The Mystery of Miron Gonzalous Hornbeck

Kaitlyn Dunnett/Kathy Lynn Emerson here. One of the nice things about being semi-retired is having the time to work at solving some of the mysteries hanging on my family tree. Since I’m not famous enough to be on Finding Your Roots or Who Do You Think You Are? and since I really don’t want to shell out the hard cash to hire a professional genealogist, who might not be able to find anything new either, I muddle along online, following leads that, for the most part, are dead ends. Fortunately, I’m not writing a book. I don’t have to solve the mystery. The fun part is the search for answers. I guess you could say I’m on a quest. I may never find out everything I want to know, but there’s a lot of enjoyment in the trying.

Miron with his parents and sister

Who was Miron Gonzalous Hornbeck? He was one of my great-grandfathers. His birth on the family farm in Hurleyville, New York, on January 19, 1861, is recorded in the family Bible, with that specific spelling. So what’s the mystery? It’s in his name. Miron is easy enough to understand. Myrons and Mynderts were common among the families of Dutch descent in that part of New York State. One minor mystery is why he went by Miles instead, but the real question is where the Gonzalous came from, and Constantia, the first name of Miron’s sister, who was born the following year.

Miron with his family on his 50th wedding anniversary

For a while matters were confused by the fact that my grandmother, Miron’s daughter, thought that her grandmother’s maiden name was Berrigan. It was not. Miron’s parents were Lawrence Hornbeck and Catherine Gardner, as proven by documents concerning the disposition of property belonging to Catherine’s father, David Gardner, after his death in 1865. Thank you,, which also led me to the 1850 and 1860 census records for Liberty, New York, which listed David, his daughter Catherine, and his wife . . . Constantia.

Katie Hornbeck, who got her grandmother’s maiden name wrong

One mystery solved. Or so I thought. It would be logical to assume that Constantia’s maiden name was Gonzalous (or one of its many and varied spellings). And it just so happens that there was a rather famous Gonsalus family in the Orange-Ulster-Sullivan County triangle from the earliest days of settlement.

The Hornbecks in America go back to Warnaar Hornbeck, who came to New Amsterdam from Holland on the Cormick David in 1641, married twice, and was fruitful and multiplied. I’m actually descended from him through both wives. Anyway, for several generations the family was centered around Rochester (now Accord) in Ulster County, New York. My branch had moved to Hurleyville by 1850.

Ulster County towns settled by the Dutch

Manuel Gun Sallus is reputed to have been the first white settler in Sullivan County, arriving in Mamakating Hollow from Rochester (Accord) in 1730. He was a Spaniard who had married a Dutch woman. He farmed and traded with the Indians. The inscription on his headstone reads: MANUEL GONSALUS IS GESTORVEN DE 8 APRIL ANNO 1752. Translated that means Manuel died on that date. Anyway, Manuel had numerous sons and grandsons, frequently confused in the records, including Manuel., who built the first grist mill in the area near Wurtsboro, Jacobus, who may have kept a tavern, and Daniel, who was killed by Indians during the French and Indian War.

All this is fascinating to me, but trying to link up the generations between Manuel’s sons and Constantia, assuming there even is a link, is not easy. It may not even be possible, but making the attempt is a challenge. And really, what’s the advantage of being semi-retired if you can’t fall down the occasional rabbit hole?

Kathy Lynn Emerson/Kaitlyn Dunnett has had sixty-four books traditionally published and has self published others, including several children’s books. She won the Agatha Award and was an Anthony and Macavity finalist for best mystery nonfiction of 2008 for How to Write Killer Historical Mysteries and was an Agatha Award finalist in 2015 in the best mystery short story category. She was the Malice Domestic Guest of Honor in 2014. Her most recent publications are The Valentine Veilleux Mysteries (a collection of three short stories and a novella, written as Kaitlyn) and I Kill People for a Living: A Collection of Essays by a Writer of Cozy Mysteries (written as Kathy). She maintains websites at and


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9 Responses to The Mystery of Miron Gonzalous Hornbeck

  1. John Clark says:

    Our mother was very much into building the family tree back in the 1960-70 era, well before the internet made it much more productive. When she died, we found many letters and replies she wrote and received while chasing down leads. Her efforts are preserved on a big hand drawn fan chart that I sometimes think about fleshing out. This post just might motivate me.

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      I have tons of letters from the early days of research, too. Amateur genealogists are extremely generous when it comes to sharing information.

  2. maggierobinsonwriter says:

    Good luck with digging up those roots! I have been recently contacted by two cousins (descendants of my great-grandfather Anthony Miller’s brother), which has been so interesting. One of them had letters written by my grandmother to his grandfather, which he scanned and sent. Haven’t seen that handwriting in almost 50 years. I fell down a rabbit hole too, and discovered a letter for sale on Ebay to my great-grandfather, asking to borrow $20,000! (“Dear friend Tone…” Naturally, I bought it for $15 and am going to have it framed.) In today’s money, I think that’s around half a million. I guess “Tone” must have had it at one time, but unfortunately he died broke. Maybe he loaned all his money. 😉

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Letters are wonderful, although sometimes you wonder why people saved them. We came across some written to my husband’s grandfather by his brother-in-law, taking him to task in no uncertain terms for the way Grandad treated his wife’s father.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Fascinating research on your family. And more to come! I wish I could do the same. I have very little documentation and history of either side of my family. No one took photos or sat for portraits, although I have one informal photo of my maternal grandmother with four of her five children gathered around her on the lawn. The fifth hadn’t been born yet. You may have prompted me to do some searching…

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      Don’t be discouraged. There’s a lot out there to find even if all you start with are names and approxmate dates. Sometimes distant relatives will have posted photos on too. Several mysteries were solved at one go when I found a newspaper obituary for a great-great grandmother. I may never learn her maiden name, but at least now I know when and where she died, and because she was visiting one of her daughters at the time, I was also able to find out more about what happened to the daughter.

  4. Jane says:

    Absolutely fascinating, Kathy! I love genealogical research — you never know what you might discover. Recently I’ve been delving into German church records in search of my mother’s Schleswig-Holstein ancestors. Between deciphering German script, names being repeated over and over, and the use of patronymics, it has been something of a challenge. But I wouldn’t have it any other way!

    • kaitlynkathy says:

      I envy you those German records. My German ancestor took the name of his town (Coburg) for a surname when he came to America and then one of my great aunts burned all the family papers written in that language during a bout of excessive patriotism after World War I broke out..

      • Jane says:

        Oh, no. How sad. But maybe DNA might help solve this mystery. I know I was lucky because we knew the town my German ancestors came from; we even visited it when I was twelve.

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