Category Archives: Brick Walls

Change of Pace – New Brick Walls for 2017

It’s always good to set some of the family tree branches aside for a while and take a fresh look at other twigs and leaves, especially when they are brick walls.

I’ve decided to set aside some of my previous brick walls and bring new eyes to some others. Here they are and if you are related or have researched these people, please contact me.

  1. Anna Christina Estermann, born c1684; married Benedict Wittmer. This family lived in Barbelroth, Germany. Benedict’s parents are Johannes Jacob Wittmer and Christina (MNU). I’ve wondered if the Wittmers and Estermanns first came from the German area of Switzerland before living in Barbelroth.
  2. Eva Dingman, mother of Revolutionary War soldier John Stufflebean, and wife of Johannes Stoppelbeen, was born before 13 December 1730 in Kinderhook, Columbia County, New York. She is said to be the daughter of Johannes Dingman and Gertrude (Geesje) Elsie Janzen, but I have never directly researched this family myself. It’s not so much of a brick wall as just a family I’d like to investigate and prove myself.
  3. Wife of Zaddock Jarvis, who was probably born c1760-1770. His wife’s name has been reported as Cynthia Valinda Frey, but I don’t think I believe that. Cynthia wasn’t a name given by Germans (or anyone else in the colonies) in the 1700s. The Jarvis family lived in Rowan County, North Carolina.
  4. Elizabeth Krieger, first wife of Frederick Alberty, born c1750. It took many years to follow clues to figure out her maiden name. Her father was Nicholas Krieger. This group were Moravians living in North Carolina.
  5. Wife of John Bandy, who was born c1752, probably in Botetourt County, Virginia. John died between 1816-1820, but I have never seen even a hint about her first name, never mind a maiden name.

The first five names are all in my husband’s tree. My tree is a bit harder in terms of coming up with names because my father’s side, all Slovak, ends in the early 1800s because the church register for the village begins in 1828. They were all poor peasant farmers, so there is no chance for finding probate files or land records because they didn’t own much other than the clothes on their backs.

  1. Benjamin Brawn, a Pre-Loyalist living in Maugerville, New Brunswick, Canada. I recently was contacted by a Brawn descendant and it looks like some new clues have turned up. Benjamin was born c1739 and died about 7 December 1798 in Maugerville. His wife, Mary (MNU) survived him.
  2. Parents of Ruth Hill, born 25 February 1743/44 in North Kingstown, Washington County, Rhode Island. She married William Boone on 21 May 1761 in North Kingstown. This family removed to Burtts Corner, York County, New Brunswick, Canada, but I am not sure if they were Pre-Loyalists, who like many others were tempted by open inexpensive land in Canada, or if they left after the Revolution. They had 11 children and I have exact dates of birth for all, but the only place of birth mentioned is for Mary, born in 1770 in North Kingstown. There might be a lot waiting to be found about this family!
  3. Parents of Richard Jones, born c1758 and died 1842 in New Brunswick, Canada. He married Mary Boone, mentioned in #2 above. They married about 1786, probably in Canada. It is believed he was also from Rhode Island.
  4. Finding parents or siblings for  Walter Stewart and Elizabeth Briggs, Loyalists, in property or probate files in Dutchess County, New York. It is said that Walter Stewart farmed in the area with his brothers. Walter and Elizabeth married on 3 March 1774 in Poughkeepsie, Dutchess County, New York, but I have not found parents for either of them.
  5. Finding an estate accounting for Joseph Coleman in 1791. The Nantucket court ordered his widow, Eunice Coffin Coleman, to provide one, but she had the choice of presenting it in Nantucket or to the Orange County, New York Court, where she was living with her family. I don’t know why no administration was begun until 1791 when Joseph died in 1775, unless it was because the youngest children were coming of age. The court minutes make it appear that Eunice still owned property in Nantucket, so I need to take a look at those files again.

I am newly energized as I look over my new brick wall list. I am not sure how many can be smashed down, but I already have some good information for some of these people. Successes and failures will be shared in 2017 blog posts.


A Hint of a Clue Might Be All That Is Needed

Sometimes, it seems as if ancestors are jumping in front of us, yelling “Here I am,” while, at other times, it seems more likely that the ancestors are so well hidden that they might never be found. It is these ancestors that become our proverbial brick walls.

I have to admit that my own “empty branches” aren’t all that empty, but it isn’t because of a lack of brick walls. Instead, I believe it is directly related to my research methods. The one I use most often to break through brick walls is “Leave no stone unturned.”

Now, for many people, “no stone unturned” means that it can’t be found online. In my mind, “no stone unturned” means checking library catalogs for books available that cover historical and/or genealogical information in the locale of interest. It means visiting libraries to browse through those books if they aren’t digitally available. It means writing letters to local genealogical and historical societies and to local court houses and possibly churches. It means reading microfilms of records that might include tax lists, compiled genealogies, unpublished court house records and miscellaneous information.

I do all that because you never know where you might find that hint of a clue, a clue that might be quite obscure.

That is exactly how I broke through the John Whitmer German origins brick wall years ago. I never would have been able to prove his parentage and find his home village if I had overlooked even one stone, or in this case, a little pebble.

The pebble that totally destroyed this brick wall was one sentence (and if I remember correctly, it was actually in a footnote that was on page 106 of volume 2) in a book that I browsed on a library shelf. Calvin E. Schildknecht was the editor of a three volume history, Monocacy and Catoctin: Some Settlers of Western Maryland and Adjacent Pennsylvania and Their Descendants, 1725-1988, published in 1989.


What I found was a statement that a John Whitmore had emigrated to Frederick County, Maryland from Barbelroth, Zweibrucken, Germany in 1753.

I could find nothing else in Maryland resources that talked about this John “Whitmore” from Barbelroth. However, there were two or three John Whitmore/Wittmer/Whitmers living in the area at that time.

Next, I checked the old IGI (International Genealogical Index) microfiche at my local family history center. There were, indeed, Whitmers of various spellings in Barbelroth records in the mid 1700’s.

My last step was to order the microfilms of those relevant church records. The result? The brick wall was gone. People rarely migrated alone to new places. The Whitmer family traveled with other Barbelroth residents, including John’s wife’s family, to Maryland. Together, they disappeared from the German church records and, together, they appeared in the Frederick County, Maryland church records.

Remember: Leave no stone unturned!


Benjamin Brawn, My Ancestor – or Not???

My 4x great grandfather, Thomas Adams, son of Loyalist John Adams and Sarah Coley from Fairfield County, Connecticut married a young lady named Sarah Brawn on 28 August 1803 in Maugerville, New Brunswick, Canada.

Thomas was born, according to the 1851 Canadian census, about 1783 in New Brunswick. If that is true, then he was born late in that year because the American Revolution was ending. His parents and eight older siblings boarded the British ships sailing out of New York that fall and headed to Canada. Sarah Brawn, according to census records,  was born about 1786, also in New Brunswick, Canada. Sarah apparently predeceased Thomas as they were living in Canada for the 1851 census, but both gone in 1861. Thomas is found in the Calais, Maine 1860 mortality schedule, with death reported as July 1859 when he must have been living with son, Daniel’s family.

1860 Calais, Maine Mortality Schedule

Sarah has not been found in the U.S. or Canadian records after 1851.

1851 Census
Source: Provincial Archives of New Brunswick

Close up of just Thomas and Sarah Adams:

Thomas and Sarah Adams, 1851, Deer Island

Although Sarah’s maiden name is known from their marriage record at the Maugerville Anglican Church, I have never seen any clues, suppositions or theories about her parents and possible siblings.

I think that is a bit odd, especially as Thomas’s older brother, Sturges, born in 1777 in Connecticut, married Lydia Brawn, about 1807, probably in New Brunswick. Lydia may well be the sister of Sarah Brawn. Lydia was also born in New Brunswick about 1787 and died on 1 January 1866, just across the border in Calais, Washington, Maine. Sturges Adams predeceased her by many years, dying in Calais on 12 January 1827. Lydia married (2) John Foster. He was born about 1769 and died on 20 September 1867. All are buried in Calais, Maine.

Family records record the maiden names of both Sarah and Lydia as “BRAWN,” not Brown. For many years, I thought the name, being so common, might be either spelling, but I have come around to the way of thinking that their name was, indeed, Brawn.

Sarah and Lydia lived in close proximity to each other all their lives. People traveled daily back and forth from Calais to the West Isles and they were close in age so could easily be sisters.

I have searched off and on for years for Brawn parents who might be the parents of Sarah and Lydia. Family lore said they thought the Brawns were from Lubec, but nothing has ever come of that and I don’t think it’s true anyway, since both ladies reported births in New Brunswick. I believe the answer is in New Brunswick records.

It is always worth taking another look at sources you’ve reviewed before. The Provincial Archives of New Brunswick is one of my favorite Canadian websites and more records are being added to it all the time. More transcribed records are also being added to Canadian genealogical websites, too.

I think I have found a candidate to be the father of Sarah and Lydia Brawn. He is in the right place at the right time and is a known associate of members of this family by marriage.

The 1761 lists of the first settlers of Maugerville, Sunbury County, New Brunswick includes the name “Benjamin Brawn.” A group of pre-Loyalists left Newburyport, Massachusetts in that year and headed to a new life in Canada. Although the settlers departed from Newburyport, not all of them were actually inhabitants of that town. Benjamin Brawn was not from Newburyport and I have found no clues yet as to where his home might have been.

Regardless, Benjamin Brawn (always BRAWN, not “Brown”, just as with the few records of Sarah’s and Lydia’s surname) settled there by 1761. The Maugerville Anglican Church was founded there very early on, but its earliest surviving records cover the time period from 1787-1803 and then jump to 1847. Thus, there are no birth or baptismal records for possible children of Benjamin.

There are a few crumbs of a trail indicating that Benjamin Brawn remained in Maugerville for the rest of his life. In 1785, he is mentioned in the land petition records of John Sayre when he applied to block his request for Lot 51.

More importantly, in 1790, he is named as one of the proprietors of Oromocto Island. The important point in this petition is that another of the proprietors is Nicholas Rideout, also a pre-Loyalist who settled early in the area. His daughter, Grace, married Jonathan Adams, the eldest brother of Thomas and Sturges Adams. With this tie, it is reasonable to assume that the Brawn family knew the Adams Loyalists.

Aside from a few mentions in the land records, Benjamin Brawn left little paper trail. There is a burial record for him at the Maugerville Anglican Church on 8 December 1798.

The New Brunswick Royal Gazette, published on 2 April 1799, gives notice that Elijah Miles was appointed executor of the estate of Benjamin Brawn.

All the pieces are beginning to fit together:

1. There is only one man with the Brawn surname early in New Brunswick and that is Benjamin, there by 1761. Thus, he could be the father of daughters born in New Brunswick in the 1780’s.|
2. Benjamin settled in Maugerville, where the Loyalist Adams clan lived for a time after they arrived in Canada. Thomas Adams married Sarah Brawn at the Maugerville Church in 1803, the same church where Benjamin Brawn was buried five years before.
3. Thomas and Sturges Adams’ sister, Hannah Segee, her husband and family appear in the early church records there and it is probable that the younger family members, still unmarried, attended this church.

Now, it is time to throw a monkey wrench into the mix, at least the part about Sarah Brawn. No marriage record has been found for Sturges and Lydia Brawn, but with their first child born in April 1808, it is reasonable to believe they married about 1806 or 1807, probably at the Maugerville Anglican Church, whose early records stop in 1803.

Now, back to that little notice in the New Brunswick Royal Gazette that I mentioned just a bit ago. An executor had been appointed, not an administrator. Remember, too, that I mentioned that it is always worth another review when working on brick walls.

It took some time before I found an abstract of the will of Benjamin, indexed as “Brown.” Benjamin’s will, dated 24 June 1793 was proved on 3 January 1799. Wife, un-named,(but called Mary in other records) was to receive half of his farm in Maugerville for life. Their daughter Phebe was to inherit the other half  and receive the widow’s half when she died. There are two unnamed grandchildren, a son and daughter of son Benjamin, who Benjamin Sr. directs  to be supported by his wife and daughter Phebe until they come of age “or removed by their father.” I am not sure why a grandson and granddaughter were living with and being raised by a grandmother and aunt when their father was still alive, but it may well be that Benjamin Jr.’s wife died and he had not remarried by the time of the will.

Further, Benjamin names another son William, son Benjamin, daughter Lydia, daughter Mary, and daughter Susannah and leaves each with a 5 shilling inheritance.

Two executors were named: Elijah Miles and Gerhardus Clows, although only Elijah was confirmed in 1799. Perhaps Gerhardus Clows either declined or had died by then.  Witnesses to the will were Israel Perley Sr., Israel Perley Jr. and  Solomon Perley. The Perleys were also early settlers in Maugerville and had likely known the Brawns for many years.

Notice that Benjamin did, indeed, have a daughter, Lydia and I feel certain that Lydia Brawn Adams Foster was the daughter of Benjamin Brawn. One name, though, is glaringly missing and that is Sarah Brawn. Sarah would have only been about seven when this will was written so she clearly would have been named by her father.

Absolutely no records have been found indicating a year of birth for Benjamin Sr., his wife or Benjamin Jr., Phebe, William, Mary or Susannah. Some online trees give a birth year of 1743 for Benjamin Sr., but I believe that to be too late. He would not have been on a list of grantees of land if he had not reached legal age so he was born no later than 1740, but who knows how much earlier than that? I also believe that Benjamin Jr. was one of the oldest children, as he had not only married, but had two children in 1793.

My theory about Lydia and Sarah being sisters has now evolved. I believe they were aunt and niece, even though only a couple of years separated them in age. I think Sarah Brawn was the unnamed granddaughter, daughter of Benjamin Jr., named in her grandfather’s will.

I will continue taking extra looks at this family to see if later records, – like land deeds (although none exist for just Mary Brawn or for a Phebe Brawn, who likely married) – shed more light on this family because I think I’m finally on the right track, but all I have is preponderance of evidence.

Thoughts, anyone? Please leave a comment.