Category Archives: New Jersey

The Infamous “Dark Day” of 1780

Today I happened upon some background on a strange day in New England, back in 1780. May 19, 1780. It was a Friday.

A Dark Day PoemOn May 19, 1780, New Englanders awoke to find a murky haze drifting over the morning sun. An early twilight descended over the next few hours, and by noon, the skies had turned as black as midnight. Night birds sang and confused chickens retired to their roosts. People were forced to light candles to see. It would be centuries before scientists finally determined the cause of the otherworldly darkness, but at the time, many bewildered Americans feared that nothing less than the biblical “end of days” was at hand. Two hundred thirty-five years later, take a look back at the confusion and awe that greeted the infamous “Dark Day” of 1780.


Our Dutch Ancestors

Olivier van Noort, the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world
Olivier van Noort, the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world

There’s a reunion coming in July on my paternal grandmother’s side, so I have been prepping some history for the cousins.

My grandmother’s grandmother, my great-great grandmother, was a Van Note.

A group of us are on Facebook, which has been the primary medium recently for disseminating information on the reunion. I wrote a brief introduction to the surname.

“The Van Note name is Dutch in origin. Our Van Note ancestors were part of the New Amsterdam colony in New York and New Jersey. The name is an Anglicization of Van Noort. The name is sometimes spelled Van Oort. Olivier van Noort (1558 – 22 February 1627) was the first Dutchman to circumnavigate the world.”

I included two links to men with the name: Lambert van Noort and Olivier van Noort.


A ‘Swath of Gray Cloth with Shiny Brass Buttons’

. . . there was something different about that swath of gray cloth with shiny brass buttons.”

A woman walking on the Jersey Shore after the devastation of Superstorm Sandy “stumbled across an 80-year-old tunic owned by a 1933 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, a World War II hero described in his West Point yearbook as a soldier with a ‘heart like a stormy sea.’”

The mystery doesn’t end there, however.

The jacket’s journey is as mysterious as its history. No one knows how it ended up on the Jersey Shore, hundreds of miles north of the late warrior Chester B. deGavre’s home on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. His 98-year-old widow, Tita deGavre, didn’t even know it existed.”


The Van Notes

Today I received notice that I’d been subscribed to a mailing list on Dutch surnames. I don’t recall having done this, but it may have been months ago and someone may be just catching up on a backlog of work.

Or someone may have gotten a bit creative, subscribing people him or her self. I did this once for something other than genealogy and there was quite a bit of blowback. It wasn’t a good idea.

Anyway, the Dutch subject got me to thinking about that branch of the family, particularly the Van Notes. I have seen a few variations of the name: Van Note, Van Nort, Van Noort, Van Ort and Van Oort. At some point it was anglicized to the simpler and more easily pronounced Van Note.

So I did a Google search on Brazilla Van Note. (The name comes from the Bible. Barzillai is the name of three menall minor characters, in the Old Testament.)

I discovered photographs of his grave, his wife’s, and his mother-in-law’s. Brazilla, Maria and her mother Elizabeth are all buried in the Shiloh Cemetery in Hiawatha, Iowa. It’s in Linn County, northwest of Cedar Rapids.

Maria’s maiden name was Wolf. Her mother, Elizabeth Wolf, is buried nearby. According to oral family tradition passed down to me, her name was pronounced Mariah.

Brazilla was born in 1822 and died in 1908. Maria was born in 1823 and died in 1907. Elizabeth Wolf was born in 1795. I don’t know her maiden name. She died in 1877.


Note the spelling of the Van Note name on the markers. It is spelled Vannote, without the space, except on Elizabeth’s gravestone.

Two World War I Vets, Five from World War II & One from Korea/Vietnam Era

For some reason, some men’s remains are never claimed by family or friends. The remains of veterans who died between 1979 through 1999, including two World War I veterans, five World War II veterans and one veteran from the Korean/Vietnam era, have been at a funeral home in New Jersey for years. Soon the men will be buried in a veterans’ cemetery. Learn more at New Jersey’s Mission of Honor site.


Immigrants & Hudson County, New Jersey

In discussing the plight of a current organization in New Jersey that helps immigrants, a writer with the journal Nonprofit Quarterly has provided some key details on the immigration experience in earlier times. The institute is located in Jersey City, the second largest city in the state.

. . . Jersey City . . . in fact, all of Hudson County, including adjacent Hoboken and Bayonne—has been a significant portal for immigrants coming to America for decades. Remember that Ellis Island, where many immigrants first stepped on U.S. soil, is partly in Jersey City and physically closer to Jersey City’s Liberty Park than it is to Manhattan. Turn-of-the-century Hudson County became a critical entry point for immigrants (especially as Hoboken became the home of the North German Lloyd Lines, the Hamburg American Lines, and the Holland American Lines) and attracted a huge influx of German immigrants.

The fact that my maternal great grandparents came via a North German Lloyd ship keys me into the factoid that at some point the company chose Hoboken as its headquarters.

I’ll have to figure out when this decision was made, before or after my ancestors arrived. I am guessing the move to Hoboken was after. It probably had something to do with the change from Castle Garden as the immigration depot to Ellis Island. This was in 1892. My ancestors arrived in 1887.


William Tidd’s File at the National Archives

The first page of William Tidd's file with any major information. It is labeled as Page 3 by Footnote and NARA.
The first page of William Tidd's file with any major information. It is labeled as Page 3 by Footnote and NARA.

Every since finding my great-great-great-great-great-great-great uncle’s Revolutionary War pension file on a few years back, I have been meaning to get a hold of it again and then put it somewhere easily accessible. I don’t mean a hard copy, but a digital one. Unfortunately, the document — a Revolutionary War pension file — apparently is only available page-by-page, rather than one large file, such as a PDF.

His name is William Tidd, brother of my ancestor Martin Tidd, my great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather. I have been looking for more details on the Tidd family, but never took the time to read William’s military service files thoroughly — until now.

Today I visited the National Archives on Sandpoint. Among the tasks I completed was saving each image and then creating a PDF file from the more than 200 images. The hours of the place are odd, 7:45 am to 4:15 pm, but being so close to the University of Washington has definite advantages.

I have been browsing the main libraries on campus for material and have added several books, or at least certain chapters, to my backlogged list of reading material.

William Tidd’s file is big, a total of 239 pages. Some of the “pages” don’t contain much information, but most are replete with fascinating details, including how their father was killed and scalped by Indians just prior to the outbreak of the French and Indian War. I have placed a copy, the complete PDF version, on the site Scribd and a backup on Google Docs.

During the American Revolution, William Tidd served in both New Jersey and Pennsylvania. He also served during the French and Indian War.

I don’t have time to read and transcribe more information now. But it is on my to-do list.