Every last one of my ancestors lived in the northern states once they arrived in this country. They ALL, on both sides, lived in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, New Jersey, and all over New England, and then some of them went west. But NONE of them went south.
At least I thought so until now.
For many years, I’ve been researching the ancestry of my mother’s grandmother, Sarah Fosket.
I’ve traced her Fosket line back to her grandparents, Alexander Fosket and Sarah Ann Evans, who married in Troy, New York in 1837. Alexander and Sarah had at least four children, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focusing on just two of them, Alexander E. and Alonzo.
Sarah Fosket’s father, Alonzo, was a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. He enlisted in Michigan and mustered in at St. Louis. It’s still a mystery to me what a New York City man was doing out there!
I have few records and even fewer clues for Alonzo’s parents, Alexander and Sarah.
There’s a family in the 1840 U.S. Census in Albany headed by “Alex Fosgate” (as you know, the 1840 census only names the heads of households). The surname isn’t quite right, but the ages were correct for both Alexander and Sarah, and for their first child born in 1839. There was also an older woman in the household, but of course I had no idea who she was, and I wasn’t even certain that this was the correct family.
I haven’t found the couple in any other census record. They didn’t own land. Records are scarce.
Both Alexander and Sarah died young. Sarah died when she was between 30 and 40 years old. Alexander was a 45 year old widower when he died of consumption in New York City in 1858, leaving four children under 18. The three youngest children were raised by one of Sarah’s sisters; the oldest, Alexander E. Fosket (Alex Jr.), was nowhere to be found until 1870 when he was in New York City, a single man, boarding with strangers. He then purchased a house in Brooklyn in 1873.
One of the unusual facts about Alex Jr. was that his first child, Henry, was born in South Carolina in 1872 (see above chart). And his wife was born in Germany, not South Carolina.
I couldn’t make sense of that: Alex Jr., who was single and living in New York City in 1870, suddenly traveled down to South Carolina where he married a German woman, had a child, and then came back to Brooklyn to buy a house in 1873? I filed the information to be considered later.
There’s a confederate soldier in the Georgia Infantry by the name of Alexander E. Fosket, who was ultimately taken prisoner by the northern army. There is quite a bit of correspondence between the Northern and Southern generals regarding his release.
This didn’t fit with anything else I knew about the family, either. Why would a guy from Albany and NYC enlist in Georgia? Surely it was another man with the same name. I filed the information to be considered later.
There’s a death notice in an Albany newspaper about one Amelia Fosket, a resident of Albany, who died of cholera in 1849 at age 62 while visiting her son in Colleton County, South Carolina. I had no idea who she was, but thought this could somehow be related to the other southern connections – you never know. So I filed the information to be considered later.
Now I’m finally in Albany, researching at the New York State Library, which has all of the Albany City Directories on microfiche.
The directory for 1841 lists three people at the same address: Amelia (a widow), Alexander, and Sarah Ann. There’s only one Fosket family in Albany.
Do you know the feeling when you’re staring at the new discovery on your screen, mouth slightly open, and you can hear the loud “CLICK” in your head as all the puzzle pieces fly together and connect as though a magnet is pulling them to the center? That’s how it was for me.
The Amelia living with Alexander and Sarah Ann in 1841 is surely the older woman in the 1840 census record, and the same woman who died in South Carolina while visiting her son. It’s also highly likely that she’s Alexander’s mother.
When Alexander died in 1858, Alex Jr. was about 19 years old. I think the young man chose to go live with his paternal uncle in South Carolina, while his younger siblings stayed in New York City and lived with their maternal aunt. Then the Civil War started, and Alex Jr. enlisted in the Confederate Army. He was, after all, a southern boy at the time.
Why Alexander enlisted in Georgia when he was living in South Carolina is as much a mystery as the question of why Alonzo enlisted in Michigan when he was living in New York City. But that’s what happened. So you hear stories about the Civil War, where brother was fighting against brother, and it turns out to have happened in my family exactly like that. I plan to examine the activity of each company in great detail to see if the two brothers were ever on the same battlefield, opposing each other.
Of course, I stayed up until all hours that night looking for the Fosket son/brother/uncle in South Carolina, and I found him. Fosket is an old New England name, not a southern name, so there was just one candidate: Don Alonzo Fosket, a.k.a. D. A. Fosket. The fact that he was born in New York, and that his name was Alonzo, were both big clues that he belongs to my family.
Evidently, Don Alonzo was a rascal who stirred up trouble, was tried for murder multiple times, but was also a contractor for the U.S. Postal Service, and was elected Coroner of Edgefield County, South Carolina in 1870. It’s going to take a lot more research to figure him out.
I also found a Miss Amelia Fosket in South Carolina who was born in 1819, and traveled with Don Alonzo from New York to Charleston by steamer just after Christmas in 1871. I believe she is a sister to Don Alonzo and Alexander Fosket, named after their mother.
Here’s my working hypothesis now for my Fosket family:
It’s amazing how one little line in a city directory could pull all of the other records together into a scenario that makes sense. As is often the case, this new discovery raises more questions than it answers, but the important thing is that it moves my research forward. One step at a time.