Archive for March 2009

Historical Societies – A Researcher’s Paradise

March 30, 2009

Today I visited the Perinton Historical Society and Fairport Museum for the first time.  I was astounded by the amount of research materials available there.  One frequently refers to public libraries for research, but the local historical society is an untapped reservoir of information.

Several months ago, I had come across the online edition of the Perinton Historical Society Historigram.  George B. Wiltsie, one of my Civil War boys, was mentioned in the newsletter.  Apparently, a man named Karl Jost had donated a box full of Wiltsie and Potter documents to the Perinton Historical Society.  Included in these treasures was a transcript of George B. Wiltsie’s Civil War diary!  During my visit today, I had the good fortune to meet Fairport Museum curator William Keeler.  After explaining my Civil War project to Bill, he headed off to parts unknown and returned with the very treasure box mentioned in the Historigram.  Unfortunately, Bill is in the process of transcribing the diary so I was unable to view that yet, but the rest of the items were also of interest.  There were several photos of homes belonging to various members of the Wiltsie and Potter families.  The photo that caught my attention was a black and white 8×10 of the Wiltsie family home in Duanesburg, New York.  Pasted to the back of the photo was a long letter written by Charles H. Wiltsie, nephew of George B. Wiltsie.  The letter described in detail the house where George’s parents and older siblings lived until their move to Perinton in the 1830s.  What a find!

While discussing my project with Bill, I offhandedly asked if he had any information about the local chapter of the G.A.R., which stands for Grand Army of the Republic.  This was a national organization that was formed after the Civil War.  It is comparable to today’s American Legion or VFW.  Bill strode off and returned with more treasures for me.  The folders he handed me contained meeting notes and many other interesting tidbits of information about the E.A. Slocum Post 211.  For me, the most exciting part was seeing the applications completed and signed in the late 1890s by some of my Civil War boys.  The applications listed birth places, service dates, occupations, and even reasons for discharge. 

I would invite anyone with an interest in history to visit their local historical society.  Their holdings are more precious than gold.  Special thanks to Bill Keeler for his assistance with and interest in my Civil War soldiers project.

The life and death of George B. Wiltsie will be discussed in greater depth during my Pittsford Cemetery tour on May 16th.  Please visit the following link for more information about my tour, which is featured on page 17.  http://townofpittsford.org/files/images/publications/2009_spring_rec_brochure.pdf

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Hero Highlight – LaFayette Congdon, Co. K, 21st NY Cavalry

March 12, 2009
LaFayette Congdon

LaFayette Congdon

Our first Hero Highlight illuminates LaFayette Congdon.  LaFayette was born in Chautauqua County, NY, the only child of Phineas and Julia Congdon.  By the time LaFayette was 15 years old, he had already lived in the New York communities of Ellington, Marion, Springwater and Rochester.  This early travel probably allowed LaFayette to adapt quickly to his constantly changing surroundings during his later life as a minister.

At nearly nineteen years of age, LaFayette joined Co. K of the 21st NY Cavalry.  He served as a company clerk in Elmira, NY.  Although he did not go into battle, his time in the military affected his health.  Suffering from dietary issues in his later years was attributed to the common soldier meals of hard tack and coffee that he had partaken of during the War.  LaFayette was mustered out in 1865 and began his post-war life as a minister.

Between the years of 1864-1902, LaFayette ministered to churches in twenty towns.  It was not uncommon for a minister in those days to be assigned a new church every two to four years.  During that time, LaFayette met and fell in love with Frances Kingsley, a beautiful young woman from a prestigious family in Pittsford, New York.  They married in 1871 and Frances gave birth to eight children, five of whom lived to adulthood.  By all accounts, LaFayette and Frances had a happy family life until he died in 1927 at age 81.  Frances followed in death four years later.

LaFayette will be discussed in more detail during my Civil War Soldiers tour at Pittsford Cemetery on May 16th.

Additional information on LaFayette and Frances is available on the blog of his descendant, Sean Rockwell Ryan.  http://congdonfamilies.blogspot.com/.  My thanks to Sean for the information.  Cheers!

Cemetery Research, Part 2

March 7, 2009

I’ve just spent the last few days reviewing the information I gathered on my trip to the Pittsford Cemetery office this past Wednesday.  As I mentioned in my previous post, the amount and quality of information listed in burial records varies, but I can assure you that you will find at least one gold nugget contained within.

Despite the fact that most of my time since then has been spent transferring photos from my camera to my laptop, I could barely contain my excitement at the tidbits of trivia I couldn’t help glancing at while the transfer was occurring.  “Infant child buried with mother”.  “Sister of…”  “1st wife of…”  This information is more precious than gold to a genealogist.  Without these records, how long would it have taken me to discover that Elizabeth Plumb was a sister to Ann Dickens?  Or that Union Army veteran Henry Kunow had a wife before he married Sophia?  These records can also be used to verify information already collected.  I knew that my Civil War soldier, Jeffrey Birdsall, had a child who had died young.  The burial record not only confirmed the fact, but listed the child’s name (Augustus Cleveland) and age at death (8 months).

Pittsford Cemetery also keeps plot records.  The plot records are a valuable tool to solving mysteries.  My soldier, Charles A. Tillotson, is buried beside his mother Mary.  They both have nice sturdy headstones.  I always wondered about Mary’s husband Joseph.  Why wasn’t he buried beside his wife and son?  The answer is that Joseph IS buried beside them, to Mary’s right.  For some reason, Joseph’s death is not recorded in the burial record book, but he is clearly shown on the plot record.  And to make this discovery even more exciting, buried beside Charles are his brother, Horace, and an unnamed sister.  I can see already that an additional trip to the Pittsford Cemetery office is in order so that I may view more of these plot records.

My special thanks to Hazel Knickerbocker, the Pittsford Cemetery secretary, for graciously allowing me to spend time viewing the burial records and for her many kindnesses.

Cemetery Research

March 3, 2009
Henry and John Walbeck

Henry and John Walbeck

I’ve got cemeteries on my mind since tomorrow I’ll be heading to the cemetery office to view the cemetery record book.  Cemeteries are an amazing resource for genealogists and historians.  Many headstones list an incredible amount of information about the person.  There are those that list only the name and death date.  However many others, especially those dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, also list the birth year and the age at death by year, month and day.  This allows the genealogist to determine the exact birth date using one of many handy calculators found online.  I’ve seen many stones that list a woman’s maiden name, followed by “wife of”.  If one has been unable to track a woman ancestor due to marriage, this is a great way to find out what happened to her.  Another obvious plus is that families were buried in plots.  Once a family plot is located at the cemetery, be sure to record the names around the plot.  Many times, a husband is buried near his in-laws.  Just because the name is different, don’t assume that there is no relationship. 

Another wealth of information is to be found in the cemetery record books themselves.  Certainly, the amount of information found directly correlates to the person who input the information, as well as the information they were asked to record.  The Pittsford Cemetery record book dates back to 1838 and the inception of the cemetery.  To me, it is the Holy Grail in my quest to research my Civil War boys.  Some of the cemetery secretaries were a little more lackadaisical in the recordkeeping than others.  But, at the least, the book contains the names of the deceased, dates of interment (or death dates instead), and plot number.  The really good recordkeepers listed causes of death, disposition of the body (full burial vs ashes), and even military information such as regiment names.

Two of my civil war boys, Henry and John Walbeck, have been terribly difficult to track.  The inscriptions on their headstones have weathered so they are barely legible.  I couldn’t tell their ages at death, so it was impossible to figure out their birth years.  Unfortunately, the cemetery book had little information on Henry and John – not even their death dates.  BUT, it did have a note that said “sons of Fred R. and Sophia Wallenbergh”.  Wow!  Now I had some other information to track; a new name to find on census records.  I learned that the Walbecks were born in Germany, but came to the United States.  They apparently Americanized their name to Walbeck.  I also found two other Walbecks, who I soon learned were siblings to Henry and John.

We will discuss more cemetery research in the future, as it is an especially important tool for historians.

Have Laptop, Will Travel

March 2, 2009

My husband thoughtfully presented me with a laptop today.  Now I will be able to drag it to all my favorite places, such as the library and the cemetery, to aid in my research.  How exciting!  No more will I be the only person in the entire library writing notes on (gasp!) paper!  No more transferring of said notes to computer when all I really want to do is continue my research.  It’s a brave new world.

Civil War Cemetery Tour on May 16th at 10:00 a.m.

March 1, 2009
Frank D. Tibbitts

Frank D. Tibbitts

Today has been a learning day.  I’ve spent several hours trying to decipher the rules for inter-library loans on microfilm and reading the information on the National Archives and NYS Archives websites pertaining to military service records.  It is confusing, to say the least.  If you have any info on these subjects, please feel free to leave a comment.  I’d love to hear from you!

The Pittsford Recreation Department Spring flyer arrived in my mailbox yesterday.  I was excited to see my Cemetery Tour listed on page 17.  However, I was extremely irked that BOTH my first and last names were misspelled (for the record, the correct spelling is Vicki Profitt).  The tour will take place rain or shine.  The proceeds from the $3 fee will be donated to the Friends of Pittsford Cemetery fund for use in Civil War headstone restorations.  Currently, two of my Civil War “boys” have headstones that have toppled over.  It will cost several hundred dollars to fix each stone.  Frank D. Tibbitts died of typhoid at the young age of 21.  He had served in the Union army for less than a year.  Charles Dwinnell spent time in the infantry, was a POW, and then was mustered out in 1863.  A mere 7 months later, Charles had the fortitude to enlist again, this time in the Engineers corps.  He served an additional one and a half years before ending his army career.  We’ll talk more about Frank during the tour.  I’ll share the letter his parents received telling them of their son’s tragic end.  My goal is to honor the sacrifices these men made for their country during their lives and in their deaths.  Their stories may not be known to thousands like the tales we’ve heard about U.S. Grant or Robert E. Lee, but the history is no less important.  I only hope I can do them justice.


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