Monday, May 19, 2014

Natan, son of Mister Yosef

Daniel Joseph, Augusta and Rockingham Counties, Virginia
circa1755 – 1796

Today I would like to continue the discussion of Daniel Joseph’s Jewish heritage. In an earlier post titled Daniel Joseph and Miss Hanger, I mentioned Daniel was identified as a “Jew” in the 1780 Augusta County, VA Court Fee book[1].

Paul T. Gilliatt of Prince George, Virginia wrote to me in 1995 about our mutual ancestor.  Paul was a descendant of Daniel’s daughter, Eve Joseph, who married John Gilliatt in 1809. Paul’s letter included the following excerpt:

     “I have not yet researched the Joseph family however I have item of info you may be interested in.”

     “When I was researching the deed books in Staunton (Augusta Co.), I noted an unusual signature above Daniel Joseph’s signature on two land deeds. As you know information documents etc. are copied into the records by court personnel. This obviously was not copied by Court personnel—different pen, different shade ink, etc. I knew it had to be Daniel Joseph’s signature. For some reason after the court people copied the deed into the record book, he made it official by signing his name. The deed book is so old and brittle the court people had a rule—no copies would be made. I begged and begged. They finally made me a copy of the 1785 deed from deed book 25. The same signature is in deed book 27 page 105-107 deed dated in 1791. I made a copy of the signature and sent it to a Synagogue. They told me the signature was old Hebrew.”

Copy provided courtesy of Paul T. Gilliatt
Augusta Co., VA Deed Book 25, page 34, May 20, 1875

Following is a copy I printed from microfilm belonging to the Library of Virginia that I borrowed via interlibrary loan that Paul referred to in his letter. 

Augusta Co., VA Deed Book 27, page 107, February 20, 1791

While I never saw the original deed book in Staunton, I found a similar and earlier signature for a deed dated Oct. 27, 1781. (This is also from Library of Virginia microfilm.)

Augusta Co., VA Deed Book 23, page 440, Oct. 27, 1781

Shortly afterwards, I enlisted help from the Jewish Roots mailing list to obtain a translation. Many scholarly members from the mailing list responded and I learned Daniel’s signature meant

Natan [Nathan] son of R. [Reb=Mister] Yosef [Joseph]

Our family had no idea we had Jewish ancestry. Augusta County, Virginia was a rural community when Daniel and his wife, Eve, lived there. Most likely there weren’t too many Jews nearby. The first Jewish Congregation in Staunton wasn’t established until 1876—almost eighty years after Daniel died. The Rockingham County Jewish Congregation was founded in 1859 sixty-three years after his passing.

Daniel didn’t have a Jewish wife. Eve’s father, Johann Friederich Hanger, had been a member of two Lutheran Churches located at Woodstock and Stony Creek in Shenandoah Co., Virginia prior to his move to Augusta County.[2] Each of Daniel’s children was married by a Minister. Daniel might have been a practicing Jew but there were probably no opportunities for him to follow his faith in any public forum. As far as I’ve been able to determine, none of Daniel’s descendants observed Jewish beliefs or customs.

I located another ‘Jew’ in the 1803 Rockingham County Personal Property Tax list—Moses Joseph.  Moses along with his wife, Ruth, and his family migrated to Rockingham County from Orange County, Virginia by 1788. I'm very interested in compiling any information about the Moses Joseph family as I suspect Moses was a relative of my 4th great grandfather Daniel Joseph.

If anyone would like to share information or thoughts about Daniel and Moses Joseph, please let me hear from you.

Note: Paul T. Gilliatt died in 1996. I consider myself very lucky to have received his ‘genealogical gift’.

[1] Chronicles of the Scotch-Irish, Vol. II, p. 410
[2] Baptismal record of the children of Johann Friederich Hanger of Augusta County, Virginia, 1755-1778, Accession #11528, Special Collections Dept., University of Virginia Library, Charlottesville, Va.

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