The Kansans and Whence They Came – Freeman Research
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Source Citation:
Richard Wilson, "", The Kansans and Whence They Came, Internet: (accessed ), < >.

1. Joseph Freeman

Where and when was Joseph Freeman of Adams County, Pennsylvania born

Go to <Question 2><Question 3>

What did Joseph or Susan say?

Joseph Freeman was the father of Samuel E. Freeman and seven other children. The only known document that was created during Joseph's lifetime and shows his birthplace was the census of 1850. This lists his birthplace as New Jersey and his age as 74, making his birth year either 1775 or 1776. His wife, Susan Kesselring, was listed as being born in Maryland and 50 years of age. It is pretty well documented that her parents lived in Frederick County, Maryland, at the time of her birth in 1800, which means her entries are accurate. Hopefully, since the person who gave Susan's details was correct, he or she was equally aware of Joseph's background. I assume it was either Joseph or Susan who provided the information, however, they did have adult and teenage children at home at the time.

What did Joseph's children say?

I am always amazed at how little the children seemed to know about their parents. I used to envisage mothers and fathers long ago, talking late into the evening about their childhoods, their parents, their grandparents, and other past events partly because their families were very important to them and partly because there wasn't that much else to do in the evenings. I now believe that is largely a fantasy. I have seen many death certificates where the adult child who gave the personal information didn't even know their mother's maiden name, and rarely can they name both of their grandparents correctly. Compared to that, it should be no surprise that the children are often wrong about their parents' birthplaces on census records. They seem to assume that the parents had always lived in the place where they raised their family. If genealogy teaches you anything, it is that the lives of American pioneers seldom ended where they began.

With low expectations, I looked at the census records of the children of Joseph and Susan. Six of their eight children lived at least until the census of 1880. This was the first census that asked where each person's parents were born. Again, you never know who in the household gave the answers, but almost all of the answers regarding both parents were Pennsylvania. We are pretty sure this is incorrect for Susan which casts doubt on their knowledge of their father's true birthplace as well. There were only a couple exceptions to the Pennsylvania responses. In 1880, Joseph Jr. said that his father was born in Ohio. This is unlikely since the first settlers didn't arrive in Ohio until 1788. In 1900, this was changed to Pennsylvania. The most interesting answers came from their daughter, Lydia Ann (Freeman) Weigle, in 1900. Her mother was listed as born in Maryland, and her father in New Jersey. If it weren't for Joseph Jr.'s Ohio answer, I would be tempted to say that if someone is going to vary from the easy assumption of Pennsylvania, especially not for just one but for both parents, they might actually know what they are talking about. In 1880, they were both listed as Pennsylvania, but it could easily be that her husband provided the answers in 1880, and she answered in 1900.


There are many family trees that show Joseph's birthplace and date as Nottingham, England in 1783. A researcher who has done a lot of original research on the Freeman and Kesselring lines told me that her father commissioned a genealogist in the 1960's to do research on the family. This is the place and date shown for Joseph Freeman, but there is no documentation of the original sources of the information. I can't say whether this is right or wrong. I would suggest though that if their father had in fact been born overseas, Joseph's children would have been aware of at least that bit of significant information. First, if he had emigrated after about the age of seven, he would have had an accent. In addition, they would have tired of hearing about all the old traditions in the motherland. If he had emigrated at an age younger than that, at some point he still probably would have spoken about his parents bringing him over on a sailing ship. It is much more noteworthy than moving from nearby New Jersey.

Joseph Freeman Selected Documents

Census Records

Samuel E. Freeman

1880, father born PA.
(can't find 1900 census)

Joseph Freeman, Jr.

1880, father born OH.
1900, father born PA.

Eliza Freeman

(can't find 1880 census)
1900, father born PA.
1910, father born PA.

Lydia Ann (Freeman) Weigle

1880, father born PA.
1900, father born NJ, mother born MD.

William F. Freeman

1880, father born PA.
1900, father born PA.

Mary F. (Freeman) Cassatt

1880, father born PA.
1900, father born PA.
1910, father born PA.

2. David Freeman

Who was David Freeman, the neighbor of Joseph Freeman in Adams County, Pennsylvania

Go to <Question 1><Question 3>

Relatives or Just Neighbors?

For more than twenty years, David Freeman and Joseph Freeman were next door neighbors in Hunterstown, Adams County, Pennsylvania. Joseph was listed here on the 1820-1850 federal census records. Additionally, he was already somewhere in the area by January 1810 when a newspaper included his name on a list of people who had letters waiting in the post office. David was listed here on the 1810-1840 federal census records. He was in Mt. Pleasant township of the same county (York County before 1800) as early as 1798.

Joseph's age and birthplace have been difficult for researchers to agree on. The 1850 census shows that he was born c.1776 in New Jersey. The 1820 and 1840 censuses match his age in broader ranges. The 1830 census, however, differs by putting his birthyear between 1781-1790. When David's census records are considered together, they put his birthyear between 1761-1765. He died 1 Aug 1842 and his death notice said he was 76 years old which would make his birthyear c.1766. These dates would make David approximately 10 years older than Joseph which ends any speculation that David was Joseph's father. On the other hand, their ages make David an excellent candidate for a brother, a cousin, or even a young uncle. Two strangers with the same surname living next to each other would be a rare occurrence, especially when they were the only Freemans in the county at the time.

According to David's probate records, he died intestate, or without a will, and "left no issue nor widow". His property was sold to pay his debts. Of his four lots of property, Joseph and his son, Samuel, purchased two of them. Maybe they wanted to keep his land in the family. Maybe they just saw a good opportunity for young Samuel to have property near his father.

Where was Joseph?

It would be very helpful to find Joseph's whereabouts during his younger adult years. Since he wasn't listed during the census of 1810, he must have been living with another family. At the age of 35, he would usually have been the head of his own household. However, since he was not known to have ever married until about 1818, he very well could have remained with his parents, moved in with other family members, or been a farmhand. He wasn't living with David though. If Joseph was in fact born in the adjacent state of New Jersey, the most likely places for him to have been before showing up in Adams County would surely be New Jersey, Maryland, or elsewhere in Pennsylvania.

David Freeman Selected Documents

Census Records

1810, Straban Township, Adams County, PA, p.94.

David Freeman household: ----1----11.
1 male 45 and older (b.bef. 1765) David.
1 female 45 and older (b.bef. 1765) David's wife.
1 free non-white in household. unknown.

1820, Hunterstown, Adams County, PA, p.90.

Joseph Freeman household: 1---1--11-----1.
1 male 0-10 (b.1810-1820) Samuel.
1 male 45 and older (b.bef.1775) Joseph.
1 female 16-26 (b.1794-1804) Susan.
1 female 26-45 (b.1775-1794) unknown.

[There are no headings to tell what the last '1' is listing.]

David Freeman household: -----1----1-1--------------1.
1 male 45 and older (b.bef. 1775) David.
1 female 45 and older (b.bef. 1775) David's wife.

[Since there were no males listed at all even though the head of household was a male, I have assumed that the digits were shifted to the right by one column. There are no headings to tell what the last two '1's' are listing.]

1830, Straban Township, Adams County, PA, p.55/107.

David Freeman household:
1 male 60-69 (b.1761-1770) David.
1 female 70-79 (b.1751-1760) David's wife.

Joseph Freeman household:
1 male 5-9 (b.1821-1825) Joseph Jr..
1 male 10-14 (b.1826-1830) Samuel.
1 male 40-49 (b.1781-1790) Joseph.
1 female 0-4 (b.1826-1830) Lydia Ann.
1 female 5-9 (b.1821-1825) Catherine or Eliza.
1 female 30-39 (b.1791-1800) Susan.

1840, Straban Township, Adams County, PA, p.49B/96.

David Freeman household:
1 male 70-79 (b.1761-1770) David.
1 female 80-89 (b.1751-1760) David's wife.

Joseph Fourmen [Freeman] household:
2 male 5-9 (b.1831-1835) George & William.
1 male 15-19 (b.1821-1825) Joseph Jr..
1 male 20-29 (b.1811-1820) Samuel.
1 male 60-69 (b.1771-1780) Joseph.
1 female 0-4 (b.1836-1840) Mary.
1 female 5-9 (b.1831-1835) Lydia Ann.
1 female 10-14 (b.1826-1830) Eliza.
1 female 15-19 (b.1821-1825) Catherine.
1 female 40-49 (b.1791-1800) Susan.

1850, Hunterstown, Straban Township, Adams County, PA, p.326A.

Joseph Freeman, age 74, male, no occupation, $800 real estate, born New Jersey.
Susan Freeman, age 50, female, born Maryland.
Catherine Freeman, age 21, female, born Pennsylvania.
Lydia A. Freeman, age 17, female, born Pennsylvania.
George Freeman, age 15, male, born Pennsylvania.
Mary F. Freeman, age 11, female, born Pennsylvania, attended school.

3. Samuel Freeman

Is Samuel E. Freeman of Adams County, Pennsylvania and Dickinson County, Kansas part of the same family as the first postmaster of Portland, Maine

Go to <Question 1><Question 2>

Newspaper Article

Samuel Freeman claimed to be named after a direct ancestor who was a well known postmaster of Portland, Maine. His claim is known solely from the following brief newspaper article:

Abilene Reflector, Abilene, Kansas.

weekly edition, 2 Jul 1891, p.5.

Late Maine papers tell of the death of Chas. Freeman Bryant whose name recalls the fact that he was a grandson of Samuel Freeman, the first postmaster of Portland. Mr. Freeman's original commission signed by Ben Franklin is in the library of Col. C. H. Barker, of this city. Sam Freeman, a well known farmer of Northeast Dickinson [county] is a direct descendent of the gentleman for whom he is named.

But Is it True?

Although the article doesn't mention it, Mr. Bryant died 16 Jun 1891 at the age of 78, making his birth c.1813. His notable grandfather was known for being more than just a postmaster. Samuel Freeman held virtually every public office imaginable in his hometown, many simultaneously. He was also active in politics, being a representative for Maine in the Provincial Congress of 1775, 1776, and 1778. He was born 15 Jun 1743 in Falmouth (now Portland), Cumberland County, Maine, and he died in Portland 18 Jun 1831. The well known farmer in this article was Samuel E. Freeman who was born 24 Dec 1819 in Hunterstown, Adams County, Pennsylvania.

For the younger Samuel's claim of being a direct descendant of the elder Samuel to be accurate, he would have to be his grandson. This would also make him a first cousin of the Mr. Bryant who recently died. Younger Samuel's father, Joseph Freeman, was born c.1776, most likely in New Jersey. Therefore, the postmaster Samuel could conceivably be his father. However, the first and biggest problem is that seemingly thorough online genealogies of Samuel Freeman, the postmaster, do not include Joseph Freeman or Samuel E. Freeman among his descendants. Furthermore, the elder Samuel first married on 3 Nov 1777, presumably after Joseph was born. He married a second time in 1786. Even if Joseph's estimated birth date isn't quite right, both wives were bearing children on a regular basis, leaving no gap for an unaccounted for Joseph to fit in. In addition, Joseph would have been born in Maine, not New Jersey, since Samuel resided there his entire life. So if Samuel E. Freeman, the farmer, is not a direct descendant of Samuel, the postmaster, is there any truth to the article at all? Perhaps.

Without some connection to the area, the death of the grandson of a man who had been locally famous in his day in Portland, Maine, should not have been a significant event for readers in Abilene, Kansas. Presumably, the family connection must have been reported to the Abilene newspaper editor by the farmer himself or by a member of his family prior to publication. How and why would this have occurred? Did the editor ask Samuel if he was related to this man just because they had the same fairly common name? That would have been a lucky shot in the dark. Had Samuel told the editor previously? If so, why? Did Samuel bring the whole issue to the attention of the editor in the first place? It just doesn't seem plausible that the editor somehow heard of Mr. Bryant's death, then randomly asked Samuel if he was related to his grandfather, and the answer just happened to be yes.

If Samuel believed this to be true, there was hopefully a reason for it. Since it would have been recent family history and also incorrect, he probably wasn't told by his elders that this specific Samuel Freeman was his grandfather. However, he may have been given various less specific information and made the connections between them himself. He must have been told that he was related to Freemans in Portland, Maine. I cannot fathom any other reason why he would have assumed any connection to a family with a reasonably common surname so far away from his hometown in Pennsylvania. I also find it believable that he was told he was named after an ancestor named Samuel Freeman. That would have been typical. There are probably many more cases of vague stories like this that are completely false than there are that are completely true. On the other hand, many of these family stories do contain a mangled truth, and it is often the timeline that gets jumbled. It is doubtful that Samuel was aware of the precise age of the postmaster referenced in the newspaper, and therefore, he wouldn't have known that he was the appropriate age to be his grandfather. Perhaps both Samuel Freemans descend from an even earlier Samuel Freeman. If there is assumed to be any truth to this claim at all, this prospect seems quite reasonable.

Lots and Lots of Samuels

According to the book, "Genealogical and Family History of the State of Maine", published in 1909 and edited by George Little who had impecable history and genealogy credentials, there are several Samuels to choose from. Samuel the postmaster, had an uncle, a grandfather, greatgrandfather, and great-greatgrandfather named Samuel Freeman. The first arrived from England in Watertown, Massachusetts, in 1630. There could be hundreds of descendants between him and Samuel E. almost two hundred years later, and it is not hard to imagine that one of them moved the short distance to New Jersey. Since researchers seem to have been at a brick wall regarding Joseph Freeman and his origins for decades, it is surely worth giving Samuel E. Freeman the benefit of a doubt and looking into the possibility.