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Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

Recent efforts in researching my everlasting FIVE BRICK WALLS brought about such a level of frustration I found myself wondering why I continue. Of course, I am a Genealogy addict and the very idea of NOT continuing to research culminates in its own form of withdrawal. As a respite from such a painful alternative, my thoughts turned to a review of the most fulfilling "finds" encountered through the years. What a great idea for a column! But wait.

As I began exploring that pathway, the stepping stones began to look overly familiar. Ahhh, yes. I wrote that column ... Some time ago. And, like magic, here it is.

Treasures. Serendipitous discoveries that have made all those hours and hours of hard research worthwhile. For this month's column, I offer up a column published as an ode to Thanks-Giving genealogy. My treasures. The jewels of discovery encountered through the years.

Thankfulness: Treasures in Research

    As we prepare this column, the Thanksgiving Holiday inspired a review of blessings. One of my greatest blessings is the opportunity to get to “know” my ancestors – the folks whose genes became part of ME. And that opportunity has been delivered, in my own circumstance, by the ability to “travel” the world via the Internet. The title of this column is directly tied to the technology that has made Armchair Genealogy research possible.

    Just this month, my annual subscription to Ancestry rolled around. It is no small figure for a senior budget, but in my mind, it is well worth the expense. This is my primary access to the world of genealogy, with literally millions of documents scanned in providing the opportunity to view records often written by or dictated by long-buried ancestors whose lives were filled with the trivial and the critical. Through the miracle of modern technology and with a bit of time and strategic thinking, I am enabled to unlock the secrets of those who came before me, those who helped make me who I am.

    In the process of research, many surprises have come my way. Glimpses into the lives of these folks often elicited unexpected tears, or smiles, or even gasps as I found a connection to some famous (or infamous, Heaven help us) personages. This column was triggered by your author’s reflection on the things for which to give Thanks. In the process of recounting the love of family, good food prepared well, decent health (give or take a few annoying issues), friends who have enriched our lives, the fundamentals of personal security (shelter, warmth, utilities), my thoughts centered on the non-essential things which bring joy. Primary on this list was my love of genealogy.

    My family history research has also resulted in making the acquaintance of so many like-minded researchers. Many are family members who generously share their own research. Often the researcher became friend as a result of an inquiry arising from viewing one of my columns or finding a common ancestor on my family tree. Amazingly, in reviewing my records many with whom information has been shared have written back and forth for decades! Also, sadly, many who contributed greatly to my research have gone on to join our ancestors in Heaven.

    Talking about those surprise connections, my most recent “gift” was the discovery that Garth Brooks is a 6th cousin, once removed! Now, my husband and I have been HUGE fans of Garth since hearing his first recording nearly forty years ago. He and his connection to our family is now documented in my tree. This find was not mine but came about through my membership in a family Facebook page devoted to our Creek family lineage. My great-grandmother Flutie Creek (later Alexander, then Kendrick) was the daughter of Absolom Creek whose parents were Jacob Haudenschildt Creek and wife, Virginia Lee Younger Creek. Through this line arises our relationship to both the Younger boys whose exploits after the Civil War became infamous, and their cousins, the Dalton boys. One of my columns was devoted to the string of infamous relatives found through researching these guys, entitled Oh! Those Shady Characters! It was one of my more enjoyable bits of writing for pure fun. Shady Characters

    Researching the Dalton boys, one of those intriguing “coincidences” surfaced. My column back in 2014 explored this unusual find. Titled: My Strange Relationship with Julia Ann Johnson Whiteturkey Gilstrap Lewis Dalton Johnson, the column highlights one of the more interesting ladies to appear in our family. My Strange Relationship.

    Another find came in the course of research into one of my most disappointing brick walls (records documenting the birth in New Jersey of one William “P. R.” Joslin or Joslyn seem to have been burned during the Revolutionary War). My DNA test ties to many other Joslin descendants whose documented trees include the Col. William (of Deerfield) Joslin. An intriguing line in one of the histories of the family regarding the Colonel William Joslin read as follows: "He left Fairfield Township about 1730 and purchased land at the Indian Fields (East Bridgeton). At this place, he married Christiana Garrison, daughter of Jacob Garrison, Jr (1676-1751) who lived nearby. "

    Being the good little clue follower a researcher must become, I began research into the Garrison line. (By the way, DNA also links me to other Garrison descendants, the combination virtually assuring that we descend from this Joslin ancestor.) In that research, I found the parents of Jacob Garrison, Jr. to be Jacob “Old Jacob” Garritsen de Haas (anglicized to Garrison) and wife Christina Cresson and that brought about the connection to my 7th Great-Grandfather (may be 8th if we find P. R.’s father was not the Colonel but one of the Colonel’s sons) Pierre “La Jardiniere” Cresson. Pierre Cresson warrants a column of his own as his contribution to the New World rivaled that of almost any other for the impact felt through the centuries. (Stay tuned, readers, for this is proposed to be my first 2020 column subject!) Pierre acquired his nom de plume “le Jardiniere” by virtue of the breathtaking gardens he designed and executed for the Prince of Orange of Flanders, the Netherlands. (William II, Prince of Orange, was the son of Frederick Henry, Prince of Orange, and Amalia of Solms-Braunfels. On 2 May 1641, William married Mary, Princess Royal, who was the eldest daughter of King Charles I of England, in the Chapel Royal of Whitehall Palace in London. William was fifteen, while Mary was just nine at that time.) Through this ancestor, it appears there are connections to the Post family and another to the DeMarest family. Research must ensue.

    Pierre and family were part of the Huguenot migration to the New World. Likewise, another ancestor, Bartholomew duPuy, was a French Huguenot who made his mark on the New World. His story is one of romance and intrigue and was reported in an Armchair Genealogy column previously. Another jewel of a find! Bartholomew was the head of the personal guards protecting the life of one King Louis XIV of France. Bartholomew duPuy

    One of the most famous of our relatives was Napa Charley Hopper, whose story first inspired my interest in family history. His exploits as the hunter/guide for the Bartleson-Bidwell Party on its trek from Missouri to California triggered historical references in not less than four states! An early contribution to PencilStubs, before I actually committed to do a monthly column: Charles “Napa Charley” Hopper - The Ancestor whose Adventures Sparked my Interest in Genealogy Charles “Napa Charley” Hopper

    No list of treasures in our family tree would be complete without listing both Hugues dePayens (DuPuy) and Charlemagne. These two are without doubt THE most famous of all our ancestors. A tribute to Hugues dePayens was contained in the October 2019 column entitled: An Incredible Lineage: My 23rd Great Grandfather, Hugues dePayenes (DuPuy) Hugues dePayenes (DuPuy). Thus far, no column has been devoted to the connection to Charlemagne; however, that was one discovered decades ago through the inherited research of my grandmother, Carrie Joslin, who was a pen pal of the best-known Joslin family researcher, Edith Wessler. Her treatise on the Joslin (all spellings) family was self-published in 1962 after lengthy correspondence with all known Joslin family historians in that day and age. One of her constant correspondents was my grandmother. Following Mrs. Wessler’s death, her daughter, Carol Wessler Treadway, worked tirelessly to update the many handwritten journals in which Edith Wessler maintained her painstaking records. Carol and I became fast friends, emailing one another frequently through the years until Carol’s untimely death a few years ago. One day the Charlemagne connection must become a column.

    Thus, my love of genealogy has become one of my most treasured blessings. I urge each of you to take the time to talk to your elderly relatives NOW and make notes, take pics, video their remembrances before those stories are lost. There is a wealth of knowledge, family lore, grins, tears, and jubilance to be discovered. And don’t forget to avail yourself of the trove of valuable information to be found on the Internet. Best travels are often taken in the quest for Armchair Genealogy!

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