Finding (or not) a Revolutionary War Patriot ancestor. Part 1: Oral traditions and the case of Jacob Postens.

clipart-of-revolutionary-war-soldiers.med

Revolutionary War Soldier. From CLKR Free clipart

JULY 2018. 

“You’re descended from a Revolutionary War soldier.” Many can prove a direct line back to such a person. For others, like myself, the story stalls out. This story is about Jacob Postens- Revolutionary War Patriot and reported ancestor of my dad, Daniel Richard Posten. In previous posts, I mention Jacob, our family story, my brick wall, and subsequent identification of Thomas Ostrander as my ancestor.  I promised to post details “later”.  “Later” is now here.  I give you the story in two parts:  Part 1 discusses the family story and Jacob Postens. Part 2 relates my discovery of Thomas Ostrander.  This two-part series recalls  information seen in previous posts.

DISCLAIMER:  This post is one of multiple personal efforts to correct misinformation that I distributed during my early years as a genealogist.  I can only claim inexperience and ignorance as a researcher for the error.  

A genealogist reports on an error in her family tree:  An error on an ancestry family tree

Oral Family Traditions

To begin, I received a typewritten genealogy from a cousin in the early 1990s. Ruby Posten Gardiner, my grandfather’s niece,  gave the information to a cousin who forwarded it to me.  [1]

typed Posten lineage

Copy of typewritten genealogy from cousin Ruby.

John R.  Posten is Dad’s father.  Tracing our ancestry  to James D. Posten proved easy enough with death certificates from the state of Pennsylvania  for John[2] (born 1887; died 1948) and his father, Daniel S. Posten (born 1859; died 1918)[3]  I sent for and received a copy of John’s death certificate in 2010. I  found Daniel’s death certificate among records sent to me by the husband of one of John’s nieces. [4] Census records support the information regarding parentage:

1900: [5]  Danial S. Poster, head, 33, b 1867, married 15 years. Lizzie, wife, 40, b 1860, mother of 6 children, 6 still living. William C, son, 14, b1885. John M, son, 12, b 1888. Ethel R, daugh, 10, b1890. Bertha R, daugh, 6, b1894. Martha J, daugh,2,b 1898.

1880: [6] Bostons [Postens], James, 50. Ameriam, 45, wife. Olive, 22, daughter. Daniel, 20, son. Charles E., 17, son. John W., 15, son. George B, 12, son. Ida A, 6, daughter.

1870 : Family moved from Monroe county to Luzerne county ‘about 1870’. Still looking for this record.

1860: [7] (page 75) Jams [James] Posten, 30, day labor; Maryan Posten, 26, domestic; Oliver [Olive], 3, M [F]. (page 76): Danil [Daniel]  Posten, age 1.

So far, so good.  Now came the first stumbling block – how can I prove the names of James’ parents?  I found an 1850 census record for Thomas Postens in Monroe County, Pennsylvania, [8] a place consistent with other records.  James’  recorded age of 19, estimated birth year 1831, is close to estimated birth year  1830 as suggested by 1860, 1880, and 1910[9] census records.  James’ gravestone  [10]  shows his birth year as 1829.  Based on these records, how confident was I that I had found James’ father?  I categorized it as “likely” which, according to Elizabeth Shown Mills, [11] means  “The author feels some evidence supports the assertion, but the assertion is far from proved.”

Remember that the 1850 census does not record the relationship of household members to each other.  Since the surname is the same and ages are logical, James is presumed to be the son of Thomas.   The answer eluded me for months.  While reviewing information for the umpteenth time, I realized that James’ death in 1914 probably meant that he had a state-issued death certificate!

In 2010, I ordered and received a copy of the death certificate for James D. Posten.[12]  Here is a partial transcription:

James D Posten DC transcription

The names of parents on a death certificate are secondary information because the informant was not present at the time of the deceased’s birth.  However, I now believe that 68 year-old Thomas on the 1850 census is probably (more likely than not) the father of James D. Posten.  A picture of Thomas Postens’ grave online[13] shows his birth as 1782 and death as 1854. The Monroe County Historical Society found obituaries for Thomas and his wife, Esther.[14]  Unfortunately, the obituaries contain scant details beyond information about their deaths.  My husband and I visited and photographed the graves of Thomas and Esther  in August 2017. They are buried in a Quaker cemetery. My access to Quaker records is limited to online searches with no results yet found. Local historical societies yielded minimal or no new information about Thomas and Esther.  A 1908 newspaper report about a Posten family reunion recorded Thomas’  birth as “near Englishtown, Monmouth county, N.J. on July 14, 1782” but no information about his parents.[15]

Now, the story deviates from a straight line of evidence.  With no readily available information about Thomas’ parents, I began researching Jacob Postens and his descendants. Perhaps I could find a clue from that angle!

JACOB POSTENS (1755-1831)

disappointed face emjoi

For this post, I describe sources and evidence primarily in the order found.  In 2008, an online family tree listed 7 children of Jacob Posten, including Thomas.[16]  Source of information?  “A message board posting by S. Ellerbee”.  Yes, that was me, repeating information from cousin Ruby, BEFORE I had done the research! My only defense:  “I didn’t know any better”.

In 2010, I decided to apply for membership in the Daughters of the American Revolution. I thought it would be easy! After all, I had the lineage from great-aunt Ruby!  Serious research began by finding and documenting sources and evidence.

I began with census records and located Jacob Poste [Postens] in the 1790 census for Northampton County, Pennsylvania: [17]

Poste, Jacob. 2-3-3-0-0  (Free white males 16 years and upward-Free white males under 16 years-Free white females- other free persons-slaves.

This looked promising! Three free white males under 16 years could include Thomas who was born in 1782.  The 1800 census record for Jacob Postens in Lower Smithfield, Northampton county, Pennsylvania [18] shows 1 free white male, age 16 thru 25. Thomas would be 18 years in 1800. On the same page, a listing for Richard Postens also shows one free white male, 16 thru 25. Because I am researching Jacob, the listing for Richard did not concern me.

Previous experience with a county history book led me to a similar book about Monroe County,  published in 1900, [19]    with an entry for  “Posten family” . Two pages and 6 paragraphs!  “This family is one of the oldest in this section, and its members have been noted in every generation for their thrift, enterprise and public spirit. . . . They are of the fourth generation in descent from Captain Jacob Posten of Revolutionary fame. . . . “  [20]   Brief biographies of Jacob Posten, his six children, selected grandchildren and great-grandchildren followed.  No children named Thomas were listed but this did not deter me!   One of Jacob and Anne’s granddaughters, Mary E. Posten, daughter of James Posten and Mary Dean,  is mentioned with her husband, Charles W. Angle on another page:    “On the paternal side, she is of good old Bucks county stock. . . . “  [21] 

That section names her parents, James Posten and Mary Dean, as well as Mary’s siblings and their spouses.    I again eagerly looked for Thomas with no success.

Jacob is recognized as a Patriot by the D.A.R!  Look for a Revolutionary War Pension claim filed by him or his wife. A digital copy of Jacob Postens claim file (W3296) resides on several websites. [22]  I found the claim, filed by his widow, Ann Burson Postens in 1847.

Educational moment:  Held in the National Archives & Records Administration in Washington, D.C., many of these files are digitized and available on various websites.  Veterans, their widows and other heirs applied to receive a pension and/or a warrant to obtain land.  According to NARA:

“Pension application files usually provide the most genealogical information. These files often contain supporting documents such as: narratives of events during service, marriage certificates, birth records, death certificates, pages from family Bibles, family letters, depositions of witnesses, affidavits, discharge papers and other supporting papers. . . . Bounty land records often contain documents similar to those in pension files, with lots of genealogical information. Many of the bounty land application files relating to Revolutionary War and War of 1812 service have been combined with the pension files.” [23]

Jacob’s file contains affidavits from his widow and his son, James, among others. In her deposition, Anne provided the names and birth dates for their six children:

  1. Sarah or Sally     born August 24, 1783
  2. James                   born August 4, 1784
  3. Charles                 born October 11, 1786
  4. Edward                 born January 10, 1788
  5. William                 born November 15, 1791
  6. Jane                       born February 4, 1798

Six now appears to be the magic number! Go back to the typewritten family genealogy. The document lists Thomas before James, son of Jacob and Anne, suggesting that James Postens and Mary Dean were Thomas’ parents.  I quickly realized that the dates didn’t match.  James, born in 1784, could not possibly be Thomas’ father!  The 1790 and 1800 census records similarly show 6 young persons who were probably Jacob’s children.  Could Thomas still be a son of Jacob or Anne?  Thomas’ date of birth in 1782 places him in the same generation as those listed above.  That possibility cannot be ruled out.

Another county history, published in 1886,[24] provided similar information about Jacob, Ann, and their six children: James, Sally (Mrs. Arthur) Henry, Charles, Edward, William and Jane (Mrs. John Brown).  Some  spouses were also listed in the one paragraph. Briefly mentioned on page 1163 is Edward Postens as manager of the Washington Hotel and his son, Joseph J. Postens.  Although published earlier, I found this book after finding the one published in 1900.

What I learned about these early histories:   You will find similar books published in the late 1800s and early 1900s for other counties.  Look for one about the county where your ancestors resided.   In general, these histories include a history of the county/ counties and its towns as well as biographies of some persons and families. People in the community provided information which may not have been verified.  Use the material as a springboard for your research.

“What are County histories and how they can help with your genealogy”, Blog Post by Will Moneymaker

Several of Jacob and Anne’s known descendants graciously shared their own research with me. To organize the mounds of accumulated paper , I finally entered data into a genealogy software program.  Yes, I should have done that months earlier!  The result is a list of approximately 350 descendants of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson.  For this post, I shortened the list to include only the first four generations  (i.e. children, grandchildren and great-children of Jacob and Anne).

Descendants of Jacob Postens (4 generations) (PDF)

Next, I considered the question:   Did the elderly aunt have the sequence of names mixed up? I   compared information for men named James and Jacob Posten in various generations.  Multiple census records and D.A.R. applications yielded additional persons.  Note:  I do not cite all records here. I am still finding and compiling information about Jacob’s descendants.

My verified ancestor:    James D. Posten , born 1829, Monroe county, PA, married Meriam Mills.

Jacob Postens’ descendants:

James M. Posten, son             born 1784, Pennsylvania               married Mary Dean

James S. Posten, grandson    born 1825, Pennsylvania               married Elizabeth Kintner

James M. Posten, grandson   born 1845, Pennsylvania               married Anna Huntsman

Jacob Posten, grandson          born 1829, New Jersey

The descendant list reveals only one male descendant named Thomas – Thomas Posten Arndt, born 1849, son of Mary Ann Posten and Benjamin Arndt, grandson of William and Phoebe Posten, great-grandson of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson.

Finally, an obituary for Jacob Postens summarized his life but did not list his children. [25]  Publication information reads “The Eaton Centennial, August 19, 1831”.

obit pieced together

William Henry Egle, editor, Notes and Queries: Historical, Biographical and Genealogical: relating chiefly to interior Pennsylvania. [ Fourth Series], 2 vols. (1893; Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1970), 1: pages 183-184, entry for “Northampton county in the Revolution. Newspaper Notes and Sketches. V. [Obituary, Jacob Postens]”.

 

Summary:  

Thomas Postens birth year of 1782 (1850 census; gravestone)  places him in the same generation as the children of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson. Jacob and Anne had six children, none of whom were named Thomas. My conclusion is based on first hand knowledge and direct evidence (Revolutionary War Pension application) as well as narrative reports and indirect evidence (two county histories, published in 1886 and 1900; census records for 1790 and 1800). None of Jacob and Anne’s sons had children named Thomas.  Similarly, my ancestor, James D. Posten, is certainly not descended from one of Jacob and Anne’s sons (James’ death certificate; newspaper reports).   I consulted mutlple types of sources.  Content about the individual families is primary and secondary; content connecting the two families is of unknown origin.  The evidence that I hoped to find is negative or not present.

Are the two families related?  The odds favor the assertion.  Evidence? Both families lived in Monroe County, Pennsylvania during the early 1800s. Both surnames are spelled with an ‘e’ – Posten or Postens.  Both men reported as born in New Jersey. This possibility continues to haunt me.

Next:   My proven Revolutionary War Patriot:  Thomas Ostrander

reflection-swirl-green-color-hi

REFLECTION 

The family of Jacob Postens is definitely one of my BSOs – those bright shiny objects that distract from other genealogical research projects.  Even though I can prove that Jacob is NOT our direct line ancestor, I keep coming back to him. Why?  I believe that I will eventually find something that links our two families beyond the current circumstantial evidence. Perhaps completion and publication of  a ‘reasonably exhaustive’ research report will suffice?  Or, maybe one of Jacob’s known descendants will take on that task?!?  I will gladly collaborate with someone!

disco-ball-150x150The family of Jacob Postens is definitely one of my BSOs – those bright shiny objects that distract from other genealogical research projects.  Even though I can prove that Jacob is NOT our direct line ancestor, I keep coming back to him. Why?  I believe that I will eventually find something that links our two families beyond the current circumstantial evidence. Insert BSO picture here.  Perhaps completion and publication of  a ‘reasonably exhaustive’ research report will suffice?  Or, maybe one of Jacob’s known descendants will take on that task?!?  I will gladly collaborate with someone!

As I reviewed documents again, I found several online message board postings with information copied directly from a source but without any citations. Similar entries also appear in online family trees.  This is plagiarism. I sometimes ask people for their sources and occasionally get a response.  Since I began my own research, I have gotten more obsessive about citing sources.

What I learned:  writing about genealogical research process is slightly different from writing about your results.  A results-oriented article may or may not cite information in the order in which it was found.  Remember to record date when I find information, as well as location of source and complete citation information. Apply the genealogical proof standard in all cases.  For this post, I did not cite all available sources. An article about the descendants of Jacob Postens and Anne Burson will include all of those sources.

What helped:  previous research done on Jacob and Thomas.

What didn’t help:  Papers in Jacob Postens file are not in any particular order. I haven’t done a recent update of the family group sheets.  No research logs for this family because this is not one of my priority projects. I didn’t always record the date when I found information.

To-do:  Buy Genealogy Proof book.  Seek collaboration with another person for an article about Jacob Postens descendants. Submit article  to either Monroe County or Pennsylvania Genealogical Society.  Include only brief mention about Thomas not being a descendant.  Continue to refine skills regarding citation of sources.  By the end of July, develop research logs for Jacob and Anne.  Continue to develop research logs for each of their children with goal of 6 research logs created by the end of the year.  Review chapter about Thomas Postens written for revised Posten family history.

SOURCES: 

[1] Typewritten genealogy, Posten family tradition regarding lineage of John Posten to Jacob Posten (b 1755) as reported by Ruby Gardiner, granddaughter of Daniel Posten & Phoebe Fulkerson to Vera Posten Brooks, ca. 1989; privately held by Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Copy sent by Ms. Brooks to Ms. Ellerbee about 1990.

[2] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate 63554 (1948), John R. Posten; Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

[3] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate  103965 (1918), Daniel S. Posten, Bureau of Vital Statistics, New Castle.

[4] Multiple birth, marriage and death records from Personal Collection of Jerry Connors sent to Susan Posten Ellerbee, 2010-2012; privately held by Ms. Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Mr. Connors was husband of daughter of Martha Jane Posten McDonnell, sister of Ms. Posten’s grandfather, John R. Posten.

[5] 1900 U.S. Federal Census, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Ransom Twp., enumeration district (ED) 40, p. 3B (penned), dwelling 42, family 43, Danial S. Poster [Daniel S. Posten; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 11 July 2017); citing National Archives & Records Administration_Washington, D.C. microfilm publication T623, roll 1419..

[6]  1880 U.S. Federal Census, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittston, enumeration district (ED) 136, p. 18B (penned), dwelling 163, family 177, James Bostons [Posten}; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded July 2012); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T9, Roll 1150..

[7]  1860 U.S. Federal Census, Monroe county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Price Township, p. 72 (penned), p. 691 (stamped), dwelling 514, family 641, Jams [James] Posten; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 13 March 2010); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication M653.

[8] 1850 U.S. census, Monroe County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Hamilton Township, p. 17B (stamped), dwelling 220, family 220, Thomas Portons [Postens]; digital image, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com   :  Accessed 17 Oct 2011 and 3 May 2017); citing National Archive sand Records Administration microfilm M432, roll 798.

[9] 1910 U.S. Federal Census, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Pittston city, p. 6B (penned), dwelling 107, family 115,  James D. Posten, 80, father-in-law, in household of C.B. & Olive Fulkersin.

[10] Pittston Cemetery (Pittston, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania), Posten, James D. & wife, Miriam Mills, top of hill; Photographed by Jerry L. Ellerbee & Susan Posten Ellerbee,  14 August 2017.

[11] Elizabeth Shown Mills, Evidence Explained: Citing History Sources form Artifacts to Cyberspace, 3rd ed. (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company), 19.

[12] Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Department of Health, death certificate no. 118955 , James D. Posten (1914); Division of Vital Records, New Castle. Received April 2010.

[13] Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed March 2012), memorial page for  Thomas Postens (14 Jul 1782 – 16 Feb 1854),  Find A Grave memorial no. 16812461, citing Friends Burial Ground, Stroudsburg, Monroe County, Pennsylvania; photograph by Frederich Otto. We visited this cemetery in August 2017 and took pictures of Thomas and Esther’s gravestones.

[14] Amy Leiser, Monroe County Historical Society, Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, to Phoebe Landfried, letter, 26 April 2012, regarding obituaries for Thomas and Esther Posten; Personal correspondence, 2012; Posten Family, Susan Posten Ellerbee Research File for Thomas Postens, privately held by Ms. Ellerbee, [address for private use,] Yukon, Oklahoma. Copy of letter with documents sent to Ms. Ellerbee by Ms. Landfried, descendant of Olive Jane Posten and C.B. Fulkersin. Olive Jane was daughter of James D. Posten and Meriam Mills and sister of Ms. Ellerbee’s great-grandfather, Daniel S. Posten.

[15] “Posten Family Reunion,” The Wilkes-Barre Record, 11 September 1908; online images, Newspapers.com (http://www.newspapers.com : accessed & printed 18 August 2017), page 5.

[16] Unknown contact, “Jacob Posten”, Ancestry One World Tree Project (http://awtc.ancestry.com/  : accessed  2 Jan 2008).   NOTE:The user submitted family tree databases called OneWorldTree were discontinued by Ancestry in late 2013. The discontinued One World Tree has been replaced by Ancestry.com’s Family Trees”. (http://www.searchforancestors.com/archives/oneworldtree.html  : accessed 26 June 2018)

[17] Bureau of the Census, Heads of families at the first census of the United States taken in the year 1790. Pennsylvania. (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1908), p. 175, column 1, Jacob Poste.

[18] 1800 U.S. Census, Northampton county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Lower Smithfield, p. 618 (penned), Jacob Postens; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 8 November 2011); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C., microfilm publication M32, roll 37.

[19] Commemorative biographical record of Northeastern Pennsylvania including the counties of Susquehanna, Wayne, Pike and Monroe, containing biographical sketches of prominent and representative citizens and many of the early settled families (Chicago: J.H. Beers & Co, 1900), entry for POSTEN FAMILY, pp. 1438-1439; download from Wayback Machine (https://archive.org:     12 July 2017).  Originally accessed from Distant Cousin (http://www. distantcousin.com/images/NEPABio/1438.jpg   :  accessed 20 March 2010; this website may no longer be available).

[20] Ibid,p. 1438; 1900 county history.

[21]  Ibid, p. 802; 1900 county history.

[22] Jacob Postens Rev War Pension Claim . Deposition of claimant, Ann Burson Postens, widow’s pension application no. W3296; service of Jacob Postens, state of Pennsylvania; “Revolutionary War Pension and bounty-land warrant application files, 1800-1900”, images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com :  accessed 1 April 2010 and 12 July 2017),  Jacob Postens, citing Case Files of Pension and Bounty-land Warrant Applications Based on Revolutionary War Service, compiled ca. 1800-ca 1912, documenting the period ca 1775-1900, M804 (Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Administration [n.d.], Roll 1957.

[23] Genealogy Research in Military Records. National Archives & Records Administration. (https://www.archives.gov/research/military/genealogy.html    : accessed 24 June 2018).

[24] Alfred Matthews, History of Wayne, Pike and Monroe Counties, Pennsylvania (Philadelphia: R.T. Peck & Co, 1886), p. 1127; download from Wayback Machine (https://archive.org/details/historyofwaynepi00math   : accessed  March 2010 and 12 July 2017).

[25] William Henry Egle, editor, Notes and Queries: Historical, Biographical and Genealogical: relating chiefly to interior Pennsylvania. [ Fourth Series], 2 vols. (1893; Reprint, Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1970), 1: pages 183-184, entry for “Northampton county in the Revolution. Newspaper Notes and Sketches. V. [Obituary, Jacob Postens]”.

© Susan Posten Ellerbee and “Posting Family Roots” blog, 2017-2018.  Excerpts and links may be used when full and clear credit, including appropriate and specific direction to the original content, is given to Susan Posten Ellerbee and Posting Family Roots. Unauthorized use or duplication of material without the written permission of the owner is prohibited.

One thought on “Finding (or not) a Revolutionary War Patriot ancestor. Part 1: Oral traditions and the case of Jacob Postens.

  1. Pingback: Finding (or not)  a Revolutionary War Patriot ancestor. Part 2.  The case of Sarah Ostrander’s father, Thomas | Posting Family Roots

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