I just returned from a 14 day/ 2300 mile road trip back into family history. As good as Ancestry.com and other sources are, there is only so far you can go on the internet! My chief goal was to dig out additional information about the Eckers. As I have already learned by experience, that which I hoped most to find, I did not: however I was rewarded with things I did not expect. In fact, I uncovered more family documents and information than I was able to evaluate on the fly. It will take me a quite while to translate, enter, or correlate the dozens of documents I did find. I will not wait, however, to begin to post things on this site. Keep returning to keep up with me and to add what you know.
Vital Statistics Archives in Trenton, NJ
I spent my first research day here. Working through the mail was too expensive, took too long, and was not conducive to error checking or alternative searches. The access to records was fully as good as I hoped. I could have used another few days and will certainly need to return. I made it through the death certificates from 1900 to 1930. It took most day just to make it through these, and these were the easy ones as they were organized on the microfilm alphabetically by year. The earlier certificates require a preliminary search in an index, and the later ones are not yet available due to privacy concerns. I found some 50 death certificates of Eckers, most, but not all from Essex County where Newark is. I do not yet recognize all the given names and am not yet sure how they may or not be related. I will list the names elsewhere, and if you want me to focus on one, let me know. I also found the Last Will of Barbara Ecker, wife of Frederick. [The Friends of Woodland Cemetery later provided me with another 16 death certificates from years prior to 1900. Please also see the list of graves in Woodland as it helped me figure out who most of these people are.]
I was also successful in finding the death certificates of Gustav and Alvina Insel, my great Grandparents whose son Gustave married Edith Ecker. Like many of the Ecker death certificates, the documents pointed the way to accurate birth-dates, parents’ names, relationships, and places of burials. I also found the Last Will of Alvina Insel. There is a wealth of information still available in the Trenton Archives. I hope one or our New Jersey relatives gets the fever and helps dig through the rest.
About the Eckerts
There were a lot more Eckerts in NJ than Eckers. The Eckerts also appear to have come from Germany. It seemed that our closer Eckers were consistent about the spelling of their name. I did not find Eckerts in the church records of Unterreichenbach but there were a few in Newark. I am not yet aware that there is a connection between the two names but just in case, and for the interest of any Eckert stumbling on my websites, I photographed most of the Eckert records I came across, well over 100 death certificates or church records. There were a few additional New Jersey families with similar names such as Eck, Eckett, Eckhardt, Eckart, Eckel.
Old Newark Church Records
The next day I visited the Lutheran Archives Center at Philadelphia at a Seminary in Philadelphia, PA where I discovered the old records of the German Lutheran church in Newark are kept. At least some of the oldest Eckers attended that church in the mid-1800s. Friedrich and Barbara were married in 1854. My Great-Grand parents William and Hannah were married in the parsonage of that church, if not in the church proper. Looking at those books was exactly like looking at old church books in Germany! I did indeed find a number of wonderful entries for our greater family. I was a little disappointed to discover that William and Hannah may not have worshiped there, but their names were found, as were those of William’s siblings and their families. These records in particular will take some work to translate, but I have already made some interesting findings, including that Hannah’s middle name was Elizabeth, that her father may have married more than once, and that there is another family connection to the Albany area. [I later discovered from the documents that Katharina Ecker, the sister of the Ecker brothers, also settled in Newark and married Georg Öse! This was an unexpected and exciting discovery.]
I stopped next at some Cemeteries in Newark that I learned were used by our family: Fairmont and Woodland in Newark, and Holy Sepulcher in East Orange. This was a mixed experience. Some of the grave-sites were in well tended cemeteries (even if no head
stones were present) but Woodland Cemetery containing containing William's siblings [and I later found out,s ome of his younger children.] had been extensively vandalized. I will report on those findings elsewhere. I found the soldier’s grave of William Ecker, but the stones had eroded past the point of identification. Hannah’s grave was unmarked (for now). All the cemeteries had grave cards and other records that will be helpful in reconstructing the Ecker family relationships into the 20th century. It is my intention to make sure that permanent grave markers are placed. It will not be necessary for anyone else to make financial contributions to this effort, but if you wish to do so, let me know.
I next went to Albany to see what could be found, as well as to visit family. In the old city directories I found concrete evidence that William and Hannah lived there at least between 1870 and 1874 before returning to Newark. Since vital records were not required in New York until 1880, things will be harder there unless old church records can be found. I am still ignorant of why William and Hannah moved north. It may have simple been economic opportunity in the industrialized Hudson River valley. However, as was discovered in the old church records, one of William’s brothers had children in Troy, NY so there may well have been some other or additional connection.
New York City Archives and Lutheran Cemetery
After a visit with (living) family, I returned to New Jersey stopping to see some newly discovered distant relatives along the way. I made a side trip to New York City to visit the Lutheran Cemetery in Queens where I learned my Insel and Roemhild relatives had been laid to rest, and to revisit the New York City archives. My major disappointment of the trip is that even armed with newly found death records from Trenton, I could not find the New York birth record of my Great-Grandmother Edith Agnes Ecker, the marriage record of her parents Kate Burke and William Beaver, nor any additional trace of Edith’s husband Charles Edward Ecker. The finding of the names or graves of two new sets of Great-Great-Grandparents offset that disappointment somewhat.
I will start to post the actual documents and details of my findings. Come on back to the Ecker “What’s New” page to keep up with me. If anything here strikes a chord in your memory (or that of your parents or elderly relatives) please do contact me. Someone told me they think they can identify one of the people in the old photos. If that happens, one of my fondest wishes for the function of this site will be fulfilled.
[I have fallen way behind! These pages need much update. I recently found the village in Germany where Gustav Römhild was born. I have not yet found the village where the Insels came from. 12/15/12]
Feb 24, 2008 [edited 3/20/08; 4/7/08]