Central New York Research. The eclectic ramblings of doing genealogy and growing up in that part of Upstate New York that is the central and Finger Lakes regions. With ancestors all over the northeast and beyond, there will be forays outside the area with trips and news on family history as well as local history.
1)The Family History Hound listed 20
Questions about your Ancestor, and I'm going to use some of them in the next
few months. 2) Please answer the question - "What was the biggest surprise
you found about an ancestor?"
John Tobias Gravestone
Perhaps the biggest
surprise I encountered was when I discovered that an ancestor had apparently caused
a case of lead poisoning as it might be delicately put. Less delicately, he
committed murder followed by suicide.
One day early in my
research, I was trying to find information about a fourth great-grandfather,
John Tobias (1764-1830) and his wife, Polly (Gaffin) Tobias (1773-1830). He
died the 16th of August and she the 17th and both are buried in a small
abandoned cemetery in the town of Springport, Cayuga County, New York.
The cemetery is
referred to in records as Great Gully Cemetery or Tobias Cemetery. It is in
fact, either next door to or on the property of the house they owned and raised
their family in. I haven’t found out yet whether John got this as Revolutionary
Bounty land or if, more likely, he bought it from the recipient shortly after
the lands were awarded. He was awarded some land as the heir of a deceased
soldier, but that was probably a few miles away.
Although the property
had long since been sold out of the family, in the last generations a family
bought the property as part of their farm. At the time, they didn't realize
that they could trace their ancestry back to these owners, the first ones to
build a house on it. Accompanying these cousins, I have explored this cemetery
and found the depression where the cellar of the house had once stood.
The remains of the homestead
Yet, the surprising
part of the story occurred before I knew where they lived or were buried.
It was when first
researching these ancestors that I discovered the reasons behind their deaths. I
was reading an abstract of the cemetery records that had been done by women in
the local Daughter's of the American Revolution (DAR) chapter in the mid-1960s.
I knew that John and Polly had lived near Union Springs in the town of
Springport. I was scanning those cemetery listings in particular in an attempt
to find them. There, I found a listing for the Tobias Cemetery, and their names
Excited, at first at
finding their burial, I didn’t notice the remark. Then when I read it I
couldn’t believe my eyes as I read and reread the entry. Written in ink along
side the entry was a notation: “John shot Polly and then turned the gun on
himself. Polly outlived him by one day.” My ancestor was a murderer!
occurred about thirty years ago. Since then I have, as I mentioned, explored
the cemetery and found their markers. The dates confirm that Polly died a day
after John. I have searched the newspapers that are still in existence around
the date of this incident. But cannot find confirmation of what had happened. I
do find advertisements in the settlement of John’s estate and his probate filed
by the county. Did this case of “lead poisoning” by gun actually occur and why?
It is still a mystery to us.