Monday, April 04, 2005

1876 Society Pages Help Solve Genealogy Puzzle

A social notice from the pages of an 1876 Brooklyn NY newspaper helped provide the missing puzzle piece to link my family to another 8 generations of genealogy! I had the 1866 Brooklyn birth certificate of my great-grandfather, which named his parents Edward P. TAYLOR and Frances P. HOLT. Alas, I had run into a bit of a brick wall, as 1866 was the first year that Brooklyn kept such records. In genealogy research, having a common surname like TAYLOR or HOLT is no blessing, as it means you have a much bigger haystack to search for your needles, and also that you can't assume that an Edward TAYLOR mentioned in one document is the same Edward TAYLOR mentioned in another. With Internet searching (Google is a genealogist's friend!), I had located an entire HOLT family history that began in England in 1602 and ended in 1864 (when the book was written), and included a Charles HOLT in Brooklyn. I suspected a link between Charles HOLT and my Frances P. HOLT, but needed to confirm it somehow. The breakthrough came when I came across a page from the Brooklyn Standard Union of October 10, 1876, that announced the golden wedding anniversary of Mr. and Mrs. Charles HOLT. The article was lengthy, and provided a wonderful glimpse of the life of Charles HOLT, including his profession, community service, participation in a local chorus and baseball team, church activities, and so on. On the other hand, it was a bit of a tease for harvesting genealogical information, as it mentioned he had six children without giving any of their names, and it didn't even tell us the name of Mrs. Charles HOLT. Nor did it actually name the church they belonged to, referring to it only as "Dr. Scudder's church". The only names it gave were a half dozen or so who had sent letters and telegrams of congratulation. One of them -- a James PEARCE, Esq. of Richmond VA -- was identified as Mrs. HOLT's brother, an indirect indication of her maiden name. Another one -- Rev. J. Clement FRENCH -- caught my eye, as I knew that my great-grandfather had a brother named Clement and another brother named Charles French. With a bit of Googling, I discovered that the Rev. J. Clement FRENCH had been the first pastor at the Central Congregational Church in Brooklyn when it was established in 1854, though he later moved to a Presbyterian church in Newark NJ. Some more Googling revealed that "Dr. Scudder" was Rev. Henry Martin SCUDDER, an interesting fellow born in India to missionary parents, and became both a medical doctor and a pastor, and who in fact was the pastor of the Central Congregational Church during 1872-1882. With the church confirmed, and these other bits of information, I was able to do some productive searching in an online archive of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle (bless the Brooklyn Public Library for this awesome resource, going back to 1841!). There I was able to find an article about the 25th anniversary of the school associated with the Central Congregational Church, which identified Charles HOLT and Edward P. TAYLOR as previous superintendants of the school. Here was a hint tying my TAYLOR ancestor to that HOLT family, and suggesting how they may have become associated. This also gives the clue as to who my great-great-great uncles were named after (their pastor Rev. Clement FRENCH). Eventually, I was able to find my great-great-grandparents' wedding announcement, and confirm that Charles HOLT was indeed my great-great-great-grandfather!

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