Bethelda Hannah Gavel

So, for a very long time now, I’ve been searching for the parents of Bethelda Hannah Gavel… my great great Gramma. I’ve had leads, but there was no certainty in them… until last night.

Searching through the Nova Scotia online archival database I found nothing by way of the name Bethelda Hannah Gavel… so I decided to just put the name Gavel in and sift through countless entries. It paid off. She was listed as Bethuld. And her parents, my newly discovered great great great Grandparents are Jacob William Gavel and Elizabeth Spavold (although the in the hand written archives it looks more like Spavil….).

This has opened up a whole barrage of new ancestors… a great many of them named Sarah, not surprisingly.

There will certainly be more to follow…

Published in: on 27 August 2007 at 9:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

Bears, Grey Howlers and the Women Who Faced Them

A “reprint” from October 3rd, old blog…All my life I’ve been afraid of mice. Little scurrying creatures that some people describe as cute, I fear them like nothing else. I am a little embarrassed about this, especially when I read about some of my past grandmothers who faced much larger creatures head on. On the 1st of January 1698/99 my Great9 Grandfather, Samuel Smith, wrote a letter to his son, my Great8 Grandfather, Ichabod Smith. In the letter he describes what life was like for him as a child and a young man.

After the Red Skins, the great terror of our lives at Weathersfield, and for many years after we had moved to Hadley to live, was the wolves. Catamounts were bad eno’ and so was the bears, but it was the wolves that was the worst. The noise of their howlings was eno’ to curdle the blood of the stoutest and I have never seen the man that did not shiver at the sound of a pack of them… My Mother and Sister did each of them kill more than one of the gray howlers and once my oldest sister shot a bear that came too near the house. He was a good fat one and kept us all in meat for a good while. I guess one of her daughters has got the skin.


Samuel never says that he, or any man in his family, killed a bear or a wolf or a catamount (mountain lion), only his sisters and his mother Dorothy (my Great10 Grandmother) are mentioned. In fact, throughout all of my family research I have no outstanding mention of man against beast.  Perhaps this was because it was a common occurance for men, but that certainly does not take away from the courage and strength these women must have possessed. The women cared for the home, and that included keeping the big bads away.

More recently, my Great3 Grandmother, Lydia Mosher Beyea (1827-1892), bravely faced a beast. She was described as a “miniature woman” who could stand erect beneath her husbands outstretched arms. Her husband, John Beyea, was 6’2″… I’m sure they made an interesting looking pair. According to the Beyea Genealogy, compiled by Maurice E. Peck:  On one occasion, shortly after their marriage, she [Lydia] chased a bear away from their sheep with a broom. Lydia and John were married on the 27th of December 1846.

So, if I share DNA with these women, if our blood is connected through time, then why am I afraid of mice? I’m sure Dorothy and Lydia and all my past grandmothers bravely faced many a mouse with indifference.

As a final note, in my life I have had one recurring dream. I have it about once a year. In it I face a bear.

A “reprint” from October 18th, old blog, (posted just after returning from NB)…

I should mention that Karl Beyea helped contribute to Maurice E. Peck’s Beyea Genealogy. He contributed the story of Lydia chasing the bear away from the family sheep that I commented about in my October 3rd blog. When Karl’s mother read through the book for the first time she told him he had made an error. Lydia wasn’t chasing the bear away from sheep, it was the family pigs she was protecting.





Published in: on 25 August 2007 at 8:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

August birthdays and the name Van Kleek

Well, it’s the least busiest month for birthdays. Just three days in August cover the birthdates of our ancestors and no direct grandparents were born in August after 1703. Maybe the gloomy November grey skys have something to do with that? Regardless, here’s our list for this months ancestral birthdays:

  • Baltus B. Van Kleek: 6 August 1645
  • Jan Cornelius Buys: 20 August 1629
  • Ebenezer Jones: 20 August 1646
  • Elizabeth Salter: 26 August 1610
  • Jeremiah Sabin: 26 August 1703

Baltus Berensten Van Kleek was born in Haarlem Holland and sailed across the Atlantic, likely with his parents and siblings, to start a new life. We are unsure of his age when her landed in the New World. He was listed in the Flatbush, NY assessment rolls on the 22nd of August 1675, his 30th year. Eventually he made his way to Poughkeepsie NY.  There he built a stone house in 1702 . On the stone lintel above the door he carved “1702 B VK T VK” the date of the completion of the house and his and his wife’s initials (Baltus & Tryntje). The house was torn down in 1835 to make way for progress but the stone lintel was saved by the family and can, apparently,  still be seen in Poughkeepsie.

Although I have listed him as Baltus B. Van Kleek, his father was named Barent Baltus van der Lippstadt. There was no Van Kleek associated with his name. So where does the name Van Kleek come from?

To this day there really is no answer.

Some say that the name Van Kleek first shows up in Holland in 1651 when Baltus’ stepbrother uses it for his son Peter. Others say that Baltus himself first formally adopts the name it in 1685 for his 6th child Peter. Whoever did decide to use it first left no indication why they chose the name.

Van Kleek it is not a familiar name in Holland and it is not associated with any town or diocese or location. Perhaps it is a descriptive word adopted to represent the family, in the same way that Fisher or Miller or Short would be used. According to a sixteenth century Dutch-Latin dictionary ‘kleeck’ is given as meaning a crack, a slap or a blow. An odd, and rather violent, choice of word for a last name. Perhaps the little baby Peter made some sort of cute slapping gesture that would be the genesis of a proud family name. It seems that the person responsible for picking the name, Van Kleek, took that secret to their grave.

In the book, The Historian, Elizabeth Kostova writes:

“…I like a puzzle. So does every scholar worth his salt. It’s the reward… to look history in the eye and say, ‘I know who you are. You can’t fool me'”.

Genealogy really is a constant puzzle. I’m determined to discover all the answers… the name Van Kleek is no exception. I’ll just have to add it to my list.

Published in: on 8 August 2007 at 12:18 am  Comments (1)