Family Roots


Aunt Betty reigns as the matriarch of the Wolfe family now, and she shares Dave’s love for genealogy. Thus, on our recent vacation to New York and New England, our first stop took us to the Village Library in South Dayton, New York. Despite its unassuming look on a picturesque Saturday morning, the library offered several helpful sources and a service-oriented librarian. She pointed to a section of local history books and then xeroxed pages germane to the Wolfe search, all for free. Later in the day we tried the Mayville Library, but found nothing that added to what we already had. These small town libraries delighted us with staff that unlocked cabinets and readily offered assistance in Dave’s search for his roots.

Dave and Aunt Betty have both gotten  back to William Wolfe, Dave’s Great-great Grandfather, who came to the USA from Hanover, Germany. However, even with the resources of Ancestry.com and its international information, Dave cannot find out anything about exact locations in Germany. And up until this trip to New York, Aunt Betty had not located the grave of William Wolfe, Sr.  I loved watching the intensity of their heads together as they searched for new information in those library annals. Somehow, when people develop an interest in their own genealogy, those “begat” sections of  the Old and New Testaments seem richer, more meaningful. God has engraved the names of His own in the palms of His hands. Suddenly, a distant deity takes on flesh and blood, as He did in Jesus Christ, and a bit of the eternal interfaces with mortals —  us. He has knows us since we were knit together in our mother’s womb.

Christian farmers and ministers proliferate the Wolfe/Gibbs/Smith family lines, so our first stop took us to the church we believe William Sr. and William Jr. attended back in the 1800s. Now known as U.S. Route 62, this area was at one time called Fair Plains. Much of family life spun out from the walls of this Methodist church.

As we traveled down Rt 62, we came to the homestead of  William Wolfe, Sr.(1833- 1910). We knew from Civil War records that he had served as a corporal in Company K, 154th Regiment of the New York State Volunteers. Seeing the actual home certainly made history jump off the page for us! Here William and Jane (1831-1929)

Less than a mile further down the road, we came to the site of William Jr’s homestead.

Documentation tells us that at least four generations lived in this home.

Continuing down the road, we came to Markham Corners and with its country cemetery. Many of the stone monuments lie face down in various stages of decay. While someone has added a new stone, he unfortunately had mistaken the death date for Jane.

Dave and Aunt Betty also talked about the spelling of our surname. Apparently the original Wolf settlers came from Germany. Somewhere along the genealogical lines, members of the family must have opted for the English spelling for Wolfe. We wondered if the change coincided with World War I, a time when people avoided having a German name.

As Dave and I headed out of the upstate New York of his roots, we made one last stop in East Leon, to see the first church Dave’s Dad pastored in 1938. Married June 9, 1938 to June Gibbs Wolfe, the new pastor and his wife began what would be a 61-year ministry. They would move from New York to Tokyo, Japan, back to New York, and finally to Brooksville, Florida.

God knows the very hairs on our head and has all of our days recorded before one of them comes to be. We serve an amazing, sovereign God.

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