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Month: November 2006

Mark Anthony

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories

The further back one traces a family, the murkier the waters become. If it isn’t poor record-keeping, it’s a courthouse fire. And that’s if it isn’t wishful thinking on the part of another family researcher. Still most legends have some basis in fact. What then, is the basis of the fantastic legend surrounding the emigration of Mark Anthony?

The most traditional version of the narrative is that Mark Anthony was born in about 1670 to a merchant of the same or a similar name in Genoa, Italy. The elder Mark Anthony (or Marcus Antony, as he is sometimes known to researchers, most likely to distinguish him from his son) relocated to the Netherlands for reasons that aren’t clear. He desired his son to be educated in Genoa — an idea that didn’t appeal to the younger Mark Anthony’s adventurous spirit at all. Instead, the young man ran away to sea. He was waylaid by Barbary pirates and enslaved in Algiers. Different versions vary in the details, but most agree that once in Algiers, Mark Anthony either escaped by killing his captor or simply by slipping away. This story was retold for generations, and it seemed especially strong in the Georgia Anthony branch of the family.

Arlene Anthony, a researcher associated with Linda Starr’s Colonial Virginia Connections group, does not believe this wild tale, and I have to admit I don’t either. Her research tends to suggest that the Anthony family were from England, possibly by way of the Iberian peninsula, and that they were either Jewish or Roma. I think it more likely that they were Jewish. Their movements mirror those of Marranos, though without historical documents, it is impossible to know exactly when the family migrated from Italy or the Iberian Peninsula to the Netherlands.

The Georgia account of Mark Anthony’s arrival indicates that he arrived in Virginia after his harrowing adventure before October 3, 1690 and was indentured (possibly to Charles Fleming) for three years in order to pay for his passage. He is one of twenty people listed in an application for a land patent of 1000 acres in New Kent County in 1690. In 1700, he applied for a land grant of 1000 acres — some researchers speculate he returned to Europe and brought back 20 applicants in order to apply for this land grant. The 1704 book of Quit Rents indicates he had 190 acres of land in New Kent County. He appears in the records of St. Paul’s Vestry in 1709.

Mark Anthony married Isabella Hart in about 1703 and become a prosperous landowner. Some family researchers believe that the Anthonys and allied families were Crypto-Jews because they continued to practice Sephardic naming traditions. I have not found this to be true. Strict Sephardic naming practices call for the first son to be named for his paternal grandfather and the first daughter for her paternal grandfather. The second son and daughter should be named for the maternal grandfather and grandmother, respectively. The third son/daughter should be named for a paternal uncle or aunt, and the fourth son/daughter for a maternal uncle or aunt. The Clarks and Anthonys did commonly “recycle” names across generations in a somewhat Sephardic fashion, but it is not exact. For example, Mark Anthony’s son Joseph Anthony and his wife Elizabeth Clark Anthony did not name their firstborn son Mark — rather, he was named Christopher for his wife’s father. Likewise, their first daughter was named Sarah, seemingly for a maternal aunt. Not until their sixth son was born would they name him for his paternal grandfather, Mark Anthony. It is possible that the family were indeed Sephardic in origin, but I don’t think one can use their naming practices as evidence.

The Anthony family married into the Quaker families of Colonial Virginia. While Quakers would probably have been more tolerant of Jews, and thus, might have married Jews, it appears that if the Anthonys were Jewish, they eventually adopted various forms of Quaker or Protestant faith. For example, Anselm Anthony, a great-grandson of Mark Anthony, was a renowned Baptist minister in Georgia. Mark Anthony’s daughter-in-law, Elizabeth Clark Anthony, was known to have made multiple missionary trips between Georgia and Virginia; her family were said to be devoted Quakers. A funny and almost certainly apocryphal story has been passed down in the Anthony family that suggests that Joseph Anthony, son of Mark, actually possessed a written genealogy of his descent from Mark Antony, the famous Roman general and politician. His pious in-laws supposedly burned the document because it bespoke vanity. (I wonder what they would make of their numerous genealogist descendants!)

Speculation about who Mark Anthony might have been is more abundant than actual evidence. Certainly, he was the progenitor of a family of colorful characters with a love for a good yarn. You can read more about my own speculations (a post which also recounts my ancestry traced back to Mark Anthony) as to his background and you can read those of Arlene Anthony at Colonial Virginia Connections.

This post is third in a series about my known immigrant ancestors.

Dirk and Aaltje Swier

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories

Dirk SwierIn my previous post in this current series on my immigrant ancestors, I mentioned the Swier family, who adopted my grandfather, David Swier. My grandfather’s adopted parents, Walter Swier and Laura Helen Schmidt Swier, were both the children of immigrants.

Dirk Swier (left) was born in Bovenkarspel in the province of Noord-Holland in the Netherlands on December 6, 1855. He married Aaltje Zwier on May 1, 1879. Dirk was diagnosed with a lung condition and was advised to move to a warmer, drier climate, so he decided to The Maasdam; click for larger imagemove his family to America. The Swiers traveled to America on the Maasdam (Wikipedia article), arriving March 9, 1893. The family first moved to Red Lion, Colorado. Red Lion is located in Logan County, in the northern part of the state, near the Nebraska border. Dirk worked for the Holland Dutch Seed Company and became a U.S. citizen while living in Colorado. According to an account written by Dirk’s son Walter, the Swiers were taken in by a fradulent land deal and were forced to move to Iowa in the winter of 1893. The Swiers remained in Iowa for seven or eight years and then decided to move west to Washington State with a group of Dutch immigrants. They settled in the Moxee Valley in Yakima County in 1901. They cleared the land, built a house and barn, and grew vegetables and raised dairy cattle. Dirk traveled six miles in a horse-drawn buggy several times a week in order to sell vegetables in Yakima stores. He also raised hogs and chickens. His health improved while living in Moxee. Dirk and the other Dutch settlers decided to build a Dutch church, and they established the First Reformed Church. The Swiers prayed and read the Bible before meals. On Sundays, they attended English services in the morning and Dutch services in the evening. They opened their home to visitors on Sunday afternoons. They were particularly helpful to new settlers, allowing the newcomers to stay in their home until they could construct their own homes. They also opened their home to visiting preachers.

Aaltje ZwierAaljte Zwier (left) was born in Enkhuizen, Noord-Holland on May 10, 1858. Both Dirk and Aaltje descend from Hendrik Swier; they were second cousins once removed. However, Aaltje’s grandfather, Klaas Zwier, adopted an alternate spelling of the name, whereas Dirk’s great-grandfather Wouter (Klaas’s brother) kept the spelling Hendrik used. By the time she came to America with her husband Dirk, Aaltje had seven daughters: Diewertje, Trijntje, Antje, Cornelia, Gerritje, Aafje and Aaltje. One of their daugthers, Aaltje, died before the family emigrated to America. Once the family moved to America, they Anglicized their names. Dirk was sometimes referred to as “Dick.” Aaltje herself became “Alice.” Their six daughters became Dora (Diewertje), Kate (Trijntje), Anna (Antje), Cora (Cornelia), Gertrude (Gerritje), and Effie (Aafje). Aaltje, or Alice, as she was then known, gave birth to six more children in America: Walter, Alice, Rena, Cobie (or Bertha), Richard, and Gerrit Benjamin. Once the family relocated to Yakima, Aaltje wrote a devotional column called De Volksvriend (The Peoples’ Friend) for the National Dutch weekly paper. She always kept peppermints and sugar cookies in her pantry, which she served at daily coffees she scheduled at 9:30 A.M. and 3:30 P.M. It is said that she was constantly in prayer, even as she darned socks while rocking in her rocking chair. As her children or grandchildren departed from her home, she always left them with this advice: “Never forget to pray.”

Dirk and Aaltje instilled in their children the sort of love and compassion that would later move one of their sons, Walter, to take in a poor child, living in desperate circumstances, and give him the chance at a better life — perhaps even at survival — along with their name. My grandfather David, whom they adopted upon the death of his natural father, would be Walter and Laura Swier’s only son. Though they are not my ancestors by blood, they were a loving influence in my father’s early life, and I truly believe that had they not taken in my grandfather as their own son, I would not be here, so I honor them as my ancestors and see them, in some ways, as my grandfather’s and my father’s (therefore my own) salvation. My dad vividly recalls large family gatherings at his grandfather Walter’s home in Cowiche, Washington. He also recalls that his grandfather used to sing the nursery rhyme, “Tom, Tom, the Piper’s Son” to him when he was a child. His grandparents, though born in America, still retained enough of their family’s immigrant identity that they spoke fluent Dutch.

The Swier family is probably my closest, however tenuous, connection to the Mayflower pilgrims, as it is believed that the first Swiers were of the Wier family, a group of Separatists who emigrated to Holland. When the others sailed to America on the Mayflower, the Swiers remained behind and essentially became Dutch, most likely marrying with Dutch families. It is unknown when the Wiers added the “S” to the beginning of their surname, but it took place at some point between 1616 and about 1720 (the approximate birth year of my earliest known ancestor, Hendrik Swier). You can read a tribute my grandfather Walter wrote for Dirk and Aaltje on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary in 1929. You can also visit my cousin Rick Zeutenhorst’s (who descends from Cornelia/Cora) website for more information on the Swiers. He has been invaluable to me in learning about the Swier family.

This post is the second in a series on my known immigrant ancestors.

Family Tree File

Posted in Site Issues/Technical

I am having a bit of trouble with my genealogy file.  I use Family Tree Legends, which automatically backs up my file to the Internet whenever I use it at the same time as I am connected to the Internet (which is all of the time, as I have a cable modem).  I noticed this feature wasn’t working properly, and instead of being smart and letting tech support help me today, I tried a different solution, which did not appear to work.  At the moment my family tree files are inaccessible.  However, should you desperately need to search through them, you can contact me, and I’ll look up information for you or send you a GEDCOM.  I apologize for any inconvenience to searchers.

Hans David Bielmann

Posted in Family Biographies/Histories

None of my ancestors arrived on the Mayflower, at least not as far as I know, but many of them came to America, like the Pilgrims, to escape religious persecution or upheaval in Europe. Today I will begin a new series in this blog on those immigrant ancestors about which I already know. Future information I learn through research will be documented later.

Hans Bielmann is one of my earliest immigrant ancestors on my father’s side. He was born in Biberach, Württemberg, Prussia (Germany) on 11 September 1703, according to family records. He married Anna Maria Bentz at the Lutheran church in Biberach on 23 November 1734 (Happy Anniversary!). He emigrated to America in 1736 on the ship Princess Augustus out of Rotterdam to Philadelphia. I do not know his precise reasons for emigrating, but there was a large wave of emigration out of what would become Germany in the early 1700’s following wars with the French and Spanish. I found a wonderful account of the voyage of the Princess Augustus by a passenger named Durs Thommen. I preserved all spellings given on the original site, which will account for some possible misspellings (with the exception of obvious typos) or inconsistent spellings.

Philadelphia, October 20, 1736

My friendly greetings and service to you, my much beloved Reverent Mr. Candidate Annoni and your beloved wife Ester Annoni, born in Zwingerin.

I cannot desist from writing to you and to tell you in a few words that I with my family — the loving faithful Father in Heaven be praised for that — have come into this land fresh and healthy. But at sea our two younger sons became sick with ship fever but, thank God, have regained their previous health. But I now know nothing further to write because we have come so late into this country and everything has already been harvested.

As to the journey, we were detained for 5 weeks, have slept on the Rhine for 2 weeks and travelled from Rotterdam across the sea for 12 weeks and 4 days until Philadelphia, but only 8 weeks from land to land, and we did not have good wind save for 8 days, more contrary winds than side wind. And as we saw land a new pilot came to us and we thought all was well and won. All evening we got good wind from behind so that the ship moved vigorously. The new pilot, however made cast anchor because it was not far (from there) dangerous; in the morning when the anchor was lifted again and on had barely gone 30 feet the boat ran into a rock, and it crashed that one thought it would break in the middle. The anxious crying began, and one could see where there was faith or not. Then the captain had a warning shot fired and had a flag of distress hoisted, but we drove far out to the sea so that we saw no land anymore for days and even thought we would never see it again.

As far as illness are comcerned, the Mannheim skippers had two of the boats sidewise together; in the one besides ours 7 children died of small pox and a woman of spotted fever, and in our boat 19 people died until Rotterdam. Those people who have means and are interested in this land and need not go into debt, those I advise to stay where they are because the journy is onerous and very dangeous. Thus who wants to come to this land shall be well provided with butter and bacon, dried apple snips and plums, and flour, wine and brandy and dried bread, tea and sugar. And if young people come and cannot pay fare, there are enough people to redeem them from the boat, and they must serve them a certain time for it. There are people with whom I have talked myself who had brought not a penny into the land and had to serve for their fare, now (they) are very rich people. But I do not know to write much of the land because we came into it quite late and everything had already been harvested, and one should not rely much on the talk of other people, thus I am willing, if it were to please the Lord in Heaven, to send very accurate news in the future when I have investigated things my self.

But I have not yet taken up the land, but I am also willing to wait until I know the land better or have approached trusted friends so that I may believe them. I could have already taken up, however, more than to 3 to 400 acres that have been much planted, and there would remain in my hands quite a good portion of my imported wealth. What has already been cleared of that place, meadow and fields, is for 6 horses, 8 cows, 12 goats, 14 pigs. We are very sorry that at home we have not lived according to Christ’s demand on occasion as we should have done.

Durs Thommen formerly of Niederdorff your servant

From: “On The power O Pietism” by Leo Schelbert, PhD in the “Historic Scaefferstown Record” vol 17, Issues No 3 & 4.

Hans Bielmann’s wife Anna Bentz Bielmann and their daughter Elizabeth Katharina were not listed on the passenger manifest, but they were most likely on the ship with Hans, as the names of women and children were not always listed. Hans settled in Pennsylvania Dutch country, where many refugees from the Rhineland Palatinate settled in the early 1700’s.

Once the Bielmanns settled in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, their family grew and they changed the spelling of their last name to Billman. In 1930, Bielmann descendant F.W. Billman prepared a hand-drawn family tree that is still in existence. Included with a tree was a brief history of Hans David Bielmann:

Hans David Bilmann Entered at Phila Sept 16, 1736. Ship Princess Augustus. Sailed from Rotterdam Aged 31 yrs. Warr 200
A 1738 W 150A 1744 Lynn Twp. Northampton Co Pa. His wife and 2 children killed and 1 son wounded by Indians March 1756. Marr-Elizabeth ___, by Oct 1757. Witness to will in 1761 __ . Acted as Spons in 1757, 1759,
1761__. Elder in Albany Church 1757. Constable Albany District 1752 __. Spons for David HESS. Oct 1757.

Of course, I am extremely curious about his troubles with the Indians. Upon finding this notation, I began digging, and it would appear that it is fairly well-established family lore that Anna Maria and two of the couple’s sons were indeed killed in an Indian raid. I can find little information on this attack. However, it is probable that the attacks were part of the larger conflict and hosilities surrounding the French and Indian War, which began in 1754. (Learn more about this conflict’s effect on Lehigh Township here — pdf).

I was able to learn interesting tidbits of information about my ancestor’s life. For instance, in 1759, he petitioned the court to excuse a fine imposed upon him for selling “Cyder.” He had been granted a permit only to sell brandy; however, he explained to the court that he sold the cider out of hardship following the Indian attack upon his home, adding that his wife and two children were murdered and most of his personal effects had been taken by the Indians (The Billman Family). I have also learned that DNA testing has proven that the line of Dewalt Billman (Hans Theobald Billman) does not descend from Hans David, as was previously believed (and, not surprisingly, still widely disseminated all over the Internet).

In many ways, it is remarkable I was able to find my connection to the Bielmann family. My paternal grandfather, David Edwin Swier, was adopted at the age of nine by the Swier family, who were late-nineteenth century Dutch emigrants from Bovenkarspel, Noord Holland in the Netherlands. After my grandfather passed away, I learned from his obituary that his birth name had been Edwin Guy Gearhart, and that his birth parents were Omar Alfred Gearhart and Gertrude Nettie Perkins. I wrote a query about the Gearharts at a genealogy forum for the Gearhart family and connected with a descendant from my grandfather’s brother who told me their story. Subsequent research has enabled me to trace my grandfather’s birth family. My connection to the Bielmanns can be demonstrated thusly:

Dana Michelle Swier
+ Thomas Ray Swier
++ David Edwin Swier, né Edwin Guy Gearhart (1921-2001)
+++ Omar Alfred Gearhart (1884-1930)
++++ George Douglas Gearhart (1860-1929)
+++++ Conrad L. Gearhart (1838-1899)
++++++ Henry Gearhart (1811-?) and Elizabeth Billman (1814-1870)
Both Henry Gearhart and Elizabeth Billman descend from Hans David Bielmann. Continuing the line with Henry Gearhart:

++++++ Henry Gearhart (1811-?)
+++++++ Sarah Billman (1790-1863)
++++++++ Conrad Bielmann (1764-1830)
+++++++++ Conrad Bielmann (1739/1740-1797)
++++++++++ Hans David Bielmann (1703-1768)
And continuing the line with Elizabeth Billman:

++++++ Elizabeth Billman (1814-1870)
+++++++ Johann Henry Bielmann (1776-1854)
++++++++ Conrad Bielmann (1739/1740-1797)
+++++++++ Hans David Bielmann (1703-1768)

I can only imagine how difficult Hans David Bielmann’s life must have been — from his birth in the midst of turmoil in the Palatinate to his death in the foment of the American Revolution. I have to admire his fortitude, for his life on the frontier was harder than anything I can imagine.

This post is part one of a series about my known immigrant ancestors in America.

Thanks, Chris!

Posted in Genealogy and History

I want to publicly thank Chris at the Genealogue for helping me make the Salem Witch Trials more relevant and real to my students, who just finished reading Arthur Miller’s drama The Crucible.  Chris shared the stories of his two accused ancestors, Mary Easty and Sarah Wilds, as well as his thoughts on “witch hunts” and the lessons we can draw from Miller’s play.  Thanks a lot, Chris!  My students really enjoyed it!  They were very impressed I knew someone connected to these events, and even more impressed with your writing, which they said “sounded like an article.”  From students who struggle with writing, this was meant as high praise.

Herman Cunningham’s WWI Diary

Posted in Primary Sources: Letters, Documents, Diaries, Histories

Herman Cunningham, WWIMy great-grandfather Herman Cunningham, kept a diary of sorts during his tenure in the U.S. Army in World War I. My Aunt Carolyn, Herman Cunningham’s youngest daughter, sent me the following. Note: I’m not sure if this is the entire diary or an excerpt.

Registered for army: June 5, 1917
was examined: March 9, 1918
drafted: July 15, 1918

Camp McArthur, D Co. 4th bn Inf. repl Camp Waco, Texas.

Left Camp McArthur left Sep 16, 1918 A. Co. 5th bn Inf. repl Camp Waco, Texas. My rifle No. 216021.

Started across sea from U.S.A. Monday 23 of September 1918. Landed in France October 6, 1918 Sun. (Note from Carolyn: He didn’t write down the name of the ship…but, I have heard him talk about going over on the Princess Patowka …I don’t know how it is spelled, but he pronounced it the Princess Pa-toe-ka).

Came to the hospital Oct 12, 1918 [this might refer to his hospitalization for meningitis]

Left out hospital #11 BS #1 November 19, 1918

Loaded on the boat at St Nazaire Jan 26, 1919

Sailed Jan 27, 1919 1:15 PM

Come by the Azors Islands, Name this ship U.S.S. RIJNDAM, Bunk No. is 515 Troop space F 4 (decks are named from upper deck down, A,B,C,D,E and F. Troop spaces are lettered and numbered; the letter means the deck. and the number the troop space on the deck, counting from forward.)

Landed in Newport News Virginia from France on February 9, 1919 Sunday.

Left camp Hill Newport News, VA Feb, 16, 1919.

Towns went through:

  • Richmond VA
  • Petersburg VA
  • Raleigh NC
  • Abbeville SC
  • Athens GA
  • Atlanta GA
  • Fairburn GA
  • Longbeech Miss
  • Bay St Louis Miss
  • New Orleans LA
  • Donalds Vill LA
  • Bunky LA

(Some friends names were)

  • Frank Dankert, Clarence, MO
  • Joseph Stern, Route 1 box 48, Clayton S.D.
  • Willie Brown, St. Charles, Ark
  • John L. Moore, Pickrell, Nebr R#1
  • [Miss] Sadie F. Smith, R.R. # 8 Box 85, Waco Texas

Pay from U S Army

July 1918 $15.00
August 1918 $23.50
Casual pay January 11, 1919 $62 1/2 franks

payed in full in France January 25, 1919 $92.50

payed in U.S.A. February 12, 1919 $26.50

this is what I drawed

15.00 26.50
23.50 26.50
11.50 23.50
92.50 23.50
26.50 15.00
$160.00 168.00

Note from Carolyn: He also said “took a hike in Suedalia [most likely Sedalia] Missouri. Cleveland Ohio. I seen the lake Erie.” This must have been before he went to France.

I have to say that my great-greatgrandfather’s diary reminds me of his mother’s [pdf] in many respects, notably that both recorded what you and I might deem the minutiae of existence (purchases, cost, money earned, places the train went through) rather than thoughts and feelings (though my great-great-grandmother’s diary does get into that somewhat more than my great-grandfather’s does).

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