A history of the word (and practice of) genealogy

Image is courtesy of an article about tracing Irish ancestors and the quote comes from Lawrence Overmire’s official website.

As I’ve written before, I am a genealogist (formerly employed as one) who has done “research updating genealogy of my mom’s family by my grandfather, using varied resources on the internet and photographs,” while mentioning genealogical sources in varying other posts. [1] But there is one question that confounds me: what is the history of the word and practice of genealogy itself?

In his 1967 novel, Washington D.C., Gore Vidal hilariously makes fun of, on pages 198-199, (as you could put it) the practice of genealogy:

Mr. Carhart was standing at his desk on which had been arranged a series of charts containing thousands of little boxes, some blank and some written in. “Genealogy,” he said amiably. “I’ve traced the Carhart back to Robert the Bruce, in two lines.”

“That must be interesting sir.” Peter [said]….Mr. Carhart’s reputation as a bore was not exaggerated. Not only did he…have a series of set numbers…but he could also be spontaneously dull. He was exactly what Peter needed.

“I’m all right, as you can see, through the nineteenth and most of the eighteenth century, a few holes here and there, of course, but the Carhart line is clear. Then in the seventeenth century was have a few little problems.” He frowned: large problems obviously. “There is a connection with Sir Thomas Browne which is quite exciting but depends entirely upon this lady here.” He pocked at one of the little boxes. “Who was her first husband? And are we kin to her children or to those by the second husband?”

…[Peter then gives Mr. Carhart his magazine] Peter was becoming restive: a sign that he was responding to the Carhart treatment. He was bored to life again.

Of course I’m taking the context out of this story perhaps too much, but this whole thing does make me chuckle. It is worth noting that Peter and Mr. Carhart were talking in a mansion and both were white, in the “high life” of the wealthy to say the least. So, you could say that from this that genealogy was something that was a hobby of the rich. I looked into this more to find out.

The origin of the word “genealogy.”

Before moving onto the history of the practice of genealogy, why not delve into the origin of the word itself?

Unfortunately John Ayto’s Dictionary of Word Origins does not have an entry for the word “genealogy” (likely because it was not used as often when the book was published in 1990) but does have one for “family.” It saying that the word has an unknown origin, with the word familia, indicating a term for domestic servants in the household, deriving from the Latin word famulus and only coming to its current meaning when translated into English to mean the “whole household,” then narrowed again to a “group of related people.” However, The Oxford Dictionary of Word Histories solves this problem by giving the origins of the word “genealogy” on page 229:

genealogy [Middle English] This came via Old French and late Latin from Greek genelogia, from genea ‘race, generation’ and –logia ‘speaking, discourse.’

The Online Etymology Dictionary, of course, has an entry as well, which is similar to the one on the Oxford Dictionary, along with other entries for the related words “genealogist” and “genealogical“:

early 14c., “line of descent, pedigree, descent,” from Old French genealogie (12c.), from Late Latin genealogia “tracing of a family,” from Greek genealogia “the making of a pedigree,” from genea “generation, descent” (from PIE root *gene- “give birth, beget,” with derivatives referring to procreation and familial and tribal groups) + -logia (see -logy). An Old English word for it was folctalu, literally “folk tale.” Meaning “study of family trees” is from 1768.

Encyclopedia Brittanica also talks about the origin of the word “genealogy”:

Genealogy, the study of family origins and history. Genealogists compile lists of ancestors, which they arrange in pedigree charts or other written forms. The word genealogy comes from two Greek words—one meaning “race” or “family” and the other “theory” or “science.”…Genealogy is a universal phenomenon and, in forms varying from the rudimentary to the comparatively complex…The history of genealogy can be divided most easily into three stages. The first is that of oral tradition; the second, that in which certain pedigrees were committed to writing. The third stage comprises the period from approximately 1500 in western Europe and later in the English-speaking world…In the early days of civilization, before written records were made, oral traditions were necessarily important…Numerous Asian genealogies appear in the Bible. A cursory examination of these will reveal that they belong to the first and second stages in the history of genealogy…In southern India the ruling house of the maharajas of Travancore claimed to trace its descent, direct and unbroken, from the old Cera kings of southern India…The very long Asian genealogies begin as oral pedigrees and were later written down, but they concern only princes or great persons. In Africa the one instance of a claim to very long descent, that of the emperor of Ethiopia, bears a similarity to Tod’s Rajput genealogies…Under European influence, some Asian countries have adopted the practice of keeping systematic records for all citizens. In China, with its ancient system of ancestor worship, long, drawn-out pedigrees, including claims to descent from Confucius, are not unknown…In modern Japan, the registration of vital statistics is regulated by law…In the Bible there are many genealogies, the object of which is to show descent from Adam, Noah, and Abraham. By the time these genealogies had become part of the Jewish scriptures, the concept of racial purity had reinforced the keeping of family records…In Roman genealogies heroes were always descended from gods…With the invention of writing, the oral became the written tradition. This occurred in Greece and Rome, where genealogies were recorded in poems and in histories…With the conversion of the peoples of Ireland, Wales, and England to Christianity, the recording of their regal traditions began…From roughly 1100 to 1500, the emphasis of genealogists was on pedigrees of royal and noble lines…This period also saw the emergence of pedigrees of lesser folk…It was during the third period in European genealogical history that records that came to include everyone began. This period extends from 1500 to the present…In the course of so doing they discover and work with general principles which apply to pedigrees other than their own, though records other than those applicable to their own case do not interest them…The writing of private family histories by professionals is very common…In tracing family history, the worker follows certain rules…As the centuries are passed, the numbers of those who can prove a descent by the male line dwindle, until by the time of the Norman Conquest scarcely half a dozen pedigrees can be traced in the male line for either Saxon or Norman.

Further books, such as The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, say that genealogy is one of the two ways of classifying language, being the same as “genetic” in this context. [2]

How should we define genealogy?

First, before telling the history of the practice, we should define what genealogy even is! Otherwise, telling a history would be pointless.

The Webster’s New World College Dictionary defines genealogy as simply “a chart or recorded history of a person or family from an ancestor or ancestors” or as “the science or study of family descent” and as “descent from an ancestor; pedigree; lineage.”

Beyond that broad definition, there are many others out there. Some seem to differentiate between “family history” and “genealogy” (especially depending on whether you live in North America or Europe) while others say that genealogy is “history in a microcosm.” [3] In terms of the word “genealogy” itself, some enthusiastically say it is a “hunt to answer every question you have ever had about your family and family history” while others say it is “essentially the study of information” or your “own personal history mystery.” Others, like a site on Italian genealogy, note that

Often it is important to know where we come from, for a fuller sense of direction in life, in participating to a larger general design. All those who contributed to our genetical map are in a certain sense still living inside ourselves, wherever their physical existence took place. The research of our roots is both genetic and cultural: from the dusty, crumbling papers of documents people who belong to what we now are come out of the mist of time and look at us silently, affectionately, waiting for someone to decipher their documents, rescue them from oblivion and pass their otherwise forgotten names and stories on to the next generations…Genealogy, as all researchers know, needs imagination, that special feeling that there must be something somewhere, and just the right stone must be moved, the right person interviewed, to connect the missing link.

Furthermore, the following sites define genealogy as the following:

“a record or account of the ancestry and descent of a person, family, group” or “the study of family ancestries and histories” or “descent from an original form or progenitor; lineage; ancestry.”- Dictionary.com

an account of the descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or from older forms” or “ regular descent of a person, family, or group of organisms from a progenitor…or older form [pedigree]” or “the study of family ancestral line” or an “account of the origin and historical development of something.”- merriam-webster.com

The descent of a person, family, or group from an ancestor or ancestors; lineage or pedigree” or “A record or table of such descent; a family tree” or “the study, and formal recording of such descents”- wikitionary

Genealogy is the study of the history of families, especially through studying historical documents to discover the relationships between particular people and their families.”- Collins Dictionary

“the study of the history of the past and present members of a family, or a particular history of this type”- Cambridge Dictionary

Using these definitions, many of the posts on this blog would fundamentally be genealogical in nature, especially the ones about the members of the Maryland Extraordinary (Extra) Regiment.

The practice of genealogy

As it stands now, the public, at least in the United States (and in other countries like those in Europe and across Asia), seems deeply interested in genealogy. This has been reflected by the Mormons, who are big into the subject by running familysearch.org and its affiliated Family History Library. Even the Boy Scouts of America has a genealogy merit badge (I don’t remember that from the time I was in Scouts)! Additionally, the Internet Archive has genealogical works, and the Library of Congress has certain collections.

A search on Google Books pulls up a lot of old genealogical publications. Avoiding specific family histories, or genealogies, I focused on genealogical publications.

For a magazine titled Genealogy: A Journal of American Ancestry, published in 1912, is an index to volumes 1 and 2, and then focus on specific families, certain records are transcribed (1790 census), and then there are columns for the publication on genealogical questions. These columns interestingly do not indicate gender of those writing in, but only their inquiries and surnames, with mentions of where the responses are located, on what page I presume:

The final page noted that it only cost $5.00 a year for a subscription to the Genealogy magazine, which was published by William M. Clemons on 45 and 49 William St in New York City, and edited by Lyman H. Weeks. Advertisements for family history information were also offered as was a list of nearby genealogists, and notation of the magazine having its own archive of genealogical materials.

I could go through over 300 other pages in the Google Books, but perhaps it is better to focus on the publisher, editor, and genealogists mentioned in their “directory,” just in the first issue of this magazine (noted above).

Mr. Clemens, whose full name was William Montgomery Clemons, lived from 1860 to 1931, and published at least 26 works, various magazines and family records, along with books on Mark Twain, to name a few. The Genealogy Bank has an article about him and his life. They write that

William Montgomery Clemens (1860-1931) was a prolific genealogist and writer. Nephew to the more famous Samuel Clemens [or Mark Twain] (1835-1910) – he was also a newspaper man and author…A prolific writer, he was the author of well over 100 books and hundreds of essays and newspaper articles. His regular column – “Notes on American Ancestry and Revolutionary Records” regularly appeared as the “Genealogical Department” in the Columbia, SC newspaper – the State…Over 80 of Clemens’ genealogy columns appeared in the Star.Each one has genealogical details & information for families from across the country. He regularly received questions from his readers and posted them to this column.

What about the editor, Lyman Horace Weeks and recommended genealogists H. Wattel and E. Haviland Hillman? Lyman Horace Weeks was also a prolific genealogical writer as this page shows, only appearing one time in Harper’s Magazine apparently. The New York Public Library describes him as such:

Lyman Horace Weeks (1851-1942) was an American genealogist, historian and editor. His specialty was genealogical research and he wrote and edited monographs and serials. His biography of Sir Peter Warren, British naval officer who aided in the capture of Louisbourg in 1745, was based on genealogical research.

Nothing else is known about him from my internet searching. For H. Wattel, it seems an insurmountable talks to find his first name. As for E. Haviland Hillman, he seems to have been based on London for some amount of time, part of the F.S.G., writings some books (see here and here). From a quick search, the term “F.S.G.” seems to be an accreditation of some sort. Further verification proves this to be correct. The denotation refers to one as a Fellow of the Society of Genealogists (SoG), based in London, founded in 1911. The organization describes what this means:

[As a fellow] they enjoy the knowledge their services have been recognised by their peers. They are entitled to use the initials FSG (Fellow of the Society of Genealogists) after their name and mention it on any professional websites they have. They are not compelled to do anything else. Fellowship is given for work and contributions already made to Genealogy; not for future work.

Likely when Hillman was a genealogist he was held to the same standard. SoG in 1911 was apparently founded as “a place where professional genealogists and amateur enthusiasts could meet.” But who were those genealogists and enthusiasts? Considering that it was only 50 people at its founding in 1911 and still less than 1,000 after WWII, as noted by the UK’s National Archives, it is probably worth an educated guess that the group was exclusive, attracting those who were well-off, respectable, male, and white. While it has become “Britain’s premier family history society,” it seems to be still exclusive to an extent. It has a “registered office located in Greater London,” as noted on a business site, at the building, as it looked in 2015, below:

Courtesy of Google Street View

The  building is small and almost looks like a library, at least inside. I was expecting something more ornate, but I was wrong.

What about 45 and 49 William St in New York City? As it stands now, it is a huge apartment building with construction on the street level. As it turns out, this location is just one of the many places rented out within the “Trump Building” (because Trump is the landlord of it) which was constructed in 1930. However, this magazine came out in 1912, 18 years before the tower was constructed. So where were their offices? While a photo of William Street before 1930 cannot be found, the city was teeming with cars and many skyscrapers even by the 1920s. It is likely that the building they were in was invoked a relatively recent style, as noted in an article by the New York Times:

By the beginning of the 20th century, the first generation of downtown skyscrapers ground out any remaining vestiges of the Dutch city, and in 1901 The New York Times mused that the crooked streets “remain to this day to bewilder modern New Yorkers”…Amos F. Eno, whose family had owned property in the area since before the Civil War, gave South William a renewed Dutch twist in 1903…Gilbert chose brick the color of honey and trimmed his commission with the soft white terra cotta that frames bays of leaded windows, rising to a stepped gable bearing a small circular window.

Then we get to The American Genealogical Record, published by a company in San Francisco. It told the history of specific families, just like Genealogy magazine, and seemed to resemble genealogy books we still see today. Sadly, this book does not give any insight into genealogy at that time.

Concluding words

There is still something to say after all of this. The practice of genealogy has changed over the years. Originally it was a hobby conducted by an exclusive few who were undoubtedly well-off white men (and perhaps some women). As the years went by, it became more inclusive and more scholarly. Genealogy is a field open for those of all races, sizes, and shapes. It allows one to cross class, racial, gender, or other lines which is, at times, harder in other disciplines. This is, what you could say, makes it unique. With all sorts of genealogical information online, one can sit at their computer and look up this and that, but this only gets so far because not every record is digitized. So you still have to go to cemeteries, archives, libraries, historical societies, and the like. You can’t look up everything online. To end this post, I look forward to your comments and the future trajectory of History Hermann, fully moving into the field of genealogy!

 

Notes

[1] See “The story of the extra regiment soldiers: from McCay to Patton“; “Benjamin Murdoch’s life after the war“; ““A young man with some property”: the story of a former Maryland captain“; ““A character for probity and honor”: the story of Theodore Middleton“; ““A Gentleman of Maryland”: the short life of Edward Giles“; ““An officer of the Revolution”: The story of Mountjoy Bayly” (In this post I wrote that “the only way to find this out would be to, perhaps, would be to contact the DC Archives. I don’t feel it is my place to do this since I would be intruding on genealogy research by the family itself, but it is open for any other researchers”); “A “person of trust”: the story of Archibald Golder“; and “The post-war life of Alexander Lawson Smith, a “Harford Man”“.

[2] The QPB Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins by Robert Hendrickson also has no entry for the word “genealogy” which should be no surprise.

[3] The Society of Genealogists makes this distinction, defining genealogy as “establishment of a Pedigree by extracting evidence, from valid sources, of how one generation is connected to the next. (In essence, this means the discipline of the construction of a valid family tree)” and family history as “a biographical study of a genealogically proven family and of the community and country in which they lived. (In essence, this means the writing of a biography of a series of related ancestors of common genealogy. Family History incorporates Genealogy).” By these definitions, I have engaged in genealogy and family history!

 

 

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“I never forgot that I was an American”: the story of the Maryland Loyalist Regiment

One of the books that talks about Marylanders who sympathized with the British Crown (people like Robert Alexander), which the governments of MD and DE tried to suppress.

In March 1783, Major Walter Dulany, in the Maryland Loyalist Regiment, wrote to Sir Guy Charlton, saying that while he still saw “miseries” of American independence, and “acted with the great zeal, against my rebellious countrymen,” he never “forgot that I was an American.” A such, he said that if the war still continued after independence was granted he would resign, as he could not ” act either directly or indirectly against America.” Some have called this “an excellent declaration of principles and demonstrates just exactly what Loyalists had to put themselves through to serve the British. Not only a material risk, but one which troubled many a conscience.” [1] It is this spirit which informs a discussion about the sympathizers of the British Crown (often given the moniker of “loyalist” which obscures their role in this historical context) that joined the “Maryland Loyalist Regiment,” people who groups, like the Daughters of the American Revolution (and undoubtedly the Sons of the American Revolution), automatically dismiss as being “patriots,” treating them as noting better than “traitors.” As such, it is worth telling their story.

In come the Marylanders

While the Maryland Loyalist Regiment (also called the Col. Chalmer’s Corps, the First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists or the Maryland Loyalist Corps) is one of the 38 “loyalist” regiments which lasted from 1777 to 1783, very little information is available on those that served in their ranks. [2] However, we do know that the regiment was headed by a man named James Chalmers, who became the lieutenant colonel and had drafted a pamphlet called Plain Truth which was opposed to Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the previous year.

Chalmers advocated for the creation of the regiment, which was granted in October 1777, arguing that control of the Delmarva Peninsula was important for success in the war, which turned to be correct in historical terms. [3] One of the other major generals in the regiment was man by the name of Philip Barton Key, who was Francis Scott Key’s uncle. According to his account, in December 1777 he met Chalmers in British-occupied Philadelphia where he commissioned him a Lieutenant while William Howe “permitted the enthusiastic Key to raise his own company, which proceeded to make dangerous forays into the countryside to recruit more loyalists.” [4] Due to his success as a “natural leader, [who was] brilliant and brave,” on March 1, 1778, he was promoted to the rank of captain.

The story of Barnet Turner, who I wrote about while working at the Maryland State Archives, gives a good general context of the regiment:

…The unit was created by British general William Howe after the British capture of Philadelphia in the autumn of 1777. Recruiting started around the captured American capital and later expanded to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. The unit was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel James Chalmers, a Kent County planter. After training from November 1777 until spring 1778, the soldiers marched up to Long Island. The unit stayed there until the end of 1778. It later saw action in West Florida until its surrender after the Spanish siege of Pensacola in 1781. They were later sent back to New York.

Other officers would be Philadelphia native Walter Dulany, the commissary general for Maryland, whose son Grafton served with the regiment in Florida, “where he died in 1778” and William Augustus Bowles (1763-1805), a Frederick County, MD “adventurer who had first lived among the Creeks after he was cashiered from the Maryland Loyalist Corps that had been sent to Pensacola in December 1778.” Bowles, also known as Estajoca, organized “Native American attempts to create their own state outside of Euro-American control” and convinced the Creeks to “support the British garrison of Pensacola against the Spaniards, but the garrison fell when its ship was hit by artillery fire from the Spanish ships” while Bowles, after the battle in Pensacola “was reinstated in the British Army, and went to the Bahamas.” Beyond that, he would establish “a trading post along the Chattahoochee River,” have two wives which he used “as the basis for his claim to exert political influence among the Creeks,” and later received and seen as a powerful leader “for Creek and Cherokee Nations.” I’ve written before about him, and his connections with the British.

Another officer was a man named Daniel Dulany Addison, a captain for the regiment in 1782, and a major in the corps in 1783. Beyond that, John Stewart and William Stirling were ensigns, John Stirling and Levin Townsend were lieutenants. [5] Also among them was a paymaster named Anthony Stewart who held that position in January and March 1783 at least. Other commissioned officers included Captains Patrick Kennedy, Grafton Dulany, Alexander Middleton (for a short time), Walter Dulany, Caleb Jones (former sheriff of Somerset County), Isaac Costin, James Frisby, and Major John McDonald. Eventually, captains of the regiment were eventually divided between the Eastern and Western shores of the Chesapeake Bay (I’m taking some of this text from my biography on Barnet Turner which I’ll talk about later).

In following years, the regiment would fight in Pensacola for the British (in 1778 and 1779), joined by other British “loyalist” regiments, all part of the British army as a whole. [6] The regiment was, when it marched “out of Philadelphia along with the rest of the British Army in June 1778,” consisted of “370 officers and men,” making it second in size “only to the Queen’s Rangers amongst the Loyalist units leaving the city.” In December 1778, in Pensacola, the Marylanders were joined by their “brothers” to the north: “183 Pennsylvania Loyalists commanded by Lt. Colonel William Allen.” [7] Unfortunately for the Marylanders, the British never fully trusted them, with Chalmers’ soldiers shipped to the war’s periphery, fighting “gallantly” in Pensacola, with captured survivors paroled, waiting out the rest of their lives in New York City. This included men such as John Noble, a corporal, who “was held as a prisoner of war in Havana and eventually repatriated to New York City.” By the end of 1779, the Maryland and Pennsylvania “loyalist” groups merged temporarily, later breaking apart due to the battle at Pensacola. [8] Their “motley” group, fought for years to come in this part of West Florida for the British Crown. By February 1781 the united MD and PA soldiers “contained only 300 rank-and-file members” likely because Marylanders were some of those who took the offensive against the Spanish in previous months but were repulsed. [9] By May the number had shrunk even more: the “combined strength of both the Maryland and Pennsylvania Loyalists” was only 160 men.

By 1782, Chalmers, the gentleman in “his neighborhood,”did not have a full roster of recruits since the regiment was “very deficient in numbers.” [10] While officers paid for rations, by April there were only 137 in the Maryland unit, and 68 in the corresponding one from Pennsylvania. Even so, abstracts of pay show that depending on the number of officers 591-623 pounds were paid out, the equivalent to approximately $86,800 to $91,400 today. [11] That is a sizable amount to say the least. This proves what one historian writes about the regiment: that it was one of the only pro-Crown regiments that was “regularly organized, officered, and paid.” [12] Even so, over the years, the soldiers in the regiment, dressed in “tatters and rags instead of uniforms” (in the summer of 1779), with many killed by smallpox in Pensacola, and the unit suffered a huge problem with desertion.

What the Library and Archives Canada can tell us

While there are varying resources, such as this page by the Loyalist Institute or the Orderly Book of the regiment from June to October 1778, the original records, specifically muster rolls, tell more of the story. [13] Unfortunately they basically begin in mid-1782 as attested on a spreadsheet I put together using microfilm from here and here, within this collection, on enlisted men and their officers in the Maryland “Loyalist” regiment. I can’t thank enough the Josée Belisle of the Registration and Reprography Unit at the Library and Archive Canada, telling me, after I requested copies that

The material you have requested above is already digitized and available online. There is no charge for material available on our website. Please note that you have to do your own research within the microfilm link to find the appropriate document. To make sure your reference matches the document, you have to rely on the page number on the document itself, not on the pagination provided from the microfilm link. Please note that any material provided online by LAC is restricted to research purposes or private study only. Users wishing to use the copies for any other purpose should inform themselves of Copyright regulations.

I would say this article falls under the “research purposes” and “private study” restrictions without a doubt.

By April 1782, Patrick Kennedy’s company, of which James Chalmers and Walter Dulany were part of, consisted of a small number of individuals, seemingly only numbering 29 individuals, three of which were prisoners of the Spanish. These three people were: Frederick Beehan, James Cummins, and John Ratcliff, while other documents listed William Wells, Thomas Clay, and Patrick Hervey as prisoners (who were in different companies). Otherwise, the rest of the company was intact.

Fast forward to June 1782. The names of 19 or 20 officers within the regiment was recorded as was the subsistence (money) due to the officers (non-commissioned and commissioned) and the regular soldiers. Also there was, likely that month, a listing of the men with the companies of Kennedy, Jones, Key, Frisby, and Addison, along with the Abstract of Subsistence due one Corporal and Six Private Men to the 24th of June 1782 Inclusive. These documents showed that there were six companies within the regiment, composed of the following officers:

Captain Patrick Kennedy — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 17 soldiers (privates)

Caleb Jones — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 18 soldiers (privates)

Philip Barton (B.) Key — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 16 soldiers (privates)

James Frisby — 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 24 soldiers (privates)

Daniel D. Addison — 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 6 soldiers (privates)

The Vacant Company — 1 sergeant, 2 corporals, 1 drummer, 14 soldiers (privates)

Additionally, apart from Chalmers as the Lieutenant Colonel, Walter Dulany was the major, Levin Townsend and John Sterling as Lieutenants, William Sterling, John Henley, William Bowles, and John Stewart as Ensigns while John Patomon was chaplain, James Henby was adjutant, Thomas Welch was quartermaster, and William Stafford was Surgeons Mate.

October 1782

By October 1782 the muster rolls for all the companies, all of which were clearly not at full capacity, likely from fighting the Spanish and because they were at the “edge” of the British empire meaning that it was hard to get new recruits. They could keep getting pay for the Officers and Private Men but that wouldn’t change much about the loss within their ranks.

Starting with Patrick Kennedy’s company, none deserted that month, but those who had been prisoners with the Spanish rejoined the company. One man, John Patterson (same as John Patomon listed earlier), the Chaplain, was in Newton, while soldier James Orchard was in the hospital and soldier John Urguhart was sent to serve in James Frisby’s company. A reprint of that muster roll showed no differences among the enlisted men from the original.

Then we move onto Caleb Jones’s company. The original muster roll, and the reprint later on, showed just about everyone staying in the regiment, with one individual considered to be promoted (corporal Robert Harris) but it never happened. More significant were the five individuals who deserted in October: James Start, Darby Riggan, Thomas Pittut, Nathaniel Luign, and Joshua Townsend. Interestingly, two of them deserted on October 9 (Start and Riggan) and three on October 15 (Pittut, Luign, and Townsend), making it seem that there was a plan to desert, not just a singular instance. Perhaps they were deserting and giving information to the enemy (the Spanish) or were tired of fighting on the “edge” of the British empire. We will never know their true reasons. It is clear however that this desertion likely would not qualify them to be “patriots” under the existing DAR standards since they would have to either assist the cause of independence in some other way possibly by enlisting in the Continental line.

From there, we move onto Dulany Addison’s company. Again, the original muster roll and the reprint, don’t show much out of the ordinary. In the month of October one man, Ephraim Tilghman, likely a member of the Tilghman family of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, deserted, while James Coland died on August 11, 1782, ensign John Stewart was on leave in New York, and Lieutenant John Sterling moved to Frisby’s company.

The same month, those in James Frisby’s company were also recorded. The original muster roll and reprint tells an interesting story. Apart from the five soldiers who deserted during the month (James Lowe, Daniel Jones, James Murray, James Tindell, and Barnard Foster), and the two “on guard” (John Cauh and John Cayton), the captain, Frisby, seemed to be in some trouble. He was under arrest! It is clear that Frisby had testified to a court-martial before, but now he was taken away in hand cuffs. Already, according to M. Christopher News’s Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution, other captains such as Sterling would be vying for his company, so he may have been under some pressure. He had been a captain of his company since 1777 and was a native to Kent County, Maryland. While varied sources mention him, most often only as one of the many “loyalists,” nothing more about his case is known.

Philip B. Key’s company had a different story even with its dwindling number of soldiers as attested by the original muster roll and reprint. During the month of October perhaps the soldiers were more disciplined as there no desertions. However, Captain Philip B. Key was sick, George Fettiplace was reduced in rank from serjeant, private Matthew Bennett was sick in camp, John Ink and John Henderson were on guard with Colonel James Chalmers, John Stephens was working with Captain Key, and Christian Smith was on guard. If you subtract the five privates who had other duties, there were only 11 privates in the company, undoubtedly short of their full capacity.

Finally there is the “vacant company” which was given that name due to the death or absence of a captain. The original muster roll and reprint, recorded in either October or November, showed the company without a captain or ensign but effectively commanded by lieutenant Levin Townsend. Like Key’s regiment, there were no desertions but two soldiers (George Wilkerson and Joseph Tallant) were on guard while James McGuire and John Synder were prisoners “with the Spaniards.” That left only 14 soldiers within the company, which again is a number lower than the full capacity of a company.

To end this section it is worth looking at the pay rolls for October 1782. These documents listed Ephraim Cunningham as injured, and listed all of the deserters:

Ephraim Tillman, Darby Riggan, James Start, James Lowe — October 9, 1782

Barnard Foster — October 10, 1782

Nathaniel Ledger, Thomas Pettit, Joshua Townsend, James Murray, James Tindell, and Daniel Jones — October 15, 1782

That’s a total of 11 deserters in October! The pay accounts also delineated the six companies and amount that was paid to those in each rank.

That brings us to the ranks from August to October 1782 document showing that the Lieutenant Colonel is paid the best and so on, with 591 pounds distributed among the men and their officers. Other documents made it clear that there was only 85 soldiers in the regiment, well short of the number to make a full and complete regiment.

December 1782

In December, the muster rolls of two companies were recorded: the “vacant company” and the other led by Caleb Jones. While the dates on both say “25 December 1783” it is clear these muster rolls really mean to say December 1782, with an error by the person writing it. For the “vacant company” little is said other than that Levin Townsend is going to England and that Daniel Fisher is in the hospital. The same goes for Caleb Jones’s company noting the enlistment of a new person as a soldier: Thomas Steeples on November 1, 1782 (further proving this muster roll is really in December 1782).

Interestingly neither muster roll shows desertion from the ranks of the respective companies. Perhaps this is due to some level of discipline within the ranks of the companies or that people had more dedication to the British crown in these companies than elsewhere.

February 1783

Lets start with Caleb Jones’s company. By February 24, 1783, nothing had changed among his ranks. But with other companies the story was different. For the “vacant company,” Daniel Fukes, a soldier, was in the general hospital while Levin Townsend, the captain, was in England.

For Dulany D. Addison, his company was very small. It only had eight individuals in all, half of which were soldiers. One man, Lewis Barrens? deserted on November 24, 1782. This likely hurt the morale in the existing company. Then there’s James Frisby’s company. Within his company, Ephraim Cunningham was promoted from serjeant to corporal, a step up in rank and pay. While no one deserted, John Coah died on February 13, 1783.

Then we get to Patrick Kennedy’s company, which had all sorts of problems. For one, Jacob Rogers and William Kelley were in the general hospital while James Orchard and James Cummins died on November 15, 1782. Additionally, Thomas Gray and Mark McNair deserted on November 24, 1782. So, his company was facing some hard times to be frank.

Finally there is Philip B. Key’s company, showing that Philip Key was still in England while George Fettiplace, then a soldier, was sick in New York. Also John Ink was apparently not working with Col. James Chalmers anymore and two individuals deserted:

James Henderson — November 3, 1782

Christian Smith — November 24, 1782

April 1783

In April there was a broad collection of muster rolls for varying companies in this regiment. Let’s start with Caleb Jones’s company. While Robert Laws and Joseph Newbourne were “on duty,” Robert Harris was promoted to serjeant, likely from his rank of private. Nothing else seems to have changed about Jones’s company by April.

As always, there is the “vacant company.” Again there were no desertions. However, Levin Townsend was in England while Ambrose Miles and Lawrence Messit were in the “general hospital.” Then there is Patrick Kennedy’s company. Apart from showing Nicholas Branch from the New Jersey volunteers (as was shown in February), Jacob Rodgers and William Kelley were in the “general hospital” while there was at least one desertion, the name(s) of which aren’t known because the paper is cut off at that point.

From here we move to muster rolls which both end in April. One covers a series of months and ends on April 24.

The first of these worth examining is for Dulany D. Addison‘s company. It again shows Lewis Barrens’s desertion and is a bit similar to the one from February, with little change. However, the second muster roll shows Jacob Ramson on duty, with no other changes.

The second of these is the muster roll of James Frisby’s company. While James Frisby was sick and Ephraim Cunningham was promoted, John Coah is noted as dying on February 13, 1783. No other changes from the previous muster roll is noted here. However, the second muster roll issued later that month notes that James Frisby resigned in March as a captain. As the previous search for Frisby turned up almost nothing, so it unlikely there are any writings, available online, about his resignation.

Finally there is Philip B. Key’s company. Again, little has changed from the previous muster roll as Philip B. Key is still in England and George Fettiplace is sick in New York. However, John Ink is again working with Col. James Chalmers but “present on parade.” The muster roll later that month is slightly different. It shows William Wells and Samuel Woodward “on guard” while John Ink is still with Col. James Chalmers, and George Fettiplace is restored to being a serjeant (by order of Col. Chalmers) even as he is still sick in New York. Nothing else seems to be changed as Philip B. Key is still in England.

June 1783

There is only one muster roll that falls into this category is for Patrick Kennedy’s company. It shows Lt. Col James Chalmers and Chaplain John Patterson in New York while William Kelley is in the “general hospital.” No other changes from the previous muster roll can be found.

Those pesky Continentals

From my research, mainly relying on articles by other scholars, there are (at least) five individuals (all soldiers) who seems to have deserted from their regiments in the Continental Army and joined the Maryland “Loyalist” Regiment.

On November 6, 1777, two men from the 8th Pennsylvania Regiment joined the MD regiment (Jacob Ringler and John Kelley), along with another man likely on that date from the same PA regiment: John Sullivan. Interestingly John Ringler deserted on February 27, 1778 from the MD Regiment and rejoined his old regiment the following month, from which he deserted in May 1778. A wild story if you tell me.

Then there’s Daniel Gill who deserted from his original regiment, and sailed with the MD regiment for Pensacola, West Florida. However, once in Jamaica, he deserted on December 16, 1778. While he did not rejoin his original regiment, he joined battalion of New Jersey Volunteers attached to provincial light infantry and proceeded to desert again on January 27, 1781.

Last but not least is Barnet Turner, whose bio I quoted earlier, talking about his possible service in the regiment:

Barnet Turner was born in 1749, in Ireland. In early 1776, at age 27, Turner enlisted as a private in Edward Veazey’s Seventh Independent Company. He was five feet, five and half inches tall…Turner served with his company at the Battle of Brooklyn in late August 1776…Turner’s fate at the Battle of Brooklyn is not known. On December 25, 1777, a man with the same name as Turner joined the Maryland Loyalists Regiment…If Turner had served in this regiment, he was there for only a short time, deserting on August 6, 1778, when it was en route to the eastern part of Long Island. Ultimately, further facts about Turner’s life cannot be ascertained.

After the war

With the Treaty of Paris in 1783, the Maryland “Loyalist” Regiment was disbanded. Many of the members of the regiment embarked for Nova Scotia (specifically New Brunswick) from New York on a ship called the HMS Martha. However, the ship wrecked in the Bay of Fundy after the captain refused to lower lifeboats until he could row away on his own, with over a hundred killed, with only 72 of the 137 Marylanders surviving. [14] As the survivors came to Nova Scotia with nothing left but promises of land and the clothes they were wearing, “cold, wet, hungry, and exhausted” while some historian declared years later: that this is “the price that came with being on the wrong side of history.” Todd W. Braisted wrote about this shipwreck specifically in the Journal of the American Revolution, telling more of the story:

…Five years later [in 1783], after campaigns primarily against the Spanish forces invading West Florida, the corps mustered less then ninety enlisted men. With preliminary articles of peace in the spring of 1783, their days as soldiers were coming to an end. And if they desired to remain living under His Majesty’s government, then they would need new homes…Those not wishing to leave received their discharges the first week of September, including sixteen of the Maryland Loyalists…Among them were 122 men, women and children from the Maryland Loyalists on the transport Martha, John Willis master…Besides the Maryland Loyalists, the Martha carried part of another Provincial regiment, DeLancey’s Brigade..,It would appear that the officers and men of the Maryland Loyalists and DeLancey’s were not the first survivors of the Martha to make it ashore…The troops from DeLancey’s would settle amongst the parishes of Northampton and Southampton, while the Maryland Loyalists drew lots on both sides of the mouth of the River Nashwaak, a tributary of the Saint John.

With this, the survivors settled in New Brunswick, specifically on the “east side of St John” and another grand near “the present town of Marysville.” [14] These who survived included Captain Caleb Jones, Philip Barton Key, “whose nephew was Francis Scott Key,” Captain Jonathan (John) Stirling who lived until age 76, dying in “St. Mary’s, York County, New Brunswick” just like his wife.

At the same time, Walter Dulany “returned to Maryland from England with his new wife, Elizabeth Brice Dulany,” in 1785, a woman who was the “widow of his uncle, Lloyd Dulany.” His wife even visited George Washington’s Mount Vernon that year, with Washington describing one of his guests as “Mrs. Dulany wife to Waltr. Dulany, lately from England came to Dinner, & stayed all Night.” I guess the fact they were on different sides during the war didn’t matter to Washington in 1785. As for James Chalmers, he was no longer welcome in the US, so he fled into exile, returning to England just like Dulaney Addison, a captain in the regiment. [16] There he rejoined the military, served as inspector general in the West Indies, did some writing and died in London in 1806, with Addison dying in the same place in 1808.

James Frisby likely went to Nova Scotia too. But he may have returned to Kent County by 1808 as a Richard Frisby, in Kent County, bought “seven negro men from James Frisby for five shillings” in 1802. In a note worth mentioning, Philip Barton Key returned to the United States and his seat in the Tenth Congress was contested since he was an “officer in the Maryland Loyalist Regiment” but he defended himself in a manner which might show a “changed viewpoint” [17]:

He said that his constituents knew the very circumstances of the follies of his early life, and his enemies had represented to them that, having been over twenty years ago in the British army, he was not a proper person to represent them. The people scouted the idea; they knew me from my infancy; but I had returned to my country, like the prodigal son to his father; had felt as an American should feel; was received, forgiven, of which the most convincing proof is my election to this house.

A conclusion

There are many other sources I could have used in this article including page 149 of Washington’s Immortals, page 49 of “Loyalists and Redcoats: A Study in British Revolutionary Policy,” and page 57 of Cliff Sloan and David McKean’s The Great Decision: Jefferson, Adams, Marshall, and the Battle for the Supreme Court (New York: PublicAffairs, 2010), among many others. [18] Clearly the Wikipedia pages for the “Maryland Loyalists Battalion” and James Chalmers are utterly worthless. The Maryland Historical Society has a number of records relating to Maryland sympathizers of the British Crown, as noted here, to name some of the important ones:

Fisher Transcripts – Maryland Loyalist Papers, 1771-90: transcriptions of Loyalist claims (MS360)

American Loyalist Claims (E277.C688)

Frederick County Treason Papers: Loyalist insurrection plot (MS576)

Maryland Loyalist Muster Rolls (MS548)

Meyer and Bachman, “First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists,”  Maryland Historical Magazine. Vol. 68, pp. 199-210 (MF176.M18)

Orderly Book of the “Maryland Loyalist Regiment”, June 18, 1778-Oct. 12, 1778 (MF185.M39)

Scharf Papers: Loyalist political activity during Revolution (MS1999)

Perhaps the Dulany Family Papers has something as well.

This is just a start on the Maryland Loyalist Regiment but it is something that definitely needs to be written. I look forward to your comments as always.

 

Notes

[1] Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 422; Stuart Salmon, “The Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783,” Ph.D Dissertation, 2009, University of Stirling,p.94.

[2] Salmon, “The Loyalist Regiments of the American Revolutionary War 1775-1783,” pp iii-vii, 55.

[3] David W. Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake: A ‘Fool Idea’ That Unified Maryland (Blomington, IN: Archway Publishing, 2017), 64.

[4] Sina Dubovoy, The Lost World of Francis Scott Key (Bloomington, IN: WestBow Press, 53; Sabine, The American Loyalists, 410.

[5] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 633-634, 650; Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, 336, 423, 428.

[6] The latter link cites James Moody, Lieut. James Moody’s Narrative of his Exertions and Sufferings in the Cause of Government, since the Year 1776, Richardson and Urquhart (London, 1783), 8-9.

[7] Siebert, Wilbur H. “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 2, no. 4, 1916, pp. 473;Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 64-65.

[8] René Chartrand, American Loyalist Troops 1775–84 (US: Osprey Publishing, 2008), 8, 14, 16; Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 474. Seibert talks about PA Loyalists at entrance to harbor

[9] Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 476.

[10] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 204; William Odber RaymondThe United Empire Loyalists, 36; Report on American Manuscripts in the Royal Institution of Great Britain, Vol. III (Hereford: Anthony Brothers Limited, 1907), 87, 107, 280; Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 481.

[11] “Subsistence Due the Commissioned and Non Commissioned Officers and Private Men from 25th June 1782 to the 24th of August, all days included being 61 days,” August 1782, British Military and Naval Records (RG 8, C Series) – DOCUMENTS, p. 8. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada; “Abstract of 61 Days Pay for the Commissioned Staff and Noncommissioned Officers and Private Men from the 25th of June to the 24th of August 1782, inclusive,” August 1782, British Military and Naval Records (RG 8, C Series) – DOCUMENTS, p. 9. Courtesy of Library and Archives Canada. This calculation comes from 2016 US dollars according to Measuring Worth.

[12] Lorenzo Sabine, The American Loyalists: Or, Biographical Sketches of Adherents to the British Crown in the War of the Revolution; Alphabetically Arranged; with a Preliminary Historical Essay (Boston: Charles C. Little and James Brown, 1847), 60-61; Robert S. Allen, Loyalist Literature: An Annotated Bibliographic Guide to the Writings on the Loyalists of the American Revolution (Toronto: Dundurn Press Limited, 1982), 44. Other units created at the same time included the Roman Catholic Volunteers unit and the First Pennsylvania Loyalist Battalion/Regiment.

[13] For more see Ford, Paul Leicester, ed. Orderly Book of the “Maryland Loyalists Regiment” . . . 1778. Brooklyn: Historical Printing Club, 1891. The book is also mentioned here, here (full book), and here.

[14] Siebert, “The Loyalists in West Florida and the Natchez District,” 482; Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 65; William Odber RaymondThe United Empire Loyalists (St. Stephen, N.B.: Saint Croix Printing and Publishing Co., 1893), 38. The Provencal Archives of New Brunswick, Canada adds that “one unfortunate ship, the Martha, having on board detachments of the Maryland loyalists and of de Lancey’s third battalion, was wrecked on a ledge of rocks near Yarmouth, and out of 174 souls about 100 were lost. The other vessels arrived safely after a voyage of from ten to twelve days.”

[15] Sabine, The American Loyalists, 62, 634; Theodore Corbett, Revolutionary Chestertown: Loyalists and Rebels on Maryland’s Eastern Shore (Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014), 120; William Odber RaymondThe United Empire Loyalists, 43.

[16] Guth, Bridging the Chesapeake, 65; Sabine, The American Loyalists, 118.

[17] Maryland in Prose and Poetry: Recitations and Readings Pertaining to the State, pp 222-223.

[18] Other sources include: Kathleen DuVal, Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution (New York: Random House, 2016, paperback), 113-114, 155, 165, 182, 204, 215; issue 68 in 1973, article in Maryland Historical Magazine by Mayer and Bachmann titled “The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists”); Murtie Jane Clark, Loyalists in the Southern Campaign of the Revolutionary War (Baltimore: Genealogical Publishing, 1981), 16-17; Mary K. Meyer and Virginia B. Bachman, “Genealogica Marylandia: The First Battalion of Maryland Loyalists,” Maryland Historical Magazine Vol. 68, No. 2, summer 1973, 199, 209; M. Christopher New, Maryland Loyalists in the American Revolution (Centreville, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1996), xi, xii, 20, 45-46, 49-51, 57-58, 63, 65, 82-83, 89-95, 100, 151, 148; Albert W. Haarmann, “The Siege of Pensacola: An Order of Battle,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 44, no. 3 (1966): 193-199; Timothy James Wilson, “”Old Offenders:” Loyalists in the Lower Delmarva Peninsula, 1775-1800″ (PhD diss., University of Toronto, 1998), 116, 179-180, 182-183; Richard Arthur Overfield, “Loyalists of Maryland During the American Revolution” (PhD diss., University of Maryland College Park, 1968), 207, 214-215, 234, 237-238, 243; Robert Mann, Wartime Dissent in America: A History and Anthology (New York: Palgrave Macmillian, 2010), 15-17; David H. White, “The Spaniards and William Augustus Bowles in Florida, 1799-1803,” The Florida Historical Quarterly 54, no. 2 (1975): 145-155; Major Walter Dulany, Maryland Loyalists to General Carleton, New York 13 April 1783, PRO 30/55/10078; nd Major Walter Dulany, Maryland Loyalists to General Carleton, New York 13 April 1783, PRO 30/55/10078. Sadly I can’t access this, this or this.

Milton Township and the story of the Saratoga County Almshouse in 1900

Saratoga County Alms House served Saratoga’s paupers for almost ninety years. Women lived in the east wing, men lived in the west wing, and administration operated in the center. Possibly salvaged from the 1827 Poorhouse, was a two-story frame house. Barns and farm outbuildings were located to the north. The Almshouse was demolished in 1960. Today, on the site, are located both the Saratoga County Jail and Sheriff’s Department, along with the Saratoga County Highway Department. Photograph is courtesy of the Saratoga County Historical Society. Here is a related postcard.

Recently as I was doing research updating genealogy of my mom’s family by my grandfather, using varied resources on the internet and photographs I have at my disposal, I stumbled across a list of “inmates” in Milton Township, within New York’s Saratoga County. These men were part of the “Saratoga County Alms House.” The 1900 U.S. Federal Census gives an opening into this history of this facility, telling more of the story.

This census shows 62-year-old married man named Charles Spaulding as the superintendent of the house, along with his 36-year-old wife Carolina as a matron. He is also living with his daughter Elizabeth (age 22), a dress maker, his son Charles G. (age 16) at school, a 27-year-old named Edward Lapoint as Assistant Superintendent, Florence Morehouse as a 28-year-old cook, Margaret Willis as a 31-year-old housekeeper and her recently born daughter, Edith M. Most of these individuals, with the except of Spaulding, were born in New York, who was born in Vermont.

Then we get to the 70 inmates of this poorhouse/almshouse. Most of them, apart from five Black Men, were White. The majority of those in this facility were also male (46 of them), but a significant number were female (23 of them). In terms of their age, of those whose age was known, they averaged at 66 years old, if you round down. [1] Of the eight individuals whose year of immigration was known, they generally came in approximately 1851 to the United States. The facility, however, consisted of many foreign-born individuals:

*only includes those whose birthplace is known.

In 1864, this same almhouse was crowded, with “lunatic inmates” with some in restraints, a supply of water but “no bath tub” along with no “ventilation or uniformity of heat in winter” and the house is “old and badly dilapidated” with rooms that are “out of repair, and the air in the sleeping rooms most foul and noisome” but it is is “kept in as good order as possible.” This same assessment said that there was no improvement between 1857 and 1864. It is known how much these conditions changed or stayed the same between 1864 and 1900. The placed seemed to change, since one 1907 article titled “Supervisors in Session” declared that the facility is one the best in New York State, saying:

“the general air of the almshouse is homelike and not institutional, and the institution is managed economically and thoughtfully.”

Add to this a 1907 report by the State Board of Charities of New York State notes the facility sits on a 127 acre farm and has a capacity of 150 people. This report notes that the facility consists of varied buildings, with recent improvements, steam heating, electric lighting, and adequate ventilation. Buttressing this a 1904 note that the facility was exhibited by the State Board of Charities. Being that the case, it was not “hellish” like it had been in 1864. Other reports add that there were many persons they considered “feeble-minded or idiotic” (whether they were accurate or not in this assessment is not known) within the facility, but that this is not the majority. This facility was also different than that in 1864 because this almhouse replaced the one is disrepair in 1876, the same one described as horrible in a paragraph noted above.

Other than this, little is known about the almshouse. It clearly occupied a “central position” in Millston, aiming for the “accommodation of the poor of both towns” with an “agent resident in the house, who keeps an account of all disbursements which he is to render to the overseers.” A 1910 table of the U.S. Census table of “Paupers in almhouses” lists 100 individuals as within, an increase from 70 in 1900, in the Saratoga County Almshouse. One photograph of the almshouse in 1903 makes it seem desolate but tidy, if that makes sense:

Courtesy of Harvard College.

 

Even though little is known, with not many hints on genealogical websites, the historian’s office of Millstone, New York, Ballston Spa Public Library’s collections, even a back-and-forth discussion on an ancestry.com forum gives some clues, but doesn’t provide much. There is no doubt that those who were considered “different” like those who were transgender but seen by medical and enforcement bodies as having “mental issues.” However, if the facilities were anything like the almshouse in Schenectady County, the keeper of the poor house (in this case  the superintendent) provided “food and clothing for the inmates” and there were weekly examinations of “the management, condition, and usage” of the area by inmates. These facilities were also, like those in Maryland, “primary public institution[s] for the destitute,” lasting for many years. This facility was undoubtedly different than the Philadelphia Bettering House in which sickened Maryland soldiers spent time during the Revolutionary War. Virginia Commonwealth University succinctly summarizes poorhouses or almshouses, while relating it to New York in a sense:

In 1824, New York State enacted the County Poorhouse Act, a measure that directed each county to erect one or more poorhouses to care for the “worthy poor.” Expenses for building and maintaining these institutions were to be paid by tax funds levied by the county government. About the time the Civil War ended, a number of state institutions were being erected to care for specific populations deemed unsuitable for being cared for in county poor houses, e.g., the insane, the disabled, children, women.

That does not mean that the facilities were always in the best interest of these individuals but they served a societal purpose to those who wanted to keep “different”/”unsuitable” people off the streets. In that way, it pushed away social problems to a place where people couldn’t see them, allowing them to ignore glaring inequities and inequalities in their societies.

While the New York Censuses of Inmates in Almshouses and Poorhouses from 1830-1920 could contain valuable information about the Saratoga County Almshouse (like this entry), in this case, it is better to look at the census itself. [2] This census shows that those in the town were working class. They were lumbermen, saw mill laborers, teamsters, farm laborers, farmers, miller, ice taker, and so on. This article is only dipping one’s toe into the sea of research, but it provides a start into this important topic.

Notes

[1] If you round down from 66.3555555555555556.

[2] Then historian of Saratoga County, Lauren Roberts, even found “a book of the county’s poorhouse records dating back to mid-1800s. The book is kept in a basement vault with other irreplaceable records and lists the names and vital information of hundreds of children who were left at facilities in Saratoga County and surrounding areas because their parents died or were unable to care for them.” Sadly, this cannot be used here as it is in the wrong time period, but is worth study in the future. However, one ledger of “Paupers Admitted to the Poor House” of Saratoga from November 1893 to October 1935 has been given to the county historian of Saratoga County. That could add more information about this facility’s inmates.