Tag Archives: family history

Abraham Brink, the Elder. The Research Path

CAUTION: Nerdiness to follow. If you want to read the simple story of Abraham Brink 1780, go here. What follows is a more detailed description of the research, meant just for those who like to follow along as I solve puzzles. If you are principally interested in the research, you also need to read the story in order for this to make sense.

Abraham/Abram, Brink 1780-1853

When I started looking at the Grandfather of my great-grandmother Mary Brink Anderson (Kline), I found myself questioning just about everything that I read on other trees, even those of people who seem to be careful and thorough researchers.

The fact that Mary Brink’s father’s name was Abraham W. Brink, apparently named for his father, did not help. There are an amazing number of Abraham Brinks in 18th and 19th century Pennsylvania and Ohio. To further confuse the issue, the name Abraham is sometimes shortened to “Abram” and some modern day family historians think that Abram and Abraham are different people.

Many family trees refer to Abraham W.’s father as Abraham B. Brink.  I have yet to see a record that uses that middle initial, although I am now satisfied that Abraham W. was named for his father, another Abraham. Until I have some proof of a different name, I’m calling him Abraham the Elder.

That relationship stuff may be confusing, so let’s look at the lineage right now instead of waiting until the bottom of the page.

  • Vera Marie Kaser Badertscher (me) is the daughter of
  • Harriette Anderson (Kaser), who is the daughter of
  • Leonard Guy Anderson, who is the son of
  • Mary Brink (Anderson), who is the daughter of
  • Abraham W. Brink, who is the son of
  • Abraham Brink (the Elder).

In What State was Abraham Brink, the Elder born?

Some say Pennsylvania and some say New Jersey.  That confused me until I looked at a county history and a map. Looking at the Pennsylvania Formation maps, it is obvious that our country, even as far east as eastern Pennsylvania had not yet been fully organized into states and counties when Abraham the Elder was born in 1780. After all, we were not officially a country. The American Constitution was not finalized until 1787.

The most frequently mentioned place of birth is Bushkill in what is now Pike County, Pennsylvania. Some people list his birthplace as Wayne County Pennsylvania.  I learned that Pike County was founded in 1814, from Wayne County. However, Wayne County also did not exist in 1780, when it is believed that Abraham the Elder was born. The far northeastern corner of Pennsylvania had been ceded by Virginia, and the county of Northampton was to occupy part of that area, but even that was not yet official in 1780 because surveys were not yet complete.

1779 PA Counties

Pennsylvania Counties in 1779.

Pennsylvania Formation Maps 1814

Pennsylvania Counties in 1814 (colored areas do not concern us). Butler is the county where Abraham W., son of Abraham was supposedly born, but the census report contradicts that.

So if Bushkill was the correct town, he was born in Pennsylvania, but why did people say New Jersey? The unincorporated borough of Bushkill is located in Pennsylvania, but on the line between Pennsylvania and New Jersey, which forms the eastern boundary of the county. Bushkill is a mere hamlet, perhaps Abraham was born in a rural area juts east of Bushkill, over the line in New Jersey, and his birth was officially recorded in the nearest town, which happened to be in Pennsylvania?

In the 1850 census in Holmes County, Ohio, Abraham Brink is listed as born in New Jersey, but when his children filled out census reports, they listed him as born in Pennsylvania. His children were born in  Pennsylvania, which might have led them to assume he was also. Without a church record or birth record I cannot say for sure, but we do know something about the area where he was born.

The Area where Abraham the Elder was Born

This patch of land overlapping southern New York state,northwestern New Jersey and north eastern Pennsylvania, was Dutch. A book about the earliest Brinks in North America shows the map of the area, including he Catskill Mountains area made famous by Washington Irving in his tales from he Dutch legends. The settlements, a caption said, extended into Bradford and Pike County in Pennsylvania. (Using the final county names rather than the earliest names.)

That hints that Abraham the elder was born of one of the oldest Dutch families to settle in North America and traced back to their arrival in New  Amsterdam (now New York).  Unfortunately, I am not satisfied with proof of who Abraham the Elder’s father was, and am not ready to make that leap back to the distinguished Dutch Burghers who came to this continent shortly after the Pilgrims arrived in New England.

Two Very Good Clues and More Evidence

The Census

The first clue to Abraham the Elder’s existence is found in the 1850 census of Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio.  Since that is where Abraham W. Brink was born, it seemed likely this Abraham is Abe W.’s father.  The 1850 census, we have Abram Brink, 70, living with John Brink, 25 and Julian Brink, 17 and an infant.  Tracking John in other census reports quickly shows that ‘Julian’ is really Julianne or Julie Ann, John Brink’s wife. Although this census does not show relationships, it seems likely that we have a retired father living with his son.

There are three earlier census reports for Abraham Brink that might match, but in 1820, 1830 and 1840, there is no solid information, just the name of the head of household and what I call “chicken scratches”–tick marks under an age range.  We need more information before accepting that Abraham the Elder was the man named in those “chicken scratch” census reports.

Although these census reports seem conclusive, family trees report unsubstantiated birthplaces for the children of Abraham and Lucinda. Some are not logical, as they would have one child being born in western Pennsylvania and the following year one in far Eastern Pennsylvania, and the following year another in western Pennsylvania. Additionally, those birthplaces do not reflect the census evidence that the family lived in Wayne County, Pennsylvania. Until someone comes up with better proof of place of birth of the children, I will assume we do not know where they were born, other than that they were all born in Pennsylvania. (All their adult census reports confirm that.)


Confirming that Abraham the Elder had a son John was the next step, accomplished when I found on line the will of Abraham Brink. This was a challenge also, as only the index appears on Ancestry.com.  I took the information about what volume and page the will appeared in and went to Family Search.org where I found an image of the will.

It is a simple will, but it confirms that he died in 1853 and lists his children. In the list below, I include the birth and death dates of those for whom I can confirm that information.

  • Jesse R. (Runnels) Brink (B. About 1797. Died after 1853)
  • Martha (will specifies she is oldest daughter, and says “or heirs” Born about 1800. Died after 1853) No last name is given. Perhaps not married in 1853.
  • Mordecai Brink (1809-1863) There are many records confirming Mordecai’s information).
  • Abraham Brink (1820-1892)–This is Abraham W., my great-great-great grandfather. Many records.
  • George B. Brink (B. 1802-died after 1853)–Many records available.
  • Sarah (Brink) Shanyan(?) (died after 1853)
  • Lucy (Brink) Nagley (B. 1803, died after 1853)
  • Polly (Brink) Given Will specifies “heirs” (1805-1850)
  • Lucretia (Brink) Riplogle (B. 1814- 1891) Many records available. Lived in Michigan.
  • Roxy (Brink) Chapman (B. 1819–1898) Many records.
  • John E. Brink (1824-) Will specifies, “youngest son.” Many records.Lived in Michigan after father’s death.
  • There may be other children who died in infancy or childhood.

We know from the will that there were five sons and five daughters living when Abraham the Elder died and one additional daughter who died as an adult. Unfortunately, I have not yet been able to locate information on some of the married daughters and the oldest son.

The will leaves the farm and most possessions to John Brink, the youngest son, with whom Abraham had been living.  The other children (and Polly’s heirs) each receive $5, except for George and Sarah, who each get $20. Following George’s life through available documents, it looks as though he may have struggled financially and his father thought he needed the extra money.

No wife is mentioned in the will.  In the Wolf Creek cemetery in Holmes County, there is a stone for Lucinda Brink, wife of Abram Brink. The stone says she died January 19, 1846 at age 66 (so born in 1780). Lucinda, this lady about whom we know so little, must have been my 3x great grandmother. Since their eldest child, Jesse has the unusual middle name of Runnels, I intend to follow up and see if that might be her maiden name.

Back to the Census Records

Knowing the ages of his children (except for Jesse, Martha, Sarah, and Polly) helps determine if the 1820 through 1840 census reports for Abraham Brink belong to this Abraham.

The 1820 and 1830 census reports are from Dyberry, Wayne County, Pennsylvania, not far north of Abraham the Elder’s birthplace.  The 1840 census is from Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio.  Given the fact that there is a land purchase record of Abraham Brink, in 1835, that indicates that we’re looking at the same person. Additionally, the children for whom we have records were all born in Pennsylvania.

According to census reports, he lived in Dyberry, the county seat of Wayne County  at least between 1820 and 1830, despite reports on family trees that some of his children were born in other counties. Contrary to logic, children are reported to be born in 1812 in Somerset County, the opposite corner from Wayne; in 1814 in Wayne; in 1819 in Somerset again; and in 1820, Abraham W. is said to be born in Butler County which is located in the east of Pennsylvania.

It took several hours of comparing the marks on the three census reports with the birth years of the known children, but I am convinced that all three census reports belong to Abraham Brink the Elder and his family. (I won’t bore you with the details, but if you want to know more, please do e-mail me and I’ll be glad to share specifics.)

The Land Records

For a primer on how public lands in Ohio were distributed and sold, see this book.

As with the earlier census reports, because of scanty information, I hesitated to assume that land records showing an Abraham Brink buying land in Killbuck Township, Holmes County from the federal government was the Abraham I was looking for. However, the pieces of the puzzle came together as I looked at a Bureau of Land Management map of locations of section, township and range and matched it up with the grants purchased by Abraham, and by his older son, Mordecai.  Jesse Brink, the oldest son, initially moved into an adjoining township, according to the 1840 census, but later purchased land near but not adjacent to his father and Mordecai.

Land Office Record

Abraham Brink U.S. General Land Office Records Sept 14 1835. One of several land records. This one signed by a secretary of President Andrew Jackson.

  • September 14, 1835, Abraham Brink purchased 40 acres in Section 13 of Killbuck Township.(SE 1/4 of SW 1/4.
  • November 7, 1835, Mordecai Brink purchased 40 acres in Section 13. SW 1/4 of NW 1/4.
  • September 30, 1837, Mordecai Brink purchased 40 acres in Section 13. NW 1/4 of NW 1/4
  • November 7, 1837, Abraham Brink purchased 40 acres of Section 18 for Willis Hawes. (I have not figured that out yet. Was he actually purchasing it THROUGH Hawes for himself? Did Hawes not qualify in some way?) NE 1/4 of SW 1/4 (It fits in the block of land he was purchasing).
  • Sept 30, 1837, Mordecai Brink purchased 40 acres in Section 13
  • September 1, 1838, Abraham Brink purchased 80 acres of Section 13, making an L-shaped property with his original purchase, or a solid block, if you include the Hawes land. West half of the SE 1/4.
  • July 10, 1844, Jesse Brink purchased 40 acres of Section 17. (Note this is a different section, but it i still in the same township and range, so Killbuck Township, Holmes County.)

Sometimes tracing the life of an ancestor is like putting together a jigsaw puzzle.  Each piece depends on the pieces around it.

An Unfinished Puzzle

This jigsaw puzzle, Abraham Brink (the Elder) still has some gaping holes, but it has been a rewarding challenge putting together the pieces that I have found so far.

Some Research Notes

United States Federal Census 1820 1830, (Dyberry, Wayne County, Pennsylvania); 1840; 1850, 1860 (Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio); 1840 (Richland Township, Holmes County Ohio); 1850 (Hardy, Holmes, Ohio and Tiverton, Coshocton, Ohio); 1860 (Tiverton, Coshocton, Ohio and Hope, Barry, Michigan ); 1870 (Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio; Monroe, Holmes, Ohio; Richland, Holmes, Ohio and Hope Barry, Michigan); 1880( Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio and Hope, Barry, Michigan)

United States Federal Census – Non-Population Schedule: 1850, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio- Abraham Brink 121 acres; A.W. Brink 80 acres;1860, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio -Mordecai Brink 75 acres; Abraham (W.) Brink 165 acres, John E. 75 acres; Jesse 120 acres; 1870, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio, Abraham (W.) Brink 155 acres, john (E.) 110 acres; 1880, Killbuck, Holmes, Ohio – Abraham (W.) Brink 164 acres

Ohio, Homestead and Cash Entry Patents, Pre-1908, United States, Bureau of Land Management, Dates and names designated in list above. On line at Ancestry.com

Ohio Find a Grave, Mordecai Brink, “Roxa” Brink Chapman, Jeddiah Brink

Michigan Death Records 1867-1950, Michigan Department of Community Health, Division for Vital Records and Health Statistics, Lansing, Michigan. On line at Ancestry.com

A Brink book : some descendants of Lambert Huybertse and his wife Hendrikje Cornelisse (the American progenitors of the early Brink family) from Wageningen, Gelderland, Holland in 1660 to New Amsterdam on “The Faith”, 1996, by Laurel Shanafelt Powell. On Line at the Family Search Catalog.

Ohio Probate Records 1789-1996, Holmes County Wills 1825-1869, Vol. A. Abraham Brink Will, submitted August, 1853, probate September 15, 1853. Available on line at Family Search.org.

Wolf Creek Cemetery photographs by James Brink and Susan Brink.

Why Genealogical Research is Never Done

This week I had a perfect example of why it is dangerous to assume that my genealogical research is complete.  All you have to do is copy it to yours, and you’re set.  Wrong! I’ll say it again: Genealogical Research is NEVER Done.

Jeddidah Brink’s Family Story

In this case, if you were relying on me to provide you with the complete story about Jedidiah Brink, you would have been led astray.

When I told you the story of my great-grand uncle, Jedidiah, brother of my great-grandmother Mary Brink Anderson, I included a list of the children he had with his first wife, Susan Fortune.

This week I got an e-mail from helpful Susan Brink, whose husband is descended from Jedidiah. Susan sent me links to information about a Jennie Brink.  Susan had found many listings on Family Search.org about Jennie Brink.  Many of them were obviously some other Jennie, since they were women who were married to a Brink instead of having the birth name Brink.  Others were born far from a date that could reasonably have been a child of Jedidiah and Susan.

But the links included this marriage license.

Jennie Brink

Jennie Brink- James Layland Holmes County Marriages 1901

  • Parents Jeddiah and Susan.
  • Age fits into the pattern of family we already knew about.
  • Her residence is correct for Jeddiah’s family

Jennie Before Marriage

So I took this bit of information and went looking for more information on Jennie at Ancestry.com.  It turns out that she was born in June 1880, the same month that the census was taken in Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio.  The census was mid month, so Jennie apparently was born AFTER the census and so she doesn’t appear.

There are no 1890 census records available–almost all were lost in a fire–including this part of Ohio.

In the 1900 census, Jennie Brink reappears (HURRAH!) in Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio. She was not living with her father or we would have spotted her earlier.  Instead, she was living as a servant with a Clow family.  This makes sense, since Jennie’s mother died in 1899, and there was another sister in the family old enough to take care of Jedidiah’s youngest children.

Jennie Brink

Jennie Brink 1900 United States Federal Census with Clow family

Jennie did not work as a servant for long, as she married in 1901, as we have seen. Her father also remarried quickly, and the other children scattered. (See article on Jedidiah/Jeddiah).

Jennie and James Layland–Unraveling Some Mysteries

By Looking at Their Children

Neither Jennie nor her husband James F. Layland show up in the 1910 census. What happened? Finally, by searching for James Layland, I found that he died in March, 1905. Find a Grave has his gravesite, but no wife, and no link to Jennie Brink Layland.

Ruby Layland

I  spotted the obituary of a daughter of Jennie Brink and James Layland, born in 1902. Ruby was born in 1901 according to her marriage certificate, but probably actually 1902. Seven-year-old Ruby was living with her grandfather in 1910, according to the 1910 census. When she was married at 16 years of age, a C. T (?) Layland was listed as her guardian, so both her parents had died by 1910.

James R. Layland

Then, as I was typing this, I went back to Family Search.org to look again at Jennie and James’ marriage license, and found that according to death records,  they had another child, James R., born December 5, 1905. I was thinking that Jennie would have become pregnant just before her husband died–probably not aware yet that she would have his baby after he was gone. However, Ancestry coughed up a Birth Certificate for James that indicates he was actually born December 5, 1904–months before his father died! Sometimes records are wrong–which is another genealogical research lesson–try to get a 2nd and 3rd source.

At any rate, James had a short life, dying at 19 years old in Akron, Ohio where he worked in manufacturing.

EDITED March 2022_-proving Genealogy is never done: Since I could find no more information in Jennie, I assumed that she died soon after James R. Layland was born, but That has proved incorrect.  In fact she remarried to Alva Purdy (1873-1919) and had two children with him.

Some time ago, I found a newspaper article detailing her father’s Will that mentions Jennie Purdy. The Will was written on October 12, 1914, so I knew she was alive then, but did not update this post at the time. Since then, I have found a death record and the names of her two children with Alva Purdy: William Jeddiah Purdy and Lucille Minnie Purdy (Craig)

Jennie is buried in Big Run Cemetery in Layland, Coshocton County, Ohio.

*Thanks to a comment on this post, I was drawn back to Jennie and added this edited version of the last years of her life.

But Wait, There’s More–Who is Viola?

In searching for Jenny, I went back to that 1880 census to have another look at Jeddidah and Susan Brink’s Family.  It is one of those records where the writing has faded and is very difficult to read, however, there definitely was a surprise.  Right between Ida V. (8 years old) and Samuel (1).

1880 Census Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio

1880 Census Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio

There’s yet another daughter I did not know about. Viola Brink, age 6 in 1880. This is somewhat more confusing since Ida, her older sister, is Ida Viola.  When I wrote about Mary Brink Anderson, I explained that her middle name Viola, was passed on to my mother as Violia, which mother roundly hated. Jeddidiah used his sister’s middle name for two of his daughters.  I had even less success in finding this Viola in any other records. That makes me suspect that Viola died in childhood.

So I started this week in the “firm knowledge” that Jeddiah/Jedidiah Brink had SIX children, and am ending the week knowing that he had (at least) EIGHT. Are there more that have eluded me?  And what about the mysterious and probably sad life of Jennie Brink? Did her son James R. die in an industrial accident?  And what happened to young Viola, the daughter of Jeddiah? Genealogical Research is NEVER FINISHED!

Notes on Research

Federal Census, Killbuck Township, Holmes County, Ohio 1880, 1900. Coshocton, Ohio,1910 .

“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:XDKB-R4B : 8 December 2014),  entry for Lloyd Shrimplin and Ruby Layland, 03 Nov 1917; citing Wayne, Ohio, United States, reference ; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 425,761.

“Ohio Deaths, 1908-1953,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X63W-Q8B : 8 December 2014),entry for James R Layland, 06 Oct 1925; citing Akron, Summit, Ohio, reference fn 60020; FHL microfilm 1,992,682.

“Ohio, County Marriages, 1789-2013,” database with images, FamilySearch (https://familysearch.org/ark:/61903/1:1:X8CC-TK3 : 8 December 2014),  James F. Layland and Jennie Brink, 08 Dec 1901; citing Holmes, Ohio, United States, reference p 233; county courthouses, Ohio; FHL microfilm 477,147.

Ben Affleck Doesn’t Get Family History

“It’s a retroactive forfeit of meritocracy, a moment when you realize your positioning in the now is surrounded by shadows from then.”
Michael Twitty, Afroculinaria

Michael Twitty, in an open letter to Ben Affleck, encourages the actor to open up about his slave owner ancestors, expressing sympathy for his “embarassment.”

In case you missed the story, Affleck was featured on the PBS genealogy show, Finding Your Roots, last October.  When the Sony e-mail hacking scandal unfolded, e-mails revealed that Affleck had asked  the show to whitewash his family history He wanted them to remove any reference to his ancestors being slave owners. Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr., host of the show, sent an e-mail to the producer asking what he should do, since Affleck is a megastar [and a “request” by a megastar is really a “demand, is it not?],  The producer replied that it would be okay to alter his family history if they didn’t get caught, but if word got out it would be ‘tricky.”

They ‘cleaned up’ his history.

Word got out.

Affleck apologized this month–5 months after the airing– blaming his request on his “deep embarrassment.”  Those who give him the benefit of the doubt accept that excuse. I don’t. I picture his publicity team surrounding him, saying “This is a disaster. It is going to ruin your image. You have to apologize.”  Whatever. He would have been better off to just cancel the appearance on Finding Your Roots.


If he had understood the word “history” Affleck wouldn’t have asked for the information to be deleted to begin with.  What our ancestors did, when documented, is what they did. Good or bad. But it is past tense. It doesn’t matter what THEY did. It matters what WE do.  And choosing to lie to save face is not an honorable choice.

Bill Paxton by Gage Skidmore

Bill Paxton by Gage Skidmore





A much better choice was made in this week’s Who Do You Think You Are?–another celebrity genealogy show, when Bill Paxton learned he had slave-holder ancestors. Like Affleck, the genealogy search turned up some ancestors to be proud of, and some activities that made him cringe. Paxton’s reaction:

“It’s kind of disappointing from a contemporary persecutive,” he said.  “We read this great account of this man. But your history – good and bad – is your history.

“We have a tendency to want to hide the bad parts of our history, but we have to shine a light on all of it in order to understand who we are.”

Apparently, Ben Affleck believes all his ancestors are above average, and anything less reflects badly on him.
At Ancestors in Aprons, we believe that lost history is a lost opportunity to understand the present and the future.  Fair warning, ancestors–we try not to jump to conclusions, but we also don’t hide the facts that we find.
NOTE:  in the once-a-week Ancestors in Aprons newsletter that you may subscribe to here, you will get a bonus each week that does not appear on the blog.  This week it is my review of the three genealogy shows now on TV. Find out my favorite and see if you agree.

Let me send new articles to your e-mail. Subscribe to Ancestors in Aprons