I am the 6th Great-Grandson of Martin Van Buren
That is, according to Ancestry.com I am. So I’m probably not.
Or maybe I am. All my life I had been told I was related to a President but those were stories passed along from family members. I am undoubtedly related to Van Burens: not only did I go to the same school as some of them, I even get invited to the reunions. Here I am sporting striped blue socks:
Being related to President Van Buren is a different matter entirely. When I was six it was difficult to decipher family trees so I’m sure I missed out on some pretty useful information. My interest in learning more did not happen until a couple of years ago when I toured a cemetery in Lockport, NY with my father. While there he bumped into a large Van Buren plot and found his great grandfather, Charles Frederick Van Buren. Not only that, he suddenly recalled being at his funeral in 1962. We took a few photos and I uploaded them to my father’s Ancestry account.
Coincidentally, my father did not know Charles’ middle name was Frederick, or that Charles also had a grandfather named Charles Frederick, even though my name is Frederick Charles. That’s spooky. The earlier Charles Frederick Van Buren is as far back as we could take it without doing any sleuthing.
After uploading the photos I pretty much ignored the site until two days ago when I tried to find the 8th President on my family tree out of curiosity. Speaking of coincidences, wouldn’t it be great to show that so many descendants of Martin Van Buren, a man who virulently opposed construction of the Erie Canal, settled in Lockport, its engineering centerpiece? Anyway, here’s what I saw:
Martin Van Buren (1782-1862) and Hannah Hoes (1783-1819) begat
John Martin Van Buren (1810-1880); with Elizabeth Shufelt (1822-1906) begat
Charles F Van Buren (1831-1875); with Barbara Bluman (1833-1915) begat
George van Buren (1857-1932); with Minnie Bars (1860-1918) begat
Charles Fred Van Buren (1882-1962); with Hattie M Miller (1882-1924) begat
Alice Esther Van Buren (1907-1969); with Walter B Hoste (1906-1987) begat
Margaret R Hoste (1927-2004); with Tobias Schrock (1923-2010) begat
Jerry James Schrock (1952-present); with Margaret J Taylor (1957-present) begat
Frederick Charles Schrock (1980-present)
But something didn’t add up. Martin Van Buren did have a son named John and he was quite a character. He was Attorney General of New York for a time and a gifted, well-traveled orator. In fact, he died at sea on a boat coming back from Scotland. If one account is to be believed, a storm that took up soon after his passing scared crew members who thought the corpse was cursed, and they nearly threw it overboard.
His Wikipedia entry mentions the following tidbit, too: “Van Buren was a man surrounded by innuendoes, even after his death. He was rumored to have lost $5000, and with it, his father’s home, Lindenwald as well as a mistress, the very popular Elena America Vespucci, descendent of Amerigo Vespucci, to George Parish of Ogdensburg, New York in a card game at the LeRay Hotel in Evans Mills, New York. This story has not been verified, but it has plagued Van Buren’s reputation.”
Well that’s juicy. Less racy is his obituary in the New York Times: “He married Miss Vanderpoel, of Albany, by whom he had one child, a daughter, who was the companion of his recent tour in Great Britain, and who still survives him. . . . His wife died soon after her marriage, and Mr. Van Buren never married again.”
If there are lessons to be learned here, it is never to trust what people suggest at Ancestry, Wikipedia, or the card table at the LeRay Hotel. I spent an inordinate amount of time thinking about John Van Buren’s mysterious second wife Elizabeth “Eliza” Shufelt–only found on Ancestry–and if she was the same Elena from Wikipedia story. It would explain a lot, like how the Times missed all the other kids he had besides that one legitimate daughter from Miss Vanderpoel. (Miss Vanderpoel’s first name was also Elizabeth.) It would also make Charles F Van Buren one heck of a poker chip. You can almost envision a smoky room where 19th century men go all in with their remaining pouches of silver coins, pocket watches, and the deeds to their homestead, before tossing a mistress and a baby on the pile.
Questions remained. How did Eliza Shufelt give birth to Charles when she was the tender age of nine? Also, how did her secret lover John Van Buren live well into the 1870s when he died on a boat in 1866? Was it a Carnival Cruise?
For anyone who researches genealogies this probably happens often, but it was a first time for me. However, I found this and other photos after a bit of Googling: a family plot for John Van Buren, married to Eliza Shufelt, dying in 1876, with a totally different set of kids, none of them named Charles.
What I discovered was that in the year 1810, in a community of less than 10,000 people, two people named John Van Buren were born. Both stayed in the area and married women named Elizabeth. They died ten years apart and are both interred in the same cemetery.
I’m somehow reminded of the first minute of this sketch. Their poor mailman!
Finally, neither appear men directly related to me. While President Van Buren traces his lineage back to a Dutch immigrant who came to America in 1631, Charles F Van Buren was apparently born in Prussia exactly two hundred years later. This is only based on one day of pseudo-research, but my guess is that “Van Buren” is a corruption of something like “Vonbieren” and that my ancestors were from what is now western Germany.
I think it is plausible my ancestors never spoke a word of Dutch unless it was Pennsylvania Dutch. That will require me to ask some questions and start digging, but that is for a future post.