Off to Academy…

According to John Brooks, jr.’s obituary, printed in the 1898 Albany paper, another item of interest was mentioned: that he had attended the Albany Academy.

The Albany Academy was chartered in March of 1813 “to educate the sons of Albany’s political elite and rapidly growing merchant class” (according to wikipedia). In the case of John this would appear to be true because his occupation and trade was cigar manufacturer,  definitely of the merchant class.

As the Academy is actually still a functioning school, I was able to contact the archives to try to find more information regarding its academic program, and if there were any record of John Brooks having attended.

Unfortunately at this time, no records have been found that can corroborate this claim. I don’t doubt that it is true, but can’t confirm. According to the gentleman who contacted me in response to my inquiry:

“The youngest students of the 1820s were about 10 years old. Their programs were anywhere from a few quarters to eight years. They selected either a classical or “English” program.”

Albany_Academy_1907

This the original building, which is now used as the Joseph Henry Memorial.

A copy of the Academy Statutes was provided to me and it makes for some light amusing reading regarding expected behavior of the students. Below is a page pulled from the statutes giving an example to some rules. They seem pretty consistent with rules for students today, with some exceptions, of course.

AAStatutes1829

John probably took the mercantile course which lasted four years and included the basics along with mercantile studies – ex.: accounting, book-keeping, etc.

merchantile

Here is the page covering the 4 year Mercantile course. The whole Academy pamphlet makes for interesting reading.

The family was in the business of cigar manufacturing until John passed way in 1898. His son John was a saloon and pool hall owner. I don’t think he was much interested in continuing the trade. His daughter Almyra married a furniture manufacturer and had moved to Ohio. The other children had died before John, or were daughters who married and moved away, so the business pretty much died when he did.

Fun little note: Andy Rooney attended the same academy as did Theodore Roosevelt III.

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A musical interlude…

Screen Shot 2016-01-19 at 2.09.11 PMThanks to my very generous nephew-in-law and his musical talents – I have an excellent update I can make to my Albany Burgesses Corps post.

As I mentioned in my little history of the Corps, they had a quick step written for the organization and played it at many a celebration. I approached my niece and her husband, because they do ‘music’, and I have zero musicality – although I am told my voice won’t break eardrums. Troy was finally able to make time in his busy schedule to put this ditty together for everyone’s enjoyment.

Bateaux’s Quick Step

 Of course now I want to know what the steps were to this little piece.

Albany Burgesses Corps…

When John(2) Brooks (John1) died in 1898 in Burlington, Vermont, his obituary appeared in two cities, his hometown of Albany, New York and his adopted home of Burlington.

It was only recently that I found John’s Albany obituary and in it were several very interesting items. Neither mention anything about his parents (too bad), but the Albany paper did have this to say:

John Brooks, a former tobacco merchant of this city and the last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps., died in his home in Burlington, Vt., Tuesday morning, aged 83 years.

“Last surviving charter member of the Albany Burgesses Corps.” What on earth was that?

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The Albany Burgesses Corps was organized in October of 1833 as an independent, volunteer member, quasi-military unit (militia), complete with elaborate uniforms. The name ‘Burgesses’ was in honor of the original governors of Albany. The organization participated in civic ceremonies and acted as parade escort to visiting dignitaries. They were, for many years, a familiar site in the Albany city parades. Its membership consisted of many of the local merchants and professionals, several of whom held political office. The organization was similar to modern service organizations, in that it raised money for various causes all the while providing political connections for merchants.

Th following was found in the Annual Reports of the War Department, United States. War Department: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1908:

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If John was a charter member then he joined in October of 1833 when they first organized or shortly thereafter. He would have been about 18 or 19 years old at the time. And his membership is confirmed in a February 1838 issue of a local paper:

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February paper The Albany Evening Journal, unknown page, unknown date.

In the above notice from the Albany Evening Journal, John Brooks is mentioned as one of the managers of the upcoming 3rd Annual Ball being given by the Burgesses in honor of George Washington’s birthday.

The first parade the Corps participated in was July 4, 1834 their contingent consisted of 45 muskets and 5 officers. On July 25th of the same year, the Corps assisted in the torchlight obsequies of General Lafayette. The pall-bearers were his revolutionary war companions. The ordinance captured by Lafayette from Yorktown was also in the procession.
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The Albany Burgesses Corps uniform, which was changed from blue to scarlet in 1841 (apparently after much lively debate). I don’t know how those boys kept those things on their heads.

Although the Corps spent much time entertaining visiting Corps and dignitaries, and visiting other corps themselves, they were, for all intents and purposes, a militia organization. It was in this capacity  that they were used to help quell the anti-rent riots in 1839. The Corps along with several other military companies from Albany and Troy marched to Helderberg Mountain, under command of Major Bloodwood. The formidable appearance of the troops in their colorful uniforms had the desired effect of intimidating the rioters. The Corps also participated in the 2nd Helderberg War.

In 1844 the Corps acted as escort at the dedication of Albany Rural Cemetery, where several of our ancestors are now buried. There is a whole section in an Albany History book on the Corps many activities through the years. On a fun side note, the Corps also had a song commissioned as a tribute for its officers and many members.

 

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The Brooks family left Albany for Burlington around 1852. But John did return to his home town in 1883 to help celebrate the “Semi-Centennial” of the Corps, which occurred October 8th and 9th. There were balls, parades and banquettes, even Governor Grover Cleveland attended with his staff. Maybe they played the quick step.

burgessescoins
Source:
Bi-centennial History of Albany: History of the County of Albany, N. Y., from 1609 to 1886, edited by George Rogers Howell, Jonathan Tenne: W. W. Munsell & Company, 1886 – Albany (N.Y.). Vol. 4, Page 714-716.

Directories are the new census…

There are some names in genealogical research that are hair-pulling nightmares. Johnson is one of them. As is Smith, John, Brooks all of which we are blessed with. In this case I am researching Almyra Johnson, who married John Brooks, and her parents Samuel and Catherine in Albany, New York.

I have had no luck whatsoever in finding any of Almyra’s family in Albany County. I have tried many databases in some cases many times over, and had zero luck over the years. So I decided to try a new tact. Directories.

My first thought in my new line of research was why did the Brooks family move to Vermont in the 1850s. What was the draw? Did Almyra have family there? So I proceeded to check the Albany directories first just in case Samuel and Catherine show up. Needless to say it was a fruitless endeavor, as I can’t tell if any Samuel or Catherine listed is actually related to Almyra because none of the addresses appeared to clear the matter up. So I moved my efforts to Burlington, Vermont directories.

As I have already done the research on the Brooks in the directories in Vermont, I was comparing any Johnsons found to the same address or close. I hit pay dirt. I found a Samuel Johnson living at the same address as Almyra and John. A check of the census records about the same time period told me that this was most likely a brother of Almyras, due to his age in the census record. Samuel, jr worked with the railroad in town and there are a couple of other Johnsons working at the same railroad company living in Burlington, but at different addresses. Most likely all related. I have not found her parents yet, but the research is still young and I don’t have access to some of the records I need to continue with the leads. Just another item to put on the SLC research list.

I continued to research Samuel and his family in the hopes of finding something else of interest or a more tangible link, but so far nothing has turned up. It appears that he moved his family to Springfield, Massachusetts. Just a few miles down the road from our Shepard ancestors. They pretty much stayed there until they died.

It was a nice feeling to finally find some family for Almyra, hopefully future research will complete the picture for her.

Drowning in Brooks…

Almyra Brooks

Okay, it was a bad pun. But when you have a surname like Brooks in your family you have to have a little fun with it.

I have been doing a lot of research on Almyra Brooks’ family. Why? Because she is one of those women’s lines that has been pushed to the side in other people’s research because it required a little too much effort to figure them out.

But not me. I am very persistent and tenacious when it comes to these kinds of puzzles, and I love a good challenge.

When I started this research all I knew about Almyra’s parents was mostly just their names and a few other details. So what have I been able to find out so far? Almyra’s father John, jr. was born in Albany, Albany County, New York a week after his father John, sr. died of illness in the Buffalo area of the state (after having joined the Army to fight in the ‘War of 1812’). John, jr.’s mother, Diana Smith Brooks (who was born in England), was left with five children to raise on her own. The eldest of those children was Peter, and he was not even her own. Peter was born during what I am quite sure was John’s first marriage. What’s that you say, John Brooks, sr. had a previous marriage? Oh yeah. And I am the one who figured it out.

The guardianship file for John Brooks, sr. indicates all the children along with their ages. Using a wonderful device called a calculator, I was able to figure out that Peter was born before Diana and John were married, a good indication that John was married previously to Diana. The guardianship case also named a Peter Brooks, Diana’s brother-in-law, as guardian. So not only do I now have the names of all the children of John, sr., I have a brother for him too.

While in Salt Lake City, I looked at a film of burial records of the Dutch Reformed Church in Albany on the off chance it might have something of interest for me. I found two intriguing records. One was ‘John Brooks’ child’ burial costs and the date of August 1802, the other one was an entry for ‘John Brooks’ wife’, burial costs and a date of October 1805. These entries were intriguing because of the dates, both of which were before John married Diana in 1807 which strongly suggested a connection. So I made note of the entries.

When I came home and started going through my research data, I looked over the above records and decided to check other online databases of the Reformed Dutch Church records. I found three very interesting entries in the marriage and baptismal records. The first was a marriage for a John Broocks to a Hannah Groesbeck in 1801. The second was the baptism of a daughter Elizabeth in 1802. The last and in my mind most convincing evidence that this marriage was my John, sr.’s first one, was a baptism for a Peter in 1804, the same year that the eldest son Peter was born.

Put together with what I already know, I am convinced that John’s first wife was Hannah, they had a daughter Elizabeth who died at a few months of age, and then had a son Peter. Hannah died about 10 months after Peter’s birth. John then married Diana. They named their first born Elizabeth after John’s first daughter.

So my next question is, who are the parents of John, sr. and Peter Brooks?

The best source would be the same Dutch Church records I looked at previously online. These records along with a website dedicated to the history of Albany have given me information that makes me lean towards the theory that John Brooks b1783-d1815, brother to Peter Brooks b1780-d1825 are both the sons of Peter Brooks and Frances Wendell. I know Peter and Frances had a child named Peter, as I found a baptismal record for one in 1780. John Brooks named his eldest Peter. John had a brother named Peter. (There are not a bountiful amount of Peter Brooks in the directories or census records.)

If indeed this connection is true, it has been indicated that Peter Brooks who married Francis Wendell in 1772, was the son of Jonathan Brooks and possibly Rebecca Tatten, (Jonathan’s will names his wife Elizabeth, so I am unclear about this information). Jonathan is considered the patriarch of the Brooks of early Albany.

There is still research to do on this line, but it is starting to look up. It is still unclear if the Brooks are of Dutch or English descent. But I am looking forward to finding out.

It all started with a membership to NEHGS

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.