Thursday, December 14, 2006

Family Secrets


My branch of the Hendricks family was – I should say is – a family of secrets. Part of this came from being gold miners and politicians – “always lie about what gold you found” – “Don’t tell your neighbor” – Marry into a family to extract their secrets but tell none of your own”. I could go on forever. These were prevalent attitudes in the California gold fields and the Halls of Congress in the latter half of the 19th Century. From what I wrote yesterday and posted today, I feel there may have been other agendas at work. This reminds me to look at my pas (Hendricks Family History) with passion but not unbridled excitement; with hope but not predetermined expectations; with the thrill of discovery and to let the facts fall as they may and then get excited about the find!

I just got through reading an online article at the American Jewish History Society titled “Guide to the Hendricks – Tobias Business Correspondence, undated, 1802 – 1889. This documents the metal business of Uriah Hendricks. The copper rolling mill was located in Soho, Essex County, New Jersey. Since the article relates directly to the business it does not expand upon the family that did not actively participate in the family business. The name Washington as a first name shows up in the article. It is interesting to note that in the footnotes it references “Subject names to access: Judah, David, Pollack, Edward.

It is interesting in that the name Pollack is integrally connected with the Hendricks family. The descendants of Abraham Hendricks and Ann Jamison (my line) have names and marriages to the Pollack family. One of William Chalmers Hendricks, my Great-Grandfather, close brothers was named Thomas Pollack Hendricks. I’d say there is a very strong family connection between the Pollacks and Hendricks.

The online biographies of both William Hendricks, first governor of Indiana and Thomas Andrews Hendricks, VP/Grover Cleveland (William Chalmers Uncle William and first cousin T.A.) reference their ancestry back to the State of New Jersey. Now let’s consider their more immediate ancestors – Williams father and TA’s grandfather – Abraham Hendricks married Ann Jamison in the Fairview Presbyterian Church in Westmoreland County, PA. All of their children were born in that community. I go back to the point made yesterday – why did TA tell the Congressional Record he didn’t know who his grandparents were? What scared him so much that divulging that information may have convince him that it would be political suicide?

While studying information about the Hendricks family, I read the synopsis of the Democrat National Convention:

Thomas' career as a politician in Indiana started before it became a State. He married Eliza Morgan 25 Sep 1845. They had one child, Morgan, three years later, who died before reaching adulthood. Thomas was a very popular political figure in Indiana. He was a congressional representative and then Senator for the young State. His political career spanned through the Civil War and ended with his death 25 Nov 1885, the same year he was inaugurated 21st Vice President of the United States of America. His influence on presidential politics started in earnest in 1868, at the first Democratic convention he was nominated for the presidency. He ran unsuccessfully as Samuel Tilden's running mate in the scandal-ridden election of 1868.

The Democrats arrived in Chicago, Illinois on July 8, 1884, shortly after the Republicans nominated James G. Blaine. One of the most prominent presences was that of the legions of Tammany Hall, some 600 strong, led by Boss John Kelly. It was no secret that he brought his army with the intent to stop the nomination of his long-time political foe, Grover Cleveland. Kelly stated that he would be damned if the party was going to nominate a man who openly scorned the traditional spoils system and was unreservedly dedicated to reform politics at every level. Most of the Tammany hordes were not delegates to the convention, but minions come to sow seeds of discontent and discord. The convention chairman, Manning, arranged to have Cleveland supporters occupy the prestigious front row of seats. He also packed the gallery with anti-Tammany people.

Grover Cleveland stayed above the fray about to happen by not attending the convention, as was customary. Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first Democratic nominee to accept his party's nomination in person. In Cleveland's case, he was still a political unknown to party regulars outside of the influence of Albany New York; a word portrait written by a sympathetic paper was given credence by the convention generals.

John Kelly and his followers tried to delay the nominating process of the convention with the hopes of eroding Cleveland's strength. They went so far as to try to get New York released from the instructions imposed upon the delegation by the State convention in Syracuse. This motion was soundly defeated. With that out of the way, Cleveland's friend, Dan Lockwood, put Cleveland's name in nomination. Wisconsin's political general, Edward Stuyvesant Bragg, seconded the nomination and gave the party its rallying cry "They love Cleveland for his character, but they love him also for the enemies he made."

The first ballot left Cleveland short of the two-thirds majority 547 votes he needed for nomination. He amassed 392 votes, the rest going to Bayard of Delaware, Allen Thurman, former House Speaker Samuel Randall of Pennsylvania, Indiana Congressman Joseph E McDonald, and a smattering of favorite sons. Late the night of the first ballot, John Kelly covertly organized a stampede for his friend, Governor Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana. He conspired with the Sergeant-at-Arms to pack the gallery of the next mornings session with men pledged to cry "Hendricks for President" and then have the popular Hoosier appear on the convention floor. Thomas, during his congressional terms in both houses of Congress, was a constant critic of every previous major policy and had been nominated for President at every convention since 1868, except that of 1872. In addition, Thomas was an advocate for machine politics

Chairman Manning learned of the conspiracy and sent his lieutenants to warn every anti-Tammany delegate at the convention. When Thomas walked onto the convention floor, the galleries exploded with shouts and applause; the main convention floor remained quiet. Thus, "The Hendricks Boom" went bust and the influence of Boss Kelly and the Tammany minions waned.

On the second ballot, Cleveland still failed to attain the required two-thirds majority vote, even after Randall and McDonald withdrew. McDonald, being from Indiana, swung his support to Thomas A. Over the vocal disapproval of the Tammany Delegates; all of New York's 72 votes were cast for Cleveland. Though his vote was short, Cleveland was formidable and nearly all of the delegates tripped over each other to switch their vote after the roll call was ended and before the official announcement of the second ballot was made official. The revised vote total gave Cleveland 683 votes, 136 more than was needed. Part of Gov. Bragg's famous line "We love him for the enemies he has made" became the party's slogan for the election of 1884. The ever popular, Thomas A. Hendricks was nominated for Vice President by acclamation.

The main issue of the 1884 National Election was that of integrity and Blaine failed miserably in that department. Hurt by the defeat at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Boss John Kelly threw his support behind Ben Butler and the Greenback Party. He supported The New York Sun's editorial stance, which demanded that Cleveland drop out of the race. Thomas A. Hendricks brought Kelly back into the fold. Thomas, a personal friend of Boss Kelly, convinced him of the political facts of life as it concerned national politics.

Upon his election as Vice-President of the United States, Thomas was asked to provide an autobiography for the Congressional Record. The information provided was starkly deplete of any generations prior to his father. He stated that his father was of unknown origins. Therefore, the conversion to his wife's Presbyterian beliefs left Grandpa Abraham strikingly absent from Thomas' life and ancestry. This absence of previous history led many researchers astray, and left family descendants with the daunting task of, not only making the family connections, but also documenting them.

On a visit to Indiana, ten months after his inauguration, Thomas died of unknown causes. Family stories recount it as hard living. If his cousin, William Chalmers is any measure, he was accustomed to excessive use of spirits. Nevertheless, Thomas Andrews Hendricks remains an icon of Indiana politics.

As you can see they nominated Grover Cleveland and selected TA as VP candidate. It is obvious that TA had very close ties to the big New York City political machine – Tammany Hall. Why did TA associate himself with a big city machine? Why did he pick New York over Chicago? What is that connection?

It has been suggested that our lineage is Scandinavian. I guess I need to ask – what does that mean? The Iberian and European Jewish communities spread across to countries that only persecuted in loss of privilege and not loss of life. They also assimilated into those societies. They became token Christians and intermarried with the populace. The photographs and portraits of the descendants of Abraham Hendricks and Ann Jamison do not show the typical features of typical Scandinavian from the 17th & 18th Centuries. The Spanish Inquisition began on Friday the 13th of October 1307 when the French monarchy with the assistance of the Roman Catholic Church sought to annihilate the Knights Templar. The Spanish Church used it to rid their society of any unwanted elements, such as the Sephardic Jewish population from Spain and Portugal. Unlike the English, the Netherlands, and other northern countries the Spanish preferred the punishment used for heretics, burning at the stake. Therefore, it is not surprising that certain genetic markers will show up in other cultures. We need to remember that DNA genetic markers are like any other tool in genealogy and not a definitive answer to all the questions. It will lead us in a general direction. It is up to the genealogist to get the documented proof of who, what and when.

I love this hunt; the suppositions of what may have been, what may be, and then the excitement of being able to prove the who, what, where and when. I like following that slim lead to its ultimate conclusion until such time as I’m proven to be on the wrong path. One thing I’ve found about the search for ancestors is that at best it’s a bumpy road. It took me ten years to find the Senior Abraham Hendricks, due to the family secrecy surrounding him. Once I found that little crack in the armor, I pursued the find like a wolf on scent.

The kink in the armor was when I ran across a census for Westmoreland County with two Abrahams in it of different ages. Then I found that they were members of the same church. They had to be related. I knew my 2nd great-grandfather was Abraham “Abram”. I knew he came out of Western Pennsylvania, Westmoreland County specifically. I knew he was married in the Fairview Presbyterian Church. Then two Mrs. Abraham Hendricks were mentioned as different people in one of the session records. One thing broke, then another. Like dominoes, they kept falling until I hit the next wall.

I hurtled the next wall and began a trip that until recently had led me down the wrong path. I’ve now retreated from that path and I am currently exploring several others. The one that I am currently checking out in more detail is the one where the male children have predominantly Old Testament names.

1 comment:

JudyD said...

Scott, I am in agreement with both of your postings on this subject. I've been known by a few of my fellow Hendricks researchers to be a little hard-nosed about jumping to conclusion too quickly. It must be my German stubbornness from my father's side. My sister did the National Geographic DNA test for their study, and the conclusions were so vague that we didn't think it really told us much of anything except that European heritage in general came up from the east coast of Africa, through the middle east and up into the Scandinavian countries arcing down through England and Continental Europe....that probably describes 90% of white America! I live in a Norwegian/Swedish community and they all laugh and say their ancestors raped and pillaged the ancestors of most of Europe! So I don't discount the possibility of a Dutch heritage at all for the Hendricks.
It is interesting to note that both of Absolem's known sons Robert K. and Abraham, married Davis sisters who list Maryland as their birthplace. That being a hotbed of Catholic faith may be a reason for secrecy at that time in politics. The Morgans and Davises from my husbands other line were from Wales and converted to the Quaker faith in PA...I don't know if that would have been a political problem at that time or not.