Bell

Irene Bell Wait, one of my brick walls

On April 21, 1784, a woman named Irene Bell married my fifth great grandfather, David Wait (b. May 20, 1754).

Who was Irene Bell, born on October 20, 1764, and a resident of Perth Amboy, NJ? What was her background? Who were her parents? The few clues I have about her have been gleaned from a biographical sketch on her son James (b. 1824) that appeared in a book, Biographical and portrait cyclopedia of the Third congressional district of New Jersey, and that is that she David were active in the Perth Amboy Presbyterian Church and parents to nearly a dozen children. I found a separate source stating she was born in Connecticut (FamilySearch™ Ancestral File v4.19, AFN: 9TX4-0G), but no evidence was provided to substantiate that.

Irene died in Perth Amboy on May 31, 1804, at age 39, her last child having been born in 1801. David’s will, written in 1810 and mentioned in the last post, contains the name of Andrew Bell. I decided to research this Andrew to see whether he was in any way related to Irene.

I discovered an Andrew Bell who had been a loyalist and served in the NYC office of the British commander-in-chief during the Revolutionary War. After the war his loyalist ties did not have the impact on his future life that they may have had otherwise, likely because Andrew’s sister, Cornelia Bell, was married to William Paterson, a prominent patriot and attorney-general for New Jersey. Eventually Paterson served in the senate, as governor, and as a member of the Supreme Court. Andrew Bell, who had studied law in Perth Amboy before the war, returned to Perth Amboy after the war and began a new chapter in his life as a successful merchant. The NJ Historical Society’s biographical note describes him as having been appointed the collector of Perth Amboy’s port in 1800 for the final year of John Adams’ presidency.  During this time period, he was also the deputy surveyor general of the East Jersey Proprietors and for approximately thirty-five years, ca. 1806-1842, served as the surveyor general. The Historical Society has in its archives a fascinating collection of his personal papers, land surveys, financial records, maps, and letters.

So, I was intrigued; could Cornelia and Andrew have had a sister named Irene? Well, I discovered the answer unfortunately was “no”.  Cornelia is listed in a 1997 book on famous NJ women (**Burstyn, p. 33-35) and it is stated that she was the oldest child and only daughter of NJ landowner John Bell and his wife.  So while I think this Andrew Bell may very well have been a witness to David Wait’s will, he was not Irene’s brother. Could Irene have been related to him in some other way? A cousin, perhaps?

Another angle that occurred to me was that perhaps Irene was the daughter of German or Dutch immigrants who had changed their name from Behl, Bale, or Bel. The reason that crossed my mind is because in the Wait family Bible, daughter Margaret Wait’s name is not spelled “Margaret”; its spelling looks more like “Margratha,” and Irene’s own name does not appear to be spelled as “Irene.” It looks more like “Rinea” or “Irinea.” Could Irene have been an Americanized version?

I’ve searched every way possible on Family Search and have come up empty handed. I’ve searched the trees on World Connect to no avail. A lead came up with the Bel surname, but upon further investigation, those Bels, members of the Dutch Reformed Church in Hackensack, NJ, had no daughters named Irene or anything approximate to Irene. Their one son also had no daughters by that name.

I have also searched New Jersey Marriage Records, 1665-1800, and early Connecticut Marriages, and come up with nothing.  Bell was a prominent family name in early Connecticut history, but I could find no record of an Irene. Perhaps they were married in a different state? I tried early Pennsylvania records as that is where Andrew Bell was from, but found nothing there.

The next best step appears to be to try to access burial records for the Alpine Cemetery in Perth Amboy. The First Presbyterian Church yard does not appear to have any grave sites; I suspect if it ever had a graveyard, it was moved to Alpine to make way for encroaching city growth. In any case, Irene Bell Wait is my brick wall. If you have any suggestions, please let me know!

 

**Burstyn, Joan N. (1997). Past and Promise: Lives of New Jersey Women. Syracuse University Press.

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Categories: Bell, Perth Amboy, Wait | Leave a comment

David Wait Family of Perth Amboy, New Jersey

One family line which we can trace back only so far is the David Wait family of Perth Amboy, New Jersey. Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, David Wait settled in the town after the end of the Revolutionary War, married Irene Bell, and together they had 11 children. I have found two sources of biographical information about David Wait and his descendants online:

There is conflicting information about David Wait’s involvement in the Revolutionary War. The Wiley source says he came over to the Colonies as a British soldier, was captured and held a POW until after war’s end, and then eventually made his way to Perth Amboy via Sussex and Essex counties in NJ. The Mendenhall source says he enlisted in the Colonial Army, was captured and held by the British until the end of the war, and then went to Perth Amboy. I’m inclined to believe the former, but have not researched this further.

Perth Amboy on Map (US Census)

Presbyterianism in Perth Amboy, NJ describes the founding of the first Presbyterian Church in Perth Amboy by Capt. John Angus, David Wait, and John Lewis. The Wiley bio mentions David Wait as being a carpenter and his son John Oliver Wait, who married Elizabeth Crow (granddaughter of Col. Samuel Crow), as first working with David as a carpenter before starting his own successful baking business. John’s son, John Oliver Wait, entered into the business before striking out on his own at No. 24 Smith Street (until 1852) and No. 24 Smith Street (from 1852 onwards). Evidently he was extremely successful with his “breads, fine cakes, ice-cream and confections” as his resources allowed him to own a 130-acre farm in nearby Woodbridge.

Page 500 of the Wiley text

Page 503 of the Wiley Text (note: there was no text on pages 501-502)

If you go to the “Names S-Z” tab above, you will be able to see the family details I have thus far for David and Irene Wait and their descendents. I would love to know something about the pair’s ancestors, but so far have come up empty-handed. If you are extra attentive when reading the list,  you might notice something curious. Indeed, there is a bit of a mystery there. More about that in an upcoming post!

Categories: Bell, Crow, Martin, Perth Amboy, Wait | Leave a comment

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