March 31: Elizabeth Bilyeu

Today I remember my 3x great-grandmother Elizabeth Bilyeu Workman (1808-1834).  I remember Elizabeth because almost no one else does.  She is a descendent of Pierre Billiou and his wife Francoise Du Bois, who emigrated to New York from French Flanders in 1661.

This is what “The Workman Family History”, a book written by Thelma C. Anderson, has to say about the connections between the Bilyeu and Workman families:

“The closeness of the Workman and Bilyeu families and the rate at which they intermarried justifies a detour to give the background of the Bilyeu family. With a similar origin, following the same patterns of movement, naming their children much the same and with the same high ideals, it was inevitable that these two families should become inseparably entwined. The name itself has gone through the same sort of metamorphosis, gradually emerging from the jumble created by scribes interpreting foreign sounds into a new language to the present forms. From the original Billiou of France it appears as Bilyou, Biljou, Bilyon, Billoo, Bellew, Ballou, Blue and others. However, the direct lines tended to standardize at the present form, Bilyeu.”

There are many intermarriages between these two families over the centuries in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Illinois.

Elizabeth was born to Peter and Diana Blackwell Bilyeu in Overton County, Tennessee, the fourth of their 12 children.

Elizabeth married James Workman in Overton County in 1826, when she was 18 years old, and had her first child, my 2x great-grandfather James Abraham Workman, in 1827.  She and James move from Overton County to Sangamon County in southern Illinois and back again during the early years of their marriage, and she had two more children before her tragically early death in 1834 at the age of 26.

I tell her story because it deserves to be told; it also is a story of continued connection between the Workman and Bilyeu families.  After Elizabeth’s death, James married Elizabeth’s older sister Lydia, who helped raise her sister’s children.  After Lydia died in 1850, James married again, this time to a woman named Eliza Rayburn, with whom he had four more children.

Elizabeth died in Overton County in 1834


March 30: Cyntha Lambert

Today I remember my maternal 3x great-grandmother Cyntha Lambert Overman (1803-1880).  Cyntha was born in Virginia to Isham and Sally Blanton Lambert in 1803.  I don’t know anything about her parents, except that her father was probably born in England sometime before 1783.  If this is true, it makes him my latest immigrant ancestor to arrive in America – all of my other ancestors arrived before 1737.

I haven’t been able to find any siblings for Cyntha.

She married William Sutton Overman (called “Jake”) in Hardy County, Virginia (it would later become part of Virginia), in 1823.  They had five children in Virginia (including my 2x great-grandmother Susan Amesley Overman), four children in Ohio, and three more in Missouri before Jake’s death in 1850.

Cyntha was left in quite a pickle, I would say.  The 1850 census shows that Cyntha was living with six of her children between the ages of 10 and 22, and several of her other older children were living nearby.  By 1860, her daughter Susan (my 2x great-grandmother) had married, and Cyntha was the head of a large household of 12 people, including several of her children, two siblings, and three children under the age of 10.  I can’t quite figure out who these children are – their surnames are Overman, but they were born after Jake’s death.  They may be Cyntha’s grandchildren, but I can’t figure out where they belong in the scheme of things.  The census also shows that a local schoolteacher was living with the family.

Things did not get measurably better over the next decade.  Cyntha’s daughter Susan had married Oliver Kile in Missouri in 1846 and had three children by him by the time Oliver went to Illinois to enlist in the Army in 1861.  Oliver never made it home; he died of malaria after the siege of Vicksburg in 1863.  By the time of the 1870 census, Cyntha was living with her two daughters Rebecca and Susan in a household that including Susan’s three children – and five boarders identified as two merchants, their spouses, and a seamstress.

Susan and her family soon moved to Texas, leaving Cyntha behind.  Her daughter Rebecca married, and Cyntha lived was living with them when the 1880 census was taken.

Cyntha died in 1880 in Texas, however.  The 1880 census had described her as “helpless,” and she had apparently been moved to stay with one of her other daughters before she died.

March 29: Martha Pease

Today I remember my paternal 3x great-grandmother Martha Pease (1800-1857).  Martha was born in Bristol, Knox County, Maine, the fifth of 10 children born to Zebediah and Sarah Méservé Pease.

I am particularly fond of Martha.  The Pease family was the first family that I traced back to colonial America as I began doing genealogical research in 2014, and I feel a real connection to them.  They turned me into a genealogist.

Martha married Spencer Arnold in Maine in 1817, and they had five children, including my 2x great grandfather Miles, before moving to Licking County, Ohio, in 1830.

Spencer died unexpectedly in 1831, at the age of 37, leaving Martha with young children to care for.  Martha remarried in 1833, to Nathaniel Toothaker.  They had one child they named Spencer Toothaker, after Martha’s first husband.

The 1850 census shows Martha living in Ohio with her 20-year-old daughter Matilda and her 16-year-old son Spencer; her neighbors included her grown sons Miles, Adna, and Joseph, and their families.  I don’t know where her husband Nathaniel was in 1850; census records show him living in Iowa, but I don’t know why.  It’s actually a little confusing – as hard as it is to believe, there may have been two men named Nathaniel Toothaker living in Ohio and Iowa during this time period, and I’m not sure which man is Martha’s Nathaniel.

Martha died in Ohio in 1857 at the age of 57.

I connect to Martha through my Arnold family line.

March 28: Permilia “Millie” Jarvis

Today I remember my paternal 3x great-grandmother Permilia Mary “Milly” Jarvis (1796-1860).  Permilia (known as “Millie”) was born in Hampshire County, Virginia (now part of West Virginia) in 1796.  I don’t know who her parents were.

Millie married Johannes Georg Ellefritz in 1816 (he was usually called “John”).  Millie was only 20 years old at the time, while John was 66 and had already been married twice.  John’s six children from his first marriage were anywhere from 10 to 20 years older than Millie, and his 11 children from his second marriage were close to Millie’s age.  John’s first wife was 40 when she died, and his second wife was forty-two.  Can’t imagine why they died.

Nonetheless, Millie and John had five more children (including my 2x great-grandfather Solomon Ellefritz, who was, by my calculation, something like John’s 22nd child) before John died in 1831, at the age of 81.  John left Millie with five children under the age of 12.

In 1834, Millie moved to Hancock County, Illinois, with Solomon, Solomon’s sisters Rebecca and Susannah, and Millie’s stepson Robert.  I’m not sure what happened to Millie’s other three young children – there is no evidence that they ever left Virginia.

After Rebecca’s death in 1850, Millie moved on to Kansas with her stepson.  Solomon stayed in Hancock County, where he married Mary Ann Botts in 1867.

Millie died in Kansas in 1860. I don’t think her life was very much fun.

March 26: Martha Jenkins

Today I remember my maternal 4x great-grandmother Martha Jenkins (1760-1850). Martha was the first of three children born to Thomas and Martha Creekmore Jenkins in North Carolina. Thomas Jenkins was a descendant of Edward Jenkins, who had come to Massachusetts in 1635 during the Puritan Great Migration. I can’t find out exactly when or why the Jenkins family relocated from Massachusetts to North Carolina.  Martha’s great-grandfather Thomas Jenkins lived his whole life in Massachusetts, where they were Quakers, so far as I can tell.  Martha’s father (also named Thomas) was born in North Carolina.  Martha’s grandfather (yes, also named Thomas) must have been born in Massachusetts and would have been the generation that moved to North Carolina, but I can’t pinpoint that fact.  The reason behind the move may have been religion – North Carolina had become a haven for Quakers in the 18th century.  The Jenkins family were Quakers, and Martha was brought up in the Quaker community in Rowan County, North Carolina,

Martha married John Thomas Hunt in Chesterfield County, South Carolina, in 1781. John was descended from a family of early settlers in York County, Virginia (about 10 miles from where I currently live.) Before Martha married him, John had participated in the defense of Charleston during the siege in 1779-80; his unit was captured by the British when the American forces were defeated, but I don’t know whether or not John was captured or what happened to him later in the war.

After Martha and John married, they moved to Union County, South Carolina, where they had three children. Then they moved to Spartanburg, South Carolina, where they had four more children. While they were in Spartanburg, John served as sheriff for nine years. Martha undoubtedly kept busy with their growing family. So far as I can determine, she had no immediate family living nearby, and western South Carolina was still very much a frontier area in the 1780s.

In 1794, they moved again, with a group of friends (and John’s father, Christopher), this time to Kentucky. They bought 246 acres of land in Bracken County (on the Ohio River, just upriver from Cincinnati), where John was appointed captain of militia and inspector of tobacco. In Kentucky they had several more children, including my 3x great-grandmother Elizabeth (Betsy) Hunt. Martha and John had a total of 17 children.

By the 1820s, this family had moved once again, to Albion, in eastern Illinois. Martha’s husband John died in Albion, Illinois, in 1821, and I’m not sure who Martha lived with after his death.  Several of their children had converted to the Mormon faith in Kentucky in 1836; by the 1840s, their son, Thomas Jefferson Hunt, had become an important figure in the LDS church as they settled and then left Nauvoo, Illinois, for Salt Lake City. I can’t find any evidence that Martha converted when some of her children did.

I am connected to Martha through my Workman-Anthis family line.

Martha died in Illinois in 1850, at the age of 90. She must have felt like she lived a full life.

Martha Jenkins map
Martha moved around a lot. Born in North Carolina, married and lived in South Carolina, lived in Kentucky, and then died in Illinois

March 20

Today I remember my 10x great-grandmother Grietje Cornelis van Ness (or something like that) (1627-1689).  Grietje was born in to Cornelius Handr Van Ness and Marycke Henrieux VanDerBurchgraeff (or something like that) in New Amsterdam in 1627.  Her parents had immigrated from Holland (or possibly Denmark) sometime before that date.

As you can already see, it is difficult to track records from this time period in New Amsterdam.  The inconsistent English spelling of Dutch names complicate matters; in addition, after the English took possession of the Dutch colony in 1660, they enforced a change in naming conventions.  The Dutch has used a patronymic system – one in which the child’s last name was a variation on the father’s name, which makes genealogy even more difficult.  These naming systems were common in Holland and in the Netherlands, but the English forced this change on the colony.

So this is all a little tentative; I have not researched this line in depth, in part because the names scare me.  One thing I do know; five generations later a woman named Elizabeth Wyckoff married Jacob Workman, my 5x great-grandfather on my mother’s side.  Because all Wyckoffs in America are descended from Pieter (see my explanation below), Elizabeth is descended from  Pieter is some fashion and I’m descended from Elizabeth.

When Grietje married in 1646, her husband was Pieter Pieter Claisen (Peter, son of Clais or Claus).  They had 12 children over the course of 20 years, including my 9x great-grandfather Simon Wyckoff (or Wijykopf or anything in between).  In 1660, following the orders of the new English authorities in charge of what was now New York, Pieter adopted the surname Wyckoff (this was the spelling that was settled on after a couple of generations).  There is no proof where Pieter got this name; some researchers speculate that he picked this name from a geographic feature back in Holland, but no one knows for sure.  Nonetheless, the family adopted this unique surname; and all Wyckoffs in Canada or the United States are descended from Pieter and Grietje.

Pieter and Grietje lived in a house they built in what is now the Flatbush section of Brooklyn.  Here’s what another descendent of Pieter and Grietje says about this house: “The Wyckoff House & Association was created to promote interest in Pieter Claesen Wyckoff, his descendants, and in the Wyckoff Farmhouse Museum located in the Flatlands section of Brooklyn, New York. The Wyckoff House was built about 1652 and occupied by Pieter and Grietje Wyckoff about 1655. It remained the home of Wyckoff descendants for about 250 years. The Wyckoff House is the number one Landmark in New York City as well as the oldest house in New York State. It is also a National Historic Landmark. In 1982, it was restored as a Living Museum to honor the Dutch presence in America.”

I don’t know much about Grietje’s life in New Amsterdam and later in New York.

Grietje died in New York in 1689.

In subsequent generations the Wyckoff family would move to New Jersey, where Elizabeth Wyckoff would marry Jacob Workman in 1770.

Pieter Wyckoff Home sitePieter Claesen house

March 19

Today I remember my paternal 9x great-grandmother Margaret Stephenson (1616-1692).  I just recently found out about my connection to Margaret, so I don’t know much about her yet..  I don’t know anything about Margaret’s parents, but I do know that she was born in Sheffield, England (about 150 miles north of London) in 1616.  I don’t know when she came to Massachusetts, either, but she was in Massachusetts by 1642, when she married Benjamin Scott.

Margaret and Benjamin had at least seven children, including my 8x great-grandmother Mary Scott.  They had their children in Cambridge before they moved to Rowley, Massachusetts, just north of Boston.  They lost four of their children in childhood – at least two at birth and two more within just a few years.  This already tragic set of circumstances was to turn against Margaret later in her life.

Benjamin died in 1671, and that’s when Margaret’s troubles began.  Benjamin had owned land, but when he died he left her a fairly small estate – 67 pounds – on which she had to live for the rest of her life.  After 20 years of widowhood, Margaret was certainly poor and isolated.  Only one of her children, her son Benjamin, still lived in Rowley, and he was married with six children, so he couldn’t contribute much to her well-being.

All of this resulted in a crisis in 1692.  The Salem Witch hysteria was in full bloom at this time, and a woman like Margaret – old, widowed, poor, alone – was a likely target for accusations of witchcraft.  The deaths of so many of her children, along with her low social and economic standing in the community – made people suspicious of her.  She was formally accused of witchcraft by members of two of the most distinguished families of. Rowley.

Margaret was found guilty on September 22, 1692 and was hanged on Gallows Hill in Salem.  By the time of her execution, the witchcraft hysteria was cooling down, and her execution (along with seven other individuals also convicted) was the last conducted during the witchcraft trials.  In the spring in 1693, the governor of Massachusetts pardoned the individuals who were still imprisoned, and within a few years the state government had repented of its wrongdoing and declared the 1692 trials and executions unlawful.

A bit late for Margaret.

The pictured stone marker is one of 20 benches in Salem that commemorate the witch trial victims.

Here is a link to a more complete story of Margaret’s life and death.

I connect to Margaret through my Arnold family line.

March 18

Today I remember my paternal 9x great-grandmother Alice Graye.  She was probably born in London in 1587 to William and Elizabeth Graye.  She came to Virginia on the ship “George” in 1621 and married John Proctor there in 1622 – although one source suggests that they had married in London, and that Alice came to Virginia to join her husband.  John had arrived in 1610 on the ship “Sea Venture,” and had apparently made several trips before Alice joined him.

Alice and John had several children, although the exact number and sequence of children is still up for debate.  The Jamestowne Society, which controls the list of “qualifying ancestors” at Jamestown, cannot specifically identify their offspring and so does not consider John as “qualifying.” Their son George, probably but not certainly their first child, was probably but not certainly my 8x great-grandfather.  A lot of people think they are descended from the Proctors (including me) so I’m going to tell their story.

The story goes that in 1622, while John was away doing business in England, Alice defended the family and property from the Indian uprising led by Opechancanough, the brother of Chief Powhatan.  She reportedly refused to leave her land, which was some distance away from the main settlement on Jamestown Island, until she was ordered to do so by the colonial authorities.  After she left her land, the property was burned.  She and John were later granted 200 acres of land in Surry County, across the river from the Jamestown settlement.

I connect to Alice through my Ellefritz family line.

Alice died in Surry in somewhere around 1627.

To see how Alice is commemorated by Jamestown today, watch this video:

March 17 

Today I remember my paternal 10x great-grandmother Margaret King (1574-1644).  Margaret was born in Great Baddow, Essex, England, in 1574.  She married Robert Pease there in the 1580s and they had seven children, including my 9x great-grandfather John Pease.  The Pease family was identified with Puritan beliefs in the area of Great Baddow, and emigrated as part of the Puritan Great Migration that settled the Massachusetts Bay Colony between 1630 and 1640.

This is how that happened.  Robert had died in 1623, and Margaret’s two youngest sons, Robert and John, emigrated to America in 1634.  In 1639, her son John returned to England to get her and bring her to Massachusetts Bay.   Margaret settled with her sons’ families on Martha’s Vineyard, where family members lived for the next 200 years.  There is still a “Peases’ Point Way” in Martha’s Vineyard.

Margaret lived on Martha’s Vineyard, near her two sons and their families, until her death in 1644.

I connect to Margaret through my Arnold family line in Maine and Massachusetts.

The Pease family was the first early immigrant family I connected to when I began my genealogy research journey, so I have a soft spot in my heart for them.  Margaret was an important part of their story.


March 16

Today I remember my paternal 12x paternal great-grandmother, Mary Brewster (1565-1627).  Mary’s origins are a little mysterious – genealogists and historians have tried for decades to determine exactly which “Mary” she was in the time and place she lived her early life, to no apparent success.  My connection to Mary is also a little mysterious – there are a few connections that I have not yet been able to “prove” to the satisfaction of the Mayflower Society.  But I figure that even if Mary is not MY 12x great-grandmother, she is someone’s 12x great-grandmother and deserves to have her story told.

Here’s what people seems to agree on.  She was born in Nottinghamshire, England in 1565, and married William Brewster there in 1594.  William was from Scrooby, which was the point of origin for the Pilgrims that would eventually embark on the Mayflower to come to America in 1620, so it is likely that she was from this part of Nottinghamshire as well.

William was part of an established family in Scrooby; he was postmaster and bailiff-collector in the town, as were both his father and grandfather before him, so they were well settled.  William was educated at Cambridge in the mid-1580s, where he was persuaded by separatist views on religion to form a group that refused to adhere to the tenets of the established Church of England.  This was not popular with the Puritans who controlled the Church of England at this time.

Puritan persecution of the separatists in Scrooby continued and intensified until 1609, when William and Mary (with their son Jonathan and their daughter Patience, my 11x great-grandmother) were among the “Pilgrims” who left Scrooby to move to Leyden, Holland.  The religious toleration that characterized this city seemed welcoming to the Pilgrim community.

However, all was not well in Amsterdam.  The war between Spain and the Netherlands made life uncomfortable for English citizens living in Holland, so the group began to look elsewhere for a place to establish their community.  In 1620, a group of 102 Pilgrims, including William, Mary, and two of their sons (Love and Wrestling, great names I must say), set sail on the ship Mayflower to take possession of a grant of land made by the Virginia Company of London.  I don’t know why their son Jonathan and their daughters Patience and Fear (more great Puritan names) did not accompany them, but they made the trip in 1623.

After an uncertain beginning (a companion ship, the Speedwell, continually leaked and finally had to be left behind so that the Mayflower could move on) and a perilous 66-day voyage, they landed at a place they called Plymouth (storms had blown them away from their original destination in Virginia) on November 9, 1620.  It would take them a month to determine on a place for permanent settlement.

The Pilgrims’ arrival so late in the year made provisioning for the winter almost impossible.  Almost ½ of the passengers died during that first winter, including all but four of the women.  Mary was one of the women who survived.  Their two children also survived this winter, and Mary and William were joined in Plymouth by their other children within three years.

Because of her husband William’s status (he was the fourth signer of the Mayflower Compact and was the Ruling Elder of the congregation in Scrooby, Leyden, and Plymouth), Mary probably lived as comfortably as anyone in the primitive setting of Plymouth.  Her children all married in Plymouth (except her son Love, who died sometime after 1627).

I (probably, see above) connect to Mary through my Arnold line of ancestors.

Mary died of “pestilent fever” in 1627 at the age of 58.

immigrant-ship-picture-for-ancestry (1)