Featured post

Getting Back on Track

Getting Back on Track

We still haven’t solved the mystery of our first Isaac Hammitt, but we have pieced together quite a few Hammitt, Hammett and Hammatt families. New to our genealogy section is a Master Tree, located in the “Branches” menu. This tree is a collection of all the families we have researched and includes many of the families they married into. The decision to concentrate on searching left little time for website blogging.  The more information we uncovered, the faster the months started slipping by.  Each day brought new discoveries and took us in directions we had never considered in the past. As we began following the families of spouses we ventured down new paths and each new path seemed to lead to more family relationships.

Once we broadened our search we began to look a little closer at the spelling differences, “Hammitt” vs “Hammett” vs “Hammatt”.  At times the Hammitt and Hammett spellings seemed to depend more on the Census taker’s handwriting or spelling capabilities than anything else, giving the impression the two names were interchangeable.  As our list of Hammitt’s and Hammett’s grew larger, and our search a bit more intensive, we began to see, not only distinct family lines where the spelling was consistent, but also lines where the spelling changed.  Family lore tells us two brothers had a disagreement and one changed the spelling.  I’ve come across this story one other time, which may or may not give it credence.  Family stories are not usually given much credibility.  Folklore gets embellished over the years, unsavory parts are left out and things tend to get a bit jumbled.  But the stories carried through the generations usually have an origin of truth buried between the lines.  These stories come from somewhere and at the very least they deserve some thought. 

Genealogy has always relied on documentation, family folklore and, in some cases, a good old-fashioned leap of faith.  More importantly, it relies on collaboration that includes the sharing of information, stories and theories.  We have no way of knowing if or when the disagreement between brothers took place, or which brothers found themselves on opposite sides. 

What makes the disagreement story a bit intriguing is DNA evidence suggesting a familiar relationship between our Hammitt lineage and that of 3 Hammett family lines. These families are represented by a branch icon in the Branches menu.  We haven’t found that missing link, but I believe it’s out there.  I also know we can’t solve our mystery without looking closely at the lineages of all the Hammitt, Hammett and Hammatt families, as well as the families of those they married.  Hopefully by looking beyond the obvious we’ll find the answer to our history.

George Hammitt or George Hamack

Much like the story from a few weeks ago, about how often Asahel Barnes is confused with his cousin, Asahel Barnes, it appears there are times when George Hamack is mistaken for George Hammitt of Burlington County, New Jersey.  As a result, the records of their sons, each named Samuel and each with a wife whose maiden name was Sharp, are also merged together in some histories.  The story of two Georges, two Samuels and two Sharp women is as difficult to understand as it is to tell.  Many of the facts we uncovered were discovered while trying to confirm whether Samuel Hammitt, the son of George Hammitt and Rhoda Packer, was married to Elizabeth Sharp or Esther Sharp.

The Haddonfield Monthly Minutes of the Friends Society recorded the marriage of Esther Sharp and Samuel Hamack, son of George Hamack, deceased, in 1749.  Wondering if this was an alternate spelling of the Hammitt name, we dug a little deeper.  Continue reading

Searching for Samuel Hammitt and Jane Simmons

Samuel Hammitt (1754-1807) and Jane Simmons (1750-1825)

Our biggest roadblock throughout this search has been determining the ancestors of Samuel Hammitt and Jane Simmons.  Following the family’s roots back to Philadelphia was easily documented.  Documenting a jump across the river has proven a bit more challenging.  It was Joachim’s journal that told us to make the leap when he identified his ancestor as Isaac, who first made a home in South Jersey.  Almost all the 1800, 1810 and 1820 New Jersey Federal Census records were lost, the exception being the 1800 records for Cumberland County and the 1820 records for Roxbury and Morris Counties.  While the Cumberland County records survived, they are not available online.[1]  For the time being we rely on tax records, Wills or the abstracts of Wills, Church records and the Monthly Meeting records of the Friends Society.  Through these records we identify extended family members and begin to understand the relationships between families.

Samuel is first found in the records of Christ Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where, on 10 January 1763, Samuel, his sister, Mary, and their father, Isaac, were Baptized by Rev. Richard Peters, D.O.  Continue reading

Asahel Barnes (1774-1851) or (1777-1859)

The tradition of naming children after family members has been widely practiced throughout history. Asahel Barnes is a perfect example of how difficult it can be to separate one person from another. The honor of having a namesake to carry on your legacy must have held a great deal of esteem. While still practiced today, it seems to be less of a trend. Even though we may still name our children after a grandparent or relative, today’s names project individuality. No longer is it common to have 4 or 5 children with the same name, all born within a year or two in one family.

Determining who belongs to which record, or even which family, can be not only challenging, but enlightening. These are the discoveries that often lead to forgotten family ties. Sharing how we settled our identity questions will hopefully clear the air for the next researcher.

Both Asahel’s descend from the first Thomas Barnes (b. 1623) that emigrated to America. They both married wives with the surname Ives and their birth and death dates are within a few years of each other. Continue reading

The Family of Elizabeth Gominger Hammitt Fow

A Blended Family in 1850

Listed in the 1850 Census for the 5th Ward of Kensington are John K Hammett, born 1833, and Thomas J Hammett, born 1835. They are living with the family of David and Elizabeth Gominger Hammitt Fow in the Northern Liberties section. The household of Elizabeth and David introduces us to a blended family of Hammitt, Gominger, Sutton and Carr family members. The 1850 Census didn’t identify relationships, making it easy to assume most of the residents are boarders. But a closer look uncovers family ties and clears up a few mysteries.

Elizabeth Gominger Hammitt Fow

A search for David Fow tells us he and Elizabeth Hammitt were married on May 23, 1841 in the Kensington Methodist Episcopal Church. Living with David and Elizabeth Fow in 1850 are Continue reading

Census Reports – The First Fifty Years

Taking a Closer Look at the Early Census Reports

Manually adding Census info to the genealogy database has proven to be an interesting project. While I love researching genealogy, I have to admit reading a Government website about Government documents holds very little appeal. Eventually I gave in, started reading and learned a few things. What surprised me most was that there is a second screen of information in the 1840 Census. It’s there that you’ll find the names and ages of Revolutionary Pensioners. You’ll also find information about how the family earned a living. Were they involved in manufacturing, commerce, farming or some kind of navigation on the rivers or oceans? I didn’t realize the questions asked by the enumerators referred to the date of the Census, not the when the questions were asked. For example, the official date of the 1830 Census was June 1st and it took an entire year to complete. This meant if the enumerator was at your house in May of 1831 you were expected to give an accounting of the previous year.

The first 20 years of Census data only provides us with a tally of family members and the name of the head of household. Continue reading

About that Impressment Story

Each family has its’ stories passed down through the generations. For us, one of the most intriguing tales is the story of how our 3rd Great Grandfather, Isaac Hammitt, got his name. If you read the previous post, Isaac Hammitt, John Kille and Isaac’s Ark, you know there was a pact between two impressed seamen resulting in a long held family tradition. The book Life in Apollo in the 1890’s, by Marion Dewees Gropen, tells a similar story. Discovering the story had been passed down through another Hammitt family gave it credibility and piqued our curiosity.

The Isaac featured on our home page was born in New Jersey in 1790, the son of Samuel Hammitt and Jane Simmons. His grandson, Joachim (pronounced Joe-ah-cheem) wrote a series of notes in 1941. His words best describe the story:
Continue reading

Isaac Hammitt, John Kille and Isaac’s Ark

The tradition of family names has been observed for generations. Though not quite as popular now as it once was, it’s a tradition still followed in some families. Most often it’s a name that holds significant meaning, honoring a person of great accomplishment or character. The name Isaac was especially popular in our family throughout the 1800’s, making it difficult to determine what record goes with which Isaac or even which Isaac goes with what family. The Hammitt family actually had two naming traditions. Most prominent was the name Isaac. Our first Isaac has proven to be somewhat of a mystery and difficult to document. But family notes, bits of information and a tradition that lasted generations tell us he existed. Since so much of our family history is centered on shipbuilding, we decided an Ark would be the perfect place to gather all the Isaac’s. And so, the meaning of Isaac’s Ark.

The second name, although not quite as common but equally important, is John Kille Hammitt. Continue reading

The Goal of Isaac’s Ark

The transition from a subscription genealogy service to our own database has proven to be a much larger project than either of us envisioned. To date, only a small portion of our records have been added to the database. Between reviewing existing records, discovering new sources and learning the finer points of how to create a website some things had to be put off. Until now, updating Isaac’s Ark fell to the bottom of the “to do” list. Moving forward with the transition means we can start documenting the bits and pieces of our family history.

The Hammitt family, even with all of their accomplishments, hasn’t been very well documented. Working together we were able to identify the members of several families. Continue reading

Isaac’s Ark

The Hammitt families were well known for their ship building talents and skills.  From steamboats to schooners, each of the Hammitt men who engaged in shipbuilding excelled at their talents.  As a young man, Isaac Hammitt was one of the many Kensington shipswrights called on to assist with the building of USS Niagara in Erie, Pennsylvania.  He later became a principal owner of the Isaac Hammitt Yard in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.  Isaac’s son, Isaac Hammitt, Jr., was a well known shipbuilder in his own right.  The same was true for his son, Joachim Murat Hammitt.  Follow us as we piece together the stories of these men and their families.