Tuesday, February 09, 2010


When one person devotes lavish attention to her or his family history, all of us whose families intersect with that one receive most welcome benefit. Such is the case with the history of the Kissam family. Tracing back from my roots to ancestral branches I've found that we were a branch of the Thornes a few generations back, then a branch of the Kissams for another four, then — surprisingly — more generations of Thornes (three of them) until there's no more to be found. On that side, my great-great-great-great grandmother was one Elizabeth Kissam, daughter, granddaughter, and great-granddaughter of three men named Daniel Kissam, the last of whom was son of John Ockerson (later spelled Kissam), who was himself son of a William Thorne. Elizabeth Kissam, thus so remotely related to William Thorne, happened to marry another of his descendants, Thomas C. Thorne. Thomas C. came from a line of men named William and Richard Thorne, back to the most remotely traceable John and Francis Thorne. The Thornes haven't given the world quite the wealth of historical research as have the Kissams. Google "Kissam" and you'll see what I mean. There's a Kissam lineage on ancestry.com, a Kissam Family Association web page, a Kissam museum, and pages devoted to notable members of the family. There are also books by and about Kissams, in particular one by Edward Kissam published in 1892 called The Kissam family in America from 1644 to 1825. On the copy of this book that's held in the New York Public Library, he wrote out the following brief statement in his own hand:
This family name in England and Wales was originally written "Casson." Later in Ireland with the prefix of an "O"; and later still in Holland it was spelt and written "Ockersen." -- E.K. — (This appears on the explanation of symbols page page following the preface.)
Look at the book itself to see how he used numbering and indents to organize family units, beginning with the original John Kissam who came from England to Flushing, Long Island, sometime in the 1660s. The table that follows traces two lines of Kissams: one to the Elizabeth who married Thomas C. Thorne and the other to a Maria Louisa Kissam who married one of the sons of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and thereafter became grandmother to John Hammond and (by marriage) also to Benny Goodman (I've written about this before). Here are excerpts from Edward Kissam's family history. I've taken a few editorial liberties but the interpolations in square brackets are his.
JOHN KISSAM, of Flushing, L.I., born July, 1644, of English origin, who was the progenitor of this family in America, and then known as John Ocasson [or Ockeson as it was written in the "Albany Records," translated from the Dutch, which are indorsed O. W. L., Vol. 2, page 134] had a license from the Provincial Secretary dated July 10th, 1667, for marriage with Susannah, a daughter of William Thorne, of Jamaica, L.I. The same person, under the name of "John Okeson," purchased a farm of John Smith, [Rock] February 4th, 1678, on Great Neck, in the same county, to which he then removed. His children were Daniel and two others Under date of March 26th, 1695, this same individual conveyed to his eldest son a part of the same farm by deed of "John Kissam and Susannah, his wife, to Daniel Kissam," which is recorded in the office of the County of Queens, in Liber of Conveyances, B. No. 1, p. 283.
DANIEL KISSAM, of Great Neck, L.I., born 1669, also a farmer, was elected a vestryman in St. George's Parish, at Hempstead, L.I., in 1703. He married Elizabeth Coombs, born 1673, died May 12th, 1736. His children were Daniel II, Joseph, and four others Daniel 1st died December 26th, 1752, and was buried in his family plot on his farm, since owned by William Mott, and lately by William H. Onderdonk [his son-in-law]. In this plot his wife Elizabeth, son Daniel 2d, and his daughter Hannah, were buried also, all of whose headstones, with those of others on which the epitaphs had become illegible from age, have been placed horizontally below the surface be-yond the touch of the passing plough. His will was proved in New York city, January 10th, 1753, in Liber of Wills No. 18, page 222.
DANIEL KISSAM II, born on Great Neck, L.I. 1701. Married Ann [daughter of Richbell] Mott, who was born 1700 and died September 20th, 1796. His children were Daniel III and two others JOSEPH KISSAM, born 1705. Farmer of Cow Neck, now Manhasset, L.I. Justice of the Peace under the Crown, 1749-63. Vestryman of St. George's Church at Hemstead, 1751-61. Married, February 7th, 1727, Deborah, daughter of Hon. Jonathan and Sarah [Field] Whitehead, by Rev. Thos. Poyer, at Jamaica, L.I. His children were BENJAMIN, who was a Lawyer, and six others The said Deborah was a great-grand-daughter of Hon. Daniel Whitehead, who was among the most prominent citizens in the early settlement of Long Island; and one of the Patentees of the several towns of Huntington, Newtown and Jamaica. Joseph inherited a Family Bible from his father. Who has it ?
DANIEL III, [called "Joseph" in his father's will and Daniel as he was christened since his father's death] of Manhasset, born October 13th, 1726. Vestryman in St. George's Church, 1752—54. Justice of the Peace under the Crown. Member of Assembly, 1764 to 1775. County Treasurer, 1759-1782. Married April 20th, 1746, Peggy [born 1728, died October 7th, 1813,] daughter of Col. Benjamin Tredwell, [whose sister Phebe was the grandmother of the late Rt. Rev. Bishops Henry U. and Benj. Tredwell Onderdonk.] Daniel III died August 4th, 1782. His will proved September 28th, 1782, and is recorded in Lib. of Wills 35, page 109. His children were Elizabeth [and five others who survived infancy] Elizabeth was b. 1761, m. Thomas C. THORNE, August l0th, 1786. His homestead of 330 acres was confiscated [because he was a "Tory" or British loyalist], sold at auction and bought in by his widow for £2,000 sterling. BENJAMIN, born Manhasset, L.I. chose the legal profession, settled in New York City, and became an educated and renowned lawyer. He was a man of sterling qualities and one who commanded universal respect. His deep personal piety was evinced by his lengthy and touching written address, bequeathed to his children, urging them alwavs to be dutiful to God and to worship Him both in spirit and truth; and under all circumstances to be guarded in their actions, as well as upright in their intentions. He was a member of the "Safety Committee of One Hundred," and of the First and Second Provincial Congresses. He married on the 5th October, 1755, Catherine, a daughter of Petrus Rutgers of New York City. His children were Peter Rutgers and five others Benjamin died October 25th, 1782. In "The Life of Gov. John Jay," by his son, VoL.I., pages 17-23, there is some correspondence recorded which took place between Mr. Jay and his law preceptor, relative to some business matters of the latter while he was attending court at Albany. John Jay, Lindley Murray the grammarian, and Cornelius J. Bogert, all of whom have been prominent men, were among those who had been law students in Mr. Kissam's office. Mr. Jay was admitted to the bar in 1769, and entered at once on the practice of law with Mr. Livingston. In after life, says his son, "He was accustomed to speak of Mr. Benjamin Kissam as one of the best men he ever knew, and one of the best friends he ever had." In the same connection the following has been given a place: "It sometimes happened that Mr. Jay and Mr. Kissam were engaged on opposite sides in the same cause; and on one of these occasions the latter, in closing his argument, pleasantly remarked in court, that he had brought up a bird to pick out his own eyes. " Oh, no;" retorted his opponent, not to pick out, but to open them a little more."
  PETER RUTGERS, born July 4th, 1756. Merchant, N. Y. city. Graduated A. B. at Columbia College, 1776. Married, August 4th, 1779, Deborah [born January 6th, 1756; died daughter of Penn] Townsend. His children were Samuel, a church minister, and four others
  SAMUEL, born January 1 5th. 1796. Clergyman in Reformed Dutch Church, settled at Cedar Hill, near Albany, N. Y. Married Margaret Adams [b. Sept. 7th, 1796; d. Nov. 30th, 1872]. His children: Maria Louise, and nine others Maria Louise m. Wm. H. Vanderbilt, the railroad magnate. Since his death his eldest sons, Cornelius and Wm. Kissam Vanderbilt, succeed him.


Main source:

The Kissam family in America from 1644 to 1825 by Edward Kissam (New York, Dempsey & Carroll's Art Press, 1892)


{John Singer Sargent's portrait of Mrs William Henry Vanderbilt (Maria Louisa Kissam) - 1888; source: jssgallery.org }

No comments: