Thursday, September 17, 2015

Chapter 39 - Our Degraff Family Ancestors

The Huguenot Cross
The powerful influences of religion have played a profound role in the lives of many of our early American ancestors particularly with respect to their decisions to escape religious intolerances and persecutions in their homelands by emigrating to America.  The Pilgrims in the 1620s and the Puritans in the 1630s are perhaps the best known of our early American ancestors who came to America to find religious freedom. Another less well known group of religious freedom seekers were the French Protestants known as Huguenots, who began leaving France for other more religiously tolerant countries beginning in the late 1500s. The exact number of Huguenots who left France between the late 1500s and the mid-1700s is believed to be as high as one-half million including the many thousands who emigrated to America. One of George Washington's 3rd great grandfathers, a man named Nicolas Martiou, was a French Huguenot who arrived in Virginia in 1620.  There are at least eight U.S. Past presidents who are known to have Huguenot ancestors. Paul Rivere's father, Apollos Rivoire, was a French Huguenot who arrived in America in 1716. In Chapter 6 of this blog, we outline the lives of our early Ferree ancestors, who were French Huguenots who escaped religious persecution in France by emigrated to America via England in 1708. In Chapter 1 of this blog we tell the story of our Rappleye ancestors beginning with Joris Rapalje who arrived in America in 1624 and who is recognized by the National Huguenot Society as a French Huguenot. We have a number of other French Huguenot ancestors on our family tree including our 9th great grandfather Jean LeComte who arrived in America in 1674.  This chapter tells the story of Jean LeComte and his family and what he and the thousands of other French Huguenots had to face during this tragic period in French history. 

The progenitor of our DeGraff family in America was a man named Jean LeComte who was born we believe sometime in the late 1630s. His birth location is usually listed as Picardy, France although there is no confirmation that we could find as to its accuracy.  The first actual record that has been located lists Jean LeComte as a member of the Dutch Protestant church in Middelburg in the province of Zeeland in the Netherlands and marrying Marie Laurens on 12 December 1660.  A subsequent church record dated 13 March 1661 records the baptism of their son Moses LeComte.  After that, the only other confirmed record of Jean LeComte and his wife and son is when they landed in New Amsterdam in America in October of 1674. What needs to be examined at this point is why did Jean LeComte leave his French home and move to the Dutch controlled Netherlands, and then why did he subsequently move to America. Unfortunately the most common answer is that his moves were a result of the persecution of the Huguenots by the French authorities, and while this is certainly true, it does oversimplify what actually happened.

Before the year 1500 all of Western Europe and England was Catholic. In the early 1500s however, with the dissentions of Martin Luther in Germany followed by the teachings of John Calvin in France beginning around 1630, the rise of a new form of church government began which ultimately lead to the Protestant faith and church. In 1534 King Henry VIII of England made an abrupt change by declaring himself the head of the church in England effectively throwing the Roman Catholic Church and its hierarchy out of England.  The Protestant Church in France later to be called the Huguenot Church grew rapidly in the early 1500s and by 1560 there were over 2,000 churches and as many as two million members which represented upwards of 10% of the French population. The largest concentrations of Huguenots were in the south and central areas of France. At first, the French government under King Francis I and later his son King Henry II welcomed the Huguenots as many of its members were wealthy nobles who played an active role in the government and its finances. This quickly changed however after the death Henry II in 1559 when clashes between the Roman Catholics and the Huguenots rapidly increased culminating with the St Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 that resulted in the death of thousands of Huguenots.  The French Wars of Religion between the French Catholics and the Protestant Huguenots spanned the period of 1562 through 1598. Finally in 1598 the French King Henry IV signed a document known as the Edith of Nantes which essentially restored civil rights back to the Huguenots.

These civil rights initially included political rights, military rights, and religious rights. Unfortunately by the 1620s the French government pretty much destroyed the private armies of the Huguenot nobles and gradually removed any Huguenot influences within the government. While the Huguenots still retained their rights to worship as they pleased, where they worshipped and how many churches they could build was gradually brought under the control of the government. We do not know the exact year that Jean LeComte moved out of France and into the Dutch controlled Netherlands.  We also do not know if he was moved by his parents when he was still young or he moved alone or with friends or relatives around the time he became an adult in his late teens or early twenties. Finally, despite the fact that almost all writings about LeComte state that he left France to escape religious persecution, we do not really know the real motivations behind his relocation.  Frankly, if Jean LeComte moved to the Netherland sometime between 1648, when the Protestant Dutch regained control of the Northern Providences of Netherlands from Spain, and 1660, the wholesale persecution of the French Huguenots was not taking place at least not to the extent that it did during the late 1500s before the Edith of Nantes or after 1685 when King Louis XIV revoked the Edith of Nantes and went after the Huguenots.

Here is what we believe about Jean LeComte's move to Middelburg in the Dutch controlled area of Netherlands. We have to believe that as Jean LeComte reached the age where it was necessary that he support himself,  he may have had difficulty finding a decent job.  He was after all a French Protestant living in an area in France, the northeast, where Huguenots were in the distinct minority. While he undoubtedly faced pressure to convert to Catholicism, he was a fervent Protestant and the option to relocate to better his life was a strong and probably his only real option. Middelburg in the province of Zeeland was an obvious choice to relocate.  First it was the closest Dutch Protestant area to is home in Picardy although to get there he needed to pass through the Spanish controlled Netherlands which is now mostly Belgium. Secondly, many other Huguenots from Picardy had previously settled in this area and more were being welcomed both by the political leaders and by the church.  Most importantly however, there were jobs available for young men of the Protestant faith. One of the largest employers was the Dutch East India Company that was headquartered in Middelburg. We do not know what Jean LeComte did for a living but the fact that he was able to afford to take his family to America certainly implies that he had accumulated money during the 14 year period of his marriage and life in Middelburg.  Jean LeComte most likely moved to Middelburg between 1658 and 1660.

King Louis XIV of France
Jean LeComte as it turns out got out of France at the right time.  While King Louis XIV became King of France at the age of only five in the year 1643, he did not actually begin his personal and absolute control over France until 1661 after the death of his chief minister, Cardinal Mazarin and not long after Jean LeComte had left France for the Protestant Netherlands. Persecution of the Huguenots under Louis XIV began as a mandate that all French Protestants convert to Catholicism and he even agreed to pay those who made the conversion.  When this effort had a limited effect, he continued to make it difficult for Huguenots to get jobs, he closed down their churches, and finally in 1685 he made Protestantism completely illegal.  Besides the outright murder of thousands of Huguenots, hundreds of thousands fled out of France to other European countries, the Americas, and even South Africa. As we have seen however, Jean LeComte had left France before all of these began so why did he leave for England and ultimately to America.

King Louis XIV is noted for many things besides the persecution of the French Huguenots. France during much of Louis reign was the most powerful military nation in the world. One of his actions that was to dramatically effect my 9th great grandfather, Jean LeComte, was when he ordered the French Army in 1672 to invade the Dutch Netherlands (shown on the map as the United Provinces (Dutch). This country is of course where Jean LeComte and many others had moved earlier to get away from the French. Jean LeComte with his wife Marie and his young son Moses made the decision to escape the French by fleeing to England.

As part of this same campaign, Louis XIV ordered in 1673 a portion of his troops to invade Germany including the Palatinate, home to many French Huguenots who had fled to this area and specifically the city of Mannheim in earlier years.  This is significant to this discussion as two families, Nicholas deVaux and his wife Maria Sy, and Maria's father Isaac Sy and his family escaped to England before the invading French army.  Here in England the deVaux family and the Sy family became acquainted with Jean LeComte and his family.  We have seen in writing several times when describing these families that they were all related and while obviously the Sy (sometimes written as See) family and the deVaux family are related by marriage, there is no evidence that Jean LeComte was related to any member of either family. It has also been written that Jean LeComte lived in Mannheim for a period, but here again no one has provided any evidence to support this believe nor does it make any sense.  Why would he have left one Protestant nation where he was able to freely worship, to move to another Protestant nation even further away from his original home.

Exactly how long these families remained in England before they decided to board a ship headed for New Amsterdam in America is not known.  There were many French Huguenot refugees in England at the time and they were for the most part welcomed by their new country. Unfortunately for France, a large portion of the Huguenots who left their home country were literate craftsmen and even in some cases French nobility, so France's loss of some of their country's better citizens was another country's gain. Most historical accounts report that the LeComte, de Vaux, and Sy families came to America on a fleet of ships also carrying the newly appointed English governor of New York, which was until his arrival the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam. His name was Sir Edmund Andros. The fleet of ships arrived in the New York Harbor on 22 October 1674.

New Amsterdam around 1670
Fortunately for the LeComte family who arrived in New York with few possessions and no friends or relatives to greet them at the dock as they departed their ship, there were many French Huguenots who had arrived earlier and were eager to help new arrivals.  This was particularly important since obviously there were no hotels to welcome the new visitors and empty rental homes were not available. One of the first individuals that the family may have met was a man named Claude Le Maistre who himself was a French Huguenot who had arrived in America more than 20 years earlier back in 1652. Little did Claude LeMaistre know at the time that he was destined to be the future father-in-law of young 13-year old Moses LeComte who was to marry his daughter Hester almost twenty years later.  This of course makes Claude Le Maistre my 9th great grandfather. As a total aside, one of Claude LeMaistre's sons, Johannes Delamater, also is one of my 8th great grandfathers although in his case he is an ancestor of my paternal grandfather as opposed to his sister, Hester, who is my 8th great grandmother on my paternal grandmother's side of my family. One very common occurrence in this still mostly Dutch speaking community of New York was that the spelling of names and their pronunciations were often changed to reflect the Dutch or in some cases the English language.  In the case of the LeComte family, the Dutch locals spelled the name as DeGraaf which means "the Count" in Dutch.  Claude LeMaistre's surname was changed over the course of a generation to the English name Delamater.

Like the early history of my LeComte family, the early history of Claude LeMaistre is also somewhat of a mystery. His birth year is listed as somewhere between 1611 and 1620.  There seems to be a consensus that he was born in the old province of Artois located just north of the province of Picardy in the northwest corner of France and that as a young man he moved possibly with his parents and siblings, to England around the years 1635 or 1636.  They were Protestants and like so many Protestants before and after them they were moving away from the intolerable treatment that they were receiving from the Catholic Church and the government in France. Their move may also have been motivated by the onset of the Franco-Spanish War which began in 1635.  By 1636 the Spanish forces in the Southern Netherlands were conducting raids in northern France where the LeMaistre family and many other Huguenots families lived. Claude was married in 1638 in Canterbury, England to a woman named Louise Quennell who also had come with her parents from France.  Together they had two daughters both of whom died before Claude and Louise subsequently moved to Leiden in the Netherlands around 1643. The English were applying pressure on the Huguenots to join the Church of England which undoubtedly motivated the move. A male son was born to the couple in 1646.  Unfortunately around a year later in 1647, Claude's wife Louise died.  Sometime following his wife's death, Claude moved to nearby Middelburg were he met and married his second wife Jeanne de Lannoy in 1648.  She too died after only two years of marriage in 1650.  Claude LeMaistre married my 9th great grandmother Hester DuBois on 24 April 1652 in the Walloon Church in Amsterdam, Netherlands. Shortly following their marriage Claude and his new 26-year old bride Hester boarded a ship headed for America and the Dutch Colony of New Amsterdam.

Nieuw-Nederland or New Netherland was originally established by the Dutch back in the early 1600s to be a fur trading operation managed by the Dutch West India Company. The earliest settlements were actually not in the New York area but up the Hudson River in what is now the Albany region.  This began around 1613. It was not until 1626 that the first colonists actually began a settlement on what is now known as Manhattan Island and surprisingly the vast majority of these early settlers were not Dutch but Protestant Walloons from the area of the Spanish Netherlands and French Huguenots. At the very south end of the island a fort was constructed that they called Fort Amsterdam and soon after a wall was built along the northern border of this new settlement of New Amsterdam primarily to control the encroachment of the local unpredictable Indians. The location of this wall was along what today is called Wall Street. The original settlement consisted of around 30 families (including my Rapalje ancestors.)  By 1630 the community had grown to around 270 and by the time that Claude LeMaistre and his wife Hester arrived, there were almost 2000 people living in the area of New Netherlands and New Amsterdam.

Claude and Hester LeMaistre originally located in a new settlement called Flatbush (originally named Midwout and now part of Brooklyn) on Long Island where they lived from 1652 until 1662.  During this period they had four children and Claude worked as a carpenter along with operating his farm.  In 1662, they sold their home in Flatbush and moved to a new community in the northeast part of Manhattan Island known as Harlem. Here the couple had two additional children including our great grandmother Hester who was born shortly after the move in 1662. Claude DeMaistre (Delamater) apparently took an active role in his community serving three terms as a magistrate and in 1664 he and Hester joined the Reformed Dutch Church and for a short period Claude services as the Deacon of his church.

It is not really clear how Jean LeComte and his family ended up in Harlem after their ship landed in New Amsterdam in lower Manhattan Island in October of 1674. We have to suspect that since their onboard friends, Nicholas DeVaux and his family and Isaac Sy and his family all moved to Harlem, Jean and Marie LeComte may simply have followed them. It is also possible that DeVaux and Sy may have had old friends that they knew lived in Harlem. One of these friends may have been one David Demarest who while older than both Nicholas and Isaac, he did live in Mannhein, Germany (1651 to 1663) during the same time period as did Nicholas and Isaac. David Demarest also lived in Middelbury between 1642 and 1651 and while we believe that Jean LeComte did not move to Middelburg until the late 1650s, it is possible we suppose, that he did move earlier as a child with his parents and they may have known David Demarest.  Very speculative and therefore very unlikely. Most likely perhaps is that they all believed and were motivated by the opportunities to purchase good farmland in the Harlem area and it was better than in the more crowded New Amsterdam area. Fortunately for my 9th great grandfather Jean LeComte and his family, one of the local Magistrates, David Demarest as it turns out, seeing that the LeComte family had no place to live, took them into his own home until that had a chance to locate or build their own home.  On 13 December 1674 Jean LeComte and his wife joined the Harlem Dutch Reformed Church.  Unfortunately for the LeComte family, Jean LeComte died on 24 May 1675.  He was only in his late-40s and it is quite possible that the illness that killed him may have been easily cured by our modern doctors.  Marie Laurens LeComte was undoubtedly devastated by the unexpected death of her husband.  Unfortunately, although it is not unusual, history has not recorded what happened to my great grandmother after the death of her husband.  Some have recorded that she died in 1687 in Canada however, this is most unlikely.  What is likely is that she remarried and the records of the marriage and her thereafter have been lost. What has been reported if it is accurate is that David Demarest as the local magistrate, presided over the reading of Jean LeComte's will in July of 1675 and that at the court hearing Maria Laurens LeComte, my great grandmother, announced her intentions to marry a Charles Dennison.  She was concerned about her son Moses and his future upbringing. Strangely it would seem, Nicholas DeVaux and Simon Courier were appointed to "care for and educate the child."  What happened to my great grandmother thereafter is unknown.  The lag time between her husband's death and her announcement of her new marriage was less than two months which has to make one wonder if perhaps she was having an affair . . . .

Moses (LeComte) DeGraaf was only 14 years old when his father died. We know nothing about Moses' early life other than he did not live with Nicholas DeVaux or at least he did not move to Hackensack, New Jersey with DeVaux in 1678. We do know that around the age of 18 in 1679/80 he was married in Harlem to a Maria LeBlanck and sometime in 1680 their son Samuel was born. Apparently his wife died as did possibly their son, since in 1683 Moses deGraaf married the daughter of Claude DeMaistre (Delamater), Hester Delameter. We could find nothing more in the historical records about Moses' first wife and their son. Shortly following the marriage of Moses and Hester, they moved to Kingston in the newly formed County of Ulster located about 90 miles north of Harlem.  Presumably they made the voyage to their new home by traveling up the Hudson River.  Hester may have been pregnant when she made the trip or at least became pregnant shortly thereafter since their first child, a daughter, was born in July of 1685.  Over the next nineteen years they were to have eight more children including their second child and first son, Jan, my 7th great grandfather, who was baptized on 6 March 1687.  We could find very little mention about Moses DeGraaf in the historical records. We know that in the years 1685 through 1713 he and Hester are mentioned frequently in the records of the Old Dutch Church in Kingston as witnesses to the baptisms of some of their children, in one case a friend's child, and in 1713 as witness to the baptism of their grandson Moses, son of their son Jan DeGraaf. Moses through his life was undoubtedly a farmer and with his family attended the Old Dutch Church in Kingston and possibly later the Dutch Reformed Church in Marbletown in Ulster County.  We know that Moses may have lived in or near Marbletown in 1715 as he and his 2nd son Abraham are listed as privates in the Foot Company of Militia of Marbletown. Obviously the ever-present threat of Indian attacks were a part of life during this period of history, hence the requirement that all able bodied males must serve in the militia.  Despite having a large family we have to believe that the DeGraaf family lived in a small log cabin, the whole family worked hard maintaining the family farm, and most of their friends whom they socialized with primarily on Sundays were of Dutch and French descent. A very large percentage of the original inhabitants of Ulster County had migrated from other areas of New Amsterdam and were Walloons or Huguenots. Most likely the church records that listed the death of both Moses and Hester have been lost or destroyed.  We do not therefore know the years that my 8th great grandparents passed away or where they are buried.

My 7th great grandfather, Jan DeGraff was born in Kingston County in the year 1687. The spelling of his name in the historical records is interesting in that it was beginning to reflect the trend towards converting the older Dutch names into the English language or at least into the English spellings of the names.  His proper name of Jan was changed not unexpectedly to John.  DeGraff is written in multiple ways from De Graaf as it is spelled in the church records, to De Grave as it is spelled in a 1714 census record, and to De Graeff as it is written in his 1733 Will. Spelling was not a great strength of any of the recording secretaries in the early 1700s but then obviously there probably was no absolute correct spelling of the family surname especially during a time period when most people could neither read nor write.  Jan was around 19 years old when he married Marie Peacock (sometimes spelled Pekok) in 1707 or early 1708.  Together Jan and Marie were to have nine children including their fifth child, Abraham DeGraff, my 6th great grandfather, who was born in 1718.  In 1712 Jan DeGraff is recorded as having purchased land in Poughkeepsie in Dutchess County located near the Hudson River about 20 miles south of his parents' home in Ulster County. Considering that most of my ancestors when they left home moved westward to areas that were less crowded, it is a little unusual to find that Jan and his wife and their three very young children moved closer to New York City and into an area that was already developed.  In 1713 when they actually packed up and moved, Dutchess County had just become its own self-administered County whereas prior to that time, Dutchess had been governed by Ulster County. There is no evidence that this change encouraged Jan DeGraff to move although perhaps the notoriety of the change influenced his decision. In any case in a 1714 census in Dutchess County (their first census), Jan DeGraff (actually scribed as "John De Grave") is listed as living there with six members in the family. It is not clear who the six person was as their fourth child was not yet born by 1714. In 1715, Jan DeGraff is recorded as serving in the Dutchess County Militia. In 1717 there is an historical court record of Jan DeGraff (John De Grave) appearing before the local magistrate apparently for some violation that occurred while he was the owner of a local tavern that sold alcoholic beverages.  He was being fined 5 pounds for something he did wrong, perhaps not paying the proper taxes owed or not charging the required amount for the drinks he served.  The laws governing the sale of alcoholic were very strict and the taxes were high. Fortunately the Magistrate waved the very high fine because he did not think that Jan could afford the fine plus Jan DeGraff was a "great family" man.  His total assets at the time were around 11 British pounds.  Fortunately Jan DeGraf must have been a good business man for his total wealth in 1722 had risen to 30 British pounds and when he prepared his will in 1733, his net worth including the value of the land he owned was even greater.  My 7th great grandfather died in 1735 at the fairly young age of only 48 years old. His son, Abraham, my 6th great grandfather was only 17 when his father died.  My 7th great grandmother Marie remarried shortly after her husband's death but her story thereafter is lost in history.

My 7th great grandfather Abraham Degraff spent his entire life living in or near Poughkeepsie, New York.  On 17 April 1741 he married Marretjen van Wagenen whose great grandfather (my 9th great grandfather) Aert Jacobsen Van Wagenen was born in the Netherlands and emigrated to America around the mid-1600s. Aert is recognized as one of the earliest settlers in Ulster County arriving there in approximately 1661, back when it was still called Esopus.  Abraham and Maria (Marretjen) were to have nine children in total including my 6th great grandfather, Moses, who was born in Poughkeepsie in 1748.  Abraham's occupation was that of a cordwainer or in more modern terms, he was a shoemaker.  He was probably a well liked and respected individual as in 1739 he was listed as being a Deacon of the Dutch Reformed Church in Poughkeepsie.  Abraham died in the year 1775 at the age of 57.  Unfortunately history records have been unkind to women for we do not know what happened to my great grandmother Marretjen after her husband's death.

Researching my 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff proved to be a little confusing in that there were several men named Moses Degraff living in Dutchess County during the same time period. They were understandably all related and all were named after the original Moses LeComte Degraff who immigrated to America with his parents in 1674.  The two men named Moses who caused me the most confusion were actually first cousins.  My Moses Degraff (1748-1828) ancestor was the son of Abraham Degraff (1718-1775) and Marretjen Van Weganen and the grandson of Jan Degraff and Maria Pekok.  The other Moses Degraff (1742-1828) was the son of Abraham's brother, Moses Degraff (1713-1800) and his wife Annetjen Kip, and the grandson again of Jan DeGraff and Marretjen Van Weganen.  There were a few other related Moses Degraffs but these two were the ones who were most often confused.  Incidentally, Moses Degraff, my 6th great grandfather, married my great grandmother Mary Churchill around 1764 and his cousin Moses married his wife Antoinette Van Kleeck two years later in 1766. One has to wonder if they attended each others wedding. Moses and Mary were to have five children including my 5th great grandfather and their second child, Abraham, who was born in 1771.  Unfortunately Mary died when she was around 50 and shortly following her death Moses remarried in 1809 this time to a much younger woman named Elizabeth Tabler and together they had four more children.  Moses was around 60 years old when he married for the second time and we have to hand it to our great grandfather as he undoubtedly must have had a lot of stamina to father four more children after the age of sixty.  He was 80 years old when he died after a long life and nine children. Actually we do not really know much about the life of Moses Degraff.  He was born in Poughkeepsie and sometime during his life he moved to Hyde Park also in Dutchess County, New York where he died and was buried in the
Stoutenburgh Family Burying Grounds along with his second wife. Jacobus Stoutenburgh was one of the original settlers of Hyde Park and his legacy was one of wealth. The fact that our great grandfather Moses Degraff was buried in this family's cemetery speaks highly of his character, stature, and perhaps his wealth in the community.  Based on his last will and Testament it sounds like Moses was financially successful as he left two hundred dollars to each of his children which was a lot of money in 1828 plus he left an annual income to his wife for the rest of her life.  One other very important event in the life of our 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff was that he served in the Dutchess County Militia during the American Revolution.  There are actually two Moses Degraff listed in the Dutchess County Militia records.  In the 2nd Regiment of the Dutchess County Militia we find a Moses Degraff along with a another man, his brother, Simeon Degraff who were both cousins of our Moses Degraff.  Brothers Moses and Simeon were from Fishkill in Dutchess County south of Hyde Park and Poughkeepsie.  In the 6th Regiment of the Dutchess Militia we find the name of our 6th great grandfather Moses Degraff.  Whether or not he saw any action during the War we could not determine and he died in 1828 before the Revolutionary War federal pensions were distributed.

My 5th great grandfather Abraham Degraff was born in 1771 in Hyde Park (which was part of the town of Clinton until 1821) in Dutchess County and he probably spent his entire life living not far from the place where he was born.  He married my 5th great grandmother Elizabeth Tillow sometime in the mid-1790s. As with many of our ancestors living during the earlier years of our country it is not always possible to identify the names of all of the children. Census records prior to 1850 listed only the name of the head of the household and since birth certificates were not issued at this time, and church baptismal records were sometimes lost, we never know for certain the names of all of the children. Based on what records we could find including a review of the later US census records, we believe that the following is correct.  Their first child was John A. Degraff who was born sometime between 1795 to 1798. Their second child was David A. Degraff who was born in 1799. Their third child was Maria Degraff born in 1808 and their fourth child was my 4th great grandmother, Jane Degraff who was born in 1814. Based on the 1820 US Census there may have been another daughter born between the births of David and Maria who may have died young or at least before the 1830 census or she may have married young, left the family home and then been lost to history. Unfortunately, we really know very little about the life of Abraham Degraff although he was undoubtedly a hard working farmer. Abraham died in January of 1832 at the age of 60.  On January 21 of 1832, John A Degraff (Abraham's oldest son) and Jacob Degraff (Abraham's 1st cousin and who was about the same age as his cousin John) petitioned the court to appoint them the administrators of Abraham's estate. Witnessing the petition was Robert Degraff who was Abraham's younger brother. Signing the petition was Abraham's wife Elizabeth and Abraham's son David A. Degraff, and a relative named Abram Degraff whose exact relationship with the family we could not determine. The contents of his will if one did exist, we could not determine although hopefully he left his family and especially his widowed wife with some funds to live comfortably.  Jane was 18 when her father passed away. 

On 20 October 1835 my 4th great grandmother Jane Degraff married William Reynolds in Dutchess County and not long after their marriage they moved to Elmira, New York along with her brother David A. Degraff and his wife and their mother Elizabeth Tillow Degraff who would have been around 60 years old at the time of the move.  Elizabeth, my 5th great grandmother died at the age of 74 and she is buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Elmira, New York.  The story of my Reynolds' ancestors beginning with the son of Jane Degraff and William Reynolds, David Degraff Reynolds, is told in the preceding chapter 38.

More and more as I explore the lives of my distant ancestors do I begin to understand why my DNA test results revealed that my ancestral ethnicity is 63% western European. With so many French Huguenot ancestors on both my mother's and my father's side of my family, this high percentage of western European ancestry should not have come as much of a surprise despite the fact that my Baker surname is very English.  But then it would seem that my Baker ancestors easily feel in love with French Huguenot women.  Why else did my great grandfather Baker marry a woman with the surname of Rappleye (Rapalje), or my 2nd great grandfather Baker marry a woman named Hannah Harpending, or my 4th great grandfather Baker marry a woman named Sarah Bogart. 

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