Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Family "Secrets"

While Nana's away Grandpa does some more genealogical research at night and finds out some interesting things happened in one of the family branches/roots (it all depends on how you care to look at it).

The Van Cott family was supposedly once the Van cat family which was pronounced the same way by transfigured by exposure to English spelling. I should note that some disagree with that and also that an extensive book was written about the family in the U.S. Anyway, I was particularly interested in my great, great, great grandfather William Hathaway Van Cott's immediate family (but the scope of research quickly expanded...) and made a few discoveries...

His father, Gabriel Van Cott had TWO wives which isn't all that unusual (his brother, Joshua Marsden, married two sisters) but both wives had the same first name which had caused some confusion on my part and apparently it is the SECOND wife with whom he is buried. Where wife #1 went after she passed on is unknown, at least to me. I thought, and I think my grandmother thought as well, that William Hathaway Van Cott's mother was the second Charity (actually Charité) but his mother was the first Charity. He had an older brother, Richard, who's son, Cornelius, became the Postmaster of New York City. The Postmaster and his son, Richard after his grandfather, were much involved in progressive politics and the Republican Party (the original progressives/liberals) even having close ties to Theodore Roosevelt.

They managed to get into the papers quite regularly. The Postmaster's son was working as the Cashier for the Post Office in New York City (a lucrative position requiring that he be bonded to the amount of $50,000 or over $500,000 in today's dollars) and running for a seat as a Congressional Representative when he was arrested for a form of voter fraud, i.e. "colonizing voters". That is to say he was accused of hiring voters for $2.00 to move into the district and providing them housing so that they would register and vote a straight Republican ticket at which time they got another $2.00 (about $50.00 in today's money). However, while he was ultimately removed from his positions at the Post Office the prosecution doesn't seem to have gone anywhere after his father's death in 1904.

Also another of William's brothers, Thomas, was being sued for failing to properly secure their father's estate (he being the executor) and yet another brother, Joshua, represented him! Also at this same time great, great, great grandfather, his brother and his son were instrumental in the formative years of baseball and his first cousin the Postmaster OWNED the New York Gothams for a time. Further, great, great, great grandfather's niece was married to Richard Cary Morse who became Consulting General Secretary of the International Committee of Young Men's Christian Associations (YMCA) for several years. Several of the family were doctors, lawyers, and preachers.

I thought it was interesting how this generation and the next of this one family branch had influenced the next 5 or 6 successive generations. While most of the family living in the northeast has continued to be very liberal in their political activities, they've generally proven to be very socially and economically conservative within the family. I know that my aunts, the only direct descendants of this branch that I knew, while they were very friendly to one and all, they were very "genteel". I know to some it might have seemed that they thought that they were a bit better than everyone else, i.e. among the "elite". After all, they were from New York City and the family had been movers and shakers.

I think the background of this very close family would have been very interesting to us while we were growing up but we really only got bits and pieces and most of that was about various heroic activities of such as William Hathaway Van Cott Jr., who bought the camp on Lake George, or his brother Leonard Boole Van Cott.

No comments: