Sunday, August 17, 2014

52 Ancestors: #28 John Henn (1842-1919) and Elizabeth O’Brian Henn #29 (1853 – 1927)

Climbing MY Family Tree: Burnside Michigan Map
Burnside Michigan, home of John and Elizabeth O'Brian Henn
click to make bigger

This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

I'm still doing catch up posts as I'm still behind for the year. I decided to do another double post as I have had visitors again this past week, and thus not as much time for research or writing. John and Elizabeth (O’Brian) Henn are my second great grandparents on my father’s side. Both immigrated to the United States, as children, with their families in the mid-19th century.

John was born Josephat Henn in Doerlesburg, Baden, part of the German Confederation on February 12, 1842, to Franz Joseph (later Francis)and Katherina Phillipina [Blank] Henn. He was their third son and sixth child. His brothers and sisters were Genofera Blank (later, also known as Genevieve [Henn] Scheer; 1827-1916); Serena Mary Dick (1828-1896); Dorothe (later Dorothea) Snyder (1830-1896);  Andreas (later Andrew) Henn (1832-1911); Generosa (later Rosa) Strauss (1836-1908); Edmund Henn (1838-1961); Franz (later Frank) J. Henn (1843-1928); and Josepha (later Josephine) Schueurmann, (1845-1877). They were all born in Germany, and came to the U.S. in 1853 (see Franz &Phillipina’s story for the immigration story); Josephat was 11 years old.

The family settled in on a farm in West Monroe, Oswego County, New York. Josephat’s older brothers worked as coopers. Josephat learned the needs and skills of coopers from his brothers and farming from his father. Josephat’s older brother Edmund died in 1861 when Josephat was 19, and his father died two years later in 1863.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll
 New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll for John Henn, found on
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The Civil War began in 1861 and when Lincoln put out his call for volunteers the men of Oswego County responded immediately and in large numbers; but Josephat and his brother Andrew did not sign up to join the union forces until after their father died.  Josephat, now calling himself John, enlisted in Company G of the 3rd Regiment, NY Light Artillery, on January 26, 1864.  He was 21. The Civil War Muster Roll Abstract, found on, above, describes him as "Born in Germany, occupation, farmer, black eyes, dark hair, dark complexion, height 5 ft, 5 in."

Battery G of the 3rd Regiment NY Light Artillery had already served from 1861 to May 1863, attached to the defenses of Washington, DC to March 1862 and then to the Department of North Carolina until May 1863. A new Battery “G” was organized in February 1864, commanded by Captain David L. Aberdeen, and that is the unit John and his brother Andrew joined.  It was attached to the defenses of New Berne N.C., under the Department of Virginia and North Carolina, and then solely with the Department of North Carolina after February 1865. John saw duty as a private in various points in North Carolina through March 1865, and the campaign of the Carolinas under General Sherman from March 1 through April 26, 1865. He saw action in the battle of Wise Forks and participated in the occupation of Goldsboro, NC. John was also part of the armies present when Johnston surrendered to General Sherman on April 26, 1865. (General Sherman had not heard of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox (April 9, 1865) until April 11, 1865. On April 14, General Sherman received a letter under flag of truce from General Johnston seeking an end to the war. General Sherman suspended hostilities and met with Johnston and his generals at Bennett’s Farm House to discuss cessation or surrender on April 17, 18 and, again on April 26, 1865, as the original terms were rejected by Washington as they were more generous than Grant had offered Lee.  Just prior to meeting with General Johnston on April 17, Sherman was informed of Lincoln’s assassination; he told Johnston when they met that day.) John and Andrew continued to serve with the occupying forces until June and then mustered out at Syracuse NY, under Captain William A Kelsey, on July 7, 1865.

Climbing My Family Tree: outside view of Bennett House, where General Johnston surrendered to General Sherman
outside view of Bennett House, where General Johnston surrendered to General Sherman,  published in May 27, 1865 Harper's Bazaar, in public domain
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One of the major industries in Syracuse NY was the production of salt, from the salt marshes on the south shore of Onondaga Lake. The strength of the brine was so strong that one gallon of water could be boiled down to one pound of salt. Salt was then packed in barrels and shipped west and east down the Erie Canal. The industry peaked during the Civil war, but until 1900 the bulk of the salt use in the United States came from Syracuse NY.  When John returned to Syracuse after the Civil War, he observed how many barrels were needed for the industry. He knew, as his brother Andrew was a cooper, that black ash was an excellent wood for the making of the barrels. According to my Grand-aunt Lucille’s book of collected family memories, Members of the Flock, John learned that black ash trees were plentiful in Michigan, and he and his younger brother, Frank decided to go to Michigan in October 1869 to look for black ash trees. In Michigan, the two found abundant black ash trees north of Detroit near Memphis and Capac MI. The two formed a business, hiring other men, to make staves and hoops to make barrels to be shipped in carloads from the Capac railroad to supply the salt industry in Syracuse NY. After a time Frank got homesick and went back to New York, but John remained in Michigan and kept the business. He continued to run it for several years.

According to Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, John settled in Burnside Township, Lapeer County, Michigan, in 1871, and continued the stave & barrel-making business. Around that time, John also started taking care of his sister’s son, John Philip Henn, who had arrived in Michigan from New York sometime after 1870, at age 15. He lived with John and helped with the business, going by Philip to avoid confusion. Sometime in the next two years John met and wooed Miss Elizabeth O’Brian of Deanville Michigan (which no longer exists).

Climbing My Family Tree: Map of Huron County, Ontario, Canada
Map of Huron County, Ontario, Canada,
where the O'Brian's lived before immigrating to the  United States
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Elizabeth O’Brian was born to James and Anne (McLean) O’Brian on December 12, 1853 in Ontario Canada. I’m not positive where they lived when she was born but I would think that it was in McGillivray, in Huron County, Ontario Canada because her parents and older sister lived there in 1851, according to the Canadian Census, and the family, including Elizabeth, age 8, still lived there in 1861. Her brothers and sisters were: Catherine Priscilla Clink (1850-1938), Janet Dean (1852-?), Margaret Hether (1857-1927), John O'Brian (1859-1935), Annie L. O'Brian (1861-1908), Christy Jane O'Brian (1864-1868), and Ellen L. Harris (1867-1947).

The O'Brian family immigrated to the United Stated in 1863 when Elizabeth was 10 (while over the years, in various U.S. Censuses, Elizabeth claimed to have come to the U.S in 1862, 1863, and 1870, her parents and oldest sister reported in multiple censuses that they came in 1863, so I think that’s when Elizabeth came as well.) When she met John Henn she was living in Deanville, Michigan, where her father was a carpenter by trade, according to Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, which means they must have met before 1870 because the 1870 census shows that Elizabeth and her family were living on a farm in Maple Valley, Sanilac County, Michigan.

Although I’ve not yet been able to confirm it, grand-Aunt Lucille’s Members of the Flock, states John and Elizabeth were married on February 14, 1873 in Imlay City, Lapeer County Michigan, by the Reverend Emri Steele, a Baptist Minister. This is interesting because John was Catholic and Elizabeth was buried in a Catholic cemetery and so was also likely Catholic. Did they elope? He was 31 and she was 19 years old, some of the family may not have been thrilled by the match. Their first home was in the town of Burnside, Michigan, and it was there that their first three children were born: Otto Frank Henn, on January 25, 1875 (1875-1946); Ella May (Henn) Esper on August 15, 1876 (1876-1942); my great-grandfather Owen James Henn, on November 14, 1878 (1878-1962). The last two children were born after the family moved to a farm about a mile south of town, in Burnside Township, Lapeer County: Floyd Henn, born June 11, 1880 (1880-1943), and Olive Ethyl (Henn) Kreiner, born November 19, 1884 (1884-1938). Philip Henn also lived with John and Elizabeth from the start of their marriage until John bought him a farm in or about 1880. He was successful as a farmer, as he had been as a businessman, and later bought each of his children a farm in the Burnside area, upon which they farmed and lived.

In 1880 John answered questions about his farm for the 1880 Census, non-population schedule. He owned his own farm. He had 40 acres of tilled land and 4 acres in permanent meadows (2 of that hay). He estimated the value of his farm at $1200, farm implements and machinery at $50, $235 in livestock, and $270 in farm production (sold or consumed in 1879). He did not have any paid farm laborers. He owned three horses, 2 working oxen, 2 milk cows, 4 “other” cattle – including 2 calves. He made 150 lbs. of butter (or rather, Elizabeth probably did). They had 1 pig and 18 chickens, which produced 20 dozen eggs in 1879. He had three acres of oats (produced 50 bushels) and 10 acres of wheat (produced 200 bushels). He grew 30 bushels of peas and 30 bushels of potatoes.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn, 1880 non population schedule
John Henn, 1880 non population schedule, #1 (found on
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John Henn was very interested in local politics. He was a staunch Republican – the party of President Lincoln, the President he fought for in the Civil War. He was also civic-minded and lived his principles by serving his community. He served his township as Town Treasurer in 1878 and 1879. He then served as Burnside Town Supervisor for ten years, and was a member of the Board of Supervisors for another ten years. He also acted as a census enumerator (the person who went household to household to ask the census questions and record the answers) for the 1900 Census in Burnside Township, Enumeration District # 32. This service led to John knowing most of the people in his community.

All of his civic government positions were elected positions, such that John repeatedly ran for local office. As his wife, Elizabeth would not only have had his children, raised them, cooked, cleaned, and kept their home, but as a local politician’s wife would have been expected to host social events designed to help support her husband in his campaigns and likely throughout his service.

In 1890 John was listed on a special census for surviving soldiers, sailors, & marines who fought during the “war of the rebellion” and widows thereof,  in Burnside, Lapeer County, Michigan. He did not have a disability at that time. But two years later, on April 16, 1892, he applied for, and was subsequently granted an invalid military pension, according to the U.S. Civil War Pension Index. I haven’t yet sent for his pension file and it’s not up on, but Grand-Aunt Lucille’s book, quotes from a supporting affidavit supplied by John’s doctor, Albert E. Weed, M.D., which indicates John accidentally fell from a scaffold to the floor of his barn in wheat season in 1890, and was laid up for three months as he had injured his hip and back “and has complained ever since”. The doctor said he was now lame and uses a cane. The doctor said he had ¼ the capacity of a normal man. The doctor also noted that he John was entirely deaf in his left ear and had a discharge of puss from the ear in 1894. The doctor said that John told him the deafness came from a brain fever 25 years before and got worse with age. John was granted a $20 a month pension to begin June 29, 1912 (he was 70), the pension was increased to $25 a month on February 12, 1917, his 75th birthday.

John and Elizabeth lived to have 46 years together. John died first, on December 16, 1919, at his home in Burnside Michigan, at age 77, after a two year illness, according to his obituary. The death certificate indicates that he died of arteriosclerosis, which he’d had for two years. It lists “organic heart disease” as a contributing factor to his death. He’d last seen the doctor four days before his death. The obituary states that John had been closely confined to the house for the last two years of his life, and that he suffered a great deal, especially in the last stages, and that he welcomed death as a rest from his physical misery. He was described as one of the most substantial and esteemed citizens of Burnside Michigan, and a faithful friend and splendid neighbor. “Honest, obliging and loyal to his home folk and the country of his adoption. It may be truthfully said of him that a grand old man has gone to his eternal reward.” What a wonderful tribute!
Services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Burnside Township, conducted by Rev. Leo Gaffney, and he was buried in the church’s cemetery.

Climbing My Family Tree: John Henn, Civil War Pension Index card
John Henn, Civil War Pension Index card
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After John died, on January 14, 1920, Elizabeth applied for a widow’s pension against his military service; she was granted $30 a month. The 1920 Census, enumerated on the January 17 & 19, 1920, showed Elizabeth, a widow, living with her son Floyd’s family, or rather them living with her, as she was listed as head of household.

Elizabeth died on January 12, 1927, at age 73. Her obituary said that she lived with her son Floyd’s family on the old homestead. She had died after a long illness. She had been in poor health for the last seven years, after John died, but her condition had not become critical until October 1926, since which time she had been unable to leave the house. I have, so far, been unable to find her death certificate so I don’t know what illness she had suffered from nor what caused her death. Services were held at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, by Rev. Fr. Hill; she was buried in the church’s cemetery. According to her obituary she was survived by five children: Otto of North Branch, Mrs. Edna (Ella May) Espier of Detroit, Owen and Floyd and Mrs. Ambrose (Olive) Kreiner of Burnside; four sisters, Mrs. Noah (Margaret) Hether of Brown City, Mrs. Catherine Clinck of Chester, Montana, Mrs. Geo. (Ellen) Harris of Redlands, Calif., one brother, John O'Brian of Capac. (The sister not named in the obituary was Mrs. Jeanette Dean, of Buffalo NY, and she did survive Elizabeth, although I don’t know when she died.)

Climbing My Family Tree: Henn Plot at St. Mary's Cemetery, Burnside Michigan
Henn Plot at St. Mary's Cemetery, Burnside Michigan ,
added to Memorial # 41841741 by PAWS on 9/11/2009
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I would love to find pictures of John and Elizabeth, the kids, and/or their farm. If anyone reading this has some and is willing to share, please contact me at the email address on my contact page. I will be ecstatic. I’m willing to share whatever I have (only, I don't have a lot).

I have photocopies, nearly unreadable, of some of John’s civil war discharge papers, and his political campaign material -- I’d love to obtain better digital images of them.

I intend to write off for his pension records, and military records, on the next pass through my research .

I’d like to find newspapers articles mentioning John and or Elizabeth or their kids. I now understand why that that may be difficult. When they visited, Mom mentioned that a huge fire had gone across Michigan at some point and probably destroyed a lot of archives. I’ll try, though.
-----------------------------------------; ;;;;,_New_York;,_New_York; New York, Civil War Abstract, Muster Roll for John Henn, found on; Members of the Flock by Lucille Henn Robson (undated; self-published);  History of Lapeer County Michigan - Page & Co. Publishers, 1884, p. 182; Obituary of John Henn, North Branch Gazette – December 17, 1919. from compilation of research done by George J. Lutz, II (May 30, 1972); Death certificate of John Henn; U.S. Census for 1860, 1880, 1900, 1910, & 1920; U. S. Census non-population schedule for 1880; N.Y. State Census, Oswego County, for 1855; Canadian Census of 1851 & 1861, 1890 Veteran’s Schedule, Year: 1890; Census Place: Burnside, Lapeer, Michigan; Roll: 18; Page: 1; Enumeration District: 55 (; Obituary of Elizabeth Henn (wife of John Henn), Brown City Banner, January 1927.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Last Will and Testament of Francis Henn, signed April 20, 1863

Used via creative commons license; photograph by WilliamJD

I don’t think this can be a 52 Ancestors post because I already wrote about Francis Henn #25 and I think that each of the 52 Ancestors posts is supposed to be about a different ancestor. However, I found this so interesting that I had to post about it even though it will put me even further behind in the challenge.

As I mentioned in the last post I found Francis Henn’s will in the New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971 . Even though it is short, there are several points about it that I found quite interesting. As his will was created on the day of his death, it is likely possible that he knew he was dying and had summoned a lawyer to his side to take down his will. This was not an uncommon occurrence in the 19th century, when even lawyers made house calls (that or he knew the correct legal terminology to use, which is unlikely in a farmer for whom English was a second language).

Climbing My Family Tree: Index to Wills, Surrogates Court, Oswego County
Index to Wills, Surrogates Court, Oswego County
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Wills are a method of passing on real and personal property to the person of your choosing. I was curious as to why it seemed to have taken nearly seven years to get Francis’ Will probated but in doing some research I discovered that  it wasn’t uncommon for probate to take up to a year, and under certain situations take much longer. It is possible (very possible in this case as we’ll see below) that the two witnesses necessary to prove it, and the ability of the executor to post bond (50% of the value of the estate unless waived in the will), were not available at the earliest possible court date. Moreover, Francis died in the middle of the Civil War; it is also quite possible that Court schedules were disrupted and/or witnesses were off fighting. Luckily, it was not necessary to probate the Will in order to empower the executor/executrix to bury the deceased, to pay or to collect bills, and to otherwise handle the property in the estate pending probate. That probably alleviated some of the problems of a drawn out probate in this case as he named his wife, Phillipina, both as Executrix and (initially) sole heir.

This marks Francis as an exceptional man. For most of history married women could not own or inherit property solely in her own being. Everything she was given was her husband’s in law. A woman did have a dower right to a one-third lifetime interest in the marital property (real or personal) upon the death of her spouse. The lifetime right meant that she could share in the rents or profits from that property but did not give her title in it or give her the right to sell or devise (will to someone else) the property. By law, only males or unmarried women over 18 could devise real property.  Married women could devise real property, even property that was hers before the marriage, ­only with the written permission of her husband. Likewise, if a father gave property outright to a married daughter through inheritance, the daughter’s husband would have ownership of that property and could sell or bequeath it to anyone he chose without his wife’s permission. That is why many 18th & 19th Century wills show a father leaving the use of personal property to a daughter for her lifetime, with title to be vested in her children and delivered to them after her death.

In the 19th Century, that began to change as laws were passed piecemeal, state-by-state, across the country allowing married women to own property in their own right. The earliest comprehensive Married Women’s Property Act was passed in New York State on April 7, 1848. It significantly changed the law regarding property rights granted to married women, allowing them to own and control their own property, whether owned before the marriage, or granted her by gift or inheritance during the marriage by someone other than her than her husband. Even so, in culture and practice, change, albeit legal, was slow. Just because it was now legal, did not mean that it was at all common.

But as shown in his will Francis loved his wife and viewed her as his equal in ability to be responsible for the property, and it showed that he loved and viewed his sons and daughters equally and as equals.

Climbing My Family Tree: Record of Application to Prove Will of Francis Henn
Record of Application to Prove Will of Francis Henn
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This first form indicates that Phillipina Henn (#26) appeared in court on 12 October 1871 and applied to have the last Will and Testament of Francis Henn proved. The Surrogate ascertained who all the heirs and next of kin were and required them to appear before him at his office in Sandy Creek NY on 13 November 1871 to attend the probate of the will. On that day no one appeared to oppose the probate of the will. So he proceeded to prove the will in accordance with the law. The will stated as follows:

Climbing My Family Tree: Last Will and Testament of Francis Henn, signed April 20, 1863
Last Will and Testament of Francis Henn, signed April 20, 1863
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Transcription, to the best of my ability:

“In the name of God Amen, I, Francis Henn, of the town of West Monroe in the County of Oswego and state of New York, being a naturalized citizen of sound mind and memory, blessed be almighty God for the same, do make and publish this my last Will and Testament in [__?__] and forever following (what is to say)
First.      I give and devise all of my real property, being the farm whereon I now reside, with the appendences, to my beloved wife, Phillipina, situated, lying, and being in the Town of West Monroe, in the County of Oswego and state of New York being part of lots Nos. 17 and 25, township No. 13 of Scriba’s Patent and bounded as follows, viz..on the North by Andrew Shillinger, on the East by said Shillinger and Morris [__?___], on the South by Francis Beresen and W. Brassard and on the West by said Fr. Berensen and Peter Pettit containing 50 acres of land be the same either more or less. Forever to have and to hold the same for her use and support and maintenance forever. Or to sell and dispose of the same at any time after my decease and live and support herself of the [___?_____], and if she chooses at anytime to alienate or sell the same (after my decease) I hereby authorize her as my executrix to give a good warrantee deed and convey the same in fee simple to the purchaser or purchasers in full and ample manner as I myself could or would do were I living.
Second.                I give and bequeath unto my said wife, Phillipina, all household goods or furniture, also all money on hand, money due or to become due either by Notes, Bonds, Contracts or anyother wise, for her use benefit and support. And after her decease I will order and direct that that whatever of the [__?___] of my property shall or may be left, or remain (all her debts, funeral expenses so first being liquidated and paid) that then, the same shall be equally divided among my children, viz – Jenefever, Serena, Dorothea, Andres, Generosa, Josephat, Francis and Josephine, or their heirs in case of either death. Share and Share alike.
Lastly I do hereby constitute and appoint my said wife Phillipina sole executrix of this my last Will and Testament hereby revoking all former wills by me made. In witness whereof I have herewith set my hand and seal this 20th day of April Anno Domini in One Thousand Eight Hundred and sixty-three (1863) Francis Henn (F.J.)
Signed, sealed, published and declared by the Testator as and for his last Will and Testament in the presence of us who at his request in his presence and  in the presence of each other have subscribed our names as witnesses (___?___) Philip Rea West Monroe Oswego County NY. John Brickhammer West Monroe, Oswego County New York.”

Francis did not give Phillipina a life estate in the property, as I initially thought when I saw that he directed the further devising after her death as well. No, he willed it to her outright, giving her the ability to keep it for her support during her lifetime or to sell it “as I myself could or would do were I living”.  He also gave her “all household goods or furniture, also all money on hand, money due or to become due either by Notes, Bonds, Contracts or anyother wise, for her use, benefit and support.” This is rather remarkable. He does go on to direct how the property should be distributed after Phillipina’s death if any “may be left, or remain (all her debts, funeral expenses so first being liquidated and paid)”, but remember, married women did not have the right or ability to devise or will property in New York except as set forth in that 1848 law, which specifically excluded property gifted by a woman’s husband.

Even at that point, he shows that he is a loving and fair father, and an extraordinary man for that time, who saw his daughters as equal to his sons, “the same shall be equally divided among my children, viz – Jenefever, Serena, Dorothea, Andres, Generosa, Josephat, Francis and Josephine, or their heirs in case of either death. Share and Share alike"; the 1848 law allowing his bequest to his daughters to be their sole property and not automatically that of their husbands. (Edmund had predeceased his father, Francis, with no marriage or children.)
Climbing My Family Tree: Witness Attestations proving the Will of Francis Henn
Witness Attestations proving the Will of Francis Henn (the top two affidavitts & writing down the side margin)
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The last form, after the will was set forth, consists of witness statements and may give a hint as to why it took nearly seven years to get the will probated.  It starts out perfectly normally as the first of the witnesses to the signing of the will, Philip Rea, attests that he witnessed the signature of the deceased, who was over 21,  of sound mind, memory, and understanding, and not under any restraint, and competent to devise real estate. However, Philip Rea also attests that the other witness was John Brickhammer, who is now deceased. So they needed to find someone else who had no interest in the will but who could identify Francis Henn’s signature to prove that it was his will.

In that cramped bit of writing in what would have been the white space between form affidavits is the written affidavit of Andrew Shillinger – I believe he is the person the will indicated was Francis’ northern neighbor.  The affidavit, as best as I can read it states as follows:  “Oswego County SS: Andrew Shillinger being duly sworn says that he was acquainted with Francis Henn in his lifetime and with his handwriting and knows the signature to the above described will is his genuine handwriting as he believes and that he was also acquainted with John Brickhammer now deceased and with his handwriting and that his hand name in the said will as a witness is his genuine handwriting as he verily believes.”

With that, the Surrogate, Henry Le Howe declared the will to be properly executed, and recorded, signed, and certified the will in accordance with the provisions of the Revised Statutes, on the 27th day of November, 1871.

I find it very interesting and inspiring to know that we (my Dad, my aunts, my uncle, my brothers, my cousins & I) come from such a loving forward thinking man. It is so moving to me to realize that my great-great-great-grandfather so valued the women in his life that in a time when women were largely considered, at best, “child-like” in their comprehension, ability, and responsibility, and, at worst, “property”, he saw and treated them as equal to himself and his sons. With this sort of legacy, no wonder my Dad is such a wonderful, remarkable man in his own right.


"New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971," images, FamilySearch (,214361501 : accessed 27 Jul 2014), Oswego > Will index 1816-1915 > image 63 of 153.;  "New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971," images, FamilySearch (,214485401 : accessed 05 Aug 2014), Oswego > Wills 1865-1872 vol J-K > image 522 & 523 of 717;; ;; ;'s_Property_Acts_in_the_United_States ;   

Monday, July 28, 2014

52 Ancestors: #25 Francis/Franz Joseph Henn (1800-1863) and #26 Catharina Phillipina Blank Henn (1805 – 1890) Baden, Germany to Oswego County NY

Climbing My Family Tree: German Immigrants to North America (1853)
German Immigrants to North America (1853)
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 This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

As I have visitors this week, I am doing my two ancestor posts for this week (on my catch-up schedule) in one. #25 Francis/Franz Joseph Henn and #26 Catharina Phillipina Blank Henn are my third great grandparents on my father's father's side (she was known as Phillipina and that is how I will refer to her). In the materials I received from my Dad, Francis and Phillipina Henn, are as far back in this line that anyone had gotten in tracing back our Henn line, and it dead-ended with the knowledge that they came from Baden, Germany. Accordingly, I was absolutely astonished and delighted to find a copy (English translation) of their marriage record information on It had the right names and it was in the same place as Phillipina’s and many of the children’s births were registered (as found on, so I believe it is the marriage record of my third great grandparents.  The record also included some information that wasn’t in Dad’s paperwork: their marriage date, and the names of Francis’ and Phillipina’s parents! Whoo-hoo! I went back another level! Well, I have names….but nothing else ...yet.  

I’ve learned this week that if you are researching a person who lived in Germany before 1876, the best place to look is the church records as civil records of births, marriages, or deaths weren’t kept until after 1876; but everything I’ve read so far says that the church records were reasonably accurate. In some areas of Germany, the records of people of other faiths were kept by whatever the predominant church/worship place was in the area. This perhaps partially due to the fact that “Germany” didn’t exist until the late 19th Century. Instead, the area was made up of smaller areas controlled in a feudalistic system by a hierarchy of royalty (princes, dukes, counts, etc). Farmers were very nearly the bottom rung of that very regimented hierarchy.

Climbing My Family Tree: Unification of Germany 1815-1871, Baden in lower left of  Germany
Unification of Germany 1815-1871, Baden is in lower left of Germany

Franz Joseph Henn was born on or about November 8, 1800 to Melchior and Gertrudt (Grimm) Henn. In the marriage record index, kept by the Catholic (Katholisch) church in Doerlesberg,  Mosbach, Baden, Germany, Catharina Phillipina was listed only as Phillipine; her parents were Georg Michael Blank and M. _ Anna Schulz. She was born on or about November 17, 1805. I don’t know whether they were born in the same towns/areas or not. I don’t know anything about their growing up years. I do know that, according to records kept by the Catholic church in Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Baden, Germany, Franz Joseph Henn and Phillipine Blank were married on August 5, 1827. 

In the Baden-Wurttemberg section of Germany, many of the farmers had a side occupation that they passed down, father to son. As the Henn’s were farmers after they immigrated to the United States, it is logical that they were probably farmers in Germany as well. I know from family documents and a few U.S. Censuses that Franz and Philippine’s sons worked as coopers when they first got to America. That was a skilled occupation passed down through middle class farming families in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Germany. So Franz & Phillipine were likely part of the middle class. They may have owned land obtained by fief (I haven’t established that yet) and were subject to the rules and laws imposed by the fiefholders to whom they would owe a sort of feudal allegiance. In the early 1800’s people had little choice in the persons they married as the marriage was often arranged by their parents as a business transaction in order to gain wealth by combining lands through the marriage. Additionally, the couple had to apply to the lord their family served to get permission to marry. The lord imposed a fee and sometimes the couple didn’t have the money to pay the marriage fee, and so delayed the marriage. This sometimes resulted in children born before the official marriage.

I don’t know yet if this occurred in Franz and Phillipina’s case, but about eight months before the marriage Phillipina gave birth to a daughter, Genofera Blank (later, also known as Genevieve [Henn] Scheer, 1827-1916), on January 2, 1827. The record, kept by the same Catholic Church as the marriage record, did not show a father’s name in the index, but my reading shows that is normal for pre-marriage babies. [The original was not available to view, or I would have.]  I haven’t yet found a birth record for Franz and Phillipina’s daughter Serena Mary [Henn] Dick, but later in the U.S. Censuses she indicated that she was born in July 1828, which would put it nearly a year after the marriage. I did find birth records Franz and Phillipina’s other children: Dorothe/Dorothea [Henn] Snyder (1830-1896);  Andreas/Andrew Henn (1832-1911); Generosa/Rosa (Henn) Strauss (1836-1908); Edmund Henn (1838-1961); my great great grandfather Josephat/John Henn (1842 – 1861); Franz/Frank J. Henn (1843-1928); and Josepha/Josephine (Henn) Schueurmann,  (1845-1877). All were registered through the Catholic Church in Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Baden, Germany, with the exception of the youngest two children who were registered at the synagogue (Israeliten) in, Eubigheim, Mosbach, Baden, Germany.

The area of Baden in which they lived was over-populated and land for farming was hard to come by. In 1817 Baden had become part of a German confederation, which then led to a few decades of political unrest, culminating in an attempted revolution in Baden in 1849, which failed after the Grand Duke of Baden joined with Bavaria in requesting the armed intervention of Prussia, and the armies of Prussia invaded Baden in June 1849 and crushed the rebellion. This couldn’t have made it a comfortable place to try to work a farm and raise a family. In addition, there were repeated years of crop failure and potato blight in the period between 1846 and 1853, making it very had to live and depressing the economy. All of this together perhaps led many farmers to truly view America, with its storied fertile lands and wide, open spaces, to appear to be a shining beacon of hope.

Climbing My Family Tree: Port of Le Havre, France mid-19th Century
Port of Le Havre, France mid-19th Century
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One year after their eldest son went to America in 1852 at age 20 (see Andrew/Andreas’ story), Franz Joseph and Phillipina, immigrated with their entire family to America, joining Andreas/Andrew in Syracuse NY.  The Germans travelling to America in the 1850’s had the money to pay for their own tickets and thus arrived in America without debt. Franz Joseph and Phillipina first travelled to Le Havre France, where they had obtained passage on the ship, Trumbull, to New York City.  The ship’s passenger list (pictured below) inexplicably lists Franz Joseph Henn as “Henn, Fr. Friedrich” from Baden but the age is right, and listed with him are Phillipine and all of the children at the correct ages. So I tend to think that whoever filled out the list – it’s all the same handwriting – just got his name mixed up. 

Climbing My Family Tree: "Trumbull" Passenger List, listing Henn Family
"Trumbull" Passenger List, listing Henn Family
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They would have obtained the tickets in Germany as France required emigrants to show their tickets at the border. In addition to whatever personal property they were bringing with them to America, they would also have brought food – a lot of it – as emigrants were required to bring their own food for the voyage. They travelled in steerage, which would have been crowded and uncomfortable. (To read interesting descriptions of the voyages between Havre & New York in letters sent home by immingrants, click here.) Voyages lasted approximately 45-50 days. They arrived at the port of New York City thirty years before the creation of the Ellis Island processing center. (To read a contemporary story from The New York Times of what it was like for an immigrant to arrive in New York City in 1853, click here.)  

Climbing My Family Tree: Ad shown in Freiburg for package voyage between Le Havre and New York, 1856
Ad shown in Freiburg, Germany for package voyage between Le Havre and New York, 1856
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From NYC they could have taken a steamship or train to Syracuse NY, where they joined Andreas. Sometime thereafter, they each anglicized their names, probably to better fit in in their new country.

Almost immediately, Francis and Phillipina moved the family up to a farming community named West Monroe, NY, about 22 miles north of Syracuse, in Oswego County, on the shore of Oneida Lake. They appeared in the 1855 New York Census in West Monroe, and indicated they had lived in the community for 2 years. Francis was 55 and listed as a farmer.  Phillipina is inexplicably listed as Phebe (one wonders if the census taker couldn’t spell Phillipina), age 49.  Still living at home were: Andrew, Generosa (spelled Russena), Edmund, Joseph (my great-great-grandfather John), Francis (Frank), and Josephine. All were listed as Aliens, so none of the family were naturalized citizens yet.

Climbing My Family Tree: Oswego County, NY (about 1902)
Oswego County, NY (about 1902), West Monroe is on North shore of Oneida Lake
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The 1860 Federal census found Francis and Phillipina still farming in West Monroe, Oswego County, New York. Still living at home were John (previously Josephat), Frank, and Josephine, Also there that day was a 1 year old boy, Jepa Cottel – I wonder if Phillipina or Josephine was babysitting that day? Francis indicates that he can read and write English (or rather, does not indicate that he cannot do so). The main population census showed that Francis owned $700 worth of real property and $300 worth of personal property. This was back when farming was done mostly by hand and/or with the help of a mule or horse. People could not work huge farms, without a lot of help then. He also was surveyed for the 1860 Federal Census Non-Population schedule on Productions of Agriculture. That survey indicated that he had 30  (or 80 – it’s hard to tell whether the handwriting is a 3 or an 8) acres of improved land and 20 acres unimproved. Here he states the cash value as $900 and the value of farm implements and machinery as $50. He owns 1 horse and no mules, but he has 30 (or 80) milk cows, 2 working oxen, and 2 other cattle. He owns 3 sheep and 2 swine. He estimates the value of his livestock at $173. During the year ending June 1, 1860, the farm produced 40 bushels of rye, 40 bushels of “Indian corn”, 50 bushels of oats, 9 pounds of wool, 50 bushels of “Irish Potatoes”, 5 bushels of buckwheat, 5 tons of hay and 300 ( or 800 - again hard to tell whether the handwriting is a 3 or an 8) pounds of butter. He indicated that the value of animals slaughtered during the year was $35 (or $85 – the handwriting problem is consistent.) 

In 1861, their son, Edmund died. He was only 22, and unmarried. I don’t know how he died. Or, for that matter, where he was in 1860.

Francis died two years later, at age 62, on April 20, 1863. I haven’t been able to find out why he died but he evidently knew he was dying because he drafted his will on the same day he died. (I found a copy through the collection of NY Probate records, 1629-1971, for Oswego County, and plan to transcribe it, as best I can, in a separate post later this week.) He was buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Oswego County, NY.

Climbing My Family Tree: Grave of Francis (Franz Joseph) Henn (1800-1863)
Grave of Francis (Franz Joseph) Henn (1800-1863), originally posted on ancestry,com by Reckinger
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After her husband died, Phillipina saw two of her sons, Andrew and John, go off to fight in the Civil War in 1864, and, thankfully, return in 1865.  In 1870, the U.S. Census shows that Philipina is living with John Philip Henn, son of Serena Mary Henn Dick in West Monroe; she is “keeping house” and he, at age 15, is farming. The census indicates that she doesn’t own any real property and that her personal property is valued at $100. In 1871, acting as Executrix, Phillipina probated Francis’ will, in an action to prove his will filed October 12, 1871 The Court on, November 27, 1871, acknowledged the sworn statements of the witnesses to the will and declared it proved to be written by Francis when he was in a sound mind, on April 20, 1863. It left her his real (land) and personal property. I don’t know yet why she waited until seven years after her husband’s death to try to probate his will.

I then lost Philipina for about 20 years. I cannot find her in the 1875 New York Census, or in the 1880 U.S. Census. The person who wrote her entry at said that “She lived on a farm in West Monroe, Oswego County, until after 1870 and then in Oneida, NY with one of her daughters until her death.” That would indicate that she probably lived with Serena Mary Henn Dick, even though I could find nothing showing that Phillipina lived with Serena and her husband, Jacob, and nothing showing that Serena’s family had lived in Oneida NY prior to 1900 (I have seen the 1875 NY Census, as well as the 1880 Federal Census, for Serena and her family and her mother isn’t listed with them). On the other hand, Serena and her family did live in Lenox, Madison County, NY through, at least 1892, and Lenox NY and Oneida NY are only about 4.5 miles apart. Phillipina, perhaps, just wasn’t in the house on the dates of the censuses, or perhaps lived close by but not with them.

Phillipina  died on August 5, 1890, at age 84, and was buried in St. Francis Cemetery in Oswego County NY.

Climbing My Family Tree: Grave of Phillipina Blank Henn (1805-1890)
Grave of Phillipina Blank Henn (1805-1890), originally posted on ancestry,com by Reckinger
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------------------------------------------;;;  "New York, Passenger Lists, 1820-1891", index and images, FamilySearch ( : accessed 10 Jul 2014), Joseph Henn, 1853; ; ; ;; ;  1855 & 1875 New York State Census; 1860 & 1870 US Census and 1860 Non-Population Schedule, Agriculture Production; "New York, Probate Records, 1629-1971," images, FamilySearch (,214485401 : accessed 27 Jul 2014), Oswego > Wills 1865-1872 vol J-K > images 522 & 523 of 717;

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Best Laid Plans ....

As you may have noticed my plan to catch up the 52 Ancestors challenge  in one week didn't work. Life again got in the way, and I needed my sleep. So I've now modified my plan to catch up. I've decided that a more realistic approach will be to try to do two Ancestor bios a week  until I'm caught up, and it's okay if the two a week isn't in consecutive weeks. I think this will work better.

I'm going to try to get two done this week, not including this one. But I'm not starting tonight, as I keep nodding off, and going to  bed sounded wonderful,

Have a great day tomorrow, every one,

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

How Do You Find All That?!

I post all of my Ancestor Bio posts to Facebook for family and friends to see, and today, after posting Andrew’s story, I had a couple friends ask, “How do you find this stuff?!” I tried to answer on Facebook but apparently it’s currently not letting me comment on my own or anyone else’s posts for some unknown reason. But it is letting me post from outside sites to Facebook, so I thought I’d do a post answering the question. Tomorrow I’ll go back to my compulsive quest to catch up on the 52 Ancestors challenge (I’ve four more posts planned – not written yet --this week and then I should be caught up and go back to one a week, so I can sleep, too – coming up are posts on GGG-grandfather Francis “Franz Joseph” Henn and GGG-grandmother Katharina Phillipine Blank, #24 & #25; GG-grandfather John “Josephat” Henn #26; GG-grand aunt Rosa “Generosa” Henn #27; and, #28, a transcription of a newspaper article describing the inquest into the death of Rosa’s son, Henry Strauss, jr (the latter is not my normal style of post but I found it fascinating and hope you will too. In fact, each of these people had fascinating bits in their stories, just wait and see!)

This post is not my normal sort of post either because I still consider myself a beginner doing basic research, solely online, on a few sites, so far. I know there is more on other sites online, and far more to find offline, but what I am doing now is a first pass through both sides of my family. At the end of this year (I think) I’ll be going back through, slower, looking for the harder to find things. Anyway, while I consider myself a beginner, I realize I have friends who are just starting that might find what I do in my searches helpful in developing their own search style.

I discovered in thinking about writing this post that I have already developed basic search patterns that I apply to each person, with varying levels of success.  So I’m going to talk about this in steps. (Problem: I don’t know how to do screen shots, so I can’t show you exactly).

To begin with, I’m lucky enough to have some family research / written memories passed down to me on both sides of the family. More on Dad’s side than Mom’s but both tending to the “born, married, begat, and died" dates and names. My interest is in filling in the between spaces so I do more societal background research for my bio posts than you may be interested in. In any case, even though I have helpful family documents like this, I consider them clues, not gospel. I’m sure they did the best they could in their research/ interviewing (in terms of interviewing, probably better than me as I don’t do enough, because I’m shy and busy.) But I don’t know them & thus don’t know what they did for research, as most did not attach source documents or cites, and I don’t know how they think. I know me. I know that I have had over 20 years’ experience in assessing credibility of evidence as an Administrative Law Judge, and I’m fixated on being able to document a fact. True, I work in a small, extremely niche area of the law and I haven’t done a lot of historical research since college but the principles of analysis carry over, I think, as well as the application of logic and common sense.  (Some things that drive me nuts from other Ancestry trees: even if the offered person has the right name, if they don’t have the right kids (or parents if you know them), it’s probably not the right person. If the kid is born when the putative mother is 8 years old --or before the alleged mother is born–they aren’t related; if someone is born in Illinois/Indiana Territory in the early 1800s one month after the mother documented as being in Maryland, the baby is not that mother's child as no one could get from Maryland to Illinois/Indiana Territory in a month in the early 1800s – think horses or walking – let alone an 8 month pregnant woman!)

I. My first step always starts with My working tree is there, I have the International Membership, which is quite helpful now that I’m starting to have ancestors on the other side of the pond, as some records from other countries show up in my shaking leaf hints. I have to be careful in looking at the hints because not all of them apply to my family. This is where my non-straight line approach helps. I don’t just look up straight line ancestors but all their siblings and their kids too (I usually stop two generations down on this sweep through) as that provides me with more facts to double-check against others, as how I think my Oswego Andrew Henn is right because of the newspaper notice about his sister Rosa’s death. If I were doing straight-line I wouldn’t know about Rosa (who has a tragically fascinating life story, btw; coming soon.) I also note neighbor’s names in censuses as I’ve noticed that people seemed to move west in groups of people they know and the same names showing up as before might confirm that I’ve found the right William Erwin or Elizabeth Bixler Wolfington Moore.  

II. My second step is also but I click the link to “search records” just above the “overview tab” and go see what else I might find. You can alter the search parameters, look in all the searchable records at once or one at a time [there are records that are only browsable not searchable, that I’d have to look at page by page, but I’m saving them for a different pass.]  I look past the point where Ancestry says the records are no longer likely to be my ancestor for a few pages. Sometimes I find stuff that way: directories, yearbooks, land records, etc.

III. My third step is’s record search. I don’t have a tree up there yet, but with a free membership I can search all the records I want. Mostly there though I look for death certificates and marriage records as they often have them when Ancestry doesn’t; or when Ancestry might have given me the information off a document but not let me see the original, FamilySearch often has the original. ALWAYS LOOK AT THE ORIGINAL of any document when you can, it has so much more information than is in the index! (And sometimes the transcriber transcribes something incorrectly in the index version.) If I find them, I download them and take notes (lawyer here – we take notes on everything).

IV. If Ancestry has shown me a draft registration, or my ancestor is alive during a war, I check (subscription site), which has historical military records. Lots of them. Not all of them, but more are added weekly so check back. I found a boatload of information from Mariah Bailey’s application for a Mother’s pension against her son John’s death in the Civil War. Again, you’ll have to sort through and make judgment calls as to which records belong to your family. But you can set the search parameters to help limit what you find.

If you already know your ancestor was in the Civil War, look for him in the National Park Service’sSoldier’s and Sailor’s database to find out what he did in the War, plug in his name & perhaps other details, then sort out who is yours, then click on the battle unit to get to a description of what he went through. I've found (through Google) that some states have good archives of military info (e.g., Indiana, Missouri & Illinois are good, Pennsylvania is difficult to navigate) that extend beyond the Civil War. This cheat sheet helps you figure out what war your ancestor may have fought in: 

V. Next I go to Google Play,Books, and search for old e-books on the places my Ancestor has lived. A lot of counties did histories around 1880 – 1905, some with biographical sketches of the first settlers and/or prominent people. Most are free and most are searchable within the e-book: plug in the relevant surname and see what pops up. Sometimes it’s a lot (Judge Erwin), sometimes it’s just a list of who enlisted in what (Andrew Henn) & sometimes I get nothing – except interesting background information about the area he lived.

VI. My sixth step is to look for local historical newspaper articles about my ancestor. Small town newspapers used to do stories or one line squibs on everything: who visited who, 50th anniversary parties, reunions, obituaries, hospital entrance and release, legal notices, plus regular news. This step requires patience as the search capabilities on each site are based on scanning and sometimes on old newspapers it scans wrong, or you ancestor decided to go by their middle name for a while [names used to be very interchangeable, I’ve found]. But when you find something it’s a delight. The main pay sites I’ve used are NewspaperArchive,com,, and;the free sites have been the Library of Congress and, for New York, only, the Fulton Post Card site.  and when I don’t know where to look, The Ancestor Hunt site has an excellent section on where to find archived newspapers in any state. Newspaper mentions can really humanize and bring a person to life as they did for Myrtle Bailey and for Mabel Erwin Snyder.

VII. My seventh step is to Google the person’s name and lifespan, and perhaps a key factor about him . Somebody else might have done research you want to see. If you’re using the info for your own tree/personal use, you can just use it probably under fair use, just keep the cite so you can find it again – there is apparently a “proper” way to cite for genealogical purposes: I don’t know it -- I’ve got the book but haven’t read it yet so i'm not using it yet -- I will go back through and correct cites after I have time to read the book. Right now I figure it works if I cite enough detail that I can find it again. If you’d like to use part of what is written on the site or a photo in a blog or book, email the person or entity and ask permission first or if you think you’ll be using their phrasing or the picture. While FACTS can’t be copyrighted, how one writes about them can be, unless it’s old enough to be off copyright.  I’ve links on copyright issues for family historians in my Resources page, others can explain that a whole lot better than I can. It is not my area, so nothing I write here should be construed as legal advice.

VIII. My eighth step is to google background things for general info & understanding. Curiosity is one of the best traits a family historian can have. For the post on Clarence Snyder I googled "Plumbrook munitions" and "teachers in the Great Depression" among others. For the post on Andrew Henn I googled: “Germans in Syracuse NY Oswego” – there’s bunch of info on that; “German emigration passenger list” – there’s a website, plus Ancestry has some; “Ship Radius 1850s”, “Ship Schiller 1850’s” – that was a bust but it’s worked before; “Baden emigration 1800s” – there turns out to be a lot on that, a good bit in German (I used Google Translate), including lists of people who left Baden with details as to the port used & whether they were steerage or not; I googled “emigration 1850s Bremen”  and “emigration 1850s Le Havre” – fascinating stuff; “Coopers 1850s” “Baden History” – got a birth record index that had a bit more info than Ancestry’s – in German, thank you Google Translate; “1800s Germany why do children’s birth registration change religion in the same family” – that one will be used in a later post; and probably other things I’ve forgotten now. I do list sources at the bottom of my ancestor bio posts. I tend to use Google a lot in prepping for a blog post, and I Google anything I can think of that I’m curious about, even though sometimes 2-3 hours of research results in one sentence by the time I write it up. But each search gives me more knowledge with which to find out more, and it carries over from ancestor to ancestor. The irony of any information search is that you must know something to find out more. It helps you form the questions to ask.

And last, if I’m blogging the person, I look for images, pictures, You Tube videos, etc., to illustrate and explain the story. Reading a big block of text without pictures is intimidating to a lot of people in our video age and people won’t read or finish it no matter how interesting it is. I LOVE having pictures of the person, but I don’t have many (actually I don’t have any more further up the tree on Dad’s side of the family than I’ve already put up – if you have some and are willing to share with me I’ll be forever grateful!). Sometimes I use images of documents, full or cropped. Sometimes images of old ads (pre-1923 is off copyright in the USA - other rules apply in other countries) that I've found through a Google search. I've bookmarked websites that connect me to photos/art which are under the creative commons license (which allows me to use it under certain conditions and with proper credit) or in the public domain. I love,, Creative Commons Search, and Wikimedia Commons. There are other sites too. I’m concerned about making copyright violations because even though this isn’t my area and I know virtually nothing beyond what I’ve read on the Legal Genealogist’s blog (excellent blog, btw) and/or linked to in my Resources page, I’m afraid I’d be held to a higher standard because of the J.D., and I can’t afford a screw up in that area. So I try to be careful..

I hope this helps someone. If you’ve got questions, leave a comment, or email me at the address on the Contact Me page; I’ll try to answer. If I know you on Facebook, well, it’s got to let me comment again someday!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

52 Ancestors: #24 Andrew/Andreas Henn (1832 – 1911), First to the U.S.A.

Climbing My Family Tree: Gravestone of Andrew Henn (taken by Frank K for
Gravestone of Andrew Henn (taken by Frank K for
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This is my latest post for the “52 Ancestors in 52 Weeks” challenge initiated by Amy Johnson Crow of the No Story Too Small blog. For more information about the challenge and links to the other blogs participating in the challenge, please click on the badge in the right margin.

As those who follow my blog know I have some notes and research done by some of my ancestors on both sides of my family that I have used as clues in doing my own research, and occasionally quoted in this blog. Those notes and such have usually turned out to be partially accurate, some more accurate than others. Most often there’s a few grains of truth that help me confirm what I find belongs to my family (for an example see my post on Elizabeth Manley Bixler Wolfington Moore) then decided to check Great-Aunt Lucille’s book, Members of the Flock, to see if she ever talked about Andrew. Yikes! Yes, she reports a memory of my grandfather’s about an "Uncle Andrew" but he doesn’t sound remotely the same as the man I researched! I was then up ‘til 3:00 AM last night double-checking my trails and trying to find our Andrew in the places mentioned in Lucille’s book. I gave up. I don’t know if the book references the same man or if there is another Uncle Andrew that I haven’t found yet. I decided to tell you what the book said (it’s brief) and present what I found and if any can give me any further information/stories about Andrew that help resolve this, or even if they don’t, I’ll welcome you and them with open arms! Please leave a comment below or email me at the address on the “Contact Me” page. I will respond as quickly as I can.

My grandfather, Owen Carl Henn, remembered the following brief story about Uncle Andrew Henn, who “was an Immigration Officer on Ellis Island, New York City. Later he returned. I mean, retired, and lived in Florida. Mom and Dad visited him one time, and Dad was challenged by the sight of a checkerboard. Dad always prided himself as a fairly good checker player, and thought it a good way to pass the time. But Uncle Andrew proved himself to be a checker champion. Dad couldn’t do any good at all.”  

Andrew Henn is my 2nd great grand uncle on my father’s father’s side. He was born to Franz Joseph and Katharina Phillipine [Blank] Henn on January 20, 1832 in Baden, Germany; he was baptized/christened, Andreas Henn, as a Catholic on January 23, 1832 at Doerlesberg, Mosbach, Germany. His siblings were Genevieve “Genofera” [Scheer] (1827-1916), Serena Mary [Dick] (1828-1918); Dorothea “Dorothe” [Snyder] (1830-1896); Rosa “Generosa” [Strauss] (1836-1908), Edmund (1838-1861), John “Josephat” (1842-1919), Frank “Franz Joseph” (1843-1928), and Josephine “Josepha” [Schueurmann] (1849-1876).

I know nothing personal the first twenty years of his life. But mid-Century Germany was experiencing upheavals, with the failure of the revolution in 1848 to bring Democracy to the country, economic uncertainty, and, in some cases, religious persecution, that were encouraging a boom in emigration to the United States for the chance at a new and better life.  In addition, better communication and travel meant that Germans in the interior knew more about emigration and found it to be more of a possibility. Those that left were generally small farmers, not rich, but also not the poor. These mid-century immigrants had enough resources to finance their trip, but not enough to make them want to stay in Germany if there were other opportunities. When they hit the American shore they went west looking for fertile farmland.
Nearly 1 million Germans emigrated to the U.S in the 1850’s, and among them was Andreas Henn. In taking ship for Germany he would likely have not only had to pay his passage, in steerage, but also bring all of his own food for the trip, which would have lasted approximately 30-45 days.  (See here for a collection of letters describing the voyage from Germany to the USA.)   I don’t know why he struck off on his own at age 20 but we know that he arrived here in 1852, one year before the rest of the family followed. I’ve found two possibilities for the ship he arrived on.  The first is the ship “Schiller” which left from the port of Bremen, and arrived at Castle Garden NY (it was before Ellis Island existed) on April 1, 1852; the passenger list shows “Andreas Hen”, male, age 20, from Baden, was aboard. The other possibility is the ship “Radius” which departed from the port of Le Havre, France and arrived at Castle Garden on October 14, 1852; the passenger list shows “Andreas Henn”, age 20, female, from Germany was aboard traveling steerage. Even though Bremen is a lot closer to Baden than Le Havre, I lean towards the Radius as the correct ship. I think the “Female is a misprint because Andreas is not a female name in German. I lean towards Le Havre because the next year the rest of the family left out of Le Havre and I would think that they would follow in his footsteps if he were successful. I might be wrong though. In any event, he arrived in 1852 and made his way to Syracuse NY (Onondaga County) initially, where there was a large German community.
Climbing My Family Tree: Passenger List for Ship "Radius"
Passenger List for Ship "Radius"
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Climbing My Family Tree: Passenger List for Ship "Schiller"
Passenger List for Ship "Schiller"
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By 1855, though, he and the rest of the family had moved up to West Monroe in Oswego County, NY. As the Erie Canal and the Oswego Canal met in Syracuse, it was easy to get there and back to Syracuse as necessary. Andrew worked as a cooper [Here is a You Tube video demonstrating a Cooper at work - it's interesting!]. In 1859, he married Sarah Deacon, and by the time of the federal census the next year, they had a one month old son, Charles (1860-?). Two years later they had a daughter, Hattie [Baum} (1862-1931), and two years after that another daughter, Ida (1864-1884).

On February 9, 1864, he enlisted as a private in Battery G of the 3rd NY Light Artillery, for a three year period. It was commanded by Capt. David L. Aberdeen [duty at New Berne and other points in North Carolina till March, 1865. Campaign of the Carolinas March 1-April 26. Southwest Creek March 7. Battle of Kinston or Wise Forts March 8-10. Occupation of Goldsboro March 21. Bennett's House April 26. Surrender of Johnston and his army. Duty in the Dept. of North Carolina till June], and was mustered out under Capt. William A. Kelsey, July 7, 1865, at Syracuse.

Climbing My Family Tree: 1st NY Light Artillery
1st NY Light Artillery
out of copyright

He returned to Oswego County and took up farming. He reported on the Non-population farming Censuses in 1870 and 1880. His farm was a bit bigger in 1870 (15 acres improved 10 acres woodland) than in 1880 (8 acres tilled, 5 acres permanent meadows, and 7 permanent woodland), and valued about $300 more. I’m wondering if he could no longer maintain the bigger farm, since he filed for a civil war disability pension on December 9, 1979; it was granted.  He indicated later, in 1890, on a NY Veteran’s schedule that he had chronic diarrhea and spinal difficulties. In both non-population schedules he indicated he had 1 horse, 2 cows, 2-3 sheep, 2 swine and 2 poultry. Between 1870 and 1880 he went from producing 120 bushels of Indian corn to 40 bushels and 95 bushels of oats to 40, but his production of buckwheat doubled in that time frame, and his production of Irish potatoes and butter remained the same.

The local paper, The Baldwinsville Gazette Farmers Journal reported that Andrew and Sarah had a fairly active social life over the years with many friends and family visiting, and Sarah being very active in the Ladies’ Aid Society. They also knew tragedy. Their youngest daughter, Ida, died in 1884 at age 20, and the local paper reported that Andrew Henn’s sister Rosa died on August 31, 1908. In fact, Andrew outlived three of his siblings.  Andrew continued farming at least through 1910, per the census, and probably to the end, as he died the next year, on April 21, 1911, at age 79.

I’d like to find out whether I have the wrong “Uncle Andrew” or who my grandfather was speaking of when he described “Uncle Andrew” as working at Ellis Island (that would also be a fascinating story) and retiring to Florida.
As always I’d like more detail about his life, and a picture or two. Perhaps there is more in the land records or probate records.
------------------------------------------------------ Germany, Select Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. Original data: Germany, Births and Baptisms, 1558-1898. Salt Lake City, Utah: FamilySearch, 2013.;;,_New_York;;;;;; NY Find A Grave Memorial# 34893720;; NY census for 1855, 1892 & 1905; US Census for 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900, 1010, including non population surveys for 1870 & 1880. And NY Veterans Report for 1890.