Condits and Cousins
Volume 1 History and Biography
Chapter 2 Tradition, Fact and Evidence
JOHN CONDICT, of Norman descent, from Wales to America in 1678, d. in Newark, 1713, leaving one son, PETER, who d. 1714, his sons were SAMUEL, PETER, JOHN, NATH'L, PHILIP snd ISAAC PETER 2d d., Morristown, 1768; his sons were JOSEPH, NATH'L, EBENEZAR, SILAS and PETER 3d. PETER 3d d. 1774, leaving three sons, EDWARD, BYRAM and LEWIS
The above legend is inscribed on a monument in the lot of Lewis Condit, M.D., which is Lot number 290 in the burying ground of the Presbyterian Church in Morristown, New Jersey. The monument is still standing today (1991), although the inscription is now not fully legible.
Opening his first two hand-written notebooks, which are dated in 1880, Jotham H. Condit, who was then beginning to compile the Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, 1678-1885, wrote: "Genealogy of the Condit family taken in part from an Abstract furnished Edger Condit of Delaware Co Ohio by Silas Condit of Newark NJ in the year 1850. And Suplimented by me in this (the year 1880) the 200 year from the first settlement."
"John Condit the Ancester emigrated (as is believed) from Wales to America about the year 1678 or 1680 with one son Peter and settled in Newark N. J., he married a 2d Wife and had by her a son John who never married. John (the Ancester) died about the year 1713."1 2
Possibly because the above inscription was published in 1885 in History of the First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, N.J., Part II, The Combined Registers, from 1742 to 1885 , Jotham became emboldened to open his genealogy book, as published in 1885, with the statement: "JOHN CUNDITT is first known in this country in 1678". "John is known to be the ancestor or nearly all bearing the name of Condit or Condict in the United States. Of his ancestry nothing is certainly known. Tradition says that he came from England or Wales. If from either, it is probable that he was a native of the latter, as we learn from residents of that Province that there are those now living there bearing the name 'Conduit'." "John Cunditt, of his son Peter, and settled at Newark, N.J., where he married, second, 'Deborah', by whom he had a son, John, who died a minor."4 5 6
In the Introduction to that book, Jotham wrote: "No attempt has been made to trace the family name beyond the seas; as citizens of the United States we content ourselves with an expression of gratitude to the mother country for her production of our worthy Christian ancestor."7 8 9 (Over a century later, there is still no record of any organized effort having been made toward that end.)
Quite probably, the inscribed monument in the Morristown graveyard was erected by Dr. Lewis Condict, or certainly by one of his several descendants buried in that lot, who might have learned from him the tradition regarding John Cundict's land of origin and year of arrival, inasmuch as such traditions usually descend from father to son. Regrettably, Lewis could not have received his information in the traditional manner because his father, Peter 3rd, died when Lewis was but sixteen months old, and Peter 2nd and his wife had died six years earlier; and at that time, Lewis' oldest brother, Edward, was less than five years old, and not likely to retain such details if told him. Two years later, their mother married Daniel Tichenor, a widower with seven young children, and by her new husband she had six more children before they removed to Kentucky in 1790, fourteen years later. By that time, her Condict sons were old enough to remain behind in New Jersey, but it appears that they were reared as Tichenors, rather than as Condicts up until then.
Lewis and his descendants could be proud of their Mayflower ancestry, because their mother, who was born Anna Byram, was a great-great-great-granddaughter of both John Alden and Francis Cooke, who came to America on the Mayflower. It is noteworthy that Anna's sisters, Huldah and Abigail Byram, married Colonel Ebenezer and Hon. Silas Condict, who were brothers of Lewis' father. Ebenezer died when Lewis was four years old, so it is unlikely that Lewis felt his influence, but Silas was an outstanding citizen and large landholder in Morristown, and a member of the Continental Congress from 1781 to 1784, and it is possible that he had an influence on Lewis and his two brothers. Silas was a great-grandson of John Cundict, the Ancestor, and may have been a reservoir of the tradition concerning the latter. Admittedly, this is speculative, but it is an attempt to estimate who might have been a reliable conduit of the tradition to Lewis Condict.
Lewis Condict was a Renaissance man of many talents, as described in his biographical sketch elsewhere, and a man of great personal integrity. This discussion is not intended to impugn his reliability, but merely to examine the likely sources of his information about the family tradition, in the absence of the possibility that he received it from his father or grandfather.
Returning to the source of Jotham H. Condit's original information about the history and genealogy of the Condit family, as told in the second paragraph of this chapter, we note that he credited "Silas Condit of Newark, New Jersey." In his Introduction to the published genealogy, he described it further as "a manuscript barely covering two pages of foolscap paper, being an abridged record of some of the early families, written in 1850 by Hon. Silas Condit, of Newark, N.J."10
Silas was born in Orange, N.J., but spent most of his life in Newark. He was the second oldest son of John Condit, M.D., who was another man of many talents, which included being a U.S. Congressman and later Senator, the later part of his service in the Congress overlapping with the earlier years of service there by Lewis Condict, M.D. Lewis was a Congressman from 1811 to 1817, and from 1821 to 1833, the latter time including the term served in Congress by Hon. Silas Condit, son of Dr. John. These men therefore certainly were well acquainted, although Lewis was from Morris County, and John and Silas from Essex County, and in fact, all three also served for years in the New Jersey Legislature.
There may be considerable significance in the fact that these three men were well acquainted. John was the oldest son, of the third son, of the oldest son, Samuel, of Peter Condict, of John, the Ancestor. Such a chain could be a likely one for the transmission of family tradition. On the other hand, Lewis Condict was a descendent of Peter Condict, the second son of Peter, of John, the Ancestor. If these descendants of two grandsons of the Ancestor, living in different counties, received substantially the same tradition through their separate channels, that would tend to validate the authenticity of the tradition!
But, wait. Suppose, on the other hand, that Dr. John Condit was the only source of the tradition, and naturally passed it along to his son, Silas, and either or both transmitted it to Dr. Lewis Condict. In that event, it could have been only a pipe dream of Dr. John's, needing further study and substantiation.
Although the inscription on the monument in Morristown is literally "carved in stone," the validity of its message is not as definite and immutable as those words, which were given some credence by having been published in the 1885 Condit genealogy, and again in the 1916 revision of that book -- and again on these pages. It is time to re-examine the contents of that inscription, and attempt to determine whether the information conveyed may help to lead to the truth about the land of origin and year of arrival of the Ancestor in Newark, or whether part of that information actually has discouraged the entertainment of logical alternatives. One example will illustrate the way in which the tradition could be a red herring. The following is a quotation from Henry Whittemore's The Founders and Builders of the Oranges: "About the year 1682, when half the twenty-four Proprietors were Scotch, great numbers of that race arrived and settled in New Jersey, and the historian Grahame remarks that 'American Society was enriched with a valuable accession of virtue that had been refined by adversity and piety and invigorated by persecution.'"11 Is it possible that John Conduit was a Scotch Presbyterian? Not if the tradition is correct in stating that he arrived in Newark in 1678, from Wales. But the Newark Church, organized in 1666 as strictly Congregational, gradually underwent a transformation, and perhaps an infiltration by Presbyterians, because the sixth regular pastor was ordained in 1719 by the Presbytery of Philadelphia, and the transformation to a Presbyterian congregation was recognized.12 The tradition of Presbyterianism in the Condit family was early established and long continued, but was it imported from the mother country?
Jotham H. Condit suggested that John Cundict probably came from Wales because "there are those now living there bearing the 'Conduit'. Reasons exist, however, for believing that he may have been of English extraction, as the name has honorable mention in English history."13 Perhaps he did not know that there also were Conduits in Dublin, Ireland, who could have been members of John's family, considering the years of their records there, and the similarity of given names, such as Nathaniel, to those of John's early descendants.
Another blind spot that has been perpetuated by adherence to tradition is that of spelling of the surname. Many Condits will search an index in a book, or a telephone book, for the name Condit, if only out of idle curiosity, and may even be curious about the name Conduit, but may not recognize or look for the name of Condict. In view of the information in the previous chapter, perhaps the search, especially in other countries, should have included, or even concentrated on, spellings similar to Cundict. And, who knows, there may be Cundicts in other countries, looking for possible relatives without even suspecting that they now spell their names Condit or Condict, or something similar?
More than one member of the Condit family has telephoned Condits and Cousins and reported: "I am going to England this summer. What should I look for?" Of course, they wanted leads toward places of possible origin of the Condit ancestor. Naturally, they were not satisfied by the answers they received, nor could they be, because if any substantive lead has been discovered, it has not been reported to Condits and Cousins. How encouraging it is to discover that there are some individuals who have the interest and opportunity to perform what would amount to original, basic, genealogical research on behalf of the entire Condit family! On the other hand, it is disappointing that such enthusiasm is dampened by an absence of guidance, by possible restrictions imposed by strict interpretations of family traditions, and/or by an absence of direction toward possible solutions. It is desirable and necessary to harness the effort and enthusiasm available! No, not to harness it, but to give it direction and encouragement!
Skeptics there will always be, who intone "Who cares," or "I'm happy with (vague) traditions." (Have such been our guides for the past century?) Let them answer honestly how they respond to the natural question of their acquaintances: "Where do you come from?" Anybody can answer, honestly, that he has many national and ethnic ancestors, and shrug off the question, which really becomes: "Where does your family name come from? From what country? Where is your ancestral seat?" Now, that anticipates quite a different, and quite a sensible and logical response, rather than a flippant one. How one responds to that question, "Where do you come from?" can be very revealing.
1Condit, Jotham H(alsey) (1378), Genealogy of the Condit Family, Hand-written in a cardboard-covered composition book containing 40 pages, of which 13 are blank, page 1.
2_______, Genealogy of the Condit family, 98 pages, many blank or nearly so, hand-written in ink in hardbound composition book, page ii.
3History of the First Presbyterian Church, Morristown, N. J., Part I, Minutes of Trustees and Sessions, 168 pp. lacking a title page, published circa 1885; Part II, separately paginated, is usually referred to as The Combined Registers, First Church, Morristown, N.J., 1742 to 1885, 1885, 1889-1891; both parts hardbound together, Morristown, N.J., Banner Steam Print, page 43.
4Condit, Jothm H(alsey) (1378) and Eben(ezer) (6311 9), Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, Newark, N.J., Ward and Tichenor, 1885, page 9 and 10.
5_____, _____ and Edward I(rving) Condit (1378 1), compiler of this revision, Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, 1916 Revision, Newark, New Jersy, Essex Press, 1916, page 9 and 10.
6 Condit, Norman I(rving) (1378 143), editor in chief, The Condits and their Cousins in America, Owensboro, KY, Cook and McDowell Publications, page 9 and 10.
7Condit, Jothm H(alsey) (1378) and Eben(ezer) (6311 9), Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, Newark, N.J., Ward and Tichenor, 1885, page 6.
8_____, _____ and Edward I(rving) Condit (1378 1), compiler of this revision, Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, 1916 Revision, Newark, New Jersy, Essex Press, 1916, page 8.
9Condit, Norman I(rving) (1378 143), editor in chief, The Condits and their Cousins in America, Owensboro, KY, Cook and McDowell Publications, page 8.
10IBID, page 7
11Whittemore, Henry, The Founders and Builders of the Oranges, Newark, NJ, L. J. Hardham, Printer and Bookbinder, 1896, page 20.
13Condit, Jothm H(alsey) (1378) and Eben(ezer) (6311 9), Genealogical Record of the Condit Family, Descendants of John Cunditt, 1678 to 1885, Newark, N.J., Ward and Tichenor, 1885, page 10.
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