Friday, June 30, 2017

Just When I Was On a Roll

I was rolling along pretty good this month, and even had set a goal to not only keep this blog going again but to add new info to my website. 

My database program uses "tags" to record different types of info, many of which I have never uploaded as they needed work before being ready to go online. My goal was to add eight new tags by the end of June:  anecdote, biography, education, employment, military draft, naturalization, occupation and residence. 

It was ambitious, but I was on a roll until the 27th when my software threw an error message at me and then laughed in my face, said "I quit," and refused to open my database again.  Murphy's Law at work - it happened right before the 4th of July weekend, so I'm patiently waiting for some advice from the experts. 

I suspect that I'll have to restore the project from a backup. Unfortunately, that means I will lose a couple days of work as I failed to backup every night - and yes, I'm kicking myself as I write this because I know better! 

It won't be hard to re-create those two days, just time-consuming.  So ... my June goal has now turned into my July goal.  July should bring an update to the website with the new tags included, AND I can resume my planned series of blog posts about Henry and Hannah Church.

Wish me luck!

Sunday, June 18, 2017

When did Henry Church marry Hannah Keine?

Pretty much everything I have ever read about Henry Church’s marriage to Hannah Keine said that they got married circa 1778.  Seemed reasonable as I knew Henry came to America during the Revolutionary War, which started in 1775.  At least it seemed reasonable until cousin Rise’s questions made me start questioning myself and re-thinking the timeline.

According to a Harper’s New Monthly Magazine article from 1859, Henry “came to this country a British soldier, of the 63d Light Infantry, and served under Lord Cornwallis in the memorable campaign of 1781.”  The article notes that he was not at Yorktown when the final battle took place, because, “A short time previous, while on a scouting-party between Richmond and Petersburg, he was taken by the troops under Lafayette, and sent a prisoner to Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  He remained here until peace was proclaimed.”1

In comparison, the write-up about Henry that is included in the History of Wetzel County, West Virginia, has similar wording except that it says Henry “served under Lord Cornwallis in the memorable campaign of 1791.”  Note the 10-year difference between the two accounts!  (Obviously 1791 was a typo as Cornwallis’ surrender in Yorktown took place in 1781 – that was the end of the “memorable campaign” and the final battle of the Revolutionary War.)  This Wetzel County history does agree that Henry was a prisoner until peace was declared.2

Yet a third source is an article from the Journal of the American Revolution website at  that says Henry came to America in 1780 as a recruit, was sent to Virginia in 1781 and was taken prisoner in the vicinity of Petersburg and sent to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, along with several other British.  Henry remained a prisoner there until 1783 when a peace treaty was signed.  The article, written by Don N. Hagist, cites his source:  Muster rolls, 63rd Regiment of Foot, WO 12/7242, British National Archives.  Additional information about these muster rolls can be found at the National Archives website.

Don Hagist also writes another blog, “British Soldiers, American Revolution,”  where he wrote a post about Henry Church in 2013. In that post he stated that Henry arrived in America as a recruit in October 1780 and was assigned directly to the regiment's light infantry company that was sent to Virginia in early 1781.  He was captured near Petersburg and sent to the prison at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, where many British soldiers were housed.

The commonly accepted marriage date of circa 1778 has to be wrong if Henry didn’t come to America until 1780.  An account written by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones of Hundred3 says they married after the war - is that factual or an assumption based on tradition?  Notes on the back of a photo of Hannah reportedly said that Hannah married Henry soon after they met.

Consider this scenario, bearing in mind that it is only a theory:  Henry arrived in America in October 1780 and met Hannah shortly thereafter.  They learned he was being sent to Virginia in 1781 and decided to get married immediately.  (Wouldn’t be the first time a couple got married right before one of them went off to war!)  While in Virginia, Henry was captured and remained a prisoner until 1783.

So is it possible that they were actually married in late 1780/early 1781?  If so, it appears that 80 years is the maximum length of time that Henry and Hannah were married as both of them died in 1860.  So where did the idea that they were married for 82 years start?  In the account by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, she wrote, “They lived in blissful wedlock for 82 years.”  That number was also written on the back of Hannah’s photo, but it’s unclear who wrote it or when.  Did the writer have personal knowledge that 82 years was correct, or was that just the number that everyone believed was right according to “tradition”?

So just as I am still unsure when Henry was born, I am also still unsure when he and Hannah were married.  All I can say with any degree of certainty at this point, is that I believe the often-stated year of 1778 is incorrect.   Once again ... if anyone has additional info to settle the question, please step forward!  I would love to hear from you.

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1 Harper's New Monthly Magazine Volume 0019 Issue 109 (June 1859)
2 John C. McEldowney, History of Wetzel County, West Virginia, reprint of 1901 book.
3 "Hundred," submitted by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, presented by The Wetzel County WVGenWeb, online http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wvwetzel/Communities/. Original source: History of Wetzel County, West Virginia 1983.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Birth of Henry Church, aka Old Hundred – Part 2

My last post noted three different birth dates that have been suggested for Henry Church of Hundred, West Virginia, fame: 30 November 1750, 13 December 1750, and 1751. There may be more, but those are the three I have found to date. I said I wanted to do a little more digging before I posted again … so here is my decision: I still don’t know for sure when Henry was born!

Here is a recap of all the U.S. census years in which I have found Henry along with his recorded age:
  • 1810 = age 45 and over 
  • 1820 = age 45 and over 
  • 1830 = age 70 thru 79 
  • 1840 = age 80 thru 89 
  • 1850 = age 99 
  • 1860 = age 110 
The 1850 census was the first one to show an actual age versus an age range - with an official date of 01 June 1850, the age of 99 would work with either the November or December 1750 birth date. Assuming one of those is the correct date, that would make Henry 109 as of the 1860 census and at the time of his death, agreeing with the age on his gravestone.

When no month is used, my date calculator shows Henry's age at death as 110 if he was born in 1750, and 109 if he was born in 1751.  Take a look at the photo of the new gravestone that was in the last post and you will see that it only gives years for birth and death.  I wonder if his birth was shown as 1751 on the new gravestone because subtracting 109 years from 1860 gives you 1751. The flip side is that subtracting 1750 from 1860 equals an age of 110, and that wasn’t the age engraved on the stone.

As near as I can tell, the November date comes from a 1983 history of Wetzel County, whereas the December date may just be a calculated date based on the gravestone info. That said, there just isn’t enough to convince me that one date is better than the other ... and I have not been able to find anything new to support one over the other.  It’s kind of like the old line of, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?” In this case, “Which came first, knowledge of the actual birth date, or knowledge of Henry’s age at death? Once you know one, the other can simply be calculated.

So for now, the next update to my website will show Henry’s birth as Nov/Dec 1750 with 1751 as an alternate.  If anyone has additional info to settle the question, please step forward!  I would love to hear from you.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

Birth of Henry Church, aka Old Hundred

Henry Church, aka Old Hundred, is a hard man to pin down.  There have been many articles in books and magazines and newspapers, coupled with info in blogs and genealogy forums, census records, and on and on.  The problem, though, is that there are a lot of discrepancies and I have yet to see actual documentation to really nail down specific dates.  This problem also applies to his wife, Hannah, as well as several of their offspring.

Some examples of the discrepancies:
  • Was Henry born in 1750 or 1751?  Was the month November or December?
  • Was Henry 109, 111 or somewhere in between when he died?
  • Was Hannah born in 1754, 1755 or 1760?
  • Was Hannah from Lancaster or Chester County?
You get the idea.

When my newly found cousin Rise started asking me questions, about conflicting dates, she really opened up a can of worms that I had put a lid on and set up on a shelf while I researched other family lines.  Now it’s time to pull that can back down off the shelf and see if I can make sense of what I only thought I had “sorta, kinda” figured out some time ago.

Henry’s birthplace is the easiest piece of the puzzle.  Everyone has always agreed that he was born in England, many say in Suffolk2,3,4 or Suffolk County (or misspelled as Suffox county1).  As to the date of Henry’s birth, that’s where the differences begin.  I mostly find 1750 as the year of his birth,1,2,4 but the month varies between November 303 and December 13.

Per this photo of the new gravestone purchased in 1972, Henry's age when he died was 109 years 9 months 1 day.5  Plug that age into a date calculator along with the reported date of his death (14 September 1860.2,3) and it says he was born on 13 December 1750.


However, Henry's age at death is given by another source as 109 years 9 months 14 days - an additional 13 days3 which calculates backwards to the previously mentioned date of 30 November 1750.

On the other hand, the gravestone photo shows 1751 as the year of Henry's birth.5 That seems odd to me considering that Henry's age at death as it appears on the gravestone supports a birth date of 13 December 1750. Could that mean that the reported death date is incorrect?  I don't think so based on an article, "Death of a Patriarch," published in the Richmond Dispatch (Richmond, Virginia) on 01 October 1860.  It stated that Henry died "on the 13th ult.," meaning the 13th of the last month, i.e. 13 September 1860, a difference of only a day.

A birth year of 1751 is supported by the 1850 federal census in which Henry's age was given as 99.6  The 1860 federal census recorded Henry’s age as 110;7 if he had been born in 1750, he would have been 110 as of the date of the census, 01 June 1860.  Obviously this disagrees with his age at death shown on the gravestone.  If 1751 was the correct birth year, the census should have shown his age as 109, which would match the gravestone.

As if all this isn't enough, the previously mentioned article in the Richmond Dispatch stated that Henry was 111 years old at the time of his death.

So where does this leave me?  I'm already past my intended publish date for this post and there is a little more digging I want to do before I answer that question and move on to Henry's military service and his marriage to Hannah Keine.

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1    John C. McEldowney, History of Wetzel County, WV, reprint of 1901 book.
2    "History of Hundred," compiled by Courtney Dennis, presented by Hundred Area PRIDE, viewed online http://www.hundredareapride.com/Hundred%20History.htm 07 September 2010.
3    "Hundred," submitted by Ruth Hixenbaugh Jones, presented by The Wetzel County WVGenWeb, online http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~wvwetzel/Communities/. Original source: History of Wetzel County, West Virginia 1983.
4    “American Towns Named for British Soldiers,” by Don N. Hagist, online https://allthingsliberty.com/2013/09/american-towns-named-british-soldiers/.
5    Digital photo of Henry and Hannah Church gravestone in Hundred United Methodist Church Cemetery (Hundred, Wetzel County, West Virginia), taken by K. Alan Lewis on 29 December 2008.
6    Henry Church household, 1850 U.S. Census, Wetzel County, Virginia
7    Henry Church household, 1860 U.S. Census, Wetzel County, Virginia