Saturday, November 8, 2008

Family Facts, Fiction & Future

How does the family of Nicholas (Henckel) Jenkins now appear? As a result of findings in Treysa, what changes are required to what has been previously presented here?

We know that Nicholas Jenkins was born Nikolaus Henckel on 28 March 1755 in Treysa, Germany to Johann Hermann Henckel and Anna Elisabeth Ott. He was baptized 31 March 1755, and confirmed in the Lutheran Church, Treysa in 1769 at the age of 14.

His military records show that he joined his regiment in April 1775 in Ziegenhain, Germany, having just turned 20 years old. He was listed as a Tambour (drummer) in the 3rd Company (von Minnigerode Company) of the Hessen-Kassel Regiment von Knyphausen. Regiment von Knyphausen departed the fortress at Ziegenhain for America on 3 March 1776. His time in America has been highlighted in a previous entry to this site of 11 Aug 2007.

We also know that while in America, 28 year old Nicholas Henckel was married 27 July 1783 to Betsey [Elizabeth] Robinson in the Presbyterian Church, Jamaica, Long Island, NY by Rev. Matthias Burnet. A few weeks later, on 15 August 1783, the soldiers of the Regiment von Knyphausen sailed from New York for Germany, and after two months arrived back in Ziegenhain on 16 October 1783. It was only about 5 km from there to his hometown of Treysa.

Nicholas and Elizabeth had the following children born while living in Treysa: Johann George Henckel was born 13 May 1784 in Treysa, nine months after they had departed New York. This is the oldest son, John Jenkins, who died in Prince Edward Island 20 Jun 1866. Susannah Henckel was born 19 months later on 15 Dec 1785 in Treysa. This is the Susannah Jenkins who died in Prince Edward Island 14 May 1884.

Nicolaus Henckel was listed in 1785 as a Master Shoemaker living with a Mrs. Entwichene in Treysa. His father, Johann Hermann Henkel, also a Master Shoemaker, died and was buried 28 May 1787. Church records say their "illegitimate child" Anna Maria, born in New York, died at 11pm on 27 Nov 1787 in Treysa, aged 9 years. She would have been born about 1778, or 5 years before they were married. The same death record says that the parents were "absconded" or "deserted", indicating that they had left Treysa before that date. Based on the records, it is probably safe to say that Nicholas, Elizabeth, John and Susannah left Treysa for Prince Edward Island in North America sometime between the deaths of his father and daughter, or between May and November 1787. This corresponds with the timing of fellow regimental drummers Wilhelm Fischer (later William Fisher) and Georg Weckesser or Weickerssen (later George Vickerson) also leaving the Treysa/Ziegenhain area with their families to settle in PEI. As to 12 year old Peter Baum who arrived on the Island with the Henckel family, we will discuss this below.

Which are the stories from family tradition that now should be considered fiction? Of course we realize that once something has been put in writing, whether true or false, it tends to take on a life of its own. And sometimes such stories or items become quoted as if they were prime sources themselves. Even prime source records may sometimes vary when compared with each other. For example, birth dates on tombstones or from census documents are usually less reliable than birth or baptism records from church documents because the date of recording is more distant from the event of record.

Henckel to Jenkins - The story persists that Nicholas anglicized his surname to Jenkins at the suggestion of Rev. Dr. Louis Charles Jenkins, Minister at St. Paul’s Anglican Church, Charlottetown, PEI. However, Rev. Jenkins wasn’t born until Aug 1797 in England, and the "Weekly Examiner" of 21 Nov 1884 says he didn’t emigrate to the Island until about 1820. Nicholas would have been 65 years old by that time, and have been an Island resident for 33 years. It should be noted that there have been numerous different spellings of all German immigrants names at the time. However, although named as Nicholas Jenkins in his will, it was signed "Nikolaus Henckell".

Another Marriage for Nicholas - There has never been anything to back up the tradition that Nicholas was previously married to anyone other than Elizabeth (Betsy) Robinson. The Edwards connection comes from Nicholas Henckel’s son Nicholas Jr.’s first marriage to Mary Edwards, not from Nicholas Senior. Her parents were reportedly James Edwards and Dobson McBriar, whose family came from the Isles of Scilly off the southwest tip of Cornwall, England.

Elizabeth Pfluger Married Lt. Col. Baum - Nothing has been found to date to back up the idea that Nicholas’ wife Elizabeth had been previously married to a German soldier surnamed Baum. She most certainly was never married to Lt. Col. Frederick Baum who was killed in the Battle of Bennington in Aug 1777. This is backed up by court records in Germany where Lt. Col. Baum’s widow, mistress and daughters fought over his estate, with no mention of a wife or child in America. And it is therefore also certain that Nicholas was never married to anyone with either the maiden or married surname of Pfluger, as this name came from a brother-in-law of the Lt. Col.

John & Susannah Born in Hannover - Family tradition has said that Nicholas’ oldest son John was born in Hanover, Germany about 1777, and that daughter Susannah was also born there about 1778 or 1779. We now know that no one in the family was born in Hannover.

Great Old Ages - The great old ages of some of Nicholas and Elizabeth’s children born in PEI contain errors. Some of these came from newspaper articles written either late in life or after some had died. Even the questionnaire answered by William Jenkins in old age contains an error in the year of his own birth. He could not possibly have been born in PEI in 1783, because his parents did not arrive on the Island until 1787. To this day, no church source has ever been found which records either birth or baptism for any of their children born in PEI.

Where do we go from here? What are some of the major questions still outstanding, and where might we look for answers?

Anna Maria Henckel Birth Records - If Anna Maria Henckel was born to Nicholas and Elizabeth (or Betsy) in New York about 1778, is there a birth record to be found? Might her birth be found under her mother’s name as she and Nicholas were not yet married? She died in 1787, the year the rest of the family emigrated to the Island. William Jenkins, writing some 89 years later in 1876, said that a child named Mary had died on the passage. Since this would have been before William was born, is it possible that he was referring to the story he had heard of Maria dying in 1787, about the time of the passage? And why was she left behind in Treysa, and with whom? At this point we can only speculate that she was already very ill when they were to leave, and that she was left behind in the care of relatives.

Children born in PEI - Where are the records of birth and baptism of any of Nicholas and Elizabeth’s children who were born in PEI?

Relation to Peter Baum - Who are the parents of Peter Baum? And what is his relation to Nicholas and Elizabeth? According to newspaper accounts and court records of August 1792, Peter was a young boy of about 17 at that time. This would have him born about 1775, but where, and to whom? We know there were at one time Baum families living in Treysa, but no connection has yet been made with Peter. Why would 12 year old Peter have been included with Nicholas and Elizabeth’s family when they left Germany in 1787 to settle in PEI? Was he a child of Elizabeth before she met Nicholas?

As is usual in genealogy, for every puzzle you solve there are many unanswered questions remaining. Who among us will be the first with source records to establish answers to any of the questions posed above? If anyone has evidence to dispute the claims above, I would love to see the proof. If you have any ideas for possible means of arriving at these answers, please help the effort by emailing me at .