Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Was Charles Godfrey Patterson an assumed name?

    Charles Godfrey Patterson supposedly ran away at age sixteen (circa 1852) from an orphanage in Northern Ireland, where he was being prepared for the Presbyterian ministry. A runaway might very well change his name, which would explain why he has not been found on any passenger list; in records of Elizabeth, Union County, New Jersey, where he allegedly first settled and worked for a newspaper; and in the 1860 census of any state. Among his possessions, however, were generic  “genealogies” of the Patterson and Fraser families, so maybe he really was a Patterson. 
    The  first known (but not found) record of this man is his application for naturalization, filed in an unidentified court on 15 October 1860. A certificate of naturalization was issued by the Court of Common Pleas in Essex County, New Jersey, on 31 October 1868.
    In the years following 1860, C. Godfrey Patterson (as he termed himself) earned a degree from Columbia University’s Law School in New York City; moved to Ottawa, Franklin County, Kansas, where he purchased, edited and published a newspaper; returned to New York City and established a law practice; got married in Connecticut; and fathered two sons. Although he moved to New Jersey for a time, he continued his New York City law practice until shortly before his death.
    One of Godfrey’s sons died young; the other grew up, graduated from New York University’s Law School, joined his father’s law practice, and  married in 1908. He kept his marriage a secret until after his mother's death in January 1909.
    Godfrey died in January 1910, his son died the following month, and his son’s widow gave birth to her only child two weeks later. Needless to say, she barely knew her father-in-law and had little information about him. 
    According to his death certificate, the information for which was provided by his son, Godfrey was born in Ireland on 24 December 1836 to unknown parents. His daughter-in-law thought he was born near Bushmills, County Antrim, Ulster; however, according to census records, he was born in Londonderry (whether city or county is unknown). 
    On my behalf, in 1980 the Ulster Historical Foundation searched for the birth of Charles Godfrey Patterson near Bushmills and also in the neighboring towns of County Londonderry and found nothing. The researcher did consider the possibility that Fraser and Godfrey might be associated surnames.
    My most challenging brick wall is my great-grandfather Patterson's ancestry. 

Naturalization certificate from Buffalogen's collection