As of May 5, 2007, I have rejected my former theory (set forth in the foregoing message). Based on information about the birth of John Croft/Kraft, I have a new theory.
John Croft (or Johan Or Johannes Kraf(f)t, in the original German) was born between March 27, 1758 and January 15, 1764 in Cortlandt, Westchester County, New York. He died December 24, 1857 in Locke, Cayuga County, New York. He married Rebecca Mandeville Abt. 1792 in Westchester County, New York, daughter of John Mandeville and Sarah Drake. She was born March 01, 1774 in Westchester County, New York, and died March 09, 1853 in Locke, Cayuga County, New York. He was the brother of the following four people: (1) James Croft of Westchester and Dutchess (later Putnam) County, New York (and who married Esther Vought); (2) Catherine Croft (who married Hendrick/Henry Lent, and moved from Westchester to Bradford County, Pennsylvania); (3) Polly Croft (who married Godfrey Vought, and also moved to Bradford); and (4) Barbara Croft (who married John Lent, and moved to Bradford).
When was he really born? Consider the following pieces of “evidence”.
1. On March 26, 1855, John Croft executed an affidavit in connection with his Revolutionary War Pension stating that he was 96 years old. Doing the subtraction (and assuming that March 26 was not his exact birthday), he would have been born between March 27, 1758 and March 25, 1759.
2. John died on December 24, 1857, and whoever “ordered” his tombstone instructed that his age at death be chiseled as 98 years, 9 months and 9 days. Doing the subtraction, he would have been born March 15, 1759.
3. At the time of the 1840 census of Revolutionary Veterans, John’s age was recorded as 78. Doing the subtraction, he would have been born about 1762.
4. At the time of the 1850 census, John’s age was recorded as 88. Doing the subtraction, he would have been born about 1762.
5. In connection with his pension application, John’s age was recorded as 69 at the time of his declarations of both July 16, 1832 and May 21, 1833. Doing the subtraction, he would have been born between May 22 and July 15, 1763.
6. In his pension application, in response to specific interrogatories, John stated that he was born January 15, 1764.
So when was he really born? Human error could have been introduced in multiple ways. For example, a census taker might have made a mistake in recording information. Alternatively, a family member might have been answering on John’s behalf and made a mistake. John himself might have made a mistake, especially in his later years, when he might have suffered from mild senility and forgetfulness. Vanity might have played a role, although in reverse, whereby John gained attention by overstating his age to embellish his longevity.
How does a descendant decide when John was born? Not all of the 6 pieces of evidence above can be true, because some of them contradict each other. Some can be reconciled. For example, items 1 and 2 could both be true if John was born on March 15, 1759. Similarly, items 3 and 4 both indicate a birth about 1762. So, do we play jury and weigh the evidence to see what is the most credible, or which items are closest, or how many of the items are close to each other? For example, items 3 and 4 (indicating 1762) are only a year or so different from item 5 (1763), but are 3 or 4 years different from items 1 and 2. Therefore, do we discount (or reduce the value) of the evidence provided by items 1 and 2?
The most explicit date, in response to the specific question about his date of birth, is January 15, 1764. This is only 6 to 8 months different from item 5 but as much as 5 years different from item 1. And items 5 and 6 are all from the 1832-33 time frame and thus might be from a time when John’s memory was still sharp (as opposed to his memory at 78, 88 and 96).
Why is this even worth examining? I would like to propose that John was the child whose birth (or baptism?) was recorded in the New York City Lutheran Churchbook as March 8, 1763. If this record refers to John, then his parents would have been Johan Mattheus Krafft and Maria (or possibly Maria Regina). Family tradition says that the parents of John Croft (and his four siblings) were John and Mary (Bowman) Croft. The forenames John (or Johan in German) and Mary (or Maria in German) fit very well.
In deciding whether this Chuchbook record really refers to John Croft, it is helpful to examine the records for other children of this Johann Mattheus and Maria (Regina) Krafft.
In the book “Even More Palatine Families” by Henry Z. Jones and Lewis Bunker Rohrbach, Picton Press, at p. 367 is the following:
“Johann Mattheus Kraft
“Johannes Mattheus Krafft and wie [sic—wife] Maria Regina had among their issue:
“1) Anna Catharina, b. 12 Oct 1758 and bpt. 13 June 1758 [sic] sp. Anthony Beker and wife (NY City Lutheran Chbk).
“2) Magdalena, b. 2 June 1760 – sp. Regina Kraft and Moritz Goebel (NY City Lutheran Chbk). The mother is called ‘Maria’ on the entry.
“3) Johannes, b. 8 March 1763 (NY City Lutheran Chbk).”
The abbreviation “sp.” means sponsor, such as godparent.
John’s sister Catherine, who married Henry Lent, was born about 1758 (like with John, there are varying pieces of evidence which do not all agree, and must be weighed).
John’s sister Polly, who married Godfrey Vought, was born about 1760 (and, again, there are conflicting pieces of evidence about her). But how do we connect a Polly with a Magdalena? Well, Polly is/was the nickname or diminutive for Mary, and the German for Mary was Maria. The Germans were big on giving two names (see father Johann Mattheus, mother Maria Regina, older sister Anna Catharina). Well a relatively common combining name with Magdalena is Maria Magdalena (i.e., a girl named for the New Testament’s Mary Magdalene).
John’s older brother, James, stated in his pension application that he was born in 1753. This is a reasonable spacing before Anna Catharina in 1758. Descendants of John’s little sister Barbara state that she was born in 1765, and this is a reasonable spacing after John in 1763.
Finally, look at the name of the father, Johann Mattheus. Among the Bradford County, PA branches of the family, the father and mother of sisters Catharine (Croft) Lent, Polly (Croft) Vought and Barbara (Croft) Lent were remembered as John and Mary (Bowman) Croft. In at least one line of the Putnam County, NY branch (descended from James), the father was remembered as Matthias. At a website found at http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/historical/SouthernNewYork2/sny2_pt70.htm, the author states, “Matthais [sic] Croft, the founder of this family came with his wife from Germany. He was a farmer in Putnam County, New York. Children, all born in Albany County, New York: 1. John. 2. James, of whom further. 3. Rebecca. 4. Polly. 5. Kate.
“(II) James, son of Matthias Croft, was born in Albany County, New York, about 1751, died in 1839. He was a farmer in Putnam Valley, Putnam County, New York. He served for seven years in the Revolutionary War. He married Esther Vought. Children, all born at Cortlandtown, Westchester County, New York: 1. Stephen, of whom further. 2. Henry, born August 3, 1793, died August 8, 1857, married Mary Nelson. 3. James. 4. John. 5. Margaret. 6. Kate. 7. Elizabeth. 8. Hester, married William Odell.”
Perhaps the father of these five was both John and Matthias, or, in German, Johann Mattheus.
Does anyone have any other evidence that would either support or refute this theory? Please contact me at email@example.com.
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