Tuesday, January 31, 2012

A Story: I'm from Where?

Sunday night I had a hard time getting to sleep, so I began working on another art project, a second deli wrap collage. It's still in the beginning stage, and I have no photos yet because I have had a head cold which has really slowed me down with my already constant fatigue. I hope to have pictures for you on another day!


42nd in the Tuesday Story Series

Growing up I always enjoyed hearing my father tell stories about his ancestors. History has always fascinated me and these anecdotes just brought it to life. Then one day when I was older, my Dad showed me a little red book with my father's family name embossed in gold on the front ~ LIVINGSTON. This little book was written by another Livingston descendant who had interviewed his relatives and looked at family Bibles and local cemeteries in his area to compile all of his information. He even had copies of old photographs in his book, so it made the little book extra precious. It had been written in the 1940's.

The author had started this genealogical record with the head of the family who had moved to Orangeburg County SC from Newberry County SC and was the forebearer of all of the Livingstons in Orangeburg. He was my gggg - grandfather, John Livingston.

The author opened the paragraph of his little book by referring to Robert Livingston of New York, who had signed the Declaration of Independence. He spoke about Robert's Scottish heritage, tying it in with our heritage, stating that we were part of a centuries old Livingston Scottish clan. When I was older, I bought a little book about Scottish Clans and even joined the local Scottish Society.

In 1999, I started doing serious research work on all lines in my family. The first, and easiest to do was the Livingston line. Genealogy was beginning its rise as a popular pastime and there were more books available to research. There were more and more organizations which were posting their information online. But at that time, the best way was still to go to archives and spend hours searching through old records. I loved it - it was like a little window back into time.

I began by searching out everything I could find about Robert Livingston. Since he was a famous patriot, there was much information and genealogical records already published in many books. I searched and searched, but could find nothing about any of his family extending into the South. In fact, no one ventured out of the northeast! Puzzled, I started to look elsewhere. I drove from Charleston to the SC State Archives outside of Columbia SC and spent most of the day digging. Starting with what I knew (the ancestors I had proof about) I worked backwards and several hours later, I was looking at a Land Grant for one Martin Luther Leviston. His son's name was John Livingston. Martin was from Germany.

When I told my Dad that evening that I thought we were from Germany and not Scotland, he was very dubious. But after more research, I was able to put it all together.

Martin's family arrived in Philadelphia PA from the Palantine area of Germany on 21 September 1727, on the ship William and Mary. Their last name was Liebenstein, and they settled outside of Lancaster PA, and joined the Muddy Creek Lutheran Church. Michael and two of his brothers were given a land grant in Maryland, then sold the land and moved to Newberry County SC where they acquired another land grant. Martin's son John moved to Orangeburg County and started a saw mill; it was this family from which my father's family is descended.

Also, Martin was a Tory during the Revolutionary War, and was a Captain in the SC Royalists. He was serving under Lord Rawdon at Camden SC and was killed in September 1781 during an unsuccessful attack by the militia of Nathaniel Greene. His two brothers were also Tories, then switched to the Patriot side after the fall of Charleston SC to the British.

So my heritage went from haggis to schnitzel, at least for this family line. And it was fine with me, I had no preference for what country I was from, I just wanted to know the facts. The author of the little Livingston book made a serious mistake by assuming that one name was the same as another. Many refugees and newcomers to America Anglicized their names, or had them Anglicized for them by the authorities who could not pronounce what they were hearing when the records were recorded. The names changed down through the records as Liebenstein, Loewenstein, Leviston, Liviston, Livingston. There are many Livingstons in the US who can trace their line back to Scotland, but ours has a different history. Many American names are like that - you cannot be sure what nationality they are until you do a little research. In genealogy, one of the worst mistakes you can make is to assume a fact.  Much of life is like that - don't assume, find out!

Come see my latest postcards I've received on Postcards Buffet!


  1. Love it! Thanks for the window into history. I kinda wish we were from Scotland because I really love that place for some reason, but Germany is fine too. Will you do a story about Mom"s too? I don't really know where that side is from. Praying you win the fight with the cold!! I love you!!!

  2. Don't like haggis, huh?

    A lovely story with some salient wisdom on those who seek to construct their past.


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