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.

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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.
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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.