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Armchair Genealogy

By Melinda Cohenour

Taking the Chisel to a Major Brick Wall: What we know about P. R. Joslyn
Part I

      One of my most puzzling and annoying issues in all my genealogical research has been the quest to identify the parents of my 3rd Great-Grandfather, William “P. R.” Joslyn. As has been mentioned in prior columns, our family legend was that Riley Joslin was the “Son of William, son of William, son of William.” We were told by our grandfather, James Arthur Joslin, that his father migrated into Missouri from “Caney County, IllEnoise” (in the peculiar vernacular of the Ozarkian/Appalachian kindred, that translates to Kane County, Illinois).

      Much research has been devoted to identifying the parentage of P. R. Joslyn, to no avail. My maternal uncle agreed to submit his DNA years ago in the hopes of finding a close relative with that information documented and willing to share. We found a few close relatives whose family trees were well documented and provided proof that we are related to the Immigrant Thomas “Jostlin” who brought most of his family to America aboard the good ship Increase in the year 1634/35. To my dismay and deep disappointment, however, none had documentation to finally and forever forge the link to that illustrious Joslin/Joslyn/Josceline/Josselyn, etc. historic lineage reaching back in the mists of time to Charlemagne and beyond to his earliest known forefather, his 3rd great-grandfather Pepin of Landen also known as Blessed Pepin or Pippin for his generous and saintly nature or to his earliest proposed ancestor, 7th great-grandfather Clovis I, King of the Franks (c466-511).

      What we did discover was that my uncle’s DNA matched most closely to a man who had been adopted in the aftermath of the Spanish Flu epidemic of 1918 responsible for the loss of millions of lives around the world. That DNA hit brought me in touch with two other researchers whose quest was similar: discovering the missing link in their own heritage. One was the descendant of one of the twin sisters who survived the epidemic (the other twin and their mother, wife to our DNA match’s father having, sadly, not survived). The second was the daughter of the man who, at a tender age, was adopted by a loving family. Together we three set out to help one another. The result has been edifying, but has not provided that one last brick of knowledge. Alas!

      I set up a separate, private, tree to assist in researching that scintillating but elusive tie between the DNA match (the adopted son of the hero of the epidemic who almost lost his own life trying to save that of his wife and infant twin daughters) and our own P. R. Joslyn. Our DNA match’s father we shall call DNA Primary. DNA Primary’s life was fairly easy to research. I was able to discover documentation placing him in various places by virtue of the Census, newspaper records of his heroic exploits aiding the overwrought doctors battling the Flu, birth and other records. That led to his parents and later to his grandfather, Edward S. Joslyn (often spelled ‘Joyslin” in various city directories and other records). Edward S. was a skilled watchmaker, a silversmith who was born May of 1826 in Cohansey Township, Cumberland County, New Jersey. That was an intriguing bit of information as we know the forebear known as the Colonel William of Deerfield (1701-1771) settled in the Cumberland area before meeting and wedding our 4th great-grandmother, Christiana Garrison (a fact now also proved via DNA matches). It was written in the Joslin book published by Edith S. Wessler:

      "He left Fairfield Township about 1730 and purchased land at the Indian Fields (East Bridgeton). At this place, he married Christiana Garrison, daughter of Jacob Garrison, Jr (1676-1751) who lived nearby. "


(NOTE: Per Roland Joslin CD information provided by Carol Treadway on Ancestry message. Cohansey Township, N.J., was formed from Hopewell Township, N.J., 6 Mar. 1848; became part of Bridgeton, N.J., 1 Mar. 1865.)

      Edward S. Joslin appears to have apprenticed in his early years, age 24, in the home of an established “watchmaker” along with others who have been found through the author’s research to be related by blood or work association. That information was provided through the 1850 US Federal Census, and was both enlightening and very disappointing, as the 1850 Census was the first documentation that provided genealogists with family information for so many. It was the first Census to list Head of Household by name, date and place of birth, and to provide Household Members’ names, dates and places of birth and relationship to the Head. Since our Edward S. was apprenticed out, we have no clue to his parentage. It does provide us with his age (23) and place of birth (New Jersey). We know that Edward S. also traveled to Paducah, McCracken County, Kentucky where he married his wife, Nancy A. Roser. They lived there for awhile, for their first daughter, Harriett Leeds Joslin was born there 12 Dec 1856. (It is believed her middle name was given her as a nod to his long-time friend and associate, G. Howard Leeds who appeared in the 1850 Census along with Edward S., and was shown to be 31 years of age, also born in New Jersey.) Notations by the author in Edward S.’ Profile for two separate 1860 Census enumerations are as follow:

      “7 Jun 1860, Paducah, McCracken, Kentucky: Listed as a watchmaker. (Enumerated two times in 1860 in Paducah. Clearly same family, house 413.) Name Age E S Joslin 34 N A Joslin 27 Harriet L Joslin 3 Julia A Joslin 2 Louisa Joslin 3/12”

      “28 Jul 1860, Paducah, McCracken, Kentucky: Listed as "Jewelry Merchant." Name Age E S Joyslin 34 Nancy Joyslin 28 Harriet L Joyslin 3 Julia R Joyslin 2 Louisa Joyslin 4/12”

      We find by 1863 the Edward S. Joslin family has returned to Illinois, for Military records reveal the following:

      “1 Jul 1863, Illinois, United States: “Civil War Draft Registration lists Edward as a "silversmith" born in New Jersey. Shows former military service as "mexican war."

      By 1870, the US Federal Census shows Edward S. has once again made a move:

      “1870, Camden North Ward, Camden County, New Jersey: “"Works at silverplating." Name Age Edward Joyslin 44 Nancy A Joyslin 37 Harriet Joyslin 13 Julia Joyslin 17 Louisa Joyslin 10 Mary Joyslin 8 Walter Joyslin 6”

      Without boring the reader with the various city directory entries, research shows Edward S. set up a successful business enterprise in Camden, NJ, where he and his daughter Louisa, a professional seamstress, maintained their offices. We also discover an occasional record of his expansion of services to other nearby cities. The 1880 Census shows his family still esconced in Camden”

      “1880, Camden, Camden County, New Jersey: “"Jeweler." Household Members: Name Age Edw. S. Joslin 54 Nancey A. Joslin 47 Lilie Joslin 7 Nancey Joslin 5”

      The 1890 Census was lost due to a fire and ensuing water damage caused in the effort to salvage the documents. Therefore, we resort to substitute records to document location and occupation of our subjects: For Edward S. we find the following:

      “1890, Camden, NJ: “Name: Edward S Joyslin Residence Year: 1890 Street Address: 450 Liberty Residence Place: Camden, New Jersey Occupation: Silversmith Publication Title: Camden, New Jersey, City Directory, 1890”

      Our final documentation of the life of Edward S. Joslin possible close relative to our P. R. Joslyn is the following Census record which also provides us with clues as to the married names of Edward S. Joyslin’s daughters:

      “1900, Upper Freehold, Monmouth, New Jersey: “Enumerated in home of daughter, Julia Joslin BROWN and her husband. Also in home is daughter, Harriett now widowed and last name: Forby. Household Members: Name Age William Brown 40 Julia A Brown 42 Edward S Joyslin 74 Harriet S Forby 43”

      All this information is provided in the hopes someone will read the column, recognize key names and provide documentation that will aid in the final conclusion as to how Edward S. Joyslin, talented silversmith/watchmaker, is related to our own elusive William “P. R.” Joslyn. (Interesting to note, my maternal uncle Jack Oakley Joslin was a talented watchmaker – a tinkerer who was fascinated by and could resolve any issues associated with watches or clocks of any kind!!)

      Now, back to P. R.

      No genealogical research occurs in a vacuum. We rely upon documents: Census records are key, also Family Bibles where loving parents and grandparents have penned the names and dates of birth for children and their children, marriages celebrated, deaths mourned. Also relevant newspaper articles and obituaries as well as the modern-day equivalent: the marvelous Find A Grave website where photographs of graves and cemeteries have been submitted by a drove of generous folks interested in preserving family heritage. Thanks be to God for these people! But, a word of warning: even those dates chiseled in stone can be in error. Be certain to provide cross documentation for every fact where you can.

      My research has relied heavily on the paper trail provided by my mother, grandmother and aunt: Lena May Joslin Carroll, her mother Carrie Edyth Bullard Joslin, and my aunt Linnie Jane Joslin Burks. Additionally, other family researchers paved the way with their many trips to local libraries, NARA sites, and publication of family trees and stories. Also, in my case, the two closest contributing and assisting researchers are now gone: my cousins Joyce Schumacher and Pat Joslin Steiner. We three collaborated via phone, email and snail mail for years – weighing the latest finding carefully to give each the “sniff” test of reliability before placing that particular fact in our tree. I must also give full credit to the work and research of a distant “shirt-tail” cousin, David Lewis, whose relentless searching of Census records divulged the trail blazed by P. R. Joslyn and his children.

      Our earliest record of William “P. R.” Joslyn appears as a tantalizing bit of “maybe” – a marriage between a William Joslin and Lois Bennett on 23 Sep 1795 in Cumberland County, New Jersey. Many researchers believe this is our William “P. R.” As a researcher, I would be remiss if had I failed to at least include the listing as a possibility – although I tend to discount this particular hint. The marriage, among other facts, is recorded as “Cumberland County, New Jersey genealogical data: records pertaining to persons residing in Cumberland County prior to 1800.” (Original data: Craig, H. Stanley,. Cumberland County, New Jersey genealogical data : records pertaining to persons residing in Cumberland County prior to 1800. Merchantville, N.J.: H. Stanley Craig, 19--?.)

      Next, we find a Census record enumerating William Joslin’s household as follows (the enumerator’s count is a bit puzzling – as there is no other evidence William Joslin traveled with slaves in tow. The count appears to have been at least doubled by some miscalculation. It would appear there were 7 males (2 under 10, 4 between the ages of 16 and 25 and one male aged 45 and over.) Additionally, there appears to have been 7 females (3 under 10 plus 2 aged 10 thru 15, and 1 aged 16 to 25, plus the matriarch aged 45 and over). This would appear to comprise a household of 7 males and 7 females, not 28 persons.:

Name Wm Joslin
Home in 1820 (City, County, State) Deerfield, Morgan, Ohio
Enumeration Date August 7, 1820
Free White Persons - Males - Under 10 2
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 18 1
Free White Persons - Males - 16 thru 25 4
Free White Persons - Males - 45 and over 1
Free White Persons - Females - Under 10 3
Free White Persons - Females - 10 thru 15 2
Free White Persons - Females - 16 thru 25 1
Free White Persons - Females - 45 and over 1
All Other Persons Except Indians not Taxed 14
Free White Persons - Under 16 7
Free White Persons - Over 25 2
Total Free White Persons 14
Total All Persons - White, Slaves, Colored, Other 28

      By tracking later records, we find the children of P. R. and the woman who gave them birth routinely cited their places of birth as New Jersey until we find Isaac Joslin, who says he was born about 1814 in Ohio. If we accept that William “P. R.” Joslin fought in the War of 1812 as some records suggest, it is likely he began his migration Westward to accept bonus land awards. His family’s appearance in Ohio and birth of a son in 1814 would coincide with that information. However, without a fixed date of birth for P. R., and the arbitrary date of 1760 which we’ve ascribed for purposes of research (which also fits with known age ranges for the Census records), he would have been 52 years old. A bit long in the tooth but, then, fit and able men fought. A fact not yet accepted as truth yet but used to further our research.

      Our next documentation for P. R. find his family in 1830 in Berlin, Knox County, Ohio. This record would appear to place P.R.’s age between 60 and 69.:

vName William Joslin
Home in 1830 (City, County, State) Berlin, Knox, Ohio
Free White Persons - Males - 10 thru 14 1
Free White Persons - Males - 20 thru 29 2
Free White Persons - Males - 60 thru 69 1
Free White Persons - Females - 15 thru 19 2
Free White Persons - Females - 20 thru 29 1
Free White Persons - Females - 50 thru 59 1
Free White Persons - Under 20 3
Free White Persons - 20 thru 49 3
Total Free White Persons 8
Total - All Persons (Free White, Slaves, Free Colored) 8

      And, for this first part of the story of William “P. R.” Joslyn, we shall conclude at this point. Stay tuned for the conclusion in next month’s issue of

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