Ward Family Typescript

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 Henry 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:

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.