Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Friday, February 28, 2014

Hunterdon County, New Jersey, Taxpayers, 1778-1797

The William B. Bogardus Collection document labeled LAN HH-102, are pages of Brewers and Browers found on the Hunterdon County, New Jersey tax lists from 1778 to 1797. The source of the lists is T. L. C. Genealogy of Miami, Florida, 1990.

Hunterdon County, New Jersey Taxpayers 1778-1797

Hunterdon and neighboring Somerset Counties, New Jersey are tough ground for genealogical research of families from the 1700s. Church records are often sporadic, and the personal information recorded in the church registers is often incomplete or unclear. There are probate records, which are very valuable sources regarding families in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, but not every estate was settled in a probate court. Often, heads of families dispersed there estate, during their lifetimes, through deeds and conveyances to their children. This approach allowed the family to avoid probate, and gave greater control to the property owner, while he was still living. Unfortunately, such deeds and conveyances were never recorded in county or town record books. The recording of deeds was not required, or complied with, until sometime after New Jersey became a state in 1787. These tax lists, although limited in the amount of information they provide, are valuable clues to the identity of persons who lived in Hunterdon and Somerset Counties during the 1700s.

I have no doubt that many of our incomplete Brewer and Brower lineages, of those descended from either Adam Brouwer of Gowanus, L.I., or of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, L.I., have their missing links in the area of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties. We can probably also add Sussex and Warren Counties here as well. The names of the men named Brewer and Brower, on this list of taxpayers, are no doubt important links for some unplaced descendants. One name found here is, Mathew Brewer (Mathew Brewar, Mathias Brewer), who is known to be a genetic descendant of Adam Brouwer and was the subject of the post of September 11, 2013. Other given names found on the lists are Powal (Paul), Richard, Daniel, David, John, Samuel, Tevis (maybe Tunis?), William, Wright, and Henry. Other familiar surnames on these pages include, Britton and Brocaw (Brokaw).

Alphabetical lists like this one are valuable in helping us quickly locate an ancestor we are interested in. However, the original lists from which they were constructed are much more valuable and should be located and consulted whenever possible. The original lists were not organized alphabetically, but were rather organized more like the way a later period census record would be. That is, when an ancestor is located on one of the original lists, the persons who are listed before and after, and nearby him, are most probably neighbors living close by. During pre-industrial America, both colonial and post-Revolutionary War, people often found their spouses among their nearest neighbors. Inter-related families were usually found living in close proximity to one another. Tax lists, considered in their original form and context, can provide new possibilities for locating related families who in turn may provide the answer to missing links.

In addition to this list of taxpayers, there is a second file, "The Hunterdon Militia, 1792," which was collected from the Genealogical Magazine of New Jersey, vol. 9, nos. 2 & 3. Those named BREWER were extracted and here I see a "Phines" Brewer (perhaps Phineas) which may be the "Tevis" Brewer mentioned above.

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