Van Boskirk with an "O"!


Greetings, cousins! I am a descendant of Richard Van Boskirk (1764-1830) of Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania, who was the grandfather of my great-great-grandmother, Sarah Van Boskirk Bissell (1822-1910). Richard and his sister (or niece? or cousin?), Charity Van Boskirk Coryell (1771-1839) of Williamsport, Pennsylvania, are the earliest known persons in America with this surname spelling.

It's quite likely that Richard and Charity tie in to the main Van Buskirk family through Andrew Van Buskirk/Booskirk (b. 1719) and his wife Charity Van Horn/Hoorne (b. 1723). Andrew and Charity married in Wrightstown, Pennsylvania in 1741 and lived from at the least the mid-1750s to the mid-1760s across the river in Hunterdon Co., New Jersey. They sometimes spelled their name Van Boskirk in the New Jersey records, but the spelling was always with a "u" or "oo" in Pennsylvania records. The single "o" only stuck with Richard's and Charity's generation(s), it appears.

Andrew was the eldest son of Johannes Van Buskirk, who lived in the Philadelphia/Bucks Co. area until his death sometime after 1752 (he appeared in a tax list for Wrightstown, PA in that year). Johannes' second son, George, moved to the Northampton/Monroe Co. area and has been well traced (but with some errors and omissions) by Shoemaker. I hope to be able to clear up some of the glitches in her account in future issues of Van Buskirk News. (And my thanks to Robert Van Buskirk for sharing a large folder of research notes and correspondence from Mrs. Shoemaker's estate.) Johannes' third son, Daniel, lived in Hunterdon Co., NJ and has only recently been traced downward by Robert Van Buskirk and others.

But Johannes' first son, Andrew (my probable ancestor), has not at all been well traced. My own research shows that Andrew relocated, as did his youngest brother, Daniel, from Bucks Co., PA to Kingwood, Hunterdon Co., NJ (a scant handful of miles across the Delaware River). Andrew made a land purchase there about 1755, and had to sell his land about 1765 (perhaps the date of his demise and thus an estate sale). To date, no will has been found for either Andrew or Charity in either Hunterdon Co., NJ or Bucks Co., PA.

My ancestor, Richard, shows up in Hunterdon Co. in the tax records of Kingwood, NJ in 1786 and 1788 as a single man, and Charity married nearby at Lambertville (aka Coryell's Ferry) in 1790. From this alone, it would appear that they are children or grandchildren of the older couple, Andrew and Charity, who may have been deceased by the 1780s. (Charity was apparently deceased by 1771, as her father's Bucks Co., PA will mentioned not her, but her children--not by name, unfortunately--as heirs to his estate.)

Richard then (according to family Bible records) had his first son (my great-great-great-grandfather) Andrew in 1794 back across the river in Bucks ("Bux") Co., PA. Two years later, he was in the process of moving far inland to Mifflinburg, Union Co., PA, where he lived the rest of his life. A mysterious Jacob Van Boskirk also shows up briefly in the town tax and property records of Mifflinburg in the late 1790s, but whether this was just another sobriquet for Richard, or a relative instead, no one yet knows.

Some historians say that Richard and Charity were siblings, though there is very little evidence to support this and some reason to think they were instead uncle/niece or cousin/cousin. Irene Shoemaker, in her massive, 2-volume genealogy of the Van Buskirk family states that Richard and Charity were children of a John Van Buskirk, who was a son of Andrew and Charity (Van Horn) Van Buskirk. However, the persons she identifies as John and his wife Mary were found in a family Bible not of Andrew's descendants, but of Andrew's brother George's descendants. Clearly, this can't be right!

Mrs. Shoemaker also says that Andrew and Charity had sons Moses and Aaron, who lived in Northampton/Monroe Co., PA in the late 1700s and early 1800s. Again, I think this is incorrect. Moses and Aaron lived next door to a widow Sarah in the 1790 census of Northampton Co., and just prior to that in the 1780s, a Benjamin appeared in the land records there. My guess is that Moses and Aaron were the sons of Benjamin and Sarah, and that Benjamin was the son of Andrew and Charity. (Charity had a brother, Benjamin Van Horn.)

As for Richard and Charity, I think there are a number of reasons to suspect that Richard was the son (not grandson) of Andrew and Charity, while Charity (the younger one) was their granddaughter--i.e., the daughter of a son of Andrew and Charity. I base my belief on a number of known facts about the names used, or that should have been used.

In the 1700s, the "patronymic" (literally, "father-naming") system was very widespread. It was expected that a couple's first son would be named after the husband's father, while the second son would be named after the wife's father. In the family of Johannes Van Buskirk--a grandson of the original immigrant ancestor, Laurens Andriessen Van Boskerck--the rule was followed carefully. Andrew, the first-born of Johannes Van Buskirk, was named after Johannes' father, Andries. (Andries' first-born, Laurens, was named after the progenitor mentioned above.) Andrew's brothers, George and Daniel, both named their first-born sons John, after their father Johannes. Thus, it makes perfect good sense that Andrew would have named his first-born son John after his father Johannes, too.

So, let's start from there, by assuming that Andrew and Charity had a son John born about 1745 or so. If, as Mrs. Shoemaker claims, he was the father of Charity Van Boskirk who married George Coryell in 1790, their second son should have been named John, after his maternal grandfather. And indeed he was. For this reason, I think it's quite reasonable to accept Mrs. Shoemaker's claim that Charity's father was named John.

However, if John was also the father of my ancestor, Richard Van Boskirk, Richard's first son should have been named John. But instead, he was named Andrew! This suggests that Richard's father was not named John, but instead was named Andrew. This opens up two main possibilities. Either Richard (b. 1764) was one of the last-born children of Andrew and Charity (who m. in 1741)--or they had a son Andrew who was Richard's father.

I think the first possibility is more likely, for the simple reason that Charity Van Horn Van Buskirk had a brother named Richard Van Horn (named in their father's 1771 will). It makes more sense that she would name a son after her brother, than that their supposed son Andrew would name a son Richard after his uncle. However, Richard did not name either of his daughters Charity, which he should have done if Charity Van Horn Van Buskirk was his mother. (Instead, he named them Euphemia and Hannah.) I admit, though, that both possibilities are still open. What is true in either case is that Charity Van Boskirk Coryell is probably not Richard's sister, but instead his niece or first cousin.

Update, May 1999 -- New data has come to us from a correspondent who is descended from a John Buskirk of Upper Saucon Township, Northampton County, Pennsylvania, who was born about 1795. We are virtually certain that he was the father of John Van Boskirk born 1820, who has been mistakenly identified as a grandson of Richard Van Boskirk of Miffinburg. If we are correct, then this means that his father is almost certainly John Van Buskirk, Jr., who was born about 1769 and was in the 1800 census of Upper Saucon Twp., then later in the 1830 census of Butler County, Ohio, where Charity Van Boskirk Coryell died in 1839. Thus, it appears that we have found another line of Van Boskirks descended from Andrew and Charity's son John -- and ended a long confusion about the Van Boskirks descended from John born 1820. See our article on the descendants of John VB Jr. and Charity VB Coryell by clicking on this link: Proposed Family Tree

At some point in the future, I intend to put together a book Van Boskirk with an 'O', which will contain the names of well over 2000 descendants of Richard Van Boskirk of Mifflinburg, PA. The data on Charity Van Boskirk Coryell and John Van Boskirk Jr. will appear also, either as a chapter or an appendix. Any information positively verifying their relationship to one another would be most appreciated. Please send it to: Roger Bissell, P.O. Box 5193, Orange, CA 92863 or email it to me at In the meantime, I hope you enjoy the sections of the book that are available for your online or offline perusing. And thank you for your interest!

Update, December 1999 -- The chapter "Our Van Boskirk and Van Horn Roots" is available for reading, copying, and downloading. Comments, questions, etc. are welcome! Here is the link: Our Van Boskirk and Van Horn Roots

Update, June 2000 -- The sections on Richard Van Boskirk, his son John Van Boskirk, his daughter Hannah Van Boskirk Lincoln, and his niece Charity Van Boskirk Coryell are available for reading, copying, and downloading. Comments, questions, etc. are welcome! Here are the links:

The Life and Times of Richard Van Boskirk

Richard's son John Van Boskirk

Richard's daughter Hannah Van Boskirk Lincoln

Richard's niece Charity Van Boskirk Coryell

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