Guide to the William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803), Gravedigger and Merchant Records 1771-1803 (Bulk dates: 1799-1800) MG 192
TABLE OF CONTENTS
The New Jersey Historical Society
Finding aid encoded by Julia Telonidis. February 2006. Production of the EAD 2002 version of this finding aid was made possible by a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Finding aid written in English.
William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803) was a gravedigger and merchant in Elizabethtown (now Elizabeth), New Jersey. Founded in 1665 by John Woodruff (1637-1691) and Sarah Ogden (ca. 1643-after1675), Elizabethtown was home to many generations of Woodruffs, many of whom became prominent public figures, soldiers, and merchants in the town. Despite the thorough documentation of the family in the Woodruff Chronicles (1967), the identity of William Woodruff is unclear.
The records of William Woodruff consist of an account book (1770-1803) and an auction ledger (1782-1802). The account book details Mr. Woodruff’s business transactions by listing the name of the client(s), transaction date, service rendered, price, and method of payment. Typical services include the selling of household supplies, hides and food; the slaughtering of animals; labor; and fabric mending. The most recurrent services, and perhaps the most interesting for genealogical research, are the digging of graves. Many such entries are accompanied with other related charges such as ringing the bell, transportation to and from the gravesite, and other funeral services. Most grave digging transactions include the name of the deceased and/or their relation to the account holder (example: to digging grave for daughter of Isaac Woodruff). The account book is indexed, however the first few pages are missing so the index begins at the letter “O.” Mr. Woodruff’s customers are predominantly members of the Woodruff family of Elizabethtown, however they also include the town of Elizabethtown, and members of the Ogden family. Samuel Woodruff, Isaac Woodruff, Esq. and son, and Lewis Woodruff appear frequently in the list of accounts.
The auction ledger details another of William Woodruff’s occupations: recording the transactions of estate auctions. The ledger spans 1799-1800, with two interleaved notes extending the range to 1782-1802. Each auction entry includes the date of the auction, the name of the estate, the items sold, amount paid for each item, location (if the item is a house or piece of land), and purchasers. Typical items sold at the auctions include household items, livestock, land, and houses. William Woodruff purchased many items at the auctions including livestock, household items, and land. There is an interleaved advertisement for houses and land in Ringwood, Franklin Township, dated 1782, which lists brief descriptions, precise locations, previous owners (if any), and prices for each lot. An interleaved note at the end of the ledger, dated 1802, describes a land purchase at a recent auction.
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This collection should be cited as: Manuscript Group 192,William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803), Gravedigger and Merchant
Records, The New Jersey Historical Society.
The source of this collection is unknown.
Woodruff, Ceylon Newton. Woodruff Chronicles: A Geneology (Vol. I & II). The Arthur H. Clark Company : Glendale, California, 1967.