Did my ancestor come from a prominent family?

Did my ancestor come from a prominent family

#52Ancestors: Lucy Ferris Loop: using her maiden name to bridge generations? [Tweet this]

It’s exciting to find an ancestor with a connection to a prominent family. I’m not talking Kennedy or Rockefeller levels of prominence here, although that would be super. No, even if your prominent family was only important on their little stretch of Main Street USA, it’s still exciting. Know why?

Because those families—the area pioneers, the brave entrepreneurs, the local politicians—all tend to generate lots of records.

Only one problem. If these notable folks aren’t household names now, will you always know when you run across them?

I propose another use for onomastic evidence is allowing it to alert us to the possibility of important family ties. Namely (pun intended!), when a woman gives her maiden name to one or more of her children, we should consider possible reasons why she might do that. If her name was an asset before she married, she may wish to bequeath it.

Ferris Filters Down the Line

According to The Loop Family in America by Victor L. Bennison:

Lucy Ferris and Christian Loop married in about 1781, and they named one of their nine children William Ferris Loop. From there, Ferris became a family name.

William Ferris Loop had a son named after him (William Ferris Loop, Jr.), and his daughter Eliza Ann Loop named one of her children Samuel Ferris Vinton. Eventually, William Sr.’s son Dr. Albert Mortimer Loop would have a grandson named Ferris S. Loop.

It’s not just a name. It’s a connection. The question then is, a connection to what? Or, to whom?

Names can bridge generational gaps.

© Skypixel | Dreamstime.com – Bridge The Gap Photo

Bridging Generations?

Lucy Ferris Loop was a founding member of the First Baptist Church of Hillsdale in 1787 (sources: here and here.) Interesting side note: so was Ruth Jordan, who is identified as Ruth Ferris, wife of Revolutionary veteran William Jordan right here … Sisters, perhaps?

The record of the church’s organization establishes a Ferris connection to Hillsdale NY in mid-to-late 1780s, then. I found Israel Ferris in Hillsdale NY in 1790, likely to be another relative, which encouraged me to keep looking for the Ferris name in Hillsdale NY.

This is how I turned up another reference to Ruth, one that turned out to be a vital clue.

“William Jordan was born in North Castle, Westchester Co., in 1751. He was a soldier in the Revolution and served through the war, participating in the battles of White Plains and Stillwater. He married Ruth Ferris of Horse Neck (now Greenwich, Conn.), and came to Hillsdale soon after the close of the war . . . ” –History of Hillsdale, Columbia County, New York: memorabilia of persons and things of interest, passed and passing, by The Hon. John Francis Collin. Philmont, NY, 1883. Page 76.

So! Ruth Ferris Jordan, known associate of Lucy Ferris Loop, was from Greenwich, Connecticut! Seems worth investigating, doesn’t it?

This is where my research starts to tangle and become complicated. Because you see, there’s an entire book on Ancestry called “A memoir of Silvanus Ferris, 1773-1861: together with some account of his ancestry and descent from Jeffrey Ferris, born in Leicestershire, England, about 1610, who came to America in 1634; and a Genealogy of His Descendants” by Charles Ferris Gettemy, which claims on page 9 that Jeffrey Ferris was one of the earliest settlers of Greenwich.

And there’s a history called “Ye Historic of Ye Town of Greenwich, County of Fairfield and State of Connecticut” by Spencer P. Mead, LL.B. that contains a genealogy of the Ferris family, and about a zillion other Ferris mentions, besides.

And there’s a record titled “Abstract of probate records for the district of Stamford” by Stamford District, Conn. Probate court and Spencer Percival Mead which further establishes the firm Ferris presence in the area.

If my original observation that prominent families generate lots of records holds water, then it looks like I’m onto something with the Ferrises of Greenwich, Conn.

Fine, fine. But were they rich??

I kid, I kid. It doesn’t matter. Quite honestly, I won’t know or understand their financial standing without a good bit of reading. Besides, I haven’t seen in the resources I’ve discovered so far a solid case for Lucy and Ruth as siblings and descendants of Jeffrey Ferris. For now, it’s circumstantial at best.

I’m prone to forgetting that I can’t solve everything in a blog post.

BUT—knowing how family legends work, after all—I do think that it’s plausible that my hypothesis about prominence could be in play. Having an ancestor famous for settling her hometown would certainly be one motive for Lucy to keep the Ferris name alive to own her descendants.

And speaking of legends! I’m breaking my schedule for a bonus post on Thursday, pulling back the curtain on a mystery I did manage to solve—in part because of a family legend about social prominence. I’m stoked about this one! Join me as one first-name-only bride gets her maiden name back.

What about you?

Do you come from money and/or prominence? Got a famous or infamous connection you’ve just gotta share? Brag about it in the comments!

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Next Monday, we’ll come back to #52Ancestors and see if we can create a system for sorting out facts, contradictions, legends, and errors.

Also, I have something really exciting in the hopper…


One Reply to “Did my ancestor come from a prominent family?”

  1. Any idea how William Ferris of Hillsdale fits into this family. I only know he was the father of Anna Ferris who married John Jacobs. Anna was born around 1766. I’m assuming William was born around 1725-1740?

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