The other day my husband and I were at the Cemetery of the Highlands in Highland Mills, NY near Woodbury. (Orange County) My genealogical serendipity continues to amaze me as I stumbled upon yet another set of Woodhulls from my line and from the Revolutionary War era. I wasn’t even looking for them and yet, there they were… all in a large family section with about 20 of them, including that of Colonel Jesse Smith Woodhull. Even in my delight at stumbling across a distant relative and seeing his DAR marker in place, I was more intrigued by a nearby grave, that as you can see, is sadly being slowly overtaken by the ground cover.
The grave in question was that of Hannah Woodhull who died 6 Jan 1809 at 44 years of age. Her stone was mark “consort of Capt. Richard Woodhull.” Consort? I was immediately interested as I had never seen that before nor were any of the other stones around it labeled as such. Color me curious! When I got home, I set out to searching on Google, which I must be terrible at because I only found the vaguest of random notations on it that gave no help really, so I reached out to my new friend, Genealogy Jen for her opinion as well.
Jen’s a genealogy wonder for she found several more references than I did. (I think my Google is broken.) No matter where she nor I looked, there was no real definite, hard proof …just lots of conjecture. Of course, some said it was scandalous – inferring that she bore the children of a married man. Many said it was a fancy way to say “spouse” because Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert was called consort… but Albert wasn’t even BORN yet when Hannah died, so it couldn’t be that reasoning. Others speculated that it was when the couple was married without a proper pastor to perform the ceremony. (many didn’t want to wait for the preacher to make his rounds as most would travel about) Lots said that it meant the husband survived the wife’s death. (if the wife survived the husband she was called “relict”) With that example in mind though, Hannah outlived her husband so she’d be a relict, not a consort …so that theory is out the window in this case.
I was looking for a more definitive answer and not just random forum people posts. Joy M. Giguere, an assistant professor at Penn State York wrote a book about gravestones and cemeteries in which she discussed the terminology used on headstones, including that of consort. Indeed, it would seem that, as she writes, consort is “synonymous with wife.”
In Hannah Woodhull’s particular case, I believe this to be true. IF I’ve found the correct Hannah Woodhull, she was daughter to Judge William Smith of Long Island and married Richard Woodhull, son of that Revolutionary War solider I mentioned above, Colonel Jesse Smith Woodhull. That’s IF I have the right Hannah! I’m still digging. There are bonker amounts of Richard and Hannah Woodhulls out there so pinpointing the right ones take some careful research. You’d think finding a “Captain Richard Woodhull” would be easy but I’ve only found two scant references that are flimsy at best. Colonel Jesse Woodhull did have a son named Richard and the will of Richard Woodhull in this city/county does mention a wife Hannah and there is a broken, barely readable stone near Hannah’s and Jesse’s that says Richard …so I think I’m on the right trail. I just need a few more solid pieces to feel secure in my assessment that this is the correct Hannah & Richard Woodhull.
Anyways, I thought I’d share Hannah’s “consort” stone and the associated article on the terminology in case someone else hadn’t come across it yet either.