I’ve been scratching around for YEARS to find some tidbit of information confirming the parentage and lineage of my 3rd Great-Grandfather, Joseph Wood. Now, granted, what I found is not conclusive proof – but I think it’s as close as I’m likely to get. Let me tell you what I’ve been working with, and what I just found.

According to his death certificate, Joseph Wood was from Staten Island, born 04 Aug 1824. He died of tuberculosis on 15 Dec 1869 in New York City, where he had been a member of the Metropolitan Police force. And he’s buried in the amazing Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, in his wife’s family’s plot. That’s it for hard facts. But I’ve also been working a theory for a very long time, based on a single fact reported in the Brooklyn Eagle, 21 Feb 1894.

Here goes: Joseph’s widow hosted a wedding reception in Brooklyn in 1894 in honor of Joseph’s and her son J. Irving Wood and his new bride. One of the numerous guests was one Dr. J(ohn) Walter Wood of Staten Island. My initial thought was that Dr. Wood was there as a relative – and the most logical relationship, age-wise, was that the Doctor and the Bridegroom were first cousins (and that their fathers were brothers). I know Dr. Wood’s father was Walter Dongan Wood, and his grandparents were Charles D. Wood and Johanna Dongan. I believed Joseph was also from this family, and it was my job to prove (or disprove) this theory.

There are several books detailing the rich history of Staten Island and its people. Some of them mention Dr. Wood’s connection with the family of Charles and Johanna. But only one includes my Joseph Wood in that family. So someone’s wrong – but was the mistake to omit him, or to include him?

I also had a little bit of circumstantial evidence on my side. Joseph named one of his daughters Cornelia – not the most common of names, even then. Dr. Wood had aunt named Cornelia, his father’s sister. Was she Joseph’s sister as well?

As much as I want to find my Wood ancestors, the real coup here would be hooking up with the Dongan family. Dr. Wood was, through his grandmother Johanna Dongan Wood, a proven lineal descendant of Thomas Dongan (1634-1715), 2nd Earl of Limerick, and Provincial Governor of New York (1683-88) whose home was on Staten Island. Irish nobility AND, as it happens, a confirmed royal line back through all those Kings Henry and those perky Plantagenets. Enticing indeed!

Gov. Dongan left no heirs, so the name and the estate came down through the ages by way of his Staten Island brothers and nephews. One of those was Walter Dongan (1763-1855), a wealthy and highly-regarded man.

So – we have the party guest… and Cornelia… and Staten Island… and a whole lot of good reasons to keep digging.

And yesterday I found the Last Will & Testament of Walter Dongan, along with some related documents. (Thank you FamilySearch.org!)  Eureka! Walter Dongan’s will made provisions for the children of his deceased daughter Johanna Wood, and an abstract of the probate documents provided the children’s names:

Will abstract-Walter Dongan

So – at long last… Meet the Fam (in order of appearance):

Governor Thomas Dongan
Governor Thomas Dongan, 2nd Earl of Limerick, AND my 10th great-uncle
The Guv’s 3rd great-nephew, my 5th great-grandfather
Joseph Wood
Joseph Wood, Walter Dongan’s grandson
WOOD Josephine 1870s
Josephine (Wood) Watson, Joseph’s daughter and my great-great-grandmother
J. Walter Wood, MD
J. Walter Wood, MD – Josephine’s first cousin
Walter Dongan Wood 1924
Walter Dongan Wood, Dr. Wood’s son and the third of that name.
Peter T. Wood 1919-2011, Walter D. Wood’s son


  1. Wow! i don’t know who you are or how this blog appeared on my computer,but walter dongan wood was my grandfather and walter dongan wood jr, his first child, was my father. my brother, who is estranged from the family, is walter dongan wood the 3rd. i’m not computer-literate, but my husband is, and i’ll get him to send some photos. you have a photo of my dad’s kid brother, Peter. dad was a discus hurler and competed in the ’36 Olympics in berlin.

    • Hello! I’ve been studying this family for so long I feel I know them all. I did know about your dad in the Olympics – but would love to have a better photo of him than I have now. (From a Cornell yearbook, a bench with some track & field teammates). I even have on my wall here a full-page, full-color Elgin watch ad featuring Gwendolyn!

      My 3rd great-grandfather was the kid brother of Walter Dongan Wood (1816-1895), your grandfather’s grandfather. The way the generations shake out, you and my dad are 4th cousins. (His great-grandmother and your great-grandfather were first cousins.)

      I have a huge family tree on Ancestry.com, and would love to share that with you. Happy to correspond with your husband about that, if you’re interested.

      My very best regards,
      Brad Watson
      Oakland, Calif.

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