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Sunday, January 17, 2010

Finding an Ancestor in pre 1715 New York

Ken asked:
I have been unable to locate information on the arrival and parents of Peter Zeluff/Zeliff since his first apparent appearance on the Staten Island Militia records of 1715. His name is believed to found there spelled "Cielof". He marries Blandina Van Pelt on the island about 1723. Her Mother was a Borgardus and a descendant of Nicassicus DeSille. He does not seem to be from the Palatinate, although records don't confirm or disaffirm this. He simply appears on Staten Island and would likely have been about 16 when he enrolls in the militia, his name is above Peter Van Pelt, his future father in law on this rolls. I have run into a brick wall. It is tantalizing to think he is of the Uzille family, but the existing records that I have seen don't support this connection. What do I need to do to expand my search ?

Olive Tree Answer: Hello Ken, I know how frustrating searching early New York and New Netherland ancestors can be. However I can't give you suggestions for expanding your search as you have not told me what sources you have used! So I would have to suggest the usual - check the early church records, check land records, check court records (there are excellent early court documents available), check early census records (there is a 1706 census for example).

What I suggest is that you look at the children of this couple. You seem to have good knowledge of Blandina Van Pelt's ancestors. So check the naming pattern of the children. Do they name any of their children after Blandina's parents? If they do, and if they are one of the first two male or female babies born to the couple, you can theorize that the other male and female names (within the first two born) might be Peter's parents' names. Remember, this is just a theory, but it's based on common naming practices wherein the first two female children are named for the grandmothers, and the first two male children for the grandfathers.

Next, have a look at baptismal sponsors (assuming you can find the baptisms of Peter and Blandina's children). Relatives and family friends were most often used. So I would research every sponsor named in the church records and find out exactly how/if they are related to Peter and Blandina. You may get lucky and find a relative of Peter's.

If you do not find a relative of Peter's, then you are possibly looking at a young man who came to New York (New Netherland) as an orphan or as an adventurer who left his family and struck out on his own. Perhaps Peter was in trouble in his homeland and left to escape jail or for financial reasons. But take the best case scenario first and check on those baptismal sponsors and Peter & Blandina's naming of their children.

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