22 August 2011

Finding my 5th Great-Grandfather

NOTE: This post has been formatted, edited, and updated, for easier reading on this blog from an earlier article.

As any genealogist knows, there are a few experiences that one always looks back on with amazement which push that person forward in their never-ending search. For me, one of these experiences was finding my 5th great-grandfather, John Whipple.

Cordelia Whipple
At a young age, I became curious about my genealogy.
I was excited to look at the genealogy chart my grandparents gave to my parents. It was written by hand with various circles, lines and marks connecting what seemed like a “treasure” map.

Cordelia Whipple
Soon I noticed the name Cordelia Whipple. This was my grandmother's grandmother and the line stopped there. “Why didn't we know more about her family?,” I wondered. Grandmother told me a few stories about the Whipple family, but it wasn't much. She never knew her grandmother.

Grandmother said that Cordelia had complications resulting from the birth of her second child, and Cordelia died soon after. This knowledge proved most useful in taking the next research step because it provided us with a death date.

The other two stories do not appear to be important, but they kept my curiosity alive. It was said that my Whipple family is related to William Whipple of the Declaration of Independence. Another rumor was that Cordelia's parents disowned her at her marriage to the poor German, Charles Ament. 

Until I had some real evidence, those stories drifted around in my mind as my only perception of Cordelia's ancestors. I could never find evidence for either of those claims [except this poem] and I felt a little short changed to know so little.

I was just getting into genealogy back then. Most of my first substantial research consisted of trips to the Maryland Hall of Records or to cemeteries in Baltimore, to find my mother's ancestors. This was one of my first major efforts to research my father's side.

The Search Begins
While I was preparing to end my freshman year at college, I questioned whether I should come home for an extended break or stay there. I felt like the decision was an important one and I prayed to know what to do. No immediate answer came, but I began to feel a spiritual impression that, if I went home, the next year would be a good year for family history. The story of the Whipple research is only one example of how my family was blessed in family history as a result of my choice to spend the next several months at home. I thank my parents for their support which made it possible.

In mid-2005, the Whipple family was on my mind. With my additional experience in genealogy research, I planned to go to New York and look at the death indexes.

I wrote about the trip in my journal: "My parents, brother. . .and I are in NY. . . Today we research family. 9am, when the Rochester Library opened we went in. My mom worked in the Local History/Genealogy room while dad looked at old microfilmed Rochester papers and I used the NY State Vital Records Index."
- 22 April 2005

I still remember looking at the microfiche and seeing "Delia W. Ament, February 21, 1892." I expected to see the name Cordelia and it was under the name Cordelia that I had always previously looked for her on census records. I knew I was on to something so I ordered the death certificate and waited.
Miraculous Timing
After a run of intense success, there is a time of perseverance when one simply must plug on with the work. This was the case for the next two weeks. On returning from the Washington, D.C. Temple, my parents and I found that the transcript of Cordelia Whipple's death register entry was in our mail box. I took it as a sign that putting God first brings blessings. I also believe that knowing more about our ancestors is part of God's plan. Small things witness God's hand in our lives and I can't help but be grateful.

John A. Whipple
The certificate revealed that Cordelia was born in Nelson, New York, and her father's name was, John Whipple. Armed with those facts, I was able to find “Delia Whipple” on the 1860 census in Fenner, New York--a small town nearby Nelson. For almost three months I went through several sources, corresponded with Whipple researchers and experienced even more miracles.

Soldiers Home National Cemetery, Washington D.C.
One of the sources I discovered was John A. Whipple's pension record. I ordered the record through the National Archives website after finding him on an online index. I always wanted to find a Civil War story in my family. Now I had one.

John died when Cordelia was only four years old and Cordelia was raised by her mother, Jane, and stepfather Francis Cary. Then when Cordelia died, eight days after her second child was born, much of her family history was not passed on.

From 3rd to 5th Great
In looking at the 1860 census, I saw Elisha Whipple  lived next to John and Jane. I realized that Elisha could be John A.'s father. One of the Whipple researchers I was e-mailing shared part of a local history about the Whipple family. It misnamed Elisha as John, but all the right people were there—Elisha's son John as well as his wife Lucy Dryer.

In the local history we read that Elisha's father was John also. They were a prominent family in a small town. There was a transcription on the Internet of John Whipple and Jerusha Inman's grave stones in Fenner. Because of that among other things, I was able to pinpoint them as my 5th great-grandparents. I will always be grateful to Dan Weiskotten who took the time to transcribe and map out every little cemetery in that area. [I just realized that he died during the months that I was doing this research.] Several of my ancestors were found due to his foresight. I never would have known that my 5th great-grandparent's stones were in the middle of a corn field.

John, Where are You?
In July 2005, my parents and I were near Fenner on the way home from a business trip. Not willing to pass up the opportunity, we decided to visit the grave of John and Jerusha. Even though Weiskotten's directions were detailed, we knew it would not be easy as we looked into the  field of corn before us. We spoke with a nice elderly lady who lived near the field. She sent us down the correct row with a warning much like, “Things are overgrown back there.” With faith my parents and I proceeded along the path next to the field. We walked all the way to the end, pausing in places and began to wonder out loud if we were going to find it at all. The entire row seemed to be covered in weeds. Contemplating the necessity of concluding our search, we walked part of the way back. Then we paused, determined to find John and Jerusha. I closed my eyes and said a prayer. When I opened my eyes, the top of the stones were visible right in front of us.

Additional Research Notes
At this time, little is known of the family and none of the compiled genealogies that include this John Whipple are able to provide good sources for his parentage. Many un-sourced online pedigrees claim his father as Nathaniel Whipple.

John Whipple came from Rhode Island1 previous to the 1810 census enumeration. On that census he lived near A. Inman, presumably a relative of his wife, Jerusha Inman.

1. 1850 United States Federal Census, microfilm or on-line database, National Archives and Records Administration, 700 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20408-0001 , M432. 1,009 rolls of microfilm. Available also through the FHL and on-line databases like http://www.ancestry.com/


  1. I found your blog through a post from the PA German Genealogy Facebook page. I was looking through it, found this post, and was curious if we could be distantly related some way. I don't think the names from this post are in my line, but I know I came through John Whipple's son Samuel. John Whipple was a captain and came to the US from England in the 1600s.

  2. Thanks for your comment, and for visiting my blog. I've still been unable to trace my Whipple line with certainty past this 5th-great grandfather.


Thanks for your kind and thoughtful comments.