The Chastains in America

German Emigrants (Sketch Published in Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1874.)

German Emigrants (Sketch Published in Harper’s Weekly, November 7, 1874.)

That Peter Alexander Chastain and family first settled in New Jersey upon arriving in America is part of our family’s oral tradition. This tradition also states that Kate gave birth to two daughters while in New Jersey (four children traveled with them from Germany—Conrad, Frances, Peter II, and Henry). I’d long hoped to find out where exactly in New Jersey they settled. This search coincides with two others—finding their immigration records and discovering what year they moved to Roulette.

Last night, I began poking around newspaper records for the Chastain family. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was looking for when I stumbled upon an obituary for Frances Brehmer in the Olean Times Herald from May 6, 1938. Frances Chastain, the eldest daughter of Pete and Kate, married George Brehmer in 1870 after the family moved to Roulette. Her obituary mentions that she came to America with her parents when she was nine. That would be approximately 1859 since she was born Dec 2, 1849. The obituary also mentions that her family lived in Atlantic City, New Jersey before moving to Pennsylvania. There it was—Atlantic City.

Shortly after this discovery, I found a Civil War draft registration for Peter Chastain (spelled Chestaein in this record) from 1863 in Galloway, New Jersey. On a hot streak, I searched the 1860 U.S. Census for Galloway, New Jersey and found Peter, Kate, Frances, Peter II, and Henry “Chasting” living together. The only person missing was Conrad, the eldest son. I pulled up a map to find Galloway. It’s just outside Atlantic City.

So it appears the Chastains arrived in America in 1859 and by 1860 were living in Galloway, New Jersey. They were still living there in 1863 based on Peter’s Civil War draft registration. The 1870 U.S. Census shows that by then they had moved to Roulette. So the move must have taken place between 1863 and 1870. Intriguingly, once in Roulette, Conrad shows back up. I wonder where he was?

Post 1870 U.S. Census data lists the immigration year for each individual. The Chastains were inconsistent in reporting what this year was, but the Schwabendorf Book of Families states that Peter and company left Germany in 1860. This is close to the year 1859 inferred in Frances’ obituary. Discovering the year of immigration, the port of departure in Germany, port of arrival in America, and the name of the ship they travelled on is my current focus. According to this article, approximately 70% of German emigrants from the years 1850 to 1891 left from either Hamburg or Bremen. I’ve found some emigration records from Hamburg that I’m currently searching.

To pinpoint the year that the Chastains moved from Galloway to Roulette, I’ve been looking into where land records can be found. This was slightly confusing at first since there are state land states and federal land states. State land states include the thirteen original colonies along with a few others such as Tennessee and Kentucky. Without getting into the history of this distinction, land records for state land states, if sold by the government, are located in the archives in the state capital. If sold privately, then the records reside in the courthouse of the county where the transaction took place. Federal land states are states where land was originally sold by the federal government. I believe these records reside in the National Archives.

I emailed Harrisburg for a little help. They said that by the 1860s almost all of the state-owned land in Pennsylvania had been sold. Peter Alexander Chastain most likely bought the land in Roulette from a private owner. This means the records reside in the Potter County Courthouse. Looks like I’ll be making a trip to Coudersport.

Finally, I found records for one of the daughters born in New Jersey, Lizzie. She was born on August 29, 1860, the first of our Chastain clan born in America. She married George Conley in Roulette and was a cook at a hotel. Nothing yet about any other children born in New Jersey.

(Update December 2016: I’ve discovered the port of departure, port of arrival, and ship that the Chastains sailed on in 1860 on their way to America. Details are in this post. Also, only one daughter was born in New Jersey. The confusion arose because of her name—Catherina Elizabeth Chastain. She was exclusively referred to as Lizzie, and so a mention of the birth of Catherina Chastain caused confusion among earlier family historians. An assumption was made that this was another daughter who must have died in New Jersey before the move to Roulette, Pennsylvania, but Catherina and Lizzie Chastain are, in fact, the same person.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *