In 2001, I received an email from a distant cousin who mentioned that our common ancestor, my 3rd g-grandmother, Nancy Jane Wolfe's maiden name had been Chase. The information she shared came from a letter that had been passed down in her family! I was excited because before then I had no clue as to Nancy's origins. I searched the census for West Finley, Washington County, Pennsylvania, and decided the most likely person to be Nancy's father would be Barnabas Chase who I found in both the 1850 and 1860 census. Nancy probably married before 1832, so the census did not help me connect her to Barnabas, though. But I continued to search for information about Barnabas. According to the census, he was born in Massachusetts, so during a weekend when the New England Historic Genealogical Society was allowing free access to their online databases, I was able to connect that Barnabas Chase to the family of William Chase who came to America in 1630 with John Winthrop. The book embedded below shows some of William Chase's descendants.
I also found a page in an online document database for Washington County, PA, that mentioned that Barnabas Chase had been married to Elizabeth Carroll in 1802. I had no indication that Nancy Jane Wolfe had been his daughter, however, until I was able to visit the Family History Library in March of 2002. I was able to view the will of Barnabas Chase on microfilm, which contained this line:
"my daught Nancy Wolff has got hir hundred"
I made an excited sound right there in the quiet library and then looked around embarrassedly at the people close by who only smiled. I guess they understood that feeling!
The entire will reads:
Willbook #9, page 503
Washington County, PA
Will of Barnabas Chase
I Barnabas Chase of West Finley Township Washington County do make this my last will and testament first I commit my soule to God how give it and my body to the earth from whence it came--- 2 that my executors pay all my just debts, 3d I will my son James Chase the farm where he now lives forever, and I will my son Joseph Chase Eighty Acres of the home farm of the South west side Going McNays so to run a parlel line so it will be an equal breuth from Southerland heirs clene thrugh land I will my son John Chase the balance of the home farm and I will my son Simen C. Chase five hundred dollars, and I will my daughter Ruth one hundred dollars-- and I will my daughter Jane Bromer One hundred dollars and my daught Nancy Wolff has got hir hundred -- and I will to my two granddaughters Mary E. McKeag and Suny E. McKeag three hundred dollars each and will the household and kitchen furnerture and the balance of my parsonly property and money is to be equally devided ammonnge my sons and daughters and I constute and appoint my son John Chase and John Burnes my executors to settle my estate in testimony thereof I set my hand and seal this 30 day of July 1866.
Barnabas Chase (seal)
Millin M. Sutherland
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Washington County SS
Be it remembered that on this 1st day of June before me I. Y. Hamilton Register for the Probate of Wills and granting Letters of Adminstration within and for the said County came Wm Jordon & Wm M. Sutherland the subscribing witnesses to the foregoing attached will of Barnabas Chase deceased who after being duly qualified according to law, depose and say; that they were present at the execution of said will, saw the testator sign the same -- heard him publish that they at his request, in his presence & in the presence of each other subscribed their names thereto as witnesses and at the time of doing so the said testator was of sound and disposing mind, memory and understanding to the best of their knowledge observation and belief.
Sworn and subscribed before I. Y. Hamilton Regr.
W. M. Sutherland
And now June 1 1870 it being adjudged that the said will has been duly proven and John Burns one of the executors being deceased & the other executor John Chase having renounced his right to the same, Letters are issued to J. W. Hancher by agreement who was duly sworn by
I. Y. Hamilton Regr.
In the years since then, I have not found the burial place of Barnabas and Elizabeth Chase. Perhaps his grave was never marked or maybe the stone is no longer legible, but I have not given up hope! I never imagined before that time that my family had any connection to New England, much less to a family who was here in America so early!