Wednesday, March 01, 2017

{genealogy} Schoonover ancestry part 3 - James Schoonover

James Schoonover

Heather’s 5th great grandfather

Note - some interwebs people say that his name was actually Jacobus. But since I found *zero* evidence of this, I only refer to him as James. "James" was a nickname for Jacobus in the Dutch community. Nevertheless, zero evidence.

James Schoonover was born on July 21, 1785 in Pennsylvania. He married Mary in 1806. They had seven children in 18 years. He died on October 20, 1867, having lived a long life of 82 years, and was buried in Robb Cemetery, Williamsport, Indiana.

James’s exact birth date is derived from the age listed on his gravestone. We only know he was born in Pennsylvania because that is what he self-reported in the 1850 and 1860 censuses.

Finding James’s parents has proven to be a challenge. There were a lot of Schoonovers in the New England area and they all had the same names (James, Henry, Joseph, John, etc). I have not found any documents from Pennsylvania 1785 that place James there at all. However, there was a Dutch settlement in Pennsylvania, so it would not be unreasonable for James to be from there.

After some analysis, it seems likely that his father was named Peter Schoonover. My analysis follows at the end of James’s biography.

James married Mary (unknown last name) before 1806, when their first child was born. I derived their children’s names as well as Mary’s name from later censuses, and I counted all the tick marks and ages to make sure they match up. James and Mary had 4 sons and 3 daughters. The first 5 children (through Anson) were born in New York, probably Tioga County, where James is living in 1810.

Sometime between Feb 1817 and Dec 1819, the family moves to Clark County, Ohio. This is where the 6th child is born, and then we can see the family in the 1820 census. The last child is born in 1825, also in Clark County.

In March 1825, James purchases some land in Clark County and here is the deed (at least, I think that's what this is). This is from the U.S. General Land Office.

And he purchases a 2nd farm in Clark County in 1829:

And we see him there in the 1830 and 1840 censuses.

But by 1850 he has moved to Washington, Warren County, Indiana (same place as son Anson). Since Anson moved in 1843, maybe James and Mary moved at the same time.

In 1850, James is now 65 years old, and Mary is 69.

Mary dies in 1856 and is buried in the same Robb Cemetery as son Anson (and later James). I noted that in 1850, James and Mary are living next door to the Robb family. I am guessing the Robb Cemetery is located on that family’s property.

On 21 May 1858, James writes his will. Because he will not die for another 9 years, some of the heirs listed will pass away before their inheritance. The will reads as follows (I transcribed it myself):

I James Schoonover of Warren County in the State of Indiana do invoke and publish this as my last will and testament. First, I direct that all my debts be first paid.

Second, if at the time of my death I shall not have sold my two farms, I then Direct that the same be sold by my administrator at the appraised value of said land, such value to be ascertained by three disinterested freeholders of the neighborhood under oath, and if said land will not sell within one year at such appraised value that it be sold for the best price to be had, provided that a majority in interest of my legalees in this will assent to such sale.

Third, I give and bequeath to my son Peter Schoonover the sum of $1000, and to my daughter Eliza G. the sum of $1000, and to my daughter Rebecca Briggs the sum of $1000, and to my two grandsons children of my son nephew to wit James Schoonover and Jerome Schoonover the sum of $1000 one half each, all which bequests I directed to be paid to them out of the first monies received after first paying debts.

Fourth, I will and direct that whatever balance may remain after payment of the foregoing bequests and that speak equally divided among all my heirs according to the provisions of the law. 

In witness whereof this 21st day of May 1858.

Son Anson died prior to 1858, so he is not listed as an heir. I wasn’t able to verify who Jerome Schoonover is.

James dies 20 October 1867, and his will was proven on 19 November 1867. He was buried in the Robb Cemetery. 

In order to continue this line, I need to know James’s parents. Though I haven’t found anything definitive, it is very possible that his father’s name was Peter Schoonover. His mother’s name is not as certain, but could possibly be Neeltje Swartwout.

Here is my analysis.

  1. James self-reports that he was born in Pennsylvania around 1785. Pennsylvania had a  state census in 1786, and there were 4 Schoonovers there at the time: Benjamin, James, Peter, and Henry. So one of those could be our James’s father.
  2. As I mentioned, I believe James was living in Tioga County, New York as we see him in the 1810 census. In 1807 in Tioga County, we can find a probate record indicating that Peter Schoonover had died without a will, and James Schoonover is named administrator of Peter’s estate. Although this doesn’t prove the relationship between James and Peter, it does show that 2 men of these names were both in Tioga County at the same time and that they are likely related in some way. (You can click the picture to make it bigger.)

  3. There was a Peter Schoonoven who was married to a Neeltje Swartwout. They had a child named Lena, who was baptized in Sussex, New Jersey, in 1790. Sussex had a close-knit community of Dutch settlers who participated in what was called the Dutch Reformed Church. The image below is transcript of the original document. The transcript was created in the late 1800s or early 1900s. The child’s name is shown in the left margin, with the parents’ names beside.
     I reviewed this transcript back to 1745 or so and from that I could tell that this church community stayed together for a really long time. I also could see that this is the first time Peter shows up in the log book. So he wasn’t born into this community, and he is not shown with son James from 1785.  I can also tell that Neeltje Swartout was previously married to Abraham Cortright. The last baby she had with Abraham was baptised in 1777. Therefore it is possible that between 1777 and 1790, Abraham could have died, and she could have married Peter, and then could have had James in 1785. The log book only shows baptisms, but not marriages or death records.
  4. Abraham Cortright died sometime before 1787. His father’s will was written in March 1787, and his father refers to son Abraham, deceased. So now our window for Abraham’s death date has been narrowed to between 1777 and 1787.
  5. Why would Neeltje be in Pennsylvania if her church records are from New Jersey.  I find the answer in an old published Cortright family history book. This book indicates that the Cortrights, including Abraham’s brothers and father, owned farmland in Pennsylvania. They traveled to the Sussex church for baptisms. So this does place Neeltje in Pennsylvania where she could have met and married Peter and given birth to James in 1785, assuming that Abraham died before 1785.

Though none of these individual bullets definitively show that James’s parents were Peter Schoonoven and Neeltje Swartwout, together they make a compelling story that at least proves it is not impossible. The story is compelling enough that I will proceed with Peter’s biography as if he is James’s father.

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