Barking up the Right Tree

Making Sure You’ve Got the Right Family & Place

From the mailbag – “How can you be so sure you have the right people?”

In this particular case it’s pretty easy. Every “Brimlow” in New York City or Brooklyn that appears on the 1840, 1850, and 1860 Federal Census is part of this family group by birth or marriage. In fact, they are the only Brimlows at all on the 1840 and 1850 in the United States. The Brimlow in Orange, New York (1840) is actually a Timlow. There are Bromlows in Kentucky (both English and German), Bramlows in Ohio, as well as Brumloo and Brumlows in several southern states. I found no Br?malows, Br?melows, or Br?milows. The ? = any single letter. By 1860 there are only about 30 people named Brimlow who show up on an Ancestry search – some of whom are from Germany. There are only 18 who show up on FamilySearch. There’s one Bromilow (Edwd E. 1834 England in Chicago) and a John Brimelow in New York City that I chased far enough back to know he’s not ours. That’s it other than the Bram and Brum crowd.

So, yeah… I’m sure I have the right people.

As for the location – I used to think I was really put-upon by having family in New York City. Just five years ago, there were few online records available. Researching BMD (birth, marriage, death) meant a trip to Salt Lake City because you had to go through the those indexes on film to locate the dates and certificate numbers, and then go to the film that held those dates and numbers. I spent days doing something that now takes me minutes thanks to combining the indexes on Ancestry and the records transcribed on FamilySearch. I’m also lucky enough to be in a place that did the mid-decade census so there is a New York State Census online at Ancestry for 1855, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925. God bless that 1892 census. And there is also The Brooklyn Daily Eagle – free and online through the public library at this link.

Also, Fold3 has decades of city directories for New York City and Brooklyn. I was able to follow the family and track their business and home addresses. Google Maps allows you to create maps so I pinpointed the locations on a modern map.
William addresses NYC 1836-1851
This led to questions about the address of 16 James Slip. Many people have transcribed the directory address as “street” but it’s clearly “slip.” So it was off to do more research. The slips are well known in New York and were the small wharves and docks that extended into the East River. The larger ships in the harbor would discharge their cargo on barges or lighters and those smaller ships would deliver the cargo to the slips.
1860 James Slip
Most of the slips were filled in as land prices skyrocketed, but the names remain. Here are some great links to more information and some terrific pictures. Ephemeral New York and untapped cities have some great pictures and illustrations along with terrific information.

I also became fascinated by the family’s move to Brooklyn. The commute between Brooklyn and Manhattan in the 1860s was accomplished utilizing any of a number of ferries that plied their trade. Even though he didn’t live to see its 1883 completion, I have no doubt William Brimlow watched the beginning of the construction of the Brooklyn Bridge in 1869 with more than a little interest. Perhaps there was also a mixture of excitement and sorrow as some of the addresses occupied by his family or used for his business disappeared with the building of the Brooklyn Bridge.
Once again, the more you look, the more you learn, and the more you look.

A Brimlow by Any Other Name


Making the leap across the pond requires an understanding and acceptance of pronunciation and spelling. While the people who recorded the information were required to be able to read and write, they were not required to know how to spell. Spelling has been optional since the beginning of written records. Our names were really only hammered into some semblance of a final form when the federal government got involved. Many people believe that occurred with the advent of standardized birth records in the early 1900s and then solidified when Social Security came along. Once the government had your name spelled a certain way, then that’s the way it would always be unless you legally changed it.

But the spelling issue came much earlier for some people. Men who served in the military kept the name they enlisted under for government records – Henry and Robert Pickel both served in the Civil War under the name Pickel but after the war reverted to the original form of the name Bickel. They were not the first with the problem. The family story is that their great grandfather Tobias Bickel had served in the Revolutionary War but when he enlisted, his accent made the “B” sound like a “P” to company clerk, so he became Tobias Pickel on the records. Most of the Bickel/Pickel men used both spellings throughout their lives and I have found marriage records for one man under both names. I have seen brothers who each used a different spelling. John Pickel used Pickel throughout his life, while his brothers Henry and Robert started as Pickel but switched to Bickel after the war except when applying for their pensions and then they used Pickel again.

While it appears our ancestor’s name solidified to Brimlow (with just the usual spelling issues Bremlow/Bramlow/Brenlow/Brimbow) by about 1840 in New York, prior to that, it’s totally up for grabs and you have to be flexible in the investigation. According to the all-knowing website, The Internet Surname Database, the name Brimlow/Brimelow “…derive from the place called Bromlow in Shropshire: The place name has generated a number of variant surnames, as the bearers of the name moved to other areas and dialectal differences produced varying phonetic spellings, among them Bromilow, Brumloe, Brimelow and Bromblow. The original place name is recorded as “Bromlawe” in the 1255 Shropshire Hundred Rolls, and means “the broom-covered hill”, derived from the Olde English pre 7th Century “brom”, broom, with “hlaw, hlaew”, low hill, mound. …The first recorded spelling of the family name is shown to be that of Richard Bromlowe, which was dated May 28th 1534, marriage to Helenora Marsh, at Church Pulverbath, Shropshire…”

The reason to bring up the name discussion here is as a forewarning of what is to come. You can expect to see a wide variety of records when we make that leap across the pond and the discussion of “what should his name really be” is always fun to have. Do you go with the name he used as an adult, or list him with the name that appears in the baptism register? An evolving name is the bane of every genealogist because the names may change several times within a generation. You also can’t trust his signature. As stated, names evolve.

For all of the above reasons, I’m going to break the posts on William Bromilow/Brimalow/Broomelaw/Brimlow into several pieces. I’ll begin with William and Ann Brimlow from the arrival of the family in New York through death, because you can’t make the leap across the pond without all the little bits and pieces you know about the family to begin with. Knowing who the children are is key to locating the family in England. The next post will be about locating them in England and pinning down the family. Somewhere along the way we have to talk about the towns and villages and the occupations. It’ll be a complete disaster as far as the order of things, but in the end, you’ll know everything I know and hopefully understand why I came to the conclusions I did. And if you think I’m wrong, send me your chart with sources, and I’ll give it a serious look. Lord knows, I’ve barked up a few wrong trees before.

Special Thanks

Being in Tucson and researching in Pennsylvania comes with a few challenges. However, it also comes with its own set of rewards. You meet some of the nicest people when you are researching your family. While I tried to photograph most of the tombstones the last time I was in Pennsylvania, I of course missed a few I knew of, and then there were all the confirmed discoveries in the last year as I’ve worked the line. I have tried to add memorials on Find A Grave for the families as I found them.

Of note has been Ralph Satterfield, who has claimed almost every photo request that I put up on Find A Grave. Throughout January, Ralph has made repeated trips to Elderton and Plum Creek Presbyterian Church Cemetery to photograph the tombstones of the Beatty, and Shaffer clan. His photographs have been incredibly helpful as he often provides a close-up of the dates. It is a combination of his photos and mine that you have been seeing on the tombstone posts about this family. No doubt, he will be photographing more stones as I move on to working the Olinger and Yount lines. Thank you, Ralph. I appreciate all your hard work.

For those of us who research seriously, it’s an incredible pleasure to bump into someone who sources the information they put online. Diana Roche’s extremely well sourced tree for the Isaac LeFever/LeFevre family appears on Rootsweb and was instrumental in clarifying the family of Eximnia “Minnie” (Shaffer) LeFevre (1849-1897). Her work also provided me with information on two new sources, which I can now explore in hopes of finding more information on members of the Shaffer line. Thank you, Diana. It’s always a pleasure to see quality work.

I have also enjoyed help from Beatty researcher Cynthia Joyner. She is one of the contacts on the Beatty 2000 project for our Line #84, the line of Andrew Beatty’s descendants. As with most genealogists, she was generous in sharing her research with me.

Thanks go out to all the folks on Find A Grave who were kind enough to respond to my requests to either transfer memorials or add dates, bios, and family links. I’m happy to add and update these memorials as we go along.

We don’t “own” our ancestors, but for those of us who do this, we have a responsibility to ensure the information we post is as correct as possible. We also have a responsibility to provide our sources to other researchers and not repeatedly copy unsourced and possibly incorrect information without noting that the material is “for research only” or at least documenting where it came from. Thank you all for helping me work toward making the information provided on our common line as correct as possible.