Kissing cousins

The Stewards in Goshen with their household staff, ca. 1857. Jackson Steward is seated, reading a letter, and Rachel and Camille Marié can be seen in the doorway.

I’m not sure when I first realized that, in addition to my direct ancestors’ propensity for marrying their cousins, I had collateral relatives who were wont to marry into the same families. The examples are extensive enough that it might take a couple of posts to cover the territory, so for this one I will look at my paternal grandfather’s Steward relatives – I can think of four instances without too much trouble!

My great-great-great-grandfather John Steward of Goshen, New York (1777–1854) was married twice, first to a neighbor, Martha Jackson, and then to Mary Isabella Young of Philadelphia. By his first wife, John had five children, four of whom lived to grow up and marry; poor Mary Isabella had just one survivor among her children. Sad to say, too, that all of John Steward’s daughters died comparatively young, while his two elder sons lived to ripe old ages.

The first child to marry was the eldest daughter, Elizabeth (1812–1843), to John Slosson; one of the last was Mary Isabella Steward’s daughter, Rachel (1829–1865), who married Camille Marié in 1856. As Elizabeth (Steward) Slosson married in 1833, there was plenty of time for her to have a daughter, Sarah Elizabeth Slosson, who married Uncle Camille’s brother Albin in 1857! The only child of this marriage was (Léontine) Elizabeth Marié, who married (Robert) Morgan Gibbes Barnwell in 1883; their surviving child was named Clermont Livingston Barnwell.

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Mary Bogert Steward designed this house for her cousin, my great-grandfather.

John and Martha’s younger son, Daniel Jackson Steward (1816–1898), waited until he was forty to marry. His wife was Mary Anna Bogert (1830–1912), and they had four daughters, among them Mary Bogert Steward (1860–1955), who designed my great-grandparents’ house in Goshen, and Elizabeth, who married Drayton Burrill. Here everything comes together, for Elizabeth (Steward) Burrill had a daughter, Elizabeth Steward Morris Burrill (1895–1985), who married her cousin Clermont Livingston Barnwell in 1917.

But we aren’t finished! John and Martha’s younger daughter was Mary Young Steward (1818–1852), who married James Henry Van Alen in 1844; he would later serve as a Union general during the Civil War. The Van Alens’ only child was James John Van Alen (1846–1923), who married Emily Astor – the eldest daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Astor and sister of John Jacob Astor, who went down with the Titanic – in 1876.

[Two] first cousins – James Van Alen and John Steward – married two first cousins – Emily Astor and Cordelia Jones.

My great-grandfather, Campbell Steward (1852–1936), was James Van Alen’s first cousin, the son of John Steward (1814–1901) and Catharine Elizabeth White. His older brother, also John Steward (1847–1923), married Emily Astor’s first cousin, Cordelia Schermerhorn Jones, in 1871. So two first cousins – James Van Alen and John Steward – married two first cousins – Emily Astor and Cordelia Jones. Relations between the two families were such that, I remember reading, the young Van Alens named their joint cousins John and Cordelia Steward as the contingent guardians for their children Mary, James, and Sarah.

Which brings me to my fourth connection. Several years ago a Van Alen kinsman (descended from James John Van Alen and Emily Astor, and thus a cousin through the Stewards and a connection through the Schermerhorns, Aunt Cordelia’s ancestors) married my stepsister, a Steward – only 166 years after the last Steward/Van Alen wedding … or 139 years since the last Steward/Schermerhorn union!

Scott C. Steward

About Scott C. Steward

Scott C. Steward has been NEHGS’ Editor-in-Chief since 2013. He is the author, co-author, or editor of genealogies of the Ayer, Le Roy, Lowell, Saltonstall, Thorndike, and Winthrop families. His articles have appeared in The New England Historical and Genealogical Register, NEXUS, New England Ancestors, American Ancestors, and The Pennsylvania Genealogical Magazine, and he has written book reviews for the Register, The New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, and the National Genealogical Society Quarterly.View all posts by Scott C. Steward