January 1990

Home Index Museums Blog Authors Site Map About


Collect Stories

for Your Genealogies


Edwin N. Harris

While I was busy growing up I had only a passing interest in my forbears, and upon inquiring, I found most of the older people of that time knew only a couple of generations preceding them. The general feeling was that it was best to forget the hardships, poverty, pestilence, prejudice, and human mistakes of the past; look forward with hope of better things to come. Leave it to the historians to detail the record. But William V. Shannon, a member of The Editorial Board, New York Times, wrote in 1971: "To reject the past is to deprive today of its meaning tomorrow."

Gilbert H. Doane in his Searching for Your Ancestors writes, "I remind you than an eighth of the blood flowing in your veins came from your great-grandmother and possibly a much larger portion of your individual traits: Your sweet winning ways or your irascible disposition. Despite loose talk concerning the importance of heredity, we do take after people All in all, you cannot escape the fact that your ascendants were human beings, not merely names which have survived in musty old records. They lived and breathed, had their joys and pleasures, their trials and tribulations, their work and play, however different these may have been from yours. Moreover you will find that they, obscurely or prominently, took part in the affairs of their time and contributed in some way to the development of civilization. By learning more about them and their times, you'll be wiser in knowing how we got that way."

At some point you will want to include whatever stories or accounts you have collected about the ancestors you are documenting. Their vital statistics, births, deaths, marriages, children, usually come first in your record of them. In the beginning paragraph should be given the dates of the birth and death of the person you are chronicling and, if known, the names of the parents. Next, record the name of the marriage partner and date of marriage and the children that were born. All of these facts help distinguish one person from another person with the same name. Whenever you can, verify these statements with cited sources.

Then should come the account of the life, activities and accomplishments of the progenitor you are researching.

This is for me the most enjoyable part of genealogy arrangement, and I always search for more information to add to the literary portrait of my subject. Stories and details of the lives of our earliest ancestors help us to sense their personalities.

As an example, Benjamin Price (1619 - 1712) is my earliest known progenitor, and of course the most difficult to learn about. Here is the way I wrote his record:

The Descendants of Benjamin Price

Generation I

1.Benjamin Price was born between 1616 and 1619 in Rylas, North Wales. He came to Southampton, Long Island, with five others in 1639, then to settle at Easthampton, Long Island, in 1649. He died in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth) New Jersey in 1712. Married before 1669 to Mary Sayre. Issue from this union was five sons: Thomas, Daniel, Ephraim, John and Benjamin Esq. John heads my direct line of descent. Benjamin Esq., the only son that I have any detail on, was born in Elizabethtown, N. J. in 1676; died, 1773.

In my account of the first Benjamin Price and some of his descendants, I have included references to them and the localities where they lived from Theodore Thayer's book, As We Were—The Story of Old Elizabethtown:

(page 19)
Benjamin Price, one of the original patentees of Easthampton, Long Island, joined a group of Associators (East-enders) formed for the purpose of purchasing the area to be Elizabethtown from the Lenape Indians. In 1664 Gov. Nichols granted their request for the Crown, Charles II. John Ogden and others met in Mattano's wigwam on Staten Island to conclude the purchase of approximately 500,000 acres for about 154 pounds worth of barter goods. The grant included all of present day Union County and much of Morris and Somerset counties.
Of the Associators, John Ogden, a natural-born promoter and a man of many talents, appears to have been the accepted leader. Benjamin Price, John Baker, Luke Watson, Tom Young, Phillip Cartwright, John Woodruff, and about a dozen others, were third lot men who were the largest investors. All investors received a town lot and other acreage. First lot men received a minimum of 60 - 70 acres, second lot men about twice as much, and third lot men about three times as much. Town lots were distributed along Kings Highway (Elizabeth Ave.) to the bend in the river (Spring St.) where the meadows began.
(page 68) Within six months Peter Wolversen, a Dutchman, had a tavern and a brewery in operation. Gov. Carteret loaned Wolversen money for the enterprise and took a mortgage on the tavern for security. By 1697 there were three taverns.
(page 53)
In 1682 New Jersey Deputy Gov. Thomas Rudyard appointed Benjamin Price and other townsmen to his council to signify that he desired to rule by consent of the people.
By 1682 a group of proprietors in Great Britain had purchased East New Jersey, after a grant by the Duke of York, causing a long struggle between the Elizabethtown Associators and the Proprietors, continuing generation after generation until the American Revolution. After the war for Independence the State adopted a policy of recognizing land titles whenever people had been long settled with deeds from either the Proprietors or from the Associators. Morris County generally had Proprietary titles. Most of the patents up to Long Hill, however, were derived from the Nichols grant since this area was settled by the Associators.

(It seems the Crowns or friends of the Crowns in Britain were often guilty of granting the same property in the colonies to different people. That alone could feed a rebellion.)

A map inside the cover of Thayer's book shows land owned by Benjamin Price on the east side of the river near Elizabeth Avenue, south of Spring Street. Ephraim Price's land is shown somewhat west of Benjamin's—along the river. It later became the John Padley estate. Elizabethtown became the City of Elizabeth in 1854. What was called "The bend in the River" is now Spring Street.

Three generations after Benjamin I, other Prices appear in Thayer's book. Page 189 mentions that after 1828 Edward Price owned the City Tavern (old Graham's Tavern) on the northeast corner of Broad and East Jersey Streets, the building became a boarding house. On page 227, David Price in 1816 became a partner in the large carriage shop business which had been owned by Elias Wade. In 1810 Robert Price, Jr. operated a brass foundry on East Jersey Street, nearly opposite the Belcher House. Price made brass andirons, shovels, tongs, machinery parts and clock works.

Moving forward one more generation to 1830, a meeting of citizens for organizing a railroad company met at the Courthouse. Four men, including former Gov. Isaac H. Williamson and Edward Price, were appointed to wait on the legislature with a petition for a charter for a railroad from Elizabethtown Point to Somerville. In 1831 the request was granted, construction began five years later with a capitalization of $500,000.

You can imagine my record of the Price history fills a fifty page book. It does. I am working on six family histories, and some fill only three pages so far.

Most of the Prices in America came from the same stock, the ancient Welsh families. Those Prices in the southern part of Wales who emigrated to America usually went to Virginia and those from northern Wales went to Philadelphia, New Jersey, and New York.

The beginning of the Price name and the founder of the Price family has been retraced to a chieftain of North Wales in the eleventh century whose name was Rhys. His son was called Ap-Rhys, son of Rhys. From Ap-Rhys came Price. There have been many variations from Rhys: Reece, Rees, Aprece, Preece, Ryse, Prys, Phryce, Price. An illustration of this transformation of the name is in the case of Hugh Price, founder of Jesus College, Oxford, who in 1495 was mentioned as the son of Rees Ap-Rees. Another is that of Ellis Price, author, born in 1505 who was called the son of Robert Ap-Rhys.

To show the reader how Benjamin Price relates to Edwin Harris, I offer this brief outline.

1.Benjamin Price b. 1619 d. 1712
2.John Price b. 1656 d. 1739
3.Thomas Price b. 1700 d.
4.John Price b. 1739 d. 1790
5.Levi Price b. 1777 d. 1840
6.John Drew Price b. 1823 d. 1903
7.Caroline Price b. 1852 d. 1891 m. George Burtin Harris
8.George M. Harris b. 1886 d. 1947
9.Edwin M. Harris

The patriarch of the Altay Valley and Western New York Prices was Levi Price (1777-1840) who married Sally (Sarah) Clark (1788 - 1859). They had thirteen children, who by 1940 had several hundred descendants. I have nearly completed a 40 page book containing vital statistics and stories of some of their lives. Levi and Sally migrated from New Jersey to Ovid, New York, in 1803, then into Schuyler County in 1811. They are buried in the Brown cemetary, midway up the eastern slope of Altay Valley, off the Losey Hill Road. The Benjamin Price we have been discussing is of course great-great-grandfather to Levi.

© 1990, Edwin N. Harris
Index of stories by Edwin Harris
CLR Blog | Site Map | Contact CLR