Sunset at Gowanus Bay

Sunset at Gowanus Bay
Sunset at Gowanus Bay, Henry Gritten, 1851

Friday, August 3, 2012

Ruth Catherine Brewer (1911-1976)

Ruth Catherine Brewer was born May 3, 1911 in Rochester, New York, a daughter of Walter E. Brewer and Edna M. Hooper. She is a descendant of Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, Long Island.

Ruth is my wife's paternal grandmother. She is the principal reason for my interest in the genealogy and history of the Brouwer families of New Netherland and their descendants. It was the search for Ruth's ancestry, which began about twelve years ago, that got this whole ball rolling. It has resulted in the collection of tens of thousands of pieces of data (fact and fiction) on thousands of individuals named Brouwer, Brower, Brewer, etc. and myriad of associated families. The Brouwer Genealogy Database, this blog page, and the numerous documents placed online, are my attempt at organizing the raw data, making it easier for me to view, review and catch possible inconsistencies and potential errors. Most importantly, it allows me to share it all with others researching their own ancestors. It is also an example of how quickly researching just one ancestry can spiral into much more then just researching one's own direct line.

For the record, and most people do not realize this when they first contact me, I am not a descendant of Adam Brouwer. I am not a descendant of any person named Brouwer, Brower or Brewer. In fact I'm not a descendant of any person who lived in colonial America. My own ancestors all came to the United States as immigrants between the years 1883 and 1914. They were from Italy, Germany, Poland and Sweden. It is my wife who has the colonial American heritage. Outside of a few lines descended from mid 19th century immigrants from Germany and Ireland, all of her ancestors can be traced to colonial New England, New Netherland/New York/New Jersey, and even New France. I began researching her ancestry in 2000, and as is suggested to everyone who is first starting out in genealogical research, I started with the present and worked my way back in time.

Ruth's parents and grandparents were known to my wife's father and his sister. They even had photographs of them. But beyond that they knew nothing, not the names of Ruth's great-grandparents, or even where they lived. New York State began requiring the recording of vital records (birth, marriage, death) in 1881. Federal census records began recording all individuals in 1850. Using the just mentioned sources it was simple to trace Ruth's grandfather, Josiah B. Brewer, born in 1858 at Highgate, Vermont, back through his father, Schuyler Brewer (1813-1887), to Ruth's great-great grandfather, Peter Brewer who died at Highgate, Vermont in 1844. Here is where it became difficult.

As Peter died in Vermont, and was easily found there on the census records back to 1810, and as his last name was BREWER, I first assumed that his roots were in Massachusetts. At the time (in 2000) I had never even heard of the Brouwer families of New Netherland, New York and New Jersey. In Massachusetts I found a number of individuals named Peter Brewer, largely in the area of Framingham. But all could be accounted for, and none seemed to have made a move to Vermont. Exhausting all possibilities in Massachusetts, I went back to the Peter Brewer I knew to try and learn more about him.

An early transcription of Peter Brewer's grave-marker (it has since been obliterated) gave his age at death as 65 years. This would place his year of birth as 1779. But where? The earliest record I had of Peter at this time was the 1810 census record. The next logical place to search would be the 1800 census. The 1800 census did not turn up a Peter Brewer. However, it did turn up a Jeremiah BRUER. I also checked the Highgate Town Records. There I found Peter BROWER on the General List of 1800, right along with Jeremiah BROWER. In the same year, recorded as Peter BREWER, he had the ear-mark of his livestock recorded, and as Peter BROWER, witnessed the will of Lawrence Croy. It was apparent that in the very small town of Highgate, Vermont in 1800, Peter and Jeremiah were somehow related. And it was clear that the surname's BREWER, BROWER and BRUER were freely used interchangeably. Peter wasn't a BREWER from Massachusetts after all. He was a BROWER from elsewhere. Concluding that Peter was Jeremiah's son would come easily enough. The problem of now tracing Jeremiah Brower's ancestry would prove to be much tougher. That search will continue in a future post. (See Jeremiah Brower, Part I, January 26, 2013).

Ancestors of Ruth Catherine Brewer - Ahnentafel format

In 1933, Ruth Catherine Brewer married Warren Alfred Beeman of Rochester, New York. They had three children and were divorced in 1958. Ruth died in 1976, from cancer, and is buried beside her parents in the cemetery at Waterloo, Seneca Co., New York. Her grave is unmarked.

Ruth Brewer & Warren Beeman

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