Brick Wall… What Brick Wall?

Hunting the Family of Margaret Swasey (1806-1854)

Margaret Swasey b. abt 1806 in Massachusetts is the proven wife of Peter Charles McLean based on census records and being named in her daughter Sarah Amelia’s death records. Margaret was our brick wall for many years. We knew that Margaret had married Peter circa 1829/30 based on the age of their first child Charles Edward born 1830/31. Peter C. McLean was found on the 1830 Federal Census in Ward 7 New York as a male 20-29 with a female 20-29 presumed to be Margaret prior to the birth of Charles. Everything I knew about Margaret was posted on 24 Jun 2014.

With the release of the wills and probate on Ancestry, I did a routine search for the name of Swasey in New York prior to 1860. Margaret Swasey McLean died in 1854 so I was hoping to find a father who had named her or her children in a will.

In an application for Letters of Administration on the Estate of Nathaniel K. Swasey (deceased 28 Jul 1845; filing dated 22 Aug 1845) Sarah Swasey (signed Sarah Swasy) named herself as the mother of Nathaniel and states she and the following siblings of Nathaniel survive:
Stephen Swasey of Albany
Margaret wife of Peter C. McLean
Rebecca wife of David Bruce Jr
Sarah Swasey
Each of the children (and husbands) signed documents giving their rights up to Sarah.1
[Click on the image for full size]
Sarah Swasey
Based on the information found in that will and probate file, I researched each of the named children, spouses, and mother Sarah to reach the following conclusions:

Margaret Swasey McLean’s mother was:
SARAH “SALLIE” LEIGH
Born 26 Apr 1784 Essex, Massachusetts
Died Sep 1854 Brooklyn, Kings, New York
Interred 11 Sep 1854 Cypress Hills Cemetery

Her father was:
SAMUEL SWASEY
Born 23 Feb 1781 Essex. Massachusetts
Died aft 1825 New York
Interred Unknown

Her are the facts:
1803 – 23 Feb 1803 Sarah “Sallie” Leigh and Samuel Swasey marry in Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts.2 There are multiple records for their marriage on 14 Jul 1803, but the record from the New England Genealogical Society is the one with the earlier date and is consistent with the recorded birth of their first child Stephen in Dec 1803. Examination of the original record is now on my To-Do list.
1810 – Samuel is found (Sam Swasy) on the 1810 Federal Census in Albany, New York.3 [Daughters Sarah E. b. abt 1811 and Rebecca b. abt 1814 both claim Albany as their birth county on later NY State Census records.]
1813 – Samuel appears in The Albany Argus, 2 July, page 1, column 3 as a partner in business as a morocco dresser (a specialized process for kid (goat) leather). [Son Stephen Swasey is also listed a morocco dresser on later census records. Son Nathaniel is a leather dealer in a city directory.]
1814 – Samuel offers $20 reward for a runaway indentured apprentice, Albany Argus, 7 Jan, p4.
1815 – Samuel’s property is sold by the Sheriff at auction in Albany – Albany Gazette, 20 Feb, p4.
1817 – Samuel Swasey appears in the New York City list of letters – National Advocate for the Country, 3 Jan, p2.
1820 – Samuel Swasey appears in the list of letters in New York City – New York Columbian, 1 May, p4. [Samuel was not found on the 1820 census, but if he was living in a boarding house or with someone else he would not appear as this census only listed the heads of households.]
1822 – Mrs. Sarah Swasey appears in the list of letters – Albany Argus 4 Oct 1822 p3.
1823-24 – Samuel Swasey appears in the New York City Directory as a morocco dresser at 38 Spruce.4
1825 – Samuel Swasey appears in the city directory as a morocco dresser at 4 Ferry. [This is the last record I found for Samuel.]
1829 – Sarah Swasey first appears in the city directory running a boarding house in New York City.
1830 – Sarah Swasey is found on the 1830 Federal Census in New York Ward 45 – the city directory of the same year indicates she is running a boarding house.6 This is the same ward that daughter Margaret McLean is living in.
1834 – Daughter Rebecca Swasey married David Bruce Jr. in New York City.7
1840 – Samuel Swasey (age 20-29) along with an older woman (40-50) is found in Ward 7 – this is the same Ward as Peter McLean. The age is appropriate for Sarah.
1848 – Rebecca Swasey Bruce gives birth to daughter Sarah Leigh Bruce.8
1850 – Sarah Swasey is found on the 1850 Federal Census in Williamsburg (Brooklyn), Kings, New York with Rebecca Bruce and her family.9
1854 – 11 Sep – Sarah was interred in the Bruce family plot at Cypress Hills. I have not yet found a death notice or certificate for her. 10

When I received the plot list for the Bruce family plot in Cypress Hills it noted that Nathaniel Swasey (age 28) was interred in this plot along with Samuel Swasey (age 29) and John Bruce (age 42) on 28 Apr 1848. No death dates were shown, but we know that Nathaniel died in 1845, so these 3 individuals were obviously reinterred from elsewhere. We also know this Samuel must be a son, as the father Samuel b.1781 would have been about 44 when last found in 1825.

The Samuel and Sarah (Leigh) Swasey family (based on the above information) is up on Ancestry and FamilySearch now. Seeing all the Bruce names now explains where some of the names used by both Peter Charles and Peter Byron McLean came from. They had a ton of Bruce cousins and the family was very well off.

There is much more research to do in proving the line back, but at least I know where to look now. And all because of this one document. Happiness is surveying a pile of rubble that was once a brick wall.



1. Letters of Administration for Nathaniel K. Swasey named mother Sarah Swasey, sister Margert McLean, Rebecca Bruce, Sarah Swasey, and bother Stephen Swasey of Albany; digital images (accessed 12 Sep 2015).
2. Marriage Record, The New England Historical and Genealogical Register. Boston: vol 0943, p64. The New England Historic Genealogical Society. 23 Feb 1803 Samuel Swasey – son of Stephen Swasey & Abigail Knapp to Sarah Leigh father Benjamin Leigh. Cit. Date: 12 Sep 2015.
3. 1810 U.S. census, Albany, Albany, New York, p. 62, Sam Swasy; digital images (accessed 12 Sep 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M252, roll 26.
4. City Directory, Swasey, Samuel, morocco dresser, New York: p.472; digital images accessed 12 Sep 2015.
5. 1830 U.S. census, New York Ward 4, New York, New York, p. 216, line 13, Sarah Swasey; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 12 Sep 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 96. Cit. Date: 12 Sep 2015.
6. City Directory, , Swasey, Sarah, boarding-house 209 William, New York: p.572; digital imagesaccessed 12 Sep 2015. Cit. Date: 12 Sep 2015.
7. U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930, New York Evening Post.
8. Burial Record, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, Lot 226, Sec 2, Owner David Bruce Sr. Interment #187370 Sarah Leigh Bruce 1 Nov 1924.
9. 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburgh, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, p. 307B, dwelling 1631, family 2772, Sarah Swazey in home of David Bruce; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 12 Sep 2015); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 522. Cit. Date: 12 Sep 2015.
10. Burial Record, Cypress Hills Cemetery, Brooklyn, Lot 226, Sec 2, Owner David Bruce Sr. Interment #5249 Sarah Swasey 11 Sep 1854.

Peter Charles McLean (1805-1872)

Peter Charles McLean was born 28 Apr 18051 in Columbia County, New York.2 It is not yet positively known who his parents are, but I believe he might be the son of Peter and Mary McLean. More research in this area is required. His daughter-in-law Susan Winn (Frith) McLean referred to him in depositions as Charles, indicating that was his preferred name.

Circa 1929, he married Margaret Swasey who was born about 16 Jun 1806 in Newburyport, Essex, Massachusetts. She was the daughter of Samuel Swasey and Sarah (Sally) Leigh. Peter Charles (with a female of the appropriate age to be Margaret) was found on the 1830 census in Ward 7 of New York City,3 but I have been unable to locate him in 1840. Peter C. relocated to Williamsburg in 1842, and thereafter he and his family are found on the 1850, 1860, and 1870 federal census records as well as the 1855 New York State Census.4,5,6,7

Margaret passed away 11 Sep 1854 in Williamsburg and was probably interred in Union Cemetery. Her death notice appeared in the New York Daily Times.

“At Williamsburg, L.I., on Monday, Sept.11, MARGARET, wife of P.C. McLean, in the 49th year of her age.”8

Peter Charles was a house, sign, and fresco painter. Several of his sons followed him into that trade and either worked with him or opened their own businesses. The city directories for Brooklyn between 1860 and 1870 list both he and his sons with paint and wallpaper businesses located on Grand Avenue. He never remarried.

Peter Charles was nothing less than a stand-up guy. When his desperately ill son Peter B. came home from the war in early 1862, he moved in with his father. For almost three years, Peter Charles took care of his son and supported Peter B.’s family as he recovered. In about 1869, Peter Charles suffered a stroke that left him paralyzed and unable to care for himself. Peter B. took in his father and Peter Charles remained with his son until his death on 27 Feb 1872.

He was interred on 29 Feb 1872 in Union Cemetery.9 I have not yet found an obituary.

He and Margaret had five known children who will be discussed in the next post.
1. Charles E. McLean
2. Peter Byron McLean – previously discussed.
3. Washington McLean
4. Nathaniel Bruce McLean
5. Sarah Amelia McLean

*note – Union Cemetery was closed and the bodies relocated. I will cover this in a separate post.



1. Kings County, New York, death certificate no. 1916 (27 Feb 1872), Peter Charles McLean; FHL microfilm 1,324,745. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.
2. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
3. 1830 U.S. census, New York Ward 7, New York, New York, p. 79, line 22, McLean, Peter C.; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M19, roll 97. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
4. 1850 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Kings, New York, p. 469B, dwelling 1508, family 2100, Peter McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M432, roll M432 522. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
5. 1860 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Brooklyn Ward 13 Dist 1, Kings, New York, p. 653, dwelling 55, family 89, Peter C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M653, roll M653 772. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
6. 1870 U.S. census, population schedule, Williamsburg, Ward 14 Brooklyn, Kings, New York, p. 180A, dwelling 281, family 582, Peter McLean; digital images, Ancestry (accessed 10 May 2014); citing National Archives and Records Administration microfilm M593, roll M593 955. Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
7. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
8. Newspapers, New York Daily Times, 28 Sep 1854. Cit. Date: 2 May 2014.
9. Kings County, New York, death certificate no. 1916 (27 Feb 1872), Peter Charles McLean; FHL microfilm 1,324,745. Cit. Date: 2 Aug 2010.

Peter Byron McLean (1832-1895)

Peter Byron McLean was born 21 Jul 1832 in New York City, New York,1 the second known child of Peter Charles McLean (1805-1872) and Margaret Swasey (abt 1806-1854). He relocated to Williamsburg in Brooklyn with his parents in about 1842. He was enumerated there with his father and siblings in 1850 and then again on the June 1855 New York State Census.2,3 In researching Peter Byron, I refer to him as Peter B. to distinguish him from his father Peter C. While I have many documents for Peter B., I have not yet located a photo of him. His physical description from his pension file states he was 5’8″, 145 lbs., light complexion, brown hair, and blue eyes.

Peter B. married Susan Winn Frith on 27 Aug 1856, at St. Mark’s Protestant Episcopal Church, in Williamsburg.4 Susan (24 Jun 1839-21 May 1915) was the daughter of William Frith (1807-1855) and Frances Brown (1815-1854).

Marriage Certificate provided in 1895 by Susan as proof of marriage.

Marriage Certificate provided in 1895 by Susan as proof of marriage.


Like his father and brothers, Peter B. was a house, sign, and fresco painter as well as a stainer and grainer. A grainer was a painter who could stain and change the colors of wood with both paints and varnishes. He worked first with his father and then opened his own business.

On 5 Oct 1861, Peter B. joined the Union Army. On 1 November he was commissioned as a 1st Lieutenant in Company H, 87th New York Infantry Regiment. He was mustered out on 4 May 1862 after contracting typhoid fever and malaria during the Siege of Yorktown in early 1862.5 A separate series of posts about Peter B.’s civil war service and information from his pension file will follow this post.

After his return from the Civil War, Peter B. and his family were dependent on his father’s assistance until he was able to resume his career as a painter almost three years later. By 1870, Peter B. had his business at 156 Grand in Williamsburg, near the businesses of his father and his brother Washington.6

After the death of his father in 1872, Peter B. relocated his family to Roslyn in Queens County. He filed for his Civil War Invalid pension and was granted disability on 29 Jan 1890, although he continued to operate his business until 1893.7
Peter Adv Card

Upon suffering a mental breakdown, he was committed to the insane asylum at the State Homeopathic Hospital at Middletown on 1 Jul 1893.8
middletown2
He died 1 Oct 1915 at Middletown, Orange, New York.9 A copy of his death certificate was found in his Civil War pension file and states his cause of death as chronic melancholia consecutive with pulmonary hemorrhage. He was buried in Roslyn Cemetery.

Died. Peter B. McLean, an old resident of Roslyn, died in Middletown, N.Y., last Tuesday, age 61 years. He was a war veteran, having served in the Eighty-seventh New York volunteers. He was a member of Mansfield post G.A.R. of Brooklyn. Funeral services were held in the Methodist Episcopal Church of Roslyn and the interment was in Roslyn cemetery. Elijah Ward post G.A.R. furnished the pall bearers, and the members of the Roslyn Benevolent society, of which the deceased was a member, also attended in a body and performed the last burial services at the grave.10

Peter B. McLean

Susan survived her husband by ten years and will be discussed in a separate post. According to her widow’s pension file, she and Peter B. had twelve children together. Eight are known by name, one burial for a stillborn has been found, but the other three have not yet been located. It is possible they were interred in Union Cemetery in Brooklyn. There are no extant records for this cemetery.

1. Franklin Byron McLean, born 6 Nov 1857, Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, died 10 Oct 1925, Hempstead, Nassau, New York, buried 19 Oct 1925, Greenfield Cemetery in Uniondale. On 26 Sep 1887, he married Martha (Mattie) Elizabeth Wetterau, born Jan 1867, died 28 Nov 1949. They had three children: Emma McLean, Francis Byron McLean, and Jennette (Jane) McLean. All but Francis Byron are interred together in Greenfield Cemetery. Francis Byron is in the Cemetery of the Holy Rood.
2. Washington McLean, born Feb 1859 and died 24 Feb 1861 of convulsions in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York. He was interred in Union Cemetery.
3. Sarah R. McLean, born 28 Mar 1861 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York, died 21 May 1948 in Floral Park, Nassau, New York, buried Roslyn Cemetery. In about 1883, she married Wallace Thurston, born Oct 1863, died 9 Dec 1941. They had five known children: Wallace Bruce Thurston, Edward McLean Thurston, Henry Thurston, Albert McLean Thurston, and Byron McLean Thurston. All are interred in Roslyn Cemetery.
4. Charles Wallace McLean, born 30 Dec 1863, died from diphtheria 24 Jun 1867 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York. He was interred in Union Cemetery.
5. Peter McLean, born 1865 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York. He is not found on the 1880 Census or in any documents after 1870.
6. George Edward McLean – previously discussed.
7. Matthew Taylor McLean, born 7 Sep 1869 and died 21 Jul 1871 in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Kings, New York. He was interred in Union Cemetery.
8. Unknown McLean, born circa 1872, died before 1878, probably interred in Union Cemetery. Probable stillborn as no death certificate on file.
9. Unknown McLean, born circa 1874, died before 1878, probably interred in Union Cemetery. Probable stillborn as no death certificate on file.
10. Stillborn McLean, born circa 1876, probably interred in Union Cemetery. Probable stillborn as no death certificate on file.
11. Stillborn McLean, born and died 1878, interred Roslyn Cemetery. This is the unnamed McLean baby interred in the family plot when it was purchased in 1878.
12. Virginia Stuart McLean, born 17 May 1881 and died 10 May 1896 of malaria in Roslyn, Queens, New York. She was interred in Roslyn Cemetery.



1. Declaration For A Disability Pension filed by Peter B. McLean; Application #751962; Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
2. Declaration For A Disability Pension filed by Peter B. McLean; Application #751962; Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
3. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
4. 1855, New York, population schedule, Brooklyn Ward 14, Kings, New York, p. E.D. 2, dwelling 832, line 6, P.C. McLean; digital images, Ancestry(accessed 10 May 2014). Cit. Date: 10 May 2014.
5. Declaration For A Disability Pension filed by Peter B. McLean; Civil ar and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
6. Declaration For A Disability Pension filed by Peter B. McLean; Civil ar and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
7. Declaration For A Disability Pension filed by Peter B. McLean; Application #751962; Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
8. Declaration For A Widow’s Pension filed by Susan W. McLean 1905; Application #622894; Civil War and Later Complete File (NATF 85D); Federal Military Pension Applications; National Archives and Records Administration. Cit. Date: 20 Dec 2008.
9. New York death certificate (1915), Peter B. McLean, died 1 Oct 1895, Middletown, Orange, New York, Melancholia Chronic, Pulmonary hemorhage. Cit. Date: 11 May 2014.
10. “Obituary – Peter B. McLean,” Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 5 Oct 1895, p. 7 c.6; digital images. Cit. Date: 27 Apr 2014.