My grandmother Lois Shaw comes from a long line of New Englanders, many of whom arrived in the new world in the 1600s. So when the New England Historical and Genealogical Society (NEHGS) had a sale on membership last fall, I thought it would be prudent to join.
The Shaw book that was put out by Evelyn Shaw Mason in 1997 for the reunion, has a good amount of information in it on our Shaw family. But some lines, usually the female ones, were not pursued at length. One of those lines is Almyra BROOKS’, a family I have been trying to learn more about for quite a while now. A few months ago I decided to use the NEHGS site to check into my BROOKS who hailed from Albany, Albany County, New York before moving to Burlington, Vermont in the 1860s.
I knew that Almyra’s paternal grandparents John Brooks and Diana Smith were married in Albany, Albany County, New York in 1807, I had the church record to prove it. But that was about all I knew about them. Well that, and the fact that Diana Smith was born in England. From previous research I had also deduced that Almyra’s father John had a brother David, a tinsmith, who moved his family to Cherry Valley, Otsego County, NY.
So off I went to the NEHGS search engine looking for Brooks in Albany. My first find was a major one. It was an abstract from a probate record for a John Brooks dated 1817. In it was a list of the following children: Peter, b. 1804, Elizabeth, b. 1808, Thomas b. 1809, David b. 1812, and John b. 1815. John’s widow, Diana, was being granted guardianship of the children, along with her brother-in-law Peter Brooks.
Wow. This was a great find and that one little abstract told me a lot. First it told me this is the John I am looking for. This information was confirmed by the widow’s name being Diana, and the last two children being David and John, both born exactly as my previous research had indicated. The probate also mentioned one other very important item of interest. John was in the US Army. The light bulb that went off in my head said War of 1812.
My next step was to see if I could find a War of 1812 pension record for John and I did. Diana Little, his widow was the applicant. This has to be the Diana I was looking for, the coincidence was too great to pass up. So I ordered the pension file and it arrived three weeks later.
This is what the pension file told me: John Brooks died 31 May 1815 at Black Rock, NY of disease. Black Rock was a naval port during the war of 1812, and is now part of Buffalo, NY. He had enlisted in the US Army 4th Rifles on March 30, 1814 for a term of 5 years. As the war ended in December of that year, he probably participated in a few engagements with the British.
One curious bit of information from the abstract was the fact that the eldest son Peter was born about 1804, which is before John and Diana were married. So was Peter their son, or was John married before Diana? According to Diana she had lived in Albany for about 54 years, before that she was living in New Scotland, NY which is not far from Albany. So maybe New Scotland had records of interest and that is where John and Diana met.
Diana married Robert Little about 1817/18. Robert died in an almshouse in 1845, which could mean he was infirm in some way, an alcoholic, or mentally unstable. Diana/Dinah was living on her own for quite a while as can be seen in the census records. She eventually ends up in the household of William and Jane Cassidy – Jane might be a daughter she had with Robert, as she was born about 1818.
Diana, born in 1785 in England and died 11 April 1872 in Albany. She is buried in the Cassidy family plot.
I still don’t know where in England Diana hails from or who her parents are. But I do know a little more about her than I did before. The same goes for John Brooks. John could be a descendant of the Brooks of Massachusetts or the Dutch Brooks of Albany. There is still a bit of mystery left. But at least I now know he had a brother Peter.
One last interesting bit of information I found in the pension file was a letter sent by a women researching her Brooks family and hailing from Burlington, Vermont. She is a descendant of our John and Almyra of Vermont. Using this information I have found a living relative still in Burlington. I will be sending a letter this week.