The Adventures of John and Keziah White

Increasingly, it is genealogy that draws me to history.  And what draws me to genealogy is my desire to trace out lines of influence upon me in the present.  I offer one interesting story from my ancestors.  The information comes from the research of many other people and my own research.  It is the story of Jean Brontell/John White and Keziah.  Unfortunately, I know more about John than Keziah.

Jean Brontell was born in Lorraine, France in 1773.  He served in the French military, but the details from various sources are contradictory.  Some sources say he served in the French military for fourteen years.  That is possible.  He arrived in America by 1809, so he would’ve had to have begun his career by 1890 if he left the Navy that same year.  Regardless, he served in the French military during either or both of the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars.

He came to America sometime before 1809.  It’s not clear to me if his ship was a French naval ship or a passenger ship.  Either way, it wrecked a few miles from shore and he swam the rest of the way.  He had to strip off his heavy wool clothes while he swam, so he arrived naked and penniless.

He worked for a time in a DuPont gun powder plant in Delaware.  It was in Delaware that he met Keziah, a Lenape woman born in 1791.  They married in New Castle, Delaware in December of 1810.  Keziah supposedly adopted a maiden name of Vandever for legal purposes, with Vandever coming from Jean’s mother’s side of the family.  Jean took the name John White by the time he became a naturalized citizen in 1811.

Then came the War of 1812, which was basically the North America/North Atlantic theatre of the Napoleonic Wars.  John served in the Delaware Volunteers, now fighting with the Americans against the same enemy he had fought when in the French military.

After the war, they moved to Indiana County in Pennsylvania, adjacent to Cambria County, where I grew up.  They became farmers.  John died in 1856.  Keziah lived until 1870.  John and Keziah had several children, including Mary, my great-great-great-great grandmother on my maternal grandfather’s side.

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