Sunset at Gowanus Bay

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

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sylvanus Brower of Hempstead, Queens County, New York

Sylvanus Brower of Milburn in the Town of Hempstead in Queens County, New York*, died 5 September 1884, age 74 years, 1 month and 23 days. His age at death, which was recorded on his New York State Death Certificate, would calculate to a date of birth of 13 July 1810. The death certificate states that his father's name was George Brower, and that he was born at Rockaway in Queens County. The name of his mother is not stated. The name of the informant for this information is difficult to decipher, but it appears to be S. H. Hammond. Who this person is, or what realtionship he, or she, had with Sylvanus Brower has not been learned.

Reconstructing the family and descendants of Sylvanus Brower was not easy, and I did not do most of the work. Credit goes to Susan Brower and Nancy Walker, and others with whom they had corresponded with. They were able to locate and collect some original documents regarding the descendants and their work on the descendants has been compiled and can be found online at the Brouwer Genealogy Database website. A convenient link for Sylvanus Brower can be found on the Unplaced page (scroll down).

Slyvanus Brower was married to Charlotte Ann Treadwell. A surviving record of their marriage has not been found, but their first known child, Samuel T. Brower was born 15 May 1834 as calculated from his date of death. He died 23 October 1897, aged 63 years, 5 months, 7 days (New York State Death Cert.).

Sylvanus, can be found on the U. S. Federal census in 1840, 1850 and 1860 at Hempstead, Queens County, New York. His wife, Charlotte Ann, is enumerated with him in 1850 and 1860. In 1870, Sylvanus is still at Hempstead, but now his "wife" is named Phebe. She again appears with Sylvanus on the 1880 census at Baldwin, in the Town of Hempstead. Her relationship to Sylvanus is stated as wife. Phebe has been identified as Phebe Remsen and she was first married to William Ackley on 12 August 1852 at Freeport, Long Island. William and Phebe had four children born between 1854 and 1862 and the family is found on the 1860 census at Hempstead. On 27 October 1864, Phebe Ackley, age 34, widow of William Ackley, a private in Co. A of the 139th Regiment, New York, applied for a widow's pension at Brooklyn, New York. William Ackley had been killed during service at "Chopin's Farm," in Virginia. He is buried at Fort Harrison National Cemetery in Richmond, Virginia. In 1885, Phebe Ackley, age 49, a resident of Baldwins (sic), New York, filed a second application for a pension. In the affidavits she filed, she states that she and Sylvanus Brower lived together for some time, but had never married. Sylvanus and Phebe had two daughters, Marietta and Lily, born in 1869 and 1874 respectively.

Sylvanus Brower and Charlotte Ann Treadwell had five children born between 1834 and 1860. A descendant of the youngest son, William A. C. Brower (1860-1915) has participated in the Brewer DNA Project. The results of his Y-DNA test, however, were not what we had expected.

The fact that Sylvanus Brower was born at Rockaway, on the south shore of Long Island in the Town of Hempstead, and the fact that he lived his entire life there, leads us to believe that he is a descendant of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, Long Island, through Jan's grandson, Jan Brouwer and his wife Aegje Sprong. Descendants of Jan and Aegje's sons, Jan/John and Dirk/Richard Brower largely remained in the area of Hempstead which is known today as the "Five Towns" (Lawrence, Cedarhurst, Woodmere, Inwood, and the Hewletts). This area is in the immediate vicinity of Rockaway and Baldwin. Families named Brower have lived here through the 1700s, 1800s and 1900s, and it has been assumed that most, if not all of the Brower living there pre-1850 were descendants of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong. As mentioned above, Sylvanus Brower's death certificate names his father as George Brower. Although the name of Sylvanus' mother is not included on the death certificate, it is surmised that Sylvanus was a son of George Brower and Ann Combs who were married at St. George's Church in Hempstead on 12 December 1796. George Brower, born 20 September 1767, died 26 January 1850, was a grandson of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong. With all of this in mind, it was expected that the descendant of Sylvanus Brower who participated in the Brewer DNA Project (Kit #122861) would have Y-DNA test results that matched the other previously tested descendants of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands. But this did not turn out as expected. The Y-DNA results can be seen on the Y-DNA Results Chart page at the Brewer DNA Project website. The results do not match with any of the descendants of Jan Brouwer, and in fact, do not match with any other male named Brower, Brewer, etc., who has tested with Family Tree DNA.

We are now left with the problem of trying to figure out why the results from the Y-DNA test did not confirm our initial expectations. There are a few possibilities. None of them are certain. We first start with the belief that the ancestry of the descendant who took the Y-DNA test, back to Sylvanus Brower, is correct. The research done here is very solid, and I have not seen any reason to doubt the lineage provided by the descendant. With that in mind, one possibility is that Sylvanus Brower is not a descendant of Jan Brouwer. While this is certainly possible, it would mean that Sylvanus, born in Rockaway in 1810, is the ancestor of a BROWER family that is completely unrelated to any other known BROWER families found in that area at that time. The second possibility would be that somewhere in Sylvanus' direct male ancestry back to Jan Brouwer, there was a non-paternal event (NPE). We do have one descendant of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong who has taken a Y-DNA test (kit #187629, see the far right lineage on this chart) and that descendant does match other descendants of Jan Brouwer of Flatlands, therefore, if there was a NPE it would have had to of occurred in a generation between Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong and that of Sylvanus himself. In other words, either Sylvanus Brower's genetic father was not a BROWER, or his paternal grandfather was not a BROWER. To determine which of these two possibilities is correct we would have to see the Y-DNA test results of additional direct male descendants of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong. We hope that with time more descendants will come forward and join the Brewer DNA Project.

A third possibility is that there was an undetected NPE somewhere in the lineage between the tested descendant and Sylvanus Brower. While this scenario is not considered likely, in order to become more certain that there in fact was no NPE, we would like to see other direct male descendants of Sylvanus Brower join the Brewer DNA Project and take a Y-DNA test.

Presently all we can conclude with regards to the BROWER ancestry of Sylvanus Brower, is that it is not certain and additional evidence has to be collected before anything certain can claimed. A first step would be to find more descendants of both Sylvanus Brower, and of Jan Brouwer and Aejge Sprong who would be willing and interested in taking a Y-DNA test. In addition, more genealogical research of the traditional sort can be undertaken. Probate and estate records, along with land records and deeds, pertaining to the Brower families of Five Towns area of the Town of Hempstead can be searched for. Unfortunately, Hempstead, along with Queens County and Nassau County, is one of the more frustrating places to conduct online genealogical research. For example, while FamilySearch has images online of land records for almost all the counties of New York State, the only counties for which no records have been made available are Queens and Nassau (as well as Franklin County). Regarding probate records, the one county not included in the browse-able images at FamilySearch, is Nassau County. A separate database of Queens County Probate Records, 1785-1950 has recently been added to the FamilySearch collection, and although there is no search feature, the images placed online may contain some new records that a dedicated researcher with enough time might be able to locate.

Any descendants of Sylvanus Brower, or of Jan Brouwer and Aegje Sprong who are interested in joining the Brewer DNA Project and in taking a Y-DNA test, are welcome to contact the administrators of the Brewer DNA Project.

*Milburn is no longer an extant location in the Town of Hempstead. It was originally known as Hicks Neck and was first settled in the 1640s. What was later known as the village of Milburn is now the hamlet of Baldwin and is within the political boundaries of the Town of Hempstead, which in 1884 was in Queens County. In 1899 Nassau County, having the Towns of Hempstead, North Hempstead and Oyster Bay, was formed out of Queens County. Milburn (now Baldwin) is on the south shore of Long Island.

1 comment:

  1. I am the great-granddaughter of Franklin Elijah Brower b.17 December 1838 who died 21 September 1925 in Santa Rosa, California through his last and only son, Samuel, to reach maturity. He is listed on the 1860 federal census with a William and Pelmira Brower. He served in the civil war coming west with the military to be discharged on Christmas Eve, 1870. A history cites him as having been a resident of Hempstead, Queens County.
    Anyone knowing anything of his lineage would please be welcomed to address that concern on this forum. I know very little about him.


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