Determination Wins In End

Originally published January 04, 2003 in the Daily Press

By VIRGINIA H. ROLLINGS Columnist

Some of you who attended genealogy courses I taught for years might remember that I would write “KROPFGANS” on the board and offer $100 for information about this German name.

Friends who now come to the Family History Center laugh when I mention the name. My mother was Matilda Kropfgans, whose parents died when she was young. She knew nothing of her ancestry except that her father was an orphan raised by “an old uncle in Iowa.”

I went to Iowa years ago before all its records were microfilmed and made available elsewhere. I found the uncle, and her father, listed in the 1860 Iowa census, a nephew in the Kropfgans household, with Saxony as his place of origin. Nothing revealed where the family originated in Germany. I examined available courthouse records, finding an oath of allegiance in Dubuque, but not a naturalization petition, which might supply origin. I found Kropfgans deeds, wills and obituaries, but nothing told where they had lived in Germany.

I went to the National Archives to check passenger lists in ports of embarkation in Germany, but the name was not there nor on ships leaving Bremen, Hamburg or LeHavre. Nor were they in American ports of Philadelphia, New York, or New Orleans. The locality is necessary in order to search. The only clue was “Saxony,” entered in the 1880 census. I went to the great Family History Library in Salt Lake several times. Nicht!

Back again in Iowa, I interviewed cousins and children of former neighbors of Johann Gottlieb Kropfgans, who died in 1883. I talked with families named Kosbau, Luckterhant, Armbruster, Haferbecker, Leppert and Feuerhelm. Some remembered with little interest; they drove me out “on the prairie” to the old Kropfgans farm, advising me not to worry: “they were good people, so what more is there to know?”

Thousands had left Germany in terrible wars and in greater numbers when the Homestead Act of 1862 was advertised throughout Europe: Free land in America; all you had to do was build a dwelling and cultivate it! Millions crossed the ocean and never looked back, having said permanent farewells to parents and family “in the old country.” They cut big trees and dug big stumps, built little churches everywhere and sent their children to one-room schools.

Anxious to be totally American, they learned English with their children. Some changed difficult names. Few kept any records or talked about their families. So I took the easy way, searching our English families who came to Colonial Virginia where the Rollings were settled in Surry County before 1636. Since Surry and Isle of Wight records had survived wars and courthouse fires, my children’s “heritage books” were soon filled with ancestors who had been intermarrying in the area for nearly 400 years. Thousands of cousins carry the names Barham, Bell, Holt, Pyland, Derring, Williams, Hart, Harris, Warren, Spencer, Wilson, Gwaltney, Judkins, Davis, Rowell, Thompson, Berryman and Gray; in Nansemond there were the Prudens, Everetts, Brasseurs and Holloways as well as cousins among Quakers at Chuckatuck.

Lineages traced back to Jamestown, 1607. Thompsons were among zealous Massachusetts Puritans who came to Virginia to convert Anglicans. But Kropfgans shadows stayed by me. The name seems to have ended in the United States when my mother, an only child, married. None appeared on disks of national phone directories. None were in the first Social Security Death records. Three years ago I went back to Iowa and stood beside the slender marble pillar in an old cemetery, carved with the name, Johann Gottlieb Kropfgans. The photo is in my Kropfgans notebook with a tall stack of letters I wrote to German officials and embassies, individuals and to Washington D.C. All added up to one word in most replies: “Nicht.”

But it changed recently. Many times I had typed the name in Internet searches. Nicht! But a few months ago I again typed “Kropfgans” in an Internet query block. A long document in German appeared. Then the mouse sniffed about and there was an option to translate to English. In seconds I was reading that Johann Gottlieb Kropfgans, born 1660, and his son, Johann Gottlieb Kropfgans, born 1704, of Saxony, were musicians, players in concerts in Leipzig and Breslau with Johann Sebastian Bach and Silvius Weiss. The younger Gottlieb was with Johann Adam Hiller of Breslau, who arranged orchestration for opera and added the lute to the instruments for first time in about 1740, when Kropfgans was invited to be the lutenist. He traveled with Weiss, master lutenist, and they played in Brussels and at the crowning of the prince of Austria. His little daughter, Johanna Elenora Kropfgans, studied with Weiss and at age 9 was a soloist in Breslau, titled a “Brushische Lutenist.” Her brother played at age 7 and could “transpose and improvise figured bass.”

virginia rollings in what she called her “george washington photo.” she does look imperial and her hair looks fantastic. miss you mamaw!

virginia rollings in what she called her “george washington photo.” she does look imperial and her hair looks fantastic. miss you mamaw!

Nansemond Site Of Early Settlement

Originally published October 03, 1992 in the Daily Press

by Virginia Rollings, columnist

Colonial Nansemond County (joined with the city of Suffolk in 1974) was one of the earliest areas of English settlement. The Indians had established villages along the rivers, creeks, and branches, travel routes that also determined where colonists settled. Courthouse records of the ancient county were lost, one of the heavy tragedies of the Civil War.

As they have with other “burned” counties, researchers have pieced together the scraps, old Bibles, tombstones, forgotten gravesites, personal diaries, plantation accounts, Federal papers and war records that survived in other places.

Surviving courthouse records were microfilmed and may be ordered in local libraries and Family History Centers or reviewed in the courthouse and the Virginia State Archives in Richmond. They include personal property tax records, 1815-1861, and land tax lists, 1782-1861. A clerk’s fee book, 1789-1800, indexed by the late William L. Litsey of Hampton, was published by Tidewater Genealogical Society.

Nansemond families are traced in several published works including those by Fillmore Norfleet, Steve A. Cormier, William Turner Jordan, Emma Robertson Matheny, Evelyn Hurff Cross, and the recent book including many Suffolk families by B. F. McLemore.

Subject catalogs in the Family History Center, Isle of Wight Library, and the Rare Books and Manuscripts Department of the College of William and Mary each list some Nansemond surnames. Records include Riddick, Griffin, Rawls, Everett, Milner, Jordan, Wright, Davis, Bennett, Holland, Cowling, Rountree, Copeland and Cole, among many other old Nansemond settlers.

Suffolk Library has gathered all published records on Nansemond, according to Librarian Elinor Antis. Some family histories in manuscript are available and researchers are requested to submit copies of their family records.

Nansemond descendants have the great advantage of Quaker records kept by clerks who recorded births, deaths, marriages, “disowning” of members who transgressed or joined other churches, and information about migration of families to the Midwest.

Other church records include Suffolk Parish vestry book, 1749-1856; Presbyterian Church, 1887-1966; Upper Nansemond Parish Vestry Book, 1744-1793; and Cedar Hill Cemetery; these books were microfilmed.

The rich records of adjoining Isle of Wight County include wills, deeds, and vital records of families who were later at Chuckatuck Quaker meetings, as well as of hundreds of other families who were moving southward.

Virginia land grants offer bright hope for finding 17th century ancestors. Under the headright system, 50 acres were given to individuals who paid passage for immigrants to the colony, with requirements about cultivation and improvements. As land was deserted, escheated and re-conveyed, tracing of previous owners often reveal relationships; lost deeds and wills are sometimes quoted.

Lands transferred to a man “in the right of his wife” indicate that his ownership stems from the marriage; such transfers may give the wife’s father’s name, making these grants an important source in Virginia for finding elusive maiden names of women.

An example is the 1685 grant to John Murfrey Jr. in right of his wife, 650 acres in the upper parish of Nansemond at Dumphries Island Creek, adjacent to Pierce, Murdah, and Sanders. In 1639, Samuel Stephens held a grant for 6,000 acres that eventually descended to Thomas Francis, whose orphans (minor children) held the patent in 1665. The land was surveyed in 1685 when 650 acres were conveyed to Murfrey, who had married Susannah, one of Francis’ children.

John Hudnall in right of his wife, Mary, and Thomas Haswell in right of his wife, Elizabeth, received 90 acres in the lower parish at Knotts line in 1686. This land was granted very early to Anthony Wells and eventually sold to Robert Hail, father of Mary Hudnall and Elizabeth Haswell.

James Howard was owner in 1691 of half the acreage granted to Thomas Titus in 1672. His wife was one of the daughters of Titus.

Descendants of James Foster are named in a transfer of 282 acres at the south branch of the Nansemond River to Jonathan Robinson in right of his wife Anne, daughter of James Foster, “deceased.” Adjacent landowners were John Holland, Charles Roades, and James Foster, possibly a son of the original patentee. The tract bounded an equal 242 acres owned by James Hayward (Howard) in right of his wife, Elizabeth, granddaughter of James Foster.

A 1652 patent to James Foster describes land on the western branch of the Nansemond River called the “Indian Creek”; John Laydon and Thomas Babb were neighboring landowners. The Babbs, like many other Nansemond families, may be followed through Quaker records to descendants now living in several southside counties.

The History Of Huguenots In Virginia

Originally published July 23, 1989 in the Daily Press

By VIRGINIA ROLLINGS Columnist

"Turff and Twigg" is a wonderful book! Priscilla H. Cabell of Richmond published this 468-page history of the Huguenots in Virginia in 1988. The title pertains to land patents received by the French refugees in the settlements near Richmond. A large foldout map shows exactly where each patentee had his land; the plats are south of the James River from directly across the Huguenot Bridge past Manakintown to Sabot Island. There is full description of the location, year of patent, acreage and cost.

In addition, lands are traced through generations as farms were sold or bequeathed to heirs. This tracing provides information about marriages, children, deaths and other elements of family history. Many wills include the testator’s declaration as to place of origin in France.  

Parish registers and vestry books, “The Douglas Register” and the Swem Index were used to augment courthouse records. A listing of French pronounciations is presented as a guide to indicate how spellings of names might change. The Bilbaud name is pronounced “Beel-bo”; Davis is “Da-veed”; Mallet is “Mah-ley”; Soblet is “Soh-blay.” With this list one can see an array of English derivations. There were also direct translations of names.

Cabell knows the area. For example, she writes: “By going 1/4 mile on a dirt road that leads out of the sharp turn on Route 313,” one comes to the exact location of the Abraham Michaex place. Among many families whose pedigrees are well defined, are the families of Chastaine, Cullin, Bernard, Chamberlayne, Clay, Easley, Dupuy, Fore, Lesueur and Matoone.

Descendants of Daniel Duval who married Philadelphia du Bois in Virginia, are brought down to William Duval, governor of Florida territory and member of Congress who died in Washington in 1854. Duvals were in the earlier Florida colony about 1560.

Gov. Francis Nicholson greeted the first Huguenot ship at the mouth of the James River. The Mary Ann arrived June 23, 1700. In smaller boats the 207 men, women and children sailed to Jamestown and, after a stop there, went up the James where the English government had agreed they should have refuge and land. Four additional ships ported in Hampton that same year. In 1701 a ship carrying 191 Huguenots came in.

All who came on these ships did not go to the Manakintown settlement, due to great poverty and lack of necessities there. Many Huguenots settled in Norfolk, south of the James in Surry, Isle of Wight and Nansemond counties and farther south in North Carolina. A great search has yet to be done for these histories.

Some of the earliest settlers in Southside, before the settlement of Manakintown, were Huguenots. Cabell’s book is a complete work of French refugees in the Richmond area. It is labeled as Volume I. Certainly much will follow. Every state has searchers whose work leads back to Virginia Huguenots. On the Peninsula we have Charlotte Hughes Brown, registrar for the Huguenot Society of the Founders of Manakin in the Colony of Virginia and president of The Virginia Huguenot Society. She is national first vice president of the Manakin Society. She has assisted many with Huguenot ancestry and has published Faure and Allied Families.

The Manakin Society publishes a bulletin available to members and has a library of Huguenot history and genealogy in Richmond. Peninsula names from Huguenot lines include Flourney, Fore, Panque, Seay, Witt, Martin, Bruno, Boyer, Kief er, Purdue, Agee, Gory, Harris, Jones, Michaeu, Boisseau, Jouett, Latane, Carpenter, Miller, Waters and Smith. Anglicization is evident in many of these. Pedigrees of these and many other families are available on microfilm and microfiche. Dozens of books show Huguenot pedigrees. Cabell includes a fine bibliographical guide.

Pension Claims Tell Revolutionary War History

Originally published July 05, 1997 in the Daily Press

By VIRGINIA H. ROLLINGS Columnist

The history of the Revolutionary War is written in pension applications. Eligibility for pension or bounty land was proven by more than 80,000 veterans who submitted details of enlistment and service to government offices, with regiment, officers, battles and injuries. Providing far more than basics of names and dates of service, the applications reveal the courage and cowardice, wounds and permanent disabilities, weeks of marching for hundreds of miles, which often resulted in forays in crops and homes.

A treasure of information is in claims for redress that are published for many localities. Military participants and patriots who were not on the battlefields described the costs of losses of foods, livestock, crops and fences, clothing, horses and household items that they had contributed, willing or not, to the war.

Pension and bounty land applications are stored in the National Archives where they were microfilmed in 1969. The 80,000 applications, 1800-1900, fill 2,670 reels listed in the Locality Catalog of the Family History Center under “United States, Military, Revolutionary War.” The surname index displays the array of names on each reel. Many applications include lengthy depositions of witnesses, names of officers and companions in combat and daily routines in encampments. Some are brief.

Reels selected from the index may be ordered for search in the Center for a 30-day rental period. Copies of selected pension papers can be printed from the films. Local libraries list publications of Revolutionary veterans by such renowned researchers as Brumbaugh, Gwathmey, Dorman and hundreds of local chapters of the DAR.

In addition to pensions, bounty land was granted as reward for service by several Congressional enactments. Millions of acres in public domain were assigned to veterans. A study of laws pertaining to dates and qualifications will help research. Diligence of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), with members in every state, now provides unexcelled Revolutionary War chronicles, ready for study in the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. The massive DAR files have been microfilmed and are described in the Author/Title Catalog in the Family History Center.

First pension legislation, 1776, promised temporary half-pay to disabled men for so long as they could not work. Free land was also offered to officers and soldiers or their representatives with conditions spelled out by Congress. In 1778, a pension of half-pay for seven years applied to officers who remained in Continental service until end of the war. Laws eventually extended to widows, orphans, all officers in the Continental Line, to men with continued disability, and payments, regardless of disability to those who had served at least six months.

Widow’s pension usually prove additional family history: date and place of marriage to the veteran, witnesses, places of residence, parentage, place and date of births, children, etc. Widow’s applications are cross referenced if she remarried. By 1855, bounty land legislation allowed 160 acres to men who had served only 14 days or had taken part in any battle. The large file of Rejected Pension Applications should never be overlooked. Separately indexed, they also contain accounts of military action, officers, family names and dates. Pensions are helps in the dilemma of tracing ancestors who move from a known area and “go right out of the records.”

Examples below are in DAR publications for NC counties:

* Benjamin BEASLEY, born Caroline County, Va., 1760, was living in King & Queen County when he entered as a private in Col. Lyne’s Regiment, first fighting in a skirmish against the British in Gloucester in 1779. Beasley reported his service in the surrender at Yorktown where he heard General Washington tell his men to “behave with moderation and not manifest any triumph.” He was in Grayson County, Va. when he applied for a pension in 1832. He was granted $30 annually. His wife was Rachel PRATHER of Stokes, N.C., born in 1769, died 1848 in Patrick County, Va. He died, 1841, in Patrick County, Va. where his brother Thomas lived. Rachel applied for widow’s pension in 1847.

* William PUCKET, born 1747, joined Capt. Thomas Moore’s Co. In Prince George Co., Va. and was disabled for life with a hip shot through at the battle of Guilford Courthouse, 1781. He died, 1833, near Buford, Highland County, Oh.

* Naaman ROBERTS, son of James and Elizabeth Roberts, was born 1762 in Pittsylvania County, Va. He marched with Thomas Black’s Co. to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in N.C. where he lost his right eye in a cannon ball explosion. Enlisted again, Roberts was at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. He then marched a company of prisoners to Maryland where he was discharged. By 1812 he was in Madison, Ky. His pension was received in Gerrard County where he died after 1840.

matilda kropfgans

matilda kropfgans

Tags: kropfgans

Pension Claims Tell Revolutionary War History

Originally published July 05, 1997 in the Daily Press

By VIRGINIA H. ROLLINGS Columnist

The history of the Revolutionary War is written in pension applications. Eligibility for pension or bounty land was proven by more than 80,000 veterans who submitted details of enlistment and service to government offices, with regiment, officers, battles and injuries. Providing far more than basics of names and dates of service, the applications reveal the courage and cowardice, wounds and permanent disabilities, weeks of marching for hundreds of miles, which often resulted in forays in crops and homes.

A treasure of information is in claims for redress that are published for many localities. Military participants and patriots who were not on the battlefields described the costs of losses of foods, livestock, crops and fences, clothing, horses and household items that they had contributed, willing or not, to the war.

Pension and bounty land applications are stored in the National Archives where they were microfilmed in 1969. The 80,000 applications, 1800-1900, fill 2,670 reels listed in the Locality Catalog of the Family History Center under “United States, Military, Revolutionary War.” The surname index displays the array of names on each reel. Many applications include lengthy depositions of witnesses, names of officers and companions in combat and daily routines in encampments. Some are brief.

Reels selected from the index may be ordered for search in the Center for a 30-day rental period. Copies of selected pension papers can be printed from the films. Local libraries list publications of Revolutionary veterans by such renowned researchers as Brumbaugh, Gwathmey, Dorman and hundreds of local chapters of the DAR.

In addition to pensions, bounty land was granted as reward for service by several Congressional enactments. Millions of acres in public domain were assigned to veterans. A study of laws pertaining to dates and qualifications will help research. Diligence of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), with members in every state, now provides unexcelled Revolutionary War chronicles, ready for study in the DAR Library in Washington, D.C. The massive DAR files have been microfilmed and are described in the Author/Title Catalog in the Family History Center.

First pension legislation, 1776, promised temporary half-pay to disabled men for so long as they could not work. Free land was also offered to officers and soldiers or their representatives with conditions spelled out by Congress. In 1778, a pension of half-pay for seven years applied to officers who remained in Continental service until end of the war. Laws eventually extended to widows, orphans, all officers in the Continental Line, to men with continued disability, and payments, regardless of disability to those who had served at least six months.

Widow’s pension usually prove additional family history: date and place of marriage to the veteran, witnesses, places of residence, parentage, place and date of births, children, etc. Widow’s applications are cross referenced if she remarried. By 1855, bounty land legislation allowed 160 acres to men who had served only 14 days or had taken part in any battle. The large file of Rejected Pension Applications should never be overlooked. Separately indexed, they also contain accounts of military action, officers, family names and dates. Pensions are helps in the dilemma of tracing ancestors who move from a known area and “go right out of the records.”

Examples below are in DAR publications for NC counties:

* Benjamin BEASLEY, born Caroline County, Va., 1760, was living in King & Queen County when he entered as a private in Col. Lyne’s Regiment, first fighting in a skirmish against the British in Gloucester in 1779. Beasley reported his service in the surrender at Yorktown where he heard General Washington tell his men to “behave with moderation and not manifest any triumph.” He was in Grayson County, Va. when he applied for a pension in 1832. He was granted $30 annually. His wife was Rachel PRATHER of Stokes, N.C., born in 1769, died 1848 in Patrick County, Va. He died, 1841, in Patrick County, Va. where his brother Thomas lived. Rachel applied for widow’s pension in 1847.

* William PUCKET, born 1747, joined Capt. Thomas Moore’s Co. In Prince George Co., Va. and was disabled for life with a hip shot through at the battle of Guilford Courthouse, 1781. He died, 1833, near Buford, Highland County, Oh.

* Naaman ROBERTS, son of James and Elizabeth Roberts, was born 1762 in Pittsylvania County, Va. He marched with Thomas Black’s Co. to the Battle of Guilford Courthouse in N.C. where he lost his right eye in a cannon ball explosion. Enlisted again, Roberts was at Yorktown when Cornwallis surrendered. He then marched a company of prisoners to Maryland where he was discharged. By 1812 he was in Madison, Ky. His pension was received in Gerrard County where he died after 1840.

History Helps Us Appreciate Religious Liberty

Originally published July 05, 2003 in the Daily Press

By VIRGINIA H. ROLLINGS Columnist

"We the General Assembly of Virginia do enact that no man shall be compelled to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced, restrained, molested or burthened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer on account of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no way diminish, enlarge, or affect their civil capacities."

In June 1779, Thomas Jefferson and George Wythe presented this “Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom” in the Virginia Assembly. They neither stood alone in, nor as originators of, the fervent conviction that free will in religious belief and practice is an inalienable right.

This legal mandate was raised in the arc of light arising in Europe with the Reformation, the substructure upon which the First Amendment and the Virginia Bill for Religious Freedom stand. Thomas Jefferson, America’s champion of laws to protect religious freedom, knew the terrorism of state churches in Europe, supported by governments in extermination of millions who disagreed with edicts about the Trinity, worship of the Virgin, sale of indulgences, infant baptism and mystic rituals.

Despite the Inquisition’s river of blood in Amsterdam, Netherlands, and other cities, the struggle for personal free will won. With death to many the price, access to scriptures and to education won. Among the leaders of reform were Jon Hus, a Roman Catholic priest born in 1373 and burned in 1409 as a “dangerous radical”; Martin Luther, a Catholic monk who translated the Bible into German and founded Protestantism in Germany; Menno Simons, born in 1496, leader of the Anabaptists, later the Mennonites, in Holland; John Calvin and John Knox; and George Fox, founder of the Quakers.

In the early 17th century, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Palatine and England were crowded with religious refugees, including French Huguenots, Moravians, Walloons, Dutch Reformed and divisions of Anabaptists. Suddenly, there was America, a “promised land,” a place to go where free will might expand in communities. Soon, Protestants — and Catholics, who were victims of oppression in some areas — crowded ships sailing to a new world. Their names fill indexes of early American immigrants.

Travel isn’t necessary to view these records because most were microfilmed and are ready to be ordered for review in the Family History Center in Denbigh. Camera crews of the Latter-day Saints Church traveled to all European countries to film registers in ancient churches, libraries and civil offices. Records of Prussia, the Palatine, Switzerland, Holland and England were filmed and may be copied in the Denbigh center.

Besides microfilm, excellent resources are on the Internet for learning about Huguenots and Dutch Reformed congregations that settled Canada, New Rochelle and selected communities in other areas of New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware. French and Belgian Protestants — the Walloons — were in New Amsterdam (now New York), at the southern tip of Manhattan. The long trek of Moravians from Pennsylvania to Winston-Salem, N.C., traces their journey and names in three films in the local center. Names and genealogies of Palatines who arrived in Philadelphia in 1727 are on film No. 1312366.

Original records of Jewish passengers to Philadelphia fill 17 reels; other reels name Jews who fled to Russia and then back to Lithuania and Poland. The largest German catalog in the world is in the local center, offering nearly a million reels. Cameras are still in Norway, Sweden, the Czech Republic and Austria. Records of nonconformists in England and of Huguenot immigration to America are voluminous.

"Turff and Twigg" by Priscilla Cabell of Richmond, available in local libraries, is an excellent resource on French Protestants in Virginia who settled above Richmond. William Wade Hinshaw’s Quaker records fill six large volumes. The William Braithwaite papers, including Quaker histories, were filmed years ago by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation library and are available there and in libraries of the National Park Service, the Library of Virginia and in the Denbigh center.

Jefferson’s zeal for religious freedom wasn’t understood, and in his presidential campaign, political opponents scoffed at him as an atheist and a “non-Christian, unsuitable character to become president of the United States.” He was keenly aware of abuses by religious zealots in Massachusetts and Virginia. Along with the fervor for religious freedom, old intolerances and greed had crossed the ocean. Jefferson extracted and pasted into a brochure all the words of Jesus recorded in scripture, declaring them the grandest concepts of truth and freedom offered to mankind. Sectarians, he said, twisted doctrines into coils and chains to subjugate and to obstruct learning.

Germans Served With George Washington

Originally published July 04, 1992 in the Daily Press By VIRGINIA ROLLINGS Columnist Johann Peter Muhlenberg
“It is a sacred duty which calls me from you and I feel I must submit to it. The endangered fatherland, to which we owe wealth and blood, needs our arms - calls on its sons to drive off the oppressors. You know how much we have suffered for years - that all our petitions for help have been in vain - and that the King of England shut his ears to our complaints. The Holy Scripture says there is a time for everything in this world: a time to talk, a time to be silent, a time to preach and a time to pray - also a time to fight - and this time has come!”

With this farewell, in January 1776 the Reverend Johann Gabriel Peter Muhlenberg laid aside his robe and buckled a sword to his waist. One hundred and sixty-two men and boys of the Lutheran parish at Woodstock, Va., left with him to join in the Revolution. The ministerial title changed; Muhlenberg was appointed colonel of the 8th Regiment, Virginia Line. Promoted by act of Congress on Feb. 21, 1777, the Reverend Johann Gabriel Peter Muhlenberg became a brigadier general, in charge also of the 3rd and 5th Virginia regiments.

Other German officers serving with Washington from Virginia were Major Johannes Mueller, Mathias Heid, Abel Westphal, Daniel Kolb, Jacob Rucker, and Isaac Israel. All except the first two were in Muhlenberg’s regiment, which checked the British army in the disastrous situation at Brandywine, aided General Von Steuben at Valley Forge, battled Benedict Arnold along the James River, and assisted in the final battle at Yorktown, where General Muhlenberg’s brigade took the left wing of the British army.

After the surrender at Yorktown, Muhlenberg remained as military commander of Virginia. He was offered his pulpit again at Woodstock but declined, saying, “It would not be proper to again graft the pastor on the soldier.” It was a reference to his youthful change when, in a regiment of dragoons in Hanover, Germany, he began a course in theology, and followed in the footsteps of his father, the Rev. Heinrich M. Muhlenberg, patriarch of the Lutheran Church in America. Heavy German participation in the Revolution resulted from thousands of Germans in the colony who enlisted, and the hiring of German soldiers through arrangement with princes of Germany by both English and French governments.

Many of these deserted the English side. Four German allied troops served in Virginia with Rochambeau: the “Royal Allmand de Deux-Points,” under Col. Prince Christian and Lt. Col. Prince Wilhelm, of Zweibruecken; a battalion under Col. Adam Philipp Count von Custine, of Lorraine; rifle companies from Alsace-Lorraine, and the mounted Legion of the Due de Lauzun. A muster roll of the mounted legion is in the archives at Harrisburg, Pa. Records of ancestors who served in the Revolution are abundant. Consult with your local public librarians and with staff at the Family History Center about ordering pension and bounty land records. The 1835 and 1840 pension applications may be seen in the Family History Center file titled “the hundred most used resources in the United States.”

The 1840 lists, a special project in connection with the 6th census, provides names, ages, and places of residence of Revolutionary War veterans by state and county. Widow’s applications usually provide valuable information about marriage and family. Veterans in Gloucester were Thomas Hogg, age 75; William James, 80; and Lucy Berry, 88, widow of Robert Berry. George Strother, 80, was in King George County with James Strother and Benjamin Weaver as heads of household. In King and Queen, Wilson Lumpkin, 86, living with Susannah Watkins; William Gatewood, 82; John Clarke, 80; and Leonard Shackleford, 81. Surry veterans were Jesse King, 86; and Jesse Brown, 83, living with Benjamin Brown. Nansemond County had four veterans: Henry Skinner, 81; William Boytt Sr., 82; William Byrd, 81; Jeremiah Peale, 83. In New Kent: Anslem Bailey Sr.; James Williams, no age given; and Samuel Moss, 77. Portsmouth census shows two widows: Elizabeth Porter, 75; Ann Watts, 74. Southampton County: Jesse Croker, 80; Samuel Corbitt, 83, living with Johnson Corbit; Joshua Joyner, 83; William Owney, 78; and Revell Holiday Sr. Matthews: George Callis, 78; Johanna Watson; Nancy Morgan, 78; William Degges, 80; Bathsheba Brooks,75; Mary Minter, 76; Josiah Pugh, 78; Matthias Gayle, 78; Thomas Hall, 75; Dorothy White, 78; Elizabeth White, 67; Mary Davis, 86; Hugh Hudgins, 76; and Joice Gayle, 79, living with Bartlett Gayle. Isle of Wight lists only Joseph Parkinson, 53, who may have been a dependent of a veteran. Among hundreds of valuable extracts of the 1835 lists of heirs: in Nansemond, Willis Davis, Pvt., died October 1813; heirs: Mary Ann, Sophia, Albert Davis; placed on roll Jan. 6, 1819. Annual allowance, $48.00. James Fontaine, 35th Regiment, Infantry, died Feb. 4, 1815; heirs: Fanny C., Caroline C., Mary Ann, and Harriett Fontaine. In Surry, John Hargrave, Pvt., North Carolina Line, was age 80 when his pension commenced in 1819. READER’S QUERY. Please help my search for John (James) William Mason, 24 Dec. 24, 1830, son of Stephen and Harriet Mason of Northampton or Accomac. He married Indruella Rowe, born Nov. 9, 1835, daughter of William A. and Eliza Rowe of Gloucester. Reply to Dorothy M. Brownley, P.O. Box 316, Topping, VA 23169.

Field, Road Take Todd Name

Originally published September 03, 1989 in the Daily Press By VIRGINIA ROLLINGS Columnist

One of the old family names which has been written into Peninsula geography is Todd. Todds Lane is the busy connector road between the Hilton-Jefferson Avenue area and Coliseum Mall and Queen Street in Hampton. Todd Center on Mercury Boulevard was build on land owned by Lee Jackson “Tuck” Todd who inherited the acreage from his father, Zachariah.

Zachariah was the son of Elias Todd, who settled in the Black River District of Elizabeth City County early in the 19th century. Zachariah’s old home of brown shingles can be seen from the rear of the United Way Building on Aberdeen Road. His farm extended across Mercury Boulevard through Todd Center. It fronted on Aberdeen Road. Zachariah Todd left part of his farm, which is south of what is now Mercury Boulevard, to his son Elijah.

Tuck Todd raised his family in a large house which was razed 18 years ago when Todd Center was built. A few of the pear trees which lined his driveway still stand near the shopping center. The Maggie Todd Powell home on Old Mallory Road is another building on former holdings of the Todd family. In Newport News, the Todd family name is preserved in Todd Field on Warwick Boulevard. It is named for John Buxton Todd, born in 1905, who was the son of John Todd and the grandson of Elias Todd.

John Buxton Todd was an athletic star at The College of William and Mary where he later coached football. Elias Todd married Eliza Nettles in 1827. One Nettles family farm was at the present location of the Liberty Baptist Church. Other Nettles families lived on Sawyers Swamp Road, which later became Bethel Road. Nettles Drive is in the vicinity. The 1850 Elizabeth City County census lists William Nettles, head of houshold, age 43; wife, Mary D., age 27; Christopher, age 17; Mary Eliza, age 10; John L., age 7; Joseph, age 4; Indiana, age 2; Jefferson L., age 1; Thomas Russell, age 17, and Ann Nettles, 35. The census lists Elias Todd’s age as 42 and having real estate holdings valued at $2,000.

According to his descendants, the land had been purchased for $1 per acre. The census lists Elias Todd’s wife, Eliza, also age 42, and the children then at home: Mary, 20; Elias, 17; Rebecca, 16; Zachariah, 15; William, 12; Susanna, 7; John, 4; Andrew, 2. A daughter, Elizabeth, 18, had married William Turner, age 22, and this couple was also living in the house. The old house stood at the end of Ridgecrest Drive until the 1950s. Andrew Todd, Elias’ son who was born in 1848, built the house which stands at the entrance to Farmington at 901 Todds Lane.

After the turn of the century, he was nominated for president of the United States by the Agricultural Party. Andrew Todd was superintendent at Bethel Baptist Church at the reservoir after 1876 and he and his wife, Mary Victoria (Saunders), are buried at the cemetery at Bethel Reservoir. Many descendants of Elias and Eliza Todd live on the Peninsula. In succeeding columns I will discuss other families who resided on Todds Lane.

The Families Of The Topping Lane House

Originally published September 10, 1989 in the Daily Press By VIRGINIA H. ROLLINGS Columnist

Continuing my notes on families associated with the Todds Lane area:

John Saunders and his wife Sarah (nee Topping) lived a short distance from Fox’s Store in the old house on the curve of Topping Lane. Their daughter, Mary Victoria Saunders who married Andrew Todd, was born in this “Saunders-Topping” House, which will be taken down soon. A large Baptist center is planned for this area. The house originally had the open colonnade which connected the kitchen to the main house. As families grew, it became necessary to build in the colonnade to provide extra bedrooms and living space.

John Wesley Topping, who was born in 1851, lived in the house. He died in 1922 and is buried in the Benjamin West cemetery on Queen Street.

Several graves of the Todd and related families are in St. John’s churchyard in Hampton.

John Wesley’s wife was Lucetta Cunningham, who died in a fire in the house leaving several children: John Garrett, Melvin, Sullivan, Thomas, Lemuel, Dora, Sophie, Mattie and Florence.

William H. Topping married Hannah Mater. Both the Todd and Mater farms bordered old Warwick County which was separated from Elizabeth City County by a deep ditch which still runs behind Beach Road at Ivy Farms as a border between Newport News and Hampton.

John Seaton Saunders bought old Fox’s store and a new one was built in the “V” of Old Bethel Road where Northampton fire station now stands.

It was here that Bains Lane cut across to old Sawyers Swamp Road to connect with Scones Dam Road which curved for a few miles to Scones Mill on Briarfield. This was long before Todds Lane or Mercury Boulevard existed.

John Bains was 34 years old in 1850. His wife, Ann, was 32 and their son, John, was 10. Ann married Richard Chellis and the Chellis family lived for a while on Toppings Lane. James K. Savage married Elizabeth Bains, widow of James Reed. James and Elizabeth lived at Buzzard’s Roost where Saunders Road meets Big Bethel. With the couple in 1850 were her children by James Reed: Sarah Ann, Marie and Martha Susan. The Savage children were George W. and Mary E. Savage.

The Saunders and the Landrums were large property owners of the area. Mercury Mall is on property formerly owned by Charles Phillips and by William Saunders and his wife, Sarah (nee Holloway).

Buzzard’s Roost was owned by John and George Saunders and Saunders Store was located there.

I’ll continue my discussion of Todds Lane families next week.

Todd family history in these columns was gained through interviews with several descendants in Northampton.

Tracing Your Irish Ancestory

Originally published March 12, 1989 in the Daily Press By VIRGINIA ROLLINGS Guest Columnist

Aye! The top o’ the marnin to ya! And how are you keeping? Comes Friday and the wearing of the green. The bonney Shea laddies and lassies from Killarny in Kerry, the O’Brians from Dublin and Limerick, the Bergens from Kilkenny and Queens, will be dancing. All the family of Orr from Antrim and Londonderry, the O’Callighans and Oldhams from Cork, and the Percys and Pierces from Tipperary will weep once more for poor Danny Boy.

Let the celebrations be circumspect lest the dawn bring leering leprechauns, or worse, the moon cast green and the banshee wail in the winds.

The sad tale of the Irish has not been memorialized. There was no Isaiah nor Jeremiah to write of the weeping by the waters of Babylon: “O, that mine eyes were rivers that I might weep for the daughters of my people.”

Hollow-eyed Irish died in the potato famine without benefit of merciful shipments of food. Some say a million died and some say a million more. Nobody was counting. When the potatoes in the barns and the family cellars were rotted in 1846 there was starvation and emigration. When the 1848 rot came more complete, there could only be miserable decisions in the awful poverty as to who must go and who must stay to die. Loading onto the “floating coffins” kept death in front and behind as mass emigration ensued.

The Irish route was from Liverpool to New York. In 1846 arrivals in New York reached 100,000. Five years later there were 300,000. Passenger listings are available on microfilm and may be seen in the National Archives or ordered in local libraries where readers are available.

The Ireland Registry of Deaths from 1708 to 1929 is indexed chronologically by surname; this, with other surname information by counties, comprises 2,580 microfilm reels which may be ordered through the local Family History Center.

The Calendar of Wills of Ireland 1812-1857 is on 20 reels.

The first complete census of Ireland was made in 1901. Only remnants of a census remain for the decades 1821, 1831, 1841 and 1851 for the counties Antrim, Cavan, Fermanagh and Londonderry. This lack is supplied by the General Valuation Office lists of ratable property. The Primary Valuation from 1848 to 1864 lists all property holders and these lists carry the names of many thousands who emigrated shortly after.

An index to the marriages of Ireland fills 27 microfilm reels. Indexes of births in the General Registry Office are from 1847 to 1944.

No church served genealogy better than the Catholic church with the details of births, christenings, marriages and deaths. The parish system covered every township in Ireland. The microfilmed “Irish Catholic Directory” lists name changes of the parishes, a very great assistance. The large number of parishes and thousands of reels to be ordered prove the necessity of thorough research in America in order to identify the place and parish in which your ancestors lived.

Researchers often want to work in overseas records before enough is known. Problems have been resolved by consulting the International Genealogical Index in the Denbigh Family History Center. This index contains about 130 million names from many countries.

If your ancestor is not lisited there, the research must take a different course. Never go to any library without a pedigree chart containing every name and date and place you know in your line. Consult author-title catalogs and the special family genealogies section for titles of the numerous published Irish pedigrees.

The Presbyterian Church records, mostly in Ulster, are more difficult to research because of continuous changes in the congregations and in the methods of registering memberships. Under Scotch-Irish subject files there are dozens of books about how to research these families, their special settlements in America and how to find them.

The same Irish names are found in almost every county although some surnames are tied for centuries to one area. A fine new help is the book, “A Guide to Irish Parish Registers” by Brian Mitchell published in 1988 by the Genealogical Publishing Co. of Baltimore.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Learn To Find Ancestors At Newport News, VA Seminar

Originally ran in June 29, 2002 in the Daily Press

On July 13, Genealogy Seminar 2002, “Working Together to Find our Ancestors,” will be held at the Newport News Family History Center.

Registration at 9 a.m. will end at 9:25, and the morning session will begin at 9:30. The seminar will offer a range of instruction from beginner’s classes to the latest in high tech Internet services! African-American divisions will highlight many new resources concerning free and freed Blacks and how to develop and document family history. For all beginners, the instruction will encompass the first basic steps in using charts and family papers, where to search for additional information, and how to assemble a family history. Topics curve upward to discussion of the most recent projects in DNA and high-tech computer genealogy.

R. Cole Goodwin, II, of Washington, D.C., will return here as a major presenter. He participated in the previous genealogical seminar at The College of William & Mary and the Jewish/Eastern European Conference at the Family History Center. Goodwin is the manager of numerous genealogical Web sites, participated in nationwide DNA studies, and was a consultant with BBC for the “Blood Ties” series recently released by the British Public Broadcasting System.

Topics for Goodwin’s three sessions include analysis of the 1880 census; reports on the recently released 1920 census; DNA in genealogical research; and the expanding Pedigree Resource File available for home research from the Family History Library in Salt Lake City.

In the 9:30 morning assembly, Merle Kimball, president of Tidewater Virginia Genealogical Society, will describe the new resources of the society, organized in 1969. Deborah Cuffy will report activities of The Virginia Society for Black Historical and Genealogical Research, organized on the Peninsula in 1986.

Cuffy, Comptroller for a local Navy office, is an experienced researcher in the immigration of blacks from Africa and France to the Caribbean, thence to the Carolinas and Virginia. In the afternoon assembly, her topic is “Free and Freed Blacks in Virginia.” Repeat sessions will allow attendance in more than one session.

Roz Stearns, office manager of Lyon Gardiner Tayler Department of History of The College of William & Mary, who began her own family history as a child, will conduct a workshop in compiling a heritage book designed to contain cherished items with instruction for beginners as well as advanced researchers.

Her artistry brings life to genealogy as “heirlooms” and is captured in written narration of personal histories, and their lives are depicted in the churches and schools they attended, and neighborhood scenes. Discussion will include acid-free preservation and digital duplication of photographs, certificates, and old letters and documents. The heritage book, according to several local families who now have one, is “the first item you carry out in case of fire.”

Alvin Johnson, director of human resources for Hampton Schools, who will present two afternoon sessions, has traced his African generations to the 18th century in Charleston, S.C. With new resources on the Internet almost every day, and so many families now searching roots, Johnson says that black family history is waiting to be found. He is intent upon teaching how to start and how to find proofs of relationships. In his topic, “How to Dig for Ancestors,” Johnson will teach basic principles, usage of charts, and more advanced research.

"Many Black families have passed down stories and legends, which are wonderful to them, but not written nor proven," says Johnson. "And these stories and details may become guides to research and a help in finding proof of what generations have been told happened, but until proofs are found, our cherished stories cannot be declared to be true. Genealogy is a search for truth. We must look together for the documents!"

Justin Hart, of Washington, D.C., professional Internet developer, will speak in his session to local experts on the topic, “High Technology Genealogy.” A computer technology analyst, he will give instructions in building your own Web site and interfacing worldwide with family researchers.

Research Forges Links To Family, Place, Home

Originally published May 11, 1996 in the Daily Press

Anne Bregman of Yorktown has been working on her family history for several years. “I was raised and army brat,” she says, “and I’ve lived all over the world but there is really no place that is `home.’ I think that’s why I am so interested in genealogy; the study forges connections which tie me to a home, a family and a place. I meet so many wonderful people who are searching with me wherever I live, also finding roots and family and places that are truly home!”

Barry E. Barley of Newport News is elated with his success researching the vast Scottish resources in the Family History Center: “On my recent first visit to the Latter Day Saint Family History Center in Denbigh I discovered that the resources there contain a gold mine of records of Scotland on microform and computer. A new disk of Church of Scotland has parochial christening and marriage records by surname and given name for all the shires of Scotland, from early 1600s to mid-1800s. My wife’s grandfather and his parents emigrated to the U.S. from Blairgowrie, Perthshire, Scotland in late 19th century. A carefully drawn four-generation family tree was handed down, but few dates were provided. In the computer records I found dates of all the marriages and christenings, learned of dozens of branches of the family and extended our tree beyond the chart.”

The new disk of Scottish church records is part of Family Search, the CD-ROM program that contains several separate files: the 244 million-name International Genealogical Index; the millions of pedigrees in Ancestral File; 44 million names in the Social Security Death Register; the Military lists of those killed in Korea and Vietnam; and the Library Catalog describing the vast holdings on microform in the Salt Lake Family History Library, which local researchers may order.

Utah Genealogical Society has made all above files in “Family Search” available to some public libraries. They are in both Newport News and York County libraries where records may be printed or downloaded to your own formatted disk. But films identified in the catalog must be ordered and viewed in the Family History Center.

* May 18 is the date for a day-long workshop in genealogy at the Stake (Diocese) Center of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints located in the fork of Old and New Denbigh Blvd in Newport News. Sponsored jointly by Tidewater Genealogical Society and the Family History Center, the all day event, registration at 8:30 a.m., includes a range of instruction from “never done this before” beginners to computer whiz-kids. Bring $5 for registration and a few more for box lunch.

* Response to the new service to homebound offered by the Family History Center has been “Great! Great!” Three persons who wanted charts and help brought to them are receiving visits. Assistance can be given to blind and deaf, to persons who are not able to write on the charts, and to homebound who need help in Korean or Chinese. To ask for this service leave your name and number on phone 826-0910.

* The April query about parentage of Elias and Eliza Todd who had owned the Farmington area of Todds Lane brought a response from Ruth Wyatt Baranowski, granddaughter of James Sanders and Rebecca Todd. Ruth grew up near Todds Lane when large farms were in the rural countryside. She does not know the parents of Elias and Eliza but has a great deal of information about the family.

Elias, a sea captain, married Eliza NETTLES. There is an old home in Hampton which was owned by Nettles who were in Wythe District, Black River, in 1850 census enumeration. Baranowski says the graves of Elias and Eliza may have been in an old cemetery across Bethel Road from Bethel High School where there is now a large church.

"When we were children living near there, we were not allowed to go back into the field enclosed with brambles and blackberry bushes because an old family graveyard was there. The farm was known as the old Webb place. Rev. William Robert Webb pastor at Bethel Church which was at the reservoir where part of the old cemetery remains. Webb married Mary E. (Mollie), only child of Andrew and Susan Todd Williams; this couple had 12 children. Mollie was granddaughter of Elias and Eliza Todd. The Webbs on Bethel Road came from Mulberry Island."

Elias Todd’s will was probated in Hampton in 1882. Eliza was living then. The family Bible gives their marriage date as 1826. Children of Elias and Eliza Todd:

1. Julia Ann Todd, married Marshall Maney;

2. Mary F. Todd, married Christopher Nettles, probably cousins;

3. Elizabeth born 1832, married William Turner;

4. Elias, Jr. born 1833, married Diane Landrum;

5. Rebecca (great-grandmother of Ruth Baranowski) married James Sanders; both are buried at Bethel.

Tags: 1996 text

Genealogical Resources Expanding: New Data Added Almost Constantly

Originally published January 11, 1992 in the Daily Press

Research centers and libraries are continually expanding their genealogical projects and inventories, responding to the acceleration of interest in genealogical research. The lifework of many individuals in the past has culminated in a mass of data now becoming accessible through technology.

The National Archives will add to its indexes of military and census records with the project of indexing of passenger lists for Ellis Island. Also, in 1992 the census for 1920 will be available with Soundex index.

The National Park Service’s computerized directory of 3.5 million soldiers will be ready for research in each of the Civil War sites in 1994; the three-year project will give names, home state, regiment, where the regiment fought, rank, Federal or Confederate side, and some information about battles.

A Family History Center now serves residents in the Chesapeake Stake (Diocese) area of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, providing access, as the Denbigh Center does through microfilm and computer, to worldwide parish registers, courthouse records, census enumerations since 1790 for the United States, English census from 1840 with street addresses, Canadian census, emigration, passenger/passport information and military records. Mrs. William Hooper of Smithfield is director of the center, located on Cheyenne Street in Portsmouth.

Social Security Death Records have been added to Family History Center CD ROM resources; this file, beginning about 1935, lists nearly 40 million names with date and place of death; Social Security numbers and addresses are given to allow writing for additional information.

The Perci file, cataloged at the Family History Center under the nation’s “100 Most Used Genealogical Resources,” indexes genealogies that have been published in periodicals across the country. After finding the surname and periodical in which the genealogy appeared, copies of the articles may be obtained for a small fee by writing to the Public Library of Fort Wayne and Allen County Indiana Library, where the service originated.

The National Archives and Records Administration (Eighth and Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C. 20408) operates 12 regional centers. Virginia is in the Mid-Atlantic Region; the regional center is at 5000 Wissahickon Ave., Philadelphia, PA 19144.

Naturalization records prior to 1906 are scattered in 60 district offices throughout the United States; correspondence with the Washington office is necessary to learn where records of different areas are housed. The address: Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice, 425 I St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20536.

Ethnic and religious centers have developed special collections of great value; only a few major addresses follow:

* American Historical Society of Germans from Russia, 631 D St., Lincoln NE 68502. To reach its Virginia chapter, contact Emma Haynes, 6949 Conservation Ave. Springfield, VA 22153.

* Lancaster Mennonite Historical Society, 2215 Millstream Road, Lancaster, PA 17601-1449 (publisher of Pennsylvania Mennonite Heritage).

* The Augustan Society, Inc., 1510 Cravens Ave. P.O. Box P, Torrence, CAL 90501 (publishes The French Genealogist and The Italian Genealogist, and The Augustan Omnibus, an international journal that includes most European countries.

* Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies; Center for Immigration Research, 18 S. Seventh St., Philadelphia, PA 19106 (among its many papers are family records and books of the Scotch-Irish Society of the United States.)

* Friends Historical Collection, Guilford College, 5800 W. Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27410 (publishes The Southern Friend, a journal of North Carolina Quakers).

* Lost in Canada? 1020 Central Ave., Sparta, WI 54656.

* Virginia Society for Black Genealogical Research, Hampton Public Library, 4207 Victoria Blvd., Hampton, VA 23669.

* Afro-American Historical and Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 73086, Washington, D.C. 20056-3086.

* Czechoslovak Genealogical Society, P.O. Box 16225, Saint Paul, MN 21912.

* Palatines in America, Paul Peak Inc., 6251 Old Dominion Drive, No. 306, McClean, VA 22101-4808.

* Geneaological Library for the Blind, P.O. Box 71343, Marietta, GA 30007-1343. Free queries: phone 404-457-7801.

"The Genealogists Address Book,” by Elizabeth Petty Bentley, gives contacts for thousands of names of librarians, curators, editors of periodicals, and references for assistance in many countries. Genealogical Publishing Co. Inc., 1001 N. Calvert St. Baltimore, MD 21202 $29.95 plus $3 mailing.

Notice: The East German research meeting will be held in the Denbigh Family History Center, 902 Denbigh Blvd., Jan. 25 at 3 p.m.

Tags: 1992 text