Where have all the parents gone?

+6 votes

For several months now, I've been researching (or, rather, attempting to research) my 5th great grandfather, Silas Vandervere York. While I've had little to no difficulty finding other information about Silas, including that of his descendants; his spouse; his country of birth1; where he resided in Ontario, Canada2; and some tidbits about his military service in 18123, I've been unable to come across any information regarding his parents.

I've spent a lot of time looking on FamilySearch, WikiTree, MyHeritage, Ancestry, and even FindAGrave, but have come up with nothing that would even hint at who this man's parents may be. At this point, I'm not sure what else I could do or look for, as I've also searched several spelling variations of the name on these sites as well to no avail. 

A fellow wikitree member suggested a DNA test and I feel that this may be my final option, though I do worry about that not helping me very much either! Other users have also suggested that his name may have been changed or that "Silas Vandervere York" was an alias rather than a legal name. Note: This was the case for another ancestor of mine. Sneaky, sneaky!

If anyone has any advice regarding next steps that they would like to share, or some perhaps provide other resources that aren't listed above, it would be greatly appreciated!

* [1]: His place of birth tends to be listed as Pennsylvania or New Jersey, USA on the listed sources, though this cannot be confirmed due to lack of available records
* [2]: Silas lived in Brock Township, Uxbridge, Ontario, Canada. History of the area and his suggested place of birth potentially hint at Quaker roots, though this is a personal speculation. See: http://www.uxbridge.com/heritage/quakers.htmlhttp://www.scugogheritage.com/history/uxbridgefirst100.pdf
* [3]: the listed sources, primarily Ancestry, connect Silas to the War of 1812. Frustratingly, none of these records list his age or date/place of birth.

WikiTree profile: Silas York
in Genealogy Help by Shirley York G2G2 (2.8k points)
edited by Ellen Smith
Have you tried sneaking up on him.... searching for siblings or spouse family.  You probably have!  Could he have been an immigrant and written a birthplace wrong in order to enlist?

An aunt of mine could not find any info on her father, on vacation she visited a school he had gone to as a child and compared a class picture to the school's record. There he was under a completely different name, still don't know when or why changed.

Could Vandervere be the correct or original surname?

Good luck searching.
Hi Shirley, I was able to get through a similar brick wall by travelling to the archives in person and poring over microfilmed records, the local newspaper, and file folders containing material that has not yet been digitized. If you can travel there, it may be worth the trip.
I was hoping to read some new trick to break the blockage. But by George, digging through the dusty ol' books seems to be the way to go. I recognized this was true before reading your suggestion. But reading it really settled the matter for me. I'm struggling with a Pennsylvania wall that sounds just like Vandervere here. And I've come to see that driving across the country is just what the doctor ordered.

5 Answers

+5 votes
Shirley....I have similar "brick walls" in my family tree and had hoped that DNA would help.   Between cousins and a brother, we have done MT, Y and family finder and are no further along than we were when we started.

While that does not give you an answer of what to do next, it does let you know that you are not the only person struggling with Parents that are "missing".
by Robin Lee G2G6 Pilot (655k points)
+5 votes
Here are a couple of sites to check:








From the first link, you might email Bruce York to see if he knows anything more. Or from the next to last link, you might contact Bill Martin to see if can share anything further.

From what I can tell, lots of researchers over a 15-20 year period have attempted to discover his parents and I don't see any evidence that they've found them yet.
by Scott Fulkerson G2G6 Pilot (943k points)
The only other clue might be his middle name - a lot of families had the tendency to use the middle name to show maiden name of the mother. It's a very long shot, but you might hunt any marriages up around the 1770's-1780's where a male York married a female Vandervere.
+3 votes
I've had a useful autosomal DNA match with a descendant of my 5x great grandparents - we didn't know about any of my 4x great's siblings, and suddenly there's someone with all of this detail about them from handed-down docs. That's a very slim chance with this distance, though, you'd really need to test your oldest living ancestor to maximise the possible amount of DNA they'd have from your Yorks. Mostly I've only confirmed that my tree is pretty accurate, which is quite nice, but I've been able to help a couple of other people sort out their brick walls.

DNA isn't a fast fix, since you still have to figure out who all these random cousins are, but it's something that keeps working for you as more people get tested.
by Kathleen Cobcroft G2G6 Mach 6 (62.7k points)
edited by Kathleen Cobcroft
+1 vote
Using DNA is a great way to break down brick walls with the York lines.

While I'd like to be able to say there's some comprehensive York family surname book out there, it's just not the case; we have to break these walls down ourselves using whatever means necessary. I only found out my York line was (or has some?) Dutch because of others who were DNA tested and knew the rest of their York line going back far enough. Now we're all stuck on another brick wall together!

Really your best bet is to do the DNA testing and then compare. Chasing after your ancestor's siblings could help, too. Maybe see if you can find any news or periodicals from the area that Silas died in, maybe see if you can find a will that mentions him in it.
by G. Borrero G2G6 Mach 9 (96.6k points)
+1 vote
Seeing his name and your uncertainty about whether he was born in Pennsylvania or New Jersey, I think he might be a descendant of New Netherland settlers, possibly born in the "Minisink" area where New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania come together (and had border disputes), and where the old records usually did not mention the name of a particular colony or state. His birth name possibly could be Vandervere or a variant thereof.

But when I looked at his profile, I didn't see biography text to tell me the story of his life that you have been able to assemble.  I suggest that you hone in on the basics -- create a narrative (in the text section of the profile) that describes the details of his life that you  have assembled from records that you believe represent this man (remember that mistaken identities are possible). Do not include (and try not to think about) the relationships suggested in the family trees you've found online -- consider those to be hearsay that can steer us wrong.

From the sources that I can see in his profile, I see that a Silas York enlisted in the US Army on 27 July 1823, possibly at Philadelphia (it's hard to tell if the ditto marks apply to him)  and was discharged "for deformity" in August 1823 (probably on the 10th -- the date isn't clear). If he had children born in Canada in 1814 through 1827 (as the profile indicates), this isn't him. I would be inclined to create another profile for this man using "Add > Unrelated Person," and make it a "Rejected Match" for your Silas.

And you have a land record in Ontario (I can't see a date for it) that says Silas Vandervere York was 33 years old, was born in New Jersey, was married with two children, and had lived 11 years in Ontario. That's an excellent source, but it needs a date and an indication of where it came from. If it was uploaded by an Ancestry user, have you tried to contact that user to find out where they got it? If you can get a date for this document, it should help you pin down an approximate birthdate, and thus help answer other questions.

Your biography of him could quote all or part of the April 1832 statement (in a book you linked to): "His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor having authorized the examination of Silas V. York, a Discharged Soldier, and to Report thereon for his information, he received the following certificate by Order of the Board: 'This is to certify that Silas V. York, a corporal in the late Incorporated Regiment of Militia of Upper Canada [etc.]'"
by Ellen Smith G2G Astronaut (1.1m points)
In the biography I am suggesting, record any information you have about his marriage, birth/baptisms of his children, etc.

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