Thursday, January 16, 2014

Uncle Hal Terwilliger - our first family genealogist

Harold "Hal" Graves Terwilliger, b. 6 Jul 1888 in Roselle NY, d. 13 Oct 1976 VT, aged 88 yrs.

My greatUncle Hal was the third child, second son, of my great-grandfather James Grover "Grove" Terwilliger.  His middle name Graves came from his mother, Clara Augusta "Gussie" GRAVES.  He married rather later in life, about 1935, to Carola Bischoff [her 2nd marriage], no children. He and my grandmother, known as "Daisy" to her family, and "GranPete" to her grandchildren, were apparently quite close throughout their lives and corresponded frequently.

I have several letters from him to her about various genealogical questions she had, he sketched out lines of descent from several Revolutionary War ancestors, and he included a copy of his application to the Holland Society of New York.

He had also photocopied a number of pages from various histories/published genealogies in order to help her if she wanted to join the DAR or Descendants of Colonial Governors or other lineage societies, as well as The Holland Society [because of their surname, Terwilliger].  He had zeroed in on several surnames re her wish to join the DAR: Morgan, Griswold, and others.  And we were related to an early Governor of Connecticut, Robert Treat.  I was very interested in all this history, and wondered how we tied in to these names.  I'd never heard them before, but he chatted in detail about them, in his letters and scribbles in the margins of photocopies.

His notes and letters to his big sister were the impetus for my research into my mother's family lines.  And when I found the Terwilliger Souvenir Album, I was absolutely thrilled to try and find out more about the Terwilligers.  By the way, some Terwilliger men are nicknamed "Twig", so don't be surprised if you hear that! I've run across several.

Terwilliger is a made-in-America surname of a family of brother and sister who came to New Amsterdam from The Netherlands in 1663 on the ship De Arent, just in time for the Dutch to negotiate a trade of New Amsterdam to the British in 1664.  Thank you, Olive Tree Genealogy, for your wonderful ships' lists!

Within 30 years, this very prolific family [almost all boys!] was using an early variant spelling of Terwilliger, the spelling settling down in another 50 years or so. Every Terwilliger, of whatever spelling, is related to those first immigrants, except for those who may have decided to take the surname by another means (Native American, or African-American slaves).

Uncle Hal is seen above in this 1924 photo with my mother Mary (the blond 2 year old above his head) and her four siblings left to right: Barbara, Mary, Dorothea, Louis, John.  GranPete had taken all 5 of the children to visit her family in New York and New Jersey in 1924, doing much sightseeing with her "little" brother - who is approximately 36 in this photo.

He was relatively tall and thin, but I see he was quite muscular as well!  He loved to sail and took all of the children sailing around parts of New Jersey coastline, while they visited.  His wife Carola was extremely creative, with a well-equipped and well-used pottery studio separate from their home at Lottery Farm in South Woodstock, Windsor, Vermont.  He worked in management in his wife's family pharmaceutical business.

My mother went to visit New York in April 1961, and visited Hal & Carola, as well as her older sister, Dorothea "Dot", and other relatives in the region.  She loved her stay with Hal & Carola at Lottery Farm in Vermont, and talked about how happy she was with spending time with them again.  Although she'd written back and forth to Uncle Hal, she hadn't seen him since before she and Dad got married in 1941.  I have a letter my Dad wrote to her to reassure her that we were all doing well and she shouldn't worry about any of the kids!  Very sweet.  Scanned, of course.

I'm so sorry I never had the opportunity to meet with Uncle Hal - he seems to have loved to research details, and dig into libraries and books.  My kind of relative!

If you have information you would like to share about these Terwilligers, please leave a comment, or contact me via calewis at telus dot net.  I always appreciate learning more details.


Charity Johnson said...

Hi - I don't have any direct help, but in my home area of the lower Catskill Mountains of New York the oldest families were French Huguenots and, of course, Dutch. Dutch names prevail--I normally think of "Van"'s as Dutch, but this accounts for the vast numbers of Terwilliger families in that area (including our neighbor).

Celia Lewis said...

Thanks for making a comment, Charity! Those early Terwilliger men had so many boys, I swear they populated a city full of Terwilligers! The Dutch used patronymics of course in the past, so when the Brits took over New Netherlands, everyone had to figure out a suitable surname fairly quickly - within 30 years for the now-Terwilliger family members. This one refers to living 'by the willows' apparently.
Vast numbers? Wow! Your neighbour would definitely be a relative of mine from somewhere back in the late 1600s to now!


Family, friends, and others - I hope you enjoy these pages about our ancestors and their lives. Genealogy has become somewhat of an obsession, more than a hobby, and definitely a wonderful mystery to dig into and discover. Enjoy my writing, and contact me at celia.winky at gmail dot com if you have anything to add to the stories. ... Celia Lewis