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Captain Joseph Sill (1636-1696)

Joseph Sill is the 9th great-grandfather of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy; and 10th great-grandfather of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike and Brian.

Joseph Sill's signature from 1685

Joseph Sill’s signature from 1685

Joseph Sill was born in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Northumberland, England, in 1636. He came to America with his parents, John and Joanna Fillbrook Sill, and sister Judith in 1637. The Sills settled in Cambridge Town,  Massachusetts, where John had established a farm.

Joseph married Jemima  Belcher on December 5, 1660 in Cambridge Town. They had six children. Three of four sons died young; the fourth son, Thomas, survived, as did two daughters, Jemima and Elizabeth.

Joseph Sill devoted a large portion of his life to military service. On the roster of  officers of the first American army as organized for the Narragansett Colony, mustered at Pettaquamscutt, Rhode Island, December 19th, 1665, was the name of Captain Joseph Sill. Joseph served during the bloody King Philip’s War (1675-1678). In February 1676 Joseph and his men  captured 300 Indians. Another time Joseph, with a company of only fifty  troopers, conducted a long train of wagons from Groton, Connecticut, to Boston, successfully fending off attacks along the way.

At the close of King Philip’s war, Joseph petitioned the General Court,  assembled at Boston, for a grant of land in return for his service in the  military. Although he was awarded a tract of land, Joseph was convinced by friends, fearing  retaliation from the Indians, to move  away from the area. Joseph and his children – Jemima having died in 1675 – moved to an area north of Lyme, Connecticut, which came to be known as Silltown. His tract of land in Massachusetts was inherited by his daughter, Jemima.

On February 12, 1677, Joseph married his second wife, Sarah Clark Marvin (1644-1715), widow of Lieutenant Reinhold Marvin, in Lyme, Connecticut. Joseph and Sarah had two sons: Joseph (our ancestor), born January 6, 1678, and  Zechariah, born January 1, 1682.

Sarah Clark is another double ancestor, for we are also descended from a son, John Marvin (c1664), from her first marriage. So, let’s sort this out: Joseph Sill is our 9th great-grandfather, Reinhold Marvin our 10th great-grandfather, and Sarah Clark is both our 9th and 10th great-grandmother. Thank goodness for genealogical computer software to keep all this straight!

Joseph spent the remainder of his life as a  farmer and an elected official. He died August 6, 1696, at the age of 60 and was buried in the Duck River Cemetery in Lyme.

The grave of Captain Joseph Sill, Duck River Cemetery, Old Lyme, CT

The grave of Captain Joseph Sill, Duck River Cemetery, Old Lyme, CT

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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Biographies, Immigrant Stories

 

Our Kanien’keha:ke Heritage

Modern flag of the Mohawk Nation (left) and the flag of the Iroquois League of Five Nations (right)

Modern flag of the Mohawk Nation (left) and the flag of the Iroquois League of Five Nations (right)

Caniachkoo is the 11th great-grandfather of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy; and 12th great-grandfather of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike and Brian.

Pieter Adriaense Van Woggelum and Lysbet are the 10th great-grandparents of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy; and 11th great-grandparents of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike and Brian.

Of all the branches in our family tree there is but one that cannot be traced through to an ancestor leaving his or her home in Europe for a new life in the New World, for that branch was already here. That part of our family heritage has its roots in the Kanien’keha:ke tribe of Eastern New York.

Pieter Adriaense Van Woggelum (1613-?) and his brother Jacob left their native Woggelum in Noord-Holland with their widowed mother, Anna, to settle in Beverwijk (now Albany) in the Dutch colony of Nieuw Nederland. Both Pieter and Jacob set up shop as innkeepers.

17th century Mohawk village as recreated at the New York State Museum

17th century Mohawk village as recreated at the New York State Museum

Around 1641 Pieter married the daughter of Caniachkoo, the sachem of the Turtle Clan of the Kanien’keha:ke (Mohawk) tribe, who represented the Kanien’keha:ke in the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) League of Five Nations as well as in the sale of land to a number of Dutch settlers. While the birth name of Caniachkoo’s daughter is unrecorded (some unsubstantiated sources give it as Ack-Toch), upon her marriage to Pieter she assumed the name Lysbet (AKA Lysette).

Pieter and Lysbet had three known children: Tryntje (1642), Jan (our ancestor; 1647) and Pieter.

In 1664 Pieter Sr. had a patent for a bowery or farm and home lot in Schenectady but sold it in 1670 to Helmar Otten for the price of 35 beavers.

Peter is last mentioned in records in June of 1681; there is no reliable record of when he died. Lysbet appears to have died in Schenectady in 1703.

The 1613 treaty between the Haudonosaunne and the Netherlands is still recognized by both governments 400 years later.

The 1613 treaty between the Haudenosaunee and the Netherlands is still recognized by both governments 400 years later.

 
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Posted by on November 9, 2013 in Biographies, Immigrant Stories

 

Connection: President Barack Obama

Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States, is the 10th great-grandson of Quaker Edward FitzRandolph, born July 5, 1607, in Sutton-In-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, England, and his wife, Elizabeth Blossom, born to expatriate English parents in Leiden, Holland, in 1620.

Edward and Elizabeth were married in Scituate, Massachusetts, in 1637. After 30 years in the Massachusetts Colony, Edward and his family moved to Piscataway, New Jersey. Edward’s and Elizabeth’s son, Nathaniel (1642-1713), settled in Woodbridge, New Jersey, with his wife, Mary Holley (or Holloway; 1638-1703). Of Nathaniel’s and Mary’s four children, one, Samuel (1668-1754), is the 8th great-grandfather of Barack Obama, while another, Edward (c1671-1760), is the 8th great-grandfather of Robert, Warren and Elizabeth Riis and Judith Henken.

President Obama is 10th cousin to Robert, Warren, Betty and Judy; and 10th cousin once removed to Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy.

Less closely related, Samuel and Edward’s first cousin, Nathaniel FitzRandolph, was the founder of Princeton University.

 

Pieter Winne (1609-c1690), Flemish Fur Trader

Pieter Winne is the 9th great-grandfather of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy; and 10th great-grandfather of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike and Brian.

Pieter Winne was born the son of Franciscus Winne (1585-c1672) and Jannetjie (surname unknown) in Ghent, Flanders (now in Belgium), and baptized there in St. Bavo’s Cathedral on April 14, 1609.

Pieter moved to Amsterdam, married Aechie Jans Van Schaick, date unknown, and together they emigrated to the Dutch colony of Curaçao in the West Indies, where their son, Pieter, was born in 1643.

Aechie died in Curaçao in 1647. Pieter Sr. subsequently left the West Indies, arriving at Fort Orange, New Netherlands, in 1652, and becoming a tenant farmer and operator of a sawmill at Rensselaerwyck, near present-day Bethlehem, New York.

Mid-17th century Beverwijk

Mid-17th century Beverwijk

By 1655 Pieter had built a house in Beverwijck (renamed Albany by the British in 1664), become a fur trader, and married Tannetje Adams, a settler from Friesland. Pieter and Tannetje would have 12 children: Adam (our ancestor; 1658), Livinius, Frans, Allette, Killiaen, Tomas (another ancestor, c1664), Lyntje, Martin, Jacobus, Eva, Daniel, and Rachel (by virtue of her marriage to Jellis Fonda the 5th great-grandmother of legendary actor Henry Fonda).

In addition to prospering in the fur trade, Pieter purchased a sawmill in Bethlehem 1673 and another in 1677. In July 1675, he bought one half of Constapel’s Island in the Hudson River below Albany for the price of 69 beaver skins.

From 1672 to 1684 Pieter served as a magistrate for Bethlehem. He was also active in the Albany Dutch church, serving in a number of capacities.

On September 28, 1676, Pieter served on an “extraordinary court” convened by the governor and council of New York to resolve a dispute between the Reverend Nicolaas Van Rensselaer and Dominie Gideon Schaets concerning some allegedly heretical declarations made by Van Rensselaer in a sermon he preached on August 13, 1676. The decision of Pieter and the court was “that Parties, shall both forgive and forget as it become Preachers of the Reformed Religion to do; also that all previous variances, church differences and provocations shall be consumed in the fire of Love; a perpetual silence and forbearance being imposed on each respectively; to live together as Brothers for an example to the worthy Congregation, for edification  to the Reformed Religion, and further for the removal and banishment of all scandals.”

Pieter Winne died in his early 80s, sometime between May 1690 and May 1693. On May 7, 1693, Pieter’s widow Tannetje married Martin Cornelisse Van Buren, great-great grandfather of President Martin Van Buren. Tannetje died before 1697.

Pieter Winne has the distinction of being our double ancestor: Pieter’s granddaughter, Lidia Winne, daughter of his son Adam, married Jacobus Moll (Mull) c1703, while his great-granddaughter, Rebecca Barheit, descendant of Adam’s brother, Thomas, married Jacobus Moll’s son, Johannes,  Rebecca’s second cousin, c1745.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2013 in Biographies, Immigrant Stories

 

Arthur Helmer Lefgren (1908-2004)

“Uncle Arthur” Lefgren was uncle to Robert, Warren, Betty, Clifford and Audrey; and great uncle to Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, James, Anne, Bonnie, Wendy, Pamela, Gail and Paul.

Helyn Riis Lefgren and Arthur Lefgren, 1954

Helyn Riis Lefgren and Arthur Lefgren, 1954

Arthur Helmer Lefgren was born January 17, 1908, in Brooklyn, New York, to Swedish immigrants Johan Martin Helmer and Teolinda Nelson Lefgren. He received a Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering from New York University in 1937, and subsequently a Master of Arts in Education, also from NYU.

As an engineer, Arthur worked for Bell Telephone Laboratories, New Jersey, Otis Elevator Company, and as chief radio inspector of Emerson Radio. At Bell Telephone he was a member of the team that developed the moving electronic “news ribbon” in Times Square.

Arthur married Helyn E. (nee Helene) Riis (1914-1990) on February 14, 1936, in Roosevelt, New York, eventually settling in nearby Baldwin. Arthur and Helyn had two children, Karen Helene (1941) and Helen Marie (1946).

A deeply religious man, Arthur served as Sunday school superintendent of Bethlehem Lutheran Church in Baldwin, and later of the First Methodist Church in Roosevelt. He sang regularly in the church choir.

Arthur began teaching in the vocational division of the New York City public schools in 1940. During his more than 32 years at George Westinghouse Vocational and Technical High School in Brooklyn, he taught communications for the war effort in evening trades, developed the first closed-circuit TV studio for training and served as part of the development of the New York State BOCES system. Arthur also worked part time for the New York City Board of Examiners, testing new teachers for employment in the district. During summers he taught summer school, was principal of summer school and studied toward ordination at Biblical Seminary in Brooklyn.

Arthur and Helyn retired to East Meredith, New York, in 1972, where Arthur served as pastor of the Meridale (now Community) Church, until 1996. During that time he was ordained by the Evangelical Church Alliance and became the executive director of the Delaware County Council of Churches where he was instrumental in establishing a county position of chaplaincy to both the Countryside Care Center and the Delaware County Jail. In 1992, he was awarded the Crawford B. DuMond Annual Award for dedicated service to the Delaware County Council of Churches.

In his elder years, Arthur continued his ministry as a resident of the Oneonta Nursing and Rehabilitation Center, where he died on October 4, 2004, at the age of 96. His funeral was officiated by his grandson, Pastor Terence Jansma, of the Suedberg Church of God in Suedberg, Pennsylvania.

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2013 in Biographies

 

John Lay (1737-1813) of Knowlton’s Rangers

John Lay is the 8th great-grandfather of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, Cathy, Ron, Stacey, Matt and Sandy; and the 9th great-grandfather of Asher, Owen, Caitlyn, Becky, Emily, Jack, Jill, Jordan, Mike and Brian.

The "1776" on the United States Army Intelligence Service seal refers to the formation of Knowlton's Rangers.

The “1776” on the seal of the United States Army Intelligence Service refers to the formation of Knowlton’s Rangers.

American military intelligence has its origins in the formation of the first American Army unit solely organized for the purpose of collecting intelligence, Knowlton’s Rangers. The Rangers were created by General George Washington himself in 1776 and named for its commander, Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton. Knowlton’s Rangers was comprised of 120 hand-picked men from Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts regiments for “special, delicate, and hazardous duty”. In this regard, they were America’s first elite troops, analogous to a modern special forces unit. The Rangers’ mission was to act as a scouting unit for the Washington’s Continental Army, probing British positions and gathering intelligence to be reported back directly to Washington on the enemy’s movements and intentions.

One of these hand-picked men was John Lay of Lyme, Connecticut.

John Lay was born in Lyme, Connecticut, on December 29, 1737, the son of John Lay (1714-1792) and Hannah Lee (1720-1784). The elder John was a representative to the General Assembly and Lyme’s Town Clerk; during the French and Indian War he served as a lieutenant. The younger John married Anna Sill (1742-1826/1830) on February 28, 1760, at the First Congregational Church in Lyme.. Their first child, Daniel, was born in 1761, and was followed by Filkin (1762), John (1764), Hannah (1767), David (1769), Mary (1772), Abner (our ancestor; 1774), and Lucinda (1777).

John enlisted from Lyme in May 1775 as a private in the First Company of Colonel Parson’s Sixth Connecticut Regiment, First Continental Line, being discharged as a corporal in Roxbury, Massachusetts, in December 1775. John subsequently enlisted in 1776 with Lt. Colonel John Durkee’s 20th Continental Regiment.

It was at the Battle of Bunker Hill in June 1775 where Captain Thomas Knowlton’s distinguished service came to the attention of George Washington. During  the subsequent siege of Boston in 1776, now-Major Knowlton and 200 men from Durkee’s Regiment were sent by Washington to burn  the remaining buildings at the base of Bunker Hill, and to capture the  British guard. Knowlton accomplished this mission without firing a shot  or losing a man. On August 12, 1776, Knowlton was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and commanded to form an elite independent intelligence and special operations unit. John Lay was among those selected to serve in Knowlton’s Rangers.

On September 16, 1776, the Rangers were scouting in advance of Washington’s Army at Harlem Heights, New York. They stumbled upon the Black Watch, an elite Highlander British unit with an attachment of Hessians. They managed a successful retreat but re-engaged the enemy with the support of a unit from Virginia. General Washington ordered the units to fall on the enemy’s rear, while a feint in front engaged the British troops’ attention. An American premature shot into the right flank of the British ruined Washington’s plan and placed Knowlton’s Rangers and the Virginians at risk. Knowlton rallied his troops to carry on the attack, but he was killed in the ensuing fight and Washington’s army was forced to retreat.

After defeating the Continental Army at the Battle of White Plains, the British Army forces under the command of Lt. General William Howe planned to capture Fort Washington, situated in what is now Bennett Park in the Washington Heights neighborhood of Manhattan, just north of the George Washington Bridge. Washington had issued a discretionary order to General Nathanael Greene to abandon the fort and remove its men to New Jersey. Colonel Robert Magaw, commanding the fort, declined the order, believing the fort could be defended.

Battle of Fort Washington

Battle of Fort Washington

On November 16, 1776, Howe led an assault on Fort Washington from three sides: the north, east and south. Tides in the Harlem River prevented some troops from landing and delayed attack. When the British moved against the defenses, the southern and western American defenses fell quickly. American forces on the north side offered stiff resistance to the attack, but they too were eventually overwhelmed. With the fort surrounded by land and sea, Colonel Magaw chose to surrender. A total of 59 Americans were killed and 2,837 were taken prisoner. Most of Knowlton’s Rangers, who had arrived at the fort shortly before Howe’s attack, were captured, including John Lay. The prisoners were sent to the infamously squalid and brutal British prison ships that lay anchored in New York Harbor.

British prison ship H.M.S. Jersey

British prison ship H.M.S. Jersey

Robert Sheffield of Stonington, Connecticut, survivor of one of the prison ships, told his story in the Connecticut Gazette, published July 10, 1778. Sheffield, who had been one of 350 prisoners held in a compartment below the decks, recounted: “The heat was so intense that (the hot sun shining all day on deck) they were all naked, which also served well to get rid of vermin, but the sick were eaten up alive. Their sickly countenances, and ghastly looks were truly horrible; some swearing and blaspheming; others crying, praying, and wringing their hands; and stalking about like ghosts; others delirious, raving and storming, all panting for breath; some dead, and corrupting. The air was so foul that at times a lamp could not be kept burning, by reason of which the bodies were not missed until they had been dead ten days.”

Many of the prisoners died of malnutrition or disease, but John Lay survived to be released in January 1778 in a prisoner exchange.

After some time to recover with his family in Lyme, John enlisted again on July 1, 1780, and served until his discharge on January 1, 1784. Altogether, John saw active duty during the American Revolution for more than six years.

John Lay died on January 8, 1813, at the age of 75 in Lyme, Connecticut, and was buried in the Old Meeting House Hill Cemetery there.

John’s teenaged son John also served during the Revolutionary War as a private in Capt. Enoch Reed’s Company, Col. Zebulon Butler’s Connecticut Regiment, from January 1781 to October 1783.

From the military service records on file at the National Archives

From the military service records on file at the National Archives

 
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Posted by on October 26, 2013 in Biographies

 

Thomas L. Riis (1930- ), Musicologist

Thomas is the great-grandson of Hans Christian Riis’ brother Jens Hansen Riis, and the 3rd cousin of Richard, James, Gary, Lisa, Carl, Jane, Bruce, James, Anne, Bonnie, Wendy, Pamela, Gail and Paul.

Riis,%20TomDr. Thomas Laurence Riis, the Joseph Negler Professor of Musicology and the Director of the American Music Research Center at the University of Colorado – Boulder’s College of Music, was born in New Hampshire on October 6, 1950, the son of Laurence and Ruth Riis. He earned degrees from Oberlin College (1973) and the University of Michigan (1976, 1981).

Thomas is a specialist in Musical Theater and writes and lectures frequently on many topics in 19th and 20th-century American music. His book Just Before Jazz, devoted to African American Broadway and minstrel shows, received an ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award in 1995. In 2002, Tom served as a period musical consultant for the Martin Scorsese film, Gangs of New York. He taught as a Fulbright Senior Scholar in Lüneburg, Germany, in 2005-2006. Tom’s most recent book, Frank Loesser, the fifth volume in the Yale Broadway Masters series, was published in 2008. That same year he gave the Rey Longyear Memorial Lecture at the University of Kentucky’s American Music Center and was elected to the presidency of the Society for American Music for 2009-2010.

Tom’s other interests include medieval song and historical performance practice. He is active as a choral singer, viol player, and cellist.

 
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Posted by on October 24, 2013 in Biographies, Connections

 
 
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