Friday, 29 May 2015

Henry Christian Vought (1760-1842) - Ancestor Found by DNA (52 Ancestors Week 22) Theme: "Commencement"

This month a brick wall in my family history research has been shattered as a result of my mother having had her autosomal DNA tested. Although previous matches to my own autosomal DNA had confirmed some of my ancestry, it hadn't yet added any new ancestors. This match with my mother did provide new information and feels like a "commencement", allowing me to head down a whole new branch of my tree.

The recent email that I received from Liane Fenimore, one of my mother's DNA matches, indicated that she and my mother are 4th cousins. (My DNA did not show up as a match to Liane, showing how autosomal DNA can disappear in a generation and why it is important to have the oldest family members tested.) Nevertheless, she and I would be 4th cousins 1X removed. Liane's 2X great grandmother Sarah Ann Barton was a sister to my 3X great grandmother Katharine Barton. Katharine had been a brick wall in my research until I heard from Liane. She has researched the family for years and was able to send me significant amounts of family history, including a will and an estate inventory.

Sarah and Katharine's parents were Isaac Barton and his wife Margaret Vought (my 4X great grandparents). The Vought line could be taken back a couple more generations: Margaret's parents were Henry Christian Vought and Rebecca Nelson (my 5X great grandparents). Henry Christian's parents were Joseph Christian Vought and Christina Rheinhardt (my 6X great grandparents).

Naturally my reaction was to commence some online research of my own to see what else I could find.

Census records could be found for Henry Christian Vought in New York State for 1790, 1820, 1830 and 1840. His location during this time is Orange County and Westchester County, New York. Westchester Country is located just to the north of Long Island, New York City. Peekskill and Courtlandt where Henry spent his life are located where Westchester meets Orange County, so these different county references most likely do not mean that Henry was moving around at all.

 Cortlandt, NY on the East Back of the Hudson River Looking North-Northwest from Peekskill, NY
Wikimedia Commons Image Attributed to Beyond My Ken

Henry is listed in US Pensioners 1818-1872. There is reference to the family in an online copy of the "Genealogical and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey", Volume 2 which indicates that Henry was the eldest son of Joseph and Christina who immigrated from Holland in about 1750. (Really, Holland? I didn't know I had any Dutch ancestry! Or were these folks actually German as their names sound? What about the New Jersey source? Does that mean that Henry's parents lived in New Jersey before moving to New York? So many questions to investigate!) The same record said that Henry had married Rebecca Nelson and by her had 12 children.

But far and away the most fascinating find was the American Revolutionary War pension application of my 5X great grandfather Henry Christian Vought who is the centre of this story. Apparently Henry and two of his brothers (Peter and Godfrey) were all part of the Third Regiment of Westchester County Militia. (Henry is the second ancestor I've discovered who fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War, the other being John Bullen, who was the subject of another of these "52 Ancestors" stories. Sorry, British and Canadian family and friends who would probably have preferred to see Loyalist leanings, but my family seemed to be American Patriots.) Henry's lengthy pension application form contains the following account of his service in the War:

  • Private for 2 years in Company of Captain Slows which was commanded by Colonel Van Duyck
  • His pension application was made when he was nearly 72 years old, shortly after such pensions were made available
  • In his affidavit made 24 August 1832 in Courtland, NY Henry says:
"I first entered the service of the United States by enlisting in the service for the period of one year under Capt Slow in Col Hughes Regiment in the regular line of the State troops of New York and served out the period of my enlistment at Kings Ferry in the County of West Chester and Rockland being constantly employed in ferrying across back and forth, the Army Cattle and Provisions for the army and such like services. This enlistment was in the year 1778. I again enlisted in the year 1780 in the same service for 12 months (twelve months) in the Company of Capt Bond in the same Regiment and served out the time at Kings Ferry aforesaid in the same services as before detailed. 
My next enlistment was in the same year Cornwallis was taken into a Company of Rangers commanded by Capt Sacket in the Regiment of Col Van Duyck in the State troops of New York for the period of nine months during this enlistment some part of my time I was stationed with the standing Army at Pines Bridge in the County of West Chester; at other times we ranged from the North to the East River in different parts of the County of West Chester.
During this enlistment I was in the skirmish at Mile Square near the town of Bedford in the County of West Chester where Col Holmes with a Party of Tories surrounded us and we cut out way thro' killing one man and wounding fourteen.
I served my time out and was regularly discharged with the rest of my company. Besides these services while regularly enlisted I was frequently called out in the Militia in Alarms and Scouting Parties.
I was born in the year 1760 according to the best information I have on the subject, in the village of Peeks Kill Town of Courtlandt County of West Chester and State of New York. My age is recorded in the Church Books of the Dutch Reformed Church in the town of Courtland to which Church my parents belonged. I lived when I first entered the service in the town of Courtlandt in the County of West Chester. I have lived ever since the Revolutionary War in said town of Courtlandt and now live in said town."
  • He signed his affidavit with an "X" indicating he probably could not write. 
  • His application was granted and he received a pension of $80 per year commencing 4 March 1831.
So, Henry enlisted in the American cause at the age of 18. Kings Ferry, where he was stationed for much of his time in service, was a strategic transport site between Stony Point and Verplanck, NY, just south of Peekskill. It was the route that George Washington's army took to cross the Hudson River on its march to Yorktown, Virginia in 1781.  (A more detailed description of the significance of this area in the War can be found at this Westchester County site.)

After war's end, he went on to marry Rebecca Nelson and have a large family with her, including my 4X great grandmother Martha Vought.
Role in War of 1812

It seems that Henry was also a Corporal in the New York Militia in the War of 1812. (Update 2017-07-07: most likely this is NOT the same Henry but perhaps his son b. 1790.)

He stayed in the Peekskill, Westchester County, NY area for the rest of his life and died there 7 October 1842. His obituary appeared later in October of 1842 in the "Highland Democrat" and says in part:
"DIED At Annsville, Cortlandt Town, on the morning of Friday the 7th inst., Mr. Henry Christian Vought, aged about 84 years. Mr. Vought belonged to a Revolutionary - Whig family! He was himself a soldier in the Revolution, throughout the war; and lived long and respectably for better than half a century in the full possession and enjoyment of the peace and prosperity won by his valour and that of his companions in arms, and died at last full of years and full of honour.
 Mr. Vought bore a most conspicuous part in one of the remarkable skirmishes, that tried American skill and bravery in the whole war."
Henry's obituary in the Peekskill Highland Democrat

The obituary goes on to describe the skirmish in some detail but as the paper is old and many segments are faded and illegible, a paraphrase might more clearly describe the affair.  It seems that at the beginning of the war, 5 regiments had been called into service, one of which was under the command of Colonel James Holmes with Lieutenant Colonel Philip Van Cortlandt under him. After about a year, Holmes deserted to the British and this regiment was thereafter led by Colonel Van Cortlandt. In this regiment, Henry Vought belonged to a corps of men who had been sent out on a scouting party under the command of Lieutenant Mosher. While Mosher and his men were having breakfast one day in the vicinity of White Plains, New York, they heard the alarm of a British Squadron of dragoons approaching. In haste, Mosher formed his little band of about 20 men into a hollow square, had them drop to one knee and elevate their pieces with fixed bayonets at an angle of 45 degrees. As fate would have it, the British Squadron was under the command of its former leader, the deserter Holmes. Holmes had his men on horseback surround the Americans. Unfortunately, this is where the newspaper becomes the most illegible and all that can be read with certainty is that the Americans prevailed, the British were "at last drawn back in disgrace" and the Lieutenant brought all of his 20 or so men out safely and in triumph. (From Henry's pension application, we learned that one British soldier was killed and 14 wounded - if true, surely an amazing feat for a small party of just 20 Americans who had found themselves surrounded by British dragoons on horseback!)

General Washington gave an account of this affair and issued a voice of thanks to the distinguished corps for their valourous achievement. The obituary then goes on to describe his funeral service:

"A military escort . . .  preceded the hearse and general procession by Captain _ and his Jefferson Guards of this Village, to the Old Episcopal Church of St. Peter's where divine service was performed and an interesting discourse was delivered by Rev. M. Griswold, of the Protestant Methodist Church. After this service, the remains of this venerated patriot were received at the grave by the military escort, who after an appropriate address by Dr. Westbrook, fired several volleys, and paid their last sad respects to the honored dead.
Among those who took an active and laudable part in the arrangements of the funeral were seen the venerable Gen. Van Cortlandt, bathed in tears, and his only son Col. Pierre Van Cortlandt, Junr., no less excited and interested than was his aged father." 
Photo Courtesy Gene Baumwoll CSW on
Plaque indicates that 44 known Soldiers of the American Revolution are buried here - Henry is in good company
Episcopal Church of St. Peter's
Photo provided courtesy Dan Silva on

Why the Episcopal and Methodist Church involvement? What happened to the Dutch Reformed Church connection that his parents had had?

Yes, so many questions have been raised by my commencement down this path. Thanks to DNA, there is so much more to learn. This is just the beginning.


  • Lee, Francis Bazley, "Genealogical and Memorial History of the State of New Jersey", Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1910 accessed online 22 May 2015 at Google Books
  • U.S. Revolutionary War Pension and Bounty-Land Warrant Application Files, 1800-1900 for Henry C. Vought accessed at 16 May 2015
  • "Highland Democrat" Peekskill, New York for October 1842 accessed at 16 May 2015
  • War of 1812 image accessed at 28 May 2015 shared on "My Vought Family Tree" by "sharon624george"
  • Fenimore, Liane, email correspondence May 2015 resulting from DNA match through FamilytreeDNA


  1. Wonderful details, Joanne. How exciting to find new connections and relatives who enjoy genealogy as well - such a bonus! The newspapers often wrote up detailed obituary articles, and those can add interesting details and clues. They've helped me so much. Cheers.

  2. How interesting and exciting for you, Joanne. I really enjoyed all the details you've managed to unearth in such a short time:) Hope you gave your Mom a big hug for her contribution. ... I have been putting off getting my DNA tested, so this is a push for me to do it, although my dear mother has been gone 15 years now. Thanks for sharing.

  3. In "Correspondence of the Van Cortlandt Family of Cortlandt Manor 1815-1848" compiled and edited by Jacob Judd there is a letter from Pierre Jr. to his brother Philip dated October 10th 1816 on pp 26 & 27 it mentions Henry C. Voght and states that his lease expired with his father's life. He goes on to say his rent was $100 per Annum half of which was to laid out in Stone wall There is also a hand drawn map on page xxviii showing where Henry's farm was and how many acres he had about 300 acres.

    1. Regina, thank you for your comment. That is so interesting! Do I take it from your last name that we are related through this Vought family?

  4. Joanne Barnard I started doing the family genealogy with my Mother when I was 14 and I'm now 59. We went to Washington, DC and read microfiche and got a copy of Henry's discharge papers from the Revolutionary War. As a family, and later on my own we often took a ride upstate to Peekskill, Van Cortlandtville and Highland Falls / West Point. We were always told we were of Dutch ancestry long before we began the genealogy. It's been interesting to visit the cemeteries where our ancestors are buried. The land where both my grandfather and grandmother's family farms were on were located in Highland Falls and I also have a map with the locations for them both.

    1. I would love to see that map, if it's something you could email me through the link on my blog. How lucky for you to have visited the entire area!

    2. I am a direct descendant of Henry Christian Vought, son of Joseph Christian Vought. When I lived in NY I visited the area at least once a year. Now I live in South Carolina so it's not so easy anymore. You can visit Van Cortlandt Manor and they do a tour and you'll see the walls around the property that Henry helped build and see what a tenant farmer such as Henry would have lived in on the property with his family.

  5. In the War of 1812 I believe it is Henry Christian's son by the same name who was the Corporal if my memory serves me right.

    1. Yes, that would make sense, wouldn't it? Regina, I'm wondering if a Vought male in your family (presumably direct male descendant from Henry Christian) might take a Y chromosome DNA test and perhaps lead us to more information about the Vought origins which are most likely Dutch as you say? It was DNA that put me onto this branch of the family in the first place!

    2. I can ask but I don't live anywhere near any of my brothers and I'm on a fixed income so I really couldn't afford to pay for the test. When I visit them at Christmas I can bring the subject up. Aside from my father telling us we're Dutch they're was a speech given at a family reunion way back in the day and in that speech it was mentioned that the family came from Holland. I will try to find that speech and post it for you. Are you on Facebook?


  7. Do you have the McDonald Papers? There is a more detailed account of the Vought family's involvement in the battles of the Revolutionary War.

    1. Regina, I do not have this and would like to get it. It appears that there may be just one page relating to Voughts - page 549, but it seems they recommend ordering the entire interview of the person who provided the information, which in this case is 549-50. Is this what you found?

  8. Join my Facebook page Vought Family Tree

  9. I tried to but don't see anything showing up as yet - perhaps one needs to be approved?