11 May 2021

Anna Case - Roots in Hillsborough

Over the years people have asked me where Anna Case - the South Branch girl who became a national sensation as an operatic soprano, concert and recording artist, and radio and film star - fits in with Hillsborough genealogy. This post will serve as a repository for some of my findings.

Birthplace of Anna Case, Clinton, NJ

Yes, Anna Case was born in Clinton, New Jersey on October 29, 1887. This appears to be during a brief relocation of the family to Hunterdon County for reasons unknown. As for her often disputed birth year - most publications used 1889, which is what Anna Case herself may have been comfortable reporting throughout her life. Part of her story was that she came to the Metropolitan Opera at a very young age, so shaving a couple of years probably seemed like no big deal. When she was in her 90s she reverted back to her real age which left researchers with a dilemma. It appears they split the difference and began citing her birth year as 1888. The actual year was 1887 as can be found on nearly every authoritative source such as passport applications, ship's passenger lists (where a passport would need to be shown), and even the US Social Security Death Index. Now if someone would just tell the editor at Wikipedia who keeps changing it on me using secondary biographical sources to cut it out it would make this a lot easier!

1920 US Passport Application
Birth Date - October 29, 1887

When the family - Anna, father Peter Van Nuys Case (1863-1925), and mother Jeannette Ludlow Gray (1868-1949) - moved back to Hillsborough in 1890 they were coming back to their roots. Both Anna's mother and father could trace their ancestry back to the earliest Dutch settlers that came to Somerset County in pre-Revolutionary times. Surnames such as Van Nuys, Ditmars, Quick, Stryker, Van Arsdalen, Hegeman, Wyckoff, Stout, and Saums - all familiar to students of Hillsborough history - can be found in the fan-style family tree chart below.

Anna Case Family Tree - sourced from FamilySearch.org

Anna Case's paternal grandfather Elisha Case (1823-1885) had a blacksmith shop on the northeast corner of today's Triangle and Farm Roads. Peter Case - who for decades was one of two blacksmiths in South Branch learned his trade here at what was for many years known as Case's Corner. Peter's older brother James Staats Case (1852-1925) also plied his trade as a wheelwright at this location and later joined his brother's family in South Branch.

Clockwise from top left: 1850 Somerset County Map,
1860 Philadelphia and Vicinity Map, 1860 Farm Map of Hillsboro',
and 1873 Beers Atlas.

In 1891 a second child was born into the family. In what was a foreshadowing of future tragedy, Myrtle Jeanette Case died the next year at the age of one. Anna was not quite 11 years old when her brother Peter Stanley Case (1898-1948) was born. A second brother Jeremiah Lester Case (1901-1950) was born three years later. 

The South Branch blacksmith shop of Peter Case.
Brother James Case had his wheelwright shop in the rear of the property.

Anna Case often described how her mother was ill with various ailments during this time and much of the care of the two boys was left to the young teenager. 

Jeanette Ludlow Gray Case,
in the early 1900s

Peter and brother James both died in 1925, after which Anna Case repurchased the family home on the corner of South Branch and Orchard Roads and gifted it to her mother. 

Jeremiah's first wife, Lois Annie Alcock, passed away in 1933 when their son, Jeremiah Lester. Jr. was just five years old. Junior died in 1940 at the age of twelve from complications after mastoid surgery. 

In 1948, Peter Stanley Case, who had become a sound engineer, killed himself with a shotgun at his home on Mountainside Avenue in Bridgewater. He had been estranged from his wife since 1939 who had accused him of being obsessed with keeping up with his multimillionaire sister. He left a son and daughter.

Jeannette Case died in 1949 at the age of 80. Jeremiah Lester Case died the next year at the age of 49. He had become an appliance salesman and was living with his second wife in San Diego at the time.

Jeremiah Lester Case and Jeremiah Lester Case, Jr.
with, possibly, Lois Annie Alcock - Jeremiah's first wife
who died in 1933.

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