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Preface: Why Van Boskirk
with an "O"?

My father, the late Eldon K. Bissell, and I began the work that led to this book in 1977. At that time, we were planning a book about my great great grandparents, Pierce B. and Sarah Van Boskirk Bissell. Beginning with Part I in 1991, it was published under the title of The Bissells of Barstow (Barstow being the small town in Rock Island Co., Illinois where they lived most of their married life).

With the help of our many Bissell, Turner, and Nelson cousins, we quickly gathered a great deal of data on Pierce B.'s and Sarah's children and the generations that followed. Our initial progress was so rapid, we were confident that we would be able to identify Bissell and Van Boskirk ancestors all the way back to "the Old Country."

So why, when we originally were simply trying to trace our own line of Van Boskirks back, are we now attempting a comprehensive genealogy of the Van Boskirk family in America? In order to find out about what happened to Sarah's grandfather, Richard Van Boskirk of Mifflinburg, Union Co., Pennsylvania, we had to find out about Sarah's aunts and uncles and cousins. And in order to find out what happened to her brothers and sisters and cousins and aunts and uncles, we had to locate their living descendants.

As a result, we have had a virtual deluge of information, especially during 1986 and 1987, about Van Boskirks. Not only do we now know where every Van Boskirk in America fits on the family tree, but we have also collected many interesting anecdotes and historical accounts of our family from the past 200 years.

Therefore, out of gratitude and affection for the many cousins who assisted in our search with helpful information, pictures, records, and suggestions, we decided a Van Boskirk book would be in order. Even though some of the contents of this book have already appeared in somewhat different form in The Bissells of Barstow, we think most will agree that it is fitting and proper to add to and expand upon those contents and to put the focus on the Van Boskirk family.

It is also reasonable to question why anyone would want to do this book. After all, many know that the late Mrs. Irene Shoemaker of Anderson, Indiana recently had published her monumental genealogy of the Van Buskirk family (with a u"). Over a 30-year period or so, she did a great deal of historical research and speculation, and she has long claimed that all Van Buskirks, Van Boskirks, Buskirks, etc., are descended from Laurens Andriessen Van Boskerck, who came to New Amsterdam (New York) in the 1650s.

This may be so, but we have strong reservations about her claim to have connected our family to a son of Andrew and Charity (Van Horn) Van Buskirk/Booskirk of Wrightstown, Bucks Co., Pennsylvania. Her evidence does not make much sense and seems to have been lifted out of the Bible records of another, related line of Van Buskirks, rather than one descending from Andrew and Charity. The existing evidence points more strongly to our "founding father," Richard, being a late-born son of Andrew and Charity, rather than their grandson.

Someday we may get the missing information that will prove or disprove our theories. On the other hand, persistent family legends suggest that Richard was the son or grandson of an indentured servant who emigrated in the 1700s, perhaps from Switzerland. If this is so, our Richard has no connection to the Van Buskirks in Mrs. Shoemaker's book--a great disappointment, indeed, to those of us who put stock in her claim that we are all descended from Laurens Andriessen Van Boskerck.

Whichever, the case, our surname is special and deserves to be treated as the unique surname that it is. Even if we are descended from Laurens Andriessen Van Boskerck, the spelling of our name definitely did change to Van Boskirk with our Richard--or his parents. And if it turns out that we are descended from another family entirely, it is even more important to emphasize the spelling of our surname. Thus, this book, Van Boskirk, with an "O"!

We sincerely hope that interest in Van Boskirk genealogy does not end with this present effort. We are especially eager to see the formation of a Van Boskirk "cousins" association, with reunions or get-togethers whenever or wherever possible. We would like for copies of this book and its companion newsletter to be placed in major libraries around the country. All of this, with enough interest and participation, will make possible a second, expanded edition of Van Boskirk, with an "O"!, the book. In the meantime, happy reading!


First written August 1988 by Roger E. Bissell, Orange, California.

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