Corrected Pedigrees by Jeff Carr
...What a powerful word, "if." Mrs. Harter continued by elaborating on the family of John Jacob Peterson, an early South Branch settler in Hardy County, who had emigrated from Switzerland as Hans Joggi Bidert. In the Peterson family records, which are quite good for that time period (ca. 1750), there is no record or rumor of a daughter Mary married to a Cunningham. There was a daughter named Ursula, for which there is no further adult record, whom they suggest never returned from Indian captivity. Mary Harter made the preposterous suggestion that since "Maria" is the commonly given first name for many girls in Germanic families, Ursula must have been "Maria Ursula," and became known as Mary [Cunningham]. This is no different than having an ancestor named John, finding a family of that given surname that has a son named Valentine, then concluding that this must be your ancestor, since most Germanic sons had Johann as their first given name! In addition to this, only 36 years separates the birth of Ursula Peterson and James Cunningham's oldest child, which narrows in practical terms the possibility of her having been James' mother. Mary Harter also sidestepped the obvious conflict of James Cunningham's traditionally reported birth date of 1741, and Ursula' s of 1731. This really was unlike Mary Harter to have made such a ridiculous jump, and taints an otherwise excellent article. As strange as that was, it is even more frustrating that other readers/researchers uncritically added this lineage to their charts.
Via some incidental researching, the genesis of Mrs. Harter's suggestion may have been found. In her book The Hammers and Allied Families of Pendleton County, WV (1950), Elsie Byrd Boggs reported (p.2) that the Petersons were "sometimes called Pedroes." While it is true that the Bidert family underwent several varietal name changes to Peterson, including Peters, I have not found any evidence that the Petersons were ever called Petro. Most of what Mrs. Boggs recounted were family traditions. She later (p.23) told about the Cunningham family, and the Petro family that came about the same time; ". . . their [Petro's] daughter became the wife of John Cunningham." Mrs. Boggs went on to recount the Indian captivity. With family traditions, it is hard to tell what is accurate and what gets garbled after 200 years. It is also unclear if the family legend was "Petro" and Mrs. Boggs changed it to Peterson, or if the legend was Peterson and changed it to Petro. As many in Randolph County know, there is a distinct family named Petro. They first settled in Hampshire County, and moved to Randolph County in the late 1700's. I ran across a brief narrative of that family, by James H. Petro of Chillicothe, OH; it is interesting to note that three members of the Petro family were also taken captive by Indians. He did not mention any connection to the Cunninghams. Their generational time-frames would not seem to accommodate Mary (Cunningham) Ward.
Another Peterson connection comes through the William and Mary (Bennett) Peterson family of Lewis County. A book by W. H. Peterson claims that William Peterson was of Swedish descent, the son of Lawrens Peterson; the author claimed that Lawrens married Nancy Jones and settled on the South Branch. Unfortunately, a rather imposing tombstone recounts this in a cemetery at Vandalia in Lewis County. There is absolutely no evidence of a Lawrens Peterson anywhere near the Hampshire County area. In fact, the available evidence suggests that William descends from the same Peterson family described above. While I have yet to find any proving evidence, William's circumstantial evidence (mostly tax lists) always place him in proximity to that family. Given William's approximate birth date of 1762, he was of the generation to have been a grandson of John Jacob Peterson/Hans Joggi Bidert Sr. Jacob Sr. had three sons: Jacob Jr., Martin, and Michael. The families of Jacob Jr. and Martin are fairly well documented. However, we can't just assume that William was a son of Michael, due to our lack knowledge of all the relationships and possible illegitimate relationships. In that same book by W.H. Peterson, a Henry Peterson was reported as a brother to William. Oddly enough, I know of no evidence of a Henry in relation to the Hardy-Hampshire County family. Henry Peterson was reported to have come to Lewis County in 1816 from Cumberland, MD; this may be accurate, and there may not have any relationship between William and Henry.