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After a series of sudden ideas and strange coincidences, the next generation of Yerks family unfolded before me within hours. This generation has been troubling me for a long time, as I was unable to find the parents of George Oakley Yerks as listed on his death certificate. I think the officials may have guessed and filled in some names because they did not know who the parents really were. But after some careful detective work, I am extremely comfortable stating that the next Yerks Generation mystery has been solved! To solve this mystery, I worked backwards. But for the sake of clarity, I’ll tell the story moving forward.
In 1860, we find William Townsend Yerks living in the hamlet of Pleasantville, located in Mount Pleasant, New York with his wife Lucinda and their first sibling Emeline. According to Census records, there are SIXTY ONE other Yerks’ family members living in the Town of Mount Pleasant at the same time. In fact, half the names of the 1960 Census record page I looked at were Yerk’s, all living right next door to each other. Most were farm laborers, but William Townsend and a few others were shoemakers. Undoubtably, some of these must be related.
By 1870, William Townsend and his now, four children, have moved to North Castle. The census database at Ancestry.com had the last name listed as “YorK, but this is clearly the “Yerks” family we have been looking for, Three additional children have been added to the family. William A Yerks, George O Yerks and Henry Clay Yerks. According to the census record of 1870, William Townsend is now a farm hand. I think this may be a mistake.
In 1880, we find the William Townsend Yerks family in New Castle, New York. New Castle is home to the hamlets of Chappaqua and Millwood and happens to be where I spent the first 18 years of my life. Again we find William Townsend listed as a Farm Laborer, but other indications are that he was a Shoemaker on Bedford Road. Henry Clay appears to have died somewhere between 1871 and 1880, as he no longer appears on the Census. A new child named Eddie was born in 1875. Daughter Emeline is now also a shoemaker, while William and George are working on a farm.
Unfortunately, all 1890 census records were destroyed in a Washington, DC fire so we really don’t know much about what happened during these years.
In June of 1900, William and Lucinda have moved in with their now married daughter Emeline Yerks Schneck. They are living in Bedford, New York. At this point, George has been married for 12 years, has three sons and lives in Lewisboro, New York. George married Annie Cutler whose family comes from the Bedford area. Their three children are William B, Leroy (later James Leroy) and Ralph. Once again, the translation of the last name into the database is what made it almost impossible to find this record. The 1900 census has the family’s last name listed as “Erts”. George is now a Railroad Day Laborer. According to the Census record, George and Annie have lost two sons, ages unknown.
In April 1910 The George Yerks family is now living on Byram Lake Road in Bedford, New York. Leroy has yet to change his name.
By January 1917, the George Yerks family has moved into an apartment on Purchase Street, in Rye, New York. All three children registered for the draft in April of 1917 and just over a year later, Ralph is killed in action in France where he is buried today. The WWI memorial in Rye mentions both William and Ralph as serving their country, but Ralph for giving his life for his country. It appears that James was given an exemption due to his martial and children status. Once again, an incorrect last name interpretation made finding this 1920 Census record difficult. According to the database, there were all listed as “Jerks”. George is now a laborer in some type of factory while William and Leroy are chauffeurs for what appears to be a garage.
By April of 1930, the George Yerks family has gone in several different directions. Annie died in 1929 and was buried in Rye, New York. Leroy has changed his name to James Leroy, married Catherine Regan of Somers, New York and moved to Greenwich, CT. William became married to Myrtie Gant and moved to Dover, New Jersey. And aging George has moved in with long-time friend, Phebe Sarales, of Port Chester, New York. Once again the mis-interpratation of the Yerks last name made finding this record difficult. This time, it was entered as “Yenks”. James, Catherine and their two sons and daughter lived on Orchard Street in Greenwich, CT . James worked as a janitor at Cos Cob School while Catherine stayed home and took care of the children.
In April 1939, George Oakley Yerks passed away at Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York. According to his death certificate, he was living at 3910 Avenue P in Brooklyn. At this point, I am unable to figure out why. Maybe we’ll find some useful information in the 1940 Census, when it is released in 2010.
So this brings the Yerks Family History back to 1826 (When William Townsend was born)… Slowly we inch our way back to the American Revolution. I think we will get there.