Monday, June 27, 2011

Pruning My Family Tree - Catherine Lewis

I'm guilty sometimes ... of growing my family tree without having sufficient evidence to support the assertions made by other researchers.  I can't help it - I see a "reasonable" assertion and adopt it as my own hypothesis.  Then I test the hypothesis and, if the evidence is credible, I add the information to my family tree.

This was the case several years ago with Catherine Lewis (1759-1845), daughter of Jonathan and Marie (LaTourette) Lewis of Staten Island, Richmond County, New York.  She purportedly married William Hutchinson (a New Jersey Loyalist) in Parr, New Brunswick in 1784, and they had seven children.  I saw it in a Rootsweb WorldConnect database.  It made sense (although I've found no Lewis folks going to New Brunswick from New York - why would Catherine go?  Perhaps she went with William Hutchinson). 

Last week, I had talked myself into pruning my tree to disconnect Catherine Lewis from her purported parents and thereby severing my only link to Huguenot French ancestry (I really didn't want to give that up...). 

The Surname Saturday post last week was for Catherine Lewis, and I had to decide - should I prune the tree, or leave it alone and accept that it may be wrong? 

I decided to do a bit more research on Catherine Lewis and her purported parents.  In the process, I found another Rootsweb WorldConnect family tree submitted by Bev Franks.  The page for Catherine's father, Jonathan Lewis (1715-1785) is here.  Bev has transcribed the will of Jonathan Lewis (thank you Bev!!):

"In the name of God, I, Jonathan Lewis, of Staten Island, Richmond County being sick and weak. I will that my executors shall dispose of all my goods, chattel, lands, mill, and tenements as they in their discretion think fit within 2 years after my decease except such articles as shall hereinafter be bequeathed, and I give them full power to sell all my lands, mills, and tenements within the county of Richmond to any persons and their heirs forever by all such lawful ways as to my executors or their Council learned in the law shall seem fit.

"To my dearly beloved wife Mary, my best horse and riding chair, two of my best cows of her own choosing with sufficient of my household furniture to furnish her room together with the sum of 100 (lbs) for life or while my widow. I will that my executors use 10(lbs) for the further education of my son Joseph. After my debts funeral charge and the above legacies are paid, the remainder of my estate shall be divided among my children in the manner following: to my son Jonathan, one eighth of my estate, to my son David one eighth, to my son James on eighth, to my son Israel one eighth, to my son Joseph one eighth, to my daughter Sarah Degroot, one sixteenth part, to my daughter Catherine Hutchinson one sixteenth, to my daughter Elizabeth Lewis one sixteenth, to my daughter Phebe Lewis one sixteenth. None of the said legacies to be paid to my children until they are twenty one years old, but if my executors have money on hand and shall think proper to make a dividend thereof amongst those of my children that are of the above mentioned age shall have the interest of their dividend yearly for their support till they arrive of full age to receive such dividend or their full legacy. If any of my children die underage their part to be divided among my surviving children. I recommend my executors at the sale of my houses and lands to reserve such part as they think convenient for the reception and continuing of my family together during the life or widowhood of my beloved wife Mary, and after her decease or discontinuance of widowhood such house or land reserved shall be sold as also my negro wench and the money divided as fore said. I appoint my wife executrix, my trusty friend and brother in law, David Latourette, my sons Jonathan and David, all of Staten Island Executors. Dated Oct 28, 1785. Witnesses: Jon Latourette, Abraham Vail (weaver) and Edward Hall (schoolmaster). Proved, Richmond County, Jan 5, 1786."

That seems fairly good evidence that Catherine married a Hutchinson ... but is it William Hutchinson?  Now that I know that there is a will for Jonathan Lewis, I can search for the probate records for him.  Perhaps there are other papers that define her husband's name.  Where can I find these probate records?

The list of Probate Records for Richmond County, New York on the Family History Library Catalog lists five items.  However, the first item states that Wills start in 1787.  The fourth item (Miscellaneous genealogical records, wills, deeds, etc. 1649-1925, on FHL US/CAN Film 514568, Microreproduction of ms. and typescript at the Staten Island Institute of Arts and Sciences) looks promising, but I really wish that the specific Will collection was available.  I added this Film to my to-do list for the next time I get to the FHC or go to the FHL.

for the time being, Catherine Lewis will stay in my database as the daughter of Jonathan Lewis. 

What would you do with this?  What other records should I pursue?  I don't know if there are records in New Brunswick for these Loyalists, or if the marriage record there is available on microfilm (another FHLC search!) or if it is whether it will list her parents names.  Or his... William Hutchinson's parents are another brick wall problem!
The URL of this post is:

(c) 2011. Randall J. Seaver. All Rights Reserved. If you wish to re-publish my content, please contact me for permission, which I will usually grant. If you are reading this on any other genealogy website (other than through an RSS feed), then they have stolen my work.


Howard Swain said...

Harry Macy wrote a very useful article, "New York Probate Records Before 1687" in The NYG$B Newsletter of Spring 1991. This is available online at in the members-only area.

As he writes, NY probate records may be in many places including town deed books and notarial records. But the best place to start (for probate after 1664) is the abstracts of wills published in the Collections of the New York Historical Society. These are now online at:
Scroll down to: New York (County) Surrogate's Court
Your Jonathan Lewis (1715-1785) is in Vol. XIII, p, 251. It appears to me that what you found online was a copy of this abstract (but missing a couple of lines). Note that even though this is quite long, I do believe it is still just an abstract because 1) I've seen others like this that were, indeed, abstracts and 2) note that it begins on p.282 of the liber and the next one starts on p. 285.

In addition to the abstract, the Collections serve as an index to tell you where to find the complete will. Original wills from about 1200 early estates have survived, but this JL is not one of them. So, the best you can do is the version copied into the will liber. The heading at the top of the page shows you that this is in Liber 38. Sometime in the 19th C. these libers were copied. For most, there is thus an original and a copied liber. (I'm never sure which one the page number refers to.)
These have been filmed by the LDS. To find the LDS film number, refer to another excellent resource: New York State Probate Records by Gordon L. Remington. From his Table II, we see that the original liber 38 is on #484023 and the copy is on #866989.

I believe I found your other J. Lewises in these Collections as well as the will of David La Tourette mentioning Jonathan Lewis as a son-in-law (vol VI, p. 315).

Howard Swain said...

Two typos in the first two lines (above). "Before 1687" should be "Before 1787" and NYG$B should be NYG&B.

Also, I can't believe I forgot to mention that with these NY Historical Society Collections of Will Abstacts, you always need to check vol 16 or 17 to see if there were any corrections. There were quite a few corrections to the early wills and not so many later on. Also, some volumes may have errata or addenda at the start.

Geolover said...

Among possibilities are petitions for New Bruswick land grants plus claims of Loyalists petitioning for reimbursement for damages suffered at the hands of Rebels. There can be a variety of family accounts and specific locational information.

If Hutchinson was indeed living in NJ he still might have shared some background with the Lewis family, perhaps in CT or on Long Island, such in Nassau and Suffolk Counties.

In the NJ Archives you might find proceedings seizing Hutchinson's land, if he had any, though this might well not help with the Lewis connection. Have you looked at the Secretary of State's website indexing Supreme Court records?

Another possibiity is relatives' wills - admittedly a haystack, but one will I saw in NJ Archives had a bit of narrative about a disenfranchised Loyalist son in New Brunswick.

I looked in R. Wallace Hale, _Early New Brunsick, Canada Probate Records, 1785-1835_ (Bowie, MD: Heritage Books, Inc., 1989). The book encompasses abstracts of estate records, not just probates of wills. No estate of a William or Catherine Hutchinson is listed, but several items list William Hutchinson of Saint Johns as fellowbondsman for estate administrators as late as 1834. This suggests that (if the references are to the same person) he had appreciable property to post as surety, so grants, estate records and deeds should be on your want-list. One might find a document referring to something due the decedent's estate from X in New Jersey or NY. There are Lewis' listed in the book as well.

Some Loyalists sold land to trusted kin in order to avoid having it seized by the State. Deeds in NJ are worth looking at, but you probably are aware that a great many land transactions were not recorded until after legislation ca. 1835 requiring recording. Still, the NJ State Archives acquired records of the West Jersey Proprietary a few years ago and has been working on indexing and organization. It also has records of the East Jersey Proprietary. Both have many types of items. One might find some quit-rent records that could reflect transfers of land titles.

The requisite caveat here is that trees often are plausible yet contain little but hot air upon closer examination of records.