Protected: The Reverend William Jones Collection — Box 1, Folder 6 — Part 2

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The Reverend William Jones Skillman Collection: The Early Letters


Author’s Note

As previously mentioned, the Reverend William Jones Skillman original letters, and other documents were found, digitally photographed, and then the originals were placed in the Archives and Special Collections at Rutgers University.

As magnificent a work as is “Skillmans of America and Their Kin”, the Collection contains even more. The best of it captures a little about the lives and the personalities of our ancestors more than one hundred years ago.

The collection is available in the SFA members section as pdf files. The first pdf file contains Box 1 F1 to F5 (Folders 1 to 5) and these are the subject of this Blog. If you attempt to read the original letters, I would note that the + and – zoom feature is useful in making out the writing. It took me a year to photograph the whole collection, besides the time spent interpreting the handwriting; unfortunately a few are also slightly out of focus.


So much could be written about the letters. Each time I look at them I see more. I have tried to limit this to what stood out to me. These are my own impressions and could be wrong. Comments would be appreciated, even if it is just letting us know you read the blog!

Box 1 F1 is a letter from Elizabeth Andrews, dated March 27, 1907. She is under her Grandfather’s entry SOA #155 in “Skillmans of America and Their Kin” [155. THOMAS6 SKILLMAN (Francis5, Thomas4, Joseph3, Thomas2, Thomas1) [See either SOA or the collection letter for details.]

While photographing the collection, I noticed that beyond the content of the letters themselves, the envelopes and stationary provide a wealth of historical information.


The envelopes and stationary are from The Mohawk Hotel, Brooklyn NY, and postmarked March 27, 1907 at 1:30 p.m. So Elizabeth mailed it the same day it was written.

The Mohawk Hotel is now The Mohawk Apartments, 379 Washington Avenue, Clinton Hill Historic District, Brooklyn New York. “An upscale residential hotel”, it had been built a mere 3 years earlier, in 1904. Perhaps Elizabeth was living here at the time.

The irony of the use of a Native American image and name, is not lost on me. It would be deemed politically incorrect now, but was quite common at the time.

The letter contains straightforward and useful genealogical information. Elizabeth’s mother is mentioned as being the daughter of Judge Horatio Onderdonk. There are numerous entries on the internet about the Judge’s historic home, Onderdonk House. Interestingly, Onderdonk House is also in a video game from the “Sims” series. A website notes that “Based on the likeness of an actual historic home, this house from SimCity 3000 is now available for download for your Sims 2 neighborhood.”

In reviewing the letter, I realized that Elizabeth was the daughter of Francis Skillman. Francis Skillman was the Author of “Skillmans of New York” and was a former friend of WJS. Francis had passed away in 1898. Elizabeth mentioned that the letter had been forwarded from Roslyn, where Francis had lived. Even though it was nine years after his death, could the Reverend’s letter have been meant for Francis? You would wonder too, if you knew what I know! However, this story is about Elizabeth’s letter, so I will end the discussion there. I will save the subject of Francis, the Reverend and how their friendship may have come to a startling end for another time.

Box 1 F2 does not have much that is noteworthy, except that the person WJS was trying to find had died. One insight emerges from the address on the envelope. One could reconstruct the movements of the Reverend William Jones Skillman himself, from the many addresses he had over the years. Being a Reverend he moved to different parishes.

Reverend William Jones Skillman addresses in this first set are:

168 South Pearl Street
Albany, NY

27 March 1876, Box 1, F4
16 February 1881, Box 1, F2

462 Lyceum Avenue
Philadelphia, PA

2 February 1901, Box 1, F5
27 March 1907, Box 1, F1

Box 1 F3 is of interest to all of the descendants of SOA #8 Jacob3 Skillman (including myself), being a reference to the land he once owned. We learn that Jacob bought land in Kingston, New Jersey from the Widow of Barefoot Brinson, rather than from the man himself, as it appears in SOA. There is a record of Jacob’s Grandson SOA #53 JACOB5 SKILLMAN (Abraham4, Jacob3, Thomas2, Thomas1), and wife Sarah selling some of the land. Earlier more of the land had been sold, eventually going to Lemuel Scudder.

The exact layout of all of Jacob’s land is in question. There he bought land (600 acres says tradition), and built the first mill at that point, just where the Great Road between New York and Philadelphia (halfway between the cities) crosses the Millstone. There also he opened a store, and besides kept a tavern. The likely spot is the current location of the Kingston Mill (a later Mill built in 1888) by Route 27 in Kingston, New Jersey. Another possibility is Scudder’s Mill Road, Princeton NJ, since Jacob’s Mill eventually went to Scudder.

Kingston-NJ-Cemetery-and-MillThe Kingston Mill in 2010. Photo: Jay Skillman

Box 1 F4 contains Letters written by Eliza H. Burke, Princeton, NJ; 27 March, 20 July, 5 December, 1876 and 13 January 1877. Daughter of SOA #99. PETER6 SKILLMAN (Gerardus5, Thomas4, Isaac3, Thomas2, Thomas1)

When I read the first letter, the thing that struck me was on the back of the envelope. There is written “good natured, pleasant letter”. I soon learned to recognize the black ink and handwriting of the Reverend William Jones Skillman himself. Not only do we get a letter from 1876, but we get the Reverend’s own thought about it and a hint at his personality. There would be many more to come. Indeed reading the four letters from her; I would agree with his assessment of them. Eliza’s letters are pleasant, and she was very helpful. She made a good many inquiries to help with the family history. Many of the people she talked to, then corresponded with WJS as well. Words of Wisdom from Eliza: “When we are young we are looking forwards, it’s only when we are growing old that we look back.” And “I am obliged to you for furnishing me with the names of my ancestors, it is wonderful to trace a family back so far.” We are all still obliged to the Reverend, and will be, far into the future.

Thanks to all who have or continue to contribute to Skillman Genealogy and the Skillman Family Association, including Bill Skillman, Greg Skillman, Ken Skillman, Lee Fleming, Michael Wrona, and of course especially to the late John E. Skillman III.

Jay Skillman
Administrator of the Skillman DNA Project

For SFA Members

The best way to find if there is a letter written about or especially by your direct ancestor, is to find the most recent ancestor (late 1800’s to early 1900’s) that has been assigned a number in “Skillmans of America and Their Kin”. Then search in the Finding Aid by that number, in the form SOA #___. In example, the Reverend William Jones is SOA #165. I am willing to help, if you need assistance checking for a letter.

Remembering John E. Skillman III (1939-2014)

It is with sympathy we announce the passing of John Earle Skillman III, the Skillman Family Association’s President.

As the Association’s first President, John pursued his vision of creating a Skillman family presence on the internet as a means of enhancing dissemination of the family’s substantive history. With that goal in mind, he worked diligently over the last two years providing the leadership to create the formalized Association structure and technology development to enhance its communication network for the future. His intent was to continue the great early-twentieth-century work of the Reverend William Jones Skillman, one of our great family forefathers. Now, just over a century later, our group has succeeded in realizing the first stage of John’s vision.

In one year, John managed to develop the Association’s formalized structure. He completed the development of its’ by-laws, and with the assistance of his son, Ken, they designed and crafted the Association’s first web site. John’s family was further represented by his daughter, Lee Ann, who graciously agreed to be the Association’s first Secretary. John was particularly proud of his success in achieving recognition by the IRS of the Association’s 501(c)(3) non-profit status; an accomplishment that was two years in the making.

John’s ability to look beyond some of the complicated issues in setting up an association and stick to the course at hand was one of his best character traits; his vision, intelligence and writing skills along with his keen interest in our family history are some of the wonderful attributes that I will surely miss. John also had a sense of humor during our communications which demonstrated his resilience to those around him. His humor and social networking abilities easily engaged the individuals he came in contact with. John’s many outstanding accomplishments are listed in detail in his obituary.

In recent months, one of the items John and I discussed was my willingness to take over as the President of the Skillman Family Association when the time arrived. I have agreed to do so and hope that you will be patient during this time of transition.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ellie, his wife, and their children: Ken, Lee and Paige during this difficult time.


Michael J. Wrona
Interim President

Cemeteries of the Early Skillmans

Have you ever wondered where our early Skillmans are buried? The general answer to that question is New Jersey, and Somerset County in particular. However, clusters of Skillmans relocated in later generations to New York, Ohio and Indiana in a general northern and western migration. Surprisingly, few Skillmans migrated south. Now, of course, later generation Skillmans are buried in nearly every state. Note that Hamilton County, OH, was a hotbed of later Skillmans. There are only 123 Skillman graves listed in all of Pennsylvania, so the Ohio Skillmans apparently skipped right over Pennsylvania.

The best source of data on the graves of early Skillmans is, a wonderful website which was recently purchased by, but for the moment it is still free to members. lists 417 Skillman graves in the state of New Jersey. Below are some data from on early Skillman burials. I have only included those cemeteries which contain ten or more Skillman burials, with the exception of the Beekman Cemetery, a small well-maintained private cemetery containing early Skillmans.

NameCityCountyStateSkillman Graves
Crown Hill CemeteryIndianapolisMarionIN19
Forest Hill CemeteryShelbyvilleShelbyIN23
Amwell Ridge CemeteryRingoesHunterdonNJ17
Beekman CemeteryMontgomery Twp.SomersetNJ9
Blawenburg Reformed ChurchBlawenburgSomersetNJ38
Elm Ridge CemeteryNew BrunswickMiddlesexNJ18
Green-Wood CemeteryTrentonMercerNJ14
Harlingen Reformed ChurchBelle MeadSomersetNJ26
Kingston Presbyterian ChurchKingstonSomersetNJ24
Mount Hope CemeteryLambertvilleHunterdonNJ38
Princeton CemeteryPrincetonMercerNJ33
Riverview CemeteryTrentonMercerNJ19
Rocky Hill CemeteryRocky HillSomersetNJ21
Second English PresbyterianAmwellHunterdonNJ10
Bemis Point CemeteryEllery CenterChautauquaNY17
Green-Wood CemeteryBrooklynKingsNY36
McDonough Union CemeteryMcDonoughChenangoNY27
Riverside CemeteryEndicott (Union)BroomeNY23
Greenwood CemeteryHamiltonButlerOH13
New Lexington CemeteryNew LexingtonPerryOH15
Reading Protestant CemeteryReadingHamiltonOH15
Spring Grove CemeteryCincinnatiHamiltonOH56
West Branch Mill CreekColerain Twp.HamiltonOH34

I had no idea there was such a large group of Skillmans in Lambertville, New Jersey, a charming town on the Delaware River. I suspect that each of the cemeteries listed above contain Skillmans almost exclusively descended from one of the five sons of Thomas2 Skillman from whom we are all descended. Without doing further research, it seems unlikely to me that two different lines of Skillmans would move together to a particular area or state. For example, all of the Skillmans in Riverside Cemetery in Endicott (Union), NY, are of my line and descended from Jacob5 (John4, Jacob3) Skillman.

John E Skillman III

August Family Reunion Cancelled

It is with extreme regret that I announce that your Board of Directors has made the decision to cancel the contract with the Princeton Marriott for our planned first family reunion in August 2014. The decision was not made lightly and resulted from a combination of factors. As president, it was my full intention to run the reunion from beginning to end. However, in October my battle with stage-4 prostate cancer took a turn for the worse, and it is now unlikely that I will be well enough to run the reunion, much less attend it. Unfortunately, your Board was unable to come up with someone else willing to assume that important responsibility.

While 32 members have indicated that they would like to attend, 12 come from my immediate family and may not attend due to my health issues. Additionally, we anticipate that, despite the best of intentions, other members may drop due to health issues or conflicting events that preclude attending our reunion. It is quite possible that our final attendance by August could be fewer than 15 people, hardly the attendance we had anticipated.

Finally, our Family Association would be liable for a percentage of the cost of meals per the contract with the Princeton Marriott. By my rough calculations, this could have been in excess of $1500, which could have wiped out our limited treasury in the event of later cancellation.

Let me assure you, however, that those of you who still wish to go to Princeton on the first weekend of August are still welcome to gather with your cousins who wish to do the same on an informal basis. We will make the list of those who planned to attend the formal reunion available on the Members Only section of the website and you may contact each other freely. Your Board of Directors will do all it can to support such an informal gathering and it may, in fact, work quite satisfactorily. If any of you wishes to coordinate such a gathering, please let me know by email and I will do my best to put you in touch with others of a like mind.

John E Skillman III

RootsMagic™ – A Leader in Genealogical Software


The President, Vice President, and Genealogist of the Skillman Family Association all use RootsMagic™ to organize and store data on their respective family trees, and we heartily recommend this software to all Association members. It can be downloaded for $29.95 from the RootsMagic™ website at There is also a free version, which I do not recommend, because it does not have many of the features that are described in this blog. RootsMagic™ is only available in PC format, but they are working on a Mac version.

There are many great features to RootsMagic™, most importantly the ability to record supporting documentation or data for each and every event, such as the name of the individual and the date and place of his or her birth, marriage, death and a myriad of other facts, like education, occupation, etc. Once a reference source is entered and saved, it can be reused for other individuals to whom it applies. For example, a census record, once entered, can be applied to every member of the family listed in the census without retyping the information.

Your family tree in RootsMagic™ can be viewed in several different formats and the information can be retrieved in several different ways. There is a relationship calculator to help you determine the relationship between any two individuals in your database, and the relationship to you also appears in the lower left corner of each person’s screen. If needed, you can retrieve all events that took place in a certain city, such as which Skillmans lived in Kingston, NJ?

RootsMagic™ will also form all of your events into a cogent sentence for a narrative report. For example, if John Doe was married to Jane Smith (fact) on 18 June 1865 (date) at the Dutch Reformed Church (place detail) in Franklin Park, NJ (location) by the Reverend William Vanderveer (description), RootsMagic™ will take all of these separate facts and compose them into a single sentence. There is also a media function where you can add several photos and documents pertaining to each individual.

There is a publisher function that allows you to publish your family tree in a complete book at any publisher. You can write descriptive pages, such as a dedication page, an acknowledgement page, etc. When you save your book as a PDF file, it automatically creates a table of contents. You can then take the PDF on a disk to Staples, Office Depot, FedEx Office, or any other publisher you may choose. I have recently published a book showing all of my and my wife’s direct ancestors going back ten generations. It contains an ancestor chart and a narrative report on the direct ancestors of each of us. The narrative report also includes a photo of each ancestor, if I have one. The entire book runs 82 pages and it will be a treasure for our descendants.

Importantly, RootsMagic™ is the only software certified to add and share data with FamilySearch Family Tree. RootsMagic™ software is complex enough to have all the bells and whistles you need for your family tree, but it is also fairly intuitive. When you are getting started, you should watch the various free webinars which explain particular functions of the software. If you are using another vendor’s software and are not satisfied with it, you can switch to RootsMagic™ with a GEDCOM file. I used another program for many years, but for reasons I won’t discuss here, I changed to RootsMagic™ several years ago.

RootsMagic™ is based in Utah and they have a terrific technical support desk to help you with any questions. The brains behind RootsMagic™ is Bruce Buzbee, whom I have met on a few occasions. It is a small family company that does its best to please its customers. The Skillman Family Association recommends RootsMagic™, particularly if you are just beginning to research your family tree.

John E Skillman III

Historical Societies: The often overlooked source for valuable information

One area in genealogical research often overlooked is historical societies for individual research purposes. While staffing of such organizations is often limited, a clear and concise question can sometimes lead to exciting results.

Frequently staffed by volunteers who have an expert knowledge of the community, they can be knowledgeable about local records, such as vital statistics, court and church records, and can cut through the red tape that the non-resident may encounter when addressing agencies and associations directly.

Membership to organizations like the New York Genealogical and Biographical Society and the Genealogical Society of New Jersey and the Suffolk County Historical Society can also provided support for individual research assistance.

Membership to Historical societies can be added value to the genealogist, particularly in the era of modern technology. Currently, through a membership to the NYGBS one has access to the Fold3 database, which has many of the archival records of NARA — this exciting database provides access to war records from the Revolution through World War II which can contain vital information to assist in determining the ancestor’s war records and experiences therein.

Likewise, the Historical Society of Pennsylvania with membership offers access to Genealogy Bank and®. An exciting new database is the Oliver H. Blair Funeral Home Index, containing genealogical information from 1920 to 1980. The database includes records from around the Philadelphia and southeast New Jersey areas. These types of localized sources can be invaluable to researchers, particularly when other records have proven unsuccessful. Join them, use their services, and promote their activities to other genealogists.

Michael Wrona
Vice President

Ancestry, Heritage Quest or FamilySearch: Which do you prefer?

There are number of interesting developments in the world of genealogy, but perhaps nothing as important than the introduction of online genealogy databases. A subscription database like®, Heritage Quest Online provides a wealth of information and is mandatory for the researcher looking for primary source materials. Both of these databases are marketed as comprehensive libraries and meant to be a “one-stop shop” for the novice user. Both include census records, birth, death and marriage records and other features. Many public libraries subscribe to one or the other of these two databases, therefore, check with your local library to see whether they provide either of these services.

Free database libraries include the ever popular database of choice FamilySearch this comprehensive database includes vital statistics divided by states and region. The scope of the database includes regional and international records and is perhaps more popular due largely to its availability to the general public; its ease of use and cost savings features are value added. Developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-day Saints, it contains a host of online applications including site storage and file sharing. For those looking for an easy, useful and inexpensive way to save and store your genealogy and collaborate with others, this database is for you.

The savvy genealogist would probably work between all three databases, checking back and forth to verify information. I use FamilySearch on a daily basis to find important and worthy genealogical information. Be sure to log in regularly as they update their files frequently. FamilySearch is currently releasing a variety of site enhancements.

Here in Michigan, through the state’s eLibrary, residents are able to log into and use Heritage Quest free of charge. I would investigate what your own state has to offer. This generally is found at the state library level. Check their website or give them a call to see what hidden gems may be out there for your use.

Michael Wrona
Vice President

SFA Family Reunion • August 1-3, 2014

The Skillman Family Association’s first family reunion is rapidly taking shape and it promises to be both informational and great fun for all who attend. My wife and I just returned from 4 days in New Jersey to survey hotels and historic sites for the group. All activities will be within 15 miles and a 30-minute bus ride from the selected hotel. Here is a tentative agenda:

Friday – Optional tour of the Princeton area for those arriving on Thursday
Friday Evening – Welcome reception and dinner at the hotel with cash bar
Saturday Breakfast – Group breakfast at the hotel
Saturday Morning – Bus tour of Skillman cemeteries, Skillman homes, and other historical sights
Saturday Lunch – Luncheon at a local restaurant
Saturday Afternoon – Bus tour continues, returning to hotel about 3:00PM
Saturday Dinner – A casual farewell barbeque dinner at the hotel
Sunday Breakfast – On your own at the hotel
Days/Times TBD – Group sessions on Skillman genealogy, Skillman history and Skillman DNA

Subject to Board approval, I am recommending that we use the Princeton Marriott at Forrestal, which will run $131.10 per night, taxes included.

Princeton Marriott at Forrestal

If you have not already responded to my earlier email, please reply to me with answers to the questions listed below at

• Do you plan to attend? If not, I need to know that.
• How many adults in your party? How many children and what are their ages?
• Will you arrive before Friday and/or stay beyond Sunday? Princeton is a beautiful and historic town and there are many sights to see in the area, including the beautiful Princeton University. Downtown Princeton has many lovely stores for shopping.
• Will you attend the reunion, but not stay at the hotel?

And remember, Thomas1 Skillman arrived in America in August 1664. Our first reunion will celebrate the 350th anniversary of that important event. It is also the 200th anniversary of the founding on the Beekman-Skillman (now just Beekman) Cemetery, which is the final resting place of 9 Skillman ancestors.

John E. Skillman III