I’ve collected hundreds of newspaper articles over the years, mostly from Tom Tyrniski’s excellent website, FultonHistory, with a Merville family member (or members) as their subject; viewed numerous family trees published at free-for-view and subscription genealogy websites with Merville branches (the most accurate at the time I began my genealogy activities was an Ancestry World Tree, “Ancestry of Tom and Connie Lathrop”); inspected documents such as Federal and State census, land deeds and mortgages looking for Mervilles and collected their War of 1812 Military Records and Civil War Pension files. But, as I write this post, I am aware of 11 published or unpublished sources of information about John H. and Phoebe (Ward) Merville and their descendants.
In reverse order of importance to a Merville family historian, they are:
No. 11 – There are entries for Paul Elmer and Hazel5 (William,4 Adam,3 Henry,2 John1) (Merville) Scott in a Pennsylvania Daughters of American Revolution (DAR) Genealogical Records Committee (GRC) Report, series 1, volume 512, 1973, pp. 213, 216. Hazel was the daughter of William, one of 4 sons of Adam and Mary Merville. Adam, Mary and William can be seen in the photo banner above and an additional explanation offered at the Photo Banner tab.
No. 10 – In a Wisconsin DAR GRC Report, series 1, volume 35, 1 March 1947 – 1 March 1948, p.18, titled Bible and Cemetery Inscriptions from Wisconsin Chapters under the heading “Wesley Cemetery, Town of Bristol, Kenosha Co., Wis.” are entries for John3 (John,2 John1) H. and Emma L. Merville. From a correspondence with Carolyn Fenske in 2009, the John’s middle initial, “H”, was for “Halsey”.
No. 9 – The Historical Wyoming, Volume V, Number 6, May 1952, page 128, published by the Wyoming Historical Pioneer Association has an obituary listing for Abel2 (John1) B. Merville and his wife, Elizabeth. Abel was a minister of the Methodist Episcopal Church.
No. 8 – As transcribed by Wayne A. Getman in 2003, Genealogies Compiled by Mrs. Alice G. Hatch. Cited in the typescript are the marriage of Mary Katherine Getman to Calvin3 (George,2 John1) Merville; the marriage of Bartlett Getman to Mary2 (John1) Merville and their daughter, Maryettte, her husband, Dean Pierce, and 3 generations of grandchildren. Also mentioned is Florence3 (Elijah,2 John1) Merville who married Dwight Starkweather.
No. 7 – A biography for Ernest4 (Euphrates,3 Abel,2 John1) E. Merville (1869-1948) written in the 1918 edition of A History of Cleveland and Its Environs, The Heart of New Connecticut, Volume II, Biography. The entry mentions his father and mother Julia Amelia (Barton); his wife and second cousin, Marietta4 (Charles,3 Jacob,2 John1) (Merville); their daughter, Pauline; his wife’s father and cousin, Charles3 (John,2 John1) and an uncle, Addison3 (Abel,2 John1) G. Merville. The biography also makes a claim “The Mervilles were of French-English descent.”
No. 6 – The Historical Wyoming, Volume IV, Number 4, March 1951, pages 70-71, published by the Wyoming Historical Pioneer Association has a article titled, “Early Settlement of Northwest Town of Eagle”, which identifies Jacob2 (John1), John2 (John1) and Aaron2 (John1) Merville. Also mentioned was Abraham Ward who was their uncle, their mother’s brother. The continuation of the article (p.71) can be viewed here and the conclusion (p.72) here.
No. 5 – Edgar Jackson Klock (Abt. 1863 – 1940) was a life member of the Herkimer Historical Society. An article in the 12 November 1993 edition of the Utica Observer-Dispatch described him as an avid antique book collector. In his possession at the time was one of 3 copies known to be in existence of Baron Von Steuben’s drill book for the United States Army. Additionally, he was considered a dedicated genealogist having researched numerous family trees for women who wished to join the DAR including his daughter, Cleore, who had 9 bars on her DAR insignia. He is also credited with writing History of the town of Schuyler.
In a New York DAR GRC, series 1, volume 9, 1927-1928, p.134, titled, Unpublished Family Bible Records, and under the heading “Ward Records” there is an entry for Phebe Ward and her husband, an “Elijah Mervill”. This is the only reference to John Merville being called Elijah. John and Phoebe did give 2 of their sons the name Elijah. This document was given to me by Ms. Ann Andersen in 2011 and has caused me consternation ever since. In 2013, I spoke with Edgar Klock’s grandson, Glen Hyer, hoping that Edgar’s records could be retrieved. Mr. Hyer told me it was his understanding Edgar wrote a book about Herkimer families but it was destroyed in a fire while in possession of the copyist; after Edgar’s death much of his possessions were sold by his daughter, Cleore, to antique collectors; but, it’s possible there is still a collection of old papers in the hands of another relative.
C’est la vie!
No. 4 – Instead of describing a relationship, this item reveals to us John H. Merville’s religious persuasion. It can be found under the heading of “Town of Litchfield, Herkimer County, New York Circuit Steward’s Book (M E Church), containing reports of Quarterly Meetings” at page 16 of the New York DAR GRC report, series 1, volume 131, 1940, titled unpublished cemetery, church and town records of Herkimer County, New York . . . “. In this entry, “The trial of Hubbell Lyman for drinking, on complaint of William Bouck, was held by Lucien (Lucius) H. Rogers, Preacher in Charge of Litchfield Circuit, before the following select members of the Society: Henry M Hatter (Harter), John House, William Bouck and John Marville, . . . on the 24th day of March, 1837, at the house of William Bouck.” The “M E Church” is the Methodist Episcopal Church. The “Society” mentioned above is probably the Methodist Episcopal Kingdom Society. I’ve collected a deed transcription which states on 9 Dec 1835 Frederick Gitman and his wife, Margaret, sold 40 rods of land to the Trustees of the Society: William Bouck, Henry Harter, Hubbend Lyman, Frederick Gitman and John House.
On page 19 of the same document, I also found in the abstract of names from Minutes and Conference Reports entries for Aaron2 (John1) MARVELL in 1844; Aaron MARVEL in 1845; Aaron MARVEL in 1846 and Aaron MERVILLE in 1847. I capitalized Aaron’s surname to highlight some of the variants of spelling of the Merville surname.
No. 3 – In a Wisconsin DAR GRC Report, series 1, volume 57, 1951-1952, pp.131, 133, 138-139, under the heading “Fellows Family” are entries for John4 (John,3 John,2 John1) Lee and Pauline (Trauch) Merville and 15 other individuals. This is the extended family of John Halsey and Emma L. (Fellows) Merville cited in item No. 9 above.
No. 2 – Loren3 (Nathan,2 John1) Merville, born 1847, lived in Burlington, Otsego County, New York with his parents, Nathan and Lovinia (Light) until their deaths of pneumonia in 1885, Lovina on 20 February and Nathan on 5 March. Two years later Loren married Emma A. Briggs. Loren passed away 22 August 1907, at the age 59, having “been ill many months during which time he was tenderly cared for by his wife.” In September, Letters of Administration were issued to Adelle Merville, Loren’s widow, and D. J. Webster; a notice to auction all of Loren’s property was published in October and another notice to creditors published July 1908. However, the normal process of settling Loren’s estate was disrupted by the filing of a complaint by Spencer W. Edwards, plaintiff and a descendant of Wilbur and Phoebe2 (John1) Jane (Merville) Edwards and the issuing of a lis pendens.
At the time of the filing of the lis pendens the Surrogate Court of Otsego County believed that Adelle, Loren’s surviving widow, and two maternal uncles, Henry Light and Isaac Light, were his only next of kin. Since Henry and Isaac had passed away, the petition filed by Adelle and D.J. Webster, Administrators of Loren’s estate, named only Adelle; Jane E. Light, as Executrix of the Last Will and Testament of Henry and 8 children and grand-children of Isaac.
Spencer’s complaint and lis pendens pointed out that Adelle and D.J. Webster’s petition was wholly inadequate and failed to name any of Loren’s paternal next of kin and heirs at law. The list swelled to 131 defendants. A nightmare for the plaintiff; but, a bonanza for any Merville historical biographer. An image of the newspaper notice published in 1911 can be seen here (the last column on the right of the page). I’ve taken the liberty of transcribing the notice and it can be viewed here.
The list of the names in notice and complaint is accurate, identifying 3rd and 4th generation Merville’s and their spouses, where appropriate. However, the list of names has 2 shortcomings – it doesn’t tell the reader from which one of the 13 children of John and Phoebe Merville they are descended and the list is not complete. For example, the 2 sons of George3 (Henry,2 John1) D. and Malissa (Spence) Merville, Lawrence and Albert, are missing. However, fear not, the identity of the 13 children can be resolved with the following document. And, that is why I label the complaint as number 2 and Jennie Ward Hoffman’s Ward Family typescript number 1.
No. 1 – On the page numbered 4 of my copy of her typescript Jennie Ward Hoffman typed the following. I’ve transcribed it as she typed it:
“All dead and thier ch, but Grandchildren & Great Grandchildre
stil living. I very much desire this record printed before all
old Bibles & papers are|lost. I am now 67 years old and relize
that Iwill not be here much longer, Iam the Mother of M Gazelle
Hoffman who is a member of your Soity , Iam not use to using type-
writer so you will find many mistakes. but I know if this work is
every done i will have to do it.”
According to her US passport application of 29 May 1920 Jennie was born at Ransomville, Niagara County, New York on 19th September 1864. Married to Charles Hoffman, she was residing in Lewiston, New York and listed her occupation as housewife. On this trip she was to depart New York on 1 July 1920 aboard the Rochambeau destined for Belgium, British Isles, France, Luxembourg and Switzerland with her daughter, Gazelle.
Her father, Rensselaer Ward, a well known farmer, lawyer, judge and supervisor in Niagara County, was a nephew of Phoebe (Ward) Merville. His father, John Ward, was Phoebe’s brother. In the category of “It’s a Small World”, Rensselaer lived in the household of Henry2 (John1) and Jane (Brink) Merville at the time of the 1850 US Census at Porter, Niagara County, New York. Henry is the man seated in the 1st photograph on the left of the photograph banner above and is my wife’s 3 times great grandfather.
On Memorial Day, Monday, 29 May 1933, Jennie’s efforts as long-time historian of the village of Lewiston were recognized when the community unveiled and accepted 3 historic markers, the first placed by the State of New York in Niagara County. According to a newspaper account, 3 days later she and her husband left on a summer trip to visit her daughter in California stopping enroute at Chicago for the World’s Fair. On 12 July she passed away while at her daughter’s home. Jennie’s husband and daughter accompanied her body back to New York for burial.
My copy of Ward Family is not a copy from the original. I’ve not had the pleasure of seeing the original at it’s repository in the archive of the New England Historic and Genealogical Society (NEHGS), Boston, Massachusetts. What is unusual about the typescript from a Merville family perspective is that it’s Jennie’s compilation of her research of the Ward Family beginning with Sergeant John Ward – the Merville data is a collateral benefit.
With a copy in my possession the content of typescript prompted a question regarding the whereabouts of John H. Merville’s family bible. In the typescript Jennie states “Record of John H. & Phebe E (Ward) Merville. Taken from family bible of J.H.M.” In 2011, I questioned Ms. Marie Daly of NEHGS asking if Jennie or Gazelle had deposited any documents (such as the “old Bibles & papers”) with the Society and why the typescript was not found when I searched the archives using the tools available at the NEHGS website, americanancestors.org.
Ms. Judy Lucey, Archivist-NEGHS, responded on Ms. Daly’s behalf, writing that NEHGS did have a typed copy of Ward Family; it was purchased by NEHGS in 1960; it has a NEHGS catalog number, G WAR 758; but, it is not in the NEHGS online catalog and, upon reviewing NEHGS accession records from 1931-1933, Jennie did not donate a copy during this time.
My copy of Ward Family has a stamped date of “NOV 22 1960” and a hand-written entry, “written 1931 NEHGS” on the title page. In a subsequent telephone conversation with Ms. Lucey she stated only the stamped date is on the NEHGS’ holding. Therefore, my copy is not a first generation but at least a second (or more).
In the Holiday 2004 edition of New England Ancestors, the writer, Ann Ward Frechafer Andersen, in an article published under the heading, “My Most Challenging ‘Brick Wall'”, referenced Jennie’s typescript. In a subsequent exchange of correspondence with Ms. Andersen, she told me the “written 1931 NEHGS” inscription was made by her; she found Jennie’s typescript in the summer of 1996 at NEHGS and the original scrapbook from which the typed information was taken is in the hands of the Niagara County New York Historian.
Thus is the background of the Ward Family typescript. As to it’s relevant content, all 13 children of John and Phoebe and their spouses are cited. In the following, a Merville is listed first with their given and middle names and their spouse second. I am writing the names as Jennie typed them. However, I’ve added parens around the maiden names. When I believe Jennie’s entry is incorrect, incomplete or there is another interpretation, I’ve added my correction, addition or version in bracketed italics:
- George Wilkerson and Elizabeth (Browning);
- Jacob Wendell and Susanna (Earnest);
- Mary Green and Bartlett Getman;
- Elijh [Elijah] Smith;
- Abel B [Biggs] and Elizabeth (Earnest);
- John Andrew and Anna (Rusey) [Rury];
- Aaron Ward and Jane (Gray);
- Phoebe Jane and Wilbur Edwards;
- Henry Lawrence Harter [Herter] and Jane (Brink);
- Nathan Wilcox and Lovinia [Lovina] (Light);
- Elijah Whightman [Wightman] and Emma Borden;
- Alonzo Abraham and
- Elizabeth Harter [Herter,] and John Bellinger.
The given and middle names of the sons and daughters appear to be not a random choice. If you review the documents I’ve collected and attached to John H. Merville’s genealogy page here you will recognize the names of individuals who were not John’s son or daughter but a contemporary – a person of interest, importance or respect and acknowledged, as such, by the naming of a son or daughter. It’s my belief a clue to John’s parents or grandparents may be found in one of the names of a son or daughter. Phoebe’s father and maternal grandfather are represented (Aaron Ward and Jacob Wendell) – why not John’s?
With the 1st and 2nd generations identified , Jennie also provides names of 3rd and sometimes 4th generation family members. With her sprinkling of vital statistics, a Merville family historian can now create a credible family tree when the content of Jennie’s typescript is merged with the names from the complaint, source No. 2, above.
Yes, it is presumptuous of me to say that there are only 11 unpublished or published sources of information about John H. and Phoebe (Ward) Merville and their descendants. If you have others to add please share your sources by replying in the Comment section below or contact me.
Subject of my next post – my opinion of the origins of the Merville surname.