Manuscript Group 192, William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803), Gravedigger and merchant Records, 1771-1803 (Bulk dates: 1799-1800)
Documents, Manuscripts, Maps, & Photographs
Manuscript Group 192, William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803), Gravedigger
Records, 1771-1803 (Bulk dates: 1799-1800),
0.3 linear feet / 2 volumes
Call Number: MG 192
Account book (1771-1803) and auction
ledger (1782-1802) kept by William Woodruff (fl. 1771-1803), a grave digger from
Elizabethtown, New Jersey.
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.
Woodruff, Ceylon Newton. Woodruff Chronicles: A Geneology (Vol. I & II). The
Arthur H. Clark Company. Glendale, California, 1967.
The source of this collection is unknown.
The records of William Woodruff consist of an account book (1770-1803) and an auction
ledger (1782-1802). The account book details Mr. Woodruffs 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.
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. Woodruffs 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 Woodruffs 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.
Processed by Jeff McMillan, August 2000 as part of the “Farm to
City” project funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications
and Records Commission.