The Surname Project is an effort to identify and recognize individuals and families who have made significant contributions to Matawan’s governance, education, business and social growth throughout its history and have been in the area for around 100 years or longer.

Once a surname is selected, a family tree will be built with the family’s oldest connection to Matawan used as a starting point with subsequent generations listed down to the latest living family member. The families are captured in an Family Tree entitled “Matawan Surname Project” and will eventually be available to the general public. Privacy issues will be addressed below.

The advantages of using Ancestry in the effort are many. Records – census, marriage, birth and death, military, obituaries and snipped newspaper articles, etc. – are linked to each person and give a nice synopsis of an individual’s life. A family member using the information provided can then narrow down the time and place of an individual under review for more extensive research. Although Ancestry is a subscription service, individual access can be given to non-subscribers by the MHS, along with instructions on how to navigate through the database.

After a tree is built, a concise accounting of the family and its contribution will be presented on the page dedicated to it. Additionally, a Descendant Report starting with the family patriarch/matriarch will be attached. This is an outline for the information in the Ancestry tree.

I use a “Probate Standard” in preparing the trees. Using the best available data, I build a tree. Credible records are cited. Rarely, I will use very strong circumstantial evidence to add data, but when I do so I provide a “business case” in explaining my actions. The next step, prior to preparing a sworn affidavit for Probate Court, is to have several family members review the tree for errors or omissions. Since this second step is impractical in such a project, family members reviewing the tree online can offer suggestions and these will be addressed later.

Privacy issues are taken seriously. ALL information regarding living individuals is hidden on Ancestry. Additionally, all biographical data (birthdates) for living individuals will be removed from the Descendant Reports. Minors will not be listed in the latter.

The following families have been added to to date:


Antisell, Thomas Murphy (1838-1917)
Arrowsmith, Henry (?-1834)
Arrowsmith, Joel (1778-1844)
Barrett, George L (1865-1927)
Bedle, Joel (1778-1844)
Bell, George W (1814-1897)
Brown, Benjamin F (1856-1920) (in progress)
Bucco, Rocco Philip (1882-1958)
Cartan, Lawrence (1832-1903)
Conover, Peter Hendrickse (1778-1817)
Devlin, Patrick (1834-1893)
Dominick, Jared Lane Moore (1850-1933)
Fountain, John (1760-1835)
Holmes, Joseph H (1824-1892)
Lefferts, William C (1834-1901)
Lloyd, William H (1842-1928)
Maghan, James (1811-1893)
Munning, August (1841-1919)
Schenck, John (1745-1834) (in progress)
Towler, Samuel (1872-1954)
VanBrackle, Stephen Himes (1784-1826)
Van Mater, Chrineyonce (1747-1803)


For a complete directory of completed families, please see this link.

This is just the “tip of the iceberg” – the project is ongoing and will last for years. I worked for ten days on Arrowsmith alone, and realize there are many, many more families meeting the above criteria to add – Freneau and Burrowes come to mind. Some of these could take months of serious effort to finish using a “probate standard”, but they will eventually be done.

I also realize that there are family lines attached to some of the trees above that merit separate review. These, too, will eventually be addressed. Part of the ‘fun’ of building these is finding these connections – Arrowsmiths married Schencks and Bedles, and the trees merge. The grandmothers of Stanley Fisher and Governor Thomas Bedle were first cousins. If you are in a tree, I have the ability to show the exact relationship between you and all other family members. As more and more families merge – which is normal for small towns such as Matawan – the more interesting it will get.

One final note of interest. Such a project can help confirm or negate old “family legends.” For instance, an individual was convinced that he was a direct descendant Richard Stockton, signer of the Declaration of Independence for New Jersey. The family firmly believed this and had even named children after him. I was able to show him that he was a direct descendant of Stockton’s grandfather, not Stockton himself, making Richard a cousin as opposed to a great grandparent.

To make an information or genealogy request for a specific Matawan family, please use this link: Contact the Matawan Surname Project


Mark Chidichimo

Genealogist, Matawan Historical Society

May 20, 2022