Saturday, January 24, 2015

James J. Smith and Elizabeth Calder Smith of Gouverneur, New York

Elizabeth Agnes Calder was born  3 August 1839 in Scotland, the eldest daughter of John and Elizabeth (Forbes) Calder.  Between 1840 and 1843 she travelled to the New World with her parents and her younger sister Christianna.  The family settled in Bainsville Lancaster Township, Glengarry County, Ontario, Canada.   After the death of her father John, her mother Elizabeth (Forbes) Calder remained in Lancaster Township with her son and daughters, until about 1861 when the family moved to Kenyon Township, Glengarry County.  
Elizabeth stayed with her mother and siblings for the move to Kenyon Township, Ontario Canada, at some point between 1861 and 1865 she left home to join her sister Christianna in Gouverneur, New York.   
In 1865 she married James Jason Smith, a lifelong resident of Gouverneur, New York and recently returned US Civil War soldier.  
James’ family had long established roots in the community, dating back to 1807. His great great grandfather, Aholiab Smith and his son Benjamin (James’ great grandfather) settled in the village of Little Bow in Gouverneur.   

James enlisted in the 92nd New York Infantry for service during the Civil War,  mustering in October 27, 1861. He was wounded in action at the Battle of Fair Oaks / Seven Pines, Virginia 31 March 1862 and sent to a hospital in Washington DC to recover from his wounds.  James returned to his regiment 31 October 1862 and was present at the Battles of Kingston, The Wilderness, Petersburg and White Hall, surviving the war to be mustered out of the service in Albany, New York on 7 Jan 1865.
It is a bit unclear at present when James was sent home,  as there are indications that he may have gone home sooner than 1865 and this needs to be clarified. It is odd that he was “mustered out” of the service in Albany, NY  five months before the war was over.  It may simply have been an administrative issue;  the paperwork was signed that day and he was already home.  It certainly would make sense that he returned  home prior to the recorded discharge date as he married his wife Elizabeth, and their first son was born, all the same year.  
James and Elizabeth  began their family with the birth of their eldest son William F. Smith with 5 more children following; 1869 Cora Lucy;  1870  Etta;  1874 Murray J.;  1876 Wheeler J.;  and in 1880 Benjamin Forbes Smith.  
The family remained in Gouverneur all of James’ life, and then Elizabeth went to live with her daughter Etta, in Ogdensburg, NY about 1901.
James died on January 17, 1885 at the age of 39, in Gouverneur. The cause of his death is unknown; however his military pension record indicates that he was certified as an “Invalid” 25 February 1881.  

Elizabeth Agnes Calder-Smith died 4 August 1905 at the home of her son Wheeler Smith. She passed away as a result of a complication from a stroke she had suffered days before.  Both are buried in Riverside Cemetery in Gouverneur, New York.

History 92nd New York Infantry Regiment

Battle of Fair Oaks/ Seven Pines Virginia

Battle of Kingston, North Carolina

Battle of the Wilderness

Siege of Petersburg

Battle of White Hall

Sunday, November 16, 2014

John and Elizabeth (Forbes) Calder : From Scotland to Canada

"Those who have left us are never truly gone until there is no one left who remembers them."

Their story began between 1810 and 1820 John and Elizabeth, the first generation of our family's Scottish heritage to come to North America, were born in the Highlands of Scotland. They married about 1837/38  and began their family; before leaving Scotland two children were born, Elizabeth Agnes and Christianna. These two specifically become very important to the story as they help establish time lines.

I must begin by saying that due to the scarcity of written records, much of John and Elizabeth’s early history is still missing.  The majority of what we would consider official records; birth, death and marriage certificates that normally would be found in the town clerk’s office, do not exist.   

The vast majority of written records about any family were held by the parish church, and as you can imagine there are a number of challenges in finding solid information, not the least of which is knowing where the person you're searching for lived.  If they moved around, say married in one place, children born in another and whether or not they stayed long enough in one place to establish themselves in the church.  Then contending with paper records, the A#1 enemy is fire! In the days when you heated and lit buildings with fire, a lot of family history literally went up in smoke.   Of course in our modern age many records are available in digital format, but still many more are not; I am hopeful that a clearer picture can be drawn of the Calders as time goes on.

Without records for documentation you can only make subjective conclusions about what happened during a given period.  However, there are many historical circumstances that can help you tell a story and be reasonably accurate in doing so.  Such is the case with John & Elizabeth.

The first document that was discovered which gave a glimpse into  John &Elizabeth’s life came in the form of  the 1851/52 census for Lancaster Township in Glengarry Co., Ontario, Canada.  Due to logistical issues in Canada at the time of the census, Canada West, where our Calders were living, did not begin until January 12, 1852.  

John Calder, 42 years old, and his wife (38) were living in the 2nd Concession Lot 23 Township of Lancaster. He was a blacksmith by trade with his business being located at the homestead. In the household were their daughters; Elizabeth Agnes 14, Christianna 12, Jennet 9, Catherine 7, Charlot 3, Sarah Ann (Nina) 1 month old, and one son Alexander age 5.  The 2nd Concession was identified as the village of Bainsville Ontario and Lot 23 was occupied by 6 families. It is unclear just how much land comprised Lot 23, but there were 5 farms and John’s blacksmith business. Some of the farms were 70 to 100 acres each. As John was not a farmer, his land holding would have been very small.

Why is all this important?

The dates and locations are important in establishing where our Calder family came from in Scotland.  If you remember from the previous blog, Uncle Bob talked about his grandmother being 3 years old when she came to this country.  That establishes 1842/43 as the approximate date of arrival, and the census confirms this and supports Uncle Bob’s recollections.  Jennet the first of the family born in Canada and was born in 1843.

Glengarry County, Ontario was a primary migration point for Scots fleeing Scotland between 1773 and 1853. Close to 3500 people came to the new highland communities in Canada.   Most came from the Lochiel, Glengarry, Knoydart and Glenelg, mountainous areas in the Inverness-shire Scottish Highlands.   Many of these people had been supporters of the Jacobite uprising of 1745 and they had suffered reprisals as a result, they left to find new homes and opportunities in Canada.   

Calder is an extremely common name in Scotland and, by extension, this area of Canada. It is not much of a stretch to believe that there were members of John’s extended family already in Canada at the time that he brought his family over.

In July 1852 John died,  leaving Elizabeth to raise the family. She is noted in the Lancaster Presbyterian Church Communion Rolls in 1857 and 1859. So she stayed in the immediate area up to the 1860's

In 1861 the census indicated that Elizabeth Calder had moved her family to Kenyon Township, Glengarry County and in the household were Elizabeth Agnes 24, Alexander 14, Charlot 12 and Ina Ann age 9.   

Christianna was gone by 1860 and was living in Morris and Orrissa (Lake) Smith’s residence in Gouverneur, New York, working as a domestic. 

Jennet Calder does not appear to be present in this census. According to Uncle Bob, she married a man with the last name of Morgan.  She would have been 19 at this point and certainly could have married and left home. To date I have no information on what happened to her and it's one of the many mysteries of this family.  

Catherine is also missing from the census. She would have been 17 by this time, but she is an even a bigger mystery, because until the census was discovered no one knew that Catherine existed.

There is one other name here that bears some explanation; in 1851 the youngest girl was identified as Sarah Ann, while in 1861 she was identified as Ina Ann.  The actual name of John and Elizabeth’s youngest daughter was Nina (pronounced “Nie-nah”).  It is a common thing in census documents (or any historical document for that matter) to have names written incorrectly as they spelled it the way they heard it.  

I’m sure you have heard of the practice of “Americanizing” a name when the person comes to this country.  That is more of a myth than a reality; while it did happen, more often than not the person recording the information misspelled it or spelled it like he heard it.  Another one of those great challenges to genealogical research.

The end is much like the beginning: there are no records that have been found to indicate what happened to Elizabeth Forbes Calder. Her eldest daughter married in 1865 and was living in Gouverneur, New York. By 1870 the two youngest daughters, Charlotte and Nina were also living in Gouverneur, NY and her lone son is not seen until the 1900 census where he was living in Michigan.  

So whether she passed in 1865 or 1870 or lived on to a ripe old age and remarried, we may never know, but as with all mysteries, they beg to be solved and we will see what happens.

To find out more about some of the information mention the following links may be helpful:


Glengarry Ontario Canada

Jacobite Uprising 1745

Sunday, October 12, 2014

From the Highlands of Scotland: The Calder Family

One of the greatest challenges in genealogy research is mis-information, whether it be by mistake, misinterpretation, failing memories or inaccurate family legends.  Sorting through those issues along with the sparsity of records in some cases can plague research efforts.  As in any research project, proof of theory or history relies on the ability to replicate results based on the information that you document.  In the case of the Calder Family all of these challenges have been and are still present.   

Initially the prime source of research into finding the root of our family’s Scottish connection was an interview my father conducted with his uncle Robert L. Lake (Uncle Bob).   Bob believed that the Lake family actually immigrated to the United States from directly from Scotland,  the patriarch of the new “American Clan”  being Angus Loch.  

Angus, according to Bob, changed the family name from Loch to Lake when he immigrated, and settled in New York State. Many attempts were made to locate a record of Angus, searches of record repositories in New York both manually and via computer, cemeteries and cemetery records, but no evidence was found. After years of research it is clear that Angus does not exist in the context of our Lake Family.

During the interview, a thread was developed identifying Bob’s grandmother’s line,  the Calder Family,  which has proven to be our true connection to Scotland.  With the Angus Loch avenue exhausted, the Calder Family became the focus;  Bob said that the Calders came to the United States directly from Scotland, and that his grandmother, Crista Cawdor was 3 years old when she arrived in New York.  Crista had 4 sisters; Elizabeth, Janet, Charlotte and Nina, and the family name had been changed from Cawdor to Calder  to “Americanize” it.  

Of the 4 sisters only two of them, other than Crista had families known to Bob; the oldest sister, Elizabeth Agnes Calder married James J. Smith of Gouverneur, New York about 1865, and they raised a family of  6 and lived out their lives in Gouverneur.  The youngest sister, Nina Calder married Charles Fry about 1873; they had one child, Ella Mae Fry, but the marriage ended in divorce. Nina then married Henry Quackenbush who died in 1883. Nina had 2 children with Henry,  Peter Emmett and Clara Quackenbush.    Bob had no information with regard to Janet or Charlotte other than that Janet married a man named Morgan.  No records have been found to substantiate that as of this writing.

So you would think that with all of that information the mystery would be solved right?  Our ancestors from Scotland arrived in New York, connected with the Lake family that was already established here and that’s the story.   Wrong!   Crista Cawdor/Calder does not exist, there are no records to-date (30+ years to-date) that identify Bob’s grandmother as Crista.  The first “record” located that identified her by the name “Christie Ann” was her a cemetery marker in Hillside Cemetery, Natural Bridge, New York. Oh, and by the way, this is the only place she is identified this way...the challenges just kept mounting from there.

Let's stop for a moment and clarify our branch of the Lake Family tree. Our family did not come to this country from Scotland; the patriarch, John Lake, was born in England about 1625 and he came to the American Colonies through what is now the State of Rhode Island. He ultimately settled in Gravesend, The Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam, (New York City), where he married Ann Spicer, the daughter of one the Gravesend colony leaders.

Gravesend is a neighborhood in modern day Brooklyn New York; there is a small side street in that neighborhood known as Lake Street, on the corner of that street is where the Lake Family homestead stood nearly 360 years ago.  At that time the town of Gravesend was the “frontier.”  Kind of hard to believe that in the middle of the largest city in the United States sits the one time “frontier village” that our family inhabited, and where it began.  

(Gravesend Map was created in 1873. It is not clear to me what date in history it was drawn to represent. It is presented here just as a reference to our story.)

John’s family spread from Gravesend to the colonies of  New Jersey and New York. Other than a short separation after the American Revolution (in which they went with other Loyalist families to Canada) our Lake family has been firmly centered in upstate New York.  

Jesse Lake, about 1813, returned to the United States and was the first generation of the family to firmly re-establish roots here. He married  Lavinia Cook in 1816 in Perrington, New York, and began their family, which would ultimately grow to 10 children. They settled in Gouverneur, New York.

In 1860 in Gouverneur NY, not too far from Jesse and Lavinia Lake lived the family of Morris and Orissa Smith. In their household was a 19 years housekeeper named  Ann Calder. She was born in Scotland.  Within two years of this date Ann married Joseph Lake, and so started their family.   

There are a couple of interesting connections here, the first being quite simply that Orrisa Lake -  Smith was Joseph’s sister. The second, more subtle bit was that Morris Smith and James Jason Smith (Elizabeth Calder’s husband) were cousins.   Ann Calder and Joesph Lake were married in 1862/3 and Elizabeth Calder and James Smith were married in 1865, who introduced who to whom, interesting hey?

So clearly the connection to Scotland is Joseph Lake’s wife Ann (or Christie or Crista or Christie Ann, whichever name you choose they are all the same person and none of them are her birth name).  
We will start there the next time... oh, and by the way, she never came to the US until just before marrying Joseph, so none of the Calder family were raised in the United States!

More information about Gravesend and the community that was established there in 1643

Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Calder family research blog

For several years now I have been researching the Calder Family or, to be more specific, one branch of the family as it relates to my own.  As I progressed in my research I realized I have a mountain of data and that I needed a place to record my result, and spark some interest from other researchers.  So I created this blog and for one reason or another found that I didn't have the time to keep up with it.  Rather strange, considering the Calder family has taken up the majority of my research time for the past 35 years.

So this morning I resolved to get this blog back into action, and as a first step I dumped all of the previous posts,  refreshed the look and began focusing on what this blog was going to be.  I think I have a path to follow now.

I need to start  generating content based on the research that I have been doing to-date, so starting today I'll introduce some people that are going to be the focus of this project. 

John & Elizabeth (Forbes) Calder;  their story began in the Highlands of Scotland in the early to mid 1800's with blossoming  ties to Canada, the United States and England, as these are the countries that their descendants have migrated to over the past 200 years.

John Calder, the patriarch of the family, was born in Scotland about 1810 and he married his wife Elizabeth Forbes (b. 1814)  in Scotland around 1836/37.  Research indicates that they came from Inverness-shire Scotland about 1840-43 and settled in Glengarry County, Ontario Canada.  At the time of arrival in Canada they has at least two daughters,

Elizabeth Agnes Calder b. 1839 and
Christianna Calder b. 1840

While in Canada, there were 5 more children born between 1843 & 1852 when John Calder died at the age of 42.  Those children were;

Janet b. 1843
Catharine b. 1845
Alexander b. 1847
Charlotte  b. 1850
Nina Maria b. 1852

John and Elizabeth  operated a Blacksmith Shop from the family home which was located in the Township of Lancaster.  In Glengarry County there were four (4) Townships and within the townships  were a number of villages.  While I've identified the  township,  I have not found the village in which they lived and worked.   The blacksmith's shop was dissolved when John died in July 1852. The location of the homestead and his burial are still a mystery, research is ongoing to try to locate.  

Not much is known about Elizabeth.  She was born in Scotland, immigrated with her husband to Canada, and she is seen in the 1851 census with her husband; the children living in Lancaster Township.  By 1861 she had moved to Kenyon Township with some of the children and by 1871 she is gone from the census reports. There are a couple of references to her in church notices but her trail seems to end there.  

So that is the start to the John Calder family and  my next post will explore a little deeper, the parents and the children