The Griffis Surname and the Family from Huntington, New York: Part Two

This second part of a four part story will provide a narrative of my discovery process of tracing the Griffis surname for the Griffis Family that originated from Huntington, Long Island back from William James Griffis, who fought in the Civil War, to William Griffis in Huntington, New York. For this part of the story, I am focused on tracing the existence of Griffis surname backwards from the mid 19th century to the 18th century.

Surname Lineage for Griffis family in America

As indicated in part one of this story, I was able to push our knowledge of the Griffis surname back an additional three generations from our Civil War veteran, William James Griffis, through his father Joel Griffis, and through his grandfather Daniel Griffis.

“Although it is well known that the majority of the surnames held by Welsh people are of patronymic origin and that relatively few such names are in use by a high proportion of the the population … (t)here is no reason why those researching Welsh families should not share the universal fascination with surnames, though – as with all genealogical research – we must accept that the history of a name does not always throw light on the history of an individual family. For the latter, nothing can replace working systematically backwards, proving links all the way.” [1]

While I do provide a picture of what this Griffis family looks like through time, I also try to provide the reader with a path of discovery that I went through discovering bits and pieces of information and encountering dead ends. The story also provides the frustration one experiences when trying to reconstruct a family tree. Sometimes this does not happen and you are left with unsolved pieces of the puzzle. It is a messy process but in the end, more information is discovered, promising leads are either validated or proven false and a better picture of the past is gained. There is always the possibility of discovering new facts and sources of information to make our view of the family clearer.

While I am able to establish connections between Harold Griffis, his father Charles, his grandfather William, his great grandfather Joel and his great great grandfather Daniel, and his great great great grandfather William, not much is known of the family of Daniel Griffis. Current research points to his having four sons and an unknown daughter. There is strong evidence that Joel Griffis and William Gates Griffis were two of his sons.


A number of facts pertaining to (1) Daniel Griffis; (2) his older brother Nathaniel Griffes (he spelled the surname differently); (3) Daniel’s son William G. Griffis; (4) Daniel and Nathaniel’s uncle Stephen Gates and his son Stephen Gates Jr. and grandsons; and Stephen Griffith (An older brother of Nathaniel and Daniel) who married a Gates cousin appear to provide supporting evidence of a family connection with the Griffis Mayfield families and the William Griffis Family in Huntington, New York:

  • A family manuscript, the “Peets-Welsh manuscript”, and a manuscript by Martha K Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, referenced in part one of this story, indicate that Daniel was a son of William Griffis and Abiah (Gates) Griffis and was born April 1, 1777 in Huntington, Suffolk county, Long Island. Both manuscripts also list the twelve children of William and Abiah Gates Griffis. One of Daniel’s brothers was Nathaniel Griffes. The manuscripts lack specific documentation on facts pertaining to the family but provide an initial starting point to corroborate the family trees that are depicted in the manuscripts.

See an earlier story on a great grandson of Nathaniel Griffes.

Charles Griffes
Charles Tomlinson Griffes
  • A family manuscript, the “Peets-Welsh manuscript”, and a manuscript by Martha K Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, referenced in part one of this story, indicate that Daniel was a son of William Griffis and Abiah (Gates) Griffis and was born April 1, 1777 in Huntington, Suffolk county, Long Island. Both manuscripts also list the twelve children of William and Abiah Gates Griffis. One of Daniel’s brothers was Nathaniel Griffes, spelled ‘Griffith’ in the manuscripts.
  • A review of the Federal and New York state census from 1810 through 1855 indicate that Daniel Griffis had six children: four sons and two daughters. Joel Griffis (1807) and William Gates Griffis (1807) were two of the three sons. The two other sons are not known. The two names of the daughters are Ruth and Sally.
  • An Ensign (Ensinger) Griffis is found in various United States census in Mayfield and the Schenectady area. Based on the Will of Nathaniel Griffes, it is assumed he is his son.
  • In the 1855 New York state census, Daniel Griffis reported that he was born in Suffolk County in 1776, based on a reported age of 79. This is where William Griffis and Abiah Gates Griffis lived. In the same 1850 census, Daniel indicated he lived in Mayfield for 20 years. 
  • In the same 1855 census for the small town of Mayfield, New York, William G. Griffis and Joel Griffis indicate that they both were born in Albany county and had lived in the Mayfield, New York area for 20 years. This implies that Daniel, William and Joel moved to Mayfield about 1835 from the Albany-Schenectady area. 
  • William Griffis’ headstone in the Mayfield Riceville cemetery indicates his middle initial was “G”. I believe the “G” stood for Gates, a reference to his grandmother’s maiden name.
  • The 1820 Federal Census for Niskayuna, Schenectady County, lists three ‘Griffies’ families in close proximity based on the census taker’s enumeration path. They were virtually next door neighbors. It is assumed the census enumerator misspelled their names. In addition, between two of the the ‘Griffies’ households, one headed by Daniel and another headed by Nathaniel, is a household headed by Steven Gates. Steven Gates (b. 1750 d. 1837) was Abiah Gates’ brother. Stephen Gates is Daniel and Nathaniel’s maternal uncle. Stephen Gates is found living in this area in the Federal Census in 1790 through 1830. There is also a household one house away from Nathaniel’s that is headed by an Ensign Griffies.
  • The five families (households of Nathaniel Griffies, Daniel Griffis, Stephen Gates, Stephen’s son also named Stephen Gates, and Ensign Griffis) lived close to each other in the Niskayuna, Schenectady area in the early 1800’s. The snapshots of the census reveal an older Gates family, headed by Stephen Gates, surrounded by younger Griffis families and one of Stephen’s son, Stephen Gates. Nathaniel Griffes was about midway in age between Stephen Gates and his sons, Stephen Gates and Daniel W. Gates.
  • The younger Stephen Gates named a son in honor of Nathaniel: Nathaniel Griffes Gates. Nathaniel Griffes named another son of Stephen Gates, Daniel W. Gates, as one of his executors of his will.
  • Stephen Griffith, one of Nathaniel and Daniel’s older brothers, married Anna Ruland, who was a maternal first cousin. Anna Ruland’s mother was Naomi Gates, sister of Abiah Gates.
  • The connections between Nathaniel Griffes, Stephen Gates, and Daniel Gates were obviously based on mutual trust and affection between family members. Both families have many of their respective descendants buried in the Vale cemetery in Schenectady, New York.

The Griffis(es) and Gates Families of Niscayuna and Mayfield New York

Family of Daniel Griffis

The path of discovery associated with reconstructing the Griffis(es) family was full of fits and starts, dead ends, recent discoveries, and continued unanswered questions. The following represent the family trees of the key families that can be traced back to William Griffis(th) who lived in Huntington, Long Island in the 1700’s.

Based on a review of available historical records, Daniel Griffis, the great grand father of Harold Griffis, had four sons and two daughters. Two sons are not known but documented in the household in U.S. censuses.

It appears that Daniel had one older son and three sons that were closer in age. He had a daughter, Ruth, that was born close in age to the oldest son and a younger daughter that was born when the rest of the siblings were older. See the family tree below (click the image for larger view).

The family of Daniel Griffis, click for larger view.

One of the two sons of Daniel Griffis that can be identified is William G. Griffis (1805 – 1860) William had four children. The oldest was William James Griffis (1852 – 1940). See family tree below (click on image for larger view).

The Family of William G. Griffis, click for larger view.

William J. Griffis had a large family of nine children. His three oldest children, Florence (4 years old), Annie (age 2) and Carrie ( less then 1), tragically died of an illness, possibly Cholera. [2] His fourth oldest, George William Griffis (1872 – 1960), had one child, Edith Mae Griffis. George’s wife, Nora Irene Dodge (1901 – 1950), died in 1932. A widower, George married his second cousin’s wife who was a widow, Ida Mae Sperber Griffis. Ida originally married Charles Arther Griffis (1877- 1926) who was the father of Harold Griffis. Hence, an interesting connection between the family lines of William G Griffis and Joel Griffis.

The other son of Daniel Griffis, Joel Griffis (1807 – 1882), had seven children with his first wife who died in 1850. He married a second time and had four additional children. In his first family, he had four sons and three daughters. One of the sons, William James Griffis (1843 – 1908), is the father of Charles Griffis and the grandfather of Harold Griffis.

Family List of the Family of Joel Griffis

As indicated in the first part of this story, Daniel Griffis had 11 siblings. One of Daniel’s brothers was Nathaniel Griffes. While his name was spelled differently in various sources, Nathaniel’s grave and Will have his surname spelled as ‘Griffes’. Nathaniel Griffes was the sixth child of William Griffis. Nathaniel spent most of his life in the Schenectady, Niscayuna, Watervliet area of New York. In the early years of his life, Daniel Griffis also spent time in this area near his brother and their uncle Stephen Gates.

The following is a depiction of the family tree for Nathaniel Griffes (click image for larger view).

Family tree of Nathaniel Griffis, click for larger view.

The following is a list of individuals in Nathaniel’s family.

List of individuals that are part of Nathaniel Griffes’ family.

Another important family that provides additional corroborating documentation of the linkage between Daniel Griffis and his father William Griffis is the Gates family. Nathaniel and Daniels’ mother, Abiah Gates had seven siblings. See the family tree below (click on image for larger view). Two of those siblings provide corroborating evidence of the ties between the two families. Abiah’s younger sister, Naomi Gates, married John Ruland. They had nine children, the seventh child Nancy (Anna) Ruland married Nathaniel and Daniel’s brother Stephen Griffith. The other is Stephen Gates Junior, the youngest of the eight siblings. After fighting in the revolutionary war, Stephen settled in the Niscayuna, New York area and lived the remainder of this life in the area.

The Gates Family, click for larger view.This reflects Abiah Gates and Stephen Gates as brother and sister.

During the 1820’s and 1830’s, the families of Daniel Griffis, Nathaniel Griffes, Ensign Griffis, Stephen Gates Junior lived close to each other. In addition, Stephen Gates’ sons Stephen and Daniel W. Gates were close family friends to Nathaniel Griffes. The following family tree depicts the family of Stephen Gates and his brothers and sisters (click on image for larger view).

The family of Stephen Gates Jr. and his siblings, click for larger view.

Tracing Back to William Griffis in Huntington, New York

My path to discovering William Griffis(th) of Huntington, New York started in the small town of Mayfield, New York. Our family had the original copy of the one page discharge paper for William James Griffis from the Civil War (image below). The one page document indicated that he was born in Mayfield, New York. He was purportedly 19 years old at the time of his discharge which implied he was born around 1846.

The Civil War discharge paper of William J Griffis, indicating his place of birth as Mayfield, New York. Click for larger view.

The land that is now the town of Mayfield was part of the Mayfield Patent of 1770. The town was established in 1793 from the town of Caughnawaga in Montgomery County before the formation of Fulton County in 1838. It was one of the first three such towns formed in the county. [3] [4]

Map of Fulton County, New York : from actual surveys
1856 Map of Fulton County. Click for larger view. [5]

My subsequent research on William J Griffis revealed he may have been 22 when he was discharged from the war. William mustered into service in Johnstown, New York, a short distance to the west of Mayfield, October 17, 1862 for the ‘standard’ three year enlistment term in the New York 153rd Infantry Volunteers, Company “A”. His age was listed as 19 in 1862 (Image 2 below). If he was 19 at the time of his discharge, he would have been 16 at the time of his enlistment. Correlating information from military and pension files, William’s birth date was March 14, 1843. William as actually 19 at the time he enlisted. [6]

Image 2: New York, Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900 Click for larger view.

Based on researching local New York county records, the original New York Census [7] and reviewing Federal census documents, I was able to locate four Griffis families that lived in the Mayfield / Broadalbin, New York area starting in the 1840’s through the turn of the 18th century and onward. The heads of the four family households were Daniel Griffis, William Griffis, Joel Griffis and Ensinger Griffis. Depending on the year and type of census, these four individuals were reported in various family settings as described below.

In the 1855 New York State Census (table one below), I was able to locate William in the household of Daniel Griffis.

Given the small size of Mayfield, it is highly likely that these four Griffis families were related. I had no direct corroboration but it gave me promising leads and, to date, unanswered questions about the exact configurations of each of the respective families over time. As stated in part one of this story, the Griffis name was an unusual spelling of the Griff(ith)(ths)(in)(ing)(ies) surname. I figured, based on corroborating information, they might be part of the same extended family.

Mayfield population, source U.S. Decennial census

In 1850 the following three farms were found in the Agricultural Non-Population census for the Broadalbin and Mayfield, New York areas. The farms were not on contiguous parcels of land. They were fairly sizable farms, ranging from 80 to 100 acres. It is not known if each of the Griffis men owned the land or were managing the land. Based on how the census taker made his rounds, William and Joel’s farms were closer to each other in Mayfield. Information on their farms were ostensibly one page apart in the census (the number of columns of information associated with the agricultural census took up two pages to record) and were taken respectively on July 18th and 19th, 1850. Daniel’s farm was a bit further off in Broadalbin. The information on his farm was found on page 223-224 and the census taker visited his farm on August 3rd, 1850. Evidently, the census taker missed capturing information on Ensinger Griffis’ farm in Broadalbin.

Ensinger (born 1797) appears in the 1850 census as head of a household along with his son Samuel Griffis (born 1821), Samuel’s wife Hannah Griffis (born 1825), and his grandson Henry Griffis (born 1857). The census lists the value of the real estate next to Ensinger’s name, who owned the farmland, at $1,200. [8] Given the similar value of his farm compared with farms of Daniel and Joel (above), it is conceivable he had a similar sized farm. Depending on the census, the households were located in Mayfield or Broadalbin, which is contiguous to and east of Mayfield.

Broadalbin was created from the towns of Johnstown and Mayfield in 1793, before Fulton County was formed. In 1799, part of Broadalbin was used to form the town of Northampton. Broadalbin lost the southern part of the town in 1842 to form Perth. When the Great Sacandaga Lake was created in 1930, some of the town’s land was covered with water, including the Sacondaga Vlaie, a broad expanse of marshy land.[9]

Burleigh, L. R. (Lucien R.); Burleigh Litho; Burleigh, L. R., Lithograph of Broadalbin from January 1880 printed by L.R. Burleigh with list of landmarks, Click for larger view.

Census Taking and Farm Households in the 1800’s

One must recognize and appreciate the act of taking a census when researching family history. From a simple behavioral viewpoint, the act of census taking is a social process similar to a salesperson knocking on a door. It involves an element of chance and the probability of getting answers, reliable answers. Presumably, census takers were known in their respective communities, increasing the likelihood of gaining acceptance and obtaining reliable information based on trust. It involves the dynamic of an individual moving up and down rural roads, knocking on doors, having people hopefully coming to the door or meeting the census taker on the farm property and receptively allowing the census taker to ask intrusive questions, taking precious time from the farmer to provide information to simple direct questions. The active process of census taking also brought to bear the issues of writing what one heard when asking questions and recording information in the best penmanship they have and hopefully accurately transcribing what they heard.

The decennial census has always required a large workforce to visit and collect data from households. Between 1790 to 1870, the duty of collecting census data fell upon the U.S. Marshals. A March 3, 1879 act replaced the U.S. Marshals with specially hired and trained census-takers to conduct the 1880 and subsequent censuses.

During the early censuses, U.S. Marshalls (sic) received little training or instruction on how to collect census data. In fact, it was not until 1830 that marshals even received printed schedules on which to record households’ responses. The marshalls (sic) often received limited instruction from the census acts passed prior to each census.[10]

While each census had their specific list of questions to be answered, its reference point was a domicile, a home, a farm. It descriptively chronicles who lived in that domicile without regard to family kinship. By virtue of the census being purely descriptive, it can provide puzzling results when one is viewing a house or farm through the lens of a perceived family structure. Sometimes things do not line up in terms of what one anticipates seeing in terms of family structure.

Coupled with the social process of census taking, viewing the composition of a given family in a rural community needs to be viewed in a social and historical context of what families faced as farmers in the 1800’s.

Family relationships in the farm have important implications on production decisions, such as the choice of crops, the organization of family labour and its allocation to different tasks, management of farm land and other assets, and questions of inheritance. …(T)he nature of the farm business cannot be understood without reference to the family that operates it. Factors such as number, age and gender composition of the household play an important role in labour divisions and management decisions. [11]

The composition of a farm household may change due to the economic demands of farm production and the ability of family members being able to work. As family members get older, a younger generation of family members may move from one home or farm to another to assume different roles of managing the farm. I believe that this happened with the Griffis families in the Mayfield area and the Griffis, Griffes, and Gates families in the Niscayuna area of New York state.

By visually scanning the rows of families tabulated in the census pages of the state and Federal censuses, you could trace the census takers route in documenting farms and homes within the town’s boundaries and determine the proximity of family members in separate households. In specific time periods, the Griffis families lived next to each other.

Each of the Federal and New York state censuses between 1830 and 1860 asked different questions and were taken at different time periods of the year. The New York state based census was taken in 1825, 1835, 1845, 1855, 1865, 1875, 1892, 1905, 1915, and 1925. The Federal census was taken every ten years, beginning in 1790 and onward. [12]

The information in the 1855 New York state based census is noteworthy. The information contained in the 1855 New York census helped with my tracing the Griffis families back from Mayfield to the Schenectady, New York area in the early 1800’s. It was the first to record the names of every individual in the household. It also asked about the relationship of each family member to the head of the household, something that was not asked in the federal census until 1880. The 1855 New York state census also provides the length of time that people had lived in their towns or cities as well as their state or country of origin—this is particularly helpful for tracing immigrant ancestors. If born in New York State, the county of birth was noted, which is helpful for tracing migration within New York State.

In the 1855 New York State census, the census enumerator documented that Daniel Griffis lived in Fulton country for 20 years and was born in Suffolk County around 1777 which corroborates information found in Griffith Family manuscripts on the Griffith(s) family from Huntington, New York. [13]

The Griffis Families in 1850’s

While the 1850 agricultural census listed three farms under the Griffis name, the 1855 census only lists two Griffis households in the Mayfield area. Comparing the census data between 1850 and 1855 perhaps reflects the impact of the changing age and composition of individuals in the respective households based on the demands of managing farms. As Daniel was getting on in age, his sons Joel and William assisted Daniel in managing his farm. Joel’s children assisted Daniel at one point in 1850. In 1855, it appears that William, his son, may have consolidated his farm with Daniel’s or moved onto Daniel’s farm to assist.

One of the two Griffis households in the New York state census for Mayfield in 1855 contained the following individuals and related information. [14]

Table 1: Household of Daniel Griffis 1855

NameAgeBirth YearRelationCounty of BirthYrs Resident
in Town
Daniel Griffis791776HeadSuffolk20
William Griffis431812SonAlbany20
Eliza Griffis261829Dau in LawFulton20
William James Griffis31852GrandchildFulton3
Jeremiah Griffis21853GrandchildFulton2
1855 New York Census

This is five years after the Federal agricultural census was taken. A lot can happen in five years. Table One reflects Daniel Griffis at almost 80 years old as the head of the household and his son, William, and his family residing with him. Daniel’s wife is not present. There is a grandson, William J Griffis, in the household but he is much younger than the Civil War veteran who would have been 12 at the time. Hence, there were two cousins named William James Griffis.

Nearly 80 years old, Daniel may have been involved with performing limited farm duties. He may also have had title to the land and therefore was considered as head of household. However, it would be logical to assume that William, his son, assumed the bulk of responsibilities in managing the farm.

Another Griffis household in the New York census of 1855 in Mayfield captured a snapshot of the household of Joel Griffis at a pivotal time in the life of his family (see Table Two). The census links William J. Griffis (born 1843) to his father, Joel Griffis, and to brothers and sisters. Joel’s wife is not present in the household.

There is a good chance that William Griffis, who is living with Daniel (Table One above) is Joel’s brother given the closeness of their ages. Also it is interesting to note that Daniel, his son William (Table One above), Eliza (William’s wife), Joel and Stephen (Joel’s son) all were resident’s in Mayfield for 20 years and were born in other counties which suggests that they moved from Albany County approximately in 1835. [15] Daniel the elder of the family was born in Suffolk county. [16]

Table 2: Household of Joel Griffis 1855

NameAgeBirth YearRelationCounty of BirthYrs Resident
in Town
Joel Griffis471808HeadAlbany20
Stephen Griffis211834ChildAlbany20
Joseph H Griffis191836ChildFulton19
Margaret M Griffis171838ChildFulton17
William J Griffis121843ChildFulton12
Ruth A Griffis91846ChildFulton9
1855 New York Census

Going back five years to 1850, we see a different picture. Reviewing the 1850 New York state Federal census in Mayfield revealed a puzzling composition for Daniel Griffis’ household. [17]

Table 3: Household of Daniel Griffis 1850

NameAgeBirth Year
Esther Griffis861764
Daniel Griffis731777
Sally Griffis241826
Stephen Griffis161834
Wm Griffis
1850 Federal Census

Daniel is still listed as the head of the household at the age of 73. He reported is birth year as 1777. There is an Esther Griffis, age 86 in the household. While is it possible on face value that this is Daniel’s wife, based on information in the 1840 Federal census (see below in the story), his wife would have been in her 60’s at this time. Daniel’s wife’s name is not known and presumably she died between 1840 and 1850. The 1850 state census did not list relation of family nor county of birth. Based on information in Griffith family manuscripts [18], Daniel had a sister named Esther who was born in 1773 and purportedly died in 1829. This Esther might have been his sister, if so, the Griffith manuscripts have an erroneous date of death for his sister.

What is equally puzzling are other Griffis family members listed in the household. There is a Sally Griffis (age 24) and Stephen Griffis (age 16) and a “Wm” Griffis with no age given.

Similar to the challenges of tracing female family members, Sally Griffis is an enigma. Prior to the twentieth century, it is typically difficult to locate and trace a woman. Most historical records have been created for and are about men, making it more challenging to research the women in a family. For example, property was usually listed under the man’s name, and men ran the majority of the businesses and controlled the government. Also, it was the man’s surname that was carried to the next generation by the children. In addition, few women left diaries or letters.[19]

Sally Griffis shows up only once in my research. I do not know who her parents are nor do I know if she got married. However, it appears that Sally was providing a helping hand in Daniel’s household. Based on the reporting of a census taker, we are given a ‘fact’ that she was born in 1826 and lived with Daniel Griffis along with Stephen Griffis in 1850. Sally could have been a daughter of Daniel. Daniel would have been been 49 when Sally was born. Sally could have possibly been a daughter of William if he was married before he married Eliza as a second wife. However, there is no evidence of this supposition. Another possibility is that Sally might have been a daughter of Joel Griffis. Joel would have been 18 when she was born. However, as indicated below, her birth would have been before he married his first wife, which could have happened but is unlikely. For the moment, I am assuming Sally was a daughter of Daniel Griffis.

The comparison of information related to Stephen Griffis (age 16) mentioned in Daniel’s household between the 1850 and 1855 New York census appear to corroborate that Stephen was a grandson, a son of Joel’s, and was living with his grandfather in 1850 to help on the farm and in 1855 returned to his father Joel’s household. The ‘Wm’ Griffis presumably is William Griffis, Daniel’s son. William’s son William James Griffis and son Jeremiah Griffis were born respectively in 1852 and 1853 (Table One) after the 1850 census.

The second Griffis family in the Federal census of 1950 reflects the household of Joel Griffis (see Table Four below). In 1855 (Table Two above) it appeared that Joel had five children with no wife listed: Stephen (born 1834), Joseph (b 1836), Margaret (b 1838), William (b 1843), and Ruth (1846).

The 1850 census revealed an older son Daniel (1832) who apparently left the household by 1855. the 1850 census also indicates the absence of a wife and the presence of another daughter Francis (born 1849). [20] It is believed that Francis passed away from a childhood illness since she is not found in the 1855 state census nor in the 1860 Federal census.

Table 4: Household of Joel Griffis 1850

NameAgeBirth Year
Joel Griffis421808
Daniel Griffis181832
Joseph Griffis141836
Margaret Griffis121838
Wm Griffis71843
Ruth Griffis51845
Francis Griffis11849
1850 United Stated Census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield
Gravestone of Margery wife of Joel Griffis. Click for larger view.

A review of available records associated with grave sites in the area indicate that at the age of 39, Margery, Joel’s wife, passed away on May 1st in 1850 [21]. It is not known what was the cause of death. Her youngest child, Francis, was born in 1849.

It is important to note that the census taker compiled the information on Joel’s house on July 17th, 1850. At that time, Joel, a recent widower of less than two months, undoubtably had his hands full with a household of six children ranging from Daniel at 18 to Francis at one year of age. All but Stephen were living with Joel.  Stephen, at the age of 16, was living with his uncle William and grandfather. In the next five years before the 1855 census was taken, it appears that young Francis passed away.

Joel and Margery were married in Watervliet, New York in 1831. [22] This is consistent with the census reporting that Joel migrated from Schenectady /Albany County area to Fulton county around 1835. Also Joel and Margery had two sons prior to their move to Mayfield.

Before Margery passed away at the young age of 39, they had seven children: four sons and two daughters. Daniel was the oldest (born 1832), followed by Stephen (1834), Joseph H. (1836), Margaret Mary (1838), William James (1843), Ruth Addie (1845) and Francis (1850). Based on the birth locations of the children, it appears the family moved from the Schenectady, New York area to Mayfield, New York around 1835. This is based on statements to the census enumerator that they lived in Fulton county for 20 years in 1855. The two older sons were born in the Watervliet – Albany New York area while the remaining children were born in Fulton County where Mayfield is located. It appears that Joel and Margery along with other Griffis family members, notably his father Daniel Griffis (1777 – ), and brother William Griffis (1805- 1860) migrated westward from the Albany Schenectady area to the rural areas of Mayfield in 1835 to live life initially as farmers.

Joel Griffis married Anna Marie Ostrom after Margery Gillespie Griffis’ death, sometime before the birth of his eighth child, Mary Griffis, in 1856. Joel had three additional children with Marie. [23]

Although we are primarily tracing Daniel Griffis backward through various Federal and state census documents for the purpose of tracing the family surname, two other pieces of information are pertinent for tracing and linking the family surname. William Griffis died December 19, 1860 and was 56 years old. He was buried in the same cemetery as Joel’s wife Margery in Rice Cemetery, in Mayfield. [24] While the census documents did not indicate his date of birth, the headstone for William Griffis provides documentation of an approximate birth. In addition it provides his middle initial “G”. This is a corroborating clue of William’s connection to William and Abiah (Gates) Griffis. As indicated in the first part of the story, Gates is the surname of Daniel’s mother. I believe the middle name of William G. Griffis, who died in 1860, was Gates.

Headstone for William G Griffis, Riceville Cemetery, Mayfield, New York.

It is not absolutely certain that Joel and William are brothers. They could possibly be cousins. I am willing to hedge a bet that they were indeed brothers. If William was born around 1805, Joel was born around 1807, they conceivably could be brothers. Their proximity to each other in the Mayfield Broadalbin area, their help in managing farms in the 1850’s, and their collectively movement to Fulton county in the mid 1830’s also lends credence to their being siblings. In addition, Joel along with William’s wife Eliza, were executors in the probate process of William G. Griffis’ will when he died. [25]

The Griffis(es) families in the 1840’s: A Period of Change

The ability to trace family members in Federal and New York state census documents prior to the 1855 face an inherent challenge. While the New York state census provided more detailed information than the Federal census, the first three state censuses for New York (1825, 1835, and 1845) are difficult to access and largely unavailable online. Most records have been lost due to a 1911 fire in the Albany state capital. County clerks maintained duplicate copies for their counties and in some cases counties maintained copies of records from these first three censuses. Prior to 1880, the Federal census only recorded the name of the head of household. Individual members of a given household were counted in ordinal age categories (e.g. male aged 10 – 14, etc.).

I was able to rely on New York state census material in the 1850’s to locate individuals in the Griffis(es) family. However, working backward in time in the 1840’s, 1830’s, 1820’s, 1810’s, 1800’s and 1790’s, I was limited by finding heads of households and age group categories that changed every ten years. If one knew the birth dates of given family members from other sources, then one could compare the age distribution of family members within a given household to determine if specific individuals reflected the distribution of individuals within specific age group categories in a given census. [26]

Based on a review of 1840 Federal census information, Daniel and his sons Joel and William moved away from the Schenectady, New York area and were living in Fulton County, New York. Ensign Griffes moved away to Carlton and is found in Saratoga County. Daniel’s older brother Nathaniel and his family as well as their maternal uncle’s family (Stephen Gates) continue to reside in Niscayuna, Schenectady county.

The following table summarizes the configuration of each household of Griffis(es) families based on the age group distributions found in the 1840 census. I have attempted to place names of known ancestors in various census categories. As you can see from reviewing the information in Table 5, there are a few inconsistencies.

Table 5: 1840 United States Census and Griffis(es) Households

Head of HouseholdAge CategoryNo.Location
Nathaniel GriffesMale 5-9
(Nathaniel 7
son of Stephen Griffes?)
1Niscayuna, Schenectady, NY
Male 30-39
(son Stephen?)
Male 70-79
(Nathaniel Griffes)
Female 20-29
(Stephen’s wife Mary Witney?)
Female 60-69
(Esther Griffes)
Stephen Griffes?Male < 5
(William 5, James 1)
Male 20-29
(Stephen Griffes would have been 35)
Female 5-9
(Julia was born after 1826)
Female 20-29
(Stephen’s wife Mary Witney)
Ensign GriffisMale 15-19
(son Samuel)
1Charlton, Saratoga, NY
Make 40-49
Female 15-19
(unknown daughter)
Female 40-49
(Ensigns Wife)
Daniel GriffisMale 30-39
(son William)
1Mayfield, Fulton, NY
Male 60-69
Female 20-29
(unknown possibly a wife of son and a daughter)
Female 50-59
(Daniel’s wife)
Joel GriffisMale < 5
(son Joseph Griffis)
1Mayfield, Fulton, NY
Male 5-9
(sons Daniel Griffis
& Stephen Griffis)
Male 30-39
Female < 5
(daughter Margaret)
Female 30-39
(Joel’s wife)

In the Federal 1840 census, Joel and Margery’s family of six had four individuals engaged in agricultural work. There was one male under 5 (Joseph), two males 5 through 9 (Daniel and Stephen) and another male 30-39 (Joel)in the household. There was one female under 5 (daughter Margaret), 1 female between the ages of 20-29 (Margerie his first wife).  [27]

1840 United States Census Household of Joel Griffis, Click for larger view

Daniel Griffis is also found in the 1840 Federal Census in Mayfield. His household had five individuals, all were reported as being employed in agriculture. The household had one male between the ages of 30-40 (presumably William Griffis), a male between the ages of 60-70 (presumably Daniel), two females between the ages of 20-30 (not certain as to who they are which again raises the issue regarding Sally Griffis), and a female between the age of 50-60 (presumably Daniel’s wife). [28] It appears that William Griffis lived with his father on and off between 1840 and 1855. Without access to land ownership records, it is difficult to tease out the specific relationships between father and son and the management of the farms in Fulton county.

1840 United States Census Household of Daniel Griffis, Click for larger view.

While Daniel and his family were residing in Fulton county, New York, his older brother Nathaniel and his family were in Niskayuna, Schenectady county. Nathaniel Griffes was 72 in 1840. The 1840 Federal Census lists a Nathaniel Griffes who was between the ages of 70-79. Within his household a female between the ages or 60-69 (his wife Esther, yes another Esther born 1778), a male between 30-39 (his son Stephen) and a female between 20-29 ( possibly his daughter Julia Griffes born 1815). [29]

The household documented next to Nathaniel’s, identified as the household of Stephen Griffes, does not reflect what would be the family configuration of his family in 1840.  The census enumerator has recorded Stephen’s household as having two males under 5 (Stephen did not have two sons at that age in 1840), a female between 5-9 (Stephen’s daughter was born after 1840), and a male and female between 20-29 (Stephen and his wife Mary would have been in her 30’s). would be expected . Stephen was just starting his family. He and his wife (Mary Whiteney) and their first of three children, James A Griffes (born 1839) lived with or either next to his father. [30]

1840 United States Census Household of Nathaniel Griffes and Stephen Griffis, click for larger view.

In addition to the Griffes families in Niscayuna, Ensign Griffis and his wife and son (aged 15-19) and two daughters (aged 20-29) resided in Saratoga county. [31]

1840 United states Census Household of Ensign Griffis, click for larger view.

A review of local newspapers in Schenectady County revealed a marriage announcement for Esther Griffis. Esther was one of Nathaniel’s daughters. She married Gideon Wilber on 5 October 1843.

Source: The reflector and Schenectady Democrat., October 13, 1843, Page 3, Persistent Link ; also: Schenectady reflector. October 13, 1843, Page 3 Persistent Link

A “Hector N Griffis” and William A. Gates are also mentioned in the local newspaper on November 1843 as having mail left at the local post office. I have no idea who is Hector Griffis! This is a simple declarative sentence but it reflects ‘a few hours’ of research that carries a heavy weight because I have researched this name and I come up with nothing.

Source: The reflector and Schenectady Democrat., November 10, 1843, Page 3Persistent Link

Nathaniel Griffes and family were members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Schenectady, New York. The church records indicate that Nathaniel Griffes and his wife Mary Ann Griffes, and Mary Esther Griffes became a members in 30 October 1834. The three are listed again as being received into the church on 1 November 1842. Nathaniel’s son James A. Griffis was received into the church congregation on 6 June 1853. His wife was received by ‘confession’ on 4 June 1869.

Click for larger view of left had photo | Click for larger view of right hand photo.

Griff(es)(is) family and Gates Family Households in Niscayuna and Watervliet: A Close Connection Between Families

The Town of Niskayuna, New York was created on March 7, 1809 from the town of Watervliet, with an initial population of 681. The name of town was derived from early patents to Dutch settlers: Nis-ti-go-wo-ne or Co-nis-tig-i-one, both derived from the Mohawk language. [32]

Niscayuna Population – U.S. Dicenniel census

It is noteworthy that there are only four pages of census for the town of Niskayuna. There were 111 Niscayuna family households documented in the census on August 7, 1820.

Daniel and at least two of his children, Joel and William moved from the Niscayuna / Watervliet area in the mid 1830’s to Mayfield. It appears that Ensign Griffis and his family also moved from the Niscayuna area to Saratoga County and then to Fulton county to be near his uncle and cousins.

Prior to his time, the Griffis families of Daniel, Joel, William and Ensign lived in close proximity to Daniel’s older brother Nathaniel and the family members of their maternal uncle, Stephen Gates Jr. and a first cousin, Stephen Gates. Two first cousins were named Joel (Joel Griffes 1799-1828 and Joel Griffis (1807-1882). Joel Griffis named one of his sons Stephen, perhaps in honor of his uncle or his first cousin. Below is a diagram of the families of Nathaniel Griffes and his son Stephen Griffes.

The families of Nathaniel and son Stephen Griffes. Click for larger view.

Since the 1850 census listed names of individual family members, at this point in my research on Nathaniel and Stephen Griffes, I went back to this census year to determine if I could discover more of children of Nathaniel Griffes and Stephen Gates

Stephen Gates, Nathaniel and Daniel’s maternal uncle, had eight children. His fourth oldest child, Stephen Gates, must have been close to his cousin Nathaniel Griffes despite being Nathaniel’s junior by 17 years. (See Family tree below). Stephen also had eight children. His sixth child was named Nathan Griffes Gates.

Family Tree of Stephen Gates. Click for larger view.

The Griffis(es) and Gates families were close and appeared to follow each other in various relocations from Huntington, Long Island to Watervliet, New York and to Niscayuna, New York. In 1810 both the Gates and Griffis(es) families lived in Watervliet, Albany County. By 1820, both either moved to Niskayuna, Schenectady County.

Stephen Gates, the ‘pater families‘ of the Gates family in the Watervliet / Schenectady / Niscayuna area was a younger brother of Abiah Gates, grandmother of Daniel and Nathaniel. Stephen Gates is found living in this area in the Federal Census in 1790 through 1830. [33] He died in 1837 and was buried in Vale Cemetery. [34] Vale Cemetery is located in Schenectady, New York.

His memorial on the Find a Grave website follows:

Stephen Gates was born at Huntington, Long Island in 1750. He was married first to Eunice. After her death, he married  Eve Young. Stephen Gates was a veteran of the revolutionary war, having been a member of the Albany County Militia, 13th Regiment in addition to serving under other officers. One of his homes was 3 miles west of Bemis Heights, Saratoga. He served as a volunteer guide to the scouting portion of the Continental Army under General Horatio Gates. He also served in other capacities during the war. He also lived in Dutchess County, New York and Schenectady, New York. He died in 1837. His remains were removed to Vale Cemetery after 1857.

The reference to Stephen Gate’s first marriage to “Eunice” is not documented.

Many generations of both families lived their lives in this area. There are 47 individuals buried in the Vale cemetery with the Gates surname. There are 15 individuals buried at Vale Cemetery with the Griffes surname. [35]

The connections between the Gates and Griffis(th)(es) families were obviously based on one mutual familial trust and affection. [36] This is substantiated by a number of facts surrounding the families. The composition of the four families that live close to each other reveal an older Gates family surrounded by younger Griffis(es) families. Nathaniel was about midway in age between Stephen and his sons, Stephen Jr. and Daniel W. Gates.

  • Stephen Griffith, an older brother of Nathaniel and Daniel, married Anna Ruland. Anna was a maternal first cousin of the brothers. Anna’s mother was Naomi Gates, a sister of Nathaniel’s maternal grandmother Abiah Gates. [37]
  • The son of Stephen Gates, also named Stephen, named one of his sons Nathaniel Griffes Gates. Obviously in honor or his older cousin Nathaniel.
  • Nathaniel Griffes named one of Stephen Gates’ sons, Daniel W. Gates, as one of his executors of his will.

Below is the Headstone for Nathaniel Griffes Gates.

Headstone of Nathaniel Griffes Gates, source: Find a Grave

Below is an excerpt of the will of Nathaniel Griffes. It reflects Nathaniel’s decision to name one of Stephen Gates’ sons, Daniel W. Gates, as one of his executors of his will.

Daniel Griffes Gates executor of will for nathaniel Griffes
Nataniel Griffes’ will identifying Daniel W. Gates as one of the executors of his will. Click for larger view.

Nathaniel’s Will reveals a number of discoveries surrounding his family. Many facts that are not discovered through the Federal and New York state census. [38] The will identifies the following individuals in Nathaniel’s family:

  • The will identifies his son Stephen.
  • The Will mentions his wife ‘Hester’. Hester is a variant of Esther [39]
  • Four daughters, two of whom are married are identified in the will: Anna Griffes, wife of Stephen N Waterbury; Abiah Griffes, wife of John Vedder, Julia Griffes and Hester Griffes.

Ann Griffis is mentioned as having letters left at the post office in a local newspaper in 1842 on numerous occasions:

Source: The Schenectady Cabinet, or, Freedom’s sentinel., August 02, 1842, Page 3, Persistent Link; also: The Schenectady cabinet, or, Freedom’s sentinel., August 16, 1842, Page 1; The Schenectady cabinet, or, Freedom’s sentinel., August 09, 1842, Page 3

The table below reflects the household composition for the families of Daniel Griffis, Daniel’s uncle Stephen Gates and the son of Stephen Gates, Stephen. Daniel’s brother, Nathaniel Griffes, is not found in the 1830 United states census. Nathaniel would have been 62 years old.

Table 6: 1830 Federal Census: Niskayuna, Schenectady County

Census CategoryNameName
Daniel GriffisStephen Gates
(First Cousin)
Male under 51 (Philip Gates would have been 6)
Male 5-91 (Possibly Nathaniel G Gates age 11)
Male 10-14
Male 15-19
Male 20-291
(One of three sons – possibly a Stephen Griffis age 21)
Male 30-391
(Stephen was 45 in 1830)
Male 40-49
Male 50-591
(Daniel at age 53)
Female under 51 (unknown)
Female 5-91
(Sally Griffis age 3)
1 (unknown)
Female 10-142 (Evelina would have been 15)
Female 15-19
Female 20-29
Female 30-391 (Wife Hanna / Johanna would have been 42)
Female 40-49(Daniel’s wife)

As reflected in Table 6 above, Daniel’s household is very small. It contains a male between the ages of 50-59 (Daniel would have been 53 at the time), A male between 20-29( this could have been William, Joel, or the other unknown brother), a female between 5 – 9 (this could be Sally Griffis at age 3) and a female between 40-49 (presumably Daniel’s wife). [40]

The death of a Stephen Griffis from Schenectady was found in a data collection of Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930 [41]. It states: “At Schenectady, on Tuesday (May 13m, 1834) of last week Mr. Stephen Griffis (died), aged about 25 years.” Based on an interpolation of facts based on census age distribution tabulations for the household of Daniel Griffis over time, it is assumed Daniel had a sone that was possibly born around 1809. It this was the case, this Stephen Griffis could very well have been Daniel’s son.

During this decade, a review of Newspaper announcements in the Watervliet area revealed the marriage of a Ruth Griffis on the 20th of March, 1830. This was the first occurrence of Ruth Griffis in my research.

Ruth Griffis marriage announcement, The Schenectady Cabinet, May 26 1830 Page 3

With nothing else to corroborate her relationship with the Griffis family, I researched the past of her husband, Jacob Cromar (Cromer). I went back to the 1850 census which listed individual names and was able to work backward, documenting the family of Ruth Griffis. In 1850, Ruth and her family lived in Charlton, New York. A town the Ensign Griffis lived prior to his moving to Mayfield / Broadalbin. Ruth possibly was the daughter of Ensign Griffis or Daniel Griffis. While I do not have absolute proof, the structure of the respective family households of Ensigner and Daniel over time suggest that Ruth was Daniel’s daughter.

1850 United States Census, New York, Saratoga County, Charlton, Image 28 of 46, Line 25, Page 358.

Ruth and Jacob had 7 children as documented in 1850 Federal Census. Ruth was 40 at the time of the 1850 census. A review of Federal and New York state census documented their movement from Charlton, to Mayfield (1860). They probably worked a farm close to Ensign, Daniel, William and Joel. As their family aged, they probably sold the farm and moved to nearby Johnstown. In 1865 Jacob and Ruth lived in Johnstown, New York with their son Daniel. [42]

Family of Jabor and Ruth Cromer

Nathaniel and Daniel’s cousin Stephen Gates had eight children, as reflected in the family trie diagram at the beginning of the story. Given the census enumerator’s tally of his household in 1830, it is difficult to figure out who could have lived there. [43]

1820 Federal Census in the Niscayuna New York Area

The 1820 Federal Census for Niskayuna, Schenectady County, lists three ‘Griffies’ families in close proximity based on the census taker’s enumeration path and a Gates family household of an uncle (Stephen Gates Jr.) and first cousin (Stephen Gates). It is assumed the census enumerator misspelled their names and based the spelling on phonetics.

This page number 577 from the 1820 United States census provides a graphic portrayal of this extended family.

1820 Federal census for the Niskayuna, Schednectady County, New York. Click for larger view.

Between two of the the ‘Griffies’ households, one headed by Daniel and another headed by Nathaniel, is a household headed by Steven Gates. It is assumed that this is the elder Steven Gates (b. 1750 d. 1837). He was Abiah Gates’ brother and Nathaniel and Daniel’s’ maternal uncle. There is also a household one house away from Nathaniel’s that is headed by an Ensign Griffies. Presumably, as stated earlier, Ensign is Nathaniel’s son who is just starting a new family with is wife and son, Samuel, age one.

Table 7: 1820 Federal Census: Niskayuna, Schenectady County

Male <1051
Male 10-153
(Joel &
Male 16-25111
Male <451
Male >451
Female <105
Female <161
Female <26111
Female <451

While part of the family composition depicted in the 1820 Federal Census of Daniel’s family fits the growth of his family, it is difficult to explain the sudden emergence of 5 unknown females under the age of 10 in his household. In census data after 1820, the household composition of Daniel Griffis does not contain five males in this age growing older. It is not known if the census enumerator made a mistake, if Daniel actually had five additional daughters under the age of 10, or the household had children from the other Griffis and Gates families running about.

A review of Newspapers in Schenectady County during this time period revealed a few occurrences of Nathaniel Griffes(is) in local newspapers, notably for mail left at the local post office:

Excerpt of newspaper announcement : Source: The Schenectady Cabinet., April 02, 1828, Page 3, Persistent Link

1810 Federal Census in the Watervliet, New York Area

The 1810 census only lists the head of household and summary data on the distribution of males and females in the household. Based on the reported counties of birth for William G Griffis and Joel Griffis (Albany County), a Daniel Griffis is found living in Watervliet, Albany County. [44] The household of Daniel Griffis contained a 3 males between the ages of 1-9. Presumably the three sons under 10 included Joel (2 at the time) and William (age 6). The name of the third male under 10 is not known. There also is an unknown third son between the ages of 11 and 15. Daniel’s household also included a male between the age of 26-44. Daniel would have been 33 at the time. His household also included one female under the age of 10 (this could be Ruth Griffis based on age), and a female between the age of 26-44 (presumably Daniel’s wife).

There is also another Daniel Griffis listed in the 1810 census in Albany. However, given the proximity of Daniel’s brother, Nathaniel, and two Gates relatives from his mother’s side of the family in Watervliet, it is assumed Daniel lived in the Watervliet /Schenectady area in 1810.

Table 6: 1810 Federal Census: Watervliet, Albany County

< 10
< 16
< 26
< 45
< 10
< 16
< 26
< 45
Gates Jr.

In 1800, Daniel would have been 23 years old. Daniel is not documented as a head of a household in 1800. It is not known where Daniel lived in 1800.


This three part story not only attempts to impart knowledge about the Griffis family surname but also discusses through my research what is, and what is not, genealogical “proof“.

Tracing one’s surname back in name is not necessarily an easy process. As one gets into the detail, the ‘facts’ become less certain and oftentimes confusing. By relying on a variety of sources to substantiate facts, one’s certainty of a fact or relationship increases. Sources of facts, evidence, may vary and could be personal knowledge (someone you knew within your lifetime), a Bible, a will, a deed, an obituary, death certificate, a church baptismal document, a pension application, census records, etc. The ability to find a number of corroborating facts increases the likelihood that you are headed in the right direction.

In genealogy, evidence includes many of the sources mentioned above. It does not include a family tree posted on an ancestry website, nor does it include published or unpublished compiled family histories, unless they contain specific historical references to evidence or facts.

A genealogist with a law background has cogently addressed this subject in the context of drawing a distinction between “proof” and “evidence,” and the amount of evidence that is needed to produce a certain standard of proof. There are parallels in family history research and law. [45]

Evidence is anything that is offered to prove the existence or nonexistence of a fact.evidence is what supports a belief that a fact is proved (or disproved).”  [46]

In law there are different standards of proof, from “beyond a reasonable doubt” (criminal cases) to “preponderance of the evidence” (civil cases). In between these two standards is “great weight and preponderance of the evidence”.

What this might operationally mean for genealogy research is:

  • Beyond a reasonable doubt: at least 95% of the facts compel a certain conclusion, conclusive proof;
  • Great weight and preponderance: 65-85% of the evidence supports a solid conclusion, probably true, appears to be true, most likely true;
  • Preponderance of the evidence: a conclusion is more likely than not – it has enough weight more than a flip of the coin that it is solid, probably true.

Basically, these principles have guided my research. Hopefully, my results have revealed ‘family facts’ as well as interesting stories about distant relatives. It is a process and, no doubt, the stories may change for the better as time goes on.


The feature image at the top of this story is a photograph taken on July 16, 1935, entitled “Griffis Family Reunion’. It is a photograph that is in one of the photograph albums of Evelyn Griffis. Click here for a larger view of the photograph. The patriarch and matriarch of the Griffis family in the photograph are in the center of the photograph. William James Griffis and his wife Charlotte (“Lottie”) Wetherbee Griffis. William J. Griffis’ father was William G. Griffis who is mentioned in this story. William G. Griffis was a son of Daniel Griffis.

Griffis surname line for William Gates Griffis and Joel Griffis

[1] Shiela Rowlands, Sources for Surname Studies, in Pages 147 – 160, quote Page 147.

[2] Ely McClellan, John Peters, John Billings, Surgeon General’s Office of the Army, Cholera epidemic of 1873, War Department, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1875

[3] For historical background of Mayfield, New York, see: History of Mayfield, NY from History of Fulton County, Revised and Edited by Washington Frothingham, published by D. Mason & Co. Syracuse, NY 1892

G. F. Pyle, The Diffusion of Cholera in the United States in the Nineteenth Century, Geographical Analysis, Published on behalf of the Department of Geography, The Ohio State University, Jan 1969, Pages 59-75;

alternative link:

 Lorraine Frasier, Mayfield History, , page accessed 17 Nov 2021.

Fulton County was created on April 18, 1838 from Montgomery County. Montgomery County was created on March 12, 1772 from Albany County originally called Tryon County and renamed in 1784. This particular county was originally named after Tryon County after colonial governor William Tryon (1729–1788), renamed after the American Revolutionary War general Richard Montgomery (1738–1775) in 1784 .

For an excellent source that provides New York county maps over time, see: Interactive Map of New York County Formation History,, Page accessed 5 May 2019.

See also Mayfield, New York, Wikipedia, Page last updated 31 October 2021, page accessed 11 Nov 2021.

Smith, Robert Pearsall, 1827-1898, Map of Fulton County, U.S. Library of Congress, New York : from actual surveys, Created / Published Philadelphia : Published by Jno. T. Hill, 1856. Digital Id

Beach Nichols, Atlas of Montgomery and Fulton Counties, New York : from actual surveys, New York : Stranahan & Nichols, 1868

[4] Chace, J., Smith, Robert Pearsall, Map of Fulton County, New York : from actual surveys, Philadelphia : Published by Jno. T. Hill, 1856.  Library of Congress Geography and Map Division

[5] Among the various sources that were used to determine William J Griffis’ birth date:

  • New York Civil War Muster Roll Abstracts, 1861-1900, 153rd Infantry, Page 257;
  • U.S. Department of Interior, Bureau of Pensions, Certificate Number 662.205, Amanda Griffis (Carpenter), Declaration of a Widow for Original Pension, February 7, 1908. The latter source indicates the actual birth date of William J Griffis as March 14th, 1843. See image of original document.

[6] The information in the 1855 New York state census is noteworthy. It was the first to record the names of every individual in the household. It also asked about the relationship of each family member to the head of the household, something that was not asked in the federal census until 1880. The 1855 New York state census also provides the length of time that people had lived in their towns or cities as well as their state or country of origin. This is particularly helpful for tracing ancestors that may have moved to the specific area. If born in New York State, the county of birth was noted, which is helpful for tracing migration within New York State.  

Information collected in this census includes: 

  • Name (of each household member)
  • Age, gender, race
  • Relation to the head of the household
  • Birthplace (country, U.S. state, or New York county)
  • Marital status
  • Length of residence in current municipality
  • Occupation, citizenship status, and if a landowner
  • Literacy status, and if deaf, dumb, or blind

[7] Joel Griffis : U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850, New York, Agriculture, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 211-12, Line 28, 18 Jul 1850

Daniel Griffis: U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850, New York, Agriculture, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 223-224, Line 19, 3 Aug 1850

William Griffis: U.S., Selected Federal Census Non-Population Schedules, 1850, New York, Agriculture, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 213-214, Line 17, 19 Jul 1850

[8] Ensinger Griffis, U.S., Federal Census, 1850, New York, Fulton County, Broadalbin, Page 49, Lines 12-15, Enumeration date 5 Aug 1850. See larger view of page of census depicted below.

[9] Broadalbin, Wikipedia, this page was last edited on 1 Nov 2021 and accessed on 29 Dec 2021.

See also: Washington Frothingham, History of Fulton County, Syracuse, NY: D. Mason & Co, 1892, Pages 59-61

[10] Census History, Staff, Census Instructions, United States Census Bureau, Page updated December 09, 2021, page accessed 4 Jan 2022.

[11] Elizabeth Garner and Ana Paula de la O Campos, Identifying the “Family Farm”: An informal discussion of the concepts and definitions, ESA Working Paper No. 14-10 December 2014, Agricultural Development Economics Division, Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, Page 11

[12] Census History, Staff, State Cenuses, United States Census Bureau, Page updated December 09, 2021, page accessed 4 Jan 2022.

See also Instructions for taking the New York state 1855 census : Elias Leavenworth, Secretary of State, Instructions for Taking the Census of the State of New York in the Year 1855, Albany: Weed, Parsons & Co., Printers, 1855. Page 10,c=1,q=field11%3D%5B992790%5D%2CqueryType%3D%5B16%5D,sm=s,l=library1_lib%2Clibrary4_lib%2Clibrary5_lib

It is made the duty of the town clerks, and the clerks of the common council of cities,to receive from the office of the county clerk, the blanks for the marshal or marshals appointed for taking the census of town and cities, and to deliver them to the latter, whose duty it will be to apply for the same. Where more than one marshalis appointed in a town or ward, the clerk should divide the blanks between them, as nearly proportioned to the population in the several election districts, as possible. The intimate knowledge which these clerks are presumed to have of the relative population and wants of their several election districts, led to their being designated as proper persons to receive and subdivide the blanks. As a general rule, there will be one marshal appointed to each election district ; but in some cases, where the whole population does not exceed three thousand, one person only will be appointed in the town. In all such cases the commissions of the marshals will specify the fact, and be sufficient authority to the clerk for delivering over, upon application, the whole amount of blanks received for such districts.

The marshals, being appointed, will receive with their commissions, a copy of these instructions, and should lose no time in becoming familiar with the details therein contained, and in learning, if necessary, by inquiry at the town clerk’s office, or of the clerk of the common council, the boundaries of their districts. They should also apply for the requisite quantity of blanks from the town clerk’s office ; or, if in a city, from the office of the clerk of the common council, and make arrangements to begin their labors on the first Monday of June.

[13] In the 1855 New York state census, Daniel Griffis reported that he was born in Suffolk County in 1776 based on a reported age of 79. He lived in Fulton county for 20 years which implies he moved to Fulton county around 1835.

1855 New York Census Fulton County, Mayfield. Click for larger view.

Page 7 of the Hall Manuscript indicates Daniel Griffis’ birth date:

Source: M.K. Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, Unpublished Manuscript 1929, originally published 1937. It has been reproduced for commercial access by a variety of publishers. The copy I accessed was published by Creative Media Partners, LLC, Sep 10, 2021. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America. A PDF copy of the book can be found here.

[14] 1855 New York Census, Fulton County, Mayfield, Election District 1, Page 499, Household 6, Lines 27-31. Click to see image of page.

[15] 1855 New York Census, Fulton County, Mayfield, Election District 1, Page 503, Household 33, Lines 15-16. Click to see image of page.

[16] 1850 United States Federal Census, Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, National Archives and Administration, page 28, lines 31-37

[17] 1850 United States Federal Census, Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, National Archives and Administration, page 38, lines 6-10

[18] The two manuscripts are 

Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

M.K. Hall, Griffith Genealogy: Wales, Flushing, Huntington, Unpublished Manuscript 1929, originally published 1937. It has been reproduced for commercial access by a variety of publishers. The copy I accessed was published by Creative Media Partners, LLC, Sep 10, 2021. This work is in the public domain in the United States of America. A PDF copy of the book can be found here.

[19] Alice Plouchard Stelzer, Having Trouble Researching Your Female Ancestors? Here’s Some Help, Family History daily, Originally published Feb 2013, Updated Feb 2017

Introduction to Tracing Women (National Institute),,Page was last edited on 10 October 2015, Page accessed 01 Mar 2022.

Leland Meitzler,  Tracing Your Female Ancestors, Genealogy Blog, 22 April 2013, Page accessed 11 Nov 2019

Melisa Johnson, Methodology for Elusive Female Ancestors, National Genealogical Society NGS Monthly, Accessed 14 Dec 2021

Bibliography of Research sources for Finding Your Female Ancestors Workshop, State Library of North Carolina and State Archives of North Carolina 23 August 2014

Find Your Female Ancestors, Family Tree Magazine

Finding Elusive Female Ancestors: 8 Essential Tips | Findmypast Masterclass, 15 Mar 2018

[20] Joel Griffis Household, 1850 United States Census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 29, Lines 31-37, Enmerated on 17 July 1850.

Click for larger view.

[21] Headstone Inscription: “WIFE OF JOEL GRIFFIS” “IN HER 39 YR” Burial: Riceville Cemetery Mayfield Fulton County New York, USA Created by: Katherine MacIntyre Record added: Aug 08, 2012 Find A Grave Memorial# 95024757

The website,, lists the following Griffis members in the Riceville cemetery in Mayfield, New York.

  • A E Griffis, dates unknown
  • Augusta C Griffis, Inscription: “WIFE OF DANIEL GRIFFIS” “AGE 27”
  • E A Griffis or F A Griffis, Birth and Death dates Unknown – This might be Ensinger Griffis.
  • Margery Griffis, – 1 May 1850
  • William G Griffis 1804 – 19 Dec 1850

[22] Newspaper announcement: The Schenectady Cabinet, Marriage and Engagement Notices, 2 Mar 1831.

Joel Griffis was born October 14, 1807 in Albany , NY and died 18 October, 1882 in Gloversville, NY; Margery Gillespie was born 30 Jan 1897 in Schenectady, NY and died 01 May 1850 in Mayfield, NY.

[23] The following represents the family of Joel Griffis. Joel had a second family after his first wife, Margery, passed away.

[24] William G Griffis – Find a Grave, database and images ( : accessed 04 January 2022), memorial page for William G Griffis (1804–19 Dec 1860), Find a Grave Memorial ID by Thomas Dunne 28262391, citing Riceville Cemetery, Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Jim Griffis (contributor 47396794) .

[25] Present John Stewart county judge in the matter of the administration of there goods, chattel accounts of William G. Griffis, decd., January 7, 1861 Probate Date, New York Wills and Probate Records , Fulton County, Minutes, Volume 0003-004, 1856-1873, pages 229-230, image 148, See original document.

[26] Enumerators of the 1840 census were asked to include the following categories in the census: name of head of household; number of free white males and females in age categories: 0 to 5, 5 to 10, 10 to 15, 15 to 20, 20 to 30, 30 to 40, 40 to 50, 50 to 60, 60 to 70, 70 to 80, 80 to 90, 90 to 100, over 100; the name of a slave owner and the number of slaves owned by that person; the number of male and female slaves and free “colored” persons by age categories; the number of foreigners (not naturalized) in a household; the number of deaf, dumb, and blind persons within a household; and town or district, and county of residence.

The 1840 census also asked for the first time, the ages of revolutionary war pensioners and the number of individuals engaged in mining, agriculture, commerce, manufacturing and trade, navigation of the ocean, navigation of canals, lakes and rivers, learned professions and engineers; number in school, number in family over age twenty-one who could not read and write, and the number of insane. 

Taken from Chapter 5: Research in Census Records, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).

Although the 1840 census asked for the ages of revolutionary war pensioners, many revolutionary war veterans may not have received a pension or were not documented. I have reviewed the published list and find many of the Griffis(th) and Gates revolutionary war veterans are not documented in this special publication.

See: Census of Pensioners for Revolutionary or Military Services with their Names, Ages, and Places of Residence, Published by Authority of an Act of Congress Under the Direction of the Secretary of State, Washington: Blair and Rives 1841.

The following table depicts key individuals that were used to link various Griffis family members together in the 1840 and earlier censuses. It indicates their respective birth dates and ages when Federal census data was captured. I used this as a base to compare the family configurations recorded by census takers at specific times for each of the earlier censuses.

Key Family Members Used to Link Griffis Families in Census Prior to 1840

Gates Jr
Son of
Dau of
William G

William Dollarhide, The Census Book: A Genealogist’s Guide to Federal Census Facts, Schedules and Indexes, Heritage Quest: Bountiful, UT, 2000.

[27] 1840 United States Federal Census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield, page 332, Line 5, image 14 of 29 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

1840 United States Federal Census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield, page 331, Line 12, image 14 of 29 filmstrip. 

1840 United States Federal Census, Mayfield, Fulton County, New York, National Archives and Administration, image 14 of 29 filmstrip.

[28] Joel Griffis household, 1840 United States census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 144, Line 5

[29] Daniel Griffis household, 1840 United States census, New York, Fulton County, Mayfield, Page 142, Line 11

[30] Nathaniel Griffes and Stephen Griffes households, 1840 United States census, New York, Schenectady County, Niscayuna, Page 125, Lines 15 and 16

[31] Ensign Griffis household, 1840 United States census, New York, Saratoga County, Carlton, Page 29, Line 7. The Ensign Griffis family household is noted as having one male between the ages of 16 – 19 (which correlates with his son Samuel’s age of 19, born 1821), a male between the ages of 440-49 (which would be Ensign age 43, born in 1797), a female between the ages of 40-49, and two unknown daughters between the ages of 15-19.

[32] Austin Yates, Schenectady County New York, Its History to the Close of the Nineteenth Century, New York; New York History Company 1902

Niskayuna, New York, Wikipedia, Page updated 22 February 2022, Page accessed 27 Feb 2022

Horatio Gates Spafford, LL.D. A Gazetteer of the State of New-York, Embracing an Ample Survey and Description of Its Counties, Towns, Cities, Villages, Canals, Mountains, Lakes, Rivers, Creeks and Natural Topography. Arranged in One Series, Alphabetically: With an Appendix… (1824), at Schenectady Digital History Archives, selected extracts, accessed 27 Feb 2022

George Rogers Howell and John H. Munsell (1886). “History of the Township of Niskayuna”History of the County of Schenectady, N.Y., from 1662 to 1886. New York City, NY: W.W. Munsell.

[33] Stephen Gates, 1790 United States Federal Census, New York, Albany, Watervliet, Line 23, Page 138. On line 21 there is a William Griffins. The household of Stephen Gates included 3 white males under 16 and one white male over 16 (Stephen Gates), and 6 white females.

Enumerators of the 1790 census were asked to include the following categories in the census: name of head of household, number of free white males of sixteen years and older, number of free white males under sixteen years, number of free white females, number of all other free persons, number of slaves, and sometimes town or district of residence. The categories allowed Congress to determine persons residing in the United States for collection of taxes and the appropriation of seats in the House of Representatives. This first United States census schedules differs in format from later census material, as each enumerator was expected to make his own copies on whatever paper he could find. Unlike later census schedules an enumerator could arrange the records as he pleased.

The 1790 census of the original thirteen states canvassed an area of seventeen present states. Schedules survive for eleven of the thirteen original states: Connecticut, Maine (part of Massachusetts at the time), Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, and Vermont. (Vermont became the fourteenth state early in 1791 and was included in the census schedules).

Enumerators were only required to make one copy of the census schedules to be held by the clerk of the district court in their respective area. In 1830, Congress passed a law requiring the return of all decennial censuses from 1790-1830. At this point it was discovered that many of the 1790 schedules had been lost or destroyed, about two-thirds of the original census from the time period. The 1790 census suffered district losses of Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, and Virginia. However, some of the schedules for these states have been re-created using tax lists and other records. Virginia was eventually reconstructed from tax lists as well as some counties from North Carolina and Maryland.

Taken from Chapter 5: Research in Census Records, The Source: A Guidebook of American Genealogy by Loretto Dennis Szucs; edited by Loretto Dennis Szucs and Sandra Hargreaves Luebking (Salt Lake City, UT: Ancestry Incorporated, 1997).

[34] Nathaniel Griffes Gates, Find a Grave, memorial 8743987, Birth 16 Nov 1819, Schenectady, Schenectady County, New York, Death 16 Aug1898 (age 78), Buried in Forest Hill Cemetery, Ann Arbor, Washtenaw County, Michigan, Plot: Block 21 Lot 1.

[35] The following individuals are buried in Vale cemetery:

Griffes Family Buried in Vale Cemetery Schenectady New York

NameDatesPlot InformationTombstone
Angelica K
1847 – 1930Section HPhoto
Anna R Griffes4 Feb 1861 – 6 Nov 1885Section M-3Photo
Esther Griffes1778 – 3 Jun 1848Photo
James A Griffis3 Dec 1839 – 18 Jan 1898Section M-3Photo
Jane Viele Griffes24 Oct 1832 – 25 Jul 1918Section M-30Photo
Joel Griffes10 May 1799 – 24 Oct 1828Photo
Julia Griffes
Julia A Griffes10 Dec 1838 – 25 Sep 1864Section M-3Photo
Maria Griffes1817 – 9 Jul 1828Photo
Mary Whitney Griffes1808 – 1877
Nathaniel Grifesunknown – 11 May 1956Section H -12
Nathaniel Griffes3 Oct 1763 – 3 Mar 1842
Stephen Griffes1805 – 1850
William W Griffes29 Oct 1870 22 Jul 1872Section M-3Photo
William Whitney Griffes1835 – 1905Section HPhoto

[36] Personal correspondence with Kate MacMillan, Oct 30, 2020. Ms. MacMillan’s research is focused on a different family line of the Gates family but she graciously shared this information on my line of the Gates family.

[37] See: The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol XLII, April 1911, No 2, New York, New York Genealogical and Biographical Society. Pages 128 – 143; Page 138 identified the marriage between Stephen Griffith and Anna Ruland on March 4, 1789.

This information contradicts an assertion in a family manuscript that Nathaniel married Anna Ruland. I believe the manuscript incorrectly referenced Anna’s marriage to Nathaniel.

See; Page 8 in Mildred Griffith Peets, Griffith Family History in Wales 1485–1635 in America from 1635 Giving Descendants of James Griffis (Griffith) b. 1758 in Huntington, Long Island, New York, compiled by Capitola Griffis Welch, 1972 . PDF copy of the manuscript can be found here.

[38] Will of Nathaniel Griffes, U.S. Wills and Probate Records, 1659 – 1999, Schenectady Wills, Vol D – E, 1832 – 1845, date of Will 20 May 142, date of Probate 15 Apr 1842, Probate Place Schenectady NY, Image 325 – 327, Pages 386 – 390. See PDF copy of will.

The following is a transcription of Nathaniel Griffes’ Last Will:

In the name of God *** I Nathaniel Griffes of Niskayuna in the county of Schenectady, seeing the uncertainty of this mortal life do make this instrument in writing and for my last will and testament.

I direct my Executors hereinafter named to sell and dispose of all and singular my personal property. Exceting my household furniture, and to collect all my debts due to me, and from the avails thereof to pay and discharge my funeral expenses and all my just debts which I may owe at the time of my decease.

I give devise and bequeath to my daughter Ann the wife of Stephen Waterbury, the farm I have purchased of from Abraham Wendell. Also ten acres of the farm on which I now reside which is adjoining the farm of My. Hand on the west and on the south and on the east of the said farm on which I live and on the north by the Cowar Road the farm as now in fence. To have and to hold said Wendell farm and the said ten acres to her my said daughter Amr her heirs and assigns forever upon the condition nevertheless that my said daughter Ann pay within two years from and after my decease the sum of one thousand dollars to my daughter Julia and one thousand dollars to my daughter Hester which sums I hereby give to my daughters respectively and which are to be and remain alive on th said premises devised to my daughter Ann until they are fully paid off.

I give devise and bequeath to my wife Hester all and singular my household furniture and goods, also the use of the Buildings & farm on which I now live reside (deducting therefrom the said ten acres devised as aforesaid to my daughter Ann) for and during  the natural life of my said wife, and which bequests are to be enjoyed by her in lieu of Dower on my other Real Estate – the said Household furniture which was given to her absolutely being intended to be in lieu of dower on the farm devised to my said daughter Ann.

I give devise and bequeath to my son Stephen the use and enjoyment of the farm on which I now live (deducting therefrom the said ten acres) to be used enjoyed by him during his natural life, and subject nevertheless to the interest therein devised as aforesaid to my said wife and also further subject as follows to wit the said use and enjoyment by the said Stephen of my said farm during his life is upon the condition the he pay to my son Ensign within five years from my decease the sum of eight hundred dollars and the interest thereon annually to commence accruing upon the expiration of two years after my decease and also upon condition that my son Stephen pay to my daughter Abiah wife of John Vedder the sum of two hundred dollars in tow years after my decease, with interest annually and also upon condition that my son two daughters Julia and Hester convenient apartments in the dwelling I now occupy and necessary Board so long as they respectively remain unmarried, and also upon condition that my son Stephen acquit and discharge my estate from all and any claim which he may pretend to have against it, and I do hereby declare  that the above mentioned payments to be made and conditions to be fulfilled by my son Stephen are to be and remain liens upon the said premises so devised to him my son Stephen until they ar fully paid and performed.

Upon the termination of the said Life Estate in my said farm that is upon the death of my said son Stephen. I give devise and bequeath the farm on which now resides (deducting therefrom the said ten acres) the one half thereof to my grandson Nathanial the son of my said son Stephen & the other half to the other children of my son to have and to hold to their heirs and assign forever while my daughter Ann continues to own the premises devised to her. I give to her the privilege of cutting and carrying off for the use of the premises devised to her one hundred fence rails from off of the now occupied by me Each and Every year the service of eight years after my decease.

I do hereby declare that my son Stephen in the use and enjoyment of the farm devised to him is not to cut or carry off any more timber than shall be necessary for his own fuel and the fences and buildings therever.

All the rest  and residue of my estate real and personal after paying my debts as afous (comment: avouch) am I devise and bequeath to my children share and share alike.

I hereby constitute and affiant my friends Abraham Preace of Niskayuna, Daniel W. Gates of the City of schenectady and Stephen Waterbury of Watervliet Executors of this my Last Will  hereby reworking all foreseen wills by me made. 

Signed and sealed by the testator as and for his last Will and testament in the presence of us the undersigned who have signed our names as witnesses hereto in his presence and in the presence of each other. 

Dated May 18th 1841

It is interesting to note that a number of legal notices were found in historical newspaper related to Nathaniel Griffes will (below) 15 years after Nathaniel’s death.

Note that the legal announcement spelled his and his descendants’ surname “Griffis”. It appears that after his son Stephen’s death, as stuipulated by the will, Nathaniel bequeathed one half of the farm to his grandson Nathaniel and the other half to the remaining children of Stephen’s. It appears that the grandchildren Wiliam W, James A., Almira, Wilber and Julia under the legal representation of D.M. Chadsey petition the Supreme Court of new York to sell the property.


  • The Schenectady Cabinet, August 12, 1856, Page 3, Persistent Link ;
  • The Schenectady cabinet., August 19, 1856, Page 3
  • The Schenectady cabinet., August 26, 1856, Page 4
  • The Schenectady cabinet., September 02, 1856, Page 4
  • The Schenectady cabinet., September 16, 1856, Page 4
  • The Schenectady cabinet., September 09, 1856, Page 4
  • The Schenectady cabinet., September 23, 1856, Page 4

[39] “The modified form Hester has seemingly co-existed with the original Esther throughout the name’s usage in the English-speaking world, where despite a theoretic slight pronunciative difference Esther and Hester were long largely – perhaps totally – interchangeable, with it being routine for a woman cited as Esther in one document to be elsewhere documented as Hester. “

Quote from: Esther (given name), Wikipedia, Page updated 15 Feb 2022, page accessed 4 Mar 2022.

Thanks to my co-pilot in life Susan Bronston Griffis for pointing this out. It was one of the many vexing, specific literal facts that genealogists deal with and try to reconcile, a name that is ‘different’ in different sources, Hester (in a Will) vs Esther (on a headstone).

[40] Daniel Griffis household, 1830 United Stated Federal census, New York, Albany County, Watervliet, page 470. Line14 image of 53 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

[41] “At Schenectady, on Tuesday of last week Mr. Stephen Griffis, aged about 25 years”

Death of a Stephen Griffis, The Christian Intelligencer of the Reformed Dutch Church U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930Vol IV, No 198 May 17, 1834. U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014. This collection was indexed by Ancestry World Archives Project contributors.

Original data: Newspapers and Periodicals. American Antiquarian Society, Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Digitized Content is licensed from the American Antiquarian Society (“AAS”) and may not be reproduced, transferred, commercially or otherwise exploited, in whole or in part, outside the terms and conditions of this service without the express written consent of AAS. All rights reserved.About U.S., Newspaper Extractions from the Northeast, 1704-1930

This collection contains marriage and death details extracted from various newspapers from Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New York. Details may include names, event dates, ages, family relationships, and other facts of interest.

The collection includes 3 volumes of deaths compiled from various Boston papers, 1704–1800, and excerpts from the following newspapers:

  • The American Mercury (Connecticut), Deaths and Marriages, 1784–1832
  • Christian Secretary (Connecticut), Deaths and Marriages, 1823–1867
  • The Hartford Times (Connecticut), Deaths and Marriages, 1817–1866
  • The New York Evening Post (New York), Deaths, 1801–1885, and Marriages, 1801–1890
  • The Christian Intelligencer of the Reformed Dutch Church (New York), Deaths and Marriages, 1830–1871
  • Columbian Centinel (Massachusetts), Deaths and Marriages, 1784–1840
  • New York Weekly Museum (New York), Deaths and Marriages, 1788–1817
  • The Boston Transcript, Deaths, 1875-1930 (broken into ranges of 1875–1899 and 1900–1930)
  • New Haven Columbian Register, Deaths and Marriages, 1812–1836

[42] Stephen Gates household, 1830 United Stated Federal census, New York, Schenectady County, Schenectady, Albany County, page 225. Line 2 image of 53 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

[43] Ruth Griffis Cromer family, 1865 New York State Census, New York, Fulton County, Johnstown, Line 11, Page 57

Ruth Griffis Cromer family, 1870 United States Census, New York, Fulton County, Johnstown, Line 39, Page 232

Ruth Griffis Family, 1860 United States Census, New York, Fulton, Mayfield , Line 37-49 , Page 42 and LineLine 1-3, Page 43

Ruth (Griffis) Cromer Burial site and information:

Name:Ruth Cromer
Birth Date:1811
Death Date:1871
Cemetery:Prospect Hill Cemetery
Burial Place:Gloversville, Fulton County, New York, United States of America
Spouse:Jacob Cromer
Children:Abiah Alexander William H. Cromer
Source Finds Grave Website

[44] Daniel Griffis household, 1810 United Stated Federal census, New York, Albany County, Watervliet, Line 6 image of 8 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

Stephen Gates Jr. Household, 1810 United Stated Federal census, New York Albany County, Watervliet, page 1313. Line 3 image 1 of 8 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

Nathaniel Griffes household, 1810 United Stated Federal census, New York Albany County, Watervliet, page 1312. Line 20 image 1 of 8 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

Stephen Gates Household, 1810 United Stated Federal census, New York Albany County, Watervliet, page 1326. Line 4 image 8 of 8 filmstrip. See copy of census page.

[45] Robin Willis, Reprise: what is “proof” of family history? , Blog Post 1 March 2019, Digging Up Dead Relatives: Legends, Outright Lies, and Useful Facts About Our Ancestors, , Page accessed 10 Mar 2022. I have made a PDF copy of this Blog article because I think it provides a succinct, incisive depiction of what constitutes proof and evidence in genealogical research.

See also Roberta Estes, Ancestors: What Constitutes Proof? 11 July 2018, Blog: DNAeXplained – Genetic Genealogy: Discovering Your Ancestors – One Gene at a Time, Blog page accessed 02 Nov 2021

[46] Robin Willis, Ibid.

William James Griffis and Daniel Griffis – A Tale of Two Brothers (Part Two of Three)

Camps of U.S. Troops Around Washington

Off to War: Two Paths Two Different Experiences

Daniel was the first to leave New York state. The 130th infantry regiment of New York headed south to Suffolk, Virgina. Their destination was deep behind enemy lines. Roughly 1,000 men departed on train from Portage, New York on September 6, 1862. The train stopped at Elmira, New York and the troops received their Enfield rifles and other equipment. However, the equipment was not issued until they reached Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. [1]

At Harrisburg, the troops made their first acquaintance with shelter, tents, and ‘army gray-backs’. Army gray-backs’ was another name for body lice. Body lice proliferated wherever armies gathered during the war and were so prevalent that they simply were accepted as a consequence of war. Whenever troops had downtime they deloused as best as they could. Discarding infected clothing became known as ‘giving the vermin a parole’ and turning one’s clothing inside out was a ‘flanking movement’. The insects knew “all the bugle calls”. The first use of the word ‘lousy’ can be traced to the civil war. [2]

They then made their way via train to Baltimore, Maryland. While part of the Union, Maryland was a slave state and public opinion against the Confederacy was not an unilateral position among locals.

“Public sentiment was divided; while some scowled and manifested extreme hatred, we found others intensely outspoken in their loyalty. Some who purchased and drank milk there became sick, leading to the belief that it had been purposely poisoned.” [3]

Proceeding to Washington, DC, the 130th regiment encamped for a few nights. During the war, the nation’s capital city filled with people and at times swelled to 200,000. In May 1861, troops, weapons, horses, and supplies began pouring into Washington. [4] Given its fragile, swampy environment, the military camp conditions quickly became muddied areas, susceptible to sickness. In September 1861, General George McClellan issued standing orders that soldiers in the Army of the Potomac be given hot coffee immediately after roll call as a “preventative of the effects of malaria”. Such orders did not appear to be effective. [5] Troops from the 130th referred to their camp in Washington, DC as being on ‘the border of a dried up goose pond’.

Map is part of a larger 1837 map: John Mcclellan. Map exhibiting the route of communication between Philadelphia & Charleston. [N.P, 1837] Map.

From Washington, the regiment embarked on an Union transport boat and traveled down the Chesapeake Bay to Fort Monroe. Fort Monroe was a military installation located in Hampton Roads, Virginia, on the Peninsula overlooking the Chesapeake Bay. It was the only federal military installation in the Upper South to remain under United States control throughout the Civil War and as such provided a strategic transport and control point for supplies. The regiment then traveled by train to their final destination on September 13, 1862 to Suffolk, Virgina.

“This place is about fifty miles southeast from Peterburg, and eight or ten miles from the North Carolina line. Here was being collected an offensive army to threaten the rebel capital from the south. This proved to be our army home for about nine months, as well as our training school for the severe and trying ordeals we were to pass through later on.” [6]

Meanwhile, Daniel’s brother William and the 153rd regiment left the state of New York on October 18, 1862. They may have had travel experiences similar to the 130th as they made their way southward to the nation’s capital. Unlike the 130th regiment, however, the trip to Washington D.C. was their final destination as Provost Guards in Alexandria, Virginia.

While their respective initial assignments to Suffolk and to Alexandria, Virginia were different, they were similar in terms of their shared experiences as being assigned military duty in cities in occupied Confederate territory. Suffolk was occupied by Union Troops from May, 1862, until the end of the Civil War.  Alexandria was occupied the day after Virginia seceded in May, 1861. 

For the first two years of the war, Union commanders advancing into Confederate territory were without a clear understanding of how and when martial law should function and what relationship the army should have toward civilians, slaves, and private property.” [7]

For most of the soldiers on occupation duty …, this was their first exposure to a real “secesh” (secessionist), to blacks, and to the physical landscape of the South. Most of them felt their surroundings to be alien and unfriendly. For their part, the people of Alexandria looked with disfavor upon the troops in their midst. They bridled at requirements for oath-taking (civilians were required to sign oaths of allegiance to the Republic when requesting to travel in and out of the city) and resented nearly all the laws and regulations imposed by the military. By the end of the war, Unionist sentiment had been nearly eradicated.[8]

Daniel’s First Half of His Tour of Duty: Engagements & Skirmishes in Virgina and a Transition to the Calvary

Daniel’s infantry regiment was assigned to the 1st Division, VII Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The 1st Division was commanded by Gen. Michael Corcoran. In the ensuing months, the 130th New York regiment ‘cut their teeth’ in battle and were engaged in the major encounters of the Battle of Deserted House and took part in the Siege of Suffolk in April and May 1863. During his first year and a half of service, Private Daniel Griffis witnessed and possibly participated in 10 major engagements in northern Virgina. His regiment was in the thick of the war at the time. After the engagement at Manassas Plains, he possibly was a wagon master and may not have been on the picket lines or the leading edge of skirmishes:

  • Blackwater, VA December 2, 1862
  • Near Blackwater, December 28, 1863
  • Deserted House (or Kelly’s Store), VA January 30, 1863
  • Siege of Suffolk, April 11 – May 4, 1863
  • South Quay Road, VA April 17, 1863
  • South Quay, VA June 12, 1863
  • Franklin, VA, June 13, 1863
  • Blackwater, VA, June 16-17, 1863
  • Baltimore Cross Roads, VA July 4, 1863
  • Manassas Plains, VA October 17, 1863
  • Culpepper Courthouse, VA November 20, 1863
  • Barnett’s Ford, VA December 2, 1863
  • Barnett’s Ford, VA January 20, 1864
  • Barnett’s Ford, VA February 6-7, 1864 (This is when Daniel Wrote a letter to his father Joel)

After the battle of Deserted House in January 1863, aside from numerous skirmishes along the picket lines where they may have camped, the regiment was not under fire until the Siege of Suffolk. The two intervening months of February and March were consumed with work on building fortifications around Suffolk and picket line duty under the direction of Major General Peck. The trenches and fortifications that Daniel and his fellow troops built around Suffolk spanned about 15 miles in the shape of a horseshoe with the open end toward Norfolk and the Great Dismal Swamp. The Nansemond River curved like a snake to form the natural north boundary.

Nearly 60,000 men faced off across the Nansemond River beginning April 11, 1863 when Confederate troops under Lt. Gen. James A. Longstreet attacked the heavily fortified Union stronghold in Suffolk. (Drawing on the left: Union Signal Corps tower: “Pine-Tree Station” was one of many Signal Corps towers erected to protect the Union lines in Suffolk.)

Despite Confederate Longstreet’s efforts to surround Suffolk by land and water, he abandoned the takeover attempt of the city based on Union Major General Peck’s preparation of building forts and rifle pits surrounding the city and having gunboats in the Nansemond River. Instead he and the Confederate troops settled down to a regular siege that lasted until May 4, 1863.

“On the afternoon of April 11, our pickets were rapidly driven in or captured, and from Terry’s front, on the west, where our camp was located, we beheld long lines of rebel infantry as they came up and filed off to the right and the left of the South Quay road. At the same time two other columns were marching on other roads to strike us from both the north and south… . The whirl of the long roll was heard in every camp, and in all directions troops were seen scurrying to the forts and rifle pits. Our brigade, under General Terry, immediately took position in the trenches, where we remained under the siege. All through the first night our ears caught the sound of picks and shovels, and what was our surprise in the morning to see before us, just across the river, a long line of rifle pits full of rebel sharpshooters…. The popping up of heads and dodging down when we saw a puff of smoke reminded one of woodchuck hunting.” [9]

Map of Suffolk

This is a pen and ink map, 12.5 x 15.25 in., on two sheets of notebook paper laid on cigar paper. It is an highly detailed map showing the position of each regiment present at Suffolk, as well as the locations of Union sharpshooters, batteries, hospitals, breastworks, garrisons, churches, and cemeteries. The Seaboard & Roanoke and Petersburg & Norfolk Railroads are also identified. The map belonged to George William Gragg, a private with Company K, 6th Massachusetts Infantry, his regiment was stationed in Suffolk, Virginia from September 1862 until June 1863, attached to the 7th Army Corps, Department of Virginia.

Daniel Griffis’ 130th New York Infantry regiment was situated in the upper left hand corner of the map next to the Seaboard and Roanoke RR line. Click on Map for Larger Image

While there were numerous skirmishes during the siege of the Union encampment in Suffolk, there were interesting incidents that occurred along the front, reflecting the basic essence of what it is to be human even during war, as described below. The trading of goods and swapping of stories were essentially a ‘courtship ritual’ when picket posts were in place and the troops occupied an area for an extended period of time. Within the life situations soldiers were placed, basic trust developed and humans reached out to other humans on the other side and soldiers opened up about the war, their families, and life in general. [10]

Drawing of Edwin Forbes “Pickets trading between the lines” Library of Congress

“Sometimes, however, the monotony was broken by an armistice between the two hostile lines, when the men on both sides would swarm out of the entrenchments and enjoy a season of friendly intercourse, telling stories, cracking jokes, or singing for each other’s entertainment. Occasionally they would cross over and exchange hardtack, coffee, salt, and other things for tobacco. It was quite a fashion to exchange coat buttons.” [11]

After the siege, the regiment engaged in a six day reconnoissance on the Blackwater where they participated in a number of skirmishes at South Quay and Franklin “where we had more skirmishing… Comrade A.F. Robinson relates that as we entered the captured pits, one of the regiment found a violin, and while the fight was in progress, commenced playing and dancing.” [12]

After their 20 mile home march back to Suffolk on June 18, they struck up their tents, packed up and left Suffolk on June 19, 1863. “we bade farewell to our camps, and to the tune of “The Girl I left Behind Me”, we marched to the cars.” [13] They took a train to Norfolk, boarded a boat and arrived at Yorktown the following day.

The 130th regiment marched from Yorktown to White House Landing. During their three weeks of ‘masterly inactivity’ they recorded victories with a force of 1,050 calvary within rebel lines to Hanover Courthouse, destroying bridges, capturing or killing 125 of the enemy, securing horses, mules wagons, supplies and “$15,000 of Confederate bonds’. Among their prisoners was the son of General Robert E. Lee, Brigadier General William F. Lee.

Leaving Yorktown July 11, they arrived in Washington the following day; and then to Federick City, Maryland on the 16th when Colonel Gibbs reported to General Meade. The regiment then marched to Warrenton on July 25th.

Daniel Assumes Wagon Master duties

“The strenuous efforts of Colonel Gibbs had at length been rewarded with success, and our regiment was the recipient of honors bestowed upon no other in the history of the war. There were regiments of mounted infantry, but no other instance in which an absolute transference from infantry to calvary occurred. The special orders from the war department touching this transfer, bear date July 28, 1863… .” [14]

Special Orders Number 205, dated August 2, 1863, signed by General Meade, directed the 130th New York Volunteers to proceed to Manassas Junction and form a camp of instruction for the purpose of ‘being recognized and receiving its arms and equipments. … The regiment is attached to the calvary corps, and reports and returns will hereafter be rendered accordingly.’

Daniel’s regiment was converted to a cavalry regiment on July 28, 1863, and designated as the 19th Regiment New York Volunteer Cavalry. The 19th Cavalry was officially re-designated as the 1st Regiment New York Dragoons on September 10, 1863. It was probably during this period that Daniel became a wagon master.

While infantry units had wagon masters and teamsters to manage supplies and ambulance units, Daniel’s military files suggest he did not become a wagon master until the regiment was transformed into a calvary unit. This was a massive transformation for the regiment and for the individual soldiers. Everyone in the regiment was personally impacted and undoubtably given new assignments. His role as wagon master, as documented in pension records, is evident in January and February 1864. [15]

The work required of wagon masters and teamsters was stressful, backbreaking and often dangerous. One infantryman admitted that all the drivers labored in “one of the most wearing departments of the service.” Wagon masters maintained the wagons and the teams of horses or mules, directed the teamsters who drove individual wagons and may as well have driven wagons. Regulations required wagon masters and teamsters to grease the axles or repair the wheels; feed, water, and curry the horses; and possibly to load and unload cargo. [16] Union military orders indicated there should be one wagoner for an infantry or calvary company of approximately 100 soldiers. [17]

Daniel probably managed a six mule wagon along with the others duties associated with a wagon master. The standard wagon utilized during the Civil War was a six mule or horse wagon. The six-mule wagon was the “coin of the realm of Civil War logistics”. [18] The origin of the six mule wagon can be traced to the military demands for a standardized four mule transport wagon in the late 1830’s. Constructed along the same lines as the earlier four mule wagon, the six-mule wagon was built using the same basic specifications with the exceptions of heavier wheels, larger axles and increased dimensions to the lower side rails on the body.  The wagons weighed about 2,000 pounds and could carry approximately the same load. However, with the addition of more pairs of draft animals, the loads could be more easily transported over long distances without wearing out the team as quickly. [19]

The first actual contract for the Six-Mule Wagon was on February 9, 1855. [20] By 1858, with all the reports received back on the design, the final Quartermaster specifications were printed. These specifications would remain unchanged until the end of the Civil War. Based upon knowledge gained during the Civil War, a new set of Six-Mule Wagon Specification were prepared in 1865.

A six-mule team “was hitched in three spans. The largest mules, the wheel pair, were hitched closest to the wagon. The swing pair was in the middle. The leaders, probably the smallest and supposedly the smartest, were in front. Wagons were driven by a muleskinner who rode the left-hand mule (i.e., facing forward) nearest to the wagon. This position was occupied by the near-side wheel mule, also called the near-pole mule. The left file of mules … was the near-side and the right file was the off-side. The near-side leader was connected to the off-side leader by an iron pole. The mules were steered by a single rein running back from the near-side lead mule. The team turned to the left when the driver yelled “Haw” and pulled steadily on the rein. A shout of “Gee”, accompanied by quick jerks on the rein, caused the team to turn to the right. Shouting “Yay” sent the team straight ahead.”[21]

Forbers- Drawing of a Mule Team and Driver
Forbes, Edwin, Artist. Study of a Mule Team and Wagon, With Driver, United States Virginia Culpeper Court House, 1863. Sept. 30. Photograph.

As indicated in the above quote and indicated in Earl Hess’ incisive work, this drawing by Edwin Forbes provides an accurate depiction of how mule driven wagon teams were driven in the Civil War. The driver is seated on the left rear mule rather than on the box of the wagon. The driver controlled the other mules by means of using the reins and a whip. [22]

During most of the war, each regiment had, on average, six wagons that were dedicated to its immediate needs. [23] One of the wagons hauled the surgeon’s medical stores. Another carried the tents and the baggage of the field and staff officers. The third wagon carried the baggage of the line officers. The fourth wagon hauled the pans and kettles of the line companies. The fifth and sixth wagons carried rations. Brigades, divisions and army corps were apportioned additional wagons to carry baggage, rations, forage, hospital supplies, ammunition, entrenching tools and quartermaster supplies.

The mobility of the army depended on the carrying capacity of its wagons. Toward the end of the war, the Army of the Potomac carried ten days of rations and ordnance stores for an entire campaign. The number of wagons per regiment varied depending on circumstances and military campaigns and there are a variety of Union military General Orders that qualify the use and deployment of wagons. [24]

As the war progressed, experience varied and fine tuned the army‟s knowledge of the carrying capacity of a six-mule wagon. For example:

“An army wagon will carry conveniently, with what forage is usually added, about 2,500 pounds, making with the forage 3,000 pounds, which is about the greatest capacity over moderately good roads; even this amount will be found very great if the march is continued long each day or requires to be at all rapid.” [25]  “…I have found that an army wagon will haul from 700 to 800 complete rations, if well packed, and 1,200 of the ordinary marching ration.” [26] Brigadier General Ingalls, the Chief Quartermaster of the Army of the Potomac, said that “One wagon will carry 1,200 rations hard bread; 2,000 rations coffee (1 barrel); 1,800 rations sugar (1 barrel); 300 rations (two-eights pound) pork (1 barrel, 1 box, 25 pounds); 1,200 rations salt (1 box, 45 pounds); 36 rations (9 pounds to ration) oats (3 sacks); gross weight, 2,674 pounds.” [27]

Wagon masters and teamsters generally worked under the quartermaster. Quartermasters had little patience with incompetence or mistakes, and these hard pressed supply czars often vented their frustration on those driving the teams, who in turn cracked their whips, alternately eased and yanked the leather reins, and made “the air blue with profanity addressed to their mules, individually or collectively, so that the anxiety to get through was felt by all the moving forces in the train,” as one observer put it. [28] Brigadier-General Butterfield said: “The quartermaster should have his train thoroughly disciplined and under his control to move it with as much facility as a battery of artillery can be moved.” [29]

Soldiers may have considered driving wagon as an escape from the front lines. However, teamsters and wagon masters transported all sorts of valuable goods and were under constant danger of capture or worse, even when they had large escorts of armed troops. The ponderous size of wagon trains made them inviting targets and easy to find. [30]

Among the teamster and wagon man’s many enemies were shoddy, stump-filled roads, sucking mud that threatened to swallow up teams and wagons whole, and lame or otherwise injured animals. Drivers often found themselves down in the dirt, digging out their wagons or helping mechanics with repairs. They were also responsible for the care of their hard-working teams and constantly fed their animals from the sacks of forage they lugged in each 2,500- to 2,800- pound wagonload. [31]

Daniel: Manassas to Mitchell’s Station

The regiment moved by rail August 3, 1863 from Warrenton Junction to Union Mills and on August 6, 1863 established their first camp at Manassas Junction to start their training as a calvary unit. They received their horses September 13, 1863 just one month before they were to break camp. For a short period after their transfer, the regiment was known as the 19th New York Calvary. Their quartermaster Abram Lawrence suggested the name “First New York Dragoons” which was adopted and confirmed by the governor of New York. The order announcing the change was read on October 10, 1863 during a dress parade.

“During our two month’s sojourn in camp of instruction at Manassas, we were almost incessantly always annoyed by the notorious guerrilla, Mosby, and his band of thieving cut-throats, who were always prowling about the outskirts of our camp, like a pack of hungry wolves, ready to pounce upon and capture or kill our men and horses. Notwithstanding our strong picket line and the exercise of vigilance, we suffered from his depredations. If suppressed on one side of the camp, he bobbed up serenely on the other. He was the new version of Paddy’s flea – ‘Put yer hand where he is, and he ain’t there.’ “ [32]

After breaking training camp at Manassas, the regiment rejoined the Army of the Potomac and had their first engagements a calvary unit October 13, 1863 at Manassas Plains.

“Since breaking camp have been in our saddles from fifteen to twenty hours every day, not stopping two nights in one place. One night we rode for hours in a terrific storm: in fact, it was a rainstorm and hurricane combined, as we were almost blown off of our horses. For three days we have traveled in our water-soaked clothing, but today, by sun and fire, we have dried off somewhat. Most of the time we have subsisted on hardtack and raw pork, and having opportunity to cook or make coffee.” [33]

The First Dragoons had a major engagement at Culpepper Courthouse November 20, 1863.

“On the 14th and 15th (of December) we had another long and tiresome chase after Mosby, who had run off an infantry wagon and the mules. Starting at sundown we rode rapidly all night, scarcely stopping until we had made nearly forty miles; but nary a Mosby did we get…we followed the trail, the tracks became fresher and more distinct until the prize seemed almost within our grasp, when suddenly, as if the earth had opened and swallowed it up, in some inexplicable and mysterious manner all traces were lost. Even Major Scott, who had the sagacity of an Indian was completely nonplussed.” [34]

At the end of 1863 and the beginning of 1864, notwithstanding the continued demands of outpost duty and scouting expeditions in the Virginia countryside, Daniel and the Dragoons were able have a ‘four month sojourn’ in permanent quarters at Mitchell Station, Virgina. Around December 20, 1863, the regiment was directed to construct winter quarters near Culpepper, Virginia. After a week’s worth of work they were ordered to move their camp five miles nearer the front at Mitchell’s Station which was on the Orange and Alexandria Rail Road line. ” To say that there was no grumbling, or even profanity, indulged in, would be such a stretching of the truth. “ They started making their camp on December 27th, 1863 at their new location.

“After assurances that this would be our permanent camp for the winter, the men went to work with renewed energy, devoting all the time spared from picket duty to the construction of winter habitations where, during our period of hibernation, we could have better protection that that afforded by our little shelter tents. … Though not permitted, woodchuck like, to snugly cuddle down until spring, it was nevertheless no small consolation to have comfortable burrows to crawl into when returning, cold and wet, from our severe turns of picket service on the Rapidan.” [35]

William’s First Year: Guarding Prisoners & the Nation’s Capital and Chronic Sickness

Within the capital itself, President Lincoln initiated a comprehensive program of security measures and government reforms that he dubbed “cleaning the devil out of Washington.” [36] The nation’s capital was in between Maryland, a slave state, and the northern border of the Confederate state of Virgina. The Union army used the city to mobilize and supply the Army of the Potomac, defend the eastern seaboard, and launch military thrusts toward Richmond. Believing that the loss of the Union’s capital would lead to immediate defeat, the Confederacy targeted Washington throughout the war. During the winter of 1861-62, work began on a 37 mile ring of fortifications around the city. This defensive ring eventually had 68 forts connected by twenty miles of trenches and 800 cannons clustered in 93 artillery positions. [37] The government’s fear for the security of the nation’s capital kept thousands of troops, much to the dismay of army leaders in the field, within the capital’s defense for the remainder of 1863, including the 153rd New York Infantry Volunteers.

To enforce martial law and suppress anti-government subversion and dissent, the Union army established an extensive provost guard. Lincoln empowered the provost guard to enforce both military and civil law in Washington and Alexandria and, among other duties, to arrest civilians upon suspicion of disloyalty and subversion. [38] As part of this national strategy, the 153rd New York Volunteers were deployed to the capital to be part of this effort to protect the capital area as provost guards.

“Provost Marshall troops or the Provost Guard, as they were also known, were the military police of the Union Army during the American Civil War. They had a separate chain of command from the regular and volunteer troops answering only to the Provost Marshall of each Division or Corps. While in the field they acted as the security detachment for Division and Corps Headquarters. They protected Headquarters units and provided men to guard captured Confederates on their way to the rear. They provided security against Confederate guerrillas and raiders. They were often the only law enforcement available to civilians after the Union Army arrived. It was vital that the Union Army provide men willing to be fair and honest in their dealings with the soldiers and the local civilian populace.”[39]

The responsibilities of the provost guard were:

  • “Suppression of marauding and depredations, and of all brawls and disturbances, preservation of good order, and suppression of disturbances beyond the limits of the camps.
  • Prevention of straggling on the march.
  • Suppression of gambling-houses, drinking-houses, or bar-rooms, and brothels.
  • Regulation of hotels, taverns, markets, and places of public amusement.
  • (Executing) Searches, seizures, and arrests. Execution of sentences of general courts-martial involving imprisonment or capital punishment. Enforcement of orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors, whether by tradesmen or sutlers, and of orders respecting passes.
  • (Guarding) Deserters from the enemy.
  • (Guarding) Prisoners of war taken from the enemy
  • Countersigning safeguards.
  • (Issuing) Passes to citizens within the lines and for purposes of trade.
  • (Managing) Complaints of citizens as to the conduct of the soldiers.” [40]

From their inception as a regiment and up to October 18, 1862, the 153rd New York Volunteers were under the command of Colonel Duncan McMartin. Between October 1862 and February 1863, the regiment was assigned guard and provost marshal duty in Alexandria, Virginia. They were under command of Colonel Clarence Buell of the 169th New York volunteers who headed the Provisional Brigade, Abercrombie’s division, Defenses of Washington.

The regiment was subsequently transferred on February 2, 1863 to the District of Alexandria, Defense of Washington to continue their provost guard duties in the nation’s capital and were under the command of Brigadier General John Slough. During this detail they were residing in Camp Slough which was west of Alexandria. Specific locations that they performed their duties were: Alexandria City Patrol, Hunting Creek which included guarding a bridge across the Potomac River, General Slough’s office (City Provost Marshal Office – photograph below) [41] , Alexandria Jail [42] , the Contraband Depot [43] , and the Water Battery [44] .

Guard and Provost Marshal Duty Locations of the 153rd New York Volunteers Under General Slough

Hunting Creek, Alexandria, VA

Hunting Creek

Hunting Creek Bridge, near Alexandria, Va. United States Alexandria Virginia, None. [Photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889] Photograph.

Click on Photograph to larger view.

City Provost Marshals Office

Provost Marshall’s Office, Alexandria, Virginia 1861-1865: Series: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, 1921 – 1940 Record Group 111: Records of the Office of the Chief Signal Officer, 1860 – 1985

Click on Photograph for larger view.

Alexandra Jail

The Old Jail was located at the northeast corner of Princess and North St. Asaph streets. Those housed in the jail included convicted criminals, debtors, and enslaved people. During the Civil War when the Union occupied Alexandria, military prisoners were also held there.

Contraband Depot

Source: Mathew Brady Photographs of Civil War-Era Personalities and Scenes, 1921 – 1940

In February 1863, Military Governor John Slough ordered one part of the building to be turned into a hospital for contrabands. ‘Contrabands’ were slaves who escaped to Union lines during the Civil War

Click photograph for larger view.

Water Battery

Battery Rodgers, Potomac River, near Alexandria. United States Alexandria Virginia, None. [Photographed between 1861 and 1865, printed between 1880 and 1889] Photograph.

Click on Photograph for larger view

Water Battery – Battery Rodgers, Alexandria, VA, Library of Congress

Old City Jail or Alexandria Jail was one of five Union prisons that were used in Alexandria, Virginia during the Civil War. Two were previously used as prisons: the Old City Jail on Saint Asaph Street and the Birch Slave Jail at 1315 Duke Street. The other three prisons were large buildings housing the former Green furniture factory at Prince and South Fairfax Streets, the Odd Fellows Hall at 218 North Columbus Street, and the massive Mount Vernon Cotton Mill at 515 North Washington Street, renamed the Washington Street Military Prison. [45]

William Griffis arrived in Alexandria, Virgina on October 22, 1862. A fellow Company A soldier and Mayfield neighbor, John Dye, recalled on their day of arrival that “…the night was very cold. We had no tents to protect us from the inclemency of the weather. (William) caught a heavy cold and was sent to (the Arlington) Jail to do inside duty not being able to do outside duty.[46]

Based on available historical records, William Griffis spent most of his time at the end of 1862 and the following four months in 1863 guarding prisoners at the old Jail in Alexandria. In January, 1863 William had contracted a cold that turned into chronic laryngitis. He was diagnosed as having ‘catarrhal laryngitis’. Catarrhal laryngitis in civil war era parlance was ‘inflammation of the mucous membranes’ with no specific cause. He may have also had pneumonia. [47] He was assigned guard duty at the Old City Jail for light duty and reported to the regimental hospital for medicine on a recurrent basis.

William’s sickness was not unique. With a sea of army tents surrounding the Capitol for a radius of three miles, massive numbers of soldiers coming from all Union states, and the absence of modern water and sewage systems, infectious diseases were endemic in Washington, DC. During the war, epidemics of smallpox, typhoid fever, and measles plagued the wartime city. In December 1862, the Colonel of the 153rd ordered the vaccination of the entire command for smallpox. [48] Around this time Sarah Wakeman, who was a soldier of the regiment, wrote home to indicate that two men died in her company and 30 in her regiment also died purportedly due to measles and “there is quite a number sick”. [49] The human toll was heart rending and included the Lincolns’ 11-year-old son Willie, who succumbed to typhoid fever early in 1862. Lincoln himself nearly died from smallpox in the weeks that followed his Gettysburg Address in mid 1863. The likelihood of succumbing to disease was very high when stationed in the nation’s capital.

As indicated in the muster roll documents in William’s military file (below), William was detailed to the Alexandria Jail pursuant to an Order by Brigadier General Slough on February 25 or 26, 1863. William was assigned to the Jail for guard duty from end of February through June of 1863. He was stationed at Camp Slough, Alexandria, Virginia with the regiment but his duties were detached from the regiment’s assigned duties.

In anticipation of expected draft riots in Washington City , a special order was issued to transfer the 153rd regiment from Alexandria to Washington City. [50] In July 1863, the 153rd was transferred to Washington City and placed under the commend of Brigadier General John Henry Martindale. The regiment moved into the barracks on Capital Hill as unattached troops in the 22nd Army Corps, Department of Washington. As private Rosetta Wakeman wrote in an undated letter to her father, the regiment’s living quarters were perhaps an improvement from Camp Slough in Alexandria.

Dear Father,

I will Write a few lines today and let you know What kind of quarters we have got. We are in Barracks. They are good ones.

My Co. and Co. C is in one building. The buildings is two story high. The place for sleep is upstairs and down below is a room for to do the Cooking and a place to eat. We can get good Water to drink outside of the guard. It is Well Water. We Can get Water to Wash With inside of the guard. It is Water that comes from the river. The river Water is a little salty, for the tide sit up the river as far as George town.

I can’t think of any more to write Present so good-by. [51]

When the regiment was transferred to Washginton, D.C. on July 21, 1863, William Griffis followed 14 days later and was assigned to the Railroad ‘Washington’ Depot detail. This reassignment of the regiment was undoubtably a swift military reaction to the New York draft riots.

Rioting on Lexington Avenue in New York City, following the first published draft call, 1863.
Source: Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

The New York city draft riots (July 11 – 16, 1863) were the culmination of the sentiment among working class whites and proslavery supporters of the Democratic Party. The enactment of the Emancipation Proclamation in January 1863 capped two years of increasing support for emancipation in New York City. From the time of Lincoln’s election in 1860, the Democratic Party had warned New York’s Irish and German residents to prepare for the emancipation of slaves and the resultant labor competition when southern blacks would supposedly flee to the north. The Emancipation Proclamation was confirmation of their worst perceived fears. In March 1863, stricter federal draft laws added fuel to the fire. All male citizens between twenty and thirty-five and all unmarried men between thirty-five and forty-five years of age were subject to military duty. The federal government entered all eligible men into a lottery. Those who could afford to hire a substitute or pay the government three hundred dollars could avoid enlistment.  Local events came to a head in July.

When recruiting for the army began in July 1863, a mob in New York wrecked the main recruiting station. Then, for three days, crowds of white workers marched through the city, destroying buildings, factories, streetcar lines, and private property. They marched through the streets, forcing factories to close, recruiting more members of the mob. They set the city’s colored orphan asylum on fire. They shot, burned, and hanged African Americans they found in the streets. Many people were thrown into the rivers to drown. On the fourth day, Union troops returning from the Battle of Gettysburg came into the city and stopped the rioting.[52]

Based on the letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman in September 1863, [53] the 153rd Regiment was responsible for guarding five locations in the Washington, D.C. area: the 153rd regimental camp, Carroll prison, the Railroad Depot where William Griffis was assigned, City Hall, and City guard. City Hall was where the military draft operations and physical examinations were conducted.

Washington Depot, with U. S. Capitol in the Distance (1872)

The photograph was taken after the Civil War. [54] On December 2, 1863, the last section of the Statue of Freedom was put in place on top of the dome. The interior of the dome was finished in January 1866 capital dome was not completed until after the war. [55] Click photograph for larger view.

Provost guard duty at the Washington Depot must have provided William Griffis with a wide variety of daily interaction with troops coming from and going to a multitude of places. In a letter to her father, Sarah Wakeman, who was from Company H of the 153rd, wrote,

“Our regiment has to guard Carroll Prison and the Depot and City Hall. When I am down to the Depot and see so many men and women agoing North it makes me homesick”. [56]

From late April 1861, the arrival of Union troops at the Washington Depot was constant. 

“During the Civil War, there were scenes which it is to be hoped will never be witnessed again – troops passing through the city by thousands, most of them debarked a few yards north of the New Jersey Avenue Station.” [57]

The federal government erected a ‘Soldier’s Rest’, a precursor of a USO station, near the rail depot to provide temporary accommodations and meals for arriving troops. 

“Meals were prepared and served to soldiers, and at one time no less than sixteen regiments and smaller bodies of troops were furnished with meals within twenty-four hours.” [58]

The Washington Depot also witnessed dramatic increases in rail transport of livestock and supplies. Incoming freight increased from an average of eight cars per day in 1860 to more than 400 cars per day between October 1861 to March 1862.  In October 1861 a new freight warehouse, measuring 20 by 300 feet, was constructed just north of the depot.  To further accommodate the increased traffic, a Y, to turn engines, and additional side tracks were laid in the depot yard in 1864. [59]

Detail of a 1859 Map of Washington, showing the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railway and its termination into the Railroad Depot. [60] Click photograph for larger view.

The Railroad Depot is labeled 107 on the map. By the time of the Civil war, the B&O Railroad controlled 513 miles of track and used 236 locomotives, 128 passenger cars and 3,451 freight cars [61]

Carrol Prison (Old Capital Prison)

John Singleton Mosby the “Gray Ghost“, before leading his Battalion of Mosby Raider’s, was captured as a confederate scout on July 20, 1863 while waiting for a train at the Beaverdam Depot in Hanover County, Virginia.

Mosby was imprisoned in the Old Capitol Prison  for ten days before being exchanged as part of the war’s first prisoner exchange. He perhaps was guarded by the 153rd New York volunteers and while William Griffis was assigned to the Washington Depot.

The following year Mosby’s Raiders captured william’s brother Daniel Griffis on a wagon train raid. Source: Library of Congress  .

The Old Capitol prison, Washington, D.C.. Photograph by William Redish. (Photographed between 1861 and 1865). Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. In 1929, the site was acquired by eminent domain and the brick building was razed to clear the site for the U.S. Supreme Court Building. Click on image for larger view.

Carrol Prison originally was called The Old Capitol (or “old brick Capitol“) and was constructed in 1815 as a temporary meeting space for Congress after the British burned the U.S. Capitol in 1814. During the Civil War, the Old Capitol was repurposed as a prison for Confederate prisoners of war, spies, blockade runners, and Union army officials convicted of insubordination. The warden of the prison was William P. Wood, and during the prison’s service, Wood commented that 30,000 prisoners passed through its gates. Following his service as warden, Wood became the first chief of the Secret Service. [62]

Confederate spy Rose O’Neal Greenhow (1817–1864) and her daughter Rose imprisoned in Old Capitol Prison

Photograph by Mathew Brady- Levin Handy. Photographed 1862. Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. Click on image for larger view.

In an undated letter to her father, Rosetta Wakeman references Rose O’Neal based on her guard duty: [63]

“I have just thought of something new to Write to you. It is as following.

“Over to Carroll Prison they have got three women that is Confined in their Rooms. One of them was a Major in the union army and she went into battle with her men. When the Rebels bullets was coming like a hail storm she rode her horse and gave orders to the men. Now She is in Prison for not doing aCcording to the regulation of war.

“The other two is rebel Spies and they have Catch them and Put them in Prison. They are Smart looking women and [have] good education.

“I Can’t think of any more to Write at this time. Write soon as you get this letter.”

Rosetta Wakeman

John D. Brownell served with William Griffis in Company A of the 153rd regiment. Brownell mustered in as a private in Gloversville, New York on August 30, 1862 and was made a second lieutenant the following day, August 31, 1862. Within Union volunteer regiments, enlisted men elected many of their officers and governors appointed the rest. The practice of electing officers was reduced to a small scale by 1863. Brownell evidently was well liked or known to be elected as an officer. Brownell was promoted to first lieutenant on July 7, 1863. [64] Brownell indicated in a letter after the war that William Griffis was plagued with recurrent medical issues associated with “disease of the lungs” throughout his military career. He indicated he was present with William in February 1863 in Alexandria when he was sick

“…with disease of the lungs he having contracted the same from exposure while in the line of duty and was on the sick list and absent from the regiment for about five months (he was detailed to the Alexandria Jail ) … he was then sent to do light duty at the Rail Depot at Washington … subsequently he was again taken sick and was sent to (the) regimental hospital on Capital Hill and from there was sent home on sick furlough.”[65]

Brownell’s statement contains a number of historic observations about William and what it was like at that historic time period. “Disease of the lungs” or pneumonia was often a deadly illness in the 1800’s. Sir William Osler, considered by many to be the father of modern medicine, described pneumonia in the late 1800s as “the most fatal of all acute diseases.” [66] During the Civil War, the illness had a mortality rate of 24%, making “inflammation of the lungs and pleura” the third most common cause of death from disease during the cvil war conflict. [67]

It is not known how frequent William’s bout with the ‘lung disease’ prevented him from performing his military duties. We also do not know if William was the exception or the rule when it came to dealing with this and other physical maladies in his regiment. However, the sickness, incapacitation, and reduction of troops capable of performing was significant on an enduring basis.

“(T)he stark reality was that even for the victorious the average soldier was about twice as likely to die of a disease contracted in camp than of a wound acquired in battle. The chief culprits in order of prevalence were diarrhea and dysentery (euphemistically referred to by its victims as “the Tennessee trots” or “Virginia quickstep”), accounting for more than 1.3 million cases and some 35,000 deaths; malaria, typhoid, and assorted camp fevers came next; then respiratory ailments (catarrh, bronchitis, and so-called lung inflammation [pneumonia]); and, finally, assorted digestive disorders.” [68]

The physical impact of environmental, health, and other factors on the well being of and anticipated management of soldiers was encoded in military operations and logistics. Having 1,000 men on the regimental roles, the aggregate strength (also known as the rationing strength), was not the same the same thing as having those men on the battle line, which was referred to as the effective strength of the unit. [69] A Colonel commanding 1,000 men could count on over 35% of his troops being absent at any given time.

“The “absent‟ were not present with the armies at the front, but were generally in rear of the base of supplies; and even of the “present‟ (‘present’ or ‘absent’ was noted on individual muster rolls for soldiers) we had to estimate at least one-third as detached, guarding our long lines of supply, sick in hospital, company cooks, teamsters, escorts to trains, and absent from the ranks by reason of the many causes incident to war.”  [70]

William Griffis utilized the services of the ‘regimental hospital’ to assist in his issues with lungs and respiratory system. In theory, every regiment had a hospital (a regiment was 10 companies of 100 men each). Armies on the march typically had field hospitals with supplies carried along in wagons and they set up wherever they could and were organized around ranks of tents. Armies that were encamped had post hospitals created out of tents or wooden barracks. The post hospitals were organized at the regimental or brigade (3 to 6 regiments) level. The Nation’s capital hosted huge camp hospitals for troops moving through the city. [71]

It is not known when William was at the regimental hospital at Capital Hill. He was there for six weeks and then sent home on a medical furlough. The furlough ended February 4, 1864 and he returned to duty in Washington.

Looking Ahead

At the beginning of 1864, William Griffis was convalesceing at home in January 1864. His older brother Daniel was adapting to his winter quarters at Mitchell’s Station, Virginia. At the beginning of February, 1864, William arrives back in Washington to resume provost guard duty. His brother is 60 miles to the south west at Mitchell’s station, near the Orange And Alexandria Railroad, five miles from the front where the Army of Virgina is across the Rapidan River, engaged with picket duty and working with his mules and wagon. Only 60 miles separate the brothers but they live and experience two totally different worlds.

Locations of Daniel Griffis (Mitchell’s Station Virgina and William Griffis, Washington City, Map created by W. Vaisz for the Virginia Central Railroad Company, 1852. Digital image from Library of Congress. – From the Library of Congress , Click on image for larger view.


Featured photograph: E. Sachse & Co., Lithographer. Camps of U.S. troops around Washington City, from S. to W. / Lith. by E. Sachse & Co., Balto. Md. United States Arlington Washington D.C. Virginia, ca. 1861. Washington, D.C.: publ. by C. Bonn. Photograph

[1] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, Page 10.

[2] Browning, Judkin and Timothy Silver, An Environmental History of the Civil War, Capel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2020, Page 26

[3] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, Page 11.

[4] Winkle, Kenneth, Washington: Capital of the Union, Essential Civil War Curriculum. September, 2016

[5] Browning, Judkin & Silver, Timothy, An Environmental History of the Civil War, Chapel Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2020, Page 29

[6] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, Page 14.

[7] Berler, Anne Karen, A Most Unpleasant Part of your Duties: Military Occupation in Four Southern Cities, 1861-1865, PhD Dissertation, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2011, Page 3

[8] Ibid, Page 11-12

[9] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, Pages 71-72.

[10] Carmichael, Peter S., The War for the Common Soldier: How Men Thought, Fought, and Survived in Civil War Armies, Chapel,Hill: The University of North Carolina Press, 2018, Page 246

[11] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons Page 75-76.

[12] Ibid, Page 81

[13] Ibid, Page 81

[14] Ibid, Page 89

[15] February 4, 1878 Correspondence from the Pension Office, Department of Interior to Pension Examiners, Request for Furnish Full Medical History of Daniel Griffis, 1st Reg. NYD. Based on the information from the Office of Adjutant General of the U.S. Army, Daniel was documented as present in January and February 1864 as a wagon master.

[16] Butterfield, Brigadier-General Daniel. (1862). Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry. Originally published in New York NY by Harper & Brothers, Publishers and republished in Mechanicsburg VA by Stackpole books (2003); Velo, James, contributor to the Essential Civil War  Curriculum Project , What was the function of a Wagon master in the American Civil War?, Jul 24, 2019 Quora

[17] General Orders 110, Organization of the Volunteer Army of the United States April 29, 1863. The War of the Rebellion: a Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, III, Series III

[18] Lindmier, Thomas, The Great Blue Army Wagon: The History of Wheeled Transportation in the Frontier Army, Lexington, KY: Carriage Museum of America, 2009; See also History of the Army Wagon, Wheel and Wagon Shop, Page accessed January 4, 2021 ; Hess, Earl J, Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation, Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 2017

[19] Lackey, Rodney C., Notes on Civil War Logistics: Facts and Stories, United States Army Transportation Corps and Transportation School, Fort Lee, Virginiano date, Accessed December 15, 2020.

[20] Lindmier, Thomas, The Great Blue Army Wagon: The History of Wheeled Transportation in the Frontier Army, Lexington, KY: Carriage Museum of America, 2009

[21] Lackey, Rodney C., Notes on Civil War Logistics: Facts and Stories, United States Army Transportation Corps and Transportation School, Fort Lee, Virginiano date, Accessed December 15, 2020.

[22] Forbes, Edwin, Artist. Study of a Mule Team and Wagon, With Driver. United States Virginia Culpeper Court House, 1863. Sept. 30. Photograph. ;

Hess, Earl J, Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation, Baton Rouge: Louisiana University Press, 2017 Page 221

[23] O.R., Series 1, Volume 11, Part 3, pp. 365-366: General Orders Number 153, dated August 10, 1862.

[24] Lackey, Rodney C., Notes on Civil War Logistics: Facts and Stories, United States Army Transportation Corps and Transportation School, Fort Lee, Virginian, date accessed December 15, 2020.

[25] Captain. N. J. Sapington in How to Feed an Army: Published By Authority of the Secretary of War for use in the Army of the United States, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1901, Page 60.

[26] Carpenter, Lieutenant Colonel C. C. (1901) in How To Feed An Army. United States War Department, Washington DC. Government Printing Office, p. 79.

[27] O.R., Series 1, Volume 29 (Part 2), p.472

[28] Ethier, Eric, Behind the Horsepower of Civil War Armies, Civil War Times May, 2007

[29] Butterfield, Brigadier-General Daniel, Camp and Outpost Duty for Infantry. Originally published in New York NY by Harper & Brothers, Publishers (1862) and republished in Mechanicsburg VA by Stackpole books (2003) Page 47.

[30] Ethier, Eric, Behind the Horsepower of Civil War Armies, Civil War Times May, 2007

[31] Ibid

[32] James Riley Bowen, Regimental History of the First New York Dragoons, Page 99.

[33] Ibid, Page 101

[34] Ipid, Page 108

[35] Ibid, Page 112.

[36] Roy P. Basler, ed., The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, 10 vols. (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1953), 6:226.

[37] Winkle, Kenneth, Washington: Capital of the Union, Essential Civil War Curriculum. September, 2016;

The Fortification System, National Park Service, U.S. Department of Interior, Page updated Aug 27, 2020, page accessed Jan 10, 2021

[38] Winkle, Kenneth, Washington: Capital of the Union, Essential Civil War Curriculum. September, 2016

[39] Steel, Johan, Provost Guard, Civil War Talk, July 31, 2003

[40] The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, Prepared under the direction of the Secretary of War, by Bvt. Lieut Col. Robert N. Scott, Third U.S. Artillery and published pursuant to Act of Congress Approved June 16, 1880, Washington, Government Printing Office, 1881, Series I Volume 5, page 30

[41] Amy Bertsch, former Public Information Officer, and Lance Mallamo, Director, on behalf of the Office of Historic Alexandria, How sweet it is: from military HQ to bank to bakery, Alexandria Times July 21, 2011

[42] Amy Bertsch, Amy and Lance Mallamo, Out of the Attic: Alexandria cotton mill that became a Civil War torture chamber, Office of Historic Alexandria City of Alexandria, Virginia, Alexandria Times, May 11, 2017.

[43] As the number of African American former slaves, known as contrabands, grew, health became an issue. In February 1863, Military Governor John Slough ordered one part of the building to be turned into a hospital for contrabands. Contraband Hospital and School, Page updated on Mar 8, 202, page accessed Feb 3, 2021.

[44] Water Battery (40 Pounder), “No. 30” handwritten in pencil in top left corner Alternate title derived from captioned print, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division: LOT 4336, no. 62., 1864, City of Alexandria, The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Huntington Digital Digital Library;

Battery Rodgers, Wikipedia, page was last edited on 24 July 2018Accessed January 30, 2021

Office of Historic Alexandria, Out of the Attic Battery Rodgers Alexandria Times June 3, 2010 

[45] History of the Sheriff’s Office, City of Alexandria Website, Page updated on Jan 8, 2019

[46] File 280.194, William J. Griffis Claim for Increase, Bureau of Pensions, letter in reply to a September 11, 1900 Bureau of Pensions request for additional information on facts related to the request for pension increase. This is one example of many affidavits that touch on the chronology of events. The chronology of events is difficult to follow in the letter. In his attempt to be brief and fit his description of William’s physical maladies, John Dye, a fellow soldier and neighbor after the war, strings various events together:

  • William had a heavy cold in October 1862 and sent to perform light duty at the Jail.
  • When the regiment was transferred to Washginton, D.C. on July 21, 1863, William followed 14 days later and was assigned to the Railroad Depot detail.
  • He became sick again was sent to the camp hospital and was there for six weeks and then sent home on medical furlough and returned in February 1864.
  • William performed light duty in New Orleans ‘not being able to do picket duty to the close of the war’.

[47] RG 94, Regimental Order Book, 153rd New York Infantry, National Archives

[48] Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta and Lauren Cook Burgess. An uncommon soldier : the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center, 1994. Page 23

[49] Goellnitz, Jenny, Common Civil War Medical Terms, Civil War Battlefield Medicine, Ohio State University, e-history, Department of History

The most common symptom of chronic laryngitis is hoarseness. For the condition to be truly chronic, this hoarseness persists for at least two weeks. Evidently William Griffis exhibit hoarseness or the loss of his voice on recurrent occasions during and after the Civil War. Correspondence from his neighbors indicated at times he talked in a whisper. Depending on the cause of chronic laryngitis, other symptoms can include: 

  • A low, raspy voice 
  • A voice that tires easily, “breaks” or “cracks” 
  • The sensation of a lump in the throat or a dry throat 
  • A constant urge to clear the throat 
  • Heavy mucus in the throat 
  • Chronic cough or postnasal drip 
  • Discomfort during swallowing

Marion Thrasher, Marion, M.D., Chronic Catarrhal Laryngitis, Read by title in the Section of Laryngology and Otology, at the Forty-second Annual Meeting of the American Medical Association, Washington D.C., May 1891.

[50] RG 94, Regimental Order Book, 153rd New York Infantry, National Archives; Special Order No 139, Judy 20, 1863, National Archives

[51] Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta and Lauren Cook Burgess. An uncommon soldier : the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center, 1994. Page 40-41

[52] Kelly, Kate, The Civil War Draft Riots Brought Terror to New York’s Streets, Smithsonian Magazine, September 21, 2017;

Harris, Leslie M., In the Shadow of Slavery: African Americans in New York City, 1626-1863, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2004;

New York City draft riots, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on December 27, 2020, Page access January 11, 2021;

Schecter, Barnet (2007). “The Civil War Draft Riots“. North & South. Civil War Society. 10 (1): 72.

Fry, James Barnet (1885). New York and the Conscription of 1863. G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Cook, Adrian (1974). The Armies of the Streets: The New York City Draft Riots of 1863. University Press of Kentucky.

[53] Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta and Lauren Cook Burgess. An uncommon soldier : the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center, 1994. Page 46

[54] Washington Depot, with U. S. Capitol in the Distance (1872). From Cushings & Bailey (publisher),Part Of: Photographic views of the Baltimore and Ohio Rail Road and its branches from the lakes to the sea, Southern Methodist University, Central University Libraries, DeGolyer Library

[55] Architect of the Capital, Capital Dome

[56] Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta and Lauren Cook Burgess. An uncommon soldier : the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center, 1994. Page 47

[57] Washington Topham, Washington, First Railroad into Washington and its Three Depots, Records of the Columbia Historical Society, Washington, D.C., Vol. 27 (1925), pp. 175-247 (79 pages) Published by: Historical Society of Washington, D.C. Page 232

[58] Ibid, Page 232

[59] Ibid, Page 230

[60] Desilver, Charles.Cushings & Bailey, (1859) Original Map from the Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division Washington, D.C. See also:,_DC_showing_the_B%26O_Railway.png

[61] Hess, Earl J., Civil War Logistics: A Study of Military Transportation, Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University, 2017, Page 120

[62] Brammer, Robert, Old Capitol Prison and the United States Supreme Court, Library of Congress, Law Library, Jan 24, 2020

[63] Wakeman, Sarah Rosetta and Lauren Cook Burgess. An uncommon soldier : the Civil War letters of Sarah Rosetta Wakeman, alias Private Lyons Wakeman, 153rd Regiment, New York State Volunteers. Pasadena, Md: The Minerva Center, 1994. Page 44

[64] Rosters Of The New York Infantry Regiments During The Civil War. Rosters were compiled by the New York State Adjutant General Office. They were published as a set of 43 volumes between 1893 and 1905. Their official titles are Annual Report of the Adjutant-General of the State of New York for the Year … : Registers of the [units numbers]. 

Infantry in the American Civil War, Wikipedia, This page was last edited on 22 January 2021, page accessed 12 Feb 2021

[65] File 280.194, William J. Griffis Claim for Increase, Bureau of Pensions, Department of Interior, Sep 3, 1883 letter by John Brownell

[66] William Osler, The Principles and Practice of Medicine, 3rd ed. (New York, 1898), 108-137; Smart, Charles, ed. The Medical and Surgical History of the War of the Rebellion (Washington, D.C., 1888), pt. 3, vol. 1, 751-810

[67] Lively, Mathew, “The Most Fatal of All Acute Diseases:” Pneumonia and the Death of Stonewall Jackson May 13, 2013, Civil War Monitor

[68] Michael A. Flannery, Michael A., Civil War Pharmacy: A History. Carbondale, IL: South Illinois Press, 2004, Page 22

[69] Phisterer, CPT. Frederick. (1883 and 2002). Statistical Record of the Armies of the United States. The 2002 edition was published in Edison NJ by Castle books. p. 63.

[70] Sherman, General W. T. , The Grand Strategy of the War of the Rebellion. The Century, Vollume 35, Issue 4, Feb. 1888, p.54. 

[71] Lawrence, Susan, Organization of the Hospitals in the Department of Washington, Civil War Washington, directed by Susan C. Lawrence, Elizabeth Lorang, Kenneth M. Price, and Kenneth J. Winkle, is published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln 

Lawrence, Susan C., Military Hospitals in the Department of Washington, Civil War Washington, directed by Susan C. Lawrence, Elizabeth Lorang, Kenneth M. Price, and Kenneth J. Winkle, is published by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln