My blog has been changed to make it more appealing for those who have New England ancestors and want to see the area through photos. Things I’ll include are typical white New England churches, libraries showing their genealogical collection, historical societies, cemeteries, war memorials, in general, anything to do with history.

For four years I’ve blogged mostly about my personal genealogy in New England (Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire), New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Illinois, Wisconsin, and the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. I still will, can’t forget my own roots.

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Thursday, December 17, 2015

The Three Unique Sources Didn't Prove Anything

George Anderson, my 3rd great-grandfather, has been a mystery to me ever since I saw the chart on the left for my father showing his ancestor was Major George Anderson. I've been very curious about his title for 25 years.

I've traced George's ancestry from his 1784 New Jersey birth back four generations. I know the names of his three wives and his nine children. This information was rather easy to find, thanks to 3 federal censuses, a state census, a book on his ancestors called, A Genealogy of the Reyniersen Family, several historical books, and the selfless help in 2008 from Dorothy Koenig, editor of the New Netherlands Connections. He died at age 94, so there was a lot of information out there, but not what I'm looking for.

The one thing missing is actual proof that George Anderson was a Major. As mentioned above, he was named Major George Anderson  in many sources I used. Such as: a small genealogy outline done by my mother, a death notice in a book I located in Salt Lake City, various pages from a manuscript I obtained from Rice University in 2009 (the word Major was written three times), a brief mention from an index card in the file of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Written on the card was, "Silver hilted dress sword worn by the grandfather of Maj. George Anderson." All these sources were useful, but I still don't know why he was called a Major.

When three new sources came my way this year, I decided my challenge would be to find proof if George was really a Major. My blog played a big part in getting help because of two new readers who helped me. The first reader was a distant cousin who googled our shared ancestor's name; the second reader enjoyed something I had written and left a comment (it had nothing to do with genealogy). Our correspondence led to my accepting a subscription to The third source involved George's will (I saw a better copy than the awful one I had received several months prior, thanks to Below, are the three steps I took to find information from my new sources.

In March, I received an email from Mattie, inquiring about my Adams line. As fate would have it, she is my third cousin and I was very familiar with her family. I never contacted anybody on that line because I felt I had all I needed. She mentioned a manuscript her grandfather had written and there were parts about Major George Anderson in it. Within a week, I had her typed 28 page booklet. I quickly made copies and sent it back to her. That information, though didn't solve my question as to why he was a Major, set me on the path to once again work on his line.

The next logical step was to try and find a will. The next month, I contacted the Deputy Clerk Dane County Circuit Court Record Center in Madison, Wisconsin to inquire about a will, then to get copies of it. The clerk called me after they received my written request, because the probate packet was so large. She needed to discuss what I wanted, since I had no idea, I decided on the first 14 pages (neither of us knew how large the packet was.) I paid $1 a page for an electronic image. The images were horrible and so were the copies I printed outs. I put the will matter aside until one day in September I received notice that released the Wisconsin, Wills and Probate Records, 1800-1987. Within minutes of putting in his name and state, there was his file, a file with 101 pages!

Name: George Anderson
Probate Date: 6 Feb 1879
Probate Place: Dane, Wisconsin, USA
Inferred Death Year: Abt 1879
Inferred Death Place: Wisconsin, USA
Item Description: Probate Records, Box 266, T-W - Box 268, Anderson, George
Table of Contents 101 images

All the probate records turned out to be crisp and clean and I could read about 99% of it. I was lucky George had a will and a codicil. The contents won't be discussed because I plan on doing a post covering two interesting I discovered. What I was happy to find were the words Major Anderson written twice, as seen below. Only 2 pages out of 101 pages has this title.

The third bit of information regarding the name of Major George Anderson came from Within an hour of logging on, I was lucky to find death notices in newspapers for two of his three wives (died 1840 and 1878), and the best thing was finding George's 1879 death notice two weeks after his 3rd wife's death! Below shows the snippet of his death, and I immediately clicked on it to open it.

Seeing Major written in the above snippet for the Wisconsin State Journal was like finding the pot of gold, and it confirmed my other notice of his title and death which is shown below. As I mentioned, I also found death notices for two of his wives. The first wife, my direct line ancestor died in 1840, but I had no idea in which state, until I saw the notice. (Her children were born in 4 different states.) The notice also provided me with her father's name by printing she "was the daughter of, Capt. Jeremiah Ten Eyck of Middlesex co., N. J."

In 2008, while at the Family History Library in Salt Lake City, Utah, I found the following information: "Maj. George Anderson died at Madison, Jan 10th in the ninety-fifth year of his age. He was born on the banks of the Raritan, New Jersey, March 8th 1784; and after residing successively on Staten Island, in Pennsylvania and Illinois, he settled in Dane County in 1839 and spent most of his life as a farmer. While residing in Madison, he served two years on the Board of Aldermen, and several years as Supervisor in the County Board, serving in the latter capacity at the time of his death. He survived his third wife two weeks. He was a gentleman of the old school, enjoying good health and a bright intellect almost to the last."
From: Collections of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin. 1882 Vol. 9: 429. Wisconsin Necrology, 1879. (Book at FHL at Salt Lake City books.) I wrote a blog post about this in 2010, and it may be seen HERE.

Was George in the military? I still don't know, but I doubt it because over the course of many years, I haven't found any indication that he was. As you can see, it often takes many years and many sources to get a pretty good picture of somebody's life, but until you know everything about the person, the research should continue. It also helps to have an interested cousin and a helpful reader, thank you both.

As an after thought, I've decided to show his marriage record for 1841, when George married his second wife.

Disclosure: has provided me with a subscription to their product, a newspaper subscription to use and I am under no obligation to write a review. The product was mentioned in this post because I tried it out and was more than happy with the results.
To those who kindly responded with helpful ideas.
I re-read the will of George's father, Simon and it mentions son George four times. It also said, :Sons, George and Cornelius lands whereon I now live that my father bought of Albert Voorhees (315 acres). Son, Georege, negro man, Nene, my silver hilted sword, silver watch and 6 silver tea spoons." (His other son also received a negro man.) Now I know where the "silver hilted sword" came from.
I also put in the name of Major Anderson (as his first name) on and he didn't come up. My finding, he was named George, not Major.

There is also a write-up about him, and in-part, it reads," Major Anderson has held several offices, the duties of which he has faithfully and honestly discharged. He was for several years supervisor of the town of Sun Prairie, chairman of the county board, under-sheriff three years, collector of taxes of Dane and Sauk counties, and settling his accounts without making a mistake. He was also deputy United States marshal. He is now living in comfortable retirement upon the interest of the money his industry and economy have enabled him to accumulate. Major Anderson's natural capabilities enabled him to enjoy the full benefit of the society of such cultivated gentlemen as Nicholas Biddle, John C. Craig and W. R. Johnson of Virginia, with whom he was intimately connected in business for five years, and his retentive memory enables him to narrate many interesting incidents characteristic of those gentlemen. In illustration of the ready wit and imperturbable self-possession of Colonel Johnson he relates that on his return to Philadelphia from New Jersey, when the great race between Mr. Johnson's horse Boston and Mr. Gibbon's mare Fashion had just been run, and while still on the crowded ferry-boat, Colonel Johnson felt some one's hand in his pocket, and instantly clasping and holding it, turned his head and said, "My friend Mr. Gibbon won the race to-day." Although Major Anderson is in his ninety-second year, his bodily health is I good, his mind cheerful, his manners easy and dignified, and looks very like, as he is, a gentleman of the olden time. His present vigor of mind and body is an eloquent commentary upon temperance, industry, and cheerfulness, that badge of a gentleman. If the prayers of his friends avail he will complete a century."


Linda Stufflebean said...

My guess is that his first name was "Major." My husband has lines in Virginia and in Pittsylvania County, I keep coming across "Doctor so and so" in records, but they weren't doctors, their given name was "Doctor."

Barbara Poole said...

I never thought of that, Linda! His grandfather and great-grandfather were named George, his marriage record and all census records state George. So based on these and other records, I'm not sure about the Major. Unfortunately, I can't locate a grave, oh, and regarding the will, his name was listed as George many times over. I appreciate your input, because it got me thinking. Thanks for the comment.

Linda Stufflebean said...

Another possibility, which I have also come across in my own family, is that an elderly citizen who had some kind of short military service, like minor militia duty during the American Revolution as a private, seemed to gain the honorific of "Captain" by the time they were up in years, way past any military duty. Perhaps your George was given the title of "Major."

Leah A. said...

He might have been a Major through membership in a social or religious group. I had a relative who was listed as a Colonel in his obituary but I knew for a fact he was never in the military. Turns out he had been very active in the Salvation Army and his "rank" was in reference to that.

Charley "Apple" Grabowski said...

My bet would be for the War of 1812. I have an ancestor referred to as Captain but I haven't found any military record yet. His son was a Major, again no records other than a short mention in a newspaper. I also like Leah's idea for a religious affiliation.

Steven Horton said...

There is another source, that maybe you haven't seen, that also doesn't prove anything. There is a biography of Major George Anderson in The United States biographical dictionary and portrait gallery of eminent and self-made men. Wisconsin Volume (1877) pp. 161-162.

Barbara Poole said...

Thank you Leah, Charley and Steven for your thoughts. At this point, I don't know what to think. Steven, it was nice of you to look him up. I haven't seen the book, but somebody transcribed that entire bio. about George. Just now I found the book...thank you so much.

John D. Tew said...

Barbara: The first thing I also thought after reading your post and seeing the images was that "Major" was not a title, but rather was your ancestor's first name. Since your research has thus far failed to uncover any reference to military service of any kind, I would also agree that the new approach should be consideration of "Major" as his first name.


Barbara Poole said...

To John Tew, and all others who kindly responded with helpful ideas.
I re-read the will of George's father, Simon and it mentions son George four times. It also said, :Sons, George and Cornelius lands whereon I now live that my father bought of Albert Voorhees (315 acres). Son, Georege, negro man, Nene, my silver hilted sword, silver watch and 6 silver tea spoons." (His other son also received a negro man.) Now I know where the "silver hilted sword" came from.
I also put in the name of Major Anderson (as his first name) on and he didn't come up. My finding, he was named George, not Major

kdduncan said...

I'm leaning toward his first name being Major as well. Remember that people were often referred to by their first name or middle name at various times in their lives. They had a much more casual attitude toward their name than we do. The fact that Major Anderson does not come in does not really prove anything.

Cindy Greene said...

As someone mentioned, often an older man of status was referred to by "Colonel" or "Major." One of my Revolutionary ancestors was a private in the Continental Line, but later was active in local politics. He was a justice of the peace, a state senator, etc., and one of the founders of Asheville, NC. I've seen him called by a couple different officer titles, none of which referred to his Revolutionary War service. I later stumbled on an article about a border dispute between North Carolina and Georgia, called "the Walton War." And there was a sentence "on December 19 Major James Brittain led a detachment of 72 militiamen into the Orphan Strip." So eventually Private Brittain became Major Brittain, and he was known as Major Brittain after that.

Good luck with your search! Your story tells us to keep looking.

Barbara Poole said...

kdduncan and Cindy Greene,
It seems you both have different opinions, and I appreciated hearing them. For now, all I can do is wait. I'm not sure if you saw what I added regarding his father's will. In part, "I re-read the will of George's father, Simon and it mentions son George four times. It also said, :Sons, George and Cornelius lands whereon I now live that my father bought of Albert Voorhees (315 acres). Son, Georege, negro man, Nene, my silver hilted sword, silver watch and 6 silver tea spoons." (His other son also received a negro man.) Now I know where the "silver hilted sword" came from. I have a huge amount of information about George, but there is nothing regarding any military service. Thank you both for leaving your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps he was part of a fraternal organization that gave him the title of Major?

Joanne Shackford Parkes

Darren Price said...

I have an ancestral relative whose 1856 marriage announcement lists him as "Capt. Elijah Fowler." So far, I've been unable to determine what he was Captain of - he was a farmer all his life, and there's no record of military service. My best guess is that he might have been Captain of a local militia, although I've not yet found any record of that either. At the time local militias were the preferred source of volunteer soldiers, as there was still some resistance nationally to the idea of a large standing army.

Have you looked into local militias in the places where George Anderson lived?

Barbara Poole said...

Anonymous and Darren, thank you both for your comments. I'm hoping one of these days, a new source will solve the mystery. Regarding any type of military service, I would think there would be records, and as yet nothing has appeared. I'll keep looking.

Jo Henn said...

What an interesting post! Thank you for sharing it. I have included it in my current NoteWorthy Reads post:

Phyllis said...

Hi Barbara,
Your post is a gift! Very interesting and filled with helpful information and tips. Just a thought re: Major George Anderson... I read in the little life summary the following: "He was also deputy United States marshal." Here in NH, state troopers wear titles that resemble the military - Private, Major, Captain, etc. It may be that George wore the title of Major from his service as Deputy United States Marshal. Seems reasonable... I wonder - when did that title first appear with his name? Do you have the years of his service as Deputy U.S. Marshal? Thanks again for your wonderful blog! Sincerely, Phyllis

Barbara Poole said...

Hi Phyllis,
Thank you very much for the kind comments and for taking the time to write me. I never thought about the ranks as you mentioned, because I didn't know about them. Perhaps he was a Deputy General...I'll have to look into that suggestion. If I ever find something, I'll make a notation in the comments section, as well as the post. Unfortunately, I don't how many years he did the job as a Marshall. Seems he had an interesting life and died at 94. He was a huge challenge, until the internet and databases made it easier for me to find information. Again, thanks for writing.
Lowell, MA