If You Could See Your Ancestors

By Nellie Winslow Simmons Randall

If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
Would you be proud of them or not?
Or don’t you really know?
Some strange discoveries are made
In climbing family trees.
And some of them, you know,
Do not particularly please.

If you could see your ancestors
All standing in a row,
There might be some of them perhaps
You shouldn’t care to know.
But here’s another question
Which requires a different view —
If you could meet your ancestors
Would they be proud of you?

Uncle Remus — Horse Thief

Various versions of this scam have circulated around the internet for years, often reworked with the names of political foes. But for members of the Skillman Family Association who have not seen it, here is the reworked story of an imaginary Uncle Remus Doe.

Let’s say that your great-great uncle, Remus Doe, a fellow lacking in character, was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889. A cousin has supplied you with the only known photograph of Remus, showing him standing on the gallows. On the back of the picture are the words:

“Remus Doe: Horse thief, sent to Montana Territorial Prison, 1885. Escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton Detectives, convicted and hanged, 1889.”

Remus Doe hanged

Pretty grim situation, right? But let’s revise things a bit. We simply crop the picture by editing it with image processing software so that all that is seen is a head shot.

Next, we rewrite the text:

“Remus Doe was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and imitate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1885, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Uncle Remus passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed.”

Now we have given Uncle Remus a distinguished place inside the family tree, not hanging from it! Needless to say, the Association does not recommend this practice to its members!

John E. Skillman III

The Second Generation in America

The following is extracted from “The Skillmans of America and Their Kin” by William Jones Skillman of Philadelphia, PA. This is the beginning of the first of twelve quarterly issues published in The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record from January 1906 through October 1908. William Jones Skillman’s genealogy and history of the Skillman family in America covers the first five generations of Skillmans in this country and it is considered the definitive genealogy of our family. The genealogy in its entirety is available in the “Members Only” section of the website under Skillmans of America.

“2. Thomas2 Skillman (Thomas1), b. 1671…Was Commissioner of Highways, Newtown 1714; joint owner with [others] of a plat, 30 x 22 feet for a School House, May 20, 1721. This building was at Middletown (near Dutch Kills)…Subscribed £5 for erection of Dutch Ref. Church of Newtown, 1731. The first board of Kerck Meesters (wardens or trustees) of this church, chosen 1736, were Peter Berrien, Thomas Skillman, and Petrus Schenck. His pew in this church was No. 1, on the northwest side of the middle aisle, and his family home (which had been his father’s, the homestead), was at Dutch or Maspeth Kills. In 1693, Thomas, m. Annetje, dau. of Adriaen Hendricksen Aten (Aaten, Aate, Aeten, Atje) “immigrant, 1651, 36 y’r” (his age then), from Holland (van Doesburg)…The will of Thomas2 Skillman (Records of Kings County and Queens), dated Feb. 13, 1739,…names his wife, Ann, and all their then living children. Two had died young. They had:

  • Peter3, bap. In Brooklyn (Ref. Dutch Church), March 4, 1694… He d. in infancy.
  • Elizabeth3, twin with Peter, Bap. at same dates with same witnesses and church; m. 1717, Hendrick Van de Water, N. Y. City. Infant dau. Ann, bap. (Collegiate Church), Aug. 29, 1718…Both mother and child died.
  • Jan3, b. 1696.
  • Mary3, b. 1698; m. Johannes Bant (Band, Bandt, Bondt, Bond) of N. Y. City.
  • Mercy3, bap. In Brooklyn (Ref. Dutch Church), Feb. 2, 1701…She m. John Fijn (Fine), son probably of Jan Fin and Aaltje Jans, bap. (Collegiate Church) May 18, 1698…
  • Annetje3, b. 1703.
  • Abraham3, b. 1704.
  • Isaac3, b. 1706.
  • Jacob3, b. 1708.
  • Benjamin3, b. 1710.
  • Joseph3, b. 1712.”

The third and subsequent generations become much more extensive and will not be extracted into a blog. Members wishing to learn more should go to Skillmans of America in the “Members Only” section for access to the entire twelve quarterly articles.

John E. Skillman III