“You’re descended from a Revolutionary War soldier.” Many can prove a direct line back to such a person. For others, like myself, the family story stalls out. In the previous post, Part 1: Oral traditions and the case of Jacob Postens, I described our family’s oral history of direct lineage to Jacob Postens, a Revolutionary War soldier. Evidence does not support that claim. In the current post, I relate my discovery of Thomas Ostrander, my great-great- great grandfather. In this second of the two-part series, I recall some information seen in previous posts. In both stories, I describe sources beyond the census records.
To review, 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. 
I traced Dad’s family from John R. Posten (Dad’s father) to Thomas Postens. That’s where the paper trail stopped. Now what? To become a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (D.A.R.), I have to prove a direct ancestral line from me to a Revolutionary War soldier or someone who supported the American cause. A D.A.R. member suggested that I look at the wives of my known male ancestors.
Female ancestors in Dad’s family
During the next three months, I searched the women’s ancestors and crossed names off. Minimal or no records beyond the early 1800s was a common reason. The D.A.R. database includes multiple patriots with the Shotwell surname but none of the information fit for my line. I then turned to Jennie Richards Posten, Dad’s mother.
Sarah Ostrander Richards
Jennie’s parents were Ostrander Richards and Amelia Magdellene LaCoe.  Amelia’s grandfather, Anthony Desire LaCoe (Antoine Desirée Lecoq), immigrated to the United States in 1792 from France.  That left only the parents of Ostrander Richards. Ostrander’s death certificate revealed his parents as Nathaniel Richards and Sarah Ostrander.  A county history, published in 1912, revealed more:
“Mr. [Nathaniel] Richards second wife was Miss Sarah Ostrander, born June 20, 1801 and died March 27, 1836. She had one son, Ostrander, born March 20, 1836.” (p. 86)
Key items include:
- Sarah’s title of “Miss” suggests this is her first marriage.
- Sarah’s date of birth (June 20, 1801).
- Sarah’s date of death (March 27, 1836), approximately one week after giving birth, suggests that she died from complications associated with childbirth.
Ostrander’s death certificate records his date of birth as February 28, 1836. Reasons for the discrepancy between the county history and his death certificate are unknown.
Nathaniel Richards’ ancestors remained elusive. A descendant of Nathaniel’s brother had suggested that Nathaniel and Peter’s parents were Nathaniel Richards and Sarah Van Sickle.  Since then, a thin thread connects the senior Nathaniel Richards and his father, Abram Richards, to the American Revolution. Another item added to my “To-Do” list!
What about Sarah Ostrander? Many hours of non-productive research followed this clue. I kept a journal of this journey from its beginning in early 2010. One entry summarized a break in the case: 
“I found a Sarah Ostrander in one family tree with parents’ names listed as Thomas Ostrander and Elizabeth Smith. The creator of that tree told me about the ‘Ostrander big book’.  She didn’t have any information about Sarah’s marriage or children but did have Sarah’s birth date, which corresponded to the birth date given in the Newton history. Have I found Sarah’s parents? “
Thomas Ostrander became the focus for the next phase. I posted more queries and continued to search. Since Thomas’ birth date was listed as 1745, he could be my Revolutionary War ancestor. Continuation of my journal entry:
“The Ancestry.com website opened Revolutionary War records during the Week of July 4, 2010. Thomas Ostrander had a pension file! Thomas was a lieutenant in a New York regiment. His wife and children are listed, including a daughter, Sarah, born June 20, 1801 (the same birth date listed for Sarah Ostrander Richards, my ancestor, in the Newton and Ransom history and from the Ostrander big book).”
Have you identified any problems? Thomas was born in New York, served in the New York militia, and died in New York. How, then, did Sarah meet and marry Nathaniel Richards, known to be living in Pennsylvania in the 1830s? Back to the databases and books!
I looked for more information about the Ostrander family. A compilation of articles from the Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, originally published in 1938, showed a possible link between the Ostrander family of New York and the Newkirk family of Pennsylvania: 
Page 27: “Children of Jacobus and Gilles (Newkirk) Swartout: iii. Jannetjen Swartout, bapt. October 11 1719; married Maes (Moses) Ostrander. Issue, born at Fishkill [Dutchess county, New York]: . . . Thomas Ostrander, born April 26, 1745.”
I now have consistent information between 3 documents- the Newkirk genealogy, Revolutionary War Pension file for Thomas Ostrander, and the Ostrander genealogy book. But, the question remains: Did Thomas Ostrander ever live in Pennsylvania?
Census records in 1880, 1900 and 1910 asked for mother’s place of birth. Ostrander Richards listed his mother’s place of birth as “Pennsylvania” on all three.    Conversely, Ostrander’s death certificate shows his mother’s birth place as “N.Y.” [New York]. Where was Sarah Ostrander Richards born?
I posed alternative explanations:
- Thomas Ostrander moved his family to Pennsylvania at some point, then moved back to New York.
- Sarah Ostrander remained in Pennsylvania when her parents moved back to New York.
Based on the possible Newkirk family link to Pennsylvania , I searched for related families in Luzerne and neighboring counties in Pennsylvania in 1800, 1810, and 1820. I tried surnames of Newkirk, Smith, and Swartout as well as Ostrander. Although these census records only name heads of household, the gender and approximate ages of household members are recorded. There he was – Thomas Ostrander, 1810, Tunkhannock, Luzerne county, Pennsylvania!  Dad’s family lived in or near Tunkhannock during most of his childhood. From the Revolutionary War Pension application, I plugged in names and dates of birth for Thomas, Elizabeth and their children:
At last, I had stronger evidence to support the claim that Thomas Ostrander was father of Sarah Ostrander Richards! Some evidence is secondary and indirect. To summarize:
- Thomas Ostrander and family lived in Tunkhannock, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania in 1810. Reported ages match information recorded in Revolutionary War Pension file.
- Tunkhannock and Newton (home of Nathaniel Richards, husband of Sarah Ostrander) are about 17 miles apart.
- Sarah Ostrander married for the first time in her early 30s. Women usually married in their late teens or early 20s during that era. Reasons for later marriage were often related to care of family members.
- Thomas Ostrander died in 1816 in New York. He moved back to New York after 1810, leaving Sarah (and possibly her sister, Jane) in Pennsylvania. Note: Finding Jane is another story!
- Two documents (1912 county history and Thomas Ostrander’s Revolutionary War Pension File) record Sarah Ostrander with a birth date of June 20, 1801.
I submitted my application to join the Daughters of the American Revolution in January, 2011. I included these bits and pieces of information plus a summary piecing them together. They approved my application and I am now officially recognized as a Daughter of the American Revolution!
In this post, I relived my year-long journey to prove that I am a descendant of a soldier who fought in the American Revolution. The journey took turns that I never expected. My initial feelings of frustration and discouragement cannot be under-stated! I almost quit the search. Frequent words of encouragement from a D.A.R. member helped me meet my goal. I am now working with a cousin to prove lineage from another Revolutionary War solider on my mother’s side. I remain hopeful that I will someday find Thomas Postens’ parents. I wrote a more detailed record of this search in 2011; the manuscript remains unpublished. I used excerpts from that manuscript in this blog post. Again, I used skills learned through Genealogy Do-Over as I revised this post.
What I learned: Keep looking. Indirect and secondary information helps complete the puzzle. Take breaks as needed. An online family tree with minimal or no sources can still provide clues.
What helped: Access to multiple online and hard copy resources. Encouragement from D.A.R. member. Journal of my activities, searches and results. I kept photocopies or scans of everything! Skills learned in Genealogy Do-Over lessons.
What didn’t help: No research logs to compile information. Scattered notes. Incomplete citation of sources.
To-do: Continue search for parents of Thomas Postens. Use research logs more consistently. Seek opportunities to publish my original manuscript.
 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.
 Jennie Richards Posten, death certificate no. 062881-64 (25 June 1964), Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Health, Vital Statistics, New Castle, Pennsylvania.
 Susan A. LaCoe, Lenay LaCoe Blackwell, and Velma Sue Miller, compilers/ updaters, Commemorative Record of LaCoe Family: Containing Biographical Sketches and Genealogy. Illustrated. 1750-2010, Martha L. LaCoe, compiler of first edition, edition 2010 (Pennsylvania: Privately published, 2010), pages 1, 34.
 Ostrande[r] Richards, death certificate no. 7033-1919 (10 January 1919), Commonwealth of Pennsylania, Department of Health, Vital Statistics, New Castle, Pennsylvania.
 J. B. Stephens, Compiler, History and Directory of Newton and Ransom Townships, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania (Montrose, Pennsylvania: J.B. Stephens, 1912), 86; digital images, Pennsylvania State University Libraries Digital Library Collections, (http://collection1.libraries.psu.edu/cdm4 : accessed & printed, 8 June 2010; entry for Nathaniel and Peter Richards, written by P.K. Richards, West Pittston,Pa. Peter K. Richards was son of Peter Richards and nephew of Nathaniel Richards. Page 85: “They immigrated to eastern Pennsylvania, which was at that time was called ‘going west,’ making the trip in large covered wagons. Nathaniel came in the Spring of 1829, and Peter in the Spring of 1832.” P.K. Richards (author of the entry), born in 1832, did not witness the events but heard the stories from his father, Peter Richards, who died in 1850. Nathaniel Richards died in 1852. Both Peter and Nathaniel were born in Sussex County, New Jersey.
 Jim Richards, “Re: Nathaniel Richards b. 1760 Ulster Co. N.Y.”, GenWeb, Richards Family Genealogy Forum, 25 July 2000 (http://genforum.genealogy.com : accessed 18 July 2010).
 Susan (Posten) Ellerbee ,”Journal”, (MS, Yukon, Oklahoma, 2010-2011), entry for July 28, 2010; unnumbered pages; privately held by Susan Posten Ellerbee, [address for private use,], Yukon, Oklahoma, 2018. Handwritten entries in school-type notebook about her search for Revolutionary War ancestor as she prepared application to join Daughters of the American Revolution.
 Emmett Ostrander & Vinton P. Ostrander; Corliss Ostrander, ed. Ostrander: A Genealogical Record 1660-1995 (Marceline, Missouri: Walsworth Publishing Company, 1999).
 “Revolutionary War Pension & Bounty Land Warrant Application Files,” database with images, Fold3 (http://www.fold3.com : accessed and downloaded 1 July 2010); Elizabeth Ostrander, widow; citing Revolutionary War Pension & Bounty Land Warrant Application Files, (Washington, D.C. : National Archives and Records Administration), microfilm publication M804.
 Adamson Bentley Newkirk, “The van Nieuwkirk, Nieukirk, Newkirk Family,” Publications of the Genealogical Society of Pennsylvania, special number (March 1934), 27; digital image reprint, Genealogies of Pennsylvania Families (Baltimore, Maryland: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1982), pp. 387-502. Accessed from Ancestry (https://www.ancestry.com : accessed 1 July 2010). Digital copy of the original article also available from Hathi Trust (https://babel.hathitrust.org)
 1880 census, Ostrander Richards. 1880 U.S. Census, Lackawanna County, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Ransom, enumeration district (ED) 43, p. 347A (stamped), p. 13 (penned), dwelling 110, family 110, Ostrander Richards 44; digital images, Ancestry (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, printed, downloaded 5 May 2010); citing National Archives & Records Administration, Washington, D.C. , microfilm publication T9_ 1138.
 1900 census, Ostrander Richards. 1900 U.S. Census, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, population schedule, Ransom Twp, enumeration district (ED) 40, p. 225 A (stamped), dwelling 133, family 177, Richards Ostrand [Ostrander], head; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Roll: T623_1419.
 1910 census, Ostrander Richards. 1910 U.S. Census, Lackawanna county, Pennsylvania, population scheduled, Ransom Twp., enumeration district (ED) 50, p. 10A (penned), dwelling 142, family 146, Jennie Richards daughter; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed, downloaded 31 May 2017); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Microfilm publication T624.
 1810 U.S. Census, Luzerne, Pennsylvania, pop. sch., Tunkhannock, p. 763, Thomas Ostrander; digital images, Ancestry.com (http://www.ancestry.com : accessed, viewed & downloaded 21 September 2010); citing National Archives and Records Administration, Washington D.C. Microfilm publication M252. Roll 49.
One thought on “Finding (or not) a Revolutionary War Patriot ancestor. Part 2. The case of Sarah Ostrander’s father, Thomas”
Pingback: Friday's Family History Finds | Empty Branches on the Family Tree