Monday, July 8, 2013

Birds of a Feather

I've been corresponding with another researcher who works on the line of John Oliver and Miranda Hutchins.  This is a line I believe my family connects to by way of Nathaniel Oliver and Sarah Mann Oliver, both of whom died early leaving orphans:  Daniel, John, Mary, and Peter.  Later Orphan Court records in New Jersey tell us that John Oliver resided in Luzerne County, PA which is where John Oliver and Miranda Hutchins raised their family before later moving to Indiana.  The evidence seems good although admittedly circumstantial.

But there's also the matter of a pesky Indiana newspaper obituary found for John Oliver in 1869.  Aside from dramatic description of a tragic end (hit by a train), the article states John was "an uncle to Hon. Ochmig Bird of this city, and a near relative to William Lytle, Esq."  It seems to me that answering the question of these relationships might be the ticket to confirming the connection to my Mann family.

But where to start?  I know about New Jersey, but little about the PA side of things, and even though there are some Bird connections in NJ, they are not very near to the main branch of my tree.  Still, the name Ochmig Bird made it to a blog entitled "The Strangest Names in American Political History"  so it should be easy to find information about him.  Oddly enough, just the opposite is true.  So I started working backward from Indiana.  What I quickly came to was the realization there were TWO Ochmig Bird's!

1.  Ochmig, b. 1813 - this is the guy featured on findagrave and supposedly the nephew of John Oliver

2.  Ochmig, b. 1850 - this is the son of James and Matilda Bird, also referred to as Ochmig L. Bird.  In tracing his parents, James Bird was born in PA about 1818 and married Matilda Eyck (with different spelling variations), their children were (apparently) Emilie, Thomas, and Lucy born in PA, and starting in 1850 Ochmig L. and then James S. born in Indiana.  There is a family tree on rootsweb that makes Ochmig #1 and this James Bird brothers.  That tree can't really name the parents of these brothers, and I don't have any documentation to confirm the thesis, but it seems at least possible.  It appears that Ochmig and James, both born in PA around the same time (1810s), arrived in Indiana around the same time (abt 1850) and they settled in the same area (Allen County, IN).  The younger brother (if he is that) named his son Ochmig.  Seems plausible these two Birds were closely related.

Still, where can we go with this but not far? What was bothering me most was the actual name, Ochmig.  Where did that come from?  Bio's of Ochmig said he was of German descent (yes I agree), but I have searched high and low for any German with a given name of Ochmig and just came up blank!  Finally I decided to search newspapers on genealogybank, entering 'ochmig' as a given name and nothing else but a place of PA.  What came up were two small notices about letters left at the post office, which included the name C. G. Ochmig in Luzerne. Oh my gosh - of course! Ochmig is a surname assigned as a given name, which naturally carries significance - it can indicate the mother's family name, famous people of the time, or "a couple might also name a child after a respected friend."

So now we can find loads of information about Christian G. Ochmig, abt 1764-1839. He was definitely a German, his name is in the 1788 militia rolls of Luzerne County, PA, and he lived many years in the Kingston area. His wife was Esther Gallup and they had 4 children. As for Birds, there was a John and Richard Bird in Kingston, Thomas Bird in Exeter, and Sylvanius, James and James Jr. in Catawissa (Catawissa and Kingston are 50 miles apart (or so) and looking at a map, both places are on the river, so travel between the two places was probably not difficult).

And yet for all this, can we do anything more than hypothesize about the connection between Christian Ochmig and the Bird family? Happily, I found an  answer to that in a source called the Michael Shoemaker Book. On page 712 it says this:

Isaac Shoemaker Jr. and Elizabeth Chapin sold a small piece of land adjoining the Exeter line to Archibald Knight in trust for Elizabeth Landon.  April 29, 1830 they sold about one acre adjoining this other parcel to Abram Bird in trust for Christian Oehmig Bird for $26.23.  Christian Oehmig Bird and his wife Ann sold this land to Henry Oakley of Benton twp, Luzerne, PA.

So Christian Ochmig did have some definite connections with the Bird family. That explains how Ochmig Bird got his name, but the question still remains, how can Ochmig Bird (b. 1813) be the nephew of John Oliver? My only guess is that Mary Oliver, daughter of Nathaniel and Sarah Mann Oliver of NJ and sister of John Oliver who came to live in the Catawissa area of PA, had a first marriage to a Bird - who that might have been, we currently have no idea - and she had two sons, namely Ochmig and James. That marriage ended for whatever reason, and Mary's second marriage was then to Nathan Cleaver. It does not appear at first glance like the Cleaver's raised the Bird boys.

Even I can see how my theory wobbles.  On the surface it all seems far-fetched, and I'm certainly not willing to make any claims one way or another about anything.  More than that, I suppose this is an awful lot of effort just to see if a guy with a common name like John Oliver who died in Indiana really has any connection to my German family in New Jersey.  But with names like Ochmig and Bird in the story, how can I not be curious?  I just can't help being I wonder who William Lytle was....

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