Friday 23 February 2018

Male Line Ancestry of John Streator Gleason, Mormon Pioneer

Aim: To verify that John Streator Gleason, born 1819, was a descendant of Thomas Gleason, born 1609 in Suffolk, England, and to correct erroneous information often found in family histories online. This requires showing that John’s father Ezekiel was the grandson of Joseph Gleason of Oxford, Massachusetts, a known descendant of Thomas. The discussion begins with Joseph.

            Joseph Gleason (Thomas,3  Thomas,2  Thomas,1  ThomasA) of Oxford, Massachusetts, was born 1722 in Framingham, Massachusetts, and is designated #61 in the Gleason genealogy by John Barber White.[1] He and wife Lydia Tarbox had only two sons on record, both born in Oxford: Joseph [Jr.], born 22 Aug 1744, who married Mercy Streeter; and Abner, born 6 Dec 1745, who married Abigail Rich. These facts are verified in the vital records of Massachusetts.[2]

However, another son was born to Joseph and Lydia whose birth record has not survived. This child was Ezekiel Gleason, born about 1750. (The birth year is approximated from his age on a death notice to be presented later.) Evidence that Joseph had a son Ezekiel is found in the document Non-Resident School Tax Rates of Auburn, Massachusetts, 1797 (Figure 1), where the three brothers are listed with one-third equal shares as heirs of Joseph.[3] Oxford originally included territory that later became part of the town of Auburn. No record of the death of their father Joseph has been found, but clearly he had died by 1797.

Ezekiel Gleason, son of Joseph, married Esther Streeter on 5 October 1773 in Oxford. She was born 21 April 1754 in Oxford, daughter of John and Elizabeth (Gleason) Streeter and was the sister of Mercy Streeter, wife of Ezekiel’s brother Joseph. (The Streeter sisters were first cousins once removed of their husbands.) Four children of Ezekiel and Esther are listed on the vital records of Auburn: Ruth and Elizabeth, twins, born 2 March 1774; Ezekiel [Jr.], born 8 November 1776; and Lydia, born 13 November 1779.[4]

Sometime later, Ezekiel’s family moved west to the frontier county of Berkshire, Massachusetts, where they appear on the census of Becket in 1790 with three additional children—a total of three boys and four girls. (Census records at that time only enumerated children by gender.) Listed adjacent to Ezekiel on the 1790 census of Becket are his father and brother: Joseph Gleason and Joseph Gleason Jr. Ten years later, the 1800 census of Becket indicates that three male children were still living with Ezekiel’s family. The family of his brother Joseph Gleason is found listed adjacent to Ezekiel, and there is no record of his deceased father.[5]

In 1810 Ezekiel and unnamed wife are shown on the census of Tyringham, Berkshire County, and no children remain with them. Tyringham is adjacent to Becket, so this change may not indicate a move from one town to another since town boundaries were quite fluid at the time. In 1820 and 1830 the old couple are still in Tyringham; a daughter and her children live with them in 1830. [6]

Joseph, brother of Ezekiel, died in Tyringham, Berkshire County, on 18 September 1811, six days after the death of his wife Mercy Gleason on 12 September 1811 and three days after his son, also named Joseph.[7] These three deaths within a week suggest that the family died from a common illness. Erroneously, there are those who claim that this Joseph, who died intestate in 1811, was Ezekiel’s father; but his father had died by 1797 as shown by the Non-Resident School Tax Rates of Auburn. Furthermore, probate records of Berkshire County in 1812 show that the modest estate of the deceased was divided among his seven living children: Nathaniel, John, Joel, Mercy Kilborn, Anna Heath, Sally, and a married daughter whose name is not clear on the record.[8]

Figure 1. Auburn Non-Resident School Tax Rates, 1797

A death notice in The Pittsfield Sun, published in Pittsfield, Berkshire County, recorded the death of Ezekiel Gleason on 23 Aug 1837 in Tyringham, age 88. He was buried in the Tyringham Cemetery.[9] Ezekiel’s will was written in 1830 and probated in 1837. His third wife, Hannah, and all of his seven children are mentioned in the will: Ezekiel [Jr.], Elijah, Stephen “deceased,” Elizabeth, Ruth, Lydia Kilbourn, and Hannah Kilbourn. His daughter Lydia Kilbourn was executrix; William Cheney and Thomas Stedman were appointed to assist her. Lydia and Elijah were to receive the bulk of the estate upon the death of wife Hannah. Ezekiel [Jr.] was granted ten dollars, as were Elizabeth, Ruth, and the heirs of Stephen. Hannah Kilbourn received eighty dollars.[10]

Additional information about this family has been found. Hannah (Gleason) Kilbourn, daughter of Ezekiel and Mary A. Gleason, died in Tyringham 10 November 1854 at age sixty-nine.[11] Thus Ezekiel had a second wife named Mary. Lydia (Gleason) Kilbourn appears on the 1855 census of Tyringham, age 76, residing with the family of William and Elizabeth Cheney—perhaps her daughter. Lydia’s death, recorded on 7 November 1856, gave her age as seventy-eight.[12]

It has now been shown that Ezekiel Gleason, born about 1750, was the son of Joseph Gleason of Oxford, Massachusetts. It has also been shown that he removed to Berkshire County and died there in 1837 and that he had a son named Ezekiel, born 1776 in Auburn, Massachusetts. Ezekiel, the son, last appeared on the census records of Berkshire County in 1800 when he would have been twenty-four years of age. His whereabouts after 1800 are unknown, but he was still living in 1830 when his father wrote his will. It remains to be shown that this Ezekiel Gleason Jr. was the father of John Streator Gleason.

            The death certificate of John Streator Gleason says he was born 13 January 1819 in Livingston County, New York, to Ezekiel Gleason, born New York, and Polly Howard, born New York. John’s death is given as 21 December 1904 in Pleasant Grove, Utah. (Figure 2) The informant on the death record is Thomas H. Gleason.[13] Of course a death record is a reliable source for specifics of the death; but the information about a parent of the deceased could be, and often is, only hearsay. Thus these records must be used with caution. Furthermore, the information about John’s parents is written in a different hand from that on the rest of the document. If John’s father was actually born in New York State, then his father was not Ezekiel Gleason Jr., born Auburn, Massachusetts. Possibly, this place of birth was a guess on the part of the informant. Since no birth record for John has been found, it will be assumed for now that the names of his parents and John’s birthplace are correct. What facts about his father, the Ezekiel Gleason of Livingston County, New York, can be found?

An Ezekiel Gleason is found on the 1810 census of Brutus Township, Cayuga County, New York. A map of New York Counties from 1800 shows that Cayuga County bordered the large Ontario County lying to the west. The census states that in the household of this Ezekiel are the following: one male of age under 10, one male 26-44, one female under 10, and one female 26-44; thus the couple has one boy and one girl under ten years of age.[14]

The building of the Erie Canal began in 1808 and was completed in 1825, and the path of the canal went directly through the heart of Brutus Township. Perhaps the upheaval of the construction caused Ezekiel to relocate elsewhere. In 1820 an Ezekiel Gleason is found on the census of Livonia Township, Ontario County, New York, which lies about 65 miles west of Brutus. One year later Livingston County was created from that part of Ontario County that included Livonia. The census shows the following members of the family: four males under 10 years of age, one male 16-25, one male 26-44, one female under 10, one female 10-15, and one female 26-44. Thus there are five boys and two girls.[15] If this is the same family as the family in Brutus, then the couple produced five children (four males and one female) in ten years—certainly not unheard of for that period.

Figure 2. Death Certificate of John Streator Gleason

In 1830 Ezekiel Gleason appears on the census of Groveland, then a part of Sparta Township in Livingston County.[16]. This seemingly new location of the family within the county since 1820 does not necessarily imply that the family moved. As the population grew, counties and towns of New York were evolving rapidly, and townships that were originally quite large were divided up into smaller towns and villages. Rural residents may not have been aware of the latest boundary.

Ezekiel Gleason may have continued to move westward, for that name is listed on the census of 1840 in Brandt, Erie County, New York, age between 60 and 70. If this is the same Ezekiel, then his wife has died and is no longer with the family, but the household includes several adult males and females of marriageable age.[17]

One more census record for Ezekiel Gleason has been found: the 1860 census record of Monroe, Green County, Wisconsin. Significantly, this record states that Ezekiel is 83 years of age and born in Massachusetts. He is living with the family of Oliver Perry Gleason, a mason, age 37, born in the state of New York.[18] The 27 August 1854 marriage record of this Oliver P. Gleason in Monroe, Green County, Wisconsin, lists his parents as Ezekiel and Polly Gleason.[19] Recalling that John Streator Gleason was born in 1819 to Ezekiel and Polly of Livingston County, New York, it is apparent that Oliver Perry Gleason is the brother of John Streator Gleason; and the Ezekiel Gleason living with him in Monroe, Wisconsin, in 1860 at age 83 is John Streator Gleason’s father who formerly resided in Livingston County, New York.


            Conclusion: Since it has been shown that the father of John Streator Gleason was the Ezekiel Gleason of Livingston County, New York, it only remains to show that this Ezekiel is the same person as Ezekiel Gleason Jr., who was born in Auburn, Massachusetts, in 1776 and whose father died in Tyringham in 1837. At this point, only circumstantial evidence can be cited for proof:

1) The middle name of John Streator Gleason could be an alternate form of Streeter, the birth name of Esther Streeter, mother of Ezekiel Gleason Jr.

2) Ezekiel Gleason Jr. is not found in Massachusetts after the census of 1800 when he is still unmarried. Ezekiel, father of John Streator Gleason, is first recorded in the state of New York in 1810 as a married man, with children less than ten years of age. The chronology fits.

3) The 1860 census of Green County, Wisconsin, states that Ezekiel Gleason, age 83—father of Oliver Perry and John Streator—was born in Massachusetts. This closely agrees with the birth of Ezekiel Gleason Jr., who was born in Auburn, Massachusetts on 8 November 1776.

Based on these observations, this researcher has no reservation in accepting the conclusion that John Streator Gleason is the son of Ezekiel Gleason Jr., born 1776 in Auburn, Massachusetts, and is a descendant of Thomas Gleason born Suffolk, England, with male lineage written thus:

John Streator Gleason7 (Ezekiel,6  Ezekiel,5  Joseph,4  Thomas,3  Thomas,2  Thomas,1  ThomasA)

This study provides an excellent illustration of how DNA testing can be a complement to genealogy. No matter how thorough and well intended the paper trail search may be, there is always the possibility that some critical piece of information was overlooked, that an assumption was made based on circumstance, or that the identity of a father is not as believed. A Y-chromosome DNA test of living male line descendants of John Streator Gleason could support—or refute—the conclusion drawn here.


            Note on Polly Howard: Only two statements in reference to the identity of the wife of Ezekiel Gleason Jr. have been found in period records by this researcher: 1) a statement that her name was Polly Howard on the Utah death certificate of John Streator Gleason and 2) a statement that her name was Polly Gleason on the marriage record of Oliver Perry Gleason. While a number of family tree postings on the Internet give a birth date for Polly, with her father’s name as John Howard, no primary source for that information is provided.

Polly is a name often used as an alternate for Mary. An exhaustive search of women named Polly or Mary Howard in the birth records of New York and Massachusetts between 1770 and 1790 has not yielded any obvious candidates. Nevertheless, one record of interest should be mentioned. There is a baptismal record of a Polly Howard of Worthington, Hampshire County Massachusetts. Worthington is a ten-mile horseback ride through the hills from Becket, Berkshire County, where Ezekiel Gleason Jr. lived in his youth. (A 1775 hand-drawn map of the area sketches the trails linking these neighboring towns.) Polly’s date of birth is not given, but she was baptized on the same day as the baptism of two of her sisters—27 September 1780. Her father’s name is John Howard.[20] However, Howard families were numerous in New England during this era and included many males named John. No doubt a number of those had daughters named Polly. An investigation into the identity of Polly is continuing.

John Streator Gleason

Judith Gleason Claassen
Feb 2018


[1] White, Genealogy of the Descendants of Thomas Gleason of Watertown, Massachusetts (Bowie, Maryland: Heritage Books, 1992), 51. The designation “ThomasA” has been added to the lineage list to designate the father of Thomas of Watertown who died in Cockfield, Suffolk, in 1610. His identity was unknown when White wrote his book in 1909. The updated origin of Thomas appears in the New England Historical and Genealogical Register, Volume 168 (January 2014).  

[2] Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1621-1850, online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2016.   

[3] “Auburn Tax Rates, 1786-1800,” Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, online database: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[4] Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1621-1850, online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2016.

[5] U.S. Census: 1790, Becket, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M637; Roll: 4; Page: 117; Image: 138; Family History Library Film: 056814; U.S. Census: 1800, Becket, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Series: M32; Roll: 13; Page: 267; Image: 267; Family History Library Film: 205611.

[6] U.S. Census: 1810, Tyringham, Berkshire, Massachusetts; Roll: 17; Page: 200; Image: 00176.  
     U.S. Census: 1820, Tyringham, Page: 39; NARA Roll: M33_48; Image: 33.  
     U.S. Census: 1830, Tyringham, Series: M19; Roll: 62; Page: 417. (The transcription for 1830 at does not agree with the original record.)

[7] “Births, Marriages and Deaths,” Massachusetts Town and Vital Records, 1620-1988, online database: Operations, Inc., 2011.

[8] Berkshire County, MA: Probate File Papers, 1761-1900, online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2017. (From records supplied by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court Archives.)

[9] The Pittsfield Sun, Pittsfield, Massachusetts: 16 November 1837, p 3; Find A Grave Memorial #97881873,

[10] Probate Records, Massachusetts Probate Court (Berkshire County), Vol. 42-43, 1836-1839; Massachusetts Wills and Probate Records, 1635-1991 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2015.

[11] Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1841-1910. (From original records held by the Massachusetts Archives. Online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2004.)

[12] Massachusetts: 1855 State Census (online database: /DB533/i/14363/245/260981843; Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1841-1910

[13] Utah, Death and Military Death Certificates, 1904-1961 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2014.

[14] U.S. Census: 1810, Brutus, Cayuga, New York; Roll: 31; Page: 1127; Image: 00021; FHL Film: 0181385.

[15] U.S. Census: 1820, Livonia, Ontario, New York; Page: 64; NARA Roll: M33_62; Image: 43 Online Database: Operations, Inc., 2010.

[16] U.S. Census: 1830, Groveland, Livingston, New York; M19; Roll 93; Page: 43; FHL Film 0017153.

[17] U.S. Census: 1840, Brandt, Erie, New York; Roll: 280; Page: 162; FHL Film: 0017186.

[18] U.S. Census: 1860, Monroe, Green, Wisconsin; Roll: M653_1411; Page: 312; Family History Library Film: 805411.

[19] “Wisconsin County Marriages, 1836-1911,” online database: 3 June 2016; FHL microfilm 1,266,666.

[20] Massachusetts: Vital Records, 1621-1850, online database:, New England Historic Genealogical Society, 2001-2016.