Sunday, March 12, 2017

Brick Wall Ancestor | #1 Sarah Kniffin Vredenburgh

We all have them! Those stubborn ancestors that refuse to come out of hiding. No matter how much coaxing we do! Well, I think it's time to bring them out of the shadows - put their redacted story out there - another piece of the puzzle could be lurking just around the (cyber) corner, in someone's basement, or closet, or sitting in a box on a book shelf ...... You never, ever know where that loose chink will manifest, the one that allows you to push out one brick, then the next. Food for thought. So without further ado....

Brick Wall Ancestor #1 Sarah Kniffin Vredenburgh

Sarah Kniffin
(or Sniffen, Niffin, etc) was born in Westchester County, New York in July of 1792. This we know from the date on her headstone. She died September 16th 1870, aged 78y 1m 28d. That would put her birth about July 19th or 20th 1792. IF the numbers and dates are correct. Who supplied the information for the gravestone?

As to her maiden name? Well, my grandmother recorded it as 'Niffin' saying her family was from Holland. In the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (see Hackaliah Vredenburgh) it is reported that her maiden name was 'Kniffin'.

Sarah married Hackaliah Vredenburgh (another brick wall and winner of best ancestor name) from Westchester County, New York sometime around 1810/11. Her first child was born Novemeber 16th 1812 in New York.

Scouring the census records for 1800/1810 in Westchester County NY brings little result. Searching for 'Kniffin' and it's variations returns 20 likely candidates with females in the household of the appropriate age. Well shoot. The returns for 'Vredenburgh' are slightly better - 9 households with males in the appropriate age range. None of the couple's children bear names similar to any of the men on the census.

An odd mention in The New York Genealogical And Biographical Record vol 37, issue 1, pg 6, pub date 1906, in an article titled: Vital Records Of Christ's Church At Rye, Westchester County, New York shows widow Sniffen's 9 children were being baptized. The whole thing is very coincidental. The entry says this Sarah was an adult, but look at the date! July 22, 1792. This particular entry has puzzled me for some time.

Sarah Kniffin Vredenburgh was a preacher's wife, and as such was called upon to travel. After her second child was born the young family uprooted and headed for the wilderness of the Indiana Territory where Hackaliah was assigned as an itinerant Methodist minister. From one memoir written of that time: "Most of Bro. Vredenburg’s itinerant life was spent in the Valley of the Wabash. From its mouth almost to its source he preached, organizing new societies and circuits, carrying the Gospel messages to the scattering settlements, and enduring all the exposures and privations of pioneer life. In one of his charges no house could be had to shelter his wife and children while he traveled his circuit of three or four hundred miles round. Rather than leave his work, he took possession of a deserted log stable, and fitting it up with his own hands made that the parsonage for the year. At other times he was compelled on his rest days to cultivate a small piece of ground to supply his family with food, the pittance received from the people being barely sufficient to furnish them with clothing." Wow.

In all Sarah would give birth to 3 daughters and 5 sons. In the wilderness. In a log stable. Dang.

The children were:

  • Mary b. 1812 New York
  • Caleb b. 1815 New York
  • Rhoda Ann b. 1818 Indiana
  • Samuel Hamilton b. 1829 Indiana
  • Lucy Jane b. 1823 Indiana
  • Jesse D b. 1832 Indiana
  • John C b. 1835 Indiana
  • Unnamed Male b. UNK

Between 1850 and 1860 Sarah and Hackaliah removed to Danville, Illinois. Hackaliah died in 1869, Sarah followed a year later. The couple's final resting place is the Spring Hill Cemetery in Danville. 

Happily (maybe) I am a direct female descendant of Sarah. Which means my mtDNA is her mtDNA. I took the test in January. My haplogroup is U2e1d. Which means Sarah's haplogroup is U2e1d. Which means maybe, just maybe, we can start to chink away at this wall ..... be continued...........

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