate New York, there were a few deficiencies in her work that deserve mention simply to avoid raising false hopes.

First, Ms. Barber’s survey was not comprehensive.  As an example, she collected the old section (the oldest, but probably the smallest section today) of the Liberty, NY cemetery, but did not do the newer portions.  (To our knowledge, those much larger newer sections have not yet been collected by anyone, sadly.)  She certainly overlooked other cemeteries, particularly the very small ones that one occasionally saw around the county fifty years ago that are now gone completely. In Liberty, she covered the church records to which she had access, but notably these did NOT include the principal “downtown” churches of Liberty at that time:  Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, and Episcopal.  Finally, she either did not locate, could not gain access to, or could not read any records of what was already becoming the substantial Jewish population of the Town of Liberty, nor did she record any of the Jewish cemeteries in the county.  Likely she did not know Hebrew, in which many of the stones are written, so the task would have verged on the impossible for her.

The second defect is in the records themselves and her transcription of them.  First off, gravestone inscriptions can be very difficult to read if the stone has been eroded or if moss and lichens have grown over it.  Of course, if the stone is broken off or buried or defaced or stolen, the data is simply missed.  She mentions problems with some stones in most of the cemeteries she collected.  Second, with the church records, many of the pastors or church clerks who originally recorded them had little interest in spelling.  For the most part, surnames had stabilized in terms of spelling by the time the earliest of these records were originally set down, but spelling of surnames in some of the records is creative at best.  Handwriting was also likely a factor here; we have not seen the original record books, so we do not really know what kind of legibility problems Ms. Barber faced.

Ms. Barber also was not a Sullivan County native — at least as far as we know she was not.  Hence, she had no familiarity with the family names typical of area, and doubtless made uninformed assumptions about spellings when transcribing.  Some of the German family names in the western portion of the County seem to have really given her fits.

Her technology, while typical of the era in which she worked, was not what one might have wished for.  Any time you are dealing with multiple carbon copies, typed on a manual typewriter, legibility inevitably suffers.  Today we easily forget just how hard it was to make corrections on six carbons when typing.  The consequences today are that the characters are sometimes blurred, there are overstrikes that make letters – and occasionally strings of letters – unintelligible.

Another defect was with Ms. Barber’s indexing skills.  Fortunately, this is one defect that we can do something about.  While she did index some of the records for Sullivan County, we surmise that her methodology was not the greatest, and since they are not up to the standard of her data collection, in our reprints of her work we have chosen to omit her indices.   Instead of including them, we have indexed many of her records in this section, and where we have done so, our index appears with our republications. When using our indexes, please be aware that we suffered with the same problems of legibility that Ms. Barber no doubt did when collecting the records.  What we saw was what we indexed.

One might say from these notes that we are being very critical, perhaps even unfair to Ms. Barber, but that is not our intent.  Given the limitations at hand, she did an admirable job.  More important, she was the ONLY PERSON WHO APPEARS TO HAVE DONE THE JOB AT ALL!

Even with the limitations of her records, we, seventy five years after she collected this material, say “THANK YOU” to Gertrude Barber for her dedication, patience, and generosity in spending a few years creating this rare compendium of Sullivan County records for us to use today.

 

What we offer

We offer in download form most of the Sullivan County records that Mrs. Barber transcribed and produced in typescript form — at least those that found their way to the New York Public Library.

Please see the Sullivan County page on our main website for a listing of what we have available.

Recovering history
Between the Lakes Group helps you recover history!

 

Methodist Church Records – Town of Liberty, NY Circuit

Back in the years preceding and following the dawn of the 20th century, the larger Sullivan County, NY, villages, such as Liberty and Monticello, had their own Methodist Episcopal (what the Methodists used to be called) churches with full-time clergy.  However, the smaller villages and hamlets might have had a church building, but the clergy was shared between several villages.  If you’ve heard the term “circuit rider” that’s what these clergy were.  They carried the records of each of the churches with them as they rode the circuit.

In the Town of Liberty, in Sullivan County, NY, there was a circuit that served White Sulphur Springs (then called Robertsonville), Swan Lake (then called Stevensville), and Harris (then known as Strongtown).   A succession of ministers served that circuit, and their compiled records are available to us, thanks to the diligence of Gertrude Barber back in 1929.

About church records

Church records, with variations depending upon denomination, tend to have records of liturgical events:  baptisms, confirmations (“joining the church”), marriages, and funerals, with occasional lists of all the members of a particular church at a particular point in time.  In an area that did not have state-mandated capture of birth, marriage, and death statistics until rather late (and then it was not infrequently neglected), church records can be the most important source of such data, surpassing even family Bibles due to their concentration of information about a locality.

Methodist Church Records: Town of Liberty, NY Circuit

We had previously included this compilation on one of our Memories of Liberty CD-ROMs, but now that we have discontinued our CD line, this one gets to stand on its own.  For anyone with ancestors in the more rural parts of the Town of Liberty, or someone interested in the history of these areas, this collection is very important.  We’ve also compiled our own index of the records.

Please CLICK HERE to see more information and to download this collection.

 

Recovering history
Between the Lakes Group helps you recover history!

The Graduates of Emory College (1910)

Our second publication of Southern History in the last month is this important volume listing the occupations and addresses of more than 1000 graduates of Emory College (now Emory University) in Georgia.

The volume includes some history of the college and other supporting documents, but most important is the information provided about the graduates themselves.  Here’s the table of contents:

Emory Alumni Register
Table of Contents

More information is available at our main website, where you can also download this document.

EMORY ALUMNI REGISTER

Gabriel Jackson of Polk County, NC

Here’s a genealogy, done some time ago by Between the Lakes Group partner Judith Sherman, that’s been hiding in plain sight for a number of years.  We had planned to publish it years ago, but the manuscript got buried, and time passed, and we just uncovered it yesterday!

Here’s the sales blurb:

Gabriel Jackson of Polk County, North Carolina:  one line of descent

by Judith Moore Sherman (Brown) (1987)

We think that this work, by one of the partners of Between the Lakes Group, will be helpful for two reasons (beyond the careful scholarship that went into its preparation).

First, genealogy in the mountains of western North Carolina is outright difficult to research.  The area was too transient for too long, and largely with people for whom the written word may have historically been more of an enemy than a friend.  The extent to which government in the form of records of vital statistics was present was at best limited.  That religious communities in the area were continually in flux for many reasons, but in large measure because of a lack of well-educated clergy, largely eliminated the other usual source of genealogical source material.  The area, while not subject to depredations during the Civil War, had a disadvantage nonetheless: division of loyalties between the north and the south.  That this family produced a southern lieutenant while many or most of the names in the book are more closely associated with northern sympathizers serves to illustrate the point

Second, Jackson is a very common name.  While the difficulty attending research of names like Brown and Smith and Jones and Johnson are well known, the Jackson surname has certainly been among the 10 most common in the United States, and it was especially true at this time.

The document is available as a downloaded PDF file.  It’s 80 pages long and includes ancestry charts and an index of names.  We offer it for $7.50.  Please click the “Buy Now” button to download the document to your computer.

…and here’s what we’re trying!

Normally, when we sell something here on our blog, we refer people to our main website.  That seems like the usual practice, but it occurred to us that we don’t really need to cause you the extra work.

So, we decided to see how it might work if we offered the possibility of buying this download right here!  The price is the same ($7.50) but it’s a little more efficient, we think.

If the genealogy is of interest, try the easy way of getting it.  Just click the “Buy Now” button and get the download immediately.

Of course, we’re also delighted if you visit our main website too.

Here’s our home page.

Here’s our catalog.

And here’s where you can buy this download on our North Carolina page!

High School Yearbooks…..#1

Virtually all local history material is of value to genealogists and historians.  Only in the past year or two, however, have the large genealogy companies (ancestry.com, for example) hit on the quantity and quality of genealogical and historical material contained in high school and college yearbooks and annuals.  And, they have begun to offer copies of some of these on their websites.

We’re happy to say that we were more than a decade ahead of the giants in recognizing the importance of yearbooks and in beginning their re-publication here at Between the Lakes Group.

Because of all the recent attention directed to yearbooks, we decided to list all of the yearbooks available from us, in the order of the year the yearbook was originally published, all on a single page.  There you’ll also find links to the location on our site you can find more information about them.  You can see that list on our Yearbooks page — just CLICK HERE to review it.

We’ll have a few posts on the subject of yearbooks — particularly high school yearbooks — and how you can use them.  For what?  Well, for starters, to fill out the lives of people you may be researching, to learn more about the communities you’re interested in, and even to establish an elusive connection to a family member.  Those posts will come as we write them in the next few days and weeks, so check back here for them.

The occasion that really prompted this page was our republication of the Port Jervis, NY High School yearbook for 1938, “Senior Memoirs”.  A pretty hefty yearbook (as they go) at 138 pages, with a few rarities in it (such as senior horoscopes to supplement the more standard Last Will and Testament section, and, hearkening back to yearbooks of two or three decades earlier, prize stories and poems), it is one of several Port Jervis High School yearbooks that we have republished.  It can be found on our Orange County, NY page.

(You’ll also see there the very first appearance of our snappy new “buy now” button!)

Child’s Gazetteers

Our experience has been that using available gazetteers to get a comprehensive overview of a county or a community is a great way to get started finding out about a new area.

Nearly always they have lists of inhabitants (usually heads of households) at a point in time about a year before the publication date of the gazetteer in question.  That’s almost enough to justify using these sources all by itself!

However, they — particularly those originally published by Hamilton Child in the 1870s and 1880s in New York State and Vermont — have a wealth of additional valuable information.  (We republish other gazetteers too, but let’s concentrate on this set for a moment.)

For example, often there is a county map.  There are capsule histories of each township in the county, which usually include population statistics.  Generally there’s short description of the educational system, some details about each community in the county, and a list of the houses of worship in the township with some statistics here as well.

We always find the advertisements — and the economics of gazetteer publishing dictated that there would be lots and lots of them — fascinating vignettes of rural life in that time period.

Gazetteers are also (justifiably) criticized as containing a fair number of pages of what can best be described as boilerplate, which appear in virtually all editions of that publisher’s gazetteers.  Examples include short descriptions of the states and territories, stamp duties, postal rates and regulations, popular nostrums of the time, and the like.  But this material (which actually is worth reading once, anyway) is not what you buy a gazetteer for:  you buy one to learn about a county and what was in it.

web3_large
A sample page from a gazetteer in New York State — heads of households and businesses

We’re happy to publish no less than three of Child’s gazetteers of various counties in New York State.  If one of these counties circa 1873 is of interest to you, by all means have a look!

Sullivan County Gazetteer

Lewis County Gazetteer

Wayne County Gazetteer

Maybe, just maybe, one of these will be as useful to you as we have found it!

 

 

Hodgkin – Hotchkin – Hotchkiss Family History

Hodgkin.  Hotchkin.  Hotchkiss.  Three names for a single family?

In a word, yes.  A fellow names John Hodgkin (sometimes also spelled Hodke) immigrated circa 1648 from England, settling in Guilford, Connecticut.  He married and raised a family.  And his descendents commonly used the  three variants in this post’s title for their surnames, but, just to keep things interesting, also pluralized the first two of these on occasion, so one occasionally finds Hodgkins and Hotchkins as individual surnames.  Compounding the problems, from a genealogical perspective, is the fact that a man named Samuel Hotchkiss arrived in New Haven proper around the same time.  Samuel also produced a large family, but they at least stuck to Hotchkiss as a surname pretty generally.

If your reaction so far is a big “so what?” it’s not entirely a surprise.  Back in the day spelling of surnames (and pretty much everything else) was an opportunity to exercise one’s creativity, so deviant spellings of surnames are a dime a dozen, really.

However, there were a few aspects of this family that are a bit more interesting than that.

First of all, how’s your British (and American colonial) history?  John Hodgkin came here as part of a migration of Puritans from England — the fact that he settled in Connecticut rather than Massachusetts Bay Colony suggests that he was probably a very strict Puritan as well.  He appears in the records as “Governor Leete’s man” so we find no reason that he would not have fit this pattern.  Fast forward a few years, until the Puritan takeover (think Oliver Cromwell) in England, when the victors decided to execute the King they had deposed.  The judges on that court became known, after the monarchy was restored, as the Regicides (and king-killing is not favorably viewed by monarchists in general).

So, unsurprisingly, the hunt for the Regicides began.  Two, named Whalley and Goffe, had fled to New England (they were fortunate to get out of England alive) (for a list of all the Regicides and what happened to them, try Wikipedia).  Since New England was still a British colony, they had not outrun the law, however, and the King’s agents searched for them here.  They were spirited from house to house, from community to community, even from colony to colony — and one of their stopovers was with John Hodgkin and his family.

The Hodgkin/Hotchkin/etc. family tended, in subsequent generations, to produce clergymen, a few of whom developed well-deserved reputations as writers, and others of whom developed reputations for other things.

The writers included the Rev. James Hervey Hotchkin, who wrote an early history about the settlement of Western New York State (which we have re-published on CD-ROM — find more information HERE); and the Rev. S. F. Hotchkin (he defied family tradition and became an Episcopal priest) who wrote a series of local history books about Philadelphia and the surrounding area — we plan to republish one of these soon.

Less savory were Hotchkin clergymen who sided against a Connecticut girl marrying a Hawaiian native to the extent that he led a schism in the local Congregational church, and another who had a missionary interest in Native American and black women in the South around the time of the Civil War.  He is notable not because he saved many souls, but because his ministrations to these unfortunate women produced a branch of the family referred to today as the Black Hotchkins.

John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his Descendents
John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his Descendents

All of this is prelude to the fact that the principal partner of Between the Lakes Group, along with a number of hard working and intelligent family members, back in the 1980s, produced a book entitled “John Hodgkin (Hotchkin) of Guilford, CT and his descendents”.  The book sold out two printings in hard cover almost immediately — there are indeed many descendents of John Hotchkin, or at least many people who want to know about his and the family he produced —  and now we have re-published it in digital form as a download.  If you go HERE to our New Haven, CT page, you can learn more about this download — and perhaps enjoy a copy of your own.

(We should add that unlike some in the genealogy biz, we believe that all lines, male and female, legitimatized by matrimony or not, deserve to be followed.  In preparing this book we followed this practice, and we hope that you appreciate this and understand that as a result there are some surnames appearing in the index nearly as frequently as Hotchkin does — Beers is an example.)

 

 

 

Noah Cross of England and Ulster County

Yup, Noah Cross was the progenitor of a whole bunch of people named “Cross” as well as a whole bunch who were, after a generation or two, NOT named Cross.  Back in the days that we were celebrating the bicentennial of the United States, a lot of families got busy doing their genealogy, and the descendents of Noah Cross were no different.

And, the descendents of Noah Cross were more successful than most!  Thanks mainly to the efforts of one Loyal Cross, one of Noah’s descendents, as well as a few other hard workers, in 1976 a “book” of the descendents of Noah Cross was published.  We use the word “published” advisedly for a couple of reasons.  First of all, there was no sense at that time that this compendium was a finished product.  They had not traced all his lines of descendents.  They had not yet gotten him back “across the pond”.  And the “book” was mimeographed and designed to be kept in a three ring binder for the frequent updates everyone was sure would come soon and in quantity.  Also, the “book” lacked an index.

Crossbook0001One of our first tasks in the genealogical community was to index the Cross family book.  It was a lot of work, but at least the book had an index, and it was possible to find people in it.  We Xeroxed the index and send copies of it to a few people, and it seemed to get a life of its own — but this was a decade after the book itself had been circulated.

Around the same time, another researcher was able to fill in some important blanks about Noah Cross, and the story got about 300% more exciting.  It seems that he was born in Somerset, England.  In his late teens, he found himself a soldier in the British Army, in a regiment of foot (that means infantry).  (We don’t know what his decision process regarding joining the Army was, or even whether he had much say in the process, and we frankly suspect the latter.)

Soon, he found himself (and his regiment) stationed on Long Island, New York.  Whether he found Army life intolerable or whether he saw opportunity as only a young man can in a new land is not something we are ever likely to know the answer to.  But we do know that he, along with two of his buddies, deserted and made their way to Ulster County, NY.  (We should say here that deserting from the Army was not then and is not today a risk-free activity — back in those days if you were caught you likely would have been executed.)

We do not know how Noah Cross and his buddies made it from present day Nassau County, NY across the East River (or the Long Island Sound) and then across the Hudson River and sixty miles upstate.  He was likely to have had very little money and must have had to try to stay out of the clutches of those who might return him to the Army.  But somehow the three of them did make it up into the Shawangunk Mountains of Ulster County, where he and his friends became acquainted  with girls of Dutch heritage whose families lived there.

Now, there is no reason why the Dutch families would have been eager to turn the deserters in.  After all, these families had put down roots in New York when it was still New Amsterdam and likely resented the British.  Also, these were three fit young men, well able to marry their daughters and contribute to the community.  The three deserters married the three Dutch girls not many months after deserting.

Along came the Revolutionary War.  Noah Cross enlisted — quite possibly he was urged strongly to do so by his new family — and served.  He and his wife had children, and eventually he died.  But the rest of the story is in the book, and you may just want to have a look at it.

Who knows?  You might find your name or the name of one of your relatives!!